Prostitute. Murderer. Redeemed.

September 13, 2011

Compelling “transformonial” video here –

And good commentary here on desire…

“A Captive Woman”(Deuteronomy 21:11)
Elul 10, 5771/September 9, 2011

“When you go out to war against your enemies, and HaShem, your G-d, will deliver him into your hands, and you take his captives, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you desire her, you may take [her] for yourself as a wife.” (Deuteronomy 21:10-11)
Thus begins this week’s Torah reading of Ki Teitzei, as Moses continues to ready Israel for its new role as conquerers and eventual sovereigns in the land. Torah understands war as being sometimes a desirable and sometimes a necessary inevitability of nationhood. For sure, Torah embodies within its words the vision of Isaiah of a time when nations will not go to war against another, but until that day comes, war is a reality. As with all aspects of our lives as individuals and as a nation, Torah commands us to be fully engaged and to endeavor to sanctify every circumstance in which we may find ourselves. One such circumstance is war.
The above quoted verses are followed by others which set forth a series of rules governing a soldier’s behavior in the situation described. Other laws concerning the conduct of soldiers as individuals and the military as a whole appear elsewhere in Torah. In spite of the fact that warfare would seem to contradict and confound every norm hitherto set out by Torah, Torah is determined to determine our conduct even in the unfortunate circumstance of war. It is little wonder that the Israel Defense Forces today strive to meet a most stringent standard of ethical conduct even while facing an enemy whose entire doctrine is to deny and destroy humanity itself, alongside the human carnage it aims to achieve.
Most of us, fortunately, will never know the terrors and temptations that are part and parcel of the battlefield. Without diminishing the specific battlefield context of our above verses, our sages over the millennia have traditionally expanded the context of the battlefield description to include even our own individual personal battles that we wage against our enemies. And as we all know, there is no enemy more persistent or more pernicious that our own evil inclination.
Two of our most celebrated and beloved commentators explain our verses in seemingly contradictory fashion. Rashi, the eleventh century commentator, expresses the widely held view that Torah is warning us against acting rashly in the heat of the moment. By prescribing a month-long period in which certain actions must be taken before the captive woman can become permitted to her captor, the Torah is basically pouring a cold bucket of water over the head of the captor. The Torah is, in effect, guiding his steps while at the same time “recommending” that he desist from attaining the object of his desire.
The Ohr HaChaim, the eighteenth century commentator, views the same situation differently. He perceives the battlefield warrior to have achieved a heightened state of righteousness and spiritual awareness by virtue of the fact that he has risked his life to successfully perform a commandment. In his heightened spiritual state, what he perceives on the battlefield is not a beautiful woman, but an inner spiritual beauty emanating from that women. The future steps Torah prescribes for him are simply to determine that his intentions are truly pure and to help him to refine his intentions. He is not a man who has succumbed to his physical desires, but a man who has been raised up by the profound G-dliness of his mission.
How can two distinguished commentators provide such disparate views on what Torah is describing? Actually, both Rashi and the Ohr HaChaimare saying the same thing. The conclusion that speaks to us is the one which we choose. The Hebrew words of Torah do not actually say, “a beautiful woman.” What is stated is, eshet yefat to-ar, “a woman of beautiful description.” The Torah testifies that she is indeed beautiful, but the source of that beauty is how we see it. Is her beauty only skin-deep? Then we should consider the warning implicit in Rashi’s words. Is her beauty internal and spiritual, as understood by the Ohr HaChaim, who points out that the Hebrew vechashachta ba, really means “and you are desirous of what is within her,” (and not the common translation, “and you desire her”)? Then we should understand the Torah’s instructions as a green light to further test and verify the purity of this desire.
As we approach Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, just like Israel in the desert preparing to enter the land, we are busily preparing at this time for the upcoming Days of Awe by taking a deeper look at our own selves. This is our current battlefield. Those weaknesses and temptations that continue to hound us and prey upon our shortcomings must be recognized as such and we, like the warrior of Rashi’sdescription, must follow the necessary steps to wean ourselves of these personal pitfalls. But if we look honestly at ourselves we should also detect many spots of light which we should embrace. These spots of light within ourselves are the captive woman of the Ohr HaChaim’sunderstanding, and we must take the time and make the effort to develop and fully realize these qualities.
Unless we take command over our personal battlefields we may end up captives to our own weaknesses. But if we strive and succeed in gaining dominion over our lives, we will liberate our own inner beauty in the process.

Good News According To The Messianic Writings

August 25, 2011

The Messianic Writings  are the most important new translation of the New Testament I have ever read. Preview and purchase here. 

(Keep reading for a review followed with comments from Assemblies of God, Baptist, Christian Zionist, Presbyterian, Orthodox, Seventh Day Adventist, non-Denominational, Jewish and Muslim views!)

Good News According To The Report, Gospel, Good News According To Matthias

Good News According To The Report, Gospel, Good News According To Matthias

The Messianic Writings, a new translation of what Christians have traditionally called the “New Testament” greatly help the reader to come to a more accurate understanding of the Bible. The Messianic Writings follow in the original format of the Biblical writings, like the writings of Moses and the writings of the prophets and  introduce at least three important (and perhaps controversial) reforms to our understanding of the Jewish and Christian Bible(s). The Messianic Writings correctly revise the concept of “church”, follow the original order in which the books were compiled (unlike most English Bibles) and add fascinating and relatively unknown messianic commentary from some of Israel’s greatest rabbis. In short, the Messianic Writings suggest a new reformation.

Benjamin Franklin’s invention of the lightning rod was a new way to understand how to harness the power of electricity and in the same manner the Messianic Writings help us to better harness the power that comes from the Bible and Torah. According to the book of Acts, the disciples were called Christians or “Chrestians” first at Antioch. Instead of translating the Bible from a Christian perspective, the Messianic Writings are written from the perspective of a disciple, that is, a student of the God of Israel – in other words, from before terms like “Christian” or “Chrestian” started in Antioch. New translations and reforming ideas have frequently been introduced in history through a single translator, from Jerome’s translation into the common Latin of the day to Tyndale’s and Luther’s translations that helped spark the Reformation. The revolutionary thinker Copernicus brought a major change in thought when he taught the church that the universe does not revolve around the Earth. The Messianic Writings “revolution” is to point to a new relationship between Gentile believers with God’s people Israel. The Messianic Writings are a new way of looking at the “New Testament” and will greatly challenge and improve common views that many Jews and Christians hold today – hopefully in a positive way. Some of my own views have been challenged and re-oriented but ultimately this experience has changed some of my spiritual practices and strengthened my faith journey.

The Messianic Writings explain that the “church” as we think of it is not actually in the Bible! According to the commentary, the word commonly translated as “church” in the Bible, should be “congregation” or “community” because the original Greek word for church is “ekklesia” which is a translation of the Hebrew “kahal” or “edah”, often signifying “kahal Israel” or congregation of people who worship the God of Israel. For political reasons the King James version commanded that the non Biblical concept of “church” be used instead of congregation, even though other translations (like Tyndale) followed the more accurate word “congregation”. The Messianic Writings begs the question – who should be the authority on God’s word, King James or the original text itself? Perhaps, this illusion of the church is part of the reason so many churches see themselves as separate from Israel and thus miss out on various blessings and lack a vibrant and positive connection to either Jesus’ homeland, Israel, or with his fellow Jewish people. How many educated church leaders have never had a basic experience such as visiting or learning about the local synagogue – even though that is one of the places where Jesus taught. The Messianic Writings also have some interesting commentary on what the word “synagogue” meant in the time of Jesus. In other words, the Messianic Writings give us a more accurate understanding of the meeting places for worship. In the book of Exodus, God call’s Israel his firstborn son and then in Joshua says he will never leave or forsake his people Israel, so why does the “church” try to separate itself from the commonwealth of Israel? Secondly, the Messianic Writings commentary explains why it follows the original ordering of the New Testament instead of the Catholic order most English Bibles like the New International Version (NIV) follow. Thirdly, the Messianic Writings include related Messianic references to the original Greek Septuagint (LXX) translation of the Hebrew Bible. This collection actually pre-dates the version of the Hebrew Bible (Tanach) used by most rabbis today. For example, the connection between the books about the Maccabees (on the Jewish-Greek wars which are the basis of Hanukah) and the reports in the Messianic Writings relating both Hannukah and the Roman occupation are noted. Perhaps these writings even have something to teach us today, about historical contexts, relevance with the scriptures and in our wars and how we deal with our enemies.

