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FFOZ TV Review: Call His Name Yeshua

ffoz_tv1Episode 03: It may be shocking to learn, but the fact is that many people were named Jesus in first century Israel. So how is it then that his name is the name above all names? In episode three the name of Jesus is explored in depth in order to gain a better understanding of the significance of not only Christ’s name but his mission. The name Jesus means “salvation” and it was preordained in the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures that the messiah would bring salvation not only to Israel but to all mankind.

From the intro to the episode: Call His Name Yeshua
FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come

The Lesson: What does the Name “Jesus” Mean?

I know I’m a little late with this one, two weeks late actually, but my weekend viewing of FFOZ TV has been short circuited by weekend yard projects. I was finally able to carve out some free time to view Episode 3: Call His Name Yeshua.

This episode builds on the basics learned in Episode 1: The Good News and Episode 2: Messiah. Both of those shows focused on presenting a definition of a very basic concept in the Bible, except that in each case, the traditionally Christian audience discovered that the concepts weren’t quite so basic.

Episode 3 focuses on the meaning of the name “Jesus.” I suppose there are Christians in the world who actually believe that “Jesus” was the original name used by the Messiah, that his disciples, his friends, his mother called him “Jesus.” This isn’t possible when we consider that they would all be speaking in Hebrew or Aramaic and in those languages, it’s impossible to make a hard “J” sound.

As always, teacher Toby Janicki offers up the lesson as a mystery that must be solved using three clues. Today’s mystery is “The Mystery of the Name Jesus.” The first verse that leads into the first clue is this one.

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:20-21 (ESV)

After using a translation with which most Christians would be familiar, Toby read the same verses again using the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels:

He was thinking this way, but then an angel of HaShem appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Yosef son of David! Do not be afraid to take Miryam, your wife, for what has been formed within her is from the Holy Spirit. She is giving birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua, because he will save his people from their sins.”

As Toby pointed out, many Christians are fond of a hymn called “Jesus, Name Above All Names.” Have they gotten it wrong all these years? Is the true name of Messiah “Yeshua?” Is he offended when we call him “Jesus?” For that matter, how do we know “Yeshua” was/is his original name?

We’ll get to all that in a minute. Toby points to the first clue:

Messiah is named Jesus by direct command of God.

There’s something else. There seems to be a connection between the name Yeshua and what the angel said about him saving his people from their sins.

aaron-ebyThe scene shifts to Aaron Eby in Israel who provides the episode’s language lesson. As it turns out, we get the name “Jesus” from the Latin and Greek translations of the Hebrew word Yeshua. In Latin, his name is translated as “Iesus” and from the Greek, it’s “Ἰησοῦς”. Aaron says that we know Messiah’s name was Yeshua because it was actually a common name for Jewish men at that point in history in Israel. It’s actually a shortened version of Yehoshua which we translate into English as “Joshua.” Yehoshua means “The Lord is Salvation.”

Also, the name Yeshua, when it occurred in the Old Testament, was translated in the Septuagint as we see it also translated in the New Testament, so we can confidently say that Yeshua is the Hebrew name of Jesus.

And from what Aaron presented in his portion of this episode, the definition of the longer version of Yeshua’s name seems to be the connection in the angel’s words to Joseph. Name him “Jesus” (salvation) because he will bring salvation to his people.

Going back to Toby, we hit the second clue:

Jesus means salvation.

Since Jesus was such a common name at the time, it was important to differentiate the Messiah from all of the other Jewish boys and men called Yeshua, so he was referred to as “Yeshua of Nazareth.”

But we need one more clue and it comes from the Old Testament (Tanakh). Actually there are a lot of prophesies in the Old Testament that speak of the Messiah bringing salvation to Israel. Probably one of the oldest is in Genesis 49 when Jacob, before he dies, blesses his sons.

For Your salvation do I long, O Hashem!

Genesis 49:18 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

Toby says that according to the Jewish sages, right before Jacob uttered this exclamation, he had a vision of the end times and was longing for the coming of Messiah and his salvation.

