Covered in the Dust of Your Rabbi: An Urban Legend?

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Some months ago, pastor-blogger Trevin Wax posted an article called “Urban Legends: The Preacher’s Edition.” There he lists several “urban legends” that he’s heard floating around lately in sermons. Like Internet rumors that people forward on ad infinitum, these preaching illustrations don’t have much grounding in fact.

Blessedness of the Twelve

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Without a knowledge of the saying’s context, Jesus’ saying about eyes and ears and prophets and righteous men, seems quite prosaic. However, when it is understood that this saying deals with the Kingdom of Heaven, it becomes one of Jesus’ most exciting and dramatic statements.

Cataloging the Gospels’ Hebraisms: Part Six (Parallelism)

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Parallelism is a beautiful and central feature of Hebrew poetry. Scholars have identified three types of Hebrew parallelism. In the previous article of this series we discussed the first of these types: Synonymous Parallelism. In this article, we will discuss the second type: Antithetical Parallelism.

Cataloging the Gospels’ Hebraisms: Part Five (Parallelism)

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Parallelism is a central feature of Hebrew poetry. It permeates the words of biblical poet and prophet. The frequency with which parallelism occurs in the utterances of Jesus is surprising, and leads inevitably to the conclusion that the Greek source (or, sources) used by the authors of Matthew, Mark and Luke derive(s) from a Greek translation (or, translations) of Hebrew documents.

Cataloging the Gospels’ Hebraisms: Part Four (Parallelism)

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Doubling, or repeating, is a characteristic feature of Hebrew. Hebrew loves to say things twice (or more!) by adding equivalents. Words, phrases, sentences, and even stories, are doubled (or tripled).

Cataloging the Gospels’ Hebraisms: Part Three (Impersonal “They”)

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Awareness of even the simplest Hebrew grammatical structure can bring to life a vague, or difficult-to-understand, saying of Jesus. Since potential Hebrew idioms are so dense in the Greek texts of Matthew, Mark and Luke, one has to ask, Could these apparent Hebrew idioms be evidence that the synoptic Gospels are descendants of an ancient translation of a Hebrew “Life of Jesus,” the gospel that the church father Papias spoke of when he wrote: “Matthew…arranged the sayings [of Jesus] in the Hebrew language”?

Cataloging the Gospels’ Hebraisms: Part Two (Luke 9:51-56)

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Rather than looking at isolated words or expressions that appear to be Hebraisms, or, examining a category, or type, of Hebraism, let’s take a complete story from the life of Jesus: Luke 9:51-56, a story found only in the Gospel of Luke. This approach will allow us to gain an impression of the density of Hebraisms that often exists in gospel passages. I followed this approach in writing ” Cataloging the Gospels’ Hebraisms: Part One,” pointing out the density of Hebraisms in Matthew 13:16-17.

Jesus and the Enigmatic “Green Tree”

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Jesus made bold messianic claims when he spoke. To thoroughly understand these claims, however, we must get into a time machine and travel back in time to a completely different culture, the Jewish culture of first-century Israel. We must acculturate ourselves to the way teachers and disciples in the time of Jesus communicated through allusions to Scripture.

Treasures in Heaven

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What is the relationship between the preaching of Jonah and putting a lamp on a lampstand? The prophet Jonah in classical Jewish thought calls to mind repentance. In Rabbinic literature we read that many prophets were sent to Jerusalem and the people did not listen, but to Nineveh one prophet was sent, and the people repented.

Measure For Measure

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Some of the things Jesus emphasized in his teachings stand as strong warnings to those who belong to the community of faith. Jesus made statements about not lapsing into prideful judgmentalism, and becoming centripetal in one’s thinking. Jesus taught that our attitude toward other people—outsiders, even sinners—must be like God’s.

Scholars and Saints: A Critical Collaboration

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Most academics would question the value of attempting to identify material originating from the historical Jesus because Matthew, Mark and Luke are not historical narratives in the modern sense.

“They Didn’t Dare” (Matt 22:46; Mark 12:34; Luke 20:40): A Window on the Literary and Redactional Methods of the Synoptic Gospel Writers

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Mark’s placement of Jesus’ “no longer dared” comment is very awkward: first, because the comment comes in the middle of a lovefest between Jesus and a scribe; and second, because the comment immediately follows Jesus’ appreciation of the scribe’s wisdom: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

Matthew 5:19: The Importance of “Light” Commandments

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In the modern Hebrew translation that was published by the Israeli Bible Society in 1976, and revised in 1991 and 1995, Matthew 5:19 was rendered “…ha-mitsvot ha-ketanot…katon yikare’…gadol yikare’…” (the small commandments…small [smaller, smallest] he will be called…big [bigger, biggest] he will be called). It is highly probable, however, that in this context Jesus was speaking about mitsvot kalot (light commandments) and not about mitsvot ketanot (little or small commandments).

Blessed Be the “Name”!

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We Christians sing a hymn that contains these words: “Blessed be the name, blessed be the name, blessed be the name of the Lord.” We also sing choruses that proclaim: “Your name is like honey on my lips”; “His name is exalted far above the earth”; “Praise the name of Jesus, praise the name of Jesus….” However, we may have misunderstood, or partially misunderstood, many biblical expressions that contain the idiom, “the name of.”

Selected Examples of Rewriting in Mark’s Account of Jesus’ Last Week

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It has been noted that in instances where Mark’s editorial hand restructured his story, Luke has preserved a more primitive form of the account, a form that is independent of Mark’s influence. Gospel scholars need to properly evaluate Mark’s editorial style and acknowledge that frequently a theological agenda influenced his rewriting.

“Prophets and Kings”: The Evangelist Luke’s Curious Doublet

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In a beautiful statement that probably referred to the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus proclaimed to his disciples, according to Luke, that “many prophets and kings” desired to see and hear what they (his disciples) are seeing and hearing. Matthew preserves the same saying, but in Matthew’s account the doublet is, “prophets and righteous persons.” The wording of Jesus’ saying in these two accounts is so similar that it appears likely that their slight differences reflect literary, or editorial, changes rather than different versions of the saying uttered by Jesus on different occasions. If so, which of these gospel accounts preserves the more original form of Jesus’ saying? Did Jesus say “prophets and kings” or “prophets and righteous persons”?

Cataloging the Gospels’ Hebraisms: Part One (Luke 10:23-24)

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The most frequent request we receive from readers is: “Have you published a list of Hebraism you assume are embedded in the Greek texts of the gospels?” Hebrew idioms leap out from every page of Jesus’ life story, and I began cataloging them years ago. I discussed a number of them in the Appendix to Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, for example: “bring out your name bad” (pp. 115-117), “the appearance of his face was altered” (pp. 117-119), “lay these things in your ears” (pp. 119-123), and “he set his face to go” (pp. 123-126).