Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What's In A Name?

Consider this synopsis of the Gospel story.

Zechariah, a priest, and his wife Elizabeth begat John the Baptist, who declared that Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was both the Son of God and the lamb of God. Jesus the Christ, also known as Immanuel, was born of Joseph and Mary, and lived in Nazareth. Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot in the Garden of Gethsemene, sentenced by Pontius Pilate to die instead of Barabbas, and crucified on Golgotha. After His death, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, both members of the Sanhedrin, laid Jesus in Joseph's tomb, and Jesus was resurrected three days later.

This is not the whole of the Gospel message, but the names, places, and events are familiar to Christianity. Many believe there are no random names in the Bible, that everyone is named according to who or what they are or will become. If we look at the names involved, we will see a deeper layer of meaning. Breaking it down sentence by sentence, name by name.

Sentence One

Zechariah, a priest, and his wife Elizabeth begat John the Baptist, who declared that Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was both the Son of God and the lamb of God.

Zachariah (Zicharyah)  - God remembers. The name Zachariah consists of two parts. The ending of the name is יה, the abbreviated form of the Name of the Lord: יהוה or YHWH. The first part of the name Zacharias was taken from the verb זכר (zakar), meaning to think about, meditate, or remember. Zachariah was a Levitical priest of the line of Abijah who had a vision of the angel Gabriel while serving in the temple. Gabriel told him his wife would bear a son, and his name would be John - Incensed [1].

Elizabeth - (Elishevah) - Oath of God. Elizabeth, is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name אלישבע, Elisheba, which was the name of the wife of Aaron; the "mother of all priests". The Hebrew name Elisheba, consists of two parts. The first part is אל (El) the common abbreviation of Elohim or God. The second part is שבע (shaba), meaning oath, swear, adjure.

John the Baptist Named
John the Baptist (Jochanan) - Grace of God. The name John, or rather the Hebrew original, Johannan, consists of two elements. The first part is יה the abbreviated form of the Name of the Lord. The final part of Johannan comes from the verb חנן (hanan), meaning to be gracious. To emphasize the idea that Biblical names are not accidental, the angel Gabriel told Zacharias the baby's name would be John (Luke 1:13). Zacharias was struck dumb till the baby was named.

Jesus (Yeshua) - Salvation. The name Jesus is the Greek transliteration of the name יהושע (Joshua) and consists of two elements. The first part is the appellative יה (Yah) YHWH. The second element of the name Joshua/Jesus comes from the root-verb ישע (yasha'), meaning to save or deliver. Note how much more meaningful it is if we put the Hebrew back into Isaiah 12:1-3.
1 Then you will say on that day, "I will give thanks to You, O LORD; For although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, And You comfort me. 2 "Behold, God is my salvation (Jesus), I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation (Jesus)." 3 Therefore you will joyously draw water From the springs of salvation (Jesus).

Bethlehem - House of Bread. The name Bethlehem consists of two words. The first word is בית (bayit), the Bible's regular word for house. The second part of the name Bethlehem comes from the curious root group לחם (laham), meaning either make war or use as food. So, the name Bethlehem means House Of Bread, with the strong connotation of House Of Battle.

John 6:32-35 is called the Bread of Life Discourse of Jesus. It was given in the synagogue of Capernaum shortly after the feeding of 5000 - Wikipedia  [2].

John 6:32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
Here's what GotQuestions had to say about the  Bread of Life Discourse.
“I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35) is one of the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus. Jesus used the same phrase “I AM” in seven declarations about Himself. Bread is such a basic food item that it becomes synonymous for food in general. Bread also plays an integral part of the Jewish Passover meal. The Jews were to eat unleavened bread during the Passover feast and then for seven days following as a celebration of the exodus from Egypt. Finally, when the Jews (Israelites) were wandering in the desert for 40 years, God rained down “bread from heaven” to sustain the nation. - GotQuestions [3]

Bethlehem was also significant because that's where the Temple lambs came from. John the Baptist (remember he was a Levitical priest) testified that Jesus was the Lamb of God`.

The bawling of sheep rang across the fields of Bethlehem. Migdal Eder, the Tower of the Flock, was the place where lambs destined for the Temple were born and raised. Every firstborn male lamb from the area around Bethlehem was considered holy, set aside for sacrifice in Jerusalem - Why Bethlehem [4]
The Tower of the Flock was probably the very place where Mary placed Jesus in a manger, just like the newborn lambs - The Birth Revisited [5]

Luke's original audience would have immediately picked up on the religious significance of the Bethlehem shepherds watching their flocks by night. Aware of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Jewish Temple worship of the day, they would have known that when you said Bethlehem, you said "sacrificial lambs". The hills around Bethlehem were home to the thousands of lambs used in ritual worship in the Temple.  Every day, according to the Torah, two lambs were required for a daily sacrifice in the Temple, meaning that 730 were needed each year plus the tens of thousands more lambs needed for Pesach (Passover) as well as for the other religious rituals. Everyone in Israel recognized Bethlehem as being synonymous with sacrificial lambs - The Birth Revisited [5]
We could rewrite the first sentence like this.

God remembered His covenant with His people Israel, where He promised them the grace of salvation (Is 53:6) found in the New Covenant (Jer 31:31). The mediator of this new covenant is Jesus, who is the Son of God, the Bread From Heaven, and the Lamb of God, pictured in the symbols of the Passover service.

Sentence Two

Jesus Christ, also known as Immanuel, was born of Joseph and Mary and lived in Nazareth.

Christ - Anointed One. Christos is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Mashiach. It is really a title, not a name. The English word Messiah is identical to the noun and adjective משיח (mashiah), meaning Anointed One, and comes from the Hebrew verb משח (mashah), meaning to anoint. The name Messiah is really a pseudonym for King

Immanuel - God With Us. The name Immanuel consists of three parts:
1) The Hebrew preposition עם (im), meaning 'with'.
2) The nu-part in Immanu comes from the common pronominal suffix that means 'us'.
3) The third part of the name Immanuel is the Hebrew word אל (El), the common abbreviation of the word אלהים (Elohim), denoting the genus God.

Joseph - Increaser, Repeater, Doubler. The name Joseph comes from the verb יסף (yasap) meaning to add, increase, or repeat. But wait, there's more. Based on Biblical prophecies, ancient rabbis spoke of two Messiahs, one who would fight for and deliver His people, and another who would suffer and die for His people. They call the fighter Messiah ben (son of) David, the redeemer Messiah ben (son of) Joseph, the Doubler. Hebrew For Christians [6] lists 60 parallels between the lives of Joseph, son of Jacob and Jesus the Christ. Messiah ben Joseph is the one who died on the cross. Messiah ben David will return soon in power and glory. Others dispute the authenticity of this, saying the writings about the two Messiahs are from long after Jesus' death.