Toby quoted from a number of prophesies, and you can find out what they are by viewing the episode, but he also spent some time using word substitution to illustrate his point: salvation = Yeshua and salvation = Jesus. Here’s a couple of examples. First, the original verse in the NASB translation:

Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth, Say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your salvation comes; Behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.”

Isaiah 62:11

Now with the first word substitution:

Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth, Say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your Yeshua comes; Behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.”

…and then the second:

Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth, Say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your Jesus comes; Behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.”

I know this program is written for a traditional Christian audience, so these verses are designed to make the greatest impact on them, but if there are any traditional (non-Messianic) Jewish viewers, they might have a hard time with the name “Jesus” being directly inserted into the Tanakh as an equivalent term for God’s salvation.

But the prophesies that Toby quotes also lead to the third and final clue:

The Prophets predicted that Messiah would bring salvation.

The lesson in this episode is as simple as that. The name “Jesus” is an English translation of the Greek and Latin translations of Messiah’s name from Hebrew, which is “Yeshua.” Yeshua relates to the Hebrew word for “salvation” and basically means that Messiah brings salvation. This was prophesied many times by many Old Testament prophets, so his name would have meaning to the Jewish people when linked with his Messianic mission.

What Did I Learn?

DaveningI learned that there is a liturgical prayer said by devout Jews three times a day that includes the phrase, …”whose horn will be raised with your salvation.”

Interestingly enough, we find something like it directly referring to Yeshua:

Blessed is HaShem, God of Yisrael, for he has taken note of his people and sent them redemption. He will cause a horn of salvation to sprout for us in the house of David his servant…

Luke 1:68-69 (DHE Gospels)

This is the blessing said over the infant Yeshua by Zecharyah the prophet at the Temple. As Toby points out, this isn’t Zecharyah asking for God to provide salvation for Israel, it’s the prophet thanking Hashem for having sent salvation in the form of the new-born Messiah Yeshua. Messiah and salvation had come.

I hadn’t made the connection between these verses and the daily prayers of Jews all over the world, all of whom are asking for one who has already arrived and who will come again: Yeshua of Nazareth, the Messiah and King of Israel.

I hope to review the next episode very soon.

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FFOZ TV Review: Messiah

ffoz_tv2Episode 02: The term Christ is one of the most important terms in all of Scripture and yet is seldom fully understood by followers of Jesus. In episode two we will explore the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures and learn about the Jewish people’s expectation of the coming messiah. We will study the Hebrew Scriptures and learn that they speak of a coming anointed one, a king who will come to redeem mankind, defeat Israel’s enemies, and set up his kingdom.

The Lesson: What Does Messiah Mean?

In Episode 2: Messiah, the First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) television series A Promise of What is to Come takes the audience through what to me was like “The Name of Christ 101.” I don’t mean to be flippant or disrespectful in saying it that way, but I guess I didn’t realize that there were so many Christians in the world today who still labor under a lack of comprehension of the meaning of the title “Christ”.

FFOZ teacher and narrator Toby Janicki starts off this episode correcting what most of us probably believed as children, if we were believers as children, that “Christ” is not simply the last name of Jesus. It’s a title and more than that, probably the most important concept in the Bible, particularly to the Jewish people. It not only tells us what Jesus did but what he is going to do.

Let’s look at two ways we can view Peter’s revelation that Jesus is “the Christ.”

And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”

Mark 8:29 (ESV)

He asked them, saying, “And you, what do you say about me — who am I?” Petros answered and said to him, “You are the Mashiach!”

Markos 8:29 (DHE Gospels)

By reading this verse using two different translations, Toby illustrates how the declaration of Peter can be viewed in two quite different ways. I find it interesting that Toby used the ESV translation, since in my Pastor’s opinion, it is actually one that promotes more of a supersessionistic or replacement theology viewpoint. Obviously, the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels are designed to “retro-translate” the Greek into Hebrew and then translate that Hebrew forward into English to give the reader a more Jewish context for understanding the gospel message.

