Wednesday, December 30, 2009

We ARE the Government

Someone wrote:
I am 50 and I can remember in my child hood my parents talking about the government and saying they all were not trust worthy even back then. So it has been that way many years.
And thus it should be.

You, and me, and the guy across the street, and the girl at the check-out counter at Wal-Mart, are the ones who are supposed to be in control. It's called "Freedom". This idea that "the government" is in control is a dangerous and false idea, and it's this idea that has caused us to lose our freedoms over your lifetime.

When I was a kid, and someone asked, "Hey, can I do such-and-such" , the stock answer was, "It's a free country".

Nowadays, the stock answer is, "Do you have a government-issued permit to do that?"

Want to put a storage building on your property? Get a permit. Want to cut down a tree? Get a permit. Want to put in a pool? Get a permit. Want to carry a pistol for self-protection? Get a permit. Want to drive to the store? Get a permit. Want to sell your excess garden vegetables? Get a permit.


Granted, there needs to be some level of governmental cooperation between citizens (I want to know that someone is responsible for assuring that the meal I buy in the restaurant is safe), but the pendulum has swung too far.

One of the best things you can do to help spread freedom in this country is to learn about jury nullification, get on a few juries, and do the right thing. As a juror, you have more power (in an individual case) than all the members of the U.S. Supreme Court and both houses of Congress and the President combined; if a guy ran a red light, but did so safely and for a good reason (to get his son with a half-cut-off foot to the hospital, etc), no matter what the law says, you as a jurist can declare the guy not guilty, and nullify that law in this instance. Laws are for the good of humans, not for the sake of keeping the rules. If a guy is arrested for carrying a Bible into a school, or a pistol into a sporting event (with no malice/harm intended or executed), you as a jurist can declare the guy not guilty if you so believe he should not go to jail for what you believe should be a basic human right - to carry inanimate objects on your person.

But we've gotten lax, and have let "the government" tell us what we can do, when we can do it, where we can do it. Folks, you ARE the government! Quit trusting those "in power", and start exercising the power.

The rule for good living in a world with such a "weak government" as this idea suggests is this: Love your neighbor as yourself; pray for your enemies; turn the other cheek; love the unlovable; treat others as you want to be treated.

With this basic "law" in the hearts of people, there is very little need for official government. This is the ideal government as I understand the Jewish Bible. Judges 17:6 says, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." And later, when the Israelites clamored for a king, this is what YHWH (God) told them (1 Samuel 8:11ff):
These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but YHWH will not answer you in that day.
In other words, there are two possibilities presented here: 1) We can enforce right-and-wrong from our own hearts, by knowing in our own hearts what is the right thing (the Golden Rule way) and doing it, and not be oppressed by a tax-and-spend-and-make-war-and-confiscate-property government, or 2) we can let "the government" enforce right-and-wrong, and gradually lose our freedoms.

Our government, which has a nature of wanting to grow stronger and stronger at the expense of the governed, has duped us into choosing the latter, and now no one is even allowed to teach the former; "that's mixing church and state".


I love my country; I don't trust my government. I suggest you don't either.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rethinking Binding and Loosing as it Pertains to the Synagogue

In an earlier post, I mentioned the first-century Jewish synagogue as a man-made institution of worship, developed without scriptural authority during the Babylonian Captivity, when the Jews no longer had access to their Temple. Since then, a reader has opened my eyes to what should have been obvious: the synagogue was not a place of worship, as was the Temple, but was rather more akin to a school than a church.

As such, it's not quite as "unscriptural" as I first deemed it.

Deuteronomy 6 makes it clear that parents are to teach their children in the ways of God. Whereas the primary responsibility for teaching the children was given to the parents, the synagogue developed as a more community-oriented method of teaching the children. So a case could be made that the scriptures say "teach your children" and not "build schools to teach your children", but Yahshua himself appears to have been comfortable with the notion of a community synagogue, taking advantage often of teaching in them everywhere he went.

