Thursday, May 17, 2012

Jewish Christians, Pt. 2, Hebrew Roots, Hebrew Names

The second topic in the interview with the Volks that I want to bring out is:

Scott Volk says [11:50] "The church of the 21st century has been duped, because we've kind of Christianized the gospel" and goes on to explain that Jesus would have been known as Yeshua son of Miriam rather than Jesus son of Mary and so on, which assumes that Hebrew was the spoken language of His time and place.

But was it? WAS His name "Yeshua?"

I've seen many different opinions on what language Jesus most commonly spoke, and Hebrew isn't the usual choice. The New Testament was written in koine Greek by various of the Lord's Jewish disciples, which makes it very clear that it was common for the Jews to speak Greek. Therefore Jesus Himself must have known Greek and that should have made Him quite familiar with His own name as said the Greek way. In fact it is likely He was fluent in Greek simply because that was the language of the whole Hellenized world since the conquest of Alexander the Great over three hundred years earlier. In fact the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek, the translation known as the Septuagint, around the second to third centuries BC because Greek had become the common language of everybody including the Jews, who were losing touch with Hebrew. It would be very odd if Jesus DIDN'T speak fluent Greek.

Did the Roman soldiers who were stationed all over Judea in those days also speak the common Greek or stick to their own Latin or what? Jesus had many encounters with the Romans, from the centurions who came to Him for healing, to Pilate. Did the Romans bother to learn the languages of the peoples they had conquered or isn't it more likely that they all shared the koine Greek?

Some claim that the people of Galilee would have spoken Aramaic which would make that Jesus' native language from childhood, and since at certain crucial moments as recorded in scripture He did speak Aramaic, this may be confirmation. At least it would imply that He was equally at home in that language as well as Greek. According to Wikipedia Aramaic has some similarities with both Hebrew and Arabic. One source I found says Aramaic is more like Arabic than like Hebrew. Jesus' name wouldn't have been Yeshua in Aramaic would it? Could it have been more like the Muslim Isa?

It is also thought by some that He would have been fluent in Hebrew because that is the language of the scriptures He would have heard in the Temple, but if the common language outside the Temple was not Hebrew then Hebrew would not likely have been spoken in any other context except the Temple or the study of scripture. He might have been well-versed in Hebrew, then, but not likely to have used it in everyday contexts. However, it's very possible that Hebrew was not even the language of the scriptures at that time, because the Greek Septuagint translation mentioned above was commonly used.

All these considerations make Hebrew the LEAST likely to have been His native language.

It's fine, I think, for Jewish believers in Christ to be interested in the Hebrew roots of the New Testament in the Old Testament, to appreciate and practice the Jewish ceremonies and holidays and so on, especially those who grew up in a religious Jewish family and studied Hebrew, and to prefer the name "Yeshua" simply because it's more Jewish and doesn't have the historical connotations of anti-Semitism they attach to the name "Jesus" -- even if it wasn't really what Jesus was called.

But too often it seems that unwarranted assumptions are made about how supposedly Hebrew Jesus and the New Testament contexts really were, and what for? Scott Volk says the Church has been "duped" and implies we've been deprived of something important if we don't think of Jesus as Yeshua. Well, now it looks to me like Jesus wasn't known as Yeshua at all. I tend to think that if He was and if it was really important, God would have made sure the New Testament was written in Hebrew. Perhaps He chose Greek partly for the very reason that the Hebrew language can easily become a sort of claim to authenticity the Jews can hold over the Gentiles, as they also tried to do with circumcision in Paul's day. For the same reason it's a good thing Latin wasn't the original language of the New Testament either, depriving the Romanists of at least one way of lording it over all the world -- with any claim to legitimacy anyway. Koine Greek had all kinds of virtues for the purposes of spreading the gospel and recording the scriptures, and the added virtue that it soon became a virtually dead language so nobody would want to fight over its claims to authenticity. All of this should make for a more level playing field for the sake of the unity of Jew and Gentile. What a wise Lord we have.

Hey, I believe that Israel is going to have a big part in the last days, I'm glad that Jews are coming into the Church in greater numbers and I look forward to their eventual inclusion in droves as scripture promises. The Lord said He'd come back to the Mount of Olives and I take that quite literally. I don't even see how it could be taken any other way.

IF there IS a significant trend of denial in the TRUE Church (not Rome) that Israel is going to play such a part in the last days, that's an extreme position that needs to be corrected. But also there is an OVER-emphasis on the role of Israel and the Jews that equally needs to be corrected. I don't see that there is really much of a "missing agenda" in the Church at all, as that radio broadcast purports to tell us. If there is, they didn't do a very good job of showing exactly where and what it involves.

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