02.02 Biblical And Extra-Biblical Writings

02.02.10 Gnosticism

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 18, 2016  -  Comments Off on 02.02.10 Gnosticism

02.02.10 Gnosticism. This term refers to a philosophy from the Greek thinker, Plato (428-348 B.C.), who suggested the contrast between the invisible world of ideas and the visible world of matter.  By the first century his ideas were formulated into two opposing modes of lifestyles:

  1. Asceticism, which attempted to suppress all emotions because they were thought to be related to matter and classified as evil, and
  1. Sensualism, which was the indulgence of passions without regard to control or consequences which was an affront to Judaism. While these philosophies were a part of the pagan Greek lifestyle at the time of Christ, it had only limited popularity in the Middle East later in the first century when the epistles were written.[1]

The two basic errors of Gnosticism are:

  1. All matter, including man’s body is evil when in fact Scripture states the human body is the temple of God and, therefore, good.
  1. Gnosticism teaches that salvation is an escape from the body with the use of “special knowledge.”

The Bible teaches that salvation is only by faith in the resurrected Christ.  In the Gnostic heresy known as Cerinthianism, it was believed that the divinity of Jesus came upon Him at His baptism but left shortly before His death.[2] Other Gnostics said that since the body is evil, Jesus did not exist, but only appeared to exist.  Finally, since the body was evil and the spiritual was good, there were no applicable laws of human behavior; therefore, Gnosticism led many into sinful lifestyles.

Gnosticism never became an institutionalized movement or religion, nor was it popular in Palestine, but it did exist.[3] Likewise, there were Stoic and Cynic philosophers peddling their ideas from community to community.  This explains why Jesus referred to it indirectly, with general statements on “secrets” and “whispers” (Mt. 10:26-27). They all claimed to have so-called higher knowledge and wisdom secrets[4] – ideas and concepts written in various books[5] – things that Jesus warned against. Gnosticism was more popular in Greece, which is why the Apostle Paul addressed Gnostic philosophers in Athens, and why there is limited mention of it in the Gospels. Among Christians, there were those who attempted to blend this philosophy with Christianity, but they were always labeled heretics.[6]


[1]. Gundry, Survey of the New Testament. 60-62; Drane, “Gnosticism.” 1:566-67.

[2]. New International Version Study Bible, 1906.


[3]. Martin, L. Hellenistic Religions. 37.


[4]. Renwick, Gnosticism. 484-85.


[5]. Of the many Gnostic books that have been written, in 1896 three manuscripts were discovered in Egypt. Known as the Gospel of Mary, the Apocryphon of John, and the Sophia of Jesus Christ, these books were published in 1955.


[6]. Rudolf, Gnosis. 210, 293.


02.02.11 Gospels

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 18, 2016  -  Comments Off on 02.02.11 Gospels

02.02.11 Gospels. The word gospel is from the Greek term euaggelion (2098),[1] meaning good news or joyful news,[2] but it is good news for those who accept it and bad news for those who reject it. The English word is from the Anglo-Saxon term meaning God-spell, or God story.[3] The term Gospels refers to the four New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.[4] These books paint a portrait of Jesus as the Messiah of the Jewish people and all humanity.  The first three are also known as the “synoptic gospels,” because they “see together” a common message.  Each writer presented his account from his unique perspective.  Only Luke had any intention of writing a chronological account. However, the chronology of events was considered to be a relatively minor point compared to the words and works of Jesus and His ultimate goal.[5] These four books were written for the following reasons:

  1. The Jewish Oral Tradition accurately conveyed the Oral Law from generation to generation. The Gentiles, however, did not have that tradition, and therefore, needed written materials.
  1. Although written separately, each clarifies and supplements the other books. Mark wrote his book with an emphasis on historical events, even if these placed a negative light on the disciples. Since he was writing to Gentiles, he explains many Jewish customs. Luke wrote to a Greek audience to proclaim that Jesus was the Savior of all humanity, whereas John is a theological text that proclaims Jesus is the divine Son of God, and hence, he used numerous “I am” statements.
  1. The Jewishness of Jesus is portrayed differently in each text so that, when all are considered, a broad view of Him is presented.[6] Note the following characteristics:
  1. Matthew: Jesus is the coming Messiah who fulfilled prophecies.[7] Matthew wrote specifically to the Jewish people for whom the Davidic line was important, and furthermore, he wrote in five distinct teaching blocks.[8] Some scholars debate whether he wrote in Hebrew (or Biblical Hebrew) or in a new slightly modified Jewish style known as Mishnaic Hebrew.[9]                                                                                                                                    
  2. Mark: Jesus is the suffering Servant. Mark wrote to the Romans who were more interested in what Jesus did rather than what He taught. Therefore, words such as “immediately” appear more than forty times. He recorded Peter’s preaching without chronological order. Scholars almost universally agree that the book was written in geographical sections.[10]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
  3.  Luke: Jesus is the Savior of all humanity. Luke wrote to the Greeks who idealized the perfect man and were also interested in historical accuracy. Therefore, he begins his gospel record with the comment concerning his investigation and chronological accuracy. He also mentioned the humanity of Jesus, such as being tired or thirsty, which is reflective on his professional life as a physician,[11] which added respect to his work.
  4. John: Jesus is the divine Son of God. John wrote to the church at large and emphasized the life of Jesus theologically – with a greater focus on what He taught than what He did – the opposite of Mark. John also made use of the “perfect number” seven,[12] mentioning seven “I am” statements,[13] seven discourses,[14] and seven signs or miracles.[15]


