The Pauline Epistles: What They Really Are- Ephesians

This is one of the Epistles that many modern-day scholars believe was not written by Shaul.

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It was written around 62 A.D., which is the time when Shaul was imprisoned in Rome (although it was more like house arrest), to the Gentile believers in Ephesus, as well as any Jewish believers who may have been there. Ephesus was located in what today we call Turkey.

You may recall that when Shaul was first in Ephesus (Acts 19) there was a silversmith named Demitrius who made money creating idols of the false gods, and when he heard how Shaul had been turning so many away from idol worship, he started a riot.

Now, whoever wrote this to the congregation did so to help them stay on track. It seems he concentrated on telling them to remain humble and to be more loving towards each other. As with all the letters we know Shaul did write, this one begins with praising God and Yeshua, then turns to the congregation.

In the very beginning the writer opens up a can of worms for future religions in that he states there are those chosen for salvation and others who are not. This is a clear statement for Predestination, which he never really identifies in any of his other letters so absolutely.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons the scholars think he did not write this letter?

He identifies Satan as the power of the air (today nearly all communication is sent through the air. Hmmmm….) and is the spirit of disobedience. He reminds the Ephesian believers that before they accepted Yeshua they were dead, meaning that their sinful lives would result in death and not eternal life.

To explain how they were dead before, but now alive in Yeshua, the writer uses the example of the Torah creating a barrier between the Gentiles and the Jews, but Yeshua, through his sacrifice, destroyed that barrier by abolishing it.

This has been misunderstood to mean the Torah is not applicable to Gentiles who believe in Yeshua. That could never be something Shaul, a life-long Pharisee and life-long Torah observant man, would ever preach. In the letters we know he wrote, he allows that the Gentile believers should learn the Torah slowly, at a pace they can handle, but never comes out and says, directly, that they don’t have to obey the Torah.

One thing you need to understand is that if the Messiah Yeshua, the Son of God, had ever taught or preached anything other than obedience to his father’s commandments in the Torah, that would have made him a rebellious son and a sinner. As such, he could not have been the sinless lamb whose sacrifice would be accepted.

But we know he was raised from the dead, so that proves his sacrifice was accepted, which means he was not a sinner, which means he did not teach against the Torah- ever!

Back to the letter.

The writer pleads with the congregation in Ephesus to be humble, loving, and to strengthen their faith so they will not be fooled by the craftiness of men. Sadly, that seems to be exactly what has happened throughout the last two millennia, with many different men (and in some cases, women) craftily taking people from one Christian belief system into a different system of beliefs, ceremonies, rules, holidays, and tenets, all which they created on their own.

The writer warns against sexual immorality, telling them that they have thrown off their old selves and taken on new ones, so they should not give the Devil a foothold.

Obviously, all these warnings and admonitions, just as with the other letters Shaul wrote to the other congregations, are specifically addressing issues that existed within the congregation.

As I have said, these letters are managerial directives.

The best part of this letter is Ephesians 6:14, where we are told about the Armor of God that is to be worn every day:

  • Belt of truth
  • Breastplate of righteousness
  • Feet wearing the sandals of peace
  • Shield of faith (to put out the flaming arrows of the Enemy)
  • Helmet of salvation, and
  • Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Torah)
    (That’s good news for me- I was on the Varsity Fencing Team in High School)

The writer ends this as Shaul would, greeting those in the area and asking for prayer for the saints, and for himself.

To review, the main issues with this letter are the introduction of the idea of predestination and that Yeshua’s death abolished the Torah. In no other letters does Shaul indicate that the Torah is invalid or done away with, nor does he indicate that salvation is not available to anyone, which is the opposite of the idea of Predestination. When we examine this letter closely against the letters we know Shaul wrote, we can see not only differences in style of writing, but in the messages it sends.

The next letter will be the one written to the Philippians.

Until then, l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

The Pauline Epistles: What They Really Are- Galatians.

This is one of the earlier letters written by Shaul, which he wrote to the Gentile Believers who lived in the Roman province of Galatia, located in a central part of (what is today) Turkey. This was written around 48 AD.

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The problem this congregation was having dealt with the Jewish population insisting that these neophyte Gentile believers had to make a complete conversion to Judaism, starting with receiving B’rit Milah (circumcision, also called a “bris”).

Shaul starts off this letter by qualifying his position as an apostle for Yeshua, reviewing the revelation he received on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) and also how he had been accepted by the Elders on the Council in Jerusalem as a legitimate apostle, endorsing (as he calls it) the gospel he preaches.

