Getting to Know Yeshua 1

The Jewish Messiah

Introduction

Because this first study of Getting to Know Yeshua exposes errors in the Church regarding Yeshua and Israel, there is a requirement to give the facts. This necessity may cause some to feel that the study will be too academic and theological for their liking, and so believe that the course is not for them. I urge all to persevere. The first presentation lays a foundation of information that is important for not only understanding the Jewish nature of our Messiah, but also the Church’s separation from her Jewish roots, and the division in the Church regarding Israel. The knowledge provided will also be valuable in the interpretation of end time events (eschatology), which will be dealt with in depth in later presentations.

It will become evident to those completing this study, that at times I have relied heavily on D. A. Pryor’s book Behold the Man. The reason being that God used the course I completed on his book, as the genesis for my understanding of the errors in the Church, and what the Bride of Christ needs to do to prepare for His return. I therefore depend upon Prior’s excellent work to help establish the foundation of my message.

As this study is focusing on the importance of seeing Jesus in the context of His cultural background, I will be referring to Jesus by His Hebrew name “Yeshua”‎. Yeshua is short for yehōshu’a, which means “the Lord is my salvation”, and is translated as Joshua in English. Yeshua as a derivative of yehōshu’a was a popular name among the Jews during the second temple period, and meant “to rescue”, “to deliver”. Yeshua is recorder in New Testament Greek as Iēsous, which is phonetically translated into English as “Jesus.”

Reasons for the course:

“Today using scholarly tools, Christians are being able to restore the biblical portrait of Jesus. Jewish and Christian scholars in Israel especially, with their vast skills, and with all the latest discoveries in the field of archaeology, linguistics, rabinnics, and Jewish literature, are helping us see a fresh portrait of the original Jesus of Nazareth” (Dwight A. Pryor).

The more we see Jesus in His historical reality the more we are compelled to follow after Him. In other words, enhanced understanding of the historical Yeshua is of great benefit to our spiritual lives. The restoration of the Jewish roots of the Christian faith is helping clarify the hypostatic union of Yeshua, in that it restores the full identity of both the Divinity and the Humanity of Yeshua.

Critical Errors Exposed

When we read scripture, we tend to read looking through the tinted glasses of our cultural heritage, thus giving an incorrect interpretation of scripture – examples of this will be given throughout the course. There are four main reasons why these errors occur, namely:

  1. The Church overreacted to the threat of Arianism (emphasis on humanity of Jesus) by overemphasising the Divinity of Jesus, often to the exclusion of His humanity.
  2. Western civilization and its ideologies have been influenced by Greek philosophy and its thinking since its inception back in the 4th and 5th century BC.
  3. Anti-Semitism – the doctrine of replacement theology (Supersessionism), which is the belief that the Church has “replaced” the Jews in God’s divine will. This has resulted in the Church developing a Saviour who was in many ways a Gentile interpretation of the original Jewish Messiah.
  4. Every person that perceives Yeshua primarily as “Universal Man” invariably imparts a portrait of Him in their own image. The tendency is to impose our beliefs, ideologies and cultural background, on Yeshua rather than be conformed to His image.

1. Arianism

The Arian heresy had its origins in Alexandria in Egypt, when a church elder named Arius (AD 256–336) put forward the belief that the Son of God did not always exist but was a created by the Father. Therefore, Jesus was not co-eternal nor of the same substance as God the Father. This belief was totally against Christian doctrine, which holds that Jesus is both all man and all God (hypostatic union). The Council of Nicaea condemned Arius as a heretic and issued a creed to safeguard “orthodox” Christian belief.

A consequence of the Arian heresy was that the Church overreacted to the threat of Arianism by overemphasising the Divinity of Jesus, and tended to neglect His Humanity. Therefore, understanding the Jewish roots of Yeshua will help restore the true balance of the nature of the Son of David, as both all God and all man.

