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November 23 2013 7 23 /11 /November /2013 21:00

Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from the New King James Version


Birthday celebrations are a big part of our Western culture: birthday cakes and gifts are part of this tradition. But what has God to say about it? Is it only innocent fun? Does it really matter what we do as followers of Christ in such occasions, in other words can we choose to celebrate it or not as part of our so-called “Christian liberty”? In this essay we will endeavor to answer those questions by looking at the Word of God, but also what early Church history and what first century Judaism (Jesus/Yeshua was a first century Jew) has to say about this topic. Finally, we will take a brief look at ancient customs associated with birthday celebrations.


Birthdays in the Bible

 

Birthday celebrations are not often mentioned in the Scriptures; in fact throughout the whole Protestant canon of the Bible there is only two direct mentions made of birthday celebrations. We will also see another couple of places, where some scholars believe mentions are made of birthday celebrations.

 

Salome-with-the-head-of-John-the-Baptist---painting--by-Gri.jpg

 

Salome with the head of John the Baptist by Hans Baldung Grien

 

The first account in the Protestant canon of Bible is found in Genesis 40:1-23. In verse 20, we read: “Now it came to pass on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants.” The second account is found in the Gospels. In Matthew 14:6, we read: “But when Herod's [Antipas, who reigned from 6 AD to 39 AD] birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod”. And in Mark 6:21 the following is said: “And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee.” During this birthday feast, John the Baptist was tragically beheaded.

 

In those passages of the Scriptures, we see two powerful men celebrating their birthday with great pomp.  This is consistent with what we know of Ancient Middle Eastern history and customs. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states: “The custom of observing birthdays of great men, especially of kings, was widespread in ancient times.” The Smith's Bible Dictionary agrees: “The custom of observing birthdays is very ancient; Genesis 40:20; Jeremiah 20:15 and in Job 1:4 etc., we read that Job's sons "feasted every one his day." In Persia birthdays were celebrated with peculiar honors and banquets, and in Egypt those of the king were kept with great pomp.

 

The book of 2 Maccabees gives us another account of birthday celebration. Although not found in the Protestant canon of the Bible, the book of 2 Maccabees was originally used by Alexandrian Jews as part of their canon of Scriptures called the Septuagint. The authors of the New Testament were quoting from the Septuagint in their writings. The book of 2 Maccabees is still considered canonical by the Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the Assyrian Eastern tradition and most of the Western Orthodox tradition. It is considered non-canonical by Protestants and modern Jews. Still, both Protestants and modern Jews consider this book from interest on an historical level. This is how we will use this book in this essay. Concerning birthday celebrations, we read an interesting account in 2 Maccabees 6:1-9.

 

Not long after this, the king sent an Athenian senator to compel the Jews to forsake the laws of their ancestors and no longer to live by the laws of God; also to pollute the temple in Jerusalem and to call it the temple of Olympian Zeus, and to call the one in Gerizim the temple of Zeus-the-Friend-of-Strangers, as did the people who lived in that place. Harsh and utterly grievous was the onslaught of evil. For the temple was filled with debauchery and reveling by the Gentiles, who dallied with prostitutes and had intercourse with women within the sacred precincts, and besides brought in things for sacrifice that were unfit. The altar was covered with abominable offerings that were forbidden by the laws. People could neither keep the sabbath, nor observe the festivals of their ancestors, nor so much as confess themselves to be Jews. On the monthly celebration of the king’s BIRTHDAY, the Jews were taken, under bitter constraint, to partake of the sacrifices; and when a festival of Dionysus was celebrated, they were compelled to wear wreaths of ivy and to walk in the procession in honor of Dionysus. At the suggestion of the people of Ptolemais a decree was issued to the neighboring Greek cities that they should adopt the same policy toward the Jews and make them partake of the sacrifices, and should kill those who did not choose to change over to Greek customs

- New Revised Standard Version

 

In this passage of 2 Maccabees, we learn of a pagan king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who desecrates the Temple by false worship, sexual immorality and unclean sacrifices. He also forbid Jews to keep God’s commandments and obliges them to partake in idol worship, including celebrating his birthday once a month.

 

As we have read earlier, birthday of great men were celebrated in ancient times. This was part of what we would call today cult of personality. In fact, many Greek and Roman leaders were worshipped as gods. Antiochus IV Epiphanes was one of those Greek leaders claiming to be a god. Concerning Egyptian Pharaohs, the Ancient History Encyclopedia states that they “were equated with the gods and with the duties and obligations due those gods. As supreme ruler of the people, the pharaoh was considered a god on earth, the intermediary between the gods and the people, and when he died, he was thought to become Osiris, the god of the dead.” Celebrating their birthday was a form of worship.

 

As for Herod Antipas in Matthew 14:6 and Mark 6:21, it is certainly with the same spirit and because of the same cult of personality that he was celebrating his birthday. In fact, one of his nephews Herod Agrippa on one instance at least is depicted as being worshipped as a god. “So on a set day Herod [Agrippa, who reigned from 41 to 44 AD], arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died” (Acts 12:21-23).

 

We find two more mentions of possible birthday celebrations in the Scriptures. One is found in Hosea 7:5, in which we read: “In the day of our king
Princes have made him sick, inflamed with wine;
He stretched out his hand with scoffers.” According to Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible and Wesley's Notes, this passage can possibly refer to a birthday celebration or an annual coronation celebration. In any cases, this is associated with drunkenness and ungodly behaviors. The other instance is found in Job 1:4-5.


And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly.”

 

A number of commentators believe that “each on his appointed day” is to be understood as mentioning birthday celebrations.  This is the case for the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, the Clarke's Commentary on the Bible and also for the Smith's Bible Dictionary. The Pulpit Commentary reads:

 

Verse 4. - And his sons went and feasted. "Went and feasted" seems to mean "were in the habit of feasting" (Rosenmuller, Lee). In their houses. Each had his own residence, and the residence was not a tent, but a" house." Job and his sons were not mere nomads, but belonged to the settled population. The same is implied by the "ploughing of the oxen" (ver. 14), and indeed by Job's "yoke of oxen" in ver. 3. Every one his day. Most commentators regard these feasts as birthday festivities. Each son in his turn, when his birthday arrived, entertained his six brothers. Others think that each of the seven brothers had his own special day of the week on which, he received his brothers at his table, so that the feasting was continuous. But this scarcely suits the context. And it is admitted that "his day" (in Job 3:1) means "his birthday." The celebration of birthdays by means of a feast was a very widespread custom in the East (see Genesis 40:20; Herod., 1:133; 9:110; Mark 14:21). And sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. This by itself is sufficient to show that the feasts were occasional, not continuous. Constant absence of daughters, day after day, from the parental board is inconceivable.”

 

If these are birthday celebrations, as those commentators believe, we notice that Job wasn’t taking part into those feast days. He would rather “send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts” (verse 5).

 

As we have seen so far in those passages, birthday celebrations and/or personal feast days are essentially the fact of self-deified rulers and if they are not, as in the case of Job’s children, they may potentially result in sin.

 

First century Judaism and early Christian history on birthdays

 

Now that we have studied the several instances in which the Scriptures mention birthday celebrations, let see if first century Judaism and early Christian history has anything to teach us about such celebrations. We ought to remember that Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) was a Jew, which makes it relevant for us to know what was first century Jewish view, and subsequently early Christian belief, in regard to such celebrations.

 

In fact, first century Judaism is not silent on the subject. Josephus (37 to 100 AD), a Jewish scholar and historian born in Jerusalem to a father of priestly descent wrote about birthday celebrations in his two-volume work in defense of Judaism titled Against Apion. In book II and chapter 26, we read:

 

Nay, indeed, the law does not permit us to make festivals at the births of our children, and thereby afford occasion of drinking to excess; but it ordains that the very beginning of our education should be immediately directed to sobriety. It also commands us to bring those children up in learning, and to exercise them in the laws, and make them acquainted with the acts of their predecessors, in order to their imitation of them, and that they might be nourished up in the laws from their infancy, and might neither transgress them, nor have any pretense for their ignorance of them.”

 

josephus.gif

 

A bust of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus

 

The Jewish Encyclopedia somehow agrees when stating: “There are no positive data in the Bible or in rabbinical literature concerning birthday festivals among the ancient Jews. This silence on the subject is, however, no warrant for the conclusion that the Jews altogether abstained from following a custom which was general among the Egyptians (Gen. xl. 20), Persians (Herodotus i. 133), Syrians, and Greeks. Even if not common among the people, yet kings and princes probably practiced it, following the custom of their heathen contemporaries.” Here we learn that birthday celebrations were not common among the people and were in fact borrowed from the heathens when practiced by kings and princes. In the Encyclopaedia Judaica, we read: “The celebration of birthdays is unknown in traditional Jewish ritual. A comparatively late exception, however, is the *bar mitzvah and the bat mitzvah. The only reference to a birthday in the Bible is that celebrated by Pharaoh (Gen. 40:20). In Reform and Conservative synagogues, special prayers of thanksgiving are recited on the occasion of significant birthdays (e.g., 50th, 70th, 80th, etc.) and at silver and golden wedding anniversaries.” In modern times, the topic of birthday celebrations is somewhat of a controversy in Judaism. While many Jews celebrate birthdays, some like Rabbi Chaim Elazar Shapiro (1871-1937) find no mention of such celebrations in rabbinic literature and believe that such celebrations is antithetical to “the Jewish trait of humility.”

 

Since early Christianity was still closely connected to first century Judaism, we should not be surprised to find birthday celebrations mentioned in a negative way. Indeed, in The Westminster Handbook to Origen (2004) edited by John Anthony McGuckin, we read :

 

“[w]hen commenting on Herod’s birthday as mentioned in Matthew 14:6, Origen castigates those who revel in their birthdays and recalls a Philonic text [Philo being a Hellenistic Jewish] that he had once read (De ebriatate 208): “Indeed one of our predecessors has observed that the birthday of Pharaoh is recorded in Genesis and recounts that it is the wicked man who, being in love with the affairs of birth and becoming, celebrates his birthday. But we, taking our cue from that interpreter, discover that nowhere in the scriptures is a birthday celebrated by a righteous person.”

