Friday, December 12, 2014

The Koran Points to Jesus Christ

I am not an expert on Islam or the Koran. I have not read the Koran. Until very recently, I had not read any of the Koran. Now I can say I have read a few verses. So why would I say that the Koran points to Jesus? Because it's not my idea, I got it from a former imam (Muslim priest) whose Western name is Mario Joseph. 
Mario gave an interview on Spanish TV which is available on Youtube [1]. A written transcript is available at [2]. He described his background -  his childhood, his family, and that he studied for ten years to become an imam. When someone asked him "who is Jesus?", he began to study the question. What he found from the pages of the Koran led him to the Bible. He has converted to Christianity.

What did he find in the Koran?

Let me present a summary of Mario's arguments.

Some background. The Koran, Islam's holy book, has 114 chapters, 6666 verses. Interestingly, Mohammed's name is found in only four places, but Jesus' name is found 25 places. No women's names are mentioned anywhere in the Koran, except Maryam, that is Mary, the mother of Jesus. She actually gets two whole chapters, chapter 3 "Family of Maryam" and chapter 19 "Maryam". The Koran asserts that Mary was sinless. [3]And [mention] when the angels said, "O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds
And some Muslims believe in the Assumption of Mary, that is, they believe she went directly to heaven Wikipedia 'Mary In Islam' [4]. Mario lists ten points about Jesus based on Ch:3 45-55.

  • Jesus is the "Word of God" 
  • Jesus is the "Spirit of God"
  • Jesus spoke at 2 days old
  • Jesus made live bird from mud
  • Jesus cured a man born blind
  • Jesus cured a leper
  • Jesus gave life to dead people
  • Jesus went to heaven
  • Jesus is still alive
  • Jesus will come again
Quoting just two verses here. [5] [And mention] when the angels said, "O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary - distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah ]. [5] [Mention] when Allah said, "O Jesus, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve and make those who follow you [in submission to Allah alone] superior to those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return, and I will judge between you concerning that in which you used to differ.

Then Mario says that Mohammed is not "Word of God" or the "Spirit of God". Mohammed is not alive and will not come back. So he asked his his teacher, "Teacher, how did God create the universe?" The teacher answered that he created the universe through the Word.

So then he asked his teacher, "Is the Word Creator or creation?" If the Word is creator, then Jesus is creator, then the Muslims must become Christian. If the Word is creation, how did God create the Word? Mario was confused and prayed for understanding. He believes this was his answer from the Koran, in his words, "If you have any doubt in this Koran, go read the Bible, or ask the people who read the Bible." [6] So if you are in doubt, [O Muhammad], about that which We have revealed to you, then ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord, so never be among the doubters.

The Bible also says Jesus is the Word of God, John 1:1. It also says Jesus gave them power to become children of God, John 1:12. But the Koran teaches people are slaves and Allah is master. The Koran says to fight with non believers in 18 places. It says to kill the one who rejects Islam. Mario concludes "To have eternal life, you need Jesus".

I applaud Mario for his courage in converting from Islam to Christianity, and for his wisdom in seeing through the Koran to the Bible. 

I don't agree with all his statements or theology. For example, the Koran may claim that Jesus spoke at two days old, but it is not recorded in the Bible. Likewise, making a live bird from mud, it's an interesting story. The other eight assertions are Biblical however, so maybe...

Later in the interview, he insists that Catholicism is the true form of Christianity. I think he may have gravitated to it because it had something familiar from Islam that he could retain, that is the veneration of Mary.  I would say that Mario has gone from worshiping the wrong God to worshiping God wrongly, a big step in the right direction. But we are all at different points on our journey.

His interview is worth watching, there is obviously more than I included here. You can also gauge his sincerity and conviction, especially when he speaks about miraculous events in his own life.
I found other Mario Joseph references on the Net like dangerous-road-from-imam-to-catholic-preacher [7]. 

