Tuesday, May 20, 2008

April Newsletter

The Bread of Life (Part One)

The question is what did Jesus mean when he said, “This is my body”? The messianic rabbi argued that Jesus wasn’t referring to his body-he was referring to the law of Moses-which we need to “ingest” by constant reading, study and application.
This man also argued that there is no “New Testament” because the Law of Moses is eternal and does not change. Therefore, for someone to please God it is necessary for him or her to carefully observe all 613 instructions from the Law of Moses.
All Christians understand “Holy Communion” to represent the physical body and blood of Jesus. Of course, there is disagreement among Christians about how it represents the body and the blood. Roman Catholics believe it becomes literal body and blood in the mass. Other churches believe that there is a “real presence” somehow (spiritually) in the “elements” meaning the bread and wine. In my church it is regarded as a symbol of the body and blood. Either way, the bread and wine of communion represents the body and the blood of Jesus-it is just understood in how it does this differently. So this man is really bringing a radical new teaching.
Now, lets look at what the Bible says. Should we speak of an “Old” and “New” Testament? Yes, if we accept the Bible, because that is how it is explained in the Scriptures. This is seen in the Bible at 2 Corinthians 3:6 and 14 and in the Epistle to the Hebrews at Hebrews 7:22, 9:15 and 18. In these passages it speaks of the Old Testament as passing away. Now, we are obligated to accept the Old Testament as Scripture, to reject the Old Testament is a heresy called “Marcionism.” And the Old Testament is good. But the New Testament is better and God’s complete revelation. (I don’t mean to attack the Old Testament, but I was reading the Battle of Jericho in the Book of Joshua. After the battle the Israelites slaughtered everyone, even babies and the elderly. I thought about that and I know I am incapable of doing such a thing. In all fairness, I know other ancients did more horrible things, such as slowly torturing their conquered enemies and carrying out rapes. So, we see an elevation of moral standards, to a small degree, but when we have arrived at Christ-why would we want to go back to a way that is inferior and incomplete? The New Testament cherishes life to such a degree-that the church has always held that abortion is the taking of an innocent human life and is a mortal sin. The Christian church has indeed always been opposed to abortion. People have different opinions now-but the Apostles of Jesus taught it was wrong. There are many good things in the Old Testament-but the reality is that they had not yet arrived at the high standard we are now at in Jesus Christ. They lived in anticipation for the future complete revelation. Joshua did spare Rahab the Prostitute and all her family because she submitting to God. So, it is possible that many people were spared. But is describes the elderly and children as being slaughtered.) This gentleman didn’t like to say “New Testament” he liked to say “Apostolic Writings” but the Bible describes it as the New Testament. (A side note: some of these Messianic Jews like to describe Paul as “Rabbi” Saul/Paul. My problem with this is we have several writings of Paul and he describes himself as an Apostle-never as a “Rabbi.” Of course, in Assyrian, Rabi merely means teacher or professor. But in Matthew 23:7-8, Jesus discourages the use of such honorific titles. Paul described himself as an apostle and as a slave of Christ: meaning messenger and servant. If you are really a teacher or professor-which is all this term means in Assyrian, there is no harm in using it-but if you are pridefully demanding to be called by a certain title of great honor-this is what Jesus condemned.) About the New Covenant-not only is this how the New Testament describes itself, this is how Jesus Himself describes his work in Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, and 1 Cor. 11:25. Now in the Old Testament, the Prophet Jeremiah prophesied that God was going to make a New Covenant-that would not be like the Old Covenant. This is predicted in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and implied in other passages. So, I think that is clearly established in the Bible that we have an Old and New Testament.

Now lets look at the statement: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

First, lets look at where this appears in the New Testament. Before Jesus began his ministry, he was in the desert where he was tempted by Satan. This incident is briefly alluded to in Mark (Mark 1:12) but is fully described in Luke and Matthew. Now, one interesting thing about this story is that it came directly from Jesus himself. No one was with him in the desert. So obviously, when Jesus was with this disciples he sat down and described to them what had happened to him.

Now, we need to talk about the Gospels and what they are:

The word Gospel-is based on the Greek word “Evangilion” which means “News” or “Good News.” This has two meanings now: first, the “Gospel” is the message that Jesus preached and secondly a “Gospel” is a biography of Jesus. We have four Gospels:
Matthew, Mark. Luke and John. There is also a Gospel of Thomas. Many Bible scholars value the Gospel of Thomas. The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of sayings of Jesus. Some of the sayings in this Gospel are not accurate. I do agree that it is a historically significant Gospel-but it isn’t as valuable as the Four Gospels. I will discuss Thomas a latter time (if you are interested). The earliest Gospel is clearly Mark. We know this for two reasons 1. it contains many Aramaic words and phrases and 2. “Matthew” and Luke actually quote from Mark extensively. The Gospel of Matthew as we have it, isn’t the Gospel as it was written by Matthew. According to Church tradition, Mark wrote down Peter’s recollections and Matthew wrote a life of Christ in Aramaic which someone else later put into Greek, which is the Matthew we now have. Luke was probably written by the man named Luke who is described in the Bible. He was a student of St. Paul. He wrote in Greek (and for Greeks) and didn’t use Aramaic in his Gospel the way the other Gospels do. Now-Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the “Synoptic” Gospels because they are all similar. Most of the similarity is in that Matthew and Luke repeat almost everything in Mark. Now there is a lot of information in Matthew that is unique to Matthew and in Luke that is unique to Luke. Matthew the Apostle probably wrote a writing scholars refer to as “Q” a “lost” Gospel that can be reconstructed because it is extensively quoted by Luke and Matthew. Its like this. Imagine if we didn’t have Mark. Well, scholars could hypothetically reconstruct the Gospel of Mark since it is quoted by Matthew and Luke. But we still have Mark. There is another writing they both quote from we no longer possess. It was probably the original writings of Matthew. All of this is maybe too academic but it is interesting.