Mary (Miriam) - Beloved, Bitterness, Rebellion. The name Miriam is probably Egyptian of origin, derived from a word that means Beloved. But to a Hebrew audience it may have seemed that the name Miriam came from the verb מרה (mara) meaning to be rebellious or disobedient. However, the Greek name Maria (which became Mary in the English language) may have reminded a Hebrew audience of the Hebrew and Aramaic verb מרר (marar), meaning to be bitter or strong. Jonathan Cahn said it this way "a world of bitterness and rebellion to give birth to salvation." - Book Of Mysteries [7]

Nazareth - Branch, Scattered, Sown. There is disagreement on the origin and meaning of the name Nazareth.  Some scholars believe that the name Nazareth came from the verb נצר II (nasar II), meaning to be green, and translate it as Branch, the place where Messiah would grow up as a branch, and from where He would branch out. Others believe it is from the verb זרה (zara), meaning to scatter or winnow, or זרע (zara'), meaning to scatter or sow. On the one hand, a branch from the root of Jesse, on the other hand, the parable of the sower. On the other hand, I am the vine, you are the branches, on the other hand, the parable of the wheat and tares.

We could rewrite sentence two like this.

A world of bitterness and rebellion gave birth to salvation, in the person of the Anointed One,  the Messiah whose government will increase without end. The Son of God branched out from humble beginnings to sow the seed of the Word of God.

Sentence Three

Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot in Gethsemene, sentenced by Pontius Pilate to die instead of Barabbas, and crucified on Golgotha.

Judas given 30 pieces of silver
Judas (Judah, Yehuda) - Praise. The name Judas is the Hellenized version of the Hebrew name Judah, and the name Judah comes from the Hebrew root-verb ידה, meaning to praise. How does the betrayer's name mean praise? My only theory is that ידה derives from יד meaning hand. In a sense, Judas raised his hand to Jesus. Also, Jesus was betrayed by the Jewish (Yehudim) elite. He was one of their own, just as Judas was one of His own.
Iscariot - City Dweller. The Hebrew name consists of two elements. The first element is the common Hebrew noun איש ('ish), meaning man. The second part of our name appears in the Old Testament as Kerioth, which was a town situated on the southern border of the territory of the tribe of Judah. The name Kerioth is a plural of the noun קריה (qiryah), meaning city, which comes from the verb קרה (qara), meaning to meet or get together. The Sanhedrin gathered to plot against Jesus.

Stone Olive Press
Gethsemane - (Olive) Oil Press. The name Gethsemane is Hebrew (or Aramaic) and consists of two elements. The first part comes from the word גת (gat), meaning press. The second part of our name comes from the root שמן (smn), and may either mean olive oil or eight. Isaiah wrote of Jesus death:
Is 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Jesus is the one crushed, Mark 14:34 "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death".  The crushing betrayal of the Messiah at Gethsemane (and on the cross at Golgotha) brought forth the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the oil.  There are many parallels between the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemane.

Another interpretation might be that Jesus ushered in a new beginning, analogous to the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles.

Ecce Homo – Behold the Man
Pilate (Pilatus) - Freedman, Spear In HandSeveral commentators insist that the name Pilatus came from the derived word pilleum, which denoted a small felt hat or fez-like cap, predominantly worn by manumitted (freed) slaves to indicate their former status, or rather their newly obtained freedom. A freed slave was hence known as pilleatus or pileatus, meaning "one of the pilleum". I was upset to learn this meaning of Pilate's name, that the one who ordered Jesus execution should be a Freedman. Does this mean that humanity thinks the way to freedom is deicide (killing God)? Or that only by the death of Jesus can we really be freed from sin? Other commentators believe Pilate means spear in hand. Ultimately, Jesus was killed by a spear to the side.
Pontius - Fifth - The name Pontius either means Fifth or Belonging To The Sea. I don't understand how either of these meanings makes sense.

Barabbas - Son of the Father. The name Barabbas is Greek transliteration of a Chaldean or Aramaic name. It consists of two elements. The first part is the Chaldean or Aramaic word בר (bar), meaning son. The second part of the name Barabbas comes from the Semitic word אב (ab), basically meaning father. Jesus was also Son of the Father. In the Atonement (Yom Kippur) ceremony, two goats were presented to the High Priest, one was sacrificed, and one was sent away, a recurring theme in the Bible, see Cain and Abel [8]. Pilate unknowingly acted out Yom Kippur with Jesus and Barabbas.

Golgotha - Place of the Skull.  Golgotha is translated right in the Bible in Mark 15:22 Then they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. It's not clear why it's called Place of the Skull, whether it is due to the appearance of the hill, or the presence of skulls from previous crucifixions - Gospel Mysteries [9].

Rewriting sentence three.

Our Savior was crushed by the betrayal of a gathering of the Jews, His own people, first by His friend, and then by the High Priest and the Council, who sent Him to the Romans to be killed. As on Yom Kippur, the innocent was slain, the guilty sent away. His blood was poured out on a cross in a place called the Skull, that we may have salvation, and receive the gift of God's own Spirit as a down payment on eternal life.

Sentence Four

After His death, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, both members of the Sanhedrin, laid Jesus in Joseph's tomb, and Jesus was resurrected three days later.

Joseph - Increaser, Repeater, Doubler. Joseph was covered above. Note there were two Josephs in Jesus life, like a repeat.
Pomegranates and Bells on the High Priest's Robe
of Arimathea - The Heights. Arimathea literally means The Heights. Job 22:12 "Is not God in the heights of heaven?" God the Father was looking out for Jesus from on high. A possible interpretation could be that God magnified Jesus sacrifice.  Embedded in the name Arimathea is rimmon which means pomegranate, which adorned the robe of the High Priest, and which some say symbolizes righteousness. Perhaps Jesus life could be summed up as the Height of Righteousness.

Victory of the People
Nicodemus - Victory Of The People. The name Nicodemus is a compound of two elements. The first part of our name comes from the word νικη (nike), meaning victory. The second part of the name Nicodemus comes from the familiar noun δημος (demos), meaning people. All the people on earth have been prisoners held captive by the Adversary. Jesus has given us the victory over him. Dt 5:6 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."

Sanhedrin - Council. From the Greek sunedrion , "a council-chamber", the supreme council of the Jewish people in the time of Christ and earlier. The Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem had 70 members plus the High Priest. This hearkens back to the time of Moses where 70 men were chosen to help Moses judge the people - GotQuestions [10]. It also hearkens back to the "table of nations" in Gen 10, a listing of 70 nations descended from Noah. In other words, the Great Sanhedrin passed judgment on Jesus on behalf of all the nations on Earth. It was not unanimous however.

Rewriting sentence four.

Our savior's life was the height of righteousness. He won victory for all the people of earth. In his death, He freed us from bondage to sin. In His resurrection, He was set in the heights of heaven where He saves us by His life.

What's In A Name?

Taking a simple account of the Gospel and expanding the meaning of the names gives a richer, deeper story.  The Bible text has many layers of meaning.

God remembered His covenant with His people Israel, where He promised them the grace of salvation (Is 53:6) found in the New Covenant (Jer 31:31). The mediator of this new covenant is Jesus, who is the Son of God, the Bread From Heaven, and the Lamb of God, pictured in the symbols of the Passover service. A world of bitterness and rebellion gave birth to salvation, in the person of the Anointed One,  the Messiah whose government will increase without end. The Son of God branched out from humble beginnings to sow the seed of the Word of God. Our Savior was crushed by the betrayal of a gathering of the Jews, His own people, first by His friend, and then by the High Priest and the Council, who sent Him to the Romans to be killed. As on Yom Kippur, the innocent was slain, the guilty sent away. His blood was poured out on a cross in a place called the Skull, that we may have salvation, and receive the gift of God's own Spirit as a down payment on eternal life. Our savior's life was the height of righteousness. He won victory for all the people of earth. In his death, He freed us from bondage to sin. In His resurrection, He was set in the heights of heaven where He saves us by His life.