According to Al-jazeerah [8], six million Muslims convert to Christianity every year, however CNN [9] says "little data is available on conversion, but what little there is suggests Islam loses as many adherents via conversion as it gains". David Garrison, author of "A Wind in the House of Islam" [10] said in an interview with World Magazine [11] that between 2 and 7 million Muslims have converted to Christianity in the last two decades. Whatever the exact number, many many Muslims are converting, some like Mario at great risk.

Most of this is happening in the Middle East and Africa, after all that's where most of the Muslims are. But someday you might be seated next to a former Muslim. Or you may be challenged to "give an answer for the hope that is in you" if a Muslim should ask "who is Jesus?"

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Audition For Battle

[I had to rewrite a section based on comments from John Wheeler. I am grateful to him, and I'm glad that it is more accurate and less speculative.]

Imagine this. You’re the king, but three armies are bearing down on you. You can’t withstand one of them, much less three. What do you do? Surrender? Call your generals? Fight to the last man? Hide? Or maybe like Jehosaphat of ancient Israel, you audition a choir. That’s right, audition a choir. 
2 Chronicles 20:1. It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle. 
  ...Skipping to vs 21...
21. And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.

 It is easy to read over that and not get the impact of what Jehosaphat actually did here. I have never led an army but I have directed choirs, so when it says he appointed singers, that sounds like an audition to me. I see two choices – take soldiers and see if they can sing or take singers and see if they will go into battle, note that it says the singers went before the army. That would perhaps be more of an interview than an audition. It appears Jehosaphat chose the latter, that is, take singers, and sent them into battle. Teaching soldiers to sing would take more than the 24 hours they had. Verse 19 actually tells us it was the temple singers "And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with a loud voice on high".  (1 Chr 6:31-38 tells that David set Kohathite and Korhites over the song service of the temple.) The temple singers were already on the scene participating. 

I told the story out of order to emphasize the “audition”, but actually Jehosaphat did all the right things even before that. He sought the Lord, proclaimed a fast, prayed with the tribe of Judah, got an answer from a prophet (and believed it), consulted with the people, THEN he auditioned his singers. This isn't my idea - I got it from Hebrew Word Study: A Hebrew Teacher's Search for the Heart of God [1] by Chaim Bentorah. His words:

Now try to imagine this. Jehoshaphat has twenty-four hours to prepare for war against an overwhelming army, and how does he prepare? He sets up auditions and organizes a choir! And this choir is taught one song and one song only: “Praise the Lord. His mercies endure forever.” 

Jehosaphat was the king and probably didn't handle the auditions himself, he would have delegated.  According to the Pulpit Commentary [2], 

he possibly simply "conferred with" those who were over the singers, as to who should be the most prominent in leading the service of praise, or as to what should be the words sung and other like matters of detail; or more probably, considering the exact form of language used
[I was going to stop here, then this idea popped into my head...]

What did it sound like? 

We may have an idea of what it sounded like. The Old Testanment Hebrew text is notated with “cantillation marks”, which are directions on how the text is to be chanted or sung. The exact meaning of these cantillation marks had been lost for over 1000 years, but the late Suzanne Haik Vantoura claimed to have deciphered the marks. Her book "The Music of the Bible Revealed [3]" explains the research, but has its critics.  The cantillation marks are above and below the Hebrew text. Her insight was that the marks below the text were notes of the scale, and she worked out which marks were which notes. The marks above the text were ornamentation like mordents.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown [4] states that they sang Ps 136, which by the way repeats the refrain "His mercy endures forever" 26 times. Hmmm, 26, a very interesting number. So 2Chr 20:21 only lists the refrain, like the title of a well known psalm. For example, we would refer to "The Lord's My Shepherd" for Ps 23. This is what Ps 136:1 looks like.  The darker section "SIGNS BELOW"  is directly from Haik Vantoura's book, p 38. In this passage, there are no signs above the text. The Hebrew text is from Mechon Mamre [5]. The other markings not highlighted are vowel sounds. Some people object to using God's name YHVH and substitute Adonai instead. I left it in because that's what the text says. 


