Category Archives: Theology

Discussions about various Theological topics.

BibleWorks 10 Review, Part One

Welcome to the first of several installments in which I review BibleWorks 10 and show you how I have been employing it in my workflow recently. My primary use of BibleWorks 10 (hereafter referred to simply as BW) is for original language research and course preparation to teach classes at Calvary Chapel Bible College. While BW offers a good selection of additional resources as add on modules, it shines brightest in original language study and exegesis. It’s designed to keep you “focused on the text,” and this it achieves quite well. A brief statement taken from their website summarizes their company vision:

“The purpose of BibleWorks, LLC is to provide pastors, teachers, students, and missionaries with the tools they need to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). There are other companies that exist to do this as well, but BibleWorks comes to this task with some unique differences in approach and philosophy: We exist to serve the church, not to make a profit, and all of our business decisions are made with that in mind. Our goal is to provide a complete package containing the tools most essential for the task of interpreting the Scriptures in the original Greek and Hebrew, and to do it at a price that poor pastors and students can afford.

In this latest iteration, BW has added a new and vastly improved interface compared to its predecessors. Since I’m new to the software and have just entered its userbase at version 10, I can’t speak authoritatively as to the magnitude of its enhancements over earlier releases. But in my initial (and only minimal comparisons), there are obviously well-thought-out changes to the former UI. My first impressions working with the program are very favorable and I’m genuinely excited to have this great software with its excellent array of language tools, available for my studies. While at first one might feel intimidated by the UI and overall capability of BW, it is quite simple to use and very stable. Admittedly, I’ve come across a minor bug in text rendition that occasionally appears, but is recoverable. Crashes have been non-existent.

Four columns (or windows) can be viewed simultaneously, allowing users a secondary analysis pane.

Four columns (or windows) can be viewed simultaneously, allowing users a secondary analysis pane.

The above screenshot (click it and all images to enlarge) is version 10’s new user interface, showing the optional, newly designed fourth window. More correctly, it is called the “Secondary Analysis Window.” The name is indicative of its primary purpose, analyzing the text through its many research tools, all of which are linked to the biblical text you are viewing. At the time of writing, I’m still in the learning curve of where to find things, precisely what certain icons represent and, what the more complex search commands are. But I’m able to navigate quite well for what I need to do. With a few basic instructions, one can dive in and get to work quickly. And yes, that is the Leningrad Codex you see in high resolution images above, tagged with verse references for searching  or scrolling in sync with accompanying Old Testament texts. Reference markers are hyperlinked for immediate viewing of user-defined versions in a popover. This is a very valuable resource, implemented well.

First in line below, I cover my use of BW for basic textual reference, searching and analysis.

This view is for the basic stage of proofing my teaching notes for class

This view is for the basic stage of proofing my teaching notes for class

In the screenshot above, I display only two of four possible windows. The “Search” window  is collapsed because at this point of my work, I don’t need to search. If I needed to, I could still search while it is collapsed (more on that below). And by the way, searches are extremely fast with virtually no measurable wait time. Each window column can remain open or be collapsed laterally, based on user preference of tool usage with a simple click of the mouse. This is a unique feature that I like a lot, because collapsing them does not close or remove the active content in them. With just the main “Browse” and “Analysis” windows, I’m able to view my target text and essential research tools while leaving room on my 14 inch laptop to snap my class notes adjacent to them. This useful “snapping” capability, by the way, is one of my favorite features of the modern Windows UI. Under normal circumstances, one would probably leave 3 or even 4 window columns open in BW.

The two-window layout is ideal for the simple proofing stage of my class notes where I verify important textual issues or answer any remaining exegetical questions by way of the many included lexicons and grammars that are conveniently linked to the text at hand. Entries from all lexicons containing the word of interest, or grammars that mention the verses in my browse window or grammatical concept, appear and update accordingly in the analysis window. Clicking on the truncated result opens the respective module directly to the lexeme or article . It couldn’t be more convenient or faster, and I absolutely love this unique feature. I haven’t seen it implemented like this in any other Bible software. See below.