The Arian HeresyThe Nicene Response
Son was “first created” of the FatherSon was “begotten” of the Father
Son of similar substance to GodSon of same substance
Emphasis on Jesus’ humanityEmphasis on Jesus’ divine nature
Jesus a role model to followJesus’ humanity affirmed in creeds
Not a saviour but a mentor Belief in Saviour’s divinity stressed
We must strive for Jesus’ perfection and become like GodWe must worship one God in fullness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit
The Table above is from D. A. Pryor’s, Behold the Man, Centre for Judaic Christian studies, 2005. P12.

2. Greek Philosophy

Western civilization and its ideologies have been influenced by Greek philosophy and its thinking since its inception back in the 4th and 5th century BC. The influence of the Greece culture in modern Western Civilization is immense. The Greeks have left their mark on almost every facet of life such as politics, medicine, science, cosmology, education, architecture, sport, entertainment and philosophy. The result is that the western mind is attuned to think and reason with a Greek mindset. The philosophies of the west have grown up out of the foundations laid by the Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. This has resulted in the interpretation of scripture through the tinted glasses of Hellenistic ideology.

Classical Greece was a melting pot of ideas, that were drawn from all corners of the ancient world and influenced every aspect of its existence. The word “idea” is derived from the Greek word idein, meaning “to see”, and came directly from the Greek language into English. The word “idea” has its roots in the Greek quest for knowledge. This desire for wisdom is clearly seen in the Greeks being a dominant seafaring nation established cities throughout the Mediterranean. Once establishing a colony, they sought to combine the “ideas” of the local population with that of their own. This drive to increase their understanding reached a peak during the reign of Ptolemy I in Alexandria, with the building of the famous Alexandrian library. Alexandria played a pivotal role in Mediterranean trade from its founding in 332 BC being a vital crossing point for merchants and their trade both on land and through maritime routes. The consequence was that Alexandria was connected with cultures as far away as Asia in the East and the British Isles in the West. Any ships sailing into the harbour of Alexandria were inspected for documents, which when found were copied and placed in the library. Scholars would regularly meet and debate this new-found knowledge, so Alexandria became a syncretic mix of ideas from territories from not only around the Mediterranean, but also as far as Europe, Arabia and India. Unfortunately, this mixing of ideas also included the word of God. Church fathers such as Clement and Origen were trained in the Alexandrian syncretic method, and consequently brought Greek philosophy into interpreting scripture. This resulted in the rise of the allegorical school of interpretation in Alexandria, moving Yeshua out of His Hebraic context into a Greek philosophical arena. “Allegorical,” being an interpretive method that assumes that the Bible has various levels of meaning and tends to focus on the spiritual sense, as opposed to the literal sense. This form of interpreting scripture is used by the many eschatological (end times) theories that have been spawned by replacement theology, all of which deny a literal interpretation of end times prophecies. The Arian heresy covered in the first point was one of the consequences of Greek philosophy contaminating God’s word (syncretism), in Alexandria.

So, the Greeks highly valued human wisdom, and a life dedicated to the search for knowledge had great worth. There was an immense pride and satisfaction in the advancement of philosophy (man’s wisdom), that allowed a greater understanding of the world and life as they knew it. The quest for knowledge then, has its true genesis in the Greek culture, and as a result, Western scholars and theologians have for centuries viewed scripture through lenses influenced by Greek philosophy. The formation of humanistic ideology that dominates Western cultures is a result of this. Our view of Yeshua is therefore invariably influenced through the lenses of a culture heavily influenced by Greek philosophy.

This is a grave error, as Scripture is set in a Hebraic context, it is a Jewish document set in a Jewish culture, recorded by Jewish scribes. Even though the New testament is written in Greek, it was recorded by Jews from a perspective of a Jewish mind. We must put on Hebraic lenses to see Yeshua ben Joseph more clearly and to understand Him more fully.

Medieval Philosophy (5-15 Century)

Medieval philosophy, made much use of Plato and Aristotle, this and the fact that the Roman Church was heavily influenced by the teachings of Clement and Origen, saw syncretism (man’s wisdom) increase in the Medieval Church.

