Some Similarities Between the Qumran Manuscripts (DSS) and the New Testament

There are many similarities between the Qumran scrolls and the NT. I detail just a few below.

Firstly though, what are the Qumran manuscripts (also known as the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ – DSS) which date from around 250 BCE up to possibly as late as 50 CE and were discovered between 1947 and 1956?

When speaking of the DSS we are not just talking about the Qumran caves (probably Essenes) but most critically also the Wadi Murabba’at; the Nabal Hever and the Nabal Se’elim finds.

Also critical are the finds from the Wadi ed-Daliyeh, north of Jericho (1962) and from Masada (63-64). The DSS have given scholars an enormous amount of information about the early transmission of biblical books; about the fixation of the Text (canon) and about the procedures for how the canon of the Tanakh came into being.

Prior to these finds there had been little detailed information about how the Rabbinical Recession (Masoretic Text – MT) as used in Jerome’s day had come into being.

What has emerged is that there are really three distinct major groups of texts. Using Cross’s[1] naming these are the ‘Palestinian’ group (mostly from the Essenes/Qumran), the Egyptian group (LXX, Greek versions of Samuel; Kings, a short Hebrew version of Jeremiah, etc) and the ‘Babylonian’ group.

It is the Babylonian group that appears to have been the work of Hillel and his son and disciples. This text group canonized the Tanakh some time between the 2 revolts of 70 and 135 CE and it is from this group that the Rabbinic Recession has derived.

This group is very conservative, ‘pristine’ and shows little scribal editing, revision or modernizing. Most of the documents come from the southern caves and at Masada. This is where the authorative  Pharisaic text (the proto-Masoretic text type) came from; the text that Yeshua would have used as he was in all likelihood a Pharisee or very sympathetic to their Biblical understanding (again, see Flusser for extensive evidence of this).

‘In fact, most of the biblical manuscripts at Qumran indicate that the proto-Masoretic text type in fact predominated. … It is likely that this text type was the most common because it was the most ancient.[2]

The Essenes (Qumran) with their clear Hellenistic influences (discussed in my book referenced below) have provided a lot of helpful texts and information, and the variants such as the Isaiah variants, are generally attributable to their work.

When all these finds are put together they provide great evidence for the authority of the MT of the Tanakh.

Prof. Gary Rendsburg of Rutgers University is a leading expert on the Qumran Scrolls and states that:
“Of the 930 assorted documents from Qumran, 790, or about 85% of them are written in Hebrew (120 or about 13% are written in Aramaic, and 20 or about 2% are written in Greek). Of these 930, about 230 are biblical manuscripts, naturally are in Hebrew, so in actuality the percentage of Hebrew texts is 80%.

On the other hand, our Hebrew texts are the longest ones, such as the Temple Scroll, the Community Rule, the War Scroll, and the Hodayot—with only the Genesis Apocryphon as a lengthy Aramaic scroll.

This might, of course, be the accident of preservation—that is to say, the Aramaic documents are much more fragmentary than the Hebrew ones—but in general we may state that the language of choice for the Qumran community was Hebrew and that the percentage of Hebrew material among the Dead Sea Scrolls is actually higher than the aforementioned 80%, perhaps even approaching 90%.”[3]

The best represented of the biblical books among the Qumran manuscripts are Psalms, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah (with 34, 27, and 24 copies, respectively).Intriguingly these are also the most cited books from the Tanakh in the New Testament as well.

The Qumran sectarians viewed the Temple Scroll as a book of revealed scripture, which means that they saw revelation continuing in their day; the same holds in the New Testament, where revelation is seen as an ongoing process.

In Matthew 3 we read of Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist), speaking very critically towards some Pharisees and Sadducees that came to get a mikvah (a ritual immersion or baptism). His strict attitude and approach is very reminiscent of the Qumran Yachad’s (communities) writings.

