Do Not Judge the Things of the Sabbath

“So, let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths” (Col 2:16 NKJV)

     As a torah-observant Christian, this verse is often thrown at me as theological justification for ignoring the Feast Days of the Old Testament that were commanded by God.  It is also used to make the case that the Old Testament has been “done away with.”  Obviously, these statements don’t exactly sit well with me because many of these feast days were commanded by God to be “statutes forever.”  This seems to suggest that they were meant to be continued. (It is my opinion that the commandments of God didn’t just vanish with the resurrection of Messiah)  This premise tells me that God’s intention, from the giving of the torah (or instruction), has been for us, His people, to continue to observe these holy days.  (And not, subsequently, replace them with ones of pagan origin) However, in all fairness and on the surface, the above-quoted verse seems to really enforce this idea of the “doing away” with the torah.  Even among sabbaterians, this verse has caused some confusion.  I recently read one commentary which states, “Paul’s warning may mean that Christians should not be drawn into keeping ceremonial events—festivals, new moons, and ceremonial Sabbaths as described in the OT.” (1)  This explanation is simply not tenable.  Why?  Because the very first mentioned “feast” in the Old Testament is the weekly seventh day Sabbath. (see Leviticus 23)  Hence, this interpretation by seventh day advocates actually bespeaks against their own observance of the Sabbath.  Something else must be at the heart of this verse.  I believe that there is something else to this verse and it has to do with the interpretation of the Greek.  To begin with, the translation in the NKJV doesn’t get all the meaning of the Greek text.  So, we must dive deeper into the language of the New Testament.

     The verse in Greek reads: 

Mh oun tis umas krinetw en bresei h en posei h en merei eorths h noumhnias h sabbatwn.

     Perhaps a little syntaxical exegetical dissection will shed some light on why this verse is grossly mistranslated.  To begin with, the verse is written in the imperative mood. (The etw on the end of the verb krinetw tells us the mood)  In Greek, this is the mood of commands.  The Mh at the beginning is a negative particle and the verse will begin like this, “Therefore, no one is to judge you.”  The “let” is generally always added by translators when translating the third person imperative but it doesn’t exist in the Greek and oftentimes softens the sense of the Greek command.  What follows this is a string of future third person verbs (as evidenced by the sei on the endings of them) which are translated with the English “ing” on the end of them and are eating and drinking (en bresei h en posei.)  The phrase “merei eorths” is basically a direct translation from Hebrew and means “any particular feast day.”  The word eorths is used in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) for the Hebrew word “gj” pronounced “chag” meaning feast day or festival day.  What is interesting about the use here in the Greek is the ending “ths” which will indicate the genitive case of the noun.  This is where the breakthrough will come for us.  In fact, the next two nouns of the verse will also be written in the genitive case, they are the words for new moons and Sabbath. (The ias and the twn ending indicate the genitive case for these nouns in their respective declensions.)  This makes a tremendous impact on how the verse is translated and on how the author intended the verse to be interpreted by the Colossians.

     The genitive case is the case of “possession” or “ownership.”  The expression “The people of God” would be written, in Greek, in the genitive case.  This is making a statement about both the people and about God and their relationship but mainly, that God has possession of the people, they are His.  Let’s now apply this to the verse in question.  The feast days, new moons, and the Sabbaths are in the genitive case which tells us that they have the possession.  So, we must add a “things” to the verse to clarify what the text is saying.  For example, the best English translation of the verse might be, “Therefore, no one is to judge you in eating and in drinking or in any particular things of a feast day and a thing of a new moon or in the things of the Sabbath.” (italics indicates that it is not in the Greek but is added in the English for clarification of what the Greek is saying)  You see, the genitive is almost always translated with “of” in front of it and this gives an entirely different meaning to what the verse is saying.  What Paul is saying is not that all those things are relegated to the past and done away with; on the contrary, he is telling us that we have freedom to observe and keep these holy days as our own conscience is clear before God.  This is the freedom in Christ that Paul is incessantly talking about in his epistles.  He is always telling us that it is not any man’s place to tell another man how they ought to keep the Sabbath.  This was a constant source of tension between the religious leaders of the time and Jesus.  They had constant debate about Sabbath observance and Messiah position was that it is not the business of another man to judge what another man does on the Sabbath as long as that man’s conscience is clear before God.  This verse has nothing to do with getting rid of the statues and commandments that were given by God in the Torah.  It is a point of clarification.  In Colosse, religious teachers were attempting to tell the believers that they had to obey torah in a specific way or they were sinning (Hence, in the beginning of chapter two Paul is talking about the commandments and doctrines of men.  He never mentions the commandments and doctrines of God.)  Paul is saying that it is not their place to tell someone how to keep a particular commandment.  This agrees with the teachings of Jesus on the matter (see my article entitled, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath”) Rather than announcing that this verse does away with the law, it actually, when read in the Greek and translated correctly, demonstrates that not only were New Testament gentile believers observing Torah but that they had a freedom to keep the “instruction” as each man conscience led him to before God, who ultimately, will judge him and not his fellows.

      This seems to make much more sense to me.  We know that Jesus kept the instruction (or torah), as did all of the apostles, including Paul.  Hence, this interpretation of the Greek, which is what the Greek actually says, makes much more sense of the entire letter than anything else that I’ve read.

 

Endnotes

  1. 1.       Dybdhal, Jon, (General Editor),  Andrews Study Bible, Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs, MI, 2010.
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Hanuka in History: A Fearless and Thorough Examination of The Feast of the Dedication

      The Feast of Dedication, in Hebrew Hanukkah, is rooted in both prophecy and history.  The amazing thing about the roots of this feast is the prophetic fulfillments found in the history of the intertestamental period.  In order to study the events of Hanukkah for their real impact, one must first refer to the prophecies that were given in the book of Daniel and compare what is found there with the historical writings of the time period between Old and New Testaments.  Let us examine the prophecies and the history found in the 8th and 11th chapter of Daniel and identifies their immediate fulfillment in the saga of Hanukkah.

 

                     Daniel Chapter 8 (1-22):  A ram, a goat, and four horns?

 

     The eight chapter of Daniel opens with Daniel having a vision in the third year of Baltshazar (the son of the great Babylonian king Nebuchanezzer, this year is either 550 or 547) (1).  In this vision Daniel sees a ram with 2 horns conquering and doing mighty things that no one can oppose.  Suddenly, a goat, with one large horn, charges upon the ram and destroys it.  The one large horn of the goat is broken and four smaller horns take its place.  The angel Gabriel is sent to explain the vision to Daniel.  Gabriel relates to Daniel that the ram with two horns would be the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians.  Then, the kingdom of Greece, represented by the one horned goat, would swiftly conquer the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. Interestingly enough, this was also prophesied in the 5th chapter of Daniel to Belthsazar (Daniel 5:30-31). However, the kingdom shall not stand, and four kings will arise in the place of the one king but their kingdoms will not have as much power.  The Intervarsity Press Bible Background Commentary gives a brief yet thorough explanation of the actual historical fulfillment of these prophecies related in chapter 8:1-22.  “The king represented by the large ram is undisputed:  Alexander the Great, whose Greek army swept away the Persian Empire between 335 and 331 B.C.  When Alexander died suddenly in 323 at the age of 33, the two who could claim ancestral rights to the kingdom (his illegitimate half-brother, Phillip Arrideus, and the son of Alexander and Roxane, Alexander IV, born two months after his father’s death) were installed as figureheads while the operation of the kingdom was entrusted to three experienced officers, Antipater (viceroy of Macedon), Predicts (head of the armies) and Craterus (in charge of the treasury and advisor to Arrideus).  By 321 these three regents had sufficiently antagonized one another that a battle was instigated by a fourth player, Ptolemy, who had been given a position of authority in Egypt, Craterus was killed in battle, and Perdiccas was assassinated in a mutiny by several of his generals, one of whom was Seleucus.  Meanwhile Antipater took the lead and placed a friend Antigonus, in Perdicca’s position.  In 319 Antipater died an old man, and despite his appointment of another, within two years his son, Cassander, had gained control of Macedonia and most of the territory of Greece.  In the summer of 317, those opposing Cassander executed Phillip Arriedus, Alexander IV and his mother Roxane were place under house arrest and effectively deposed, though they were not executed until 310.  The three who ruled were now Cassander in the west, Ptolemy in Egypt and Antigonus in the east.  As Antigonus sought to solidify his control of the east, he attempted to dominate Seleucus (now governor of Babylon), who in 325 exposed Antigonus’s schemes for power to the other leaders, Ptolemy, Cassander and Lysimachus, leaving Seleucus isolated but in control of Babylonia.  By 309 Ptolemy decided to move against Antigonus but pushed too far and ended up in 306 under the attack of Antigonus and his son, Demetrius.  Antigonus’s invasion of Egypt failed and at 305, Ptolemy, along with Cassander, Seleucus and Lysimachus (Most likely to be identified as the four horns), declared themselves the successors kings to Alexander.  Yet it was still four more years until Antigonus was killed in the Battle of Ipsus, 301.  Cassander died only three years later (298) and Demetrius continued to cause trouble, but the division of the empire into four parts presents the fallout of this twenty year succession struggle.” (2)  In the book of Daniel, the kingdom of the south will be Ptolomies and the kingdom of the north will be Seleucids.  Ptolomy would gain control of Israel. Israel would suffer greatly over the next few hundred years sitting between the Ptolomies and the Seleucids.

 

          

 

                  Daniel chapter 11:1-35  Ptolemy versus Seleucid

 

     Regarding Ptolemy, he had been a boyhood companion of Alexander’s.  Both had studied philosophy under Aristotle together and Ptolemy became a distinguished leader in Alexander’s army with many successful campaigns.  After the death of Alexander, he withdrew to the easily defendable province of Egypt to set up his royal line that would last fifteen years and end with the famous Cleopatra (3). Under Ptolemy, the Jews were heavily taxed but were allowed, nevertheless, to carry on their culture.  It is interesting, however, how Ptolemy gained control of Jerusalem.  Josephus writes, “He (Ptolemy) also seized upon Jerusalem, and for that end made use of deceit and treachery; for as he came into the city on a Sabbath day, as if he would offer sacrifice, he, without any trouble, gained the city; while the Jews did not oppose him for they did not suspect him to be their enemy; and he gained it thus, because they were free from suspicion of him, and because on that day they were at rest and quietness; and when he had gained it, he reigned over it in a cruel manner.” (4).

 

          What is interesting about the relations between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies over the next few years, is the exact revelation of events that are related in the 11th chapter of Daniel. Let us examine these until they lead up to the reign of Antiochus Epiphanies, the 11th Seleucid king and prototype of the antichrist.  His reign will set of the events of Hanukkah, but it is important to set the stage, as the prophecies in Daniel have been revealed. (all scripture quotes will be taken from NKJV unless otherwise specified).

 

Daniel 11:2:  “…Behold three more kings will arise in Persian, and the fourth shall be far richer than them all, by his strength, through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece.”

