Thursday, June 2, 2016

This is, I hope, a cure for those with heart-burn: A way to separate the sacred from the profane.

…Lessons from the Wilderness… [1] [2] [3] [4]
Volume  Four

…Keep What is Sacred from the Profane…

Isa 5:20-24
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!  (21)  Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes[5], and clever in their own sight! (22)  Woe to the mighty to drink wine, and brave men to mix strong drink,  (23)  who declare right the wrong for a bribe, and the righteousness of the righteous they turn aside from him!  (24)  Therefore, as a tongue of fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, their root is as rottenness, and their blossom goes up like dust – because they have rejected the Torah of יהוה of hosts, and despised the Word [6] of the Set-apart One of Yisra’ĕl. [7]

Ezekiel 44:15-16, 23-24
15 “ ‘However, the cohanim [8], who are L’vi’im [9]and descendants of Tzadok, who took care of my sanctuary when the people of Isra’el went astray from me—they are the ones who will approach me and serve me; it is they who will attend me and offer me the fat and the blood,’ says Adonai Elohim.
16 ‘They will enter my sanctuary, approach my table to minister to me and perform my service….

(23) “And they are to teach My people the difference between the set-apart and the profane, and make them know what is unclean and clean. 
(24)  “And they are to stand as judges in a dispute, and judge it according to My right-rulings.
And they are to guard My Torot and My laws in all My appointed festivals, and set apart My Sabbaths…” [10]

 Minutia. Brethren, we are engaged in a battle not for hearts and minds, not for the kingdom of G-d, but for our own opinions and interpretations of the word of G-d. Minutia separates us, keeps us from finding anything that even resembles unity within the body. Along with this comes an attitude, that “…if you don’t study as I do, or study what I say, then a pox upon you… How dare anyone use the Talmud, the Mishnah, or other “Jewish” books, to find their way?” There is this question that seems to drive some mad – how to tell the sacred from the profane. Unfortunately, there seems to be those who consider some of the things of the Jews in the mix of the profane…

Within our community, those that seek the Hebraic Perspective, there is some - curiosity- concerning the pseudepigraphical[11] writings of the Jews, namely what is commonly called the Apocrypha as found in some copies of the Greek Septuagint and most Catholic bibles. These include books titled 1 Esdras; 2 Esdras; Additions to Esther; 1 Macabees; 2 Macabees; Tobias; Judith; Wisdom; Sirach; Baruch; Epistle of Jeremiah; Susanna; Prayer of Azariah; Prayer of Manasseh; Bel and the Dragon and Laodiceans. There are also other books that give rise to controversies (and heart-burn in some) such as The Book of Enoch; The Book of Jubilees and the Book of Jasher.

Now – let me be clear on this – I do not consider any of these books as divinely inspired, that is given to men by the power of the Holy Spirit. There are many more books out there, such as those found at Nag Hammadi, but that is beyond the scope of this little epistle; what is the scope of this is to help those suffering from heart-burn and those who suffer the curiosity that killed the cat to find a common ground, a ground that can be embodied in the following statement:

“Learn how to eat chicken. Swallow the meat and spit out the bones.”

To say that these texts have no value and shouldn’t be, on the least looked at, and at best, used to gain a historical perspective of the “quiet time” and later[12], is to deprive oneself of a basic understanding of how our faith developed.

The authors of the New Testament were familiar with the contents of the stories and were influenced by them:[13] this can be seen in a short section of 1 Enoch (1 En 1:9 or 1 En 2:1 depending on the translation) that is quoted in the New TestamentEpistle of JudeJude 1:14–15, and is attributed there to "Enoch the Seventh from Adam" (1 En 60:8). The text was also utilized by the community that originally collected the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Now since something is quoted in the New Testament, should we consider it inspired? Well, be your own judge of that – this is how we learn to eat chicken. Obviously though, Jude likely considered it Scripture, or at least, authoritative.

Once we start to understand how our faith developed, then it becomes easier to tell the sacred from the profane. For us today – the canon of scripture is settled. 

Genesis to Revelation. 

I am not qualified nor am I smart enough to say if there is something that should have been added or not – we’s got what we’s got folks. To me, it’s enough for me to learn of Messiah, to understand Torah, and to know how to walk in the Messianic Age. But my studies, as a teacher, have to take me as deep in the culture as I can go, to understand the times and the reasoning of the first century Messianic writers – how else can I rightly divide the word of truth?

With a 21st century mind-set? I don’t think so.

Please digest the following: [Author's note: edits and emphasis mine]

“…The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) consists of a collection of writings dating from approximately the 13th - 3rd centuries BCE. These books were included in the Jewish canon by the Talmudic sages at Yavneh around the end of the first century CE, after the destruction of the Second Temple. However, there are many other Jewish writings from the Second Temple Period which were excluded from the Tanakh; these are known as the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha.