He even goes as far as to relate when he went against Kefa (Peter), who Shaul accused of being a hypocrite. He relates that Kefa would eat with Gentiles when there weren’t any Jews around, but when the believing Jews were there, he ate only with them, excluding the Gentiles.

In Chapter 2, from verse 15 through 21, Shaul explains how he came to realize that he could never live in accordance with the Torah, and as such the law did him no good as far as receiving salvation. He said he died to the law when he came to realize that faith in Yeshua was the only way to receive salvation. He said being justified in faith to Yeshua is the only way.

This statement has been totally misunderstood, and misused, to justify that Gentiles do not have to obey the Torah. The issue Shaul talks of (as he covered briefly in his letter to the Romans) is “legalism”- the idea that one must be in perfect accordance with the laws in the Torah to be saved.

When you think about it, no one, believer or not, can be justified by faith, alone. There must be some level of adherence to the commandments God gave regarding worship and treatment of others. If Shaul is teaching faith without obedience, then isn’t he teaching anarchy?

The Torah says not to kill, not to commit adultery, to honor father and mother, to be humane to animals, which Holy Days God requires us to celebrate, and many, many other things that form a way of life. Judaism isn’t just a religion: it is a total lifestyle, shaping not just the individual but the entire nation!

It is inconceivable that anyone preaching a gospel of love would also preach a life of lawlessness, which would be all that one could have if the Torah was ignored.

Do you recall the drash (parable) Yeshua gave about the seed being sown (Mark 4)? Some that fell on good soil started to take root but was choked by the weeds growing with it. This is the issue Shaul was facing in Galatia; the external pressure being placed on the neophyte believers was “choking” their faith, causing them to follow a performance-based salvation (legalism) instead of a faith-based salvation.

Shaul reminded the Galatians that Abraham was found righteous by reason of his faith, long before the law (Torah) was given, therefor obedience to the law is not going to get anyone saved. This is the crux of his discussion in this letter- he didn’t go into how to use the law properly, only that to obey the Torah to earn salvation is useless.

For the record: God told Isaac that he will make the same promise to Isaac that he gave Abraham because Abraham did all that God told him to do. (Genesis 26:4-5)

The idea Shaul is trying to get across to the Galatians (who, at one point, he actually calls “foolish” and later asks them why they listen to others) is that the law was given to be a sort of guardian, keeping God-fearing people (before Yeshua came) under a system of laws which defined the difference between sin and righteousness. Shaul even goes as far as to say that before we had the Torah, there was no sin because there was no law identifying what is sin.

Shaul makes some excellent points in this letter, such as in Chapter 3, he states that being in the body of the Messiah means we are all the same- there is neither Jew nor Greek, free nor slave, male nor female- all are one in the body of Messiah.

Of course, he is talking figuratively.

Another important lesson is that it is fine to be zealous for a cause, so long as the purpose is a good one (Galatians 4:18). But the purpose of the Galatian Jews telling these Gentiles they had to be circumcised to be saved was not good because their purpose, which may have been meant to be helpful, was (in fact) undermining Shaul’s authority and teachings and bringing the new believers back to a religion based on obedience, which has been translated in most Bibles as being “under the law”. This is one of the reasons that people have misinterpreted this to mean obedience to Torah is wrong for Gentiles.

One of the well-known lessons from this letter is Shaul’s definition of the Fruits of the Spirit, which is what we are supposed to live by. Those fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The purpose of this letter was never to be a polemic against the law, but rather to recommit these confused people to faithful obedience to Torah, which is what Shaul preached to them about being one with the Messiah. He said being circumcised or not makes no difference with regard to salvation through Messiah, and that the ones telling them they must be circumcised are only trying to bring them back under the system of performance-based salvation, which Judaism has lived under for centuries.

Shaul never meant for the Galatians, or anybody accepting Yeshua as their messiah, to ignore the Torah or any of the laws: he only wants to make sure that the reason people choose to be obedient to the Torah is done from the faithful desire to please God, and NOT to “earn points” towards salvation.

Search as diligently as you can, and you will not find anywhere, in any of the letters Shaul wrote, any statement that those who are in Messiah can ignore God’s laws or reject the Torah. On the other hand, neither has he outrightly stated that they must obey the Torah. I believe this is because there was never a question of whether or not to obey the laws, only a question of WHY to obey the laws.