So, to reiterate: my former understanding that the synagogue was a "replacement" for Temple worship was an incorrect understanding; rather, the synagogue was primarily a place of religious learning, not of worship. Accordingly, this does not really serve as an example of an unscriptural, man-made worship format which was later accepted by God, as I had earlier deemed it.

The synagogue appears to have become more of a place of worship after the destruction of Jerusalem (and the second Temple) in A.D. 70, but during Yahshua's ministry, it was a school of religion, not a church. This can be seen by a simple perusal of the hits returned by a search for the word "synagogue" at, using the Holman Christian Standard Bible version. Below are some examples from that search; note that it's primarily a place of teaching, discussion, disputing, and reasoning (although prayer, healing, and perhaps worship also take place in it):
  1. Matthew 4:23
    [ Teaching, Preaching, and Healing ] Jesus was going all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
    Matthew 4:22-24 (in Context) Matthew 4 (Whole Chapter)
  2. Matthew 13:54
    [ Rejection at Nazareth ] He went to His hometown and began to teach them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, "How did this wisdom and these miracles come to Him?
    Matthew 13:53-55 (in Context) Matthew 13 (Whole Chapter)
  3. Mark 1:21
    [ Driving Out an Unclean Spirit ] Then they went into Capernaum, and right away He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to teach.
    Mark 1:20-22 (in Context) Mark 1 (Whole Chapter)
  4. Mark 6:2
    When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished. "Where did this man get these things?" they said. "What is this wisdom given to Him, and how are these miracles performed by His hands?
    Mark 6:1-3 (in Context) Mark 6 (Whole Chapter)
  5. Luke 4:15
    He was teaching in their synagogues, being acclaimed by everyone.
    Luke 4:14-16 (in Context) Luke 4 (Whole Chapter)
  6. Luke 4:16
    [ Rejection at Nazareth ] He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As usual, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.
    Luke 4:15-17 (in Context) Luke 4 (Whole Chapter)
  7. Luke 6:6
    [ The Man with the Paralyzed Hand ] On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching. A man was there whose right hand was paralyzed.
    Luke 6:5-7 (in Context) Luke 6 (Whole Chapter)
  8. Luke 13:10
    [ Healing a Daughter of Abraham ] As He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath,
    Luke 13:9-11 (in Context) Luke 13 (Whole Chapter)
  9. John 6:59
    He said these things while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
    John 6:58-60 (in Context) John 6 (Whole Chapter)
  10. John 18:20
    "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus answered him. "I have always taught in the synagogue and in the temple complex, where all the Jews congregate, and I haven't spoken anything in secret.
    John 18:19-21 (in Context) John 18 (Whole Chapter)
  11. Acts 13:5
    Arriving in Salamis, they proclaimed God's message in the Jewish synagogues. They also had John as their assistant.
    Acts 13:4-6 (in Context) Acts 13 (Whole Chapter)
  12. Acts 13:15
    After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent [word] to them, saying, "Brothers, if you have any message of encouragement for the people, you can speak."
    Acts 13:14-16 (in Context) Acts 13 (Whole Chapter)
  13. Acts 17:17
    So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with those who worshiped God, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.
    Acts 17:16-18 (in Context) Acts 17 (Whole Chapter)
  14. Acts 18:4
    He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and tried to persuade both Jews and Greeks.
    Acts 18:3-5 (in Context) Acts 18 (Whole Chapter)
  15. Acts 18:19
    When they reached Ephesus he left them there, but he himself entered the synagogue and engaged in discussion with the Jews.
    Acts 18:18-20 (in Context) Acts 18 (Whole Chapter)
  16. Acts 18:26
    He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home and explained the way of God to him more accurately.
    Acts 18:25-27 (in Context) Acts 18 (Whole Chapter)
  17. Acts 19:8
    [ In the Lecture Hall of Tyrannus ] Then he entered the synagogue and spoke boldly over a period of three months, engaging in discussion and trying to persuade them about the things related to the kingdom of God.
    Acts 19:7-9 (in Context) Acts 19 (Whole Chapter)
  18. Acts 24:12
    And they didn't find me disputing with anyone or causing a disturbance among the crowd, either in the temple complex or in the synagogues, or anywhere in the city.
    Acts 24:11-13 (in Context) Acts 24 (Whole Chapter)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Why Use "Yahshua"?

