Vayechi: We are, at best, co-authors of our lives

This week’s Torah Portion Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26) contains a great message for all of us at this momentous time in history. Yosef (Joseph) states to his brothers who had rejected and betrayed him, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”

The situation that led Yosef to be in such an exalted position and able to save his family from a disastrous famine could not have been seen by anyone. The Almighty was working through it all despite appearances to the contrary such as the very long two years that Yosef spent in jail after accurately foretelling the dreams of the chief baker and chief cup bearer:  “Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house.  – see my article

Yosef came to see the work of Divine Providence in all of this as he declared to his brothers “It was not you who sent me here, but God.”. It appears that Yosef understood the powerful hand of Yehovah in everyone’s lives and that therefore there is a sense in which we are no more than co-authors of our lives.

If we can grasp such a perspective it should engender in us a much greater trust in God. It should help us to survive events that can bring despair and even resentment, and help us maintain the energy and enthusiasm to continue to walk faithfully before Yehovah as we also continue to act justly and love grace  –

I also think that reflecting on the dramatic turn of events that occurred in the life of Yosef from his childhood to becoming second in authority to the Pharoah of Egypt should also open our minds and hearts to re-evaluating what we think we know and have been taught.

One example that has come back into my purview is the analogy of the wineskins. When, as an adult I come dramatically face to face with the reality of life of Yeshua ben Yosef and its incredible implications for the future of mankind, I was fairly naturally I think, indoctrinated into many common Hellenistic Christian misconceptions. The concept of Christianity being the new (and better) ‘wineskin’ and Christians being the better ‘wine’ was very much one of them.

So to study and learn that Yeshua stated that it is the old wine, not the new wine in new wineskins that is better was a dramatic discovery and new perspective!

I have written on this in a number of articles and books – please see below for a short excerpt.

I mainly want to emphasis here though that we really need to first TRUST God and secondly, as we act with trust or faithfulness towards Him, we need to always be open to new perspectives that if nothing else, can help strengthen that trust and deepen our faith as it deepens and solidifies our knowledge of Yehovah and his Messiah ben Yosef, Yeshua.

And also then, as we look at the dramatic and worldwide events that have made 2020 a year like no other in recent memory, we should try to trust Yehovah and know that He is at work through all this and He will find a Way where there seems to be no way. We need to hold onto to Him as we continue to stand for truth and justice and against the increasing tyranny of most of those in leadership over us.

“I am doing something new; it’s springing up — can’t you see it?
I am making a road in the desert, rivers in the wasteland.
” = Isaiah 43:19

The New Wine (an excerpt from ‘Doctrinal Pitfalls of Hellenism’):

The long history of Replacement Theology in the church and the almost unthinking acceptance of its veracity has lead many to uncritically accept arguments that assume such veracity even if the person presenting the argument might otherwise explicitly reject many of the implications of Replacement Theology. Here is a very good example of this. I had been debating an article published by the Christian scholar, David Maas. As part of the exchange of viewpoints he wrote an email, which included this quote:

“Jesus warned against pouring new wine into old wine-skins.  Attempts to domesticate the Christ of scripture by pouring the new wine of the Spirit into the old wine-skins of Second Temple Judaism are doomed to fail.  If they do not burst the old skins the sweet wine of the Spirit will be turned into the vinegar of the death-dealing letter of the Law (2 Corinthians 3:6).” – David Maas, (from email correspondence on Oct 15, 2011).

I was of course familiar with the ‘wineskins’ analogy that Yeshua had used, but here for the first time I critically examined the common consensus that I had shared, perhaps only because it had been used to reach a conclusion I rejected. Here is part of my response at the time:

When I read this statement, it struck me very forcefully, how emphatically this ‘wineskins’ statement of Yeshua was been used to support a very strong doctrine of ‘Replacement’. That is, that the church has replaced Israel in God’s affections and plans.

David Maas is very clear here in equating the Jewish religion of Yeshua’s day (what he terms ‘Second Temple Judaism’) that adhered to the Hebrew Scriptures (The Tanakh), with the ‘old wineskin’, and Christianity as the ‘sweet (new) wine of the Spirit’. Here he also very clearly equates this so-called ‘Old Covenant’ (Second Temple Judaism) with the ‘letter of the Law’ and the so-called ‘New Covenant’ of Christianity with the ‘Spirit of the Law’.