At the end of this letter Shaul says (Galatians 6:16), “Peace and mercy to all who obey this rule (i.e., his teachings about circumcision and faith), even to the Israel of God”. The term “Israel of God” is confusing- who is that, exactly? Isn’t there just the one Israel, the Jewish people? Can there be a different “Israel”, an Israel of people who aren’t Jews?

This confusion has given birth to the ridiculous and blasphemous belief called Replacement Theology, which states that because the Jews rejected Yeshua, God has rejected the Jews as his chosen people and Born-Again Christians are now the chosen people of God, the very “Israel of God” Shaul mentioned.

Boy oh boy, would I love to show how wrong that is, but it will have to wait for another time.

The next letter we will analyze is to the congregation in Ephesus, which (if you recall from Acts) was not one of Shaul’s favorite places to be and gave him quite a lot of tsouris.

That’s it for now, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

The Pauline Epistles: What They Really Are- Introduction

The Epistles are the letters found in the New Covenant that were written by the Jewish Apostles to the communities of believers in Yeshua, the Messiah. Most were written to Gentile converts to this new sect of Judaism, called “The Way” (much later redesignated as Christianity), as well as the Jewish believers in Messiah who worshipped with them. The two exceptions are “Hebrews” and “Jude”, which were written exclusively to Jewish believers.

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The purpose of these letters was to help these neophyte believers maintain a proper form of worship and to keep them walking a straight line on the path to salvation by reinforcing the lessons they were first given and help them to overcome external forces that were weakening their faith and obedience to God’s commandments.

The purpose of this study is to remove these letters from the heavenly realm which Christianity has placed them into, and bring them back down to earth, where they belong, by demonstrating they are not God-breathed scripture on the same spiritual level as the Torah or the writings of the Prophets; rather, I intend to show that they are nothing more than managerial instructions to communities who were losing their way along the path to salvation through outside influences, as well as inter-personal issues within the congregations (there were no “churches” at that time).

Yes, they did refer to God-breathed scripture, but referring to scripture does not make something scripture, itself.

Of the 21 Epistles, it has traditionally been believed that 13 of them were written by Shaul (Paul), but recently scholars believe he only wrote 7 of them (Romans, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians.) The remaining epistles accredited to Shaul are believed to be (what is called) “pseudo-Pauline” letters, with some written by an unknown author, and others (maybe) by a secretary of Shaul with his input or based on notes he may have made.

With regard to these epistles, especially the ones written by Shaul, as we go through them you need to understand that the proper way to interpret these messages is to take all things in their proper context, validate them hermeneutically with the rest of the Bible, and use the proper cultural understanding of the words, phrases, and idioms prevalent at that time.

Shaul was a Pharisee, a “Jews’ Jew”, and he never converted to any other religion or belief system than the one he was trained to know by his mentor, the great Rabbi Gamaliel. The only thing that changed with Shaul on his way to Damascus, when he received a vision of the Messiah (Acts 9), was that he stopped rejecting Yeshua as the Messiah and believed he was, truly, the anointed one of God who’s coming was announced in the Tanakh. From that time on, his purpose for living changed from persecuting followers of Yeshua to making more of them.

When Shaul wrote his letters, he used what I call “Jewish Logic”. Being Jewish, myself, I am very familiar with the way we debate a point, and we see this very clearly and often in the way Shaul writes his letters. I often recommend that the best way to understand what he is saying is with each paragraph, read the first couple of sentences and then the last couple of sentences, and ignore the middle. He tends to expound a little more than most people can follow, and if you stick with the first and last couple of sentences in each paragraph, you will probably get the gist of his meaning much easier.

You see, a Jew will never tell you what something is until he has told you everything it is not. For example, explaining that robbing people is wrong:

If not a law, then I could take what I wanted to at will, and there would be no sin to what I did. I could be forgiven for doing so, since it is not against a law. I could even be congratulated for being a good robber.
But there is a law, so I can’t rob people.

Why not just say robbery is against the law?

Another factor is that Shaul knew what he was trying to “sell” (yes, like it or not, missionary work is a sales job) was a difficult product to push to his chosen market. To the Jews, at least they already were living (for the most part) a Torah observant lifestyle, so to them all he had to do was prove that Yeshua was the Messiah, the one that every Jew was waiting to arrive.

But, with the Gentiles, it was a totally different story.

