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on 5 April 2017
I love the appendix.
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on 12 December 1999
In 1991 this book started me on a quest to understand the roots of my Christian faith.It lead me to the conclusion it is impossible to fully appreciate all of Jesus message unless one knows the context and culture and mindset into which his words were originally addressed.An excellent intro to the general reader who is seeking to appreciate the completeness of our Lord's teaching.
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The authors make a very convincing case that the Synoptic Gospels (Mathew, Mark and Luke) were based on a lost Hebrew text. The translation into Greek was not idiomatic but literal and that is why many of the words of Jesus do not seem to make sense. These Gospels are full of Hebrew idioms and expressions that were taken literally into the Greek and subsequent translations of other languages. Most of the idioms that Jesus used can be understood only in a Hebrew context. The assumption that the entire New Testament was originally communicated in Greek has led to significant misunderstandings on the part of both scholars and laypersons.

Firstly, the authors examine the Aramaic and Greek theories. Contrary to the consensus, it now appears that Hebrew was very much alive as a spoken language at the time of Jesus. The Dead Sea Scrolls also point in this direction. As proof, the authors cite scholars like M H Segal, Matthew Black and Max Wilcox. Many words in the Greek versions are not just poor Greek but actually meaningless Greek, because of the literal translation. The undertext reveals a Hebrew original.

Recent linguistic research confirms that Hebrew was the spoken language of Israel at the time of Christ. This knowledge is enabling scholars to correct the numerous mistranslations in the English text, which was translated from the Greek. Some of the scholars quoted are Jehoshua M Grintz, David Flusser, Moshe Bar-Asher, Pinhas Lapide, Harris Birkeland, William Sanford LaSor, Frank Cross and Abbe J T Milik.

Chapter 4 explores the extra-biblical evidence for Hebrew in the writings of Josephus and the Anti-Nicene Fathers, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, on coins and inscriptions and in Rabbinic literature. The case for Hebrew is overwhelming.

But the most convincing indication of the Hebrew origin of these three Gospels can be found in the text itself. The Hebrew undertext is revealed in the sentence structure and the many literalisms and idioms that are peculiar to Hebrew. The authors provide many examples in which confusing passages immediately become clear when translated back into Hebrew.

Chapter 6 considers the theological error due to mistranslation. Unfortunately there are passages of which the mistranslation has caused significant error and unnecessary theological confusion. Thus, the expression Kingdom of Heaven primarily means the community of believers, not the future kingdom. It also becomes clear that Jesus did indeed claim to be the Saviour, by inter alia referring to himself as the "Green Tree", a messianic title. The book also dispels other myths like the ones about pacifism, martyrdom and giving without discernment.

In the Appendix, David Bivin deals with many particular texts in detail, including Matt 5:3, Luke 23:31, Matt 11:12, Luke 12:49 - 50, Matt 16:19, Matt 5:20, Matt 5:17 & 18 (about the iota and tittle). It is quite disturbing to think that for almost two millennia, believers did not read the true meaning that Jesus intended. How strange that this should only have come to light in the last century, and that most modern translations of the Bible still contain the incorrect and confusing translations!

Black and white photographs and illustrations enhance the text throughout. The book concludes with a bibliography and biographical information on the authors. Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus is a compelling read, but too short. What it reveals has enormous implications for Christianity. Other books that shed light on this matter are Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church, by Dr Ron Moseley and The Authentic Gospel of Jesus by Geza Vermez.

Kabbalah of Yeshua by Zusha Kalet

Yeshua by Yaacov Rambsel
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on 19 July 2012
This book is based on the eccentric idea that there is a Hebrew, rather than an Aramaic original to the Greek gospels and the authors take up fifty-four pages before they get to the `difficult words' promised in the title. Then they do so rather vaguely. It isn't until the appendix that these are fully explored in any detail and then one saying gets a disproportionate amount of attention: sixteen whole pages.

The authors are clearly very knowledgeable about Aramaic and Hebrew but they perpetuate the mistaken idea the `abba' means `daddy.'

There is a doctrinal bias towards pietism - the `kingdom' is something in our hearts, not our politics; pacifism is a mistake.

I cannot take seriously anyone who quotes approvingly from The Living Bible as an authoritative translation.

However, there are some good things within these pages: some of Jesus's parables are compared with the sayings of other rabbis of his time and Jesus's sayings about almsgiving and the law are explained by studying what they could and could not mean to a First century Jew
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on 5 May 2009
again for a very short book, I think this is one of the better books on my shelf.

The book creates a very good argument for an underlying hebrew (not aramaic) text for the gospels and provides for some superb evidence.

What is more it looks at some very difficult verses which have been 'done to death' through so many different interpretations. This book is an absolute read for those who consider themselves to be avid students of the word.

Some may say the authors have a vested interest in promoting their own conclusions, but I do not agree. If the evidence supports a case then we should accept the case. We work this way in the legal system, why will we not do it when we come to the scriptures.
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on 6 April 1999
After reading this book I have a different understanding of many of the scriptures that made no sense before. I now do more research into a passage when studying the Bible.
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on 5 August 2011
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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on 28 January 2008
This book says just one thing - to understand Jesus you need to get to grips with the Hebraic roots of the gospels. Great, totally agree but this book isn't worth buying just for that. A better book would include many more examples of where this impacts the words we have in the gospels. It is disappointing in this respect.
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on 11 April 2013
I found this book very informative and an easy read considering the nature of the subject matter. It's fascinating and clearly states the Hebraic background and understanding of the words of Jesus.
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on 20 October 2009
This is a very helpful book, which makes a convincing case for the original words of the Gospels being in Hebrew. Out of this arises a much better understanding of quite a number of passages. After all, every language has its idioms, and the proper meaning is not understood unless these are too. I look forward to reading more in this area, expanding our understanding of the Gospels.

A very informative and worthwhile read.
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