Friday, February 12, 2021

Did You Know There Are Two Golden Rules?


Learning about the culture of the Jewish Jesus, the Jesus of history, is the key to understanding his teachings. One of the first things we must understand is this -- “Other people have conversations. Jews have arguments.” Judaism is unusual in that virtually all its canonical texts are woven through with arguments.


● In the Bible, Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, and Job all argue extensively with God.


● In Midrash, rabbis argue with one another on the basis of the principle that there are seventy “faces,” or interpretations, of every text.


● In the Mishnah the rabbis argue about Jewish law.


● In the Gemara they argue about the arguments of the Mishnah.


● Every later text comes with its own commentaries and counter-commentaries.


In the twelfth century, Moses Maimonides did the most daring thing of all: he wrote a code of law with, all the arguments removed. This generated more arguments than any other text for the next eight hundred years until today.


Arguments For The Sake of Heaven


The rabbis came up with a major distinction, between “an argument for the sake of heaven” and other arguments.[i] The classic example was the relationship between the rabbinic schools of Hillel and Shammai. They had been arguing over something for three years when a voice from heaven announced:


“The words of Hillel and Shammai are the words of the living God,

but the law will be in accordance with the school of Hillel.”


Why did the voice from heaven rule in favor of Hillel? “Because Hillel’s words were kindly and modest. He studied his own rulings and those of Shammai too. Hillel was so humble as to mention the teachings of Shammai before his own.” The concept of “argument for the sake of heaven” allowed the sages to reframe disagreement – making it a unifying force, instead of being divisive. This is implicit in a radical new idea:


Two opposing opinions can both represent the words of the living God.

Both sides are doing their best to do God’s will.


When Jesus started teaching, he became part of arguments that had been going on for a long time in Jewish circles. One of those arguments was about how to keep the commandment in Leviticus 19:18:


“You shall love your neighbor, as yourself.”


The focus of the argument was about the meaning of the phrase, “as yourself.” Hillel’s position is found in one of his most famous stories.


“A certain gentile once came to Hillel and said, “I’m ready to become a Jew, but only if you can teach me the whole Torah while I stand here on one foot.” Hillel answered him, “What is hateful to you, don’t do to your fellowman; that is the whole Torah, and the rest… is just a commentary. Go then and learn it!” (Shabbat 31a).


Hillel’s interpretation of “as yourself” is the earliest, “Golden Rule” -- “What is hateful to you, don’t do to your fellowman.[ii]


“You shall love your neighbor,

what you hate, do not do to him.”


Jesus added his interpretation to the argument – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Keep in mind that implicit in both sides of the argument is that both represent “the words of the living God.” Instead of “either / or” their positions can be “both / and”.


“You shall love your neighbor.

What you hate, do not do to him.

Do unto him as you would have him do unto you.”


Hillel, Jesus and other rabbis taught that love of man is a central pillar of the Torah’s teaching, but behind it there is something even more basic. “Love of neighbor” is itself derived from an even greater principle:


Humans are made in the image of God because God loves humans.

For humans to love God they must do it by loving what God loves.

When we love other people, we are loving God.

This is the only way to love God!


For Jesus, and the other members of the Jewish culture, love is much more than just “feelings and emotions” – love is concrete actions. Those action measure up to the Creator’s TOV Standard – they protect and preserve lives, make lives more functional, and increase the quality of life.



Jim Myers


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[i] Morality: Restoring The Common Good In Divided Times By Jonathan Sacks © 2020; Basic Books, New York, NY; pp. 186-188.

[ii] The Life and Teachings of Hillel by Yitzhak Buxbaum © 1994. Jason Aronson Inc. Northvale, NJ; p. 95

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

What You Believe Is What You See!


What you believe is what you see! That is a scientific fact. We now know that the brain creates belief models from information received from its sensory organs, searches for information that confirms its beliefs, and generates individual realities from those beliefs.  In my last email I discussed two interpretations of the Garden of Eden story in Genesis. When we view it through the eyes of ancient sources, we see a wisdom text that taught this lesson.


Act together by following the instructions of your Creator,

be the “united image of the Creator” –

guard and protect each other’s lives --

instead of ignoring the Creator and acting like wild animals.


Earlier I discussed the salvation message of the Jewish Jesus. The nations that will enter eternal life did the following things.


They gave food to the hungry, drinks to the thirsty,

shelter to strangers, clothes to the naked;

they visited the sick and went to those in prison.


The message Jesus taught was based on the Creator’s blessing of the first two humans in Genesis 1.


The Creator blessed and empowered humans to represent Him

by acting together as His Co-Creators and Co-Shepherds

over all life on earth.


In the teachings of Jesus above, members of those nations did things that good shepherds would do for their flocks. In this case, instead of the Creator having a flock, He has a Kingdom of Co-Shepherds that focus on caring about and caring for each other’s lives.


Take a moment and let your brain absorb the last sentence.


It describes the message and movement of the Jewish Jesus, the Jesus of history who lived in Nazareth and taught in Galilee and Judea. Now let’s Augustine’s reinterpretation of the Garden of Eden story. This is what he taught.


The serpent in the Garden of Eden was Satan.


Satan is engaged in cosmic war with God for the souls of Mankind.


Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and created a universal sin (Original Sin).


Original sin is inescapable because it is passed down to their descendants.


People are “sinners at birth” and condemned to Hell.


Members in good standing of the universal church (Roman Catholic Church) will be saved.


Two different interpretations of one story in the Bible create two different realities in people’s minds today.