The Apocrypha (Greek, "hidden books") are Jewish books from that period not preserved in the Tanakh, but included in the Latin (Vulgate) and Greek (Septuagint) Old Testaments. The Apocrypha are still regarded as part of the canon of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, and as such, their number is fixed.
The term Pseudepigrapha (Greek, "falsely attributed") was given to Jewish writings of the same period, which were attributed to authors who did not actually write them. This was widespread in Greco-Roman antiquity - in Jewish, Christian, and pagan circles alike. Books were attributed to pagan authors, and names drawn from the repertoire of biblical personalities, such as AdamNoah, Enoch, AbrahamMosesElijahEzekiel, Baruch, and Jeremiah. The Pseudepigrapha resemble the Apocrypha in general character, yet were not included in the Bible, Apocrypha, or rabbinic literature.

All the Apocrypha and most of the Pseudepigrapha are Jewish works (some contain Christianizing additions). They provide essential evidence of Jewish literature and thought during the period between the end of biblical writing (ca. 400 BCE) and the beginning of substantial rabbinic literature in the latter part of the first century CE. They have aroused much scholarly interest, since they provide information about Judaism at the turn of the era between the Bible and the Mishna(Biblical Law and Oral Law), and help explain how Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity came into being…

…During the Renaissance in Europe and in the following centuries, an interest in various Oriental languages developed in Christian circles. First Hebrew, then Arabic, Aramaic, Ethiopic, Syriac and more took their place alongside Greek and Latin in the scholarly purview. At the same time, Christian scholars began to be interested in rabbinic sources (preserved in Hebrew) and Jewish biblical exegesis. This combined interest in language and rabbinics was an important component in the complex development that, by the end of the eighteenth century, provided the basis for "modern" critical biblical scholarship…

…Scholarly interest was renewed after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. In the eleven caves near Qumran north-west of the Dead Sea, parts of more than 700 ancient Jewish manuscripts were discovered. These had been written in the same period as the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, mostly in Hebrew, with a lesser number in Aramaic and even fewer in Greek. The Dead Sea Scrolls, as they came to be known, are assumed to have been the library of a sectarian community at Qumran. The scrolls survived the Roman ravaging of Judea in the years 68-70 CE, because they were hidden in caves. They have been a major focus of scholarly and general interest for the last half-century…

What do these texts teach us about ancient Judaism?...

In addition to the discoveries at Qumran, a substantial number of ancient Pseudepigrapha have been found elsewhere. Some of them were preserved in Greek and Latin; others in translations from Greek and Latin into various Oriental Christian languages - Syriac, Ethiopic, Arabic, Church Slavonic, Armenian and Georgian, among others. The most prominent of these are the Book of Enoch (Ethiopic and Greek); the Book of Jubilees, also preserved in Ethiopic; Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs in Greek; The Apocalypse of Baruch in Syriac; the Book of the Secrets of Enoch in Old Church Slavonic; and the Books of Adam and Eve in Latin, Greek, Slavonic, Armenian and Georgian.
Among this literature are works of varied character. Some are histories: the main source for knowledge of the Maccabean wars are the apocryphal First and Second Books of Maccabees. Other works, called apocalypses, present visions of heavenly and earthly secrets, of God and his angels. The concern with heavenly realities is a very prominent development in the Second Temple Period. In these works central religious questions dominate, above all the issue of the justice of God. Such visions are attributed to Enoch, Ezra, Baruch and Abraham.

A substantial number of works transmit proverbial teaching about religious and practical issues. These numerous wisdom or sapiental books are a continuation of the tradition of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in the Bible. The Wisdom of Ben Sira is a record of the teachings of Ben Sira, the head of an academy in Jerusalem in the early decades of the second century BCE. In addition, the Jews of the Second Temple period composed many psalms and prayers, expressing their love for God, their yearning to be close to Him, and their anguish over the fate of individuals and of Israel.

The manuscripts demonstrate that Jewish thought of this period was orientated between poles: Israel and mankind; the earthly and heavenly world; the righteous and the wicked. The people at that time lived in a consciousness of these dualities and in tension created by them. A certainty of God’s just and merciful providence was challenged by the turbulent and violent events of their times. These books are different from the rabbinic literature; they deal only peripherally with traditions of a legal (halakhic) character, which dominated the next, rabbinic stage of Jewish creativity.

What is their importance?

When these books were first studied, scholars realized that they could help to provide a context for the understanding of the origins of Christianity. No longer was rabbinic Judaism to form the primary basis for comparison with the earliest Christian literature, but rather the Jewish literature of the Second Temple Period, and particularly the Pseudepigrapha, could contribute much insight, making the Jewish origin of Christianity more comprehensible.