 

            Cambyses (530-522), Pseudosmerdis or Gaumata (522) and Darius I (522-486).  Xerses I (486-465), who attempted to conquer Greece in 480.  This is also the Xerxes of the time of Esther. (5)  His riches were proverbial both in scripture and in Greek history.  Xerxes reached his greatest climax and greatest power around 480 B.C.  He tested this strength with the invasion of Greece.  When Alexander comes to power, he will avenge the wrongs done to Greece on the Persians (6)

 

Daniel 11:3-4:   “Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.  And when he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not among his posterity nor according to his dominion with which he ruled; for his kingdom shall be uprooted, even for other besides these.

 

     The mighty king is Alexander the Great (336-323), as stated previously from the visions of chapter 8.

 

Daniel 11:5 “Also, the king of the South shall become strong, as well as one of his princes; and he shall gain power over him and have dominion, His dominion shall be a great dominion.”

 

     The king of the south is Ptolemy I Soter (323-285) and “One of his princes” refers to Seleucus Nicator (311-280 B.C.) (7).

 

Daniel 11:6: “And at the end of some years they shall join forces, for the daughter of the king of the south shall go to the king of the North to make an agreement; but she shall not retain the power of her authority, and neither he nor his authority shall stand; but she shall be given up, with those who brought her, and with him who begot her, and with him who strengthened her in those times.

 

     Bernice, the daughter of Ptolmy II Philadelphia (285-246) of Egypt.  Antiochus II Theos (261-246) of Syria.  A peaceful treaty cemented by the marriage of Bernice to Antiochus.   However, Antiochus’s former wife, Laodice, conspired to have Berenice and Antiochus put to death.  Berenice’s father, Ptolemy, died at about the same time. (8)

 

Daniel 11:7-9 ”But from a branch of her roots one shall arise in his place, who shall come with an army, enter the fortress of the king of the North, and deal with them and prevail.  And he shall also carry their gods captive to Egypt, with their princes and their precious articles of silver and gold; and he shall continue more years than the king of the North.  Also, the king of the North shall come to the kingdom of the king of the South, but shall return to his own land.”

 

     The branch of her roots refers to the brother of Bernice Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-221 B.C.) who conquered the king of the north Seleucus Callinicus (246-226 B.C.) of Syria.  Ptolemy III returned to Egypt with great booty and outlived Seleucus by six years.  Seleucus attempted an attack on Egypt but returned to Syria without accomplishing his purpose. (9)

 

Daniel 11: 10 “However, his sons shall stir up strife, and assemble a multitude of great forces; and one shall certainly come and overwhelm and pass through; then he shall return to his fortress and sir up strife.”

 

     His sons, the sons of Seleucus II, refers to Seleucus III Ceraunus (226-223) and Antiochus III (the Great) (223-187), the fortress makes reference to Ptolmies fortress at Raphia (10).

 

Daniel 11:11:  “And the king of the South shall be moved with rage, and go out and fight, with him, with the king of the North, who shall muster a great multitude; but the multitude will be given into the hand of his enemy.

 

     At Raphia, Ptolemy IV Philpator (king of the South) defeated (king of the north) Antiochus III the great in 217. (11).

 

Daniel 11:12:  “When he has taken away the multitude, his heart will be lifted up, and he will cast down tens of thousands, but he will not prevail.”

 

     This historian Polybius records that Antiochus lost nearly 10,000 infantryman at Raphia.

 

Daniel 11:13  “”For the king of the North will return and muster a multitude greater than the former, and shall certainly come at the end of some years with a great army and much equipment. 

 

    Antiochus III assembled a great army and attacked Egypt in 201 B.C. (12).

 

Daniel 11:14 “Now in those times many shall rise up against the king of the south.  Also, violent men of your people shall exalt themselves in fulfillment of the vision, but they shall fall.”

 

     Philip V of Macedonia helped Antiochus fight against the king of the South Ptoloemy V. of Egypt.  Many Jews assisted Antiochus with his efforts, the rebellion was crushed by Scopas in 200. (13)  Josephus records that the land of Judah suffered greatly both when Antiochus and his son Epiphanies, was successful and when he was beaten (14).

 

Daniel 11:15: “So the king of the North shall come and build a siege mound, and take a fortified city, and the forces of the South shall not withstand him.  Even his choice troops shall have no strength to resist.

 

     Antiochus returns and defeats the fortified city of Sidon in 198 B.C. (15).

 

Daniel 11:16 “But he who comes against him shall do according to his own will, and no one shall stand against him.  He shall stand in the Glorious Land with destruction in his power.”

 

     It is at this time, that control of Israel (Glorious land) passed from the Ptolomies (Egypt, king of the South) to the Seleucids (Babylonia and Syria, king of the north).

 

Daniel 11:17 “ He shall also set his face to enter with the strength of his whole kingdom, and upright ones with him; thus shall he do.  And he shall give him the daughter of women to destroy it, but she shall not stand with him or be for him.

 

     Antiochus III’s daughter was given in marriage to Ptolemy V Epiphanies in Egypt in order to destroy or undermine Egypt, but Cleopatra I sided with her husband over her father in 194 B.C. (16)  Josephus records the even thusly, “After this Antiochus made a friendship and a league with Ptolemy, and gave him his daughter Cleopatra to wife, and yielded up to him Celesyria, and Judea, and Phoenicia, by way of dowry. (17), as a result heavy taxation was laid upon these lands.

 

Daniel 11:18-19 “After this he shall turn his face to the coastlands, and shall take many.  But a ruler shall bring the reproach against them to an end; and with the reproach removed, he shall turn back on him. Then he shall turn his face toward the fortress of his own land; but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found.

 

     Antiochus III undertook a vigorous campaign into Asia Minor and the Aegean region.  A ruler, the Roman Lucius Cornelius Scipio defeated Antiochus.  Having lost all that he had gained, Antiochus returned to his own land where he was defeated and killed while trying to plunder a temple (18).

 

Daniel 11:20:  “  There shall arise in his place one who imposes taxes on the glorious kingdom; but within a few days he shall be destroyed, but not in anger or in battle.

 

     Selecious IV Philopater (187-175) son and successor of Antiochus the Great.  His finance minister, Heliodorus devises a successful conspiracy against him (19), his reign would only last 11 years (20).  As mentioned previously, the glorious land refers to Israel.

 

Daniel 11:21 “And in his place shall arise a vile person, to whom they will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue.”

 

Selecius younger brother, Antiochus Epiphanies (175-164) seized the power while the rightful heir to the throne, the son of Seleucus (later to become Demetrius II) was still very young (21).

 

Daniel 11: 22-23 “With the force of a flood they shall be swept away from before him and be broken, and also the prince of the covenant.  And after the league is made with him, he shall act deceitfully, for  he shall come up and become strong with a small number of people.”

 

     “With the force of a flood” probably refers to the Egyptians. Either the high priest Onias III who was murdered in 170 B.C. by Menelaus, or if the Hebrew for this phrase is translated  “ confederate prince” Ptolemy VI Philometor (181-146) of Egypt. (22).  IVP commentary relates, “Onias III was detained by Antiochus, and in the interim Jason,  his brother, conspired to usurp his position.  He  paid a considerable sum to Antiochus and offered to be cooperative in the hellenization of Judea (promotion of Greek culture at the expense of Jewish practices). II Maccabees states,” But after the death of Selecus, when Antiochus, called Epiphanies, took the kingdom, Jason the brother of Onias, labored underhand to be high priest promising unto the king by intercession three hundred and threescore talents of silver, and of another revenue eighty talents, beside this more, if he might have license to set him up a place for exercise, and for the training up of youth in the fashions of the heathen, and to write of them of Jerusalem by the name of Antiochians.  Which when the king had granted, and he had gotten into his hand the rule, he forthwith brought his own nation to the Greekish fashion.“ (23). Three years later Menelaus, with the probable support of the Tobiads, paid a larger sum and, the precedent having been established, was awarded the office over Jason (24).  II Maccabees 4:34-35 states, ”Wherefore Menelaus, taking Andronicus apart, prayed him to get Onias into his hands; who being persuaded thereunto, and coming to Onias in deceit, gave him his right hand with oaths; and though he were suspected by him, yet persuaded him to come forth of the sanctuary; whom forthwith he shut up without regard to justice. For the which cause not only the Jews, but many also of other nations, took great indignation, and were much grieved for the unjust murder of the man,” (25).

 

Daniel 11:24 “He shall enter peaceably even into the richest places of the province; and he shall do what his fathers have not done, nor his forefathers; he shall disperse among them the plunder, spoil, and riches; and he shall devise plans against the strongholds, but only for a time.”

 

     One of the interesting characteristics about this prototype of the antichrist is noted by the Nelson Study Bible, it relates of this verse, ”Antiochus took from the rich and gave to the poor.” (26) A very “Robin-Hood” noble act that would make him popular in the eyes of the poor.

 

Daniel 11:25-27: ”He shall stir up his power and courage against the king of the South with a great army.  And the king of the South shall be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army, but he shall not stand, for they shall devise plans against him.  Yes, those who eat of the portions of his delicacies shall destroy him, his army shall be swept away, and many will fall down slain.  Both of these kings hearts shall be bent on evil, they shall speak lies at the same table; but it shall not prosper, for the end will still be at the appointed time.

 

     Josephus relates these events as such, ”Now Antiochus, upon the agreeable situation of the affairs of his kingdom, resolved to make an expedition against Egypt both because he had a desire to gain it, and because he condemned the some of Ptolemy, as now weak, and not yet of the abilities to manage affairs of such consequence; so he came with great forces to Pelusium and circumvented Ptolemy Philmeter by treachery, and seized upon Egypt.  He then came to places about Memphis; and when he had taken them, he made haste to Alexandria, in hopes of taking it by siege, and of subduing Ptolemy, who reigned there.  But he was driven not only from Alexandria, but out of Egypt, by the declarations of the Romans, who charged him to let that country alone.” (27)  The trusted counselors of Ptolemy would betray him and both kings resorted to deceit and betrayal in working out truce arrangements (28).

 

Daniel 11:28-31  “While returning to his own land, with great riches, his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant; so he shall do damage and return to his own land. At the appointed time he shall return and go toward the south; but it shall not be like the former or the latter, for the ships from Cyprus shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage.  So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant.  And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.”