02.02.11 (2)


Three other significant points of study are that,

  1. The gospels repeatedly attest to the historical reliability of the life of the Jews and
  1. Each gospel was written to address a specific need for some specific people – also known as contextualization.
  1. Finally, the gospels are not letters, commonly known as “epistles,” but are a unique genre of literature. Essentially, they are accounts or reports of the good news of Christ Jesus, or, as one scholar said, they are a kind of informative advertisement.[16]

It is generally agreed that all these were written before A.D. 70, as evidenced by a constant reference to the temple and its functions. Obviously, these references would be absent if written after its destruction. Matthew and Mark, writers with some idealistic tendencies, would certainly have recorded destruction and its profound influence upon the Church and Jewish people.  Jesus’ teachings, miracles, and resurrection were very important to Mark who wrote his gospel during Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome.  The Roman Gentiles had a theological difficulty with a deity who was crucified, but Mark addressed this issue.

Luke was not a disciple of Jesus but came to the faith through the teachings of the Apostle Paul.  As a physician, he was a highly educated and observant man who carefully researched various accounts before writing his gospel and the book of Acts. His literary style is of the finest Greek, which is a reflection of his cultural and educational background.  However, there is growing evidence that causes some scholars to argue that some words of Jesus may have been recorded in His lifetime.[17] This is not to say that the gospels were written at that time, but some people may have taken notes and kept them.

Of course, life would not be complete without some problems.  The “Johannine Problem” is similar in that critics maintain that there are a number of points that do not agree with the synoptic books. While the book of John is often referred to a “spiritual gospel,” John obviously had a somewhat different reason for writing it in the form that is found in Bibles today.[18]  These “problems” are addressed throughout this e-Book.  As previously stated, each writer gave his narrative from his unique perspective concerning the major events in the life of Jesus to convince his audience that Jesus was the focus of the Hebrew Bible and that all messianic prophecies were fulfilled in Him.

Some scholars have difficulties with the gospels concerning what is known as the “synoptic problem.”  The “problem” is that various portions of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are in exact verbal agreement with each other, while other sections are somewhat different. Hence, scholars believe that some narratives were copied from either another gospel (probably Mark or Luke) or a source that has been lost in history. Furthermore, the reliability of Mark has been questioned since he was not a disciple of Jesus.  However, that issue was resolved by Eusebius.

Eusebius Pamphili (A.D. 263-339) was a renowned Roman historian and defender of the Christian faith. For his many literary works, including Ecclesiastical History, he has become known as the “Father of Church History.” He recorded the words of Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis (A.D. 70-155) concerning the composition of the book of Mark.[19] As to Papias, he was a disciple of John, the author of the fourth gospel and four other New Testament books and, therefore, was well acquainted with the accuracy of the newly written Scriptures. Many decades later, Eusebius included that information in his historical writings and said, for the benefit of modern scholars, that the book of Mark was not written in chronological order, but for the benefit of his audience. Note a portion of his comment:

This also the Elder said: “Mark, who became Peter’s interpreter, wrote accurately, though not in order, all that he remembered of the things said and done by the Lord.  For he had neither seen the Lord nor been one of his followers, but afterward, as I said, he had followed Peter, who used to compose his discourses with a view to the needs (of his hearers), but not as if he were composing a systematic account of the Lord’s sayings. So Mark did nothing blameworthy in writing some things just as he remembered them; for he was careful of this one thing, to omit none of the things he had heard and to state no untruth therein.”

Eusebius, Church History 3.39.14-15


Finally, Bible scholars today frequently refer to the meaning of various Greek words in the New Testament. It is common knowledge that word studies greatly improve understanding of the Scriptures.  However, there appears to be a fly in the proverbial ointment: Matthew was written in Hebrew!  That is that according to a number of early church fathers,[20] including Eusebius, who said the book was written in Matthew’s first language – Hebrew.  Note his words,

But concerning Matthew, he writes as follows: “So then Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and everyone interpreted them as he was able.

Eusebius, Church History 3.39.16


Eusebius confirmed this again later when he said,

Matthew published his gospel among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching and founding the church in Rome. 

Eusebius, Church History 5.8.2


The ultimate challenge for die-hard scholars is to translate the Greek back into Hebrew to gain the fine nuances that are often lost in translations. Matthew is believed to have been originally composed in A.D. 50, possibly earlier, and translated into Greek thirty or forty years later.[21]  His gospel was cited in the Didache and by a number of early church fathers.[22] While some critics place the composition of the gospels into the late first century, one of the most vocal critics, John Dominic Crossan, the founder of the ultra-liberal Jesus Seminar, said that the gospels were written 20 to 40 years after the death of Jesus.[23]


[1]. Barclay, A New Testament Wordbook. 41-42; Vine, “Gospel.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:275.


