Monday, June 30, 2008

The real hometown of Yeshua?

The traditional town of Nazareth does not meet the description of Nazareth given in the Bible. This document explains why, and then shows photographs of an unexcavated town in Galillee that fits the Bible's description of the real Nazareth. Check it out!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Fled Naked?

As Yeshua was arrested, the gospel of Mark says: "Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked" ( Mark 14:51, 52).

Some believe that was Mark's way of putting himself into the story, showing that he knew the things of which he wrote. Others believe that the young man represented the disciples "fleeing from Yeshua." Still others agreeing that the young man was symbolic, think that he represented the future followers of Yeshua, willing to forsake everything and follow "naked."

Of course, an understanding of a Hebrew idiom aids in understanding this verse. The prophet Amos, speaking the words of Yah, said:

Amo 2:11 And I raised up from your sons prophets, and Nazarites from your young men. Is this not even so, O sons of Israel? declares Yahweh. 12 But you gave the Nazarites wine to drink, and you commanded the prophets, saying, Do not prophesy. 13 Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart full with produce is pressed. 14 And refuge shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not strengthen his power, nor shall the mighty deliver his life, 15 and he who handles the bow shall not stand, and the swift footed shall not save, and the horse rider shall not save his life.
16 And the strong one in his heart among the mighty shall flee naked in that day, declares Yahweh.

From the context in Amos, the phrase "flee naked" represented the utter futility of escaping God's punishment. In Mark, the phrase is used by the evangelist perhaps for two reasons. First, it definitively identifies Yeshua as the prophet and nazarite of God. Second, it marks the arrest of Yeshua as an act that "pressed" God as "under a cart full with produce is pressed."

The disciple whom Jesus loved

The phrase the disciple whom Jesus loved or Beloved Disciple is used several times in the Gospel of John. It is the Beloved Disciple who asks Yeshua during the Last Supper who it is that will betray him. Later at the crucifixion, Yeshua tells his mother "Woman, here is your son"; that he indicates the Beloved Disciple is the common interpretation. To the Beloved Disciple he says, "Here is your mother." When Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb, she runs to tell the Beloved Disciple and Simon Peter. Since the Beloved Disciple does not appear in any of the other New Testament gospels, it has been traditionally seen as a self-reference to John the Evangelist, and this remains the mainstream identification.

Apart from John, there have been numerous attempts to identify the "Beloved Disciple" using any number of interpretations. However, all fail to recognize and understand a simple semitic idiom which is important in helping to zero in on the correct identity.

In the Hebrew culture, the inheritance of land, titles and other property as well as the responsibilities for caring for an individual family was channeled along patrilineal lines using a system of modified Primogeniture, or succession by the eldest son (In reality, succession by a preferred son, was the the custom in practice. See the cases of Isaac, Jocob, Joseph, and David and many others.) . The institution is explicitly promulgated in Deuteronomy 21:15-17.

In Hebrew, the primogeniture was called bekhor (fruit, birthright) and was referred to as the yachiyd ahava "the only loved one." Genesis 22:2 records the fact that Isaac, the second son (but heir) of Abraham was referred to as "your only one whom you love." Matthew 3:17 refers to Yeshua as the primogenitor of Yah, saying, "and behold! A voice out of the heaven saying, This is My son, the loved one, in whom I delight." "Delight" (Hebrew chaphets) was a idiomatic phrase as well that marked primogeniture (see 1Sa 18:22).

Yeshua, as the eldest, was also the primogeniture of his "father" Joseph. But, he had, by Hebrew custom, chosen his own primogenitor. Perhaps a brother?

It is known that James (Yakov), the brother of Yeshua, inherited at least one of his titles hatzadeek as well as his nazarite vow. Also, by the time the gospels were written, Jude, another brother, was referred to as Jude of James.

Clement of Alexandria in the late second century, implying that James was preferred by Jesus, stated:

"For they say that Peter and James and John after the ascension of our Saviour, as if also preferred by our Lord, strove not after honor, but chose James the Just episkopos (overseer) of Jerusalem."

