Jesus and the Temple Sermon Manuscript

If you remember last week, I looked back at verse 1 where John uses the phrase “in the beginning.” John is clearly calling to mind the symbols and events of Genesis as he tells his own creation narrative. One of the things that I said was John was telling the story of the new creation, the recreation, of the world through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

I believe that John intends his readers to follow a sequence of seven signs, with the water-into-wine story at Cana as the first and the crucifixion as the seventh. This number seven is actually found, guess where, in Genesis one; suggesting that John has selected these 7 signs to draw out and delineate how Israel’s God, through the Messiah, as set in motion the recreation of the entire cosmos.

On Friday, the sixth day of the week, Jesus stands before Pilate of says “Behold the man.” (John 19:5). Jesus, on the cross, says “it is finished.” Hearkening back to God’s statements of completion in Genesis 1. This finishing was followed by a sabbath, a day of rest. Which is what we find in John 19.

There follows, as in Genesis, a day of rest, a sabbath day (19:31: 31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.)

Big Point: Jesus’ public career is to be understood as the completion of the original creation, with the resurrection as the start of the new. The whole gospel is a kind of preparation for Easter, with signs of resurrection to be expected at several points.

The first of the signs, indeed, carries its own hint: the wedding at Cana took place ‘on the third day’. The response of Jesus in the temple was that he would raise the temple on the “third day.”

So, last time I went over many of the ways in which Jesus, sums of the long story of Israel in himself, he embodies Israel, and the story of Israel is retold around him. Just as a way of reminder Matt: 2:15, Hosea 11:1.

So, before we can jump into our text and explore what is precisely going on, we need to stop and consider the function and importance of the temple: two quick points:
First, the Temple was regarded as the dwelling-place of Israel’s covenant god:
Quote: The Temple in conception was a dwelling place on earth for the deity of ancient Israel … The symbolic nature of the Jerusalem Temple … depended upon a series of features that, taken together, established the sacred precinct as being located at the cosmic center of the universe, at the place where heaven and earth converge and thus from where God’s control over the universe is effected.

Quote: Second, the Temple was of course the place of sacrifice. It was the place where forgiveness of sins on the one hand, and cleansing from defilement on the other, were believed to be effected. This can be seen dramatically in descriptions of what happened when the sacrificial system came to an end in ad 70:
The destruction of the Temple in 70 a.d. made an end of the whole system of sacrificial expiation, public and private, the scapegoat of the Day of Atonement. The loss was keenly felt…

So, let us take a look at John 2:13-22.

Ok, there are several things going on, and to draw them out, we need to travel around the gospels a bit to see some of the things Jesus says about the temple. Luke 19; Matt 24.

Luke 19: The gospel of Luke has an interesting section in chapter 19. In verses 41-44 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and pronounces judgement on her, and the temple (same as Matt. 24 but much shorter). Immediately after in 45-48 Jesus cleanses the temple. There can be no doubt that the cleansing of the temple and the pronouncement of judgement in the preceding verse are inseparably linked to one another. I think Jesus is acting out the judgement that is to come; and expressing his disapproval at what the temple had become. Many people see this action, and Jesus’s statements about the temple, whether they were misunderstood or not, as the primary factors that led to his crucifixion. Notably, this is what is brought up at Jesus’s trial; and also, when people are preaching the gospel in Acts 6, Jesus is portrayed as the one who talked about the temple being destroyed. Luke 19:48 is followed immediately by the chief priests and scribes coming to him and challenging his authority to cleanse the temple. This was extremely offensive to them. Jesus’s response is “by what authority does John the Baptist baptize?” John the Baptist was claiming that God’s people were not recognized by their temple or torah observance, not at this critical time; no, instead, they are going to be recognized by repenting and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins in preparation for their Messiah.

Matthew 24: Jesus’s disciples ask him when the temple will be destroyed, and his reply is that “this generation” (24:34) will not pass until all that Jesus had predicted came to pass. Within a generation (app. 40 years) the temple was destroyed by Rome. Jesus, here in Matt. 24, connects “the sign of his coming” with the destruction of the temple. The coming of the Son of man is a clear allusion to Daniel 7; which speaks of the vindication of the Son of Man. In good apocalyptic style, all sorts of imagery is used by Jesus to invest these future historic events with theological significance. If we accept that the conversation is centered around the “sign of Jesus’s coming” and the “time of the temple’s destruction,” then we are in a pretty safe place to understand that Jesus is explicitly putting the sign of his coming (Gr. erchomenon) together with to the fate of the temple; so that, if the fate of the temple turns out to be what Jesus said it would be, then Jesus will be vindicated in his ministry and prophetic role. In support of this: the words “this generation” refer to the current contemporary generation in every other instance that it is used; it always refers to the people who are living at that time. Jesus says that everything that he had predicted before 24:34 would happen in “this generation.”

What is very important to note here is that Jesus associates his vindication as the Son of Man, the vindication that that he did what God expected of him, via the destruction of Jerusalem. So when the temple was destroyed, this was God’s stamping again (after his resurrection) his approval on everything that Jesus had been claiming about his own life and ministry in relation to his critique of the temple.

So, Jesus is not merely setting out to clean up the temple, and rearrange a few ornaments: he intends to symbolize the imminent destruction of the Temple sharply and physically through his actions. So he was enacting God’s judgment on the temple so that when it was destroyed, his actions would be vindicated as in line with God’s desire to see the temple destroyed.

So what is the point of all of this: God People are being “REDEFINED.” HANDOUT.

What is the arch composed of before Christ, in the Old Testament: 1. Circumcision, 2. Dietary Laws, 3. Temple Observance. These are the things that mark out who is numbered among the covenant people of God. Within the covenant people of God you have both: those who are Not Truly Saved (NTS); and those who are Truly Saved (TS).

If a husband gets married to a woman, with the intention of committing adultery the day after the marriage; is the marriage a real covenant? YES! Or else, adultery would no longer be adultery. The question guy who gets married has to answer is whether he was and will be sincere in his marriage vows; or if he will be insincere and be a covenant breaker; either way he is in the covenant. This same reality is seen in the Old Testament. “They praise [God] with their lips, but their hearts are far from [Him].” They were circumcised, and they were following the dietary laws; this does mark them out as being “in the covenant;” it does not mean that they are necessarily truly saved.

Jesus, thus, is coming in and redrawing these covenant boundaries around himself instead of circumcision, dietary laws, and temple observance. The people of God are being redefined around their faith in and allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth. Now, those who confess faith in and allegiance to Christ and his authority via baptism initially, are marked out as “in the covenant”; as the person who goes through the ritual of marriage is now married; the question remains however if the person is sincere or not; either way, the person is “in the covenant.”