However, there are areas for improvement in the Messianic Writings.  There are inconsistent transliterations of words which creates needless confusion. For example, Matthew is called Matthias but Mark is still Mark while Joseph is called Yoseph and some obscure names that are modified are very hard to recognize. This makes this new reading experience a little less understandable. Also, perhaps other rabbis like Rabbi Jacob Emden (1697-1776) and Elijah Benamozegh (1822 – 1900) could have been mentioned due to their fairly well known commentary on Jesus (Yeshua) and to better understand the real Bible text. Personally, I’ve been to Israel and walked where Jesus walked and at first it was a strange and foreign experience. Hopefully the “strangeness” of this text will be unsettling in a good way – for those who desire to better understand the world’s most influential person.

If the community who professes to follow Israel’s Messiah is in some sense part of the community of Israel, what does that mean for Christians, disciples and Jews today, while the nation of Israel is once again alive and thriving? What does it mean to follow a Jewish rabbi from Jerusalem and worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel? What does the “commonwealth of Israel” really mean as Rabbi Shaul (Paul the Apostle) mentions in his letter to the Ephesians? These are questions that seem to have clearer answers with the more accurate understanding of the text that the Messianic Writings provides.

In addition to bringing the reader closer to the original Bible text and the community of Israel, the Messianic Writings will help familiarize the reader with some of Israel’s great rabbis, like Hillel, Rashi, Rambam (Maimonidies) and others. The Messianic Writings may inspire new streams of relationships, new forms of worship and a more accurate understanding of the original Bible. I’ve been opened up to praying with a bended heart and ultimately more peace.

I respect your opinion greatly. Please let me know what you think?

The Messianic Writings are available in print and electronic formats (Kindle, iPad etc) at

Comment from a Rabbi (Jewish Conservative)

I like that you are trying to bring early Christianity back to its Jewish roots such as the Christian “church” was not a Church as we understand it today but a Kahal- a community.

Presbyterian (PCA) View

I took a look at some of the writings online and I was very encouraged by the translation.  From what I saw the translation will offer some really great insights.  I hope it gets really popular.

I really agree with you that the church needs to rethink its stance towards Israel, and its rhetoric especially.

However, I did disagree with your rhetorical question: “In the book of Exodus, God call’s Israel his firstborn son and then in Joshua says he will never leave or forsake his people Israel, so why does the “church” try to separate itself from the commonwealth of Israel?”

I disagree because I think this idea of separation actually comes from the Gospels.  The idea of a split in Israel — where some portion of the Israel according to the flesh are left off and people from other nations come in — begins with the ministry of John the Baptist (Mt 3:9-12).  And Jesus himself seems to see an imminent separation from some portion of the people of Israel and Israel’s mode of worship for his followers (Mt 10:34-38, 12:38-50, 21:33-44, 22:1-14; Mk 12:1-9; Lk 4:25-27; 13:1-9, 22-35, et al).  Jesus, in fact, talks about a split in Israel more often than anyone in the NT.  That is why I think we should be careful in our call for Christian unity with Israel.  We certainly need solidarity, compassion, open minds, and a load of respect for the sons and daughters of Abraham; but we also have to take note of the words of Jesus that say stuff like Matthew 23.39 (from M.W.): “For I tell you+ [Jerusalem] that ‘you+ will no longer see me, until you+ say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Everpresent Lord.”  So we need to be weary of seeing the modern followers of Jesus and modern Israel as one body.  Not sure if you were doing that, but some of what you wrote seemed to suggest that.

Does that make sense?  It is a really tricky issue.

Also, I’ve been thinking about it and I think there is one problematic translation in MW that I noticed:

Switching out “Son of Man” for “Son of Adam” is interesting and might catch a bit of the flavor of what Jesus might have been getting at — especially if the point of the figure of the “Son of Man” ascending to the throne of God in Daniel is supposed to bring to mind images as Adam as the first steward of creation over and against the beastly rulers which Daniel’s vision identifies.  However, the text just doesn’t say “Son of Adam,” and much of the (apparently intentional) ambiguity of Jesus’ use of the term “Son of Man” may be lost.

Also, I didn’t mention that I really love that the translation changes the incidents of “Christ” to “Messiah.”  N.T. Wright has done the same in some of his writings on Paul and I think it clears away a lot of mental baggage around the idea of who Jesus was.  And it makes clearer Jesus’ role as Messiah of Israel.

Christian Zionist View

I’m not an academically-trained NT scholar so some of the issues are beyond my expertise – but I must say the UMJC and Jerusalem pastor’s responses resonated with me most.

I think it is helpful to a point – there is no question that looking again at the NT through the filter of 1st century rabbinical Judaism does offer some helpful insights ; but I’d also acknowledge that like David Stern’s translation before it, it is the work of one man – and that inhibits its usefulness.

The challenge is to take the appropriate rabbinical insights that do shed light on the biblical text  – but to do so carefully and cautiously without subscribing to the worldview of Rabbinical Judaism that stands in opposition to the redemptive work of Jesus on the Cross. I also think that for those who come from a Jewish background, some of the language may be helpful- but for most of the rest of us (whether secular or Christian) – redefining the lexicon of the faith (e.g. not using the word ‘Cross’) could risk putting up additional barriers to understanding the gospel.

So – the little I’ve seen of it and can be a useful resource – but more as a commentary than text.

The challenge is, of course, for those of us that want to present a balanced and effective biblical case for Israel within the church in this nation – is to do so using good theology from the accepted text(s) – without having (in the eyes of the skeptics) to ‘rewrite’ the biblical texts to support our views…

Seven Day Adventist

I’m glad to see you zeal for understanding the scriptures in their original context!

I’m unclear as to why you equate the first usage of the name Christian with a departure into a new model of church.  Wasn’t it just a name?  Is there historical evidence that something happened orgainzationally or philosophically there at Antioch?

There’s so much in the New Testament that seems to contradict the mandate that Gentile Christians should be united with non-believing Jews.  You’ve got Jesus changing from “MY house will be called a house of prayer”  to “YOUR house is left to you desolate”.  Jesus saying that he the owner of the vineyard would fire his tenants and hire new people to run it.  The Jews saying collectively “let his blood be on us and on our children.”  Jesus cursing the fig tree that bore no fruit.  Paul saying circumcision is nothing.  Paul saying that he becomes like a Gentile to win Gentiles (in other words, let go of all this cultural, national stuff, and let’s focus on the principles of the kingdom of God).  The prophecies about the downfall of Jerusalem because of their unfaithfulness.  Paul in Romans 11 saying that branches were cut off the olive tree, and while we should recognize the roots of the tree were Israelite and avoid glorying over the natural branches, we’re not called to be in common faith with the cut-off branches, but to hope that they will join us in faith in Jesus.  There is neither Jew nor Greek any more.  The Jewish festal calendar being called a “shadow” that pointed forward to a reality in Christ, which we now experience (I doubt the apostle John was organizing Passover celebrations after 70 A.D; I could be wrong; Paul said Christ is our Passover).  There’s so much more, this is just the stuff I’m thinking of off the top of my head.  I’m really interested in learning of the culture and history of the Bible times and all that great stuff, but as a follower of the principles of the kingdom of God, I’m not attracted to Israel as a nation, and I think it might be misguided to try to unite with people that oppose Christ and make Christians in China and America and Brazil and Canada and Sweden feel that they have to adopt a new culture in order to experience Christ.

Well, all of that in person probably would have sparked about a 10-hour conversation,

Response –

> I’m unclear as to why you equate the first usage of the name Christian with a departure into a new model of church.  Wasn’t it just a name?

