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Archive for November, 2012

Babalonian mapLove This Middle Eastern Book We Call The Bible

Viewing anything through our own lens can put a slant on our interpretation.  Just ask any two people to tell their side of a dispute, it’s amazing how uniquely we perceive what we believe to be true.
Lets take the Bible for example.  A Middle Eastern book packed with ancient Hebrew idioms, each letter expressing a concrete meaning, (which means using only the five senses to describe the unseen) and each word having multidimensional depth.  When did our Western abstract way of thinking begin, (our ability to describe the unseen with concepts like; love, anger and compassion)?

A little reminder of our history may be all we need to understand why we believe what we believe to be true.

One of the biggest changes to the ancient Hebrew alphabet occurred  around 612 BC, Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Kingdom had conquered the Assyrian Empire.

It was during this time period Jeremiah’s prophesy  Jeremiah 25:10-12 came to fruition. The Babylonians conquered Judah, taking captives such as Daniel, who acknowledged the 70 year exile in Daniel 9:2:4.  Scholars find the first Aramaic influence on the ancient Hebrew alphabet.  Changes from the picture shapes morphed into a more square Aramaic shape.

In 538 BC, Cyrus of Persia ruled over the Babylonians.  He was the one Isaiah prophesied would free the Jews to return to their land and rebuilt their temple, Isaiah 45:12-14.  This ended their 70 year captivity, this is recorded in the book of Daniel.

  The next notable changes to these ancient Hebrew writings came after the reign of Alexander the Great, 323 BC.  It was during the reign of King Ptlolmy, when millions of Koine Greek speaking Jews were living in Egypt.  Ptolomy wanted to build a library containing every great book in the world.  He summoned seventy two translators from Jerusalem, six from every tribe, to Alexandria in order to get the best translation from the Hebrew.  This translation was later called the Septuagint, meaning seventy, in Latin.   (During the time period of the Seleucids of Syria, the Hasmonean Dynasty and the Roman Empire.)

It was during this Graeco-Roman era, 332 BC- 395 AD, that the Greeks had completely dominated ancient Hebrew culture.  The entire collection of  ancient Hebrew writings had long since been translated into Koine Greek, known as the Septuagint.  In the 4th century St. Jerome translated the Latin Vulgate primarily from the Septuagint because most of the ancient Hebrew scrolls had been destroyed with the second temple in 70 AD.

 This was the same time period Emperor Constantine gave rise to “imperial Christianity.”  A much different Christianity than that of the followers of Jesus/Y’shuah who continued observing the festivals and Sabbaths.  These disciples understood that these feasts represented specific dates and times, the first four being fulfilled by Y’shuah’s death/ resurrection and the giving of His Spirit at Pentecost.

Constantine persecuted those who didn’t conform to his changes, even blending pagan customs into his religion which went directly against God’s teachings;

 “Be watchful that you are not ensnared into following them, (pagan customs), after they have been destroyed before you and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? We will do likewise.”  Deuteronomy 12:30

One of the most disturbing changes Constantine made was officially changing the seventh day Sabbath, (to cease, to rest from work ) to the first day of the week, March 7th 321 AD.

Genesis 2:3 “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” 

Elaborate “church” buildings were built because he didn’t understanding that the word “church” referred to “the people” and not a building.  The Greek word ekklesia and the Hebrew word qahal both translate “assembly or congregation,” not the building.

Although Constantine died in 337 AD, the Christian religion has still not been able to cleanse the roots of it’s corruption.

Jumping ahead now to the year 1620.   Small groups from England, calling themselves “Pilgrims,” “Puritans and “Separatists”” gave everything they had to keep God’s Word pure.  The United States of America was founded on their sacrifice for this  freedom.   Freedom from celebrating pagan holidays and the dictates of everything else they were learning was not found within the pages of their newly acquired English Bibles.

Today, it’s been only a few hundred years and our own history is being revised and quickly forgotten.   So what  happens if we don’t  remember our own history let alone the history of this Middle Eastern Book we call our Bible?

——–“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  George Santayana(1863-1952).——-

God’s Eternal Word remains incorruptible but the interpretations and translations of  people have caused many divisions, Galatians 5:20.  Even though it’s clear that His Word teaches us “God is One”.   Unity continues to evade us, even with our clear Western translation;   “accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. 14 Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.  Colossians 3:13-15 and Ephesians 2:14,15 Y’shuah is our Peace, He has made both Jewish and Non-Jewish into One new man, establishing Peace.

“Love” is the perfect bond of unity!  “God is “Love”. 1 John 4:7-9    Not just the Western definition of love but  the Hebrew word, “Ahava.”   It’s meaning is much deeper and more of an action word of doing and giving unconditional, unfailing love that is not based on feelings.

