Christianity’s Jewish Origins

israelI’ve been asked lots of times why I take such an interest in all things Jewish. The answer seems obvious to me–because Christianity is an outgrowth of the Jewish faith. So does it not make sense to study the old to understand the new? After all, the New Testament fulfills the Old, and both Testaments are written primarily from within the Jewish culture. By understanding those foundations, it brings so much of the text into new light.

For just those reasons, I’ve begun my new read-through of the Bible using the Complete Jewish Bible. It can be tough going at times, as I didn’t grow up with the many Israeli names and terms used. (A glossary is included.) But the traditional Jewish background of now-Messianic translator David H. Stern provides an amazingly fresh perspective. Combined with Stern’s Jewish New Testament Commentary (I started in the NT), I’m learning a TON.

Here’s a familiar passage from Matthew and its complimentary commentary that I found particularly fascinating:

No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunk cloth, because the patch tears away from the coat and leaves a worse hole. Nor do people put new wine in old wineskins; if they do, the skins burst, the wines spills and the wineskins are ruined. No, they pour new wine into freshly prepared wineskins, and in the way both are preserved. (Matthew 9:16-17)

16 This verse [16] and the next speak to the issue of whether faith in Yeshua [Jesus] the Messia can be combined with Judaism. Here the old coat is Judaism. the unshrunk cloth is Messianic faith which has not be adapted (“shrunk”) to the framework of Judaism as currently practiced. (“Shrinking” here is simply an aspect of Yeshua’s “patch” metaphor. It does not imply that Messianic faith must be diminished in order to fit into Judaism.) Combining unadapted Messianic faith with traditional Judaism doesn’t work–the patch tears away from the coat; that is, faith in Yeshua apart from Judaism–and, later on in the case of Gentiles, faith in Yeshua apart from the foundational truths about God taught in the Tanakh [OT]–is useless and worthless. Not only that, but it leaves a worse hole–attempting to combine unadapted Messianic faith with traditional Judaism leaves Judaism worse off than before. The implication is taught one must shrink the new cloth–adapt Messianic faith to Judaism–for Yeshua does not imply that there is anything wrong with patching an old coat! The early Messianic Jews did adapt Messianic faith to Judaism, but the later Gentile Church did not. Instead, some forms of Gentile Christianity became paganized precisely because the Tanakh was forgotten or underemphasized. Messianic Jews today are once again trying to bring New Testament faith back to its Jewish roots.

I love that last sentence! That’s exactly what I’m trying to do! Here’s the commentary for verse 17, the flip side of the coin:

17 Whereas in v. 16 Messianic faith has to be adapted to Judaism, here it is Judaism which must be adjusted to messianic faith. If one tries to put new wine, Messianic faith, into old wineskins, traditional Judaism, the faith is lost and Judaism ruined. But if Judaism is freshly prepared, reconditioned so that it can accommodate trust in Yeshua the Messiah, both the faith and renewed Judaism, messianic Judaism, are preserved

This understanding is undergirded by the writer’s careful choice of words: “new” (Greek neos) wine, “fresh” (kainos) wineskins. “Neos” means “new” in respect to time, implying immaturity or lack of development. “Kainos” means “new” or “renewed” in respect to quality, contrasting with “old” or “not renewed” and implying superiority. Old wineskins have lost their strength and elasticity, so that they cannot withstand the pressure of new wine still fermenting, although an old wineskin can be restored to service if its useful qualities are renewed.

The meaning of the figure is that the new wine of Messianic living cannot be poured into old religious forms if they remain rigid. But if the old religious forms become “fresh,” they can accommodate Yeshua. When “kainos” is rendered “new,” as in many translations, the implication seems to be the Judaism cannot possibly be a suitable framework for honoring Yeshua the Jewish Messiah–only the “new wineskin” of Gentilized Christianity will work. This is a peculiar conclusion, especially if it is recalled that Yeshua was speaking with his fellow Jews. As rendered here the point is that the only vessel which can hold the new wine of Messianic life in a Jewish setting is a properly renewed, restored, reconditioned and refreshed Judaism, such as Messianic Judaism was in the first century and aims to be now.

Taken together, verses 16 and 17 imply that both Messianic faith and Judaism should adjust to each other. However, the accommodating must be true to God’s Word; on that there is no room for compromise.

Isn’t that a fresh new approach to understand Christ’s metaphors? This translation and the commentary are filled with such gems! I’m loving this study so much I’m going to pass along buy links for both the Complete Jewish Bible and the Jewish New Testament Commentary. Or, they now come combined in a handy one-book Complete Jewish Study Bible. If I’ve at all whetted your appetite, it’s well worth the investment.

Copyrighted material used by permission.

Prayer

Over the past year and a half, MEDION DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been challenged by these three questions:

1) Do I like to see God accomplish amazing things? Of course I do! I know what kind of power God has. I feel priviledged, humbled, and a little overwhelmed sometimes when I see him use it. But I love it when he does!

2) Do I struggle to find a time and place for consistent prayer? Yes again. I’m busy and prayer’s hard. It doesn’t always happen.

