Saturday, January 7, 2012

Is your Bible against Israel/the Jews ?

The Byzantine-era synagogue

Is your Bible against Israel/the Jews ?

Surely the Word of God can’t be Anti-Semitic! (or to use a more accurate terminology; Anti Jew and Anti-Israel)
No; but....   The writing of the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and must be read in a similar manner in order for God to communicate to us.   Man can get in the way of this process, if we allow a translator or expositor to colour what the original revelation said.  

The translation you are reading might have been influenced by the prejudices of those brought up in traditions of Replacement Theology and dislike of Jews. You might also be reading your Bible through cultural spectacles.   Our friend Amnon observes that, "Reading the scriptures in a translation (from Hebrew) is like kissing your bride through a handkerchief."   Strive to get as close to the original as you can.

 There are several possible areas to consider.   Remember, most of the Bible (Old and New Testament) was written originally in Hebrew.   Even that which was written in Greek was written by Jews (and one proselyte) who thought in Hebrew idioms and word patterns (which can still be discerned in the Greek).

Church History shows that the Church wilfully rejected its Jewish roots and adopted Replacement Theology and Greek philosophy.
Here are a few problems which you may find in your Bible if you do not use it wisely.

"Palestine in the time of Christ" 

map from an RSV Bible – published in 1971. 
This was relatively harmless nonsense when it was published, since there was no Palestine in Jesus’ time.   Jesus lived in Galilee, Judea and Samaria.
The land was not given that name until the Romans coined it in 138CE, in order to deny the Jews’ roots in the land. 
But, sadly, this error slips easily into belief in the present day myth created by the Palestine Authority, that the land historically belongs to the Arabs who, since 1967, have branded themselves "Palestinians.

The names of people and places

The first people to translate the Bible into English chose to change the Hebrew names of people and places into names which sounded English. (the same is probably true for other languages) This might sound harmless, but tends to mask the Jewish identity of the people in the Bible, and the location of the events in Jewish territory. It certainly obscures the connection between the Bible narrative and the people and places of present day Israel. Most unfortunate is the the conversion of Yeshua to Jesus, which hides his Jewish identity and takes the meaning out of Matthew 1 v21 and Luke 2 v30 .

When you read a Bible which uses transliterations of the Hebrew names, you will notice the continuity between the Bible and present day Israelis, who still use the same names. The characters in your Bible were Israelites; not Englishmen!
The same is true of the place names. It is much easier to deny the Jews’ connection to the land of the Bible if the place names have all been modified.

The name of Paul / Saul / Sha’ul

You may well have been taught that Saul of Tarsus changed his Hebrew name to the Greek name Paul.   This fits conveniently with replacement theology viewpoint that Paul ceased to be Jewish when he became a "Christian" and enables people to interpret Paul’s teachings in terms of Christ having done away with "the Law".

The truth, as explained by Dr David Stern, in his notes on the Complete Jewish Bible, is that Sha’ul (Hebrew name usually known as Saul) would have had two names, as did many Jews living outside Israel then as now. He had a Greek name for use in his Gentile home town, but he also had the Hebrew name which he received at his circumcision. Sha’ul never ceased to be a Jew – he merely became fulfilled in Yeshua.( a follower of "the Way"; not a Gentile Christian)

Acts 18 v18 tells of Paul/Shaul fulfilling a Nazirite (Jewish) vow. He had not cast off the Torah!*
Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken.
*The Jerusalem Church which was established by Jezeus, and which was guided by his disciples, did not believe in this teaching of Paul. They did not believe that faith in Jesus could effectively atone for their sins.

The testimony of the Christian scriptures. The 21st chapter in the book of Acts reports that the normal activities of the members of the Jerusalem Church included the offering of animals for the explicit purpose of the expiation of sin. The book of Acts describes how four members of the Jerusalem Church had taken a Nazirite vow. This means that they had voluntarily brought themselves into a situation where they would be required (by the law of Moses) to bring an animal as a sin offering.

It is clear that these people saw in the temple offerings a valid method for the expiation of sin. If they believed as Paul did, that Jesus died for their sins once and for all, then there would be no point in bringing a sin offering in  the temple. The fact that the Jerusalem Church still participated in the temple offerings after Jesus had died, tells us that they did not see in Jezeus's death an all atoning sacrifice. These people were not Evangelical Christians.

Source: Num 6:1-21 And the priest shall prepare one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering, and make atonement for him, for that he sinned by reason of the dead; and he shall hallow his head that same day. 

James, the disciple of Jesus

If you look at the Greek text where James is mentioned, it is clear that he actually had the Hebrew name Jacob ( Jaakov ). His name was translated as James to flatter King James, the patron of the translation. James has been accepted since then.

