You may ask what’s the point of delving into Biblical Hebrew, why do we need to delve so deeply into Scripture that we find ourselves analysing not just words, but letters within the words? I believe it’s because, once we know we can do it, we should give it a go. God has planted layers of meanings in His Word to draw us deeper into Him by faith. Of course it’s not necessary for your salvation and not all are called to it, but why turn down a blessing?
It really is a deep shame that the Church has ignored its Hebraic roots for so long, because not only has it veered into error by consequence, it has cut off the root of its own blessing. We have lost our natural Hebraic minds and it’s not something that can just be switched back in, but if God has planted the seed in you to try, then that is what you should do.
I had often wondered what Paul really meant by these words in Romans:
Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11:11-15)
What did he mean by riches for the world and life from the dead? Could he have been looking ahead to a time when orthodox Jews, perhaps rabbis, with such deep knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures in their raw form, finally have the veil removed from their eyes and meet Jesus, their Messiah? Think what they could offer the wider Church in terms of their Hebraic understanding? Some already have, such as Alfred Edersheim and Arnold Fruchtenbaum, but they are surely just the first fruits. But, until then, how do we move forwards?
How can we start to view Scriptures Hebraically? It’s not going to happen overnight but a good start is to start reading up on the subject, though there are currently precious few accessible books on the subject. What we can do, though, is to develop an understanding of how not to understand the Bible. This was dealt with more fully in my previous book, How the Church Lost the Truth, but here are a few pointers.
- In the first instance take the plain simple meaning of the Scripture you are reading, the p’shat.
- Put yourself in the role of someone who would have heard the words in the original setting and how they would have understood the words in context.
- When you hear or read of an interpretation of a passage that doesn’t ring true, or seems to re-inforce aspects of materialism, greed, individualism or popular psychology then you have probably encountered eisegesis, trying to find Bible verses (usually out of context) that seem to back up your ideas, rather than using the Bible as the initiator of the ideas.
Armed with this, let’s have a new look at a famous passage:
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24).
Yes, very familiar, the beginning of the Lord’s Supper liturgy in many churches. Yet, in context, it is a response to a certain situation. Let’s read the preceding three verses:
When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! (1 Corinthians 11:20-22).
Paul is having a strop, but it’s not that I want to focus on, but the occasion itself. What’s all this about eating and drinking? It’s the context of the Lord’s Supper in the early Church. It was not a dry ritual carried out on your behalf by a registered member of the clergy; it was something everybody did together, as part of a meal. Yet, thanks to the Greek Church Fathers, it had become a dry ritual, stripped from its rich context, which is why we only hear the later verses and not the build up verses, otherwise we’d all be making an almighty mess in the pews!
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How can we start to view Scriptures Hebraically?