QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS II

 

 

 

Here are answers to some of the questions we've received. Click on a title to go to a particular question and answer. Or scroll down the page to the text below. If you'd like to ask a question about the Bible, Christianity, or the Jewish Roots of the Christian faith, e-mail us at Jeff@totheends.com

The Jewish Roots of Baptism
Why aren't all the Laws of Noah mentioned in Acts 15?
The Dates of Events in the Hebrew Bible
Meaning of the Passover Seder
Are Gentile Christians the Ten Lost Tribes?
Gentile Christians and Messianic Jewish Fellowships
Seasons in Israel
Have Gentile Christians been worshipping Zeus?
Has Ezekiel 40-48 been fulfilled?
Is Jesus' Hebrew name Yeshua or Yahshua?
Thoughts about God's Law

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The Jewish Roots of Baptism

Q: I have always taught baptism was identification with Jesus' death, burial & resurrection, but at the same time, always wondered about 1 Cor. 10:2 about Israel being baptized into the cloud & Moses. I also could never figure out why the Jews were not surprised when John the Baptist came preaching a "baptism of repentance". What I mean is, the Jews acted like water baptism was something they were very familiar with & had no qualms submitting to it. Something tells me they were very familiar with water baptism prior to John's ministry but I don't know what?! --Doug D.

A: You are right that water baptism has a history with the Jews. It comes from the practice of ritual cleansing from the kinds of impurities mentioned in Lev. 15. In Jesus' day, this had been formalized into the practice of ritual immersion in a mikvah bath.

This practice is mentioned in Mark 7:4. The "washing" or "cleansing" of themselves and of cups and other objects here in the Greek is literally "baptizing" (baptismous in Greek) that is, immersing them in a mikvah bath. When they came home from the market, they would immerse themselves in a mikvah bath to cleanse themselves from any possible impurity they may have picked up in the market.

The practice of immersion continues today among the Jews. But where today you might have only one mikvah bath for a whole neighborhood, in the Jerusalem of Jesus' day, archeologists have found as many as two or three in the basement of each house. (These were especially large homes, possibly belonging to priestly families.) You could say that ritual immersion was all the rage in the time of Jesus!

But in addition to this day-to-day type of cleansing, ritual baths were also used as part of the process of conversion of a Gentile to Judaism. Three steps were required: 1) Circumcision (for men), 2) a ritual bath, and 3) the offering of a sacrifice in the Temple. In this use, the ritual bath was seen to cleanse from the impurity of the foreign nations, and to bring about a rebirth of the individual, described in much the same language that Christians use for spiritual rebirth or salvation.

The key insight of John the Baptist, though, was that not only Gentiles but also Jews were in need of such a spiritual cleansing in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.

If we evaluate John's teaching in light of the Jewish sources (such as Josephus who mentions his ministry), it seems that John taught a repentance toward God which was then followed by (or accompanied by) immersion: that is, an inner cleansing by repentance and an outer cleansing by immersion. This ties in well with the Christian view of baptism as an outward sign of an inward reality. It also explains why Jesus himself had to submit to immersion: as an outward cleansing in preparation for the start of his ministry.

In 1 Cor. 10, Paul sees a foreshadowing of Christian baptism in the experience of Israel at the Red Sea. This is an important teaching which is often overlooked. The miraculous crossing of the Red Sea was God's act of grace toward Israel by which the nation was delivered (saved) by God, and which led them--by grace--into a covenant relationship with God. Just as in Christianity, this was not merited by any works they had done or could ever do, but only by God's grace.

In the same way, Christian salvation and baptism is the incorporation of individuals into the covenant people of God by grace.

This ties directly in with Paul's teaching on dying and rising with Christ (Rom. 6) because in the Jewish baptism of conversion, as in Christian baptism, you come out of the waters a new, clean, and wholly righteous person, dying to your old self and rising to the new.

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Why aren't all the Laws of Noah mentioned in Acts 15?

Q: Strange that Acts 15 doesn't say anything about the Sabbath, murder, etc. --Johan B.

A: [This is a follow-up to an earlier question--What did Abraham know of the Law of God?--in which I mentioned that Acts 15 makes use of the Laws of Noah that were considered by the rabbis to be required of all Gentiles. These Laws of Noah duplicate some of the Ten Commandments.]

