Why Understand Our Hebrew Roots?

As a child, did you ever understand the song "Ring Around the Rosie"?

Ring-a-round the rosie,
A pocket full of posies,
Ashes! Ashes!
We all fall down.

You can read about the background of this song here:

Clearly the original meaning of this song is lost in the mists of time. Although all the words are in English and we understand each word, the original meaning of each line escapes us. If we were living in England or Europe at the time this song originated, we would be better equipped to understand it.

People with a common culture can communicate concepts, ideas, shades of meaning, and such without explicitly defining every single idea or concept referred to. Someone who knows English but is not knowledgeable of our technology saturated culture would have difficulty with the following question:

"Do you know how to use hashtags?"

This sentence refers to communications between people, social media, use of a computer or smart phone, typing on a keyboard and other concepts. All these ideas and concepts are contained in this question without ever being mentioned or defined.

So it is with the Bible. The men and women God spoke his words to were generally of the Middle-Eastern Hebrew culture, speaking the Hebrew language.

Through the centuries, the translators of the Bible have not had training in the Hebrew culture, so they have been greatly handicapped in their labors. Additionally, the King James Version of the Bible was written in a very old version of English. No wonder there can be much difficulty in understanding the Bible.

Understanding the cultural context of the Bible can restore the deep understanding of the spiritual truths that are contained in the scriptures.

Notice that there is no need to participate in our technology laden culture in order to understand the example question posed above. Similarly, there is no need to change our culture or engage in an old form of religion in order to gain an understanding of the scriptures. There is no need to convert to Judaism in order to "get right with God" or to practice the truth of His Word.

Here is a quote from John Brown, (posted on his "Straight Bible" blog which can be found here)

If the Hebrew world view had not been lost, so many things modern Christians take for granted would be completely different! The ancient Hebrews, including the first apostles and early believers comprehended many topics of the faith very differently from modern Christians. For example, the ancient Hebrews described the power and presence of God as "wind, breath or light breeze." This was translated as "spirit" in both Latin and English versions. To a gentile "spirit" became an object which was later defined as a thing, a person, a personality even deity. But for a Hebrew, this term is only a description of what they cannot see, never a thing, person or object. "Spirit" was a explanation for observed phenomena. If a miracle occurred or some one prophesied, it was called "spirit" upon a person as a way to explain it.

ESV: Job Chapter 32 [8] But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.

Just this switch to a Hebrew comprehension of spirit would totally change the face of Christianity! Adopting a Hebrew comprehension of spiritual reality would completely change modern Christian doctrine. It would change the the comprehension of what is salvation and how do you know when someone is converted. It would refocus the efforts and practice of Christians, channeling their activities into different directions. Comprehending how the first apostles understood spiritual reality would completely redefine the faith from a "social gospel" into an apostolic gospel of power and a dynamic presence of God in the congregations.

End of quote

Do you know about the Hebrew concept of "agency"? Not knowing this concept has caused all kinds of doctrinal error and confusion. In the Hebrew culture, the first born son was authorized and empowered with the same power and authority of his father. He had the authority to act in place of his father, when his father was not present. To the Hebrew mind, if you were to deal with a mans first born son, it was the same as if you were to actually deal with the father. In legal terms, the father is the "principle" and the first born son is his "agent". This is the reason that Jesus could accurately say "…he who has seen me has seen my father…"; not because Jesus was God, but because of the concept of agency!

There are more details. If the father and his first born son are not physically present, then any of his other sons become agents in that situation. Note that the entire purpose of the agent is to act on behalf of the principle in accord with the will of the principle. In other words, the agent is not acting on his own self interest, but in the interest of his father or the principle.

If Jesus Christ were still physically present upon the earth, no other person could be an agent of the father of Jesus Christ. Since he is not physically here, all those who are "born from above" are authorized and empowered as agents of our heavenly father, God.

Now we can make some sense out of a seemingly impossible verse. I have wondered how this verse can possibly work in our lives. Now the understanding of this concept of agency has allowed me to understand this verse.

ESV: Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

Revised English Bible: Ephesians 5:1 In a word, as God's dear children, you must be like him.

George M. Lamsa's Translation: Ephesians 5:1 Be therefore Godlike, as beloved children.

How can this be possible, to imitate or be like the creator of the heavens and the earth? This answer is "by being his agent!" In order to be an agent for the creator, you must have a relationship with him and be familiar with his will. All those born from above have the authority and the empowerment to walk as agents of the living God, brining His will to pass on this earth.