Nearly all the descriptions of the meanings of the names came from Abarim Publications. To avoid clutter, I didn't include individual references above, but this would have been difficult without the info at Abarim. I'm indebted to them. Their website is From there, one can research almost any name or place in the Bible. 


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Cross At Auschwitz

Crosses at Auschwitz

On the grounds of Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau, the Catholic Church erected a 26 foot tall cross in 1984 to commemorate Pope John Paul II's visit to Auschwitz five years earlier. Jewish people took offense at this as it was primarily Jews that died there, upwards of 1.5 million Jews died there. But to many, being offended by this cross is a tempest in a teapot. The counter argument is that some 70,000 Catholics also died there and deserve a memorial. The counter counter argument is that there are no Stars of David or other Jewish symbols in the Auschwitz museum. The counter counter counter argument is that Poland can do what it likes in its own country.

Eventually, this grew into a controversy known as the War of the Crosses. Hundreds more small crosses were planted, and finally removed, but the 26 foot cross remains.

I didn't know of the controversy when the first cross was erected in 1984, nor did I know of the War of the Crosses in 1998. As with a lot of things, I learned about it by accident from reading a book, James Carroll's book "The Sword of Constantine" - [1]. At first, I didn't understand why it was all that controversial. But as I learned the arguments and counter arguments, I think I understand it better.

Catholic Church in SS administration building at Birkenau

The Carmelite nuns who erected the cross also used an Auschwitz administration building as a church. This drew fire from the Washington Post  in 2015. The article's title really sums it up "Auschwitz is a sacred* place of Jewish memory. It’s no place for a Catholic church." [2] The issue of a church on the grounds is the same as the cross on the grounds. I found some of the readers comments insightful. For instance:

Auschwitz is not just a place, it is a symbol.
The offence lies in the fact that the Church, whose record of anti-Semitism is plain for all to see, took over a site at which many Jews (and others of course, but mainly Jews) were murdered. It is place primarily of Jewish memory, and sorrow, and is therefore sacred* to the Jews as it cannot be to Christians. 
It is the same reason why so many Christians were up in arms over Muslims building a community center near the former World Trade Center. 
Funny that it's become okay to trivialize the attempted extinction of the Jews by gathering up all the other victims and making them the focus. 
There was, from the beginning of the realization of the atrocities that occurred at the concentration camps, an international understanding that no religious institution would establish a monument or place of worship at the camps. That they would be preserved as museums. Only the Catholics have ignored that agreement.

The Churches' record of anti-Semitism appears to be the reason it offends Jews so deeply. James Carroll carefully documents the beginnings of and the rise of anti-Semitism in the Catholic church. Gabriel Wilensky argues in his book "Six Million Crucifixions" - [3] that "Absent Christianity, no Holocaust would have taken place." The not so subtle subtitle is "How Christian Teachings About Jews Paved the Road to the Holocaust". That is a very strong statement to make, so let's review the history and the logic.

Constantine And the Rise Of Antisemitism

The rise of the church as we know it is the rise of antisemitism. The term antisemitism was coined in 1879 by journalist William Mahr to avoid the term anti-Judaism which had Christian implications. But anti-Judaic sentiment has been around a long time, The family feud between Abraham's sons Ishmael and Isaac passed down through the millenia and morphed into a hatred against Abraham's great grandson Judah (origin of the word Jew).

The church started out as strictly Jewish, 100% Jewish with the possible exception of the Ethiopian Eunuch - [4]. But the church opened up to Gentiles in New Testament times, and within a couple hundred years become almost exclusively Gentile, taking great pains to not appear Jewish. Constantine had a big hand in shaping the now Gentile church. Consider Constantine's creed.

 Emperor Constantine the Great
“I renounce all customs, rites, legalisms, unleavened breads and sacrifices of lambs of the Hebrews, and all the other feasts of the Hebrews, sacrifices, prayers, aspirations, purifications, sanctifications, and propitiations, and fasts and new moons, and Sabbaths, and superstitions, and hymns and chants, and observances and synagogues. absolutely everything Jewish, every Law, rite and custom and if afterwards I shall wish to deny and return to Jewish superstition, or shall be found eating with Jews, or feasting with them, or secretly conversing and condemning the Christian religion instead of openly confuting them and condemning their vain faith, then let the trembling of Cain and the leprosy of Gehazi cleave to me, as well as the legal punishments to which I acknowledge myself liable. And may I be an anathema in the world to come, and may my soul be set down with Satan and the devils.” - Stefano Assemani, Acta Sanctorium Martyrum Orientalium at Occidentalium [5], Vol. 1, Rome 1748, page 105

Roger Pearse writes

A pronounced hostility to Jews as Jews does start to appear, after the legalisation of the church, particularly towards the end of the 4th century.
The first impression is that the early Christians were not, in the main, concerned with attitudes to Jews.  The translation of the Ante-Nicene Fathers fills 5,000 large double-column pages, without including the homilies of Origen; the post-Nicene fathers probably ten times as much.  So these quotations are an infinitesimally tiny portion of their work.  The fathers were concerned with  their own identity as Christians, and how to understand the Old Testament, and relate it to themselves.  They were not concerned with demonising Jews, by race or religion, so much as with connecting themselves with OT prophecy.  Since, prior to 313 AD, they held no political power, any such attitudes would have meant nothing anyway. Roger Pearse [6]

Again, the church started out strictly Jewish, and three centuries later was anti-Jewish. This divide started as a theological difference, but ended as racial hatred. Here is the progression of thinking in the words of Six Million Crucifixions - [3].
When Paul’s followers realized that their new message was not having an effect on traditional Jews, they made efforts to show the world that God had chosen a new Israel and had forsaken what they perceived to be an obstinate people.

The “new” Christians produced a new and separate theology that defined itself in part as everything Judaism was not. Over time, Christians felt the need to do everything possible to stand out from Judaism and Jews, and this evolved into a hatred that imputed Jews with all the ills of the world.
Ultimately, these Christian thinkers had fully absorbed the Christian supersessionistic view that stipulated that God’s covenant with the Jewish people was null and that Christianity was now the true Israel, the community truly chosen by God.

A Flaw In the Theology

There was one annoying catch to this theology however. The church believed that the salvation of humanity depended upon the conversion of Jews to Christianity. On the one hand, they taught from the pulpit that the Jews are responsible for all the world's ills, and on the other (maybe not so much) that they need the Jews for their own salvation. The church leaders were then surprised when the mobs acted out in practice what the Church taught in theory.

The Roman Ghetto
Many popes' solution was to round up the Jews and put them in ghettos, where they were forced to listen to sermons on a regular basis, mostly to no avail, that is very few (willing) conversions. Some of the popes did protect the Jews from armies and mobs. The connection to the holocaust is drawn very plainly by Cardinal Edward Cassidy, “the ghetto, which came into being in 1555 with a papal bull [edict], became in Nazi Germany the antechamber of the extermination.” - "The Sword of Constantine" - [1]

What about Reformation churches? Surely they corrected the theology and the racial hatred, right? Sadly no, Wilensky [3] again.

