The Yochanan Narrative Series

Below is a series of posts I am creating that highlight some of the amazing revelations that are being made from a re-translation of the Gospel of John:

Post #1

Uriel Ben Mordechai has made a number of ‘dynamic equivalence translations’ of selected NT letters and narratives based upon the earliest Greek manuscripts available e.g. Papyrus 46 [dating to between 170-200 CE] and Codex Sinaiticus [dating to about 350 CE].

These English translations, produced with a Jewish pro-Torah bias, have been published and distributed from the Eternal City just as the Prophet predicts… “…out from Tzion the Torah shall go forth, and out from Yerushalai’im, the Word of HaShem” [Yishaiyahu/Isaiah 2:3].

Uriel has now turned his attention to Papyrus 66. The manuscript contains John 1:1-6:11, 6:35b-14:26, 29-30; 15:2-26; 16:2-4, 6-7; 16:10-20:20, 22-23; 20:25-21:9, 12, 17. It is one of the oldest well preserved New Testament manuscripts known to exist.

The manuscript was found in 1952 at Jabal Abu Mana near Dishna (Egypt). There is debate over when this codex was produced with some arguing for as early as the middle of the second century (~ 150 CE), though most scholars now ascribe a date in the 3rd to 4th century (201 – 399 CE).

I would like to share a few details on Uriel’s translation of the first chapter of John’s Gospel (using the more appropriate terminology of “Yochanan’s narrative”).

Long before Uriel began this work a number of scholars including the late Professor David Flusser had argued for a very different translation of Yochanan 1:1.

I discuss this in some depth in two articles ‘The Torah Dressed Itself in Flesh’ (https://goo.gl/xMiGVm) and ‘John 1:1c – Arianism’s Fatal Flaw’ (https://goo.gl/fMmkbU).

 

Here is Uriel’s latest rendering of Yochanan 1:1-3 based on P-66:

Yochanan 1:1 “Essential for creation was the Torah, and the Torah was in the presence of G-d, and a godly object was the Torah”

1:2 “This object stood with high honor, in harmony with G-d.”

1:3 “All things came into existence because of IT, and outside of IT, not a single notion came into being that was fashioned.”

 

And with Uriel’s amplification for improved readability in square brackets:

Yochanan 1:1 “Essential for [or Before] creation [or With high honor] was the Torah, and the Torah was in the presence of [or befitting, or consistent in character with] G-d, and a godly [or godlike] object was the Torah [or the Torah was also a godly thing]!”

1:2 “This object [or element, i.e., the Torah] stood with high honor [or existed before creation], in harmony [or consistent in character] with G-d.”

1:3 “All things came into existence because of IT [i.e., on account of the Torah], and outside of IT [or apart from having the Torah in mind], not a single notion came into being that was [later] fashioned [by the hand of Ha’Shem].”

 

There is so much to unpack here in these 3 verses alone!Jewish Rabbi’s and scholars have long argued that it was the Torah that was with the Almighty before He created the Universe, that it was the Torah that was the blueprint for the Creation. Even Hellenistic Jewish philosophers like Philo (1st Century CE) argued for this understanding (for more on this also see my article here – https://goo.gl/CZUH2D).

I would love to hear peoples thoughts on these verses. For example, note that Uriel uses ‘IT’ in verse 3 where most modern translators have made what appears to be an unjustifiable inference and used ‘him,’ and even going so far in most cases as to capitalize ‘Him.’ The 1599 Geneva Bible however appears to have been more true to the original without introducing such inferences as this translation also used ‘IT’.

For those interested in observing Uriel’s progress as they translate P-66, I highly recommend consider joining him and his wife Adi, as they present their translation one verse at a time during their weekly LIVE webinar broadcasts from Jerusalem. To register for the class, use this link:http://ntcf.org/register.html.

Post #2:

Many of us in reading our English translations of the Bible without any deep knowledge of the underlying Hebrew language and Jewish approach and idioms can so easily be led astray and totally misunderstand many passages.

