[A wide-ranging discussion with Jimmy Williams in spring 2000.]
Why "James" and not "Jacob" for the book of James?
Hebrew or Aramaic: Which did Jesus Speak?
Original Gospel of Matthew: Aramaic or Greek?
Anti-Semitism: Church Fathers, Catholic Church, Luther, Hitler
Ancient Jewish Coins
Luke: A Jew or a Gentile?
Gentile Proselytes: Hebrew or Aramaic in their synagogues?
The Pope’s recent apology to the Jews
Cleansing of the temple: Jesus
Origin of the Term "Palestine"
By what authority did the translators of the KJV (and other translations) change the name of the book of YAAKOV (Jacob) to JAMES? The original Greek states this author's name as "IAKOBOY," or Jacob in English. Thank you.
You are correct in your awareness of the Old Testament designation "Yaakov" (Hebrew) and the New Testament designation, "Iakboy" (Greek).
Tracing the etymology of a word is a fascinating endeavor. And as it is translated from language to language, or even its development within a language, spelling and pronunciation often change. Beyond the Greek and the Hebrew, this word went through several stages of the Latin language (i.e., Old Latin, New Latin, Late Latin), and there were further influences of the word through the barbarian tribes that overran Western Europe in the fourth and fifth centuries. In England this involved two distinct blendings of language--the first by the Anglo-Saxons (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes), who overlaid their language on top of the (1) Latin & (2) Celtic (two dialects: Brythonic and Goidelic) amalgamation as they conquered much of England between the fifth and seventh centuries, and second, by the Norman/Vikings, who overlaid their language upon all of that during the eleventh and twelfth centuries!
One of the reasons the English Language is such a rich one is because of the blending of these linguistic strains which created totally different words for identical things: for example: lamb-mutton, brotherly-fraternal, etc.
The words Jacob and James come out of this matrix. Jacob follows the French/Norman tradition (Jacobin, for example), and James comes out of the Anglo-Saxon tradition.
The use of "James" in the King James Version was not something they had to think about. It was already imbedded into their language as the equivalent of "James" or "Jacob." Since this translation from Greek and Hebrew involved putting the text into readable and understandable English, they chose the popular word already in circulation.
Actually, three common English names come out of this: James, Jacob, and Jack.
Hope this answers your question. Thanks for writing.
Jimmy Williams, Founder
Sir. . . .Thank you verryyyy much for your erudite response!!!!!!!
I also looked up James in the dictionary, and it appears that James is from LL (Ec) Jacomus. I have a particular taste for keeping things as "original" as possible, especially regarding the Word.
I also have a theory that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew. This would "explain" the reason for the "funny" sounding Greek throughout, and the "HEBRAISMS." Could this be the reason for the term "koine Greek"? Or, "common Greek"? The Greek being a translation of the original Hebrew? Of course, until the original documents are found, if ever, my theory will remain just that, a theory. Thank you.
In response to your question/theory about the New Testament being written originally in Hebrew, I don’t think so. There is an ancient tradition that Matthew first wrote his gospel in Aramaic, and that it was then translated into Greek. But I know of no other reference from any of the other earliest church Fathers indicating this; they are silent as to whether any of the other 26 books were first written in Hebrew.
In fact, the use of Hebraic expressions of the Aramaic words in the New Testament is a stronger argument for the fact that it was written originally in Greek. Their inclusion is to me more of an indication that the Hebrew words had to be explained, or translated. Otherwise, every word would have to be explained! And certainly Paul did not write any of his letters in Aramaic, since all of the recipients of his epistles spoke Greek!
I wouldn’t waste a lot of time on this, Brother. If we haven’t found any manuscript or historical data which would point us in that direction, we very likely aren’t going to!
Sir. . . I assure you I do not stay up nights wasting time on peripheral issues. It’s just that I am a thinker and I enjoy learning and considering "things." As for the "early fathers" and their view of Matthew, can you tell me where to find the data? Because my sources say that the "early fathers" said that Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew, not Aramaic.
Thank you for your forthcoming reply.
Thank you for your question. I’ll tackle the question about the relationship of Aramaic to Hebrew first, and then come back to the sources of the Church Fathers.
First of all, Aramaic is a sister language to Hebrew. They are both Semitic languages (Semitic comes from "Shem," one of Noah’s three sons and the line from which Abraham and therefore the line of all Arabs [Ishmael] and Jews [Isaac] came), and they both use the Hebrew alphabet which we know today. One of Shem’s sons was Aram, (Genesis 10:22,23) and the progenitor of the Aramean peoples which populated what we know today as Mesopotamia and Syria. You will recall from the Old Testament that most of the trouble for Israel came from the North (Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians). There was a great trade route from the Tigris-Euphrates Rivers all around the Fertile Crescent down to Egypt. In fact, the most substantial find of Aramaic documents is found way up (south) the Nile, a huge deposit in the Upper Nile at Elephantine.
By the Persian period Aramaic was the lingua franca of all Southwest Asia, the common language of all the Middle East (just as Greek was for the Roman world). This was the result of the traffic of Aramaean merchants: business documents, weights, measures, etc. are found in Aramaic dating back from the 8th to the 5th centuries B.C.
There is no question that our Lord Jesus spoke Galilean Aramaic as His first language (Daniel 2:4) as did all the disciples and all the indigenous people of Israel. And there are a few portions in the Old Testament that are Aramaic: Daniel 2:4-7,28; Ezra 4:8-16; 7:12-26; Jeremiah 10:11.