While the vast majority of the DSS scrolls come from a period a century earlier than Yochanan the Immerser, Pliny wrote that the Essene community (assuming the Qumran Yachad were the Essenes) was still resident in the area (if not Qumran specifically) well into the 1st century C.E.

So again we see some NT links with Qumran.
“In 2007, a new inscription—not on parchment and not in a cave, but rather on a slab of stone—was made public. It is called the Vision of Gabriel, though the term Dead Sea Stone also has been used, and it dates to the 1st century B.C.E.

While the details of its discovery are not known, apparently it was discovered around the year 2000, found its way to a Jordanian antiquities dealer, and was sold to a private collector. The collector was unaware of the significance of the object until a visitor to his collection read the inscribed words, at least as best as possible.  The text is ink on stone, a rare medium, since usually one incises letters into the stone. The ink is very faded, so it is hard to read the entire inscription. The stone stands about one meter high, and the inscription comprises 87 lines in Hebrew.

The best paleographer of Hebrew in the world, Ada Yardeni, has authenticated the inscription. The text is known as the Vision of Gabriel because the angel Gabriel conveys an apocalyptic vision, or perhaps better a series of visions. The sense we get from the text is that an enemy nearly destroyed the “sons of the holy,” but now their leader, the “prince of princes,” will arise and overcome the adversary.

Much of this, of course, sounds like phraseology known from the New Testament.
In short, wherever one turns, one finds connections between the scrolls (and now the Dead Sea Stone) and the books of the New Testament. The Qumran sect and the Jesus movement were parallel streams, each with its own apocalyptic vision, against the backdrop of the Roman Empire and the panoply of Judaisms under the umbrella of common Judaism. The one group had little or no continuity, while the other group spawned the largest religious movement in the history of the world.”[4]

This information about the ‘Vision of Gabriel’ again illustrates the commonality in understanding between the Qumran Yachad who primarily used Hebrew in their writings, and the NT authors. While again only circumstantial, it is still strong evidence that the Hebraic Jewish authors of the NT would have also predominately preferred Hebrew in their writings.

As an interesting aside, Rendsburg also notes with regard to the Qumran Yachad that:
“… The common theme here appears to be the end of days (Hebrew ’aharit ha-yamim), since we get references to the Temple that is to be built in the end of days, the end of the dominion of Belial, a figure known as the Shoot of David, and so forth.
The one passage to highlight is proof that the Yahad served as the replacement or surrogate for the Temple. The humans who comprise the community are called in
themselves a miqdaš, a holy place, a sanctuary, a temple.”

Where else have we heard that designation? Perhaps in Matthew 26:61, 27:40; Mark 14:58, 15:29; John 2:19, and especially John 2:20 where we learn that Yeshua was speaking about the ‘temple of his body’ and especially in 1 Cor 3:16 where we read: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”

So again we see great parallel’s in their Biblical understanding which would surely extend to a common appreciation of the primacy of the Hebrew tongue.

Christianity in the development of its Hellenistic perspective, has followed its own course, but its indebtedness to Judaism of the first century CE (or proto-Judaism as Flusser preferred), specifically of the Qumran type, is being acknowledged more and more as the DSS are studied and reported on.

We can also see this indebtedness and commonality in the Apostle Paul’s approach to the use of the Minor Prophets like Habakkuk.

Hab 2:2 describes how God told Habakkuk, “Write down the vision and make it plain upon the tablets.”

For the writer of the Qumran ‘Pesher Habakkuk’, this prophecy of Habakkuk speaks to his present day: And God told Habakkuk to write down that which would happen to the final generation, but He did not make known to him when time would come to an end” – 1QpHab 7:1–3.

The Qumran author clearly saw an eschatological (end-times) message in Habukkuk, yet such a prophetic message is not at all clear in the original context.

Hab 2:2 continues with the phrase … that he who reads it may read speedily,” which for the Qumran ‘Pesher’ author “… concerns the Teacher of Righteousness, to whom God made known all the mysteries of the words of His servants the Prophets” – 1QpHab 7:4–5.

