How to Understand the New Testament-Part 17

How should we look at the New Testament? We look at them from corrupted sources but we need to show accurate pictures of what was happening. We try to avoid Christian books for the most part because they are not coming from a Jewish backround. The events happened in Israel and the language was Hebrew. Most books come from corrupted, western European, Greek sources that impact the message because of a lack of understanding of the first century Jewish world. Stay away from “Theology” because you need a firm foundation first before you can draw any conclusions. Build a good library to address the who, what, where, when and why’s. Who was Yeshua or Paul talking to when they are commenting on something. Sources like Josephus, books on first century “Judaism’s” and the various sects would be good to know. Know the festivals, the Temple, the geography and the idioms, phrases and concepts known in the first century. You have to establish a base in order to understand what Yeshua and the believers are saying and doing. We know this to be a fact that most people are taught from a damaged Christian theology that needs to be restored to a first century understanding. We need to understand that the original “autographs” of the Scriptures were inspired, but translation problems have been rampant, and that leads to perception problems. So, study each verse word for word and realize you are reading a Jewish book, with Jewish concepts and names. We need to do our homework before we study any book. We need to know the cast of characters, the setting, what is going on, and not from our own understanding, but how they (the people involved) understood it. So, with that said, we are going to look at the book of John for some concepts that we can build on. We could have used other books, but John has some unique things to say, using Hebraic concepts that will illustrate some things. For example, when you study the book of John, there is a concept known as the “eved Adonai” or the “servant of the Lord.” John the Baptist was an eschatological character who was the “voice” (Isa 40.3-5); “the Messenger” (Mal 3.1); and the “Poretz” (the “breachmaker” based on Gen 38.27-30; Micah 2.12-12 and Isa 62.10). The people who heard him would have had all these verses and concepts in mind when listening to his teachings. Even today, the “voice of the Herald” is a concept found in the Sukkot Siddur (prayer book). What does the “voice” say? Some passages will apply to Israel as the “eved” servant. Some will apply to Messiah as servant, and others will apply to both. When John said that he was a voice crying, “In the wilderness, clear the way for the Lord” they had other verses in mind as well because they were trained in it. The “servant” passages can be found in Isaiah, chapters 40 through 55. Once you read these chapters, you will have a deeper understanding of who John the Baptist was and what his mission was. Isaiah has said the Messiah will gather the people, suffer and die, heal the sick, judge the nations, be hidden to some and many more concepts. This is what the “voice” will proclaim. We have said before, the door to understanding the New Testament will be opened when you know the festivals, the language, phrases and idioms and the Temple and it’s services. But to understand the Temple in the New Testament, you need to know about the Mishkan in the wilderness, and then the Mishkan that had walls once they crossed the Jordan, the first Temple, the second Temple that was constantly developing from the time of Zerubbabel, to the Hasmoneans to the Herodian. Then there is the Tribulation Temple that is coming soon, and finally Ezekiel’s Temple that the Messiah will dedicate. Also from the book of John, we have the concept of being “born again” and that is not a new concept that Yeshua is introducing. In John 3.1-21, Nicodemus believed that a Gentile proselyte needed a new birth, but that the Jews needed one shocked and confused him. All breathing creatures were called a “nefesh.” The “ruach” distinguishes man from the animals. But, the “neshamah” is the “soul of hearing.” See the root for the word “Shema” (to hear/obey) in that word? The neshamah seeks the Lord, and this was a well known Hebraic concept that Nicodemus knew well. There was a concept that when a person went to a mikvah for a tevilah (immersion) in living water, they were getting in touch again with the waters of Eden that once flowed out of there. The mikvah was seen as a “womb” where a person came out “born again.” The mikvah connects the person to Eden. Yeshua’s immersion was a recreation of Genesis 1, but he is bringing a “new creation” and Nicodemus did not tie these concepts in with Yeshua just yet. But, this concept was not new in the Scriptures. Idioms for this experience was understood as having a “circumcised heart” and “to live” (Deut 30.6). Immersion and the Lord’s Supper, or meal consecrated to God, were not new or “instituted” by Yeshua either, they were already there. He uses these institutions and adds aspects to what was already understood. What Nicodemus is saying to Yeshua is that the people thought they were righteous because they were descendants of Abraham, based on Ezek 33.23-29. What Yeshua is saying is that each individual must come and be “born again” and not just be “born from a woman.” Then in John 