The Greeks (Alexander the Great) called Aram "Syria." And the language then came to be known as "Syriac" (which became the language of the Christian churches in Syria and Mesopotamia). We have a very early copy, The Syriac Peshitta (5th century), which is now in the British Museum.
The reason I used the term "Aramaic" for Matthew’s gospel, is that is the language he would have written it in even though people call it "Hebrew." If it existed at all, it was written in the Hebrew script, but it was no doubt Aramaic, since that was the language he knew and was the prevailing language of Palestine in the first century. Luke mentions this and calls it "the Hebrew dialect," which was Jewish Aramaic (cf. Acts 21:40; 22:2).
Now we must go on to say, we do not have clear proof that Matthew did write his gospel first in Hebrew. The first and most often quoted source is from a Church Father, Papias (c.60-120 A.D.), recorded by Eusebius in the fourth century. He speaks of a lost work written by Papias titled Exposition of the Oracles [logia, "sayings"] of the Lord in five books. Papias collected from the apostles and their disciples a variety of apostolic traditions. He was a bishop of Hierapolis, and is described as "a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp," who knew John the Apostle intimately (65-155 A.D). Eusebius (263-339 A.D.), called the Father of Church history, says distinctly, quoting the Papias source, that "Matthew composed the oracles of the Lord."
Other Fathers who mention this Hebrew work are Ireneaus, Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, and Jerome, but none is as early as Papias, and their later testimony to this may well rely on Papias. Some have come to believe that since the word "logia" or sayings (oracles) of the Lord is used, Papias may be referring to the fact that Matthew had first written down the Discourses of the Lord, but not the narrative portions of his Gospel.
My source for this information comes from Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, vol. 1, (Eerdmans).
Sir. . .Than you very much for your erudite reply. I have also noted that in the Greek Interlinear versions of the NT the word in Greek is invariably "Hebbristi" when referring to the tongue in which something was expressed in a particular occurrence or narrative. Yet, so many versions of the Bible say "Aramaic." Now, I don’t think one has to be a scholar of Greek to figure out that "Habbraisti" is Hebrew. I am not trying to quibble here. My goal is to learn the truth; a truthful understanding of Elohim/Yeshua and His Word. Thank you.
Something that has gotten my attention recently is that most of the "early fathers" were anti-semitic Jew-haters. That is significant because of the "cursing and blessings" found in Genesis 12:1-3. It is my view that one cannot call himself a disciple of Jesus/Yeshua and simultaneously be anti-Semitic. Yet, Christians of all types/denominations look to these "early fathers" as examples.
P.S. I have documented quotes from many early fathers which are virulently anti-Semitic. No amount of persecution would justify saying the things they did against the Jewish people/Israel. Especially, if they claim to have the Holy Spirit dwelling in their heart. Apparently the did not take seriously the warning clearly stated in Genesis 12:1-3.
It is well for us to remember a couple of things in coming to this conclusion. First of all, before the early church faced the ten great persecutions from various Roman Emperors and the pagan communities, they were being persecuted by the Jews. It begins with Jesus Himself all through the Gospels, and it follows on throughout the Book of Acts with Stephen, Peter, James, and Paul.
Beyond that, we find most of the earliest writings of the Church Fathers were polemics to defend against attacks from the Jews. From the time of the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul (c. 65 A.D.) by Nero until Constantine came to power in 312 A.D., the Church was under siege from Jews, Christian sects, the pagans, and the Roman Government.
I am not condoning their hostility toward the Jews, but under the conditions in which the church was trying to function, I can understand it. As they were dying, Jesus and Stephen had the grace to pray for their persecutors. Not everyone is capable of such magnanimity. We do not approach the reading of the Church Fathers with the assumption that we are reading Holy Scripture. But there is much to learn from them and much to admire. Paul tells us in Philippians 4 to "think on these things." It would also mean that we could not call Martin Luther a true disciple, because he was virulently anti-semitic fifteen hundred years later! At best all of our attempts at discipleship have a checkered history. Praise God for His grace and mercy!
Hope this helps.
A couple of questions, if I may. If Jesus Christ/Yeshua was an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi (He is called "teacher" 69 times in the gospels) and a native born Israeli (a sabra), why would He speak Aramaic? Or Greek?
If the writers of the gospels were all Jews/Israelis why would they speak Aramaic and write their original message/accounts in Greek? Remembering that the good news is to the Jew first, and THEN to the "Greek/non-Jew/gentile." If it is to the Jew first it would make sense to write it in the Jews' language which is Hebrew.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Lord’s first language was Hebrew; but I would say, as I mentioned in a previous e-mail to you, that it was definitely Aramaic Hebrew, since that, and not biblical Hebrew, was the only "Hebrew" spoken at the time. If Jesus had tried to speak the Hebrew of the Old Testament, He would have been as misunderstood as if your next door neighbor came over and tried to converse with you in Chaucer’s Middle English:
There coude no man bringe him in arrerage.
Ther nas baillif, hierde, nor other hine,
That he ne knew his sleighte and his covine—
They were adrad of him as of the deeth.
His woning was ful faire upon an heeth;
With greene trees shadwed was his place.
That was a pomely grey and highte Scot.
A long surcote of pers upon he hade,
Beside a town men clepen Baldeswelle
Tukked he was as is a frere aboute. . .