3) Do I believe there is a direct correlation between the prayers of believers and God’s work in our midst? Sure I do. God doesn’t need our prayers, but he desires them for our sakes. I think God is giving us a chance to be part of what he’s doing, to team up with him and give us some ownership in a joint venture. That’s a pretty tremendous opportunity if you think about it, teaming up with the Almighty God. So then why do we expect him to move in mighty ways while we’re sitting on our duffs?

Yeah, that’s the challenge I’ve been mulling over.

Some of you know I’m a runner from way back. But my body doesn’t always take the beating willingly anymore, so two years ago I bought a mountain bike and set myself a goal of 1,000 miles over the course of the summer. I’ve blown that out of the water for two years running…er, biking? That’s a lot of mindless hours on the road. Then last summer, I discovered those hours were the perfect time to pray! There are no distractions–no children, no phone calls, no neighbors, no chores waiting to be finished. Just traffic, and so far I’ve managed to multitask that successfully. It’s just me and God and some great conversations taking place on the roads of Allegan County.

bike.silhouetteSo last summer I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great to get a bunch of Christians outside to pray? At that time, however, not many people I went to church with lived in my town. And I wasn’t looking to switch churches. Funny how things happen sometimes. Within a few months, after a series of unlooked for events, I ended up at a church just around the corner which sponsors a local 5K each year. I joined the race committee because, you know, I still have this longtime love/hate thing going on with running. (I started training for it a few weeks ago. I’ve run 3-1/2 miles so far but they were all at once, so hey, I’m good!) And suddenly God started putting that get-a-group-outside-to-pray idea back in my head. So I approached the pastor about starting a prayerwalking group on Thursday evenings to pray in the streets where the event will take place.

So far not many people have shown up. Okay, no one has shown up yet. Folks are busy, I know it. But this race is such a tremendous opportunity to be a light in our community. I feel like it’s one of those chances God gives us to team up with him, where we pray and he works. I still do most of my praying on my bike, but I keep showing up each Thursday just in case God lays this challenge on someone else’s heart too. Hopefully, come race day, we’ll get to see God do something amazing.

 

The Woman at the Well

blood moonIt’s been three months since I posted, but for a pretty good reason. Those months were filled with the final push to finish the second book in my Ella Wood trilogy, Blood Moon. It released earlier this month. I’m thrilled with the positive response I’ve received so far.

Anyway, I’m back today with some thoughts on one of my favorite Bible stories–the Woman at the Well. This passage has always been difficult for me to understand. Some of the exchanges between Jesus and the woman seem so random. Yet a little history on the cultural and political differences between the Jews and the Samaritans helps clear this up significantly. What emerges is a provacative conversation about the changing work God was doing through Christ, its healing power, and the effect it would have around the world. But before I pursue those thoughts, let’s read the story in John 4:4-26 again. I’m quoting the NIV version.

Now he [Jesus] had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

"Water of Life Discourse", by Angelika Kauffman, 1796

“Water of Life Discourse”, by Angelika Kauffman, 1796

There is a lot going on in there! Hints between the strained relations between Samaria and Judea, cultural taboos between the sexes, Jesus’s ability to know a person’s past, a confusing conversation about water and life, and something about worship and mountains. Let me see if I can clarify.

First, it is important to note that Judea to the south, which included Jerusalem, and Samaria to the north were all part of the land given to the Israelites under Moses and Joshua. David’s kingdom encompassed both areas. It was all Jewish. You may recall, however, that the Kingdom of Israel split after Solomon’s rule. Ten of the twelve tribes became Israel (north) and two tribes became Judea (south). Because of Israel’s sin, the Northern nation was eventually conquered by the Assyrians. Now when the Assyrians invaded an area, they would move the residents out, scatter them, and repopulate the land with other displaced peoples. It was an effective means of dispiriting the conquered and avoiding possible rebellions. The ten tribes, therefore, essentially ceased to exist as an entity and were lost to history.

The Southern kingdom of Judea was later conquered by the Babylonians and carried off into captivity (recall the stories of Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) where they were kept intact as a nation and eventually allowed to return to their homeland (recall stories of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall and Zerubbabal rebuilding the temple). The tribes of Benjamin and Judah carried on, and the Jews that survive today all trace their lineage back to one or the other. Judah had to survive, as the Messiah would come from its people.

This history helps explain the animosity that existed between Jews and Samaritans in Jesus’s day. Samaria had been part of the Northern kingdom, with whom the Southern kingdom fought bitterly for generations. And any Jewish blood that may have survived the Assyrian conquest was muddied both in race and religion by intermarriage with the Gentiles who had been resettled there. Judean Jews considered Samaritans half-breeds and heretics at best. Additionally, the Samaritans were pro-Rome, as the Romans had freed them from an oppressive Jewish rule, while the Jews were vehemenantly opposed to Roman rule. So political persuasions, on top of race and religion, separated Jesus and this woman. And finally, strict rules of conduct were in place between men and women of this day, including a taboo on speaking together in public. This is the charged situation in which this conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman took place. Now let’s look at what they said.

