You may know that Pope Benedict XVI was in Israel this last week. What you may not know is that he and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had words about the original language of Jesus.
The Globe and Mail reported, "Pope Francis and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traded words on Monday over the language spoken by Jesus two millennia ago. “Jesus was here, in this land. He spoke Hebrew,” Netanyahu told Francis, at a public meeting in Jerusalem in which the Israeli leader cited a strong connection between Judaism and Christianity. “Aramaic,” the Pope interjected. “He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew,” Netanyahu shot back.
Israeli linguistics professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann told Reuters that both Netanyahu, son of a distinguished Jewish historian, and the Pope, the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, had a point. “Jesus was a native Aramaic speaker,” he said about the largely defunct Semitic language closely related to Hebrew. “But he would have also known Hebrew because there were extant religious writings in Hebrew.” Zuckermann said that during Jesus’ time, Hebrew was spoken by the lower classes – “the kind of people he ministered to.”
Friends, this ignorance runs throughout the Christian community right up to the Pope himself! People don't realize the mother tongue of the Jewish people was also the mother tongue of Jesus. They assume it had to be EITHER Hebrew or Aramaic, when archaeology and historical writings indicate that BOTH Hebrew and Aramaic were living languages and were used in the time of Yeshua. They don't realize Jesus read the Bible in Hebrew, prayed in Hebrew, knew and used Hebrew IN ADDITION TO Aramaic.
Can you see why I'm so passionate about teaching Hebrew from a Yeshua-centered perspective? We have our work but out for us! Join me - and the Holy Language tribe - REPRESENTING our Hebrew-speaking Saviour! Learn his language for yourself at holylanguage.com.
Robin's a member of the Holy Language tribe, following Yeshua and learning Hebrew! Here's her story.
Hi, Everyone! I'm Robin, and this is my story. I've tried so hard to pare this down, but condensing 58 years of searching into a few paragraphs, and then sharing what I do for fun and work, has been a challenge :)
I grew up in California, but our family was from Alabama - strictly Bible-belt attitudes! You went to church every Sunday because that's just what people did. I can't say that the Christian lifestyle was extremely important the rest of the week, however. My grandfather often read the Bible on his own, but he was the only one. As a child I had no idea that the desire to serve Yeshua could be all-encompassing. It was simply what one did on Sunday, just as one went to school Monday through Friday.
We all attended a Disciples of Christ congregation. The story I had been told was that earlier all our relatives had been Methodist (and indeed, that's what my cousins were), but that when my mother's parents had gotten married, that had changed. My grandmother—named Aleph—had been Episcopalian, and instead of her joining my grandfather's church or him joining hers, they had together joined a third denomination that they could both get behind. When my mother and father got married, he—a German Lutheran—had also joined the Disciples of Christ.
Where we lived there were many Jewish families, and in my class in elementary school there were few “Gentiles”. We called the winter break “Christmas vacation”, but our holiday crafts were all about Hannukah, and on High Holy Days there were very few students in school. It was intriguing to me to learn about Jewish customs, but when I'd be caught drawing a Star of David or talking about foods I had enjoyed at a friend's house I'd be told to stop it because “I wasn't Jewish”. I was never allowed to go to shul or temple with my friends. I couldn't see the harm at the time, and I wondered why there was such a concern that I might pick up any Jewish behaviors or preferences.
As I grew into a teenager, I became one of those wild kids parents hope they don't have lol. I rejected church entirely, had friends that alarmed my family, and played with the occult. One evening a fellow I had dated casually invited me to a “meeting” that turned out to be a Satanic worship service. I sat in a circle with the other attendees, knowing that sooner or later in the service I'd need to be some sort of participant. But also as I sat there, I realized that I knew there was a God. I had always known. I didn't just believe it because that had been my upbringing, I knew. And this God was as described in the Bible, and He had standards of right and wrong, and if you didn't honor His standards you could not go where He was. I had denied this knowledge, but when I was faced with a true enemy the knowledge resurfaced. I turned to my date: “You are all going to hell, and I am NOT going to go with you.” I got up and walked out and wandered around a bad neighborhood in Hollywood until the meeting broke up. Then I got in his car and he drove me home with neither of us speaking the entire time. We never spoke again.