Martin Luther is a pivotal Christian figure, not only because he was the father of the Protestant movement, but also because as one of history’s greatest antisemites he unwittingly contributed to the establishment of the foundation on which Nazi antisemitism was built.

From Theology To Racism To Holocaust

And in the words of the perpetrators themselves.

“I (Hitler) have been attacked because of my handling of the Jewish question. The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them into ghettos, etc., because it recognized the Jews for what they were. April 26, 1933 - Wikipedia [7]

In 1939, Roberto Farinacci, a member of Mussolini’s Fascist Grand Council, while speaking on “The Church and the Jews” said: “We fascist Catholics consider the Jewish problem from a strictly political point of view. . . . But it comforts our souls to know that if, as Catholics, we became antisemites, we owe it to the teachings that the Church has promulgated over the past twenty centuries.” - The Catholic Church Paved the Way for the Holocaust [8]

Wilensky [3] yet again.
It is easy to see how the masses of people in Germany, Poland, France and other Christian countries became immune to the horror of the exterminatory campaign against the Jews once we understand that these peoples had heard, all their lives, that Jews were evil, killers of God, an enemy of Christianity and deservers of the fate that had befallen them. Throughout Europe Christian prelates and priests of all levels insistently promoted these ideas to a flock ready to listen.


Refuting all the theological arguments against Jews is beyond my scope here, but let me address deicide (killing God), that is, "the Jews deserve it [the holocaust] because they killed Christ." People will quote scripture saying "Let His blood be on us and on our children" as proof that they asked for it and had it coming. And the New Testament does have harsh things to say to the Jews, more so than the Romans who actually killed Jesus. But is there really a curse on the entire nation because of this? By the way, this thinking really took off in the Middle Ages.

To read the cry of Matthew 27:25 as an eternal curse on the Jewish people is therefore to press the language beyond its Biblical context. Jewish guilt for the death of Christ in Matthew rested upon a small number of the nation who were there, and to read into these words a curse on all Jews forever is ludicrous.
The guilt for the murder of Christ belonged to these Jews alone who stood before Pilate demanding that Jesus be crucified. It was not passed on to all Jews born after them. - Todd Baker "Blood Libel" [9]

In other words, the mob accepted responsibility for killing Jesus and the mob was controlled by the religious leaders. Remember, Jerusalem welcomed Jesus as king four days before His crucifixion (most people think of it as Palm Sunday, but it was more likely Palm Sabbath). It was the leaders who wanted rid of Jesus. They held a kangaroo court, whipped up a mob, and forced Pilate's hand to order Jesus executed - Got Questions [10]. The people loved Jesus, the leaders hated him. “Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew” (Romans 11:1–2).

Does your church teach the holocaust was something the Jews had coming? Does your church teach that the church replaced Israel, aka Replacement Theology [11] or Supersessionism?

Anti-Judaism goes back way before the Catholic Church and Constantine. The real source of hatred against Jews is the enemy trying to thwart God's plan. He hated Israel in Egypt, he hated Israel in the wilderness, he stirred up countries to attack the ancient nation of Israel, and eventually focused his hatred on Judah, one of the tribes of Israel, of whom is it written "salvation is of the Jews". If he could eliminate the Jews, could he thwart God's plan?

The Cross of Auschwitz

After centuries of papal authority dominating and humiliating the Jews, I can understand why the Jews would resent crosses on a uniquely Jewish site. The cross symbolizes the very church that oppressed them for 2000 years.

*Sacred - Someone pointed out that just because  many people died there does not make it sacred, only God can do that. Men cannot declare something sacred. However, the term sacred is often used to mean a solemn, protected place or object.



Sunday, October 30, 2016

Between the Ears Index

The Blog Archive on the right side of this page, generated automatically by, is in chronological order by year and month. While it is complete, it does not give titles, so I thought it would be more convenient to provide an index with titles and summaries of my blog articles. These are in reverse chronological order, except "Sycamore Of Ground Zero", which got moved by accident when I updated it. I will update the index when I add new articles.

The Great American Solar Eclipse April 8, 2024,  people in the United States will be able to see a total solar eclipse, from Texas to Maine. This eclipse will also cross Mexico and part of Canada. With all the "coincidences" associated with this eclipse, one must ask if this is just an ordinary astronomical event? Or is it a sign from God Himself? 

With Healing In His Wings In nature, the color blue is rare, yet it is required in the Tabernacle, required in the door, the veil, and the clothing. Every Israelite was commanded to wear a tassel with a blue thread in it. What is the symbolism of that blue thread? Many people who simply touched Jesus' tassels were healed, fulfilling the prophecy that He would come with healing in His wings. Learn more about the Biblical record of tassels that is lost in translation, the prophecy about them, and the blue dye industry so important then.

History, Language, and Context of Acts 15 - A dispute arose concerning whether Gentiles needed to be circumcised to be saved. The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 convened to resolve the question. The conclusion was that the Gentiles had to abstain from four things: idols, sexual immorality, things strangled, and blood. From the perspective of the 21st century, that doesn't make sense. But from the perspective of Jewish history and culture, it does. Many churches use Acts 15 as a proof text that the law is done away, but one can see that the answers came from the the law (Torah).

No Hot Showers While keeping the Feast of Tabernacles this year, the water heater at our accommodation failed on the first day. The owner did not manage to get it replaced during the Feast, so we never did get a hot shower for the eight days we were there.  This led to discussions about how Israel lived in tents for 40 years after leaving Egypt. I compare the camps of ancient Israel to modern day refugee camps, with an emphasis on the miracle of providing water every day. I also look at prophecies of the "second Exodus".

Poor In Spirit - Mt 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." How are we to understand poor in spirit? It can't mean a person is low in the Holy Spirit. In this article, we will look at the idiom "poor in spirit", compare it to similar verses in the Old Testament and other writings of the time to get to the meaning of it.

That Time The Pope Tried To Change The Bible King Henry VIII wanted to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, but needed special dispensation from the Catholic Church to do so. The church rejected his request based on an altered Hebrew scroll that they claimed belonged to Ezra. Henry's response was to separate the Church of England from the Catholic Church. While this was a trivial attack on the Bible for political purposes, the Bible has long been under attack. Read more about King Henry's "Great Matter" and other attacks on the Bible.

As If Firstborn During the Pentecost season, it is fitting to examine the subject of the Firstborn. In particular, we explore several examples in the Old Testament where the first born was passed over, and a later born son was elevated. How do those passed over react? Those later born sons who were chosen and treated as firstborns are a type of the church.

The Nine Commandments In the book "The Nine Commandments", David Noel Freedman presents a theory that nine of the Ten Commandments are violated in order, one per book. After this, ancient Israel is exiled to captivity. In other words, God gave the nation nine chances, they blew it nine times, and ended up in exile. Critics don't all agree with Freedman, so I present his view, then the criticisms, for you to make up your own mind.

