Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Notes On the Church From an Insomniac

Old English cir(i)ce, cyr(i)ce, related to Dutch kerk and German Kirche, based on medieval Greek kurikon, from Greek kuriakon (dōma ) ‘Lord’s (house),’ from kurios ‘master or lord.’

I’ve always wondered how you get “church” out of “ekklesia” and in a bout of insomnia, I decided to find out. It’s not so much that I want to know about the usage of “church” as a building or even an organization, but as the entity that has, in some circles, replaced Israel as the focus of all His New Covenant prophesies and promises (see my five-part review series on D. Thomas Lancaster’s lectures, What About the New Covenant for more).

The definition above is what I first came up with in a Google search using the search string “origin of the word church”. Here’s more detail:

church (n.) Old English cirice, circe “church, public place of worship; Christians collectively,” from West Germanic *kirika (cognates: Old Saxon kirika, Old Norse kirkja, Old Frisian zerke, Middle Dutch kerke, Dutch kerk, Old High German kirihha, German Kirche), probably [see note in OED] from Greek kyriake (oikia), kyriakon doma “Lord’s (house),” from kyrios “ruler, lord,” from PIE root *keue- “to swell” (“swollen,” hence “strong, powerful”); see cumulus. Phonetic spelling from c.1200, established by 16c. For vowel evolution, see bury. As an adjective from 1570s.

Greek kyriakon (adj.) “of the Lord” was used of houses of Christian worship since c.300, especially in the East, though it was less common in this sense than ekklesia or basilike. An example of the direct Greek-to-Germanic progress of many Christian words, via the Goths; it probably was used by West Germanic people in their pre-Christian period.

Also picked up by Slavic, probably via Germanic (e.g. Old Church Slavonic criky, Russian cerkov). Finnish kirkko, Estonian kirrik are from Scandinavian. Romance and Celtic languages use variants of Latin ecclesia (e.g. French église, 11c.).

-from Online Etymology Dictionary

This resource has links that define the sources used to generate the information above so please click the link for more.

As you can see, it’s not as simple as saying that “church” equals “ekklesia” which is how it seems if you simply read your English-language Bibles.

Now what about “ekklesia” (alt. “ecclesia”)?

noun, plural ec·cle·si·ae [ih-klee-zhee-ee, -zee-ee] Show IPA .

1. an assembly, especially the popular assembly of ancient Athens.

2. a congregation; church.

Origin: 1570–80; < Latin < Greek ekklēsía assembly, equivalent to ékklēt ( os ) summoned ( ek- ec- + klē-, variant of kal-, stem of kaleîn to call, + -tos past participle suffix) + -ia -ia

The same source, dictionary.reference.com also provides the following:

— n , pl -siae
1. (in formal Church usage) a congregation
2. the assembly of citizens of an ancient Greek state

[C16: from Medieval Latin, from Late Greek ekklēsia assembly, from ekklētos called, from ekkalein to call out, from kalein to call]

churchAccording to biblehub.com, the “English word “church” comes from the Greek word kyriakos, “belonging to the Lord” (kyrios).” By comparison, “ekklēsía(from 1537 /ek, “out from and to” and 2564 /kaléō, “to call”) – properly, people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church (the mystical body of Christ) – i.e. the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.”

So as nearly I can figure, not being a linguist or etymologist, we can understand the word “ekklesia” as originally meaning (for the purposes of this brief study) an assembly of Greek citizens or more specifically, a popular assembly in the city of Athens. In its most generic sense, it was probably used to mean any assembly of people for a common purpose.

There’s also a sense, when used to describe an assembly of believers, as it’s used in the New Testament, that said-assembly is a group of people “called out”. This is probably (in the minds of the Jewish writers of the New Testament) related to the Hebrew word Shaliah, meaning “legal emissary” or “agent,” equivalent to the Greek word “apostolos” from which we get the English word “apostle”. It’s reminiscent of the use of the word Shaliach as employed by the Chabad to mean “a member of the Chabad Hasidic movement who is sent out to promulgate Judaism and Hasidism in locations around the world.”

