Unlocking the Synoptic Problem: Four Keys for Better Understanding Jesus

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While translating the Gospel of Mark to modern Hebrew, pastor-scholar, the late Dr. Robert Lindsey was forced to conclusions that ran counter to his seminary training. If correct, his conclusions have the potential for revolutionizing New Testament scholarship. In this article, Lindsey condenses the results of a lifetime of research.

The Power of Parables

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Jesus was a master teacher. Therefore, it is significant that he relied heavily on parables. What is it about parables that makes them so moving and memorable?

Jesus and the Hasidim

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Jesus, who was quite close to the Hasidim and perhaps even involved with some of them, does not reflect Galilean boorishness or ignorance, but rather the dynamism and ongoing creativity of Jewish life in Galilee.

Robert L. Lindsey’s The Jesus Sources

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In the winter of 1982–1983, Robert Lindsey delivered a series of lectures in Jerusalem. These lectures were recorded and transcribed by Walli Callaway, edited by James Burnham and published as The Lindsey Lectures. Lindsey reedited the lectures in the spring of 1990, adding new material, and they were published that summer as The Jesus Sources.

The Kingdom of God: God’s Power Among Believers

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One of the greatest theological controversies in the last century concerns the meaning of the terms “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of heaven.” Because scholars have not given adequate attention to the fact that these are completely Hebraic terms, confusion has arisen concerning the period of time to which the Kingdom refers, who takes part in it and the exact nature of the Kingdom. Examining relevant Gospel passages in their Hebraic context will clarify what Jesus meant when he spoke of the “Kingdom of God” or the “Kingdom of heaven.”

“Binding” and “Loosing” in the Kingdom of Heaven

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Jewish sages were called upon constantly by their community to interpret scriptural commands. The Torah forbids working on the Sabbath, for instance, but it does not define what constitutes work. As a result, the sages were required to rule on which activities were permitted on the Sabbath. They “bound,” or prohibited, certain activities, and “loosed” or allowed, others.

The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like a Seine

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The dragnet or seine is the oldest type of fishing net, and its use was once the most important fishing method on the Sea of Galilee. In the Hebrew Scriptures and the Talmud it is called HE·rem, and in Greek sagene, from which the word “seine” is derived. Sources such as Egyptian tomb paintings dating from the third millennium B.C.E. suggest that this fishing method was widely used in ancient times throughout the countries of the East.

By the Finger of God

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Jesus’ ministry of miracles and deliverance occasionally brought him into conflict. One of the most intriguing controversies concerned the accusation by a group of Pharisees called “Jerusalem scribes” that Jesus had accomplished the healing of a dumb man with the aid of the prince of demons.

The Lord’s Prayer 7: “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”

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The deceptively simple petition from Matthew 6:11, “Give us this day our daily bread,” has been a matter of controversy for centuries. The unusual Greek word epiousion, which is translated “daily,” is the root of the controversy. Some scholars have suggested that the original phrase contained the similar-sounding Greek word epeimi, (the next), and so meant “bread for the next day.” Nevertheless, the Latin translation of the New Testament understood the word as meaning bread needed for sustenance.

The Lord’s Prayer 6: “Thy Will Be Done”

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We noted in a previous article that “Thy will be done” parallels “Thy Kingdom come.” Both phrases mean, “May you continue establishing your Kingship.” Jesus does not instruct his disciples to pray “if it is your will.” It is within God’s purpose that all men should repent and become a part of God’s reign. “May your will be accomplished” is a strong affirmative appeal.

First-century Discipleship

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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.

The Lord’s Prayer 2: “Our Father Who Art in Heaven”

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Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer does not contain the expression she·ba·sha·MA·yim (who is in heaven), but simply records “father.” Luke’s gospel never refers to God as the “father who is in heaven.” Matthew, in contrast, preserved twelve sayings of Jesus in which he used the Jewish expressions “our father who is in heaven,” “your father who is in heaven,” and “my father who is in heaven.” Mark also used the idiom “your father who is in heaven” (Mk. 11:25).

Jesus and the Oral Torah: The Unutterable Name of God

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The original understanding of the third commandment, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Exod. 20:7), was that one must keep one’s vows when swearing by God’s name. Israel’s ancient sages eventually came to interpret this commandment to mean using the LORD’s name lightly or frivolously. To avoid the risk of employing the divine name irreverently, the sages ruled that one should not utter it at all.