 

     Antiochus would attempt a second invasion into Egypt that was not nearly as successful as his first.  This time, Ptolemy was prepared and had hired mercenaries from Greece.  Rome again intervenes on behalf of Ptolemy and the ambassador Popilius Loenas, (with a fleet of Roman ships from Cyprus) meets with him in Alexandria.  At the meeting, Antiochus told the ambassador that he would think about the Roman position.  Subsequently, the ambassador drew a circle around Antiochus and told him that He must have an answer to give the senate before Antiochus leaves this circle. (29)  Antiochus submitted to Rome to withdraw from the region.  On his return from Egypt, Antiochus would defile and plunder the Temple in Jerusalem.  He would further forbade Jewish worship and command that the Greek style of worship would be the only religion of his kingdom.  Josephus records these events, “Now it came to pass after two years in the hundred and forty fifth year, on the twenty-fifth day of that month which is called by us Casleu…that the king (Antiochus) came up to Jerusalem, and , pretending peace, he got possession of the city by treachery:  at which time he spared not so much as those that admitted him into it, on account of the riches that lay in the temple; but, led by his covetous inclination…and in order to plunder it s wealth, he ventured to break the league he had made.  So he left the temple bare, and took away the golden candlesticks, and the golden altar (of incense), and table (of showbread), and the altar (of burnt offerings); and did not abstain from even the veils, which were made of fine linen and scarlet.  He also emptied it of its secret treasures, and left nothing at all remaining; and by this means cast the hews into great lamentation, for he forbade them to offer those daily sacrifices which they used to offer to God, according to the law…And when the king had built an idol altar upon God’s altar, he slew swine upon it, and so offered a sacrifice neither according to the law, nor the Jewish religious worship in that country.  He also compelled them to forsake the worship which they paid their own God, and to adore those whom he took to be gods; and made them build temples, and raise idol altars, in every city and village, and offer swine upon them every day. He also commanded them not to circumcise their sons, and threatened to punish any that should be found to have transgressed his injunction.  He also appointed overseers, who should compel them to do what he commanded.” (30)  The writer of I Maccabees relates a similar tale, “And after that Antiochus had smitten Egypt, he returned again in the hundred forty and third year, and went up against Israel and Jerusalem with a great multitude, and entered proudly into the sanctuary and took away the golden altar, and the candlestick of light, and all the pouring vessels, and the vials, and the censers of gold, and the veil, and the crowns, and the golden ornaments that were before the temple, all which he pulled off.  He took also the silver and the gold, and the precious vessels:  also he took the hidden treasure which he found…Moreover, king Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should be on people and every one should leave his laws, so all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the king.  Yea, many also of the Israelites consented to his religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the Sabbath. (31).  Antiochus’s move to centralize the religion of his kingdom, under penalty of death, was an unprecedented move in world history.  As Moshe Pearlman notes,  ”By his declaration of war on the Jewish religion, with the explicit aim of stamping out Judaism, Antiochus IV Epiphanes became the first leader in history to engage in religious persecution.  Not that oppression was unknown in his age or in previous epochs of cruelty.  But heretofore the grounds- if indeed there were any, beyond mindless hate and sheer sadism- were said to be political or military.  Now, for the first time, the target was specifically religious.” (32).  This will become an important factor in the application of Hanukkah to future events as Antiochus is a prototype of Antichrist.

 

Daniel 11:32  “Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery, but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. 

 

   As was mentioned previously, there were those in Israel who believed that the Jews should conform with the demands of Antiochus.  Jason and Meneleaus having taken the false idea from Greek philosophy that the main object of religion is to maintain political and social order, and that all religions are good enough to keep the masses in check, these had cast off circumcision and true worship of Yahveh for Greek customs. (33) “But the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits”, more will come on this verse in the next section.  The fulfillment in this verse will be found in the actions of the Hasmoneans who will become known as the Maccabeans or Maccabees. 

 

Daniel 11:33-35 “And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering.  Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue. And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time.”

 

      Much of this will be discussed in the next chapter; however, to get a feel for the intensity of their persecution, a couple of exploits will be noted here from II Maccabees and Josephus.  Josephus writes,” And indeed many Jews there were who complied with the king’s commands, either voluntarily, or out of fear of the penalty that was denounced; but the best men, and those of the noblest should, did not regard him, but did pay a greater respect to the customs of their country than concern as to the punishment which he threatened to the disobedient; on which accounted everyday underwent great miseries and bitter torments; for they were whipped with rods and their bodies were torn to pieces, and were crucified while they were still alive and breathed:  they also strangled those women and their sons whom they had circumcised as, the king had appointed, hanging their sons about their necks as they were upon the crosses.  And if there were any sacred book of the law found, it was destroyed; and those with whom they were found miserably perished also.” (34)  The reader is reminded here that circumcision of ones son, according to Torah, takes place on the eighth day of life.  II Maccabees confirms similar horrors, the reader is advised to read II Maccabees for further details.  One such tale in II Maccabees is worthy of  mentioning.   First the death of an aged scribe named Eleazor.  He was compelled, by the kings edict to “eat swine’s flesh” and when he had spit it out stating, “I would rather die than commit such an abomination”, he was whipped to death.  Prior to his death, when he was ready to die he groaned “It is manifest unto Yahveh, that hath holy knowledge, that whereas I might have been delivered from death, I now endure sore pains in body by being beaten:  but in soul am well content to suffer these things, because I fear Him.” (35).  Thusly he died. 

 

Daniel 11:36  “Then the king shall do according to his own will:  he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done.”

 

The word Epiphanies means “god manifest”.  Antiochus did assume some divine honors and identified himself with Jupiter Olympus. (36) The exaltation of self and self will has always been Satanically empowered. A final note on the persecutions endured by the Jews during these times.  There has been throughout Jewish history a chastening of Yahveh to motivate the people back to Him.  Yahveh’s wrath is driven out of His great love (Hebrew Hesed) for His people.   The writer of II Maccabees make a point that I believe is worthy of quotation  “Now I beseech those that read this book, that they be not discouraged for these calamities, but that they judge those punishments not to be for destruction, but for a chastening of our nation.  For it is a token of His great goodness, when wicked doers are not suffered any longer time, but forthwith punished.” (37)

 

 

       Can we have a “little help” with some “great exploits” down here please!!

 

     In the midst of the political/social/religious milieu that we have been describing lived a man, a priest, by the name of Mattathias.  Mattathias lived around Jerusalem, in Modin, with his five sons and when they had seen the events take place at the Temple, they tore their clothes, put on sackcloth, and went about in mourning.  Mattathias was a prominent man in the community and the kings officers sought him out to persuade him to forsake Yahveh and worship as the Greeks. The ruler believed that if Mattathias would worship as the Greeks that he would influence several hundred others worship accordingly.  He promised Mattathias riches of silver and gold, both to him and his sons, and he invited him to come to the alter first, and make the first sacrifice.  Mattathias answered, ”Though all the nations that are under the king’s dominion obey him, and fall away every one from the religion of their fathers, and give consent to his commandments:  yet will I and my sons and my brethren walk in the covenant of our fathers.  God forbid that we should forsake the law and the ordinances.  We will not hearken to the king’s words, to go from our religion, either on the right hand, or the left,” (38).   Well, about this time, a Jew, who was not as resolute as Mattathias came forward and consented to offer the first sacrifice.  Mattathias was filled with righteous indignation rose up and killed the Jew.  Then, the sons of Mattathias rose up and killed all of the kings officials.  Incidentally, the writer of Maccabees compares the actions of Mattathias with those of Phinehas in Numbers 25.  Mattathias then goes through all of his country calling the righteous to flee to the desert and mountains with him to fight against the King and his decrees.  A changing of policy regarding the Sabbath was one of the first orders of business. Previously, Jews would not fight on the Sabbath and many were slain while at rest and refusing to fight.  After on such occasion, Mattathias and his comrades decided, “Whosever shall come to make battle with us on the Sabbath day, we will fight against him:  neither will we die all, as our brethren that were murdered in the secret places.” (39).  What we read about these “great exploits” that the Hasmoneans carried out, is that they are somewhat reminiscent of the wars that are waged in the Tanach (Old Testament), “Then Mattathias and his friends went round about and pulled down the altars: and what children soever they found within the coast of Israel u circumcised, those they circumcised valiantly.  They pursued also after the proud men, and the work prospered in their hand.  So they recovered the law out of the hand of the Gentiles, and out of the hand of kings, neither suffered they the sinner to triumph.” (40).  Mattathias would not see the end of the righteous war that began with his act of zeal.  Before his death, he called his sons to him and exhorts and blesses them.  His final words to them are worthy of record, again they reflect  the patriarchs of old, “Now when the time drew near that Mattathias should die, he said unto his sons, Now have pride and rebuke gotten strength, and the time of destruction, and the wrath of indignation: now therefore my sons, be ye zealous for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers.  Call to remembrance what acts our father did in their time; so shall ye receive great honor and an everlasting name.  Was not it imputed unto him for righteousness?  Joseph in the time of his distress kept the commandment, and was made lord of Egypt; fervent obtained the covenant of an everlasting priesthood.  Jesus for fulfilling the word was made a judge in Israel.  Caleb for bearing witness before the congregation received the heritage of the land.  David for being merciful possessed the throne of an everlasting kingdom.  Elias for being zealous and fervent for the law was taken up to heaven.  Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, by believing were saved out of the flame.  Daniel for his innocence was delivered from the mouth of the lions.  And thus consider ye throughout all ages that none put their trust in Him shall be overcome.  Fear not then the words of a sinful man:  for his glory shall be dung and worms.  Today he shall be lifted up, and tomorrow he shall not be found, because he is returned into this dust, and his thought is come to nothing.  Wherefore, ye my sons, be valiant, and shew yourselves men in the behalf of the law:  for by it shall ye obtain glory.  And behold, I know that your brother Simon  is a man of council, give ear unto him always: he shall be a father unto you.   As for Judas Maccabeus, he has been mighty and strong even from his youth up:  let him be your captain, and fight the battle of the people.  Take also unto you all those that observe the law, and avenge ye the wrong of your people.  Recompense fully the heathen, and take heed to the commandments of the law.  So he blessed them, and was gathered to his fathers.” (41).

 

     By the time of the passing of Mattathias, Judas, his son, had already obtained a reputation as a great warrior and had been given the name “Maccabeus” which in Hebrew means “the Hammerer”.  He carried on the heritage that was given him by his father and carried out many “great exploits” and was honored among the people of the land,  “Then his son Judas, called Maccabeus, rose up in his stead.  And all his brethren helped him, and so did all they that held with this father, and they fought with cheerfulness the battle of Israel.  So he gat his people great honor, and put on a breastplate as a giant, and girt his warlike harness about him, and he made battles, protecting the host with his sword.  In hi acts he was like a lion, and like a lion’s whelp roaring for his prey.  For he pursued the wicked, and sought them out, and burnt up those that vexed this people.  Wherefore they wicked shrunk from fear of him, and all the workers of iniquity were troubled, because salvation prospered in his hand.” (42).  Now, as well as Israel was doing, Antiochus was not going to put out with rebellion, thus, he prepares to respond.

 

     Antiochus was very upset about the happenings and the rebellion against his decrees in Israel.  Therefore, he set out to invade the entire country and to squelch the rebellion.  “Now when King Antiochus heard these things, he was full of indignation:  wherefore he sent and gathered together all the forces of his realm, even a very strong army.  He opened also his treasure, and gave his soldiers pay for a year, commanding them to be ready whensoever he should need them.  Nevertheless, when he saw that the money of his treasure failed, and that the tributes in the country were small, because of the dissension and plague, which he had brought upon the land in taking away the  laws which had been of old time; he feared that he should be able to bear the charges any longer, nor to have such gifts to give so liberally as he did before; for he had abounded above the kings that were before him.  Wherefore, being greatly perplexed in his mind, he determined to go into Persia, there to take the tributes of the countries, and to gather much money.  So he left Lysias, a nobleman, and one of the blood royal, to oversee the affairs of the king from the Euphrates unto the borders of Egypt; and to bring up his son Antiochus, until he came again.  Moreover, he delivered unto him the half of his forces, and the elephants, and gave him charge of all things that he would have done, as also concerning them that dwelt in Judah and Jerusalem:  to wit, that he should send an army against them, to destroy and root out the strength of Israel and the remnant of Jerusalem, and to take away their memorial from that place; and that he should place strangers in all their quarters, and divide their land by lot.  So the king took the half of the forces that remained, and departed from Antioch, his royal city, the hundred forty and seventh year; and he passed the river Euphrates, and went through the high countries.” (43).