Christian – Jesus clearly never uses this term for his followers and I don’t think Paul does either. What does Jesus and the Bible repeatedly refer to the followers of Jesus as?

As far as “new model of church”, its really the opposite, why do our English Bibles create a new word, forced by King James after Tyndale was burned at the stake for his translation, which used congregation? Ekklesia refers to the congregation of Israel in the OT. As King of Israel, wouldn’t Jesus’ community therefore be a new community within Israel? Why would we teach King James’ translation preference over what the Bible actually says? Why do we refer to Jacob as James, in King James’ Bible but not in the Greek?

Yes, I do agree the verses you cite clearly show some are cut off, no doubt. Do we need to balance it with “never leaving or forsaking Israel“? If, the assertion that the church is separate from Israel how then does Jesus save Israel? Does Jesus really return and rule from the church capital’s like Rome or Antioch? The end of Zechariah and most of the prophets all everyone worships the God of Israel together in Jerusalem.

> There is neither Jew nor Greek any more…or…feel that they have to adopt a new culture in order to experience Christ

So you don’t believe Jews and Greek exist anymore? No more male or female?

IMHO, that verse means we retain our identifies but are the same before God – we participate in the unconditional grace God promises Israel. If we deny those promises and go our separate ways, what promise do we stand on? I am NOT saying we Gentiles should be Jewish. I am saying, if we don’t see ourselves as part of the “commonwealth of Israel” (Paul’s term) we may need to rethink our interpretation. Are we under King James or King of the Jews? Incidentally, Israel is a very diverse place, lot’s of Jews, Greeks, Americans, Armenians, Arabs etc

Messianic (UMJC)

…it’s the work of one individual, as I said, and as such I think it suffers from a degree of narrowness, and not as many people will read it because of that.  It’s the same reason The Message will never supplant the NIV.  But more power to him.

As for book order, Romans has been in that positon for centuries, and to move James in front would be disruptive to every English speaking church in the free world.  The influence of Latin on Christendom cannot be overstated, and to pretend Jerome’s Vulgate did not have a profound influence on the Bible is, I think, a mistake.  After all, there is no divinely appointed book order, and what we have works fine.  Nothing is gained by re-arranging the order of the books.
In sum:  The Messianic Writings are no Latin Vulgate!

(Response) What about following King James’ command to mistranslate “kahal Israel“/congregation as church? Or, erroneously renaming Jacob as James. Do you feel anything is gained by correcting these errors? 

I should say one thing:  The proponents of the Messianic Writings are gleeful over the fact that ecclesia is translated as “congregation” or “gathering.”  (Maybe “assembly.”)  They like the fact that the word “church” is not used.

I would point out that the word “church” is the most easily recognizable English term for a Sunday gathering, and if that was by accident, so be it.  It’s what we have.

In translation, a key goal is to render the donor language into the most easily understandable words in the receptor language…some people have an overt sensitivity to the word “baptize.”  But as in the case of “church” I would argue that English speakers recognize the word very plainly.  So again, why change it?  (What good reason?)

Translation is a delicate practice.   Nobody is going to be happy with everything.  That’s one of the reasons I am a proponent of committee work.  In the end you have something which no single individual would have come up with on his / her own.  (Kind of like a band.)  There’s nothing wrong with an individual doing his own solo translation work, but the best work, I feel, is done by large groups of experts, each checking and questioning the others.

As for James / Jakob, that’s Anglicans for ya!

Have you ever – in English –  tried to write the Hebrew letter “het?”  (Chet?)  Even writing the causes problems.  You know they don’t have a J sound in Hebew, right?  How do Hebrew speakers write a J?  Or a CH?  They put at little mark above another letter.  And still it doesn’t come naturally.
How do you write, in English, the that throaty gloattal sound that Hebrew speakers do which sould like you are hawking flegm from your throat?

How do you SPELL that in English?  I’m sure you can appreciate the problem.

Lawrence of Arabia knew all about this.  You go to visit, say, Kfar Nahum.  (Village of Nahum.)  How do you spell that?  In English how often do you put a K next to an F?  Never!  So you turn it into Capernaum instead.  And what do people do?  They call it Caper-knee-um.  Or CaperNAUM.  What happened to Kfar Nahum?

And even the word Nahum.  How does a Hebrew speaker pronounce that H in the middle?  it’s not smooth, that’s for sure!
We anglicize everything, because it’s easier for us to speak.  My main point:  The Greek speakers had to do the same exact thing!

RESPONSE – I don’t totally understand the desire for immerse over baptize but I do note that my friend who is a Baptist and self professed expert in baptism literally had no clue it was a Jewish practice before John!

And again, “church” was no accident. Tyndale was burned at the stake for using “congregation”.

What about including all the rabbinical commentary which should help readers understand the Jewish nature of the entire discussion of a messiah?

Rabbinical commentary should probably be kept separate, in my view.  Unless say, Zondervan, wanted to  put out a special “Rabbi Study Bible.”  That might be cool!

Oops!  One more point!

The word “Kahal” does not appear in the New Testament.  It’s a Hebrew word.  So in Greek they rendered Kahal as Ecclesia, presumably.
And we rendered it “church.”  So you have three different words which sound nothing alike!

Response – Is this study of kahal accurate?

My Orthodox Bible, which I like some parts very much, translates kahal in the Tanakh as ‘church’ – seems rather anachronistic to me and makes me wonder how Jesus saves Israel if the church is separate from the community of Israel.

Jerusalem Pastor  –

As regards the “Messianic Writings” I have the following thoughts:

1. It is not a translation of the Bible. Historically, and rightly so, the Church has not accepted one man’s work as a valid translation of the sacred text.

2. It does constitute a valid academic work and thus becomes an important resource book.

3. After two thousand years of Church history it is hard to believe that we can really do better than some of the valid translations that have been updated and improved.

As for me too much change in the text makes the Word of God strange and this will be true for millions of Christians who are used to the names of God etc. Sometimes we can become so correct that we lose something! In this regard the King James Bible of 1611 will forever stand out as the greatest Bible translation of all time. It’s successor, the New King James Bible is outstanding!

4. I believe that we can learn a lot from the Messianic Writings.


1. First, words have meaning that he doesn’t control. It is a translation of these first-century Jewish Scriptures, not a recipe. Second, Wycliff, Tyndale, Luther, Segond, etc., etc. all translated the Scriptures and their translations were widely used. (Even the Vulgate was begun as Jerome’s translation.)

Third, the text did not come from, nor does it belong to the Church. The Church, which stands in opposition to the text, is not a valid authority on the text.

2. The annotated Messianic Writings were not written for scholars, but for people who want to know what the text actually says.

3. There haven’t been two thousand years of Church history, only 1700 or so. The “valid translations” contain inexcusable, unjustifiable distortions of the text. Every translation can be improved, but it’s not difficult to be more accurate than what’s out there, though it takes a lot of work. God desires that people have accurate translations.

The Messianic Writings do not change the Word of God; they attempt to accurately translate it. The KJV is not the Word of God, it is a translation with strengths and weaknesses. Its translators were explicitly told to distort the Word of God by inserting “church,” “baptism,” etc. The fact that millions of Christians are used to such intentional distortions is a travesty to be mourned, not a justification for continuing to reject what is true.

MUSLIM (from Jerusalem) View

The Muslim hermeneutic presents a theological paradigm that stresses discontinuity in the judaeo christian Muslim tradition. God has intervened in human history through Moses, Jesus and Muhammad entrusting each with the “word”. Each revelation, the word is to be understood on its own. But since the revelation came in a culture particular concept previous revelations, scriptures, narratives are used to express the new image of god. In short what we have are variant expressions, aspects and partial refractions of the truth expressed differently in each religion, itself a closed system of signifiers. As such seeking to establish continuities, trying to codify historical interventions of God by situating the word in previous narratives involves a distortion of the original message, a displacement of the signified and a distortion of the message that can and should be understood in its own terms. The new testament as such is a christian hermeneutic that proffers Judaism within its own paradigm, …it uses the extant metaphors, the language of the time to express a new aspect of the divine and of the law.