 

Origen was a scholar and early Christian theologian (185 to 232 AD) who wrote a number of commentaries on the Bible and had a great influence on early Christianity. Another early Christian apologist, Arnobius of Sicca (284 to 305 AD) wrote, visibly holding in contempt birthday celebrations and speaking of Roman leaders: “Who, with licentious violence, undermine and wrest away the chastity of matrons and maidens, - these men you name indigites and divi; and you worship with couches, altars, temples, and other service, and by celebrating their games and birthdays, those whom it was fitting that you should assail with keenest hatred” (Against the Heathen. Book I, Chapter 64).

 

While we might disagree with first century Judaism in regard to the Messiah, while we might not agree with all that was written by early Christian commentators and apologists, those quotations still give us a fair idea of what was the New Testament writers view on birthday celebrations.


Birthdays and paganism

 

The reasons for the first century Jews and early Christian believers to not celebrate birthdays are not to be found only in their understanding of the Scriptures, but are also to be understood in correlation with the pagan customs associated with birthday celebrations. According to Kathryn Argetsinger in her research titled Birthday Rituals: Friends and Patrons in Roman Poetry and Cult (Classical Antiquity, 1992), the “people of late republican Rome celebrated at least three types of dies natales. In the private sphere, Roman men and women marked their own birthdays and the birthdays of family members and friends with gift giving and banquets. In the public sphere, the natales of temples and the natales of cities were observed; these “birthdays” were actually the anniversaries of the days on which particular cults, or cities, had been founded.”  Each of these types of birthdays was accompanied with religious rituals. According to the same authors, each private birthday was linked to a personal deity to whom an individual would make an offering in exchange for protection. Kathryn Argetsinger affirms in her research: “[W]hen relatives, friends, or clients celebrated a relative or patron’s birthday, they were bound, if they were truly pious, by the same sort of specific cult requirement as they were on their own birthdays.” Birthday greetings were religious acts accompanied by three type of offerings made to an idol or to the “genius” [the guardian spirit of a person] of an individual: incense, rituals cakes, and wine (Does that sound familiar?). Some ancient sources cited by the author seem to refer to the “genius” as being “some internal part of the self,” part of “a man as well as well as an external deity.” They were some “sort of ego extension into the divine sphere.”  The Roman poet Horace, in one of his writings, Ode 4.11, reports going as far as sacrificing a lamb on one occasion for the birthday of his patron Maecenas. The author concludes: “In undertaking celebration of another’s birthday a Roman undertook in part a religious obligation expressed by annually renewed vota [wishes] and ritual,” and “through this act of piety a Roman gained a new network of divine as well as earthly friends and patrons.”

 

Lares - genius familiaries

 

Mural from Pompeii. Domestic sacrifice with a genius familiaris and Lares (household gods).

Naples: National Museum. Lares are represented on the left and on the right, top level.

 

Such belief is not exclusive to Romans. In their book titled The Lore of Birthdays (1952), Ralph and Adelin Linton, gives a brief look at the history of birthday celebrations: “The Greeks believed that everyone had a protective spirit or daemon who attended his birth and watched over him in life. This spirit had a mystic relation with the god on whose birthday the individual was born.”  Furthermore, in the same book we read:

 

“[T]he idea [of birthday greetings and wishes for happiness] was rooted in magic. The working of spells for good and evil is the chief usage of witchcraft. One is especially susceptible to such spells on his birthday, as one’s personal spirits are about at that time. Dreams dreamed on the birthday eve should be remembered, for they are predictions of the future brought by the guardian spirits which hover over one’s bed on the birthday eve. Birthday greetings have power for good or ill because one is closer to the spirit world on this day. Good wishes bring good fortune, but the reverse is also true, so one should avoid enemies on one’s birthday and be surrounded only by well-wishers. ‘Happy birthday’ and ‘Many happy returns of the day’ are the traditional greetings

 

And:

 

Birthdays are intimately linked with the stars, since without the calendar, no one could tell when to celebrate his birthday. They are also indebted to the stars in another way, for in early days the chief importance of birthday records was to enable the astrologers to chart horoscopes

 

By reading those descriptions of pagan birthday celebrations, we better understand why the early believers would refrain from celebrating them. Such celebrations are highly connected with pagan worship and even the occult.  Looking back at those ancient beliefs, this is no surprise that a very controversial individual, Anton Lavey (founder of the Church of Satan), writes in his book titled The Satanic Bible (1969): “After one’s own birthday, the two major Satanic holidays are Walpurgisnacht and Halloween (or All Hallows’ Eve).”  Of course, Anton Lavey has a different take on birthdays. He merely sees birthdays as glorification of oneself: “Every man is a god if he chooses to recognize himself as one. So, the Satanist celebrates his own birthday as the most important holiday of the year.” For ancient civilizations, birthday celebrations were rather a way to connect with the gods and with the society at large. In any case, both self-glorification and worship of personal gods is condemned in the Bible.

 

On a side note, it should of interest for believers that the Scriptures do not mention the date of birth of the greatest man who ever lived, the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ). It shows how unimportant it was for early Christians the date of someone birth in a world in which gods, kings and even common people were celebrating their birthdays in a religious manner. In fact, concerning December 25th, and according to M. J. Vermaseren; C. C. Van Essen in their essay titled The Excavations in the Mithraeum of the Church of Santa Prisca on the Aventine (Journal of Biblical Literature. 1966): "One should bear in mind that the Mithraic New Year began on Natalis Invicti, the birthday of their invincible god, i.e. December 25th, when the new light […] appears from the vault of heaven."

 

What should a believer do?

 

The Bible does not condemn acknowledging someone’s age. In fact, the Bible makes a connection between age and wisdom. In Proverbs 9:11, we read: “For by Wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life” (Holman Christian Standard Bible). Life is a gift of our Heavenly Father, for which we should rejoice everyday of our life. “By You I have been upheld from birth; You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb. My praise shall be continually of You” (Psalm 71:6). In the meantime, the Bible does not encourage self-glorification. On the contrary the Bible teaches humility and self-denial. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus Christ said to the disciples: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Paul agrees, who wrote: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:12-14). By showing love towards God and towards our neighbors and by denying ourselves we become children of God. In our individualistic society, this is so important to feel recognized. Many people will feel offended because they were not wished a “happy birthday” or because they didn’t receive the expected gift on their birthday. Meanwhile, the Bible tells us “[i]t is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).


Another important aspect of birthday celebrations to consider is the pagan customs associated with those celebrations. The Bible warns us strongly against pagan customs and against mixing the proper worship of God with ungodly practices. This is true not only in the Tanakh, the Old Testament, but also in the apostolic writings.  In 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, we read: “And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.” Some customs and traditions may seems innocuous, but God gives us clear boundaries stones so that we may not fall back into sin after having become one of his children. We need to remember whom we worship and from whom we are receiving a true and genuine gift: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). We ought to have a discerning spirit and to be cautious in our deeds, including how and why we do celebrate birthdays. We need to remember who is our God so that we can remain holy. Therefore, let’s “[c]ome out from among them and be separate” and God “will be a Father to [us],” and we “shall be [His] sons and daughters” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18) says the Scriptures. Amen!

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November 5 2013 3 05 /11 /November /2013 10:39

Hebrew Yahveh

 

Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from the King James Version.

 

The subject of the true sonship of God, and the relation existing between Jesus and God, has long been a question of contention. A lack of definite knowledge of the true Word of God is always responsible for a wrong understanding of this most vital subject.

 

It is believed that the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians were the first people to formulate a trinity. This influence was also found in Egypt, Greece, and Rome in the centuries preceding and surrounding Jesus Christ’s birth.

 

In his book written in 1992 and titled Egyptian Religion, Siegfried Morenz wrote: “The Trinity was a major preoccupation of Egyptian theologians” and he goes on to add “Three gods are combined and treated as a single being, addressed in the singular. In this way the spiritual force of Egyptian religion shows a direct link with Christian theology”.

 

In this short essay, we won’t go into great length to prove the pagan origin of the Trinity, as it is a well proven fact among historians and it may be easily verified idea of a Trinity or a triune God is not foreign to most of the pagan religions. One can only wonder how one cannot question the Trinity doctrine knowing such a fact. Christendom, ignoring the Scriptures, borrowed a lot of practices and beliefs from already existing pagan religious system.

 

The concept of a triune God then became the teaching of the Trinity in the early Roman Catholic Church and was, in its early development, one of the main points of doctrine to be discussed at the infamous Council of Nicaea held in 325 A.D. Later on, and as the doctrine continued to develop after the Council of Nicaea, the Trinity of Papal Rome became eventually known as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Although in details they may differ, most Christian denominations today hold to some form of the Trinity doctrine. Mind you, there is no Trinity (and no "binity" as some teach) mentioned in the Bible.

 

The Roman Catholic Church has picked up many of the Babylonian mysteries. The doctrine of the Trinity is such a teaching. These Babylonian teachings flowed into many of the Pagan religions and are also in so-called Christian religions to this very day. The Papacy has in some of its churches, as for instance, in the monastery of the Trinitarians of Madrid, an image of the triune god, with three heads on one body. How such an abomination can be reconciled with the two first commandments contained in Exodus 20? “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Exodus 20:3-4). It is worth noting that the doctrine of the Trinity led to such abomination as the Catholics who believe teach that Mary is the Mother of God, and that Jesus was God upon earth.

  

Arius on the Council of Nicaea

 

Arius, a noted theologian and profound teacher of his day, believed just as the Scriptures teach on the question of the Trinity. His point of contention with the apostate Church of his time was the doctrine of the sonship of Jesus, the first step toward what was to become known as the Trinity. We cannot deny the infallible Word of God, and “at the mouth of two or three witnesses”, the LORD says, every word must be confirmed.

