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Friday, June 14, 2013

Loving the Neighbour


The Parable of the Good Samaritan is not a lesson on how to love the neighbour.

εἰ μέντοι νόμον τελεῖτε βασιλικὸν κατὰ τὴν γραφήν Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν καλῶς ποιεῖτε 9εἰ δὲ προσωποληπτεῖτε, ἁμαρτίαν ἐργάζεσθε ἐλεγχόμενοι ὑπὸ τοῦ νόμου ὡς παραβάται
James 2:8-9



Four posts ago, I embedded a video of David Pawson speaking about how John 3:16 is the most misunderstood and misapplied verse in the Bible. At the end of that post, after pointing out what I agreed with in the video, I mentioned that most of the things he said afterwards about God’s love were “unscriptural”. I was thinking specifically about his definition of agapē [ἀγάπη] “love” (the noun form of agapaō [ἀγαπάω] “to love”), and his mischaracterisation of the lesson being taught in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Here’s another look at the video. Note what he says from the 4:37 mark—the point where he starts to go wrong—to about 5:44:



As this video was simply a commercial for his book, some might say that Pawson was just oversimplifying for the sake of time, that he didn’t actually mean it when he defined agapē as “the love of action, of doing something about someone that needs help”. But, if that’s true, how would they explain his bolstering this facile definition by saying it was “why Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan”?

Pawson sums up his definition with:
“Who loved the man who had fallen among thieves and been mugged?”

The answer is, not the one who sympathised with him or felt sorry for him, but the one who picked him up and took him home to look after him. That’s love. That’s agapē love.
No, we have to accept it, he said what he meant, and meant what he said; that agapē means “doing something to help someone in need” and that that is the point of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Let’s begin our examination by looking at where Pawson goes wrong with regards to the Parable of the Good Samaritan. And to be kind, we will take his misquotations as general citations—after all, the poor man has had a stroke, which is bound to affect his memory….

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is only found in Chapter 10 of Luke’s Gospel. The scene begins in verse 25, when a supposed expert of the Mosaic Law seeks to test1 Yeshua by asking Him what he should do to inherit eternal life. Notice that the basis of the question is what action is to be taken, what does he need to do. From the KJV:
25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
So, Yeshua has just made the man answer his own question. To inherit eternal life, one must love (agapaō) God and the neighbour: that is what is to be done. But then the man asks another question, the answer to which he believes will show how righteous he is—"he asked," the Greek text tells us, "wanting to show his own righteousness"—because he thinks he already knows the answer.
29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

30 And Jesus answering said…
It is in answer to this second question that Yeshua tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Therefore, it is an explanation of who a neighbour is, of how to recognise the neighbour you are to “love”; it is not an illustration of how to “love” the neighbour! That this is obviously the case, is seen in verse 36 where, again getting the lawyer to answer his own question, Yeshua asks:
36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
The lawyer, no doubt shocked at the idea that a neighbour could be a Gentile2, had to concede that, appearances to the contrary, the neighbour was the Samaritan, the one who “showed mercy” (not agapē, Mr Pawson) on the injured man:
37And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
Now, I realise that nearly everyone believes, like David Pawson, that that last commandment of the Lord’s, to go and do likewise, means “to go and be the neighbour and help everyone you see who is in trouble”. But that makes no sense at all given the two questions asked by the lawyer: “What to do to inherit eternal life?” and “Who is my neighbour?”.

In context, asking “who was the neighbour to the man?” was the same as asking "who would be the object of the injured man’s 'love'”? So what Yeshua was commanding the lawyer to do was to go and do the same as the injured man and “love” the merciful neighbour even though he was a non-Jew.

The point being that those who “love” God are also to “love” those who exhibit internal godly qualities, who behave like neighbours to us, even though they don’t look like us. It is a question of judging righteously, by judging the fruit a person produces, rather than judging unrighteously, by judging the appearance.

This is made even clearer when we look at the Greek epigraph at the top of this post. It’s from the Book of Jacob.3 Here are the verses from the KJV with the same words in yellow:
2:8If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
Notice that the “royal law” (meaning it comes from the King), “loving” your neighbour, is contrasted with “having respect to persons”. This means that the opposite of “loving” the neighbour is having respect to persons. If you look at the Greek text above, you’ll see that the phrase “having respect to persons” is a translation of just one word, prosōpolēmpteō [προσωπολημπτέω]. This is a compound word made up of the Greek word for “face” and the word for “receive” or “take”; it literally means “to receive the face of”, or, in other words, “to judge by the appearance”.

