matchmaker

Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Mediator of the New Covenant

In the New Covenant, Yeshua acts as priest, sacrifice, and mediator. Installment 36 in the Beth Immanuel Hebrews series finishes Hebrews 9 with a discussion on Hebrews 9:15-28 and the Messiah’s role as a mediator between Israel and God.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Thirty-Six: Mediator of the New Covenant
Originally presented on December 28, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

“Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
Make me a match,
Find me a find,
catch me a catch”

-from “Matchmaker” by Jerry Bock
from the play and film “Fiddler on the Roof”

Lancaster started off his sermon on a different note than usual this week, stating that he’d been reading a book called A Jewish Response to Missionaries produced by Jews for Judaism, which is an “anti-missionary” organization. According to something in the book, Lancaster said that Judaism has a prohibition against mediators since a mediator between a person and God violates the second commandment not to have any god before Hashem.

Except that’s not true.

Sure, we can pray as individuals, and in any event, God knows our every thought, so it’s not like we need someone to help us communicate to God what we’re thinking and feeling. On the other hand, if the Jewish people didn’t need a mediator, why was there a priesthood? Why were there sacrifices? Why was there a Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle? And why was there Moses?

Actually, Chasidic Judaism very much believes in mediators and relies on a tzaddik, their Rebbe, to act as mediator.

So the Jewish prohibition against mediators seems to only apply when combating Christianity, as Lancaster says.

Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.

Galatians 3:19-20 (NASB)

The Jewish PaulPaul himself said that the Torah was delivered to the Israelites through a mediator and would remain in effect until such time as “the seed” would come, meaning Messiah. This isn’t to say that the Old Covenant and the Torah are not in effect today. They still are. But we are still living in Old (Sinai) Covenant times. The New Covenant won’t fully arrive until the resurrection and return of Messiah (but I’m getting ahead of myself), but even then, the Torah remains as the conditions of the New Covenant, too.

What is a mediator? Someone who negotiates an arrangement between two parties. Paul said “God is only one,” so the other party to the Sinai Covenant must be Israel. Lancaster says that the midrash likens Moses to the friend of the bridegroom (God) so to speak, like a matchmaker arranging a “match” between a man and woman for marriage (think Fiddler on the Roof, which is what the image at the very top of the blog post references).

Picture Moses going up and down the mountain carrying messages between Israel and God and between God and Israel, like a friend carrying love notes between a man and a woman who are courting. And in Exodus 24 Moses even performs the ceremony as such. Oaths are exchanged, blood is splashed, and afterward, everybody gets together in the presence of the bride and groom for a covenant meal, like a wedding reception.

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Matthew 26:26-29

Lancaster says that the Last Supper, or Last Seder if you will, also functions like a covenant meal in the presence of both parties, with the Master in the role of the mediator, representing the groom (God the Father), and the Apostles representing Israel, just as the elders of the tribes at the first covenant meal represented Israel.

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.

1 Timothy 2:5-6

Seems like a pretty pointblank statement to me. Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant between man and God.

However, there’s a part of these verses that has always hung me up and I think Lancaster solves my problem.

For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood.

Hebrews 9:15-18

testamentDepending on the translation you have, you either see the word “covenant” being used or “testament” as in “last will and testament.” Except a covenant and a testament are not the same thing at all. It’s pretty confusing in English. But apparently, “covenant” and “testament” are the same word in Biblical Greek and Paul was using a bit of word play. It makes sense in Greek but is useless in English.

However, it’s really just a simple point as Lancaster says.

Just as a last will and testament doesn’t come into effect until a person dies, a covenant doesn’t come into effect until there’s been a sacrifice and shedding of blood.

That’s all the writer of the Book of Hebrews is saying here. Don’t get hung up on any deeper symbolism or meaning. It doesn’t exist except in the thoughts of theologians, scholars, or sometimes people who like to find what isn’t there.

Verses 19-22 describe the events of Exodus 24 with some minor variations, and then Lancaster goes on to compare Moses and Jesus, whereby Moses made the Sinai Covenant come into effect by splashing the blood of the sacrifice, Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant with his blood.

Lancaster was very careful to say that Jesus didn’t literally enter the Heavenly Holy of Holies carrying a bowl of his own blood, this is symbolic language and imagery. He entered the Most Holy Place in Heaven on the merit of his righteousness and sacrifice as the greatest tzaddik of his or any other generation, not because he was a literal human sacrifice.