And then Habukkuk 2:4 states,But the righteous shall live by his faith,”. We would normally conclude, as I have certainly argued before, that the righteous person shall prosper by his own faith or trust in God.

Yet the Qumran author of Pesher Habakkuk sees this faith as directed to and through the Righteous Teacher [5]:  This concerns all those who observe the Torah in the House of Judah, whom God will deliver from the House of Judgment, because of their suffering and because of their faith in the Teacher of Righteousness.” – 1QpHab 8:1–2

But this same passage of Habakkuk is quoted three times in the New Testament in  Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:37–38 (possibly also authored by the Apostle Paul).

The Apostle Paul, just like the Qumran author before him, sees this passage as referring to the Age to Come (the Olam Ha Bah or the Kingdom of God), and in the Apostle Paul’s case to Yeshua as well.

Without going into the numerous examples, this interpretative method of applying certain passages from the Tanakh to present realities, as per Pesher Habukkuk, is also quite common in the NT from Matthew to the Apostle Paul’s epistles, and to my understanding further supports the common and shared Hebraic mindset that would have included the use of the Hebrew language.

The above is an excerpt from ‘The New Testament: the Hebrew Behind the Greek’https://www.amazon.com.au/New-Testament-Language-Mindset-Hellenistic-ebook/dp/B009XO0NQU/

dss5

 

[1] An excellent introduction to the DSS’s is Frank Moore Cross’s ‘The Text behind the Text of the Hebrew Bible’ as well as ‘Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls’ edited by Hershel Shanks. Also see The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English’ (2004) and translated by Geza Vermes

[2] ‘Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls’ – Shanks p48

[3] http://jewishstudies.rutgers.edu/docman/rendsburg/396-qumran-hebrew-studies-on-the-texts-of-the-desert-of-judah/file

[4] ‘The Book of Genesis’ by Prof. Gary Rendsburg

[5] For a great article on how faith in a ‘Righteous Teacher’ or ‘Completed Tzaddik’ can help bring atonement please see ‘Vicarious Atonement: Origins and correct understanding’ – http://torahofmessiah.org/atonement-through-a-tzaddik.html

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The Betrayal of the Jewishness of Jesus

isaiah signatureI would like to suggest what the core elements are to this betrayal are, and some pointers to how this developed historically, and then finally to how we may be able to come ‘back from the brink’ that such betrayal may well lead to.

I suspect that many, if not most who are actually guilty of this betrayal have absolutely no idea that this is the reality, but rather imagine something almost the antithesis of such a statement.

My first and foremost witness alongside our recently improved knowledge of the historical background to this development is the late, great Professor Flusser.

Flusser[1] is in my view undoubtedly the greatest scholar on the life of times of ‘Jesus’ there has been at least in recent times if not for the last 1800+ years.

But Flusser was even more than that because  he approached those who have betrayed ‘Jesus’ with such compassion and sensitively which included referring to this Jewish man whose name was actually Yeshua by this Greek invention of a name ‘Jesus’[2].

And it is in fact Flusser himself who has made this very argument so powerfully and with such solid conviction from a very deep and broad appreciation of the relevant facts.

Flusser (who was an orthodox Jew, just like Yeshua and Rav Sha’ul – the Apostle Paul[3]) has stated that: … I know that it is not so easy for Gentiles to accept the thorough Jewishness of Jesus. Because then it would mean that they had received a foreign god and not their own ancient pagan gods. So they have to assimilate Jesus to the Greek gods.”

Again, most reading this who may be part of this betrayal may still not see how Flusser could possibly be speaking to and about them, but please bear with me as the deception is so strong and so deep, with a very extensive and sad history.

But another quote from Flusser should begin to make  the connection and inference clear. Flusser stated: As far as you depart from the Hebrew background of the Gospels as far as you go farther from the Jewish origin of the Gospel and of the Jewishness of Jesus by this I would even say you betray Jesus himself.”[4]

flusser

So what has caused this departure from the Hebrew background of the Gospels, and the Jewishness of Yeshua?