[2]. The good news is a theme throughout the New Testament, such as the good news of truth (Col. 1:5; Gal. 2:5), of hope (Col. 1:23), of peace (Eph. 6:15), of promise (Eph. 3:6), and of salvation (Eph. 1:13). See also Richardson, “Gospel.” 100.


[3]. Miethe, The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words. 99.


[4]. Ryken, Wilhoit, and Longman, eds., “Gospel Genre.” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. 345.  For further study, see Who Chose the Gospels: The Great Gospel Conspiracy at  http://www.slideshare.net/Athenagorus/who-chose-the-gospels-the-great-gospel-conspiracy. Retrieved March 4, 2015.

[5]. See also 01.02.03 “The Analysis of Ancient Writings.”


[6]. Daniel, A Harmony. 25-27.


[7]. See Appendix 7 “Major Old Testament Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus.”


[8]. 1) Mt. 5-7 is on ethics; 2) Mt. 10 is on mission; 3) Mt. 13 is on kingdom parables; 4) Mt. 18 is on the new community; and 5) Mt. 24-25 is the eschatological discourse. Matthew closed each discourse or block, with the phrse “finished these sayings” (Mt. 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1); Bock, Jesus According to Scripture. 125, 153; Ryken, Wilhoit, and Longman, eds., “Matthew.” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. 542-44.


[9]. See “Mishnaic Hebrew” in Appendix 26.

[10]. The sections are as follows: 1) the introduction to the book (1:1-13); 2) the ministry of Jesus in Galilee (1:14-6:6a); 3) His missionary journeys (6:6b-10:52); 4) His ministry in Jerusalem (11:1-15:47); His Resurrection (16:1-8); and 6) an appendix (16:9-20). Mark’s primary focus is on the deeds of Jesus rather than His teachings, and it is the shortest of the four gospels.


[11]. Concerning medical procedures available in the first century Israel, a number of good resources have been published by the University of Haifa, Hebrew University, and the Israel Museum. For further study, see the articles published in Michmanim, (English and Hebrew), Haifa, ISRAEL: University of Haifa (Vol. 13) May, 1999.


[12]. Bruce, “Gospels.” 2:582-83 and “The Gospels.” 3:16-18.


[13]. The Seven “I AM’s”: Bread of Life (Jn. 6:35, 41, 48, 51): Light of the World (Jn. 8:12); Door of the Sheep (Jn. 10:7, 9); Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11, 14); Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25); the Way, the Truth, the Life (Jn. 14:6) and the True Vine (Jn. 15:1, 5).

[14]. The Seven Discourses: new birth (Jn. 3:1-21); Works of God (Jn. 5:19-47); Bread of Life (Jn. 6:26-58); Water of Life (Jn. 7:11-52): Light of the World (Jn. 8:12-59); Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:22-39) and Upper Room Discourse (Jn. 131-17:26).

[15]. The Seven Signs: Water into Wine (Jn. 2:1-2); Healing the Nobleman’s Son (Jn. 4:46-54); Healing the Paralytic (Jn. 5:1-17); Feeding the 5,000 (Jn. 6:1-14); Calming the Storm (Jn. 6:15-21); Healing Man Born Blind (Jn. 9:1-14) and Resurrection of Lazarus (Jn. 11:17-45).

[16]. Mellowes and Cran, Producers. From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians. (DVD).  Part 3.


[17]. Millard, “Literacy in the Time of Jesus.” 37-45.


[18]. Rensberger, “The Politics of John.” 394.


[19]. Cranefield, “Mark.” 267; Halley, Halley’s Bible. 414.


[20]. Irenaeus (about 180); Papias (about 130); Pantaenus (about 200); Clement of Alexandria (about 150-215); Origen (about 186-254); and Tertullian (about 160-240).


[21]. Wijngaards, Handbook to the Gospels. 9.


[22]. Clement of Rome (c. 95); Ignatius (c. 105-110); Polycarp (c. 120); Justin (c. 150); and in the Epistles of Barnabas (c.120).


[23]. Crossan, A Long Way From Tipperary. 153.


02.02.12 Hebrew Bible

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 18, 2016  -  Comments Off on 02.02.12 Hebrew Bible

02.02.12 Hebrew Bible. This is more commonly known as the Old Testament to Christians and as the Tanakh to Jewish people. The books are the same as in the Christian Old Testament, although it has three divisions, a different book order, and some minor variations in chapter and verse divisions. The divisions are as follows:

  1. The Torah (“Teaching”): Known as the Five Books of Moses or the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).
  1. The N’vi’im (“Prophets”): Includes the historical books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings; the three major prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel; and the twelve minor prophets of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
  1. The K’tuvim (“Writings”): Includes the books not listed above – Psalms, Proverbs, Job, the “five scrolls” (of Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther) Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.[1]

[1]. Spangler and Tverberg, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. 40-42.