Worshipped Him Saying I was confused about the meaning of the word worship. It's a common word, but the more I looked into it, the less I understood it. I present some common definitions like "Worship is loving God". One author points out that "In Christian circles, worship has also morphed to mean a certain type of music." Finally, I look at the words translated as worship in the Bible, and a clearer picture emerges.

American Idols Idolatry was one of the big reasons God exiled ancient Israel. They served three gods above the rest – Baal, Molech, and Ishtar. Is America and the rest of the Western world guilty of serving these same idols? In this article, I compare idolatry in ancient Israel with idolatry in modern America.

The Heart of the Torah The structure of the Bible gives clues to its meaning. Scholars have come to see that Atonement is the pivotal ceremony at the heart of the Torah, meaning the five books of Moses. I use the literary device called the chiasm to show how Atonement IS the heart of the Torah. Chiasms are best understood visually, so be sure to study the charts included.

Counting The Days A few Bible controversies revolve around what day something happened. Here my understanding of four of them.

What day was Jesus Christ crucified?
What day did Israel leave Egypt?
What day is Pentecost (Shavuot)?
What day did Israel cross the Red Sea?

The Generations Of Adam The Bible often records why a person is given a particular name. It surprised me to learn that according to some scholars, the names of Adam to Noah (Gen 5) reveal a message, specifically a message of the Gospel. In this article, I examine those names, and the messages different authors claim those names make. I also show what some critics say about Bible codes in general, and this message in particular.

Crown Of Thorns Jesus wore a crown of thorns during His trial and crucifixion. What is the significance of this? Any symbolism? Let's explore the subject of thorns to see what the Bible reveals.

How Paul Wrote His Epistles Artists have depicted the Apostle Paul writing epistles as a solitary man sitting at a desk, quill pen in hand, maybe candles and scrolls nearby. But according to recent scholarship, this isn’t an accurate picture. Letters from that era combined with clues in Paul's epistles can shed some light on the process. We look at the work of E Randolph Richards to get a better picture of how Paul wrote his epistles to the churches.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Pill Drugs, both legal and illegal, are big business today, over $1 trillion per year.  The Bible doesn't say much about drugs, but Revelation 18:23 has a reference  to drugs hidden by translation. Here, the Greek word pharmakeia is translated as sorcery. Pharmakeia is clearly the word we get pharmacy and pharmaceutical from, so why is it translated sorcery? Let's dig in and see what we can discover about pharmakeia.

Watch Ye Therefore. Ye Whom? Watch What? Luke 21:36 says "Watch ye therefore, and pray always...". Watch what? The traditional view is that we need to be watching world events. But does anyone not know about the events taking place in the world? Let's look at the context of "watch ye therefore" and see if there is a deeper meaning.

Gospel Of The Firstfruits Acts 1:8 says the disciples will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes, and they will witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. I had always focused on the tongues of fire. But 1:8 says two things, receive power AND witness. And that witness is to flow out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Let’s look at the first chapters of Acts to see how Acts 1:8 was fulfilled. And has a future fulfillment too.

Is the COVID-19 Vaccine the Mark of the Beast? Some have said that the COVID-19 vaccine is the Mark of the Beast. Is there any truth to that? Is that what the Bible says? The Mark of the Beast is mentioned in a few verses in the Book of Revelation. Among other things, it refers to preventing commerce to people without the Mark. Multiple sources are now discussing restricting travel and other activities without a "vaccine passport". So, does it follow that the COVID-19 then is the Mark of the Beast?

The Other Kinsman Redeemer - In the book of Ruth, we see an example of the kinsman redeemer, in this case Boaz redeemed Ruth, her mother in law Naomi, and their land. It is a love story complete with drama and a happy ending. And this short story also provides us with a picture (a type or foreshadowing) of Jesus Christ and the church. The phrase "kinsman redeemer" is translated from the Hebrew word "goel", but there is another use of the word goel which is obscured in English. Let's explore this other goel, and see what we can learn about it.

The Throne of David And The Daughters Of Zelophehad Here's a puzzle from the Bible. It says that Jesus will sit on the throne of King David. It also says that King Jeconiah, who is descended from David, will never have a descendant on the throne. So how can Jesus, apparently a descendant of Jeconiah, sit on the throne of David?

On Vultures' Wings The popular Christian song "On Eagle's Wings" by Michael Joncas is based partly on a verse from the Bible, Exodus 19:4, which says "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself." Let's see what lessons we can dig out of this short verse.

A Tale Of Two Natures The story of Israel warring with Amalek has much meaning under the surface, typology rich with symbolism for us today.  We have two natures, and we need to fight the Amalek within us, and this story shows us the battle is both physical and spiritual. As a church or as a nation, we win as long as we hold up the arms of our leaders. As individuals, we win as long as we amplify our physical efforts with the spiritual tools of prayer and Bible study.

Anxiety In Perilous Times I think it is clear that we have entered perilous times. What should our response be? Depression? Alcohol? Prepping? Study prophecy? I think Psalm 91 can help us cope with anxiety by comforting us and assuring us of God's love for us and His plan for us. Let's examine Psalm 91 more closely in light of today's perilous times.

It's A Jungle Out There The jungle metaphor is common in America. It pictures a brutal world view, where people are vicious to each other, likening humans to animals in the jungle. "The real world is severe. It's hard to get by in everyday life." With the riots in America, it feels more like a jungle than ever. Even the jungle has laws, but the rioters want lawlessness and anarchy.

The Kinsman Redeemer Ruth is traditionally read at Pentecost. One reason is the events of the book of Ruth take place during the barley and wheat harvest season. But we as Christians have more reasons to study the book of Ruth. The events described are filled with prophetic meaning for us, some fulfilled, some still future.  Consider that Naomi pictures Israel, Ruth pictures the church, and Boaz the kinsman redeemer pictures Christ.

A Tale of Two Prophecies A prophecy by Jacob about Judah. A prophecy about his descendant Boaz. Three laws that are foreign to us. These all work together to produce Israel's longest running monarchy beginning with King David. Foretold in advance in a hidden code. Not only that, but Boaz pictures Jesus Christ, our Kinsman Redeemer.

Is Corona Virus The Pale Horse? - Even people who know very little about the Bible will recognize the term "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" from the book of Revelation. And most people know to associate the fourth horse, the Pale Horse, with death and disease. The Corona Virus COVID-19 looks like it could fit that description. Let's see.

The Paradigm: A Pattern For America -Many stories in the Bible serve as patterns of events to come later. The Bible records the reign of King Ahab and his wife Jezebel over the northern kingdom of ancient Israel. The characters and events of their rise and fall are a type for characters and events occurring right now in America, impossible as that seems. See the astonishing lists of parallels uncovered by Jonathan Cahn between ancient Israel and modern America. What does it mean?.

Well Well Well Sometimes, two or more Bible stories will share a common theme, phrase or unusual word. It is like the Bible is telling us to consider the stories together. And sometimes, two Bible stories are related simply because they are next to each other. By comparing companion stories, we gain more insight and dig out the deeper meanings.

The story of the Samaritan woman that meets Jesus at Jacob's well is an example of both types of stories. In this article, I compare Old Testament stories of men meeting women at wells with the Samaritan woman meeting Jesus; AND compare Nicodemus's meeting with Jesus to the Samaritan woman's meeting.

