Biblical People, Places and Time-Part 4

Jerusalem was the headquarters for the Faith for the Jew and the non-Jew. In 30 AD, Yeshua resurrected from the dead. At the start there were the twelve talmidim that Yeshua personally trained, plus many more. There was not a concept at the time that the non-Jew were going to come into the Faith all at one time, or in large groups, nor was there a concept that they would without first becoming Jews. Their concept of the Great Commission was to go into the world to the Jew. The non-Jew would come into the Faith as a convert, then see that Yeshua was the Messiah. Some factions did not like that idea, however, like Pharisees from the school of Shammai for instance. In John 4.20-24 we learn that Yeshua validates that “salvation is of the Jews” and they had the truth about the Lord. That is not saying that everything they taught in the first century was truth, but that the truth was there. The framework for the Faith in the first century was completely Jewish. Yeshua sends out the Shaliachim (apostles) into the world to make talmidim (disciples-Matt 28.19-20). In Mark 16.15 he tells them to “preach the gospel” which is the word “basar” in Hebrew and used many times in the Tanach (Isa 40.9-10; 49.4; 52.7-10; 62.10-11). When you read these verses, you will have a good idea of what the people heard when he said “basar.” In Luke 3.3-6 Yochanon ha Matvil (John the Baptist) comes quoting these verses. In Matt 3.1-2 he comes preaching “the Kingdom of Heaven” or the “Malkut ha Shamayim.” The Malkut ha Shamayim is also called the “Kingdom of God” and the message of the Kingdom is the Basar. This is the message they are commissioned to tell. Yeshua is the agent sent by the Father, and you enter the Kingdom by emunah (faith, confidence, action). What exactly are the concepts associated with the Basar? When Yeshua said “preach the gospel” (basar) this is what they heard. They were to preach the golden age of Israel; David’s throne will be restored; Messiah has come and the Lord reigns through him; peace has come; man and nature restored; the resurrection has occurred; righteousness in the earth; the Day of the Lord has come; the Torah goes forth; idolatry gone; exiles have come back; true worship restored and the Gentiles believe. The Messiah is not the Basar, but he is the agent of the basar, sent by the Father. Remember, the gospel (basar) was preached to Abraham, before anyone even knew who Yeshua was. The “promise of the Father” is the Kingdom in power (Luke 24.44-49; Acts 1.4-8). The redeemer is the “goel” who will come out of Zion. In their ears, who was the Kingdom of Heaven for? It was for Israel. So, their assumption was you had to be a Jew in order to enter into (or for it to enter you) the Kingdom. Jewish communities were scattered all over the known world and non-Jews were coming out of paganism. They went by several names. The “Yiray ha Shamayim” were the “fearers of heaven” in Hebrew. They were called “phoubemenoi” in Greek and “sebemenoi” which means “a worshipper or devout one.” Many times these English terms are used, and you would not know these were non-Jews who embraced the Torah. In Acts 10, we learn that a Roman centurion by the name of Cornelius was “devout” and “feared God” which is “phoubemenoi” in Greek, a “yiray ha shamayim” in Hebrew, a God-fearer. This was a specific synagogue designation for a non-Jew who was following Torah and in the process of becoming a Jew. He believed Peter, and received the Holy Spirit in power before he was circumcised, which meant the non-Jews did not need to become Jews to be saved. Some God-fearers believed in Yeshua and some did not, but they all kept the Sabbath, the festivals and ate kosher. They obeyed anything in the Torah that applied to them, and they were a part of the Community of Israel. Remember, the “new covenant” was only given to Israel, and for a non-Jew to be a partaker of this covenant, they had to be grafted into the “olive tree” of Israel, and that applies today also. Of the God-fearers, there were two basic groups. The first group was called the “Ger T’shav” and they were the “stranger in the land.” They lived in the land of Israel and were subject to the Torah as it applied to one a non-Jew living in the land. Cornelius would have been a “Ger “T’shav.” The second group was called the “Ger ha Sha’ar” and this means “the stranger at the gate.” These were God-fearers who lived outside the land of Israel. Here is the problem. A non-believing Pharisaic Jew would not have seen the God-fearers as having the same “status” as a Jew, but a Pharisaic Jew who believed in Yeshua would have, especially after what happened to Cornelius in Acts 10. The Pharisee who believed in Yeshua (like Paul) will believe that the God-fearer has equal status and