That probably fits since historically and into modern times, one of the primary functions of the Christian Church as an institution is to send out members as missionaries or “sent out ones” to “promulgate Christianity in locations around the world.”

Called out ones, sent out ones. In either case, a population of individuals separated from the larger group for a common purpose. From a Christian standpoint, “the Church” is called out of the generic population of the nations for the purpose of being worshipers of Jesus Christ. An important secondary mission (Matthew 28:19-20) is to spread the gospel message of salvation to the world, creating more called out ones to join “the Church.”

Except, as you may have noticed above, the word “church” is more related to the Greek word “kyriakos,” so I’m not sure it’s reasonable to directly translate “ekklesia” as “church”.

But I haven’t written this in the middle of the night to be that picky. I’m just using it as background.

In studying Lancaster’s What’s New About the New Covenant lecture series, I started wondering, given the centrality of Israel in all the New Covenant language, how “the Church” managed to replace Israel or usurp her position in that Covenant. Actually, I’ve wondered this for a while and it keeps bothering me.

PaulI’ve learned in past conversations with Pastor Randy at the church I attend, that “the Church” was created in Acts 2 at Pentecost, was originally made up of mostly Jewish people, and was centralized around Jerusalem and the Temple. Subsequently, the Church began to spread and its locus of control was shifted to the assembly at Syrian Antioch (see Acts 11 starting at verse 19 and subsequent chapters) as more Gentiles were added. Paul returned to Antioch after his first two “missionary journeys” rather than Jerusalem, to give a report of his activities. He only returned to Jerusalem after his third journey (Acts 21) at the prompting of the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:22-23), not as a missionary going back to his “home church” to make a report, but for a larger and most likely eternal purpose.

From this perspective, as time goes on, starting during the lifetime of Paul, “the Church” becomes less and less Jewish and less and less of a Judaism, and increasingly describes a body of Jewish but mostly Gentile people focused on the worship of Jesus Christ, while divesting themselves of the various practices, perspectives, and even thoughts that previously associated it with a first century stream of Judaism (very similar to the viewpoint of John MacArthur on this topic).

Can you see why this bothers me? I’ve mentioned recently that if God really did reject Israel and replace her with “the Church” in all of the covenant prophesies and promises, then it would be like a man cutting off his own legs and expecting to run a marathon afterward.

It would be impossible.

All of the New Covenant language we see in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 is focused on Israel as the object of God’s prophesies and promises, not another entity, and certainly not an entity that isn’t Israel and Judah (which “the Church” isn’t). It’s as if traditional Christian thought on the New Covenant starts in the Gospels and particularly the Epistles, and then works its way backward into the “Old Testament,” proceeding to engage in some significant theological and eisegetical gymnastics to rework the words of the Prophets in order (some how) to make them fit the way institutional Christianity chooses to interpret Paul.

I’ve also mentioned recently how at least some of what Paul wrote is all too easily interpreted as anti-Torah, anti-Judaism, and anti-Jewish people, making Paul a big problem for understanding the New Covenant as it’s described in the Prophets, and giving “the Church” the (apparent) leverage it needs to reinterpret the New Covenant in a Gentile-focused manner that diminishes Israel and the Jewish people in favor of Goyim Christianity. At this point, if the Jews weren’t kicked out of the Church (unless they converted to Christianity and gave up Judaism and being Jewish people), they would have walked out, since the “no Jews allowed” sign had been raised. The Church isn’t a Jewish place, it’s a Gentile place.

“The older I get, the more I realize how different it is to be a Jew in a Jewish place as opposed to a Jew in a non-Jewish place. It’s definitely a different feeling in terms of how freely you can be yourself and celebrate your culture and religion.”

-Natalie Portman

Etymology is defined as “the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.” As we’ve seen above, the etymology of the word “Church” isn’t as straightforward as the casual users of that word might believe. In fact, “Church” is more related to a completely different Greek word, but most people don’t know that.