This will go a LONG way in recounting the hottest dispute in the early church. In Acts 10, and 15 along with much of Paul’s writings; one of the recurring themes is the teaching that the Gentiles are not under any obligation to undergo circumcision, or follow the dietary laws, or go to the temple; because they have received God’s Spirit as full participants in the new REDEFINED people of God by faith in Jesus the Messiah alone (of course this faith is expressed in every individual through baptism, and subsequent surrender of the ‘yoke’ and teachings to Christ).

So: what were the Jews so angry about in the early church: well, Jewish Christians, especially Paul, were claiming that circumcision (for example) was ok for Jews to do, but it emphatically no longer counted for anything (1 Cor. 7:19) because God’s people have been redefined around Jesus and no longer around torah-observance.

What is the point? The Covenant People of God: RE-EMPOWERED and REGENERATED as agents of RENEWAL for the sake of the whole cosmos; the renewal of all of creation.

God is creating a new humanity in and around the Messiah of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, the only begotten Son of God. God in Christ has so redefined who his covenant people are in the Messiah that now Gentiles have found themselves in the family of Abraham (Gal. 3); in that single family through which God has always intended to bring salvation and renewal to the whole world.

The first day of the week a strange event had happened as this prostitute went to the tomb where Christ was buried. Many people, in order to deal with the fact of the empty tomb in history have formulated hypotheses that claim that the authors of these 4 gospels in our bibles were fabrications that were made up to make people believe that Jesus rose from the dead even though he didn’t. The major problem here is this: in the first century, and on for quite a while, the testimony of a women as an eyewitness was inadmissible in court and general opinion. If someone were trying to fabricate a story to get thousands of people to believe, what is otherwise a hard to believe story; the very last thing they would do is have a woman, prostitute to boot, as the first eyewitness of the risen Christ. This hypothesis fails.

Mary was the first to see the firstborn of the new creation; the risen Christ. What she saw was striking. Jesus’s body was like, and not like our own. He said to the woman “don’t touch me” because he had not yet ascended. But, to Thomas, he said “touch me.” He walked on the road to Emmaus and no one recognized him; yet he bore the scares by which he can be identified. He moves in and out of locked rooms, appears and vanishes; and yet, he is sitting by a fire eating fish with his disciples.

See many people think the goal of creation is for everyone to go to heaven. The fact is however, that the goal is for heaven to come here to earth, and for their to be a union of the two. Jesus’s body existed in both the heavenly and earthly realm at the same time. The world that God’s people will inhabit will be world in which God’s dimension and our earthly dimension are one. [In that world we will judge angels Paul says, this is because they are merely spiritual beings, and we will be both heavenly and earthly.]

Conclusion: God is creating a new humanity. These new humans and they only will inhabit God’s new world. Jesus is the first new human; and he has given us the Spirit of the age to come and so connected us to the source of this resurrection life. We are called now to live out the new humanity, the new ethics of the age to come. Why should I not have lustful thoughts in my mind? Because, God is creating in me a new humanity, a new way of being human, and by his Spirit, I am to be an agent of renewal in this world; living out now, the way of life that will characterize the world to come. God is at work recreating the world, and I am to be the sort of human that will inhabit this new world; indeed, the church is God’s agent within which God will bring this renewal. If anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW CREATION. We are the new temples. We are the place where God will deal with the sins of the world, we are the carriers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which alone contains the renewing power necessary to accomplish God’s purpose. We alone are the place where God’s presence flows into the world. If God’s will is going to be done on earth as it is in heaven it will be through the New Temple: the Body of Christ: The Spirit filled Church who proclaims and embodies the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Healing, forgiveness, renewal, the twelve, the new family and its new defining characteristics, open commensality, the promise of blessing for the Gentiles, feasts replacing fasts, the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple: all declared, in the powerful language of symbol, that Israel’s exile was over, that Jesus was himself in some way responsible for this new state of affairs, and that all that the Temple had stood for was now available through Jesus and his movement. It is not surprising, therefore, that when Jesus came to Jerusalem the place was, so to speak, NOT big enough for both him and the Temple together. The claim which had been central to his work in Galilee was that Israel’s god was now active, through him, to confront evil and so to bring about the real return from exile, the restoration for which Israel had longed; and that Israel’s god himself was now returning to Zion in judgment and mercy. The house built on sand, however—the present Temple and all that went with it, and all the hopes of national security which clustered, as in Jeremiah’s day, around it—would fall with a great crash. And on the other side: New Creation would come walking out, leaving behind an empty tomb, and so inaugurating a new people, who by His Spirit, God will reconcile peoples from all nations to himself, and finally raise us all with resurrection bodies in the new heavens and earth. The question for us: will we live out the new humanity that has been redefined around Jesus?

The story of Israel: RETOLD
The people of God: REDEFINED
The Presence of God in the world: REINTERPRETED
The Covenant People of God: RE-EMPOWERED and REGENERATED as agents of RENEWAL for the sake of the whole cosmos; the restoration of all of creation.

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Does the Church Replace Israel?

Jesus Christ, in himself, sums up all that Israel was meant to be because “Christos” (the Greek word for Christ) is Israel’s representative.When Paul uses the word “Christos” he intends for that word to carry a incorporative and representational connotation. As Wright says, “Because the Messiah represents Israel, he is able to take on himself Israel’s curse and exhaust it.” (Climax of the Covenant, 151). The “Christ’s” ‘headship’ or ‘representational identity’ is the basis of many texts like Romans 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15, and Gal. 3.

Furthermore, in light of the coming of the “Christos” the covenant people of YHWH are now being redefined in terms of faith in “Christos” instead of “works of the law.”

So, within ‘good’ covenant theology, it is the “Christ” that comes where Israel is, and sums up everything that she was called to be, and thus redefines Israel. In him it is those who trust in and follow the “Christ” that are marked out as God’s covenant people. They are the true Jews (Romans 2:28-29); and they are the true offspring of Abraham (Gal. 3-4).

To clarify: I do not believe that the church “replaces” Israel. Rather, in Christ, Israel reaches her pinnacle, her apex, her climax, her fulfillment; at which time God’s covenant people are subsequently redefined in and around the Christ, specifically by their faith in the Christ and their baptism into him.

So, the church is Israel, the true Israel who has reached a new era within God’s covenant where Jews and Gentiles share as equals in the family of God (Gal. 3:29) because they are the “Christ’s;” they belong to him.

Paul, the torah, and the People of God: Galatians pt 2

Galatians 3:10-14:

[Aside: it is important to note Paul’s quote from Deut. 27-30; Hab. 2, and Levitcus 18.]

Here are a couple of Pauline assumptions: 1. Israel as a whole is under the curse if she fails to keep torah; 2. Israel as a whole failed to keep torah; 3. Therefore Israel is under the curse.