It's surprising to many that both the ancient and modern rabbis do not consider observing the Sabbath to be one of the requirements of God for the Gentiles (sons of Noah). They consider this to be a requirement only for the Jews, and a part of their unique covenant with God established at Mt. Sinai.

The reason all the Laws of Noah were not mentioned in Acts 15 seems to be that most of them were already adequately covered in the received tradition of the teachings of Jesus (as in the Sermon on the Mount about murder, adultery, etc.), or already observed by the Gentiles under Roman law. Those that were mandated by the Jerusalem Council seem to be those those that most affected table fellowship between Jews and Gentiles, which is the issue that originally started the controversy that led to this Council (Gal. 2:11-21). If Gentile Christians would avoid foods offered to idols, immorality, and improperly butchered meat (with blood still in it; Acts 15:29), there would be no obstacle to table fellowship between Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus.

(For more on this topic, see our Jewish Roots of Christianity Seminar and the Index categories Gentile Christians and Law of Moses.)

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The Dates of Events in the Hebrew Bible

Q: I am in charge of making the calendar for the church on a monthly basis. I would like to add some interesting facts to the calendar. Do you know of a resource that would have information like the dates that events happened in the OT? --Artie R.

A: Sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately I don't know of any resource of this kind. The Jews use a lunar calendar that in ancient times depended on the actual sighting of the new crescent moon, and no precise record of these sightings has been preserved. So while it is possible to know the day according to the Jewish calendar, it would be impossible to correlate actual days of original events with days on our modern Gregorian calendar. The closest equivalent would be to simply use the dates in a modern Jewish calendar and convert them to whatever day they happened to fall on in this year's calendar, which would vary from year to year.

The Jewish calendars I know of, however, only include the days of festivals and fasts and other holy days or national days in Israel. Most of these festivals and fasts are connected with historical Biblical events and would provide a starting place. But the rest you'd have to dig out of the Bible yourself and then convert from the Jewish to the Gregorian calendar.

You might want to start with just a handful and see how it goes! There's a site at http://genealogy.org/~scottlee/calconvert.cgi that claims to convert from one calendar to another. Here's another one: http://www.calendar-maven.com/software.htm I haven't actually worked with these, so I can't make any claims as to their accuracy. Here's a site that has the holiday dates for this year and the coming Jewish year: http://www.ou.org/chagim/default.htm

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Meaning of the Passover Seder

Q: I would like to have information re: the meaning of the foods used at the Seder as they relate to Christianity. I am in a Bible Study Fellowship and our leader last Wednesday had some very interesting information about the Seder and the meaning of the 3 matzos used and why a lamb bone is used. We have taken a break for Easter and I was not able to ask about this. --Maria

A: The Messianic/Christian understanding of the three matzahs is that they represent the Tri-unity of God, of which the second matzah represents the Son of God. When it is broken, this represents his death on the cross. When half the bread is hidden, this represents his burial. When the hidden bread is brought out later, it represents his resurrection. The lamb bone (today the Jews use a chicken bone instead because of the destruction of the Temple, the only place where sacrifices can be offered to God), represents the lamb whose blood was used to smear the doorposts and lintels so the first born in their houses would not die. This beautiful picture of salvation is a type (or picture) of the eternal salvation available in Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

For more information about the Seder, you can download the free Passover Meal Booklet on our web site. The meaning of the foods is explained in the course of the meal.

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Are Gentile Christians the Ten Lost Tribes?

Q: Do you know anything about the Seed of Ephraim? What are your views? Are we Gentile Christians really the lost tribes? --Laura B.

A: One of my hobbies is genealogy. And one of the most interesting discoveries I've made is that if you go back only about a thousand years, the number of your ancestors is equal to the population of the world at that time. This doesn't mean you are descended from everyone alive at that time, but nearly so, since all groups intermarried to some degree with all other groups. If even one Jew (or one Israelite of the scattered northern tribes) married any one of your millions of ancestors, or even if any one of the millions of non-Jewish descendants of a Jew (or Israelite) married any of your millions of ancestors, you are literally descended from Abraham and from the tribes of Israel. The chances that this happened are so high as to be almost a certainty, especially if you have ancestors from areas where Jews have lived for a long time, such as Europe and the Middle East, but it also extremely high in even the most remote jungle tribe.