JudaismI suggest that the way most Christians understand the word “Church” today isn’t how the original apostles and disciples of the Master understood “ekklesia” or meant for anyone to understand it. The “ekklesia” were the called out body of Messiah, but did not call out Jews from Judaism. If the New Covenant prophesies mean anything at all, then primarily, it was the non-Jewish peoples who were “called out” of paganism in order to be grafted in to the commonwealth of Israel to benefit from the blessings of the New Covenant through their Abrahamic faith in Messiah, Son of David. The Jewish disciples may have been called out of other Jewish streams and into the Judaism of “the Way,” but if they had been called out of Judaism as modern Christians believe, then they (and we) would have exited the New Covenant altogether.

But just as we see how the word or words that eventually became “church” in English went through many changes throughout history, the meaning, purpose, and composition of the body of believers has also “morphed” a great deal over time. I doubt Paul would recognize a modern group of Christians in a Sunday worship service because of the result of nearly two-thousand years of evolutionary changes.

I wish I could do this wee study more justice, but it would take more study and time than I have right now. I fell asleep exhausted several hours ago, woke up way too late (or too early) and now I can’t sleep at all. For some reason, I keep thinking of “the Church” in general and the little local church I attend in specific.

I emailed one of the associate Pastors earlier today in relation to the church’s website, and one of the things he asked in response was, “How are you doing in your walk?”

Given how unusual I am in relation to just about everyone else in church, I didn’t know how to respond. I feel “fine” in my “walk,” but I don’t know if that’s how I’d appear from his point of view.

I suppose I should try to get some more sleep. Morning will come all too soon and I’ll regret it if I go to work with my brain in a fog. Maybe I’ll write a “part two” to this when I get more time and can do more research. I don’t really feel like I’ve said what I wanted to say, except that I wanted to say that what the Church has become today, not as a building or even an institution, but as an entity or even a concept, seems to have changed a great deal from the hopes and dreams of the apostles and from the spirit of what was intended in the New Covenant, a covenant non-Jewish people can only partake of through Israel and her firstborn son, Messiah, Son of David…the person we call Jesus Christ.

Read Part 2: When Is Church Not Church?

The Sacrifice at Golgotha

The Death of the MasterI am hoping you will be able to resolve a very important issue confronting the very foundation of Christianity.

God’s way of testing Abraham by calling for the sacrifice of Isaac…and then the abrupt staying of the knife…was intended to demonstrate that God abhorred human sacrifice and would not accept it (Gen 22.12). When the great central Law of Judaism (the TORAH) was revealed at Sinai, it called for animal sacrifices. The slaying of an animal and the offering of its blood according to certain prescribed rites, symbolized God’s mercy to the sinner, for this would have been his fate. Later in the Law, Moses gives warning to Israel not to worship God in the manner of the pagans (through human sacrifice) for it is an abomination unto the LORD in any way or form it is practiced (Deut 12.30-32).

Turning to the New Testament, Jesus states that he completely upholds the precepts of the Judaic Law until its complete spiritual enactment through-out the world. This great authorization of the central Law of Judaism renders it supreme (Matt 5.18). Nevertheless, here is where a trouble-some contradiction arises. According to Romans 5.6-11, Jesus’ death was a vicarious atonement. But this is a human sacrifice which is expressly forbidden by the very same Law sanctioned by Jesus.

True, Jesus is unique in being both human and Divine. But by sanctioning the Law He did not allow His uniqueness to detract from His subjection to the Law which is understandable since the Law is the perfect Word of God.

In sum, if Jesus was upholding the Law then His death cannot be sacrificial. Or, if His death is sacrificial, He has rejected the Law which He claimed to uphold. In either case, Christianity’s central doctrine of the sacrificial death of Jesus is proven to be scripturally untenable. Christianity is therefore in peril of crumbling away. The stakes are very high. If Christianity succumbs to an inner breakdown, the moral order in the world will soon follow….