Paul is, with these assumptions, stating this: 1. All who embrace torah are thereby embracing Israel’s national way of life; 2. Israel as a nation has suffered, historically, the curse which the torah held out for her if she did not keep it; 3. Therefore all who embrace torah are under its curse (3:10).1

First of all, in verse 10 Paul pronounces a curse on all who rely on the works of the torah. This has less to do with individuals than is usually recognized. This is about the nation of Israel, who, as a whole turns from keeping the torah and so incurs a curse; specifically the curse of exile. As we all know, the torah had provisions for individual sins; it was when the nation as a whole failed to follow torah that the curse of exile came upon the nation.

If Paul is really invoking the train of thought of the last chapters of Deuteronomy, his point is not that individual Jews have all in fact sinned, but that Israel as a whole has failed to keep the perfect torah, and, as a result, that torah cannot therefore be the means through which she either retains her membership in covenant of blessing or becomes– and this is the point of 3:10-14– the means of blessing the world in accordance with the promises to Abraham.2

This exile and curse is clearly anticipated by Moses in Deut., not as a possible outcome but as an expected outcome; the blessings and curses will be scattered throughout Israel’s history, with a overwhelming tendency to curses.

The torah was destined to send Israel into exile and to bring her under the curse. Not because the torah was bad, but because Israel was in solidarity with fallen Adam, and thus shared the adamic nature; and thus she would fail to keep the torah.

Watch where Paul goes next; to Habakkuk. This book is clearly about God using the Chaldeans to come in and judge Israel and send her into exile. Paul goes here for 2 obvious reasons: 1. Habakkuk says that God’s family (the righteous) shall live by faith; which has been Paul’s argument from 3:1-3:9. 2. Habakkuk is dealing with exile, the curse that God warned Israel about; and during exile God’s people were to be marked out by their faith rather than their torah observance.

So, Habakkuk, faced with the imminent destruction of Israel, had seen the covenant community being redefined in terms of faith: the ‘righteous’ will now be the ones who believes and will be vindicated in the eschatological deliverance.3

3:12 then provides negative confirmation of the same point, that the torah cannot be the place where the covenantal blessing is found. Granted Genesis 15 and Habakkuk 2, which together make the point that God’s intended covenant membership is demarcated by faith; so that, the torah, which offers its covenantal ‘life’ on the basis of ‘doing’ what is says, cannot be in itself the means of faith and hence of life.4

The context of Leviticus 18:5 (quoted in 3:12) too is the warning that unless Israel keeps the covenant charter properly, the land itself will eject those who are thereby polluting it.5 [This is the relevant meaning of exile.]

What does this say about the Torah?

The immediate problem that Paul was facing was this: If we grant and accept the covenant promises to Abraham, what will happen to those promises in light of torah? There are many reasons why torah would come between the promises and their fulfillment: Paul will later speak of its being given to one nation only, whereas God envisaged a worldwide single family, but here he concentrates simply on the fact that the law brings curse, not blessing (compare Romans 4:15 where the torah brings wrath). It cannot of itself produce the faith which according to Genesis and Habakkuk, is the true demarcation of the covenant people, Abraham’s family.6

What then is the solution? The torah is bringing all of its adherents under a curse; all of them. To answer this, and without asking for too much, I would like to establish a point that might seem off subject.

Adam was given a mandate by God to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and have dominion over it. This was given to him. Israel was corporately given the role which had been previously given to Adam. Israel, was to do as a nation, what God had called Adam to do as an individual. This shouldn’t be controversial.

Now, Christ, the second Adam, is reversing this role and he is doing individually, what Israel as a corporate entity could not do. In this way, the Messiah was Israel‘s representative.

Because the Messiah represents Israel, he is able to take on himself Israel’s curse and exhaust it. Jesus dies as the King of the Jews, at the hands of the Romans whose oppression of Israel is the present climactic form of the curse of exile itself. The crucifixion is the perfect example of the curse of exile, and its climactic act.7

Christ as the representative Messiah, has achieved a specific task, that of taking on himself the curse which hung over Israel and which on one hand prevented her from enjoying full membership in Abraham’s family and thereby on the other hand prevented the blessing of Abraham from flowing out to the Gentiles. The Messiah has come where Israel is, under the torah’s curse, in order to be not only Israel’s representative but Israel’s redeeming representative. That which, in the scheme of Deuteronomy, Israel needed if she incurred the curse of the law, is provided in Christ: the pattern of exile and restoration is acted out in his death and resurrection. He is Israel, going down to death under the curse of the law, and going through that curse to the new covenant life beyond.8

The torah has the effect of, as it were, piling up the sin of the world in one particular place, that is, in Israel. This highly negative assessment of the torah’s purpose is then, however, shown to have an underlying positive aim, that the the Messiah, as Israel’s representative, allows the full weight of it to fall on himself. This anticipates one of Paul’s most in depth treatments of the torah which runs from Romans 5:20 through chapter 11. The result in both places is that the torah draws the sin/curse on to Israel in order that it may then be dealt with in the death of the Messiah.9

To sum up: The fundamental note of Galatians 3:10-14 is that of the covenantal curse, Israel’s curse, being taken by Israel’s appointed representative in an act which itself symbolized very precisely all that the curse of exile stood for.10 The death of the king, hanged on a tree in the midst of his own land; rejected by his own people. This was a recapitulation of all of Israel’s sins, climaxing in her rejection of their Messiah and King. Through this God’s promise offspring is created, and the Israel Believers are redeemed from the curse of the law.

In the next section we are going to look at 3:15-23 where Paul contrasts the promise and the torah to see where Paul takes his argument.

Paul, the torah, and the people of God: Galatians PT 1

Before diving into Galatians, it would be helpful to delineate my precise position on the torah so that what I am saying, and what I am not saying, will be evident.

Preliminary points:

First, I believe the position of the new testament is that the torah no longer functions as the demarcation of God’s covenant people; the torah no longer marks them out as God’s people; Jew or Gentile.

Second, the Jews are free to celebrate their ethnic badge of Jewishness by observing the Torah, as long as they understand that the Torah, in no way marks them out as God’s people. Those who do not observe the Torah, but who have entrusted themselves to Jesus the Messiah, are just as much in the family of God with full membership, as Jews who have trusted in Jesus and who also follow the Torah.

Third, the Jews who celebrate their ethnic identity via the Torah, are forbidden to require the Gentiles to follow the Torah in the ways that they do.

Fourth, this includes especially the ‘badge‘ or ‘marker‘ of circumcision.

Paul and the Torah:

To lay out this position we will take a look at Acts 21 and Galatians 2 with a further comment from 1 Cor. 7.

Acts 21: And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the JEWS of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach ALL THE JEWS who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.