They were living a hedonistic, drunken, and sexually perverse lifestyle, i.e., having a really good time, and that was how they worshiped their pagan gods. Now, here comes this little Jewish tent maker from Tarsus, and he is telling them to give up all the fun they’re having and live a righteous life of self-control so that when they die, they will be rewarded with eternal life and joy.

Okay, the eternal part sounds like something I would want, but giving up what I have been enjoying all my life for the unsubstantiated promise of an afterlife? From an invisible God? Who sent a son who isn’t even here?

I was in Sales for a long time, and you can take it from me- that’s a tough sell!

So, what he did (as we will see when we analyze these letters) was to bring these pagans along a path to righteousness slowly- a step at a time. The letter written to the neophyte believers (Acts 15) clearly indicates that the Elders in Jerusalem agreed to this process, in that they only required four things as an immediate change in lifestyle and worship, stating that the laws of Moses would be heard in the synagogue every Shabbat. Unquestionably, they were expecting that the Gentiles accepting Yeshua as their Messiah would, eventually, be living a Jewish lifestyle.

As we examine the letters Shaul sent to the different communities of believers (what we would call in Hebrew a Kehillat), we will see this pattern over and over, which is (I believe) one of the main reasons that they have been so terribly misunderstood. By the end of the First Century, when the leaders of what had become Christianity were almost exclusively Gentile, they could not properly interpret Shaul’s meaning. They mistook his negative side of the argument as his conclusion, which will become easier for you to understand as we go through this teaching.

Besides this, there were political influences that made these Gentile believers afraid to be associated with the Jewish population, which was a major factor in their separating themselves from a “Jewish” form of worship. But that is for another study.

We will take a look at each letter in detail and the order in which they appear in the New Covenant. We will discuss who wrote it, to whom it was written, and what the writer wanted it to accomplish.

My source document for the information regarding who wrote the letters, when, and to whom is the “Quest Study Bible” (NIV version) and Wikipedia; any other reference material I may use will be annotated in the lesson.

I will start this teachings series on the next posting; if you are not already a subscriber, I would ask that you do so now, “like” this post, click on Notifications and that little bell so you will be notified the next time I post. Please share this lesson with everyone you know so they also have a chance to learn.

If you miss anything, you will find each lesson on my ministry website ( under the BLOG tab, in the Teaching Series subgroup.

That’s it for now, so until next time: l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Paul and the Prophets- Final Lesson

In the previous two lessons, we discussed the similarities and the differences between Paul and the prophets of the Tanakh, and now I am going to try to bring it all together.

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All of these activities are written down in the Bible and are considered scripture. But what is scripture? Is it what God says? Is it what Yeshua says? Or is it also what any human may say?

Well, according to Webster, scripture is what is included in the Bible, or simply “a body of writings considered sacred or authoritative.” So, if someone includes some writings in a book as an authoritative narrative (such as the Gospels or the Torah), that is all it needs to qualify as “scripture.”

The Bible was put together by men (sorry, no women were involved) and these men decided, looking at all the different writings available to them, which should be considered “scripture”.

Of course, we are told that they were divinely inspired to choose the right things.

From what I could find in researching the Internet, the first “Bible” (all 66 books) was put together by St. Jerome sometime around 400 CE. The Tanakh books are considered to have been written by the people the books are named after, except (of course) for the Torah, which was written by God, dictated through Moses.

As for the New Covenant, there were many scrolls that were available, and the general consensus is the Canon of Trent (1546) is where the Christian canon was first accepted, based on the Synod of Hippo Regius, held in North Africa in 393 AD.

So, why all this hubbub about scripture?

The reason is that what I am about to say may upset some people who consider the entire Bible the word of, or should I say the word from, God.

In truth, the Bible is a compilation of many writings, some of which are the direct word of God, such as the Torah. As we discussed earlier, that’s the only place in the entire Bible where we are being told directly from God what we should do.

The books of the Nevi’im (Prophets) contain both what God said (to the prophets to tell the people) and a historical narrative of the events that occurred during those times.

The other writings in the Tanakh called the Ketuvim (Ruth, Job, Song of Songs, etc.) were originated from men. There is, unquestionably, some divinely inspired wisdom, but still and all, it is scripture only because it is included in the Bible.

This is where some of you may be feeling a little discomfort, having been taught by everyone you know, love, and respect that every single part of the Bible is God-breathed, God-ordained, or God-inspired.

I am of the opinion that it isn’t. The only place in the entire Bible (Genesis through Revelation) where God dictates exactly what he wants us to do is in the Torah and the writings of the Prophets, specifically what he tells the prophet to say to the people, and nowhere else.

