Thursday, January 31, 2008

Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus by David Bivin

I just finished reading 'Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus: New Insights from a Hebraic Perspective' by David Bivin. It's one of the many books that Rob Bell recommends reading. Basically what the book talks about is that Matthew, Mark and Luke (the synoptic gospels) were actually originally written in Hebrew, not Greek or Aramaic. The author gives lots of substantial evidence in why he believes this is true.

Some of the evidence he talks about are the Hebraic idioms throughout Matthew, Mark and Luke. He sites specific biblical scholars in Israel that have concluded that the spoken and written language during the time of Jesus was Hebrew. He also talks about how the majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls are written in Hebrew and they have been dated back to the time of Jesus. There is a nine to one ratio with the amount of Hebrew v. Aramaic in the Scrolls. Another item he talks about is the coins that were used in Israel while Jesus was alive. The curator of the Numismatic Dept. of Israel Musem has a catalogue of 215 Jewish coins from the 4th century B.C. through 125 A.D. and 99 of them have Hebrew inscriptions and only 1 has Aramaic inscriptions. The rest of the coins were minted in Greek, but all of those coins were minted by Herod and his descendants while Israel was under control of Rome. When Israel was independent of Rome they minted Hebrew inscribed coins. He also states that the Midrash (rabbinic commentary on the scriptures), even midrash written hundreds of years after Jesus is almost entirely written in Hebrew. The author goes on and on with other evidence as well.

His main point though is that when the original Hebrew translation was translated to Greek and then eventually to English we lose a lot of the meanings in Jesus' words because our translations are bad. So we actually get part of our theology wrong and we end up living a life that God hasn't actually called us to. (at least in some aspects of our lives) One example he talks about and possibly the most important deals with the word 'kingdom'. Luke 10:9 and 11 has the phrase 'the kingdom of God has come near.'. The Greek translation used the work 'engiken' which is translated in English to 'has come near'. The problem is that 'engiken' means 'about to appear' or 'is almost here'. However if you translate it back into Hebrew you would use the hebrew verb 'karav', which means 'to come up to and be with' or 'to be where something or someone else is'. In other words the Greek is saying that the kingdom of God 'is not here yet', where the Hebrew means 'It's here! It's arrived!'. The concept of 'the kingdom of God' is not futuristic like the English or Greek version implies, but that the Hebrew and correct concept is that the 'kingdom of God' is here now!! It is present tense!

Also when you look at the word 'kingdom' the Greek or English translation has something to do with being static or being a territory. On the other hand the Hebrew meaning of 'kingdom' is something that is active and alive. It is used as a verb. It's understood that wherever the power of God is demonstrated the 'kingdom' is there, right that second.

Jesus also used the word 'kingdom' to refer to his disciples, the members of his movement. He literally calls his followers to be the Kingdom of God by demonstrating his power and presence in their lives. In other words when people see our lives they should be seeing God in action, changing the world, restoring, healing, fixing and fighting injustice.

The author says it's unfortunate that the church has confused the Kingdom of Heaven with Jesus' teachings of his Second Coming. I've heard a ton of salvation messages that state things like, 'If you walked out of here tonight and died, where would you go?' This type of belief in the kingdom of God and Heaven leads us to live a life of waiting here on earth. We are 'waiting' for heaven and we end up not doing anything worthwhile on this earth. What Jesus is really saying is that we are called to be the Kingdom of God right now on earth. It appears that Jesus talked mostly about how we live our lives right here on earth instead of waiting for something that hasn't arrived yet. In the Lord's prayer when Jesus says, 'Your Kingdom come' it means, 'may your power and presence reside in more and more people here on earth'. Jesus wants heaven to come to earth!!! That's our focus as Christians to bring heaven to earth. We aren't Christians so that when we leave this horrible world we will be in the perfect place in the sky. Our salvation is not 'fire insurance'. People should be encouraged to follow Jesus because it is possible to experience heaven on earth right now, instead of getting a ticket to some other place.

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