So lets get this straight. Paul has come to Jerusalem, and he is welcomed there by James. And James informs Paul that there is a rumor (apparently false) going around that Paul has told the Jews, specifically the Jews who are among the Gentiles, not to observe the torah, not to circumcise their children, or follow its customs. This is not going to go over well in Jerusalem so James says to Paul, “purify yourself along with the four men, and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.”

This should not surprise us, Paul in one of his letters says, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.” (1 Cor. 9)

After Paul has been purified to show that he is observing the torah; ‘to those under the torah, becoming as one under the torah, even though he himself is not under the torah;’ there is a key phrase that begins with “But.”  Verse 25, “But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

Clearly, Paul had told the Gentiles not to circumcise their children, or submit to the torah; the false accusation was that Paul was telling Jews not circumcise their children, which wasn’t true. How do we know that Paul was telling the Gentiles not to circumcise their children? In two ways, 1. The false accusation is concerning what Paul is telling THE JEWS. Once it becomes clear that Paul did not tell the Jews not to circumcise their children (etc), James and the elders said “but as for the Gentiles” clearly intimating that they were not responsible to follow what the Jews had chosen to follow. 2. Paul clearly says in 1 Cor.7 “18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.”

1 Cor. 7:18 is huge: Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. Followed by Verse 19: “circumcision doesn’t count for anything.” What does he mean by that? I submit that he means exactly what I said in preliminary points one and two above: that the torah no longer functions as the demarcation of God’s covenant people, etc…

What then does Paul mean by “keeping the commandments of God?” Wasn’t circumcision one of those commandments in the torah? Of course it was. But now circumcision doesn’t count for anything. Notice again that I am not saying that Jews are wrong for circumcising. What I am saying, and what Paul is saying that they are to recognize that it doesn’t function as the boundary marker or identification of God’s true covenant family. This is precisely Paul’s point in Galatians 2. Paul made a trip with Barnabas to Jerusalem and he brought along Titus. He went because he had a revelation to set before them the gospel that he was preaching to THE GENTILES. He brought Titus along as his Test case. Titus, a uncircumcised Gentile, was a believer and follower of Christ. What was the conclusion of his status? “But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.” (Gal. 2:3) Here again Titus, a gentile, is not placed under the authority of the Torah to be marked out as a member of God’s Family.

How then can we tell who God’s covenant family is then, if not by Torah observance, and more specifically circumcision? That is what Galatians chapter 3 is all about.

Galatians 3: Paul will move to defend his stance that God’s people are “marked out” by faith, they receive the Spirit by faith, they are declared to be in God’s single family by faith (justified); and he will appeal to the context of exile to defend his position. God’s people, Paul is saying, are not “marked out” by works of torah; they don’t receive the Spirit by works of torah; they are not declared to be in God’s single family on the basis of works of torah. This is his case from 3:1-3:9.

Torah Observant Movement: A Word on Prophecy

When it comes to the Torah Observant Movement, the Apostle Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, is by far the most powerful antagonist to it; and, Paul single handedly delivers devastating critiques that totally undermine the movement. What we will see is that much of what I have been writing about Jesus, and the way he interpreted his own ministry and his own identity is further verified, and indeed intensified as Paul, God’s inspired spokesperson to the Gentiles, implements all that Jesus inaugurated. “Paul, the Torah, and the People of God: Galatians” will be the next post. First a word about prophecy, to wrap up some of what has been said about Jesus from the gospels.

Prophecy:

When John the Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God, what does this insinuate about Jesus? Obviously John doesn’t see Jesus as a four footed mammal. In what sense is it legitimate to call Jesus “the Lamb of God.” Would it be true that the true meaning of “the Lamb of God” was climactically expressed in Jesus, and that the former “lambs” are but shadows? How can a man be a more complete fulfillment for the title “lamb of God” than a literal white furred, four footed lamb? This is a problem that will come up in “prophecy” texts quite often.

This is the case with John the Baptist. In Malachi there is a prophecy about Elijah: Malachi 4:5;“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

There is no hint here that the person that God sends would be anyone other than Elijah. It does not say that the person will be in the Spirit of Elijah, it says it will actually be Elijah. Now, if people take prophecy in this way, seeking for a verbatim fulfillment; then no one with this approach will recognize John the Baptist’s role as Elijah.

So: was John the Baptist actually Elijah? No, he wasn’t the precise person of the Old Testament named Elijah. Not in the way that I would have expected him to be. But, did John the Baptist fulfill the role attributed to Elijah in this verse, in some way as Elijah? Yes; but why would anyone say that he was? Because Jesus: Jesus said and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come (Matt. 11:14).

The most significant point to make here is this: If the Torah Observant Movement’s method of interpreting prophecy is employed, like the one they use for Ezekiel, then there are two possibilities: 1. Jesus was wrong about John the Baptist, and John is not Elijah as prophesied in Malachi; or, 2. The method of interpreting prophecies used by the Torah Observant Movement is unsatisfactory and wrong. If their method is off on a single simple verse; why should it be pushed as though it is the serious most plausible interpretation of a much larger and more complex prophecy like Ezekiel 43-48. If their Method can’t get Malachi 4:5 right, then it most definitely wont get Ezekiel right. The New Testament’s way of claiming fulfillment doesn’t fit with the way they read prophecies.

This is a common trait of fulfilled prophecies. Strange, unexpected, sometimes borderline unfamiliar fulfillments of Scripture take place. This being one of the primary reasons that the Jews by and large did not entrust themselves to their Messiah; because they did not see him fulfilling the Scriptures as they expected. This is also a warning for us.

At the very least, there are numerous texts in the New Testament that clearly delineates truths about Jesus’s life and ministry, specifically his death and resurrection, that should operate as our navigational key in interpreting prophecies.

The new temple in Ezekiel 43-48 is Jesus? Kenneth Gentry

This is a big quote from: Kenneth Gentry “HE shall have dominion.” You can download PDF file here: http://freebooks.entrewave.com/freebooks/docs/2202_47e.htm

To understand the significance of Ezekiel’s visionary Temple, we must keep in mind the conceptual idea embodied in the Temple structure and services. The essence of the Temple is that it stands as a symbol. That is, it is symbolic of the covenantal relationship of God with His people. The essence of the covenant is contained in that most important promise: “I will be your God, you will be My people.” The Temple was the special place where God dwelt among His people (1 Kgs. 6:12-13; Jer. 7:4-7), as He did in the Tabernacle preceding it (Exe. 29:42; 25:22; 30:36). The glory of God was especially present in His sanctuary (1 Kgs. 8:11; 2 Chr. 7:1-2), although no Temple could contain His immense being (1 Kgs. 8 :2’7; Isa. 66:1; Jer 23:24).

