When Yeshua Isn't Jewish

by:  Lonnie Lane

You’ve heard the expression, “Lost in the translation?” Well, a lot of what Yeshua had to say has been lost in the translation. Thank God that the mistranslations are now being corrected by Hebrew speaking Israeli believers and scholars. Ironic as it sounds, when we look at it objectively, despite that Yeshua and the Gospels are Hebrew through and through, it has long been believed that in Yeshua’s day the common language was Aramaic, not Hebrew. This is now disputed by Hebrew-savvy linguists. Aramaic was actually a primary language for more than a thousand years. It was part of the Semitic languages which included Canaanite and Phoenician, and is an ancestral alphabet to both Arabic and Hebrew. Like English is today it was the official language used for administration, as well as for worship purposes from India to Ethiopia from about 700 to 320 BCE. (Think Babylon of the Bible, Queen Esther and Nebuchadnezzar. Sections of Daniel [like the handwriting on the wall], and Ezra are written in Aramaic.)

It has also been accepted that the Gospels were originally written in Greek, even though it was poor Greek with significant syntax problems. Syntax is the way a sentence is arranged, the order the words are put in. The Greek texts actually follow the Hebrew word order rather than a Greek word order, as if the person doing the translating thought like a Hebrew, not like a Greek. An example of word order in Hebrew is to put the noun first and then the modifier. In English we would say “big house” while in Hebrew, because you are talking about a house before you address the size of it, you would say “house big” (beit gadol). Hebrew is quite logical.

The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament was initiated in Alexandria in order that the Greek speaking Jews living there could understand their own Scriptures; a project that went on from the 3rd century to 132 BCE. The Jewish translators, being Greek speaking Jews who obviously understood Hebrew, held to the Hebrew syntax, or word order. Similarly, the Greek text of Matthew also preserves the Hebrew word order. This is why a literal word for word translation of the Greek doesn’t work, or at least it doesn’t work well and would be considered a poor translation. The Greek translations only really make sense entirely when translated back into Hebrew. When it comes to the New Testament, it was discovered that when translating the Greek Gospels into Hebrew, it all fit together perfectly, not just because of syntax, but because of the multitude of idioms (expressions) that can only be understood in a Hebrew context. This discovery is only as recent as the last forty years and has taken a while to be fully accepted

This sounds like commentary ‘from on-high’ to me, just as if God is leaning down and saying: “Hellooo (more correctly, Shalooom!) Please pay attention. The whole of the Gospel message and the Kingdom of God will only really be understood correctly if you go back to the Hebrew to interpret it through what I gave to the Hebrews in the first place!”

Through the resurrection of the Hebrew language, once the Jewish people were back in their God-promised land, and the finding of such documents as the Dead Sea Scrolls (1947) and the Bar Kokhba letters (1960’s) and others, the Lord is moving toward “the restoration of all things” which Peter prophesied which must take place before Yeshua would return “…that He (God) may send Yeshua, the Messiah, appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:20, 21). What we are talking about here regarding the word of God in its original language, with its original meanings, is nothing short of further signs of the end times in which we appear to be living. These translation corrections are not incidental; they have profound significance in restoring truth!

I know some of this may be hard to hear. It’s even hard to write. But before you tune me out, hear me out! My goal is restoration of the power of the Gospel and reconciliation between the divergent groups. I am not alone in saying that the translation errors in the New Testament have been the cause for many erroneous doctrines and conflicts within the body of believers. Most significant is that there is no difference between Yeshua’s views and the authentic Hebrew traditions of His time. He grew up with the same Hebrew people, in the same Hebrew culture and with the same education as any other Hebrew youngster or young man. But our translations make Him sound as if He grew up in a “Christian” culture, not a Hebrew one. I have mentioned this before but I cannot resist taking this opportunity to share a quintessential misunderstanding of Yeshua’s background. I was speaking one day with a woman about Yeshua’s Jewishness to which she responded, “Well, sure, He was born a Jew but then He converted and became a Christian!” Wrong!

Well, sure, He was born a Jew but then He converted and became a Christian!