Saint Jerome, De Viris Illustribus, quotes Hegesippus' account of James from the fifth book of Hegesippus' lost Commentaries:

"After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one was holy from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ate no flesh, never shaved or anointed himself with ointment or bathed. He alone had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since indeed he did not use woolen vestments but linen and went alone into the temple and prayed in behalf of the people, insomuch that his knees were reputed to have acquired the hardness of camels' knees."
James was succeeded as bishop or Jerusalem by Simeon of Jerusalem, the brother of James.

The Bible does not reveal the name of the "disciple whom Yeshua loved," but it is James, the brother of our Lord, who best fits the description.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Do this as my memorial.

Truth, belief, and knowledge. These three epistemological concepts play an important role in our religion. However, how they interact in modern Christianity is not quite the same as the ancient understanding of their roles and importance. In fact, during the time of Yeshua, the theory of knowledge was well developed. Plato, who, by that time, was an ancient philosopher had profoundly impacted the understanding of this area of study.

What we believe is true and what is, in fact, true are not the same. Further, what we believe is true and what we know to be true represent distinct sets as well. Ancient Hebrews understood "knowledge" (da'ath) to be a subset of our beliefs, namely, those beliefs, which had been vindicated or borne out (shafat) by experiences. Frankly, unlike many modern Christians, ancient Hebrews had little regard for mere beliefs. Their focus was on knowledge.

Unfortunately, while ancient people had adequate means for transmitting their belief's, as we do, from generation to generation, it was nearly impossible for them to transmit knowledge adequately, since the ability to transmit experience through culture was limited to oral and some written traditions. One means that ancient people developed to transmit such knowledge was the so-called memorial, in Hebrew the word zakar; in Greek, anamnesis. The collective memory of a culture is represented in large part by the memorials it chooses to erect. Public memory is enshrined in memorials, which make it possible for later generations to reconstruct a cultural identity.

For example, Ancient Hebrews could believe that Adam and Eve really existed, but had no proof, therefore, their existence was a belief, not knowledge. But, they could know that Abraham existed because he built a memorial (a pile of stones for example) which could be experienced and about which stories could be passed on (Ancient Hebrews put little emphasis on the reliability or infallibility of proof.), and about which one could identify with. An anamnesis was, therefore, not so much a reminder (as the word memorial implies today), but a collective experience that served to bear out (to some level of assurance) the truthfulness of a belief, particularly a belief regarding belonging and identity. Likewise, while the western understanding of a memorial is to recall something from the past, the Hebrew notion was to experience a current truth (e.g., "Abraham is our father" is true.).

History is written by victors. It is the dominant paradigm and its culture and institutions that define what is to be remembered, and how it will be remembered. “Collective amnesia” is a term that refers to what is unregistered in the imagination of the individual, unchronicled in books, and uncommemorated by monuments, relics, and ritual observances. Collective amnesia is a metaphor for failure to transmit knowledge about the past.

At the last supper, when Yeshua took up the bread and broke it and gave thanks, he said, "This you are to prepare for my memorial." His statement was not intended to ensure that his disciples remembered him, but that they continue to know that, in spite of his impending death, he really had existed and they still belong to him.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Sons" of Shem

Genesis 10:22 sets out the "sons" of Shem as: Elam, and Asshur, and Arpachshad, and Lud, and Aram.

While almost all scholars accept this putative genealogy as a description of the root Semitic cultures known by the Hebrews at the time, there are many, many descriptions of what two of these names mean. Aram, Asshur and Elam are known definitively as the cultures of those respective cities, the Elamites of present-day Southwest Iran, the Assyrians of the upper Tigris river valley, and the Arameans of Northern Syria.

The name Lud is accepted by many scholars to refer to the Lydians of the (now) Manisa region turkey. However, the Lydians were not semitic speakers, but instead spoke an Anatolian language. It is therefore highly unlikely that the Hebrew scholars would have listed them as "sons of Shem" (i.e., Semitic). In fact, Lud more likely represents a corrupted spelling of the city, Lubdi, a city well known from cuneiform script and situated between the upper Tigris river and the Euphrates, north of Babylon.

The last of the five "sons" of Shem is Arpachshad (ARPKSD). This city has been identified by most scholars as the city of Arabkha in modern-day Kirkuk, Iraq. Also, many scholars further identify this city as the infamous Ur-Kasdiym, mentioned in Genesis as the birthplace of Abram's father Terah.