One example that I have dealt with at length in the past is the Augustine’s doctrine of Origin Sin and the associated doctrines of Calvin’s TULIP principles, that I believe lead to some very harmful consequences in life and especially relationships.

A section from the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is often used to support these flawed doctrines of mainstream Christendom. That section is Romans 3:10-18 and especially verse 10 “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one …”

I discuss this section in pages 51-59 of my book ‘The New Testament: The Hebrew Behind the Greek’ – https://www.amazon.com/new-testament-language-mindset-hellenistic-ebook/dp/B009XO0NQU/ (Also available as a free pdf @ circumcisedheart.info)

The quote in verse 10, a quote from the Tanakh is taken out of context by most when read as to be a blanket statement that no-one is or can be righteous.

There are many reasons for this error as I discuss in my book, but I wish to highlight just one for now.

The Hebrew can quite often leave out a word, especially an adjective, that in English may be necessary to communicate the correct understanding, but that is simply not there in the Hebrew.

For example if Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 7:20 is translated directly we get something like: “For there is no righteous man on earth who does good and does not sin.

Yet, all  the Jewish Sages (i.e., Rabbinic scholars) will translate this as “For there is no righteous man on earth who does [only] good and does not sin.” – see for example page 9 of ‘Gates of Repentance’ by Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona.

Some English versions do get this correct, such as the NET and CJB, but for example the KJV, NKJV, NIV, ASV and ESV do not.

Rather than re-addressing the issue of Romans 3:10 though, I wish to use this as an example to highlight the need for greater humility from Christian students of the Bible in approaching the text, and also perhaps a greater reverence for the underlying understanding and wisdom of Jewish scholarship, of those who have an in-depth knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish thinking.

One such person is the Jewish translator, Uriel ben-Mordechai. Uriel has great experience in this area having already re-translated a number of books of the New Testament working from the earliest extant versions but approaching them with a Jewish mindset and pro-Torah pre-suppositional perspective.

Thus I think his translations should be given serious attention from all who see themselves as humble, but zealous, seekers of Truth.

In this post I want to touch on just 3 verses that Uriel has very recently translated from Papyrus 66 and the first chapter of Yochanan’s narrative (John’s Gospel).

As I have already intimated a lot of flawed doctrines within Christendom are often birthed out of just one or two verses. One example of this is the flawed doctrine of pre-existence and the related deduction than ‘Jesus’ created the Universe.

This is seen for example in John 1:10 where most translations essentially have Jesus/Yeshua ‘making’ (creating) the world (‘… the world was made by him …).

For example, the KJV translates verse John 1:10-12 has

“10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.”

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:”

 

Uriel instead has:

“1:10 IT was present within the world, and even the world came into existence by virtue of IT, even though the world did not acknowledge IT

1:11 In the midst of this one special people, IT ended up being deposited, especially to this one chosen people; the same which they embraced.

1:12 As many as did take hold of IT, IT gave them prerogative to emerge as children of G-d; to those who are trusting in His Name,”

And his ‘amplified’ version for greater clarity (i.e. adding words to make greater sense of the direct translation):

“1:10 IT [i.e., the light of the Torah] was present within the world, and even the world [itself] came into existence by virtue of [or using] IT, even though the world did not acknowledge IT [i.e., the light of the Torah].

1:11 In the midst of [or Contributing to] this one special [or distinctive, or chosen] people, IT [i.e., the light of the Torah] ended up being deposited [or given], especially to this one chosen [or distinctive] people; the same [object, i.e., the light of the Torah] which they [readily] embraced [i.e., welcomed, or experienced].

1:12 As many as did take hold of IT [i.e., this illumination from the Torah], IT gave them prerogative to emerge as children of G-d; to those who are trusting in His [i.e., Ha’Shem’s] Name,”

Clearly there is no way this version of verses 10-12 could possibly lead to any implications of ‘pre-existence and the related deduction that ‘Jesus’ created the Universe’!

Please read and prayerfully consider. I look forward to your feedback as well.