As in other episodes, information is cast as a mystery and we are provided with three clues in order to solve the mystery. Today, we confront the Mystery of Christ.

Toby uses John 1:41 and especially the text, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ) in order to show us the relationship or equivalency between the English words “Messiah” and “Christ.” This text was written for the sake of what John anticipated was a mixed Jewish and non-Jewish audience but as Toby points out, the original readers of this gospel weren’t provided with a definition of the term “Messiah.” That means the Jewish people involved, including Andrew and Simon Peter, already knew what “Messiah” meant. Yeshua (Jesus) did not invent a new role, “the Christ” but came to fulfill a pre-existing role: “Messiah.”

This gives us Clue 1:

The Title “Christ” was not new.

aaron-ebyThe scene shifts to Aaron Eby in Israel who provides the audience with a language lesson about the meaning of “Messiah” or rather, the Hebrew word “Moshiach.” He tells us that the Hebrew word “Mashach” means “to smear with oil.” We have examples in the Old Testament of both Kings and High Priests being inaugurated into office by literally having oil poured or smeared all over them.

For instance:

Then Samuel took the flask of oil, poured it on his head, kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you a ruler over His inheritance?

1 Samuel 10:1 (NASB)

So he said to his men, “Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord’s anointed.”

1 Samuel 24:6 (NASB)

The “one who is anointed” or “anointed one” is “Moshiach” in Hebrew. When this Hebrew word had to be translated into Greek, the Greek word for “smeared with oil” was used, “Christos.” When the Greek was translated into English, rather than render it as “anointed one” or even “Messiah,” translators created a brand new word in English: “Christ.”

The scene returns to Toby for the rest of the message and we arrive at the final two clues.

Clue 2:

Messiah = Anointed One

And Clue 3:

Old Testament prophesies talk about the anointed one.

No one in the days of Jesus had to define what “Messiah” meant because every Jewish person already knew.

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

John 1:45 (NASB)

Messiah had been written about in the Torah of Moses and in the Prophets. Toby provides some key texts citing an anointed King such as David or Solomon and linking them to the anointed King: Messiah. He also reminds us of the two roles that Messiah fulfills, being both King, which we have already seen, and High Priest:

He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:9-10 (NASB)

In addition to quoting from Psalm 2 and Psalm 132, Toby relates the Messianic prophesies from Daniel 9:25, where we learn that Messiah will come to rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem, and Isaiah 61:1-3 where Messiah speaks in his own voice through the prophet. This is also the scroll that Jesus read in the synagogue as he declared himself as Moshiach before his people.

The scroll of Yeshayah the Prophet was given to him, and he opened the scroll and found the place where it is written:

The spirit of HaShem is upon me in order to anoint me to bring good news to the humble. He has sent me to care for the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the exiles, and for the blind an opening release … to send the oppressed away free … to proclaim a year of favor for HaShem.

When he rolled up the scroll, returned it to the chazzan, and sat, the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were focused on him. He began saying to them, “Today this passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Lukas 4:17-21 (DHE Gospels)

But all is not fulfilled. The Messiah came once but, as we saw in the previous episode The Good News, the Messiah has yet to establish Israel as the head of all nations, redeem her people, and bring peace to Israel and the nations.

As we Christians wait for his return, Jews all over the world wait also for Messiah, as it is said:

I believe with great faith in the coming of Messiah, and even though he may delay, nevertheless, I still believe every day that he will come.

the twelfth declaration of faith

ffoz-tv-messiah
Maimonides, also known as the Rambam, wrote that declaration over a thousand years ago, and still Jews all over the world await the Messiah in great and perfect faith.

And so do we.

What Did I Learn?

Not to put too fine a point on it, I have heard most or all of this information about the meaning of “Christ” and “Moshiach” before. I guess you don’t have to spend too much time in the Hebrew Roots or Messianic movements before the subject comes up. Also, I believe this information is (or should be) largely available in most churches.

If I learned anything new, it was that, by creating this specific episode, the content planners at FFOZ must believe that this is new and valuable information for a traditionally Christian television audience. If that’s the case, then many Christians must have a great need for even the most basic information about the “Jewish Jesus” or Yeshua HaMoshiach.