This is the main similarity between Paul and the prophets: they were both divinely called to bring people into communion with God.

This is the main difference between Paul and the prophets: what the prophets said was directly from God but what Paul said was not.

The bottom line is this: Paul’s letters are considered scripture because men said they should be included in the Bible, and whatever is in the Bible is, by definition, scripture. The important thing to note here is that scripture is NOT necessarily direct from God. In fact, most of the Bible is an eyewitness narrative of events that occurred, recorded by men, and determined to be authoritative by men.

Paul’s letters are originated from Paul and were nothing more than managerial directives to Gentile Believers, first learning about the Torah, to get them back onto the path of righteousness without forcing them to totally convert all at once.

When we read what the prophets told the people, we are hearing from God, but when we read the letters Paul wrote to his congregations, we are hearing from Paul.

Christianity has, for the most part, rejected what God said in the Torah and through the prophets; instead, they have used Paul’s letters as the foundation of their religion, along with the many Christian holidays, rituals, ceremonies, canon, and laws that are ALL man-made.

What we call “Judaism” is directly from God, and what we call “Christianity” is from men misusing Paul’s letters, which he wrote on his own initiative.

The final lesson about Paul and the Prophets is this: the prophets spoke God’s word which they received directly from God; Paul quoted what God told Moses and the prophets, but he tweaked it so that the Gentiles he was teaching only leaned a little at a time.

The biggest similarity between Paul and the prophets is that they both tried to bring people into communion with God so they could be saved; the biggest difference is that the prophets spoke what they heard from God, and Paul spoke what he knew from the Tanakh.

You know, as we finish this lesson, the one thing that Paul and the prophets had in common, more than anything else, is that they were both doing God’s work in the world, and both being rejected and persecuted for doing so.

Maybe, going forward, that is the best thing for us to take from this teaching series: when you do God’s work, whether you hear it directly from God or are working from your own knowledge of what God has already told others, expect to be rejected and persecuted by the ones you are trying to save.

Thank you for being here throughout this teaching, and I hope it has been edifying to you.

Please share this teaching with everyone you know and subscribe to my website and my YouTube channel. Buy my books, like my Facebook page and join my Facebook discussion group called “Just God’s Word” (please make sure you read and accept the rules).

That’s it for now, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Paul and the Prophets- Part 2

Having seen all the similarities between Paul and the prophets in Part 1, let’s now look at what was different between them. You may be surprised to find out that some of their similarities are also the basis for their differences.

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Both had a calling, but the prophets were called by God to bring the people back to the proper form of worship, whereas Paul’s calling was not by God but by Yeshua, and it was to bring the Good News of the Messiah. What is interesting is that during the First Century, although the pagan practices that the prophets addressed weren’t happening within the Jewish population, that era was rife with political corruption. However, God didn’t send Paul to deal with that, nor did Yeshua call him to deal with it. The difference between Paul’s calling and the prophet’s calling was both the subject matter and the ultimate target audience: the prophets were sent exclusively to the Jews to bring them back to proper worship but Paul was sent to the Jews to prove Yeshua was the Messiah, and to also bring that “light” to the Gentiles.

The prophets, as mentioned above, were to bring people back into the proper form of worship, as defined in the Torah. The people that the prophets talked to knew what the Torah said, for the most part, but Paul had a different goal. The Jews knew the Torah but the Gentiles didn’t. So, whereas the prophets were not teaching how to worship God properly, Paul had to teach the Gentiles about God, the Messiah, AND the Torah. To do that, Paul (as well as the Elders in Jerusalem) knew that they couldn’t turn hedonistic, sexually-perverse and sinful pagans into righteous, humble, and sexually pure Jews overnight; so, they introduced the Torah to them slowly, bit-by-bit, so that they wouldn’t be turned away from the righteousness they were being taught. That is why they wrote the letter we read about in Acts 15, which was never meant for those 4 rules to be the only rules for the Gentiles, but the first baby steps. As for Paul’s letters, they have been misused and misinterpreted: Paul knew the idea behind Yeshua’s parable about the seed being sown and how some of it was choked by the weeds. His slow introduction to the lifestyle demanded by God in the Torah was his attempt to prevent his newly sown seed from being choked.

One major, and fairly obvious, difference is that the prophets talked of the Messiah to come, but Paul talked about the Messiah who came.

