Thursday, July 15, 2010

FFOZ's Jewish Sermon on the Mount

I apologize on the lateness of this post; but I’ve been quite preoccupied with some issues (more on that later in the post).
This is a report on a presentation by Boaz Michael and Toby Janicki on the Jewish Sermon on the Mount.  First Fruits of Zion’s newest ministry, Vine of David, which is chartered with researching, translating, and publishing new and old Messianic literature, is about to release one of its newest projects: Frank Delitzsch’s Hebrew/English translation of the Gospels. A small excerpt of it was given to everyone there covering Matthew 5-7; which contains the Sermon on the Mount. FFOZ is publishing this edition in Michigan (Ann Arbor I believe), so they were in the area and Mars Hill got to hear a sample of the presentation.
The goal of FFOZ is to help Christians know Jesus better by understanding the context of the New Testament. In Zechariah 8:23, the future Millennium period is envisioned: "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve [i.e., Tzitzit] of a Jewish man, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard [that] God [is] with you." ' " The goal of Vine of David is to help Jewish people know Yeshua as the Messiah.
There is testimony by Jerome that the original Gospel of Matthew was written in Hebrew. While subsequent Gospels were written in Greek, there is strong indication that the underlying words and thoughts were Hebrew. This is evidenced by the character of the Greek, which is sometimes awkwardly written because it is translating idioms and Hebrew word structures in ways that don’t make sense in Greek, but do when they are reverse engineered back to Hebrew. The Greek thus betrays its Semitic origins and its many allusions to a wider expanse of Jewish literature and rabbinic thought. The preponderance of Semitisms, idioms, and parallels constitute a Jewish code language that the trained eye can see. But most Christians read over these words without thinking and often miss the point. 
In recent years, new scholarship has started to see this distinction. Since the talk was held at Mars Hill, Boaz pointed out that their own pastor, Rob Bell, was a good example of one who saw the benefit of this in his book “Velvet Elvis” and by sponsoring one of the largest Torah Club groups in the country. 
In 1813 in Leipzig, Germany, Franz Delitzsch was born with a retinue of friends and family attending his baptism in the Lutheran Church. One of those was a Jewish man named Franz Julius Hirsch, who became the spiritual mentor of the younger Franz. Franz Hirsch would later in life, at age 78, publicly acknowledge the Messiah whom he had long recognized in secret, and was baptized as Theodor Hirsch. Franz Delitszch grew up to be a brilliant theologian with a twist: he became the most knowledgeable Christian Talmudist of his day, and perhaps of all time. He had a “born again” experience at the University of Leipzig; while there he became fluent in Greek, Hebrew, Rabbinical Hebrew, and Arabic and eventually became a distinguished professor in 1834. He called the New Testament the greatest achievement of Jewish Literature.  Franz’s tranlsation went through 11 editions with thorough peer reviews in between each one; at his death some 60,000 copies had been distributed throughout Europe. It is said that this document was instrumental for bringing thousands of Jewish people to faith in Yeshua. The following link will take you to a biography of this amazing man; this brief introduction is only to whet your appetite and to explain why FFOZ has undertaken this project.
For Franz, the Hebrew New Testament was the soul of Jewish Missions. He endeavored to communicate the:
  • Centrality of Israel, 
  • Jewishness of Jesus, and
  • Beauty of Torah
Unfortunately, there are Christians today who read the New Testament and still come away with the idea that it is anti-Jewish and anti-Nomian. The good-news of the Kingdom that goes around the world must also include the Jewishness of the Messiah.
Second Half: Toby Janicki
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’s most famous teaching. Several quotes were given, such as:
"The message of Jesus as I understand it, is contained in the Sermon on the Mount unadulterated and taken as a whole... If then I had to face only the Sermon on the Mount and my own interpretation of it, I should not hesitate to say, 'Oh, yes, I am a Christian.' But negatively I can tell you that in my humble opinion, what passes as Christianity is a negation of the Sermon on the Mount... I am speaking of the Christian belief, of Christianity as it is understood in the west."
Leo Tolstoy:
“Not long ago I was reading the Sermon on the Mount with a rabbi. At nearly every verse he showed me very similar passages in the Hebrew Bible and Talmud. When we reached the words, ‘Resist not evil’, he did not say, This too is in the Talmud, but asked, with a smile, ‘Do the Christians obey this command?’ I had nothing to say in reply, especially as at that particular time, Christians, far from turning the other cheek, were smiting the Jews on both cheeks.”
We often read the Bible like a book - our focus is on how much we can read. If we would just spend time on one verse and think about the 5 W’s: Who, what, when, where, what extent?, we would be better able to understand it.
Reading the Greek is like reading an email from someone for whom English is their second language. The tenses are not quite right and the word order is a little funny; so too is the Koine Greek that is in our manuscripts.  
There are a series of statements in the Sermon on the Mount that follow this format: “You have heard it said...but I say unto you...”  The typical portrayal contrasts the dark, heavy view of Torah (letter of the Law) with the light, fresh freedom found in Jesus’s teaching which advocates the spirit of grace. This type of format is the elaboration of fences. Take a commandment, such as “Thou shall not murder”; the rabbis built a fence that sought to limit hatred with the intent that this would stop the murder from happening. So, tithes serve as a fence for greed; silence is a fence for wisdom (in a positive way); "don’t look with lust" is a fence for adultery, etc. Jesus calls us to go beyond the letter of the law, this is true, by so doing, He does not do away with the letter! Jesus is always checking our motives. 
It is said that Jesus did not so much bring new teaching, but brought new ways of looking at teaching that was already in the Bible (Old Testament). What then makes Jesus special? As Geza Vermes, the Oxford University Jewish scholar astutely observed,
"...the characteristic of Jesus is the supreme emphasis on ideas which are present, but less absolutely attested, in ancient Jewish piety,” Jesus emphasized things that the current leadership was not emphasizing.
Matthew 5-7 is therefore not about theology, but about the Jewish view of preserving the world through a right understanding of Torah in the lives of the poor and needy. 
Constraints of discipleship: Wide and Narrow way.
The concept of narrow in the Hebrew word means squeezed or pressed in all sides, affliction, distress, oppression, and difficulty. Not exactly the kind of imagery for us to say “Join our team!” We picture the Christian (narrow) way as having freedom, joy, prosperity, and happiness. 
Asheray, which is translated as Blessed (are you)... means "Contentment awaits" - i.e., the poor or needy person will reap benefits at a future time. It is a term of congratulations for one who endures through hardship, because they may not see the fulfillment in this world.
FFOZ is publishing this new translation of Delizsch’s Hebrew Gospels because:
  • It has proven to be fruit bearing
  • the lost sheep of the House of Israel needs it
  • 95% of Jews have left God
  • Most of the Jews in America read English (and not Hebrew - though the document will have both)
  • It will have an impact on the nations (Isaiah 42)
  • the Gentile Church needs to see itself as part of the Commonwealth of Israel

Now as to my issue: I recently “lost” my job and I have been quite busy with finding a new one and dealing with all related issues. I appreciate your prayers in the resolving of this change. 

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