Monday, April 17, 2006

"Turn the other cheek?"

The "good news" exhorts us to not resist evil:

(Mat 5:39) ".....do not resist the evil; but whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also."
This passage has been interpreted by some as a literal injunction that if a person has been slapped in the face by another, he ought not to respond by hitting back. Rather, he ought to move in the other direction, presenting the other cheek (the one that has not been slapped yet) and offer to let that cheek also be slapped.

Another interpretation cites the common conception that people were using Exodus 21:24-25 (the guidelines for a magistrate to punish convicted offenders) as a justification for personal vengeance. In this context, the command to "turn the other cheek" would not be a command to allow someone to beat or rob a person, but a command not to take vengeance.

Both, interpretations above fail to comprehend the subtleties of semitic idiom. The phrases, "strike the cheek," and "turn the cheek" are, in fact, idiomatic phrases which have rich meaning to the native speakers, but which is beyond the English speaker to readily comprehend.

To "strike the cheek," means to insult or offend in a mocking manner. Compare the verses below:
(Mic 5:1) Now gather yourself together, daughter of a troop; one sets a siege against us. They shall strike the Judge of Israel with a rod on the cheek.

(Job 16:10) They have gaped at me with their mouth, and scornfully struck my cheek; they gather themselves together against me.
To "turn the cheek," means to ignore, "turn your head." Note the opposite meaning used in the below verses as "give the cheek" vs "turn the cheek":
(Lam 3:30) He gives his cheek to Him who strikes him; he is filled with reproach.

(Isa 50:6) I gave My back to slayers, and My cheeks to those who would gall; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.
The Semitic sense of what Yeshua is saying is this:

"You have heard it said, 'repay wrong for wrong,' yet, I say, do not rise against wrong, but rather whoever would insult you, turn from him indifferently."

The Son of Man coming in his kingdom?

The three synoptic gospels all portray a version of the same story in which Yeshua says to a gathering of Pharisees:
Mat 16:28 "....There are some of those standing here who in no way shall taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. "
What exactly could Yeshua have meant by this statement, assuming that it has been handed down to us English speakers correctly? Either Yeshua has returned in his kingdom and did so in the first century AD, or someone among those standing in that crowd has not yet died? Or, perhaps, just possibly, this is a misunderstanding of the Greek words.

The key word is the Greek word "erxomenon," which means "to come" or "to go." The easy expaination is the latter.

A better translation would be: "...There are some of those standing here who in no way shall taste of death until they see the Son of Man going in his kingdom."

Of course, this renders the statement absolutely true.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

From faith to faith?

Paul, in referring to the good news, wrote in Romans 1:17:

"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."

or, at least this is the English language version we have been left with (KJV). But, this translation presents a delima. The phrase, "from faith to faith," is utterly meaningless in our normal way of speaking and therefore is a source of great confusion.

First of all, dump the english words "righteousness" and "faith." "Righteousness" is a "church word" and "faith" has lost its semitic meaning. In place of "righteousness" substitute the word "uprightness" or the word "rectitude." For "faith," substitute the word "faithfulness," or the word "fidelity."

The Greek versions of the phrase which has been translated "from faith to faith" say:

"ek pisteos eis pistin."
The Greek preposition "ek" means "from" or "out of," or "of." Simple enough.

However, the Greek preposition "eis" means "for" and is used to indicate the object, aim, or purpose of an action. The action in this instance is in the verb "revealed" (apokaluptetai - to uncover). So, the object, aim, or purpose of uncovering the righteousness of God is "eis pistin," "for [the purpose of] faithfulness." Compare the use of "eis" in Matthew 26:28, Acts 2:38, John 20:30, and Romans 10:17. God's faithfulness is revealed for the sake of ours.

To reinforce the one-way driving force of God's faithfulness, later, in Romans 3:3-4, Paul writes:
"For what if some are unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness cancel the faithulness of God? Let it not be!

A better translation of Romans 1:17 is:

"...for in it (the "good news") is reveled out of faithfulness, the uprightness of God for the sake of faithfulness; even as it has been written, "But, the upright lives by his faith." Hab. 2:4

What Paul is saying in Romans 1:17 is: The "good news" (of the Messiah) reveals God's uprightness. This revelation is demonstrated through God's faithfulness. The stated purpose of the revelation of God's uprightness is to produce a faithful response in those who heed the good news.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

"Hearing" is "doing"....literally!

When we are instructed to "hear" by the Bible, it is often assumed (and taught) that this means to "hear," in other words, to perceive via the auditory senses. This mistaken understanding most likely stems from the tri-lingual culture of the Paul and the early Church and points to the fact that many of Paul's early teaching was, in fact, in Aramaic.

The Greek word for "hear" is akoos.
Romans 10:17 ara e pistis ex akoos, e de akoo dia rematos theos.
then faithfulness comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of God.
But, the Aramaic says:
mkyl hymnwta mn mshme adna hy wmshme adna mn mlta dalha
therefore, faithfulness is from obedience of the ear, and obedience of the ear from the word of God.
The term "obedience of the ear" is idiomatic for "obeying the word." Psalm 18:44 clearly equates the two terms:
(Psa 18:44) l'Shama, `ozeN yiSham',u
"at the obedience (or hearing) of the ear, they obey me"
Now, James uses a different form of the word for "hear" in James 1:22:
(Jam 1:22) But become doers of the Word, and not hearers (akroatai = "listeners") only, deceiving yourselves.

(Jam 1:25) But every one that looks upon the perfect law of liberty and remains in it, is not a listner (akroatai) of something to be forgotten, but a doer of the deeds; and he will be happy in his work.
When Moses communicated to the people through their elders the incomparable covenant promise of YaHuWeH, they promised unanimously to do all that YaHuWeH said:
Exodus 19:8 And all the people answered together and said, All which YaHuWeH has spoken we will do. And Moses brought back the words of the people to YaHuWeH.
The Greek word dia is a primary preposition denoting the channel of an act; "through" "by way of" (in very wide applications, local, causal or occasional). Another english word that conveys the causal aspect of the word dia is "because." It is this sense that is intended here (dia rematos - because of the word)

A better translation would be:

"...then, faithfulness comes from heeding, because of the the word of God."

In Galatians 3:5, Paul wrote:
Then He supplying the Spirit to you and working works of power in you, is it by works of Law or by [the] hearing of faithulness?
What could Paul have meant, but the "doing of faithfulness," the faithfull execution of God's instruction? Remember, "hearing" is "doing!" and "faithfulness comes from being obedient in response to of the word of God."