Leave a comment, or contact me at keith@ksradcliffe.com
(C)2013 Keith S. Radcliffe

Declining Church Attendance

Recently, I read a discussion in G+ regarding declining church attendance. The following was my contribution to the discussion.

Interesting topic and discussion!
Several observations – not once did the discussion get spiritual. There is the same old 5 senses search for who, or what to blame.
Please lets not blame the people – this argument is reminiscent of the hardhearted retort recorded in John 7:49.
The Bible was mentioned at least once, in regards to relationships. So, how much do the present doctrines and practice of the church institutions conform strictly to the bible? A good starting point for this question is Acts 17:24 and 25. Furthermore, come to think of it, how is the status of institutional “church attendance” a spiritual indicator of anything??? Nowhere in the scriptures is anyone instructed to institute, promote, support or attend a corporate institution of religion.
If you study the scriptures in depth, you will find that, historically, spiritual attacks focus first on the leadership, both political and spiritual. Check out Ezekiel 34 to find the spiritual results of these attacks which have gone on for centuries. Refer to Acts 20:28 -35. (It is interesting that verse 35 is addressed to the spiritual leadership!)
Yes, society has changed, the family has changed, relationships have changed. All this is symptomatic of the underlying spiritual causes.
What to do? Perhaps now would be a good time to discover the real roots of Christianity – see if the current doctrines and practices can be supported strictly by scripture, without systematic theology. Get in touch with the real head of the real church, Christ. Find out what he has to say about the whole situation.

Your thoughts and comments?

(C) 2013 Keith S. Radcliffe

Faith or Believing?

How many times have you heard it said "…you have to have faith…"? Have you been taught to think that "faith" is a mental gymnastic which stubbornly adheres to a certain doctrine in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?
The definition of these words are important, if Hebrews 11:6a is true:

…And without faith it is impossible to please him (God)…

How worthless is it to bend your mind around a doctrine and to force yourself or to talk yourself into defining it as truth without question? This type of mental exercise is guaranteed NOT to result in the operation of the power of God in your life!
This includes the doctrines of "positive believing". "Positive believing" will NOT result in the energizing of any Godly spiritual power in your life!

If you read further in Hebrews 11, you will see that the faith discussed there resulted in the energizing of Godly spiritual power. Hebrews 11:8 – 12 reveals what Abraham did through faith.
Romans 4:3 says of these same events that

"…Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness."

Genesis chapter 12 gives more details regarding Abraham (Abram). Briefly, God communicated with Abram; he told Abram what to do, and Abram obeyed. In this record are the simplest of instructions on how one walks by the spirit.

First of all, Abram had to have holy spirit in order for God to communicate with him. This holy spirit was from God and it could be upon humans, conditionally. This communication is also called "revelation" and is made up of what Paul records as "word of knowledge" and "word of wisdom".

When Abram obeyed the instructions he received from God via revelation, something marvelous happened. He began operating spiritual believing, or faith. This happened because he had holy spirit upon him. This spiritual believing, faith, is why Abram could move with such power in his life. Later, this spiritual believing resulted in the miracles which led to the birth of his son Issac.

So, what does this ancient history have to do with you, me and the other Christians today? Galatians 3 reveals the answer.
Most of the translations I have read do a very poor job with Galatians 3:7 – 9; George M. Lamsa's translation from the Aramaic is very clear:

You must know therefore that those who trust in faith are the children of Abraham.
Because God knew in advance that the Gentiles would be declared righteous through faith, he first preached to Abraham, as it is said in the Holy Scripture, In you shall all the Gentiles be blessed.
So then, is is the believers who are blessed through Abraham the faithful.

Logically then, it makes sense that those who walk by the spirit, manifesting spiritual believing, show that they are the children of Abraham. They show that they are blessed through Abraham.

Abraham came from a different part of the world, a different culture and a different time. God was communicating with him in the language Abraham spoke, using words and concepts a man from that time and culture could understand. If we are going to understand the deep roots of our faith that go all the way back to Abraham, we will need to learn about the ancient Hebrew culture. You can start at http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/  and http://straightbible.org/

Walking by the spirit is not difficult. Abram was flesh and blood like any other human. He did not go to church, he did not study the Bible – that book did not exist at the time! He did not fellowship with other "believers", or sing hymns or share 10% of his cash with a local corporate religious organization. Even so, he became the father of all those who manifest spiritual believing or faith. See how simple it is to walk by the spirit, to walk with your heavenly father?

Put away the mental gymnastics, the powerless religious doctrines, and start listening to the voice of God. Then you too can start enjoying walking with some power in your life.

Leave a comment, or contact me at keith@ksradcliffe.com

(C)2013 Keith S. Radcliffe