Augustine (254-430)

The church father Augustine lived in the Post-Classical History period just prior to the Middle Ages (Medieval period). He was largely responsible for laying the foundations of Greek Philosophy in the Roman Church. As a lover of Plato, he became influenced by the neo-Platonic philosophy adopted in AD 325 by the Roman Catholic Church as an explanation for the Trinity. Within three years of his move to Rome, Augustine converted to Catholicism and was quick to rise up the ranks of the Catholic Church to become one of its great theologians. As Augustine was a Neo-Platonist he was strongly influenced by Origen and his use of Greek philosophy in the interpretation of scripture, including his allegorical (non-literal) methods of interpretation. The contamination of the Roman Church by Greek Philosophy had a major impact on many aspects of their church traditions and beliefs, a consequence of this was that there was a further separation of the Church from its Jewish origins. The influence of Augustine platonic philosophy has carried on through the Middle Ages to the present.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a Dominican friar became an immensely influential philosopher and theologian, in the Roman church. He unlike the esteemed Platonist Augustine, was an admire of Aristotle, and began to implement his philosophy within the Church. This caused a controversy within the Roman Catholic church with Aristotelians in conflict with Platonists that has yet to be resolved.

The Renaissance and the Influence of Greek Philosophy on Christian Art

Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel during the flourishing period of High Renaissance (1475–1527). High Renaissance art followed and reflected the period of ‘rebirth’ in which philosophy, literature, art, and sciences drew on ancient knowledge from Classical Antiquity, principally the ancient Greeks. Michelangelo painted 20 athletic, nude males in the Sistine chapel and sculptured a 17-metre-tall nude David, blending Greek ideology of the perfect male form with Christian art.

LEONARDO DA VINCI’S, THE LAST SUPPER

Leonardo Da Vinci painted The Last Supper in 1498 in the light of his own Renaissance culture.

The errors are:

  • A blond Jesus, replaces a Semitic dark-haired Yeshua.
  • Renaissance architecture replaces Jerusalem limestone.
  • A long table with chairs, replaces a three-sided dining area with cushions (triclinium).
  • Loaves of bread and fish, replaces matzah and wine.
  • Daylight outside, instead of evening.
  • The last three points are from the chapter LEONARDO DA VINCI’S, “THE LAST SUPPER”. D. A. Pryor Behold the Man, Centre for Judaic Christian studies, 2005 (p11).
A Triclinium

Resurgence of Greek Philosophy in Europe resulting from the expansion of the Ottoman Empire:

With the expansion of the Ottoman Empire (1451-1566) into the Balkans and Greece, Greek and Byzantine scholars flee to Europe, taking with them their Greek philosophical literature.

The Enlightenment (1700s) the age of reason

The Enlightenment gained inspiration from the intellectual discourse of the Renaissance, and from that of the ancient classical world – in other words, Greek philosophy. Artists and architects worked in simple and elegant style that borrowed ideas and themes from classical Greece and Rome – called neoclassical (new classical).

The influences of the Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) on Theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) was immense, “the age of reason,” resulted in the scientific method of testing being applied to theology. An all-powerful miracle working God is therefore discounted, resulting in the emergence of the liberal Church, where Yeshua is just a man and the gospels is a document of His life that was written by men – no more than a moral guide for modern man.

3. Replacement Theology and Anti-Semitism

Replacement Theology (Supersessionism):

Replacement theology is a very prominent doctrine within the Church having a history that can be traced back to Emperor Constantine (280-337 BC). The doctrine of replacement theology (Supersessionism), is the belief that the Church has “replaced” the Jews in God’s divine will, and is incorrectly believed to be the new spiritual Israel. The term Supersessionism is often used, as the proponents teach that the Church has superseded Israel. Those who hold to replacement theology believe that the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and therefore all the promises made by God to the Jews now belong to the Church. This rejection of the Jews has provided the basis for ethical problems within the Church throughout Christian history, becoming the seed for all forms of anti-Semitism, such as intolerance, persecution, pogroms (organized massacre of Jews) and extermination.