 

     When the Jews heard of the coming invasion, the lamented greatly and sought the God of their fathers.  Their response is a Godly response, “They fasted that day, and put on sackcloth, and cast ashes upon their heads and rent their clothes, and laid open the book of the law, wherein the heathen had sought to paint the likeness of their images.  They brought also the priest’s garments, and the first-rate, and the tithes; and the Nazarites they stirred up, who had accomplished their days.  Then cried they with a loud voice toward heaven, saying.  What shall we do with these, and whither shall we carry them away?  For thy sanctuary is trodden down and profaned, and thy priests are in heaviness, and brought low.  And lo, the heathen are assembled together against us to destroy us:  what things they imagine against us, thou knowest.  How shall we be able to stand against the, except thou, O God, be our help?  Then they sounded with trumpets, and cried with a loud voice.” (44).

 

     One consistent factor with Judas Maccabeus is that he waged war according to Torah.  There are three areas where this is reflected.  The organization of his forces, his speeches toward his men, and his prayers before battle.  In relation to his organization, it is recorded, ”Judas ordained captains over the people even captains over thousands, and over hundreds, and over fifties, and over tens.  But as for such as were building houses, or had betrothed wives , or were planting vineyards, or were fearful, those he commanded that they should return, every man to his own house, according to the law.” (45)  This commandment is recorded in Deuteronomy 20:1-9, “When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt is with you.  When you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people.  He shall say to them, “Hear O Israel, you are approaching the battle against you enemies today.  Do not be fainthearted.  Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.  The officers also shall speak to the people, saying, ”Who is the man that has built a new house and has not dedicated it?  Let him depart and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would dedicate it.  Who is the man that has planted a vineyard and has not begun to use its fruit?  Let him depart and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man begin to use its fruit.  And who is the man that is engaged to a woman and has not married her?  Let him depart and return to his house, otherwise he might die in the battle and another man would marry her.  Then the officers shall speak further to the people and say, “Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted?  Let him depart and return to his house, so that he might not make his brother hears melt like his heart (NASB).  Furthermore, when Judas would make speeches to his men, it was always reflected that Yahveh was the one who would fight the battle and bring about the victory, ”Then said Judas to the men that were with him, Fear ye not their multitude, neither be ye afraid of their assault.  Remember how our father were delivered in the Red Sea, when Pharaoh pursued them with an army.  Now therefore, let us cry unto heaven, if peradventure the LORD will have mercy upon us, and remember the covenant of our fathers, and destroy this host before our face this day:  that so all the heathen may know that there is one who delivered and sayeth Israel.” (46)  Also, his leading by Torah and his own godliness are seen in his prayers prior to battle, “And when he saw the mighty army, he prayed and said, Blessed art thou, O Savior of Israel, who didst quell the violence of the mighty man by the hand of thy servant David, and gavest the host of strangers into the hands of Jonathan the son of Saul, and his armor-bearer; shut up this army in the hand of thy people Israel, and let them be confounded in their power and horsemen;  make them to be of no courage, and cause the boldness of their strength to fall away, and let them quake at their destruction:  cast them down with the sword of them that love thee, and let all those that know thy name praise thee with thanksgiving.” (47)  The results of this godly man leading the people of Israel was victory against a more numerous host reflective of some of the great victories recorded in the Old Testament, “Now when Lysias saw his army put to flight, and the manliness of Judas’ soldiers, and how they were ready either to live or die valiantly, he went into Antiochia…” (48) 

 

     While Lysias would eventually come attack the Jews again and be defeated, this immediate victory for the Jews gave them a reprieve where they could go up to Jerusalem and repair and re-dedicate the Temple, and this, is what they did.  “Then said Judas to his brethren, behold, our enemies are discomfited, let us go up to cleanse and dedicate the sanctuary.  Upon this all the host assembled themselves together and went up into mount Zion.  And when they saw the sanctuary desolate, and the altar profaned, and the gates burned up, and shrubs growing in the courts as in a forest, or in one of the mountains, yea, and the priests chambers pulled down, the rent their clothes, and make great lamentation, and cost ashes upon their heads, and fell down flat to the ground upon their faces, and blew an alarm with the trumpets, and cried toward heaven.  Then Judas appointed certain men to fight against those that were in the fortress, until he had cleansed the sanctuary.  So he chose priests of blameless conversation, such as had pleasure in the law, who cleansed the sanctuary , and bare out the defiled stones into an unclean place. And when as they consulted what to do with the altar of burnt offerings, which was profaned, they thought it best to pull it down, lest it should be a reproach to he because the heathen had defiled it; wherefore, they pulled it down, and laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place until there should come a prophet to show what should be done with them.  Then they took whole stones according to the law, and built a new altar according to the former; and made up the sanctuary, and the things that we within the temple, and hallowed the courts,  They made also new holy vessels,. And into the temple they brought the candlestick, and the altar of incense, and the table.  And upon the altar they burned incense, and the lamps that were upon the candlestick they lighted, that they might give light in the temple.  Furthermore the set the loaves upon the table, and spread out the veils, and finished all the works which they had begun to make.  Now on the five and twentieth day of the ninth month which s is called the month of Casleu, in the hundred forty and eighty year, they rose up betimes in the morning and offered sacrifice according to the law upon the new altar of burnt offerings which they had made.  At what time and day the heathen had profaned it, even in that was it dedicated with sons, and  citherens, and harps, and cymbals,  Then all the people fell upon their faces, worshipping and praising the God of heaven, who had given the good success.  And so they kept the dedication of the altar eight days, and offered burnt offerings with gladness, and sacrificed the sacrifice of deliverance and praise.  They decked also the forefront of the temple with crowns of gold and with shields; and the gates and the chambers they renewed, and hanged doors upon them.  Thus was there great gladness among the people, for that the reproach of the heathen was put away.” (49)  Happy Hanukkah!!  This is the reason the festival, holiday, was instituted.  A joyous time where God had proofed himself to be living among His people and if they will live according to his standards, He will act on their behalf.  They celebrated the festival for eight days.  No particular reason is ever disclosed however, many believe that when Moses dedicated the tabernacle in the wilderness, it was four eight days, so the Jews acted on Moses’ example.  Another possibility, is that the Jews had just commerated the Feast of the Tabernacles for eight days in the fall.  Perhaps this too, was a consideration for the length of the Feast of the Dedication. II Maccabees adds an interesting twist to the story that is worthy of mention, “Now upon the same day that the strangers profaned the temple, on the very same day it was cleansed again, even the five and twentieth day of the same month, which is Casleu.” (50).  This event is of prophetic importance as Josephus relates, “Now, it so fell out, that these things were done on the very same day on which their divine worship had fallen off, and was reduced to a profane and common use, after three years time; for so it was that the temple was made desolate by Antiochus, and so continued for three years.  This desolation happened to the temple in the hundred forty and fifth year, and the 25th of the month…but it was rededicated anew, on the same day, the twenty fifth of the month of Apelleus, in the hundred forty-eighth  year and on the hundred and fifty fourth Olympiad.  And this desolation came to pass according to the prophecy of Daniel which was give four hundred and eight years before; for he declared that the Macedonians would dissolve that worship (for some time).” (51)  The prophecy that Josephus is referring to can be found in Daniel 8:11-14, “It (the little horn represented by Antiochus)  even magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host, and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down.  And on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn along with the regular sacrifice; and it will fling truth to the ground and perform it will and prosper.  Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one who was speaking, “How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while transgression cause horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host o be trampled? He said to me, For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored.” (NASB) (italics mine).  Roughly a three year time period.  Thus we can discern that the events that have taken place for Hanukkah were an ordained time period.  This immediate fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy gives validity to scripture, and makes Hanukkah a time for us to remember that Yahveh is true and His Word is true.  A final word on the accuracy of the prophecies in the book of Daniel as they relate to history.  The prophesies are so accurate that many liberal scholars have attempted to make a case for dating the book of Daniel after the time of Antiochus.   The logic of this assumption rests on the fact that there is no way that Daniel could have possibly known all that information unless it was written after the events.  One quote here should suffice to sum up this position, ”Because of the detailed nature of apocalyptic timetables, the dating of at least the last chapter of Daniel can be established precisely.  Scholars consider the predictions in this book as in other apocalypses, to be prophecies after the fact purportedly written down centuries earlier and kept secret in order to give credence to other predictions about the end of history.” (52).  The real ironic and disheartening fact about this quote, as related to this subject matter, is that it was taken from a Jewish Study Bible.  This position completely negates the possibility that the Living God communicates to His people through His written Word as well as His prophets.  Furthermore, it makes the men who wrote them look like liars.  It is an attempt to undermine the inspiration of scripture.  While a scholarly case could possibly be made, both Jew and Christian, would be committing spiritual suicide if this position is accepted as fact. It would subsequently negate the gifts of the Holy Spirit and God’s ability to speak to His people.  Hence, it must be  rejected.  However, it does make a statement to how powerful the Word of God is to the fact that what scripture states, will come to pass.  It is a proof of the inspiration of scripture, that Daniel wrote all these things hundreds of years before their occurrence.

 

            I’m a Christian, what did Jesus do about Hanukkah?

 

     John 10:22-23 states. “At that time, the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem, it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.” (NASB).  Avram Yehoshua has a worthy comment on this verse,” Some might not think too much of this verse.  But we need to stop and realize that Yeshua’s main area or territory of ministering was one hundred miles north around the Sea of Galilee.  The only times we see Him in Jerusalem is at the Feasts of Israel…We have to stop and ask, ‘Why was Yeshua in Jerusalem at Hanukkah?’  Why would he leave the relatively warmer climate of the Sea of Galilee area, for the mountainous, windy, cold and rainy city of Jerusalem in the middle of the winter?  He was there to make a point.  It’s good to celebrate Hanukkah!! (53).  His presence itself makes a statement about what Yeshua believed about Hanukkah.  It was a holiday, a time to gather with fellow Jews and call to remembrance the fact that Yahveh acts in defense of His people.  What is of further interest, are the events that transpire while Yeshua is at Temple on Hanukkah.

 

John 10:24–42 record an exchange between the Jews and Yeshua.  When Antiochus Epiphanies (god manifest) desecrated the Temple, Judas Maccabees (a prototype of Messiah) restored true and holy worship to the Temple.  Of course, during the time of Yeshua, these events would be discussed and celebrated.  The people might have even been looking toward the time when the real Messiah would deliver them from their present Roman domination.  So, here was Yeshua, walking in the temple, they had heard His words and seen His works during the Feast of the Tabernacles (see John chapter 7), this drives them again to question His Messiahship.  Unfortunately, the Jews didn’t believe Him and picked up stones to stone Him.  Avram Yehoshua writes about the significance of these events, “With Yeshua, God the Son, coming into the Temple, we have the living God Manifest, just the opposite of the perversion of the statue of the King of Syria proclaiming himself to be God.  Unfortunately, there were Jews there that wanted to stone Yeshua because He was telling them that He was one with God.  These Jews were more like the Jews in the days of the Maccabees that bowed down to the false image and ate pig (the sign of allegiance and friendship to Antiochus)(See the story of Eleazor listed on page 6).  Yeshua told those Jews that they weren’t His sheep.  But later we see other Jews that did believe that Yeshua was the Messiah.  Yeshua’s Hanuka is quite a significant event.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it parallels the reason for Hanuka.  The Maccabees fought so they could worship the One True God.  With the appearance of Yeshua, we see the One True God (John 14:1-11) (54) (italics mine).  Yeshua also mentions earlier in the tenth chapter, that He has “other sheep in other folds” (John 10:16) referring to the Gentiles that would be “grafted in” (Romans 11) to the vine of Israel.  Hence, the lessons learned at this Yeshua’s Hanukkah reflect an application to all of the followers of the true God of Israel.

