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elisha-elijah

Today in Hebrew Grammar class we were going through 2 Kings 2 (Elijah and Elisha), and when we got to v9 where Elisha asks Elijah for a ‘double portion’ of his spirit, our (Jewish) professor claimed that this doesn’t mean ‘2x Elijah’s spirit’, but ‘2/3 of Elijah’s spirit’.

Well, we were all a bit shocked, so he showed us the other times in the Bible that the term is used, and lo and behold, it supported his claim.

Deuteronomy 21:17 “But he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the firstborn.” This isn’t saying to give him a ‘double portion’ of all that the father has, but to give him ‘two thirds’ of what he has, and ‘one third’ to the other son (you can’t give someone two times what you own anyway, it doesn’t make sense).

Zechariah 13:8 “It will come about in all the land,” declares Yahweh, “that two parts in it will be cut off and perish, but the third will be left in it.” This is clearly talking about 2/3 and 1/3.

Our professor thinks that asking for a ‘double portion’ would be like saying, “Teacher, I want to be twice as smart as you!” It’s kind of rude. And, if we look at Elisha’s prophetic ministry, he’s not really considered twice the prophet Elijah was. We usually think of Elijah as the greater prophet (after all, he’s the one who appeared with Moses on the mountain with Jesus, and the one whom people thought John the Baptist might be).

Our professor thinks that by asking for two thirds of Elijah’s spirit, Elisha was saying something like, “Elijah, I wish to be half the prophet you are.” It’s a respectful way of asking to carry on Elijah’s ministry.

In the van on the way home tonight, all of us translators were discussing this (the Africans were very animated, thinking about all the churches in Nigeria and Ethiopia that might be called ‘Double Portion Assemblies of God’ etc 🙂 ). We started to think about what it means to be a firstborn and receive 2/3 of the inheritance, and came to the conclusion that perhaps Elisha was saying, “Elijah, there are many young prophets in Israel, and you could pass the ‘baton’ on to any of them, but I want to be your ‘firstborn’, the one who inherits your ministry, the one who gets the 2/3, and someone else can have the 1/3.” This seems to fit the meaning of Deuteronomy 21:17, the context of respect toward one’s mentor, and the fact that Elijah was always considered the greater prophet.

Oh, the fun you can have in Hebrew Grammar class!

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“If it’s only 2/3, then why did Elijah say it would be difficult?” Who knows, maybe transferring your prophetic ministry to someone else isn’t straightforward. I would need to check with a prophet.

“Didn’t Elisha do twice as many miracles as Elijah?” I don’t know, I’ve never counted. Perhaps he did. I’m not sure that prophets are qualitatively assessed by number of miracles though. But good question. 🙂

“Does this mean we shouldn’t ask God for ‘double portions’?” I don’t know! I’m a translator, not a spiritual adviser! 😉 I think God likes when we ask for stuff, especially if it’s an increase in our ministry and service to him.

“Does this mean our translations are wrong?” Sometimes. 🙂

“Who comes up with these questions?” Why do you want to know?

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Jesus the temple builder

As I was reading Zechariah today a passage caught my attention that got me running off in all different directions that finally all led back together to one idea, and it’s fascinating.

Zechariah 6:11-13 says to “make a crown and set it on the head of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, ‘Yahweh who rules over all says, “Look—here is the man whose name is Branch, who will branch up and build the temple of Yahweh. Indeed, he will build the temple of Yahweh, and he will be clothed in splendor, sitting as priest on his throne.”

Joshua in Hebrew is Yahshuah יהושע, and it means Yahweh-saves, and in Greek it is Iesous Ἰησοῦς, aka Jesus. Son of Jehozadak בן-יהוצדק means son of Yahweh-makes-righteous.

Therefore this passage says Yahweh-saves (Jesus), son of Yahweh-makes-righteous, will be crowned king and high priest and will build God’s temple! Isn’t that exactly who Jesus was?

Branch in Hebrew is zemach צמח. In the Greek Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT) I was surprised to learn that branch is translated as anatole ανατολή, which actually means rising. It probably means a shoot that rises up out of the ground, but it’s usually used for the rising of the sun, or the east.

In Matthew 2:1-2 the Magi from the anatole ([place where the sun is] rising) say “where is the king of the Jews, we saw his star in the anatole” (east-rising). Interesting.

In Jeremiah 23:5-6 God says, “I will raise up a righteous branch צמח צדיק (lit. Branch of Zadik) (The Septuagint writes, “I will raise up a righteous anatole” (east-rising)) … and his name will be Yahweh is our righteousness יהוה צדקנו” (lit. Yahweh Zadokenu). In the Septuagint this is actually written kurios Iosedek κύριος Ιωσεδεκ (lit. lord Jehozadak!). The Septuagint didn’t translate Zadokenu צדקנו as our righteousness, it actually wrote Jehozadak (remember the father of Joshua, priestly king who rebuilt the temple from Zechariah 5:11).

