Unit 08 – Topical Issues

Unit 08 Topical Issues

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Unit 08

Topical Issues

08.01 Warning The Religious Leaders

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Chapter 01

Warning The Religious Leaders


08.01.00.A. JESUS WARNS THE JEWISH LEADERS. Illustration by Godfrey Durand, 1896 (2)

08.01.00.A. JESUS WARNS THE JEWISH LEADERS. Illustration by Godfrey Durand, 1896. While the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus, those who knew Him from childhood also rejected Him.  Others weighed carefully His words and actions in relation to the prophecies given in centuries past by the prophets, as well as the popularly perceived three messianic miracles they expected the messiah to perform.

08.01.01 Introduction

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08.01.01 Introduction

Jesus warned the religious establishment that their sins would eventually cost them. In fact, they were so incredibly wicked, that, as will be shown later, even the Jewish writers condemned them.


Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 07, 2016  -  Comments Off on 08.01.02 WOES PRONOUNCED

08.01.02 Lk. 6:24-26




24 But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your comfort.

25 Woe to you who are now full,

            for you will be hungry.

Woe to you who are now laughing,

            for you will mourn and weep.

26 Woe to you when all people speak well of you,

            for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the false prophets


Luke and Matthew both gave dire warnings to those who failed to repent from their wicked lifestyle and corrupt religious service in the name of God.  They placed their message in a slightly different order, but the styles are amazingly similar.  It is important to notice that all too often these woe passages have been directed only towards the Pharisees (Mt. 23:1-12), when in reality, these were applied to most of the aristocratic leaders who served in the temples. That entire group – the leading Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and elders – claimed to be the light of God’s holy law but failed to recognize their own short-comings; their shallowness and hypocrisy; their utter darkness.  Since Jesus gave these warnings to the leaders of His day, the church leaders of today need to examine themselves to see if the same message might apply.

The woe statements are profoundly sobering. The Jewish leaders were entrusted with the souls of men and failed to perform their duties as required. Since Jesus was so powerfully direct with them, it is obvious that His message and expectations remain unchanged concerning church leaders today.[1] Likewise, in later years, the rabbis wrote of these same religious leaders whom Jesus condemned, and those rabbis referred to the seven plagues of the Pharisees.[2]



“Woe to you who are now laughing.” The term woe is both an announcement of guilt and the pending judgment that is about to follow.[3] It is a dirge, a lament for the dead.[4] The term laughter is seldom descriptive of humor or festive events, but rather, it is descriptive of scorn and mockery as in this passage, or as a pun or play on words.[5] This adds insight to the phrase woe which in Greek is ouai, and also refers to both anger and sorrow.[6]

[1]. See also 09.02.02. 11.02.05, and 13.05.02-05.


[2]. Jerusalem Talmud, Berakhot 9, 14b.

[3]. Levy, The Ruin and Restoration of Israel. 182.

[4]. Smith, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew. 157, 274.


[5]. Pilch, The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible. 92-93.


[6]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 182.



Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 07, 2016  -  Comments Off on 08.01.03 SALT AND LIGHT OF BELIEVERS

08.01.03 Mt. 5:13-16




13You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.


14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.


“You are the salt of the earth.” Salt has always been an essential for life, especially in desert regions such as those east and south of Jerusalem.  Jesus said His disciples are to be like salt to the culture – being a life-giving preserving agent.


By the southwestern shores of the Dead Sea is a ten mile long salt mountain, from where the Dead Sea obtains its saltiness. It was also from where salt was shipped to the port city of Eilat in the south and to Tabgtha and Magdala in the north (see Ezek. 47:11). In these two fishing villages, fish were salted and shipped throughout the eastern Roman and western Parthian Empires. In that sense, many in His audience were literally the “salt of the earth.” The Sea of Galilee was the primary fresh water lake for fish, which was the meat of choice both for travelers and local people.  Josephus called the village of Magdala Taricheaea, which means “salted fish” in Greek.[1] For centuries caravans purchased salt that is 98% pure and shipped it to distant markets. Judaea had been the salt of the earth physically, but now Jesus was speaking in a spiritual dimension.


On a more general note, salt was used to season food (Job 6:6) and meat offerings (Lev. 2:13) and in moderate amounts was eaten in hospitality with others.  The ancients knew that without this precious mineral they would become weak and could die in the arid and semi-arid climates. It was not considered so much a source of seasoning, but one of strength and life.  Hence, it became symbolic of life, strength, and truthfulness from the lips of Jesus.[2]  It was considered so valuable to the maintenance of life that it was even mixed with feed for cattle (Isa. 30:24). Contracts between two individuals were sealed with an exchange of salt and were known as a “Covenant of Salt” (Num. 18:19; 2 Ch. 13:5).   To be “salt” to men is similar to being the “light to the world,’ in that a person demonstrates to others how to live a godly life.


Israel was important to the Romans because this tiny Jewish nation had an inexhaustible supply of salt, so much so that taxes were often paid with salt. It was shipped via camel caravans to all parts of the eastern section of the Roman Empire.[3] As salt was essential to the Roman Empire, so the “salt” of the believers is essential to the lost people of the world. Israel had been the salt of the earth physically, but now Jesus was speaking in a spiritual dimension.


Finally, it has been suggested that salt had an additional use – one that is often overlooked. In ancient times one of the household duties of children was to collect animal dung which was molded into patties, dried, and used as fuel in clay ovens. There was always an abundant supply of “cooking fuel” but also a scarcity of wood. Some scholars believe that a small block of salt was placed under the dung in the stove to improve its combustibility.  If this was the intended cultural meaning, then some other references to salt in the New Testament could mean that it was an aid to making fires burn rather than as a flavor seasoning or preservative agent. However, in this case it would be also be a fitting Hebraic image to another comment, “You are the light of the world.”[4]




08.01.03.A. THE DEAD SEA SALT MOUNTAIN. The so-called “Lot’s wife” pillar stands atop a ten-mile long mountain of salt at the south-western end of the Dead Sea. It is from this mountain that the water obtains its saltiness. The mountain is 98 percent pure salt and the remaining two percent give it color.[5] For centuries salt was taken from this mountain and transported by caravan to the Sea of Galilee where it was used to salt fish. Photograph by Paivi Heinrich.


“But if the salt should lose its taste.” Critics have long said that due to the chemical composition of salt, it is impossible for it to lose its flavor. Technically, they are right even if there are several varieties of salt,[6] but Jesus was not speaking of chemistry, but local salt. Salt from the western cliffs of the Dead Sea is 98% pure, with the 2% giving it its color. Impurities can have a negative effect, which may be why the Pliny the Elder had observed that salt from the Dead Sea can lose its savory quality and become bland and tasteless.[7]  But there was a social component at well.  Occasionally when salt was loaded aboard ships or on camels, Samaritans were known to throw dirt on the precious cargo to destroy its value. Clearly, the taste and value of salt could be destroyed.