First, Jesus asks the woman for a drink. This must have astounded her, and she protests. But Jesus’s words are equally astounding. He starts speaking of living water and eternal life. As a Samaritan with a religion rooted in Judaism, she may have had an inkling that he was talking about spiritual truths. Within Judaism, the Spirit is often associated with water, especially in the water-drawing ceremony that took place annually as part of the observation of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. But the woman seems to have missed Jesus’s deeper implications when she asks him for a drink of this water so that she “won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” She soon begins to understand this is no ordinary person with whom she is conversing when her scandalous past comes to light. There is no way Jesus could have known these details without divine revelation. She calls him a prophet.

Next comes the discussion that has always intrigued me the most, because of its difficult to understand. She tells him, “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Huh? At first glance, that is such a random thing to say. We now know, however, that she is alluding to the political and racial differences between Jew and Samaritan. Because they were no longer “pure” Jews, Samaritans were denied full entrance to the temple in Jerusalem. Still wishing to worship their ancestral God (though their Judaism had been intermixed with pagan religions), the Samaritans modified the rules, so to speak, and set up their own high place on Mount Gerizim, within their own regional borders. The Jews write this off as heresy. Unacceptable. I think the woman may be doing several things with this statement: spitefully accusing the Jews of being exclusive bigots, pleading for understanding that her people are trying their best, and maybe asking who’s right. Jesus responds that it will soon all be irrelevant.

That’s the most fascinating part of this exchange. Jesus does make it clear that Judaism is the proper revelation of God up to this point, and that the Samaritan’s corrupted version is based on ignorance. But he is also aware that things are changing. God is working the next part of his eternal plan. People will soon have direct access to God through his Holy Spirit and will no longer need priests or temples as intermediates. In fact, both the Jewish and the Samaritan temples would be destroyed within a century. The conversation is then clenched and verified by Jesus’s final revelation–he is the Messiah. The one who will “explain everything”. The one looked for by both Jew and Samaritan. The one who will do this amazing new work of God. The one who will eliminate the need for temples. The one who will reunite peoples. The one who will surpass political differences, sexual differences, racial differences. This is an amazing statement! And I think at this point, the woman “gets it”. Maybe not all of it. Not yet. But the woman rushes into town to tell others of this encounter, and we are told that many believed. I think this woman was one of those believers. I think her heart changed after this powerful conversation, that she acknowledged the sin Jesus pointed out, and that she eventually came to understand fully the truths revealed to her, both during Jesus’s two-day stay and by the ongoing work of the Spirit in her life.

The power that changed the Samaritan woman’s life is still changing lives today. I get discouraged when I look around me. I see an America that has rejected God’s authority, his Word, and his Redeemer. A huge gulf exists between myself and the accepted viewpoints of the day, and it’s never more apparent than when I hold discussions with a friend who is a GLBT activist. Like Jesus and the Samaritan woman, we are separated by both politics and religion. But as we’ve seen in the story, Jesus has authority over both. His power to convict, to restore, and to unite extends beyond me. He can see the future, and his plan will be carried out.

That is an encouraging thought.

Patterns of Evidence: Exodus

patterns-of-evidence (1)

My most popular post on this blog has been, by far, Meshing Egyptian and Biblcal Timelines, which has prompted a lot of discussion in its comments section. The issue of Egptian chronology is one I had absolutely no knowledge of before a homeschool World History course I was teaching brought it to my attention. I did a little reading on it, not much, and learned the currently “accepted” chronology allows no evidence for Joseph, Hebrew slaves, or the Exodus within the centuries that line up with a biblical reckoning. I also learned that plenty of scholars, both secular and biblical, hotly debate the accuracy of the “accepted” chonology; there is simply too much they don’t know to put these dates so solidly in stone. And I learned that there happens to be a wealth of archeological evidence to support Joseph and the Israelite presence, as well as their sudden absence, that would fit perfectly with secular history if the “accepted” chronology shifted slightly.

Not long ago, I found a documentary on Netflix entitled Patterns of Evidence: Exodus. It’s well done, clear, concise, interesting, and shows how well the evidence really does line up with the bibilcal account. It also reveals the rigid resistance within the secular archeological community to take the Bible as a reliable historical document or adjust their dates. I thought this would be an excellent time to feature this documentary, as the Passover season and its celebration of the Exodus approaches.

If you don’t have Netflix, Paterns of Evidence: Exodus is also available to stream on Amazon for 3.99.

 

Worldview Question #7: What is the meaning of human history?

I’m finally finishing this series that I began a year ago. I’m sort of excited about that. To view all seven worldview questions and find links to each discussion, click here.

When someone believes in the spontaneous generation of life, it’s impossible to assign meaning to anything. But Christians believe we were purposefully created and placed in time according to God’s plan, which would be revealed as history played out.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. But that fellowship was broken almost immediately, when Adam and Eve sinned. That disobedience resulted in both physical and spiritual death and a cursed earth. Ever since, God has been using history to reveal his plan of salvation and restoration.