02.02.13 Jewish Writings

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 18, 2016  -  Comments Off on 02.02.13 Jewish Writings

02.02.13 Jewish Writings.[1] The term usually refers to a collection of religious books that include the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, the Mishnah, the Midrash, and the Tosefta.[2] But this collection does not include the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha. Most of these were written within four centuries of the life of Jesus. Of particular interest, is that many sections of these writings reflect Jewish life before the temple was destroyed. For example, the Jerusalem Talmud Moed Quatan 1:5 provides information on the burial of the dead that give understanding to Matthew 8:21-22.[3]


Insights acquired from the Jewish writings are important. There were many cultural and theological changes from the time the last Old Testament book was written, until the birth of Christ. Essentially, there are five reasons why this classification of books should be studied.[4]

  1. Some books have a sense of urgency similar to the New Testament concerning the awareness of living near the end of time.
  1. These writings show various Jewish opinions concerning the kingdom of God, a subject obviously dear to the heart of Jesus.
  1. The strength of Jewish traditions, combined with the political anticipations of national freedom, was clearly revealed by some writers.
  1. Some difficult passages and concepts of the New Testament are clarified by rabbinic methods of interpretation. Some of these books provide cultural details that help “flesh out” biblical narratives.
  1. Finally, within Jewish literature is the general background against which the New Testament can be understood, an understanding that is beyond specific verses and passages, and pertains to the “macro-view” of the words and work of Jesus.

[1]. See the video by Messianic Rabbi John Fischer, Ph.D., Th.D. at 02.02.16.V.


[2] See 02.02.01.V for more information on this subject.


[3]. See 09.04.02.


[4]. For further study, see Scott Jr., J. Julius. “On the Value of Intertestamental Jewish Literature for New Testament Theology.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 23:4 (Dec. 1980) 315-24.


02.02.14 Josephus

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 18, 2016  -  Comments Off on 02.02.14 Josephus

02.02.14 Josephus.[1] He was born as Josephus ben Mattathias, and by a series of unusual events he retired in Rome as Flavius Josephus. He was of a noble family of priests which traced its descent from the Hasmoneans, a powerful family of the second and first centuries B.C. So one might expect him to be a Sadducee, but in his biography, written in A.D. 94 or 95, he clearly identified himself as a Pharisee.[2] He was a brilliant scholar well versed in the writings of the Greeks and the Romans. While not a theologian, he remained faithful to the priestly ideals of the Jewish theocracy. He served as a military general in Galilee in the early days of the “First Revolt” (A.D. 66-70), but when he realized the Jewish cause was hopeless, he encouraged his fellow Jews to make a truce with the Romans. That failed.  He also predicted that Vespasian would eventually become emperor of Rome. While the Jews refused to consider his advice, the Romans eventually rewarded him. After the fall of Jerusalem, he retired in Rome under the imperial patronage and wrote his major works pertaining to the Jewish people for a Roman audience. Of his four literary works, Wars and Antiquities are the most significant.[3]

  1. His first book, the Wars of the Jews, was written from A.D. 75-79. It covers important people and events between the rise of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 175 B.C. to destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. Josephus had access to a number of historic sources, including 1 Maccabees and the Chronicles of the Priesthood of John Hycranus.[4]
  1. The Antiquities of the Jews, was written from A.D. 93-95, to help the Romans understand the Jewish religion and way of life. It is also an apologetic work defending the Hebrew Bible. In it he recorded many interesting historical accounts that are related to, but are not mentioned in the Old Testament narratives. It is a running history from earliest biblical history to the First Jewish War. Josephus had access to the imperial library and referred to the works of other writers, such as John of Damascus who was the historian for Herod the Great, and the Greek historian Strabo.
  1. The book Against Apion, is also an apologetic works,
  1. Josephus also wrote a brief biography titled The Life of Flavius Josephus.[5]


Critics of his day, namely the Zealots and most Jewish people, considered him to have been a traitor. Possibly his most outspoken critic was John of Giscala who personally financed a company of Zealot soldiers to fight the Romans. John stirred up the people against Josephus and some historians claim he even attempted to kill him. That may be the reason why Josephus was given a retirement in Rome rather than in the Holy Land.[6] Yet Josephus strongly defended the Jewish faith and people; he shifted the blame of the revolt from the population at large (as the Romans perceived it) to a minority of unwise leaders and Zealots.


Josephus is frequently quoted by scholars because he presents detailed descriptions of places, peoples, festivals, and other cultural events, as well as the socio-political environment in the two centuries preceding Christ. He died shortly into the second century leaving a wealth of written information.  No study can be complete without his comments.[7] The value of his work lies in two areas:

  1. Just as the Dead Sea Scrolls reflect first-century Judaism unchanged by Christian belief, Josephus likewise has insights into the cultural, social, and political forces in which Jesus lived. Simply said, his writings were not influenced by Christianity; they are purely from a Jewish perspective. From his pen we have the oldest comments about Jesus, John the Baptist, and the death of James, the half-brother of Jesus.
  1. His writings, namely the Antiquities, clearly reflect his theology and that he believed in the historical accuracy of the Old Testament, as it relates to secular historical accounts. His work also agrees with other ancient writers concerning the Inter-Testamental Period. Therefore, it can be assumed that his descriptions of the first century are equally accurate.


However, there is a note of caution for the serious research student: scholars have observed, and this writer agrees, that Josephus is not without his biases.

  1. It has been pointed out that his accounts of the population of various communities, distances between communities, and the agricultural production of the land are, on occasion, exaggerated.
  1. Also, he was careful not to blame the Romans for the uprising that led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Why would he, since he was given a comfortable retirement and spacious villa?