To set the scene we need to reflect on what we now know regarding Israel in the time of Yeshua. Our understanding of Israel 2000 years ago has been dramatically altered over the last 50-70 years as a result of the findings of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other related recently discovered ancient scrolls such as those in the Cairo Genizah.

It is now very well established that the ‘lingua franca’ of Israel in the early 1st century was Hebrew, not Aramaic, not Latin and certainly not Greek

As Flusser states as well: “It is very improbable … that he (Yeshua) has spoken Greek. … He knew both languages of the Land: both Aramaic and Hebrew. But when he taught, he taught clearly only in Hebrew.

For instance, the saying ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ doesn’t exist in Aramaic. All the parables in the rabbinic literature are in Hebrew…. And my experience is that it is impossible to translate some of the words of Jesus into Aramaic.”

So what is the new evidence that has lead to such a strong conviction amongst the experts on this matter that Hebrew was the primary language of Yeshua and all his early disciples.

A century ago this was not the accepted wisdom.

The revelations from the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls were most convincing and dramatic. Because of their influence, the highly respected The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, which in its first edition, in 1958, had stated that “Hebrew had ceased to be a spoken language around the fourth century B.C.”, revised this statement in its third edition (1997) to instead state: Hebrew continued to be used as a spoken and written language…in the New Testament period.”

Prof. Gary Rendsburg of Rutgers University is a leading expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls (also known as the Qumran Scrolls and dated from around 250 BCE up to 50 CE) states that: Of the 930 assorted documents from Qumran, 790, or about 85% of them are written in Hebrew (120 or about 13% are written in Aramaic, and 20 or about 2% are written in Greek). Of these 930, about 230 are biblical manuscripts, naturally are in Hebrew, so in actuality the percentage of Hebrew texts is 80%.

On the other hand, our Hebrew texts are the longest ones, such as the Temple Scroll, the Community Rule, the War Scroll, and the Hodayot—with only the Genesis Apocryphon as a lengthy Aramaic scroll.

This might, of course, be the accident of preservation—that is to say, the Aramaic documents are much more fragmentary than the Hebrew ones—but in general we may state that the language of choice for the Qumran community was Hebrew and that the percentage of Hebrew material among the Dead Sea Scrolls is actually higher than the aforementioned 80%, perhaps even approaching 90%.”[5]

But there is much, much more.

The Tosefta preserves a tradition that the famous sage Rabban Gamaliel I (1st Century C.E. and the teacher of Rav Sha’ul, the Apostle Paul) once banned (from use in the Temple) a translation of Job into Aramaic (Tosefta Shabbat 14:2[6]).

But why? Why would he speak so derisively of this translation?

Apparently in the synagogues when the Tanakh was being read and spoken out loud to the assembly, the Hebrew text was sometimes translated into Aramaic ‘on the fly’ and spoken in Aramaic. As Aramaic grew in popularity and as a common language, especially in some areas of Israel like the Galilee, and also in the Diaspora, this become a well-known practice.

I don’t know if Gamaliel objected to this at all, but apparently the written Targum versions, while being highly accurate with 80-90% of the Hebrew text’s linguistic information – morphological, syntactical and semantic’[7], they also contained a lot of midrashic or ‘paraphrastic’ commentary (i.e they were an ‘amplified’ version, or paraphrase like ‘The Message’ is a paraphrase of the NT).

If so, it is understandable that this senior and very revered Rabbi might object to such versions being used in the synagogues at least, even if they were popular as it appears, with the general population.

The book, ‘Targum and Scripture: Studies in Aramaic Translations and Interpretation in memory of Ernest George Clarke’[8], edited by Paul V M Flesher, also makes the very significant point, that “The Palestinian Talmud [more commonly known as the Jerusalem Talmud] even contains a passage that forbids the use of written translations in the synagogue (Y Meg. 4:1, 28a or 74d).” (p 62).

