Thursday, August 20, 2015

Add Israel to your Church's Belief Statement, part 1

Most Protestant and Catholic Churches have Information on their websites called, variously, "What We Believe, "Statement of Belief", "Beliefs", " Statement of Faith", etc.

What is amazing is that the majority of these Belief statements mention absolutely nothing about Israel or Jewish things. I have surveyed dozens of church websites from many different denominations and my search invariably comes up blank.

And yet, 100% of the authors in the Bible were Jewish (if Luke was not ethnically, he was assuredly a proselyte) and they all thought like Jews. Even though the language of the New Testament is Koine Greek, the underlying idioms, similes, sources, and world views in the Greek text were based on Jewish thinking. In fact the literal meaning of some passages only makes sense if they are translated to Hebrew first. A great place to learn more is to look at the writings of the scholars mentioned below who have contributed to the organization called Jerusalem Perspective (website is Scholars such as Robert Lindsey, David Bivin, Steven Notley, Shmuel Safari, and Brad Young have authored fascinating articles and books that will help you understand the New Testament better. Of particular note is Robert Lindsey's article Unlocking the Synoptic Problem - Four Keys for Better Understanding Jesus.

The New Testament quotes from the TeNaKh 224 times directly, 80 times indirectly, and somewhere around 4000 times through allusions. TeNaKh: T stands for Torah, N stands for Nevi'im (prophets), and K stands for Ketuvim (writings), which is how Jesus referred to the scriptures. Remember the two things the New Testament church DID NOT HAVE were a New Testament and a church.

In this series of posts (maybe a book!), I will present 4 reasons why a Church (and its members) should include Israel in their Belief statement. Doing so will:
1) improve their Biblical interpretation
2) improve their understanding of Biblical eschatology
3) increase the amount of God's blessing for the church (and its people)
4) encourage Israel through a more powerful witness of what the truth is

It is difficult to truly understand the New Testament without understanding the Jewish background to the Bible. Jewish rabbinic culture employed four different levels of interpretation and the Gospels are full of examples. It is much more enlightening to interpret scripture when you know how these were used.

Protestantism was handicapped from the beginning because Luther was anti Jewish and anti Torah. For example he held the books of James, Jude, and Revelation in relatively low importance. Of James, which really should have been called Ya'acov or Jacob, he said, "James does nothing more than drive to the Law and to its works." Of Revelation he said, "my spirit cannot accommodate itself to this book."

The Gentile church may see itself as the bride of Christ, and they are part of the body, but they were invited because they are friends of the Bride (Israel). We are grafted in to the Olive tree that is Israel.

"But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partakers with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you." Romans 11:17-18

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