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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some Good Things to Say, 5 Aug 2011
This review is from: Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus: New Insights from a Hebraic Perspective (Paperback)
In trying to understand the difficult words of Jesus I have been searching for a long time. I have gone through many Evangelical teachers and denominations including the Pentecostals, Calvary Chapel, the Anabaptists, some Reformed teachers and preachers, the Jesus Christians (who take Jesus ultra literally) and lately I have been looking into the Orthodox Church.

I have a friend who I discuss these things with and who is also looking into the Orthodox Church after having come independently of me, into the Anabaptist church I attend. He has been doing some research into the Eucharist as celebrated by the early Ante Nicene Church, and its Jewish roots. This has caused me (for the first time really) to look into the Jewish roots of my faith. This is why I bought the book I am reviewing.

The book is short (128 pages)and the style is geared towards the average reader, and could be read in one sitting. I liked the introduction, especially this part:

"Picture a teenager trying to make sense out of such good King James English as, "I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I if it already be kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am straitened till it be accomplished! (Luke 12:49-50)" I would question my pastor or teachers of visiting seminary professors as to the meaning of such passages and would invariably recieve the common reponse: "Just keep reading son, the Bible will interpret itself."
The Truth is that one can keep reading the Bible forever, and the Bible will not tell him the meaning of these difficult passages."

And to this I must say a hearty "Amen!", but I don't think I agree with his conclusions. At least not fully. Some of what I read in this book was excellent, and I have learned a lot like this comparison between Luke 10:2 and a saying of Rabbi Tarphon "The Day is short and the task is great,and the laborers are lazy; but the wages are high, and the master of the house is urgent (Avoth 2:15)". Or on the next page a Jewish prayer and its great similarity to the Lord's Prayer. But then other times I was left scratching my head and thinking "Is that the true meaning?" To be honest, and maybe I don't know my 1st century Jewish culture enough, but some of his explanations still sounded just like your average Evangelical answers. This for me was the most disappointing aspect of the book.

He says that pacifism was made popular by the teachings of Tolstoy!!! Huh? The early Church (which he quoted in support of a Hebraic NT original, though even those quotes only supported the idea of an Hebraic original for Matthew) were pacifist, the Waldensians were pacifist, the Anabaptists were (and still are) pacifist, John Wesley was pacifist. And all these people predate Tolstoy.

I'm sorry but I do not agree with his conclusions of giving on page 75. I feel his conclusions are the average Evangelical response and require very little effort on the part of the Christian. The same with his explaning away of the martyrdom aspect of the beatitudes. I don't know why he thinks these words of his are so revelatory. These are the usual pat answers I was given as an Evangelical and I always found them unsatisfactory. It may be tedious for you (and me) to go into great detail on what exactly I disagree with in this book.

But he does say something very strange at the bottom of page 77. He believes that Matthew 5:11-12 are interpolations from another story and were "probably" inserted there by the editor of Matthew's source. He goes on and says that these two verses were "perhaps" given in the context of Jesus' teaching to his disciples. Wow, and he gives no supporting evidence except that we notice a sudden shift from the third person pronoun to the second person. Talk about Scripture twisting. If we can't even trust the original Greek manuscript, and if Christianity has believed falsely for the last 2000 years then we're all in trouble. Anyway, something I learned a while back is that when someone starts saying "probably" and "perhaps" it means they are guessing and you don't have to believe it. These are warning signs that the person either isn't sure or has no evidence to back up his startling claims.

To be honest, this type of stuff only compels me more to the idea that the truth is not hidden away in a desert somewhere or in Israel or locked up in some long lost document waiting to be discovered or through proper exegesis of the Biblical text. It compels me to the idea that truth is contained in, supported by, and protected by the Church He established 2000 years ago, though Apostolic Succession. The Pillar and Foundation of the Truth as Paul calls Her.

He says in the appendix (p. 111) that some Jews in Jesus' time believed that almsgiving was meritorious and benefited our salvation, instead of submitting to the righteousness of God. This is classic Protestantism. The Jews of Jesus' time believed it and so did the very earliest Christians (Polycarp in his Epistle to the Ephesians. And remember Polycarp was the Bishop to whom Jesus had only good things to say in his letters to the seven churches). And the Eastern Orthodox Church of today still believes what the early Christians believed. I don't know what the Jews of today believe, but my impression would be that they do still believe that good works are necessary for salvation. It is only Protestant heresy that claims God requires nothing on our behalf. This is not to say it is not of grace, but Luther's doctrine has led to many problems in the Church today.

Overall I would say this book has something good to say, but the problems I have with it outweigh the good, and I could not recommend it.
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Initial post: 19 Jul 2012 03:49:48 BDT
Last edited by the author on 19 Jul 2012 03:52:28 BDT
David, I am a born again Christian, and I have read your review with interest, and you quote Paul 1st Timothy chp.3 vrs 15 and 16 where you speak of the Church, which Paul in vrs. 16 puts where She belongs in Christ (God manifested in the flesh.......) The physical; national & Orthodox Churches of nowadays resemble nothing of the Church in Paul's time; though Paul warned of the false doctrine, backsliding and apostacy of the Church. The Bible makes it clear if anyone be in Christ he is a new creature. Paul exercises the Philippian Christians, Philippians chp 2 vrs 5 onward to have the mind of Christ in them; Christ's mind was to make Himself of no reputation; but always do God's will and to ascribe God His Father the Glory eternally. Paul in Philippians chp 4 vrs 22 says to salute every saint in Christ,yes the Christians in Christ; not the physical Church but the spiritual; in Christ, and there lies the answers to all our questions. I lke your enquiring mind; and I can recommend a book called Meekness and Majesty by R T Kendall (lifechanging) and also Martin Luthers Commentry on Galations (kregal classics) of which John Bunyan said, 2 This volume brings to light the depths of Paul's meaning like no other commentry. One time the diciples asked Jesus why they couldn't do that (miracle) and Jesus replied, "this kind cometh but by prayer and fasting. My prayers are with you. Simpson. simpson.555@btinternet.com
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