So most, if not all of us are in fact descendants of the lost tribes in some tiny part of our bloodline. But does this make us part of the lost tribes? This is a more difficult question to answer. I'm also descended in a tiny percentage from the ancient kings of Spain. Does that make me Spanish? (The overwhelming majority of my ancestors are from England and Germany.) Certainly not in the ordinary sense of human reasoning about these things. But what about God? Is our fractional ancestry from the ten tribes important to him? The most impressive response I have heard from the people promoting the Seed of Ephraim view is in Genesis 48:19, where the promise of being the ancestor of a multitude of nations, originally given to Abraham, is passed on (via Isaac and Jacob) to Ephraim. Through this verse, a case can be made that we are, in a meaningful prophetic sense, the children of Ephraim.

There is also evidence that this is how the apostles thought of Gentile Christians, as returning children of Ephraim (as in their use of Hosea 1 and 2, written with regard to Ephraim, but applied by them to Gentile Christians, as in 1 Pet. 2:10).

The question is, though, what should we do about it? Should Gentile Christians start to obey the Law of Moses, as many in this movement advocate? The views of the rabbis on this point are very instructive. They ruled that the lost tribes should be treated, with regard to the Law, as Gentiles until the coming of the Messiah (Yeb 16b/17b). The New Testament agrees with this view. At the Council of Acts 15, the earliest church decided that all who are not Jewish (Jewishness being defined then and now as one's mother being Jewish or being oneself a convert to Judaism) are not under the Law of Moses. Therefore, you and I who may be descendants of the Lost Tribes are under no Biblical requirement to the Law of Moses, other than the exceptions noted by the Council for all Gentile Christians (no idolatry, immorality, eating of blood; though we are also bound to all the commandments in the New Covenant in Christ--the New Testament--which repeats all the great moral requirements of the Law of Moses, though not its ritual and ceremonial requirements).

The decision of the Council in Acts 15 is important, since it gives absolutely no basis to the teaching that because of our possible identity as Lost Tribes we are obligated to observe the Law of Moses. Any such teaching is an example of Judaizing (teaching non-Jews they must become or act like Jews in order to be right with God), a practice strictly forbidden in the New Testament (Gal. 4:21-5:13). To repeat: the New Testament gives no grounds for teaching that anyone a Jewish rabbi would not recognize as Jewish (and most of us certainly would not be) should keep the Law of Moses. Rather, our obligation is to the Law of Messiah: the teachings of Jesus.

On the other hand, there is nothing that forbids us from observing the Law of Moses on a voluntary basis if we should choose to do so. On this basis, it is perfectly all right for non-Jewish Christians to celebrate the Jewish feasts or the Sabbath, avoid pork and seafood, etc., though from these practices we can derive no possible spiritual benefit above what we already have in Messiah. But to believe, or to teach others who are not Jewish, that these things are required is incorrect and a violation of the teaching of the New Testament. Paul goes so far as to say that for any non-Jewish Christian who converts to Judaism--"receives circumcision" in the language of the day, which brought one by obligation under all of the Law of Moses--"Christ will profit you nothing." Gal. 5:2)

Rather, there is a completely different and fully Biblical way in which the New Testament intends that we as Gentile Christians integrate into the life of Israel. This is as the New Testament equivalent of what the rabbis call today "Sons of Noah," or the "Godfearers" of New Testament times. Godfearers were an accepted part of the Jewish community around the Roman world, though subject to a different set of legal requirements than the Jews. They were required only to observe a subset of the Law of Moses known as the Laws of Noah. This basic legal understanding, originally applied to the Godfearers, was brought over into the early Christian church and applied to Gentile believers in Jesus.

As a result, the New Testament Church was understood to be made up of two branches: the Church of the Circumcision (Jewish believers in Jesus) and the Church of the Uncircumcision (believers from the Gentiles). Two different callings, two different sets of legal requirements, yet both were equal members of the Body of Christ. I like to compare this to the earthly kingdom of David, in which David ruled over many different groups, not all of which were bound by the Law of Moses.