How can we even know what music sounded like 3000 years ago? We can be certain the scale was the same because it's a math and physics thing, not something of arbitrary human invention. Even birds use the same scale (Birds found using human musical scales for the first time [6]). And archaeology has uncovered ancient musical instruments which show the notes in use. How do we know if Haik Vantoura was right? That's harder to know.  I've read the book, but don't follow everything in it. The deciphering method itself is logical and consistent. It does create melodies, singable melodies. Any doubts I have stem from not understanding the research well enough.

And how do I know I deciphered her system correctly? I don't have to guess - thanks to John Wheeler [7], we have Vantoura's own deciphering of Ps 136 to go by. Yes, it's hand written. It is the same as mine.

According to Haik Vantoura, this is the melody they sang when they marched into battle  that day.  I added bar lines to highlight the march characteristic. Click here to hear, please forgive the poor quality of the built in microphone.

Ps 136:1 Transliterated with Modern Music Notation [8]

What did that look like?

What did it look like, this army and these Levites marching to battle? This takes a little more imagination. Consider that soldiers have been marching to music for millenia. "Music has been an integral part of warfare and the soldier's life since the dawn of history" (historynet [9]).  The Peloponnesians had their flute players "meant to make them advance evenly, stepping in time, without breaking their order, as large armies are apt to do in the moment of engaging." (Peloponesian-war [10]) We are familiar with the sight of armies marching, how would this have been any different?

Verse 21 says the singers should "should praise the beauty of holiness", which according to Barnes' Notes [11] means "in rich apparel and ornaments suitable to a holy occasion". In other words, they were dressed in Temple clothes1

There is also a clue in the word for praise "hodu". It's not the normal word translated praise that we are all familiar with - "halleluia". Hodu is derived from the word for hand "yod", so taking linguistic license, "Lift up your hands to Jehovah, who is merciful forever". See Ps 63:4. Maybe the Levitical singers, dressed in holy garments, did just that, lifted up their hands in praise to God while they marched.

I've never done well at this, but one possible lesson from 2 Chr 20 could be - 

When life gives you a trial, Come out singing.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Four Faces of the Gospel

“Four. There’s nothing special about four in the Bible, is there?”

Well, there is no number that’s not special or interesting. Suppose N is the first uninteresting number, isn't that interesting?

Anyway, someone did say that to me last winter. And in one of life’s non-coincidences, I had learned about the four faces of the Gospel just that month. There are plenty of other “fours” in the Bible (Google [1]) that you can read about, but I was surprised to learn that the four Gospels parallel the four “living beings” of Revelation 4, and also parallel ancient Israel. The four living beings have four different faces - lion, ox, man, and eagle. The banners or flags that ancient Israel camped by had the same four faces.

The Israelites were instructed to camp around the Tabernacle by tribe, Levites nearest to the Tabernacle, and 
the other tribes camped around the Levites  in a specific order.  According to Jewish tradition (Keil Commentary on the Old Testament [2]) it was believed that the banners of the tribes were as follows (I couldn't find clipart that matched the Keil text exactly, this was the closest I could find).

The Four Banners [3]

Judah - East (Lion of gold with a scarlet background).

Reuben - South (Man on gold background).

Ephraim - West (Ox of black on gold background).

Dan - North (Eagle of gold on a blue background).

It’s not clear whether the tribes camped in rings outward from the temple or in spokes. [5]
A History of Israel [4]

Either way, all the depictions seem to be inaccurate because they don’t account for the large number of people and tents and livestock. See Google Image Search [6] for a variety of opinions of how they camped around the Tabernacle, I assert that all of them are wrong, a topic for another day.

What has this got to do with the gospel? Well, there is the obvious fact that there are four animals, four faces, four gospels. Is there a connection? Early church writers taught so. And it makes sense. The only problem is that these early writers don’t agree on which Gospel writer is represented by which face. Consider this chart from  [7]. There is good agreement here that Matthew is the Human (Rueben) and John is the Eagle (Dan), but there are at least four opinions. Apparently, almost every combination has been suggested (24 permutations).

Early Christian Author

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the synoptic Gospels, that is they “form a general summary”.  John’s Gospel is different from the other three.  So I wanted to say “one of these animals is not like the others” to fit the Gospel of John.  But I can find ways in which each is different – there is only one human, the ox is the head of tame animals, the eagle is the only bird, the lion the head of wild animals. John may be considered as loftier than the others, a bird’s eye view so to speak. 