Christianity rests squarely on the historicity of the Bible and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as an actual, physical, divine person who left eternity and entered history. Both claims are subject to historical examination, and in both cases, historical evidence bears out their validity. Again and again in this series I have pointed readers to some of the major evidences both for the Bible’s reliability and Christ’s resurrection. In addition, archeological discoveries have never contradicted Biblical history. Cities are where the Bible says they were. Customs, cultures, leaders have been born out by archeological study. Not everything in the Bible has been confirmed, but nothing has been refuted. When you consider how much data has been uncovered in the past hundred years, that is absolutly astonishing!

More than anything else, it is this solid trail of evidence that has convinces me that my faith in the God of the Bible is not misplaced. A worldview founded on the historically proven revelation in the Scriptures is the only one that can successfully answer the hard questions in life.

 

Worldview Question #6: How do we know what is right and wrong?

To view all the worldview questions and find links to each discussion in this series, click here.

This question dovetails nicely with the last one (Why is it possible to know anything at all?), because they’re based on the same foundation, the unchanging nature of God. Let me quote from that post: “God is truth. God is the source of all that is true and knowable. And because God is unchanging, truth is absolute and reliable.”

Morality is also absolute, because it’s based on that same unchanging nature. “Right” is right because it matches up with God’s character. “Wrong” is wrong because it does not. God gave us a concise summary in the form of the Ten Commandments, but he also gave mankind an innate understanding of good and evil. Romans 2:15 states, “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” We know instinctively what is right. And we know when we’re doing wrong, though we often willfully choose to do so anyway.

If morality is based on the absolute character of God, it cannot change according to man’s opinion or the consensus of a majority, as is commonly accepted today. It’s easy to see why. Under this kind of relative thinking, evils such as genocide can be justified. Remember that guy, Hitler? All his friends agreed he was right. Was he? Of course not. And not because of today’s accepted morality, but because willful murder is contrary to God’s nature. On that basis, abortion is also wrong, and for the exactly the same reason.

Right is right and wrong is wrong according to God’s definition, not ours, and no amount of human justification can change it.

Some things to think about: What can happen when ideas of right and wrong are formed on a flexible foundation? When individuals are in conflict about what is right and what is wrong, who decides? What problems of logic arise by saying they’re both right? On what do you base your moral decisions?

 

 

Adam’s Rib, by Wayne Simpson

I see it’s been far too long since I last posted. School started. And my new novel has been taking up every spare minute. So today I’m just going to share an article. One that fascinated me. I love it when Bible researchers can shed new light on something for me, refining how I understand God’s word and the principles it contains. This is a powerful, eye-opening discovery.

ADAM’S RIB

by Wayne Simpson

The study of the Bible is often fraught with preconceptions, not only in our own minds but also in the minds of scholars, teachers and theologions who teach us and write the reference material that we rely on. Concepts can be so entrenched and cherished that no one even thinks to question them. Many such notions have been around for centuries or
millenia and they seem to be a part of the very foundation on which we base our beliefs. Sometimes they do not stand up to close scrutiny. Unfortunately, such ideas can conceal the most sublime insights into the scriptures.

One such notion is the matter of Adam’s rib in the second chapter of Genesis. Everybody knows the familiar Bible story about how God took a rib from Adam and made Eve. The smallest children are taught this story in Sunday schools across the land. Though many scholars find reasons not to take it literally, it is accepted as truth by millions of Christians. There is more here than meets the eye. I will show how it has been widely misunderstood and how that has caused us to miss some very dynamic teaching. Examine the account:

… for Adam there was not found a help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her to the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Gen. 2:20-24

This is really a strange picture if you think about it. Why didn’t God just make woman from the ground as He had made Adam. He apparently made male and female of all the animals from the ground. And why a rib, instead of a finger or a toe, or an ear. The story seems to smack of early Mesopotamian and Greek literature. Ea, the god of wisdom was said to
be the ear of Ninurta. Athena, goddess of wisdom, sprang from the forehead of Zeus, and Aphrodite, goddess of love was said to have come from the sea foam that collected around the severed male organ of the god Uranus (JPS Torah Commentary, Genesis p. 22).

In actuality, something far more meaningful is being expressed in this biblical account than making a new person out of a small piece of the body of another. If we look closely at the Hebrew word for rib we will learn of something quite surprising. The word translated rib in Genesis 2 is tsela. This word is used in a number of other places in the Bible and its meaning is shown to be quite different than what we have imagined. The only other
place in the Bible where the english word rib occurs is in Daniel 7:5, translated from an altogether different Hebrew word. One Bible translation dares to break with the use of the traditional word rib. The Stone edition of the Chumash renders the verse this way:

” …and He took one of his sides and He filled in the flesh in its place.”

Right away you can see that what God took from Adam was a lot more than a small bone. But can this reading be justified? Let us examine other places in the Bible where this Hebrew word is used. We find that it is rendered side in a number of places.

Look at Exodus 25:12. In referring to the rings of gold on the Ark of the Covenant it says “Two rings shall be on one side (tselo – a variant of tsela) and two rings on the other side”. Later in verse 14 it refers to the two “sides” (tselot- the plural form). Exodus 37:3-5 shows this same description of the Ark.