“A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.” Jesus again used imagery with which everyone was familiar, although the imagery could have referred to more than one particular place. Throughout Israel there were villages designated as “warning cities.”  These were hilltop villages who would give warning signals to other designated hilltop villages of an encroaching enemy.  Also, when the rabbis at the temple determined the moment the Sabbath had begun, the trumpets would blow and a fire signal was given at the pinnacle of the temple. The signal was seen and repeated at the nearest “warning city” so the next hilltop village could relay it.[8] In a matter of seconds of the announcement in Jerusalem, the Jews of the Galilee knew the Sabbath had begun. Jesus perhaps was referring to such a “warning city.”


However, on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee there was a city, Hippos, located atop Mount Sussita and well known to everyone.[9]  The Greek name Hippos and Aramaic name Sussita both mean horse. It was one of the ten Greek cities known as the Decapolis with a significant Jewish population. Jesus could have referred to it because a small light shown there could be seen for miles.


08.01.03.B. A CITY UPON A HILL (3)


08.01.03.B. A CITY UPON A HILL. The city upon a hill which Jesus mentioned was possibly Hippos on the top of Mount Sussita along the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. A switch-back trail is visible that leads to the top. Photograph by the author.


08.01.03.X Examples of metaphors used by Jesus

Jesus used the metaphor of life-giving salt to underscore the significant impact His followers have upon the earth, meaning that they help sustain the life of all humanity.   A metaphor affirms one concept by using another, a description of speech whereby an object is described as if it were another.   The second concept is always directly related to the first and gives it definition.[10]  It is best explained with the examples below:


– “You are the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13

– “This is My body.” Matthew 26:26

– “The Lord God is a sun and shield.” Psalm 84:11

– “(He) is my refuge and my fortress.” Psalm 91:2

– “I am the bread of life.” John 6:35

– “I am the door.” John 10:7

– “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6

– “I am the true vine.” John 15:1

– “I am the good shepherd.” John 10:11  


Therefore, a metaphor obviously cannot be literal, but it does convey the meaning to a more accurate degree.  The classic example is the Parable of the Sower (Mt. 13:18-23, 37-43), which also has its interpretations.


  1. 37 “The One who sows the good seed is (i.e., represents) the Son of Man.”
  2. 38a “The field is (i.e., represents) the world.”
  3. 38b “The good seed stands for (i.e., represents) the sons of the kingdom.”


“Your good works.” This phrase seems to be simple enough that it would not need explanation.  However, from God’s perspective the good works or good deeds are not merely good, they are beautiful.[11]  The usual Greek word for good is agathos, but in this statement the Greek word is kalos, meaning beautiful. That means our good works are not only good, but attractive in a moral and spiritual sense. Furthermore, there is a sense of appreciation and love connected with this word kalos.

[1]. Magdala had an Aramaic nickname Dalmanutha, which means “the harbor” because it was where fishermen brought their fish to be salted and where fish houses had small indoor pools to keep the fish alive until purchased by local residents.


[2]. Gilbrant, “Matthew.” 79.

[3]. Petroleum-based tars were harvested from the Dead Sea and shipped internationally to be used in boat construction, medicines, and other uses. For centuries the Egyptians also used Dead Sea tar to preserve and seal the wrappings of mummies.


[4]. Pilch, The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible. 4-5. See also comments by Rabbi John Fischer in 10.01.28.V where he discusses two unique healing methods of blind men.


[5]. Notley, Lecture notes at Jerusalem University College. August, 1999.


[6]. See any chemistry textbook or website such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_(chemistry). Retrieved September 13, 2014.


[7]. Pliny the Elder, Natural History. 3.31.34.


[8]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:113.


[9]. It is unknown when the first churches were established in Hippos, but by the fourth century church buildings were constructed and these congregations survived the Muslim conquest in 636. However the city was destroyed by an 6.6 magnitude earthquake (Richter scale) in January 18, 749. See Segal and Eisenberg. “The Spade Hits Suissita.” 40-51, 78 and http://geology.geoscienceworld.org/content/31/8/665.abstract and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/749_Galilee_earthquake

Retrieved August 26, 2014.

[10]. Lockyer, All the Parables of the Bible. 15.

[11]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 222, 292.



Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 07, 2016  -  Comments Off on 08.01.04 LAW AND GOSPEL

08.01.04 Mt. 5:17-20




17 “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.    20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.


If there was one thing Jews enjoyed doing, it was having theological debates and exchanging ideas.  It encouraged learning and memory. Jesus was a Torah-observant Jew whose disagreements with the leading Pharisees are very much in the spirit of the enduring intra-Jewish debates so characteristic of rabbinic literature.  Little wonder then, that Jesus in Matthew 5:17-20, clarified His position on the Torah. Ironically, Jesus embodies the paradox of uniting Jews with Christians and separating Jews from Christians.

The Torah, written about 1450 B.C., was a “type and shadow” of Jesus who was to come at some future point in time.[1]  While the Law/Torah did not bring anyone to salvation, getting rid of it, likewise, did not bring salvation.  The Law, or Instruction, indicates the lifestyle a person must live to reflect the character of God and the grace of God through Christ Jesus made it possible. Just as Jesus was a human being, the Law was a foreshadowing of Jesus.  Just as a shadow resembles a person, a “foreshadow” represents a person before he arrives on the scene.[2] Jesus did not come to destroy the Law of Moses or the writings of the Prophets, but to fulfill them.

Of the four levels of Pharisees,[3] the lowest (local) level consisted of men who were truly concerned about the people in their congregations and being righteous before God.  However, the upper echelon consisted of leaders who maintained their wealthy social-economic level, had no concern about righteousness, and constantly challenged Jesus. There were a few exceptions, such as Nicodemus. Across the entire Jewish spectrum there was a misunderstanding of the intent of the Law, which made it very difficult for them to receive the teachings of Jesus. This was illustrated when Nicodemus met Jesus as he had difficulty understanding His concepts.


“The Law or the Prophets.”  Jewish scholars divided their Bible into three classifications: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.