 

Richard Rubinstein in his book written in 1999 and titled When Jesus Became God states that Arius was “a successful minister” and that “he was greatly admired for his personal purity as well as for his preaching” (page 53).

 

It is known that Arius did preach, as stated in Richard Rubinstein’s book, that ““There was when he [Jesus] was not,” meaning that he was not eternal, like God. Rather than asserting that Jesus was divine by nature, Arius emphasized that he had earned his “adoption” as Son and his “promotion” to divine status through moral growth and obedience to God. The priest did accept the idea, current throughout the East, that Christ was “preexistent”—that God had conceived him before time began and used him to create the universe. But it was not clear wether Arius believed this literally, or wether he meant that God merely had foreseen Jesus' coming before his birth to Mary” (page 55). Arius professed, in accord with the Scriptures: that the Father and the Son are two distinct individuals; that the Father alone is God in the proper sense; that Jesus was created and as such cannot be the Almighty God and the Creator of all things. For such a belief, Arius was excommunicated and banished of Alexandria, the city were he was preaching as a minister. In a letter to one of his powerful friend and most fervent supporters, Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, in which he was criticizing his persecutors for teaching that “as the Father is, so is the Son”, Arius wrote: “We are persecuted because we say that the Son had a beginning, but that God was without beginning. That is really the cause of our persecution; and likewise, because we say that He is created from nothing. And this we say because He is neither part of God, nor of any subjacent matter. For this we are persecuted; the rest you know” (Quasten, Patrology, 1950).

 

In Nicaea, 325 A.D., Arius and his supporters were finally expelled for refusing the new creed and rules. Others, because of fear signed, but had their tongues in their cheeks. Arius was banished by Constantine. But not all was settled, by any means. Arius had many supporters and there were great numbers of saints that refused to accept anything but the Holy Scriptures. They knew that the ideas purported at the Council of Nicaea were totally contrary to the Bible and what the Bible set forth. They held their ground and some of the ministers after returning home changed their minds and were sorry that they had signed the Nicene Creed. These people continued “earnestly to contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

 

Thence acceptance of the Scriptural testimony concerning Jesus Christ was termed as Arianism. It prevailed for a long time against the opposition of worldly bishops and the emperor who were at the start of what is known nowadays as the Roman Catholic Church and other so-called Orthodox Churches. Catholicism was born at this first ecumenical council. Each council held thereafter was held in creating another false doctrine and creed favouring tradition to truth, and making up ideologies contrary to the Word of God. After the Protestant Reformation, in the 15th century, there was a renewed interest in discovering biblical truths. All those who refused the doctrine of the Trinity and taught as the Bible says about Jesus Christ were labelled as “Arian.”

 

The Catholic Church on the Trinity

 

The Roman Catholic Church and other so-called Orthodox Churches bitterly opposed the teaching of Arius. In fact, the Catholic Church teach that the virgin Mary was the mother of God, that Jesus is actually God upon earth. According to this same Church, when Jesus ascended back to heaven, Peter took His place on earth, and thus began the succession of popes from St. Peter onwards. The popes claim to represent God on earth. Hence, the Catholics, all along in every period, considered the pope somehow God. The opposing powers which Daniel said would think to change times and laws and to wear out the saints of the Most High, persecuted Arius who died poisoned by his opponents because he dared to oppose them on the question of the Trinity.

 

More than one hundred texts in the New Testament speak definitely of Jesus being the Son of God. On the occasion of His baptism, the Father in heaven spoke, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5). When Jesus ascended to heaven, we learn from Mark that He “sat on the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19). The vision given our beloved Stephen, at the event of his death as a martyr, cannot be doubted by the mind held in tune by the blessed Holy Spirit. He exclaimed: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). The foregoing scriptures were surely some of the main ones used by Arius against his opponents in setting forth his contention on the deity of Jesus. He was indeed led by Heaven, and obtained boldness to stand against the powers that were arrayed against God’s truth. Yet, Arius did not limit the power of Jesus, as some do, but believed the words of the Son, that “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18).

 

Many texts set forth the beautiful harmony existing between the Father and Son, making them one. In John 17, we read: “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” Several times in this chapter similar expression are used.

 

The Oneness of God and Jesus

 

In the beginning, when God set forth the marriage institution and declared the relationship that should exist between the two, the husband and the wife, He said, “And they shall be one flesh.” The same conditions of oneness existing between the Father and Son are declared to exist between man and wife. They are to be one in purpose, one in object, and harmony and unity should exist between them. God, the heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ, His Son, are one (John 10:30, 38). They are one in purpose, but they are two separate, individual beings.

 

Jesus Called God

 

Paul speaks of Jesus thus: “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (I Timothy  3:16).

 

As the light in the lampstand gave “light over against it” (Exodus 25:37), so Scripture illuminates and explains Scripture. Let’s for instance take a look at Exodus 3, the beginning of the chapter. We learn, verse 2 that “the angel of the Lord appeared unto him [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush”, then in verse 4, we read: “God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses”. Was it really God speaking to Moses? No, it was the angel of the LORD speaking on behalf of God as confirmed in Acts 7:35. Another Scriptures should help to better understand passages in which Jesus is seemingly declared to be God. In Exodus 4:16 we read concerning Moses: “And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God”.  Jesus, a created being and the Word of God made flesh, is also God’s spokesman, and an even more powerful one than Moses could ever have been (Deuteronomy 18:18). Jesus should surely be to us “instead of God”, as He was for the apostles and His first disciples.

 

But let’s remember that Jesus himself never claimed to be God. Accused by the Pharisees to take upon himself authority only belonging to God and thus “making himself equal with God” (John 5:18, see also John 10:31-36), Jesus made it clear that he was not God, but rather the Son of God. “Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” (John 10:36). We should better take heed as Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Acceptance or rejection of this statement determines our eternal destiny. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11-13, see also Acts 8:37).

 

Indeed, “to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” (1 Corinthians 8:6). That which Arius confessed is still confessed by the Church of God and the servants of God.

 

Some may object that such a belief may lower Jesus Christ, but Trinitarian and other Binitarians actually forget what Jesus himself was teaching concerning God the Father, and by doing so they do not show the same respect as Jesus, the Christ, showed to the Father, His Father and our Father, His God and our God (John 20:17). Who had ever seen or heard supposed “evangelists” preaching, or supposed Christians praying and was not surprised to not even hear them mentioning God, the Father, in their sermons or prayers? It is very common in modern day Christianity. By doing so, not only, do they disrespect the Father, but they do not even follow Christ’s teachings as Jesus said “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). Are not Christians supposed to be followers of Christ?

 

The Trinity doctrine and all its variants are actually the equivalent of breaking the first of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3), which the Roman Catholic Church and its daughters are in fact eagerly doing and which Jesus Christ would have never done.

 

The “Trinity Verses”

 

Some like to present as proof of a Trinity some verses where the three “persons” of a Trinity are supposedly presented. Generally, they may start by using the supposed baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19. In some of his writings, Eusebius (260-340), a so-called “Church Father” and Bishop of Caesarea quotes Matthew 28:19. This man known as “the Father of Church History” never quotes the verse as it is found in our Bibles today. The verse always ends with the words “in my name.” In Book III of his famous work Ecclesiastical History, in Chapter 5 and Section 2, we read “But the rest of the apostles, who had been incessantly plotted against with a view to their destruction, and had been driven out of the land of Judea, went unto all nations to preach the Gospel, relying upon the power of Christ, who had said to them, “Go ye and make disciples of all the nations in my name.” Once again, in another of his writings, Oration in Praise of Emperor Constantine, in Chapter 16 and Section 8, we read: “What king or prince in any age of the world, what philosopher, legislator or prophet, in civilized or barbarous lands, has attained so great a height of excellence, I say not after death, but while living still, and full of mighty power, as to fill the ears and tongues of all mankind with the praises of his name? Surely none save our only Savior has done this, when, after his victory over death, he spoke the word to his followers, and fulfilled it by the event, saying to them, “Go ye and make disciples of all nations in my name.” The notes and commentaries found in the very Catholic Jerusalem Bible agree. We read concerning so-called the baptismal formula: “This formula is probably a reflection of the liturgical usage established later in the primitive community. It will be remembered that Ac [the book of Acts] speaks of batising ‘in the name of Jesus’, see Ac 1:5f. The attachment of the baptized person to all three persons of the all three persons of the Trinity will have been made explicit later.” All of these lead us to believe that the Trinitarian baptismal formula is not to be found in the original manuscript the way it was written by Matthew. Eusebius took part to the infamous council of Nicaea in which it was to be decided whether Christ was God or a creation of God. He never used the Trinitarian formula, but always quoted Matthew 28:19 as reading “in my name.” If the Trinitarian formula had existed, it would have certainly be used by early Trinitarians to defend their doctrine. Obviously, the Trinitarian formula was added later and is not to be found in the earliest manuscripts. If Matthew 28:19, as we find it in our Bibles today, is a truthful rendering of the original manuscripts, how do we explain the disobedience of the apostles. They never baptized using this formula. All new disciples were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, thus corroborating the verse as it is quoted by Eusebius in his works. Furthermore, and without mentioning it and going in to much detail explaining that it is not in fact a proper baptismal formula, as it may be acknowledged by reading the Book of Acts, suffice it to say that this verse does not demonstrate that God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost constitute a Trinity or a triune God and that the three are equal in substance, power and eternity. The listing of three people such as Tom, Dick and Harry in a same text of any sort does not make those people a three in one being.