This contradiction can only be satisfactorily resolved by reference to Scripture. Scripture is a single, self-consistent truth, but beginning to end. Each verse urges its own truth. When two verses appear to exhibit incompatible claims, a contradiction develops. We must then attempt to resolve this contradiction by reference to another verse(s) which will reconcile the two opposing viewpoints…

When reconciliation is not forthcoming, the contradiction remains and the verse(s) in question are not Divinely revealed facts, but have been spoken by the prophet out of his own authority…

The defensibility of Jesus’ sacrificial death has been troubling me for a long while. I am unable to resolve it according to Scripture. I would be very grateful to you if you could clear it up for me…

Quoted from christianthinktank.com

Have you ever been asked a question you were so sure you knew the answer to that you never even worried about it, and then, when you tried to answer the question, realized you didn’t really know how to respond?

That happened to me yesterday afternoon. Let me explain.

On most Thursdays after work, I meet with a couple of other guys for coffee and discussion. There’s no set agenda, but we usually talk about matters of faith and questions that come up in the Bible that sometimes drive us crazy. We are all reasonably comfortable questioning the traditional Christian assumptions and our coffee meetings give us an opportunity to ask questions we could never ask in church.

I commute to and from work with my son David. On Thursdays I usually drop him off at his place, then go to the coffee shop for my meeting. Yesterday, my daughter-in-law had an activity planned with some female friends at their place and asked if David and I could hang out together. I asked him if he wanted to join my meeting and he said, “OK.”

David was the first of my children to develop a sense of spirituality. When he was little, he went to church with my wife’s brother Steve whenever Steve was visiting from the Bay Area. After David went to church with Steve, he’d ask my wife and me why the rest of us didn’t go to church and believe in Jesus (this was years before my wife and I became religious). That was kind of awkward.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, David set his faith aside but it’s always been on the back burner, so to speak. Thursday allowed him to revisit old territory and to ask some of those questions that would drive most Christians nuts.

The four of us were having a fairly stimulating conversation when the question of human sacrifice came up. David sees the death of Jesus on the cross to atone for the sins of the world as a direct violation of the commandment not to sacrifice a human being.

So here we are, three guys from different backgrounds but who all have the same fundamental belief in Christ as Messiah and Savior trying to address this question.

I shot off my big mouth first.

Understand, that this is a very troubling question with no simple answer. Also understand that one of the reasons that I am attracted to Jewish mysticism and particularly the Chassidim, is because I don’t think that there is any other way to explain certain things about the Messiah, including his bloody, sacrificial death, outside of a deeply mystic framework.

Just how can a human sacrifice, even that of the Messiah, atone for the sins of the world? What’s the mechanism that makes it possible and that doesn’t violate God’s prohibition against human sacrifice?

My answer was based on the understanding of the death of a tzaddik being able to atone for the sins of a community or even of an entire generation. Of course, my answer was founded entirely on the Chassidic mystic understanding of this process; something which most Jews, particularly in modern times, do not agree with.

So where is this explained in the Bible?

My friend Russ offered David what I would consider the traditional Christian explanation for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. As I listened to him answering David, I realized that I didn’t find the Christian viewpoint particularly satisfying. I know that I’ve had this explained to me before at some point, but my memory is a leaky container and a lot of stuff has dribbled away over time, so I don’t remember exactly what was said or when that conversation occurred.

This really bothered me.

The conversation ended with more questions than answers, which is fairly typical for our little group, but where was David now? He continues to focus on the Torah and the Prophets as the foundation of his understanding about God and the Jewish people, though I’m sure he would benefit from a review of his knowledge base, but the New Testament seems to him like so many exceptions and contradictions to his understanding of Torah. On the drive back to my place, David and I continued our conversation, and I decided to encourage David to start where he is. If the Torah and Judaism are the rock on which he now stands, then I will support him returning to and exploring the cornerstone of his faith.

But it still bothered me that not only could I not give a satisfactory answer to his questions about Jesus, but I couldn’t really answer my own questions. I can’t solely rely on the “mystic” explanation for how a tzaddik’s death provides atonement, and assuming the traditional Christian response to this query is also lacking, then what is the answer?