  1. The “Law” consisted of the five books written by Moses, known as the Mosaic Law. In Hebrew these books were known as the Torah, but in Greek they were called The Pentateuch, which means The Five Rolls.[4] The term law (Gk. nomos 3551) is translated from the Hebrew word torah (309). There are distinct differences between the meanings of the Greek and Hebrew words. The Greek understanding of law is restrictive, and that meaning has been passed on to English translations. However, the Hebrew meaning emphasizes instruction, a vital concept that is lost in translations. Therefore, the Hebrew definition of key terms is critical to understanding their message. Greek dictionaries very seldom include the Hebrew meaning.[5]


  1. The “Prophets,” which is a classification of books consisting of the later prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel), and the former prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings), as well as the twelve minor prophets. It is a collection of writings from men who had divine insight of current and future events, and were proclaimers of God’s message.[6]


  1. All other books were classified as the “Writings.”[7]


It should be noted that Jesus always based His teachings and arguments upon the entire Hebrew Bible.  Furthermore, Paul underscored the words of Jesus when he said that the Law would never be nullified, but rather, needs to be upheld (Rom. 3:31).  When Jesus said He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, He used a figure of speech to refer to the entire Hebrew Bible, even though He did not specifically mention the Writings. Furthermore, he stressed the promising character of Scripture.[8]

“I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” In this passage, Jesus clarified the purpose of His ministry. However, the word “not” can be confusing to the modern reader. Therefore, for the purpose of explanation, it is removed momentarily.  The phrase, “to come,” is a Hebraic idiom that means mission, intent, or purpose.[9] This statement is not at all related to His incarnation, but to His purpose or mission. With that understanding, the words “I did not come” in the Greek translation has two possible constructions:


  1. Stop thinking that…


  1. Never think that…[10]


In this case, Jesus referred to the second construction, “never think that,” applies. There is no question that the purpose of Jesus was to live a perfect life, suffer and be the sacrifice for our sins, to rise from the grave that He can offer eternal life for all those who place their faith in Him. However, this was God’s plan from the foundations of the earth. Therefore, the Law, or Torah, has to be understood as the first written document in that process and Jesus came to fulfill that law.

The term destroy (Gk. Kataluo, 2647) means to overthrow completely.[11] Some translations use terms such as abolish or disintegrate. In rabbinic usage, the word abolish is a technical term to mean, to cancel or nullify, and fulfill is a technical term to mean uphold or preserve, based upon the correct or incorrect use of the text.[12] When a sage or rabbi incorrectly commented on a text, his peers would say that he was abolishing the text. Since the people of this time were trilingual; they spoke Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew. Therefore, one messianic scholar suggests that the word fulfill needs to be examined in those languages to insure understanding.


  1. Greek – To make complete, to fill up, or to fill up the measure of.


  1. Aramaic – to add, or fill out.


  1. Hebrew – to uphold, preserve, establish, or sustain. The teaching being given completely agrees with the text of Scripture in question and spells out it correct and complete implications.[13]


The importance of preserving and communicating the Bible accurately is underscored in the proverbial “jot and tittle” passage of verse 18. That archaic phrase is translated as “the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter” and is further explained below.


A Lesson in First Century Hermeneutics:

08.01.04.X The Significance Of Letter Serifs.

Not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter.”  Some sources translate this phrase as “not one jot or tittle.”  The smallest letter is the Greek word iota (2503), from the smallest Hebrew letter yod has the appearance of an apostrophe.[14] It appears similar to, but is different from the “tittle” (KJV) that Jesus mentioned.  That is the one stroke  translated from the Greek term keraia (2762) and means a little horn. It is a small stroke that distinguishes one Hebrew letter from another.[15] It might be considered similar to todays’s font serif [16]  in size, but not in distinguishing one letter from another.  Care must be taken when writing Hebrew because changing the stroke of a letter changes the word, and thus, changes its meaning. The statement by Jesus is a pattern of speech similar to the modern English phrase, “dot your I’s and cross your T’s.” [17] 

The problem with a literal translation is that languages are in constant change. Everyone understood that the slightest change in the writing of a letter would change the word and its meaning. An inaccurate interpretation of Scripture was said to be an “abolishment” and an accurate interpretation of the Scripture was said to be a “fulfillment of the law.” The point that Jesus made was that not the slightest or seemingly least insignificant point of the Mosaic Law will ever pass away.[18] God’s Word is eternal and, therefore, remains unchanged.


An example is found in the recorded debate of two rabbis at the end of the first century (A.D.), after the temple had been destroyed some three decades earlier. Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiba were arguing about sacrifices and sin offerings, when Rabbi Eliezer touted,


            Would you uproot what is written in the law?


            Mishnah, Pesahim 6:2


The word “uproot” the rabbi used means to abolish what was written in the Mosaic Law. No rabbi would ever consider such a thought. This was affirmed later by the Apostle Paul, who said in Romans 8:4 that those who are filled with the Holy Spirit fulfill the righteous requirements of the Torah.

The problem of modern interpretation is that, as in this case where an idiom is lost, there can be a possible misunderstanding of the text. Idioms are figures of speech that are unique to the language.  For example, when Adam knew his wife Eve (Gen. 4:1), it refers to a sexual relationship, not that he finally met her and got to know who she was.  Here Jesus was speaking of the absolute necessity of divine truth and righteousness coming to its completion, as intended by every “jot and tittle,” and His words were not forms of legalism sometimes associated with linguistics.[19] Rather it confirms the permanence and firmness of the Word of God.[20] There are many similar statements throughout rabbinic commentaries, such as:


Should all the nations of the world unite to uproot one word of the Torah, they would be unable to do it.


Leviticus, Rabbah 19:2     




08.01.04.A. ILLUSTRATION OF TWO HEBREW LETTERS WITH SERIFS. The letters yod and lamed are shown with and without serifs, the small angular decorative line at the top of each letter. Illustration by the author.


Changing the stroke of a letter changes the word, and thus, changes its meaning. The difference between the proverbial “jot and tittle” or “the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter” is quite significant in the Hebrew language. Two examples are as follows:[21]


  1. The slight change of a pen can change the Hebrew phrase, He alone is God, to He is just another god.


  1. The difference between the Hebrew letters hay and het changes the phrase, praising God to profaning God.


The Pharisees were interested in the minute details of their own laws and traditions, but Jesus simply applied their method of interpretation to His Written Law.  He assured them that He was not recommending an abandonment of the Old Testament, but was bringing a deeper and fuller understanding of its true meaning and purpose.  Paul confirms this when he said:


Do we then cancel the law through faith? Absolutely not! On the contrary, we uphold the law.


Romans 3:31


The rabbis taught that the entire Torah needed to be taught in the same manner that today pastors proclaim the whole counsel of God.   To do otherwise was/is considered an abomination. The Talmud also gives some insight into the meaning of the words of Jesus.


Baraitha taught: “Because he has despised the word of the Lord” – this refers to him who maintains that the Torah is not from Heaven.  And even if he asserts that the whole Torah is from Heaven, except a particular verse, which he maintains was not uttered by God but by Moses himself, he is included in “because he has despised the word of the Lord.”  And even if he admits that the whole Torah is from Heaven, excepting a single point, a particular ad majus deduction or a certain gezerah shawah, he is still included in “because he has despised the word of the Lord.”  

Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 99a


To be included in the phrase “because he has despised the word of the Lord” was a condemnation because the sacred writ was compromised.  Note that in this statement, the name “Heaven” is capitalized because it is a synonym for “God.”  This is a typical Jewish expression today, just as it was 2000 years ago.