 

Another passage frequently used may be found in 1 John 5:7-8 and is called the Comma Johanneum by some Bible scholars. It read “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” In this quote from the Scriptures, the words underlined were added to some Greek manuscripts and do not belong to the original manuscript. Ardent Trinitarians agree that this underlined part was not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts. The Roman Catholic Church even admits it in a footnote in its own version of the Scriptures, the New Jerusalem Bible. The footnote goes on to say: “The words in italics [making reference to the words we underlined above in this tract]” are “not in any of the early Gk MSS [Greek Manuscripts], or in any of the early translations, or in the best MSS of the Vulg. [The Vulgate, a 4th century Latin translation of the Scriptures] itself” and “are probably a gloss that crept into the text”. A Trinitarian scholar, Henry Alford (1810-1871), in his writings, even bluntly states that this addition to the Scriptures was omitted by all Greek Manuscripts previous to the beginning of the 16th century. Such an unreliable text certainly cannot be used to prove a Trinity.

 

Conclusion

 

To conclude, we should agree that Jesus is not God in an absolute sense, and certainly not God the Son as the Trinitarians would like us to believe. Jesus is consistently called the Son of God. Contrary to the Nicene Creed which teaches that Jesus Christ is “begotten, not made”, the Church of God believes, as set forth in the Scriptures, that Jesus is God’s first creation (Colossians 1:15; Revelation 3:14) and that he is the only begotten Son of God, born of the virgin Mary. God, the Father, is the only Almighty God, before him there is no other gods (Exodus 20:3). The Father is the Creator of all things.

 

Such belief does not in any way diminished Jesus Christ, who as the Son of God rightly deserves to sit on the right hand of God ((Mark 16:19, see also Acts 7:56). Jesus Christ is our Lord, he had been appointed to such a position by God. “God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). He has been exalted and at the warring phase of its second return, he will be declared to be “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16). Nobody, other than Jesus, the Christ, will ever deserve to wear such titles.

 

Let’s follow Christ’s example and be faithful to the apostolic teachings. The Word of God, the Scriptures, is the final authority, as it has been to all who belong to this wonderful Church purchased by Jesus Christ and His precious blood. Amen.

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This theological documentary, produced by the Restoration Fellowship, filmed by Mark Dockery, and edited by Paul Millunzi, tries to bring difficult theological understanding about the nature of Jesus of Nazareth down to earth.

The video has clips from world-recognized scholars, as well as some unknown skilled examiners of biblical theology and Christology.

The "man on the street" aspect of Dockery's documentary keeps the interest of those who view the presentation. Dockery includes significant ecumenical material, with a view to erasing lines of hostility that separate Christians from the Jewish and Islamic communities. While there is a long way to go to accomplish this, the presentation is a necessary first step in accomplishing that goal.

DVDs of The Human Jesus ($12) are available from Atlanta Bible College at 800-347-4261 or 678-833-1839.
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The movement bearing this name is so called because it maintains the theory that the British people are the descendants of the Ten Northern Tribes of Israel, commonly referred to as the Lost Ten Tribes. This theory has of late years increased the number of its adherents. At first sight it might be considered a waste of time to deal with the strange arguments on which it is based. But it is becoming plain that where they are accepted certain quite definite results follow. The British-Israelite believes that the Old Testament promises that Israel - that is, Britain - is to possess the earth. He therefore, as I shall show later by quotations from British Israel publications, opposes the League of Nations and other peace movements. What has been hitherto a comparatively harmless fad now threatens to become a minor heresy. It is therefore worthwhile to pay some attention to the allegations on which it rests. – C.T. DIMONT

 

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Torah Scroll

 

 

The Legend Of British-Israel 

 

C.T. Dimont, D.D.

 

Principal Of Salisbury Theological College

Chancellor And Canon Of Salisbury Cathedral

 

London: SPCK, 1933. Pbk.

 

 

British-Israel

 

The movement bearing this name is so called because it maintains the theory that the British people are the descendants of the Ten Northern Tribes of Israel, commonly referred to as the Lost Ten Tribes. This theory has of late years increased the number of its adherents. At first sight it might be considered a waste of time to deal with the strange arguments on which it is based. But it is becoming plain that where they are accepted certain quite definite results follow. The British-Israelite believes that the Old Testament promises that Israel - that is, Britain - is to possess the earth. He therefore, as I shall show later by quotations from British Israel publications, opposes the League of Nations and other peace movements. What has been hitherto a comparatively harmless fad now threatens to become a minor heresy. It is therefore worth while to pay some attention to the allegations on which it rests.

 

History Of The Movement

 

The first hint of this movement occurred in 1649, when one John Sadler published a book called the Rights of the Kingdom, in which he traced resemblances between Hebrew and English law and custom. Britain as a name he derived from Berat Anak, the field of tin and lead, and he supposed that the Phoenician traders had originated this name. But the modern movement started with Richard Brothers (1757-1824), a half-pay officer of the Navy. He published fifteen volumes on the subject. He claimed to be descended from David, and to be the nephew of the Almighty. It is not surprising that he ended in a lunatic asylum.

 

In 1840 John Wilson adopted the theory and devoted himself to propagating it. Others followed. Among them was C. Piazzi Smyth, the Astronomer-Royal for Scotland, who introduced a novelty by measuring the dimensions of the Great Pyramid, and finding in the measurements prophecies of the future prosperity of the English. This suggestion has since given rise to astonishing and copious speculations (cp. Enc. Rel. Eth., art. Anglo-Israelism).

The British-Israelites - to give them their present name, which seems to have replaced the former title of Anglo-Israelites-are now sufficiently numerous to put out a great amount of literature, run a weekly magazine, and even to contemplate the founding of a new theological college, on the ground that no existing college is faithful in its interpretation of Scripture.

 

For material we turn to British-Israel writings the official handbook called British-Israel Truth, edited by the late Archdeacon Hanan and H. Aldersmith, The Case for British Israel by A. N. Denny, The National Messenger (the weekly organ of the movement), and various other publications and manifestos.

 

The Ten Tribes Were Never Lost

 

First, then, we may state a fact which if we were so disposed might dispense us from further troubling about the matter. The British cannot be the descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes, because no such body of lost tribes exists or ever has existed. The assertion that all the Ten Northern Tribes were carried away to Assyria is contrary to Scripture and to the testimony of the monuments. Sargon, the King of Assyria, says that he carried away from Israel 27,290 captives. It is quite obvious that this was but a fragment of the whole population of the Northern Kingdom (cp. 2 Sam. xxiv. 9, which puts the men of military age in North Israel at 800,000). From the account in 2 Kings xvii. 6 and xviii.11 they appear to have been deported in two groups, one of which was placed in Western Mesopotamia, and the other in the far eastern parts of the Assyrian Empire. And this, as Dr. McCurdy says in his book, History, Prophecy and the Monuments (sec. 363), "is the whole story of the famous 'Dispersion of the Ten Tribes.' " The number stated by Sargon is not likely to have been put too low. Assyrian kings were not in the habit of minimising their exploits. Yet it comes to no more than the present population of Salisbury. A few years later more than seven times this number were carried away from Judah without destroying the southern and smaller kingdom.

 

Those deported were doubtless the most influential men and their families. The rest of the mass of the population remained in Israel. The religion of Jehovah continued there, blended no doubt to some extent with the cults of the heathen settlers who came amongst the natives of the land. But the Samaritans retained the Pentateuch, and, in spite of the late hostility of the Jews, were not regarded as Gentiles.

 

Some time after the fall of Samaria Hezekiah held a great Passover at Jerusalem. According to 2 Chron. xxx. he sent invitations to Northern Israel as well as to Judah. A "multitude" from the North responded by attending. Five of the Northern Tribes are mentioned by name. It is quite clear from this passage that the greater part of the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom had not been carried away to Assyria.

 

A century later another king of Judah, Josiah, when he repaired the Temple, received money for this purpose from "Manasseh and Ephraim, and all the remnant of Israel" (2 Chron. xxxiv. 9). This second passage strengthens the inference which we have drawn from the first, that there had been no wholesale deportation of the Ten Tribes.

 

This is now the generally accepted conclusion among Biblical scholars. It may be seen in such books as Israel in World History, by Dr. Blunt, Bishop of Bradford, or The Decline and Fall of the Hebrew Kingdoms in the Clarendon Bible.

 

In the New Testament it is assumed that the Twelve Tribes are still in existence and form one nation. St. Paul speaks of "our Twelve Tribes" (Acts xxvi. 7) as united in common worship. St. James addresses his letter to the Twelve Tribes of the Dispersion. Even if we give this address a figurative interpretation, it would have been singularly meaningless if Ten Tribes had been utterly lost.

 

Again in the Apocalypse the I44,000 are drawn from all the tribes of Israel. There is no consciousness of separation between Ten Elect Tribes and two others rejected by God, as British-Israel alleges. It may be noted that the same assumption underlies the Apocalyptic book called the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Dr. Box shows that the division into two groups of ten tribes and two tribes respectively was of gradual growth, and that only in later Jewish traditions do we come to the conception of a distant land in which the Ten Tribes remain, awaiting the moment of return to the Holy Land (Box, Ezra Apocalypse, p. 300).

 

Did Hebrews Turn Into Scythians And Kimmerians?

 

But let us waive the objection, vital as it is, that the Ten Tribes were never lost, and proceed to examine the supposed proofs that these tribes are today represented by the British. The first step is to get them into Europe. This is effected with the aid of a passage in 2 Esdras xiii. 40, in which it is declared that the Ten Tribes had separated from the heathen of the land to which they were carried, and had passed into a land called Arzareth. Scholars point out that this name is evidently a representation of erets achareth, "another land," and a manifest reference to Deut. xxix. 24-28 (vide R.V. marg.). But British Israel Truth (p. 115) divides the word by taking Ar as one component, meaning "a city or hill," and finding in zareth a concealed reference to the river Sereth. This is a tributary of the Danube. Hence it is argued that the Ten Tribes crossed from Assyria to the Danube region, and the date of their migration is fixed at 650 B.C. No proof is given for this date, and it involves the assumption that the Ten Tribes managed this exploit within seventy years after the fall of Samaria, and while Assyria was still in the plenitude of its power.

