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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. You can also check out our Subject Index and Search pages to find topics of interest. If you’d like to ask a question about the Bible, Christianity, or the Jewish Roots of the Christian faith, e-mail us at

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


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 had a history with the Jewish people. It comes from the practice of ritual cleansing from the kinds of impurities mentioned in Leviticus 15. In Jesus’ day, this had been formalized into the practice of ritual immersion in a mikveh bath.

This practice is mentioned in Mark 7:4. The washing or cleansing of people and of cups and other objects mentioned here is literally baptizing in Greek (baptismous), that is, immersing them in a mikveh bath. This was done to cleanse themselves and their purchases from any ritual impurity they may have picked up in the market.

The practice of immersion continues today among the Jewish people. But where today you might have only one mikveh bath for an entire neighborhood, in the Jerusalem of Jesus’ day, archeologists have found as many as two or three in the basement of each of the larger homes, homes that may have belonged 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 in this process: 1) circumcision (for men), 2) immersion in a ritual bath (a mikveh), and 3) the offering of a sacrifice in the Temple. When used for conversion, the ritual bath was seen to cleanse the convert from the impurity of 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.

But the key insight of John the Baptist was that not only Gentiles but also the Jewish people themselves were in need of this kind of spiritual cleansing in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.

If we look at John’s teaching in light of contemporary Jewish sources, and especially the mention of his ministry by Josephus, the Jewish historian, it seems that John taught a repentance toward God which was then followed by (or accompanied by) immersion: that is, there was both an inner cleansing by repentance and an outer cleansing by immersion (Antiquities 18.5.2 § 116-117). 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 Corinthians 10, Paul describes Israel’s miraculous crossing of the Red Sea as a prophetic foreshadowing of Christian baptism. It was an act of God’s of grace by which the nation was delivered (saved) by God, and which led them—also by grace—into a covenant relationship with God. 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). 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.

(For more on this topic, see the index category Baptism.)

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Why Aren’t All the Laws of Noah Mentioned in Acts 15?

Q: [This is a follow-up to an earlier question, What did Abraham know of the Law of God?, in which I mentioned that the council of Acts 15 made use of the Laws of Noah that were considered to be required of all Gentiles. These Laws of Noah include most of the Ten Commandments.] Strange that Acts 15 doesn’t say anything about the Sabbath, murder, etc. —Johan B.

A: 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), and so do not include it among the Laws of Noah. They consider this to be a requirement only for the Jewish people, and a part of their unique covenant with God established at Mt. Sinai.

The reason that all of the Laws of Noah are 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 were already observed by Gentiles because they were included in Roman law (such as murder, theft, and courts). Blasphemy wasn’t mentioned, likely because this was considered to require the use of the actual name of God, which by this time was a closely guarded secret. This left only the three prohibitions mandated by the Jerusalem Council: avoiding the defilements of idolatry, acts of immorality, and improperly butchered meat and blood (Acts 15:20,29).

(For more on this topic, see our Jewish Roots of Christianity Seminar and the index categories Gentile Christians, Laws of Noah, 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 Jewish religion uses 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 might sometimes be possible to know the day according to the Jewish calendar, it would be impossible to correlate the day of the original event with a date in our modern Gregorian calendar. The best work-around is to simply use the Jewish date in the current year wherever it happens to fall in the Gregorian calendar. But this would only be good for the current year, as the Gregorian calendar date will change 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 good 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 page at Hebcal that converts from one calendar to another, and another at To find the holiday dates for this year, you can try this page at Jewish Virtual Library or this one at

(For more on this topic, see the index category Calendar.)

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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 three 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 Jewish people use a chicken bone because lambs can no longer be properly offered up in the Temple, the only place where sacrifices can be offered to God) is a reminder of the sacrificial Passover lambs, whose blood was used to smear the doorposts and lintels so the firstborn 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 take a look at our free Passover Meal Booklet. The meaning of the foods is explained in the course of the meal.

(For more on this topic, see the index categories Passover and Exodus.)

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Are Gentile Christians the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel?

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 (as have many before me) 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 Jewish person (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 Jewish person (or an 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 the Jewish people have lived for a long time, such as Europe and the Middle East. But it’s also extremely high for members of even the most remote jungle tribe.

So most, if not all of us, are in fact descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel (Ephraim) in some tiny part of our bloodline. But does this make us part of the Lost Tribes in any meaningful way? 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’ve heard from the people promoting the Seed of Ephraim view is in the original Hebrew of 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 the Gentiles of the world, both believers and non-believers, are in a meaningful prophetic sense the children of Ephraim.