Verses 24 and 25 use the illustration of the Aaronic High Priest who every Yom Kippur, enters the Holy of Holies with blood to offer atonement for the people of Israel. He offers the blood of the sacrifice and he prays for the people. According to midrash, he was told not to pray too long because while the High Priest may be basking in the Holiness of God, the people outside, since no one can go in with the High Priest, are “freaking out” wondering what happened to him and if the act and prayers of atonement were successful.

So too are we waiting for our High Priest to return so that we know, so to speak, that his atonement for us was also successful (though we know it was and is). Yeshua, our High Priest, is tarrying in his prayers of atonement on our behalf. This is still a “virtual” Yom Kippur. He will emerge from the Heavenly Holy of Holies upon his return to us and then we will know.

Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

Hebrews 9:26

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

John 14:6

Jesus as our High Priest, our sacrifice, and our mediator, is the way into the New Covenant through our faith in what his work accomplished, and that faith and acknowledgement of him as mediator is required for us to participate in the blessings of the New Covenant.

Verse 28 speaks of those who eagerly await Messiah’s return. That applies to us as we eagerly await him, await the resurrection, await the terrible and awesome days of the Lord, and await the establishment of his Kingdom and the life of the world to come.

What Did I Learn?

Just about all of this was an eye opener. I had some vague notion of Jesus being the New Covenant mediator as Moses mediated the Sinai Covenant, but Lancaster added a great deal of detail, putting flesh on the mere skeleton of information I possessed as far as Hebrews 9 is concerned.

high_priestI especially appreciated the comparison between the Aaronic High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur and Yeshua as the High Priest in the Heavenly Holy of Holies, which represents the Messianic Age to come, a place, like the earthly High Priest, where only he can go, and we can only anxiously wait for him on the outside, wondering what’s happening in there and how long it is going to be before he comes back for us. How long, Moshiach? How long?

Lancaster has a talent for taking what seems to be very mysterious portions of scripture and removing the disguise, so to speak, to give the words and passages a plain and understandable meaning. Reading all this before, I don’t know what I thought about it, but now it makes a lot more sense.

Only four more chapters to go in Hebrews, which will take nine more sermons, nine more weeks for me to review. I didn’t cover everything Lancaster taught in today’s sermon, so you might want to listen to it yourself. This one is fairly brief at just barely 29 minutes. You can find the link above.

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43 thoughts on “Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Mediator of the New Covenant”

  1. John 14:6 is not necessarily any sort of statement about Rav Yeshua as a mediator (though the 1Tim.2:5-6 passage is explicitly so). As I’ve noted previously, the Jn.14 passage invokes a recognized description of Torah as the way, and truth and life; Rav Yeshua likens himself to a living embodiment of Torah; and his statement then suggests Torah (and perhaps his insights into it) as the medium in which approaching HaShem must be expressed. ‘Hasidic thought presents this notion and goal for each ‘Hasid to become such a living embodiment of Torah as characteristic of his relationship with HaShem.

  2. But if the Torah is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and we relate to Yeshua as the living Torah, how does that affect the relationship Gentile disciples have with Torah vs. Jewish disciples?

  3. Peace to all! Great point James. I agree with ProcliamLiberty, that the Torah is depicted as the way, truth and the life. As Moshe is closely connected with the Torah (i.e., the Torah of Moshe), so Mashiach being the 2nd Moshe and the highest tzaddik will be imbued with the Torah.

    ““The L-rd your G-d will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the L-rd your G-d at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the L-rd my G-d or see this great Fire any more, lest I die.’ And the L-rd said to me (Moshe), ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to My words that he shall speak in My Name, I myself will require it of him.” (Deut.18:15-19)

    This is true of all of HaShem’s prophets and how much more with Mashiach tzidkenu who is the chariot of the Shekhinah?

  4. PL said:

    “John 14:6 is not necessarily any sort of statement about Rav Yeshua as a mediator (though the 1Tim.2:5-6 passage is explicitly so). As I’ve noted previously, the Jn.14 passage invokes a recognized description of Torah as the way, and truth and life; “

    Rarely have I seen such a distortion of the meaning of scripture – the dangerous projecting of a meaning into scripture that is not there.

    Jesus clearly says that HE is the way the thruth and the life in saying I AM and by not saying IT (Torah) is.