 

 

I’m a Christian. Am I supposed to get something out of this? (Lessons learned from Hanukkah)

 

     King Solomon wrote in the Ecclesiastes 1:9, “That which has been is what will be, That which is done, is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” This statement calls to mind the importance of studying history because similar events are going to occur in the future.  This is one of the greatest applications of Hanuka.  There are three main lessons to glean from the events surrounding Hanuka. The three are, a model for end-times, a preserved remnant, and a time of rededication of the temple of God.  First, in Antiochus alone, we have a  model of end-times and what to look for, to judge the times and the seasons.  Antiochus was an arrogant leader who made himself to be god, claiming divine status.  He was self-willed and self-exalted and he persecuted, with viciousness, anyone who would not confirm to his doctrine. He was a political leader and one who sought to have control over an expanded empire.  A man of power, both politically and religiously.  Secondly, the true worshippers of Yahveh will be revealed when that worship is made illegal and punishable by death.  Many, in that day, will turn away from God and “eat swine’s flesh”  to covenant with the Antichrist.  In fact, Isaiah writes, “I was sought by those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek Me.  I said, ‘Here I am, here I am. To a nation that was not called by My name.  I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts, A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face, who sacrifice in gardens and burn incense on altars of brick, who sit among the graves and spend the night in the tombs, who eat swine’s flesh and the broth of abominable things is in their vessels.  (65:1-4) (italics added for emphasis).  This means that those who share in the demonic worship of the Anti-Christ will covenant with Satan.  This is also evident in Numbers 25 when Israel began participating with the demonic worship of Baal, the were “joined” to him.  Such will be the times in the days when true worship of God is made illegal.  Many will turn away from the God of Yisrael and His Messiah, and eats swine’s flesh, much like the Jews during Hanukkah, the Jews during the days of Yeshua, and perhaps, many in the church in the future.

 

     Lastly, and most importantly, Hanukkah is a time of self-examination and re-dedication of the Temple of God.  In Messiah, we, our bodies, are the Temple.  The Spirit of God is made manifest inside of us and is given as a deposit of things to come.  During Hanukkah, this is the time to cleanse all the idols of selfishness with confession, to dedicate with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, to resolve to maintain the commandments of Yahveh with a refreshed zeal, and to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving with praise and worship, sacrificing the bulls of our lips (Hosea 14:2).

 

Conclusion

 

     Hanukkah is not a holy day as commanded in scripture, it is a holiday and a festive time.  Hanukkah should be remembered by every Christian as a time of reflection on God’s mighty acts on behalf of His people.  It is a great time to study the book of Daniel and realize that all that the Lord has spoken will come to pass.  It is a great time to read Maccabees and consider that Yahveh acts for His followers, not only those written in the pages of scripture but “all who call on the name of Yahveh”.  It is a time to consider that some day, the persecution will flame back up and a new Antiochus will rise to power.  Hanukkah is a time to dedicate ourselves to Yeshua and resolve to live according to His holy standards regardless of the consequences.  Yeshua prepared us for this by telling us not to fear men who could destroy the body, but to fear God, who after He has destroyed the body, will destroy the soul of men.  The power of the antichrist over us is but for a limited time.  Let us now, at Hanukkah, and forever, stand firm in the following of the true God.  Hanukkah is a time to confess and repent of sin, rededicate oneself to god by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and resolve to follow Him and His way of life, regardless of the consequences.  Let us hold fast to the testimony of Yeshua and the keeping of His commandments.

     Many  today will commemorate the holiday with the lighting of candles or oil lamps.  Avram Yehoshua uses eight oil lamps, many will just light candles, and some will light the Hanukah Menorah.  Dr David Stern describes the lighting of the Menorah and it significance, “Hanukkah is celebrated using a special Hanukkah menorah with nine lights.  One uses a match to light the shammash (servant), and it is then employed to light one candle the first night, too the second, and so on until the eight night all eight lights and the shammash are burning brightly.  For Messianic Jews the imagery is rich: Yeshua, the Light of the world came as a servant to give light to everyone, so that we might be lights to others.” (54)  If you have a congregation, many can gather either every night or every other night during the eight days, and read and study, have food and fellowship, watch an edifying movie, and enjoy each others company.  There are no scriptural mandates as how to celebrate the holiday; hence, one is at liberty to decide the traditions for the day.  However, it is celebrated, the point is, that we remember Yeshua who has delivered us from the chains of our own slavery.

 

 

                                        Bibliography

 

1.  Chavalas, Mark W., Matthews, Victor H., Walton, John H.,  The IVP Bible Background Commentary, Old Testament.,  InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois,   page:  742.

2.  Ibid- page :743.

3.  Toombs, Lawrence, Westminster Guides to the Bible:  The Threshold of Christianity.  The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Penn;  page:  23. 

4.  Whiston, William, The Works of Josephus, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody, MA;  Page:  308.

5.  Barker, Kenneth (General Editor), New American Standard Study Bible,  Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; Page:  1244.

6.  Jamieson, Rober, Fausset, A.R., Brown, David.  A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments.,  Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Mass, page:  444.

7.  Radmacher Earl D. (General Editor), The Nelson Study Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN,  page:  1440.

8.  Barker, page:  1244.

9.  Radmacher, page:  1440.

10. Barker, page:  1244.

11.  Radmacher, page:  1440.

12.  Ibid.

13.  Barker, page:  1245.

14.  Whiston,  page:  316.

15. Radmacher, page:   1440.

16.  Ibid.

17.  Whiston, page:  322.

18.  Radmacher, page:  1441.

19. Barker, page:  1245.

20.  Radmacher, page: 1443.

21.  Barker, page:  1245.

22.  Radmacher, page:  1441.

23.  Brenton, Sir Lancelot C.L., The Septuagint with Apocrypha:  Greek and English,  Hendrickson Publishers,   Peabody Mass.,  page:  189.

24. Chavalas  page:  749.

25.  Brenton, page:  190.

26.  Radmacher, page:  1441

27.  Whiston, page:  323.

28.  Radmacher, page:  1441.

29. Jamieson, page:  448 .

30.  Whiston, page:  324.

31.  Brenton, page:  140-141.

32.  Pearlman, Moshe,  The Maccabees.  Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.  New York, page:  48.

33.  Jamieson, page:  448.

34.  Whiston, page:  324.

35.  Brenton, page:  194.

36.  Jamieson, page:  450.

37.  Brenton, page:  193.

38.  Ibid, page:  144

39.  Ibid

40.  Ibid, page:  143-144.

41.  Ibid

42.  Ibid

43.  Ibd, page:  146.

44.   Ibid, page:  147

45.  Ibid.

46.  Ibid.

47.  Ibid, page 148.

48.  Ibid page 148-149.

49.  Ibid, page:  149

50  Ibid, page:  201

51.  Whiston, page:  328.

52.  Berlin, Adele, Brettler, Marc Zvi, The Jewish Study Bible,  Oxford University Press, New York, page:  1641.

53.  Yehoshua, Avram, Hanuka Should We or Shouldn’t We?  Seed of Abraham ministries, www.seedofabraham.net.  Page:  1-2.

54.  Ibid, page:  2.

55.  Stern, David, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc.  Clarksville, Maryland. Page:  187.

Jesus and First Sheaf Fulfilment

     The Holy days in Israel, or the holy convocations, all give us a prophetic glimpse into the life of Messiah and the mission that He would fulfill.  It is universally accepted that Jesus was the Passover lamb, slain for the sins of the world, and in this, He fulfilled the prophetic picture painted by Torah regarding the Passover Lamb.  Israel was saved by the blood of the Passover lamb and not by the keeping of Torah.  Additionally, all the feast days of have a prophetic picture, and when discussion the resurrection of Jesus the festival of First Sheaf should be examined.  It is the writer’s opinion that the day of the celebration of first fruits will lead us to the day that Jesus was raised and scripture will elaborate on His fulfillment of the day.

      To begin with, let us determine exactly what the festival was in ancient Israel and to do this, let us examine Leviticus 23 to ascertain what the prophetic picture would look like when Messiah incarnated.

 Leviticus 23:9-14):  “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the  first fruits of your harvest to the priest,  He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, and to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.  And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the shear, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the LORD.  Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and offering mad by fire to the LORDS, for a sweet aroma and its drink offering shall be of wine, one fourth of a hin.  You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God, it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

     Avram Yehoshua can shed some light on the procedure that takes place in the temple.  “On the Sunday of First Sheaf, the High Priest would be presented with an omer of very finely crushed barley.  He would scoop up a handful of the grain, place some incense on it (symbolic of the prayers of the High Priest for Israel, and Israel’s prayers also,), wave it before Yahveh (a symbol of dedication, this first part of the crop representing all the harvest), bless Yahveh, and cast it upon the Fire of the Altar.  As the first sheaf was dedicated to Yahveh, it made the rest of the harvest acceptable to Israel for their use.” (1) 

      In order for the harvest to be used and to be successful before the LORD, the first sheaf or first fruits had to be waved before the alter in the temple.  “The waving by the High Priest of the finely crushed barely grain, the first sheaf, would picture Yeshua being totally dedicated to Yahveh.  The incense on that quantity that was to be thrown into the fire of the altar (a handful), pictures the prayers of Yeshua as our High Priest, for His people Israel, engulfed in the ‘Fire of the Holy Spirit.  The High Priest, thanking Yahveh for the harvest, thanking Yahveh for His Faithfulness to Israel would picture Yeshua as our High Priest, thanking His Father for giving unto Israel their Messiah, their Savior, their King.  The grain that was not thrown onto the fire of the Altar, the priests would eat,  This pictures the Body of Yeshua being given to His priests, as Food for us (John 6:53).  Yahveh has been found faithful to His word.  He has provided everything that Israel needs; from literal food to the Bread or Matza or Food of Heaven.” (2). 

      The Bible states that Jesus is our High Priest (Hebrews chapter 4 and 9), and as such, He did ascend to present an offering to Yahveh to fulfill the prophetic picture painted for us in the day of First Sheaf.  The question does remain, what did He present?  As Yehoshua mentioned earlier, He presented Himself, but the High Priest on this day was supposed to wave before Yahveh, the harvest of the land, the land that Yahveh had given to the people, His people, Israel.  It is the opinion of this writer that Jesus presented before Yahveh, Jewish saints that were sleeping. Scripture tells us that Jesus would descend into Sheol and preach the gospel to the ones sleeping in the holding area (I Peter 3:20 4:6).  Jesus himself testifies to this fact in John 5:25-29, that the dead will “hear the voice of the Son-of-Man.,” and many will respond to it.  Also, Isaiah prophesies in chapter 26 verse 19 that the dead will be raised.  Matthew relates in 27:51-54 that after the earthquake, the graves were opened and the bodies of the saints could be seen.  It is my opinion that these bodies remained in view while Messiah was in the tomb, as the Sabbath had begun after the earthquake and time would not have been available to fix all the tombs, then, after three days, or after the Sabbath, the righteous saints that slept, arose and were seen in the streets of Jerusalem after the resurrection of Jesus.  These are the first fruits, the first sheaf, that Jesus, The First-Fruits would present before Yahveh in order for the harvest of the world to begin, as Israel would soon be opened to Gentiles, to come to salvation just as the Jews had come to faith, this scenario fulfills the Day of First Sheaf.  Additionally, this gives us another prophetic glimpse at what will take place in Jerusalem with the two witnesses of Revelation (Rev 11:11).