* A literal translation of this verse is: And his father refused and said, I knew that, my son, I knew. He, too, [Manasseh] will be a people and he, too, will be great; yet nevertheless his younger brother [Ephraim] will be greater than he, and his seed [his descendants] will be the fullness of the nations [the Gentiles]. This is the same fullness of the nations mentioned by the apostle Paul in Romans 11:25.

There is strong evidence that this is how the apostles thought of Gentile Christians, as returning children of Ephraim. One example is the apostle Peter’s use of Hosea 1 and 2, originally written with regard to Ephraim, but applied by him to Gentile Christians (1 Pet. 2:10).

The question is, though, what should we do about it? Should Gentile Christians now 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:9, Yeb. 17a:3-4). 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 requirement to the Law of Moses, other than the exceptions noted by the Council for Gentile Christians: no idolatry, no immorality, and no eating of blood (though we are also bound to all the commandments in the New Covenant in Messiah—the New Testament—which repeats the great moral requirements of the Law of Moses, though not its ritual and ceremonial instructions).

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 in the original sense of that word, which means teaching non-Jews they must become or act like Jews in order to be right with God. This is 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 much of the Law of Moses on a voluntary basis if we should choose to do so (though there are a few exceptions). On this basis, it is perfectly all right for non-Jewish Christians to avoid pork and seafood, for example, though it will not bring any spiritual benefit above what we already have in Messiah (Eph. 1:3). But to believe or to teach those who are not Jewish that such 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 you by obligation under all of the Law of Moses—Messiah 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 today call Sons of Noah, the Godfearing Gentiles of New Testament times. Godfearers were an accepted part of the Jewish community around the Roman world. But they were subject to a different set of legal requirements than the Jewish members of the synagogues. Godfearers were only required to observe the subset of the Law of Moses which came to be known as the Laws of Noah. This basic legal understanding, originally applied to the Godfearers, was carried 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: (1) the Church of the Circumcision (Jewish believers in Jesus; Col. 4:11, Titus 1:10) and (2) the Church of the Uncircumcision (believers from the Gentiles; 1 Cor. 7:18, Eph. 2:11). These were two different callings, two different sets of legal requirements, yet both were equal members of the Body of Messiah. I like to compare this to the earthly kingdom of David, in which David ruled over many different groups, but only the Israelites in his kingdom were bound by the Law of Moses.

The prophetic reuniting of Ephraim and Judah as one (as in Ezekiel 37) is therefore a symbol of the end-time reconciliation of Gentile Christians and Jewish believers in Jesus. This reconciliation has already started with the restoration of Jewish Christianity (Messianic Judaism) in the past century 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 a little longer. 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, the Ten Tribes, and the Laws of Noah.)

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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 in spite of its ancient roots, 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, just as we Gentile Christians have endured so many controversies 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 will undoubtedly be their attitude toward Gentiles and deciding how (or if?) Gentiles should 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 whenever it would offend people if you didn’t. Otherwise it’s up to you, since a head covering is no longer a generally recognized sign of marriage as it was in New Testament times (although a wedding ring might be; see the Q&A Prayer Shawls and Head Coverings).

(For more on this topic, see the index categories Gentile Christians and Messianic Jews.)

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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 April, with most of the rain falling from December to February). Because of this, grain is planted in the late fall or early winter so it can take advantage of the winter rains. The grain harvest then follows in the spring (mid-April to mid-June).

The birth of Jesus is thought by many to have been in September or October, around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. This is because of hints in the gospels, such as that the shepherds were sleeping outdoors, which would not take place in the colder months (Luke 2:8), and that it was at the time of a census, which would also not be done in the winter, nor at the times of sowing or reaping (Luke 2:1). This leaves the late fall as the most likely time for the census. This is not the lambing season, which is at the same time of year as in the U.S.

(For more on the seasons in Israel, see our Jesus of Nazareth Seminar, part 1b. For more on the time of Jesus’ birth, see our Jesus of Nazareth Seminar, part 3b.)

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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: There’s no question that the portrayal of Jesus has been influenced by pagan artistic traditions. That’s because there was no tradition of artistic representation available from Israel itself: human images are strictly forbidden in the Law of Moses (Deut. 4:16-18). And the early Jewish Christians remained obedient to this commandment of God for the Jewish people.