  5. I very much appreciate the combination of the recording and your write up on this one, James. And I’m glad you took time to go into the inexplicability in some English versions due to (unaddressed) difference between “testament” and “covenant” (and how you’ve previously been confused). As you said, it can be “useless” in English (translation).

    To me, this is an indicator that we would do well not only to recognize the new covenant isn’t the domain of the Greek (over Hebrew) scriptures but, too, to rethink calling the apostolic writings the New Testament. One “solution” I’ve put into practice at times is to use this term: Newer Testimonies. [Similarity may help the reference be recognizable.]

  6. http://www.biblegateway.com

    John 14 King James Version (KJV)

    14 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

    2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

    3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

    4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

    5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

    6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

    8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

    9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?

    10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

    11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.

    12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

    13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

    14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

    15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

    16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

    17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

    18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

  7. I should have included “….” above, to indicate I hadn’t quoted to the end of the chapter. But since I didn’t, I will go ahead with the chapter.

    19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.

    20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.

    21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

    22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?

    23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

    24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.

    25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.

    26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

    27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

    28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

    29 And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.

    30 Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.

    31 But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.

  8. Shavua Tov, James, and Shanah Tovah — In response to your 8:35am of the 24th:

    In one of my responses a couple of weeks ago I proposed the notion of non-Jewish ‘hasidim, whose dedication to Rav Yeshua and becoming themselves living examples of Torah in emulation of his example would reflect the aspects of Torah that they could find appropriately applicable to non-Jews. This would represent the portion of Torah’s instructions or the version of Torah that would become written on their hearts in an analogous parallel representation of the Jer.31 covenant. Elsewhere it is still being discussed, as an incomplete work in progress, the definition of boundaries and methods whereby non-Jews may voluntarily pursue the blessings of Torah and its corresponding greatness in the heavenly kingdom, without encroaching on Jewish cosplay.

  9. Shavua Tov, “O”, and Shanah Tovah — In response to your 4:34pm of the 24th:

    It is regrettably all too frequent, “O”, for Christians to fail to understand Jewish “in-house” references within the apostolic writings, and thus to think that pointing them out is somehow distorting the meaning of the scriptures. However, it is not a distortion to reveal the background that brings out the true meaning. Yohanan’s besorah is characterized by an underlying “mystical” perspective, not unlike the proto-kabbalistic views of the Essenes. PP(F) Levertov pointed this out in his brief work “Love and the Messianic Age”, because he perceived a correlation between this gospel and classical ‘Hasidic thought which reflects a very similar mysticism. The apostolic writings do not exist in a vacuum, but reflect their times and culture, Understanding their intended meaning is very much an exercise in applying some familiarity with their milieu.

    Hence the referent of “I AM” is missed, and misread as claiming a blasphemous identity with HaShem. This is exactly what happened among his audience at the time, because they too were thinking too literally (i.e., of “flesh” rather than “spirit”) and not recognizing Rav Yeshua’s use of a known metaphor. This kind of response is common in polemical discourse, where opponents refuse to recognize ambiguity in the other’s statements and thereby a potential for positive interpretation rather than a negative one that they may use as further justification for their continuing opposition.

  10. @Marleen: I’m glad you are reading my reviews and comparing them to their source material. I think that’s the best way to get the most out of them.

    @PL: Yes, I remember that. I should probably try to collect your comments in some way to preserve this information as I can’t always recall them all off the top of my head.

    I’ve mentioned elsewhere that when Messiah returns and after the resurrection, there won’t be a “church” as such, but rather Gentiles drawing close to Messiah through the Jewish people and practices (as appropriate for Gentiles) as sort of “Judaism” which may well dovetail into your idea of non-Jewish hasidim. The Torah is for everyone, but depending on whether you’re Jewish or not, the implementation is different.

  11. In reference to my 3:49, I have to say, I think I didn’t say convey what I meant; sorry. It seems clear to me it is important to apply Greek understanding of the Greek language (as well as Judeo-Greek understanding) where crucial… AND to apply comparison and parallel use of terms, as in Greek and Hebrew, wherever we can. So, while the way I said what I said probably looked like I was downplaying Greek — which would be a little silly when we have just seen how the difference between it and English is key — what I was intending was memory of ongoing conversation at this site (where we see that the New Covenant is very much already the domain of Judaism before there were Greek scriptures for Judaism at all). [I’m just trying to clarify myself, not thinking anything said since relates to this.] Then, I wanted to add to that awareness my perception about calling the Greek sharing of some of what went on in the first century C.E. the “New Testament” [which part I maybe did say clearly enough].