Manly Luscombe wrote:
Kent West,
I read your recent post and was just curious why you refer to Jesus as Yashua. (I assume that Jesus is who you refer to when you say Yahshua.) I am not a scholar in Hebrew but I believe that Yahshua is Hebrew. Why do you refer to a NT person by their Hebrew name?
If you believe we should use the Hebrew names for Jews - Why not do the same with Peter, Matthew, Luke, and others you mention in your email?
Just curious - not fussing - just wondering the reason for this usage.
Thanks, Manly

1) I'm not consistent about it.

2) I don't believe it makes any great difference.

3) But, to answer your question:

Primarily for six reasons:

A) To spur people to think. You never think about what the room looks like from a different angle until you stand on your desk and take a look-see. Therefore, you never see the nuances that have been right there before your eyes the whole time.

B) To remind myself and others that this Gentile, anti-Jew mentality most of us in the United States church have grown up with is a wrong mindset to have. ("The Jews were God's people, but not any more." "The Jews killed Jesus." "God doesn't care about Jerusalem or the Jewish race any more." etc.) The fact is, we, the Gentiles, have not replaced the Jewish nation, but have been grafted into it, into the covenant of Abraham, which has not been replaced by the New Covenant, but still stands as the foundation of the New Covenant (Gal 3, esp v. 29).

C) Jesus was not a New Testament person for about 99% of his earthly life. He was born a Hebrew, under the Old Testament, in a very Jewish town, in a very Jewish culture, and lived a very Jewish life. But we've subconsciously whitewashed that out of his life, and have made him, in our own minds, to be a good-looking middle-American white guy wearing a robe and sandals, forgetting that he wore tassels on his garment (Mark 6:56), the way good Jews did, and probably recited the Shema every morning (Mark 12:29-30), the way good Jews did, and cited the Ten Commandments as being the way to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:17ff), which good Jews knew.

D) That was his name. It was the name his mama used to call him to supper. If you moved to a country that mis-learned your name as "Mertinly", you'd eventually shrug your shoulders and quit trying to correct everyone who mispronounced your name, and learn to live with it. But you'd likely feel better when someone actually got it right and called you "Manly". I figure Jesus/Yahshua can handle our mangling of his name, but still, it's a small bit of at least lip-service I can offer. I'm quite inconsistent with this when it comes to other New Testament names, as you've pointed out - Peter, Luke, etc - mostly that's due to lack of consistency on my part, but it also has to do with the fact that many of them lived in either the Greek world, or in a mixed Hebrew-Grecian world. Take Peter for example; at his Jewish home, he was known as Cephas; but in the Greek world in which he spent much time, he was known as Peter (or more accurately, Petros). I would probably be more amenable to calling Yahshua "Yaesu" (or "Yaesus", depending on grammatical considerations), because that's at least Biblical (New Testament), but "Jesus" is that extra consonantal sound-step farther yet.

E) Because we don't know the Hebrew names, we don't see the nuances. Yahshua is Joshua is Hosea (more or less). The first Yahshua (Joshua) was reported in Jewish lore (not Biblical record) to have married Rahab the Harlot; the second Yahshua (Hosea) also married a harlot; the third Yahshua (Jesus), also is marrying a harlot, but one who has been washed clean due to his efforts, not our own. There's a lot of symbolism, etc, that we simply miss, by not knowing the words behind the text.

