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Understanding the Bible

June 21, 2011
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The Christian Scriptures (Matt.–Rev.) cannot stand alone. They must be combined with the Tanach in order to be complete. The Christian Scriptures were written in a kind of shorthand. Concepts which were commonly understood by the readers of the time are simply not explained. For instance, although Passover is mentioned several times, it is never explained. The writers assumed that the readers knew the story of the Exodus from Egypt and understood all about the customs involved with celebrating the feast. Have you ever wondered why there isn’t much about praise and worship in the Christian Scriptures? It is because they already had a wonderful 150-chapter book of Psalms.

Consider this: Yeshua, the disciples and the early Church only had one Bible, the Tanach. The Christian Scriptures didn’t come to be universally accepted as inspired Scripture until sometime between AD 300–400. So, when you read the word “scripture” in the New Testament, it always refers to the Tanach! There are around 1,600 quotations of the Tanach in the Christian Scriptures. Yeshua quoted or referred to all of the Torah, most of the Prophets, and some of the Writings. Yeshua and the apostles gave full authority and inspiration to the Tanach.

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law until all is fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17–18). “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

Since we live 2,000 years after the times of Yeshua and more than 2,500 years after the events of the Tanach and don’t speak the original languages, we can miss important nuances of the text. The Bible we read is translated from ancient texts, which were in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek (New Testament). Every language has idioms—phrases which are readily understood by others in the culture, but when translated literally into another language, either lose their meaning or the meaning is changed. Hebrew is no exception.

In Matthew 6:19–24, we see an example of a Hebrew idiom. Yeshua begins to talk about money (vv. 19–21) and then seems to change the subject as He talks about a good eye and an evil eye (vv. 22–23), but then He returns to talking about money (v. 24). My Bible has titles separating these sections. However, the one who understands Hebraic idioms would know that Yeshua never changed the subject, because “good eye” is someone who is generous, and “evil eye” is someone who is stingy.

As Christians, we owe a great debt of gratitude to the Jewish people, who carefully preserved the Tanach through many centuries. You can visit the Shrine of the Book Museum in Jerusalem and see a 2,000-year-old book of Isaiah. When compared to the modern-day Hebrew book of Isaiah, it is virtually the same!

I encourage you to make use of the wealth of Bible study tools available. There are rich insights to be found for the one who digs deep.

Source: By Rebecca J. Brimmer, International President and CEO

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