Lexicon entry accessed via the Resource Window

Lexicon entry accessed via the Resource Window

Grammar article accessed via the Resource Window

Grammar article accessed via the Resource Window

I do this while making modifications to my notes directly in Microsoft Word, snapped to the right of BW.  Even when the “Search” pane is closed in BW, a simple keyboard shortcut allows the user to enter search commands or navigate to new passages quickly and without leaving the layout you see above. Simply hit the “Esc” key to prompt BW for your command. Next, type your reference (Gen 31, for example), and hit “Enter.” The new verse location will appear in the “Browse” pane. Not having to physically enter my cursor into the search pane allows me to maintain my layout the way I need it while moving along quickly and smoothly in my workflow. I do much more with BW for my study needs, but future installments will cover that.

Cracker Jack Theology With a New Surprise in Every Package!

ImageToday I listened to yet another bible teacher lead countless thousands down a path lined with empty promises of prosperity, which have nothing to do with the biblical gospel, and which sadly continue to appeal to the greedy nature of millions that profess faith in Christ. Although he may have been quite sincere and convinced of the message he preached (The mimshach Anointing), sincerity and shouting are not the barometer for truth. His message was carefully crafted and craftily delivered. Seeing how there was no biblical support for nearly anything he said, he did not cite scripture. Instead, he turned to the aid of theatrics to convince the unsuspecting that the same anointing God had given to Lucifer was on Jesus and, is offered to us in the church today. This mimshach anointing is, according to this pastor in question, “intended to expand whatever we do until our success and prosperity reaches foreign lands and people are talking about us. Once understood and applied, this anointing will guarantee us success and we will become number one. Repeat after me, I will be number one!”

Those were his words, and I emphasize his, for they are so far removed from the biblical landscape that they could not be reached with a lunar probe. Does his sound like the biblical message to you? That we are to be number one? That others should be talking about us? That our kingdom should expand beyond foreign borders? Or how about just the fact that we have the anointing of Lucifer? That alone should be enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck. But instead of being disturbed as the pastor bounced up and down as if he were on an invisible pogo stick shouting, “I will be number one!” the crowd was overcome from head to toe with goose bumps of excitement at the idea of actually becoming a big shot in this world.

Now think hard before answering this question, how awkward would this pastor’s words sound if put into the mouth of Jesus, or the Apostles? Do you have difficulty imagining it? If you do, that’s good. If you don’t, then you need to start reading your bible a little more and listening to these preachers a little less. Wouldn’t a Christian want others to talk about Jesus, rather than herself, and Jesus to be number one rather than herself, and that God’s kingdom expand rather than her pocketbook? Where is Jesus glorified in this and to what faith, exactly, are people being called?

Anointing in Scripture is always connected to the task God has given to His servant in order to carry out His sovereign will in a particular task or role, and never for the servant’s self-gratification. And we had better well understand the limitations of our “anointing,” for when Saul overstepped his it cost him not just his kingdom but eventually his life also (1 Samuel 13:11-14). Even the Holy Spirit never takes the glory or promotes Himself or puts the attention on himself but always and exclusively exalts and promotes the Son of God (Jn 16:14).

Throwing in a Hebrew word like mimshach (meaning to anoint or spread oil on an object) may seem to add some authenticity to his message about expanding our kingdoms, a message swallowed only by those lacking the tools or the intention (or both) necessary to “test all things,” but in the end this careless misuse and abuse of Biblical words only confirmed the error of the preacher’s Cracker Jack theology. Simply reading Scripture in its context (which these fellows seldom seem to do) would remove all doubt as to the fallacy.

It is amazing to me that there should be any believer who, while having the gift of the Holy Spirit, at the same time would lack the accompanying discernment to see the falsity of these men (their sincerity granted) and their tantalizing doctrines within the prosperity movement. On the other hand, I (we) should not be entirely surprised, for the danger of deception and the reality of false teachers leading believers astray is repeatedly announced in the New Testament from Jesus through the apostles (Mt 7:13-20; Mt 24:4-5, 11, 24; Lk 21:8; Rom 16:18, 1 Cor 15:33; 2 Cor 11:3-13; Gal 2-3; Eph 5:6; 2 Thess 2:3-9; 1 Tim 1:3, 3:6-13; Tit 1:10; 2 Pt 2:1-15; 1 Jn 2:26; 4:1; 2 Jn 7). And seeing how man’s nature tends to go beyond mere survival instinct to outright self-centered covetousness, we might expect that the unbiblical message of the prosperity doctrine would appeal to millions. After all, their call to the multitudes is not one of repentance from sin and self-indulgence, but to turn away from failure and poverty so that we can be prosperous and boisterous. They do not preach the narrow road to life that few find and even fewer are willing to follow (Matt 7:13-14), but the ever widening road to riches which only the uninformed Christian could happily stumble upon and blindly follow.