To Breed Or Not To Breed -More things you can learn even if you don't want to. In this article, I explore the philosophy known as anti-natalism, which is the notion that it would be better if humans were not born.

Epispasm -The things you can learn even if you don't want to.

Cover It With Covering -There is symbolism in Noah’s ark that has parallels with Atonement, also known as Yom Kippur. Read the surprising connections between Noah's Ark and the Day of Atonement, and why that is of interest to Christians.

The Omer - Make Mine A Double -The day the Wave Sheaf Offering is made is often called Firstfruits, and so is the Feast of Pentecost. The offering on Pentecost is double the offering on Wave Sheaf Day. What does this doubling mean? The Sabbath day was revealed to ancient Israel by a double portion of Manna. How is the double portion of Manna and the double offering connected? Read about the significance of "doubling".

You Don't Know What You Don't Know - Psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger have repeatedly shown that people who aren't good at something often overestimate their performance. And people who ARE good at something underestimate their performance. In this article, I explore what the Dunning-Kruger effect means individually, in politics, and in religion. With a message of hope.

Lessons From UN-Leavened Bread - The Bible commands us to keep Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. There is fascinating symbolism in leaven and in unleavened bread. Each year when these days roll around, I make unleavened bread. It helps me get into the spirit of the season. Here are some of my observations on lessons from making Unleavened Bread.

It's All About The Benjamins - The tribe of Benjamin can get overlooked by students of the Bible. It became the smallest of tribes, down to 600 men at one point. But Benjamin played a key role in ancient Israel by saving the tribe of Judah from destruction, and a key role in the New Testament church, a little known fact is that all the Apostles were Benjamites. Historians trace Benjamin to the modern countries of Iceland and Norway. Read the surprising history of Israel's smallest tribe.

Wrestling With Strangers - I've been puzzling over the story of Jacob wrestling with God for a while. At first, Jacob did not know it was God he was wrestling with. So questions occur to me. How exactly does one start a wrestling match with a stranger? Who started it? If this were a fight for survival with a stranger, why would Jacob choose wrestling as the best form of combat? These questions prevented me from seeing the more important point of the story.

Church of God Legacy The Church that Jesus started began small, one can wonder if it had any impact on the world throughout history. In this blog, I show that this Church was instrumental in writing the New Testament, preserving the text of the New Testament, and translating it into the languages of the people. The major translations of the Middle Ages were all based on earlier Church of God translations. And the publication of the Bible has shaped Western Civilization.

I'm Tired, Boss In the movie The Green Mile, John Coffey is tired of living because people are being "ugly to each other". He wants rest that he thinks only comes in the grave. We all desire rest. Where will it come from? 

Feast Of Trumpets: Memorial Of What? The Feast of Trumpets has the shortest description of all the Holy Days listed in Leviticus 23. The only thing it tells us to do that sets it apart from the other Holy Days is blow trumpets as a memorial. Which begs the question, “memorial of what?”

Five Spiritual Senses? "Spiritual blindness" is a common phrase. Spiritual blindness is even referred to in Amazing Grace, a very well known hymn, "I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see". Does the analogy extend to other senses? Many argue that there are five spiritual senses corresponding to the five physical senses. In this article, I explore the idea of "Five Spiritual Senses".

Filthy Rags The Bible is interconnected in surprising ways. It is humbling to see connections after years of study that were there all along. In this post, I show how four stories in Genesis are related to each other, and in my mind to a passage in Isaiah.

How Can The Law Set You Free? The Apostle James called it the Law of Liberty, or Law of Freedom. It seems contradictory,  freedom implies choice, law implies restricting choice. Well, which is it? Is it true? How does the law give freedom?

Bethlehem Sometimes we can miss so much of a Bible story if we don’t understand the historical and cultural context in which it was written. It’s impossible to shed our own culture completely, but the story of Bethlehem shows how important it is to understand the life and times of Jesus Christ. The proper context is not visible unless we understand the point of view of the shepherds in the field, and that society’s culture.

Unmasked Every culture has a tradition of wearing masks.  Why do people wear masks? What is their origin? And meaning? What does a mask hide? What does it reveal? Let's take a look at the origins and meaning of masks.

Joshua's Left Foot Both Moses and Joshua were told to remove their sandals because where they stood was holy. But the instructions are slightly different for each. Rabbi Hayyim Angel has a theory why the instructions are different and what that might mean. Let's take a look.

Esther Pays An Old Debt I always thought of the Purim story as a Jewish girl who rescued the Jewish nation. But, Rabbi David Fohrman points out that Esther and Mordecai were not Jews ethnically. They were descended from Benjamin. He also says that the story of Esther is linked to the story of Joseph in Egypt. Let's see how and why that's important.

Truth Changes Everything Why do people not heed the truth? What happened to being a lover of the truth? Because truth would require people to change. Here I ramble a bit on how hard it can be to act on learning a new truth.
Rhythm And Rhyme - The Old Testament is at least one third poetry, but Hebrew poetry isn't like English poetry, so until the 18th century, Western scholars did not even recognize the OT was filled with poetry. The key to appreciating biblical poetry is parallelism. In this article, I examine parallelism in Biblical poetry, and a deeper look at the parallelism in Psalm 67, the Menorah Psalm.

Spin The Bible Wheel - The Bible Wheel displays the books of the Bible in a two dimensional way ie circular, not simply as a linear list of books. It is based on the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the 66 books of the Protestant Bible making three concentric rings. It reveals hidden structures between books of the Bible. Take a closer look at it.

Hearing The Voice Of God - Amos predicted a famine of the Word, possibly meaning that no one hears the voice of God anymore. It may be no one is listening anymore. How God does talk to people? In a thundering voice? Or a low whisper? Or through His Word, our thoughts, and our lives?

Religious Nutjob Yes, I've been called a religious nutjob. As far as I know, not for anything I've written here. What is a religious nutjob anyway? When I look at what people do in the name of God, I am sometimes embarrassed to call myself a believer. Here I explore some aspects of religious nutjobbery. 

A Tale Of Two Sons The Apostle Paul uses the two sons of Abraham to talk about the two covenants. But there is another, older connection between the boys. the story of Isaac and Ishmael foreshadows a ceremony at the Tabernacle hundreds of years later. Consider this, one was (almost) sacrificed, one was sent away. This is exactly what happens during Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement in English. 

Work Versus Work There are two Hebrew words translated as work, avodah and melacha, both used in the Sabbath commandment. "Six days shall you avodah, and do all your melacha." - Exodus 20:8. I thought it would be easy and helpful to understand the difference between the two words for work. Not as easy as I thought.

Total Solar Eclipse: Apocalypse? Aug 21, 2017, people in the United States (and only the United States) will be able to see a total solar eclipse, coast to coast. Is this just an ordinary astronomical event? Or is it a sign from God Himself? Big deal or no?

The Story About Dinah Is Not About Dinah No words of Dinah are recorded. No thoughts or feelings of Dinah are recorded. Indeed, she is silent throughout the story. This maelstrom of deceit and violence and plunder and anger swirls around Dinah, but it appears no one ever thought to ask her how she felt, or what she thought. So I submit that the story about Dinah is not about Dinah.