 

But the reason for this arbitrary dating soon appears. It was in 650 that the Scythians are said by Herodotus to have appeared in the region of the Black Sea. British-Israel at once declares that this is the date when the Ten Tribes arrived in Europe, being in fact no other than the Scythians. For this identification there is not a shred of evidence. The Scythians were not Semites. Formerly it was suggested that they were of Mongolian origin. But the present trend of opinion is towards regarding them as Aryans.

 

According to Herodotus they were not a pleasant people. In war they were scalp-hunters. In religion they were polytheists, but used neither temple nor altar. When their king died they celebrated his funeral by killing fifty youths and fifty horses, and setting up their stuffed bodies round his tomb. Could there be a greater contrast than between such people and the Hebrews?

 

If British-Israel does not believe this, it may yet perhaps consider the absurdity of its own theory in the light of Bible texts. The opening prophecies of Jeremiah refer to what is undoubtedly a threatened invasion of the Scythians into the Palestinian lands. Are we to understand the prophet to mean that the Ten Tribes are about to issue from Assyria to destroy Judah? Again, in the New Testament we hear St. Paul reciting the list of all the separated elements which shall be brought into one in Christ, Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondmen, freemen (Col. iii. 11). Who on reading this would ever suspect that the Apostle understood Scythians to be members of his own nation?

 

It is not surprising that Professor Tylor was moved to refer to this identification as "abject nonsense " (Chambs. Enc. art. Scythians). Nor is our surprise lessened when we note that it starts from a passage in 2 Esdras. The supporters of British-Israel are for the most part of Protestant leanings, and traditionally averse to allowing any credit at all to the books of the Apocrypha. But they do not on that account refuse here to pick a text out of one of the books of the Apocrypha, written eight hundred years after the fall of Samaria, mistranslate it, and make it the starting-point of an identification on which their whole case rests.

 

But we pass on to further identifications. When the Scythians arrived in what is now South Russia, they drove out another race called Kimmerians. British-Israel finds in these also some of the Lost Tribes, and proceeds to see in them the ancestors of the Welsh, Cymry. Welsh, it is alleged, is largely derived from Hebrew, and the Druids spoke Hebrew. This theory certainly presents us with a curious historical situation. Apparently one section of the Ten Tribes, the Kimmerians, had no sooner found a new home and settled down comfortably than they were thrust out by others of their brethren who followed them, and who for some strange reason preferred to be called Scythians. In its attempt to find a Hebrew origin for the Kimmerians British-Israel has contradicted the Bible. In the Old Testament the Kimmerians are referred to as Gotner. Now in I Chron. i. 24 Abraham and Israel are said to have been descendants of Shem. But in v. 5 of the same chapter Gomer is said to be descended from Japheth. Any attempt to make Kimmerians into Semites must ignore this passage.

 

Scythians Are Not Saxons, Nor Kimmerians Welsh

 

Those who are familiar with both Hebrew and Welsh assure us that the derivation of the second of these from the first is a vain imagination, and that there is no connection between the two languages. Equally unhappy is the suggestion that the name British is compounded of the Hebrew words berith and ish, meaning "man of the covenant." A glance at any philological dictionary will be enough to dispose of this absurdity. As regards the name Saxon we are given a choice in British-Israel manuals between finding the source of it either in Isaac, or in the Sacæ, an obscure race, who seem to have drifted about in Asia. It seems to be only necessary to find two words which have two letters alike to declare them to be cognate. Ordinary textbooks inform us that Saxon is derived from a word meaning a dagger.

 

It will be observed that in the present form of the British-Israel doctrine both Saxons and British are said to be descended from. the Ten Tribes. It might be supposed to be common knowledge that these two types do not belong to the same stock. But British-Israel is not dismayed by this difficulty, and boldly declares that the distinction between Celt and Teuton is altogether erroneous. What is quite certain is that neither Celt nor Teuton was a Semite. A little difficulty which attends British-Israel here is the kinship between the English and the German races. But as it would upset the whole case if Germans were admitted among the representatives of the tribes, it suffices to rake up a few hasty assertions made in the heat of wartime to the effect that there could be no kinship between England and Germany, and on the strength of these to exclude Germany from the blessings awaiting the descendants of Israel (B.I. Truth, p. 107).

 

In the light of modern knowledge it is evident that any attempt such as that of British-Israel to find all the ancestors of the British in one race is much too simple to be anywhere near the truth. The real state of the case is summed up by expert authority, thus: "As so many stocks have come into the country at various times, a general mingling of peoples must have taken place in this small island, which renders the task of disentangling them a peculiarly difficult one" (Haddon, The Races of Man, p. 77). But one thing can be affirmed with certainty. No men of Hebrew descent were to be found either among the Celts who came in successive waves of immigration in the last millennium B.C., or among the Nordic peoples who began to invade the land in the fifth century A.D.

 

Is Our Royal Family Descended From David?

 

Worked in with these fallacies about the nations is the collection of fables by which it is sought to prove that the present Royal Family of England is descended from King David. We begin with the prophecy of Jeremiah xxxiii. that David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel. Israel, says the handbook (p. 181), cannot mean Judah, because Jeremiah never uses the name so. A minute with a Concordance will show the futility of this allegation. Jeremiah ii., e.g., addresses a prophecy to Israel which is expressly applied to Jerusalem. But it appears that Jeremiah did not content himself with prophesying about this; he took steps to see that it should be fulfilled. The Bible tells us that he was carried down into Egypt after the murder of Gedaliah. That is all that Scripture has to say about the end of his life. But British-Israel knows more. Here it may be remarked that the Mediaeval Church, which is frequently charged with exaggerating the value of tradition as compared with Scripture, can be set down as a mere amateur in the light of the exploits of British-Israel in handling and garnishing traditions suitable for its use. There flourished then in Ireland about the year 580 B.C. a lawgiver with a prophetic reputation called Ollam Fola. Now Ollam, says B.I. Truth (p. 184), is clearly the Hebrew word for eternity. It is true that it has two "I's " where the Hebrew has one, but that is a small matter. The learned will note that Ollam's date is also that of Jeremiah, and as Ireland seems to retain reminiscences of Jeremiah (we are not favoured with any details about these), Ollam and Jeremiah must be the same. This is confirmed by the fact that Ollam lived at Tara, which is said to be a slightly altered form of the Hebrew word for the Law, Torah (p. 184). Jeremiah was not the first Israelite to arrive in Ireland. There was a settlement there some time earlier made by the Tuatha de Danann. Here is manifestly a trace of the tribe of Dan. The connection was not direct. It came through the Argive Danai, and some British-Israelites here introduce the story of the daughters of Danaus, so that profane, not to say pagan, history has its contribution to make to this narrative. In reality the name has nothing to do with either Dan or Danaus. It is derived iron. the name of the Irish goddess, Danu.

 

But to return to Jeremiah. The male issue of the royal line of Judah had failed with the death of the sons of Zedekiah. So Jeremiah set sail for Ireland with the daughter of Zedekiah. At any rate, the Irish tradition associated with Ollam a lady called Tephi, alleged to be of Eastern origin. Who else can this be but Zedekiah's daughter? The Irish legend says she had a tomb sixty feet long - which to any but a British-Israelite would suggest a descendant, not of David, but of Og the King of Bashan. Princess Tephi married an Irish prince whose descendants afterwards made their way to Scotland and so through James VI. and I. (was he not also known as "Solomon"?) became the ancestors of our Royal Family. Jeremiah carried with him the stone on which Jacob slept at Bethel, and this is now the stone in our Coronation chair. (Antiquaries who have not been enlightened by these revelations declare that this stone was quarried at Scone in Scotland.)

 

As if this collection of romances were not sufficiently ridiculous, a second line has been found to connect our King with David. The Tudor kings, it is alleged (B.I. Truth, p. 189), were descended through Welsh princes from Anna, cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and daughter of Joseph of Arimathea. The present King is assured by the purveyors of this rubbish that he is in the hundredth generation from King David. It should be noted that in these fantastic genealogies the Ten Tribes have been entirely forgotten, as it is the royal house of Judah which is in question.

 

To bring out the full value of these methods let us apply them locally and suggest to British-Israelites that Salisbury is so named as being the burial place of King Saul, who no doubt brought David with him when he came here, and that Harnham must be a shortened form of Har-Nahum, the Hill of Nahum: for that Nahum knew Salisbury is highly probable from his reference to a "City among the rivers," seeing that no other city so nearly answers this description, and it is further noteworthy that the R.V. margin here reads "canals," a manifest allusion to one of our chief streets called "The Canal." Hence we may conclude that at least one of the names of the local rivers is Hebrew - the Nadder, derived from Nadar, a vow, as it is well known that rivers were often invoked in ancient oaths. And what can Nunton be but the British residence of the family of Joshua, son of Nun? We can at least claim that these derivations are no more absurd than most of those invented by British-Israel.

 

It may be asked whether the tribe of Judah is to partake in the blessings promised to Israel. British-Israelites reply with an emphatic negative. The Jews are all under a curse (B.I. Truth, p. 150). That is to say, that portion of Israel which preserved the worship of God, kept alive the hope of Israel, and has bequeathed to us many of the most beautiful utterances in the Psalms, is to lie under a curse, while Northern Israel, which, according to the testimony of its own prophets, declined into a state hardly distinguishable from degraded paganism, is to inherit all the promises set forth in the Old Covenant. This is flatly contrary to Scripture. For St. Paul (Rom. ix.) refers to Israelites, "Whose are the promises," and immediately adds, "of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh." Even British-Israel will scarcely have the hardihood to deny that the reference here is to Judah. This attitude towards Judah has led some British-Israelites to express satisfaction at the persecution which has befallen the Jews, a piece of fanaticism which is justly denounced in the Jewish Encyclopædia (art. Anglo-Israel).

