Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oh my God! Jesus was a Jew?

In case you have forgotten or really don't know: YES, Jesus was born into this world as a Jew.

He was circumcised as a Jew and was brought up as a Jew.

Luke 2:21-24, 41-42 (NKJV)
21 And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.22 Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD”),[f] 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

41 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.

"So what's the big deal about Jesus being a Jew?", you ask.  

It is important to acknowledge the Jewishness of Jesus because when you place what Jesus did and what Jesus said as recorded in the four gospels in the Jewish context, you will begin to understand why Jesus did what he did and said what he said. 

When we see Jesus in the gospels through the eyes of our own culture, we risk misunderstanding the scripture resulting in errors in our bible teaching.

There is this kid (I don't know his age but I call him a kid in reference to the way he reacts to comments on his blog which are contrary to his personal "theology") who wrote an article on his blog entitled Joseph Prince the heretic.  Lest I be accused of misquoting him, I append below an excerpt of his article which I will discuss.

All Christians are advised to stay away from Joseph Prince, New Creation Church, and their doctrines. Prince is preaching a false gospel and a fase 'Christ'; a god who functions more like a heavenly Santa Claus rather than the true God who demands our total surrender to Him. Prince, repent of your heresies while there is time, before you face the wrath of God against you for distorting His truth and sending souls to hell who are all the while thinking that they are going to heaven because of you!

P.S.: With regards to Prince's use of the Greek word eirenen (ειρηνην) in Jn. 14:26-27, it is hermeneutically fallacious to claim that we should use the Hebrew/Aramaic equivalent of shalom to interpret it to include full material well-being. Firstly, the CONTEXTdetermines the meaning, not the mere usage of a word, as if we can just import the whole semantic range of any particular word into any particular sentence. This commits the fallacy of lexicography, or unwarranted expansion of a semantic field. As an example of how nonsensical this fallacy is, consider juxtaposing Jn.3 :16 with 1 Jn 2:15, which states

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16)

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 Jn. 2:15)

The word used in both verses is the Greek word 
kosmos (κοσμος). If one were to use the Greek word with its full semantic range, and thus they are exactly identical in meaning, then does that mean that God, because he loves the world as stated in Jn. 3:16, is violating his own commandment in 1 Jn.n 2:15 who says that it is a sin to love the world? This is plainly absurd!

The second error of this line of reasoning is that it disregards the language God uses in making the verse God-breathed ortheopneustos (θεοπνευστος). The New Testament is inspired in the Greek, NOT Hebrew or Aramaic. It is thus totally irrelevant whether Jesus was speaking in Hebrew or Aramaic when he preached during the OT times. Therefore, we should look to the word as used in Greek instead of as it is used in Hebrew/ Aramaic.

Pastor Prince preached a sermon on John 14:26-27 (NKJV)
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Pastor Prince said that as Jesus was a Jew, he would be speaking to his disciples who are also Jews in Hebrew or Aramaic. Hence, when Jesus said "My peace I give to you" to his disciples, he was in reality speaking in Hebrew/Aramaic: "My shâlôm I give to you".  

Pastor Prince submitted that the word "peace" is not just the peace of mind that our modern English implies but rather Jesus was referring to the all encompassing peace (see BDB definition below) embodied in the hebrew shâlôm.
BDB Definition:
1) completeness, soundness, welfare, peace
1a) completeness (in number)
1b) safety, soundness (in body)
1c) welfare, health, prosperity
1d) peace, quiet, tranquillity, contentment
1e) peace, friendship
1e1) of human relationships
1e2) with God especially in covenant relationship
1f) peace (from war)
1g) peace (as adjective)

Basically, this kid, whom I shall henceforth refer to as "astroboy" instead of by his real name lest he accuse me of character assassination, is saying that Pastor Prince is wrong to use the hebrew shâlôm interchangeably with the greek eirēnē   because of  firstly "lexicography, or unwarranted expansion of a semantic field" (I still don't really understand what this term mean despite astroboy's explanation) and secondly, "The New Testament is inspired in the Greek, NOT Hebrew or Aramaic. It is thus totally irrelevant whether Jesus was speaking in Hebrew or Aramaic when he preached during the OT times".

I submit that astroboy is typical of the Christian who belittles or ignores or is ignorant of the significance of the Jewishness of Jesus and hence miss out on the full blessing of Jesus' words and actions.

Clinging steadfastly to the knowledge he gleaned from theology textbooks, astroboy totally disregards the context in which Jesus spoke those words and hence misses out on the full blessings embodied in shâlôm.

Theological knowledge is a useful tool; just like a scalpel.  However, a scalpel in the hands of a skilful surgeon will produce very different results from a scalpel in the hands of a butcher.

I submit that astroboy's above-mentioned theological reasoning is not logical.

Let me use the analogy of Hongkong TV dramas to illustrate:

HK dramas are filmed in the Cantonese dialect.  However, the dramas are dubbed in Mandarin before they are broadcast here in Singapore's free-to-air TV channel (because of government regulations against the use of dialects in broadcast media).

While the dialogue in Mandarin is supposed to have the same meaning as the Cantonese version, often it is not as enjoyable to watch in Mandarin because the subtle nuances, puns and cheeky idioms in the Cantonese dialect are usually lost in translation.  In order to enjoy the drama in its full glory, we usually resort to renting the dvds and watching them in the original language of Cantonese.

Similarly, while the NT was written in Greek, we have to bear in mind that most of the NT was written by Jews and hence it is important to acknowledge the Jewish context of the passages.  Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable for Pastor Prince to say that Jesus said,"My shâlôm I give to you".
I have just received a dvd set (which I ordered last month) entitled "Behold the Man! Discovering our Hebrew Lord, the Historical Jesus of Nazareth" by Dwight A. Pryor which is an in-depth study of Jesus, the Jew.

I hope to share what I learn in due course (but please be patient as it could take me quite some time to digest the extensive materials).



Kat said...

I seriously think you should compile these cuurent and future posts into a book. BTW, my offer to be your jing li ren still stands! Don't take too long to consider, my consultancy charges go up by the hour...hee hee hee

PuritanReformed said...

Interesting. Please read Prof D.A. Carson's book Exegetical Fallacies if you want to know more about the hermeneutical fallacy you are committing. I would much rather trust Dr. Carson, who teaches in a seminary, than you.

Maybe you can read up more on the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture. Discounting an entire doctrine in order to prop up the Word-faith heresy is not proper to say the least, nevermind logical.

With regards to another post of yours, I see that friends of yours have discounted Joshua Woo [Sze Zeng]'s posts. Although I have my own disagreements with Sze Zeng, I find it strange that the only response from your group is just plain ad-hominem. Whatever happened to being "logical"?

Angie said...

Great post! i'm looking forward to more esp the ones from your DVD set! ;p

Stanley Wong said...

Thanks, Angie! I just finished disc 1 (there are 6 dvds) but there's so much to learn. I need to watch it again a few more times before I can start sharing :-)