While the early Church writers may not have agreed on which face went with which gospel, they were unanimous that the symbolism existed, and it pictured four different faces or aspects of Christ’s ministry. [8] tells us:

The unanimity of the early church regarding acceptance of some combination of such symbolism is remarkable

Notwithstanding the careful chart above, I think the weight of evidence goes to Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary [9]:

the lion expressing royalty, as Matthew gives prominence to this feature of Christ; the ox, laborious endurance, Christ's prominent characteristic in Mark; man, brotherly sympathy with the whole race of man, Christ's prominent feature in Luke; the eagle, soaring majesty, prominent in John's description of Christ as the Divine Word.

Again from JFB:

(1)   kingly righteousness with hatred of evil and judicial equity, answering to the "lion";
(2)   laborious diligence in every duty, the "ox";
(3)   human sympathy, the "man";
(4)   the contemplation of heavenly truth, the "eagle." [8] agrees with JFB, adding this

There is objective evidence found within Scripture itself which reliably establishes the intended emphasis of each gospel. This evidence is found in the genealogies of Christ which establish the line of Jesus from Abraham (Matthew), Adam (Luke), and eternity (John). Thus we know with some certainty that Matthew presents Jesus as King of the Jews, Luke as the Son of Man, and John as the Son of God. The only remaining question is that of the presentation of Mark. There being no genealogy in Mark, it seems plain that the emphasis of servant fits his gospel.

In other words, none of the combinations in the chart above.


The number four also suggests the whole world is involved, as in these common expressions, “four points of the compass”, “to the four winds”, “the four corners of the earth”.  As far as I know, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse bear no relation to the four living creatures except they are worldwide.  The Gospel is to go to all the world. Many verses in the Old Testament point out that Israel (not just the Jews) were chosen to be a light to the world, that salvation would go to all the world through them.  Sadly, they did not fulfill this role
Ex 19:6  and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests

Dt 7:6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession

Is 42:6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind

Isaiah 49:6. It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. [8] has much more detail there than I give here.  However, it suggests that the one “face” of Christ represented by Mark focused on the Romans, and the face represented by John focused on the Greeks.  I think that is skipping over the notion above that Israel was to be the light to the nations, the Gospel was to go to Israel first. Mt 10:6 & 15:24 “But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Since the Tabernacle is a shadow of the heavenly throne (Heb 8:5), consider this - the four living beings surround the throne, while the four banners surround the Tabernacle. And Christ is surrounded by the four Gospels, which go out to the whole world.

There is something quite special about four in the Bible, it's a shorthand way of saying Christ's Gospel has four aspects, came from heaven, and is going to Israel and the world.



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Camping Foreshadows the Gospel

The story of the Exodus, ancient Israel leaving Egypt for the Promised Land, is rich with symbolism, perhaps more than any other event in the Bible.  Consider some parallels between Exodus and the life of a believer.  Egypt pictures slavery or bondage to sin.  Pharaoh pictures the evil one, the one we were enslaved to.  Crossing the Red Sea pictures deliverance from that bondage.  Although God Himself was right there, the people saw Moses as their deliverer.  Wandering for 40 years in the wilderness pictures a lifetime of testing, training, and proving. They didn't really wander in the wilderness – God led them the whole time by a pillar of fire or pillar of smoke. Crossing the Jordan to the Promised Land is a second deliverance, this time by Joshua.  The Promised Land was their reward. 

I doubt that the Israelites understood at the time that their journey, their entire lives, were symbolic of every believer's journey.  In short, the Exodus story pictures the gospel of the Kingdom of God. We must be delivered from slavery.  We must "wander" in this world being tried and tested.  We must be delivered from death into our Promised Land, the Kingdom of God.

Why camping?