Canterbury Tales (Excerpts from the General Prologue, 605-630)
Now, this is the kind of thing we’re dealing with. Jewish boys today go and read the Torah in preparation for their Bar Mitzvah. They have learned some things about Biblical Hebrew, but of course, here in America they don’t speak it; they speak English. Some Catholic priests still perform the Mass in Latin, which is not a spoken language anywhere except among the priests, who sometimes will converse in Latin, since that would be the common language of the Monastery among Monks cloistered together from many lands and ethnic groups. I know the New Testament Greek very well, but when I was in Greece, I found modern Greek to be unrecognizable to me.
Jesus too, knew Biblical Hebrew, because that was what He read in His Synagogue in Nazareth. But he spoke Aramaic, just like the young Jewish boys today speak English here in America. Jesus may have known some Greek, but I doubt that He ever gave a discourse in any other language than Aramaic.
You say that all the writers of the Gospels were Jews. That is only 3/4 correct. Luke was a Gentile. When Paul is sends his greetings to the Colossians, Luke is not included among the Jews in his company (which he calls "the circumcision") who also sent their greetings through him (Colossians 4:10,11). He then goes on to send greetings from Epaphras, Demas, and Luke, who were Gentiles.
As to why the writers of the Gospels would be writing in Greek when they spoke Aramaic, there are several considerations. First, there was no reason to write the Gospels in Aramaic, because the Apostles themselves spoke this language, and they delivered the message in person to the Jews first, beginning with Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2, and continuing on through Acts 10, where Peter has his vision about the "unclean" Gentiles made clean by God, and followed immediately with his involvement in the conversion of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. When his Jewish colleagues castigate his going to "uncircumcised" men and eating with them, he tells them about his vision and encounter with Cornelius and concludes, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life." (Acts 11:18)
The message did go to the Jews first. It started in John 1:11 where we are told that "He came unto His own and His own did not receive Him." (Some did, but most didn’t). At the end of His public ministry He officially offered Himself as their Messiah on Palm Sunday as he approached and entered the East Gate on a donkey. They replied to Pilate, "We will not have this man to rule over us!" After His resurrection He gave the Apostles the Great Commission, and said that the geographical progression would be "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the Earth" (Acts 1:8).
I digressed here to answer your question about why they wrote in Greek. Because after persecution broke out against the Christians, and Stephen was martyred, believers began to spread out to fulfill this geographical mandate/progression from the Lord. Along the way, both Peter and Paul (who initially really didn’t want to be an Apostle to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 22:17-21, Romans 9:1, 10:1) both realized God’s intention was far beyond just the Jews. The Gospel was for the world.
Most of that world to which they now journeyed, spoke and wrote in Greek. And it is clear if you compare the koine Greek of the New Testament with the level of Greek of the Classical literature, that the koine was very limited in scope and vocabulary, though it was the common language of the Mediterranean world at that time. And the level of proficiency in handling even the koine is uneven among the writers of the New Testament. You are probably aware that Peter, in his second Epistle, Peter-- the Galilean Fisherman-- who was presumably not very conversant in Greek, admits (though he admires Paul, and recognizes his writings as scripture) that he, Peter, at times has difficulty trying to understand what Paul is saying (II Pet. 3:16)! You then ask:
In the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Numismatic division, there is a collection of 214 coins from the time of Jesus/Yeshua. Of these, 99 are stamped out in Hebrew; only one is in Aramaic. Is this at all evidential for another view?
I think not. 99 + 1 = 100 coins. The other 114 were probably minted in Greek or Latin, since the Romans had occupied Palestine since B.C. 63. The Romans generally tried to be conciliatory to their conquered peoples, allowing them to continue to great extent the practice of their own culture. This could well include coinage. The Temple incident with the moneychangers is a case in point. The Jews had a lucrative "scam" there, limiting sacrificial animals to their own stock which were (of course) much more expensive, as well as the requirement that the only money which would be honored would be the Jewish-struck coins. To secure "official" Temple coinage, pilgrims/worshippers lost money in those exchanges as well. The fact that most of the Jewish coins were struck in Biblical Hebrew probably reflects that the Orthodox Jewish leaders, who were familiar with the Biblical Hebrew from their Synagogues, desired this, and the Romans let them represent their culture on some of the coinage.
I now want to give you a quote from Young’s Analytical Concordance that is germane to our discussion: Under the major heading, "Hebrew," it cites each biblical reference where the word occurs and then concludes by saying:
Hebrew: The language spoken by the Jews in Palestine in the time of Christ. It might more accurately have been called "Syro-Chaldee," being a mixture of the Aramaean of Daniel and Ezra with the ancient Hebrew. The Syriac Peshito and the Chaldee Targum of Onkelos are its substantial representatives. In the schools of the Rabbis after the destruction of Jerusalem an attempt was made to return (emphasis mine) to the Hebrew of the Old Testament, as may be seen in the Mishnah.
Here is a clear testimony that Biblical Hebrew was not being used in Palestine prior to the fall of Jerusalem (A.D. 70). The great renaissance of Jewish Studies on the old Hebrew texts grew out of the concern of the Jewish leaders, who had the task, for the Jewish Community world wide, to define how Judaism would now express itself without the existence and presence of its central Holy Shrine. You then ask:
The early believers in the early era of the church were primarily Jewish/Jews. Remember Paul always went to the synagogue first. As Jews they would speak Hebrew, especially at the synagogue because the Torah/OT was written in Hebrew. In fact, the Bereans "searched the Scriptures daily" to verify Paul. . .The Scripture they verified, i.e. used to check out what Paul was saying, was the Torah/OT, written in Hebrew--which means the Bereans were Jews or converts to Judaism, all with a thorough knowledge of Hebrew. Does any of this have merit?
