Jesus’ command to “love your enemies” was revolutionary! No one before him dared to raise such a high standard for the life of faith.
One of the most poignant pictures which exemplify the chasm of historical misunderstanding between Jews and Christians is that found in Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. It is a photograph of a life-size crucifix that stood outside an unknown German village prior to World War II. In a twist of tragic irony a sign was hung on the cross to warn Jews not to enter the village. It read: “Jews are not welcome here.”
As a small boy growing up in Alabama I had a deep love of God and a real hunger to know him better. By the age of eight I had read the entire Bible. But, like most people, I often struggled to understand what the Scriptures were saying. Many verses didn’t seem to make sense.
The King James Version translates Genesis 29:17 as follows: “Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.” The New International Version has, “Leah had weak eyes,” while the New American Bible reads, “Leah had lovely eyes.” What did the Hebrew original mean to say?
The apostle Paul asserted in Romans 11:1 that God had not rejected his people. Speaking metaphorically, he went on to compare the people of Israel to a cultivated olive tree. Because of unbelief, some, but not all, of the tree’s branches had been broken off, and a wild olive branch had been grafted to the stock. Paul emphasized, however, that grafting the original branches back to the stock of the cultivated tree would be a much simpler task than grafting a wild olive to it.
From the early centuries of the Christian era to our day, expositors of the Gospels have struggled with Jesus’ teachings on the Kingdom of Heaven, particularly with their temporal dimension. Will the Kingdom of Heaven appear one day in the future when the Son of Man suddenly comes? Or, has it been germinating like a seed with much potential for growth? Perhaps as C. H. Dodd suggested, it should be described as both realized and eschatological: germinal in reference to the past (and present), but explosive in regard to its coming manifestation.
Once while listening to some people praise the grandeur of the Temple, Jesus remarked, “The days are coming when there shall not be left here one stone upon another stone” (Lk. 21:6). Those who heard his sober remark could not help but to ask, “When will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?” Jesus’ answer to these questions is found in Luke 21:8-9, 20-24 and 28-31. Often Christians have missed the thrust of Jesus’ concluding parable about the fig tree (Lk. 21:29-31), because it includes a sophisticated Hebrew wordplay and is intricately interwoven with first-century Jewish ideas. Here, I hope to shed light on both the ingenuity of Jesus’ answer to the questions about the Temple’s demise and the meaning of his message of hope.
The importance of sharing one’s bread with the poor has remained in the Jewish consciousness until today. Many people do not want to throw away bread. Instead of dumping their bread along with the rest of their garbage into the garbage carts parked along the streets, they save the bread in plastic sacks and hang it from the metal projections on the sides of the carts (used to hoist the carts into the garbage trucks). That way, the bread is potentially available to the poor.
A reader asks for information on the various Jewish sects’ views of the deity of the Messiah.
Reading a passage from the New Testament against the backdrop of ancient Jewish tradition can sometimes add to the its significance. Romans 11:30-36 is one such passage, where without knowing the Jewish tradition to which Paul alluded, we run the risk of not hearing his emphasis clearly: God is merciful and his ways, incomprehensible.
The Gospel writer Luke recorded a story that Jesus told about an anonymous rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. Living in splendor, the rich man enjoyed his wealth, whereas Lazarus pined away outside the rich man’s gated home. The story gives the reader the impression that the rich man did little to alleviate Lazarus’ pain. He probably reasoned that what was his was his, and what was Lazarus’ was Lazarus’.