Please do not feel offended but I am in total disagreement with your approach.


I think Christ used the term “church” or ekklesia when speaking to Peter, and how he would build the ekklesia on Peter, which means the disciple would not pre-date the term—though you could argue “church” is not the right term, and that is for later in the review.

Jewish (secular)

…church is “ekklesia” which is a translation of the Hebrew “kahal Israel” or “congregation” of people who worship the God of Israel. For political reasons the King James version insisted that the word “church” be used instead of congregation, even though other translations (like Tyndale) followed the… (of course I see “political reasons” as a fine explanation of most of the bibles, but once you introduce it it occurs to me to ask you how you can distinguish between “political reasons” and the “hand of god”. And if the latter can always explain the former, then why bother with the former?)…

Maccabees, which is the basis of Hanukah and has significance in some of the Gospels).

“ Not clear to me what this means, maybe because I am outside your tradition, and maybe another reason.    When I read these sentences I thought you were including Macabees in Tanach, now I’m not sure.Therefore this may be a comment on language, on facts, or on my ignorance .

…The revolutionary thinker Copernicus… (while “thinkers” includes scientists , the word is more typically used to describe people whose main activity is thought, rather than observation. Copernicus was an astronomer and his fame and contribution to human understanding relied on extensive careful observations of planets. These observations are critical; he is nothing without them as the basis for heliocentrism. )

…the Messianic Writings point to a new relationship with Israel… (or is it that the authors of this started with a certain relationship to Israel, Jews, and Christianity that informed the translation. My guess is that in some sense you are reversing cause and effect)

…world’s most influential person…  When you use that phrase do you count all that people attribute stuff to Jesus that you don’t think came from Jesus? When Bush cites Jesus as a reason for war , do you count that as part of Jesus’ influence? I ask because I do not know how to measure influence with precision? And why not Moses? Abraham? How Jesus Endorsed Bush’s Invasion of Iraq

…What does the “commonwealth of Israel” really mean as Rabbi Shaul (Paul the Apostle) mentions in his letter to the Ephesians? You wish to emphasize Paul’Jewish roots, yet my (low confidence) understanding is that he was the primary mover in shifting earlyh Christian focus from Jews to gentiles.  And my understanding is that the vast majority of scholars do not think that Paul is the true author. Here’s a nice “both sides” summary on authorship

And you may find this interesting, I don’t quite get it but the ambiguity and range of interpretations of all this stuff fascinates me.

Are you a big fan of Paul? Are you considering celibacy and never marrying because of his influence on you?  ((On re-reading this I decided a little education was in order and so I googled “Paul celibacy” and immediately encountered what one normally encounters trying to figure this stuff out – disagreement and confusion. Just think what life would be like if we used the same methods (everyone gets an opinion) to set up train schedules – you’d never know if or when a train would actually show up.))


The multiplicity of perspectives represented on this blog illustrates the importance and broad relevance of the new translation. The Messianic Writings publication is, to my knowledge, the first attempt in English to do what virtually all scholarship suggests should be done: to translate from a 1st-century Jewish context rather than a much later Christian one. In other words, it is the first English edition to translate from the original, Jewish-Greek language of the text. That is a radical claim, but one that is hard to deny upon comparison to existing (Christian) translations. The included notes from ancient Jewish sources (Qumranic, rabbinic, etc.) are not intended as interpretation per se, but rather help to “frame” the text in its own historical context in a way that has also not been done except in specialized scholarly works.

At the same time, several comments that have been advanced here manifest some confusion about the nature of the text and its translation. Many questions and criticisms can be easily dealt with simply by reading the translator’s introduction and/or portions of the text itself. For example, the reason for translating some words differently than other translators have, or following the earlier order of books, is simply to be as faithful as possible to the ancient Jewish-Greek texts that we have. This is not a “religious” question. The order of books in The Messianic Writings does not derive from some theological position, but rather the simple fact that that is the order followed in the earliest compilations known to scholarship. So too with many other choices in the translation. These are not actually “changes” at all, but rather the reverse: the avoidance of numerous unwarranted changes introduced into the text over many centuries through biased interpretation. What is “gained” by this approach is quite simply greater accuracy and faithfulness to the records of the past. Presumably that is what any honest person would hope for — whether coming from a Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, atheist or other background. For those believing in these texts as Scripture, it should appear all the more vital to try to be as accurate as possible when translating.

As for various matters of interpretation raised in some of the comments (the parable of the vineyard, etc.), reading the new translation with an open mind will lead to significantly different conclusions on some of these matters. Many things that “everyone knows” about what the “New Testament” says are not actually true. Most importantly, perhaps, the Messianic Writings are not at all anti-Semitic but thoroughly and historically Jewish in content, flavor, and intention. But there is much more of a specific nature as well.

With regard to the question of an individual translator vs. a committee, I think it is a moot point. What is relevant is the quality of the translation, not how many people worked on it. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages. In science, great discoveries can be made by one person working alone or by research teams of thousands of people. (The point is to make the discoveries, not to number the scientists.) One of the very few earlier translations to correctly translate from Jewish-Greek was that of the single Jew André Chouraqui into French. As for all the committees of scholars, so far they have not produced any such translation! I expect that if they were all ready to abandon their traditional translations in favor of a more accurate approach and to collaborate on The Messianic Writings, then improvements could indeed be made. But so far they seem stuck to the obviously flawed but traditionally dear renderings. In that case, what is more commendable than for one man to challenge the status quo? If and when the scholarly committees decide to translate more accurately in all respects, they may well eclipse the efforts of a single person. If that happens, it will signal the victory of the more faithful approach promoted in this Messianic Writings translation.


This is an interesting article about Jewish Christian relations.

Do you think Jews should be evangelized and if so how?

I just can’t consider questions from within Christian terminology/conceptions, when those are themselves flawed. The questions already bias the answers and restrict the range of possible answers.

Phrasing the question in the way you did (which is the normal Christian discourse) makes it sound like some sort of painful operation, externally administered. (And that is often what it has been.)

Personally, I have no interest in imposing some sort of procedure on anyone (Jew or Gentile), but rather in seeking truth.

So if the question is: Should Jews and Gentiles both seek truth about God and the Messiah? then my answer is yes.

If the question is: Should Jews and Gentiles be allowed to speak to each other about their views as they seek truth about God and the Messiah? then my answer is yes again. 🙂

The Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord…” ( Isaiah 1:18 )

Ohr Torah Stone


Posted on May 24, 2011 by CJCUC
After collaborating and working with various Christian organizations, leaders, and scholars over the past three years, the leaders of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC) in Efrat and Jerusalem have released a statement of A Jewish Understanding of Christians and Christianity. CJCUC is the first Orthodox Jewish entity dedicated to engaging in dialogue with the Christian worldIn partnership with The Witherspoon Institute in Princeton New Jersey, CJCUC recently publicized their scholarly work at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem and at Yale University on the topics of “Covenant & Mission” and “Hope & Responsibility in the 21st Century.” In addition, CJCUC has collaborated with scholars connected with the Hebraic Heritage Christian Center in Atlanta, GA, in discussing the issues of “Evangelization” and “Jewish Understanding of Christianity.”CJCUC’s Founder Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin said, “This statement only represents the view of our center but should also be used as a catalyst for other orthodox Jews and Jewry worldwide to consider fostering relationships with Christian communities. Leaders within the Catholic and mainline Protestant churches as well as the non-denominational movements of Evangelical Christianity have become sincere friends of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. It is vital that we strengthen our relationship with them. We are certain that through these relational dialogues we will find far more which unites us than divides us.”For more information, please contact CJCUC’s Media Division at 516-882-3220 or

A Jewish Understanding of Christians and Christianity

Many leaders of Christianity today no longer seek to displace Judaism. They recognize the Jewish people’s continuing role in God’s plan for history, and through their own understanding of the Christian Testament, they understand themselves as grafted into the living Abrahamic covenant.