     A final note on the day of First sheaf as it relates to the topic at hand.  First Sheaf is kept, except under some extenuating circumstances, on the Sunday after the Sabbath during the Feast of Passover. (Both the Sadducees and Pharisees agreed on this, this in and of itself, is almost miracoulous)  Further evidence that Jesus rose on Sunday can be found in the dating of the days.  In order for Jesus to fulfill three days in the tomb, He must be raised on Sunday.  The timeline goes like this, Thurs 14th Aviv, at twilight, Jesus celebrates Passover, on the 15th of Aviv, this year was on Preparation day (Friday) Jesus is crucified, dies, and is buried  thus beginning is first day in the tomb.  (Keep in mind that He must rise to fulfill first sheaf as he has already fulfilled Passover).  16th of Aviv, is the Sabbath, the disciples keep the commandment, the Pharisees worry and go to Pilate, Jesus completes his second day in the tomb and rests on Sabbath, or perhaps preaches in Sheol (as was his custom to preach on Sabbath).  17th Aviv, at the close of day 2 and on day 3, Jesus, the first fruits, the High Priest, rises on this day, this Sunday, early in the morning, to fulfill this feast and receives from Sheol, the wave offering of saints, that have responded to Him, and He ascends into heaven to present them before Yahveh as both High Priest, and Fulfillment of First fruits.   In all this, Jesus fulfills all the righteous requirements of Scripture and proves himself both King and Priest.

 Endnotes

 1)  Yehoshua, Avram, First Sheaf, The Seed of Abraham ministries, Ramat Gan, Israel,    http://www.seedofabraham.net   

2.  Ibid

The Importance and Power of the Prophetic Ministry

“But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words Then they would have turned them from their evil way.  And from the evil of their doings.  Am I a God near at hand, says the Lord ,and not a God afar off?”  (Jeremiah 23:22-23 NKJV)

     This verse was spoken by the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah.  It was give at a time when Judah was about to go into exile for their unrepentant hearts and sins.  This verse emphasizes the importance and power of the prophetic ministry because, had the prophets done what they were supposed to do, the outcome for Judah  may have been different.

Before the invasion of Canaan, God spoke to Moses saying, “Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them ,and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them.” (Deuteronomy 31:16)  Despite the fact that God had commanded them saying, “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.  There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or a one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.  For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.  You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.  For these nations which you will dispossess  listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.” (Duet 18:9-14), the children of Israel fail to drive out the inhabitants of the land and instead make covenants with them.  In Judges it states, “Then the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim , and said:  I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, I will never break My covenant with you.  And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their alters.  But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this?  Therefore, I also said, “I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” ( Judges 2:1-4)  This spiritual union with the “nations” that God wanted to drive out, becomes a source of Israeli destruction.

Israel’s failure to destroy the nations of the land and subsequently, the worship of their gods, perpetuates the downfall of Judah and Israel.  Scripture states, “For so it was that he children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their god, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the lord had cast our from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel which they had made.” (2 Kings 17:7-8)  Yet, there was one ministry that could’ve turned the tide for Israel.  Had the prophets engaged in their appointed spiritual position, the outcome for the nation may have been different.  The Lord says, “”But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings. ”

Let us not make the same mistakes as the children of Israel who didn’t want to hear the words of her prophets and in fact, incited her prophets to not speak what the Lord had spoken.  Let us neither despise the prophetic word nor the ministry of the prophets, but let us embrace it.  Let us acknowledge that they have been sent to us by God for our edification.

Chapter 5: Originals That Matter

    Finally, a chapter of this book that I resonate with and, dare I say, love it!  By far, this section is the climax of the book thus far.  Let me give some of the specifics

     Ehrman begins the chapter by providing two brief lessons on types of evidence used in textual criticism.  They are internal and external evidence.  Because many of you may be unfamiliar with these terms, I will give a brief summary of Ehrman’s main points, which are very good.

     External evidence, of a particular text, “has to do with the surviving manuscript support for one reading or another.  Which manuscripts attest to the reading?  Are these manuscripts reliable?  Why are they are reliable or not?  Most scholars today, however, are not at all convinced that the majority of manuscripts necessarily provide the best available test.” (1)  The transmission of the text, the age of it, the place of its origin, as well as, the number of manuscript are all factors of external evidence.  It takes some detective work and ultimately a scholar will choose which texts are reliable.  This can be somewhat subjective as we have seen with the Marcan appendix as well as the Pericope Adulterae. 

     Internal evidence involves two different categories of probabilities.  Intrinsic probabilities are “probabilities based on what the author of the text was himself most likely to have written.  We are able to study, of course, the writing style, the vocabulary, and the theology of an author,.  When two or more variant readings are preserved among our manuscripts, and one of them uses words or stylistic features otherwise not found in that author’s work, or if it represents a point of view that is at variance with what the author otherwise embraces, then it is unlikely that that is what the author wrote—especially if another attested reading coincides perfectly well with the author’s writing elsewhere.” (2)  Again, we have this with the Marcan appendix as well as PA.

     The second kind of internal evidence is transcriptional probabilities.  “This asks, not which reading an author was likely to have written, but which reading a scribe was likely to have created.  Ultimately, this kind of evidence goes back to Bengel’s idea that the “more difficult” reading is more likely to be original.  This is premised on the idea that scribes are more likely to try to correct what they take to be mistakes, to harmonize passages that they regard as contradictory and to bring the theology of a text more into line with their own theology.  Readings that might seem , on the surface, to contain a ‘mistake’  or lack of harmony, or peculiar theology, are therefore more like to have been changed by a scribe than are ‘easier readings.  This criterion is sometimes expressed as:  The reading that best explains the existence of the others is more likely to be original.” (3)  One most realize, of course, that even if the data here is “pretty good” there is a great deal of subjectivity with these criteria.  Be that as it may, Ehrman is going to examine three passages where “the determination of the original text has a significant bearing on how one understands the message of some of the New Testament authors.  As it turns out, in each of these cases I think most English translators have chosen the wrong reading and so present a translation not of the original text but of the text that scribes created when they altered the original.”  This will be Ehrmans premise as he dissects three different passages on from Mark, one from Luke, and one from Hebrews.  Again, I love some of his points, and if I love them, they are not drastic changes that somehow alter theology or any doctrinal issue, for that matter, of Christianity.

     To begin with, I love the interpretation that Ehrman presents of Mark 1:42.  I’ve written a subsequent article regarding it but won’t include it here for brevities sake.  The reader is referred to “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Jesus”  for details.  It is an article that I recommend for my fellow members of the faith.  Before leaving this section, we should draw some attention to Dr. Ehrman’s conclusions regarding the “angry Jesus.” 

     Dr. Ehrman will attempt to make a case that Luke and Matthew edited out Mark’s section about anger.  Dr. Ehrman will take a mustard seed of doubt and turn it into a mountain of unbelief.  He states, “Scholars have long recognized that Mark was the first Gospel to be written, and that both Matthew and Luke used Mark’s account as a source for their own stories about Jesus.  It is possible, then, to examine Matthew and Luke to see how they changed Mark, wherever they tell the same story but in a (more or less) different way.  When we do this, we find that Mathew and Luke have both taken over this story from mark, their common source.  It is striking that Matthew and Luke are almost word for word the same as mark in the leper’s request and in Jesus’ response in verses 40-41. Which word, then, do they use to describe Jesus’ reaction?  Does he become compassionate or angry?  Oddly enough, Matthew and Luke both omit the word altogether.” (4)

     To begin with, I’m not so sure that I agree with Dr. Ehrman’s assessment regarding the parallels of the lepers.  I think it may be misguided for three distinct reasons.  They are the setting, source, and some of the differences n the Greek.  Even if, we set those aside, and agree that Luke and Matthew edited out some sections, does it really create an issue?  Before answering, let me discuss the three objections.

      First, the setting of Matthew 8:2 is that of Jesus coming down of the mountain and not in the synagogue.  Secondly, the setting of Luke is “in a certain city” (Luke 5:12) and, as previously mentioned, Mark 1:40 appears to be n the synagogue.  It is possible that, while these share many commonalities, that they are actually describing three different cleansings of three different lepers.  Thus, the setting of Matthew and Luke do not seem to necessitate an angry reaction from Messiah.  It is very probable that Jesus cleansed more than one leper in his ministry and even more probable that more than one was recorded in the gospels.

     Secondly, it is possible that Matthew and Luke were using another source other than Mark.  Although, Mark seems to be a primary source for both, as FF Bruce notes:  “606 out of the 661 verse of Mark appears in Mathew, and that some 350 of Mark’s verses reappear with little material change in Luke.  Or, to put it another way, out of the 1068 verses of Matthew, about 500 contain material also found in Mark; of the 1,149 verses of Luke, about 350 are paralleled in Mark.  Altogether, there are only 31 verses in Mark which have no parallel either in Matthew or Luke.” (5)  But, Mark may not be the only source.  Luke tells us that he used several eyewitness accounts (Luke 1:2) and Matthew, who traveled with the Lord, may have just used his own memory when writing.  Again, itt seems that Jesus probably cleansed more than just one leper in his entire ministry.  A similar eyewitness account but definitely different may account for similarities but also account for different situations.

     Lastly, there are some differences in the Greek.  Luke and Matthew use the term “kurie”, meaning “Lord” while it is absent from Mark.  They also use the terms “prospon kai prosleqen” which are more worshipful and reverent terms.  Hence, since the lepers approaching seemingly had some idea of who they were addressing and seemingly had some regard for others, there may have been no reason for any anger.  Perhaps, Dr. Ehrman assessment about the editing out of the words is a bit hasty.

     In all fairness, there are some striking parallels between the accounts.  First, the Greek of what the lepers say is exactly the same, even the use of the subjunctive mood.  Secondly, Jesus response is exactly the same in Greek minus the anger and rebuking and casting out stuff from Mark.  Thirdly, the healing command is the same in Greek.  Finally, all are sent to the priest as a witness to offer the requirements of Moses.  For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that Dr. Ehrman is right and Luke and Matthew edited out the angry Jesus.  (Even thought we have demonstrated that this is unlikely)  What does this do?

     Not much!  Each author presented his own work to a different target audience.  Luke was writing to recently converted Christians who had largely lived in a polytheistic society completely removed from Jewish roots and customs.  For Luke to include “angry Jesus at the synagogue” would have required some extensive explanations that really aren’t necessary for the essence of the text.  So, for the sake of simplicity, Luke may have edited it out.  So what?

     Matthew may very well have done the same thing to avoid similar situations with his target audience.  Certainly, this is very plausible and it detracts nothing from the text.  The same arguments can be made for the other passages regarding anger in mark 3:15; and Mark 10:14.