The prophets had a clear and precise message- return to God and he will return to you. Paul, on the other hand, did not ask anyone to return to anything. He wanted them to move on, to take the next step and accept Yeshua as the Messiah God promised to send. And because he was teaching the Gentiles about the Torah slowly, his letters to the congregations he had created were not God-dictated instructions (as with the prophets), but merely managerial directives to get the people in those congregations back on track. When we read those Epistles from Paul, we can see that every one of them went to a congregation having either interpersonal or spiritual issues which were turning them away from proper understanding of how to live their new lifestyle. So, in a way, the prophets and Paul were both calling people to proper worship, but whereas the prophets were dealing with Jews who already knew right from wrong, Paul was dealing with ex-pagans who had to first learn right from wrong. The prophets ran an advanced review course, but Paul was teaching Introduction to the Torah and the shame of it is that because he had to do it slowly, his letters have been misused in order to take people away from the Torah.

The prophets talked about both present and future events, but Paul was all about the here and now. The prophesies that God gave to the prophets had both immediate and future implications, which is why many of the messianic prophecies have been denied as such by mainstream Judaism, rejecting the idea that some prophecies are dual in nature: they are about the immediate future and also the distant future. But Paul, except for his few references to the Acharit HaYamim (End Days), dealt mainly with what people need to do now. Of course, both the prophets and Paul wanted the people to change now- prophets saying come back to proper worship and Paul saying learn proper worship- but their methods were very different.

To put it in a nutshell, the main difference between the Prophets and Paul was in their methodology and the origin of their message. The prophets went to the Jewish people with the message that they were to return to God by rejecting paganistic worship and doing what God said to do in the Torah, which the people already knew about.

Paul dealt with Gentiles who had no idea about proper worship, had never known the Torah, and were surrounded by both Jews and Gentiles who were giving them different messages. That was the main issue in Paul’s letter to the Galatians- the believing Jews were trying to get 100% conversion all at once, which Paul knew would be more damaging than helpful.

The bottom-line difference between the prophets and Paul is that the prophets brought the word of God to the people directly from God, and Paul brought the word of God to the people, quoting from the Tanakh.

In the next lesson we will bring this teaching to a conclusion.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with everyone you know. Subscribe to both my website and my YouTube channel, and if you like what you get here, you will definitely like my books, as well- they are available through my website or on the Amazon Books site. You can get them in paperback or Kindle format.

That’s it for now, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Paul and The Prophets- Part 1

This is the first part of a three-part teaching series in which we will explore the similarities and differences between the prophets of the Tanakh and the Apostle Paul.

In this first part, we will look solely at the similarities between what they did and how they did it.

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  • Both the prophets and Paul had a calling from above. The prophets were chosen by God to take his message to the people, whereas Paul was chosen by Yeshua (Acts 9) to be his spokesman in order that people may come to know Yeshua is the Messiah.
  • Both served to bring the people into closer communion with God. The prophets would warn the people regarding their sins and that they must return to God by being obedient to the Torah. Paul would prove to the people that Yeshua was the Messiah through his extensive knowledge of the Tanakh.
  • Both the prophets and Paul talked extensively about the Messiah. The prophets prophesied about what the Messiah would do and how to recognize him, and Paul showed the people, by reviewing Yeshua’s ministry and teaching, as well as the many miracles he performed, that Yeshua was, indeed, the Messiah, having done what the prophets said the Messiah would do.
  • All of the prophets were Jews, representative of different tribes from both the Northern and Southern kingdoms. Paul was also a Jew, being from the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1).
  • The prophets and Paul all knew the Torah and were able to teach the people, many of whom may not have been that learned about the Torah, what it said they were required to do.
  • It is obvious that the prophets were influential in changing the attitudes and behavior of the people, although not always. Paul, as well, was very influential in proving the truth about Yeshua, as well as changing the behavior of people, especially in his ability to minister to the Gentiles (although this will be covered in part 2 of the series.)
  • One of the unfortunate similarities between the prophets and Paul is that they both often suffered persecution by those they were trying to save. Some of these forms of persecution were to be thrown into a cistern (Jeremiah 38), ridiculed (2 Kings 2:23), slandered (Amos 7:10; Romans 3:8), ignored (Isaiah 30:10; Acts 21:36), physically abused (1 Kings 22:24; 2 Corinthians 11:24), beaten (Jeremiah 37:15; Acts 16:22), and even stoned (Acts 14:19– fortunately, Paul recovered.)
  • The prophets and Paul performed miracles to show that they were, in truth, empowered supernaturally by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). Some of these miracles included changing poisoned water into drinkable (2 Kings 2:19), making it rain after years of draught (1 Samuel 12:18), bringing the dead back to life (1 Kings 17; Acts 20), and healing from sickness (2 Kings 5; Acts 28), to name a few.
  • Both the prophets and Paul also were given understanding of the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) and were able to tell the people what to expect when God’s Day of Judgement was upon them.
  • The prophets and Paul also chided the people for their lack of proper worship, instructing them in the way they should worship the God of their Fathers, and not to do as the local people’s did.
  • Finally, both talked extensively about salvation. When they talked about proper worship, living as God wanted them to live, and about the Messiah, the bottom line of all they preached was about salvation.