  12. @James: I have a question.

    Do you think that within the 613 commandments given to Israel, most of them have a deep meaning behind themselves? I mean, even though a commandment can be seen as a visible act, it actually has a more profound meaning, concept or way of behavior that HaShem want’s Israel to perform. Would you think this is a correct way of looking at mitzvot described in Torah?

  13. Not quite sure I understand what you’re asking, Alfredo. I think the mitzvot operate on a number of levels. One level is that performing a mitzvah is an act of obedience to God. Another is now it benefits others, such as visiting the sick or feeding the hungry. Another is how it benefits ourselves in terms of providing a God-centered lifestyle (and I say all this recognizing differences in application between Jews and Gentiles). If you’re implying something beyond that into the realm of the metaphysical or mystic, I don’t know how to respond. I’m sure the Zohar has some interesting commentary.

  14. Let’s take an example of what I mean. Deuteronomy 22:6-7
    “If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life.”

    The plan meaning of this commandment is to do exactly what we read. If I’m hungry, and find a bird’s nest, wherever I’m walking, I can take the young but not the mother…

    Now, this commandment has to have something more going other than doing exactly what it says… What is it?

  15. Perhaps, Marleen, you might benefit from eschewing altogether the labels “covenant” or “testament” when referring to the Jewish writings known as the “Tenakh” and the “apostolic writings”. That way, you needn’t bother about notions such as “old”, “new”, “older”, or “newer” — which are all based on compensating for a degree of historical misunderstanding of how the writer of the Hebrews letter was attempting to describe the distinction between an approach to HaShem’s covenant which was tied to the duration of the current heavens and earth that are aging and will ultimately be replaced with new ones, and an approach that was indestructible and incorruptible because it would be based on renewed/resurrected/immortal minds and hearts (i.e., a kind of “software”) rather than on records written on stone or parchment or paper (i.e., “hardware”). One method is aging, however slowly; the other is ageless. It is a similar contrast as that between the heavenly sanctuary and the earthly one that operate in tandem. The earthly one suffers certain limitations that the heavenly one does not; and the earthly one is vulnerable to being distorted, damaged, or destroyed while the heavenly continues permanently.

    If we avoid the literary labels that encapsulate a misunderstanding, we can avoid also many of the translational confusions.

  16. Got the following at Chabad.org:

    From Rashi’s commentary:

    Verse 6:

    If a bird’s nest chances before you: This excludes [a bird nest that is] ready at hand. – [Chul. 139a, Sifrei 22:55]
    you shall not take the mother: while she is on her young, [whereas if she is only hovering overhead, you may take her from upon her young]. – [Chul. 140b]

    Verse 7:

    in order that it should be good for you, [and you should lengthen your days]: If in the case of a commandment easy [to fulfill, like this one] for which there is no monetary expense, Scripture says,“[Do this] in order that it should be good for you, and that you should lengthen your days,” then how much greater is the reward for [the fulfillment of] commandments that are more difficult to observe [or for which there is a monetary expense]. — [Sifrei 22:64, Chul. 142a]

    Is this what you’re looking for?

  17. @James. Not exactly. What I mean is that you should show compassion for that little mother bird. Sure, If someone is hungry, he/she has a need to eat and that might be fulfilled with some eggs from a nest… but don’t destroy a whole family… for that mother bird can always keep fulfilling what HaShem wanted her to do: have young birds.

    In other words, I think that there is a principle of showing compassion underneath that particular commandment.

    This is the same you were discussing some days ago, when you wrote about the very next verse:
    “When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.” Deuteronomy 22:8

    What is the meaning underneath this other commandment?

  18. Thanks PL for giving a very clear example of what I’ve written about so many times – of how people ignore or reject the clear meaning of scripture and reinterpret what it says to suit their own agenda.

    Scripture says Jesus is the way the truth and the life, that no one comes to the Father except through Him.

    PL says “Torah is the way the truth the life etc.”

    Personally I’ll accept what scripture says above PL’s reinterpretation.

  19. Pl said: “Hence the referent of “I AM” is missed, and misread as claiming a blasphemous identity with HaShem. ”

    There’s nothing blasphemous about Jesus using and self-identifying with the divine name of I AM. Jesus being God (as revealed clearly in scripture) makes it a very appropriate use.