Believing that Israel is of no greater importance than other nations, replacement theology rejects the belief of a millennial Kingdom, with Yeshua ruling in Jerusalem over the nation of Israel. The Supersessionist will therefore hold to an end times philosophy that rejects a literal interpretation of prophecy, preferring instead to spiritualise the prophecies. Replacement theology therefore has its roots firmly in the syncretism of Alexandria, and the Hellenic philosophy of Church Fathers such as Origen.

Replacement theology results in the Cornerstone of the Church being no longer a Jewish Messiah, but rather a Gentile Christ separated from His cultural heritage. A foundation stone determines the structure of a building. A Church whose foundation stone is corrupted, will have a corrupted understanding of scripture.

The best example of this corruption of scripture exists in the understanding of the end times. Their rejection of the millennial kingdom rule of Yeshua is a grave error. Yeshua as the Son of David will fulfil the covenant promise and rule over Israel for a thousand years, then as the Son of God, He will rule from the New Jerusalem for eternity. To deny the rule by the Son of David, is to deny the Hypostatic union of Yeshua.

Those that follow the abomination that is replacement theology should take heed of Paul’s warning to the Gentiles in the church of Rome, not to be arrogant and think themselves superior to the Jews:

And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty (arrogant), but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. (Romans 11:17-21).”

Gentile Arrogance in Rome

Emperor Claudius banished the Jews from Rome in AD 49 (Acts 18:2), leaving the Church entirely Gentile. When Emperor Nero encouraged Jews to return to Rome in AD 54, some cultural and religious problems arose. The main reason for Paul writing the letter to the Romans was to counter the arrogance of the Roman Church Gentiles who believed that they were better than the Jews, and showed contempt towards their Jewish brothers in Christ.

In Chapter 11 of Romans, Paul gives a historical review of the Jewish people which extends into the future – an ideal time to cover the arrogance of the Gentiles. David Pawson points out that arrogance always brings with it contempt for those who are perceived as being inferior. Contempt for the Jews would be the seed of anti-Semitism in the Church. Paul repeatedly warns the Roman Church not to be boastful (verse 18), arrogant (verse 20) and conceited in their selection (verse 25) as if it were in place of the Jews. The reason Paul gives is because, although the Jews have hard hearts, there will be a time in the future when all Israel will be saved (verse 25-26) – at the establishment of the Kingdom.

  • David Pawson, Unlocking the Bible, Harper-Collins Publishers, 2007. P1014.

Replacement Theology and Anti-Semitism

The Roman Emperor Constantine was anti-Semitic, so when the Empire was Christianized under his rule, he ensured that there was a separation of Christianity for its Jewish roots. Thus, replacement theology became a dominant doctrine within the Church from that time to the present day.

From the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 until the Council of Basel in 1434, the Roman Catholic Church gradually built a regime that removed the Jews from society and locked them behind ghetto walls.

Examples:

  • The Council of Nicaea I in AD 325 rejects the Biblical date for celebrating the Resurrection Day, so as to sever any connection with the Jewish feast of Passover. This is one of the changes that Constantine introduces in an effort to prevent Gentiles and Jews from worshipping together.
  • The council of Antioch of AD 345 ruled that any Christian celebrating Passover with a Jew would be excommunicated.
  • The council of Laodicea in AD 360 ruled that Christians are forbidden from attending Jewish festivals (Canon 37), or receiving unleavened bread from them (Canon 38).

The Maccabean Revolt verse the Churches Compliance

During the Maccabean Revolt (167 to 160 BC) Jews gave their lives to resist the pressure to embrace Greek Culture. The Church on the other hand has over the ages opened its arms to embrace Greek influence, as the alternative was to be a Jewish faith – replacement theology and anti-Semitism attempted to ensured that this would not be allowed to happen. The Church, as the Bride of the very Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, needs to cleanse herself of all traces of syncretism and anti-Semitism in preparation for His return.