Josephus received his information from a variety of sources, including Nicholas of Damascus, the personal historian for Herod the Great.[8]  Nonetheless, any reader must filter his biased opinions. Critics of Josephus, however, tend to overlook other ancient writers who agreed with him. For example, Marcus Terentius Varro (116 – 27 B.C.) was a wealthy Roman scholar who produced seventy-four literary works on numerous topics, including agriculture. In his work, Agriculture, he identified three areas in the Roman Empire where crop yields were one hundred fold. They are,

  1. Sybaris in Italy,
  1. Gadara in Syria, and
  1. Byzacium in Africa.


Varro mentioned Gadara as being in Syria because that region was under the governmental district of Syria, as was Galilee at that time.  More specifically, he wrote that in this region the crop yield was “a hundred to one.”[9] This observation would certainly have made Josephus proud.  Another ancient author who described the bounty of his land was Herodotus who said of Babylonia that,

In grain, it is so fruitful as to yield commonly two-hundred fold; and when the production is the greatest, even three-hundred fold.

Herodotus, The Histories 1.93[10]         


Scholars have noted that the comments by Josephus concerning the Essenes’ care for the poor and needy is echoed in the Essene Damascus Document (14.14), which is additional evidence of the historian’s care concerning accuracy. He remains one of the most important sources of information concerning first century life in Judaea.[11] His description of the Roman conquest of the ancient Zealot city of Gamala is another excellent example of his historical accuracy.  The city fell in A.D. 66 and remained undisturbed and lost in history.

However, in recent history, one day an Israeli military officer flew over some mountains that he recognized by the description Josephus wrote concerning the setting of Gamala. A short time later in the late 1970s archaeologists began to excavate the site. They found his descriptions, such as patched walls and filled-in buildings, precisely as he had described.[12]  Likewise, when he described the Roman conquest of Masada, his details of the fortress palace, including various rooms and destructive events that had occurred, have been found to be precise, even though he was not there.  He obtained his information from a number of individuals who were there and personally witnessed the conquest. Therefore, while some of his opinions are biased, most of his observations are incredibly accurate.  Josephus is also valuable concerning some Jewish cultural attributes.

In his youthful years, he placed himself under the instruction of the major religious sects of Judaea.  In his work Vita 2 (10-12), he claims to have studied with the Essenes, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and an individual by the name of Bannus, of whom little is known.  Josephus had excellent reading and writing skills for his day, considering the magnitude of writings he produced.[13] While historians have seen him as a Jewish Pharisee,[14] a few others speculate that he may have quietly converted to Christianity. In fact, some believe that at the time of these writings, he had been an Ebionite Christian for many years.[15]  This, however, remains a minority view.  His comments on the life of Christ and related events have been subject of many scholarly discussions.[16]


[1]. There are two major methods in referring to the literary works of Josephus. The most common method was created by William Whiston who divided each literary work into books, chapters, and paragraphs. For example, the death of James in Antiquities of the Jews is found in Antiquities 20.9.1. Another method is the Loeb edition which divides each of Whiston’s books into smaller sections.  Therefore, the same account of James is found in Antiquities 20 (200) or 20.200.


[2]. Josephus, The Life of Flavius Josephus 10-12; See also Stemberger. Jewish Contemporaries of Jesus: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes. 6.


[3] See 02.02.01.V for more information on this subject.


[4]. Whiston, ed. The Works of Josephus Complete and Unabridged. 543 note “a.”


[5]. Martin, L. Hellenistic Religions. 40-42.


[6]. Golub, In the Days. 328-29.


[7]. Schreckenberg, “Josephus, Flavius.” 2:1132-33; Stone, “Josephus, Flavius.” 3:696-97; Bruce, “Josephus, Flavius.” 2:816.

[8]. Josephus, Antiquities 16.7.1 (183).


[9]http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Varro/de_Re_Rustica/1*.html Retrieved July 9, 2011.


[10]. Cited by Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:80.


[11]. Lee, The Galilean Jewishness of Jesus. 98; Bruce, “Josephus, Flavius” 2:816; Schmalz and Fischer, The Messianic Seal. 24; Grant, M. Ancient Historians, 258.


[12]. Syon, “Gamla:” 30.  The name “Gamla” is sometimes spelled “Gamala.”


[13]. Schreckenberg, “Josephus, Flavius.” 2:1132-33.


[14]. Josephus, The Life of Flavius Josephus. 3, 13, 15, 19, 21, 25.


[15]. Whiston, ed., The Works of Josephus. 9 – See footnote  “k.”


[16]. For further study see Appendix 31.