This ‘Replacement Theology’ whether intention or not (surely most ‘Christians’ who support it are not intentionally anti-Israel and against the Jewishness of Yeshua), has resulted in a great deal of anti-Semitism which has ultimately led to great persecutions and pogroms against the Jewish people.

In fact, it could be argued that the miss-understanding of this parable has been instrumental in much evil (‘bad fruit’) against the Jewish people and helps explain why when Jewish lovers of the Almighty look at the ‘fruit of the tree’ of Christianity, they do not see ‘good fruit’ but bad, and consequently reject the messenger because of the falsehood of the message. In this vein you may wish to revisit Matthew 7:16-20, Luke 13:6-9 and then John 15:2-16.

In seeking commentary where this parable was first used to argue that the church had replaced Israel and Judaism, I found that it appears to have been first proposed by the seriously anti-Semitic Marcion (85 – 160 CE) in his ultimately successful efforts to separate Christianity from Judaism.

So, thanks to Mr. Maas comment, which I found very disturbing, I was interested in returning to and reconsidering this parable.

Thanks to the incredible work of the late David Flusser (Hebrew University, Jerusalem) and the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, I now understood that the Gospel of Luke was most likely written before the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, and these well before John’s gospel.

Therefore it seemed sensible to start in Luke (Luke 5:36-39):

“He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But the new wine must be out into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desire new wine, but says ‘The old is good’.” (Some manuscripts, such as the KJV have ‘The old is better’) – The Jewish Annotated New Testament

I had read and listened to this scripture a great many times and even heard preachers speak on it but I had amazingly missed the last sentence where Yeshua said the old wine is better! You may need to do a double take yourself here. Yeshua states that it is the old wine, not the new wine in new wineskins that is better!

It is also perhaps worth noting some different ways verse 39 is translated into English:
“ … And no one who has ever tasted fine aged wine prefers unaged wine.” – The Message

“Of course, nobody who has been drinking old wine will want the new at once. He is sure to say, ‘The old is a good sound wine.’” – JB Philips

“And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’” – NASB

I am not sure though that these translations bring anything new or more helpful to the simple comment that the ‘old wine is better’.

When we turn to the two references to this same parable in Mark (2:22) and in Matthew (9:17) we find this last sentence missing. Without this concluding sentence it is much easier to interpret this parable as Marcion and David Maas have. Perhaps this part of the parable was excluded from the Gospels of Matthew and Mark deliberately by copyists or translators, for this very reason.

It should not take much reflection then, to see that this parable can in no way be suggesting that the ‘sweet (new) wine’ of Christianity is somehow superior to the old wine of Judaism. If these were the two concepts and approaches being compared, it would mean that Yeshua was saying that Judaism was better!

So now, we need I think to ask, is this what the parable is suggesting or is it something a little more subtle?

The late Dr Robert L Lindsey (a Baptist Pastor and student of Prof. Flusser) argues most convincingly in his book ‘Jesus, Rabbi and Lord’ (see Chapter 19) that all throughout the Gospel of Luke the structure of each narrative is three fold:

1) An incident in Yeshua’s life is related;

2) this is followed by a teaching discourse by Yeshua; and

3) which then concludes with 2 parables.

Consider how this ‘wineskins’ parable fits with this approach. We see in Luke 5:27, that the tax collector (Matthew Levi the possible author of the Gospel of Matthew or at least the original Hebrew ‘History of Yeshua’) has prepared a great feast for Yeshua. A number of the Pharisees and scribes question Yeshua about spending time with these ‘sinners’ (the tax collectors had chosen their unrighteous occupation which meant they had chosen to separate themselves from community welfare and fellowship with their ‘healthy’ or righteous brethren).

Yeshua then makes the classic statement, or teaching, that the healthy do not need a doctor. He was saying here, as he had elsewhere, they he had come to call the unrighteous, the ‘lost sheep of Israel’ back to the Covenantal relationship that the family of Israel had with their Father, the Almighty.