When I first read the Brit Hadashah (New Covenant) I was astounded at how Jewish Yeshua and His disciples were in practice. He/they had been misrepresented to me too, though admittedly, as a Jew, my knowledge of the New Testament was basically nil. What I knew was mostly from Christmas carols and movies – not very effective methods of witness or discipleship. I was amazed to find that Yeshua and His followers went to synagogue on a regular basis, they observed all the holy days, they went to the Temple when Torah required that they do, even when Paul had to make a journey to get there for the occasion, they observed Torah and prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Simply put, they were Jews. Then when I first went to church after becoming a believer, I was further surprised. I expected to see what I read in the New Testament. If you had no experience with Christianity and only had Yeshua come to you and make Himself known to you and then you just read the Book, without anyone interpreting it for you, you too would think (even with the mistranslations) that it’s all about the God of Israel making Himself known to Israel in a personal way, and including other people, about the righteousness of Torah now accessed by grace, about the priesthood extended to all believers and about signs, wonders and miracles - HalleluYah!

But that’s not what I found when I went to church, at least to the church I attended my first few years as a believer. What in the world happened to my precious Messiah and His power and grace? The difficulty isn’t that it wasn’t “Jewish” but it was missing what I saw as significant parts of what was God-given and God-defined Biblically. This was about losing or misinterpreting some very essential qualities of Who God is! Not only were there no signs, wonders, or miracles (there should have been according to the New Covenant, right?), but there was little of what was so relevant to the Commandments God gave to Israel. No “Feasts of the Lord” that are mentioned even throughout the New Covenant. And where was the joy I saw among the believers in the Bible? At least in this church it seemed more somber than joyful. In my synagogue we had joy. We had clapping and dancing (Miriam danced, David danced, Israeli’s dance and we danced.) Not so here. Dancing was verboten (forbidden). The doctrines of this particular church were more like that of Michal, David’s wife, than of David. I realize that not every church was that way, but this was my experience and they based it on what they interpreted “dispensationally” in Scripture, which was intent on distancing the church from Israel.

A photo of “The Lord Jesus” hung in the foyer, which is something Jews would never have done. By the way, if they believed He was God, according to Exodus 20:4, 5 – “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath… You shall not worship them or serve them.” God told the Hebrews to make no images to represent Him or any object of worship, because He Himself is so far beyond what anyone can envision, that we limit our expectations of Him when we visualize Him in some concrete way. We put boundaries around our faith when we think He is whatever we picture. The medieval church attempted to portray parts of the Bible by creating paintings and stained glass windows depicting Biblical scenes (often, not incidentally, with the disciples strangely resembling those who paid to have the paintings or windows made.) Since the people had no Bibles and as the church hierarchical leadership, in order to maintain ecclesiastical control, kept the people from access to them by chaining the Bible to the pulpit — so no one could steal it to read it for themselves - the visual depictions were the only things they had. Since the sermons were devoid of the Spirit of God, you can imagine how limited their faith or understanding of God would be. God knew what He was doing when He said, “No images.”

But, nevertheless, there in my new church was the painting of Jesus in the foyer: looking wan and decidedly un-Jewish, somewhat out of touch with reality and surely depressed, with a sweet lamb in His arms, which He seemed to be holding onto for His own comfort, like a frightened kid with his teddy bear. This was not the dynamic and powerful, loving, confident, life-changing, death-defying Personality I had just met and read about in the Gospels. So I started digging into church history to find out how He and the church became so powerless and Gentile-ized. I have continued to read for 36 years, which is how come I can now write articles about these same issues.

...the church, within a few hundred years, stripped Yeshua and His disciples of their Jewishness...

I saw in my reading that the church, within a few hundred years, stripped Yeshua and His disciples of their Jewishness, their Jewish practices, their culture and their Jewish way of thinking. Forgotten were the thousands of Jews who came to faith at the beginning or the fact that the Romans who came up with such a means of murder in the first place, were equally responsible for His crucifixion. Yeshua soon became the “Pantocrator” which means “Almighty and Ruler of all things” which He is, but this lifted Him into the place of the sun-god and so far above us lowly humans, that He was no longer of any real personal help or interested in us having any intimate relationship with Him. The church was relegated to “mea culpa, mea culpa” (I’m guilty, I’m guilty) and lost the freedom from guilt and sin Yeshua died to bring us. Not all of us even today are fully restored to that freedom. There remains still the sense that He sees us only with distain and disinterest until we get it right (which of course we cannot) in certain denominations or personal beliefs.