If you really wish to dig much deeper and learn how Uriel goes about these translations and get a greater perspective on the Torah-centric reality of the New Testament, then you may wish to consider joining Uriel and Adi’s weekly LIVE webinar broadcasts from Jerusalem. To register for the class, use this link: http://ntcf.org/register.html.

Post #3:

In this the 3rd post in this series I want to touch on 4 verses that Uriel has recently translated from Papyrus 66 and the first chapter of Yochanan’s narrative (John’s Gospel) chapter 1:15-18.

 

First the translation and then an ‘amplified’ (i.e. some explanatory text in square brackets) version:

1:15 Yochanan was testifying concerning IT, and even shouted out, saying, “THIS was the very thing to which I had referred, which will go onward after me, has stood in existence before me. Because of that, IT has been most influential for me,

1:16 seeing that extending out from ITS abundance, each and everyone of us shall also express gratitude as a response to generosity,

1:17 in view of the fact that through Moshe this precious gift — the Torah — was given, AND THEN the age of truthfulness shall come to pass by way of Yeshua, Mashiach.

1:18 On G-d, not one has ever set eyes! G-d is unique! For the one who lives surrounded by the Father’s embrace — in that place He will reveal.”

And amplified:

1:15 Yochanan was testifying concerning IT [i.e., the Torah], and even shouted out, saying, “THIS [i.e., the Torah] was the very thing to which I had referred, which will go onward after [or subsequent to] me, has stood in existence [long] before me. Because of that, IT has [always] been most influential for me,

1:16 seeing that extending out from ITS [i.e., the Torah’s] abundance, each and everyone of us shall also express [or choose] gratitude as a response to [Ha’Shem’s] generosity [or goodwill],

1:17 in view of the fact that through Moshe this precious gift — the Torah — was given, AND THEN [the added benefit of] the age of truthfulness [or legitimacy] shall come to pass [or be realized] by way of [or as a result of] Yeshua, Mashiach.

1:18 On G-d, not one has ever set eyes [and lived]! G-d is unique [i.e., He is without equal, or unprecedented]! For the one who lives surrounded by [or absorbed in] the Father’s embrace — [there] in that place He will reveal [or poss. passive ‘…there He shall be fully revealed, explained and declared’].”

Clearly, the object being referenced here is not the same as in most translations, yet if considered without our common ‘Christian’ pre-suppositions I think it has an internal consistency and integrity.  That is, if this was being read for the first time as a Jewish text written for, and to Jewish readers familiar with the G-d of Israel and His Torah, then it mostly gives a message well-known and well-understood, while at the same time adding something new as a result of the revelation of the life and resurrection of Yeshua.

So, to reiterate, Yochanan has first extolled the great grace provided to Israel through the Torah. The Torah has brought true freedom (please see my article ‘Freedom and the Law’ https://goo.gl/XYGC8t for details on this aspect).

It has given the people of Israel (AHM Israel), a great foundation to their history, their uniqueness and their trials and tribulations but most importantly the Torah; in defining the Way (Psalm 119); in defining how best to live; how to get the most out of your life through loving G-d and your neighbour, it has given them a past, a present and a future.

Yet something was missing. Two thousand years ago AHM Israel was failing on two counts. Firstly, they were not being the ‘light to the Gentiles’ (for more on this please see my article on Isaiah 49 – https://goo.gl/d3Vy8b)  they were called to be. They were not, for the most part, introducing the pagan world to the Truth of the One True G-d and away from all the idolatry that the pagan Gentile world practiced.

And secondly, a large part of the reason for why this failure was occurring was the internal ‘hatred’ of Jew for Jew, or as the Rabbinic scholars have described it, the ‘baseless hatred’ that existed and was instrumental in the horror that was the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

So Yochanan was speaking into this reality with the ‘good news’ of the arrival of Yeshua to speak truth to AHM Israel, to call for their repentance and full return to the embracing of Torah so that they could in turn be that light to the Gentiles that was their central mission.

The Resurrection acted to convince and confirm to all open and willing to listen, that Torah really was ultimate Truth, the obeying the Torah because of a faithfulness (trusting) in the Almighty and His revelation was not only the Way to walk, but the way to convict the Gentile world of this Truth as well.