It is in this context that he gives the two parables; the parable about sewing a piece of new clothe onto an old garment and the wineskins parable. In this context, I would argue that the ‘old wine is better’ refers to those of Israel who have been, and remain in, communion with the God of Israel. That is the healthy sheep of Israel that are not lost (the mainstream Jewish ‘man in the street’ represented in the religious context by the Pharisees – Yeshua himself being essentially a Pharisee[1].

They are ‘better’ or ‘good enough’ because they have a developed intimacy with the Almighty, which the Jewish tax collectors and other sinners, through no longer walking right with God (‘halacha’), have turned their backs on.

In calling these ‘sinners’ back to the Father, Yeshua sees them as like new wine needing a different treatment and approach (new wineskin), which he offers.

The same can surely be said when many years later, Gentiles would be accepted into the Kingdom of God, the movement of Yeshua. They would also need a ‘new’ or different approach, as they would not have grown up with the ‘oracles of God’, with anything like the knowledge of the Tanakh and mitzvot (commandments) that the Jewish people have from birth.

This ‘new wineskin’ essentially encompasses the Ten Commandments plus the four Noahide Laws as detailed in Acts 15. I have dealt in a little detail with the edicts of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) in my article ‘Circumcision – A Step of Obedience?’.

This parable[2] has nothing to do with a comparison between living under the ‘letter of Torah (Law)’ or the ‘Spirit of Torah’[3].

So, the conclusion presented by David Maas, with its strong ‘Replacement Theology’ pre-suppositions, was based on a faulty reading of this analogy or parable. Once again we see that this (Hellenistic) doctrine is invalidated on closer inspection of the relevant Scriptures.

[1] See ‘Jesus’ by Flusser, or the discussion of this point in my ‘The Times of Yeshua’ article @

[2] For a much more in-depth look at the ‘wineskins’ parable I highly recommend ‘The Old is Better: Parables of Patched Garment and Wineskins as Elaboration of a Chreia in Luke 5:33-39 about Feasting with Jesus.’ By Anders Eriksson –

[3] I have dealt with this issue elsewhere. See for example, ‘Siblings of the King: Living in the Will of the Father’The well-known scholar James DG Dunn also discusses these very commonly misunderstood phrases in ‘The Theology of Paul the Apostle’.

Yehovah Yoshiah

I listened to an interesting talk by Michael Rood with Nehemia Gordon recently where they discussed an interesting verse in George Howard’s (the late Professor of Religion at the University of Georgia) ‘Hebrew Gospel of Matthew’.

The verse in question is Matt 28:9 where the women, who have gone to the tomb of Yeshua after the crucifixion and burial, met Yeshua and he greets them.Most manuscripts have something like: “But Jesus met them, saying, “Greetings!” They came to him, held on to his feet and worshiped him.”.

Obviously, he didn’t use the actual English word we use today of ‘greetings’ and many translations have something like ‘All hail’ (according to Nehemia) which would be very Greek.

The CJB has ‘Shalom …’ which would certainly be more likely.But this Hebrew version of Howard’s is very different.

This version is based on the Shem Tov’s ‘Evan Bohan’ of the 14th century and which Howard and Gordon, et al, are convinced is not based on any Greek or Latin versions that pre-date it but some earlier Hebrew version(s). There are now at least 28 distinct Hebrew versions that have been discovered in recent years.

I argue in my book ‘The New Testament: The Hebrew Behind the Greek’ that this gospel was in fact originally written in Hebrew as well. See:…/dp/B009XO0NQU/

Here in the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew we read:
‘As they were going Yeshua passed before them saying: May the Name deliver you. They came near to him, bowed down to him, and worshipped him.’ (this is Howard’s English translation).

Howard’s and Shem Tov’s Hebrew has השם (HaShem) which means ‘The Name’.

By around the 6th century Jewish scholars and Rabbi’s were no longer quoting and speaking the tetragrammaton (i.e. Yehovah) out of reverence for it and great fear of mis-using it and had replaced it typically with either Adonai or HaShem.

So, we can be fairly sure (as there is no evidence of this practice in the first century CE) that the original version has the tetragrammaton (that is Yehovah).

Thus it appears Yeshua’s first two words after his resurrection were ‘Yehovah Yosiah’ (that is, God saves or God will save or deliver you).

Think about it, the first man to be so faithful and obedient to the Almighty to the very point of giving his life comes back to life to proclaim ‘God does indeed save you’!