If you found this message about the true meaning of the title “Christ” interesting and illuminating, I highly encourage you to watch the complete episode and all of the other episodes available at tv.ffoz.org. It is First Fruits of Zion: A promise of what is to come.

I hope to review the next episode very soon.

Reviewing FFOZ.TV: A Promise of What is to Come

ffoz-tvThe First Fruits of Zion television program delivers a high-energy, professional presentation of the prophetic aspects of the Gospel message from a Messianic Jewish perspective. Every episode opens new insights into the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth with end-times implications. Kingdom-focused and Jesus-centered, this is Messianic Jewish teaching at its best. It will encourage Christians to go deeper in their personal relationship with the Jewish Messiah.

The program tagline, “A Promise of What is to Come,” acknowledges that there is something greater taking place than just learning and understanding the bible in a new way.

We are part of a restoration and a return predicted by Moses, the prophets, Yeshua (Jesus) and the apostles. The modern state of Israel and the messianic Jewish revival we see today is only the first blossoming of the great, final redemption, which will usher in the kingdom of messiah.

-from “Welcome to FFOZ TV”
tv.ffoz.org

Messianic Jewish educational ministry First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) launched its own television series earlier this year with an eye on reaching Christian television networks and reaching Christians. Boaz Michael and Toby Janicki were recently interviewed by God’s Learning Channel (GLC) about FFOZ.tv, and GLC is the first Christian TV network to begin broadcasting the FFOZ TV series. My understanding is that FFOZ.tv is currently targeting other Christian television venues for their program in order to “spread the word.”

But what about their program?

Boaz Michael, Founder and President of FFOZ asked me to review the program on my blog. I’ve been aware of FFOZ.tv for about a year now, having viewed an early version of the first episode at last year’s FFOZ Shavuot conference. I’ve seen a few clips of the show since then, but I’m not a big television watcher, so I didn’t go out of my way to take a look at the finished product.

Overview

For my review, I chose to sample two episodes: episode 4, Jewish Prophesies, originally aired on March 17, and episode 5, Son of David, originally aired on March 24 (the full episode list is available for those shows that have already aired and they can be viewed freely online).

Structure and Format

Each show is approximately thirty minutes long and follows a standard format. Toby Janicki is the primary host of the program, presenting the issue to be examined during the broadcast, taking the audience through the scriptures to examine the topic, say Messianic prophesies, and then breaking the information down into three major “talking points.” Mid-show, the scene shifts to FFOZ teacher Aaron Eby speaking from Israel and explaining aspects of Judaism and the Hebrew language as they apply to the subject being discussed. The scene then shifts back to Toby in the studio, where he brings the program and the topic to a conclusion. At the very end, Boaz Michael makes a brief appearance, wrapping up the broadcast and introducing the topic for next time.

Content

The show is written for a Christian audience that knows little or nothing about Messianic Judaism and Judaism in general. For those of us who are familiar with the subjects involved, the content seems elementary most of the time, though therewere “tidbits” of information I found new or at least that were clarified for me. The show is definitely designed to be “Messianic Judaism 101” and its most obvious purpose is to gently bring mainstream Christians into a beginning familiarity with the Jewishness of Jesus, the continued meaning of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel in the present world and the Kingdom of God, and how the future of Christianity must always look to Jewish redemption for the people and nation of Israel as the goal.

ffoz-teaching-teamThere are twenty-six episodes “in the can” for the first season of the FFOZ.tv series. Each episode builds upon one another, so while each individual broadcast is a self-contained show, the audience won’t gain access to the complete Gospel message being presented from a Messianic Jewish perspective unless they view all of the episodes. Presumably, if the series is successful, the first twenty-six episodes will only be the beginning.

In the two shows I viewed, Toby regularly introduces himself as a Gentile who “practices Messianic Judaism.” This appears to be included to re-enforce Toby’s connection with his Gentile Christian audience but also connect him back to Messianic Judaism as a practitioner and teacher. Aaron’s portion, by contrast, is set in Israel, with his interviews being done “on the streets” to give a definite “Jewishness” to his content.