 

Luke 22: 43& 44

“And an angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him.  And being in agony he began to pray yet more fervently and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

     The thesis of Ehrman’s argument is this:  The manuscripts that are known to be earliest and that are generally conceded to be the best (the Alexandrian text) do not, as a rule, include these verses.  So, perhaps they are a later, scribal addition.  On the other hand, they verses are found in several other early witnesses and are, on the whole, widely distributed throughout the entire manuscript tradition.  So were they added by scribes who wanted them in or deleted by scribes who wanted them out?  It is difficult to say on the basis of the manuscripts themselves.” (6)  He also argues that the “literary structure” (here called a chiasmus structure and is Ehrman’s internal evidence against it originality) is employed here and is out of Lukan character.  When this is removed, it presents Jesus in a manner that is more in keeping with the remainder of Luke’s gospel.  Only here, as Ehrman argues, is Jesus presented as not being completely in control.  He writes, “Luke has completely remodeled the scene to show Jesus at peace in the face of death.  The only exception is the account of Jesus’ “bloody sweat,” an account absent from our earliest and best witnesses…It is clear that Luke does not share Mark’s understanding that Jesus was in anguish, bordering on despair.  Nowhere is this more evident than in their subsequent accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion.” (7)  He thus argues that this passage it not genuine, as only here in Luke is Jesus presented as “pout of control.”  What conclusion does Ehrman draw from this?  Mainly, that Luke as a gospel is untrustworthy because he edited his primary source, which would’ve been mark.  Luke, therefore, doesn’t present Jesus as an atoning sacrifice.

     In answering this, we will argue from two directions.  First, for the originality of the passage as a piece of oral tradition that is worthy of canonization similar to that of PA.  (Please see post on PA outside the box)  Secondly, that Luke is permitted to edit his work as he saw fit.

     It does seem unlikely that they were part of Luke’s original work.  But, that doesn’t mean that this is an unhistorical event in Jesus life that should be canonized.  Again, like PA we must think outside the box.  Bruce Metzger writes, “Their presence in many manuscripts, some ancient, as well as their citation by Justin, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Eusebius, and many other Fathers, is proof of the antiquity of the account…While acknowledging that the passage is a later addition to the text, in view of its evident antiquity and its importance in the textual tradition, a majority of the Committee decided to retain the words in the text but to enclose them within double square brackets.” (8)  What this means is that the Committee working with Metzger to produce what they felt was the most accurate “Greek manuscript” considered it to be a mistake to remove it.  They are correct.  Aland and Aland write, “Luke 22:43-44 is placed in double brackets in the Greek text.  This expresses the editors’ conviction that these verses were not a part of the original text of the gospel of Luke.  The fact that they were not removed and relegated to the apparatus, but retained in the text within double brackets indicates that this is recognized as a very early tradition coming at least from the second century if not even earlier (attested by patristic quotations and allusions.” (9)  Additionally, the absence or presence of these verses neither takes away nor adds anything different to the overall presentation of the Messiah in the sum of the gospel narratives.  Furthermore, the fact that the writer of Hebrews makes allusion to it, points to the antiquity of the oral transmission.  In my estimation, this qualifies the passage to be included within the gospel narratives somewhere.  Ehrman argues that its placement in Luke debunks the authority of the gospels, I would argue in the opposite direction.  Mainly, that its placement here, further solidifies the gospel narratives as being very historically reliable.

     Luke is permitted to edit his source.  He is given the license to address the needs of his audience Timothy Jones writes, “Ehrman is correct that Luke’s Gospel doesn’t emphasize Jesus’ death as an atoning sacrifice for people’s sins.  The idea of sacrificial atonement for sins was; after all, more prominent in Jewish theology and Luke was writing for an audience that was more influenced by Greek culture.  For this audience, what was most meaningful wasn’t that Jesus would suffer as a sacrifice for sin. What would impress them was the fact that a person so righteous and so divine would submit himself not only hot live in human flesh but also to die the darkest possible death.  This does not mean, however, that Luke did not view Jesus’ death in terms of atonement.  Neither does it mean that the sacrificial aspects of the crucifixion didn’t i9nterest Luke.  It simply means that sacrificial atonement was not the aspect of Jesus’ death that was most meaningful to Luke’s audience.  So, Luke focused on Jesus as a divine martyr-a different emphasis, to be sure, but not at odds with the other New Testament depictions of Jesus.  Simply put, different emphases do not amount to contradictory understandings of the same event.” (10)  So, different emphasis doesn’t negate historical reliability and the different accounts actually complement each other rather than detract.

Apart from the Grace of God:  Hebrews 2:9

‘But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angles, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.’ (Hebrews 2:9 NKJV)

    To begin with, Ehrman will argue that the passage should read, “apart from God” rather than “by the grace of God.”  We will state our thesis abruptly, So what?  Both are theologically acceptable and have other witnesses in the New Testament.  Ehrmans analysis is somewhat flawed and we will, despite the fact that it doesn’t matter which reading we “land on”, follow along.

     Ehrman will gloss over the enormous amount of external evidence in support for “the grace of God.”  He writes, “I don’t need to go into the intricacies of the manuscript support for the reading “apart from God” except to say that even thought it occurs in only two documents of the tenth century, one of these (Ms. 1739) is known to have been produced from a copy that was at least as ancient as our earliest manuscripts.  Of yet greater interest, the early third century scholar Origen tells us that this was the reading of the majority of manuscripts of his own day.  Other evidence also suggests its early popularity:  it was found in manuscripts known to Ambrose and Jerome in the Latin West, and it is quoted by a range of church writers down to the eleventh century. And so, despite the fact that it is not widely attested among our surviving manuscripts, the reading was at one time supported by strong external evidence.” (11)  Let me just say that, Ehrman’s gloss of the external evidence in for the reading “by the grace of God” is simply, a mistake.  Bruce Metzger writes, “Cariti Qeou, which is very strongly support by good representative of both the Alexandrian and the Western types of text (P46 a A B C D 33 81 330 614 it bg cop).” (12)  Meaning, that the oldest and most reliable manuscripts attest to the reading, “by the grace of God.”  However, Ehrman’s point may still stand and, for the sake of argument, we will play along.  Metzger admits that some older manuscripts have “apart from God” and he also admits that many “Fathers” read the text as “apart from God.”  Metzger will argue that the reading “apart from God” will occur from a scribal error of some type.  He writes, “The reading cwris qeou, appears to have arisen either trough a scribal lapse, misreading Cariti as cwris or more probably, as a marginal gloss (suggested by I Cor 15:27) to explain that everything in verse 8 does not include God; this gloss, being erroneously regarded by a later transcriber as a correction of Cariti Qeou was introduced into the text of verse 9.” (13)  However, Ehrman will argue, “Despite the popularity of the solution, ti is probably too clever by half, and requires too many dubious steps to work.  There is no manuscript that attests both reading in the text (i.e. the correction in the margin or text of verse 8, where it would belong, and the original text of verse 9) Moreover, if a scribe thought that the note was a marginal correction, why did he find it in the margin next to verse 8 rather than verse 9?  Finally, if the scribe who created the noted had done so in reference to I Corinthians, would he not have written “except for God” (the phrase that occurs in the text of I Corinthians) rather than “apart from God.” (14) So, Ehrman makes a great case for his rendering of “apart from God.”  What does this tell us?  Bravo!  In the case of the crucifixion it is not “either/or” it is “both/and” meaning that Jesus died both “apart from God” and by the “grace of God.”  Nothing in this changes anything about he presentation of Jesus in the New Testament.  If anything, it validates the older argument from Mark which again, makes the basis for the New Testament that much more reliable as Ehrman’s reading supports the oldest witness of the synoptic gospels.  This is wonderful news for Christianity.

       Finally, Ehrman treatment of the Origen is not accurate.  Ehrman knows that the church father Origen agrees with everything that I’m saying because in a different book he writes, “Similarly Origen notices the two reading in Heb 2:9 “apart from God and “by the grace of God” but is not interested in deciding between them, for he finds spiritual significance in both.” (15)  Why doesn’t Ehrman tell us this in Misquoting Jesus when he tells us this in a book that released the same year as Misquoting Jesus?  I don’t know, but at best, it’s simply a lapse of judgment, at worst, it demonstrates his bias and desire to control the flow of information to a largely skeptical and uninformed public.

   

 

Endnotes

  1. 1.        Ehrman, Bart, Misquoting Jesus, The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, Harper Collins Pub, New York, NY, 2005, page 128.
  2. 2.       Ibid, page 131.
  3. 3.       Ibid, page 131-132.
  4. 4.       Ibid,  page 135.
  5. 5.       Bruce, FF., The New Testament Documents Are they Reliable?, Wilder Publications, Blacksburg VA., 2009 republished, page 23.
  6. 6.       Ehrman, MJ, page 139-140
  7. 7.       Ibid, page 142-143.
  8. 8.       Metzger, Bruce, A Textual Commentary on The Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies, USA, Second Edition, 1971, page 151.
  9. 9.       Aland, Kurt, and Aland, Barbara, The Text of the New Testament, Erdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, second edition, 1981, page 310.
  10. 10.   Jones, Timothy Paul, Misquoting Truth, a Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus.” Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2007, page 75-76.
  11. 11.   Ehrman, MJ, page 145.
  12. 12.   Metzger, page 594.
  13. 13.   Ibid.
  14. 14.   Ehrman, MJ, page 147.
  15. 15.   Metzger, Bruce, Ehrman, Bart, The Text of the New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2005, page 200.

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Jesus

     The surviving manuscripts of Mark 1:42 preserve two variant readings.  Here is the passage as Bart Ehrman has translated it.  He writes, “And he came preaching in their synagogues in all of Galilee and casting out demons.  And a leper came to him beseeching him and saying to him, ‘If you wish,you are able to cleanse me.’  And feeling compassion (Greek splangnistheis)/ becoming angry (Orgistheis), reaching out his hand, he touched him and said, “I wish, be cleansed.’  And immediately the leprosy went out from him, and he was cleansed.” (1)  I will differ in the way that Ehrman translates some of this passage, but we will come to that later.  But first, let’s hear what he has to say.  The oldest manuscript which preserves’, “becoming angry” is the codex Bezae.  Now, Dr Ehrman doesn’t give us much external evidence about this particular codex, so I will.

     This manuscript is also known as the “Codex Cantabrigiensis.”  It was “presented in 1581 to the library at Cambridge University by Theodore Beza, the celebrated French scholar who became the successor of Calvin as the leader of the Genevan Church.  Dating from the fifth century, this codex contains most of the text of the four gospels and Acts, with a small fragment of 3 John.  The text is presented in Greek and Latin, the two languages facing each other on opposite pages, the Greek being on the left and the Latin on the right…The Gospels stand in the so-called Western order, with the two apostles first and the two companions of the apostles following, (Mathew, John, Luke and Mark)…No known manuscript has so many and such remarkable variations from what is usually taken to be the normal New Testament text.  Codex Bezae’s special characteristics are the free addition (and occasional omission) of words, sentences, and even incidents…Codex Bezae is the principal representative of the Western text.” (2)  Did you catch what that quote said?  It said that it has more variants than any other manuscript available, which, makes it somewhat of a sketchy source on occasion.  This is somewhat relevant to our point because it is this manuscript that is the primary evidence for Ehrman’s thesis.  I’m not saying that Ehrman’s points are to be dismissed; I’m only presenting a flow of data that Ehrman glosses over.  As far as the Western texts are concerned, they represent a certain group of manuscripts.  There are three groups of text; they are the Western, the Alexandrian, and the Caesarean.  Regarding the Western group as a whole, of which Bezae is the poster child, are considered to be the “undisciplined and wild growth of manuscripts” (3) where many folks where translating as “seemed good to him.” To reiterate, the manuscript for Dr. Ehrman’s thesis may not exactly be the most reliable from an external evidential standard.  Nevertheless, he will make a brilliant argument to support his position.  Hence, we will accept Bezae for the moment as containing the most “accurate reading.”