We do not see Jesus or the Apostles in anyway teaching, or giving the example of a life style that believed the church had an anointing for prosperity. And no one in the early church practiced this ideology or even understood prosperity to be promised to those who are in Christ. On the contrary, the Christian hope has always been anchored in eternity and not in the shifting sand of this passing world (1 Jn 2:15-18). The teaching of Jesus and all of the New Testament is clear and replete with exhortation to a life of simplicity, suffering, self-sacrifice and self-denial.  We are told to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow Jesus (Matt 16:24), not to promote ourselves in self-proclaimed exaltation like pastor Chris tells us. Consider these words of Paul to Timothy, and examine the message of these prosperity preachers in light of them, in particular v.v.6-10:

1Tim. 6:3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

I could go on and on with Scripture that speaks against both the teachers of such a doctrine and the need for correction to those of an unhealthy attitude towards finances. Please understand that I am not here making an appeal for poverty or stating that material blessing should never happen, or that wealth is inherently evil. But I am saying that God blesses whom he choses with what he chooses, there is no “formula,” and the prosperity doctrine is unbiblical, unsafe and unacceptable. It is abuse of the precious Word of God, and because of this kind of “fleecing of the flock” and shameful disregard for God’s message, the way of truth is maligned exactly as the Apostle Peter said (2 Peter 2). Be sure to read Peter’s words on this, you’ll be shocked at the accuracy of his description to many of today’s tele evangelists. I have much more to say about this subject, but I’ll save it for a future post.  For now, if you are still unconvinced there is anything wrong with the prosperity movement, leave your answers to these following questions in a comment on this blog:

  1. Where in Scripture do we see Jesus either teaching, or living anything remotely close to the prosperity doctrine?
  2. Where in Scripture do we see any prophet or apostle teaching or living anything remotely close to the prosperity doctrine?
  3. Where in Scripture do we see any Christian in the early church teaching, encouraging or living anything remotely close to the prosperity doctrine?

Friends, beware of Cracker Jack theology. Test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 Jn 4:1). Test everything and hold fast what is good (1 Thess 5:21).

Part Two of “Abraham’s Bosom; The ‘Holding Place’ for Old Testament Believers?”

In this second installment I want to address two of three remaining questions. My next post, the third and final, will cover thoroughly the last question which was raised by Dejan in a comment to part one “Abraham’s Bosom; The ‘Holding Place’ for Old Testament Believers?”. Because his question will require some word studies in the Greek and biblical exegesis of the entire passage of Ephesians 4, I felt it was best to isolate it. This post would  become too large otherwise. If you’re curious, Dejan’s question has to do with the typical Scriptural references used to support the teaching of Abraham’s bosom as a place of captivity until Christ’s death and resurrection (Ephesians 4:8-10; Luke 16:22).

The transfiguration of Christ is the next point I want to put on the table in this discussion, for it presents a serious logical and theological problem for the doctrine of Abraham’s bosom. If, as many suggest, all believers were held captive there prior to Christ “setting them free”, then what were Moses and Elijah doing on the mountain, talking with Jesus, Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:3)? Apparently they both were free to appear and not at all in “captivity” waiting for release. And remember, Jesus hadn’t yet died nor resurrected.

What was the physical state of Moses and Elijah as we can tell from Scripture?  Elijah, as mentioned in part one, was taken away alive by a whirlwind into heaven (2 King 2:11). This is very likely an Old Testament type of the rapture to come (1 Thess 4:17). Now the text says he was taken to heaven, and I believe that to mean not the sky itself but the spiritual realm of God’s throne as described in Revelation, and, which is the destiny of every believer (Col 1:5). This is reasonable because Elijah, as Abraham and every other Old Testament saint, was justified by faith in God’s promise, looking forward in belief though the messiah hadn’t yet come (Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6). I explained this point more in “Abraham’s Bosom; The ‘Holding Place’ for Old Testament Believers?”.

