Divorce and Remarriage in Historical Perspective

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This study is dedicated to those who have suffered the agony of divorce. Tragically their pain has been compounded by well-meaning Christians who have distorted both the letter and the spirit of Jesus’ teaching concerning divorce and remarriage. For them, may this article bring a measure of healing.

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).

Fishers and Hunters: A Fishy Reading of Jeremiah 16:16

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Among the more creative scriptural interpretations related to the fulfillment of prophecy in our day is one centering on Jeremiah 16:16. According to it, the “hunters” in this verse are the brutal pursuers of the Jewish people, such as the Nazis who systematically murdered millions of Jews. The “fishers,” on the other hand, are the quiet and gentle persons who assist the Jewish people, for instance, the Christians who presently are engaged in rescuing Jews from the republics of the former Soviet Union.

Jesus and the Essene Passover

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What evidence is there that Jesus celebrated his last Passover according to the Essene reckoning? Is there evidence to the contrary? And most importantly for Christians, if it were true, what are the consequences for our understanding of the historical Jesus?

If Your Eye Be Single

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Couched within Jesus’ teaching is an idiom which is difficult to translate, “If your eye is single, your whole body is full of light” (Matt. 6:22). The Hebraic expression, “good eye” to denote generosity is well known in the Bible (Deut. 15:9; Prov. 22:9; 23:6; 28:22; Eccl. 14:10) and the writings of Israel’s Sages (m. Avot 5:15). Nevertheless, in Matthew 6, where you would expect to find the idiom, “good eye,” the adjective used in our saying is not καλός (kalos, good, pleasant) but ἁπλοῦς (haplous, single, simple).

The Sabbath Was Made for Man

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In “Something Greater Than the Temple” we investigated the incident of the plucking of the grain on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:15). We saw that Jesus’ four-fold justification of the action of his disciples drew first from the experience of David and the holy bread (1 Sam. 21:1-6).

Something Greater Than the Temple

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One of the difficult sayings of Jesus is his justification of the disciples’ plucking and/or rubbing heads of grain on the Sabbath. Fortunately, research in recent years among Jewish scholars in Jerusalem has shed new light on what the questionable action might have been.

Let Him Who Is Without Sin…

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The story of the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11) is footnoted in most modern versions (NIV, NASB, RSV) to indicate that in the majority of Greek manuscripts the story does not appear. In other Greek manuscripts it is placed elsewhere—after John 7:36, while in another it even appears after Luke 21:38. The complex manuscript evidence presents a real challenge to New Testament scholarship. Many scholars have questioned the historicity of the story altogether.

“Give unto Caesar”: Jesus, the Zealots and the Imago Dei

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The retorts of Hillel and Jesus exemplify innovative developments in Jewish thought during the Second Temple period, developments that were established on the biblical notion that man was created in the image of God—Imago Dei (Gen. 1:27).

Were the Pharisees “Legalistic”?

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If we define legalism as “works righteousness,” then we cannot apply it to the Pharisees, because the Pharisaic understanding of piety was not based upon this concept.

Beyond an Inheritance

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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.

Us and Them: Loving Both

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In ancient Roman society, the taking of revenge on an enemy was considered a commendable deed, but Jesus encouraged his followers to “Love your enemies.”

Emulating the Ways of Sodom

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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’.

The Best Long-term Investment—Making Loans to God

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In our day, the 20th-century disciple of Jesus feels the challenge of his call to lay up treasure in heaven more than ever. In the face of an emerging global society drunken with consumerism and materialism, Jesus’ words shatter the silence: “You cannot serve God and mammon!”

The Nature of Jesus’ Task

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Christians read their Bibles through a lens of historical hindsight to illuminate certain features of Jesus’ teaching. Jews living in the first century did not have this benefit, and even one as saintly as John the Baptist struggled with aspects of Jesus’ messianic conduct.

Anti-Jewish Tendencies in the Synoptic Gospels

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The scourge of anti-Semitism has not departed from the Church. Though recently there have been encouraging signs, many Christians still harbor prejudice against Jews. The Synoptic Gospels may have helped spawn this prejudice. They may even play a continuing role in perpetuating it.