I don’t know.

I know that faith is sometimes the mortar that fills in the spaces in religious understanding, but I’m uncomfortable with it being the putty that replaces solid Biblical knowledge let alone logic.

OK, I know that logic is the beginning of wisdom and not its conclusion and that once we accept the existence of God, we also must accept the supernatural, but David did bring up what seems to be a huge disconnect between the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the New Testament in terms of death, atonement, and sacrifice. You’ve probably already clicked the link I provided above and read the christianthinktank.com reply to this question. I did too, but I’m not sure I’m buying it.

Do we see any example of the death of a righteous man providing atonement for the sins of other people in the Tanakh? Was any man in the Old Testament deliberately killed in order to turn away God’s wrath toward other human beings? We talk about men like Joseph, Moses, and David being “types and shadows” of the Messiah. But we don’t see that their deaths really did anything to illuminate the problem of Jesus being a human sacrifice to turn away God’s fatal judgment from all people everywhere across time who accept Christ as Lord and Savior.

I’m not that smart. Some people think I’m smart. My wife thinks I’m smart (except when she disagrees with me, then I’m not too bright at all *wink*). But it’s not really true. I suppose it’s more accurate to say that in this particular area, I’m not very well-educated. I feel ill-equipped to manage these sorts of questions. On some level, I think that it’s not very easy or maybe even not very possible to use human language and human logic to explain the mysterious, mystical way the death of the Messiah somehow atones for the sins of people.

And yet, that’s all we have to work with. Assuming extra-Biblical and particularly mystical (when my wife learned about this conversation, her response to me was to ask in an incredulous tone, “You talked to him about mysticism?”) sources are not considered valid in this discussion, then we must rely on scripture. But if the Old Testament and New Testament don’t agree that the Messiah must die to atone for sins, then what do we have?

A big, fat, furry mess, that’s what.

So I’m opening up yet another can of worms and throwing this topic out to the public via the Internet. I’m seeking out a greater imagination or at least a more scholarly believer. What’s the answer to how the death of Jesus isn’t human sacrifice? Is there an answer that doesn’t contradict the commandment to not sacrifice people?

The comments section is now open. What do you think?

The Best Within Us

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (ESV)

In spite of the fact that this passage from Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church has often been read as part of the vows at innumerable weddings, it has nothing to do with romantic love. It is Paul’s message about a much greater love and, in my opinion, a love that it much more difficult to express consistently in a life of faith. In fact, I think the kind of love Paul is describing has a lot more to do with what he had to say to the church in Rome.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave itto the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. –Romans 12:14-21 (ESV)

Interestingly enough, the Talmud seems to echo the same lessons that Paul teaches:

“They said of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai that no man ever greeted him first, even idol worshippers in the market” [i.e., Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai was the first to greet every person, even idol worshippers] (Berachot 17). At the same location the sage Abaye advocated soft speech and words of peace to everyone, especially including idol worshippers.

“[it is proper to] support the idol worshippers during the sabbatical year… and to inquire after their welfare [commentators: even on the days of the holidays of their idols, even if they do not keep the seven Noahide commandments] because of the ways of peace.” (Shevi’it 4,3)

The rabbis taught: ‘We support poor Gentiles with the poor people of Israel, and we visit sick Gentiles as well as the sick of Israel and we bury the dead of the Gentiles as well as the dead of Israel, because of the ways of peace.” (Gitin 61a)

I suppose I’m belaboring the point I was trying to make last Friday afternoon, but this blog isn’t about presenting topicial commentary or clever scholastic mysteries, it’s about me writing what’s on my mind, my heart, and my spirit as I approach each new day. The sorry state of love among the human race, including those who claim faith in God is still consuming me. What makes it worse is the lack of love among people of faith seems not to bother them (us) at all. And I have to share the name “Christian” with some of these folks. No wonder the atheists accuse us of hypocracy.