F) It means something (as most Biblical names do). As you're probably aware, Bible translators have, for centuries, corrupted God's written word intentionally, changing the God-inspired name of YHWH (Yod - Hey - Wah - Hey; the "Tetragrammaton"; the "Four Letters"), which God said would be the name by which he would be remembered throughout the generations (Exodus 3:15) into the man-made alteration of "the LORD" (turn to almost any page in the Old Testament in a main-line version and you'll see this phrase). The name was likely pronounced "Yahweh". The short form of "Yah" is familiar to us in the phrase "Hallelujah", which means "Praise Yah". (The "j" for the "y" sound is a relic of Elizabethan English, and has since morphed into the "j" sound in most modern words.) The name "Jehovah" is a man-made mixing of the vowels from the Hebrew word for "Lord" and these four consonants (in Elizabethan English where "j" = "y" and "v" = "w") - JeHoVaH. Because we don't know this, we don't realize that "Yahshua" means "Yah saves", just as the angel predicted his name to mean (Matt 1:21). Because we don't know this, we don't realize why the Jewish political machinery was so upset about the sign which Pilate hung over Yahshua's head as he hung on the cross. Written in three languages, the sign included the Hebrew form of "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews", written as "Yahshua Hanatzoi, Wehemelech Hayuhadim". There it was in plain sight to those who noticed the first letters of the description, announced by the governing authority - YHWH. Pilate had just declared Jesus to be YHWH God, King of the Jews (John 19:19ff). I can just imagine Pilate smirking as he answered the trouble-makers' request for a different sign with, "What I have written, I have written". Because we don't know his name, we miss the pun he uses when he announces that Salvation ('Shua) has come to the house of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:9). (Zacchaeus' Hebrew name, Zakkai, also has meaning, which also colors the story, if you understand some of the background.)

Don't take any of this to mean that I hold the usage of "Yahshua" to be superior to the usage of "Jesus"; what's superior is to know the Man-God behind the name, and there are many who have a better relationship to him than do I, who have never even heard this Hebrew form of the name. But I offer these as my reasons for often using this form.

Binding and Loosing

Scott Wiley wrote:
was this during a temple worship? An equivalent of the synogogue?
This question asked by Scott draws my attention. If you think about it, you'll find there is no scriptural authority for the Synagogue (having developed probably during the Babylonian Captivity when observant Jews had no access to the Temple), but by the time the New Testament opens, the Son of God seems to accept it as a God-inspired worship format, even though he was unable to produce a Book/Chapter/Verse for its existence.

This ties in with the terms "binding" and "loosing", which we, not being part of the Rabbinical culture in which Yahshua lived and taught, don't quite "get".

In Yahshua's day, there were two main schools of Rabbinical thought, as founded by two great rabbis, Shammai and Hillel, who had been born just a generation or two before Yahshua. Much of the testing of Yahshua made by the religious authorities was not so much a challenge against Jesus as a simple inquiry into which school of thought his teachings fell (for example, see this entry on divorce, where we find that Jesus sides with Shammai rather than with Hillel).

Not just any Rabbi could "make the rules" as Shammai, and Hillel, and Yahshua himself, did. Only those who had "authority" could do so. So when Yahshua comes along and "teaches as one having authority" (Luke 4:32), he's challenged by the religious leaders who ask him where he got this authority. They understood that not just anyone could claim to be a Rabbi with authority, but that he must be given that authority by two other such authority-bearing Rabbis. Yahshua essentially said, "I got mine from John the Immerser, and God Himself when I was immersed. Do you accept their authority?" (although he does it in a Rabbinical questioning method which most of us Westerners don't quite comprehend - Luke 20:1-8))

Normal Rabbis could teach from the Torah and the Prophets and the Writings, but only those things which had been handed down from more authoritative Rabbis through the years. But authority-bearing Rabbis could interpret the scriptures afresh: we see Yahshua doing this in the Sermon on the Mount - "You have heard it said ..., but I say ...".

When a Rabbi enforces a particular teaching on a student, he is essentially binding that teaching, and when a Rabbis releases a student from a teaching, he is essentially loosing that teaching. The collection of bindings and loosings that a Rabbi teaches is called his "yoke". After fussing about the harsh religiosity of his culture, Yahshua said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matt 11:28-30).