The contribution of the study of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha to the understanding of the New Testament should not be underrated. The approach to Jesus that is typified by Schweitzer’s Quest of the Historical Jesus (1964) - using the context of "Jewish apocalyptic" to help understand his activity - would not have been possible without the discovery of the Pseudepigrapha. As a result of these studies, we now have insight into types of Judaism and religious ideas within the Jewish tradition that would otherwise have remained lost.

Here we move closer to answering a central question: why study this literature at all? The general answer is that the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha should be studied because they embody an expression of the human spirit, and the historian is enjoined to study the human past. But, for scholars of the so-called "Judeo-Christian culture", a particular interest is inherent in the investigation of that segment of the past in which Judaism took on the form it still has and in which Christianity emerged. Yet this very agenda, when formulated thus, bears within it potentialities for the perversion of truth and the misconception of reality. The historical enterprise is an interpretative one; there is a great danger inherent in the study of the origins of one’s own tradition. Modern and medieval "orthodoxies" tend to interpret the time before they existed in terms of themselves. It has only been in the last generation of scholarship of Judaism in the Second Temple Period, that the implications of this way of seeing the world have begun to penetrate the fabric of historical thinking and writing.

This is an extremely important development, for it permits the Jewish literature of the Second Temple Period, and the people who produced and cherished these works, to step outside the giant shadows cast by the twin colossi of the Talmud and the New Testament. It then becomes possible to start to delineate what appear to have been central aspects of Judaism in the Second Temple Period. New features of Jewish life and thought become evident and the task of their detailed description and integration into an overall picture can be broached. Only such an endeavor will, in the final analysis, make it possible for us to advance our understanding of the development of rabbinic Judaism and of Christianity. This is a weighty labor but a very important one, and it is the Pseudepigrapha that provide us with evidence of vital aspects of Judaism that would otherwise have remained unknown.

This aspect of the study of the pseudepigraphical literature is in its very infancy. By pursuing it, we are able to trace the influence of ancient Jewish traditions and documents down the centuries. There have been one or two researches that have shown the way (Satran 1980; Stone 2001); other associated investigations have looked at the way Jewish apocryphal traditions were taken up and developed by medieval Judaism and Christianity (Bousset 1896; Stone 1982, Stone 1996). These two avenues of investigation seem likely to produce real results in the direct study of the texts, in the evaluation of their character and function, as well as in the differentiation of Jewish and Christian materials, not always an easy task. From this particular perspective, the study of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha teaches us to understand significant aspects of medieval culture, of Jewish history and of Christian origins…”[14]

So what does this have to do with the sacred and the profane? Let me clear about this one more time. These documents are not things that we should build doctrine from – the Scriptures, the Words of G-d are all we need to formulate our doctrines from – but can’t you see how important it is to know what swayed those that wrote our Messianic Writings? G-d did not form these men in a vacuum; He took them with what they already knew, revised, changed and/or corrected them as necessary, yet the stories and the written and oral histories of their culture and the people they grew up with influenced the way they thought and how they came to the conclusions they did. Inspired by the Ruach Ha’Kodesh? Yes, yes, yes. But their lives also inspired them – their zeal for the Torah and their love of the things of G-d were learned from their childhood, the stories that were more than likely debated as hotly then as they are now were the tales and background that filled their lives. Let’s face a central truth – religion, the worship of Elohim was THE central point of Jewish life.

These writings should not necessarily guide us in our understanding of Machiach either, though it can be said that these writings contained a great deal of exposition upon how the Jews viewed the Messiah. What they do though, is t they help us to flesh out the men and women who were the true fathers and mothers of our faith. We owe it to them to understand them, their culture, their thoughts. We need to see how and what shaped the religion of the Jews, so we can better understand the faith that was passed down to us. Just don’t get bogged down in the minutia and lose sight of the Gospel of the Kingdom of G-d or Machiach; but instead add to your understanding – make the writers real people by enjoying the chicken:
Just eat the meat and spit out the bones.

Oh, and no need to get heart-burn, just enjoy what Abba sets before you;
the journey is long and there are many stops along the way.