There is no lack of confusion among Bible students concerning the issue of law – whether the Written Law was “fulfilled” or “ended.” And if it was ended, why are the Ten Commandments still important?  There were essentially three categories of laws, and while Jesus “fulfilled,” some of these laws, others continue to be operative in human life.  Notice the three kinds of laws:[22]


  1. The Hebrew term mishpatim, refers to moral and ethical laws that need to be observed for people to live together in peace and harmony. This term is sometimes translated as judgments.


  1. The second group of laws pertains to the “Jewish” festivals and rituals. The festivals are in fact, festivals of our Lord intended to be observed by the Jewish people. These festivals all point, in some way, shape, or form, to Jesus in a prophetic manner. For example, Passover points toward His Passion Week when He died as the Lamb of God. The prophetic element of this festival was fulfilled, however, the Feast of Trumpets is not fulfilled, and some scholars believe it will be when Jesus returns for His church.[23]


  1. The Hebrew term chukim or decrees refers to the moral, judicial, and civil laws of a nation.


Of these three categories of laws, obviously the first and third ones are still in effect and Jesus is the fulfillment of the second one – the Festivals of our Lord.  However, the curse for breaking any of these laws is likewise broken, in that as we confess our sins, He is willing and able to forgive us of our sins.  In the Old Testament Period, sins were covered by a sacrifice of some kind.  In the New Testament Period (today) we have a better covenant – by the blood of Jesus our sins are completely removed, not covered.

Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees.” This is another case where the literal translation presents difficulty, unless the phrase is understood as an idiom. Most certainly it seems possible that the righteousness of believers will far exceed that of the Pharisees and scribes whom Jesus condemned.  These men were full of hypocritical self-righteousness.[24] Obviously the believer is not to be like these corrupt religious elitists, but exceedingly more righteous and holy unto God than the good and honor-worthy Pharisees who served in the local synagogues.[25]  While most Jews observed Pharisaic traditions, they did not officially belong to the religious group.  As was stated previously, the leading Pharisees were usually synonymous with the teachers of the Law,[26] which is why it is at times difficult to distinguish them from the scribes.[27]  All Pharisees who were members of the Sanhedrin were also scribes (cf. Mt. 23:7-8).[28]

Today, the thought of observing the Law is considered a negative point among many Christians. In Acts the question arose as to whether Gentile converts were required to observe “the Law,” meaning the entire Torah (Acts 15:1, 5).[29] The discussion was centered on what kind of laws were to be observed, and the synopsis is as follows:


  1. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and, therefore, all laws pertaining to sacrifices of any kind are terminated. Ceremonial laws were clearly terminated, although the temple still stood when the book of Acts was written, thereby giving rise to the discussion.


  1. Religious laws, such as kosher foods, were given to the Jews because they were to remain a distinctive people and not become intermarried with local pagans. They can chose to observe them if they wish.


  1. Finally, there are divine laws such as the Ten Commandments, which pertain to all humanity and are still in force.


Ironically, history repeats itself, although in reverse. In the book of Acts, some believed that Gentiles had to become Jews first, so they could become believers in Jesus.  Today, some Christians believe Jews have to give up their Jewishness and become like Gentiles to find salvation.


As previously stated, observing the Law did not bring salvation, but neither did its removal. After the Apostle Paul was converted on his trip to Damascus, Ananias, a devout Christian Jew who observed all the Laws, ministered to him (Acts 22:12).  It is nearly impossible for Christians today to think of a law-observing Jew as one who is also free in Christ. Yet Ananias was precisely such a figure. Luke records that faith in Jesus exploded, resulting in thousands of Jews becoming followers of the Messiah, and all of them were zealous for the Law (Acts 21:20). After this Paul publicly preached that believing Jews should not turn away from the observation (Acts 21:21-25).   The Law was considered by Paul to be holy, righteous, good, and even spiritual (Rom. 7:12, 14).  Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Jewish observation of circumcision had become meaningless, but likewise, being uncircumcised, which had profound significance in ancient times, was now also meaningless.  The important issue was the circumcision of the heart and a life of love (Gal. 5:2-6; 6:15; 1 Cor.7:18, 20).  The conclusion was distinctive.  It was Paul’s desire that Jews, who came to faith in Christ Jesus should, but were not required to, continue living like Jews. Paul, who said that he observed the Law, also stated that he did not live under the laws, meaning that the requirement of observation was removed.

[1]. See “type and shadow” in Appendix 26.


[2]. Brown, Our Hands are Stained with Blood.  82.

[3]. See 02.01.14.Q1.


[4]. Barclay, “Matthew.” 1:127.


[5]. With all due respect to W. E. Vine’s incredible work and that of many other fine scholars like him, in his Greek dictionary he failed to show that the gospel writers were Jews who acted and wrote like Jews. Vine did not indicate the Hebraic definition of law (= instruction) within his Greek dictionary, therefore, many students of Scripture miss this concept that was vital to the gospel writers. While he did define it in his Hebrew dictionary, the connection is lost. He is typical of many Gentile scholars. See Vine, “Law.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 1:133-34; 2:354-57. See “Law” in Appendix 26.


[6]. Brown, “Prophet.” 3:74-92.


[7]. New International Version Study Bible footnote on Mt. 5:17.

[8]. Smith, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew. 89.   

[9]. Vine, “Come.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:108.


[10]. Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 10, Session 1.


[11]. Vine, “Destroy, Desroyer, Destruction, Destructive.”Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:164.


[12]. Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 10, Session 1.


[13]. Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 10, Session 1.


[14]. Vine, “Jot.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:335.


[15]. Spangler and Tverberg, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. 165-66; Barclay, “Matthew.” 1:127; Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:40; Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 195-96; Vine, “Tittle.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:635.


[16]. Barclay, “Matthew.” 1:127.


[17]. Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 9, page 6; Bivin, New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus, 95.


[18]. Brunn, One Bible, Many Versions. 157.  This is an excellent source for Bible translations.


[19]. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. 340; Bivin and Blizzard, Understanding the Difficult Words. 54-56; New International Version Study Bible footnotes on Matthew 5:18-20; Naveh, Origins of the Alphabets. 21-33.

[20]. Chumney, Eddie. “Jots and Tittles.” Hebraic Heritage Ministries Int’l. Newsgroup Email Newsletter. July 22, 2004. Chumney makes a special emphasis on the permanence of the Hebrew Bible.


[21]. Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 10, Session 1.

[22]. Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 59.


[23]. For an interesting study, note the “rapture” verses when the trumpets are blown and the Feast of Trumpets.


[24]. See the discussion on hypocrites/hypocrisy in 08.03.04 (Mt. :5-15) and in “Pharisees” in 02.01.14.

[25]. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. 340; Bivin and Blizzard, Understanding the Difficult Words. 54-56.

[26]. Mt. 3:7; 15:1; Mk. 2: 16, 24; Lk. 11:38.


[27]. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 59.