You may be thinking that the other disciples of Yeshua also had many, if not all, of these things in common with the prophets, and that is true. However, Paul is the only one we read about who traveled extensively throughout the territory of both the Jews and the Gentiles, bringing this word of God to them and teaching everyone about the Messiah. This is one other thing that Paul and the prophets had in common- they were never always in one place, traveling all over the known world, bringing the Word of God and knowledge of the Messiah to everyone who would listen- even to those who wouldn’t.

The next lesson in this series will look at the differences between the prophets and Paul, and I think that many of you will find that a little disturbing, but I ask you to please review it with an open mind, not relying on the traditional teachings of your religion or denomination. Try to be open to the idea that what has always been considered scripture has, in truth, always been what a group of men said is scripture.

That being said, I look forward to our next lesson.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe to both my website ministry and my YouTube channel. Share these messages with everyone you know, and while you are on the website, check out my books. I am sure you will find them both edifying and entertaining.

That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

How To Properly Interpret The Bible: Conclusion

Thank you for having allowed me to share with you what I have learned about properly interpreting the Bible, and I hope now, as we have come to the end of this teaching series, that it has been of value to you.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

We have covered the importance of using Circles of Context and Hermeneutics when trying to figure out just what the writer of a passage is trying to say, and to be able to glean the deeper, more spiritual messages through the use of the Jewish exegesis tool called PaRDeS.

We also now know that it is important to be selective when using extra-biblical resources, such as commentaries, and that right from the start you should have a Chumash, a Concordance, and the Interlinear Bible set at your disposal to be able to understand the real meaning of what is written in the Bible.

And, of course, knowing the language and the historical usage of phrases and words will allow you to know better what the writer intended to say, without having the true meaning skewed by the current connotation of certain words.

There is one last tidbit of knowledge I would like to share with you now, at the end of this teaching, which is:

You can’t make an argument from nothing.

Too often people tell you what the Bible says without having any reason other than it is what they want to believe. They take passages out of context, they assume something must have happened, and they extrapolate events to create something that can’t be found anywhere in the scriptures.

We may be able to make certain assumptions, such as after the circumcision of Abraham, he was not feeling quite himself for a few days. There’s nothing in the Bible that says that, but it is a safe assumption. However, the Talmud states that the three angels visited Abraham on the third day after his circumcision, and that is an example of making an argument from nothing.

The Rabbis obviously wanted to show the humility and compassion which Abraham had for others, and we know that from the Tanakh because he argued to save any righteous men that might be in Sodom. But, to say that the angels came on the third day after the circumcision, is just plain unfounded.

True, the visit was the very next thing in the Tanakh after the circumcisions:

Genesis 17:27:
And every male in Abraham’s household was circumcised along with him. That included those born into his family or bought from a stranger.

which was followed immediately by

Genesis 18:1:
The Lord appeared to Abraham near the large trees of Mamre.

but who knows how much time elapsed between those two events? Because there is nothing in the Tanakh that tells us how much time elapsed between these events, to make a statement that one event happened at a certain time after the other is making an argument from nothing, and as such, is not a verifiable interpretation.

When you believe you have an understanding of something that you read in the Bible, use the tools we have discussed to verify your belief. You may be given a divine understanding of a passage, but if you can’t verify it using these tools, then it must be questioned. And if someone tells you what something in the Bible means, you need to verify it, for yourself, before you accept it or (God forbid!) teach it to anyone else as truth.

Remember: when the blind lead the blind, they both fall into a hole. When it comes to being able to properly interpret the Bible, use the tools you have learned here to make sure that you aren’t being led into a hole.

