Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven

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“Teacher,” he asked, “what ‘good’ can I do to obtain eternal life?”
Yeshua replied: “Why do you refer to a deed as ‘good’? Call only one thing ‘good’—the Torah. You know how to obtain eternal life: keep the commandments—‘Do not commit adultery; Do not murder; Do not steal; Do not give false testimony.’”
“All these I have kept since I was a child,” the man interrupted.
At that, Yeshua said: “There is something more you should do: Give away all your wealth to charity—you will have heavenly wealth—and become my disciple.”

“Verily” or “Amen”—What Did Jesus Say?

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Every reader of the Gospels knows the phrase, “Verily, I say unto you,” or “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” According to the standard English translations of the Old and New Testaments, it seems that Jesus alone used such a preamble. Most Christians, long accustomed to such expressions in the Bible, take it for granted that “Jesus talked that way.”

Hebraisms in the New Testament

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A “Hebraism” is a typical feature of the Hebrew language found in another language. The majority of today’s New Testament authorities assume that Aramaic is behind the Semitisms of the New Testament, and that Jesus spoke Aramaic as his primary language. So much so, in fact, that the student who checks standard reference works is informed that the Greek words for “Hebrew” and for “in the Hebrew language” (not only in the New Testament, but in Josephus and other texts) refer to the Aramaic language.

The “Hypocrisy” of the Pharisees

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Without reading the Scriptures carefully, and without a familiarity with Second Temple-period extra-biblical sources, a simple reader of the New Testament might assume that a majority of the Pharisees were hypocrites and that the Pharisees as a movement were indeed a “brood of vipers.” As a result of this common Christian assumption, the word “Pharisee” has become a synonym for “hypocrite” in the English language.

Threading a Needle

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Over the past few years, I have reflected much on the phrases “to enter the Kingdom of Heaven” and “to inherit eternal life.” One important conclusion that I have reached from reading early rabbinic literature and Matthew, Mark, and Luke is that these are two independent concepts sharing a fuzzy area of overlap.

Where Seed and Thistle Grow

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The interpretive approach of this essay assumes that Jesus’ frame of reference for the Parable of the Sower centered on the kingdom of heaven. Jesus emphasized repentance and grace, and their joint role as a catalyst for increasing God’s reign.

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.

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.

Mary and Martha: The Rest of the Story

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In Robert L. Lindsey’s theory of gospel transmission, the Hebrew version of Jesus’ biography and its Greek translation have both been lost. Although none of the synoptic Gospels preserves the original text in its entirety, together they do preserve all, or nearly all, of the stories in the original work.