So, we now know that the Parable of the Good Samaritan is not a manual on how to “love”, but a way to judge who to “love”. But what about agapē? How do we agapaō?

Well, the best definition we have of agapē, the most relevant to Christians, is the one the Apostle John gives us in 2 John 1:6:
And this is love, that we walk after his commandments.
The Greek preposition translated “after” here can also mean “according to”, so the sense is of walking as per His commandments.Therefore agapē is a love of obedience to the Lord.

That’s how we “love” God; we follow His instructions, we do everything He says in order to keep on the narrow Way to eternal life. He “loves” us by giving us His commandments—He never tells those He hates, like the Pharisees, to follow Him—we love Him by doing them.

Therefore, once we identify a neighbour, we “love” him by sharing God’s commandments with him and showing him how to follow them. This is the very same thing we do for one another; which is the point. We treat a neighbour just like a member of the family.















Footnotes:


1. The word translated “tempted” in the KJV is ekpeirazō [ἐκπειράζω], meaning to prove or test thoroughly. Throughout the Gospels the religious leaders sought to test the Messianic claims about Joshua of Nazareth.

2. For a fuller explanation of what constitutes a Biblical neighbour, see the post Who Is My Neighbour.

3. As Jesus is to Joshua, so too is James to Jacob, Hebrew יעקב (Ya’aqov). See Wikipedia James (name): The name came into English language from the Old French variation James[1] of the late Latin name Iacomus. This was a dialect variant of Iacobus, from the New Testament Greek Ἰάκωβος (Iákōbos), from Hebrew יעקב (Ya’aqov)



Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Chosen of God


Are the Chosen of God the Jews only?



καὶ εἰ μὴ κύριος ἐκολόβωσεν τὰς ἡμέρας οὐκ ἂν ἐσώθη πᾶσα σάρξ ἀλλὰ διὰ τοὺς ἐκλεκτοὺς οὓς ἐξελέξατο ἐκολόβωσεν τὰς ἡμέρας
Mark 13:20



The words in yellow in the Greek text above are elect and to chose respectively. Here’s the verse in English:
And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.
The word translated elect here is the plural form of the adjective eklektos [ἐκλεκτός],1 which comes from the verb eklegomai [ἐκλέγομαι]; which just happens to be the word translated chosen in the same verse. The verb eklegomai means “to choose or prefer something or someone out of a group of similar things”; the noun eklektos means “the thing chosen or preferred”.

From this, we can conclude that, in the NT:
1. Wherever the nouns or adjectives elect and chosen are translations of some form of the Greek word eklektos, they are referring to the same thing(s).
2. Wherever the verbs to elect and to choose are translations of forms of eklegomai, they are referring to the same activity.
Now let’s look at I Peter 2:9-10:
9But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10Which in time past [were] not a people, but [are] now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
In verse 9, Peter is referencing Deuteronomy 7:6 and 14:2, the verses wherein the Jews are called “God’s Chosen”:
For thou [art] an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that [are] upon the earth.
However, in verse 10, Peter is referencing Hosea 2:23:
And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to [them which were] not my people, Thou [art] my people; and they shall say, [Thou art] my God.
The “people who were not God’s people” in Hosea are the children of God who were cut off because of the harlotry—the worship of other gods—of their parents (represented by Hosea’s children by the harlot Gomer). Their obtaining mercy is their being brought back into the family of God. That Peter says the believers he is writing to are these people prophesied about in Hosea means that it is faith in Joshua the Messiah that marks the people God has chosen to receive His mercy.

Or, in other words, the Chosen of God are Christians.

Now, in Romans 9, the Apostle Paul speaks about the two types of people in the world: The Vessels of Wrath and the Vessels of Mercy. In verse 9:23-24, he tells us who the Vessels of Mercy are:
23And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles
He then cites the same prophesy in Hosea as Peter:
25As he saith also in Osee2, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 26And it shall come to pass, [that] in the place where it was said unto them, Ye [are] not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
So, the ones who are brought back to God after being cut off, the people who are not a people, the Vessels of Mercy, the Elect, the Chosen of God, are both Jewish and Gentile Christians!












Footnotes:


1. From which English gets the adjective “eclectic”, meaning something composed of elements chosen out of a wide range of sources.

2. Hosea: “Osee” is the transliteration of the Greek Ὡσηέ (Hōsēe), itself a transliteration of the Hebrew הוֹשֵׁעַ (Howshea`), meaning “salvation”.




Monday, June 3, 2013

A Christian is a Disciple; A Disciple is a Learner


English-only Bible study is an oxymoron: If it’s English-only, it’s not the Bible.