Look and Feel

Production values for the show are high and are at or near the levels of commercial television programs. The primary studio presents a “den” or “office” setting in rich earth tones, low lighting, and with numerous Jewish artifacts in the background to communicate warmth, approachability, and of course, Judaism. The music seems a little dramatic at times and for a couple of moments (during the HaYesod ad I think…I’m getting to that), I felt like I was getting ready to blast off into space. However, I noticed the tendency toward dramatic music and imagery on GLC when I watched the introduction to the Michael/Janicki interview, so maybe it’s an expected element of Christian television.

As I mentioned, Aaron’s part of the program is always filmed “on the streets of Israel” (presumably Jerusalem) so that the background views are universally recognizable as Jewish and Israeli. Aaron’s portions seem to create a bridge between the audience and Israel, supporting the overarching message of FFOZ.tv that Christianity is Jewish and irrevocably tied to Israel and Judaism.

Marketing

FFOZ is a non-profit organization and their primary “product” is the educational materials they produce. The purpose of FFOZ is to create and disseminate specific data to both Christian and Jewish audiences (see Vine of David for a list of materials specifically designed for Jewish people). The real “product” of FFOZ then is information which is packaged in a variety of forms including books, magazines, programs such as HaYesod and Torah Club, and of course, television.

However, in order to inform potential audiences of the material that is available, you have to market it. That’s another component of FFOZ.tv. The very first scripture that Toby reads in any program (of the two I viewed, anyway), is from the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels. The rest of the time, he uses the ESV Bible. As Toby is reading from the Delitzsch version, a phone number and website URL appear at the bottom of the screen telling the audience how to purchase a copy.

About half to three-quarters of the way through the broadcast, the program content breaks for an ad about HaYesod, featuring mostly the FFOZ teaching staff presenting information on this learning program (which seems to have evolved quite a bit since I sat in a HaYesod class a decade or so ago).

Near the end of the broadcast, another commercial came on, this time describing the FFOZ Friends program, which allows people who subscribe to donate monthly to the ministry and describes, depending on which tier they choose, which products and services they’ll receive.

On the one hand, this all seemed a little distracting to me, but on the other hand, since at my “day job,” I directly report to the Vice President of Marketing, I have a deep understanding of the necessity and purpose of marketing any product that is for public consumption. You can’t buy and learn from something if you don’t know it exists.

Conclusion

resources-studyFFOZ.tv is made to introduce Christian audiences to Messianic Judaism, Judaism, and Israel. Although the Christian faith has its origins in first century Judaism and the Jewish Messiah, we have diverged from them significantly in the past twenty centuries, until the “Jewishness of Jesus” and the Hebraic beginnings of our faith are only a dim memory. FFOZ.tv is attempting to gently guide its Christian audience in a friendly and approachable atmosphere, back to some of the key concepts that define Messianic Judaism in order to realign Christian thoughts and feelings back toward our “Jewish roots.” The television program is also a “jumping off” platform for the audience to use in acquiring and exploring other FFOZ products, which will then (ideally) re-enforce and deepen the information base of Christians on Messianic Judaism, the absolute requirement of Israel’s national redemption in the Kingdom of God, and the vital role of the church in bringing about Jewish primacy and restoring Israel to its former glory, all in anticipation of the return of King Messiah.

If one picture is worth a thousand words, then what is television? In this case, television is entrance for any believer who watches Christian television or who is most likely to accept information in a video format, to the message of the Gospels from the perspective of Messianic Judaism. It provides and easy to access and easy to absorb doorway for the Christian to begin to encounter the Jewish Messiah King and the promise of what is to come.

Please visit First Fruits of Zion: A Promise of What is to Come and view any or all of the episodes available (seven as I write this but more are coming). Watching a single episode will only take thirty minutes of your time and you can judge for yourself whether or not if FFOZ.tv has a message that is speaking to you.