The coming together of Ephraim and Judah as one is therefore a symbol of the end-time reconciliation of Gentile Christians and Jews. This reconciliation has already started with the restoration of Jewish Christianity (Messianic Judaism) and the growing movement among Gentile Christians to return to the Church's Jewish roots (creating what some call Messianic Gentiles). But it seems most likely to me that any more concrete expression of the restoration of Ephraim--such as a return to the land of Israel--must await the earthly kingdom of Messiah (the Millennium), when, as the rabbis teach, the Messiah will tell those of the lost tribes to which of the tribes they belong. For this, we'll have to wait and see what happens. In the meantime, let's do all we can to make our practice of Christianity line up with the original teachings of Jesus and his Jewish disciples.

(For more on this topic, see the Index categories Gentile Christians and Ten Tribes.)

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Gentile Christians and Messianic Jewish Fellowships

Q: We are trying to find a Messianic Congregation near us... But we are learning that there are as many fractions in this community as in the regular church... Some congregations won't allow a Gentile to teach. Some want the women to cover their heads (which I do before lighting the Sabbath candles and praying, but should I always have a head covering?). [My husband] said to do whatever I feel that I should. I already feel strange and shunned.... --Laura B.

A: The first part of your question reminds me of the Jewish saying that where there are two Jews there are three opinions. This is one area in which the Gentile Church has remained true to its Jewish roots.

The Messianic community is a community in flux. It's basically a brand new movement and it will probably be many, many years before all the issues are ironed out and enduring decisions made (if Messiah doesn't come first). After all, if we Gentile Christians have erred so much over the last 2,000 years, perhaps our Jewish brothers and sisters in Messiah will also have a few things to work through. One of the most difficult of these is attitudes toward Gentiles and how Gentiles can be integrated into a primarily Jewish congregation.

At the moment, it seems almost impossible to have a true Messianic congregation in which participating Gentiles are not in some degree second-class citizens. In some congregations this is more extreme than in others. The best I can personally even imagine is to have essentially two bodies (one Jewish and one Gentile) in a congregation that do some things together and do other things separately. But time will tell...

My advice to you personally is to keep looking until you find a place where you feel you belong. That might even mean participation in more than one congregation: one Messianic, and one Gentile Christian where you can be used as a voice to alert the church to its Jewish roots. Although I know this is probably not the best long-term situation, I can identify with your hunger for Jewish roots and not feeling that you fit in.

Your husband's advice about the head covering is good. You should wear it wherever it would offend people if you didn't. Otherwise it's up to you, since a head covering no longer is a generally recognized sign of marriage as it was in New Testament times (whereas a wedding ring might be--see the earlier question: Prayer Shawls and Head Coverings).

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Seasons in Israel

Q: I thought that the seasons were reversed in Israel: when it is spring here it is fall there. But we are reading a book that calls the Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost the Spring Festivals. How is it that they harvest in the spring? And I thought Jesus was probably born during the lambing season, which should be spring; around Oct. in Israel. --Laura B.

A: The seasons in Israel are actually similar to those in the U.S. and Europe, with the exception that the winters are more mild, and the rains fall almost exclusively in the winter (October to May with most in the middle 50% of that period). Because of this, grain is planted in the fall, so it can take advantage of the winter rains, and is harvested in the spring.

The birth of Jesus is often placed in September/October around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, not in relationship to the lambing season, which is in the spring, but hints in the gospels such as that the shepherds were sleeping outdoors (Luke 2:8) and that a census was held at that time (Luke 2:1).

(For more on the time of Jesus' birth, see our Jesus of Nazareth Seminar.)

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Have Gentile Christians been worshipping Zeus?

Q: About a week ago on the Discovery channel there was a program on Greece and at one point they showed the face of Zeus and how this face became that of the Christian Jesus - I was floored! I had been hearing that the Christian Jesus was really Zeus. Now another frustrating problem to work through - have we as Christians really been worshipping the Greek god Zeus? All one can do is pray that HaShem will reveal the "real Truth" to His people. --Sonja R.

A: In answer to your question about Zeus/Jesus: There's no question that the artistic portrayal of Jesus has been influenced by pagan themes. There was no tradition of artistic representation of people in Israel: human images were forbidden! And the early Jewish Christians remained obedient to this commandment of God in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament).