 

The tribe of Benjamin occasions some difficulty to British-Israel, being by rights one of the Ten Tribes, and at the same time connected with Jerusalem. However, on the strength of a gross perversion of I Kings xi. 36, which refers to Judah, not to Benjamin, the latter tribe is said to have been lent (by whom is not stated) to Judah for 800 years. It then cast off this undesirable connection and has since turned up as the Normans, thus assisting to form the British nation. Any old family claiming Norman descent may be expected to ravin as a wolf (Gen. xlix. 27). Manasseh, we learn, is the ancestor of the Americans. The eagle of the U.S.A. flag has arrows in its left claw, and the tribe of Manasseh was known as the bowmen of Israel (Steele, Bible Basis of British Israel Truth, p. 28). Certainly no one will deny the skill of the Yankee in using the long bow.

 

The Pyramid Superstition

 

The promises recorded in the Old Testament are then to be fulfilled in Britain. But when? In order to answer this question British-Israel turns not only to Scripture, but also to another authority, the Great Pyramid. In the National Message, the magazine of this movement, a series of articles appeared on this subject in 1932, and it is idle for British-Israelites to deny that it is part of their doctrine. God's plan, we read (National Message, June, 1932), is "clearly outlined in the prophetic Scriptures and the Great Pyramid," the two being apparently of equal authority. But even this profanity is outdone by the assertion of another writer (Mr. Morton Edgar) that "the real Architect" (of the Pyramid) "was God Himself." The erection of this was, according to Mr. Hew Colquhoun (Our Descent from Israel Proved, p. 59), a fulfilment of the prophecy that there shall be a pillar in the border of Egypt (Isa. xix. 19), although every student knows that the word there used, massebah, means a single stone pillar, and has nothing at all to do with pyramids. The Pyramid was built by Egyptians skilled in mathematical measurements, and was intended, according to Professor Breasted, to be not only a tomb but also the symbol of the Sun God. But British-Israel takes the number of inches in this and that part of the Pyramid to be mystical prophecies of the dates of events in the history of the British Empire, and finally of the Millennium. Whole books are filled with wild calculations on this basis, and we are asked to believe that the will of the All Holy God is revealed to us in the dimensions of a structure erected by pagan builders to honour the Sun God. Such a combination of the more outlandish forms of Apocalypse with the astrology of the Dark Ages must be unique. Well might our Reformers deliver themselves of the opinion that "they that go about to renew the fable of hereticks called Millenarii, be repugnant to Holy Scripture, and cast themselves headlong into a Jewish dotage" (Art. xli. of 1553). The wildest speculations of the Anabaptists cannot have surpassed these attempts to arrive at a revelation from God by stretching a measuring tape along the corridors of a pyramid. To seek it there is as profane as it would be to search for it in the number of square feet in the roof of the Crystal Palace.

 

Professor Flinders Petrie, the eminent Egyptologist, has shown that the methods used by British-Israelites in measuring the Pyramid are entirely erroneous. He adds that "it is useless to state the real truth of the matter, as it has no effect on those who are subject to this type of hallucination. They can but be left with the flat earth believers and other such people to whom a theory is dearer than a fact." He describes the amusement caused to himself and other experts by the sight of one of these theorists trying to file down a granite boss in the antechamber of the Pyramid to the size required for the theory (Seventy Years in Archaeology, pp. 26 and 35).

 

A detailed examination of the absurdities of these Pyramid doctrines, and an exposure of the extent to which those who proclaim them contradict one another, may be seen in the booklet published by S.P.C.K. called The Secret of the Great Pyramid, by M. D. R. Willink.

 

The Perversion Of Prophecy

 

We need not follow further the exposition of British-Israel doctrine. The specimens already given are typical of the whole. But let us conclude by pointing out in summary the evils which spring from it. It rests upon a method of interpreting prophecy which reduces the Scripture to the level of a cross-word puzzle. Texts are torn from their context, and misapplied without the slightest regard to their original meaning. British-Israel constantly boasts itself that it sticks to the plaid literal meaning of Scripture. But this is the one thing which it does not do. For example, the beautiful passage in Isa. xlix. is a message of comfort to the people returning from exile. The Lord has redeemed His people, and soon the wanderers will be together again in Zion. It is a word of immediate encouragement to strengthen them in the task of rebuilding Zion. But in the hands of British-Israel (B.I. Truth, pp. 91 ff.) it becomes nothing but a forecast of the glories of England, and a prediction that the British flag will fly in every port of the world. Thus God is made to mock His afflicted people by telling them that their only comfort is to know that in 2,000 years vast prosperity will be granted to the inhabitants of a land 2,000 miles away. It is as though some modern prophet were to seek to lighten our present economic depression by assuring us that in A.D. 3900 Hongkong will be the most prosperous city in the world. Such interpretations make the Word of God of none effect.

 

The Covenant And The Kingdom

 

Great play is made by British-Israelites with the word Covenant. They assert that the covenant which God made with Abraham was to be fulfilled in Israel, which on their view means the Ten Tribes. Since that fulfilment did not come owing to the disobedience of Israel to God's law, it is still to be expected, and will be granted to the British as representatives of the Ten Tribes. British-Israel stakes the whole truth of religion on this argument, alleging that if it is an error we cannot trust God to keep any of His promises. But what was the promise made to Abraham? It was simply that he should be the father of a multitude of nations, and that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed. The multitude of nations included others besides Israel - for example, Midian - who were also descended from Abraham. In Gen. xv. 18 the promise is given in detail that Abraham's seed should inherit the land between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates. This was fulfilled in the reign of Solomon. The further promise that all nations should be blessed in Abraham (Gen. xxii. 18) has been fulfilled in Christ (St. John viii. 56). This is the plain teaching of the Bible (Acts iii. 25). St. Paul says expressly that the promise is accomplished in the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles (Gal. iii. 8). The statement that the carrying out of the promise depends upon the continued existence somewhere of the Ten Tribes of Northern Israel is a fiction repugnant to Scripture and dangerous to faith. The British-Israel treatment of the New Testament conception of the Kingdom is equally erroneous.

 

A distinction is drawn between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Salvation. It is argued that while salvation is offered to all nations the Kingdom is not, but is confined to Israel-that is, the British (Waddington, Israel and Orthodoxy, chap. xiii.). Such a view empties the Gospel teaching about the Kingdom of all meaning. The Gospel begins with the declaration that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It promises entrance into it to all those who will become as little children. The "little flock" who were assured that it was the Father's good pleasure to give them the Kingdom (Luke xii. 42) were Jews, and the forerunners of all those from every nation who should believe in Jesus.

 

What Does The New Testament Mean By Israel?

 

According to British-Israel the name still refers to the Ten Tribes and excludes Judah. A phrase repeatedly cited in this sense is "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." This text, it is asserted, refers in Matt. x. 6 and xv. 24 neither to Jews nor Gentiles, but only to members of the Ten Tribes (B.I. Truth, p. 70). On this interpretation our Lord commissioned His Apostles in Matt. x. 6 to go to Scythia, or to whatever remote spot the Ten Tribes are supposed by British-Israel to have then reached, and to preach there. The present writer has heard this explanation actually given at a meeting of British-Israelites. The same idea is read into Matt. xv. 24, where the Lord said that He was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Were not such suggestions in print before us it would be difficult to believe that anyone could ever have made them. The correct meaning of "lost sheep" may be found in Matt. ix. 36, where the words refer to the Jewish multitude there described as moving the Lord to pity, because they were as sheep having no shepherd.

 

St. Paul, it is alleged by British-Israel, also means the Ten Tribes, and nothing else, when he speaks of Israel. This assertion is supported by such wild conjectures as that the Galatians were but disguised members of the Ten Tribes (B.I. Truth, p. 67). The failure of Bishop Lightfoot and other learned men to discover this remarkable fact has no weight with British-Israel, to whom here, as often, experts who differ from them are merely "deluded," or "careless," or "blind." But here British-Israel flatly contradicts St. Paul in some of the very essentials of his teaching. When St. Paul says Israel he means the whole nation, including Jews (Rom. ix. 4, 5). When he speaks of the Israel of God (Gal. vi. 16) he means all, whether Jews or Gentiles, who believe in God through Christ (cp. Rom. iv. I6). The doctrine of British-Israel that the enjoyment of God's promises is connected with physical descent from Abraham is precisely that which St. Paul most strenuously resisted, and for the denial of which he suffered bitter persecution.

 

A Narrow Nationalism

 

It must be said quite clearly that British-Israel turns the Bible into a handbook of national megalomania, and that it is a determined foe to the League of Nations and all efforts for world peace. The two great perils to the world today are Nationalism and Bolshevism. To the first of these British-Israel is a servant. This statement can be abundantly justified by quotations from recent literature of the movement. In B.I. Truth (p. 94) we are told that England is the Lord's battleaxe and weapons of war, as prophesied in Jer. li. 20, a statement repeated in a pamphlet called Disarmament, a Divine Condemnation. The blessings foretold by the prophets are "exclusive" to the British (B.I. Truth, p. 5). Consequently there must be no acceptance of any peace which will interfere with the aggrandisement of Britain. During the summer of 1932 the following assertions appeared in the National Message, the magazine of British-Israel: "The madness of supposing that the welter of races in India can carry on and administer for all India the balanced system of the Common Law is of a piece with those who set up the League of Nations." Ezekiel xxxiii. 3 is expounded thus: "No sick sentimentality here. No gushing assurance that war between Christian nations was unthinkable: that we were too civilised to fight." The British are to overrun the world, and if they accept the challenge of the Gospel of the Kingdom, another writer tells us," all the material things after which the Gentile nations so feverishly seek would be automatically added to us as a Race and People." One British-Israelite has the hardihood to distort some words of an eminent supporter of the League of Nations, Sir Oliver Lodge, into an advocacy of these claims (vide Our Descent from Israel Proved, p. 63). I have the authority of Sir Oliver himself for saying that the passage quoted contains no such meaning.

 

Thus from unscriptural theology we pass to unchristian politics, and find ourselves confronted by the spirit, not of the true prophet, but rather of Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah, whose notion of revealing God's will was to fashion horns of iron, and proclaim that with them the enemy should be pushed until he was consumed. It is not surprising that militarists have been quick to see the opportunity offered them by British-Israel. But patriotism and nationalism are not the same things, nor is one compatible with the other. We believe wholeheartedly that God has commissioned the British race to per form certain definite tasks. But our belief in this does not depend upon fantastic myths providing us with Hebrew ancestors, nor does it imply that other nations are excluded from sharing with us the promises of God.