Let me pursue a couple of things to answer this question. First of all, the Jews were a very small proportion of the Roman Empire. And yet, for whatever reasons, they were given freedom by the Roman Authority to have a certain degree of autonomy, and they came together in tight communities in the various cities of the Mediterranean world. Then, as often now, the Jewish community was considered to be different in mentality, demeanor, culture, and faith. For the most part, they were pretty much left alone to "do their thing," as we say today.
Secondly, their synagogues were a mixed multitude. By that, I mean that the Jewish proselytes in the Provinces and in Rome itself probably far outweighed the number of Jews of Palestinian extraction in the synagogues who knew and spoke Aramaic. Beyond that, there were so many different languages (See an example in Acts 2:10,11, where sixteen languages are mentioned at Pentecost) representing the Jewish proselytes in these synagogues, and they could only be ministered to if there were a common language which they each could understand. We only have two choices: The Biblical Hebrew of the Synagogue or the koine Greek of the Empire. What do you think? That all these people learned the Biblical Hebrew so they could communicate with each other? And there is no doubt in my mind that when Paul went to these synagogues, first in Asia Minor (which is Greek Ionia), and then beginning with Philippi in Greece itself, he spoke in the public squares and in the synagogues in Greek, because that was the language of these people, most of whom were Greek by birth and spoke Greek. When Paul climbed up Mars Hill and addressed the Athenians (Acts 17), do you think he spoke in Hebrew or Aramaic? Of course not. He spoke in Greek. Just as we saw above, Jews could be familiar with the Biblical Hebrew of the Torah, and not be using it as their every day language. There would be no more sense in making these various ethnic groups learn a second (common) language for communication purposes, when they all already had such a language in use.
As far as the Berean believers are concerned, they are commended for their desire to see what the Scriptures had to say about things. The question comes, however, Which Scriptures? The Hebrew Scrolls? Possibly. But there is another possibility, and that is the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Old Testament. We know the Apostles were familiar with it, because some of the O.T. quotes in the New Testament are straight out of the Septuagint. How widespread was its use among Jews and Christians? We can’t accurately determine that, but we do know this: (1) The Christians did not create the Septuagint, the Jews did. It was written for Greek-speaking Jews, not Christians (2) This Greek translation of the Old Testament was already completed and circulating for more than 250 years before the birth of Christ. (3) Its necessity came about from the simple fact that Greek was displacing the older Aramaic language of the Middle East. This early Greek translation of the Old Testament did the same thing for the Jews that Jerome did for the Latins, that Tyndale did for the English , or that Luther did for Germans. . .to make the Word of God understandable to people in their own language.
To follow your line of argument, we believers should all learn Biblical Hebrew and koine Greek! If the Incarnation tells us anything, it tells us God desired so much to communicate with us that the Word had to become flesh. God’s missionary enterprise, be it to Jews, to Gentiles, or to lost tribes in remote areas of the world, is to make the gospel understandable. Jesus Himself is a translation. . . A Word made flesh (visible, understandable). If Pentecost (Act 2) means anything, it means that the heart of God intended that men would hear the gospel in their own language. It seems clear that God’s primary focus is on understanding the message, with the linguistic vehicle of secondary importance.
I am not downplaying a knowledge of biblical Hebrew and biblical Greek. Some nuances and exact meanings of a language can be lost in the transmission from one to another. And, admittedly, knowledge of these languages assists in more accurate exegesis and interpretation for scholars, pastors, and others. I have made it a practice of reading and studying both Testaments in the Hebrew and Greek throughout forty years of ministry. I never fail to gain new insights and blessings from reading the Word in their original languages. But just think of all the people all over the world through the ages, that have had, or are having, an understanding of the Gospel in their own language and have experienced the life- changing transformation the Gospel promises, even though they have no knowledge of Greek or Hebrew or even how to write or read the alphabetical symbols which make up those two languages!
The message is pretty clear, even in the King James Version, which is now almost 400 years old. A quote from Mark Twain comes to mind: "It is not the things about the Bible which I don’t understand that bother me; it’s the things about the Bible which I do understand that bother me."
Thank you so much for your generous reply. It will serve to enlighten me I am sure.
Your observations that Yeshua spoke "Aramaic Hebrew" are intriguing. I shall have to look into that. I will also refer the issue to some connections I have in Israel and other parts of the world. I am interested in verifying just how much "Aramaic Hebrew" and Torah/Tanak Hebrew differed. For example, would it be like the difference between German or Dutch or Spanish and Portugese? Or, would it be like Castillian Spanish (Castellano) versus Andaluzian (Andluz) Spanish. Or Dutch versus Flemish?
Also, in the New Testament manuscripts, is there a specific reference to Aramaic? It seems that all the verses I have looked at in the Greek Interlinear versions where the word is often translated as "Aramaic" the Greek word is "Hebbraisti." I don’t think one has to be a scholar of Greek to ascertain that "Hebbraisti" is lvrit, or Hebrew. Or was it automatically understood that "Hebbraisti" means "Aramaic Hebrew" and not simply Hebrew?
Let me interject here that I agree with the premise that Elohim wants to communicate the Good News to all! I am not trying to be picky here regarding the language of the Scripture. I just want to be as accurate as possible. Quite frankly, I have noticed that a lot of translations "out there" play pretty fast and loose with the original languages. Wow, what a subject!
