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Yeshua’s Story: The Beginning

VERSION 1: Yeshua the Galilean came suddenly onto the scene of public life in Judea through the work of John the Baptizer (Yohanan, with a hard, throaty “h”). Later, the community of his disciples would ask questions about his birth and early life, but I will tell those stories at the end. The beginning of his impact on Jewish life in the first century was in a movement of new hope led by an unlikely figure, a hard man whose popularity had nothing to do with charisma and everything to do with the long-supressed hopes of Israelites in that day. God the King seems to have returned in power through this circle of penitents dipping themselves in the waters where Israel first entered the land. VERSION 2 (shorter sentences, simpler style): … Read entire article »

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Eternal Messiah

The mysterious nature of God is not something new to the New Testament. Time and time again, from Creation through the history of Israel, God interacts with this present world in ways that are the action of God, but are not the totality of God. … Read entire article »

Pharisees

The Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” -Mark 2:24 You may have heard, wrongly, that the Pharisees were the rabbis and that they basically ran the show in Yeshua’s time. You may have heard that the Pharisees . . . were all hypocrites made up 613 rules which were oppressive led the synagogues and governed the way Jews lived for God. … Read entire article »

How We Know Mark Was the Earliest Gospel

How did students of the four Gospels determine that the earliest of them is Mark? The answer is fairly simple and the case is overwhelmingly clear. How certain is the conclusion? It is so certain that only a small percentage of scholars hold to any other theory. The large agreement among different interpreters of the Gospels that Mark came first is for a simply reason. That reason is what happens when you lay side by side the three “Synoptic” Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These three Gospels have been called “Synoptic,” a word which means “seeing together,” because they share in common a large amount of material, follow the same basic order, and stand apart from … Read entire article »

Pre-Order Yeshua Our Atonement

Due for release December 20, 2012. You can pre-order now (US only, foreign orders please email me at yeshuaincontext at gmail to request a link to order). … Read entire article »

Early Divinity in John 5

Many have argued that the idea of Yeshua’s divinity was a late development. This is commonly applied to the Fourth Gospel as a principle for detecting layers of sources. What I mean is, people will say the gospel of John was written in layers, by multiple hands. An early and simpler version of the gospel, it is said, did not have the strong theme of Yeshua’s divinity. Supposedly Greco-Roman ideas are the source of the divinity doctrine. So as the movement for Yeshua became less Jewish and more Roman, the doctrine developed and the Fourth Gospel underwent several edits and additions. … Read entire article »

Applying Messiah’s Kingdom Parables, Part 2

. . . birds came along and devoured it . . . it withered away . . . it yielded no grain . . .” -Mark 4:4, 6, 7. Parables are usually connected to a scripture text or several of them. They often explain something puzzling about God and his relation to his people, or something unstated or mysterious in a text. Yeshua understood a startling truth found in Isaiah 6, one that naturally leads any thoughtful reader to ask questions. Modern readers of the Sower parable (Mk 4; Mt 13; Lk 8) tend not to realize that the parable is commenting on a text. … Read entire article »

Applying Messiah’s Kingdom Parables, Part 1

To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables. -Mark 4:11 “Kingdom” is not “afterlife” exactly and it is not “people of Israel” or “people of the Church.” The modern reader tends to inject meanings into Yeshua’s words that are not there. Looking in the words of Messiah for a message on how to qualify for a good afterlife, it is natural for many to see in the word “kingdom” a code word for “going to heaven.” This is a problem compounded by the fact that Matthew, the best-known gospel for many Bible readers, uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven” instead of “kingdom of God.” But, … Read entire article »

Yeshua’s Exalted Identity (Synoptic Gospels)

Many think the idea of Yeshua as an exalted figure (prophet, Holy One of God, Messiah, divine-man) is primarily the domain of the Gospel of John. But in the synoptic gospels (Mark-Matthew-Luke) we read quite a bit about the identity of Yeshua as something greater than a rabbi: … Read entire article »

Passover and Yeshua’s Last Week (Based on John)

What happened when in the week leading up to the crucifixion of Yeshua? What if we ask this question of the Gospel of John instead of the more common approach of following Mark-Matthew-Luke (the synoptic gospels, as they are called)? It’s tempting to turn to Mark or Matthew for information, but suppose we simply follow the Fourth Gospel to see what we can learn? Let me begin with just a brief note on my appreciation for the accuracy of the Fourth Gospel on matters related to the Temple and feasts of the Torah. I first began to consider the possibility that John was more precise that the synoptic gospels at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting … Read entire article »