Are you still following? 🙂

In Luke 1:78 Zechariah prophesies about his son John the Baptist and says John will bring knowledge about salvation because of God’s kind mercies, concerning which an anatole will appear to us, that is, a rising will appear to us. This is a quote from the very last chapter in the OT, Malachi 4, which talks about the spiritual coming of Elijah, aka John the Baptist. In v1 it says God will set the evildoers ablaze so that there remains no שרש וענף, (sheresh v’anaph root and branch, but these are different words from the root and branch he’ll raise up).

In v2 it says “the sun of righteousness שמש צדקה (shemesh zadakah – is shemesh שמש, sun, a play on sheresh שרש, [bad] root?) will rise with healing in its wings.” In the Septuagint it’s, “the sun of righteousness anatelei” (will rise), the verb form of anatole.

Ok, so did you catch all of that?

To sum it up, Jesus, the Son of Yahweh-makes-righteous, is the Branch that rises up and brings healing to his people and will function as high priest, reign as king, and will build God’s temple.

And it’s all foreshadowed there in prophecy. The riches of studying Scripture in the original languages.

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Does Jesus call us to be perfect people?

Not exactly. This idea comes from a misunderstanding of the context in which Jesus famously says, “Therefore, be perfect, just as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matt 5:48).

Remember the old “What’s the therefore there for?” rule? In this passage, it’s the key!

Jesus has just explained to his disciples how to love and treat people, basically saying, “Don’t just love your neighbour; love your enemies too. Pray for those who persecute you. This is how you show yourselves to be children of God, because God’s character is such that he gives rain and sunshine to everyone, not just to ‘good’ people. God’s goodness toward people is holistic and comprehensive, not partial and divided. Selective love is contaminated love.”

Side note: we sometimes think that “God sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous” means “Good and bad things happen to everyone, not just to good or bad people,” but that’s not at all what this means. Rain and sunshine, especially in pre-modern cultures where they grow their own food, are wonderful things – they are the stuff of life, a beautiful gift from heaven. Jesus says that God sends good things to everyone!

He then reminds his disciples that even the hated tax-collectors (read: politicians and parking inspectors) and heathens (the people the Jews looked down on as being ‘not God’s people’) love their friends, and do good to their neighbours.

But that’s not how God is, and that’s not how you should be either.

Therefore, since God is this way and you are his children, be holistic, comprehensive, genuine, consistent, and universal in how you love people, just as your father in heaven is holistic, comprehensive, genuine, consistent and universal in how he loves people.

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I am

John 8:58 – Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”

I’ve always thought that when Jesus said, “I am” (Greek: EGO EIMI), he was alluding to Exodus 3:14 – God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’ ” (NASB).

But I was reading Exodus 3:14 in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT in use in Jesus’ day) and the Greek says something like, “I am the one who is” (Greek: EGO EIMI HO ON). And then God tells Moses, “Thus you will say to the sons of Israel, ‘The one who is has sent me to you’ ” (Greek: HO ON has sent me to you).

This means that the normal Greek translation of God’s name given to Moses is actually The one who is (HO ON). If we were speaking Greek, and wanting to use the name that God gave to Moses, we would call him HO ON, not EGO EIMI (I am). This should have been well known in the first century, and is probably why John uses HO ON and its other forms for referring to God in Revelation – “who was and is and is to come,” (Greek: HO EN KAI HO ON KAI HO ERCHOMENOS) etc.

Jesus probably spoke Aramaic, but when John translated his words into Greek for his gospel, he would have used the term HO ON if he had been alluding to Exodus 3:14. Something to think about.

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Why is God good?

(This is a tad on the philosophical side, so if you’re into that kind of thing you might enjoy this. If not, here’s a link to funny cats.)

I’ve been musing a little over this issue for a while – if there is a God (and I believe there is), then why is this God good? Why is God ‘love’ as the apostle John wrote, and not ‘hate’, or just something neutral and in between?

Wouldn’t it make more sense for God to be neutral or indifferent? If God is the prime mover, the first cause, the great original being, then isn’t all of this (the universe, humanity, etc) just a great social experiment by a curious eternal consciousness? (more…)

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the God of this age is God**The ‘notes’ at the end have a lot more information that explains many points made in the body of this post**

I have been mulling over this blog post for almost a year now, not sure how to write it, and not sure if I wanted to, but here goes.

The Background:

Last year Kelly was studying Isaiah and wrestling through this section:

He [God] said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.’
“Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull, and their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9-10 NASB).

This passage almost sounds like God intentionally prevents people from ‘understanding’ lest they ‘be healed’. (more…)

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Should we follow the Law?

Did the New Testament abolish the Old Testament Law?

No.

Jesus made it very clear that he did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. How do you fulfill the Law? By keeping it perfectly!

Jesus said, “It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law” (Luke 16:17). The law is not going away. The next verse of that quote says, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” This is not a teaching about divorce per se, but a reinforcement that the Law is binding and you can’t just divorce yourself from it! That is equivalent to committing adultery.

So, if the Law still stands, should we follow it? (more…)

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