Thank you again, and please share these lessons with everyone you know, subscribe to this ministry on both YouTube and here on my website, and please take the time to check out my books and the rest of my website.

This has been a real pleasure for me, and if there is any particular topic you would like to see a teaching on, please do not hesitate to suggest it to me.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

How To Properly Interpret The Bible: Lesson 6- Language and Cultural Usage

In Lesson 2 we talked about Circles of Context and how that included the cultural usage, as well. Today we will look a little deeper into that, along with the need to be familiar with the language.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

Let me start by saying you do not have to be fluent in either Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek to properly interpret the Bible, but only that you should be able to have a means of examining the original language used in a passage.

And there is more to it than that: you need to be able to know the historically correct cultural usage of the language in the Bible as it was used at that time, in everyday speech.

For instance, throughout the Bible we read about “the fear of Adonai”, but what is that? Does it mean to be afraid of God? Do we live our lives being scared of what God might do to us if we sin? That doesn’t seem to make sense when we consider how many times we are told that God loves us, he is merciful and compassionate, and that he understands our weaknesses and helps us to overcome them.

The proper cultural usage of the term “fear of the Lord” means to worship God. To “fear” God was not used, in those days, to be an expectation of physical harm or spiritual damnation, but to worship God as he commands us to do.

Of course, if you reject God then you do have something to be afraid of, which (who knows) maybe the reason they use the word” fear” to mean proper worship since improper worship would lead to damnation, and who, believing in God, wouldn’t be afraid of that?

In the book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), the writer’s conclusion is that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Now, how can being afraid be the beginning of wisdom, especially when we (using hermeneutics) consider that Shaul (Paul) tells his protégé Timothy (in 2 Timothy 1:7) that God gives us a spirit who produces not timidity, but power, love, and self-discipline?

What Shaul is saying is that when we worship the Lord we are not to be afraid, but rather to be strong and confident. This will sound like an oxymoron, but the proper fear of the Lord will make us fearless.

There are times, though, when we are supposed to be afraid. For instance, in Matthew 10:28 we are told not to be afraid of those who can harm the body, but the one who can destroy both body and soul. Clearly, that is something to be afraid of.

I have been studying Hebrew for a couple of years now; I used Rosetta Stone and now use Duolingo. I work at it about 15 or 20 minutes a day, and it is slow going. I used to be good at language learning, but (as studies confirm) now that I am an old fart it is harder for me to remember the words. It is especially hard since there is no one else here who is fluent in Hebrew to help me practice and correct me. Yet, this constant study of Hebrew has helped me, even with the little I know, to better understand what is written in the Tanakh.

Many years ago I earned a Certificate in Messianic Studies which included classes on First Century Jewish culture. Without understanding the historical meaning and usage of the words at that time, we can’t always know what people really meant when they wrote things down, which we now read in the Bible.

Here’s another example: in Matthew 5:17, which is, in my opinion, one of the most misinterpreted passages in the entire Bible, Yeshua says he did not come to change the law but to fulfill it. Many “experts” interpret this as meaning Yeshua completed the law and use that as a polemic against following the Torah, even though Yeshua said, plainly, that he did not come to change anything!

When we consider the cultural usage of the language, in First Century Rabbi-speak, to “fulfill” meant to interpret correctly. It has nothing to do with completing or doing away with anything. And when we use that understanding of the meaning of the word with what Yeshua taught in his sermon on the mount, we can see that he was interpreting the law more accurately than the Pharisees or Scribes had been doing, because he gave the spiritual understanding as well as the plain language meaning (remember P’shat and Remes?).

The same holds true when we read in some Bible versions the use of the word “trespass” in the Lord’s Prayer. Of course, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t walk on each other’s lawn; to “trespass” meant to misinterpret the Torah. Therefore, to fulfill the law would lead people to salvation whereas to trespass would lead people into sin.

The previous lesson covered using an Interlinear Bible and a concordance, which will give you the translations of the Hebrew and Greek used in the Bible, but if you really want to allow the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to lead you to what God wants you to see, I recommend studying Hebrew on your own. Now, for myself, I am not so worried about knowing Greek to understand the New Covenant better because I believe that when I know the Tanakh, I will be able to determine what in the New Covenant makes sense, hermeneutically, and what doesn’t.

And, yes- although it is outside the scope of this training series, I do believe there is much in the New Covenant that doesn’t need to be in the Bible. But, as I say, that is for a different time.

That’s it for this lesson, and next time we get together I will conclude this teaching series.

Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!