And “Third, Willem Smelik has recently shown that in the early rabbinic period, the Palestinian rabbis did not like translations into Aramaic. Their remarks in Palestinian rabbinic texts repeatedly indicate that the rabbis reject the targums (Aramaic translations) usefulness and validity.”

And for how long did this primacy of Hebrew last? It would appear at least until 130-135 CE and the time of the Bar Kochba revolt. The esteemed LXX scholar Emanuel Tov also argues that Hebrew remained the language of the Rabbi’s through to at least 135 CE:

“Since the only text quoted by in the Rabbinic literature and used for the base for the Targumim and Vulgate is the MT [Masoretic Text – written in Hebrew], it stands to reason that it was the text embraced by the Rabbis. Furthermore, all the texts used by the religious zealots of Masada and the freedom fighters of Bar Kochba found in all other sites in the Judean Desert except for Qumran are identical with the medieval MT.” [9]

The evidence is now very strong that Hebrew continued to be used for Bible commentary and liturgical texts to military communications and legal documents through the time of Yeshua and even for centuries afterward. Judean coins from the period of the Great Revolt (70 CE) and of the Bar-Kochva Revolt (135 CE) also bear Hebrew inscriptions.

I give much more detail on these recent findings in my book The New Testament: The Hebrew Behind The Greek’ https://www.amazon.com.au/New-Testament-Language-Mindset-Hellenistic-ebook/dp/B009XO0NQU/

One of the realities that also comes out of our greater knowledge of these times is that even if Yeshua actually used Aramaic when he was teaching, it was evidently at the same moment translated into Hebrew, because from this time we have virtually no sayings or teachings from Israel recorded in Aramaic.

So what does all this really mean?

It means the original writings of the Good News of the Kingdom of God that were recorded as a result of the life, death and resurrection of Yeshua were written in Hebrew, to a Hebrew audience with a Hebrew and therefore Torah-centric mindset.

The evidence is also very well documented now that there were virtually no Gentile converts to the faith of Yeshua until at the very earliest around 45 CE (with Cornelius the Centurion). Therefore, the earliest versions of the Gospel were all in Hebrew with the Greek version of Matthew for example most likely not written until after 70 CE.

Flusser make this point quite forcefully in his argument that that the Greek Matthew was written after 70 CE by a Gentile/Greek person who did not have the best understanding of Jewish practices.

Amongst the evidence he cites is the use of the Greek word ‘phylacteries’ meaning ‘protective devices’ in Matt 23:5 which clearly indicates that the editor in translating the Hebrew ‘tefillin’ did not really understand what these tiny scrolls really were![10]

So what does this mean and what has happened since to bring about this betrayal of Yeshua?

Simply Gentiles somehow managed to remove all (or perhaps ironically ‘bury under the rubble’ as per Rabbi Gamaliel) the original Hebrew recordings of the Gospel of Yeshua and then used poor Greek translations to slowly and subtly, but very significantly alter the core message and introduce a great many falsehoods into the original faith of the followers of Yeshua.

It would be much more accurate to label this faith as ‘Yeshua Judaism’[11] (as opposed to the modern faith of Israel which is more accurately labelled ‘Akiva Judasim’ as it essentially follows the dictates of Rabbi Akiva).

It is past time to try to return to this faith.

This in part requires both a recognition of what these falsehoods are[12], but also to replace the Greek and Hellenistic mindset that mainstream Christianity has adopted with the Hebraic Mindset and Torah-centric value system that Yeshua and all his early disciples and followers had.

Part of the approach is to reject that argument from one of the founders of the Protestant movement in Martin Luther that the Epistle of James is an ‘epistle of straw’[13] and instead to revaluate the centrality and true meaning of the message in this great letter of Ya’acov (James) the brother of Yeshua.