Can you show me proof beyond a shadow of a doubt (no, I am not a lawyer) that Luke was not a Jew? Could you prove his "gentileness" in a court of law to a jury of your peers? In Colossians 4:11 it also says, "these only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort to me." Is Paul implying here that all the others were not supportive? Does citing some as the "circumcision" mean others were not?
Re: Peter and Paul, I think Peter being from a more rustic background that Paul has difficulty understanding Paul’s talmudic- scholarly style. I don’t think Peter has been alone in this.
Re: the collection of coins in the Israel Museum: I do see evidence here for allowing another view. 99 verses to 1 is significant. Of course, the other 114 are other languages or types, etc. I would not base an entire view upon this item though. You use the word "probably reflects" and the word "probably" here. Are you a bit unsure? Where can I find documentation of this specific "scam" of the money-changes? I have not heard of this before. I do agree that Yeshua was right in His actions toward them for profaning this sacred space. But, something that casts a bit of doubt on some of the standard interpretations of this scene regarding these Jews is this: the "whip" that Yeshua supposedly fashioned and used to drive these people out was actually the edge of His Tallith, the fringes (of his robe). And He went from table to table "whipping" these merchants. Actually, all He did was tap them with it. To a Jew, being tapped with the 613 fringes of the Tallith was an indictment of no small consequence. They knew what He meant. . .that they must repent, make teshuva; they were violating the Torah.
Question: Do you see anything significant in the fact that Hebrew is spoken in modern Israel today, and not Aramaic, or "Aramaic Hebrew?" Or, am I missing something?
Can you tell me where you find the documentation to substantiate that the synagogues of the Roman Empire were comprised of a "mixed multitude," with Jewish Proselytes "far outweighing" the Jews of Palestine?" Where did the reference to "Palestine" come from? I thought the Scripture teaches that this land is called Israel. And, again, I note you use the word "probably" here at this juncture.
Re: the Bereans. The Scriptures they searched were the Tanak. Perhaps they did possess the Septuagint. I don’t know how pervasive the Septuagint was by this time. You allude to this. I disagree that the Septuagint "did the same for the Jews that Jerome did for the Latins." (Acts 15:21 says "For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath"). Was this the Septuagint Torah, or the Hebrew Torah of Moses? It is my view that Hebrew is a lashon kodesh/ holy tongue, unique from all other languages, and should be left alone, and learned by all. This is unlikely to happen, but, my idealism remains unabated. This does not mean I am against translations of the Word. It’s just that with any translation a certain amount of the primary language gets lost.
I disagree that Yeshua is a translation. Ye-shu-a means YHVH—salvation, liberation and victory. He IS the Word, not the translation, not a diminution in any way (of course He humbled Himself but that does not mean He reduced Himself), shape or form of the DVAR, the Hebrew term which means word, and also thing or object. Yeshua is the Supreme Thought of YHVH, concretized into human existence. . YHVH in a body. . .the G-d man. . "and tabernacled among us (Israel)."
A word of explanation, if I may. I am saying everything here with all due respect, OK, Sir? My goal is to learn, not to disprove you.
Re: Luther, he was an anti-Semite. He may have had his reasons. It is still wrong and sinful. I might add that any racism is wrong and sinful. The warnings given in Genesis 12:1-3 are quite clear and I am sure Mark Twain would have understood this part of the Scripture. Of course, Luther was not alone in influencing the Nazis. You also mentioned Wagner. One could point to quite an array of writers and philosophers who influenced the Nazis. They were a product of humanism, atheism, occultism, anti-Semitism and more "isms." Perhaps, if Luther had been permitted to see into the future of German he would have recanted. The argument is moot and serves no purpose. 6,000,000 Jews were murdered. 5,000,000 non- Jews too. Some of my own family were among these, at the hands of the SS in Holland. Six million Jewish people—men, women and children, FAR outweighs any German’s belief (petty/cheap belief) that Luther’s greatest legacy to the German people was his Bible and not anti-Semitism. What is Elohim’s view of this crime? Israel is HIS WIFE. . .the day of reckoning for Deutchland is still coming. They got bailed out by the Marshall Plan in the post-war geopolitical events. In effect, the western powers restored West Germany to act as a buffer/deterrent to the threat from the Soviets. (Sorry for getting on my soap box here).
I agree that Hitler hated the Church. He correctly saw that Nazism and Christianity, true Christianity, could not coexist. But the "church" still acquiesced. It has never been easy to oppose evil. I agree one must be honest with the facts of history. . .How true!!
I do not include Roman Catholics as Christians. They may call themselves "Christians" but they are not. A true "Christian" is a follower of Rabbi Yeshua, Elohim in the flesh, the Messiah of Israel. The vast majority of the "Christians today are engaged in beliefs and practices that are anathema and an abomination to THE Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, Yeshua. This has happened because they have left their Jewish beginning. And Elohim has ordained a place in the Jewish Tree of Life in Romans 11 for only spiritual Israel. The pope’s recent apology is a ruse. The enemy is behind the whole thing. I am not going to win many votes if I run for president. . . or dog catcher. Again, thank you for your reply. Shalom.
Thank you for your recent reply. Let me respond to your recent questions:
With respect to the "distance" between biblical Hebrew and the Aramaic Hebrew of Jesus’ Day, I would say more like the difference between Dutch and German than Castillian and Andalusian Spanish.
And you ask if I see anything significant to the biblical Hebrew now being spoken in Israel I would answer yes. If, after 1900 years, the State of Israel was born anew with an intense desire to reestablish the Jewish culture in their own land, it doesn’t seem like anything less than the official language of their heritage would be appropriate! There would be no strong motivation to use Aramaic Hebrew as the basis for this remarkable resurgence of the original Hebrew as a spoken language.
