Tag Archives: biblical texts

Is it important to know Greek and Hebrew when studying the Bible?

Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer, wrote the following in regard to the importance of understanding Greek and Hebrew when studying the Bible: “The languages are the sheath in which the sword of the Spirit is contained.” God sovereignly chose to have His Word written in Hebrew (the Old Testament) and Greek (the New Testament).

Our modern English translations of the Bible are excellent. Most of the major English translations available today are superb renderings of the original Greek and Hebrew. However, in any translation, not everything that was communicated in the original language can be precisely conveyed in another language. Some nuances do not transfer well from one language to another. As a result, a translation rarely is a perfect rendering of the original. (This is one reason why the Amplified Version was published.)

Animated WaterfallAn example of this is the “aspect” of Greek verbs. English verbs have tenses—past, present, and future. Greek verbs have these same tenses, but they also have what is known as “aspect.” Present-tense Greek verbs mean more than the action is occurring presently. A Greek verb can also carry the meaning that the action is occurring continually or repeatedly. This is lost in English unless the aspect word “continually” or “repeatedly” is added to the translation along with the verb. A specific example of this is Ephesians 5:18, “…be filled with the Spirit.” In the original Greek, this verse is telling us to continually be filled with the Spirit. It is not a one-time event—it is a lifelong process. This “aspect” is lost in the English translation.

With all that said, the Bible also makes it clear that the Spirit is the author of the Bible and that He will help us to understand the His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 14:26). You do not have to know Hebrew and Greek in order to understand the Bible. God’s intended message for us is accurately communicated in English. You can have confidence that God can reveal the meaning of His Word to you without your knowing Greek and Hebrew.

Perhaps this is a good analogy: reading the Bible without knowing Greek and Hebrew is like watching a basic television, while reading the Bible knowing Greek and Hebrew is like watching a curved 80″ UHD 4K television with stereo surround sound. You can fully understand what is going on with the basic television, but the curved 80″ UHD 4K television with stereo surround sound gives added depth and clarity. With the help of the Holy Spirit, anyone can accurately understand the Bible in English. However, knowing Hebrew and Greek helps to better understand the nuances and richness of the biblical texts.

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Filed under Bible Study Guides, Daily Biblical Studies for the Soul


Sermon Series: Christianity and World Religions Part 4, (Continue)

Genesis 12:1-3, 15:5-6
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”…He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Today I continue the series and Christianity and World Religions. Each week I’ve given the disclaimer that I am not an expert on each of the religions I have shared with you. This week, however, I think I am more familiar with the topic of Judaism.

For one thing much of our culture has been influenced by Judaism. In seminary I studied the Hebrew Bible, what we call the Old Testament, and had to learn to read and write Hebrew and translate specific Biblical texts. I have had several Jewish friends. So I am entering into a religion that I am more familiar and comfortable with.

Judaism is the oldest of the world’s four great monotheistic religions. It’s also the smallest, with only about 12 million followers around the world.
I’d encourage you as I do each week to follow today’s sermon out line and to use your Bible as a  study guide for this week to enhance your spiritual growth.

In Buddhism we learned that there is a person who founded that religion—Buddha. In Islam there was Muhammad. When it comes to Judaism, however, it does not begin with a person but it is about a people. So I’ll begin with …

I. A Brief History of the Jewish People

A. The Hebrews
Judaism begins with God saying to a group of people through you I will redeem all the earth in the centuries ahead. Through you I will bring blessings to all nations of the earth.

B. God’s Covenant with the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel)
That unique group of people begins with one patriarch, Abraham (Abram), an unlikely candidate to lead the people of God. Abrham lived about 2000 years before Christ. God called him to do Lead this group of people when he was 75 years old. His wife Sarah was about the same age. So how are they going to give birth to a great nation when they are childless and beyond child bearing years.

God chooses the most unlikely people to accomplish his purposes. So God chooses to use Abraham and Sarah. In deed they do give birth when they’re about 100 years old. That’s about twice as old as I am and I sure don’t want to have anymore babies. It’s nice to be a grandfather but I sure wouldn’t want to have a child of my own at this age.

Having a baby when you’re a 100 years old? Yet it turned out to be a great thing. God gives them a son who is Issac. Years go by and Issac gives birth to a child named Jacob. Jacob literally wrestles with his faith through an angel sent by God.