…May Yahveh richly bless you and keep you this day, Amein…

[1] Authors note: Use of information from Jewish-themed websites should not be construed as these sites endorsing or confirming any thesis introduced by the author of this epistle. I present the information from their respective sites for instructional purposes only and/or to aid in the readers understanding of the subjects discussed. The inverse is also true – by using these sites in no way confirms or denies that this author holds to all things found on these sites – but brethren, we all can learn from one another, Jew and Gentile; may it be so in shalom and love and respect.
[2]  Author’s note:  Throughout this study I’ll be using the Net® Bible and  the Net® Notes: within the notes you’ll see symbols like this: ( א B Ψ 892* 2427 sys). These are abbreviations used by the NetBible© for identifying the principal manuscript evidence that they (authors and translators of the NetBible©)  used in translating the New Testament. Please go to and see their section labeled “NET Bible Principals of Translation” for a more complete explanation on these symbols and other items pertinent to the way the NET Bible uses them.
[3] Author’s Note: In these studies I have used the notes that come along with the passages I cite from the sources that I cite: these need a bit of a disclaimer though. As in all things, not everything that is footnoted is something that I necessarily agree with, especially if it contradicts what I believe pertains to any matters of the Torah or the commandments of G-d. I give you the notes as they are written by the authors of the material I cite from, so that you can see the information contained within them. It truly is not my place to edit or correct them; if they state anything that is in opposition to what I teach, then so be it. I will address these issues if requested, but for the sake of brevity (as if any of these posts of mine are brief ) I insert them and let them stand as they are. If I don’t agree with them, why do I include them you might ask? I don’t believe in censuring anyone’s opinions or scholarship; as I would not want mine censured, so I will not do to that to another. As Rabbi Hillel once stated, “What is hateful to you, do not do to another. That is the whole Torah. Go and learn it.” Torah leads me to respect others, even if I disagree; it leads me to present both sides of the coin, even if it could mean I’d lose part of the argument. That is not to say I should not challenge something I believe contradicts the truth of G-d’s word; that I will do in the main body of my epistles; that is where my gentle dissent belongs. Most (but not all) of the differences will come when I quote from the NET® Bible (but not exclusively); it has a decidedly Western/Greek mindset to it, but as a wise man once said “How do you eat chicken? Swallow the meat and spit out the bones…” I do though want to present the NET® notes because there is a wealth of information and research contained within them that I hope you find helpful.
[4] One may wonder why I omit the “o” when I write the title “G-d”. While there are many who say that to leave out the “o” is a sign of being under the influence of the Rabbis who forbid saying the name of Yahveh, I say, one must come to a conclusion on their own, and do as their heart convicts them (within the bounds of G-d’s word of course). I believe in the power of the name of the Most High – the name of Yahveh – and in uttering it in awe and reverence, yet find no contradiction in my soul for the hyphenated title “G-d”. I have written it both ways – stopped doing it, and now I have returned to the practice – as I said, one must follow the conviction of their heart. I do not disrespect anyone else’s opinion on this matter, and regardless if you think it wrong or right, I ask for the same respect. Let each be fully persuaded in their own mind and heart – and let G-d sort it out with each believer. For now, this is right for me, till the Father corrects - or confirms; I am after all, a work in progress. Shalom. 
[5] Prov. 3:7
[6] “Word” and “teaching” are used as synonyms.
[7] The Scriptures  – 1998. 2nd Edition. Institute for Scripture Research, 1998.
[8] Cohanim = priests
[9] L’vi’im = Levites
[10] Stern, D. H. (1998). Complete Jewish Bible: an English version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B’rit Hadashah (New Testament) (1st ed., Eze 44:15–16). Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications.
[11] pseudepigraphical: 1. (Bible) various Jewish writings from the first century BC to the first century AD that claim to have been divinely revealed but which have been excluded from the Greek canon of the Old Testament. Also called (in the Roman Catholic Church): Apocrypha 2. (Judaism) various Jewish writings from the first century BC to the first century ad that claim to have been divinely revealed but which have been excluded from the Greek canon of the Old Testament. Also called (in the Roman Catholic Church): Apocrypha [C17: from Greek pseudepigraphos falsely entitled, from pseudo- + epigraphein to inscribe]
Pseudepigraphic, ˌPseudepiˈgraphical, ˌPseudeˈpigraphous adj.  From the Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
[12] The intertestamental period from Malachi (circa 420 BC) to early 1st century AD – to John the Baptist. The “later” takes us out to the third and fourth centuries AD.
[13] Cheyne and Black Encyclopedia Biblica (1899), "Apocalyptic Literature" (column 220) s:Encyclopaedia Biblica/Apocalyptic Literature#II. The Book of Enoch. "The Book of Enoch as translated into Ethiopic belongs to the last two centuries B.C. All the writers of the NT were familiar with it and were more or less influenced by it in thought".
[14] From the article: Jewish Holy Scriptures: The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha by Michael E. Stone. Michael E. Stone is a Professor of Armenian Studies and of Religious Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and an Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of over 40 books and numerous articles in the fields of Armenian Studies and Ancient Judaism.

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