1.    People are the Creator’s Co-Creators and Co-Shepherds guarding and protecting each other’s lives.


2. Satan and God are involved in a cosmic war for the souls of mankind.


These interpretations produce different realities, which people use to view things that are taking place in their lives. What we view as the causes of things happening in our lives affects our decisions for responding to them.


Christians have been using Augustine’s interpretation for about 1,500 years now (Protestants changed “the Catholic church” part). There is a long paper trail that documents how that belief model has affected lives.


What would happen if Christians decided to switch realities and do what Jesus taught?


Think about it. Entertain the thought that people could do it. Visualize what your life would be like if you were surrounded by people doing what Jesus taught – “even if they didn’t believe Christian doctrines about him!” Talk about it with friends.   



Jim Myers

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Monday, February 8, 2021

Using Beliefscapes to Make the Invisible Visible


Beliefscapes are like pictures or paintings we call “landscapes.” Instead of seeing trees, mountains, rivers, animals, etc., we are able to see belief models. Beliefscapes reveal belief models that exist at the subconscious level of the brain, an invisible environment that we are usually unaware of at the conscious level.


The brain uses belief models to make distinctions between things and assign meanings to them. Without belief models, the conscious level could not function as it does. Image life in world where meanings do not exist.


Creating a beliefscape begins with these two steps.


1.    Define the immediate context for the words we are reading.


2.    Identify “things” in that context. A “thing” is an object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a specific name to.


Let’s create a beliefscape for the first verse in Genesis. Below are translations from different versions of the Bible. The “things” in the verse are underlined.


In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (King James Version)


In the beginning God created heaven, and earth. (Douay Rheims Bible)


In the beginning of God`s preparing the heavens and the earth. (Young's Literal Translation)


Take a moment to consider what these “things” mean to you.








earth --


Below is a literal translation of the Hebrew words the translators above worked with.


At the beginning of a god creating

the solid dome-like structure and the dry thing.


The meanings of the underlined things are below:


a god – The god is not named. The Hebrew word elohiym refers to a type of entity (a god); it is not the name of a specific god.


solid dome-like structure – This is the thing the god made and placed beneath the surface of a shoreless body of deep water. It created a barrier that divided the deep water into “two separate bodies of water.” The solid dome-like structure was named “heavens.”


dry thing – The water inside the solid dome-like structure gathered in one place -- a place that had previously been covered by water became “a dry thing.” The dry thing was named “earth.”


How did your beliefscape compare to the ancient beliefscape? If there is a difference, you have not be able to understand the wisdom the ancient text was created to teach. But now that you are aware of the ancient beliefscap take another look at the translation you normally read -- and if you pay close attention to the English words -- you will be able the see the ancient beliefscape in them.


So, did the ancient beliefscape above make it possible for you to see something that was invisible before? Seeing the ancient belief models behind the English words in our Bibles make it possible for us to learn from ancient lessons that have been invisible.


Thank you for exploring with us. Please share and discuss it with others.



Jim Myers


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Monday, February 1, 2021

Learning About Life and Realities from a Dead Sea Scroll

 The scroll in the picture above is “1QIsaa” – “1Q” means it came from “Cave 1 at Qumran” and “Isaa” means it is a scroll of “the Book of Isaiah.”  Scribes copied the scroll between 356 and 100 BCE (based on radiocarbon and paleographic/scribal dating). It is now housed in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.


Please take a minute and think about the fact that “you and the 1QIsaa scroll both exist now!” Now consider the following information related to the scroll in the picture.


It existed about 170 years before the Second Temple was destroyed.


It was about 100 years old when Jesus was born.


It was about 400 years old when Constantine the Great lived.


It was over 1,500 years old when Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther and Nicolaus Copernicus lived.


It was about 1,900 years old when the United States became a nation.


It was 2,100 years old when the first smartphones were sold.


The first time I saw pictures of 1QIsaa I was visiting an archaeologist. He also taught Hebrew at a large university. He showed me the picture in the graphic above and asked me, “What stands out to you?” I told him it was the letters of the words.


He then told me that one of the first things he did when working with ancient scrolls was look at the back. Then he pointed to the dark stains on left and right side of the scroll in the picture. Those stains were oil and dirt from the hands of people who held the scroll as they read the words on the other side. By identifying the darkest stains on the back, he was able to find the sections of the scroll that were read the most. The section in the picture above was one of the most read sections of 1QIsaa.


Next, we compared the Dead Sea Scroll to the Isaiah scroll that is found in synagogues around the world today. They were almost identical. Then he reminded me of the story in Luke 4 about Jesus reading from the scroll of Isaiah (61) at the synagogue in Nazareth. He found the photograph of that section of 1QIsaa, handed it to me, and said:


You are seeing the exact words Jesus saw!


I still get cold chills every time I think about that experience. But today I know some things that did not exist when I first saw those pictures. One of those things is how to Explore Biblical Heritages and Beliefscapes.


The two largest biblical heritages today are Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity.

Neither existed when 1QIsa was made.


Beliescapes are generated by human brains from their most trusted belief models -- mental images linked to things we sensory perceive that give them meanings.  


The scribes that copied 1QIsaa had beliefscapes that did not include “Jesus,”

while Christian readers can’t imagine Isaiah’s words “without Jesus.”


Those are two very different realities that were created by different beliefscapes – both of which are part of the timeline of 1QIsaa. Changes in beliefscapes reveal changes in the lives and realities of people who read the words of Isaiah. You will be hearing more about creating beliefscapes in future emails.


Thank you for exploring with us. Please share and discuss it with others.



Jim Myers 

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