I just recently saw the film The Avengers (2012) for the first time. I know that’s a strange statement for me to make given the context of today’s “meditation,” but I do have a point. As well as being a top notch action film and a lot of fun to watch, there were a few good lessons to be found about love, honor, and sacrifice. Ironically, it took a completely secular film to talk about the qualities we Christians are supposed to possess by definition.

Of all the characters in the film, Captain America (played by Chris Evans) is the epitome of those qualities I just named. He is what we think of, in old fashioned terms, as “the greatest American hero.” He’s the ideal of what we used to believe were the finest qualities about our nation and our citizens. National cynicism has since destroyed those ideals but maybe not completely. The film has more than a few reminders for us that not only does the character Captain America have a much needed place in our world today, but the ideals Captain America represents are what we most long for in our lives.

Cap is sometimes juxtaposed in the film against the character of Tony Stark/Iron Man, a person who at once has everything and nothing. A man who has wealth, position, power, and glamour, but at the expense of the finer qualities of Captain America, such as love of humanity, purpose, conviction, honor, and the ability to sacrifice even his own life if it will save others. Stark is always looking for the loophole. Steve Rogers, Captain America’s other identity, always faces his challenges head on.

Toward the climax of the film (and I’m sorry if I’m giving too much away), the only way for Stark to save New York City from nuclear destruction is to carry a nuclear missile through a dimensional rift out of our world, in order to destroy the attacking army. This is supposed to be a one-way trip, but there are no other options and no loopholes. Captain America’s example throughout the movie finally made an impression on Iron Man so that what began beating in his chest was not the electronic perfection of the machine keeping him alive, but a real human heart of compassion, even for millions of people who he’ll never know.

As in most fantasies, Stark is saved at the last minute and rewarded for his willingness to sacrifice his life by survival and the opportunity to appear in more movies, but what about the reality of this lesson? What can we learn about love and even about “heaping burning coals on the head of those who hate us?”

Remember, this lesson comes to us courtesy of a secular and atheist entertainment industry. It is however, an industry that does, within the context of the film, allow Captain American to utter one single line of dialog confirming his faith in God, which I found just amazing. This lesson in love, honor, and sacrifice (as opposed to raw vengence and self-satisfaction) comes to us from people who, in all likelihood, have never met the God of the Bible and perhaps never will this side of the Messiah.

Where is our lesson? Where is the lesson of the church?

I don’t doubt that many Christians do live up to the ideals of our Master. Many believers do not just speak, but live out the example of Jesus Christ. Many extend themselves to feeding the hungry, providing clothing to those who need it, welcoming strangers into their homes, visiting the sick in the hospital, and even extending a smile and a hand of friendship to those who revile them, even if they are other Christians.

The sad and sorry part of our faith is that there are those among us who use Christ as a blunt instrument with which to beat their perceived enemies about the head and shoulders until they’re bloody and bruised. And then these Christians congratulate themselves for aptly employing Jesus as an object of vengence and an example of “tough love” which is neither particularly “tough” in the sense of true strength and honor, or at all loving in the way Paul described love to the Corinthians.

More’s the pity.

What is the defining quality of Christianity, judgment or love? They both exist within our theology. We know a time of judgment is coming and most Christians feel immune to it, imagining that only their enemies the atheists will face such a terrifying fate. And yet the Master tells us this is absolutely not true. Just who do you think Jesus is talking to in Matthew 25:34-46? Why would athests be expected to give water to the thirsty and clothe the naked in Christ’s name? And why would the Master say this?

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ –Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

In Romans 12:19, Paul quoted Leviticus 19:18 to remind us that vengence belongs to God, not men. The Master gave us all a new commandment to love each other as a way of showing the world around us that we belong to him (John 13:34-35). If I have to err in the expression of my faith, I prefer to err on the side of love and to leave (to the best of my limited abilities) the vengence to God. God’s vengence, when He chooses to express it, does not contain our human faults, hositilities, and insecurities, but only His justice, which is neither ours to take or to give.