Because of this, the earliest known images of Jesus show him, quite inaccurately, as a Gentile, without a beard and wearing Roman-style clothes. Sometimes he was even shown with a magician’s wand—the only artistic convention they had for showing that he was a miracle worker.

This artistic confusion was mirrored by theological confusion as Gentiles tried to understand the foreign Jewish culture, with its symbols, customs, and language they knew nothing about. The earliest church fathers (especially those known as the Apologists), mixed stories of pagan gods and goddesses into their debates with pagans about Christianity.

Much of the worst of this was sorted out by the 3rd century AD, but deep misunderstandings continued, some of them until today. In fact, you could say that the last two thousand years of Church history is the story of once-pagan peoples trying to distinguish 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: through an intensive 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 an idol of Zeus in the persecutions of the 3rd and 4th centuries. 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 of Zeus and the name of Jesus ignore the fact that Jesus (Iesous in Greek) had long appeared in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Septuagint), made two hundred years before the time of Christ. This was the accepted Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Yehoshua (Joshua), or in its short form, Yeshua. (Yeshua is Jesus’ original Hebrew name, which most appropriately means Yhwh is salvation.)

Later, it’s true that certain aspects of paganism did creep in again, after the time of Constantine (in the 4th century and later), when the church came into a position of political power. But in spite of this subtle paganization of the faith, there was a general acceptance that the old polytheistic paganism was dead. And by the 5th or 6th century, there were very few who mourned its passing: monotheism had triumphed.

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

(For more on this topic, see the index categories Jesus and Jewish Roots of Christianity.)

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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 Israel under the rule of the Messiah. There are many aspects of this vision that cannot possibly have been fulfilled yet, including the reign of the Messiah itself (the prince, Eze. 44:1-3, 45:7-46:18, 48:21-22; compare Eze. 37:24-28) and the identification and placement of the different tribes in the land (Eze. 48:1-7,23-29). (Most Jewish people can no longer trace their tribal origin, and are waiting for the Messiah to tell them which tribe they belong to; Maimonides, Melachim u’Milchamot 12:3).

The section of these chapters that has the greatest claim to being fulfilled already is the detailed description of the Temple (Eze. 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 (Eze. 36), and followed by the resurrection of the dead and the kingdom of Messiah (Eze. 37), the battle of Gog and Magog (Eze. 38-39), and the restoration of the Temple and the division of the Land (Eze. 40-48). It was expected by many that this chain of events would begin shortly in Israel. This contributed to the excitement over the coming of Messiah in Jesus’ day.

But Jesus himself taught that these events were still far in the prophetic future. First there was to be yet another exile of the Jewish people. This is in fact what happened, beginning with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD, leading to an exile which is only now drawing to a close. The prophecies of Ezekiel 36 had to wait for their fulfillment in the modern state of Israel (Eze. 36:8-12,23-28,30-36; also Eze. 37:1-14 in relation to the Holocaust).

As a result, 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 previously. Imagery from the battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39) was applied not only to the coming of Messiah (compare the feast of the birds in Eze. 39:17-20 with Rev. 19:17-18), but also to a great battle to be fought at the end of the Messianic age (the end of the Millennial reign, Rev. 20:7-9). Some of Ezekiel’s imagery was seen to point even farther into the future: to the time of the new heavens and the new earth (compare the man with the measuring rod and the city on a mountain in Eze. 40:2-3 with Rev. 21:10-15; the river and the tree of life in Eze. 47:2-12 with Rev. 22:1-2; and the twelve gates of the city in Eze. 48:30-34 with Rev. 21:12-13). But 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 itself, with believers dwelling in the Holy of Holies 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, or see the index categories Ezekiel and Prophecy .)

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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 Jesus’ divinity. But from the point of view of the Hebrew language, Yahshua is a mispronunciation of the name Yeshua. Yeshua (ye-SHU-a), which means Yhwh is salvation, is a name well known from the Hebrew Scriptures (sometimes transliterated as Jeshua, see 1 Chr. 24:11, Ezr. 2:2, Neh. 3:19, and many others). And its use in the Bible 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, sometimes written as 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 Ye-hu-ah 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 hinted at in many important Messianic prophecies.* Exodus 14:13, for example, says, Stand strong and see the salvation (yeshuah) of the LORD. This occurs shortly before the Angel of the Lord appears, a pre-incarnation appearance of Jesus (in Exodus 14:19). The Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 52:7 says, How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news...who announces salvation (yeshuah). This is another prophecy of the ministry of Jesus, complete with a hidden reference to his name.