Because of this, the earliest known images of Jesus show him, quite inaccurately, as a Gentile, with no beard or wearing Roman-style clothes. One image (from the catacombs of ancient Rome) shows him with a magician's wand--probably the best known artistic convention they had for showing that he was a miracle worker.

This artistic confusion was mirrored by a theological confusion as people tried to understand the foreign Jewish culture, which operated in symbols, customs, and language they knew nothing about. The earliest church "fathers" (especially the Apologists) show how extreme this confusion got, mixing stories of pagan gods and goddesses into their debates with pagans about Christianity.

Much of the worst of this was weeded out by the 3rd century AD, but deep misunderstandings continued, some of them until today. In fact, you could say that the last 2,000 years of Church history is the story of once-pagan peoples trying to sort out the truth of the Bible from their own cultural baggage.

The good news is that we've been making progress, and in the recent Jewish Roots movement, we're actually starting to understand the gospel message in the way the early Jewish Christians did--in relationship to a deep and rich history of study of the Hebrew Scriptures. Only through a culturally appropriate study of the whole Bible can we accurately understand what the early believers were teaching about Jesus and his relationship to God.

How far off did the Church get? Even at its worst, there is no evidence that Christians accepted the worship of Zeus as the Christian Jesus. In fact just the opposite, thousands and thousands of them died rather than offer a pinch of incense to the idol of Zeus. They may not have understood everything about Jesus correctly, but they did know what they didn't believe in any more: polytheistic paganism.

Attempts by some to show a relationship between the name Zeus and Jesus ignore the fact that Jesus (Iesous) was used in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Septuagint) 200 years before the time of Christ. This was the accepted Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Yehoshuah or Yeshua for short. (Yeshua is Jesus' original Hebrew name, which most appropriately means "salvation.")

Later, it's true (in the 4th century and after) certain aspects of paganism did creep in again, after the time of Constantine, when the church came into a position of political power. But in spite of this subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) "paganization" of the faith, there was a general acceptance that the old polytheistic kind of paganism was dead. And by the 5th or 6th century at least, there were very few who mourned its passing: monotheism (however poorly understood) had triumphed.

What still remained--and remains for us today--is to purge out the remaining traces of pagan cultural influence from the Christian faith, and get back to the Jewish Roots of our faith.

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Has Ezekiel 40-48 been fulfilled?

Q: In Ezekiel chapters 40 thru 48, is that end times stuff or has it already happened? Thanks! --Brian B.

A: Ezekiel 40-48 is a sweeping vision of the restoration of Temple worship in Jerusalem and of an Israel ruled by Messiah, divided between the twelve tribes of Israel. There are many aspects of this vision that cannot possibly have been fulfilled yet, including the rule of the Messiah (the "prince" 44:1-3, 45:7-46:18, 48:21-22; compare 37:24-28) and the identification of the members of the different tribes (48:1-7,23-29; most Jews can no longer trace their tribal origin, and are waiting for the Messiah to tell them to which tribe they belong; some are also anticipating the return of the ten "lost" tribes exiled by the Assyrians).

The section of these chapters that has the greatest claim to being fulfilled already is the detailed description of the Temple (40-46). According to Josephus the Jewish historian, King Herod used it as a model for his reconstruction of the Temple in the years prior to Jesus' birth.

But there is evidence from the New Testament and other contemporary literature that the whole last section of Ezekiel (36-48) was viewed as a continuous end-time prophecy, starting with the restoration of national Israel (36), and followed by the resurrection and the kingdom of Messiah (37), the battle of Gog and Magog (38-39), the restoration of the Temple and the division of the Land (40-48). It was expected by many that this chain of events would begin shortly in Israel, which led to the excitement over the coming of Messiah in Jesus' day.

But Jesus himself taught that these events were still in the prophetic future. There was to be yet another exile of the Jews (beginning in 70 AD), which only now is drawing to a close. The prophecies of Ezekiel 36 had to wait for their fulfillment in the modern state of Israel (36:8-12,23-28,30-36; also 37:1-14 in relation to the Holocaust).