So now…what to do? What church to attend? I looked into the Catholic Church and even contemplated becoming a nun, because to that time those were the only women I had seen who lived a life for God full-time. I also was introduced to my first serious born-again Christians, and I considered that lifestyle. I eventually gravitated back to a Disciples of Christ congregation, but when I asked questions about eternal truth I was answered with opinions and promises that “when the Board resolves that issue we will let you know”. I wanted a religion with God's truth at the center, and I was having a hard time finding it.
Then I was attracted to the Mormon Church because of their stand that the gospel never changes and their doctrine is the same as the gospel the Savior lived and espoused. Yes! This is what I've been searching for! Old Testament prophets as a bonus! I joined … but that only lasted a couple of years before I was disillusioned there, too. What was the “true church” doing celebrating HALLOWEEN, of all things? And if nothing changed, why was the sabbath on Sunday instead of Saturday? I decided that the problem must be ME. Why couldn't I settle down and be satisfied anywhere?
An equally non-devout Mormon friend moved up to Salt Lake City, and she invited me to move up with her. I was ready for a new environment, so I went. We attended a number of different churches together and remained uncommitted to any of them. We just never seemed to fit anywhere. Here we had been active Mormons in California but non-active ones in Salt Lake City. Talk about being a bit out of sync …
During this period I met my future husband. He had been born in Georgia and had recently relocated to Salt Lake City for work (marrying a Georgia boy definitely pleased my family lol). He too was initially attracted to the Mormon Church, and then also saw the inconsistencies and backed away. We home churched, attended other congregations, had just our own family for Sunday church, a variety of things. Our children—six of them—probably felt some confusion, and I wish we could have settled sooner. But, “if wishes were horses” and all that, I guess!
At some point in all this I took a genealogy class with some friends. The Mormon Church considers knowing one's ancestry to be important, and being surrounded by Mormon friends who enjoyed the pursuit, I thought I'd give it a go myself. I had never known much about my family, and I had to start right close to me. My grandmother Aleph, who had died when I was 12, had told me she had been born and raised in Piedmont, Alabama, so I thought I'd start there. Hmm. No Episcopal church there. Must have been in a nearby town. No … the closest Episcopal Church never heard of her family. They wouldn't have driven farther than that, would they? I'll try. No Episcopal Church in northern Alabama knows her family. Maybe the church they attended is no longer there! I'll write the diocese and national organization … again, no. No Alexanders. This is CRAZY!
I tried many other avenues, all pointless. At one point I was sitting in the Genealogical Library rolling through microfiche for hours, looking at the names of all the people buried in all Alabama cemeteries, all handwritten and hard to discern at times. Scroll. Scroll. Roll. Blur. Spin. WAIT. WHAT? Alexanders! A bunch of them! What cemetery is this? … A Jewish cemetery … must be a coincidence, right? I'm looking for other Alexanders. No, I'm not. Those are her parents. Right there. And look at the relatives named Moshe and Ira and Avram ….
Now it all made sense … “ 'What an unusual name, Aleph. Where'd you get it?' 'It's a family name, and I wish I didn't have it.' ” “Don't draw Stars of David. You're not Jewish!” “I'm so glad you didn't inherit the Alexander nose.” “I don't know where my olive skin came from.”
I called my mom and told her she was Jewish! She sounded okay with it, but it never meant anything to her really, and she continued attending the Disciples of Christ Church. For me, at first it was just a fun factoid about myself, but it didn't particularly change the way I lived, either.
As our children grew into teens themselves, we met some people who observed the Feasts, eschewed pork and shellfish, learned Hebrew, and used different names for Biblical figures: Reb Shaul, Yeshua, Yochanan the Immerser. The more we studied, the more consistent all this seemed, but we didn't talk to our kids too much about it, because we didn't want to just add more confusion or dead-ends to their lives. What really turned the tide for us was one of our married sons and his wife calling and asking if they could come over and talk to us about something important. They were expecting their first baby, and they started by saying that they wanted to raise their family with one set of standards and beliefs. Therefore, they would not be celebrating Christmas with us anymore, because if it wasn't in Torah, they wouldn't be doing it. (Completely unknown to us, they had been studying Hebrew Roots as well.) I don't even remember moving from my chair. I just found myself on my knees in front of them asking, “Can we please do it with you?”