[28]. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 236. Being a scribe was a family occupation, handed down from one generation to another. For a list of families of scribes, see I Chronicles 2:55, and for a “company of scribes,” see 1 Maccabees 7:12.


[29]. On an important side note, the Church has adopted a Roman view of law, that means restriction and is therefore bad, while the Hebrew Bible views law as instruction and freedom, and is therefore good.



Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 07, 2016  -  Comments Off on 08.01.05 THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT

08.01.05 Mt. 5:21-26              




21 You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment (Ex. 20:13). 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.


23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.


25 Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 I assure you: You will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny!


You have heard that it was said to our ancestors.” To the Jewish mind, nothing was valid unless it was handed down from great rabbis of the past.  Therefore, a new theological concept from Jesus was invalid.[1]  However, new rules for interpreting the Scriptures were established by Hillel and accepted by many, because these required a more legalistic observance of the Torah in the growing influence of the Greek culture.[2] The phrase “You have heard” is often a reference to the Oral Law. If Jesus or another rabbi was speaking to a Jewish audience, then this phrase could have included the Written Law or Torah because it was read publically in the synagogue. As Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Law, He is now heralding the dawn of a new kingdom.[3] John has his famous seven “I AM” statements of the Savior, but Matthew has the “I came” and I say” statements.


“But I tell you.”  Six times Jesus said this because the Pharisees believed that a thought did not become a sin until it was an action.  Jesus introduced a radical change when he said that a sinful thought or attitude was also sin. He said that to be righteous, one had to be perfect as He (Jesus) is perfect.  Such righteousness is impossible for man to attain without the intervention of Christ Himself and, therefore, there is the need for a personal relationship.


With speech patterns like this, Jesus clearly demonstrated that He placed himself equal with God and the Torah.  Throughout most of His ministry, He used indirect methods such as this to announce His deity.[4] To make an outright statement would have been considered blasphemous, prideful, and arrogant, so Jesus spoke in an indirect manner. Those who accepted Him as their Messiah also accepted Him as God.  The Pharisees and Sadducees, on the other hand, recognized this figure of speech immediately and were infuriated.


“Everyone who is angry.”  The difficulty with this phrase is that everyone gets angry at one time or another.  It is part of life. It is not the kind of anger that spouses have from time to time, or that between siblings, although if those issues are not properly resolved, they can lead to the anger (orge) of this magnitude.  However, Jesus was not speaking about that kind of anger.  Jesus referred to the Greek word for angry that is orge, which is a deep-seated, festering, brooding anger that is a accompanied with bitterness and a sense of pleasure for hatred.[5]  Since this attitude is a gross violation of a godly attitude, one who does not repent will judged accordingly.


“Judgment … fool … Sanhedrin … hellfire.”[6] The culture of the Bible was definitely an honor society; where people are honored and respected. To degrade anyone without legitimate reason was highly condemned. So to call someone a fool, for example, which includes the meaning of being insane, was highly condemned.[7] Jesus used a literary device to build an escalation of the final judgment.  He began with the local judicial court, then moved to the supreme court of the land, and ended with eternal damnation. The Master Teacher used a teaching technique involving cause and effect and built it to a climax.  His words captured everyone’s attention, because they knew that murder led to damnation in hell (literally, the hell of fire),[8] but Jesus added that even those who spoke abusively without righteous cause[9] would be included.


One of the images of hell is “Gehenna,” which is the Greek representation of the Hebrew word Ge-Hinnom or Valley of Hinnom. It is a deep narrow valley on the southern side of today’s Old City of Jerusalem.[10]  In biblical times this valley was where two apostate kings sacrificed live infants to the fire-god Molech –


  1. King Ahaz (reigned c. 728 B.C.; name shortened from Jehoahaz) also consulted wizards and necromancers (2 Chron. 28:22-25; Isa. 8:19) and,


  1. King Manasseh (reigned c. 696 – 641 B.C.), like Ahaz (reigned 741-726 B.C.), revived ancient pagan worship in Jerusalem (2 Kg. 23:10). [11] His was the longest reign (55 years) of all the kings of Judea and the most immoral one (2 Kgs. 23:26-27). Even though he repented in his later years, his corruption eventually led to the collapse of the southern kingdom (tribal areas of Benjamin and Judah).


In this inferno, parents watched their child burn while they worshiped Molech in Gehenna.  The prophet Jeremiah called Gehenna the “Valley of Slaughter” (Jer.7:31; 19:5-6).  This brought an incredible reproach upon the Jewish people.  Years later, Josiah (cf. 2 Kg. 23) had the artifacts of this pagan cult burned outside the city, along with the bones of those who were involved in its heinous rituals.  Gehenna has the imagery of a man-made hell with a history of infants dying in agony as well as the apostasy of Ahaz and Manasseh.[12]


According to the New Testament, hell is a very real place of unquenchable fire (Mt. 5:22; Mk. 9:43-47) and God will condemn the wicked to it (Mt. 10:28; Lk. 12:5)[13] While the actual location is unknown, many believe it is in the center of the earth. Hell is the place of constant pain, as evidenced by the wailing and gnashing of teeth (Mt. 13:50).  It is full of fire as well as darkness (Mt. 8:12). The imagery of Gehenna (Mt. 11:23; 16:18) is the eternal hell,[14] whereas Hades is the abode of the dead during the Old Testament and Inter-Testament Periods and not a lake of fire.[15]


Unfortunately, confusion is added to the subject because in the first century, the terms of “hades” and “hell” were at times interchangeable.[16]  Josephus describes hades as a “certain place set apart, as a lake of unquenchable fire,” prepared by God for those who have been disobedient, unjust, and who worshiped idols, etc.[17]  However, regardless, of the name, Jews believed, just as Jesus taught, that there was a lake of fire for the ungodly.  The eternal punishment of sinful men, with its infinite horrors in hell, is intended to be a vivid demonstration of the infinite value of the grace and glory of God Almighty.


On the other hand, the term sheol has been incorrectly translated as hell. The Old Testament concept of sheol is not a place of torment, but a land of shades, shadowy, and a joyless ghostly place. The New Testament understanding of heaven and hell is not related to sheol, and there is hardly any concept of eternal life in the Hebrew Bible.[18]


“You moron!” Literally, Jesus used the Aramaic word raca, which is extremely difficult to translate because the tone of voice carries more meaning than the word itself.  It has several closely related meanings such as empty headed, fool, idiot, or ignorant.[19]  Neither the phrase moron or fool give justice to the definition of raca. It reflected anger and animosity and was associated with the greatest insult one could give, and that is the key point.[20]  It was especially significant, because, in this culture, great value was given to hospitality and honoring others within one’s clan or tribe.  In the Mediterranean world, every person was honored and every culture expected every member to uphold the honor of his family, clan, and tribe. To shame anyone was considered an incredible sin.[21]


The Jews believed there were three sins that could damn one to hell. While Jesus did not agree with the entire tradition, He did, in fact, agree strongly on the severity of these sins.  According to the Babylonian Talmud, these were,


  1. To commit adultery,


  1. To publicly put a neighbor to shame, and


  1. To insult a neighbor.[22]


In essence, Jesus said that anyone who destroys the name and reputation of another brother (believer) is subject to the severest punishment in the fire of hell. In addition, to call another Jew “a slave” was a serious charge and insult, and invited excommunication.[23] That is because a “brother in the faith” is a reflection of the character and image of God. Yet Jesus called the corrupt religious leaders “blind fools” (Mt. 23:17).  How can such strong language be justified when Jesus, Himself, used it? It was seldom used among the rabbis and sages and, hence, when it was spoken it had a profound effect. A rare example in the Mishnah reads,


A foolish saint and a cunning knave and a woman that is a hypocrite and the wounds of the Pharisees, these wear out the world.