4. “Universal Man”

Every attempt to create a “universal Jesus” has always ended up by depicting Yeshua in the ethnic and cultural likeness of those who sought to portray him in a new way.

Take Yeshua out of His Hebraic culture in scripture, and He can become any Jesus you want. He can be:

  • Anti-establishment Jesus
  • Liberation theology Jesus
  • Rock and roll Jesus
  • Existential Jesus
  • Prosperity theology Jesus.
  • Progressive Jesus

The very first sentence of the New testament announces Yeshua as the very Jewish “son of David, son of Abraham,” to ensure the reader of the New Testament understands the scriptures from that context.

Is Judaism a man-made culture or a God designed culture?

To answer this question, we need to understand what defines a culture. Some of the factors that define a culture are:

  • Social and moral laws
  • The clothing that is worn
  • The food that is eaten
  • Religious beliefs and practices

God did not look around for the most suitable culture for Yeshua to be raised in. The Godhead (i.e. including Yeshua) designed the culture that Yeshua would be identified with.

We Need To Take Off Our Culturally Biased Sun Glasses When We Read Scripture

A list of God’s instructions that define Judaism

  • The Ten Commandments.
  • Moral laws – on murder, theft, honesty, adultery, etc.
  • Social laws – on property, inheritance, marriage and divorce.
  • Food laws – on what is clean and unclean, on cooking and storing food.
  • Clothing – do not mix wool and linen.
  • Purity laws – on menstruation, seminal emissions, skin disease and mildew, etc.
  • The Feasts.
  • Sacrifices and offerings.
  • Instructions for the priesthood and the high priest including tithes.
  • Instructions regarding the Tabernacle, including those concerning the Holy of Holies.
  • Forward looking instructions for the time when Israel would demand a king.

Judaism – God designed

Phillip Yancey, the author of The Jesus I Never Knew wrote, “Alone of all people in history, He (Yeshua) had the privilege of choosing where and when to be born, and He chose a pious Jewish family living in a backwater protectorate of a pagan empire”. This statement implies that from all the cultures in the world Jesus chose Judaism. This would be grossly incorrect, rather of all the cultures in the world, Judaism is the only God created culture, the rest are manmade. God took Abraham out of the idol worship of the city of Ur, and shaped a new culture. Yancey did however correctly perceive the importance of understanding the Jewishness of Yeshua, when he went on to write, “I can no more understand Jesus apart from His Jewishness than I can understand Gandhi apart from his Indianness”.

Judaism is a God designed culture, through which God the Father chose to reveal His son. It is therefore extremely important to understand the culture of our Saviour – Yeshua. The next eight studies on Getting to Know Yeshua, will therefore focus on revealing Yeshua Hamashiach in His Jewish context.

  • Phillip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, Zondervan, 1995. P50.

SUMMARY

  • Theologians and archaeologists are being able to restore the biblical portrait of Jesus, thus enhancing our understanding of the historical Jesus, is of great benefit to our spiritual lives.
  • Errors:
  • 1. Arianism (resulted in the overemphasis on the Divinity of Jesus)
  • 2. The influence of Greek Philosophy into Western thinking
  • 3. Anti-Semitism – the doctrine of replacement theology
  • 4. The imposition of our culture onto Yeshua
  • Judaism is a God designed culture, for the purpose of revealing His Son.

Our conclusion must be that we need to study Judaism to fully understand our Messiah, Yeshua! Thus, also avoiding doctrinal errors.

Conclusion

The facts are that Yeshua:

  • Was born to a Jewish Family.
  • Was raised in a Jewish household.
  • Was taught the Torah by Jewish Rabbis.
  • Was a Jewish builder by career.
  • Lived as a Jewish Rabbi with disciples.
  • Died with the title “King of the Jews” above His head.
  • Will return as the Son of David to rule as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, over the restored land of Israel.
  • Will establish the throne of David, in David’s capital city – Jerusalem.

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