02.02.15 Midrash

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 18, 2016  -  Comments Off on 02.02.15 Midrash

02.02.15 Midrash. The Midrash is a Jewish commentary on the Old Testament. The name means to investigate, to search, or to study, is based on the reference by the prophet Iddo (2 Ch. 13:22). Synagogues had a room known as the beit Midrash, meaning house of interpretation, dedicated to the study of Scripture.[1] The tradition of the Midrash is, no doubt, as old as the written Scripture,[2]  but by the first century it was the commentary on the Hebrew Bible.[3]

The Midrashim (plural form) are thought to be commentaries on historical narratives that evidently were used extensively by Ezra (7:10) upon his return from Babylonian captivity.  At the time, the Torah was accepted as the sole authority of the Word of God.  Some scholars believe the Midrashim were part of the Oral Law and not recorded until the second or third century A.D.[4]

But this document became a point of controversy between the Sadducees, who were literal interpreters of the Torah, and the Pharisees, who upheld the Oral Law.  The focus of attention was on the application of the Mosaic books to daily life in a culture that had radically changed in the fourteen centuries since Moses wrote them.  While the Midrash is not mentioned in the New Testament, it and the Oral Law were certainly at the root of some heated discussions between Jesus and his opponents.[5]

[1]. Spangler and Tverberg, Sitting at the Feet. 25.


[2]. Harrison, “Midrash.” 351.


[3]. Goulder, Midrash and Lection in Matthew. 28.


[4]. Lee, The Galilean Jewishness of Jesus. 60-61.


[5]. Coker, “Midrash.” 4:222-23.


02.02.16 Mishnah

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 18, 2016  -  Comments Off on 02.02.16 Mishnah

02.02.16 Mishnah. It is a compilation of the oral laws[1] as taught in many first century rabbinical schools.  These laws were the interpretation and application of the written laws of Moses.  The name Mishnah was derived from a Hebrew word meaning to repeat.[2] But under the influence of the Aramaic word tanna, the meaning was changed to learn.[3] The Mishnah was built upon the rules and regulations established by two other theological schools in Jewish history in the Inter-Testamental Period as well as the early Christian Period.[4]

  1. The Sophrim, which was popular from 450 to 30 B.C., instituted thousands of rules and regulations that pertained to every aspect of Jewish life. These were intended to build “a fence around the Torah” as described in Mishnah, Aboth 1.1.[5]
  1. The Tannaim was a second school of rabbinic scribes who decided that the rabbis of the Sophrim left too many holes in their laws. So the Tannaim rabbis added more restrictions. This school started in 30 B.C. and continued to about A.D. 220.


These various rules and regulations became the Oral Law in the days of Jesus, and when written, became known as the Mishnah.[6] The development of the Mishnah is rather interesting and provides insights into the religious environment of the gospels.

So many scribes, rabbis, and sages were killed in the two revolts (A.D. 66-73 and 132-135), that there was deep concern among the survivors that the Oral laws would be lost if not written. Once written, these were divided into six major sections of the Mishnah, each called a tractate. The tractate Aboth is considered to contain the oldest teachings and even has the names of sixty-five rabbis. Most scholars believe that the entire collection of Oral Laws occurred between the years A.D. 90 and 200, and by the year 220, Y’hudah HaNasi (“Judah the Prince”) served as editor and compiled them as the Mishnah.[7] Since writing was a long and tedious work, it was finally completed in 279 by Johanan bar Nappacha.

The writers were extremely devoted to accuracy when copying Scripture and commentaries. They determined that their commentaries would accurately reflect daily religious life in Judea, Galilee, and Perea without any trace of Greek philosophy or Christianity.[8]  It does, however, present various rabbinic opinions such as the disputes between Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai whose teachings were hotly debated during the life of Jesus.

This work has preserved elements of the Midrash, which is an earlier method of teaching the traditional laws by means of a running commentary on the biblical text.  There is some lack of uniformity in the Mishnah because some teachers established certain portions prior to A.D. 220, while other rabbis completed other sections more than a century earlier.[9] It was quickly accepted as the authoritative code-law of Judaism.[10]  However, caution should be noted.  Not all the comments within the Mishnah and other Jewish writings reflect life in time of Jesus.  The greatest of care has been taken to discover those rules and regulations that were in effect at the time of Jesus.[11]  Note these two examples:

  1. Discussions by Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai and their peers are certain to be of His era.
  1. On the other hand, some passages clearly state that certain events happened after the destruction of the temple – obviously after the time of Jesus. For example, an interesting comment found in Sotah 9.15 discusses the moral cultural break-down of society prior to the coming of the messiah.


Video Insert    >

02.02.16.V The Significance of Understanding Jewish Literature. Messianic Rabbi John Fischer, discusses the contributions of the Mishnah and Gemarah that aid understanding of the Gospels and the words of Jesus (Heb. Yeshua).


Therefore, great caution has been taken to present an accurate cultural and religious picture in this e-Book.  The modern Gentile Bible students often find the Jewish writings confusing. They are unsure of when a particular passage was written and to what part of Jewish history it applies. Therefore, the following diagram may help bring basic clarity to this matter.

  1. The Mishnah covers a time span of 450 B.C. to A.D. 220, but most is pre-destruction temple era.
  1. The Gemarah (02.02.09) covers a time span of A.D. 220 to 500.
  1. The Mishnah + the Gemarah = The Talmud (Babylonian and Jerusalem editions)


02.02.16.Q1 Why are some Jewish writings incredibly similar to New Testament teachings?


The answer is simple – both are rooted in the Hebrew Bible. Are all rabbinic writings reflective of the time of Jesus?  Absolutely not!  And that makes discernment of those writings all the more challenging. Some scholars have often stated that the Mishnah and Talmud were written centuries after Jesus and, therefore, are not trustworthy sources for two reasons:

  1. These writings idealize what first century Judaism should have been like.
  1. Some beliefs of the Jews changed over time toward a Christian perspective.