3.14-21 we come to the concept of the Nachash (serpent) and the Saraph (burning one-Isa 6 and the “seraphim”). In Num 21.6-9 we have the Brazen Serpent. The Lord told Moses to make a “fiery” (seraph) serpent and set it on a pole. Anyone bitten by serpents will live if they just look to it. So Moses makes a bronze (nachoshet) serpent (nachash) and whoever looked at it lived when bitten. Now, notice he has just told Nicodemus about being born again and now brings in the passage that is a clear type of the crucifixion from the Torah. We find out in 2 Kings 18.4 that the “nachoshet” was turned into an idol (which is what has happened to the crucifix, which is a picture of the Abomination of Desolation). This “standard” (Num 21.8) is a “nes” which is a term for the Messiah (Isa 11.10; 13.2; 18.3). The people are bitten by serpents (sin) and they look on the nachash on the pole and are healed. What Yeshua is telling Nicodemus is “Look upon me when I am crucified.” Now, when the people looked at the serpent (nachash) on a pole, they saw something cursed (the serpent-Gen 3). But, God saw a “seraph”, a type of angel, a burning one, the messenger, the sent one. At the crucifixion, it was the same way. When they looked at the cross, the people saw one that was cursed, for cursed is everyone who is hanging on a tree (Deut 21.22-23). But, God saw a seraph, a burning one sent by God, his messenger. What all this comes down to is how you direct your heart. If you didn’t even bother to look at the serpent on a pole, you died from snake bite. But, if you looked in faith because you needed deliverance from death from a snake bite, you lived. It is the same way with the cross. If you look at the cross and see a cursed Jewish man and nothing more, you will die in your sins. But, if you look and see your deliverance in the one on the cross, you live. That is why he is giving Nicodemus this picture, or shadow (Col 2.17). There is also the concept of the bridegroom in John 3.22-36. John is speaking in first century terms that the people understood. For us, we need to have the same understanding of these things to get what was being communicated. In a Jewish wedding, the groom was assigned a witness, and the bride was assigned a witness. The groom is the Messiah and the Bride are the believers. These witnesses eschatologically are referred to as Moses and Elijah. Moses was symbolic of the Torah and Elijah the Prophets (Rom 3.21). They bear witness through the Scriptures about who Yeshua is. Elijah introduces the groom (Messiah) to the bride and to make the way for him, and Moses brings the bride (the believers) to the groom. These concepts are well known by the people. John came in the spirit and power of Elijah. Both are seen in the vision called the Transfiguration talking with Yeshua about his “departure” or “exodus” (Luke 9.31). In the first redemption from Egypt, the Ruach (power) empowered the “shaliach” (sent one, Moses). In the second redemption, the Ruach (power) empowered the “shaliach” (sent one, Yeshua). In John 4.1-15 and the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob (Yeshua), we have the themes of the first redemption, such as thirst and the rock that was struck that brings water (Exo 17.6). This speaks of Yeshua’s death (the rock that was struck). Later, there is an illustration of the second redemption where all you had to do was “speak” to the rock to bring water, meaning Yeshua dies one time and now we just speak to him for the life giving water. Now, the Samaritans had a Temple on Mount Gerizim and had a mixture of Torah and pagan beliefs. The Samaritans came from the five tribes that replaced the northern tribes of Israel by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17.13-34) and those Jews that came back later through marriage. In John 4.21 Yeshua says that “an hour is coming” and this has to do with Jewish eschatology. Time is seen as a circle, not linear. After the 7000 years, there will be no Temple in Jerusalem of Mount Gerizim. No instruction will be needed, no ceremonies to carry out because we will all “know the Lord” (Jer 31.31-34). Everything has gone “full circle” to the way it was in Eden before the fall. Also, the Romans were going to come and destroy both Jerusalem and the Mount Gerizim Temple. He also says that “salvation is of the Jews” meaning they had the concepts. All of this takes place around the festival of Shavuot, and there are many themes associated with that. It was the beginning of the wheat harvest and when Yeshua saw the Samaritans coming to him dressed in their traditional white after hearing the testimony of the Samaritan woman, he said the field was “white for harvest” (John 4.35). He stayed there for two days, speaking of 2000 years (Hos 6.1-3). In Part 18, we will pick here in John and bring out more concepts that will help you understand the New Testament. We are giving you these examples out of just one book and a few passages to illustrate the fact that there is so much more to understand when you look at them with a first century understanding of what the people were seeing when these things took place. We have only touched on a few things, but hopefully you are beginning to see the New Testament in a better light.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Understanding the New Testament

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