In Exodus 27:7 it refers to “the two sides (tselot) of the altar” upon which staves and rings were attached “to bear it”. Notice that it refers to only two of the altars four sides – the two major sides as opposed to the front and rear. Similar usage occurs in Ex. 38:7. Then in Exodus 26:20, the Hebrew word ul-tsela is used, meaning “and for the side” of the tabernacle. This is the same Hebrew word with two initial letters that have the meaning “and for”. In verse 26 we read of one side (tsela) of the tabernacle and the second side (tsela) of the tabernacle. In verse 35 we see mentioned a table on the south side (tsela) of the tabernacle, referring this time not just to the outer skin of the tabernacle but to its south half. Identical usage occurs in Ex. 36:25,31.

Notice that in each of these accounts there is nothing resembling a rib or pillar like structural member. It refers to an entire side, essentially half, of a structure. This is very different from the notion of Adam’s rib, but let us continue.

In I kings 6:34 we see a description of folding doors consisting of two sides or panels (tsalim – the masculine plural form). These two panels were identical, each comprising half of the assembly. These were part of Solomons temple. At that time this Hebrew word for side began to be used in connection with associated components of the sides of the temple. Chambers or side compartments (tselot) were built along the sides of
the temple (I kings 6:5-6). Also the planks which formed the sides of the most holy place were given the name , batselot, meaning in the sides. Here again we see no hint of the notion of a rib or similar superstructure of any kind.

In Job 18:12 Job refers to “calamities at his side” (la-tselot) and Jeremiah 20:10 speaks of “fear on every side”. It would be ludicrous to speak of fear at every rib.

The only mention which might remotely be construed as anything like a rib is this:

“As David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along the hillside ( ba-tsela) and cursed as he went…”. II Sam 16:13.

While The New Brown Driver Briggs Gesenius Hebrew English Lexicon suggests that this is the ridge or the rib of the hill. This seems to be interpretive because this episode could have taken place on one of the sides of the hill as easily as on the ridge of the hill. From the context you simply cannot tell which it was. Because of the preponderance of usage of the word side as the translation, it seems likely that should be the meaning here as well.

We conclude from this analysis that there is no real justification to render the word in Gen. 2:21 as Adam’s rib. Rather, it should be Adam’s side. As a result, a new and bold imagery begins to emerge from Gen. 2:21. What is really meant by the use of the word side? Was it the side of his torso, like a side of beef? Did it include an arm or a leg? Once we are freed from the notion of a rib, what really makes sense here? I suggest that what is meant
here is virtually an entire side or half of Adams body. There are several Hebrew words that express the notion of half, chiefly variants of the verb chatsah, which means to divide. This word is most often used to signify halving a weight or volume or quantity of some substance, whereas the examples we previously mentioned seem to refer to a side, that is a half of an object or structure. That is especially clear in Ex. 20:35, where a table is
located in one side or one half of the tabernacle.

Now consider the implications of this. God literally divided Adam in half to create a woman for him. This is a much more powerful symbol than merely taking a small bone out of his side. Eve was every bit the man Adam was (pardon the pun), in fact in Gen 1:27 it says “In the image of God He created him, male and female He created them” suggesting
complete equality. Eve began, literally, as half of Adam. Even today people sometimes refer to their spouse as their other half or their better half and that seems somehow appropriate. Of course God closed the flesh to restore Adam to wholeness. Though not specifically stated, it is clear God did the same for Eve in the process of fashioning her into a woman. How appropriate the language used in Genesis. The words “bone of my bone”
and “flesh of my flesh” take on new significance. Even the expressions are grammatically symmetrical.

The traditional mythical interpretation of Adams rib is of very long standing. We do not know when it first began, but it is clear that the ancient Hebrews did not understand this episode in the way moderns do. When Genesis and Exodus were written, the concept was one of Adams side, not his rib. Remarkably, we have the testimony of a Jewish authority
of about 2000 years ago on this issue. Philo Judeaus addressed the subject thus: “The letter of this statement is plain enough; for it is expressed according to the symbol of the part, a half of the whole, each party, the man and the woman, being as sections of nature co-equal for the production of that genus which is called man.” (The Works Of Philo, p. 796, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts,) emphasis mine. How clear.

Notice also the Hebrew words usually rendered help meet. This rendering is such an anemic translation for what is being expressed. The expression in Hebrew is azer k’negdo. In every case in the Hebrew Bible the Hebrew word azer means not just assistance, but a significant and substantial kind of help. Look at some examples:

Ezekiel 12:14 Zedekiah had “all those about him to help (azer) him, all his bands.” This is clearly referring to Zedekiah’s armed men.

Daniel 11:34 The expression “helped with a little help” in this context seems also to refer to military intervention.

Isaiah 30:5 This verse refers to seeking help in the form of military protection from the king of Egypt.

All these examples refer to substantial and powerful help or protection, the kind you could get from armed men, not just a little help or hand holding. Continue:

Ex 18:4 “for He (God) was my help.”

Deut. 33:29 “… The Lord, the shield of thy help”

Deut 33:7 “… Be thou (the Lord) a help to him from his enemies.”