Christians see themselves not merely as members of the Noahide covenant, but as spiritual partners within the Jewish covenant.  At the same time, they believe that God does not repent of his covenantal gifts and that the Jewish people continues to enjoy a unique covenantal relationship with God in accordance with its historical 2000 year traditions.

Jewish and Christian theologies are no longer engaged in a theological duel to the death and therefore Jews should not fear a sympathetic understanding of Christianity that is true to the Torah, Jewish thought and values. In today’s unprecedented reality of Christian support for the Jewish people, Jews should strive to work together with Christians toward the same spiritual goals of sacred history—universal morality, peace, and redemption under God—but under different and separate systems of commandments for each faith community and distinct theological beliefs.

Nearly all medieval and modern Jewish biblical commentators understood Abraham’s primary mission as teaching the world about God and bearing witness to His moral law. Maimonides insisted in his halakhic and philosophical writings that spreading the knowledge of the One God of Heaven and Earth throughout the world was the main vocation of Abraham.  Significantly, this understanding of Abraham’s religious mission is exactly the role and historical impact of Christianity as understood by great rabbis such as Rabbis Moses Rivkis, Yaakov Emden and Samson Raphael Hirsch.

R. Moses Rivkis (17th century Lithuania):
The gentiles in whose shadow Jews live and among whom Jews are disbursed are not idolators. Rather they believe in creatio ex nihilo and the Exodus from Egypt and the main principles of faith. Their intention is to the Creator of Heaven and Earth and we are obligated to pray for their welfare (Gloss on Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat, Section 425:5).And Rabbi Jacob Emden (18th century Germany):
The Nazarene brought a double goodness to the world… The Christian eradicated avodah zarah, removed idols (from the nations) and obligated them in the seven mitsvot of Noah…a congregation that works for the sake of heaven—(people) who are destined to endure, whose intent is for the sake of heaven and whose reward will not denied. (Seder Olam Rabbah 35-37; Sefer ha-Shimush 15-17.And Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (19th century Germany):
Although disparaged because of its alleged particularism, the Jewish religion actually teaches that the upright of all peoples are headed toward the highest goal. In particular, rabbis have been at pains to stress that, while in other respects Christian views and ways of life may differ from those of Judaism, the peoples in whose midst the Jews are now living [i.e. Christians] have accepted the Jewish Bible of the Old Testament as a book of Divine revelation. They profess their belief in the God of heaven and earth as proclaimed in the Bible and they acknowledge the sovereignty of Divine Providence in both this life and the next. Their acceptance of the practical duties incumbent upon all men by the will of God distinguishes these nations from the heathen and idolatrous nations of the talmudic era (Principles of Education, “Talmudic Judaism and Society,” 225-227).Israel…produced an offshoot [Christianity] that had to become estranged from it in great measure, in order to bring to the world—sunk in idol worship, violence, immorality and the degradation of man—at least the tidings of the One Alone, of the brotherhood of all men, and of man’s superiority over the beast. (Nineteen Letters on Judaism (Jerusalem, 1995).

When we combine this rabbinic appreciation of Christianity with today’s non-replacement Christian theologies toward Judaism, we find fresh possibilities for rethinking a Jewish relationship with Christianity and for fashioning new Jewish-Christian cooperation in pursuit of common values.  If so, Jews can view Christians as partners in spreading monotheism, peace, and morality throughout the world.

This new understanding must encompass a mutual respect of each other’s theological beliefs and eschatological convictions.  Some Christians maintain that Christianity is the most perfect revelation of God and that all will join the church when truth is revealed at the end of time.  Jews, too, are free to continue to believe, as Maimonides believed, that “all will return to the true religion” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, 12:1) and, as Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik declared, “In the ultimate truthfulness of our views, [we] pray fervently for and expect confidently the fulfillment of our eschatological vision when our faith will rise from particularity to universality and will convince our peers of the other faith community”(“Confrontation” from Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Thought, 1964, 6:2).

The new relationship requires that Christians respect the right of all Jewish peoples to exist as Jews with complete self-determination—free from any attempts of conversion to Christianity. At the same time, Judaism must respect Christian faithfulness to their revelation, value their role in divine history, and acknowledge that Christians have entered a relationship with the God of Israel. In our pre-eschaton days, God has more than enough blessings to bestow upon all of His children.

The prophet Micah offers a stunning description of the messianic culmination of human history:

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and the God of Jacob, that He teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths.…Let the peoples beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nations shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore. Let every man sit under his vine and under his fig tree; and no one shall make him afraid….Let all the people walk, each in the name of his God; and we shall walk in the name of our Lord our God forever and ever.” (4:2-5)

Jews and Christians must bear witness together to the presence of God and to His moral laws.  If Jews and Christians can become partners after nearly 2,000 years of theological delegitimization and physical conflict, then peace is possible between any two peoples anywhere.  That peace would be our most powerful witness to God’s presence in human history and to our covenantal responsibility to carry God’s blessing to the world.  It is the very essence of what makes up the messianic dream.

Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin, Founder & Chancellor of CJCUC and Ohr Torah Stone
Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn, CJCUC’s North American Director
David Nekrutman, CJCUC’s Executive Director

Exodus 12:48, 49 NIV

“”A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it. The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.””

Well, part of the problem in answering is that almost no one (Jews included) keeps the Pesakh in the way prescribed (lamb in Jerusalem, etc.). However, if we did, then I think a case could be made for allowing those circumcised in heart to eat of it. On the other hand, that is a little tricky. The Pesakh is specifically a sign of God’s deliverance of the descendants of Jacob from bondage in Egypt, and perhaps God wanted it to stay that way.

Good News According To James Tour

May 23, 2011

Provocative series on love, lust and life. Recommend listening in order but the last one relating to contraception is mind blowing when you think about it.

I hope it will be of benefit to all.

1. “Introduction to Scriptural Sexual Ethics”
West University Baptist Church, October 18, 2005

2. “Redemption is not a sham—Victory over Lust!”
West University Baptist Church, October 18, 2005

3. “The True Meaning of Manhood”
West University Baptist Church, October 18, 2005

4. “The True Meaning of Womanhood,” or “Woman: God’s Masterpiece”
West University Baptist Church, October 18, 2005

5. “Converting the Christian Bedroom from Hell-on-Earth to Heaven-on-Earth.  And, What is the Line for the Unmarried?”
West University Baptist Church, October 20, 2005

6. “Marriage is not a Sham: Lowering the Divorce Rate from the Current 52% to the Extraordinary Number of Less Than 1%”
PDF: How to practice NFP

Jewish Views on Torah

May 19, 2011

Is the purpose of Torah to study all day? Should religious leaders have real jobs?

According to Masorti (Conservative Jews) – “Torah that is not accompanied by a worldly trade will in the end amount to nothing and will lead one into sin”

Or, according  to Rabbi Richman, the purpose of Torah is to build another Temple in Jerusalem for all to peoples to worship.

In the second century, there were two outstanding figures that argued how the Bible was written and how it should be understood. Rabbi Akiva, whose idea were generally accepted by many rabbis, including Rashi and most Midrashim, insisted that the Bible was a document in which every word, even every letter, was composed by God. Now God is all-knowing and infallible; thus the document He composed, the Torah, must not have any superfluous words or letters; God said exactly what he meant to say, no more and no less. If a biblical verse seems to repeat itself, the seeming repetition must be saying something that is not in the first phrase.

Rabbi Ishmael had an opposite view. He argued that the Bible was composed for people and must have been written in ways that people could understand. Like people talk, the Torah contains metaphors and other figures of speech that should not be taken literally; it has hyperbole; it repeats ideas for various reasons, including emphasis, just as humans do. While great sages like Rashi follow Rabbi Akiva’s methodology, People like Saadiah Gaon, Rashbam, ibn Ezra and Maimonides accepted the second approach.

Once Rashi’s approach to Torah is known, it becomes understandable why Rashi wrote what he did. He saw words in the Torah that seemed to him to be superfluous or seemed like an exaggeration, and he felt obliged to explain the verse according to its plain meaning as he understood it using Rabbi Akiva methodology.