"The Jews" opposing Jesus in John’s Gospel

A casual reading of John’s gospel will suggest that life was continual confrontation between Jesus and the Jews. Because Jesus is so clearly and approachably presented in the Gospels, and possibly because of Sunday School representations, we may feel Jesus is one of us, in conflict with "alien" or "foreign" Jews.   Anti-Semites can read this gospel whilst maintaining their identification with a Gentile Jesus who is battling against those wicked Jews. But this is nonsense, since Jesus and his followers were all Jews.  All the disputes in these gospels are between Jews and Jews, but they are between those open to God and the religious who were locked in legalism.   John’s labels (as we receive them in English) might not be very helpful to us, but would not have been an issue until his readership had been exposed to hellenisation and antipathy to Jews. David Stern devotes several pages to this issue in his Jewish New Testament Commentary. (pages 157-161)

You might hear people who can read Greek referring to "the original Greek texts", but actually they are referring to the oldest surviving manuscripts.   Nehemiah Gordon’s researches suggest that much of the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew Unfortunately it is possible that a Greek bias and prejudice had already crept in to this first translation.   Translators can only do their best to recapture the full meaning as penned by the (Jewish) author.   David Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible captures so much better the Jewish flavour and meaning, as well as steering clear of the anti-Jewish biases of many translators and expositors.

"The Jews" in the book of Acts
The same can easily be thought of Acts if verses are taken out of context. There are references to "the Jews" where Luke must be referring to the Jews who rejected the Gospel, since nearby verses indicate that other Jews accepted the message. See Acts 18 v6-8 for instance.
But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."
Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 
Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.
Surely the synagogue ruler and his family were Jews!

Synagogue of Satan

Revelation 2 v9 says,
I know your afflictions and your poverty--yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
Many Christians have assumed over the years that Jesus is condemning the Jews in general as a "synagogue of Satan" and this has led to the use of the phrase “synagogue of Satan” as an anti-Jewish slander.

There is no justification for this idea as David Stern discussed in JNTC ( p795 ). Unbelieving Jews are never called non Jews in the New Testament.

The most sensible understanding of this verse is the obvious one; Jesus is referring to Gentiles who were claiming to be Jews and trying to persuade Jesus’ followers to join them.

Paul had to write to the Galatians to warn against such people (The Judaizers and their adherents) and remind the Galatians of the truth of the Gospel. Even today there are Gentiles who are pretending to be Jews. Anyone doing this and leading Christians away from true faith in Jesus merits Jesus’ description in Revelation 2 v9. (See JNTC page 560-563 in Galatians 5)

Just a comma

David Stern points out (Page 97 of his Jewish New Testament Commentary) that Mark 12 v38 is usually translated into English in a way that makes it appear that Jesus is condemning all teachers ot the Law.
KJV - Beware of the scribes, which......
RSV - "Beware of the scribes, who like to go about in long robes....."
NIV - As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces,
That comma after the word scribes makes the warning apply to all teachers, but if it was not there it would be clear that Jesus was only warning against the scribes that do these things. The construction of the Greek text does not support that comma! The NIV appears to have taken the error one step further by using a full stop and a new sentence.

Notice how David Stern translates it. See the difference!
CJB - As he taught them, he said, "Watch out for the kind of Torah teachers who like to walk....."

The same problem arises with 1 Thessalonians 2 v14-15 (NIV)
You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.
David Stern explained in JNTC p 618 that the original Greek text has no comma and there are no grounds for inserting a comma.

With the comma it reads that it was the Jews (all of them) that killed Jesus, while without the comma it reads that the Jews being referred to are only those who killed Jesus. The usual translation is thus anti-Semitic. Just read the sentence aloud with and then without the comma.

Anti "Law"

Some argue that Christ had done away with the Law, the Jewish Torah, quoting, "Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." Romans 10 v4 NIV. This argument comes close to Anti-Semitism and demeans the first five books of our Bible - Jesus' scriptures!

This is due to the rendering of the Greek word "Teleos" as "end", in the sense of termination. Teleos is used 42 times in the New Testament, and in the great majority of cases it means, "aim, purpose or goal to which a movement is directed" (Teleology is the branch of philosophy dealing with goals and purposes)

The original reader of the KJV might have understood "end" in the sense of goal (as in "the end justifies the means") but it understood by today's reader as termination. All major English translations follow the KJV, but David Stern translates teleos as "the goal at which the Torah aims." 

N.I.V. biases

John 19 v19 & 20 in the NIV read,
Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.
Nearly all the european language translations render the Greek word Hebraistias Hebrew. This seems the obvious translation, so why do the NIV, ESV, NIVRR and TNIV translations opt for Aramaic? Does someone have a problem with acknowledging the Jewish language?

