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Serving Jesus through discipleship

Archive for the tag “Hebrew Bible”

Living by the Word


Jesus came to people who knew the Scriptures. They expended great effort to study and memorize the text, to debate its meaning, to teach it to other people, and – above else – to obey it. As you take a closer look at Jesus Ministry, consider how essential the text was to all that He did and said.

The front side (recto) of Papyrus 1, a New Tes...

The front side (recto) of Papyrus 1, a New Testament manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew. Most likely originated in Egypt. Also part of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (P. oxy. 2) Currently housed in: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the Jews in Galilee, knowing and obeying the Scriptures was as essential to life as food and water. They memorized significant portions of Scripture in synagogue schools. They heard it read aloud during synagogue prayers and when the rabbis read and discussed it. After all, how could one rightly interpret and obey God‘s commands without knowing the text? How could one walk with God without knowing what He said? Not to know the text was unthinkable!

A study of the Gospel of Matthew reveals that in that book alone, Jesus quoted the Hebrew Scriptures at least thirty-eight times. Read the following passages and notice how easily the text flowed from His lips as He spoke: Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43, 9:10-13, 12:1-8. Could Jesus have shared the Scriptures effectively if He had not memorized them?

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish then but to fulfill them.” In the statement, Jesus used technical rabbinic terminology. Abolish meant to interpret Scripture so that it would not be obeyed as God desired. Fulfill meant to interpret Scripture so that it would be obeyed as God intended. So when Jesus used these terms, His audience would have heard Him say, “I did not come to misinterpret Scriptureso you would not keep it correctly. I came to interpret it so that you will know how to keep it correctly.”

Jesus came from a community that knew the Scriptures, and He expected His disciples to follow His example and become like Him. He expects no less from His followers today. Yet many of us do not know much about the text He knew and loved, and we have memorized even less of it.

How can we do what Jesus commands if we do not know His word?

Is it time to dedicate yourself to knowing your Bible and using it as the foundation for your life and witness? How will you begin?

How would memorizing Scripture reinforce your desire to live by its truth in your daily life?

If you are serious about being a disciple, ask God to fill you with His Spirit and give you a desire to become more like Jesus who knew and loved the Word of God.

The prophet Jeremiah memorized so much scripture that he literally could not stop mentioning God or speaking His name. How passionately do you want God’s word to burn within you. A good place to startmight be to memorize the following:

But if I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. – Jeremiah 20:9

Pray for the same love for the word as Jeremiah had!

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Profile of a Rabbi


English: Rabbis Brown and Mayer talking with R...

English: Rabbis Brown and Mayer talking with Rabbi Aharon Feldman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Jesus day, a rabbi was not the head of a formal religious community or a synagogue as we think of a rabbi today. Instead, rabbi was an honored termof respect given to one who interpreted and taught the Hebrew Bible. Rabbi meant “my superior” or “my master” and came from a Hebrew root meaning “great” or “many”. Disciples and others used this term to refer to great scholars and teachers of the Scriptures who were also known as “sages”. After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, rabbi became a formal title for sage.

Rabbis played an important role in the Jewish spiritual culture because there were no formal seminaries at the time of Jesus. Each rabbi taught his disciples how the Torah should be interpreted and obeyed, and his disciples willingly submitted to that interpretation. A rabbi then was an honored teacher who was well versed in the text of the Hebrew Scriptures. He was highly respected for his knowledge, interpretation, and teaching of Scripture as well as for his personal righteousness. Following a rabbi required a deep commitment on the part of the disciple who would live with and follow the rabbi day in and day out for years in order to learn to be like him and live in obedience to God as the rabbi did.

For the Galileans, walking with God took priority over everything. So a rabbi and his disciples were highly respected by others in the community. A family or extended family group usually provided housing and food for a rabbi and his disciples. Because of the high respect for the study of the Torah, and the fact that the rabbi was leading other people to the kingdom of heaven and the life to come, each disciple was expected to honor his rabbi even more than his own father. It is difficult for Christians today to imagine such love and commitment to a human teacher, but that was the norm in Galilee.

All teaching by the early rabbis attempted to explain, interpret, and apply some portion of the Hebrew Bible. To the audience, the validity of the teaching depended on the rabbis ability to use a variety of passages in new and creative ways to illustrate the teaching with parable or metaphor, and to ground the teaching in text. whether they wanted to or not, people who heard Jesus teach recognized that He taught with authority.

In fact, Jesus best fit the type of rabbi believed to have s’mikhah, the authority to make new interpretations of the Torah. Most of the teachers of the law could only teach accepted interpretations. Teachers with authority, however, could make new interpretations and pass legal judgments.

Educated as a Rabbi

The Mishnah describes the educational process for a young Jewish boy during Jesus time.

At five years old [one is fit] for the Scripture, at ten years the Mishnah [oral Torah interpretations], at thirteen for [the fulfilling of the commandments], at fifteen the Talmud [making rabbinic interpretations], at eighteen the bride chamber, at twenty pursuing a vocation, at thirty for authority [able to teach others].

This passage clearly describes the education of a n exceptional student, because few students became teachers. It also indicates the centrality of the Hebrew text in the education of Jews in Galilee. A comparison of this description to Jesus’ life shows that He closely followed the customs of his time and place.

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