 

We are aware that many truly pious people have been persuaded to accept British-Israel doctrine. If they are impressed by its apparent learning we would ask them to consider the fact that its claims are entirely rejected by teachers of theology and ethnology in our Universities. It is one of those great delusions which appear from time to time and claim as their victims those who have a zeal which is not according to knowledge. It cannot stand against a careful study of the Bible and of history.

 

This document is Public Domain.

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June 29 2013 7 29 /06 /June /2013 20:19

Dead Sea Scrolls

 

Paul, “Works of the Law” and MMT

 

By Martin Abegg

 

MMT-Dead-Sea-Scrolls.png

 

Biblical Archaeology Society

 

“Miqsat Ma‘ase Ha-Torah” read the words highlighted in the Dead Sea Scroll fragment above. The phrase gives the document its shorthand name—MMT. But what does it mean? Scholars have varyingly translated it as “some precepts of Torah” or “some legal rulings of Torah.” Both translations miss the mark, writes Martin Abegg, who suggests the proper rendering is “pertinent works of the law.” If Abegg is right, MMT casts important new light on the thinking of Paul, who uses the expression “works of the law” in his letters to the Galatians and the Romans.

 

The usual translation of Miqsat Ma‘ase Ha-Torah—MMT—obscures its relationship to Paul’s letters. This Dead Sea Scroll and Paul use the very same phrase.

 

On March 15, 1988, as part of my duties as the new graduate research assistant to Professor Ben Zion Wacholder, I climbed the three flights of stairs of the Klau Library at Cincinnati’s Hebrew Union College to pick up his mail. The large brown envelope at the bottom of the stack was not in itself strange, but the lack of a return address seemed odd. Back in his office I opened the envelope and found a 12-page photocopy of a handwritten Hebrew manuscript whose first line read “‘elleh miqsat debareynu” (these are some of the words).

 

This was all I had read before Professor Wacholder reasoned that this could only be a bootleg transcription of Miqsat Ma‘ase Ha-Torah, already well known in the scholarly world by its acronym MMT. Three years earlier John Strugnell and Elisha Qimron had described it in two preliminary articles.1 And indeed MMT it was. The following spring, Hebrew Union College listed in its graduate catalog a course entitled “Hellenistic Literature 25”; in fact, the course was devoted solely to studying MMT.2 From that time until now, MMT has never been far from my thinking.a


As of this writing, I have not seen the official publication of MMT (reviewed in “MMT as the Maltese Falcon,” in this issue), but I understand that it does not discuss the importance of MMT for New Testament studies. This short article will discuss one significant aspect of that subject. If I am correct, MMT enables us to understand in a new way what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, and perhaps to the Romans as well.

 

The connection lies in the very title given to this obscure Dead Sea Scroll. MMT, as noted earlier, stands for Miqsat Ma‘ase Ha-Torah, which Strugnell and Qimron translate “Some of the Precepts of the Torah.” This translation unfortunately obscures MMT’s relationship to Paul’s letters.

 

In this case, miqsat does not mean simply “some.” The same word is used in Genesis 47:2, where Joseph presents five of his brothers to Pharaoh. Here the word could be understood to mean the most important of the brothers or perhaps the choice or select. In other words, when the word is used in MMT, it does not refer just to some random laws; these laws are important to the writer. A similar understanding of the meaning of the word can be gleaned from its use in the Talmud.3 Thus we might translate the word more accurately as “some important” or “pertinent.”

 

More significant for our purposes, however, are the other two words, ma‘ase ha-torah. Strugnell and Qimron translate this phrase as “precepts of Torah,”4 while Lawrence Schiffman offers “legal rulings of Torah.”5 These translations are accurate enough, but they nonetheless cloud the Paul connection.

 

A few minutes with a concordance of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, leaves little doubt that the Greek equivalent of ma‘ase hatorah is likely ergon nomou.b Ergon nomou is commonly translated in English versions of the New Testament as “works of the law.” This well-known Pauline phrase is found in Romans 3:20, 28 and in Galatians 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10.

 

It is striking that when the British Bible Society translated the New Testament into modern Hebrew in 1976—at a time when the text of MMT was known only to half a dozen scholars—they consistently translated ergon nomou (works of the law) as ma‘ase ha-torah.

 

In short, ma‘ase ha-torah is equivalent to what we know in English from Paul’s letters as “works of the law.” This Dead Sea scroll and Paul use the very same phrase. The connection is emphasized by the fact that this phrase appears nowhere in rabbinic literature of the first and second centuries A.D.—only in Paul and in MMT.

 

The works of the law that the Qumran text refers to are obviously typified by the 20 or so religious precepts (halakhot) detailed in the body of the text. For the first time we can really understand what Paul is writing about. Here is a document detailing works of the law.

 

To appreciate what can be learned from this connection, let us probe a little more deeply into MMT. The remains of nearly two dozen legal issues are recorded in MMT. Perhaps there were as many as a dozen more precepts that perished; the aim of the work, however, as seen by its composer, was clearly to call attention to matters that trespass the boundaries between the pure and impure. The topic of the work is reflected in the phrase tohorat haqodesh, “the purity of the holy.” Stated simply: “Do not allow the holy to be profaned by what is impure.”

 

The issues include bringing Gentile corn into the Temple, the presentation of Gentile offerings, and the cooking of sacrificial meat in unfit (impure) vessels. Other rulings concern cleansing of lepers, admitting the blind and the deaf into the Temple; and permitting intermarriage with Ammonite and Moabite converts, long forbidden to enter the congregation of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3). Other issues involve the transmission of impurity by a flow of water (musaq), the intermixture of wool and linen (sha‘atnez), plowing with diverse animals (qilayyim) and perhaps the climax of the discussion: the intermarriage of priests with the common people.

 

Most of the rulings espoused by the author of MMT are based directly upon Biblical law (for example, the prohibition against plowing with unlike animals in Deuteronomy 22:10). A few others are interpretations or amplifications of Mosaic prescriptions (for example, bans on Gentile offerings and dogs in the Temple). The list clearly reflects a conservative reaction against a relaxation of Torah precepts.

 

As Professor Schiffman has noted, the Qumran sect spurned the rabbinic extensions called Talmud, which effectively built a fence around the Torah, successive layers of which have become codified in the rabbinic works of the Mishnah and the two Talmuds.6 The Qumranites were the “Bible only” group of their day.

 

The fact that the phrase miqsat ma‘ase ha-torah (“pertinent works of the law”) appears nowhere in rabbinic literature suggests that the theology of the Qumran sect was not destined to become normative for Judaism. That of course was the case. We find no certain record of the Qumran sect after the Roman suppression of the first Jewish revolt (66–70 A.D.). But that was after Paul wrote.

 

Looking at Galatians and Romans in the light of MMT, it seems clear that Paul, using the same terminology, is rebutting the theology of documents such as MMT. I do not mean to suggest that Paul knew of MMT or of the zealous members of the Qumran community, but simply that Paul was reacting to the kind of theology espoused by MMT, perhaps even by some Christian converts who were committed to the kind of thinking reflected in MMT. Paul’s answer is that “No human being is justified by works of the law but only through faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16).

 

Let us look more closely at MMT to see what Paul is reacting against.

 

Both Galatians and MMT are efforts to guide and correct compatriots; they are not addressed to enemies. MMT was written by one sectarian to another, much along the lines of Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “I [we] exhort you [who have wandered from the truth] to stand firm against them [the trouble makers].”

 

In the past, Strugnell and Qimron, as well as some others, have argued that the oft-quoted MMT phrase, “and we separated ourselves from the majority of the people,” used toward the end of the document, denotes the sect’s departure from mainstream Judaism, its separation from Pharisaism. In part, this interpretation depends on the reconstruction of the word translated “the people.”  The Hebrew is ha‘a[m]; but, as the bracket indicates, the last letter has been reconstructed; it is not there. There are other possible reconstructions, however: ha‘etsah (the council) or, even more likely, ha‘edah (the congregation). These terms appear frequently in Qumran literature and are much more likely to be the correct reconstruction in MMT. That is, the separation is probably not from the people, but from the council or the congregation—in other words, their own crowd. This leads me to conclude that MMT concerns an intra-communal dispute that precipitated a schism among sectarians. And the tone, as in Galatians, is conciliatory. Near the end of MMT, the writer characterizes what he has written as “what we thought would be beneficial for you and your people, because we have seen [that] you possess insight and knowledge of the Torah [law].” This is hardly the tone one would expect if the Qumran sectarians were addressing their mortal enemies. The author of MMT seems to be trying to persuade his disciple or colleague to rethink the differences that have separated them.

 

The-People-or-The-Community.png

 

Biblical Archaeology Society

 

“The People” or “The Community”? The tinted area above highlights a partially preserved word in MMT. It occurs at the end of the phrase, “and we separated ourselves from the majority of … ” Scholars agree on the first two letters of the next word: a heh and an ayin (only the curved portion of the latter remains, on the very edge of the fragment). The letter that followed remains open to debate. Some have suggested that it was a mem, making the word “the people.” According to this interpretation, the author of MMT was explaining why his group had split from the wider community. Martin Abegg notes, however, that the word could just as well have been ha‘etsah (the council) or ha‘edah (the congregation). By this reading, MMT concerns a split among sectarians—an intra-communal dispute.