You also mention that you believe that the Hebrew of the Torah is a "holy tongue" unique from all other languages. I respect your view, but must respectfully disagree with you. To see the revelation of the Old (or First) Testament as written in THE holy tongue, and then relegate the language (Greek) bearing the revelation of Messiah’s actual coming in the New Testament seems not only inappropriate, but it reverses the order laid out in the book of Hebrews. I agree with you, however, that it is important to know the original languages of both Testaments, which seem to let you view the text in "technicolor" rather than black and white. It is definitely just richer and more powerful in the original languages.
You also ask about the Greek word "Hebbraisti." Where it is used in the New Testament I feel sure that it is referring to Aramaic Hebrew, since the context in every case relates to the spoken word. With the exception of formal reading in the synagogue, the only "Hebrew" heard at that time was Aramaic.
With respect to whether or not Luke was a Gentile, I could not prove it in a court of law that he was. And if you check a Bible Dictionary you will find that we don’t know as much about him as we do some of the other early Christian leaders. That in itself would make me think he was a Gentile, because those disciples/apostles who were Jews are described more extensively simply because they were part of the Jewish community of Israel. All I can say is that Luke is most assuredly a Greek name, not a Jewish one. And I refer you back to Colossians 4 where Paul is saying goodbye for himself, his Jewish companions, and then his Gentile companions. Notice that he mentions the first group by saying, "These are the only fellow-workers . . . who are from the circumcision." He then goes on to mention those in the second group (uncircumcised) which includes Luke. What evidence we have suggests he was a Gentile, not a Jew (Col. 4:11).
With respect to your questions about coins and the money changers: I am not a numismatic expert on middle Eastern coins of antiquity, but I do have a few myself, including Hebrew, Greek, and Roman. Then, as now, coins were struck in bronze, silver and gold. You are no doubt familiar with the universally required (age 20-up) half shekel atonement offering mentioned in Exodus 30:13-15. This half shekel continued to be struck and was still being offered in Jesus’ time. No other coinage was allowed into the sacred treasury. The bankers, or money changers, sat in the Court of the Gentiles and offered these half shekels at a fixed discount. They did, however, also have a fixed charge beyond that for themselves. This is what Jesus was complaining about.
I referred earlier to the Day of Pentecost and the many different languages being spoken by foreign Jews and Gentile proselytes. There were probably just as many different coins as languages spoken at the major festivals in Jerusalem. And within the temple precincts there were many other things necessary for purchase for pilgrims to properly celebrate the feast: for sacrifices, for purification etc.. These also had to be bought with shekels. Better to get the official money and pay the fee than haggle and dispute the price with the dealers of various goods and services.
You might also try Colosseum Coin Exchange, P.O. Box 21E Hazlet, NJ 07730, Pho 732 264 6467. www.webpostinc.com/cce. Or: Sadigh Gallery, 303 Firth Avenue, Suite 1603, New York NY 10016 Phone: 212 545 7537.
With respect to your comments about the nature of Jesus’ "whip" being fringes from the edge of his Tallith, I have never heard of this as an explanation. John says he made a "scourge" out of cords. The context implies something more violent than gently "tapping" the merchants with his Tallith as you are suggesting. The text says He drove them out of the temple area, poured their coins out, and turned over their tables. It doesn’t actually say he touched any of them. Furthermore, would Jesus have been wearing such a garment? He was called "rabbi," but I have never assumed He was wearing some "official" vestment. The scripture says he had a robe. I would like to know more information about this and what your sources are.
With respect to your question about the ratio of Jews and proselytes in the various synagogues of cities, there is no doubt that they were filled with both Jews and Gentiles. The pagan world was dying. There were many Gentiles disenchanted with the old ways. If you want a good book on this, read Pagans and Christians by Robin Lane Fox. In the Greek and Roman cities many had been rescued from the pervasive, debasing idolatry to the higher moral power of the Jewish community. We see in Israel even Roman soldiers (Luke 7:5; Acts 10:2,30) learned to love the nation and became a part of it, observing the feasts, praying, giving alms, etc.
There were Jews all over the Empire, but before A.D. 70 and the destruction of the Temple, the Diaspora population was definitely much smaller than after the Fall of Jerusalem. I can’t prove my point, but as vital as these communities were, I would assume a large Gentile population, and we do find a prominence of them in the book of Acts.
With respect to your question about which text the Bereans were reading, I would imagine they were reading Biblical Hebrew in their synagogue, just as Jesus did in His (Nazareth). I can’t imagine Jews reading the Torah in any other language in their synagogues. But here we are back to the "boy at the Bar Mitzvah." He reads biblical Hebrew in the synagogue and speaks another language for everything else. I was not trying to imply that the Greek speaking Jews would be using the Septuagint in their synagogues; only that the Greek speaking Jews and Christians were also very familiar with the Septuagint.
With respect to your comments about Yeshua not being a "translation", I think you misunderstood me. I know Yeshua means "salvation," not "translation." But you could make something of a case for it from John 1:18: "No man has seen God at anytime, but the only begotten God (Son) who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared, explained, (translated Him to us)." Jesus is to the Father what a word is to a thought. No one can see a thought until it is expressed in words. Jesus is that Word. Hebrews 1:3 says He is the express image, or representation of His (God’s) nature. Jesus visualizes the Father to us. And I am not diminishing Him in any way by saying this. Paul says, "In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9).