“Love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Luke 10:26-28

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Other teachings about “hell” also have pagan roots, please study the history of this topic.  The English word, “Hell” has been substituted for the Hebrew word, “Sheol” meaning “Grave,” and the Greek equivalent, “Hades.”  In addition, “Gehenna” and “Tartarus” are mistranslated by the same word, “Hell.”  This originates from Jeromes 4th century Latin Vulgate translation.  A blending of Greek Mythology, Hades-the god of the underworld and the unseen, hidden and unknown original meaning of  “the grave.”   

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Some other eye openers I’ve discovered, as I attempt to learn more about history and Ancient Hebrew thinking, is that Y’shuah most likely didn’t speak with any “I” statements.  This was a culture aware of the need to rid themselves of “ego,” “self” and “pride.”

Learning this has helped me understand some previously controversial verses, such as Jesus’/Y’shuah’s words in John 14:6   “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”

The meaning becomes quite clear knowing that Y’shuah wasn’t the “I.”  On the contrary, whenever Y’shuah spoke He was speaking the teachings of God.  He was the Word/Teachings of God in the flesh.

John 1:1 reads, “In the beginning was the Word/Teaching, and the Word/Teaching was with God, and the Word/Teaching was God.” 

In the beginning God “spoke” us into existence, He entrusted Moses with His “Teachings.”
The Hebrew word “Torah” means “Teachings or Instruction” of God…vs.14 And the Word/”Teaching” was made flesh, and dwelt among usJohn 1:13-15

Y’shuah was the “Torah/Teaching” of God in the flesh.

The prophet Isaiah even foretold of His birth in 740 BC Isaiah 7:13-15  God’s Word walked among us in the flesh, He was Immanuel, God with us and the meaning of His Hebrew  Name is Y’shuah our Salvation.

 Our Salvation is to know God.  John 17:2-4

“I/(Your Teachings) have made Your Name known to them and revealed Your character and I/(Your Teachings) will continue to make [You] known, that the love which You have bestowed upon Me may be in them and that I/(Your Teachings) may be in them.” John 17:26

He gave us the Words of Eternal Life and “doing” His Teaching is our Salvation.  John 6:67-69

“His Truth endures to all generations!” Psalm 100:4-5

Thankfully we have a promise that we will find Him when we search for Him with ALL our heart.  Jeremiah 29:12-14 .  Because of  the Covenant He made with His own blood, His Word/Teaching has now been implanted on our hearts.  James 1:20-22

I’n conclusion, I’m still not sure why Western translators decided to change the original names; Ya’aqov to James, Y’shuah to Jesus and YHWH  or El to Lord and God?  I just like knowing that they did.  Because a name is only a title in Middle Eastern thinking and the “Names” of God reveal His “Character/Attributes” and God’s Character is unchanging. James 1:16-18

He is everything Good, Generous and True, He is Love, He is All Knowing, All Powerful, Pure Loving Kindness, Full of  Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness, Faithful and Impartial, He will never leave or forsake us and He can be trusted!!

Humbly we receive His implanted Word/Teaching that is our salvation. James 1:20-22

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Love in Egypt

I knew the first time I heard about it, this trip was going to be different.  No tour group, no crowds of tourists surrounding me as we line up at all the best tourist traps.  The thought appealed to me, I might get a chance to meet the local people and experience their culture.

We had six months to prepare; our monthly meetings included seven women, including me. We prepared ourselves for the culture and the language and even tried to gain an awareness of how much we tend to view our Creator’s world through our own lenses.

We had to take a step of faith, knowing that we would be submerged first hand into the unknown so we had no expectations.

It was like stepping into a different world as we glimpsed around at the people in the Cairo airport.  Our group of women must have looked strange in contrast to the majority of men, most dressed in Middle Eastern clothing.  As we made our way through customs we were keenly aware that the only protection we were under was God’s.

Our driver was waiting for us on the other side and with great relief we followed him to the safety of his van.  After loading our seven carry-on bags he stopped outside and kneeled to pray, I noticed the Koran on his dashboard.  He had greeted us by saying “asalamu alekum”, (may the peace of God be upon you) and we returned our rehearsed, “wa alekum salam”, (and to you be the peace of God).  Stunned by his devotion we sat in silence, we were definitely not used to hearing or seeing such a public display of faith.

Nothing could have prepared us for the traffic from the airport to our hostel downtown.  Someone later coined the phrase, “Disney Cairo” a fitting description because each time we got in a micro-bus it was scary, unexpected and always thrilling when we arrived safely.

