How hard would it be for a speaker of modern Hebrew to understand someone speaking Biblical Hebrew? If King David returned, would he be able to understand the president of the State of Israel, and would the president be able to understand him? Would Jesus be able to communicate with modern Israelis?
TIME magazine’s August 15, 1988 issue presented a sad picture of the current state of scholarly knowledge. After 200 years of “scientific” investigation into New Testament records of the life of Jesus, scholars are more divided than ever as to who Jesus was and who he thought he was. Even sadder, the Herculean efforts of generations of scholars have brought Jesus no nearer to the ordinary believer.
Like other sages of his time, Jesus demanded his disciples’ total commitment. They were to put the “kingdom of Heaven” (Jesus’ band of full-time disciples) before all else. They were to “hate,” that is, put second, father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and themselves, as well (Luke 14:26). Following Jesus to learn Torah from him was to take precedence over every other endeavor.
Hebrew words usually have many shades of meaning, and the Greek translator of the conjectured Hebrew “Life of Jesus” could convey only one sense of each Hebrew word’s meaning. When the standard Greek translation of a Hebrew word became fixed, Greek translators often employed this standard translation even when the Hebrew word it translated appeared with an obviously different meaning.