If secular films such as The Avengers can be an inspiration for us to be better people, to be “heroic” in the love we can show others, why doesn’t the church show the world that Christ brings out the best within each of us? If you want to carry the Gospel message to a desperate and unbelieving world and show other Christians “how it’s done,” I can think of no better way to do it than to show love especially toward your “enemies” because of the ways of peace.

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

-Bertrand Russell


The Concealed Light: A Book Review

The Zohar – the mystical commentary on the Torah – is even more specific in its discussion of the nations’ plot to rise up against Israel:

At that time King Messiah will wake up and will leave the Garden of Eden, from that place that is called Bird’s Nest and will be revealed in the region of Galilee. On that day the whole world will become angry, and all the inhabitants of the world will hide in holes of the rocks and in caves and think they will not survive. Of this time it was written, ‘Go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily’ (Isaiah 2:19) … ‘The glory of his majesty’ – this is King Messiah when he will rise up to terrify the earth” (Zohar, Shmot, 7b)

-Tsvi Sadan
“Majesty” (ga’on) pg 28
from the soon to be published book:
The Concealed Light: Names of Messiah in Jewish Sources

That’s probably not what you expected from a book containing over 100 names of the Messiah, all from Jewish sources, particularly since these names are supposed to reveal something to both Jews and Christians about Jesus Christ. However, this book isn’t written primarily for Christians (although we will find amazing insights into the identity of Christ in Sadan’s book). It’s written for Jews…and not just “Messianic Jews.” Hence the Jewish sources.

Let me explain.

I’ve always been bothered by the Jewish/Christian “disconnect” about the Messiah. If the Tanakh (Old Testament) is supposed to contain prophesies pointing to the Messiah, and Jews and Christians both have the same Tanakh (Old Testament), why don’t Jews and Christians see the same Messiah? Do you think the traditional Jewish Messiah and Jesus Christ look like the same guy? Think again. Better yet, re-read the above-quoted passage from Sadan’s book citing “Majesty” as a name for the Messiah. Does that seem like the Jesus you’ve learned about in church to you?

If both Jewish and Christian sources speak of the same Messiah, how come the Jewish Messiah and the church’s Christ look like two completely different people? I tend to answer that question by saying that the church gave Jesus a complete makeover in the first few centuries of the Common Era, stripping him of all Jewishness in his appearence, his teachings, and his identity. We’ve turned him into a Goyishe King and a “Greek god” who bears not the slightest resemblence to the Jewish Messiah spoken of by the ancient Hebrew prophets.

That is, unless you look very closely and make a tremendous effort to peer beneath 2,000 years worth of whitewash and veneer. Some Jews and a few non-Jewish Christians have made this effort and have discovered a very different person, a Jewish person, hiding or perhaps imprisoned underneath. Tsvi Sadan is one of the Jews who has made the effort, and who has seen the “Jewish Jesus.” To do that, he has searched for him in the Torah, in the Tanakh, in the Talmud, and even in the Zohar. The Messiah; the real Messiah is there.

If you consider the Bible as the only valid source for authoritative information, you probably will have “issues” with Sadan’s book. He doesn’t rely only on Biblical sources. He does however, rely solely on Jewish sources, even to the degree that references to the New Testament are quite rare (but not entirely absent). But why?

Who is the primary audience of this book, again?

If you’re a Christian, you may be thinking that attempting to portray the Messiah using anything but the Bible is going to generate a highly skewed image of him, making him “too Jewish” and painting a portrait that does not fit anything that we know Jesus to be. However, you’re wrong, at least in part. You are correct in that the Messiah you find by reading the text and commentary on his Jewish names is very Jewish by appearance and demeanor. Your concerns have likely been verified by the above-quoted name for the Messiah (remember, this is only a taste). However, you’re wrong if you think you can’t find Jesus the Jew and the Savior in these pages. He’s there. He’s just had his veneer removed and his true face restored.