For example, In Deuteronomy 13:5, the Torah states that the Israelites should serve God and cleave to Him. Rabbi Ishmael would see these apparently two statements as expressing a single idea, to worship God. However, Sifrei and Rashi, following their methodology, saw the Bible speaking about two acts. The first means serve God in His sanctuary or Holy Temple, and the second the obligation to behave properly in daily life.

Ibn Ezra, to cite another example, following the methodology of Rabbi Ishmael, notes that Deuteronomy 13:6 mentions that the Israelites were both “freed” and redeemed,” and states that the Torah is speaking of a single act, but the Torah uses the two verbs to strengthen its argument. Sifrei and Rashi, following the way of Rabbi Akiva, understand the verse to say, even if God only “freed” you, it would have been sufficient reason to obey Him; now that He also “redeemed” you, how much more are you obligated to obey Him.

Thus, while it is interesting and entertaining to read Rashi’s comments, readers cannot really understand why Rashi is saying what he says unless they understand what prompted him to make the interesting remark. Also, most scholars would insist that Scripture itself does not even hint what Rashi felt he had to read into the verse, and what he is saying about supposedly historical events never occurred.

The fourth problem is whether one should reveal Rashi’s worldview, an understanding of life that is far different than that of the twenty first century.

As virtually all of his contemporaries, Jew and non-Jew, Rashi saw a world filled with angels that people could turn to for assistance and demons who hovered around them to entice them.

His world was ruled by astrological forces which threatened the ancient Israelites, such as in Exodus 10:10, when Pharaoh warns Moses that if he takes the Israelites from Egypt, he will face the consequences of ra, which simply means evil consequences, but which Rashi states means the adverse impact of a particular astrological formation.
Rashi was convinced that God rewards people for the good that they do; and if they have no immediate need for the reward, it can be stored, as if placed in a bank account, and used by future generations, even if the future people do not deserve it themselves – a concept he and many other rabbis called zechut avot, ancestral merit. These notions are not explicit in the Bible but are mentioned by some rabbis in the Talmuds and the Midrashim, and Rashi incorporates them into his Bible commentary. He introduces most of these notions into his elaboration of Genesis 22 where Abraham leads his son Isaac to be sacrificed.

The Babylonian Talmud, Hullin 105b, and Rashi’s commentary to the Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 28a, write that Jews blow the ram’s horn, the shofar, on the New Year Holiday of Rosh Hashanah to scare demons and upset their plans.

Rashi, like many Jews of his age, was convinced that God is corporeal, that He has a body, including hands, feet and head. Commenting upon Exodus 7:4, “I will lay My hand upon Egypt,” he emphasizes that “hand” is not a metaphor for “power,” as Maimonides (1138-1204) would later say, but “an actual hand to smite them.” In Exodus 14:31, “Israel saw the great hand, what God did to Egypt,” he tells the reader that when the Torah speaks of God’s “hand,” it is yad mamash, an “actual hand.” He expresses the same view in his commentary to the Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 21a and Yevamot 49b, where he refers to God’s arm and face. Similarly, in his comment upon Genesis 1:26, where the Bible states that man was created in God’s image, and where Maimonides (Rambam) is quick to note that this means that God gave humans intelligence, Rashi writes, “image means God’s form.” So, too, in 1:27, “And God created man in His own image,” Rashi elaborates, “This means that the form that was established for him [man] is the form of the Creator.”

While Maimonides and many rationalists dismiss the idea that angels exist, believing that the word should be understood figuratively as the natural forces of nature, or asserting that if they do exist they do so in an incorporeal form, Rashi insists that a pious person can summon a corporeal angel to serve his mundane needs, act as his messenger, deliver a message and return with a report of what he sees. Thus in Genesis 32:4, Jacob, according to Rashi, sends malachim mamash, “actual angels,” as messengers to his brother Esau in an attempt to appease him.
In Genesis 19:22, Rashi advances his belief in “fallen angels.” God punished these angels because, in a paroxysm of hauteur, they took personal credit for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:13.

Rashi’s interpretation of Genesis 19:22 is based on the view that God, like an insecure human, can become angry and offended when someone seeks recognition and praise for what He did.

In Genesis 6:4, Rashi informs his readers that angels are able to have sexual intercourse with human females, and did so.

Not only God and angels, but also even demons, according to Rashi, exist and are corporeal. They can, drown. Noah saved them from extinction in the flood in his commentary on Genesis 6:19, which was designed to eradicate evil. In the Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 6a, Rashi describes the demon: “the feet of a demon are like a rooster’s.”
Rashi felt that animals can commit moral wrongs. Commenting on Genesis 6:20, Rashi states that Noah’s ark performed a miraculous moral selection process: it did not allow animals that had corrupted themselves with sexual perversions to enter the ark.

The Babylonian Talmud, Pessachim 112a, warns people from drinking “water from rivers during the night.” The Talmud explains that the danger is sabriri. Rashbam, Rashi’s grandson, reasonably explains that sabriri means that polluted water can cause medical problems. However, his grandfather states that sabriri is the name of a demon that has the power to inflict blindness, who may lash out in revenge for being disturbed and blind people drinking his water.

Yet, although Rashi follows the methodology of Rabbi Akiva and has a different worldview that he occasionally expresses, does not detract from the greatness of the man or the beauty of his commentary. Also, this information is probably of little interest to the general population of people and may even confuse them, and Eli Wiesel was wise to exclude them.

Rashi is particularistic: the Torah is for Jews. Maimonides is universalistic: the Torah has messages for all people.

Rabbi Akiba’s Messiah – The Origins of Rabbinic Authority

by Daniel Gruber

It is not easy to overestimate the significance of the Bar Kokhba Revolt. Because of its long-term consequences, it may well be considered the greatest tragedy in Jewish history. The disaster was further compounded by the fact that Rabbi Akiba, the father of rabbinic Judaism, proclaimed Bar Kokhba, the leader of the rebellion, to be God’s Anointed, the Messiah. For almost nineteen hundred years, people have asked, as Franz Rosenzweig expressed it, “Why did even the wisest teacher of his age fall for the false messiah, Bar Kochba, in the time of Hadrian?” This book answers that question. Akiba’s proclamation appears to be a well-reasoned decision that was completely consistent with the whole thrust of his life – the establishment of rabbinic authority over all Israel.


The Hebrew word for prayer is tefilah. It is derived from the root Pe-Lamed-Lamed and the word l’hitpalel, meaning to judge oneself. This surprising word origin provides insight into the purpose of Jewish prayer (LEARN and judge self  WELL). The most important part of any Jewish prayer, whether it be a prayer of petition, of thanksgiving, of praise of G-d, or of confession, is the introspection it provides, the moment that we spend looking inside ourselves, seeing our role in the universe and our relationship to G-d.

The Yiddish word meaning “pray” is “daven,” which ultimately comes from the same Latin root as the English word “divine” and emphasizes the One to whom prayer is directed.

Philosophy of prayer

In Jewish philosophy and in Rabbinic literature, it is noted that the Hebrew verb for prayer—hitpallel התפלל—is in fact the reflexive form of palal פלל, to judge. Thus, “to pray” conveys the notion of “judging oneself”:[13] ultimately, the purpose of prayer—tefilah תפלה—is to transform ourselves [1] [2].

This etymology is consistent with the Jewish conception of Divine simplicity. It is not God that changes through our prayer—Man does not influence God as a defendant influences a human judge who has emotions and is subject to change—rather it is man himself who is changed [3]. It is further consistent with Maimonides‘ view on Divine Providence. Here, Tefillah is the medium which God gave to man by means of which he can change himself, and thereby establish a new relationship with God—and thus a new destiny for himself in life [4] [5]; see also under Psalms.