Yahshua gave to the church this authority to bind and loose, the first time apparently to Peter:

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven. (Matt 16:18-19)

... but the second time more generally to his followers:

If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. ... I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven. Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them. (Matt. 18:15a; 18-20).
We see this authority being exercised in the church about 14 years after its inauguration, when the previously Jew-only church starts being opened to non-Jews. Many staunch Pharisees and other "conservative" Jewish believers insisted that these new Gentile converts be converted to Judaism in order to participate fully in the Jewish church. But a council was called at Jerusalem, and it was decided, via the Holy Spirit, that they would heed Peter's voice, which stated:

Why, then, are you now testing God by putting on the disciples' necks a yoke that neither our forefathers nor we have been able to bear? (Acts 15:10)

And from that time on, a new term arose, "Christian", which seemed to better fit this new school of thought that followed Rabbi Yahshua but which included decidedly unJewish Gentiles as full disciples.

Now, having laid all that background, I'm drawn back to Scott's question, or more accurately, to the underlying issue of authority for what we do as the church. Can we "invent" a synagogue if we can't make it to Temple? Can we bind a law on the believers that "Christians don't drink"? Can we loose a law on women that says they can't speak in 21st century Western mixed assemblies? Do we have that authority to "tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people's shoulders", and to "lift a finger to move them"?

I honestly don't know. I've believed all my life that church doctrine was established in the first century, and anyone who teaches a different doctrine is accursed (as per Gal. 1:6-9). But looking at all this background, I'm left wondering if the church does have the right to modify the specifics of how that doctrine is implemented.

I think it would be a stretch to say the church can loose something that is fundamental to first century doctrine (such as the physical, bodily resurrection of Yahshua); but perhaps it can ease up on other issues, such as women remaining silent in a mixed assembly.

I really hate to even bring this up, because of its incredible potential for abuse, and because it's so far outside the boundaries of orthodoxy for most of us, but it's a question that nags at me.

Did Yahshua give us, the church, the authority to mold our own form/practices, or are we limited to restoring the first century church in all its particulars (except for those we deem not applicable - *cough*) as those of us raised in the Restoration Movement have been trained to believe?

I don't know, but I find it an interesting and uncomfortable question.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Earliest (Jewish) Church

I've written elsewhere about the first century church really being two churches: in the early years, the church was exclusively Jewish, strictly observing the Law of Moses, and only later accepting Gentiles, who did not observe the Law of Moses, as Christian brothers. For a few decades, it appears that these two groups existed side-by-side, having a very different look-and-feel, such that were we to find these two groups on opposite street corners today on Main Street, USA, we'd refer to at least one of them as a "denomination".

I was just made aware of another piece of evidence that demonstrates that the earliest church was Jewish to the core.

We generally consider the apostle Paul to be the author of 1 Corinthians, and whereas that is partly true, we tend to forget that this book was co-authored by another Christian brother, Sosthenes.
Paul, called as an apostle of Christ Jesus by God's will, and our brother Sosthenes: To God's church at Corinth.... (1 Cor 1:1-2a)
What makes this significant to the discussion is that Sosthenes was not only a Christian, he was the ruler of a synagogue, beaten by the anti-Christian mob at Corinth:
Then they all seized Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the judge's bench. (Acts 18:17)
It's also interesting to note that the apparently previous ruler of the Corinthian synagogue, Crispus, also became a Christian:
Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed the Lord, along with his whole household; and many of the Corinthians, when they heard, believed and were baptized. (Acts 18:8)
Our modern day Gentile-ized church often condemns any hint of Jewish worship as being anti-Christian; this view is unBiblical. Being a leader of an exclusively Jewish synagogue, participating in exclusively Jewish worship, was not at all incompatible with being a Christian. It was just such a leader of Jewish worship who gave us part of our New Testament under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.