This idea is clearly related to Ezekiel’s Temple vision in 48:35: “The name of the city from that day shall be: The Lord is There.” That visionary Temple is symbolic of the glorious presence of God in the Kingdom of Christ coming in the New Covenant era. And it is so because even further defined, it is symbolic of Christ Himself. Christ is the true presence of God which could only be hinted at in the temple construction. “Ezekiel’s vision of the new temple is part of this prophetic pattern of a restoration so total that it sublimates the ceremonial structure in glory. Ezekiel’s restoration returns David to the throne, and sees a temple that is a sanctuary of Paradise, where the river of life flows from God’s throne past trees whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.”57 One of the closing prophecies of the Old Testament is Malachi 3:1: “And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight.” This coming is the message of the New Testament: the Lord has come to “tabernacle” among us (John 1:14, Greek; cf. John 1:1; 1 John 1:1-3). When He came, He was first visited by shepherds, who had been out in the fields keeping sacrificial sheep destined for the Temple. When presented forty days later in the Temple, He was praised as the “glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:32) – language reflecting the Shekinah glory of God, which evidenced God’s presence in the Temple (Exe. 40:34, 35; 1 Sam. 4:21-22).

He so stands as the glorious realization of the meaning of the Temple that he who had seen Him had seen the Father (John 14:9), for “in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). He even was transfigured in a glorious display of His true identity (Matt. 1’7: 1-8; Mark 9:2-8). Consequently, He justly claims to be greater than the Temple (Matt. 12:6), for He is its fulfillment, being the very presence of God. In fact, He is “the stone which the builders rejected” which “has become the chief cornerstone” of God’s new Temple (Matt. 21 :42).

Consequently, as prophetic His ministry opens, He stands in the shadow of the earthly Temple and informs Jerusalem of this glorious truth: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” by which “He was speaking of the temple of His body” (John 20:19, 21), a Temple “not made with hands” (Mark 14:58). Therefore, He offers Himself to men as the heavenly manna, which was once housed in the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple.m He offers the living waters of Ezekiel’s Temple (Ezek. 4’7; cf. Joel 3:18; Zech. 14:8) to His hearers (John 4:10-15; 7:38-39). He is the sacrificial “Lamb of God” destined for Temple service (John 1:29). As He establishes the New Covenant (Luke 22:20), He impresses upon the hearts of His followers the Law of God (Jer. 31:31-34; 2 Cor. 4:3, 6; Heb. 8:8-1 1), which was formerly kept on tables of stone in the Holy of holies (Exe. 25:21; Deut. 10:5; Heb. 9:4). Thus, when He dies, the Temple era is formally ended with the rending of the veil (Matt. 27:51). When He speaks of the absolute destruction of the physical Temple in A.D. ’70, He leaves no intimation of its God-endorsed rebuilding (Matt. 2461).

Christ, then, is the true Temple. And His people, who are in mystical union with Him, are called His “body” (Rem. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 4:12). Consequently, we who are His people are also designated a “temple.”62 This is due to His indwelling presence among His people, so that we, having the True Tem- ple within, may be called a temple. Christ in us is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Not only is He Who is the The Temple in us, but we are also spoken of as being “in Christ.”63

Thus, the prophetic notion of the rebuilding of the Temple (when not making reference to Zerubbabel’s Temple) speaks of Christ and the building of His Church (Matt. 16:18; cf. Zech. 6:12-1 3). He Himself is the foundation and cornerstone (1 Cor. 3:11, 16-17; Eph. 2:20). As Christ’s people we are priests (Rem. 15: 16; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6) who offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rem. 12: 1-2) and our service as acceptable sweet smell o~ering.s (2 Cor. 2:14-16; Phil. 4:18; Heb. 13:15-16; 1 Pet. 2:5). Thus, “we have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat” (Heb. 13:10). As more people are converted by His sovereign grace, His New Covenant Temple grows stone by stone (Eph. 2:21; 4:12, 16; 1 Pet. 2:5,9). As a master builder Paul labored in that Temple (1 Cor. 3:9-17).

Through a series of Old Testament Temple and ritual allusions, Paul points to the New Temple of God: “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.’ Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor, 6:16-7:1). So, as Clowney well notes, “we must recognize that this is not spiritualization in our usual sense of the word, but the very opposite. In Christ is realization. It is not so much that Christ fulfills what the temple means; rather Christ is the meaning for which the temple existed.”

Taylor well distills the basic ideas in Ezekiel’s complex Temple vision. (1) The immaculate symmetry of the building portrays the perfection of God’s plan for His people. (2) The meticulous detail of the rites indicates the centrality of worship in the New Covenant era. (3) The central idea of the Temple points to the abiding presence of God with His redeemed community. (4) The waters of life flowing from the Temple express the life-giving operation of the Holy Spirit in the new age. (5) The careful allocation of levitical duties and land apportionment speak of the duties and privileges of God’s people in the future.””

Jesus, The Torah, and God’s People: Torah Observant Movement Pt 2

Jesus’s pronouncement of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple is a key to understanding his earthly ministry. In Matthew 24 Jesus’s disciples ask him when the temple will be destroyed, and his reply is that “this generation” (24:34) will not pass until all that Jesus had predicted came to pass. Within a generation (app. 40 years) the temple was destroyed by Rome. Jesus, here in Matt. 24, connects “the sign of his coming” with the destruction of the temple. The coming of the Son of man is a clear allusion to Daniel 7; which speaks of the vindication of the Son of Man. In good apocalyptic style, all sorts of imagery is used by Jesus to invest these future historic events with theological significance. If we accept that the conversation is centered around the “sign of Jesus’s coming” and the “time of the temple’s destruction,” then we are in a pretty safe place to understand that Jesus is explicitly putting the sign of his coming (Gr. erchomenon) together with to the fate of the temple; so that, if the fate of the temple turns out to be what Jesus said it would be, then Jesus will be vindicated in his ministry and prophetic role. In support of this: the words “this generation” refer to the current contemporary generation in every other instance that it is used; it always refers to the people who are living at that time. Jesus says that everything that he had predicted before 24:34 would happen in “this generation.”

The gospel of Luke has an interesting section in chapter 19. In verses 41-44 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and pronounces judgement on her, and the temple (same as Matt. 24 but much shorter). Immediately after in 45-48 Jesus cleanses the temple. There can be no doubt that the cleansing of the temple and the pronouncement of judgement in the preceding verse are inseparably linked to one another. I think Jesus is acting out the judgement that is to come; and expressing his disapproval at what the temple had become. Many people see this action, and Jesus’s statements about the temple, whether they were misunderstood or not, as the primary factors that led to his crucifixion. Notably, this is what is brought up at Jesus’s trial; and also, when people are preaching the gospel in Acts 6, Jesus is portrayed as the one who talked about the temple being destroyed.