While we are looking at the NIV, let's consider at its translation using "envy" and "envious" in Romans 11 vs11 and 14
Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israelenvious. the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.
David Pawson points out that if I look longingly at someone elses wife I am guilty of envy. But if someone stole away my wife I would be jealous. It is good to be jealous for what is my own but bad to be envious of what is someone elses. ( God is jealous )

Paul is speaking of making the Jews jealous because we Gentiles have now received the blessing that was originally theirs alone! To suggest the Jews will be envious of some special Gentile blessing that we have is arogant, and not what Paul was suggesting at all!

In "WHY CARE ABOUT ISRAEL" Sandra Teplinsky points out another issue with the NIV; the Greek word pleromaPleroma appears seventeen times in the New Testament and the King James Version translates every occurence asfulness. The NIV translates it the same way every time except for Romans 11v25 where it translates pleroma as "full number".
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, ..............NIV
For brothers, I want you to understand this truth which God formerly concealed but has now revealed, so that you won't imagine that you know more than you actually do. It is that stoniness, to a degree, has come upon Isra'el until the Gentile world enters its fulness; and that it is in this way that all Isra'el will be saved. ..............CJB
Why the odd translation to change the meaning to purely numerical?

Man Made Additions

We all know we are not to add to God's word or subtract from it but .....
What about the section headings added in many translations?   They can be useful for finding a section but some folk read the headings as part of "the Word" in church services.   If these reflect prejudices held by the publishers they can seriously influence our understanding.   It is said that one early translation of Romans 11, which says,  "I ask then: Did God reject his people?", was headed "Israel rejected."
David Pawson points out the problems with having a commentary built into your Bible in parallel with the text (or at the foot of the page).  He found that some people quoted from commentaries, but didn't realise they were only quoting the opinions of a man; they thought they were quoting scripture.

This author prefers not to even underline in his Bible, since this action connects a passage to a truth revealed on one particular occasion.   What if God wanted to reveal something else nearby at some future occasion?


The authors of the Christian scriptures describe the
development of the early church in the following manner.
Jesus was a Jewish man, who lived in the land of Israel. When
he was about thirty years old, he began to travel throughout the
country. For about three years, Jesus traveled and taught. By
the time Jesus died, he had created a small following. All of
his followers were Jews. Prominent among Jesus’s followers
were his twelve disciples. These disciples formed a
community with its center in Jerusalem. The community of
Jesus’s followers was lead by James, a brother of Jesus. This
community is referred to as the “Jerusalem Church”. In the
years following Jesus’s death, the Jerusalem Church grew in
size. At one point, the authors of Christian scriptures claim
that they numbered several thousand. But the members of this
church were all Jews.

Christianity reached the non-Jewish world through the
person of Paul. Paul traveled the length and breadth of the
Mediterranean, teaching the gentile world about Jesus. Paul
founded many churches throughout the Roman Empire. The
churches which Paul established were predominantly gentile.
The Christian scriptures end their narrative at this point.
They leave the reader at the historical point where there are
two churches; the Jewish church of James, and the gentile
church of Paul.

History tells us that the Jewish church of James did not
survive as a separate entity. By the time Christianity became
the established religion of the Roman Empire, there were
almost no Jewish Christians left. The few Jewish Christians
which still existed, were persecuted as heretics by the gentile
church. All of Christianity as it exists today, was transmitted
through the body of the gentile church. The books of Christian
scripture were products of the gentile church. They may have
included in these books, material which came from the Jewish
Christians. But the gentile church was the editor of this
material. It was the gentile church who determined the
contents of the Christian scriptures, and who transmitted these
texts to the future generations.

In order to be convinced that the gentile church is truly
transmitting the original message of Jesus, one must determine
that Paul’s teachings conformed with the teachings of Jesus.
The gentile church only learned of Jesus through the teachings
of Paul. If Paul’s teachings were not synonymous with the
teachings of Jesus, then the gentile church does not possess the
original message of Jesus.
To determine Paul’s connection to Jesus, we will turn to the
books of Christian scripture. It is clear that the editors of these
books were strongly motivated to present Paul as one who is
faithfully transmitting the original message of Jesus. Yet even
these biased writers, were not able to do so.

The Christian scriptures describe the basis of Paul’s mission
in the following manner. Paul never saw Jesus in real life.
Neither did Paul learn of Jesus’s teachings through the
disciples of Jesus. Paul emphatically states (in the 1st and 2nd
chapters of Galatians) that no living person was involved in
transmitting Jesus’s message to him. Paul only learned of the
teachings of Jesus through a series of visions. In these visions,
Jesus appeared to him and imparted his teachings. Paul’s
entire message was the product of these visions.