The understanding of Ezekiel among Jesus' followers was considerably more complex. As can be seen in the book of Revelation, Ezekiel was understood to be hinting to even greater fulfillments than had been imagined before. Imagery from the battle of Gog and Magog was applied not only to the coming of Messiah (the feast of the birds in chap. 39:17-20), but also to a great battle at the end of his Millennial reign. Some of the imagery in Ez. 40-48 was seen to point not to the earthly reign of the Messiah, but to a new Heavens and a new Earth (the man with the measuring rod and the city on a mountain in Ez. 40:2,3; the river and the tree of life 47:2-12; the twelve gates of the city 48:30-34). In Revelation, Ezekiel's most important element, the Temple, is absent from the New Jerusalem; or to put it more accurately, Ezekiel's Temple has become the New Jerusalem, with believers dwelling in the Holy Place in the presence of God.

The full meaning of these wonders we will of course have to wait and see. But the last chapters of Ezekiel are still an important window on coming end-time events, when we read them through the "eyes" of Jesus and the disciples.

(For more on the book of Revelation, and how it helps us understand the prophecies of the Bible, see our seminar: The Revelation of Jesus Christ to John.)

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Is Jesus' Hebrew name Yeshua or Yahshua?

Q: We have found some neat places on line. One...has a Sabbath message and chat time... These people place great importance on calling God by His name: Yahweh. They make a good case. However, they have also changed the spelling of Yeshua to Yahshua, in order to say that "Yah" is in His name. ? --Laura B.

A: If some intend to honor Jesus by using the name Yahshua, I'm sure he appreciates it. (By adding "Yah" to his name, an abbreviation of "Yahweh," the personal name of God in the Hebrew Bible, I assume they are trying to emphasize his divinity.) Jesus is known by many different names in the Bible and beyond its covers. But from the point of view of the Hebrew language, Yahshua is a mispronunciation of the name Yeshua. Yeshua (which means "salvation") is a name well known from the Hebrew Scriptures (see 1 Chr. 24:11, Ezr. 2:2, Neh. 3:19, and many others). And its use in Scripture is crucial to Jesus' ministry and message.

Making a change to the name of Jesus (Yeshua) on the basis of the name "Yahweh" is a tricky business, since the true pronunciation of the name of God (YHWH or YHVH) is unknown, and the scholarly reconstruction Yahweh no longer enjoys the support it once had among scholars. The name of God might just as well have been pronounced Ya-hu-eh or in some other way.

But it's not only the meaning of the name that is important. Yeshua is the hidden name of the Messiah that is hinted at in many crucial Messianic prophecies. For example: Exo. 14:13 says, "Stand strong and see the yeshuah of the LORD" (shortly before the Angel of the Lord appears, a pre-incarnation appearance of Jesus, in vs. 19). The Messianic prophecy of Isa. 52:7 says, "How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news...who announces yeshuah."

This same Messianic theme appears in Isa. 52:10, which says, "The LORD has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the Gentiles, that all the ends of the earth may see the yeshuah of our God." The Messianic prophecy of Isa. 49:6 says, "And I have made you a light to the nations, to be my yeshuah to the end of the earth."

Isaiah 12 is an amazing prophecy that teaches the multi-personality of God, that today we call the Tri-unity of God: "God is my yeshuah, I will trust and not be afraid, for the YAH [short for YHVH] of YHVH is my strength and song, and he has become my yeshuah." Who is the YHVH of YHVH? This is pointing to the fascinating relationship between the Father God and the Son of God. And these are only a few of the many similar prophetic verses that could be mentioned. If we misunderstand the name of Jesus, we miss the full meaning of these incredible prophecies.

(For more on this topic, see the Index category Yahweh.)

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Thoughts about God's Law

Q: I've been thinking about the laws of God, and I reason as follows. God is the same forever. In the beginning was the Word... God established the entire law before he started to create the first creatures. The reason for this is that he created them with a will of their own. We know that not one jot or tittle will disappear from the law, so we must assume that any other written laws must be in ADDITION to what there was already. --Johan B.

A: I'm not sure what you mean by "other written laws." All of God's Law or Word was established before the Creation. If you're thinking of legal decisions in the time of the Bible, it must be remembered that the ability of judges to make legal decisions that affect the interpretation and application of the Law was given to man (Ex. 18:17-26, Num. 11:16-29). This was the capacity in which the Council of Acts 15 acted. This is also the background of Jesus' saying, "where two or three are gathered" which in context has to do with judging (Matt. 18:18-20).