* These prophecies contain the form yeshuah, which has an additional final h (or he in Hebrew). This is the feminine common noun form of the masculine given name Yeshua.

Another example appears in Isaiah 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 salvation (yeshuah) of our God. The Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 49:6 says, And I have made you a light to the nations, to be my salvation (yeshuah) to the end of the earth.

Isaiah 12 is an amazing prophecy that teaches the multi-personality of God that Christians call the Trinity or Tri-unity of God: God is my salvation (yeshuah), I will trust and not be afraid, for the Yah* of Yhwh is my strength and song, and he has become my salvation (yeshuah). Who is the Yah of Yhwh? 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 that hint to the name of Jesus. If we misunderstand his name, we miss the full meaning of these incredible prophecies.

* Yah is a short form of Yhwh that appears in several places in the Bible.

(For more on this topic, see the index categories Yeshua, Yahweh, and Trinity.)

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Thoughts About God’s Law

Q1: 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.... 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.

A1: While I would certainly agree with you that God had a plan from the beginning for man and had in mind standards for the way that we should behave, Paul tells us that a charge for breaking these standards could only be brought (or imputed to use his language) after these standards had been revealed as law (Rom. 5:13). This is what happened in the case of Cain. The law of God teaches that a murderer should be put to death (Gen. 9:6). But this was not done in the case of Cain because that law had not yet been revealed. So in fact, Romans 5:13 doesn’t 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 that it wasn’t imputed, that is, the guilty were not charged, until the Law was revealed.

Q2: 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

A2: It’s certainly possible for us to compare the revealed law of God to the laws that he has established in the natural world. The Bible tells us that his nature and character are revealed in the Creation, from which we can learn about godliness and righteousness (Rom. 1:18-20). In fact, we were originally designed to operate according to an innate or instinctual understanding of God’s standards, which was part of our original nature (Rom. 2:14). But this innate understanding has been obscured by sin. This is what made it necessary for God’s law to be revealed in more concrete ways—as it was to Noah and later through Moses and through the Messiah. In our present fallen and sinful condition, we often have no other means of access to God’s law than by his revelation to us.

Q3: We also read in Exo. 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.

A3: Exodus 16 is the first time that observing the Sabbath as a day of rest for human beings is mentioned in the Bible. There is no mention anywhere of the earlier patriarchs observing the Sabbath. As a result, the Sabbath has always been considered in Jewish tradition to be exclusive to Israel as part of the Law of Moses revealed (or in this case, confirmed) at Mt. Sinai. Until today, the rabbis do not consider observing the Sabbath as a requirement for Gentiles. The apostle Paul clearly agreed with this point of view when he was willing to accept Gentile believers who did not honor any special day of rest or worship (Rom. 14:5). This was owing to their status as Gentiles, which meant they were not obligated by the Law of Moses (other than the Laws of Noah).

Q4: Another point. The moral law (the ten 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 to the ark of the covenant (Deut. 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.

A4: The distinction between moral and ceremonial law is popular in many Christian groups. But this distinction does not exist in the Bible, including the New Testament, and is denied by Jewish teaching. Rather, all the 613 laws in the Torah (the Law of Moses) are considered to be an undivided whole. The weakness of the idea of distinguishing between moral and ceremonial laws can be seen in the lack of agreement between different groups as to which laws fit into which category. In reality, the idea of a moral versus a ceremonial law is an attempt to preserve a small section of the Law of Moses for Gentile Christians while abolishing the rest. But this is a denial of Jesus’ teaching 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 convincing and Biblical approach: they identify the Laws of Noah (which the early Church fathers called the Natural Law) as applicable to all mankind, while the Law of Moses is applicable only to Israel. This is 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?).

Paul, too, made no separation between moral and ceremonial law. Instead, he recognized that God has different requirements for different people, and that Gentiles have different legal obligations than Jews do (1 Cor. 7:18).

Q5: 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. —Johan B.

A5: It’s true that before the fall, man obeyed God by nature (or innately, Rom. 2:14). But even then, God gave instructions (laws) to Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:15-17). Unfortunately, however, mankind did fall, and so God had to reveal many more laws to us: first the Laws of Noah (the Natural Law of the Church fathers), then, for the Jewish people, the Law of Moses. But this latter law had an additional purpose: to prepare the way of the Messiah, through whom God made a way to restore our broken relationship with him.

(For more on this topic, see the index categories Gentile Christians and Laws of Noah.)

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