"So then, every Torah-teacher who has been made into a talmid for the Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of a home who brings out of his storage room both new things and old." "Matthew 13:52

Jews and the Bible

You may be fortunate enough to meet Jews who have come to faith in Yeshua and can teach us so much from their background understanding, but do all Jews actually know their own Hebrew scriptures that well?

You may be aware that Rabinic Jews study the Talmud and the Mishna as seriously as they study the Tanakh, and see this as a bad thing. But is it really ?

The Talmud

According to Wikipedia, the Talmud is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law and Jewish theology.
Until the advent of modernity, in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the centerpiece of Jewish cultural life and was foundational to "all Jewish thought and aspirations".
The term "Talmud" normally refers to the collection of writings named specifically the Babylonian Talmud, although there is also an earlier collection known as the Jerusalem Talmud.

The Talmud has two components; the Mishnah (c200CE) , a written compendium of Rabbinic Judaism's Oral Torah; and the Gemara (c. 500CE), an elucidation of the Mishnah and expounds broadly on the Hebrew Bible. See more at Wikipedia

The Mishna and the New Testament

nehemiaswall.com/mishnah-new-testament

Bible Scholar Nehemia Gordon speaks with Rabbi Dr. David Moster about how the early rabbis dealt with supposed Biblical contradictions, what we can learn from the Mishnah and New Testament's approaches to the text of the Hebrew Bible, and why a famous rabbi made a cameo-appearance in the New Testament.

The Mishna was started in 200AD / CE, and takes biblical texts that apparently contradict and discusses them to offer solutions.
The benefit of this is not writing off one text but coming to a higher / deeper understanding. The Mishna says "Resolve this as follows."
The Mishna is not irrelevant to the News Testament, and Rabbi David's organisation also has Christian teachers.
The podcast has an interesting discussion of Rabbi Gamliel, referred to by Paul / Sha'ul in Acts.
The Mishna approach enables progress beyond simplistic errors like the famous - "Jews are subject to legalistic following of Torah while Christians have been set free from the Law."

Find more from Rabbi Moster on www.biblicalculture.org and their YouTube channel

Before criticising Rabinnic Jews for putting these works on a equal footing with scripture, perhaps we should take a look around Christian bookshops and note the number of books containing the thoughts of men. Perhaps we do not work so hard to come to grips with our scriptures, including the Hebrew Bible.

How well do Jews and Israeli Jews know their scriptures ?

The average Israeli is not that well versed in the Hebrew scriptures as explained by Shira Sorko Ram in this article entitled "Ending the Famine."

Most lovers of Israel are not aware that the average Israeli, including college graduates, do not read the Hebrew language Old Testament because many of the books are written in vocabulary too ancient to easily understand. Neither do they read the New Testament, because they don't believe that it is God-inspired.

Those who do know something about Israel may well ask, "But don't all Israeli children study the Bible in school?" And the answer is yes ... but; it is taught not as truth breathed by God's Holy Spirit, but as a beautiful literary piece like "The Odyssey" by Homer, or "The Symposium" by Plato.

Time after time, Israelis born here have told me that after many years of "studying" the Hebrew Bible in public school, they came out with nothing!

Yes, it is a fact that the Old Testament which we call the "Tanach", meaning the Torah, the Prophets and the (Historical) Writings, is not understood by most Israelis! Yes, it is a closed book to the educated and uneducated. Ask just about any Israeli (who is not an ultra-Orthodox Jew) and he or she will tell you many, if not most books of the Tanach, are unintelligible.

Why? Because it was written 2500-3500 years ago, and modern Hebrew no longer includes many words that are in the Bible. On the other hand there are some Biblical words used in modern Hebrew but have a different meaning! Only Hebrew Bible Scholars can confidently tell you they understand most of the Holy Writ, although there are extremely difficult books to understand—such as Job or Ezekiel.

I remember having a conversation with an Israeli professor in Tel Aviv years ago. We were discussing the fact that the Bible promised King David would always have a descendent on the throne. As he looked at the Hebrew text, he asked to see my English Bible in order to check out the meaning of certain words. It was then I realized that if a university professor needs an English version of the Bible to figure out the meaning of a sentence, then there was indeed a real challenge to understanding the Hebrew Bible.

You might ask, "But don't the ultra-Orthodox (Haredim) know how to read the Bible?" Haredim and traditional Jews do thoroughly study the five books of Moses and the Psalms. But that is about all. Their main study books are the Talmud and other rabbinical books. They, too, would find many passages in the entire Old Testament very difficult to understand.

Is there a solution?

Some years ago I decided to read through The Narrated Bible in Chronological Order and I found passages opening up to me like no other Bible I had ever read. Indeed, this is the fourth year I chose this Bible because it is simply exhilarating in the way it uncovers the essence, the spirit, and the background of these Holy Words.

Ari and I began to discuss what a Bible like The Narrated Chronological Bible could do for the Israeli people if it were in Hebrew. Of course, the original Hebrew Scripture text would remain exactly the same. There are not two versions of the Hebrew Bible; for untold centuries Jewish scribes were consumed with not changing a single "jot or tittle" as they copied the Holy Writ by hand.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Judean Desert proved to scholars that those scrolls written 2000 years ago are essentially the same as the Hebrew language Bible we have today.

But what The Narrated Chronological Bible gives is a beautifully-written introduction to each event or concept so that one already has an idea of what he or she is about to read.

Secondly, each paragraph (usually one or two verses) is labeled like FLOODWATERS BEGIN, NOAH'S FAMILY ENTERS ARK, etc.

Then, because the Biblical text has been arranged in chronological order (according to the best scholarship) you know which prophet was warning the people of Israel or Judah at the time of which king.

In the New Testament, take the Book of Acts. This Bible inserts the books Paul wrote, in the order he wrote them, according to his travels described in Acts.

Furthermore, in the English Narrated Chronological Bible there are footnotes explaining a word or place when needed.

We saw that this Bible in Hebrew could be a wide-open gateway for multitudes of Israelis to be able to read and understand the Bible for the first time in their lives!

There is nothing like it on the market in Israel.

We approached the head of the Israel Bible Society, Victor Kalisher, with the idea, and he felt this was exactly the type of Bible needed in Israel. His number one scholar, Dr. Ray Pritz, a former lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a Bible translation advisor and a strong believer, has committed himself for the next three years to overseeing the scholarship of producing this Hebrew Bible.

The scholars working on this new Bible will be putting footnotes to every word of the Biblical text that is not normally understood by Israelis. Moreover, when there are interesting and relevant archeological findings pertinent to the Hebrew text, they will also be published on the related page.

This is what I would call a Study Bible Lite! It is not geared primarily for scholars and professors, although I believe many of them will also be amazed when they read it. But it is first of all for the average Israeli—young people, elderly, secular, nonreligious—most of whom have never considered opening the Bible after graduating from high school.

In short, it is an introduction to a Bible they have never understood.

So we are partnering with the Israeli Bible Society, which will supply the complete text—including the Biblical text, the narration, and explanations. It will take three years to complete this Bible in Hebrew.

If you want to help with this, please contact Maoz Israel

 

updated 20/01/20

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