Aside from the spiritual parallels which we will explore soon, there are physical benefits to camping. Outdoor recreation (camping) has been studied for decades. Quoting from the University of Minnesota Forestry Research Notes 1969 [1]:
Outdoor recreation gives rise to many kinds of social effects which are valued highly. One of these effects appears to be stronger family cohesiveness; i.e., enhancement of person-to-person intimacy binding a family group together. Family cohesiveness is important for several reasons: (1) it can promote effective socialization of children; (2) it can strengthen self-concepts of family members; and (3) it can improve the participant's satisfactions gained from association with other people.
Patrick C West writes about the group struggle, the shared recollection, and isolation in camping as factors that contribute to family cohesiveness (Outdoor Recreation and Family Cohesiveness) [2].  Those shared recollections may have been passed down through the generations to us (America and Britain are the descendants of ancient Israel*), and may explain why camping is so popular today.

But camping?

Ancient Israel was commanded to keep the Feast of Tabernacles to remember year-by-year that their ancestors dwelt in tents when they came out of Egypt, in other words, reminded that their forefathers camped. Israel dwelt in tents 40 years while they were in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land. Actually they dwelt in tents longer than that, until Israel was settled in the land of Canaan, which took some time (When did Israel stop dwelling in tents?) [3]. A lot was happening while they were camping there. In addition to developing the cohesiveness mentioned above, and more than just remembering their humble beginnings, during the time in the wilderness the “old man” who left Egypt had to die, similar to what it says in Romans 6:6 "that our old man was crucified …that we would no longer be enslaved to sin".  And it was the new man, ie. the son, who entered Canaan.  

Not just any camping, but ancient Israel's camping in the wilderness foreshadowed the Gospel.  We still picture that today by keeping the Feast of Tabernacles.

Many teach that the Holy Days in Leviticus 23 picture the plan of salvation, which also parallels the journey from Egypt to Canaan.  The Feast of Tabernacles is the last festival of the seven and is often associated with the soon coming millennium, a kind of Promised Land, if you will. Tabernacles pictures many things, not just the millennium.

Why would God make a point to remind Israel they dwelt in booths when they came out of Egypt?  It doesn't look forward to a future fulfillment, but looks back to the Exodus. Lev 23:

42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.                   

The booths (Hebrew word sukkot) are also described in Lev 23:

40 And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook

A little more info on sukkot from Wikipedia [4]:

The Hebrew word sukkot is the plural of sukkah, "booth or tabernacle", which is a walled structure covered with schach (plant material such as leafy tree overgrowth or palm leaves). 
The sukkah is intended as a reminiscence of the type of fragile dwellings in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.

These sukkot only lasted the seven days of the Feast. The branches dried up and the sukkot fell apart.  Seven days pictures seven decades of a man's life.  But the same word sukkot is used in vs 43, not ohel, the normal word for tent, that is, it says Israel dwelt in sukkot when they left Egypt, but they lived in tents (ohel), not huts made from palm branches (sukkot).  Both tents and sukkot certainly are fragile dwellings.

Tents? Sukkot?

Traditionally, the book of Ecclesiastes is associated with the Feast of Tabernacles.  It is not a prophetic book about our future reward, but a reminder that life is fleeting – vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Eccl 1:1). In other words - Life is like a sukkot. Life is like a tent. Life is like a tent in the wilderness.

This is not a new idea, the apostle Paul wrote:

2Cor 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Some translations actually use the word tabernacle instead of tent.

We are the earthly tabernacles.

We are the tents.

Life is being played out in our bodies, our earthly tents, and the old man who came out of Egypt (slavery to sin) is dying while the new man is preparing to enter Canaan (enter the kingdom of God).  Is that not the good news of the Gospel?

*This is a big but important topic.  Many "Churches of God" have written extensively on it, see United Church of God, The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy [5], or Christian Biblical Church of God, America and Britain--Their Biblical Origin and Prophetic Destiny [6].  For a more scholarly and thorough examination of the subject, I recommend Steve Collins, author of five books on the identity of Israel, Covering the Lost Tribes of Irsrael [7].