If we go back to John 2:19: The Jews ask Jesus by what authority he is doing what he is doing (cleansing); and they want proof, a sign, that Jesus does in fact have the authority to do what he did; namely to cleanse the temple. He tells them the sign that he has this authority is this: if they destroy “this temple,” which I am arguing is the temple that he just cleansed, that he would raise the temple (His body, which is replacing the temple) up in three days. When he says he will raise it up in three days, this is, as I plan to get into, Jesus putting himself in the place of the temple in the ongoing life of God’s covenant people. This is significant because his body is referred by Christ as “the temple” and it is referred to as the equivalent. [Some think Jesus is referring to his body, as “this temple” in both halves: destroy this temple (my body) and I will raise it up (my body). I think his body is in the last half of the verse: destroy this temple (that I just cleansed) and in three days I will raise this temple (my body).] In either case, the pharisees, disciples, and everyone listening had no idea that he was talking about his body; they thought he was speaking of rebuilding a new brick-based temple.

No matter how we understand John 2:19; we have Jesus clearly putting himself in the place of the temple. The differences of interpretation above is inconsequential. All that is meant to be established here is that Jesus sees himself in some significant way as the temple. That is the significant point; and it should be undisputed.

Luke 19:48 is followed immediately by the chief priests and scribes coming to him and challenging his authority to cleanse the temple. This was extremely offensive to them. Jesus’s response is “by what authority does John the Baptist baptize?” Now they refuse to answer the question for obvious reasons. But there is more significance to this question than is usually recognized. As stated in my last post, “Anyone collecting people in the Jordan wilderness was symbolically saying: this is the new exodus. Anybody offering water-baptism for the forgiveness of sins was saying: you can have, here and now, what you would normally get through the Temple.” It is no coincidence that Luke places this incident immediately after Jesus’s cleansing of the temple.

John was claiming that God’s people were not recognized by their temple or torah observance, not at this critical time; no, instead, they are going to be recognized by repenting and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins in preparation for their Messiah.

Moving on from here: consider the nature of some of Jesus’s statements in Matt. 5. Consider what Jesus says about oaths for example: 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

You can compare this to Lev. 19:12; Numbers 30:2. Now, I am not suggesting that Jesus is contradicting Moses. What Jesus is doing however is calling for obedience to a command that is markedly different than what was allowed under Moses. Again, what Jesus commands of his followers is not contradicting Moses on this point, it is different however. Moses didn’t prohibit taking oaths in the way that Jesus prohibited it. What Jesus’s precise meaning here is not really the issue: here, as in several other places in this section, Jesus is saying that there is a law they have heard like “do not commit adultery” and he is adding to it “do not even lust after a woman.”

What Jesus is inaugurating is an elevated ethic that is to characterize the new humanity being created in and around Himself. Christ is inaugurating God’s new kingdom and launching into being a new obedience to which the torah pointed, but which will render the torah inadequate.

When Jesus declares all foods clean in Mark 7, he is inaugurating what will be further implemented in Acts 10 through Peter’s vision. In Peter’s vision God tells Peter that he (God) has declared the previously unclean animals clean. This is significant because in Leviticus the reason God told Israel to separate the clean and unclean animals was because God had separated Israel out from the rest of the world. So, the foundational reason for separating animals, was the fact that Israel as God’s people had been marked out by God as clean, while the rest of the world is considered unclean. Leviticus 20:24-25 “I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. 25 You shall therefore separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean.” This is exactly why at Cornelius’s house, Peter says:“You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.”

These two things are held together in Leviticus 20, and this is why Peter makes the connection that he does. It would be untenable in light of this to say that Peter’s vision, and God’s statement to him, is not specifically referring to clean and unclean animals because that is specifically what it is about. And on the basis of the explicit connection in Leviticus between separating animals, and separating peoples it is self-evident that the two go together. So: if God called Israel to separate animals because He had separated Israel out from the other nations so that it was “unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation,” then, when God declares all animals clean the theological conclusion that Peter draws is that, because of God declaring all animals clean then all men must also be declared clean. Why did he draw that conclusion. Because: in Leviticus the whole reason why they were to separate the animals was because of the seperation of the peoples from Israel; therefore when God unseparates the animals, Peter concludes that men too must be unseparated. (This makes so much sense of the NT, and table fellowship, and circumcision)

So let me recap this into a condensed point:

Jesus continues this ministry of repentance and baptism that began with John the Baptist; and Jesus also claims to possess the authority to forgive sins. He claims authority to put himself in the place of the temple, to retell the story of the passover around himself, to embody Israel as her representative, to declare all foods clean, and to reinterpret the law of Moses around his own authority.

Major Point: Jesus is in effect redrawing the boundary markers that ‘mark out’ God’s people; and he is redrawing them around himself and his own ministry; rather than around torah and temple observance. So how do we know who God’s people are, how can we tell; if not by circumcision and food laws? Answer: Those who trust in and follow the Messiah, Jesus of Nazereth. This is set in contrast to what was the previous boundary markers: circumcision, dietary laws, temple observance, and so on.

Second post: Torah Observant Movement pt: 1, Jesus and the Torah and God’s people

Some preliminary points about the temple:

1. Temple and royalty belonged closely together. When David was establishing his rule, one key move (at least in retrospect) was his bringing of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, and his consequent planning of the Temple. (Sam. 6–7; 1 Chron. 21–2, 28–9; cf. e.g. Ps. 132.). When Solomon built the Temple, he established the pattern that would remain true for all subsequent generations up to and including the first century: the temple-builder was the true king, and vice versa.
2. The symbolism of the Temple was designed to express the belief that it formed the center not only of the physical world but also of the entire cosmos, so that, in being YHWH’s dwelling-place, it was the spot where heaven and earth met.
3. The destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians was a catastrophe at every level, theological as well as political. It could only be explained in terms of YHWH’s having abandoned the temple to its fate. the glory, the Shekinah, had departed; (Ezek. 10:1–22; 11:22f), the Davidic monarchy had been cast aside; (Ps. 89:38–51.) heaven and earth had been pulled apart, so that worship became impossible. (Ps. 137:4–6; cf. Ps. 80:14–19.)1
One of the chief gains of the last twenty years of Jesus-research is that the question of Jesus and the Temple is back where it belongs, at the centre of the agenda. Apart from one or two dissident voices, almost all scholars now writing in the field agree on two basic points: Jesus performed a dramatic action in the Temple, and this action was one of the main reasons for his execution. But at this point agreement stops, and questions begin. What precisely did Jesus do in the Temple? Why did he do it? More precisely, what did he intend both to symbolize and to accomplish by it? In what way was this action a (or the) cause of his death? Did he foresee this consequence, and, if so, did he go ahead with the action despite it or because of it?” (Wright, 205, JVG).

The question of Jesus’s actions toward the temple is huge. Before diving in we must look at what other significant practices Jesus reinterpreted around himself to get a full picture of what is going on and precisely what Jesus’s agenda is.