God then changes Jacob’s name to Israel. Israel has 12 sons. His 12 sons were the kernels of 12 tribes that later developed into the Jewish nation. The name Jew derives from Yehuda (Judah) one of the 12 sons of Jacob. So, the names Israel, Israeli or Jewish refer to people of the same origin.

C. Slavery in Egypt, Moses, the Exodus and God’s Covenant with Israel
The people enter into slavery and God sets them free from slavery.
After a period of 400 years God sends Moses to demand that his people be set free. The story form there on is a story of God’s covenant making with the Hebrew people, while they continually engage in covenant breaking. God is constantly reaching out making a promise to the Hebrew people. Yet Abraham’s descendants struggle with living up to the promise made to them that they would have a piece of land, a place where they could live according to God’s will.
God said through Moses to the people, you follow my 10 commandments and these other laws that I give to you and you will be people and everything will go well in the land that I’m about to give you. Of course, the story in the Old Testament shows again and again the Israelites had trouble living up to that covenant. It becomes a long cycle of their breaking the covenant, God withholding blessings, the nations invade, the people cry out to God to help them, God comes back and redeems and saves them, and they renew their promise to obey God, and then they fall away again and on and on.

So that’s the early history of Judaism. What about….
II. Essential Judaism Beliefs

A. The Nature of God

To understand the Jewish view of the nature of God today is very much related to the differing branches of Judaism.

Just as there are many branches within Christianity so there are in Judaism. There are 4 primary branches that I will briefly review today. There use to be 3 primary branches but as I learned their are now 4

1. ORTHODOX: The Orthodox branch of Judaism might parallel in Christianity what I’d describe as fundamentalist and literalist Christianity. They believe that the Torah and the Talmud were given by God directly to the Jewish People in, and so they regard these documents as being God’s actual words and of the highest authority, in setting down the traditions and laws of Judaism. Orthodox Jews are the biggest group in most countries outside the USA.

2. CONSERVATIVES: this group might parallel the more evangelical and more conservative groups in Christianity. They fall somewhere between Orthodox and Reform Jews on a continuum.

3. REFORM: Looks more like mainline Christianity. They see the Torah as the inspired word of God but also recognize that it has to be translated and re-interpreted for any given age. So, for example, men and women can sit together in a Reform synagogue, when they would be rigorously segregated in an Orthodox synagogue. A particular feature of Reform Judaism is a strong belief in the importance of creating a just society, and many Reform Jews have been in the forefront of political activism.

4. RECONSTRUCTIONISTS: I guess I would liken this group to the Unitarian and Unity religious groups which have grown out of the Christian tradition but do not require particular beliefs of their members. This group is one of the modern American movements. They are particularly attractive to those Jews who are uncomfortable with the supernatural elements of the other types of Judaism.

Essentially the fundamental beliefs of Judaism are:
· There is a single, all-powerful God, who created the universe and everything in it.
· God has a special relationship with the Jewish people, cemented by the covenant that God made with Moses on Mount Sinai, 3500 years ago.

B. Sacred Texts
In summary the sacred texts of Judaism are:

· The Torah or Hebrew Bible (which Christians call the Old Testament), and particularly the first 5 books. At least one copy of the Torah, in Hebrew, is kept in every synagogue in the form of a hand-written parchment scroll.

· The Talmud, a compendium of law and commentary on the Torah applying it to life in later and changed circumstances.

The Orthodox Jews view the Talmud as given by God as well as the Torah. The Conservatives see the Talmud as inspired by God, and for the Reform group it is merely a discussion by human beings about the precepts of God.

C. Human Condition and Salvation:
Essential Judaism today, regardless of which branch you are talking about is summed up in this phrase: Doing Good to All. It’s about being the people of God in the world through good deeds.

The foundational statement of Judaism is found in the Shema. The Shema is the Hebrew word for “hear.” This is what is at the heart of Judaism.
Deut. 6:4-5 KJV
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

D. The View Of This Faith About Jesus
Two questions are often asked here.
a. Do Jews still hope for the Messiah?
Again it depends on which Jewish group you are talking to.
Orthodox Jews will look for the Messiah still to come and to reign from Jerusalem so that all people will come to recognize the Biblical God. They would also be looking for the reconstruction of the temple on the temple mount.