PODCAST: Lamb of God #2

Sometimes we understand a story best only after we have read to the end. Like a detective story, the Gospel of John has some revelation that waits until 21:24. And when we read a second time, once we understand, there are some connections between Messiah, Passover, Temple sacrifices, and the eyewitness experience of the Beloved Disciple that add new layers of meaning to Yeshua as our Passover. Lamb of God #2 … Read entire article »

REVIEW: Anthony Le Donne’s Historical Jesus

Historical Jesus: What can we know and how can we know it?, Anthony Le Donne, Eerdmans, 2011. This short and very readable volume is valuable but flawed. The reason I say that: great information on historical “knowing” and application to historical Jesus studies, but poor application to the Jesus story once Le Donne turns his attention to it. First, the part I think is good. When it comes to historical knowledge, how we know history, Le Donne explains in layman terms why modernism overreached. Modernism was too optimistic in some ways and too skeptical in others. It assumed we could find “the facts, just the facts” and view history objectively, in a one to one correspondence. All … Read entire article »

PODCAST: Lamb of God #1

Passover is coming. It’s a good time to meditate on many themes. One that get’s less attention — I think — than it should is the lamb of God thread in the gospel of John. There is probably a lot more to it than you think. And it is good. Lamb of God #1 … Read entire article »

Low and High Versions of the Yeshua Story

THE YESHUA STORY, LOW VERSION At last, in the days of the Second Temple a great Son of Israel arose in Galilee. He was a Hasid whose piety and Spirit-endowment worked healings. He was a teacher who spoke of the kingdom, the malkhut hashamayim, the world to come. The Temple authorities and the would-be rabbis in Judea opposed him. His miracles bothered them, since he was not one of them. His fanatical following scared them and was enough to convince the Roman governor to kill him. But the God of Israel raised him and he ascended to be the heavenly Messiah. God revealed that the death of Yeshua was a substitutionary atonement for all who would … Read entire article »

REVIEW: The Jewish Gospels by Daniel Boyarin

Daniel Boyarin is Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture and rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. In the foreword by Jack Miles, he is called “one of two or three greatest rabbinic scholars in the world.” I’m not qualified to assign numbers to who is or isn’t the world’s greatest Talmud scholar, but it is easy to say that Boyarin knows his Talmud better than any but maybe a few dozen people in the world. So, it might surprise you to know that Boyarin thinks Judaism and Christianity are compatible. His goal, stated on pages 6-7 is to help Christians and Jews to stop vilifying each other. He doesn’t follow Jesus and isn’t asking fellow Jews … Read entire article »

Symbolic Actions and Kingdom Enactments

Isaiah spent most of his career in sackcloth, but for three years went about barefoot and in his undergarments as a sign of what was to come (Isa 20:1-3). Ezekiel laid on his side for three hundred and ninety days (Ezek 4:4-5). Zechariah broke two staffs over his knee and threw thirty shekels into the treasury of the house of the Lord (Zech 11:7-14). These are symbolic actions, a kind of prophetic message in and of themselves. Yeshua also engaged in symbolic actions and what I call kingdom enactments. Symbolic Actions Declaring High Authority The Triumphal Entry (Mk 11:1-11; Mt 21:1-11; Lk 19:29-44; Jn 12:12-19) – Riding deliberately into the city as per Zechariah 9 with crowds hailing … Read entire article »

PODCAST: Divinity1

To some people, the idea of Yeshua’s divinity was probably something developed late. It must have involved a departure from Jewish thought. It must have been the result of syncretism, mixing pagan notions with the original understanding of Yeshua as a Jewish teacher or as Messiah. But what is the real explanation for the origin the idea of Yeshua’s divinity? Divinity1 … Read entire article »

List: Nature Miracles of Yeshua

In some cases these miracles are curiosities, like the coin from the fish (some think this may be a parable rather than a literal event). But in others, these are among the most majestic portion in the gospels. Yeshua calming the storm and walking on water is not like the miracles of Elijah and Elisha. These are unprecedented. The claim by eyewitnesses that such things happened is amazing. Against the idea that these are fictive tales devised by a movement to magnify the glory of their founder, the gospels are written in the style of Greco-Roman biographies (unlike the later rabbinic tales) and name their eyewitness sources according to the accepted style: Water to wine – … Read entire article »

List: Exorcisms by Yeshua.

