“The Jesus Movement” was the original group of Jews that followed Yeshua, the Jewish Jesus of history, in the early first century CE. His movement can only be understood through the meanings of a handful of Hebrew words that were the foundation of his message. Once the Greek translations of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke began to circulate among Gentile churches, the message of Jesus changed.
In my previous email I discussed three things people who participate in our Bible studies bring to the meeting with them -- beliefs about the Bible, an English vocabulary, and life experiences. People reading the Greek Gospels brought with them -- beliefs about the Gospels, a Greek vocabulary, and life experiences from a variety of Gentile cultures. For over 1,800 years Christians did not have access to the Hebrew message of Jesus.
Science changed everything, beginning with archaeology. At the end of the 19th century CE, there were only about 20 ancient Greek manuscripts of books in the New Testament. Today, as the result of the work of archaeologists, we have access to over 6,000 Greek manuscripts. Science-based linguistic models were not part of the translating process before the 20th century. Until then, authority of religious institutions determined how words were translated. Reconstructing the Hebrew words behind the Greek words was unknow to church members until the late 20th century – and with that many things began to change.
There are a few Hebrew words that cannot be translated by using one English word. The way to solve this problem is to use transliterations of those Hebrew words and memorize their definitions. Add those transliterations to your vocabulary. Doing this with three key Hebrew words Jesus used many times in his teachings will transform your vision of him and his movement. Today I demonstrate the impact three words can have on a Bible study. Our study today focusing on three blessings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5).
1. SHALOM – A social environment in which lives are complete, healthy, wholesome; relationships are harmonious and mutually beneficial; homes are safe; places are secure and restful; members are loyal and committed to each other and the community.
2. TOV (toe-v) – Acts that protect lives, preserve lives, make lives more functional, and increase the quality of life.
3. TZEDAQAH (tzeh-doc-kah) – Acts that are TOV and restore the SHALOM of a community by eliminating things that are breaking the SHALOM.
If I left out the transliterations in the definition of TZEDAQAH and included their meanings, this is how I would have to translate it!
“Acts that protect lives, preserve lives, make lives more functional, and increase the quality of life; restore the social environment in which lives are complete, healthy, wholesome; relationships are harmonious and mutually beneficial; homes are safe; places are secure and restful; members are loyal and committed to each other and the community.
Acts that eliminate things that make lives incomplete, unhealthy, unwholesome; things that create conflicts in relationships and benefit only one person at the expense of the others; make homes unsafe; make places insecure and chaotic; cause members to be unfaithful and uncommitted to each other and the community.”
When Jesus said “TZEDAQAH;” he meant all of those things! So, what English word do we find in our Bibles instead of TZEDAQAH? It is the translation of a Greek word that is translated either “righteous” or “righteousness.” Do those words mean what Jesus taught? Apply the information about to the blessings Jesus opened the Sermon on the Mount with.
5:6 Blessed are those
who hunger and thirst for acts of TZEDAQAH.
They shall be filled.
What are those people thirsting for? Read the long definition of TZEDAQAH above. The people blessed here are not only “hungry and thirsty for food and water;” they are hungering and thirsty “for the people doing acts of TZEDAQAH to come forward.” They are the poor and oppressed, but they were also Jews who knew about TZEDAQAH and SHALOM. This blessing was a promise from Jesus to them and a call to action for his followers.
5:10 Blessed are those
who pursue opportunities to do acts of TZEDAQAH.
They are the Kingdom of God.
This blessing sums up what Jesus and his movement were about. His vision was masses of people bursting forth and becoming actively engaged in pursuing opportunities to do acts of TZEDAQAH. Wow! What a powerful vision!
5:9 Blessed are the SHALOM
They shall be called Sons of God.
SHALOM Makers are actively engaged in guarding and restoring the SHALOM of the community. This is a team effort! Now, take another look at the blessings, and then consider the answers for the questions below:
1. Do they describe what Christians what are taught to do today?
2. What would societies be like if groups of people were constantly engaged in doing those things?
My next email will be about what Jesus taught about salvation and the afterlife.
May you increase SHALOM,
Helping People Examine Their Beliefs
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