Follow Yeshua in trusting and being obedient to the Almighty (i.e. be one of his brothers or sisters – those who do the will of the Father – Mark 3:35) and you to will be resurrected!

Makes sense to me and it is such a powerful statement in such a context!!

Do Not Despair – Waiting On The Lord

“After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, …” Gen 41:1

Genesis 40:9-23:
“9 So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 
1and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. 
11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.” 
12 Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 
13 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 
14 Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. 15 For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”…
20 On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 
21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 
22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 
23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
Gen 41:1 “After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, …”

Last week’s Torah Portion is in my opinion one of the most significant as it carries so many foundation messages of hope, especially in terms of the coming of Messiah and the redemption of humanity and restoration of the world. I touched on it here:

And this week’s Torah Portion, Mikeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17) brings that hope to fruition while carrying a subtle, but very powerful message, bringing comfort in a time of potential despair.

It starts with the phrase After (or at the end of) two whole years, …’.

Yosef/Joseph, is one of the best examples of a ‘type of Messiah’, that is a person whose life and example bears great similarity to the picture that the Bible paints of the eschatological Messiah or Messiahs (Messiah ben Yosef and Messiah ben David).

In these few words we see great import. Yosef had unjustly suffered and was ‘stuck’ in jail praying and hoping for release. His interpretations of the dreams of the chief baker and chief cup bearer had offered a way out – Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house.”

Yet we see here that he had to wait two whole years!

Two whole years in jail, two years of possible despair, of wondering if Yehovah had heard his prayers and when He might answer them. Two whole years in jail, in suffering – plenty long enough to have given up, to despair of ever finding justice and being shown mercy.

Think of you own life – when have you had to wait for something you thought you needed NOW, some prayer that the Almighty would surely answer swiftly and bless you with His response. Yet you were left waiting, and perhaps are even still waiting and perhaps despairing as the pain or suffering is relentless and often seems overbearing and way beyond what you can possibly cope with?

Yosef, our great Messianic figure waited two whole years. Two whole years for one man may equate to two thousand years for all men.

As a primary school child I lived in the days before television. We went to the movie theatre in town most Saturday afternoons for the 2 pm movie. Before the main movie we would watch the next episode in some series. I most remember the Flash Gordon series (this was in the mid 60’s). The episode would almost always end with some high drama and seemingly impossible predicament for Flash Gordon, or the helpless victim that he was trying to save. With great anticipation we would wait all week to see how he would extricate himself or save the poor innocent victim. Though we had no reason to despair, we were at least learning of the need for patience and trust that it would all work out ok in the end.

Similarly, in the days before books and the printed Bible were common-place, the Jewish people would go to the synagogue or Temple every Shabbat and hear the reading of the Torah Portion (this practice dates back to before the time of Yeshua, so it is over 2,000 years old). Imagine some person or child hearing the Torah Portion for the first time. They heard how Yosef had interpreted the dreams and asked to be remembered to the Pharaoh so he might get out of the hell-hole that was jail. But the reading of the Torah Portion ended before they heard the end of the story and if indeed he was saved from jail, shown justice and mercy, and restored to his rightful place.

So this person or child now waits a whole week to hear the great news of Yosef’s ‘escape’ from jail and restoration. And when their week of wondering and excited anticipation is over, they like my childhood movie experience, learn of how Yosef is finally blessed by Yehovah and restored with great honour. But they may also hear the full import and meaning of ‘after two whole years’ – that is, that patience and trust is needed.

It is not in our time, but in God’s time. We need to do our part, but then when circumstances don’t seem to be working out how we think they should, we need to have faith in HaShem, we need to trust that He will act in His time and with His power to make right the wrongs; to ease the pain; to dispense justice and bring restoration and redemption.

Right now, you may feel you are in this place – somewhere in your ‘two whole years’ of waiting and possibly even despairing. This may be at a personal level, or a community or national level. You may see no way forward at this time.

Or it may be that you are looking at the world-wide or universal level in looking for the Great Day of the Coming of Messiah.

Either way, don’t lose hope, take solace from this biblical narrative of Yosef as you seek to see freedom from pain, or you seek justice or even more, to see Messiah ben Yosef. Look up, for your redemption draws near!