There are no exorcisms in the Bible before Yeshua (note: unless you are in a church that reads the Apocrypha as scripture, in which case Tobit has the first exorcism). The few exorcisms in Acts seem to be about the Presence of Yeshua validating the movement in the early days. I take it that exorcism is primarily a sign of the kingdom (reign of God) brought to the fore in the clash between the “Holy One of God” and the forces of evil who ruin creation. There are only six exorcisms in the gospels: The Man in the Capernaum Synagogue, Mark 1:23-27 (Lk 4:33-36). The Gerasene Demoniac, Mark 5:1-20 (Mt 8:28-34; Lk 8:26-39). The Syro-Phoenician Woman’s Daughter, Mark … Read entire article »

“My Son” as Midrash

It’s a famous example of what seems to be the unusual, perhaps questionable, use of the Jewish scriptures by the apostles. It occurs in a very noticeable location — the birth narrative of Yeshua in Matthew. Some parts of the Bible get very little traffic, but the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are pretty much highways and not little goat trails. So people are bound to notice some odd things about Matthew’s “this happened in order to fulfill” sayings. One of the two weirdest (there is one that is even weirder) is Matthew 2:15. Is Matthew able to read and understand the Hebrew Bible? Is he guilty of a strange and arbitrary reading simply to … Read entire article »

List: Healing Miracles

There are twenty-six distinct healing miracles. I exclude exorcisms here (that list is next). I made this list long ago, based on some source I no longer remember. The idea was to list the healing miracles in chronological order. That is no longer something I believe can be done (the gospels, except to some degree John) have no interest in what order events happen. Perhaps at some future time I will edit this list and find a different order of arrangement: Royal official’s son – Jn 4:46 Exorcism in Capernaum synagogue – Mk 1:26, Lk 3:35 Peter’s mother-in-law – Mk 1:31, Mt 8:14, Lk 4:38 Leper Cleansed – Mk 1:41, Mt 8:3, Lk 5:13 The paralytic – Mk 2:3, Mt … Read entire article »

REVIEW: Tverberg’s Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus

Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewish Words of Jesus Can Change Your Life, by Lois Tverberg, PhD. Zondervan, 2012. Disclosure: I received a complementary review copy of this book from the publisher. Prefer to listen to the review in audio form? Click here. Lois Tverberg is a biologist, but in our circles she is better know for another occupation: a writer who explores the Jewish context of Jesus’ life. As a Lutheran (at least in background), Tverberg is a writer well-suited to explain the Jewish context of Yeshua to Christian readers. As a scientist she has the energy and passion for research that are required to find connections between rabbinic literature and the gospels. … Read entire article »

PODCAST: Rabbi Dust

Book Review: Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewish Words of Jesus Can Change Your Life, by Lois Tverberg. Zondervan: 2012. Lois Tverberg’s newest book is about Jesus in his Jewish context, or more specifically, how to understand the ethics of Jesus in Jewish context. Rabbi Dust … Read entire article »

PODCAST: Two Marys

Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany. Eyewitnesses named in the gospels. Many myths surround them. Who were they? What did their faith contribute? What do we owe to these two Mary’s for our understanding of Yeshua. We owe them a great deal. Two Mary’s … Read entire article »

List: Teachings Unique to Luke

Anointed to Proclaim to the Poor – Lk 4:18-21 Prophets and Gentiles – Lk 4:24-27 Two Debtors – Lk 7:41-43 Satan Falls as Lightning – Lk 10:18-20 Good Samaritan – Lk 10:25-37 One Thing – Lk 10:41-42 Judge at Midnight – Lk 11:5-13 Rich Fool – Lk 12:16-20 Watchful Servants – Lk 12:36-38 Faithful Manager – Lk 12:42-48 Barren Fig Tree – Lk 13:6-9 Lowest Place at the Banquet – Lk 14:7-11 Banquet for the Lowly – Lk 14:12-14 Great Banquet – Lk 14:15-24 Counting the Cost – Lk 14:25-33 Lost Sheep – Lk 15:1-7 Lost Coin – Lk 15:8-10 Prodigal Son – Lk 15:11-32 Dishonest Manager – Lk 16:1-13 Lazarus and the Rich Man – Lk 16:19-31 Humble Servants – Lk 17:7-10 Unjust Judge – Lk 18:1-8 The Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Lk 18:9-14 The … Read entire article »