Now let me say a word about Germans and Catholics. One of our great tendencies is to generalize people groups: "The only good Indian is a dead Indian (Cowboys)." "The Jews are a degenerate race (Hitler)." "Germans are all anti-Semitic." Etc. etc. etc.
When I was active on university campuses in the late 60’s at Berkeley and other West Coast schools, a sign I often saw on the literature tables, or at the demonstrations, was "THE POLICE ARE PIGS!" And you know what? Some of them are! But most are not. What we do know from Scripture is that God is a Righteous Judge, and everyone will get exactly what is coming to him. . . Germans, Catholics, Arabs, Jews, Gentiles. God has His people everywhere. With your Jewish background (?) you know the doctrine of the Remnant. There are two kinds of Catholics, just as there are two kinds of Jews, or Protestants: those who are working their way to heaven through their own merits, and those who have abandoned that approach and now cling to Another: personal faith in Jesus Christ as the Sacrifice for personal sin. In Jesus’ day there were two kinds of Jews, and two kinds of Gentiles: those who believed He was the Messiah (Peter, James, and John, etc.), and those who didn’t (high priest, religious leaders, rich young ruler, Judas).
I can agree with you about many unfortunate actions perpetrated upon the Jews by the Church--past and present. They sadden me deeply. There are many things we can and should apologize for that have been done to the Jews in the "name" of Christianity. I don’t know the Pope’s heart. After all this time, it is amazing that one who is supposed to be "infallible" admits just the opposite. I admire that. We need more of it. We don’t need more judging. We don’t need more hate. We need more love and compassion and forgiveness. I have a hard time mustering up love for Arafat. But I guess God was able to do something much more difficult: loving me. I’m glad He did and does.
Continuing the discussion about anti-Semitism from an earlier e-mail, you state:
I have documented quotes from many 'early fathers' which are virulently anti-Semitic. No amount of persecution would justify saying the things they did against the Jewish people/Israel. Especially, if they claim to have the Holy Spirit dwelling in their heart. Apparently they did not take seriously the warning clearly stated in Genesis 12:1-3).
Luther, sadly, was also an anti-Semite. Hitler borrowed from Luther. In other words, the spiritual groundwork for the Holocaust was already in place in the hearts and minds of the German people (and other peoples) via Luther. I would include here the vast majority of the Roman Catholic theologians and the RC parishioners too. Protestants and Catholics together acquiesced to the Nazis.
Your comments about Luther’s influence on Hitler needs to be tempered with historical perspective. You seem to imply that Luther’s influence is responsible for the Holocaust. There is no doubt that Luther had a profound influence on the German speaking people (as well as other countries and languages), but if you were to ask a German Historian what was, apart from the impact of his theological teachings, Luther’s greatest legacy to the German people, he would not answer, "anti-Semitism." He would say Luther’s translations of the Old (1534) and New (1522) Testaments. These works laid the foundation for the German language as we know it today.
I cannot defend Luther on the hateful tracts he wrote about the Jews late in his life. I will point out that I believe his argument with them came more from a religious motive than a racial one. The supreme sin for him was the persistent rejection of God’s revelation of himself in Christ. He said on their behalf, "What good can we do the Jews when we constrain them, malign them, and hate them as dogs? When we deny them work and force them to usury, how can that help? We should use toward the Jews not the pope’s but Christ’s law of love. If some are stiff- necked, what does that matter? We are not all good Christians." (Here I Stand, Roland Bainton, p.379). I must also point out to you that the reason his anti-semitic tracts didn’t appear in England, France, and Spain is because the Jews had already been expelled from these countries!
I would have to conclude that whatever anti-Semitism existed in pre-Third Reich Germany cannot be placed solely at Luther’s feet. Hitler hated the church and all it stood for. He also hated the Jews, a conviction expressed throughout Mein Kampf. His desire to "purify" the German people turned him away from Christianity and back to the "German roots" found in the old, Teutonic myths. His greatest admiration in this regard went to the German Opera Composer, Richard Wagner. Though an innovative composer, Wagner was truly a despicable human being, and he passionately hated the Jews. As you may know, most all of his works are based upon themes/stories of these early ancient myths. Just the kind of guy Hitler would be looking for!
To be fair with the facts, I would recommend reading a good book on the "Trail of Tears" we know as Jewish history. It is the saddest story in History. I would heartily recommend A History of the Jews by Abram Leon Sachar, the former president of Brandeis University. It is published by Alfred A Knopf. It is very readable and begins with Abraham and ends with the Holocaust, covering thirty centuries of Judaism.
What this book will do is to show you, long before Luther, how deeply imbedded was this prejudice in the minds of European, Middle Eastern and Asian (Russia) peoples. And the farther east you go, the worse it gets.
This will also help us answer a question we haven’t asked: Why was Luther so anti-Semitic? We will learn in this book. And you will find that you are right about all the churches, not just in their lethargy in rising up against the "Final Solution," but all back through church history--the Jew was to be ignored, abused, denied, punished, hated.
As Christians, we must be honest with the facts of history. The truth of the matter is that the historical, institutional Church, and true Biblical Christianity have not always been synonymous. There is no way that we should try to defend or excuse those times and incidents where the Church has erred from Her calling and failed to emulate and model the teachings of its Founder. In short, the Christian Church, in all its forms--Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant--has a "checkered" past. Where the church has failed, we must agree with our critics. The Pope’s recent apology in Jerusalem for the Church’s failure to take the lead in preventing the Holocaust is a current example.