First consider the passover: The final passover that Jesus celebrated with his disciples points also to the radical way in which the story of Israel is being retold around Jesus and his ministry. For centuries Jews came together to celebrate the exodus out of Israel. When they came together they would say “this is the blood of the lamb that was put over our doorposts, by which we were delivered out from Egypt.” Then they would say “this bread is the lamb that our fathers ate before they started on their great journey through the red sea the promised land.” This celebration was something that happened at the Jerusalem temple and was steeped in God’s covenant people’s identity; something they had done every year for over a thousand years. Imagine the shock when Jesus says “this is my body” and “this is my blood.” The story of the passover is being retold around Jesus, and the bread and wine are now given new, indeed greater, significance.

Second, consider Jesus declaring all foods clean: Mark: 7:19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

The pharisees came and tried to push on Jesus the tradition of the elders which was not derived from the law. And so they watch Jesus to catch him and disciples to accuse him.

Later, and very significantly, Jesus tells a parable (v. 17), and the disciples don’t quite understand it. So, Jesus clarifies and says that what a person eats cannot defile him because its what comes out of the mouth that defiles a man, not what goes into it. And, Mark, the inspired writer, to make sure that no one misses the significance of what Jesus has just spoken, says “thus Jesus declared all foods clean.” Now, many people will come back and say that this is “just in parentheses,” or some other jazz. The fact is, Mark knew that people, especially of the Jewish sort, would not catch the significance of Jesus’s statement. And strictly speaking, Everything in the gospel of Mark is written by Mark, including the words ascribed to Jesus. If Mark is inspired when he says “Jesus spoke this” then he is also inspired when he tells the reader what those words mean.

Healing, forgiveness, renewal, the twelve, the new family and its new defining characteristics, the promise of blessing for the Gentiles, feasts replacing fasts, the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple: all declared, in the powerful language of symbol, that Israel’s exile was over, that Jesus was himself in some way responsible for this new state of affairs, and that all that the Temple had stood for was now available through Jesus and his movement. (This is partly what it means to destroy the temple.)

Jesus was not lightly setting Torah aside, as a false prophet urging people to abandon their ancient loyalties and embrace new ones (though that was clearly how he risked being seen, and how some actually did see him). Nor was he blaspheming against Moses, an offense which according to Josephus could have carried the death penalty; though, again, some of what he said might have been interpreted in that way. He was claiming, once more, to be inaugurating the new age in Israel’s history, to which the Mosaic law pointed but for which it was not adequate. Paul explicitly interprets Jesus’s life and ministry in this way as seen in 2 Cor. 3:7-12. Jesus intended the destruction of the temple to put in its place a better, but different, temple; namely, himself. (as I will argue later, Jesus’s pronouncement of judgment is itself the first step of its destruction.)

In the next section we are going to look at two things: Jesus’s foretelling of the temple’s destruction, the warnings that Israel had to repent with the caution that if they failed to impending judgement is awaiting them. And also, the radical nature of the ministry of John the Baptist will be considered. For us in the 21st century the words that John the Baptist uttered do not carry the shocking force they would have in the 1st century.

Here is a quote from N. T. Wright about John’s ministry:

John the Baptist’s activity was, clearly, ‘political’ as well as ‘religious’, partly in that Herod Antipas may well have been a prime target of John’s invective,62 but also because anyone collecting people in the Jordan wilderness was symbolically saying: this is the new exodus. Anybody offering water-baptism for the forgiveness of sins was saying: you can have, here and now, what you would normally get through the Temple.63 Anybody inviting those who wished to do so to pass through an initiatory rite of this kind was symbolically saying: here is the true Israel that is to be vindicated by YHWH. By implication, those who did not join in had forfeited the right to be regarded as the covenant people. In these ways, completely credibly within the history of first-century Judaism, what John was doing must be seen, and can only be seen, as a prophetic renewal movement within Judaism—a renewal, however, that aimed not at renewing the existing structures, but at replacing them. (Wright, JVG, 160).

This is what paved the way for Israel’s Messiah. This is where we will pick it up in the next post.

Torah Observant Movement

I am about to begin a series of posts that will deal with the Hebrew Observant movement, also known as Hebrew roots. This sect is identified by its insistence that God’s covenant people are called to observe the Torah, the law. The Torah, in many ways, was summed up in the first 5 books of the Old Testament, also known as the Pentateuch. Though the law has wider implications, it is the Pentateuch that is the most commonly appealed to as that which God’s people must continue to obey and observe.

I am writing these posts with the hope that I can serve the local church. My target audience is those who are in the church who have been or will be exposed to the heretical teachings of this torah-observance-movement, henceforth designated TOM. Within this primary purpose, my intention is also to challenge those who are a part of the TOM, and thereby challenge them to rethink the radical claims of Christ, the claims that eventually led to his crucifixion at the hands of his Jewish brethren; which claims were further explored by the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Let me lay out the primary texts we will examine over the next several posts:
Part 1: John 2:19, Matt. 26:61, Mark 14:58, Acts 6:14. Part 2: Mark 7:19, Acts 10, Levitcus 20:22-26, Galatians 2. Part 3: 2 Cor. 3, Romans 7, Romans 10, Acts 15.

In the first part we will examine some of the radical things Jesus said about the temple, and the way in which he treated it. It is understood that the temple played a central role in the life of a torah-observant Jew. There were periods of time when Israel was taken into captivity with no temple, and the recovery of the temple was always central to their identity and the continuation of their people in obedience to God. Jesus pronounces early in his ministry that the temple will be destroyed, that the central institution upon which torah-observance is built will be rebuilt, but with a twist. He teaches that he himself will be the temple, the place where God and man meet and sins are dealt with. Here, as in many other cases, the story of Israel is being retold around Jesus, with Jesus doing what Israel, and the temple, could not do.

“The argument…so far…is that there is a further significant fact: virtually all the traditions, inside and outside the canonical gospels, which speak of Jesus and the Temple speak of its destruction. Mark’s fig-tree incident; Luke’s picture of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem; John’s saying about destruction and rebuilding; the synoptic traditions of the false witnesses and their accusation (Matt. 26:61, Mark 14:58, Acts 6:14.), and of the mocking at the foot of the cross; the charge in Acts that Jesus would destroy the Temple (Acts 6:14): all these speak clearly enough, not of cleansing or reform, but of destruction.” [N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1996), 416.]