Notice that Elijah’s rapture was before the cross of Christ, yet he was taken away into heaven. If Elijah was not taken to heaven, the only other option would be Abraham’s bosom or hell. We can rule out hell pretty easily. Now we’re left with Abraham’s bosom. Why sweep away a prophet to put him in a holding place? The entire picture of his rapture points to a glorious climax, not to a halfway point in the spiritual domain. The whole event becomes senseless if he wasn’t taken to heaven as the text says, and it certainly is not a picture of the rapture at that point. If he was taken to heaven, but other men and women of faith had to wait for Calvary, we have inconsistency with God’s standard, and that is not like his character.

As for Moses, we know he went the way of all men and died a physical death. God buried him but we don’t know where (Deuteronomy 34:5-7). The next we know of Moses he appears on the mount of transfiguration.

Last, but not least, consider the discussion between Jesus and the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39–43). Jesus tells him that he will be with him that very day in paradise. This statement alone declares:

1. The thief to be justified at that very moment on the basis of faith in Christ prior to his death.

2. Jesus was about to enter paradise that day, not hell (as some teach without biblical merit) nor Abraham’s bosom (Luke 23:43). Although, we should recall that in part one we noted Abraham’s bosom was simply a synonym for heaven according to the Jews.

In part three, we’ll take a detailed look at the Scripture references often cited to support the doctrine of Abraham’s bosom.

Thanks for keeping up with us on uThinkology. And remember, you are what uThink!

God, Science and the Big Bang: An Explosive Debate

Two days ago, a dear sister from Serbia sent me a message asking my thoughts about antimatter. She had dialogued with a man who bombarded her with recent findings that, according to him, proved there was no need for a “divine being” to explain the origin of life, because antimatter can be created in a particle accelerator. It’s one of the newer, more exciting topics in science and the study of physics.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a rather colossal project in every sense, one that pushes the confines of what man thought possible just over a few decades ago. Twenty years in the making, the LHC is now a sprawling construction, a 27km-long circular underground tunnel that straddles the French-Swiss border, near Geneva. And it’s making quite a bang. In fact, that is exactly what it was designed to do, to recreate a mini-Big Bang. (see the above-ground simulated image below)

Inventions like the LHC underscore the brilliance of the human mind, the summit of all terrestrial life forms. Man has been endowed with the ability to observe through the five senses, process information, analyze it, discuss it, debate it, and draw conclusions from it. Especially wonderful is his ability to create! And with the invention of the LHC come new ways to explore old mysteries. It promises what many hope will be years of thrilling, ground-breaking research that will one day explain what really happened “In the beginning.” (See close-up shot of the LHC below)

Hydrogen atoms are fed into the source chamber of the LHC where their electrons are then stripped off, leaving only hydrogen nuclei, protons with a positive charge. They are then accelerated through the tunnel until they reach the speed of light, at which time these proton packets are redirected into a collision course with each other. This is the simulation of the BB’s effects, as they believe it happened.

From this, a team of a thousand-plus scientists from 33 countries hopes to learn more about the nature of our amazing universe, the way it was seconds after its birth at the first BIG BANG, presumed to be 13.7 billion years ago. One specific mystery they want to unveil is where all the antimatter went after the explosion, which left mostly matter, the ‘stuff’ we’re made from.

But from this research, the clearest lesson we have learned so far is the premise on which scientists are approaching the birth of the universe. It was accidental in nature, and God is not a factor in their equation. The common people who are observing from the sidelines have also leapt to conclusions that not only exceed their own understanding, but that violate the principles of the selfsame empirical science supposedly being cited.

The purpose of research is to examine a subject and arrive at a conclusion, in this case, the origin of life. But when we begin research with a premise that excludes certain possible explanations, such as a divine creator, we do nothing other than reveal our philosophical bias. The evidence, if they are fair, may just point to another source, one not so quickly welcomed by materialists. Case in point, the voices being heard in the LHC project speak of the EVOLUTION of the universe. Even though they have yet to determine what happened, they have already decided that it has, and I quote, “evolved.” Does this strike you as science by the book? How has this been concluded when their search is really just beginning? Well, it hasn’t been concluded. It has been assumed, such as other ideas I look forward to covering in future posts at uThinkology. And even once they are able to reproduce the ‘birth’ of the universe with the LHC, the question will still remain, “What caused it?”