So that began the slow withdrawal from “Christianity” and the journey into a Torah-observant lifestyle. To be honest, my husband still has a couple of toes in Sunday church, but he has been entirely compassionate and supportive of my observances. This is ME. I am JEWISH. My ancestors have called me home, and I feel as though I've finally found my soul, and then set that soul free. I went and visited an Orthodox Synagogue, and the Rabbi proclaimed me 100% Jewish and a member. I actually had my kitchen redone and officially kashered and approved … not that it was allowed to stay that way hahah! Ah well! I don't often get to Bais Menachem for services, but when I do, I love to look through the clouded glass to the men's side, watching them daven and dance. I always feel like I'm looking back through time, watching my Master worshiping His Father. (The Rabbi didn't exactly ask me if I believed in the Messiah, and I, um, didn't exactly volunteer it.)
Have any of you watched the aish.com music video about “Rosh Hashanah's Beautiful”? The fall it came out, just a couple of years ago I think, I watched it over and over. And over and over and over. “When you're true to yourself you set your soul free.” “You're tired of being confused.” “Look to your roots”. “Bring out the Ultimate You”. “The shofar blows”. That song sums up my odyssey and its destination. Now my daughter has claimed it as her song as well.
There isn't much of a local congregation, officially anyway, where we are. So we meet on an irregular basis in homes and get together for study sessions or holy days. We've been to a couple of Hebraic Roots Network Conventions. In the “wilderness” we develop strong bonds, living as spread apart as we are. For Pesach, we now have extended family for big seders: us, my son and his growing family, my daughter-in-law's older brother and his family, his mother-in-law (who has become a good friend of mine), usually others of our adult children, friends without family to celebrate with, and invariably half a dozen “investigators”. We gave away all the Christmas decorations and wrapping years ago. I light the shabbat candles every erev shabbat. We're hosting a big Shavuot celebration in a couple of weeks with a bonfire and lesson and—of course—a dairy dessert bar.
I wanted to learn Hebrew because I had had all I wanted of others telling me what the scriptures “really” meant. I wanted to read it in God's own tongue for myself, pray over the wording myself, let the Ruach HaKodesh direct me without a middle-man. I want to speak the language my ancestors spoke. I want to learn more about my God by understanding how He phrases things.
Facebook is awesome! Through Facebook I've found an online community of believers in Yeshua, and places to ask questions and bat around halacha. I'm one of those who feels some of my best and closest friends have been made online. Another Canadian believer, Sombra, that I met on Facebook, suggested holylanguage.com to me when I was looking for a less expensive way to continue studying Hebrew than taking the next semester at eTeacher. I LOVED my instructor there, and I learned a lot, and I made friends there as well. But I felt I couldn't keep up with the cost, and yet I wanted to learn more. So many free or inexpensive venues online do little more than teach the aleph-bet. I have LOVED Holy Language Institute! Thank you, Sombra, for your encouragement, and most of all, thank you, Izzy, for all your insights and for such a quality program!
I love my King. The only thing I want to do, all the rest of my days, is submit myself to His service. May He be the only thing I look to. May He always be in the center, as if He were frontlets between my eyes. May my every thought and word be acceptable before Him, and as for the rest, may my soul be as dust. And may He always grant all of us who love to do His will our portion in His Torah.
For those with whom I'm not yet better connected, if you wish, you can find me on Facebook as Robin Schwindt Smith. My personal email is ShemaYisrael2011 at gmail dot com. I'm including a picture of just me standing there, because it was hard to hold the phone and also do what I do for fun and income: I'm a yoga instructor! So that's just me in workout clothes, but in my home! I also love to cook—mostly vegan fare—and I am graduating my last fully homeschooled “child” next month.
You have a story too, and the tribe would love to hear it! Share here?
Hebrew Chapters is going to be different.
I won't bore you with all the background details - just tell you that the new Hebrew Chapters are going to be shorter and more focused. The deeper word studies I'll be doing as Hebrew Sketches instead.
I'm also going to begin just going chapter by chapter through books of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, instead of bouncing around.
So, without further ado, we're reading Genesis 1 for Hebrew Chapters this week!
Watch the trailer here http://youtu.be/CywuJZVURjM or at the bottom of this email, and watch the whole episode here!
meme of the week
Make your own Hebrew meme here or here and send it to email@example.com, and we'll share yours too.
I hope this news lineup from Judaism, Christianity, and the world at large helps you stay informed and dangerous in prayer and conversation!