Our first night at the Hostel was the only time I can remember feeling a little uneasy.  The city was full of people, a few of them were trying to sell something to us that I later discovered was Kleenex.  Our suitcases sitting right on top of the van must have made us look like wealthy tourists.  Anyone who travels is considered unfathomably wealthy compared to the amount of money most people are able to live on in Egypt.

I was startled by a the hand of a lady selling Kleenex as she stuck it through my window while we were stopped in traffic.  I was instructed to turn my back in an attempt to ignore her so the others wouldn’t approach us.

I wondered if I was the only one who was afraid we would be mobbed by the Kleenex sellers as our van stopped in front of our destination.  I grabbed my bag without looking around, and hustled into the dark corridor of our Hostel.  My heart was pounding as I stood facing an elevator with a floor board that was half worn away in the middle.  The building was hundreds of years old, but somehow this elevator still worked, even without a door.

I threw my apprehension aside and got on, with my 50 lb. suitcase, doing my best to remind myself to breath.

What a contrast I see now, from that first night in the hostel, and our last night there.  As we adjusted to the differences we could see our fears were completely unfounded.

When I was asked to go along with someone to the little store across the street and buy some bottled water I had to force myself to say, “okay.”  I was that afraid of being mobbed by the Kleenex selling people.

Another fear I had was crossing the traffic.  It wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen and I didn’t understand what the constant honking meant.  People crossed the street without crosswalks or traffic lights and the cars somehow drove on the lane lines, not in the lanes.

Again we coined a phrase, “frogger” to describe what it was like getting across the street in downtown Cairo.  I have to say; by the end of our trip we could cross the street fearlessly.

The Kleenex selling people became so dear to me.  I noticed they were only asking as they tried to get our attention and when we said, le shukran, (no thank you), they humbly looked away.

One day I built up the courage to acknowledge a few of the women I saw selling Kleenex along the streets with “asalamu alekum”.  I was pleasantly surprised as they looked up at me with the sweetest smiles.  The kindness shining from their eyes assured me that they were no threat.  There was no alcohol or drug addiction fueling some frenzied, detached expression.  They were hungry and tired just trying to sell Kleenex so they could survive.

After that first night, I think we all felt amazingly safe everywhere we went. Whether ordering fast food like, Chicken shwarma, foul, or koushari at GAD, or walking through the Suk, (market).  From Garbage city where we saw poverty that is still  too difficult to process, to Alexandria with the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea.  I could write a book about the wonderful experiences we had and the lovely people we met.

God willing, I do hope to write more about Egypt and how we were almost always greeted with huge smiles, hugs, kisses and welcomes.  The people we met were so easy to love!

But for now, I have something to write about what I’ve continued to learn since I’ve been back in the U.S.

One very thought provoking incidence happened right off the plane in L.A.  We were having difficulty with our connecting flight home, an employee ordered us sternly to go back to the kiosk and check in as we begin to head toward her line for help.

Understandably, we were all tired from our long trip.  It was one of those times when it’s really difficult to even muster a smile let alone return an inslut with the gentleness of Wisdom.  Our first reaction was to reflect her attitude right back to her and let her know that we had the ability to be just as rude.

But we had just returned from N.E. Africa where we learned that God’s Love is Universal. Time and time again, during so many Divine appointments, as we waited, as plans changed, facing the unknown on a daily bases…

What a contrast I noticed in my attitude, my world view was different, maybe my pride was a little easier to spot and my humility began to gain some ground.

I’ve been pondering this strange epiphany for over a week now and I think it may have been one of the most significant things I learned from this trip.

What does it really look like to walk in obedient Love?

“And this is love, that we walk according to His Commandments, and this is the very commandment you have heard from the beginning, Deuteronomy 13:4, that you should walk in Love.”  2 John 1:6

God’s Love requires a lot of  humility.  Yielding our rights, our honor, our pride, our ego,  at times, seems we might even die, because the ego does not lay itself down willingly.

But if we do not learn to discipline our egos we become enslaved to them.

Jesus taught us to treat others the way we would like them to treat us.  He didn’t mean the ones who treat us well,  He was referring to the ones who don’t.   Aren’t all of us are able to repay good treatment with good treatment?

Recognizing the next time someone is hateful, insulting, criticizing  accusing, rude or unjust is your moment of opportunity.  It’s a test Alexanria Egypt 2012that reveals just how much ego is standing in the way of our obedience to God.

His Strength is most evident in our weakness.  2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Humbling our ego does seem impossible and very unfair to our finite logic.  We need to trust that the One Who Created us knows what He’s doing.  When we learn to get our ego out of the way, His Spirit will do the impossible through us.

Love your Neighbor, Enemy, and even the People you’re afraid of.

Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:44Romans 12:13-15 ; Philippians 2:2-4; John 13:34

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