In these examples, we see an even more powerful type of help from God himself. It is clear that this was not just help, but real substancial deliverance, there was nothing puny about it. The point is to show that Eve was created as a capable, intelligent, force to be rekoned with. She was every bit as qualified and adept as Adam. This was not simply a “Let me
hold the flashlight for you, Honey” kind of help.

And the Hebrew word K’negdo is charged with meaning as well. It means more than just suitable. It carries the meaning of opposite. She was an opposite to him. This is literally what you would expect since she was formed from his other half or side. Perhaps it would be better to say she was his complement. The two were made to work and fit together.
She was opposite in gender, but opposite in many other ways as well. No man can be married for any length of time without realizing that his wife thinks and behaves in a very different way than he does. She views things very differently, her concerns are quite unlike his. Eve was made to be everything Adam was not. She was his complement.

Now Adam was faced with the realization that he was not unique and he was not alone. To find completeness and wholeness he would want to take a wife. This longing for wholeness is a popular theme in our modern love songs. Ultimately she is the key to the meaning of his life and vice versa. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” Gen. 2:24. Neither can be complete
without the other.

So this old story that was once a rather bizarre metaphor, a woman created from a rib, can now be understood to be a powerful, meaningful and beautiful symbol for the most profound relationship in human existence. It is very clear that, in the beginning, God gave woman absolutely equal status with man.

(c)Copyright 1996 by Wayne Simpson
Distributed by the Biblical Research Foundation
629 Lexington Road, Sapulpa, Ok 74066

Reproduction and distribution is permitted provided this copyright notice is left intact on all copies.

Worldview Question #5: Why is it possible to know anything at all?

To view all the worldview questions and find links to each discussion in this series, click here.

This question is perhaps the starting point for any worldview. It’s the foundation for all other thoughts, all ideas, and all logic. How can we know anything? If we carry that thought farther, we might ask: What is truth? Are we capable of knowing truth? And is truth even be knowable?

Different people, cultures, and faiths arrive at vastly different and irreconcilable conclusions about what truth is, which makes no logical sense if truth is truth. That’s because we’ve rejected the possibility of absolute truth. Truth, some say, is what society or political power or a group of like-minded people makes it. Others say that truth is whatever you want it to be and nobody’s version of truth should be disregarded. But then truth is no longer truth. This absence of absolutes creates a pretty weak foundation on which to build knowledge.

For the Christian, the ideas of truth and knowledge begin solidly in the existance of God. Not just any God, but the one and only living creator God. We can only know him because he chose to reveal himself to us. Everything that is knowable is based on this revelation, which is given in two forms: the inerrant Bible and the divine person of Jesus Christ. God is truth. God is the source of all that is true and knowable. And because God is unchanging, truth is absolute and reliable.

Some things to think about: How do you define truth? How do you discern truth? And is it worth anything if it isn’t absolute? How would absolute, knowable truth impact you? How would it impact our culture? Have you ever tested the truth of God by testing the truth of his revelation?

Historical Evidence for the Christian Faith

sherlockThe historical basis for Christianity is a subject I have returned to several times on my blog. As a young adult, I set out to prove or disprove once and for all the faith I was raised in. If God wasn’t real, why set limits on my behavior? If the tenants of faith could be disproven, why adhere to them? I wanted to know if the gospel story really was true. So I began researching historical evidence. I soon found out Christianity is not a blind faith at all.

So what proofs did I uncover? I’ll list them here under three main headings: The Person of Christ, The Canon of Scripture, and Prophecy.

The Person of Christ

Jesus is the central figure of the Bible and the key to the Christian faith. If he can be discredited, the entire house of cards falls down. It is the logical place to start an investigation into the authenticity of Christianity. So who was he? What did he do? Why is he so important?

The Claims of Christ

Jesus Christ made it abundantly clear who he thought he was. He believed he was the Messiah sent by God to provide atonement for the sin of mankind. That’s a pretty huge claim. Here are two examples of his own statements:

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though  he dies: and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11:25)

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. There are only three logical responses to it. Either Christ was a liar, or He was crazy, or He was who He said He was.

Liar, Lord, or Lunatic

If you read the rest of the gospels, you’ll see right away that the first option just doesn’t jive. Christ preached against lying and for a moral lifestyle based on God’s law. It makes no sense that he would lie. Nor would he sacrifice his life for a lie. And you can’t argue that he was simply killed. He didn’t have to enter Jerusalem where it was widely known the religious establishment was plotting against him. But he did. He could have made a very good case for himself before Pilate, but he didn’t. He chose to die. Would a man die for a lie? That’s ridiculous.

So could he have been crazy? A crazy man might die for believing a falsehood. But that doesn’t make sense either. Jesus profoundly influenced the world with his teaching and his life. His ideas are succinct, wise, and highly regarded universally. Is this in keeping with an unsound mind? Did his actions at all imply imbalance? I just don’t buy it.

That leaves only one option. Jesus Christ was who he said he was.

The Miracles of Christ

Next, let’s look at what Christ accomplished. We are going to assume for the moment that the gospels are historically accurate (we’ll prove it momentarily) and that the miracles they relate really happened. What miracles were they? Jesus healed the blind and the lame. He caused the mute to speak and the deaf to hear. He cast out demons, fed thousands with a small lunch–twice–turned water to wine, and healed a variety of illnesses. He even raised the dead.