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hamas in the Bible

HAMAS, the Palestinian Sunni Islamic organization, is actually an acronym, chosen to spell the Arabic word “hamas”, meaning zeal or enthusiasm (wikipedia - hamas [1]). But it is also a Hebrew word hamas (חָמָס), meaning violence. According to (Bible Tools [2]), hamas suggests immoral, cruel violence. (Ha Aretz [3]) adds:
As a verb, hamas also means “to take by violence,” “to rob” and “to destroy.” …
The Hebrew word that parallels the name of the Islamic terror group can itself be traced back to the Arabic. Etymologist Ernest Klein writes that the Hebrew hamas is linguistically linked to the Aramaic word hamas and the Arabic word hamisa, both meaning “was hard,” …
Messianic Teacher Glenn Kay has done some research on hamas in the Bible, finding that it occurs 68 times (messianicfellowship [4]). Strong’s Concordance (Biblehub [5]) lists 60. The first of these is in Genesis, and it’s cited as the primary reason for the flood. Gen 6:13 “The end of all flesh is come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence (hamas) through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.”

In a TV interview August 2014, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn explained to Jim Bakker several of the verses from the Bible that contain the word hamas. Here are some of them, but I encourage you to watch the interview for yourself, it’s only four minutes (YouTube [6])
Psalm 55:11 Hamas forces are at work in the city;

Psalm 74:20 For the dark places of the earth are full of the dwelling places of hamas. (Cahn points out the similarity to tunnels)

Psalm 11:5 But the wicked and he who loves hamas His soul hates.

Isaiah 53:9 Because He had done no hamas, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. (Speaking of the Messiah Jesus Christ)

Obadiah 1:10 For hamas against your brother Jacob, Shame shall cover you, And you shall be cut off forever. (The eventual reward for HAMAS)

Isaiah 60:18 For hamas shall no more be heard in you land. (The eventual reward for Israel)

Roots of the Israel/Palestine conflict

The Israel/Palestine conflict is thousands of years old, originally a family feud and now a religious conflict, rather than a political one. Don’t take my word for it, here’s what Article 15 of the HAMAS charter says “It is necessary to instill in the minds of the Moslem generations that the Palestinian problem is a religious problem, and should be dealt with on this basis (HAMAS Charter [7]). If the Moslems think it’s a religious problem, the West would be making a mistake to treat it as a political one. The HAMAS charter also really does call for the destruction of Israel “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it”. In a commentary entitled “Hamas in Prophecy [8]” written in 2006, Tom Robinson of United Church of God [9] examines hamas in the Bible and gives historical background, which is even more important for us to understand today. Here is a short quote from the article.
The Bible has much to say regarding the clash between Israel and the Palestinians, tracing the roots of this ancient blood feud and declaring how it will ultimately be resolved. The conflict actually goes back to two sibling rivalries—between Abraham's sons Ishmael and Isaac (see Genesis 16–17; 21) and between Isaac's sons Esau and Jacob (see Genesis 25; 27–28). Ishmael was the father of many of the Arabs while from Isaac, through Jacob, came the Israelites. …

Hamas reminds me of this verse “John 16:2 the time comes, that whosoever kills you will think that he does God service.” Allah is not God, and they are not doing God a service.

I stand with Israel, not because of the study of one word in the Bible, but because God gave that land to the people of Israel (not just the Jews by the way). I stand with Israel, but not because Israel is a perfect nation. I stand with Israel because I understand who they are in the plan of God, and who the enemy is that wants to destroy them. I stand with Israel because I understand who Palestine and HAMAS are, in Hebrew “anshei hamas” - “the people of violence” Ha Aretz [3].



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Gospel In Six

A while back, I posted a challenge to our local church Facebook group:
Describe the gospel in 25 words or less. Can we explain it to someone without diving into too much detail? Suppose we all wore Tshirts that said "Ask me about the Gospel". You get on an elevator with someone, they say "I'll bite, tell me about the gospel". You have 7 seconds (25 words) to get them to say "Tell me more".
I didn’t get a lot of responses, but here is my attempt “You're gonna die, you're not going to heaven or hell. But God, through Jesus, has a plan to bring you back to life, forever. Interested?" I know, I used two contractions and “gonna” to keep it to 25 words. It’s the best I’ve come up with so far. Perhaps you can do better.