  20. I agree, PL, that using “older” and “newer” is awkward and an attempt to compensate [and these as official designations, capitalized for headings of divisions in the Bible, hooked with Testament/Covenant, would not do at all]. I concur, as well, that it’s better not to use Covenant or Testament for the canonical meanings — and that they do encapsulate and contribute to misunderstanding (and translational confusion). I have the sense that testimonies is different from testament, at least in common understanding. [I’ve actually encountered a theologian who tried to tell me a testimony is like a testament is like a covenant, all essentially the same, claiming there’s no problem (and, of course, that what’s been done for centuries is accurate).]

    I feel like referring to newer and older in the sense of “testimony” writings can be understood and not quite incorrect in conversation. [And I have, sometimes, capitalized, for instance, Newer Testimonies (and then NT for that, and OT likewise) even though I wouldn’t want that printed in a Bible.] Small steps for some; I’ve had to figure out how to talk to people (in person and online) who have many perspectives, including apathy, but are usually familiar with ordinary nomenclature [and the similar sound but different meaning can ring a bell in a different tone]. Anyway, I haven’t relied on these terms (standard or solution) with my own children. Beyond the Canon designations, I will take time to consider what you just said about the writer of the Hebrews letter.

    For now, I will share a lyric that led me to start a conversation on this “meditation” in a broad sense while riding to brunch this morning. You might have some memory of hippie music: [Yes] “Take what I say in a different way and it’s easy to say that this is all confusion.”

  21. On the topic of I AM. We’ve talked a little bit before about the quoting of “the LORD said to my Lord” — when Jesus asked a question concerning David. However, in the NT, the designation of all caps for HaShem {I AM} wasn’t used (as it wouldn’t have been distinguishable in the Greek anyway but is an English application from the Hebrew for HaShem). [Nevertheless, there are a lot of “I” and “you” and so on in John 14. And J’shua is the way, as the mediator, the Ransom. He is also the Torah incarnate, yes? That’s how he lived and what is said of him.]

  22. @”O” — You continue to invoke some notion of “the clear meaning of scripture”, and you seem to think that this “clear meaning” appears in some English translation or other, but you fail to acknowledge demonstrations that this notion is an illusion and that translations have historically been inaccurate for a variety of reasons.

    My so-called “agenda”, as I have mentioned elsewhere, is to clarify the historical and cultural background of scriptural texts in order to foster accurate translation and understanding. In other words, it is to render clear and accurate meanings for previously unclear or inaccurately rendered passages, not to ignore or reject anything but clearly inaccurate renderings that have resulted from traditional ignorance of the background. Sometimes that ignorance has been deliberate, and sometimes it has been politically driven.

  23. Marleen, Jesus is the Word who was in the beginnning, the Word who was with God and the Word who was God – the Word that became flesh and lived among us.

    PL – Sorry to hear that you worship an ineffectual God who is incapable of making his word understandable to anyone except the linguistic” expert” and that he makes everyone else dependant on such experts (like yourself it seems).

    Therefore, considering most people are unable to grasp what scripture REALLY means, Jesus is not the only way to the Father – that position belongs to the one (like you) who can interpret scripture for the rest of us.

  24. @”O” — You seem to mistake the notion that HaShem has limited Himself with regard to the way in which He intervenes in His creation as if it rendered Him “ineffectual”. It ought to be rather clear from history that He does not force upon anyone a clear understanding of what is written about Him in the scriptures whose writers He has guided in their composition. He has encouraged us that we may seek Him and find Him when we search for him wholeheartedly, but we must be very careful not to draw false conclusions from the rarity with which understanding of His Word is found in any individual. He has not pressed upon any group a completely clear uniform understanding, though we see that those who have encountered Him closely tend to agree about certain aspects of His nature and about His desires for human behavior. That does not mean that such folks have not all sought Him diligently or wholeheartedly. The very nature of the command “Shm’a” includes the notion that we are to study and investigate as deeply as possible in seeking out such understanding. As we are reminded in Deut.29:29, there are things that are secret or hidden — in other words they are non-obvious, though Mk.4:22 offers hope that such things may be brought to light and revealed. Mark does not say, however, anything about how much diligent investigation may be required for this to occur.