In science every effect has a cause. And if protons, or ions, from which matter is comprised, were the first building blocks to matter, where do they come from? They are not eternal, so what got the whole process going? Science can answer many questions, and I applaud the remarkable achievements that have been made by men of great minds. But until biases are put aside we do not have true research taking place. Instead, we have a philosophy that men are promoting, and one that is being accepted because geniuses have said to, while in truth the verdict has not yet been reached.

The questions that most need answering shouldn’t be limited to what happened to antimatter, but also, “Can the origin of the universe be explained without intelligent guidance or design, and does the conclusion of these studies eradicate the God-factor?”  Indeed, researchers are far from finished. What we can conclude so far, is that there is no reason (other than a hatred for the idea of a divine being) to eliminate design and creation as the possible cause for life. And let’s not overlook the fact that:

  1. These scientists are trying hard to “RECREATE” the Big Bang, and I emphasize the word ‘recreate’
  2. They are conducting the experiments with special and precisely created-and-controlled conditions that allow for the manipulation of matter
  3. They are using preexisting matter, which had to come from somewhere, for something cannot come from nothing
  4. They are doing all this under INTELLIGENT guidance, which only shows that such a delicate and fragile operation must be carefully executed by intelligent beings.

The Big Bang doesn’t in the slightest way disprove God. At most, it tells of the nature of the creation of the universe, that it was explosive. It still does not explain why it happened, or what caused the process. And it may just be that God created matter (and antimatter) in this explosive way. The Scriptures do not specify how God created, other than “In the beginning the earth was void and without form.” Some Scriptures even indicate a connection between extreme heat and creation’s end, such as:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (2Pet. 3:10-13 NAS95)

and

“…our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29 NAS95).

I find it rather interesting that in the end, God will destroy space and matter by an explosive fire, such extreme heat that all matter will be consumed. Another Big Bang of the reverse order?

In another post, I’ll talk about “strong force” or “atomic glue” in particle physics. A scientific mystery to which the Bible appears to make reference. Empirical science will agree that every effect has a cause. We Christians maintain that God is the only uncaused cause of all matter. Because the universe is not eternal as all agree there was a beginning, we must ask what started it all? What do uThink?

Part Two of “Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Which Language was the New Testament written in, and should it matter?”

As promised, I have dug up (and will now insert below) my very first exchange written on the forum of a certain Messianic/Nazarene/Israelite group. This is the one that started the ball rolling and eventually made its way over to uThinkology, under the title “Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Which language was the New Testament written in, and should it matter?”

The above link to the article written on August 31, 2010, contains a fuller explanation of the issue at hand, and it has drawn a fair amount of attention from various parts of the world. If you have not read it, I recommend you do so for an understanding of the background prior to moving forward in this post. Although the subject is not entirely new, it is worth noting and being at least familiar with it, especially if you hold to the credibility of the New Testament canon.

These types of quasi-cultic movements, such as I seek to challenge in a loving dialogue, both here at uThinkology and elsewhere, all have their niche. They offer, as it were, secret insights for the Christian community. And generally speaking, many Christians seem to fear that there may be a portion of truth somewhere out there, unknown to the majority while lying in the possession of an elite minority. To the sincere seeker of truth, if he is unsuspecting or ill-equipped, these “secrets” and “insights” have a strong appeal when first encountered. And unfortunately, many do fall prey to them.

We all need a careful eye, and none of us can afford NOT to prayerfully ask the right questions when faced with anything that seems new or claims to offer an all-inclusive, never-before-seen package deal on truth. So what I hope to offer here is one more look at a real-life exchange. The holes in their wall should become immediately apparent to you as you take a closer look.