Q2: Cain killed Abel before the law of Noah. Yet God considered it sin. Even before Cain killed his brother God told him "sin is crouching at your door" Gen 4:6. Where there is no law there is no sin. Rom 5.13. So there must have been a law then.

A2: The Law/Word is eternal, yet not all of it was revealed at once to man. The Law teaches that a murderer should be put to death. This was not done in the case of Cain because that law was not yet revealed. Rom. 5:13 does not say that where there is no law there is no sin: just the opposite, it says that sin was in the world before the Law was revealed, but it was not "imputed," that is, the guilty were not charged, until the Law was revealed--just as happened in the case of Cain. The law against murder existed in the mind of God, but was not yet revealed to man.

Q3: On the other hand, there are many laws God never gave us directly. For example, God created the law of gravity discovered by Newton, but God did not put it in his Word. I'm sure there are many other laws God wants us to discover for ourselves. Other laws however, He made sure we got; For example the law of sin and death, and the law of the spirit of life. Rom 8:2

A3: Although we use the term "law" today with regard to God's regulation of natural events, this is not the meaning of the original Hebrew word Torah which means simply "instruction." The Biblical Law of God is his instruction as to how we should live our lives, as well as the consequences to be imposed on those who disobey. This Law was not discovered by us, but is revealed by God, since we in our present sinful condition have no other means of direct access to the mind of God than by his revelation to us. It's true that we have indirect access to God through what he has made: his nature and character have been revealed in the Creation (Rom. 1:19,20). And we were originally designed to operate according to an "innate" or Spiritual understanding of God's law, revealed through direct Spiritual communion with God (Rom. 2:14). But this was broken because of sin, which is what made it necessary for the Law to be revealed in more concrete ways--as at Sinai.

Q4: We also read in Ex 16:23 (before Sinai) that the Sabbath was to be honoured. The Israelites were not allowed to gather the manna on the Sabbath. So the Sabbath must have existed before the law was given at Mt Sinai.

A4: The law of the Sabbath existed from all eternity in the mind of God. But Exodus 16 is its first revelation to Israel through Moses. This law was later confirmed at Mt. Sinai. Without this revelation, Israel would be ignorant of the law of the Sabbath.

Q5: Another point. The moral law (the 10 commandments) was written by the finger of God on stone, and was put INSIDE the ark of the covenant. The ceremonial law (how to atone for sin, etc.) was to be written by Moses in a book and put NEXT the ark of the covenant (Deu. 31:26) This helps me understand what law Paul is referring to when he uses the word "law" when speaking to the Romans and Galatians.

A5: The distinction between a moral and ceremonial law does not exist in the Bible (including the New Testament) and is denied by Jewish teaching, which views all the 613 laws in the Pentateuch as an undivided whole. The weakness of the idea of a distinction between moral and ceremonial laws can be seen in the lack of agreement, even after hundreds of years of the Christian teaching of this idea, as to which laws fit in which category. In reality, the idea of a moral versus a ceremonial law is an attempt to "rescue" a certain section of the Law for Gentile Christians and marginalize the rest--i.e. it is anti-Semitic, of a piece with the views of replacement theology, and a denial of Jesus' statement that the whole Law will remain in effect until the heavens and the earth pass away (Matt. 5:18). The Rabbis have a much more Biblical approach to the differences between Jews and Gentiles in identifying the Laws of Noah as applicable to all mankind and the Law of Moses as applicable to Israel--the same view accepted by the earliest Church in the New Testament (see Acts 15; for more on the Laws of Noah, see What did Abraham know of the Law of God?)

The scroll of the Law beside the ark in Deuteronomy refers to the whole Law of God, probably the entire Pentateuch.

Paul, too, made no separation between moral and ceremonial law. The Law/Word of God is eternal and undivided. However, Paul recognized that the Law has different provisions for different people, and that Gentiles have different requirements than Jews.

Q6: The law was revealed to men because of their transgressions (Gal 3:19). If man never sinned God would never have revealed His law to him.

A6: It was inevitable that man would sin, and therefore inevitable that God would reveal his Law. Yet even if he had not sinned, the Law would have been revealed "innately" (Rom. 2:14) by unbroken Spiritual communion with God. This is the kind of relationship with God that Jesus came to restore in those who accept him and receive his Spirit.

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