This theme will be the first thing we explore to see how Jesus was redrawing the identity of God’s people around the new Jesus-observant-movement instead of Torah observance. This will explain why he offers forgiveness of sins, which is meant to be sought after (by faith) through the temple and torah observance. Jesus claims that now, at the fullness of times, God’s covenant people will be demarcated and marked out as God’s people by faith in Jesus, and not by torah observance. (As a side note: much of the TOM’s confusion is a result of the dispensational theology that says that the OT taught salvation by works. Reformed theologians have always maintained that the OT way of salvation was by grace through faith in God’s provision through Israel; and that such a life of faith was to be lived out in torah observance. Now, in the NT, the path of salvation is still by grace through faith, and this faith must be God’s provision of Jesus the Messiah, and such faith is to be lived out in observance of his “yoke” and obedience to Him. The difference mainly is, God’s people are no longer marked out as God’s people through Torah observance, that manner of identity has been done away with, now God’s people are marked out by faith in the Messiah of Israel, Jesus Christ.)

A Hebrew Matthew?

Even if we step back and grant that Matthew’s gospel was written in Hebrew, where does that leave us. Luke, no doubt, was written in Greek. Along with Acts. John, as well, was certainly written in Greek. All of Paul’s letters were written in Greek.

Now, let us assume that Matthew is in Hebrew, but that we have no extant copies of Matthew in Hebrew (none). The earliest translation we have comes from the 14th century. Then at best all we can do is compare it with the Greek translation. One, cannot necessarily take priority over the other, even if the original Hebrew (which we have not even a copy of) is the true original.

Let us assume that that the one that Shem Tov uses is the absolute original, wrote by Matthew Himself. It would seem, then, that the best approach to a understanding of the NT, would be to recognize Paul, who around 35 A.D. began to corrupt Christianity and to Hellenize it. His influence was pervasive and since Jerusalem was shortly destroyed, his influence became the powerhouse of the next generation of Christianity. For this reason, Matthew, which was written in Hebrew, was translated into Greek and specfically to accomodate Paul’s theology. Luke wrote his account, as a companion of Paul, and followed his thoughts on all of his teachings. Later, disciples of John, and lovers of Paul, put their version of John together, again to accomodate what was already clear in Paul. Jesus was not just a man, He was God, as Paul stresses more than anyone except John. Paul also developed a need for a Trinity. John’s Gospel was developed to meet that need. Paul’s teachings on the law, as the apostle to the Gentiles, in many ways contradicted the Hebrew Matthew, as he clearly taught that Jesus brought the law to an end, teaching that the Mosaic law was temporary, and that it was brought to an end in Christ, and that Christ has freed us from it, and that we have died to it. We must note too that Paul’s letters were the first to circulate in the church. This would be good evidence that he quickly jacked stuff up. Im sure the Gentiles loved Him.

Now, if this position is taken it is much more tenable I think that to twist Paul’s writings like they are origami. I devoted the bulk of my studies to Paul, and feel confident that if we study what he taught, we will come to the conclusion that Christ is the end of the law, and that the law is temporary, and has been brought to its consummation and termination. Instead of going this route, though, I will defend our view of Matthew. If this view of Matthew turns out to be less warranted, I don’t see how Hebrew Christianity (Goshen) can hold up. The Hebrew Matthew seems to be the lincpin holding it all together.

What I am going to do however is give lines of evidence that teaches first that Matthew was originally written in Greek.

Part 1:
First, like in Acts 26, the Greek phrase used there is “te Hebraidi dialekto” which is “in the Hebrew dialect (that is, or could be Aramaic).” When Paul said that Jesus spoke to him te Hebraidi dialekto, did he mean “in Hebrew” or “in Aramaic” or even “in a Hebrew dialect that could be either Hebrew or Aramaic.”

[Translatios differ here: in the Hebrew tongue” – KJV “in the Hebrew language” – NRSV “in Aramaic” – NIV “in Aramaic” – TNIV (with note: Or Hebrew). “in Aramaic” – NLT(SE) “in Hebrew” – The Message]

There is a case where Aramaic is the only tenable option of what Jesus spoke: John 19:13 reads: “When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha [Hebraisti de Gabbatha].” Gabbatha is an Aramaic word that means “height” or “eminence.” Thus, in this case, Hebraisti means “in Aramaic,” not “in Hebrew.”

Part 2: Papias has no writings extant today, his writings are quoted by Eusebius from the 4th century.

There are a variety of reasons (scholarly and apologetic as well as evangelical) why the book of Matthew may have been translated into Hebrew in later centuries. But the existence of a 14th century translation doesn’t seem to me to be particularly convincing evidence that Matthew wrote the book in Hebrew originally (or that this is it, even if he had)

The difficulty for us is that the Greek Gospel of Matthew shows not the slightest sign of having been translated from a Semitic language. As we will discuss below, Matthew not only seems to have been written in Greek but also to have drawn on sources which were at least predominantly in Greek. If Irenaeus has in mind our Gospel of Matthew, then he is clearly wrong. If he has in mind some other document, then it has not survived and has, in any case, no close relationship to canonical Matthew.

A few rebuttals: 1. If matthew was originally wrote in Greek, then, his use of the LXX and the Hebrew, and unique variations would conincide seeing as he was writing to Hebrews, using Greek language. If Matthew wrote his work in Hebrew, though, he would not have quoted Greek sources. Matthew, the book, points to someone writing in Greek who was very knowledgeable of the Hebrew language.
2. As far Hebraisms, it is generally agreed that Jesus spoke Hebrew, Aramiac, and Greek. Most believe that Jesus spoke Aramaic (a Hebrew dialect) mainly, and if this is true, then Matthew’s Hebraisms are instances of him translating Jesus’s words into Greek. He collects Jesus’s saying, which were in Aramaic, and he writes them into Greek. It is the sayings of Jesus mainly that contain the Hebraisms, and this is consistent with Matthew not translating a Letter, but recording what he heard.

Biggest piece of evidence from either side: The existence of Matthew in Greek in various forms and in incredible volume from the 2-3 century forward compared to the existence of not one line of a Hebrew gospel in any early manuscript or papyrus form is to me still decisive. I don’t see how any line of evidence presented so far can trump that one argument for a Greek Text. To recapitulate this: there are zero manuscripts from the first 1200 years after Christ of a Hebrew manuscript of Matthhew. There are numerous Greek manuscripts, some of which date back to pre 150 a.d. FYI: The first Hebrew manuscript was recorded by a Christ rejecting Jew around 13-1400 a.d.

My personal position is this: What seems most likely, is that Matthew wrote his original letter in Greek, but that he compiled memoirs of Christ and his sayings, which would have been most likely in Aramaic (or possibly but less likely Hebrew). This is a common thing for a writer to do. So, to say that Matthew wrote his work in a Hebrew dialect (Which Aramiac is a Hebrew dialect along with Hebrew itself), does not mean that it is the original. Matthew’s original doesn’t show signs of translation, but of historical retellings. It is very likely that Matthew gathered all of the Oral teachings of Jesus, which were in Aramaic, in preparation for writing his work. This would fit well with most of the quotes from the Fathers as well.