    Has it not occurred to you that HaShem is deliberately non-obvious, and is not superficial, in order to encourage our own spiritual growth? Thus we are not islands of individual readers who independently and effortlessly understand the riches of some “clear meaning of scripture”, but rather we are interdependent and we benefit from the insights that have been uncovered by some within the community whose years or depth of diligent study have exceeded our own.

  25. http://www.torah.org/learning/dvartorah/5774/yomkippur.html

    I found — searching “dvar” — another web link touching the topic of fear while the high priest is in the holy of holiness. [I’ve heard the idea before about priests having to be pulled out via a rope or chain; lately, this concept is being rejected as something that did or could happen. Anyway, it fits the factor of fear and makes general conceptual sense. And the link is worthwhile without that picture being so.]

  26. PL, while you choose to reinterpret scripture according to the traditions you esteem so much, I’ll trust that God is capable of making Himself known directly through the scriptures He inspired – without the need for imaginative reinterpretation by others.

  27. I want to clarify that I don’t have to wait for someone to tell me something I’m reading isn’t panning out for me. So, for instance, Hebrews 9:15-18 was already not making sense (at least in some translations) before anyone clarified. In other words, the clarification wasn’t at once the confuser and the answer such that I felt I needed someone to just fill my mind with anything worth thinking. As l already knew this passage was not helpful to understanding, I was glad when it could be explained. I decided to share this. Subsequently, it was pointless when a rescuer of tradition [in online discussion] added in his received definitions (which I don’t think he understood very well but do think nevertheless he felt compelled to state “authoritatively” since, after all, he was ordained). A different perspective had to be wrong no matter how much sense it made (or how well it even meshed with sources he linked to, which, again, he didn’t seem to appreciably understand).

    Similarly, as I’ve described here [the other example being at another site, a more open-ended venue, years ago], there have been times I’m fairly sure wording didn’t belong as if actually part of Bible text (not talking about Hebrews right now). [I likely spoke of one of these there.] It would feel a little bold, but undeniable; I didn’t go shouting it from a mountain top. In a supposedly Spirit-led (with or without a leader) gathering, I’m pretty sure such an observation would have been rejected as something like heretical. When I happened to be in conversation with someone later who mentioned the same thing (and who had some Greek he checked in front of him for the particular passage that had come up without my trying), I was glad. I wasn’t bothered that a scholar (not a scholar of Greek, but a Bible scholar) affirmed an insight. I believe the Holy Spirit can show me that some things don’t make sense, as the Holy Spirit also can make things clear and meaningful (in a variety of ways)

  28. PL, are you saying the reference in John is rather that HaShem {I AM} is Torah, or HaShem’s Torah is the way, etc. (followed by an anthropomorphic statement of the Torah as “me” (v. 6)?

  29. By the way, although Torah most specifically means the first five books of the Bible or more specifically the Law there, Judaism often means far more than these when using the word Torah. So, what are you intending to reference when you indicate “way, truth, and life” being Torah?

  30. You make an interesting point about someone giving a Spirit-led Bible interpretation and having it rejected because it doesn’t fit a pre-existing traditional Christian (or for that matter Jewish) model. Also having a Bible scholar available to check out that interpretation feels very “Berean.”

  31. @Marleen — I believe Rav Yeshua had a broader view of Torah in mind, that encompassed both the Pentateuch and the Prophets who elucidated its mores, when he invoked the notion of (HaShem’s) Torah as the way, truth, and life. I base this view on his citation of both in Mt.5:18 as the documents from which not the finest detail would become invalid as long as heaven and earth endure. However, his comments in Mt.23 include also a reference to an element of oral Torah, so it would seem his view was broader still, encompassing the rabbinic applications and interpretations that the Torah itself authorized.

    His self-identification with Torah, then, as the way by which all who approach HaShem must come, is responsible for the references “I am” and “by me”. He is speaking as if he were the Torah itself, in order to emulate what it would say in response to the query from Thomas. The reason for invoking this metaphor has to do with the mystical framework of the conversation depicted in John 14. It is not saying that Rav Yeshua was “the Torah incarnate” (a phrase you used in another recent response); though it does invoke an image of how any ‘Hasid, who has the Torah so thoroughly ingrained into his personality that it might be described as “written onto his heart”, might be able to respond — standing in the shoes of an anthropomorphic Torah.

