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Divine Words, for Divine Guidance

"Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know more."(Confucius)

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In this article we want to discuss an overview of the composition of God's divine Words of guidance, the Biblical canon. Through the power of these words God created the heavens and the earth and by the same words God will restore all things to their original created glory and purpose. 

"But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. " (2 Peter 3:5 NIV)

Timothy writes this about the Hebrew Scriptures:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

(2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV)

In this post modern age, where absolute truth is not an absolute reality anymore, we still confess the entire Bible to be the divine Word of God, guiding and leading humanity through all generations, with authority and power, in all matters of life.

This body of truth was first revealed by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, to teach and instruct Israel towards life in the 'Kingdom of God' under His rule and reign, in the Promised Land.

Jesus, the one greater than Moses, reaffirmed this  same body of truth, the Hebrew Scriptures, to be the 'constitution' of the  Kingdom of God when He announced the good news of the return of the Kingdom of God.

"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." (Heb 1:1-3 NIV)

The New Testament is not a 'new word from God' but is God's original Word, correctly explained and interpreted by Jesus for life in the returned Kingdom of God.  Let us take a moment to explore the composition of the Bible.

FYI2.jpgThe Christian Biblical canon consists of: the Hebrew canon termed the 'Tanakh', known by Christians as the 'Old Testament', and the 'New Testament, termed B'rit Hadashah, in Hebrew.

The Hebrew word "b'rit" means "covenant or contract", therefore the 'Old Testament' is the 'First Covenant' God made with Israel, the one they did not remain faithful to, and the 'New Testament' the 'New Covenant' God made with Israel, through Yeshua (Jesus), now including all Gentile nations who would accept Him as the only God and Yeshua, His anointed king, entering into the renewed agreement.

The Greek word for "covenant" or "b'rit" is "diathêkê" which can also mean 'testament 'or 'will'[1].   

According to the Hebrew word's meaning, the Tanakh is God's written "covenant or contract" with Israel, His Vassal nation, who He rescued from slavery from under the oppressive hand of the Pharaohs of Egypt.  

From the Greek meaning of the word, 'will' or 'testament' the entire Bible can be seen as the description of the 'inherited new life' for humanity, under the authority of Yahweh, once we 'die' to a life of sin and death, under to the rule and reign of foreign kings and gods, and are 'born again' into the kingdom of Yahweh our God and Yeshua His king.  

The Tanakh, the Old Testament or Old Covenant, consists of three sections; The Torah, The Prophets (Nevi'im) and The Writings (K'tuvim). From these three terms we derive the acronym, Tanakh.

 

The Torah, translated as 'The Pentateuch' in Greek, meaning 'The five Words', contains the first five books of Moses.

The style of these five books resembles the different covenants in common use in the Ancient Near East, the world surrounding Israel, which they were part of[2]. Elements of all three of these different treaties[3]  can be observed in God's covenant with Israel at Sinai, written down as the 'written Law' called the Torah. These books are the core content of God's communication to Israel, instructing and teaching them about His standards of righteousness and means of relationship with Him as their personal, Holy God. This God, their vassal king and bridegroom, a wealthy landowner, saves them out of Egypt to give them their own land as a marriage gift.

On a wider scale, the Torah can be seen as the blueprint God had in mind when He created the universe as His home, according to which  all humanity would live, in relationship with Him as His 'kingdom of Priests'[4]

 FYI3.jpgWhat did Jesus say about the Torah?

17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen; will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:17-20 NIV) 

Yeshua first and foremost acts as a teacher and instructor of Torah, his Father's eternal word. He describes himself in the likeness of Moses.

This is a point of view which has been almost lost in the Church, compared with the more familiar comparisons of Christ to Adam, David and Joshua yet has as firm a basis in fact as any of those. Moses is, as it would seem, the only character of the Old Testament to whom Jesus expressly likens himself: "Moses wrote of me." John 5:46. It suggests three main points of likeness:

  • Christ was, like Moses, the great prophet of the people, the last, as Moses was the first.
  • Christ, like Moses, is a lawgiver: "Him shall ye hear."
Christ, like Moses, was a prophet out of the midst of the nation, "from their brethren."

 
As Moses was the entire representative of his people, feeling for them more than for himself, absorbed in their interests, hopes and fears, so, with reverence be it said, was Christ.

In Hebr. 3:1-19; 12:24-29; Acts 7:37 Christ is described, though more obscurely, as the Moses of the 'new covenant', as the apostle or messenger or mediator of God to the people, as the controller and leader of the flock or household of God.

The details of their lives are sometimes, though not often, compared. Acts 7:24-28, 35.

In Jude 1:9 there is an allusion to an altercation between Michael and Satan over the body of Moses.[5]

 

Christians and the Torah

 The unfortunate Greek translation of Torah as 'Law', Paul's argument in the letter to the Romans concerning 'salvation by grace' and the Protestant Reformation under Martin Luther, caused a tendency among Christians teachers to regard the 'Old Testament' as less importanty to the Christian faith.

 20For "no human being will be justified in his sight" by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20 (NRSV)  and

21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:21-24 (NIV)

This point of view is not supported by Biynah and I will continually strive to show the importance for understanding the Hebrew Scriptures for a better and deeper understanding of the beauty and magnificence of the 'New Testament'.

This is a topic of intense debate, which I do not want to address fully in this article. The only comment at this point is: if God himself views the Torah as absolute and 'done away with by Christ', why would God state the following about Torah?