Lastly, if you find yourself with more questions than are answered for you here, feel free to post them in the comments section. I’d love to have other uThinkology readers join in with their thoughts and perhaps even help field some of the questions along with myself. At the very least, uThinkology can help direct you to the best resources available. Now for that forum post dated March 28, 2010. Please note the sad state of deception this dear sister finds herself in, while she also sniffs out some of the false doctrine from the forum to which she posted:

******

Paulette says:

I have not read “Fossilized Customs” – yet (plan to order it today). But I have read just about everything on the website. I “stumbled” upon this site when I went searching for the Truth about the word “Christian” – it is only found three times in the Bible and in at least one of these instances it doesn’t fit. The Holy Spirit has been showing me all kinds of things (I don’t go to church but I can’t find any that teach Truth, so I have to rely on Him to show me Truth) – such as we are supposed to celebrate the Sabbath and the Feasts. But He has also shown me that the Bible was translated by the Catholics – which made me want to find another copy straight from the Hebrew. I knew that Greek was not the original language the New Testament was written in. In my search for a English translation from the Hebrew, and for the word Christian I came upon this website – and found that I am a Natsarim! This was yesterday morning. I spent the day processing all this new info – plus I checked out many other sites about the Natsarim – all saying the same thing. This is real. This is Truth! We must follow the Torah!

A tiny little thing Lew – on one of your pages you mention that “immersion” will remove sin – perhaps I misunderstood what you wrote or perhaps you left out a word, but bapism in water is only an outward sign that one has accepted Yahusha Ha’ Mashiach as their Savior – He is the only One who can remove our sin.

Paulette

***********

Mark Nigro says:

Dear Paulette,

Where did you see that the Bible was translated by catholics? The NT has Greek manuscripts dating back to the second century, long before Constantine made “christianity” the state religion (325 AD), after which Roman, and I stress Roman, Catholicism became a hodgepodge of political and religious activities. Furthermore, I believe you are confusing translation for correlation of the New Testament canon, which, by the way, was done with the original texts in Greek and not in English.

Regarding the language the NT was written in, just think about this: The gospel of Mark, for example, contains several explanations for terms that were written in Aramaic (a close relative of Hebrew) and Jewish customs, because a Gentile audience would not understand them. This shows us that Mark wrote not to a Jewish audience (who would have no need of such explanations) but to a Gentile one. Likewise, Luke addresses his gospel to Theophilus, a Greek. Why would he have written his gospel originally in Hebrew if writing it to a Greek that did not speak Hebrew?

As for the other NT books being in Greek, let’s not forget that much of the early church’s ministry was to the Greek-speaking culture outside of Jerusalem. Just follow their journey through the book of Acts and you’ll see what I mean. Think about the letters written to the churches throughout Asia minor. There is nothing Holy or unholy about a language, it is the content, the message, that matters.

Be careful not to get caught up in things that have the appearance of holiness but offer nothing in the way of true sanctification which is by the Holy Spirit alone (1 Peter 1:2). And as you said, immersion in water for baptism DOES NOT remove sin. You were right on and have discernment regarding that aspect of the false teaching you see on the Fossilized Customs site. Keep looking with a prayerful eye and you’ll find a lot more!

In closing my post to you, consider these following verses from Colossians, and remember, be careful about knee-jerk reactions to what you read on the internet.

“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch! (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) – in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 2:20-3:2)

Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Which language was the New Testament written in, and should it matter?

There is a movement among some believers of the Messianic and Nazarene groups who, by their claims and their actions, are discrediting the Scriptures of the New Testament. While I believe they are sincere in their convictions, I also know that they are dangerously misguided, and misguidedly dangerous. Their position states that the New Testament writers did not pen their works in Greek, but rather in Aramaic; Matthew having employed Hebrew for his gospel in order to reach directly his Hebrew-speaking, Jewish audience.

The idea is an interesting one, at least when only touching its surface. And of course a case could be made for it. But it becomes nearly cultic upon closer examination, and as we will see in this post, completely irrelevant. One might liken the adherents of this movement to the Judiazers who, although they believed Jesus was the Messiah, were guilty of placing the unnecessary burden of first becoming a Jewish proselyte and receiving the Mosaic law so that one could be saved by Messiah. There is a very unhealthy allegiance to the Hebrew language and Jewish tradition among these followers.

This movement of believers whom I address in this post are similar to the Judiazers in that they are giving Torah preeminence over the whole of Scripture, an unhealthy view of keeping the Ten Commandments (not that I do not give them importance) and a foundation-less premise for the superiority of Hebrew and Aramaic as the languages for God’s revelation; Greek being an “unclean” language which God would never have chosen for his New Testament revelation due to the fact that the Greeks were so ungodly. They are pushing for a return to the superior and pure “Hebrew New Testament”.