In an outstanding Jewish commentary from the ninth century CE on Psalm 36:9, “In Your light we see light,” the author offers an imaginary conversation between God, Satan, and Messiah which reflects his own understanding of who is Messiah and what is his role. In this conversation, Satan attempts to deter God from honoring Messiah. Challenged, God asks Messiah what he intends to do in light of the suffering inflicted upon him because of those whom he came to save, and the Messiah answers:

“Master of worlds, with the joy of my soul and the pleasure of my heart, I accept upon myself that none from Israel will perish and that not only the living will be saved in my day but also those hidden in the soil…and not only those will be saved, but all hosts whom you have thought to create but have not. This is what I desire, this is what I accept upon me” (Pesikta Rabbati, 36).

-“Glorious” (kavod) pp 120-21

Hebrew FireNot quite the face you remember of Jesus from the Christian paintings, but not all the different, either. One of the things that you’ll need to accept in reading Sadan’s book is that, if the Christian Jesus looks a little different to the non-Jewish believer in these pages, so does the Jewish Messiah to the Jew, but just a little. In addition to finding a wholly Jewish Messiah, you also find the hints and clues that point to the Sufferer (sovel), pg 164, the Holy One of Israel (kedosh yisra’el), pg 206, and the Prince of Peace (sar shalom), pg 238 among many other names.

But let’s look at this book another way.

You have a jigsaw puzzle with 101 pieces. You know when you put the puzzle together, you’ll have a picture of Jesus as he was and will be, as the Jewish Messiah, as Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David. This is a Jesus; a Yeshua, you have never, ever seen before. No one in the church talks about this guy, but you know that when you put this puzzle together, you’ll see the face of the same man who walked with Peter and John in the Galillee. You’ll see the same face that the hungry and the poor among Israel saw as he taught them, and fed them, and comforted them, as a shepherd does his sheep.

So you open Sadan’s book and you find the first piece of the puzzle in the first chapter: Alef (the book organizes the names of Messiah chapter by chapter alphabetically, but the alphabet is Hebrew). You find the first name: Different (acher). You read the two pages that describe “acher” as a name of the Messiah and you get the first glimpse of the Messiah. You file away those characteristics and turn the page. You find the next name: Stone (even) and start reading…and so on and so on. Turn the page and turn another. As you turn pages and continue reading names and building the puzzle a piece at a time, a face slowly begins to take shape. You start to visualize its colors and its moods. The face is unfamiliar, almost alien, but there’s something about the eyes that attracts you, as if you’ve seen his gaze somewhere before.

And by the time you read the last page; by the time you place the last piece of the puzzle into its proper location, you will see him. And you will be amazed.

Boaz Michael, President and Founder of First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) was gracious enough to send me an advance copy of Sadan’s book, which will not become available for sale at FFOZ’s sister site Vine of David until March 15. There will be an advance book party in Israel at Sokolov 2 (2nd floor) the evening of March 14th at 8:30 p.m, but I don’t have any additional information on this event (assuming you’ll be in Israel on that date). To purchase the book, go to the Vine of David resource page for The Concealed Light.

Tsvi Sadan’s book The Concealed Light: Names of Messiah in Jewish Sources gave me something that I’ve been awaiting for a long time: a reconnect between the Jewish Messiah and the Christian Jesus. It’s a path linking the Moshiach of Israel to the King of the Jews we see described in the Apostolic Scriptures. To successfully assemble all the pieces of the puzzle, you will have to set aside whatever trepidation you may have regarding extra-Biblical Jewish texts, and forgo any discomfort you may experience regarding any Kabbalistic “puzzle pieces” you come across. It is not unreasonable, unfair, or even inaccurate to call upon all those Jewish sources in order to recreate the face of the Jewish Messiah. After all, Christianity has been fabricating the visage of Jesus using heavily refactored imagery, turning a middle eastern Maggid into a European Savior for nearly twenty centuries.

All Sadan is doing is pealing the bits and pieces of the mask off of the face of Moshiach one layer name at a time. At last, I’ve gotten a look at the Master I have come to follow with my heart and my life. It’s good to wipe away some of the dust and grime that has been covering the window and to finally see him more clearly.