    However, Rav Yeshua’s use of “I AM” in John 8:58 is a bit different because it is in another set of deliberately ambiguous and multivariate references. Here he is not standing in the Torah’s place, but rather invoking a Greek phrase that in the Septuagint is used by HaShem, but it also implies reference to HaShem’s ancient plan to bring forth the Messiah in order to accomplish the promises made to Avraham (i.e., the reason for Avraham to rejoice). In other words, Avraham rejoiced to “foresee” the fruition of HaShem’s redemptive plan in the form of the Messiah who would come in the future. This Messiah himself did not need to exist yet even in Avraham’s time for this to occur, but HaShem’s “design” of what the Messiah would be and would do existed from virtually before anything else was created. The Judeans who protested that Rav Yeshua was not even fifty years old, let alone old enough to have met Avraham physically, were ignoring the midrashic characteristics of his referents in the conversation.

  32. @”O” — In light of Rav Shaul’s “clear” statements in Phil.2:5-11, you might reconsider your statement: “There’s nothing blasphemous about Jesus using and self-identifying with the divine name of I AM. Jesus being God (as revealed clearly in scripture) makes it a very appropriate use.” The view presented to the Philippians is clear that Yeshua’s neshamah is quite distinct from the being of the Father (HaShem). The “clear” picture is that the divine messiah Rav Yeshua is NOT the deity HaShem. (Even though all neshamot are considered divine in nature, such divinity is not participation in HaShem’s deity). Take this view back to the wordplay that opens Yohanan’s besorah, which invokes the opening phrase of Bereishit and elaborates on it in midrashic fashion, and we find that the “Word” is the power by which HaShem spoke the creation into existence and that this “Word” was incorporated into the neshamah (or personality) of Rav Yeshua. This “Word” was not the whole being of the person Rav Yeshua, but rather it was a characteristic capability that was enfleshed in his being in order to enlighten mankind.

    This is quite a different picture than the common Greek one in which HaShem was a chief god in the pattern of Zeus, who could take on human disguise and come to earth to interact with humans. Zeus was known particularly for impregnating human women and producing demigod offspring such as Heracles (Hercules).

    Rav Yeshua’s audience in John 8 misunderstood his use of the words “I am” (ego eimi). They were not wrong to think that Rav Yeshua identifying himself as the one-and-only G-d HaShem would be blasphemous, though they were wrong to misunderstand the intention of his reference in the first place. Note that this statement was never brought up at his trial before the Sanhedrin shortly afterword, in order to accuse him of blasphemy. It was an entirely different sort of statement that was considered blasphemous (probably by the Sadducees among them), which was about his identification with the “Son of Man” (exalted human) character cited by the prophet Daniel.

    This is a prime example where a failure to appreciate the Jewish background of the apostolic writings resulted in misreading supposedly clear straightforward texts and developing a fundamentally flawed doctrinal stance in traditional Christianity. Even theological thinkers within MJ are not of one mind about it, because it represents a primary doctrine which, if challenged, threatens fellowship between the Jewish and non-Jewish segments of the ecclesia (allowing that Christians who adhere to many flawed post-Nicene doctrines actually do constitute a major portion of that non-Jewish ecclesia).

  33. PL we’ve been over this issue before and you made it clear that you are more than willing to ignore very clear statements in which Jesus identified Himself as God.

    Thus says Adonai, Isra’el’s King
    and Redeemer, Adonai-Tzva’ot:
    “I am the first, and I am the last;
    besides me there is no God. (Isaiah 44)

    I am the First and the Last, the Living One. I was dead, but look! — I am alive forever and ever! (Rev 1)

  34. It seems to me, “O”, that there are some very clear statements that you yourself are ignoring, while reading the above rather superficially. If Rav Shaul was accurate in his description of Rav Yeshua’s neshamah as distinct from the Father (and comparable to the image or pattern of the character called Metatron), in Phil.2:5-11, and if Isaiah was accurate in quoting HaShem as in ch.44 above, and if the Shm’a actually means what it says about the Oneness or Uniqueness of HaShem (as Judaism has always understood the Hebrew text to say), then you are misreading the passage in Yohanan’s mystically-framed vision in Rev.1. I believe that we have, in fact, discussed the relevant passages in Revelation before, in comments to this blog, even to parse the Greek text and its variation between manuscripts underlying Textus Receptus versus the Alexandrian text, whereby I offered a suitable resolution to a traditional conflict between your reading and the above passages. I put it to you that Rav Yeshua did not claim to be G-d, nor did any of his disciples claim it on his behalf, and that traditional Christian misreadings and mistranslations to develop such a doctrine are in error. One aspect of this error arises from a failure to distinguish between the Jewish notions of “divinity” and “deity”, such that the uniquely special role assigned to Rav Yeshua to represent HaShem is falsely conflated with identity as HaShem. It seems you would prefer to hold onto the extra-biblical Trinitarian “tradition of men” rather than to re-examine and harmonize the Jewish texts in their full context.