You’ve no doubt seen the icons or paintings of Yeshua with a halo around His head and His eyes and forefinger pointing toward heaven, both signs of His divinity; meant to also point you to heaven. Often He is holding a giant Bible (which did not exist in His day) that he seems too thin and weak to be able to lift. And His sunken cheeks look nothing like a man who ate at a lot of parties at the homes of tax collectors and others, and was able to traipse around the country for 6,000 miles in three years. He just looked like life was not worth living, so why would anyone want to follow such a … uh, was that a Savior? This may not have been the image of Jesus as you knew Him, but I bet you can relate. To this Jewish person coming into the church, it was culture shock. Not so much personally, but as to the culture that was ascribed to my Yeshua, one I don’t think He Himself would have related to. Good thing God judges us by our heart’s intent on the basis of love, and not by adherence to our various religious doctrines, especially ones that override His Word or superimpose rules and standards that “exceed what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6) in His Word. I’m convinced those are invisible and of no consequence to Him. He does care that we are obeying Him out of love for Him, and following Him in faith, or trusting in Who He is.

Over the centuries, Yeshua has been made to appear as “Hellenized, westernized and even politicized” to mainstream Christianity who thinks that is who He is. If course, it’s not just Yeshua who has been alienated from His own life, it’s His disciples. Peter was promoted from fisherman-evangelist to becoming the first of a succession of Popes with all the accompanying power, pomp and pretention, not to mention the celibacy. A long way from the humble married man Peter was, wouldn’t you say? Would Simon-Peter even relate to what has happened to him in the minds of men? I have at times daydreamed about writing a story of Peter, coming back to earth and visiting the Vatican and seeing how he has been misrepresented. I can imagine him running down the center aisle of St. Peter’s Basilica screaming, ‘No, No, you have it all wrong….!”

Please understand I am not anti-Church by any means. And please do not write me emails telling me I am against the Pope. I am not. I love the church will all my heart. But I am anti-error. Equally with all my heart I long to see the body of Messiah be what He intended for us to be. And if we are something else, we are not what He intended. Replacement theology is the idea that the church has fully replaced Israel and all those promises of God now belong to the church, and no longer to Israel. It’s amazing that so many people did not rethink that, even to this day, when Israel was restored to her land in 1948. But it’s not just about Israel and the Jews that concern me. Replacement Theology has so misrepresented Yeshua to the church in so many ways that it has resulted in robbing us of the true Savior, the true Son of God, and consequently the true power of the Holy Spirit Yeshua meant for us to have. There is a reason that the body of believers on the whole is not experiencing the power that the first century believers did. But God seems to be making us aware today that He has greater things for us as He restores us to the Word in Spirit and in Truth!

We need to understand the error, though, if we are to take hold of the restoration the Lord is attempting to bring to us. If whatever we receive from God is contingent upon having faith for it, then perhaps the fact that the church has historically had no or very few signs and wonders and miracles over the centuries, could be because we have not believed in the same Yeshua the first century church did. Or at least all parts of Him. What else could be the reason for the change when He said, “I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6 KJV), and we know God is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)? If there has been a change from the beginning, it cannot be Yeshua who changed. So then, I have to wonder, are many of us still believing in a presentation of Yeshua that partially misrepresents (miss-presents) who He is?

Sid’s shows present a powerful and supernatural Gospel, one which we are learning to believe in and which many are therefore experiencing. Some of you are frustrated because you aren’t experiencing these things in your own lives. We are at the threshold of a new and uniquely powerful move of God. Don’t be discouraged if it isn’t manifesting in your life at this point — stay focused on the Person of Yeshua, and ask the Holy Spirit to reintroduce you to Him in the Word. Let Him adjust your faith according to who the Bible says He is, even if it goes against what you may have been taught He is or isn’t, what He does, or does not do anymore. Keep in mind that He is the same Yeshua He was in the New Covenant, including the Jewish Messiah.

If there is or has been any anti-Jewishness in your own heart or in those of your ancestors, I suggest you repent of them and ask God to forgive and cleanse you and your ancestors and to free you from any generational curse that may have come to you if there was anti-Semitism in your family line. (See Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9; in which God speaks about curses existing for generations in families). Some of you may think this is invalid theology but I/we have seen the difference it makes in people’s lives when there’s been repentance of anti-Semitism. If we do not believe God’s promise to Abraham, which still says, “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed,” (Genesis 12:3), then we’ve been in unbelief and error. This isn’t about the Jews, it’s about believing God’s Word. I’ve preached this message to churches and numerous people have come to me in newfound freedom after we prayed for God’s forgiveness, even for the ways of relatives they/we never knew personally. I offer it to you should you feel God’s tug to do the same.

My next few articles will present a number of translation errors and the ‘fixes’ in Hebrew. I think you’ll enjoy reading them. See you next time.

Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2012. 

 

Lonnie Lane

For Lonnie's other articles, check out our Exclusive Articles and Resources, especially the section on One New Man.

Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships, one in Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked” and numerous articles on this website. She has been the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click Here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked."

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

 

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