33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jer 31:32-33 (NRSV)

15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
16 "This is the covenant that I will make with them
     after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
     and I will write them on their minds," Heb 10:15-16 (NRSV)

​In this day and age of lawlessness, due to the lack of an absolute standard for acceptable human conduct, I regard it of utmost importance for the community of God to take a fresh look at 'God's standards for righteous living' for those who have entered into a blood covenant with Him, not so that we can be saved, but because we are saved by the blood of the 'New Covenant'.

 

The Prophets are generally divided into the Early Prophets and the later Prophets. These books contain warnings and ethical advice to the kings and the people of Israel, pleading with them to remain faithful to Yahweh and to turn away from false gods and wrong aims and conduct, violating the covenant by not adhering to the covenant stipulations in righteous conduct.

Through the prophets God reminds His bride of His promises of blessings for obedience but warns them about the punishments for disobedience. God's love is constantly combined with His holiness but also His just wrath.

The prophets make predictions through these writings, but they are far less foretellers than forth-tellers, boldly announcing God's word to kings and people, not always willing to hear. Their writings can be regarded as continuous commentaries and interpretations of the covenant between Israel and their God and the requirement of holy living.

The best way to study these writing would be in conjunction with the historical reign of the various kings of Israel and Judah, within the proper political and economical context.

 

The Writings include a variety of different literary forms; Psalms, Proverbs, pithy sayings, the book of Job, Esther, Songs of Solomon, Daniel, Ezra – Nehemiah, 1&2 Samuel, and Chronicles.

 

These writings are recited at celebration festivals, reminding Israel as a nation of the miraculous acts of their God – King, who acted as their deliverer in their history. They serve as constant reminders, like monuments, of Yahweh's unbroken faithfulness to His covenant with Israel.

 

The 'New Testament' or B'rit Hadashah

The Gospels

The twenty– seven books of the B'rit Hadashah were written in the first century of the Common Era by at least eight authors. Of these, the first four, present four distinct views of Yeshua's life and purpose in salvation history.

The first three are known as the Synoptic Gospels meaning that they have the same point of view.

 

The Acts of the Emissaries

Luke is the author of both the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Emissaries and can be regarded as one book consisting of two parts.

 

 The Letters

The rest of the B'rit Hadashah or 'New Testament' except the last book, consists of letters. The first thirteen are by Sha'ul the 'emissary' to the Gentiles. Nine of the letters are written to communities of Jesus the Messiah, consisting of both Jews and Gentiles, and four to individuals; two to Timothy and one each to Titus and Philemon.

The next group of  general letters are: the letter to the Hebrews, the author of this letter is not clear, the letter of James, written by the brother of Jesus, two letters by Peter the Apostle, three by John the Apostle and one from Jude, another brother of Jesus.

 

Revelation

The final book of the New Testament is 'The Revelation of Yeshua the Messiah to Yochanan (John), known as the 'Apocalypse'. The author of Revelation is most probably  not the same person as Yochanan (John) the Apostle of Jesus.

 

The Central Message of the Bible

The Bible is God's revelation of Himself and His plan and purpose with humanity. It describes the salvation history worked out by God, bringing salvation to humanity, caught up in the misery of a life separated from a relationship with Him, creator of all life. This salvation came through Israel and God's Messiah Yeshua, by His grace, towards a renewed life under the authority of Jesus the true king, who rules and reigns by the power and authority of the divine Word of his God and Father.

 

Both the 'First and the New Covenant' speak of God's grace and unmerited favour towards humanity, saved for a life of 'absolute truth and morality' described in His divine Word.

 

Bibliography

  • ​Ann, W. (215, August 5). Understanding God's Everlasting Covenant. Retrieved from Gospel Herald.com: http://gospel-herald.com
  • Dictionary, S. B. (2015, August 14). WORDsearch Bible Software. Austin, Texas, USA.
  • Sheila E. McGinn, S. E. (2015, August 10). Covenants in the Ancient near East. Retrieved from Resources for Studies of the Bible & Early Christianity: http://webserv.jcu.edu/bible/200/Lectures/ANE_Covenants.pdf
  • Stern, D. H. (1998). Complete ewish Bible. Clarksville, USA: ewish New Testament Publications, INC.

 


[1] (Stern, 1998, p. xix)

[2] (Sheila E. McGinn, 2015)

Three Kinds of Covenants existed in the ANE:

  • Suzerainty (or Vassal) Treaty - Agreement between two unequal parties, one of higher status and one of lower status. Suzerain Covenant, treaty, or contract briefly defined, was a means for establishing a relationship that otherwise did not naturally exist between two or more parties. The covenant stipulations were spoken or read before the parties and then sanctioned by the swearing of an oath of allegiance in a ceremony of ratification. The Hittite suzerainty treaty form, which was known to exist between c. 1400-1200 B.C., influenced the advancement of the secular suzerain covenant theory as the formula for the covenant God made with ancient Israel at Sinai. (Ann, 215)

 

  • Parity Treaty - Agreement between two parties of equal status. Two monarchs forming an alliance for mutual aid or two merchants forming a trade agreement or the marriage contract –ketubah- between the father of the bride and the groom. ( the bride herself is not of equal status with the groom)

 

  • Land Grant - Agreement between two unequal parties, one of higher status and one of lower status. Free gift of land to faithful subject of a great monarch or servant of a wealthy landowner. Greater party binds himself to the treaty. Lesser party benefits from the gift, but may not be bound to any specific stipulations, either before or after reception of the land grant.

 

[4] Ex. 19:5-6; 1Pet.2:9

[5] (Dictionary, 2015)