 

The author is clear about what will flow from adherence to the important precepts being espoused. Toward the end of the document, the reader is told to “consider all these things and pray to Him” with the positive result “that He might set your counsel/council straight.” In other words, meditation on the law and a calling out to God will result in His acting to mend your council. Secondly, the addressee is told to “keep yourself away from evil thought and the counsel/council of Belial” [i.e., Satan; perhaps a reference to the Pharisees]. In other words, separate yourself from those who have infected you with their evil thought and teaching. The addressee and his associates had evidently expressed willingness to compromise with Belial’s council/counsel. The addressee may have advocated a compromise with both group’s mutual opponents, the Pharisees. If you follow my advice and adhere to these precepts, MMT says, “you shall rejoice at the end of time when you find the essence[again the word miqsat] of our words true.” The messianic era, it is implied elsewhere, will arrive soon. And “you will be reckoned righteous, in that you have done what is right and good before Him.” This claim is “to your own benefit and to Israel’s.”

 

I have italicized the word “reckoned righteous” because of their special importance—both to the author of MMT and to Paul. Unlike Paul, however, the Qumran author does not offer righteousness on the basis of his reader’s belief, but rather “in that you have done what is right and good before Him.” For MMT’s author, it is the “works of the law” that fuel such a reckoning.

 

The provocative final statement in MMT, “you will be reckoned righteous,” is reminiscent of Genesis 15:6: “And Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” This Biblical quotation was of course used by Paul to support his understanding that faith, rather than works, leads to a reckoning of righteousness. But this is not the view of MMT’s author. How then did he arrive at his conclusion, despite the implication of Genesis 15:6? One possibility is that he relied on Genesis 22:16, where, following Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s command, God blesses Abraham because of “what you have done.” I believe, however, that MMT relies on another text.

 

Psalm 106 commemorates an incident recounted in Numbers 25:1–8, in which the Israelites, on their trek to the Promised Land, fraternize with the Moabites, worship their gods and sleep with their daughters. As punishment, God sends a plague on the Israelites. When Phinehas the priest catches an Israelite in flagrante delicto with a foreign woman, he spears the couple through their bellies with a single spear. And the plague is lifted. For his deed, we are told in Psalm 106, Phinehas was regarded as eternally righteous:

 

“Then Phinehas stood up and interposed;

And so the plague was stayed.

And it was reckoned to him as righteousness,

from generation to generation forever.”

 

(Psalm 106:30–31)


Upon examination of the Hebrew text of MMT, it becomes clear that MMT echoes this passage from Psalm 106. The same passive verb—“it was reckoned” in Psalm 106 and “you shall be reckoned” in MMT—is one clear reflection of this dependence. The only difference is that the past tense of the verb in Psalm 106 is changed to the future tense in MMT to convert it into a promise for the addressee.c

 

Two other considerations point to this relationship between Psalm 106 and MMT. In the psalm, the poet celebrates what Phinehas did when there was an unholy mixture of an Israelite with a foreign woman. Similarly, the central theme of MMT is the call to turn from the sin of unholy mixture. Secondly, the Qumran covenanters refer to themselves as the Sons of Zadok. Zadok was the high priest during the reigns of David and Solomon. He was a direct descendant of Phinehas, both Zadok and Phinehas being of the priestly line of Eleazar the son of Aaron. For the Qumran sect, a priestly paradigm of righteousness would have been especially pleasing.

 

MMT is couched in the exact language of what Paul was rebutting in his letter to the Galatians. MMT claims that adherence to the works of the law “will be accounted to you as righteousness”; Paul’s answer is that “No human being is justified by works of the law but only through faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16).7

 

MMT espouses works of the law as exemplified in Phinehas’s deed; those who perform works of the law will be reckoned righteous unto eternity. So says Psalm 106, recounting Numbers 25:1–8.

 

Like MMT, Paul too is addressing his wandering flock:

 

O foolish Galatians. Who has bewitched you …? Did you

receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with

faith? … Thus Abraham “believed God, and it was

reckoned to him as righteousness.” So you see that it is

men of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the

scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by

faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying,

“In thee shall all the nations be blessed.” … For all who rely

on works of the law are under a curse. (Galatians 3:1–10)

 

It is quite possible that some Essenes or other Jewish sectaries who were familiar with the phrase “works of the law” had become followers of Jesus the Nazarene. They would understandably have concerned Paul, lest his teaching that the Mosaic law played only a supporting role in God’s program—that of “tutor” or “schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:24)—be undermined. Paul must have felt his missionary work threatened by those teaching that the law was the channel of God’s salvation.

 

Some scholars have suggested that Paul misunderstood the Jewish teaching of his day or, at the very least, that he created a straw man to bolster his own teaching regarding faith versus law. In the past, this view was supported by the fact that the phrase “works of the law” nowhere appears in the foundational books of rabbinic Judaism. MMT, however, provides the “smoking gun” for which students have been searching for generations, not from the pages of rabbinic literature, but from the sectarian teachings of Qumran. MMT demonstrates that Paul was not jousting with windmills, but was indeed squared off in a dramatic duel—not with mainstream Judaism but with a sectarian theology—that ultimately defined Christianity. If I have understood rightly, the importance of MMT for New Testament research is nothing short of revolutionary.

 

Endnotes (numbered)

1. Elisha Qimron and John Strugnell, “An Unpublished Halakhic Letter from Qumran,” Israel Museum Journal (1985), pp. 9–12, also in Biblical Archaeology Today: Proceedings of the International Congress on Biblical Archaeology, Jerusalem, Apr. 1984, ed. J. Amitai (Jerusalem; Israel Exploration Society, 1985), pp. 400–407.

2. I owe much of the content of this article to the other members of this class: Rabbi Shira Lander, Dr. James Bowley, Mr. Lee Fields, Dr. Wave Nunnally and Dr. Keri Wynn; we all are indebted to ProfessorWacholder for a unique experience.

3. Babylonian Talmud, Yebamot 47a-b.

4. Elisha Qimron and John Strugnell, “An Unpublished Halakhic Letter from Qumran,” p. 400.

5. Lawrence H. Schiffman, “The New Halakhic Letter (4QMMT) and the Origins of the Dead Sea Sect,” Biblical Archaeologist 53 (1990), p. 67.

6. Lawrence H. Schiffman, “New Light on the Pharisees,” in Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. Hershel Shanks (New York: Random House, 1992), pp. 219–20.

7. I am in agreement with Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered (Rockport, MA: Element, 1992), in connecting “works of the Law” with the Apostle Paul; and “reckoned as righteousness” with Phinehas and Psalm 106:31.

 

BAS/BAR and general notes (lettered)

a. In February 1993, after ProfessorWacholder and I had begun to publish fascicles of Dead Sea Scroll transcripts that had been reconstructed with the aid of a computer (see “BAS Publishes Dead Sea Scrolls,” BAR 17:05; “Computer-Generated Dead Sea Scrolls Texts 98% Accurate,” BAR 18:01; “BAS Reprints Facsimile Edition of Scroll Photographs,” BAR 18:04), we received a letter from Professor Qimron’s attorney warning us that we could not “make any use” of his and Strugnell’s reconstruction of MMT. Admittedly, we cannot expunge from our minds the results of our study of the handwritten transcript we anonymously received in 1988. We are continuing our work on MMT as well as on other scrolls. We have also brought suit against Professor Qimron in an American court, not for damages, but simply for a declaration that Professor Qimron does not own the copyright in MMT, so that we can proceed with our work (see “American Professors Seek to Block Qimron’s Control of MMT,” BAR 19:06).

b. The most common Greek word for ma‘ase is ergon. The Greek word nomos most commonly translates torah.

c. In addition, the MMT text echoes the Hebrew text of Psalm 106:31 by using the passive niphal stem of hashab, rather than the active qal. Also, the preposition lamed is used to indicate the “product” of the reckoning in both Psalm 106:31 and MMT (“as righteous”), whereas in Genesis 15:6 “righteous” is the direct object of the verb. Psalm 106:31 and Genesis 15:6 are the only Biblical verses that contain both the verb hashab, to reckon, and the noun sedaqah, righteousness. Jubilees 30:17 records this same statement (probably referring to Psalm 106 as well) made to Simeon and Levi concerning their zealous act against the Shechemites (Genesis 34:25), even though in the Biblical passage their father condemned them (Genesis 34:25, 49:5).

 

Martin Abegg is professor of religious studies and co-director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. He is coauthor of Preliminary Edition of the Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls (Biblical Archaeology Society, 1991), a series of texts reconstructed with the aid of a computer.

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June 21 2013 6 21 /06 /June /2013 17:39

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Le Baptême et Les trois naissances - En Éphésiens 4:5, nous lisons qu’il y a « un seul Seigneur, une seule foi, un seul baptême. » Le but de cette étude est de décrire avec précision quelle est la SEULE forme de baptême enseignée dans les Écritures, et ainsi de s’opposer aux opinions et aux traditions d’hommes ou d’Églises. Disponible en ligne au prix qu’il en coûte de l’imprimer (nul profit financier n’est fait sur cet ouvrage), considérez cela comme une offrande si vous l’acheter de cette manière. Sinon, si vous désirez une copie gratuite, veuillez envoyer un courriel avec votre adresse à   edd7jour@yahoo.com et nous vous enverrons un exemplaire de cette brochure.

 

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June 21 2013 6 21 /06 /June /2013 15:02

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La loi du pur et de l’impur suivi de Alcool, tabac et autres drogues - Dieu nous a donné des instructions très spécifiques concernant les viandes pures et impures. Étant le Créateur de toutes choses, Dieu sait parfaitement ce qui est bon pour nous et ce qui ne l’est pas. En ce qui concerne l’alcool et le tabac, l’Église de Dieu croit que l’usage de spiritueux, de boissons stimulantes alcoolisées, de stupéfiants, de tabac et de toutes drogues provoquant une quelconque accoutumance est contraire à la nature de l'être humain. Disponible en ligne au prix qu’il en coûte de l’imprimer (nul profit financier n’est fait sur cet ouvrage), considérez cela comme une offrande si vous l’acheter de cette manière. Sinon, si vous désirez une copie gratuite, veuillez envoyer un courriel avec votre adresse à edd7jour@yahoo.com et nous vous enverrons un exemplaire de cette brochure.


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June 21 2013 6 21 /06 /June /2013 13:57

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