For example, among many things Ya’acov speaks out against:

  • a superficial hearing of God’s Word;
  • pious speech but little practice of the same i.e. hypocritical behaviour;
  • the error of being dogmatic about Scriptural teaching, yet not fully understanding proper practice.[14]

But most crucially, Ya’acov calls for an obedience to Torah, and this means living righteously:

“22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;
23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness—and he was called a friend of God.
24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
– Ya’acov 2:22-24 (ESV)

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him demonstrate it by his good way of life, by actions done in the humility that grows out of wisdom.” – Ya’acov 3:13

I think that one of the biggest challenges to mainstream Christianity recognizing how much it has betrayed Yeshua and bringing about such a huge change in his focus and message, is for the academics and preachers within Christendom to look outside of their very narrow ‘echo-chamber’ and look to scholars like those at the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research for guidance in the much needed re-evaluation of their reliance on Greek as the text through which to translate and understand the Gospel message.

And there are a great many Jewish scholars who are more than willing to help with this re-alignment and re-evaluation, such as Prof. Mark Nanos (perhaps the leading scholar on the Apostle Paul alive today), Prof. Pamela Eisenbaum of ‘Paul was NOT a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle’); Prof. Adele Reinhartz of ‘Befriending The Beloved Disciple: A Jewish Reading of the Gospel of John’ and Prof. Amy-Jill Levine of ‘The Historical Jesus in Context’ with Dale C. Allison & John Dominic Crossan’, to name just a few.

Also, the New Testament texts need to be restored to the underlying Jewishness and Torah-centric message that they originally conveyed. Such a vital and challenging task is also being undertaken by the Jewish translator Uriel Ben Mordechai[15] who has already translated three of the NT letters, namely Hebrews, Galatians and Romans and is currently working on the Gospel of Yochanan (John).

Sadly, I am not optimistic that this transformation will occur.

The academics and preachers within Christendom (the use of ‘Christ’ instead of Messiah or Mashiach is so indicative of the significance of the problem) have such a huge vested interest in maintaining the status quo and at the same time have, for the most part, huge blinkers on that appear to prevent them from even considering the thesis of the article and instead reacting to it by either totally ignoring it, or trying through many methods such as the logical fallacies of ‘appeal to authority’ and ‘genetic fallacy’ to delegitimize this whole argument.

So to try to overcome these vested interests and centuries of inherited bias perhaps we need to ask, how much do you really want to know and follow Yeshua?

How much do you really want to know the Almighty and if you do, how willing are to listen to Him?

When Moses spoke with the nation of Israel as Yehovah directed him  he said Hear (i.e, listen very carefully and HEED what I say) O’Israel, Yehovah is our God, Yehovah is ONE. And you shalt love Yehovah your God with all you heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.’

If you can hear this call today and this is truly your heartfelt desire, would it not be incumbent upon you to seriously question how well you know Yeshua, who and what he was, and  in turn what Yehovah desires of those that truly know Him to the point of loving Him?

If so, then please take the message shared here seriously enough to be open to considering it; to doing the research and study required to properly evaluate the claims made here and decide for yourself who you are called to follow, the Hebrew Yeshua or the Greek Jesus? vatican1

To finish and to affirm my great admiration for the lifetime efforts of Prof. David Flusser, I conclude with his words:

“The purified Judaism of (Yeshua) is one of the few hopes…probably the only hope to live in our world.”

Paul Herring
June 2018

 

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2000/nov/14/guardianobituaries

[2] I will use his actual Hebrew name from here on in this article.