A Jewish Understanding of the New Testament

By Rabbi Samuel Sandmel

Jewish Lights Publishing, 2005, 336 pages

Reviewed by Israel Drazin

This classic study should be read by everyone, Jew and non-Jew. It is a respectful scholarly analysis of the New Testament, first published in 1956 and republished twice, written in simple English for non-scholars. Although Rabbi Sandmel has great respect for Christians, Christianity, and the New Testament, he, like most Christian scholars, takes an historical approach to the New Testament, one that avoids theology. He focuses on what the authors of each of the twenty-seven documents believed and wanted others to believe, on how Christianity developed, and how these changes are reflected in the different approaches of each of the New Testament documents.

The letters by Paul, for example, written some three decades after the death of Jesus, are the earliest books of the New Testament. Sandmel writes that Paul had views about life and sin that are remarkably different than the views of most Jews of his time and today, such as the idea that people are born in a state of sin and need someone other than them to remove this sin and any that they subsequently commit.

Paul lived when Jews and non-Jews had many irreconcilable ideas about life and death. He rejected the theology of the Sadducees of his time. The Sadducees were a group of Jews who focused their attention on the Temple service and on the literal wording of the Bible. They believed that there is no life after death because the Bible does not mention it. In contrast, many Pharisees of his age, from whom today’s Rabbinic Judaism developed, who stressed that the “Oral Torah” must be read with the literal biblical text, asserted that the soul remains alive after the death of bodies, and bodies would later be resurrected. He rejected these views and those of some Greek philosophers, notably the Stoics, and the Jewish sage Philo, who lived during the time of Paul, that the immaterial part of a person loses its identity and is simply reabsorbed into the immaterial source out of which the person’s “soul,” or more precisely intellect, came prior to union with the body. Instead, Paul felt that a person’s spiritual entity retained the personality of the person after the person’s death. He apparently believed that the body ceased to exist and would not be resurrected. Sandmel writes that the New Testament book Acts has a totally different version of Paul’s life and teachings than Paul’s own writings.

The Gospel of Mark followed the letters of Paul and is the first attempt to offer a description of Jesus’ life. He and the writers of the other three Gospels, written long after Jesus’ life – Mark was composed around year 75 – did not quote “what Jesus himself actually said, but rather what the later church earnestly wished that he had said or piously and sincerely believed that he had.”

Sandmel states that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which follow Mark, “are implied criticisms of Mark.” They change what Mark wrote. Sandmel points out that virtually all scholars recognize that the author of Matthew took a new approach. He was trying to show that Jesus mission was foreseen by the ancient Jewish biblical prophets and that his life fulfilled these prophecies. But he apparently misunderstood the prophet Zechariah’s prediction in 9:9 that the king is coming “mounted on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” He understood that the future king would ride an ass and a colt, rather than these names describing a single animal. Thus, Matthew states that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an ass and a colt simultaneously.

Each of the four Gospels, Sandmel writes, has many differences from the other three and some internal inconsistencies. For example, Mark has two different dates for Jesus’ crucifixion, the fourteenth of the month Nisan and the fifteenth. Matthew and Luke have the fifteenth, and John the fourteenth. Luke describes Jesus having a short one-year career and dying at age thirty. John writes that he died when he was almost fifty years old. In the three synoptic Gospels, Jesus raises three people from the dead. In John, he raises only one, Lazarus, who is not mentioned in the other Gospels among the resurrected. Also “Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth is totally different from Luke’s and beyond reconciliation with it.”

Interestingly, Mathew has Jesus state that his message – read religion – should be taught without the teacher being paid for teaching. This is a sound rule that has unfortunately been violated by both Christianity and Judaism. The Christian televangelists’ accumulation of money is well-known. The Jewish rabbis, teachers, firms that oversee kosher foods, and most disturbing, the Jewish day schools, insist on large payments in violation of Jesus’ teaching, as well as the teachings of the Jewish first century sage Hillel and the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides (1138-1204).

Did Jesus actually exist? On the one hand, Sandmel writes, since no document during the lifetime of Jesus or shortly thereafter, Jewish and Roman, mentions him, it would seem that he never existed. On the other hand, he continues, it would seem absurd for Christianity to invent a Jew rather than a gentile as its originator, unless this is true. Also, the assertion by Jesus that a new world would appear in his disciples’ lifetime is so clearly incorrect that it must have been said by an historical figure, for if Jesus was an invention, the inventor would not have placed such an error in his mouth. Sandmel is persuaded that Jesus existed. However, he adds that since every New Testament document says something different about him, scholars – in contrast to theologians and clergy – are unable to say anything certain about him.

After examining the New Testament in a scholarly manner, Sandmel ends his book by pointing out that readers need to take a firm long step beyond the understanding of scholars about the New Testament. This is only “the beginning of understanding. A further step is to learn what one’s Christian neighbors or friends see in it.” For Christians are our fellow citizens and friends. They, like Jews, are the creations of God, people who deserve respect.


Marsea Modest Swimwear


“These are the journeys of the children of Israel”
(Numbers 33:1)
Tammuz 27, 5771/July 29, 2011

Cheshbon nefesh, literally, “accounting of the soul,” or as we say in English, stocktaking or soul searching, is an essential component of the spiritual and ethical life that Torah sets out before us. In fact, it is of such a high priority that it isG-dHimself who instructs Moses to record Israel’s desert peregrinations: “Moses recorded their starting points for their journeys according to the word of HaShem, and these were their journeys with their starting points.” (ibid 33:2) It would seem from the words of our sages, thatG-dwanted Israel to possess in its hand a condensed, shorthand log of the forty-two separate journeys that made up her forty year sojourn out of Egypt and into the land of Israel.
The Torah verses recalling the forty-two journeys are read in synagogue without pausing between verses, in order to emphasize the organic unity of Israel’s wilderness experience. Implied by this unity is the understanding that every journey of spiritual growth and transformation, great or small, is in fact, an uninterrupted series of smaller journeys which together make up the whole. The deliberate listing of all forty-two journeys along the way testifies to the fact that spiritual progression in life is not necessarily, (or perhaps, necessarily not), a sequence of forward and ever rising steps along the way. On the contrary, Moses’ list of Israel’s journeys mentions even those locations along the way where Israel sorely testedG-d’spatience, as well as the encampments in which Israel’s praise and closeness toG-dwas unassailable. Stocktaking, in order to be an effective tool for spiritual growth, has to reflect also upon such painful and even shameful stations along the way.
No doubt, each of the individual forty-two spiritual journeys of Israel could themselves be perceived as comprising forty-two internal steps of their own. Just like atoms can be divided and sub-divided into smaller and smaller components, each essential to the fully realized end result, we should also understand that our own spiritual growth is an ever evolving succession of movement, sometimes forward, sometimes, backward, sometimes baby steps and sometimes great leaps and bounds. Yet each step along the way is essential. Just as one of the eleven essential components of the ketoret incense of the Holy Temple is the foul smelling Galbanum, so too, our own personal foibles are ultimately intended to serve as necessary components of our entire spiritual makeup.
On the other hand, excessive introspection itself can be a hindrance not only to our spiritual growth throughout life, but also to our day-to-day engagement in life. After all and above all, Torah teaches us to take up the challenge of each day as it comes, and to be fully engaged in a life of of action – a life of fulfilling commandments. This may be one reason whyG-dinstructed Moses to condense Israel’s entire desert experience into forty-nine succinct verses. This shortened version of our emergence from enslavement to a life exalted by the presence ofG-d, and all the personal and national responsibility required therein, can be easily referenced throughout our busy days. Perhaps it is something that should be written down and kept in our breast pocket, or on the wall near the entrance to our home. The verses certainly could be recited as a prayer or meditation, the effect of which would be not merely to reflect upon what was, but to encourage constant spiritual growth.
In this week’s Torah reading of Masei, we conclude simultaneously, the book of Numbers and Israel’s stay in the desert. The fifth and final book of Torah, Deuteronomy, will continue with Masei’s theme of refection and stocktaking, as well as encouragement and preparation for the next stage in Israel’s journey – entering the land of Israel. It is important to note that every verse of our travelogue employs an identical phrasing: “They journeyed from… and the camped in.” Each movement worthy of the name journey begins with a starting point and concludes with an end point. We often say that it’s the journey itself that counts, and there is truth in this, but only partially. Going from nowhere to nowhere, however distant or close that may be, does not, a journey make. At least not in the eyes of Torah and certainly not for the purpose of soul searching. We’re not just posting digital photographs on our travel blog to share with our friends back home. Only when we can positively identify both our starting points and our end points can we understand and appreciate the spiritual progress we have made.
Today, after many, (seemingly endless), sojourns in exile, Israel, after 2000 years has returned to her land and to her capital Jerusalem. This monumental leap from exile to redemption was preceded by and followed by many incremental steps along the way, each as important and essential as the next. Today, especially today, in the midst of the three weeks of introspection and stocktaking which mark the anniversary of the destruction of both the first and second Holy Temple, we need to absorb the lesson of Israel’s forty-two desert journeys. Rather than passively await the trumpet blasts that will awaken us to our next great journey, that of rebuilding the Holy Temple and renewing the Divine service, we need to understand that to get from here to there we need to always be moving forward. Many small journeys, baby steps, if you will, are what will complete the journey. The wilderness separating servitude from freedom, exile from redemption wasn’t crossed in a single stride. To borrow a phrase from our ancient nemesis, the Holy Temple will not be built in a day. But today we must begin, so that tomorrow we can complete the journey.