While these positions do not necessarily affect one’s salvation (unless of course they believe they are saved by their obedience to Torah and hence, their good works), they certainly create unwarranted confusion and come quite close to dismantling all Christian confidence in the New Testament Scriptures.

It is rather clear that Jesus’ mother tongue was Aramaic, for nothing is more natural than to pray in one’s own language as Jesus did in fact do on the cross (Mark 15:34). Notice also that Mark keeps the Aramaic word for word, and then gives his Greek-speaking readers the translation of it. But it is also very, very probable that Jesus knew Greek and spoke it frequently while functioning within a Greek-speaking superstructure, such as the 1st century Roman Empire.

In addition, a quick glance at Jewish history and a comparative reading of the Old Testament citations found in the New Testament, make a solid case for the LXX (also known as the Septuagint), which is the Greek version of the Old Testament translated for the Greek-speaking Jews. There is no doubt the LXX was used, and followed, by most if not all early church Jewish believers. In particular, it was the Old Testament referred to by the New Testament writers,  and not the Hebrew texts.

Below is my latest reply, word for word, in a thread that is becoming a heated debate on this Messianic Nazarene group’s forum. I hope it gives you some helpful insights as to the folly of the arguments, and reinforces your position against this curious subject promulgated by what I believe is fast becoming a quasi-cultic movement. The recipient’s name is left out for anonymity. First is her refutation to an earlier post of mine in which I make the case for the need of writing in Greek when Luke compiled and sent his gospel and the book of Acts to Theophilus, a Greek-speaking believer. I will post that as well, later on uThinkology. No doubt, more exchanges will come and I’ll post them here on uThinkology too. Below hers is my latest answer. Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section.

K. B******* says:

Where is the evidence that Theophilus was Greek? Josephus tells us that he was probably Theophilus ben Ananas who was High Priest in Jerusalem from 37 to 41 C.E., so Acts and Luke were probably written originally in Aramaic. Even Josephus admitted that he wrote his volumes originally in the language of his countrymen because his knowledge of Greek was not good enough! An excellent comparison of the Greek and Aramaic is given by Andrew Gabriel Roth in his book, “Ruach Qadim”. I don’t see how any open minded person can read this evidence without being convinced of the Aramaic primacy of the New Testament.

Mark Nigro says:

Dear K. B******,

One simple reason why I do not believe Theophilus was the high priest is because he would have had firsthand knowledge of Jesus and no need for an explanation to be written by Luke in his gospel. Secondly, why would the high priest inquire at all, regarding Jesus, from a layman of religion such as Luke (layman in the eyes of the religious leaders) when he had the entire Sanhedrin at his disposal? But I can see already that the other points I have tried to make in my previous post are left completely unaddressed on this forum, and therefore a sincere search for truth seems to be lacking.

So let me ask, why does the language matter when the content (message) is YHWH’s Word? Do you think YHWH speaks Aramaic, or Hebrew? They are the languages of men, not of heaven. As for Aramaic, did you know that it was the language of the Babylonians, acquired by the Jews during their captivity, and this is why we have the Targums (portions of the OT in Aramaic, not Hebrew)? You adulate Aramaic, but were the Babylonians a holy people chosen by YHWH as his covenant people? Consequently, it had become the common language of Jews by Jesus’ day due to the many years of their captivity. The langauge stayed with the people, and therefore the language our Messiah spoke was once a Babylonian tongue, a people most despised for their iniquity. But that was not important to Yeshuah, because he came to communicate with men the truth of God for their salvation, and not to honor one language over another.

Now as for Hebrew, prior to Abram being called out of Ur by YHWH, it was the language of an “unholy” and pagan people. I say Pagan, because anyone outside of a covenantal relationship with YHWH is called such. Abram became holy (sanctified) when YHWH set him apart to make from him a people all his own. So, do you think the Old Testament was written in Hebrew because the language was holy and YHWH’s choice from heaven, or because that was the language spoken by the people YHWH called (Israel), and subsequently, the language of their offspring? YHWH has no need of a written language except that man cannot receive special revelation from him without it. Therefore, he communicates to us through written language (in addition to creation), and when he does, he uses the language of the recipient. Otherwise, had Israel not already known Hebrew, they and all their offspring would have had to learn a uniquely new, previously non-existant language created just for the OT, before they could understand what YHWH was saying. But of course, simple reason, logic and a little history (not to mention common sense) tell us this is not the case.