  He writes, “The fact that one of the readings makes such good sense and is easy to understand is precisely what makes some scholars suspect that it is wrong.  For, as we have seen, scribes also would have preferred the text to be non-problematic and simple to understand.  The question to be asked is this:  which is more likely, that a scribe copying this text would change it to say that Jesus became wrathful instead of compassionate, or to say that Jesus became compassionate instead of wrathful?  Which reading better explains the existence of the other?  When seen from this perspective, the latter is obviously more likely.  The reading that indicates Jesus became angry is the ‘more difficult’ reading and therefore more likely to be original…Mark begins his Gospel by portraying Jesus as a physically and charismatically powerful authority figure who is not to be messed with.  He is introduced by a wild-man prophet in the wilderness; he is cast out from society to do battle in the wilderness with Satan and wild beasts; he returns to call for urgent repentance in the face of imminent coming of God’s judgment, he rips his followers away from their families, he overwhelms his audiences with his authority, he rebukes and overpowers demonic forces that can completely subdue mere mortals; he refuses to accede to popular demand, ignoring people who plead for an audience with him…It is possible that Jesus is being portrayed in the opening scenes of Mark’s Gospel as a powerful figure with a strong will and an agenda of his own, a charismatic authority who doesn’t like to be disturbed?  It would certainly make sense of his response to the healed leper whom he harshly rebukes and then casts out.” (4) Love it!!!

     Paul tells us to “be angry and do not sin.” (Eph 4:26).  For far too long have the church sat castrated in pews sticking to the meek and the mild side.  If Ehrman is correct, the Jesus, on occasion, was far from the meek and mild.  He was a, pardon the expression, a “bad-ass!”   And we, as His followers and imitators, ought to be bad-ass about the things that he was bad-ass about.  We should be angry at unbelief, the devil, disease, sin, doubt, spiritual blindness, demonic oppression, and anything else that sets itself against the mind and will of God. There are only two camps in the spiritual realm.  For far too long has the church lived in compromise with its holiness, lifestyle, and relationship with a cursed and dying world.  We should be angry at the flesh, the world, and the devil. Not only should we be angry towards it, we should act towards it as Jesus acts.  John tells us in no uncertain terms that, “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (I John 3:8)  Peter tells us the secret of Messiah’s success, “God anointed Jesus o f Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil,.” (Acts 10:38)  We, As His people, should be rightly related to God in such as way that we do the same.  In fact, Jesus tells us that, “the works that I do you will do also, and greater works than these will you do because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12)  I’m beginning to drool here!!!  This is an awesome presentation of Messiah and I think it time that thechurch became angry about some things.  We should respond as He did.  Be angry and do not sin.

     There is some other corroborative evidence for Jesus being angry in the Greek text.  If you will grant me the leisure to perform a little Greek exegetical syntaxical dissection of the verse, a reason for His angry blatantly presents itself.  The Greek of verse 40 reads:

“Kai ercetai pros auton lepos parakalwn auton kai gonupetwn kai legwn autw oti      ean qelns dunasai me kaqarisai.”  

     Indulge me a little and we will quickly come to a plausible reason for Messiah to be angry.  The first two words read, “and coming.”  The etai ending indicates the progressive middle voice.  This means that the action may have repeated over and over again, implying that the leper kept coming and coming and coming.  The middle voice tells us that the subject of the sentence, the leper, identified by the os ending in lepros, makes it the nomitive case.  So, the leper is coming over and over again and something is going to act upon him.  The direct object is generally the one who will do the acting.  In this verse the word auton meaning “Him” is the direct object as evidenced by the “on” ending.  This ending represents the accusative case which is the case for the direct object.  Hence, Him will be doing something upon the leper as the leper keeps coming and coming.  The word pros means to or toward Him.  There are three additional verbs that are written describing the action of the leper and they are parakalwn, gonupetwn, and legwn.  Notice the wn ending with the verbal stem means that this word is a participle written in the nomitive singular.  This tells us that it will describe the action of the subject of the sentence which is the leper.  In English, participles are made by adding “ing” to a verb.  Participles are verbal adjectives.  Hence, the adjectives describing the actions of this beggar are basically, begging, and kneeling, and speaking.  The picture that we have so far is “A leper keeps on coming and coming towards Him and begging, kneeling, and saying over and over again.”  This is the essence of what he will be saying.  “Ean” which means “if” introduces a new mood into the verse.  It is the subjunctive mood.  The subjunctive mood, in Greek, represents an unfulfilled statement in the mind of the speaker.  It bespeaks of a possible future but one that is not certain.  For the passage at hand, our leper has zero faith in the willingness and power of Messiah to heal.  Here is how we know this.  First, he uses the words “qelhs” which would be “if you will it, or have the ability to will it.”  Another definition is, “to be resolved, determined, to purpose.” (5)  The leper is unsure of Messiah purpose, His determination, and His resolve to restore that which has been lost.  And in this case that the “lepers will be cleansed.” (Matthew 11:4).  The next word makes the case even stronger.  The man doubted Jesus “dunasai.” This word means, “the inherent power residing within a thing by the virtue of its nature.” (6)  The leper is not only doubting Messiah ability and willingness to heal but he even doubts if Jesus has the ability to do it.  All of this, probably, takes place in the synagogue as Jesus is attempting to teach.  This might be enough to upset someone.  While this is an issue in and of itself, there were many who came to Jesus in unbelief without His becoming angry.  Perhaps there was something else at work here.  Even though, this might be enough to upset someone who was so spiritually blind that they couldn’t see the things taking place right before their eyes.  The angry could be directed at the hardness of a heart which is so solidified in unbelief that even if miracles were taking place right in front of them, they still wouldn’t have faith.  Remember, it is always those who “had faith” that Jesus praised.  Why?  Because their hearts were open and soft to the movement of God that was taking place before their very eyes.  Much could be said about this in our own day, but it is not really the subject at hand.  Suffice it to say here, that Messiah, and subsequently, we, as His church, should get angry at the hardness of the world’s heart to the movements of God within our own time.  Not only the world’s, but also of those who say that they are Christians and yet they are hardened to the movements of God today.  Having said that, there may be more at issue here than just the hardness of heart of one of God’s people.   Although, this would be enough to spark some anger, there is even more here

     As we have already determined, the coming, begging, and proclaiming of doubt and unbelief by this leper was possibly of a repetitive nature related to the tense of the Greek verbs.  One additional factor should be included.  Mainly, the place where all of this was happening.  Dr. Timothy Jones writes, “It’s important to notice where Jesus was teaching when this healing occurred.  Apparently Jesus was in a synagogue (Mark 1:39) where the Jews of that town had gathered to hear God’s Word.  If so, this man’s presence could have rendered an entire Jewish community unclean!  Although Jesus challenged the traditions that had been added to the Law O Moses, he consistently called his people to live by the laws that God had graciously given them through Moses ( see Mark 1:44)  According to these laws, the leprous man was supposed to have sequestered himself away from his fellow Jews (Leviticus 13).  Instead he placed an entire Jewish community in danger of ceremonial uncleanness.  Is it any wonder that Jesus became angry?” (7)  This paints a totally different picture than that which appears in the English translations.

     This leper had absolutely no concern for the instructions of the Torah regarding leprosy.  He is so caught up in the selfishness of his own condition that he cares little about God and about others.  He completely disregards Torah and completely disregards his fellows and repeatedly came bringing defilement, doubt, and unbelief with him into the most sacred place in the town, the synagogue.  No wonder Messiah gets angry.  It awesome to see that Jesus heals him despite this lepers own plethora of issues. (Grace is not about the behavior and attitude of the leper; it is unmerited favor despite his own problems)  However this is not the end of the story.

     In verse 43, Jesus “sternly charged” the leper according to the English Standard Version.  The actual Greek word is “embrismhsamenos.”  This is a first aorist middle particle as evidenced by the “samenos” ending.  The aorist use here conveys the idea of “afterward.” (8)  (Oftentimes a participle is translated with an English temporal relative clause to give the sense of the time that is being used in Greek.  The Greek doesn’t explicitidly state afterward, but it is understood as such by the use of the first aorist participle.  Hence, to make it translate into English, we would add “afterward.”)  The basic meaning of this word is, “An expression of anger and displeasure…to scold…to be indignant.” (9)  Ehrman translates it “rebuked him severely” and this seems to be the case, and, rightfully so.  Then, after this scolding, Jesus will “cast him out.”  This is the literal readings of verse 43.  (I will spare you all of the gory and perhaps even boring Greek details that render it such as I have already subjected you to the tortuous dissection of verse 42)  The word used for “cast him out” is the verb “ekballw” which also conveys the idea of anger.  This is the same word that is used in verse 39 and is most often associated with the casting out of demonic spirits.  Its basic meaning is, “to cast out, to drive out, and to send with the included notion of more or less violence.” (10)  So, after healing him and severely rebuking him for his actions and attitudes Jesus then throws him out of the synagogue.  But, cast him out to where?  To the priest.   Why? To offer the sacrifices for his cleansing as commanded in the Law of Moses.  Jesus re-orients and disciplines his people away from his misguided and selfish mindset back toward the attitudes and inclinations of God which can be summed up in “love your neighbor as yourself” and “love the Lord thy God.”  Messiah sends the cleansed leper to perform an act of obedience to re-orient him back to the law and the attitudes of God.  Not only does this leper receive his physical healing, he also receives spiritual instruction as to the attitudes of God. This is awesome!!  It is also an expression of His love.  The scriptures tell us that those whom He loves He disciplines.  I love this interpretation of the passage and it seems to fit with evidence from internal as well as external witnesses.

Endnotes

  1. 1.       1. Ehrman, Bart, Misquoting Jesus, The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, Harper Collins Pub, New York, NY, 2005, page 128.
  2. 2.       Metzger, Bruce, Ehrman, Bart, The Text of the New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2005, page 70-71, 73.
  3. 3.       Ibid, 307.
  4. 4.       Ehrman, MJ, page 137-138.
  5. 5.       Thayer, Joseph, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 2005, page 285.
  6. 6.       Ibid, page 159.
  7. 7.       Jones, Timothy Paul, Misquoting Truth, a Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus.” Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2007, page 73-74.
  8. 8.       Mounce, William, Basics of Biblical Greek, Zondervan Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI, 1993, page 202.
  9. 9.       Bauer, Walter, Gingrich, F.W., Danker, Fredrick, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Early Christian Literature, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, second edition, 1979, page 254.
  10. 10.   Ibid.