However, what these scholars have failed to realize is that many of the Jewish principles of faith and life in the Mishnah and repeated in the Talmud were taught centuries before they were recorded. In fact, most of these principles originated long before the time of Jesus. Mary and Joseph were righteous not only when Jesus was born, but throughout their entire lives and they were faithful to Old Testament teachings.  So were many other Jews and rabbis. Therefore, it should not be surprising that both the New Testament and a number of Jewish writings are similar.

[1]. See also Oral Law 02.02.18 and Oral Tradition 02.02.20. See 02.02.01.V for more information on this subject.


[2]. Farrar, The Life of Christ. 241.


[3]. “Mishnah” Encyclopedia Judaica CD ROM 1997; See also Mishnah, Avot 3:8-9 See also 02.02.09.


[4]. Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 8, pages 2-4.


[5]. See video 02.02.16.V by Messianic Rabbi  John Fischer who discusses the term “fence around the Torah” from a first century Jewish perspective.


[6]. Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 7, page 13.


[7]. Runes, The Talmud of Jerusalem. 6.


[8]. Lee, U. The Life of Christ. 78.


[9]. Danby, ed., Mishnah. 14, 25.


[10]. Neusner, A Midrash Reader. 9.


[11]. For example, see Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 355.

02.02.17 New Testament (NT)

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 18, 2016  -  Comments Off on 02.02.17 New Testament (NT)

02.02.17 New Testament (NT). The covenants of the Bible are, in fact, suzerainty covenants, which are defined as agreements between two unequal parties, where the stronger and more powerful party functions for the benefit of the weaker one.[1]  The New Testament (Heb. Brit Chadash) includes the gospels, which according the sequence of covenants, was still within the Old Testament Period.  The New Testament Period did not begin until Jesus walked out of the tomb (many believe it began on the day of Pentecost).  The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament and its prophecies and promises. This new covenant, which is the fulfillment of the old, must therefore be used to interpret the Old Covenant. The gospels are placed in the New Testament, but historically, are in the Old Testament Period.  Jesus lived and functioned as an orthodox Jew under Old Testament rules and regulations.[2]

[1]. Payne, J. B. “Covenant (In the Old Testament).” 1:1102-03; See “Suzerainty Treaty” in Appendix 26.


[2]. See Dr. David Cook’s discussion of The Amazing Bible in 02.02.04.V.


02.02.18 Oral Law

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 18, 2016  -  Comments Off on 02.02.18 Oral Law

02.02.18 Oral Law. (See also Mishnah – 02.02.16 and Oral Tradition – 02.02.20). Today, and in the days of Jesus, Jewish people believe that the “Torah” is divided into two parts:  the written and the unwritten (known as the Oral Law).[1] Some scholars believe that the phrase in 1 Peter 1:18 “handed down from one’s fathers” (Gk. patroparadotos 3970) is a reference to the oral tradition of conveying an historical account from father to son.[2]  It was the Oral Law, also known as the “Law of the lip, or Torah Shebeal pih,[3] although some Jewish scholars today believe that ancient rabbis were permitted to keep personal notes on issues not discussed often.[4] Nonetheless, it was the cause for confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees because they considered it to be superior to the Mosaic laws. However, the Oral Laws were not honored by the Sadducees.  When the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity, they instituted this new set of regulations to protect themselves from sinning against God, and later, from the influences of the Greco-Roman culture.  They felt that failure to protect themselves would most certainly cause them to be exiled again.[5] The irony is that the Oral Law was the major reason the Jewish leadership rejected Christ, which led to their dispersal from the land in A.D. 70 and in 135.

There is a debate as to when the Oral laws originated.  Most Jews believe it originated as the verbal explanation of the written law by Moses[6] while Christians believe it dates to the time of Ezra.  When the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem were gathered at the temple, Ezra read the Torah to them (Neh. 8).  After the reading, he explained the biblical text “so that the people could understand what was being read” (Neh. 8:8).  The Torah by this time was nearly a thousand years old and the language and customs had changed, making the reading somewhat archaic. Hence, Ezra’s explanation of the Law became the foundation of the Oral Law.

Many years later, in the first half of the second century B.C., when the Holy Land was dominated by the Greeks, Antiochus IV Epiphanes forced the Greek culture upon the Jews. The need for a “protective fence” around the Torah became critical, as the Jews strengthened their set of laws to insulate themselves from the pagan influences.[7]  These laws enhanced the “Oral Law,” or “Oral Tradition.”  The purpose of the additional laws was to serve as a protectorate so that the religious authorities could punish anyone before he had the opportunity to break one of the more serious laws of God, and thereby possibly cause the entire nation to suffer divine punishment. While the intent of the Oral laws was good, in time, they become oppressive and restrictive for the people whom they were intended to protect.[8]  To the Pharisees the Oral Law superseded all Scripture, and therein was the foundation for the conflict with Jesus. In the Aboth 1:1 there is an interesting statement that clearly defines the Oral Law.  It reads:

Moses received the Torah at Sinai and handed it on to Joshua, Joshua to elders, and elders to prophets.  And the prophets handed it on to the men of the Great Synagogue.  They said three things: Be prudent in judgment. Raise up many disciples. Make a fence around the Torah.  