Now lets look at the Temptation: We find it in Matthew 4:1-11 and in Luke 4:1-13. They tell it a little differently, for instance the order of the temptations is given in different orders. The interesting thing is that when Jesus answers Satan he quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy all three times. Satan quotes Scripture at Jesus too. The devil quotes from the Book of Psalms.
Now-what is the significance of the temptations?
First, lets look at them.
First, Jesus is hungry. Satan tells him to turn the rocks to bread in order to satisfy his hunger. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 “Man shall not live by bread alone…” Then Satan quotes Psalm 91 and tells Jesus to jump off of the precipice of the Temple so all the people can see a miracle of angels catching him. Jesus answers from Deuteronomy 6:16, which says don’t tempt God. (In Luke this temptation is last-perhaps Luke places it last in order to emphasize the Deity of Christ.) Then Satan offers Jesus a trade-if Jesus bows down to Satan-the Devil will give him all the kingdoms of earth in exchange. Then Jesus answers the Devil with Deuteronomy 6:13. “Worship and serve God alone.”
I read something I thought was interesting. This Bible scholar said that the three greatest needs the Israelites (actually Jews) had at that time were for food, because people barely had enough food to survive, they desired supernatural intervention-as they had seen under Moses, and as an oppressed people many wanted to overthrow the Roman empire. So Satan, was attacking Jesus-through the greatest perceived needs of the Jewish people at that time. This does make some sense to me. Jesus rejects living up to the expectations of the people and decides to fulfill his obligations as messiah to his heavenly father alone. These other ideas are revealed to be actually satanic in origin.

First off, what is “Deuteronomy”? Well, the word Deuteronomy is Greek for “Second Law.” What happens is Moses is about to die-so he repeats his law to the Israelites. Certain laws, such as the Ten Commandments are given a second time. Now, Deuteronomy is the last book of the books of Moses-which are also called the Pentateuch (Greek for Five Books) and the Torah (Hebrew for “Law” or “Instruction). Moses may have written parts of these books-but in reality they were completed hundreds of years after the time of Moses. Genesis is the story of beginnings, were we find the story of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Abraham. Exodus tells of the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt. Leviticus has some moral laws but also detailed instructions of how to carry out animal sacrifices and such things. Numbers describes the Israelites journeys through the desert and contains a census which is where the title comes from. Then we have a repeating of laws in Deuteronomy, which does contain ethical and moral laws but also laws about religious obligation and sacrifices.

Deuteronomy 8:3 states,
“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Literally, “Lord” is Yahweh or Jehovah-a special name of God.)

Okay, so what is “manna”? It is a Hebrew word for “What?” or “What is it?” Now this “ma-“ word is also found in Arabic where for “who” sometimes you say “meen?” I think in Assyrian you say “Moody?” so you see the “ma-“ or “mo-“ prefix. All Semitic languages are very similar: Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic and Modern Assyrian Aramaic-are all closely related. The story of manna is found in Exodus 16. The story goes like this: The Israelites are out in the desert with Moses. They have no food and they angrily come to Moses and demand food. Moses prays and in the morning a type of wafers are found scattered on the desert floor. It is described as tasting something like honey (Exodus 16:31) in other places it is described as either not tasting very good or that the people had grown tired of eating it. God fed them manna until they entered the promised land under Joshua-once they crossed into the Holy Land-God stopped the manna. (According to the Harper Collins Study Bible, the word Manna probably comes from old Aramaic-see page 109).
Now, sometimes scientists offer scientific explanations of the Biblical miracles. Some scientists say perhaps it was a kind of moss that grows in the desert-others has explained it as a type of residue or excretion left by certain desert insects.
Perhaps, but the Bible describes it as a miracle.
So what does this have to do with Jesus Christ? A lot and I will explain that later.

Pope Baptizes ex-Moslem

Pope Benedict baptized Magdi Allam, an Egyptian born critic of Islamic extremism. Mr. Allam was baptized by the pope of Easter (March 22, 2008). Mr. Magdi is the author of the book “Long Live Israel” and has stated that Islam is “physiologically violent.”

Tens of Thousands of innocent Muslem civilians killed by Al-Qaida

In Iraq, most of the casualties are Iraqis. Many Christians have died and indeed the Christians have been targeted for annihilation. However, the greatest number of people killed in “suicide”-homicide attacks are Iraqi civilians the greatest number of whom are Islamic. Finally, some Muslems are beginning to be outraged as is reported in an articles by Josh Meyer “Al-Qaida members questioning tactics, U.S. says: Deaths of fellow Muslims provide criticism, but group still seen as threat” in the Thursday, April 24, 2008 Houston Chronicle.

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