Good News According To Laura

April 25, 2011

Great story here!

Powerful story about loneliness, kissing in church and accepting ourselves. I love the quote from Dostoevsky! “If Jesus was proven not to be true, he’d still believe”.  What could be better than mercy and grace? The references to atheism, Catholicism, Christianity, Camus, existentialism, agnosticism, Plato, Brothers Karamozov are all interesting.

Good News According To Jackson Crum and Francis Chan on Hell

April 6, 2011

For some reason I’ve attended a few churches with the initials PCC. This is the better one. Pastor Jackson Crum of Park Community Church on the Biblical reality of Hell.

Heaven & Hell :: Luke 16:19-29 from Park Community Church on Vimeo.

Another viewpoint on Hell


The Scriptures don’t give much detail; rather, some clear but ‘basic’ statements, e.g.:

Eccl 12:14 — כי את כל מעשה האלהים יבא במשפט על כל נעלם אם טוב ואם רע

Dan 12:2 — ורבים מישני אדמת עפר יקיצו אלה לחיי עולם ואלה להרפות לדראון עולם

Verses like these (and extrapolation from others) establish the principle that God will judge righteously, rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked (after death).

I listened to the two clips – one by Crum, one by Wright. They obviously take two different approaches – one more academic, looking at the development of Christian traditions about the terms; the other fully and emotionally immersed in one of those Christian traditions about heaven and hell. But both of them in different ways do point out that the traditional conception of “heaven and hell” may be confusing/inaccurate, because it doesn’t correspond exactly to what the Scriptures say, esp. given the multiple biblical terms such as Sheol, Gehenna, Gan Eden, etc.

The long clip – the sermon by Crum – had a lot of passionate extrapolation, completely traditional in the evangelical model; but I wonder if in the end much more was said (that could actually be verified biblically) than simply Dan. 12:2.

He didn’t seem to like the ‘nothingness’ argument; and perhaps with good reason. Although I wonder if the conversations he overheard were influenced not by ‘annihilationism’ but by CS Lewis’ book The Great Divorce. In this book and in The Last Battle, Lewis developed some analogies to try to reflect on what the afterlife might be like. He wasn’t claiming in either book to represent it literally. Rather, to imagine some aspects of it in ways that a human being (who naturally has almost no idea what it will be like) might be able relate to. I think both of these are valuable reflections; have you read them?

In Lewis’ analogies, one gets/has to think about how there can be a stark ‘yes or no’ judgment (‘heaven or hell’) and yet at the same time gradations in terms of ‘how good’ or ‘how bad’ people were in life & will be after death. Similarly for the question of a judgment based on your deeds – good or bad – vs what you claim to ‘believe’.

Incidentally, the Biblical Archaeology Review just ran an article on a closely related topic – I’m attaching it.

In the end, I think that one cannot improve on what my parents always told me when I asked about such topics. One has to trust that God is just. He is more just than we are. We could not judge everyone righteously; but He can. He will not judge in the way we would. But His judgment (whatever it is, and we are not told a lot about the details) will be true Justice.

So what do you think?

Francis Chan’s take on Hell

What conclusions have you come to after the research and the study you did for the book specifically on the topic of Hell?

That it’s very real. It is a place we need to avoid at all costs. It is a terrifying thought to fall into the hand of the Living God as Scripture tells us. But I was also surprised that these passages are really written to people who call themselves “believers.” Usually we only talk about Hell in this evangelistic, “I’m going to preach the Gospel” and “Hell, fire and brimstone” to these unbelievers, but these passages really were written to those who called themselves the Church. It’s a very sobering thought, and a very interesting warning.

Good News According To NT Wright – On Hell

March 1, 2011

Interesting take. What about church services that are sometimes so boring or irrelevant it feels like hell?


Good News According To A Person From Area Code 941, Southwest Florida, USA.

February 23, 2011

This testimony was sent in via the Jesus Talks iPhone application…

I have been saved since I was 4 years old. I love God with all my heart, and he has saved me from some pretty sticky situations. If i hadn’t been close to him, i might not even be alive right now :/ The lord is my strength and my life 🙂

Good News According To Tabitha in Tel Aviv

January 19, 2011
blog_714.jpgTel Aviv Municipality named seven new neighborhoods this week, one of which was after a New Testament figure, Tabitha, well known for her charitable works, and whom Peter raised from the dead. The neighborhood is situated adjacent to the Russian Orthodox church in the southern part of the city, next to Jaffa and very  near the Tel Aviv Botanical Garden. The  grave of Tabitha is also located in this area of the city.

The importance of Tabitha is mentioned in the New Testament in the story of Peter.

Peter was summoned from Lydda (modern-day Lod) to Jaffa, upon the death of Tabitha, known far and wide for her charitable works: “But Peter … kneeled down, and prayed: and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes; and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa [Jaffa]; and many believed in the Lord.”    Acts 9: 36-42,(40-42).

For the Christian visitor to Tel Aviv, what is arguably the most significant reference to Jaffa is the Vision of St. Peter (Acts 10: 1-48). Jaffa is an important Christian site that is generally included in Christian pilgrimage itineraries  because of its connection to St. Peter.

“And he [Simon Peter] became very hungry and would have eaten; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance. And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth. Wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth and wild beasts and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him. Rise Peter; kill and eat. And the voice spake unto him again the second time. What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” Acts 10:1-48, (10-15)
In selecting Tabitha, the city sought to emphasize the Christian connection to Israel’s largest city, and hopes to draw Christian tourists to spend more time in Tel Aviv.

“This is one of the two holiest places in Jaffa for Christians from all over the world,” committee member and geographer Gideon Biger said, the other holy place being the House of Simon the Tanner in Jaffa’s old city. “We thought it proper to give Tel Aviv a Christian-tourism component as well, to try to show that Tel Aviv is cosmopolitan and not just Jewish.”

Good News According To Christmas Tradition

December 22, 2010

Here’s a couple of interesting new takes on the Christmas story.

A Social Network Christmas
an artistic take on how the story of the nativity might have read had a social network existed at the time of Jesus’s…


The Christmas Story (2010 HD version) – as told by the children of St Paul’s Church.

Jesus is Jewish…

Jesus is NOT Palestinian

Jesus was a Palestinian-
“no one denies that”
says PA TV Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

One of the ways the Palestinian Authority attempts to create a Palestinian history is to deny the Judean/Jewish nationality of Jesus, and  misrepresent him as a “Palestinian.”

Palestinian Media Watch has documented this ongoing Palestinian Authority historical revision. Recently on PA TV, the author Samih Ghanadreh from Nazareth was interviewed about his book “Christianity and Its Connection to Islam.”


Weird Al on Ground Zero!