What if I told you that God managed to pack the gospel into one word of six letters? Yes we have to go back to Hebrew to see it. But it is the very first word in the Bible. In English, the Bible starts “In the beginning”, in Hebrew it starts “beresheet”, that is בראשית. The word Beresheet has also come to mean the first book of Moses, what we call Genesis in English.

This is Beresheet in an actual torah scroll (sefer torah) used in a synagogue. It’s crooked because it’s a photo of an uneven scroll.

Since Hebrew is written without vowels, this gives different ways to parse a word like beresheet. We will consider three ways – maybe there are more.

1. B’resheet
2. Bar’asheet
3. Bara’sheet

Number 1 (B’resheet ) is the usual meaning of the word – in the beginning, although it would be more accurate to translate it “in a beginning” - see Kehillat Israel (2).

Number 2 (Bar’asheet) I found comments from several sources.
The Amazing Word of God (3) - If you take the word for "son" in Hebrew (bar) and the word for "I make" (asheet) and put them together, you have the first word of the Scriptures: "in the beginning" (barasheet).

Bible Society in Israel (4) - The first word of the Bible, b’resheet, can be divided into two words, “bar asheet,” meaning “I will appoint a son.” This strengthens the parallel we have already noted in John 1. … So from the very first word of the creation story we get the hint that God will appoint a son through whom the redemption will come.

In case you remembered the Hebrew word for son is “ben”, as in Benjamin, Yahoo Answers (5) explains.
Q. In Hebrew bar and ben both mean 'son of' what is the difference that determines which you use?
A. This is an easy one: "ben" is Hebrew, "bar" is Aramaic. In Hebrew you always use "ben" except for imported phrases such as "bar mitzvah" or names like "Shim'on bar Yokhai".

Grant Luton of Beth Tikkun adds this in his article In The Beginning (6).
Now if we recombine the definitions of these two Hebrew words, we arrive at the phrase “A Son I shall put/place/appoint”. A better rendering might be, “A Son I shall establish.” The introduction of only a slight separation between the second and third letters of the Bible provides us with this insight

Let’s look at number 3 – (Bara’sheet) - Bara (ברא) is the second word of the bible and means “he created”. Sheet is a variant of shesh (שש) or “six”. The question is “six what?” We have to read through verse 3 to see it, but one answer is six alephs (א). There are six alephs in the first sentence of the Hebrew Bible (verses 1-3). And aleph sounds exactly like eleph (אלף), which means “thousand”. In other words, six alephs equals six thousand years. Two alephs during the darkness (verses 1-2) two alephs where God speaks (verse 3), and two alephs in “let there be light” (verse 3). In other words, 2000 years of darkness till Abraham, 2000 years after revealing his torah, and 2000 years in the light of Christ. Note the progression from darkness to speech to light. Luton gives much more detail about the derivation at In The Beginning (6) and also shows where this notion came from:
The Talmud also suggests allusions to Messiah in the opening words of Genesis. The Talmud (b.Avodah Zarah 9a) states the following:

The world is to exist for six thousand years; the first two thousand years are to be void; the next two thousand years are the period of the Torah, and the following two thousand years are the period of the Messiah. Through our many sins some of these have already passed [and the Messiah has not yet come].3
3 The words that appear in brackets were added by Rashi (R’ Shlomo ben Yitzchak, 1040-1105 C.E.)

The Talmud quote can be found in Avodah Zarah (7) at 

So if we put them all together [B’resheet, Bar’asheet, Bara’sheet], taking a little license, we have “In the beginning, God appointed a Son, and gave man six thousand years”.

Admittedly, you have to read through verse 3 plus other sources to get the interpretation of 6000 years, so technically it wasn’t one word. But still it is an incredible thing – the essence of the gospel in one six letter word.

These observations in the Talmud were made many hundreds of years ago, Wikipedia dates this tractate to about 100AD [wikipedia - Avodah Zarah (8)]. What we know as the “six thousand year plan” has been known for thousands of years already. It isn’t an idea discovered in these end times, but it is all the more urgent now to understand that time is up, and Jesus is returning soon. It was foretold from the first word of the Bible.