Reform Judaism does not look for the coming of a personal messiah. The Reform group would say we live as instruments of God in the world. If you live that way then you can perfect the world in the way that God intended it to be.

Many of you may wonder about this question:
b. Why do most Jews not accept Jesus as the Messiah?
To help you understand that I want to discuss the relationship between :
Why do most Jews not accept Jesus as the Messiah?

III. Christianity and Judaism

A. The Early Church
In the early church, the entire Christian population was made up of Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah. 20 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection there were a large Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah – in Jerusalem alone 15,000 of the population of 50,000, 1/3 of the population, were estimated to be Christ followers. All but 2 of the NT books were written by Jews. They were not starting a new religion—these were Jews who believed in Jesus as the Messiah.

But many Jews did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. They looked a the prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures about the coming of the Messiah and they saw that peace was suppose to come upon the earth at the arrival of the Messiah. Israel was to be no longer oppressed.

Of course, in the coming of Jesus things didn’t work out that way. Jesus was crucified by the Roman oppressors—not victorious. The Christian understanding of that came to be that Jesus initiated the kingdom of God but it is within your hearts. Jesus did not come to be a ruler over Israel. Jesus did teach that someday that kingdom which starts in your heart will be brought to fulfillment at the 2nd coming of the Messiah.

Many Jews then and still today will say it’s hard for me to imagine that the messiah could be crucified and suffer on our behalf. He was to come and reign over Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. So many did not believe.

Recall the life of the Apostle Paul who was a Jewish rabbi and zealous persecutor of Christians before he came to faith in Christ. He then had a profound life changing vision of Jesus.

We read about this in Acts 9:3-6:
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

After his conversion and his quickly becoming a Christian leader, he adopted this as one of the themes of his preaching, Jeremiah 31:31-34:

“The time is coming,” declares the LORD , “when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them” declares the LORD . “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD . “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ’Know the LORD ,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD . “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Paul taught that Jesus made a new covenant with humanity. No longer do you have to be a Jew to worship God. No longer do you have to be circumcised or follow the dietary laws—instead you trust in Christ as your Savior. Then as you allow Jesus to become the Lord, the Director of your life you live out that faith in deeds and good works.

As Paul preached that all people, including Gentiles, could follow Jesus as Messiah without becoming Jewish that began the end of many Jews accepting Jesus as the Messiah. They could not understand how you could follow the God of Abraham without obeying the law.

Although there has been a gap between what Christians and Jews believe about Jesus as the Messiah, there are many areas in which we agree:

Both groups believe the entire 39 books of the Hebrew Bible are the inspired word of God.

We agree that God is the creator of the universe and created human beings in his likeness and being.
We agree that all people fall short of God’s will for our lives.

We pray and sing songs to the same God.
There is much that Christians and Jews agree upon but on this one point we disagree.

B. Why Christians Believe Jesus is the Messiah
The early Christians saw Jesus in most every place they turned in the Hebrew Bible. They could see in all the promises all the way back to Abraham—this is what God is fulfilling through Jesus. So today a third of the world’s population are followers of Jesus.
These passages from Isaiah alone could pointing to Jesus as the Messiah—there are many others:

Isaiah 9:6-7
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.

Isaiah 53:3-5
He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed!

Ezekiel 34:22-24

I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.

As a Christian for me, the Hebrew scriptures seem incomplete without Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham almost 4000 years ago. Just listen to these words from our Bible reading for today and you will begin to understand that Jesus has fulfilled that promise:

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”…He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

So many of you many wonder:
C. Will the Jewish People Be Saved?
To respond to that question, I want to turn your attention to Romans 11:28, 29”
Romans 11:28-29 NLT
Many of the Jews are now enemies of the Good News. But this has been to your benefit, for God has given his gifts to you Gentiles. Yet the Jews are still his chosen people because of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.

Not everyone will agree with this view—you may not agree with what I’m going to suggest—-

What that passage says to me is that despite the New Covenant established by God with us, the Old Covenant is not withdrawn by God. It is irrevocable. So could it be that if a Jewish person just cannot get it, cannot comprehend that Jesus indeed is the Messiah, that God has not cancelled the old covenant?