Have you ever heard of any other human ever accomplishing these things? Of course not. They are supernatural occurances that attest to the authenticity of Jesus. The miracles prove the message. They are divine references, if you will. The testimony of God himself to the accuracy of Christ’s claims.

The Resurrection

The resurrection of Christ from the dead is the grandaddy miracle of them all. If it’s true, it verifies Christ’s claim and forms the substance of the Christian religion. In it are tied up faith, love, forgiveness, atonement, and hope through this conquering of death. But it’s so crazy! So unprecedented! So unnatural! Can it really be true? What are the evidences?

The Disciples

Jesus chose twelve young men to be his disciples, and you have to admit they weren’t too impressive. When Jesus was teaching, they always seemed to miss the mark. They argued among themselves. They asked ridiculous questions. And they turned out to be real cowards when Christ was arrested.

But after Christ’s death, that all changed. These men, with the exception of Judas, became vocal proponents for Christ’s message. They took on the Jewish leaders. They traveled to foreign lands. They won converts, started churches, bucked established pagan religions, endured jail time, suffered beatings, and according to tradition, all of them but John died for their faith.

These guys firmly believed Christ’s message. Something substantial made them change. But what? How’d they go from coward to martyr? The only possible answer is that they were witnesses to the very real miracle of the Resurrection.

The Jewish Leaders, Roman Soldiers, and the Lack of a Body

Since Jesus had said ahead of time that he would rise from the dead, the Jewish religious leaders took precautions. They wanted to nip that idea in the bud. More Christian converts meant less power for them! They wanted Christ’s body firmly in the ground as proof that he was a counterfeit. So they asked Roman soldiers to guard the tomb.

These soldiers were the most well-trained, effective army in the world. They were career soldiers, hardened men who didn’t flinch in battle. No one was getting by them. Yet something happened. They scattered. They ran away frightened. What could cause this but a supernatural event? Even an unlikely overpowering force of men wouldn’t send them scurrying but would cause a battle there’d be some record of. They simply scattered. Why?

The Roman guards fled. They left their place of responsibility. How can their attrition he explained, when Roman military discipline was so exceptional? Justin, in Digest #49, mentions all the offenses that required the death penalty. The fear of their superiors’ wrath and the possibility of death meant that they paid close attention to the minutest details of their jobs. One way a guard was put to death was by being stripped of his clothes and then burned alive in a fire started with his garments. If it was not apparent which soldier had failed in his duty, then lots were drawn to see which one would be punished with death for the guard unit’s failure. Certainly the entire unit would not have fallen asleep with that kind of threat over their heads. Dr. George Currie, a student of Roman military discipline, wrote that fear of punishment ‘produced flawless attention to duty, especially in the night watches. –Josh McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection

And where was the body? If it was a hoax, wouldn’t the Jewish leaders move heaven and earth to lay hold of the body and squash rumors of a resurrection? But they couldn’t produce it.

Witnesses

And what about the hundreds of recorded witnesses who also claimed to see the risen Christ? Not only the disciples and the women saw Jesus. Cleopas and another disciple saw him on the road to Emmaus. And I Corinthians says Jesus “appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living.” Christ’s Resurrection was not done in secret. Hundreds saw him firsthand and testified to it. This was the news story of the day. One that the temple leaders would have hushed if they could, but it was too widely known. They could not refute so many witnesses.

Canon of Scripture

After understanding and proving that Jesus was a historical figure and his Resurrection was a historical event, I set out to prove or disprove the Bible as a reliable source. I started with learning how it came to be in its present form.

Who decided which books would be included in the Bible?

Early Christian leaders were actually Jewish rabbis. Jesus Christ was Jewish, and this new religion was born out of the ancient one. It wasn’t really a new religion at all, if you understand the correlation between Old and New Testaments, rather a fulfilling of the old. But as many Jews didn’t agree that Christ was truly the Messiah, Judaism and Christianity are today held as two separate religions. Nevertheless, the first church authorities were Jews, the men who walked and talked with and learned under Jesus. These were the men who heard his words, recorded them, and taught them to others. Their combined message was incredibly consistent. It was this consistency and first-hand experience that prompted their books and letters to be universally regarded as the authority among early leaders. Theirs was, in essence, the message preached by Christ.

As time passed, the church grew and spread and Gentiles took up leadership in their own congregations, heresies began to arise. There came into existence documents claiming new revelation, new doctrine. The need for a cohesive, authoritative collection (canon) became apparent. So a variety of councils were held in the first four centuries after Christ to decide which literature should be included.

What criteria were used to determine inclusion?

At the time these leaders met, the Old Testament scriptures were firmly established and widely accepted. It was primarily the New Testament collection they were debating. A variety of factors were used to decide which documents could be considered authoritative of church doctrine and added to biblical canon and which could not. Was the book written by an apostle or someone with a close association to them? (In other words, did they a have proper first-hand witness?) Were they consistent in their message? Did they contain high moral and spiritual values? Were they widely accepted by the early church? Did they contain errors?