The Other Ark of Moses The ark of the covenant and Noah's ark are translated from two different Hebrew words, but there are similarities between them. Noah's ark was covered inside and out with pitch (kafar)And it turns out the ark of the covenant had a cover called the kapporet, the same root Hebrew word as kafar or kippur.

Day Of Coverings In English, we call Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement. The Bible doesn't even call the day Yom Kippur, it calls it Yom HaKippurim or Yom Kippurim, plural not singular kippur. One meaning then of Yom HaKippurim is Day Of (The) Coverings. Why multiple coverings? And what do they mean?

The Ark of Moses Tevah is the Hebrew word for both Noah's ark and Moses' ark. What can we learn by comparing and contrasting the two uses of tevah? How are Noah and Moses alike? different? And what theme connects the two?

The Evolution of Matzoh  Those of us that keep Passover expect to eat square crackers called matzoh at the service, matzoh probably made by Mannishevitz. In nearly four decades of Passover observance, I don't recall anything but these matzohs. Some people love them, most just tolerate them, and some liken them to cardboard without all the flavor. The point is that when most of us think of matzoh, this is what we picture. Here's a look at how matzohs came to be the product we see today.

Why Write A Blog  In particular, why do I write this blog? I was prompted to ask myself this question after watching a TED talk called "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek. I was poised over my keyboard and ready to answer that with a fairly short statement, and I thought "why do other people write blogs?" ... An autobiographical look at why I write.

Here Comes The Groom  Many Jewish wedding customs from betrothal to the marriage supper foreshadow events in the Bible, past, present, and future. Many events and sayings in the Bible make more sense when viewed through the lens of a wedding. Here are a few such elements.

Unleavened  Beer? - People who keep the days of Unleavened Bread often ask "what about beer?" knowing that bread and beer are both made with yeast. There is much more than answering "it's not the days of unleavened beer". Let's see if we can sort out fact from tradition.

The Life Is In the Blood In 1898, Henry Clay Trumbull wrote "The Blood Covenant" documenting rituals and beliefs about blood from cultures around the world. He also showed the Biblical significance of a blood covenant. As Wayne Nelson of Faithwriters said "The importance of understanding the Blood Covenant is found in the fact that the basis of Christianity is rooted in a Blood Covenant." This article is a synopsis of the blood covenants of the Bible, with Abraham, ancient Israel, and the New Covenant as well.

What's In A Name? - The Gospel can be summarized in a few sentences. But the name of the players reveals a deeper message. Many believe there are no random names in the Bible, that everyone is named according to who they are or who they will become. Looking at the names in the Gospel account reveals a deeper meaning.

The Cross At Auschwitz On the grounds of Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau, the Catholic Church erected a 26 foot tall cross in 1984 to commemorate Pope John Paul II's visit to Auschwitz five years earlier. Jewish people took offense at this as it was primarily Jews that died there, upwards of 1.5 million Jews died there. Gabriel Wilensky argues that "Absent Christianity, no Holocaust would have taken place."  That is a very strong statement to make, so let's review the history and the logic.

Goliath The Underdog - The phrase "David and Goliath" has taken on a secular meaning, denoting an underdog situation, a contest where a smaller, weaker opponent faces a much bigger, stronger adversary. That is, David is portrayed as the underdog. But is David really the underdog? Malcom Gladwell makes the argument that David had the advantage, and Goliath was simply big and clumsy and nearly blind. Let's review the original story, and Gladwell's ideas, then decide for yourself.

A Tale Of Two Siblings - The story of Cain and Abel foreshadows a ceremony at the Tabernacle thousands of years later. Consider this, the righteous one was killed, the guilty one was sent away. This is exactly what happens during Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement in English. Two goats were selected, one goat sacrificed for the Lord (who was treated more "humanely" than Abel), and one goat to be removed, Azazel in Hebrew often translated scapegoat in English. The Azazel goat bore the guilt of the nation of Israel.

A Tale Of Two Seas - The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are both fed by the Jordan River, separated  by only 63 miles, yet these two "seas" couldn't be more different. Galilee, is full of life, including 35 species of fish. The Dead Sea is just that, dead. It is so salty (35%) that nothing plant or animal lives in it. One analogy likens water to the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit flows through us like the Jordan flows through the Sea of Galilee, life is produced in abundance. In other words, Jesus must flow through us, producing fruit like love, joy peace, etc. When one keeps the Spirit for themselves, perhaps through selfishness, greed, or fear, it becomes stagnant, not producing fruit.

Form Follows Function, Function Follows Form - Do you ever wonder why churches look the way they do? Ever think about the elements they have in common? A church wouldn't be a church without a pulpit, would it? It's located on the chancel. Here's the key thing - the chancel and especially the pulpit are reserved for the clergy. The choir and the organist also have their assigned places on the chancel. In many churches there is a dividing screen between nave and chancel.

A Harvest Of Muslims - When I look at the situation in the Middle East, I see chaos and warfare. But it seems that when God looks at the Middle East, He sees "the fields are ripe for harvest". What kind of harvest? A harvest of souls as it were. Tens of millions of Muslims are leaving Islam and converting to Christianity, often at great risk to themselves. And they're doing this in the middle of a war zone.

The More I Learn About Islam, the More I Hate It - Islam has been in the news a lot lately, with Syrian refugees pouring into Europe, the vast majority of these refugees being Muslim males. Many Europeans are uncomfortable with the influx, for several reasons: financial, crime, integration, terrorist Trojan horses. Rapes and other violence from the refugees has skyrocketed, so some cities and countries want to ship them back.  Those who welcome them in argue that "Islam is a religion of peace", and cite humanitarian grounds. What is the truth about Islam?

Is Leaven Sin? - Many churches who observe the Days of Unleavened Bread teach that leaven symbolizes sin. They base this on Jesus' words "beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees" in Matthew 16:6. The message was initially lost on the audience (the 12 disciples) because they thought He was talking about bread. Let's see how Jesus Himself interpreted leaven. In verse 12 of Matthew 16, Matthew says they (the disciples) understood Jesus was talking about the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Well, which is it? Does leaven represent sin or does it represent doctrine?

I Am A Worm - Gospel In A Grub - "I am a worm, and not a man." - Ps 22:6. When I read that, I always pictured an earthworm. But, Jesus was not thinking of earthworms in Psalm 22. Digging deeper we learn that there are two words for worm in Hebrew, one meaning maggot (rimmah), and the other meaning crimson worm (tola'at shani).  The word in Psalm 22:6 is tola'at shani. What is the symbolism of the crimson worm?

Paradise Pi - A Slice Of Heaven - Most Bible believers recognize that the Scriptures are deeper than the words on the surface, that is, the text has layers of meaning. Christian commentaries however seldom dig past the surface meaning of the words written. Not that they're wrong (well, sometimes they are), but that they usually don't dig deeper into the text. The Jews teach that every passage has four levels, from simple to hint to insight to secret. Let's look closer at these four levels of meaning - P'shat, Remez, D'rash, and Sod; or Simple, Hint, Insight, Mystery.

