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 https://globaltruthinternational.com/2020/12/16/do-not-despair-waiting-on-the-lord/

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  – https://globaltruthinternational.com/2015/04/02/love-loving-kindness-micah-68/.

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 @ circumcisedheart.info.

[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 – http://www.ars-rhetorica.net/Queen/VolumeSpecialIssue2/Articles/Eriksson.pdf

[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’.

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