Mishnah, Sotah 3.4                                       


Notice the words of James, a kin brother of Jesus,


My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 20 for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.  


James 1:19-20


In this culture the statement reflected an outward symptom of deep-rooted anger.  It is the anger (lack of forgiveness) that is the condemning element and the phrase simply reveals what is in the heart.[24] Why did Jesus call the religious hypocrites “blind fools?”  There are three reasons why Jesus used such strong language.[25]


  1. It should reveal to us the deep-rooted righteous anger Jesus had against those who were in religious authority and who deliberately used their high office for their own financial reward, with no concern whatsoever for the common people for whom they were spiritually responsible.


  1. In the biblical sense of the word, to be a fool virtually means to be an apostate or among the damned. As such, Jesus gave a prophetic prediction of where His critics would spend eternity.[26]


  1. Jesus is the ultimate judge and authority. Jesus used the phrase in reference to the foolish builder (Mt. 7:26) and about the foolish virgins (25:2-3, 8). Paul used its equivalent in rebuking the Galatians (Gal. 3:1). Therefore, there are appropriate times to use it and other times when its use is a sin.


As stated previously, the imagery of hell or hellfire is often associated with Gehenna,[27] a place in the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom, also known as the Hinnom Valley. Church traditions have two inaccurate legends associated with the Valley (located south and west of Jerusalem).


  1. The Hinnom Valley was where the city residents burned their trash and garbage. This, unfortunately, is a gross misunderstanding of the culture, because city residents did not have a dump in the Hinnom Valley. In fact, “garbage” is a relatively modern invention. The ancients used all combustible material for fuel, including dried dung scraped off the city streets, so they would not have had anything to burn in a city dump. Furthermore, there has been no archaeological evidence, such as ashes and burned fragments, discovered that would identify a dump site.


  1. Another inaccurate image of the Hinnom Valley is that it was where pottery kilns were located and they were the source of constant fires, an image of hell (literally, the hell of fire).[28] The traditional opinion of the location of a burning rubbish dump is believed to have originated with Rabbi David Kimhi’s commentary on Psalm 27:13 around the year A.D.1200. But no Jewish or Christian literary evidence prior to Kimhi mentions this opinion. Furthermore, of the many archaeological investigations in the area, none indicate that there were any kilns in the Hinnom Valley.


The reason these two traditions are false is simple: The prevailing winds are from the west and would have blown the smoke and stench eastwardly into the palace of Herod the Great and over the city. He most certainly would have objected to the foul odors, as would have the Sadducees, who dedicated themselves to lives with every imaginable comfort and pleasure.  That is also why thousands of tombs are to the east of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives.  There are no cemetaries to the west of the Old City, only a few scattered wealthy tombs.


You will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny.” There is the possibility that the meaning in this idiom will be missed, rather than misunderstood.  Jesus is speaking of the certainty of Divine justice, which all will encounter someday.[29]  The essential message of Jesus is to go the extra mile to forgive, and whenever possible, be reconciled.

[1]. The irony is that the Romans had a nearly identical understanding of religion.  They believed that all religions were ancient, and if a certain doctrine or teaching wasn’t ancient, then it was a superstition. Superstitions were deemed to be bad and needed to be removed from society. Therefore, since the teachings of Jesus were not recognized as being ancient, the Romans labeled them and Christians as superstitious, and tried to eradicate them.


[2]. Herford, Christianity in Talmud and Midrash. 8-10.

[3]. Smith, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew. 94.   


[4]. Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament. 203.

[5]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 147.


[6]. See also 12.01.02.Q2 What are the differences among the terms “Hell, Hades,” and “Gehenna?”


[7].  Levy, The Ruin and Restoration of Israel. 73.

[8]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:40.


[9]. cf. Mt. 23:17; Mk. 3:5 for proper rebuke.


[10]. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies. 44; Miethe, The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words. 97.


[11]. Manasseh and Ahaz are among fifty biblical names whose existence has been verified by archaeological studies in a published article by Lawrence Mykytiuk titled, “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible.” Biblical Archaeology Review. March/April, 2014 (40:2), pages 42-50, 68.  This archaeological evidence confirms the historical accuracy of the biblical timeline.  For further study, see the website for Associates for Biblical Research, as well as Grisanti, “Recent Archaeological Discoveries that Lend Credence to the Historicity of the Scriptures.” 475-98.


[12]. Barclay, “John” 2:35;  Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies. 44-47.


[13].  The term “fire” was frequently used by Old Testament prophets: Isa. 29:6; 66:15; Ezek. 38:22; Amos 1:4; 7:4; Zeph. 1:18; 3:8; Mal. 3:2; 4:1. The term is also found in numerous extra-biblical books such as Jubilees 9:15; 36:10 and in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

[14]. Carson, “Matthew.” 8:149.

[15]. Finegan, Myth and Mystery. 116-17. It should be noted that the terms “Hades” and “hell” are often used interchangeably.

[16]. See “Hell” in Appendix 26.


[17]. Josephus, Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades.


[18]. Barclay, “John.” 2:91-92.


[19]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 148-49.


[20]. Barclay, “Matthew.” 1:139-40.


[21]. Pilch, The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible. 59-60.


[22]. Babylonian Talmud, Bava Mesia 58b.

[23]. Because the Jews experienced slavery and thankfulness was one (# 10) of their Eighteen Benedictions, for a Jew to unjustly call another Jews “a slave,” could subject him to excommunication from the synagogue. See Geikie, The Life and Works of Christ. 2:304.


[24]. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 371.

[25]. See also the discussion on hypocrites/hypocrisy in 08.03.04 (Mt. :5-15) and in “Pharisees” in 02.01.14.

[26]. Richardson, “Folly, Fool.” 84-85.


[27]. See Mt. 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; Mk. 9:43, 45, 47; Lk. 12:5; Jas. 3:6.


[28]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:40.


[29]. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. 340.


Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 07, 2016  -  Comments Off on 08.01.06 THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT

08.01.06 Mt. 5:27-30




27 “You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery (Ex. 20:14). 28 But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell!


Righteousness is broken before a sinful act is committed. Marriage was originally designed by God to symbolize the relationship between Himself and the believer. Just as a husband and wife are united for life, Jesus and His believers are eternally united. The original plan of God has not changed, but men have challenged both the relationship with God and the marriage covenant symbolic of the spiritual union.  Therefore, any lust or action outside marriage is considered sin.  To ensure purity of heart, Jesus went on to demonstrate that drastic action needed to be taken.  He explained it as follows:


If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.”  Concerning the first part of this phrase, “if your right eye causes you to sin,” is sometimes translated as “if your right eye offends you”[1] or causes “you to stumble.”[2]  Clearly, there is an exaggeration in this phrase; it is not a literal command. The term is translated from the Greek word skandalon,[3] but that translation issue is minor compared to the difficulty modern students have in understanding the two stages of sin according to Jewish thought.



08.01.06.X Understanding the Two-Stage Concept of “Light and Heavy.”

All instructions or laws are to be obeyed, but some are clearly more significant or “heavy” than others. For example, as is explained in the video below, tithing was expected but it was a “light”[4] issue in comparison to some more important issues, such as caring for one’s elderly parents. The term “light” does not mean “insignificant” or “unimportant,” but only that some other issues of life are far more important.


One of the popular teaching methods was known as kal-ve-chomer, that is, lessons of “light and heavy.”[5]  It was commonly believed that there were two stages of sin.  Before anyone committed a major sin (or “heavy”), one first committed a smaller sin (“lighter”) or a series of smaller sins. Rabbinic law stated that it was better to resolve the sin problem while it was small, rather than wait until it consumed an entire life. Hence, when there was a “small sin,” it was better to remove the eye or hand as opposed to losing life as the result of the final “big sin” (see Mt. 23:23).[6]  The phrase concerning the eye was, in fact, a common expression among Torah students.   While Jesus used it in reference to sin, the Law used a similar scenario of forgiveness after a sin was committed. The Hebrew Bible, Oral Law, and Talmud made these observations respectively:


Even though a man pays (him that suffers the indignity), it is not forgiven him until he seeks forgiveness from him, for it is written, “Now therefore restore the man’s wife . . . (and he shall pray for you.” [Gen. 20:7]). 


If a man said, “Blind my eye,” or “Cut off my hand,” or “Break my foot,” he (that does so) is guilty and accountable; (even if he said), on the condition that you are not guilty and accountable, he is (still) guilty and accountable.


Mishnah, Baba Kamma 8.7


Tooth and eye are only one limb of the man, and still (if they are hurt), the slave obtains thereby his freedom.  How much more so with painful sufferings which torment the whole body of a Man!


Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth 5a


Jesus essentially said that believers should take radical steps to get sin out of their lives.  The Jews understood this was not to be considered literally; it was an expression of sincerity to be holy before God.  Gentile believers have difficulty with this passage because they do not understand the cultural mindset and some think it was to be taken literally. As stated previously, believers should not regard the statements of Jesus in Matthew 5:28, 32, 34, 36, and 44 as setting aside the Law, but as reflecting His authority by giving proper interpretation of the Law.


It would be wise to understand that some passages, such as this one, are not to be literally interpreted. Rather, Jesus and the gospel writers used the literary license of exaggeration to express the seriousness of their instructions. In the early third century, Origen Adamantius (c. 185-254) was a church father who had a lust problem and literally applied this passage for the solution. He read that some men became eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 19:12. So to resolve his lust issue, according to noted church historian Eusebius, Origen had himself castrated.[7] Only later did he learn that this passage concerning gouging out the eye was not to be taken literally, but was spoken in this form to emphasize the importance of resolving sin issues before they become explosive.


Video Insert    >

08.01.06.V The Concept of “Light and Heavy”in Torah Instruction. Messianic Rabbi John Fischer, discusses the Jewish concept of “light and heavy” elements of the law (instruction) relative to the words of Jesus (Heb. Yeshua).

[1]. Green, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Mt. 5:29; Berry, Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament. Mt. 5:29.


[2]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 223.


[3]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 223.


[4]. For more information on the importance of tithing, see 08.03.03.Q1 “Why isn’t there a strong teaching on tithing in the New Testament?”


[5]. Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 25.


[6]. Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 26.

[7]. Eusebius, Church History 6.8.

08.02 Marriage, Divorce, Oaths, And Forgiveness

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 07, 2016  -  Comments Off on 08.02 Marriage, Divorce, Oaths, And Forgiveness

Unit 08

Topical Issues


Chapter 02

Marriage, Divorce, Oaths, And Forgiveness


 08.02.00.A. JESUS TEACHES THE CROWDS by James Tossit 1885.

08.02.00.A. JESUS TEACHES THE CROWDS by James Tossit 1885. In the first two and a half years of His ministry, Jesus was focused primarily on revealing Himself to the nation of Israel.  However, in His last year He focused primarily on teaching His disciples.

08.02.01 Introduction

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 07, 2016  -  Comments Off on 08.02.01 Introduction

08.02.01 Introduction

To live a righteous life within one’s own family can be most challenging. All people have shortcomings, and when righteousness fails repeatedly, relationships and marriages are stressed and sometimes end. It is as true today as it has been throughout history. Divorce and remarriage was debated as much in the first century as it is today, although divorces were not as prevalent then.  Jesus addressed the problem by stating that marriage was an institution ordained by God, yet He recognized the challenges men and women may face. While the reasons for a divorce are adultery,[1] leaving the faith (1 Cor. 7:15), and emotional and physical abuse,[2] for the purpose of this study only the issue of adultery as discussed by Jesus and the opinions common in His day are addressed here. But the entire matter must be seen within the context of Second Temple Judaism and God’s Divine Word.[3]

When a young man and woman planned to get married, by either family-arranged or by their own choosing, a marriage contract was prepared. That legal binding contract, a/k/a a katuvah,[4] described the obligations of the bride and bridegroom and, therefore, only a divorce or death could terminate it. There were of three kinds of marriage contracts:[5]


  1. A Katuvah based on a dowry (the price the bride’s family pays the future husband).


  1. A Katuvah based on the bride price (the price the bridegroom pays to his bride’s family).


  1. A Katuvah with both elements of the above but with an emphasis on the bride price.


The Jewish understanding of a home is where a husband, wife, and children lived and it served as a sanctuary.  The table served as the altar, where bread was eaten to nurture and sustain the body and where the family prayed and shared biblical stories to nurture and sustain the soul. The husband-father served as priest of the family.  It was his responsibility to insure the spiritual well-being of everyone under his care. The family was seen as being so sacred that it was seldom broken.  This family unit was such an incredibly strong societal building block that breaking it would cause irreparable harm, not only to the family members, but also to the synagogue and community.  Unfortunately, the growing influence of Hellenism and its pagan influences made for a growing divorce rate.  Therefore, it was more of an issue in the days of Jesus than it was during the time of Moses (Deut. 24:1-4). In fact, it had become of such great concern that one first century rabbi suggested daughters be educated in this area of law, so they would not be taken advantage of in the event of a divorce in later life.  The Mishnah records the following:


Ben Azzai says: A man ought to give his daughter knowledge of the Law so that if she must drink [the bitter water][6] she may know that the merit [that she has acquired] will hold her punishment in suspense.