Mishnah, Aboth 1:1[9]


In the three centuries following the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 135, the Oral Laws were recorded and by the end of the second century or early third century, these became known as the Mishnah.  Other commentaries followed such as the Tosefta, Mekilta, Sifra, Sifre, and the Baraita.   The oral traditions were well preserved by professional scribes,[10] even though there were other writers who attempted to remold and reshape Jewish history with writings known as the Pseudepigrapha. Therefore, the scribes preserved an excellent background on how the Torah was interpreted and applied to daily life during the time of Christ as well as other aspects of Jewish life. By the first century rabbinic rules influenced every part of a Jewish person’s life including the dimensions of tombs. For example, in the Mishnah are the rabbinic directives that stated that a burial niche had to be four cubits long and seven handbreadths high and six handbreadths wide.[11]   Furthermore, carcasses, graves, and tanneries were not permitted within 50 cubits of a town.[12] If a town grew to the point that it surrounded a cemetery, the tombs had to be removed.[13]

Today, the various sects of the ultra-orthodox Jews, such as the Satmars, the Gerers, the Bratslavers, and the Lubavitchers believe that the five books of Moses are absolutely divinely inspired. But they also believe the Oral Law that includes the Talmud, are also divinely inspired and are bitterly opposed to Christians and Messianic Jews.[14] In that sense, the first century Pharisees live on.

Most of the arguments Jesus had with the leading Pharisees pertained to the regulations of daily life, known as the Halakhah.[15] These were oppressive restrictions religious peddlers promoted rather than helping people find the purpose God has for their lives. The question people today have about stories of Jesus that were passed down until they were written is, did the stories change during transmission? In other words, can we trust the biblical narratives?  Those are valid questions.

The fact is that the ancient Jewish culture was an oral culture. That means that Oral Laws were passed from one generation to the next, and often recited publically. When there was an error made by the speaker, one or more listeners quickly corrected him. Furthermore, if a law was quoted correctly, but in some way its meaning was belittled or degraded, he was quickly corrected. Since there is no equal in Western culture, it is difficult to accept the fact that traditions and information were accurately transmitted, but that is precisely what occurred.[16] 

[1]. Chajes, The Student’s Guide through the Talmud. 1.


[2]. Vine, “Handed Down.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:288.


[3]. Farrar, The Life of Christ. 241.


[4]. Parry, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Talmud. 20.


[5]. Danby, ed., The Mishnah. 60-61; Neusner, A Midrash Reader. 4.

[6]. Parry, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Talmud. 9.


[7]. Lee, The Galilean Jewishness of Jesus, 77-79, 99-103; Wheaton, “Antiochus.” 1:71-72


[8]. Lee, U., The Life of Christ. 60-61.

[9]. Danby, ed., The Mishnah; See also Neusner, Rabbinic Judaism. 207. See video 02.02.16.V by Messianic Rabbi  John Fischer who discusses the term “fence around the Torah” from a first century Jewish perspective.


[10]. Freeman, The New Manners and Customs. 420-21.


[11]. Mishnah, Baba Bathra 6.8

[12]. Mishnah, Baba Bathra 2.9.


[13]. Mishnah, Baba Bathra 1.11; See also Kloner and Zissu. The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. 21.

[14]. Schneider, “Who are the Ultra-Orthodox?” 15.


[15]. Lee, The Galilean Jewishness of Jesus, 107.


[16]. The Jews were by no means the only ones with an oral culture. Oral cultures existed in many parts of the world. In fact, some Native American Indians also had an oral culture in which laws and traditions were passed from father to son.


02.02.19 Old Testament (OT)

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 18, 2016  -  Comments Off on 02.02.19 Old Testament (OT)

02.02.19 Old Testament (OT). The Hebrew Bible is a collection of religious and historical books that were written over a fifteen hundred year period and compiled at the Council of Jamnia in A.D. 90 by prominent Jewish leaders, led by Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai.[1] These were accepted as early as 400 B.C., but were not in an official cannon format.[2] Yet Josephus, writing in A.D. 95, reported that he firmly believed that the Jewish cannon was closed.[3] It is believed that after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 135, when Gentiles took control of the Jerusalem Church, the Hebrew Bible became known as the “Old Testament.” The gospels and other Scriptures written since the birth of Christ became known as the “New Testament.”  Nowhere in the New Testament is there a reference to the Hebrew Bible as being replaced or called the “Old Testament,” but rather, it simply referred to as “Scriptures.”[4]

[1]. Rabbi Zakkai was the last disciple of the famous Rabbi Hillel. See Parry, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Talmud. 38-39.


[2]. See Dr. David Cook’s discussion of The Amazing Bible in 02.02.04.V.


[3]. Josephus, Against Apion 1.42-44.


[4]. For example: Mt. 21:42; 22:29; 26:54, 56; Mk. 12:10; 15:28; Lk. 4:21; Jn. 2:22; 7:38,42; 10:35; 13:18; 17:12; 19:24, 28, etc.


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