The only way we can verify the truth of Paul’s claim, is by
determining the reaction of Jesus’s disciples to Paul’s
message. These men who lived with Jesus and heard him
teach, could compare the teachings that they heard, to the
prophecy of Paul. How did the Jewish following of James
react to Paul’s claim to prophecy?

Paul makes the claim (Galatians 2:9) that the leaders of the
Jerusalem Church acknowledged the fact that he was
appointed (by the dead Jesus) as a messenger to the gentiles.
But Paul was lying. James and the Jerusalem Church never
acknowledged the validity of Paul’s visions. It is the Christian
scriptures themselves who contradict Paul’s claim.

The 15th chapter of the book of Acts, describes how the
leadership of the Jerusalem Church disregarded Paul’s claim
to prophecy. Paul had come to Jerusalem. He had been
preaching to the gentiles that they are not required to practice
the law of Moses. Some members of the Jerusalem Church
disagreed with Paul. They felt that in order for a gentile to join
their following, he should be required to observe the law of
Moses. This question was brought before the leadership of the
Jerusalem Church. The elders of the church discussed the
question, and James handed down his decision. His judgment
was that the gentiles were not obligated to observe the entirety
of the law of Moses as a prerequisite to joining the Christian
community. But he stipulated that the gentiles were obligated
to observe certain dietary laws, and to avoid immorality.

If Paul was telling us the truth when he claimed that the
leadership of the Jerusalem Church acknowledged him as a
true prophet, then this story makes no sense. Here we have
Paul, who was personally appointed by the dead Jesus as his
emissary to the gentile world. Whatever Paul taught was
personally revealed to him in these prophetic visions. One of
the central teachings of Paul was that the gentile world is not
bound by the law of Moses. Yet when the leaders of the
Jerusalem Church are in doubt as to what Jesus would have
said concerning the gentiles, they discuss the question, and
look to James for guidance. If there was any truth to Paul’s
claim, that these leaders acknowledged the truth of his
prophecy, then they should have simply asked him “what did
Jesus tell you?” The fact that they considered the question, and
the method that they used to resolve the question, clearly tells
us that these men did not believe that Jesus had ever spoken to
Paul. The author of the book of Acts, his bias
notwithstanding, could not hide this simple fact.

The difference between the gentile church founded by Paul,
and the Jerusalem Church founded by Jesus, was not limited to
the question of the authenticity of Paul’s prophecy. These two
institutions espoused two totally different philosophies. The
central teaching of Pauline Christianity is, that faith in the
redeeming sacrifice of Jesus, is the only valid method through
which atonement for sin can be achieved. The entire
philosophy of Paul, revolves around this one teaching.
Evangelical Christianity is founded upon this basic teaching of
Paul. If you were to ask an Evangelical Christian to sum up his
belief system in one sentence, he would respond with this
point. That faith in Jesus is the only redemption from sin. In
fact the entire concept of the messiah-ship of Jesus is basically
limited to this one point. Jesus is the messiah of Evangelical
Christians, only because they believe that his death provided
atonement for sin.
But the Jerusalem Church which was established by Jesus,
and which was guided by his disciples, did not believe in this
teaching of Paul. They did not believe that faith in Jesus could
effectively atone for their sins. This is demonstrated by the
testimony of the Christian scriptures. The 21st chapter in the
book of Acts reports that the normal activities of the members
of the Jerusalem Church included the offering of animals for
the explicit purpose of the expiation of sin. The book of Acts
describes how four members of the Jerusalem Church had
taken a Nazirite vow. This means that they had voluntarily
brought themselves into a situation where they would be
required (by the law of Moses) to bring an animal as a sin
offering. It is clear that these people saw in the temple
offerings a valid method for the expiation of sin. If they
believed as Paul did, that Jesus died for their sins once and for
all, then there would be no point in bringing a sin offering in
the temple. The fact that the Jerusalem Church still
participated in the temple offerings after Jesus had died, tells
us that they did not see in Jesus’s death an all atoning
sacrifice. These people were not Evangelical Christians.

The Christian scriptures provides both the theological and
the historical justification to the accusation that Christianity
has failed in the transmission of its own message. The
Christian scriptures tell us that the disciples of Jesus never
believed the fundamental teaching of Evangelical Christianity.

These people who lived with Jesus and heard him preach did
not believe, that with the death of Jesus, the world is redeemed
of its sins. The Christian scriptures also tell us, at which
historical point the break in the transmission occurred. These
books tell us that Paul, the father of modern Christianity, had
no connection to Jesus. Christianity is an edifice erected upon
the testimony of one man. All of Christianity stands upon
Paul’s word that Jesus appeared to him. The only people that
were qualified to verify Paul’s claim, contradicted him to his
face. This emerges from the pages of the very books which
Christianity regards as true witnesses to its claims.

Did The Original Followers of Jesus Vanish Just As Rabbi Gamliel Predicted?


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