Mishnah, Sotah 3.4[7]


In essence, Rabbi ben Azzai said that his daughter should have knowledge of the law so that, if she experiences a divorce, she will not become victimized. However, not all Jewish scholars were in agreement with Rabbi Ben Azzai as reflected in the following two statements.[8]


Rabbi Eleazer said, “Let the words of the Law be burned rather than committed to women.”


“He who instructs his daughter in the Law instructs her in folly.”


Mishnah, Sotah 3.4


The differences between these quotations reflect the various rabbinic theological opinions. Girls were educated in the Galilee area, but not in Jerusalem.

Jesus recognized that due to the sin nature of humanity, divorces would continue but the innocent spouse should not be subjected to condemnation.  He, therefore, did not prohibit the practice, but He did set limits on it.  He focused his comment on husbands who are supposed to serve as the priest of the home, although they were generally the ones who initiated the breakup. An outlandish case is the account of Herod Antipas and Herodias. However, before going deeper into the issues of marriage and divorce among the Jews, it is important to briefly examine the Greek view of the subject.  The primary reason is that when examining the opinions of two leading Jewish schools of theology, the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai, it becomes apparent that both of them may have been influenced by Hellenism.

The view of marriage held by the Greeks, which was adopted by the Romans, was an incredible paradox.  In a nutshell, the wife was to be a submissive home-keeper and be sexually pure while the husband had no sexual restrictions. A woman of high respect lived at home, in solitude with a highly limited social life, if any. She was not permitted to be on the street by herself. Her primary responsibility was to raise the children, be the ideal home-maker, and establish security in the home. On the other hand, the husband, had free license to have any relationship (prostitute) outside of marriage that he desired – and as many as he could afford.

The Greeks in Corinth built the temple of Aphrodite and employed a thousand priestesses who were called temple virgins, but in fact, were professional prostitutes and not housewives.  When the men of Athens discovered how much money these women generated, they established the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Ironically, the entire structure was funded by revenue generated by prostitution. There was no question asked if a man decided to visit one of these two temples, or any other Greek temple.

Interestingly, in the course of time, a special class of women immerged known as the hetairai.[9] They were the mistresses of significant politicians, philosophers, and businessmen.  They established a high class of their own who functioned as a “second wife.”  Consequently, in the Greek culture, a social system of relationships outside of marriage was created and considered to be normal and natural. There was nothing a wife could do about her wandering husband, because if she complained, he could simply divorce her.  And a divorce did not require any legal action.  A husband simply had to acquire two witnesses and tell her that she was dismissed.  His only obligation was to return her dowry.  The practice of the Greeks concerning marriage and divorce was incredibly similar to the teachings promoted by the School of Hillel.  Therefore, it is apparent that Hillel (see below) adapted the Hellenistic model of marriage and wrapped it with Jewish theology and explanations.



Amazingly, centuries earlier, there was a time when Roman life was founded squarely on patria potestas, the father’s power.[10] He had absolute power and authority over all family issues.  Yet within this authoritative household, the wife had more freedom than did her Greek counterpart. In the early days of the Roman Republic, divorce was unheard of.  In fact, it is said that the first divorce was in 234 B.C. by a Spurius Carvilius, who divorced his wife because she was barren.[11] Prostitutes were held in contempt and the men who visited them were counted among the dishonorable.

Then came the Greeks and, as stated, the Romans adopted their values by the time of Christ.  The Roman culture had degenerated to that of the Greeks, and many men and women had serial marriages – one right after another. Note the comments by the following contemporary Roman writers of the time.[12]


  1. Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a/k/a Seneca the Younger or simply Seneca (ca. 4 B.C. – A.D. 65) was a Roman Philosopher and statesman. He said that some women were married to be divorced while others were divorced to be married.[13]


  1. Decimus Iuvenalis (ca. A.D. 55-127), more commonly known as Juvenal, writing in the end of the first century (A.D.), spoke of a woman who had eight husbands in five years. He authored sixteen satires in which he ruthlessly criticized the moral vices and corruption of Roman society to the point that his property was seized and he was banished to southern Egypt, possibly to the frontier town of Syene, now Aswan.[14]


  1. The Roman orator Metillus Numidicus said,


If Romans, it were possible to love without wives, we would be free of trouble; but since it is the law of nature that we can neither live pleasantly with them, nor at all without them, we must take thought for the continuance of the race rather than for our own brief pleasure.[15]


The influences of the Roman and Greek cultures upon the Jewish people and their leaders had a direct effect on issues of marriage and divorce. Into this social quagmire Jesus clearly and lovingly presented the intent of God without excuses or exceptions.  The fact that the Jews and Romans were incredibly lax about marriage covenant was directly due to the influence of the Greek culture.

[1]. Mt. 5:32; 19:9; Mk. 10:2-12.


[2]. Based upon numerous verses in light of the marriage covenant promise to care and protect one’s life-long spouse. This subject is discussed in the next section.


[3]. For further study, see David Instone-Brewer. Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002; and Larry R. Helyer. “The Necessity, Problems, and Promise of Second Temple Judaism for Discussions of New Testament Eschatology.” . Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47:4 (December 2004) 597-616.


[4]. For more details on the katuvah, see 04.03.03 and 04.03.08.


[5]. See also 04.03.03.A.

[6].  The term “bitter water” was a concoction of consecrated water flavored with dirt from an open area of the temple.  A woman suspected of adultery was given this bitter water to drink, and if she was guilty, her stomach would rupture and she would be killed. Parry, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Talmud. 82.


[7]. Bracketed clarification by Danby, ed. Mishnah.


[8]. The wide range of rabbinic opinions is evident in various Jewish writings. See 02.02.01.V for more information on this subject.


[9].  Barclay, “Matthew.” 1:153-55.


[10].  Barclay, “Matthew.” 1:156.


[11]. Barclay, “Matthew.” 1:156.


[12].  For further study on the various opinions concerning the status and influence of women in the Second Temple Period, see the excellent work by Tal Ilan, Integrating Women into Second Temple History, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999. Take note of Chapter 3 on the discussions of two first century historians, Josephus and Nicholaus of Damascus, and their comments about women.


[13]. Barclay, “Matthew.” 1:13.


[14]. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/308974/Juvenal Retrieved July 30, 2013.


[15]. Quoted by Barclay, “Matthew.” 1:156-57.


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