It seems to me that if the great majority of AHM Israel had been open to and heeded this message, then the Olam ha’Bah (The Coming Age, the Kingdom of G-d) truly could have fully dawned in the first century and the Temple could well have remained standing. Yeshua most clearly intimated such.

But Yeshua’s living example and his Resurrection instead may be viewed as a failure, if time were fixed and the future stopped.

However, hope still lives on, and the future still beckons. Yeshua, the suffering servant, the Messiah ben-Yosef still stands at the ready to return to our midst and, as Messiah ben-David, to usher in the Olam Ha’Bah.

Yochanan will be proven correct and “…the age of truthfulness shall come to pass by way of Yeshua, Mashiach.

Please consider this translation – perhaps your path has at this very moment reached the place where your heart and mind is open to Yeshua’s call to return to; or to learn of Torah and The Way. Perhaps today is the day and now the hour for you to reconsider the doctrines of your youth and time within the walls of your church and reconsider what and where Yeshua preached.

Also, if you really wish to dig much deeper and learn how Uriel goes about these translations and get a greater perspective on the Torah-centric reality of the New Testament, then you may wish to consider joining Uriel and Adi’s weekly LIVE webinar broadcasts from Jerusalem.

To register for the class, use this link: http://ntcf.org/register.html.

 

 

Advertisements

The Torah is God’s Song

Nitzavim-Vayelech (Deut. 29:9–31:30)

The last command of the Torah[1] reads:

“Now therefore write down for yourselves this song, and teach it to the people of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be my witness within the people of Israel.” D’varim (Deut.) 31:19

Many Jewish scholars have asked ‘why a song?’ and was the song the next section of Deuteronomy or the whole of the 5 Books of Moses?

Rabbi Sacks refers to Rabbi Yechiel Michal Epstein who states that one of the reasons the Torah is called “a song” is because a song becomes more beautiful when scored for many voices interwoven in complex harmonies.

Rabbi Sacks goes on to write: “The Torah is God’s libretto, and we, the Jewish people, are His choir, the performers of His choral symphony. And though, when Jews speak they often argue, when they sing, they sing in harmony, as the Israelites did at the Red Sea, because music is the language of the soul, and at the level of the soul Jews enter the unity of the Divine which transcends the oppositions of lower worlds.

The Torah is God’s song, and ‘we’ collectively are its singers.”
He also argues that through the writing and singing of this Torah ‘song’, the Torah is renewed afresh with each generation and each individual.

The Torah Portion, Nitzavim includes some of the most fundamental principles of faith in The God of Israel.

It speaks of:

  • the unity of Israel;
  • the future redemption;
  • the practicality of Torah; – see http://goo.gl/m9Dz95 and
  • Freedom of choice.

The Torah Portion (Parshah) of Vayelech also speaks of how the Almighty will ‘hide His face’ – see https://globaltruthinternational.com/2012/09/23/moses-and-the-king-who-hides/

(Thanks to Chabad.org & Rabbi Jonathan Sacks for the thoughts paraphrased above).

In considering this Torah Portion, and the concept that the Torah is God’s Song to be sung by all who love the Instructions of God (Torah), as well as considering how it can be renewed through the generations, I think it also worth reflecting on how the writer of Yochanan’s (John) Gospel in the Apostolic Writings (the NT) saw Torah.

You can get closer to the source of Yochanan’s understanding by going back to the original Hebrew of Proverbs 8:

“The L-RD purchased me at the very beginning of His way before any of his activities at that point. From before time began, I was poured out, even before there was “earth” … And I was BESIDE (or WITH) Him, a master artisan, And I was full of delights, daily playing before Him at every moment’ – Proverbs 8:22, 23, 30 translated by Uriel ben Mordechai

This ‘wisdom’ is TORAH. The Torah existed before the foundation of the universe.

Thus, it seems that it is the Torah, that Yochanan (John) refers to in John 1:1, which if we had the original autograph in Hebrew would more likely read in English something like this:

“In the beginning was the Torah, and (the) Torah was for the sake of (the) G-d, And godly was (the) Torah.”