can share in the government of the synagogue. A God-fearer in a non-believing situation could not. So, somewhere between 47 and 50 AD Cornelius becomes a believer. This caused major “ripples” in the Jewish community about the Netzorim (Nazarenes). In Acts 16.11-14 we read about Lydia who was a “worshipper” or a “sebemenoi” which is a God-fearer. She was a non-Jew who followed the Torah as it applied. She was joined to the synagogue there in Thyatira. While going to the “place of prayer” or the synagogue there, Paul casts out a spirit of divination from a young woman. This causes a stir, and they are accused of preaching “customs which is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans ” (Acts 16.16-21). The point is, they saw the Torah as not applying to them, but in reality were supposed to follow the Torah , too, but did not believe. This is exactly what people say today. They say “We don’t need to follow that Torah stuff because we are Christians!” One of the points we are going for is that the Faith was totally Jewish at this time. That truth will never be brought out in churches today. They all think Paul and the apostles were “Christians” like them and twist their writings around to make it sound that way, but this is a critical error, to their own destruction. The Gospels and the Epistles were written with Jewish concepts, and the people functioned within that framework. In Acts 17.4, we see the “worshipping Greeks” and these were the sebemenoi again, Greeks following the Torah. In Acts 17.12 we see the word “Greek” which is “phoubemenoi” in Greek. These were non-Jews who followed the Torah within a Jewish framework. From Acts 14.19 to 14.28 we see some of the regions where Paul reached the non-Jews. In Acts 15.1 we read about a major conflict, not only within the Messianic faith, but in all the “Judaisms” of the first century. Some believed that a non-Jew had to become a Jew through circumcision in order to be saved. People who thought that way were from the school of Shammai, so by context, we know where these people in verse 1 were coming from. They go to a “beit din” (a court) in Jerusalem, and this was consistent with Deut 17.8 and Matt 18.15-20. There, they were confronted by others who have been shown by the Lord that non-Jews do not need to be circumcised (to be a Jew) to be saved. They enter into what is called a “pilpul” or a “heated argument” in verses 5-12. We learn that God has made no distinction between the Jews and non-Jews because he has cleansed (purified) their hearts without having to become a Jew through circumcision. Verse 10 is often misinterpreted by those without understanding. Peter uses the term “yoke” which is often interpreted as the Torah, but that is in error. The “yoke” here is man-made legalism, the works righteousness that Acts 15 is talking about. The school of Shammai passed 18 Edicts that were imposed on the Jews in the first century. One of those edicts said that a non-Jew had to be circumcised to be saved. This was a man-made yoke that Peter is saying that the non-Jews do not have to follow, especially after what he has seen with Cornelius, and what Paul states he has seen among the Gentiles as they believed in verse 12. Now, here is another misconception. The Torah was never seen as something bad (read all of Psalm 119) or a “yoke of slavery.” The Torah does say that if you don’t follow the Torah, all of it, you are “cursed” in Deut 27.15-26, and that sooner or later one of those laws was going to get you. But, here is the truth of the matter. The Torah was never given for salvation, but the school of Shammai said a Gentile could not have salvation unless he became a Jew. Did the believers, the ones who wrote the Gospels and Epistles, follow the Torah? Yes. What they are establishing in Acts 15 is salvation by faith for the non-Jews, like for themselves. Then they will discuss what they are to do, or the “halachah” on “how to walk.” In Acts 21.21 we read that they are to go to the synagogues and learn Moses (the Torah). This basic message is then sent to all the congregations. This chapter was written after the book of Galatians. The reason why all of this was a problem was because the status of the non-Jewish believer in the congregations of beleivers in Messiah was different than the those non-Jews in the unbelieving Jewish synagogues. However, all of this was within the framework of Jewish orthodoxy in the first century. In Part 5, we will pick up at this point and discuss the “promise of the father” and get into more concepts and back-round that will be essential for you if you are going to understand the chronology, genealogy, geography and personalties of the Scriptures.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

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