Can a language be holy or unholy, or is it the content and message that can be holy and unholy? I tell you it is the content and not the medium at all. Just as the ground Moses stood on was not holy except for the presence of YHWH revealed there at that moment. Otherwise, it was just the same dirt that lies beneath the feet of every sheep herder. One last thing, unbelievers speak Hebrew too, and they are not made sanctified before YHWH because of the language. Neither will Greek make one unholy or disqualified. But why are we debating about Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek, when we should be taking the message of the Messiah to those around us in whatever language it is that they and we speak? My suggestion to you and those on this forum would be to spend less time wrangling about Hebrew vs. Greek and start living and sharing the content of YHWH’s NT revelation instead.

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of YHWH shall be saved.” 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Ro 10:12–14)

Sincerely,

Mark Nigro

The Transfiguration of Christ, or the Appearance of Moses and Elijah?

Traditional site of Christ's transfiguration

Mt. Tabor as seen from the Jezreel valley. This is the traditional site of Christ's transfiguration. (From Photo Guide 3, Accordance Bible Software)

When Peter, James and John went with Jesus up the hillside of Mount Tabor (the traditionally accepted place of Christ’s transfiguration), they had no idea what was awaiting them (Mark 9:1-8). It is likely they expected to hear another teaching from Jesus, or perhaps to have occasion to ask him questions regarding the messianic kingdom they were anticipating. Or maybe they had hoped to eavesdrop on his prayer time and gain insight into the mysterious communion between the Father and Son. But the biblical account reveals none of the above. Not, at least, in the way one would expect.

The title “transfiguration” can be a little misleading, because Jesus was not transfigured into something other than himself – more beautiful or spiritual. It was simply a fuller revelation, the unveiling of Christ’s already-present, divine nature. His deity merely was cloaked in human flesh (Phil 2:6, Col 1:19) and “hidden” to all but the spiritually perceptive eye. Yet here, Jesus would give these three disciples a visual message that would speak volumes into their hearts and minds for the rest of their earthly lives, a message meant for all of us. It would prove to be a sight that they desperately needed to behold. Future persecution and challenges to their calling otherwise might have overwhelmed their impressionable hearts and paralyzed their global mission (Matt 28:18-20). The steeling of their confidence in Christ’s person began with this experience and concluded with the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus. In time the disciples would need to fall back on the reality of Christ’s glory soon to be shared by them in the coming kingdom. Envisioning Christ in the glory of his coming indeed helps steady us in the hardest of times.

But what about Moses and Elijah? Why the appearance of these two with Jesus and why did the Lord want us to know about it? Often we Bible teachers like to point out that Moses represents the law and Elijah represents the prophets (although Isaiah might be more representative of the prophetic canon than Elijah), and how together they point to Jesus as the fulfillment of both collective writings. Jesus satisfied the demands of the law and he is the center subject of prophecy. No scholar is likely to debate this point, for Jesus himself declared that the law, the prophets and even the Psalms speak of him (Luke 24:44). In fact, Jesus is the Word incarnate, the embodiment of Scripture; its author and content, its source and its subject (John 1:14, 2 Peter 1:11).

The transfiguration alone would have been sufficient to reveal the power of God’s coming kingdom and the glory of the Messiah that we shall one day enjoy with him. But there appears to be one more element in this visual message whose color adds to the overall portrait of Christ. That the Messiah would be both man and God was in fact prophesied (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:23) but had nonetheless escaped the understanding of the most astute Rabbis of Christ’s day. Thus many of his statements were taken to be blasphemous (Matt 26:64-66; Mark 14:62-64; John 10:30-39) and punishable by death. I would submit that a significant part of the “transfiguration” message for us is found in the experiences of Moses and Elijah in the Old Testament (Exodus 19, 1 Kings 19). They both met with God, did so on a mountain, and while doing so received revelation from Him . Once again, here on a mountain Moses and Elijah (now also Peter, James and John) were meeting with God. They became the recipients of a most spectacular revelation, summarized and culminated in the very person and nature of Jesus – his deity and the Father’s audible affirmation of him as His beloved Son! Jesus is “Immanuel, God with us.”