Get Uriel ben Mordechai’s book for more details on the validity of this translation – see  ‪http://above-and-beyond-ltd.com/store/books/if.html

This translation is also very well presented and attested for in Jacobus Schoneveld’s scholarly article: ‘Torah in the Flesh

Further, when we consider that Yochanan was not writing in a vacuum, but actually quoting what other Jewish writers had written before him (and in Hebrew), we can be fairly sure of his intent, even if we only have poor Greek translations.

Yochanan, like Yeshua relied on the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh.

Yeshua when he repeatedly said ‘It is written …” were referring to the Tanakh. When Yochanan concluded his Gospel account by stating that these things were written so that you may trust, or have faith,  that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God (Jn 20:31), he was clearly endorsing and supporting the work of Yeshua and his own argument that in Yeshua. The Torah had put on (or wore) flesh.

To understand anything in the NT and to appreciate the intent of the NT authors such as Yochanan, we need to look not only into the Tanakh to understand their perspective and biblical reality, but also to documents from the inter-testamental time (perhaps as late as, late 3rd century BCE to early 2nd century BCE, through to around 40-50 CE) to appreciate common Jewish thinking, understanding and terminology. So this includes works like the ‘Wisdom of Sirach’.

In this respect even sectarian works from this period can be relevant.

So with this appreciation, it is worth asking if the concepts and ideas presented in Yochanan’s prologue were already existent or even prevalent in the Tanakh and in Jewish thought of his time.

What we find is that Yochanan’s prologue, for example John 1:3 “through ‘it’ (the Word or the Torah) everything came to be: no single thing was created without ‘it’ ” was a Jewish ‘commonplace’.

That is, it was already part of Jewish writings prior to Yochanan.

For example in the Book of Jubilees we read that God “has created everything by His word/Torah” (12:4), and so it is also said in Wisdom of Solomon 9:1.

Even more similar to Yochanan’s prologue is the wording of two sentences in the Dead Sea Scrolls: “By His (God’s) knowledge everything came to be, and everything which is happening — He establishes it by his design and without Him [nothing] is done” (1QS XI: 11).

And “By the wisdom of Thy knowledge Thou didst establish their destiny ere they came into being, and according [Thy will] everything came to be, and without Thee [nothing] is done” (1QH 1:19-20).

Thus, the concept that God created the world through his ‘word/Torah/wisdom’ is a Jewish concept.

In fact, the Tanakh informs us that Almighty created the entire universe through ‘fiats’; through His word. So not only does the ‘word’ of God have a creative function, it also has an analytical function.

Consider for example, Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit. …and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Here we see the ‘word’ or ‘logos’ having an analytical function. Interestingly, even the Hellenistic Jew Philo (20 BCE – 50 CE) took this position.

In Wikipedia we read: ‘Some scholars hold that his concept of the Logos as God’s creative principle influenced early Christology. Other scholars, however, deny direct influence but say both Philo and early Christianity borrow from a common source. For Philo, Logos was God’s “blueprint for the world”, a governing plan.’

So consider that Yochanan starts with: “In the beginning was the Torah, and (the) Torah was for the sake of (the) G-d, And godly was (the) Torah.” And then goes on to state (paraphrasing Yochanan 1:14):

“And the Torah dressed itself in human flesh and so dwelt amongst us, so that we could see its (the Torah’s) glory from the Father, a glory full of grace and truth.”

So God’s Song has dressed itself in humanity, so that all who love Torah, and see the perfect example (in Yeshua) of how to live Torah, can properly renew, and in unity, sing Torah daily.

Perhaps we can even sense the rising crescendo of this ‘Torah Song’, as we witness the great signs through the creation of State of Israel, and the dawning of the final Redemption!

Shalom!

[1] The word תּוֹרָה (Torah) means teaching or instructions. It is also used to refer to the 5 Books of Moses, as these contain the Torah. Normally when referring to the whole Hebrew Bible, the phrase Torah, Prophets and Writings is used, but at times this may also be shortened to ‘Torah’.