[3] See my book ‘Defending the Apostle Paul: Weighing the Evidence’ – https://www.amazon.com.au/Defending-Apostle-Paul-Weighing-Evidence-ebook/dp/B009TLLK0U/

[4] https://www.jerusalemperspective.com/14412/

[5] http://jewishstudies.rutgers.edu/docman/rendsburg/396-qumran-hebrew-studies-on-the-texts-of-the-desert-of-judah/file

[6] “It once happened that Rabbi Halafta went to Rabban Gamaliel, to Tiberias, and he found him sitting at the table of Johanan ben Nezif, with the Targum (i.e. Aramaic translation) of the Book of Job in his hand. Rabbi Halafta said to him: “I remember that Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, your father’s father, would sit on a stair of the Temple Mount. They brought before him the Targum of the Book of Job, and he said to the builder, ‘Bury it under the rubble.” – Tosefta Shabbat 14:2

[7] http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/27823855?q&versionId=33577534

[8] ibid

[9] http://www.emanueltov.info/docs/papers/11.large-scalediffs.2008.pdf?v=1.0  (p14)

[10] For more detail on this and many related issues please see my book ‘The NT: The Hebrew Behind the Greek’.

[11] As suggest by Bruce Barham of http://torahofmessiah.org/

[12] I detail some of them in my book ‘Doctrinal Pitfalls of Hellenism’ – https://www.amazon.com.au/Doctrinal-Pitfalls-Hellenism-Studies-Greek-ebook/dp/B00DO17CK8/

[13] Luther called it “a right strawy epistle in comparison with the writings of Paul, Peter and John.” –http://www.biblicalstudies.com/bstudy/expostudy/james.htm

[14] For details on the central and powerful message of Ya’acov please see my article at circumcisedheart.info ‘James The Just – Re-evaluating His Legacy’ – https://goo.gl/1N2vR9

[15] http://www.above-and-beyond-ltd.com/store/books/if.html

Love ‘loving-kindness’ – Micah 6:8

It is not only the Jewish people who love Micah 6:8 for it’s simple, yet extremely powerful message and instruction of how to live right before the Almighty.

This passage is also a favourite of many Christians (though it appears most of them have never looked very deeply at this verse in its broader context, and in particular at the truth shared in Micah 6:6).

But I do not wish that to detract from my recent, and fresh insight, on this passage that I have loved and very often meditated on over many years.

There are of course many English versions, and as is normal when trying to translate truth from the inspired Hebrew Scriptures into other languages, often something is lost in the translation.

Consider a few of these English versions:

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” – KJV

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – NIV

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – ESV

Quite a few are very similar and appear (as usual) to copy the KJV.

The Complete Jewish Bible (David Stern) is a little different:

“Human being, you have already been told what is good, what Adonai demands of you — no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your God.” – CJB

The Hebrew word חֶסֶד (chesed) is the word being translated as ‘kindness’ (ESV) and ‘mercy’ (KJV & NIV), and as ‘loving-kindness’ in many other places.

In fact, the word ‘chesed’ which occurs hundreds of times in the Tanakh (The Hebrew Scriptures) is most commonly translated as ‘grace’ throughout the New Testament (for some depth and interesting analysis of this aspect see my article ‘Amazing Grace’ here http://goo.gl/L9HgQo).

But note that if we use the translation ‘loving-kindness’ in particular to help us see the full picture here, we have the injunction that we are called to ‘love loving-kindness’.

We are to love showing and giving grace; to love acting with mercy, to LOVE being kind. We are not to just BE kind, but to LOVE being kind!

Kindness, mercy, grace should be so much a part of our heart that we can’t help practicing this attribute of the Almighty whose image we are made in!

You may ask ‘How do we get this way if we are not already in this place?’ I think part of the answer is to act as if our heart already loves being kind and gracious and full of compassion, and therefore we must do acts of loving kindness. It’s almost like ‘fake it to you make it’.

The more we act this way, the more the neural pathways in our brains will be stimulated to create a new pathway of truth and a new mindset, and a new heart, where we increasingly become ‘lovers of loving-kindness’.

In other words, in living this call we in fact circumcise our own hearts! (Deuteronomy 10:16, Jeremiah 4:4).

 

Thanks to the Mussar teaching of Alan Morinis in ‘Everyday Holiness: The Spiritual Path of Mussar’ for this insight.