Sunday, October 21, 2007

Born Again?

The Christian term "born again," is derived from Yeshua's words to Jewish leader Nicodemus as recorded in the third chapter of the Gospel of John (beginning at verse 1):

"There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Yeshua by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Yeshua answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is sired again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Most Christian denominations hold that a person must be "born again" in some sense to be a Christian. Thus, all who are "true" Christians are in fact "born again," whether they describe themselves as such or not. However, the meaning of the term varies among Christian traditions:

The Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Church, Anglican Church and Lutheran Churches all associate being "born again" with baptism. It holds that "Baptism is ... the sacrament by which we are born again of water and the Holy Ghost."

Some Evangelical, Fundamentalist, and Pentecostal Churches associate being "born again" with a conversion experience that involves a personal, and sometimes intense, encounter of the individual with the power of God.

But, what did Yeshua mean by the term "born again?" Of course, Yeshua did not speak English, but Aramaic. The Peshitta (an extant Aramaic version of the New Testament) records Yeshua's words as "if a man is not who is sired from the beginning…" Now, the word most commonly used in the Peshitta for "again" is toob, meaning "to flow back to the beginning." But, in Yeshua's quote (above) he uses d'reesh, "from the start." This word appears fifteen times in the Peshitta and is normally understood to mean "all over again from the beginning," as opposed to the term toob, which means "again" in the sense of repeating some action. This is a subtlety in the Aramaic language.

The most common Greek word meaning "again" is the word palin, which means the "repetition of an action." In John, the Greek writer translates the Aramaic d'reesh with the Greek word anothen, meaning "from the top." This is the best that the Greek translators can do to recreate the Aramaic word d'reesh. Make no mistake about it, Yeshua here meant "all over again."

Nicodemus responded naturally saying,

“How can a man be sired when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be sired?”

Note here that I use the word "sired," rather than "born." This too is a subtlety of Aramaic (shared by Greek and Hebrew) which the English language lacks. Both the Greek and Aramaic versions of the New Testament use here the masculine word referring to the male act of conception or "fathering." What Yeshua was saying was that a person must be re-sired. Nicodemus is not mistaken to ask "how can this be?"

The ancient Hebrews believed that conception occurred when the male's semen entered into the womb and mixed with the blood of the female. Thus, flesh mixed with flesh makes new flesh and a human cannot exist without this mixing. Also, it is important to note that the Hebrews understood this as the process for creating a true heir, by the lawful mixing of Hebrew blood. (Compare Genesis 2:24, "...therefore a man shall...join to his wife and they shall be one flesh.")

Yeshua responded,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is sired of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is sired of the flesh is flesh, and that which is sired of spirit is spirit."

Here, Yeshua equates "water" with "flesh." This is easily understood when one learns that the Aramaic word for water mayoa, is a euphemism for semen (which the ancients rightly understood to contain the seed of man), the "flesh" by which one is sired. Yeshua says that, like the mixing that takes place between flesh and flesh in the conception of a "new man," so must the spirit of the man be mixed with the spirit of God to create a "new spirit."

Yeshua believed, as did all Jews that men and women had a spirit within them which enlivens the otherwise inanimate body.

Jas 2:26 "...the body is dead apart from the spirit...."

Job 32:8 But there is a spirit in common man, And the breath of the almighty gives them understanding.

They also believed that by mixing their own spirit with that of Yahweh, a man was changed into another man, becoming a true heir (or son of God).
1Sa 10:6 - 9 "and the Spirit of Yahweh will come mightily on you, ...... and you will be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as occasion will serve you; for God is with you....And it was so, that, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart..."

Eze 36:26-27 "And I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give to you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them. "
This is reminiscent of a New Testament expressions of rebirth;

Ephesians 4:22-24: "that you put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, that waxes corrupt after the desires of deceit; and that you are renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, that after God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth."

Rom 8:15-16 "For you didn’t receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, 'father, father!” The Spirit himself jointly testifies with our spirit that we are children of God."

1Co 6:15-17 "Do you not know your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? do you not know he, which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, says he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit."
Clearly, Yeshua's notion of being "sired all over again" is a reference to the mingling of man's spirit with the spirit of God. Interestingly, it is this type of mingling that the early church (including Paul) evidently understood to have been the cause of Yeshua himself being the "son of God," rather than the later tradition involving the mixing of the Spirit with his mother Mary's flesh within her womb. As Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome:

From the Peshitta:
Which (somewhat) literally translated says:

Rom 1:3-4 "...concerning His Son, who was sired with flesh, from seed [of the] house of David, and he was made known Son of God with power, and with spirit of holiness, he who rose from the house of death, Yeshua Messiah our Lord"

And, Yeshua himself used this analogy again:


Joh 7:38 All in faith with me, as the scriptures have said, rivers of living water, flow from his womb.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments are a list of religious and moral imperatives which, according to Biblical tradition, were written by God and given to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of two stone tablets. They feature prominently in Judaism and Christianity. The phrase "Ten Commandments" generally refers to the very similar passages in Exodus 20:2–17 and Deuteronomy 5:6–21.

While many churches and religions treat the Ten Commandments differently, all recognize them as ten separate commandments or laws. For example, The Roman Catholic Church considers Exodus 20:2, 3, and 4 to be a single commandment, while separating Exodus 20:17 (the prohibition against coveting) into two separate commandments. Alternatively, the reformed churches consider Exodus 20:2 to be a "preface" and Exodus 20: 3 and 4 to be two distinct commandments, while Exodus 20:17 is a single commandment. Similarly, the Orthodox Church (Greek) treats Exodus 20:2, and 3 to be a single commandment, while taking the reformed churches' view on Exodus 20:17. Jews agree with the reformed and Orthodox churches on 20:17, but consider 20:3 and 4 to be a single commandment.

All of this confusion can be traced to the simple, inescapable fact that there are more than ten statements contained in the "Ten" Commandments and the Bible never really implies that there are ten. In fact, a close and careful reading of the Bible will show that there are, in fact, only two commandments.

The Gospel of Mark records Yeshua's understanding of this fact at Mark 12:30-31:

"…The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the foremost commandment. And the second is like, namely this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment superior to these."

Clearly, Yeshua, paraphrasing Deuteronomy 6:4, lumps Exodus 20:2 - 11 under the single command to "love the Lord." Likewise, he lumps Exodus 20:12 - 17 under the single command to "love your neighbor."

So, the commandments can be better understood as:

Commandment #1 - I am Yahweh your God, who has brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage: you shall not have any other gods before Me; You shall not make a carved image for yourself, or any likeness in the heavens above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow to them, and you shall not serve them; for I am Yahweh your God, a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of fathers on sons, on the third and on the fourth generation, to those that hate Me; and doing kindness to thousands, to those loving Me, and to those keeping My commandments; you shall not take up the name of Yahweh your God in an empty manner; for Yahweh will not leave unpunished the one who takes up His name in an empty manner; remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy; six days you shall labor and do all your work; and the seventh day is a sabbath to Yahweh your God; you shall not do any work, you, and your son, and your daughter, your male slave and your slave-girl, and your livestock, and your stranger who is in your gates; for in six days Yahweh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all which is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; on account of this Yahweh blessed the sabbath day and set it apart. [Note: These are the ways we honor God and love him.]

Commandment #2 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long on the land which Yahweh your God is giving to you: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not testify a witness of falsehood against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male slave, or his slave-girl, or his ox, or his ass, or anything which belongs to your neighbor. [Note: These are the ways we honor our father and mother and love our neighbors.]