μάτην δὲ σέβονταί με διδάσκοντες διδασκαλίας ἐντάλματα ἀνθρώπων
Matthew 15:09



It is a fact that, because of the nature of language, a word-for-word translation can never perfectly capture the full meaning of any text; it will always be incomplete. This degree of incompletion is directly proportional to the degree of difference between the languages being translated. In other words, the more unalike the languages are, the more unalike a word-for-word translation from one to the other is bound to be.

The original biblical languages are very different to each other and, in there own ways, very, very different to English; which is why, when it comes to understanding the Bible and the Doctrines of Christ, there is a huge disadvantage in relying solely on an incomplete word-for-word translation.


Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I am not saying you have to learn Hebrew and Greek to be a believer. What I am saying is that you have to recognize that an English word-for-word translation of Scripture—even the King James Bible—is not the Word of God; it is at best a reasonable approximation, and it must never be used as the final basis for our doctrine. The doctrines of Christ were recorded in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, the last of which was written at least 1,200 years before the English language even existed.

Now, the word doctrine, either didaskalia [διδασκαλία] or didachē [διδαχή] in Greek, simply means “teaching” or “that which is taught”. So the Doctrines of Christ are the Teachings of Christ. He is our Teacher, our didaskalos [διδάσκαλος]. As a matter of fact, nearly every time Joshua the Messiah is called “Master” in the KJV, it is a translation of the word didaskalos—being used then, not in the sense of “slave master”, but in the sense of “school master”; the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “rabbi”.1

These teachings are the very things we Christians are to learn. They are the sum total of what the Bible is: God’s commandments; His instructions; His Word. And, make no mistake, we are to learn them; if we call ourselves Christians, that is.


You might not have known this, but the Bible tells us that a Christian is a learner of Christ’s doctrine. How so? Well, in Acts 11:26, we read:
And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
This tells us that a Christian is the same thing as a disciple. Now, what is a disciple?

Well, the word translated disciple is mathētēs [μαθητής] the Greek word for learner or pupil. It is the equivalent of the OT Hebrew word limmuwd [לִמּוּד], the word translated disciples in Isaiah 8:16; shown here highlighted in yellow:

Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.

Mathētēs comes from the Greek verb manthanō [μανθάνω], meaning to learn. It is what we who labour and are heavy laden are told to do in Matthew 11:29:
ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφ᾽ ὑμᾶς καὶ μάθετε ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me
Therefore a Christian is a disciple, which is a learner, and is to learn doctrine, teachings, from2 Christ, the teacher.

And, again, none of His teachings were taught, or written down, in English.









Footnotes:


1. Matthew also tells us that “rabbi” carries the sense of “leader or guide” in verses 23:8 & 23:10 of his Gospel, when he uses the Greek word kathēgētēs [καθηγητής], meaning “the one who goes ahead of others”.

2. In Greek, the word of in Matt 11:29 is followed by the pronoun me in the genitive case, meaning a more accurate rendering in modern English would be "from me", rather than "of me".





Saturday, June 1, 2013

Messiah Joshua of Nazareth


Time to get real about the English name J-E-S-U-S.



συλλήψῃ ἐν γαστρὶ καὶ τέξῃ υἱόν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν
Luke 1:31



Simply put, the name “Jesus” is an artificial construction developed from a Greek-to-Latin-to-English transliteration1 of the Hebrew name we write as “Joshua” (Yĕhowshuwa` [יְהוֹשׁוּעַ]). There is no such name as “Jesus” in any language of the Old or New Testament. “Yeshua”, what Messianic Jews commonly call Jesus, is a transliteration of the later, shortened form of Joshua (Yeshuwa` [יֵשׁוּעַ]), but the actual English pronunciation of His name is “Joshua”.

Here’s how Wikipedia puts it:
"Jesus" is the English of the Greek transliteration of "Yehoshua" via Latin. In the Septuagint , all instances of the word "Yehoshua" are rendered as "Ἰησοῦς" (Iēsoūs), the closest Greek pronunciation of the Aramaic "Yeshua" (Hebrew word #3443 in Strong's, Nehemiah 8:17).[9][10] Thus in Greek Joshua is called "Jesus son of Naue" (τοῦ Ναυή) to differentiate him from Jesus Christ. This is also true in the Slavic languages following the Eastern Orthodox tradition (e.g. "Иисус Навин" (Iisús Navín) in Russian).
Now let’s take a look at how this name is treated in our English Bibles:

The epigraph from the Gospel of Luke above is written in Koine Greek, the language in which most of the books of the New Testament were originally penned.2 The word in red is a conjugated form of Iēsous [Ἰησοῦς], the name translated “Jesus”. In the New King James Version of the Bible, this reads:
you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.3
Now let's go to the first part of the Greek version of Acts 7:45:
ἣν καὶ εἰσήγαγον διαδεξάμενοι οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν μετὰ Ἰησοῦ ἐν τῇ κατασχέσει τῶν ἐθνῶν
Again, the word in red is a conjugated form of Iēsous, but this time, the NKJV translates it as “Joshua”—which isn’t a mistake, since it is clear from the context of the verse that Joshua, the son of Nun and successor of Moses, is meant. The NIV, the ESV and the RSV all translate the name Iēsous in this verse as “Joshua” and in Luke 1:31 as “Jesus”. Even the Spanish RVR gives us Josué (Joshua) in Acts 7:45, but JESÚS (in all-caps!) in Luke 1:31.

Tellingly, the KJV gives us “Jesus” for both—with all-caps only in Luke—which, although it is at least consistent, does still continue the practice of favouring the more artificial Latinate name over the correct English one.

The reason this use of two different names is a problem for us is because it not only perpetuates the early de-Judaizing of the Church by Constantine by turning the Messiah into a Gentile; it also breaks the correspondence between the two Joshuas: The faithful Joshua of Exodus leading God’s people into the Promised Land, rather than Moses (who represents the Law), is a shadow (Col 2:17, Heb 8:5; 10:1), a living picture, of Joshua the Christ leading believers into the spiritual Kingdom through His righteousness, not their ritual.

To our hurt, this vital doctrinal relationship between the OT and the NT has been entirely obscured by our not calling the Saviour by the same name as the successor of Moses: Joshua. It’s time we gave up our superstitious adoration of a false name—and all the apostasy that was brought in with it—and ejected this ancient error…in the name of Messiah Joshua of Nazareth.











Footnotes:


1. To transliterate a word means to take it from one language and represent the form and/or sound of it, not the meaning, in the corresponding characters of another alphabet or language (E.g. the Hebrew שַׁבָּת is transliterated into Greek as σάββατον and into English as “Shabbat”).

2. There is evidence, compelling in my opinion, but still controversial amongst scholars, that Matthew originally wrote his gospel in Hebrew. See also, Nehemia Gordon’s The Hebrew Yeshua vs. The Greek Jesus.

3. The NKJV's use of all-caps here preserves the KJV translators’ English rendering of the Nomina Sacra found in many Greek manuscripts.



John 3.16 Revisited Again


The most well-known and popular verse in the NT is also the most misunderstood and misapplied.



Οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ᾽ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον
John 3:16



I have learned that the mushy Gospel of our Gentle-Jesus-Meek-&-Mild-church is a thick and insidious bog, a morass of lies, that feels like a warm, comfortable bath to everyone immersed in it. I've learned too that the way to pull someone out of it is to get them to see that they are actually floating around dreamily in a swamp. To this end, I’ve spoken to every professed believer I run into, and written at length, on the mistaken notions modern Christianity holds about the Gospel1 and, especially, the love of God. As expected, I have met with mixed results.


The largest obstacle preventing the believer from seeing the swamp they’re in is their mistaken belief that John 3:16 means God unconditionally loves every single human being that has or will ever exist. As long as they cling to that rotting log of false doctrine, they’ll never get back on to solid ground again.

Of course, many will continue clinging to that log as long as the pastors and teachers of the denominations continue to fling it out to them—while continuing to overfill the swamp—which is why it was good to come across this video of a one-time log-flinger finally seeing the light:



Good on you, Colonel Sanders!

Now, don’t get me wrong; in no way does my sharing this video mean that am I agreeing with everything Mr. Pawson is saying in it. I agree with his statements regarding the misunderstanding and misapplication of John 3:16 at the beginning, and I especially agree with what he says about the word “so”, but most of what he says afterwards about God's love is, quite frankly, just as unscriptural as the misunderstandings surrounding John 3:16 that he's decrying.

All that being said, though, it’s still a happy surprise to hear a highly esteemed Bible teacher like David Pawson going to such lengths to wake people up to the corrupted doctrine nearly every Christian has been taught about the most beloved verse in the Bible.


Hmmm. Thinking about it now, maybe I should fisk this video in a future blog. Might be a nice teaching exercise….









Footnotes:


1. Forget all the extraneous garbage the denominations have added to it; the true Gospel of Christ, the victorious report of Messiah's victory over death, is simple: I Cor 15:1-4. Messiah died for our sins, was buried, and rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures (the TaNaKh).