  35. PL, with your many words and obfuscations you may convince yourself (and fool others)– but as for me I’ll believe the clear and simple scriptures.

    There is no God besides the one who calls Himself the First and Last.
    The One who is the First and Last describes Himself as being the one who was dead but is alive for ever more.

    And no that is not expressing a “Trinitarian” belief – it is expressing what Scripture reveals.

  36. Scripture also reveals that HaShem is “One” and that there is no other G-d. Rav Shaul made it clear that the Son is not the same being as the Father. Hence we are faced with a demand to seek what is the subject of a descriptive phrase “last and first”. We need to know last and first *what*. Last and first of its kind? Last and first, meaning uniquely-made example of something, for which the mold was broken after its formation? Last being to remain in existence after all has been destroyed, and first being in existence before it was created?. These are not necessarily all the same thing, so the description “last and first” could describe more than one thing, depending on what exactly is its subject.

    There is a Jewish apocryphal concept known as “Adam Kadmon”, which can mean “first man” (literally: “prior man” or “primitive man”), that is a title of Messiah. In this application it envisions the essence or neshamah of the Messiah as being perhaps the very first neshamah to have been created, even before the neshamah that was placed into the first man to dwell in the newly-created Garden of Eden. Its existence in the Messiah ruling in the millennial kingdom to the end of the current heavens and earth could also qualify it as the ultimate or “last” neshamah. Thus, “last and first” becomes a descriptor that qualifies the Messiah, but in a manner different from the notion of the Creator who was “first”, before creation’s existence, and “last”, after all shall cease to exist. It is a notion that must be considered while evaluating what Yohanan perceived in his mystically symbolic vision. Visions, more than any other event reported in scripture, by definition represent a kind of information whose actual meaning must be expected to be rather different from its face-value meaning (i.e., not-so-clear; not-so-simple).

  37. BTW, “O”, I’m sorry if you find my many explanations merely irritating rather than helpful or enlightening; but obfuscation is not at all their purpose (nor is deception, nor distortion, nor “fooling” nor “tom-foolery”). It’s just that the darkness I seek to overcome is of long standing, millennia of duration; and words, intellect, knowledge, kindness and understanding are the only weapons I can really wield in a blog response.

  38. Scripture also reveals that HaShem is “One” and that there is no other G-d. . Rav Shaul made it clear that the Son is not the same being as the Father.

    So it is very interesting that Jesus said: “I and the Father are one.”
    As I’ve said before, they are one in total UNITY not one in singularity.

    PL said:

    It’s just that the darkness I seek to overcome is of long standing, millennia of duration

    PL, you don’t need to seek to overcome darkness. The way out of darkness comes through following Jesus.

    Jesus said: “‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

  39. Indeed, “O” — and exactly who is this “Jesus” who may be followed? If it is the fictive anti-Semitic demigod of traditional Christianity, it will result in continuing to walk in darkness. Only following the genuine Israeli rabbi Yeshua and his ‘Hasidic Pharisaic Torah insights will enter someone onto the path he described as having the light of life. Those who are lighting candles in order to point in his direction are helping to overcome the deep darkness and fog that obscures the way of the gentiles (and not a few Jews, as well). Note that the situation described in Is.60:2 is rather like the present, with “… darkness [covering] the earth, and deep darkness [the obscuration of fog] the peoples [nations]; But HaShem will arise upon you [Israel], and His glory will be seen upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the shining beacon of your ascendancy.”

    (Not a bad theme to ponder during this Sukkot festival. ‘Hag samea’h!)

  40. PL it is the Jesus revealed throughout scripture. It is not the false Jesus of human tradition and religion (whether gentile tradition or Jewish). But the more people trust in their traditions and place the authority of human teachers above the Holy Spirit, the more their understanding of Jesus will be confused and tainted.

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