DIY Salvation - In a TV show I watched recently, a man undertook a Native American ritual of self inflicted pain to "set things right in the universe". He suffered severe pain and deprivation to make amends for wrongs he had done, after which his daughter was healed. Of course, that's TV. But the notion of self inflicted pain for spiritual gain is not confined to Native Americans, it is in many religions. Does this "Do It Yourself Atonement" work? Can I make it right with the universe by inflicting pain on myself? Can I do acts of charity to balance out the score?

The French Connection - The day of the Shemitah came and went. Skeptics feel justified in their skepticism, that life goes on just as it did before. Or in Bible language "For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." Maybe one needs to look in the right place for events associated with the Shemitah, which according to Jonathan Cahn was Sept 13, 2015. While the focus of the Shemitah warnings were given to America, perhaps we should also look at Israel.

Was Jesus Angry at the Leper? - In Mark 1:41, we read a story of Jesus healing a leper, simple enough on the surface, but with a puzzling aspect. 40 And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, "If You are willing, You can make me clean." 41 Becoming angry, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be  cleansed."  One translation says "Jesus was indignant". Was Jesus angry at the leper? If so, why?

Ten Little Known Facts About the Ten Commandments - The Ten Commandments are famous. Many Christians will know them by heart, at least the short form of each. Non Christians will even know some of them, or at least be aware they exist. Jewish people certainly know them. But how well do we know them? Can you recite them in their short form? In their long form? Is there more to them than just memorizing the list? See how many of these "little known facts" about the Ten Commandments you already knew.

Incensed - In the tabernacle of ancient Israel, incense, often referred to as fragrant incense, was burned twice daily for God's enjoyment,. Since we are made in the image of God, let us assume that smells that please us also please Him and vice versa. What does incense have to do with the birth of Christ?

The Unpublished Bible - There are lots of Bible translations published these days. According to Wikipedia, the Bible has been translated fully into 531 languages and paritally into 2883.  And of course, the Old Testament is readily available in Hebrew, the New Testament available in Greek. But one combination does not exist. What if you want the OT Hebrew and the NT Greek in one volume? Granted most people wouldn't be interested, perhaps only Biblical scholars, but as far as I know, this particular combination is not published. And it would require NO translation, how easy is that?

Into the Holy Of Holies - The Holy of Holies was a cube shaped room in the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and later in the Temples in Jerusalem. It was the inner room of the Holy Place. To get into it, one would have to enter the Tabernacle courtyard, pass the bronze altar, the bronze laver, enter the holy place, pass the showbread and lampstand and altar of incense, enter a special curtain on one side and walk to the other side to finally enter the Holy of Holies. It was a big deal. But only the High Priest (Cohen Ha Gadol) could make that trip, and he could only make it once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). But there is another way in.

Shemitah -- She WHAT? - The Shemitah, known in English as the land sabbath occurs every seven years. What has that got to do with the world today? More than I ever thought possible. Can a little known law given to ancient Israel affect world events now? Let's look at Shemitah years of the last century to see that the Shemitah is still in effect.

A Tale Of Two Sighs - There are many kinds of sighs, a contented sigh say at the end of a productive day, an anguished sigh of frustration when your computer crashes again. and many more shades of sighing. You can read about some of the science of sighing at Scientific American blog. But I know what you're thinking, "what's that got to do with Noah's flood?"

Mmmm... Fat - I had always thought that the Bible forbade eating fat, so I trimmed my steaks, but I also believed "marbled fat is OK". Was this only kidding myself? What about sausages or hamburger? Even if the package says 90% lean, the other 10% is still fat (assuming that's bad of course). The problem is that fat is tasty, lots of flavors like spices are soluble in fat, making it even tastier. Is fat OK?

Ethiopian? Eunuch? - The deacon Phillip, often called Phillip the evangelist, apparently didn’t suffer from ill chosen words like me. When the deacon Phillip met the Ethiopian eunuch, described in Acts, it culminatied in the baptism of the Ethiopian. From the view of the 21st century, we perhaps don’t see how remarkable this story is. From the view of a 1st century Jew, it has some puzzling features. Ordinarily Jews would not associate with Gentiles, though he appeared to be what the Bible refers to as "God fearing", perhaps a Jewish proselyte. Eunuchs would not be allowed in the Temple, yet he was returning from worshiping in Jerusalem. We take Bibles for granted, but he was reading a scroll of Isaiah, at a time when scrolls were rare and precious, the equivalent of new car today. Most striking is that the Ethiopian eunuch would be the first Gentile convert to Christianity -- before the Apostle Peter met Cornelius. Peter was more reluctant than Phillip, he explained to Cornelius that it was against Jewish law to visit a Gentile.

What Is Truth? - We fall in love with our own ideas. People often merely reinforce their existing beliefs, in other words “our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept”. Researchers found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds.  But not all ideas are right even though we strongly believe our own ideas are.

26- Let me introduce you to my friend 26, a very interesting number. I picked 26 because God’s name is associated with it. His name is not associated with more popular numbers like seven or 12, but 26. Why 26? Proverbs 25:2 says It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.  Can we search out this matter?

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.

Audition For Battle - 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.

Four Faces of the Gospel - 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. These same faces are also associated with the four Gospel messages.

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. 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. But they lived in tents, camping, for forty years.

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. But it is also a Hebrew word hamas, meaning violence. Hamas suggests immoral, cruel violence.

The Gospel In Six - 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”. The word Beresheet has also come to mean the first book of Moses, what we call Genesis in English. Since Hebrew is written without vowels, this gives different ways to parse a word like beresheet. We will consider three ways.

The Scroll of Esther - Esther is the origin story for the Jewish Festival of Purim, which occurs the 14th of Adar on the Hebrew calendar, sometime in March on the Roman calendar.  In the story, Haman is bent on exterminating the Jews, and Esther, who had become queen, and her uncle Mordecai play key roles in saving them, and in a twist of fate, Haman gets hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.  Then Esther asks that the sons of Haman also be hanged, even though it seems they were already dead. The Torah scroll of Esther has some unusual characteristics, large letters and small. What is the meaning of them?

Sycamore of Ground Zero - On September 11, 2001, a steel beam falling from the north tower of the World Trade Center would have damaged a small church named St. Paul's Chapel if it had not struck a Sycamore tree. Instead, this Sycamore tree was cut off and gave its life to protect the Chapel.  St. Paul's Chapel, across the street from the World Trade Center site on Church Street soon became a de facto dormitory and relief center for rescue workers in the days after 9/11. What's so special about St. Paul's Chapel?  Was this coincidence?  Or can we see God's hand at work?  Does God care about church buildings?

How To Comfort- In 2011, I spent three weeks in the hospital after a stroke in which I was paralyzed on my right side. I have regained much movement, but still have a limp and right sided weakness.  I think I learned some things about comforting that I thought I would share with you. This is all based on my experience, not research. These are just my observations. You can observe a lot just by watching… Let me start on the lighter side with some of my pet peeves…

The Horns of Moses - In Rome, in the church of San Pietro , there is a famous statue of Moses, done by the famous sculptor Michelangelo (Buonarroti). It depicts Moses with horns -- discreet horns, but horns nonetheless. According to Wikipedia, "This was the normal medieval Western depiction of Moses". Why is he depicted with horns? What was Michelangelo thinking?