We cannot undo the past, but we certainly can learn from it. And we can learn from the Scriptures and apply the compassion and interest God shows to those He uniquely chose to have a redemptive part in accomplishing reconciliation for the human race. As Christians, our attitude toward the Jews and the Jewish community, or any suffering and mistreated people, should be empathy, compassion, understanding, respect, and love. We are to "pray for the Peace of Jerusalem!" (Psalm 122)!
Thank you for your e-mail.
As for the Hebrew question, I believe there is evidence for an underlying Hebrew text of the Renewed Covenant (the New Testament). I am not alone in this. I have read other Jewish theological sources that have come to the same conclusion. I would recommend an essay by David Flusser called "Christianity" in the book, Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought. Mr. Flusser also alludes to evidence for the underlying Hebrew, that is, the Greek is actually a translation of original Hebrew. But, until documents are found this will remain a theory and a mystery.
Re: Luke, I really do not care if He was Jewish or gentile. He was a writer of the Renewed Covenant and inspired by the Ruach ha Kodesh. My point was to be more circumspect before drawing conclusions. I am speaking to myself as well here!
Re: The money changers, I believe the evidence is clear that they were not "doing the right thing" in their activities and Yeshua reprimanded them for it. I do not accept the scene as it is portrayed (in the Gospels). Was He angry? Yes. Did He whip the people there? No. He tapped them with the fringe of His tallit katan, the "prayer shawl of the covenant" worn by all Torah observant Jews. This information was received from the Ray Vander Laan seminar series. Mr. Vander Laan has received his Ph.D. from Yeshiva University in Jewish studies.
Your clarification of who Yesua is was very good. I agree! Elohim in the flesh!
Re: the Germans of the WW2/Third Reich: The vast majority did nothing to save the Jews or oppose Hitler and the Nazis. Other nationalities were accomplices. Are all the Germans guilty? No. There were a few who were not. The rest were! Sorry if this is harsh, but it is true. I agree that everyone will get exactly what is coming to them. That includes ALL of us! Even though I am "under the blood" my behavior matters to G-d. Rewards will be given commensurate with deeds. Again, thanks for your reply! -- Shalom ubrcha!
Thanks for your e-mail. Responding to your comments about the Hebrew subtext Flusser believes underlies the Greek gospels we possess: this is not something I would argue with. The main question to answer is whether it was written or spoken. I would simply argue that the writers of all (with the possible exception of Luke, who has by far the most "polished" Greek in the New Testament [his first language?], and may be a further indication of our discussion above that he was a Gentile and not a Jew) the New Testament had, as their first language Galilean Aramaic! They did, with varying degrees of skill, render their spoken dialect into Greek for the wider "audience" they addressed. Is that not a reasonable and plausible compromise? As you mention, we have NO evidence of a written, Hebrew/Aramaic tradition in the manuscript evidence. But if the eyewitnesses to these events were communicating out of their Hebraic linguistic background, we should expect to see that reflected in the second language. This is exactly what we do see.
I’ll have to look into the sources you recommended on the underlying Hebrew text. Do you have a source for your information on the tallith? I would like to read more about this, since I have never heard of it before. I’ll do some looking in Edersheim’s Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.
After the fact, I realized I failed to answer your question about "Palestine." It originally comes from "peleste", a designation for the Philistines, who settled the Israel’s Coast c.1190 BC. "He Palastine" is of Greek origin, first mentioned by Herodatus in the fifth century BC. The Romans called it "Palestina." They also used the term Judea. Palestine was first used for the northern coast of Phoenicia, but subsequently became the designation for all Israel west of the Jordan. The term "Holy Land" is used only once, in Zech. 2:12. Of course, the Jews always knew it as "HA ERETZ- YSRAEL."
Dear Sir. . .You can read about the Tallith in Numbers 15:37, 38. And again in Matthew 23:5 where Yeshua reprimands the hypocrites for exaggerating their vestments to show off their piety.
Also, when Yeshua makes reference to the "prayer closet" He is referring to the Tallith. Orthodox Jews cover their heads in the Tallith to create a small/private area for prayer, sort of a tent effect. Surely you have seen pictures of this activity at the Kotel (wailing wall), for example?
Additionally, the woman with the issue of blood for twelve years touched the "hem" of His "garment." This is a reference to the tztitziot , or fringes of the Tallith. When the Scripture refers to Yeshua or Elohim spreading out His "wings" and gathering up His children/Israel it is a reference to the Tallith. Have you ever seen video of orthodox Jews walking rapidly down the street in their Tallith? You will see immediately what I mean here.
The Tallith is ordained by G-d Himself. He wears one eternally in heaven. I believe it is also safe to assume that Yeshua wore peyos, or side-curls, just as did all the orthodox Jews of His time, and just as they do today.
I believe the reason all these things and their understanding got lost is due to the fact that the Christian Church has largely left her Jewish roots. Perhaps this will change now that more Jews are seeing and recognizing Yeshua for who He is despite the foibles of the "Christians."
I have really enjoyed our dialogue, ______ . Shalom, and be well, my brother.
© 2002 Probe Ministries
About the Author
James F. Williams is the founder and past president of Probe Ministries International, and currently serves as Minister at Large. He holds degrees from Southern Methodist University (B.A.) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.). He also has pursued inter-disciplinary doctoral studies (a.b.d.) in the humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas. Over a thirty-five year period, he visited, lectured, and counseled on more than 180 university campuses in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the former Soviet Union. He also served on the faculties of the American, Latin American, and European Institutes of Biblical Studies.
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