This process of evaluation is very mindful of the methods scholars use today to determine the authenticity of historical literature, or even how testimony is evaluated in a legal case. New Testament scripture was held to a high standard, and if any document could not pass muster, it was discarded. In essence, this process whittled down the selection to only the books that were consistent with the message of Jesus Christ. As I already fully satisfied myself of his deity, provided the scriptural source documentation checked out, I’d say that’s a pretty reliable basis.

24,000 Manuscripts

One way historians judge the reliability of an antique text is by the number of ancient copies available, the accuracy between them, and the length of time from the text’s origin to the date of the oldest copy. There are 643 copies of Homer’s Iliad, a number that has universally satisfied historians as to its authenticity, even though there is a 500 year gap between the publication date and the oldest copy. We have over 24,000 copies of the New Testament from antiquity. 24,000! And the earliest copy is less than 100 years away from the original. Satisfactory? I think so.

But what about the Old Testament?

Just because they were already established, do we simply take those books on faith? Not at all. They had to meet similar criteria. Were the authors prophets or known men of God? Are their words without error? Have prophecies been confirmed? Have miraculous events verified the authors? Are they consistent in their messages?  The Old Testament books were reaffirmed by the early church councils. In fact, the Old Testament has been tested and reaffirmed much longer than the New Testament. Jesus himself attests to their reliability all through the gospels. 

Dead Sea Scrolls

One singular archaeological find did more to reaffirm the Old Testament’s historicity than any other find. In 1947, shepherd boys discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls. They include manuscripts or partial manuscripts of every book of the Bible except Esther. And they were written nearly one thousand years earlier that any previously known copies. The differences between the documents, even after one thousand years, were minimal, verifying that God has indeed preserved his Word over time.

Prophecy

One final subject I delved into to prove or disprove Chist and the Bible was prophecy. Prophecy, of course, is the predicting of events before they happen. Supernatural for sure. I wanted to satisfy myself that the prediction dates and later fulfillments were authentic.

Purpose

Messianic prophecies were given throughout the Old Testament so we would recognize the Messiah when he came. Some told what he would do, some described his birth, others revealed what would happen to him at the hands of others. Many are details that could in no way be manipulated by a counterfeit.

Authenticity

All of the messianic prophecies in the Bible were foretold between 400 and 1,000 years before Christ was born. How can we know they were written that long ago? Maybe someone just wrote them down after-the-fact. Three words: Dead Sea Scrolls. These ancient documents are widely believed to date back two centuries before Christ’s birth. They not only verify the accuracy of biblical transcription, but they also prove the Messianic prophecies were written long before Jesus was actually born.

Quantity

There are over 300 Messianic prophecies. Different scholars and translations give a range of actual numbers, from 365-456, and some of them can get pretty obscure, but the fact remains, there are at least 365 prophecies that everybody agrees on. That’s a pretty impressive number. Now the really cool part. Jesus fulfilled them all! That adds some veracity to the claims he made about Himself, doesn’t it?

Probability as Mathematical Proof

What’s the probability that one person (Jesus) could fulfill multiple prophecies?

Peter Stoner, Professor Emeritus of Science at Westmont College, with the help of 600 students, worked out the probability that one man could fulfill only eight prophecies. His numbers were widely reviewed by scientists and skeptics alike and found to be sound. The chance he came up with? One in 10 to the 17th power. That’s a one with seventeen zeros. To help us wrap our brains around that figure, he provided this analogy:

Suppose that we take 10 to the 17th silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They’ll cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would’ve had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time, providing they wrote them in their own wisdom.

You have to admit, those are pretty incredible odds. Almost hints at some intelligent choreography, doesn’t it?

My Conclusion

When faced with this much proof, I had to admit the faith my parents taught me was authentic. God is real. Christ is divine. And the Bible is reliable. My mission now is to share these finds with others. Think how many lives would change if everyone knew this stuff?

Is there anyone you can share this post with?

Worldview Question #4: What happens to a person at death?

To view all the worldview questions and find links to each discussion in this series, click here.

The Bible makes it very clear that there is an afterlife. (Find the reasons I base my worldview on the Bible. Click here, here, and here.) And we choose where we’ll spend it. My discussion of question number three included a paragraph that has bearing here. Allow me to quote from it:

“Right off the bat, men rebelled against the order God created. We now have a predisposition toward sin and continue to rebel. We live with the consequences every day, yet we still want to think and act apart from God and his authority. And as Creator, he is the Authority and Judge whether we like it or not. Since God cannot abide sin or allow it to go unpunished, we are separated from him and in need of a Savior. Jesus Christ filled that role. He lived a sinless life and died (the punishment for sin) in our place. Those who accept that substitution will be reunited with and live with God on a sinless, recreated Earth someday.”

There is a Heaven. There is a Hell. God says we will spend eternity in one or the other. God, as Creator, is the Supreme Authority and the Judge. He set the standard and the punishment. We’ve all failed. We all deserve Hell. But in his mercy, God provided a way to circumvent that punishment. Once again, a biblical worldview offers hope.

What do you believe happens at death? What do you base that on?