If that’s the case, then I would say to the Jewish person as I do sometimes to one of my Jewish friends, live by the covenant God gave you and be faithful to it. Pursue God with all that is in you and attend synagogue. Pursue God and spend time in prayer seeking him as David in Psalm 42:1:
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.

As I see it, the covenant is irrevocable, the Jewish people are still God’s people.

How many of you have cell phones? Did this ever happen to you like it did me? Several years ago when I first got a cell phone I had to sign a covenant with the cell company for a year. I think I got about 300 minutes for $39. I thought who would ever use all those minutes? And before I knew I was getting these huge bills—talking 600, 700, 800 minutes a month on the phone. Then I saw that they were advertising about 600 minutes and free weekends and nights and free long distance as for $29 a month. I went in and said hey how come I don’t have that kind of plan? And they said when you switch if you want and we’ll even make it retroactive for the past month. I said Hey—that’s great. We call that grace in church. They offered me a new covenant so to speak. But it would have been fine with them I’m sure if I had stayed with the old covenant.

I was going to be the one who missed out by staying for the Old Covenant. But I could have so many more minutes and services like voice mail for many dollars less on the new plan. But service would not have been canceled under the old plan, but I had the opportunity to take a new covenant with a much better deal.

So could it be that the old covenant is not canceled by the new covenant. But why would you want to live with the old covenant when you can have the new? Jesus offered to pay the price for you under the new covenant. All you have to do is accept it. He will wash new and you will no longer have to walk on your own wondering whether or not you have done enough to atone for your sins.

I want to close with this thought:
Conclusion: A Tragic Past and an Invitation

Adam Hamilton, Pastor of the Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, in his sermon on this topic suggests that Christians

bear a huge responsibility for the failure of the good news of Jesus Christ to reach the Jews.

In 380 AD Christianity became the legalized religion of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately Christians gave anti-Semitism a theological rationale. We began to say as Roman Christians, that the Jews killed Jesus. Christians began to look at all the Jews as being responsible for the handful of Jews who collaborated with the Romans to nail him to the cross.
So there became a theological rationale for persecution of the Jews for the Centuries to follow to the present day.

In 1543, Martin Luther the great Protestant reformer wrote these words: “What should we Christians do with this damn rejected race of Jews? First their synagogue should be set on fire. Secondly their homes should be broken down. Thirdly they should be deprived of their prayer books and Talmud.”
Hundreds of thousands of Jews have been put to death of the past 2000 years before Hitler’s final solution. I think this should make Christians weep for it must certainly make God weep.

The Jews are God’s covenant people. They are our elder brothers and sisters. They had the covenant and promises of God far before we did. By God’s grace we have been grafted in and allowed to join in God’s covenant people. They are still loved because of the Patriarchs.

Flag of Yisrael

Flag of Yisrael

My challenge to you is to build bridges with your Jewish friends, relatives and acquaintances. Remember all that we have in common. As you share your faith with them do it in a respectful way. And listen to them as you learn about your own faith—they have much to teach you as you teach them about the Messiah. Paul also says that he would rather go to hell if it meant the salvation of his brethren, implying that they need to be saved through Christ alone (Romans 9:1-5).

Pope John XXIII who presided over Vatican 2 wrote this prayer shortly before his death. Listen to this:
We realize now, O God, that many centuries of blindness have dimmed our eyes so that we no longer see the beauty of thy chosen people. And no longer recognize in their faces the features of our first born brother. We realize that our brows are branded with the mark of Cain. Centuries long has Able laid in blood and tears because we have forgotten thy love. Forgive us the curse which we unjustly laid on the name of the Jews. Forgive us that with this curse with our treatment of the Jews we crucified thee a second time.

O God I give you thanks and praise for the blessings that you have for me and all the people here today. For what you did in choosing the most unlikely candidate, Abraham, and making him a nation that would bless the world. Thank you for our Jewish brothers and sisters. Forgive me for the comments that I may have made, the jokes, the way I may have looked at my brothers and sisters. O God, the church has surely grieved your heart through the centuries over the way we have treated our Jewish relatives. But help me in this day and time to build bridges. In fact I thank you for the Jewish mentor who influenced my life, for my Jewish friends that I have know in the past and the present. Help me to share the love that you have shared with your chosen people. In Jesus name. Amen. (Continued on next Sermon)


Filed under Christianity and World Religions: Sermon Series, House of the Nazarene's Posts