As I've shared with you in my last several emails, I am feeling a great urgency in my spirit for the Hebrew roots movement. New people want to learn about the Jewish roots of their faith, only to be taught misinformation that disconnects them from the Jewish people and from traditional Judaism...the irony!
I once again go head to head with this problem in this third Mishnah Snapshots lesson, looking at what Yeshua and his apostles thought of the Mishnah. Again, this lesson is FREE so watch it here or at the bottom of this email, and share it with anyone who would find it helpful.
I do have one specific thing to say about this lesson - I think Nehemia Gordon is one of the worst things that ever happened to the Hebrew roots movement. (If you don't know who Nehemia Gordon is, he belongs to a very small sect of Jews called "Karaites" who reject traditional Judaism and claim to only follow the written Torah. He's become somewhat popular in the Hebrew roots movement because, although he doesn't believe in Yeshua as Messiah, he talks openly about the 'Hebrew Yeshua versus the Greek Jesus'.) And if you're a fan of Nehemia's, please hear me out before you get upset. Nothing against him personally - he's a warm and funny guy, a real mensch.
The problem is that, even though Gordon talks about the 'Hebrew Yeshua', he is teaching misinformation about him. For instance, Gordon promotes a variant reading of Matthew 23 based on a Shem Tov manuscript of the Hebrew Matthew that would have Yeshua telling his disciples to disregard Jewish tradition, and only follow the written Torah as they understand it. Thankfully, this teaching is easy to prove false, which is one of the things we cover in this lesson. But this one false teaching has done immeasurable damage to new people wanting to learn about the Jewish roots of their faith - distancing them from the Torah as Yeshua practiced it, damaging their relationship with the Jewish community, and causing them to misrepresent Messiah to his own Jewish people. Not to mention causing mass confusion and division by encouraging people to reject Jewish tradition and make up their own personal Torah. Hopefully you can see the problem, and see why I'm doing everything in my power to clear the air.
I hope you enjoy the rest of this digest. And if there's anything on your mind, just hit reply. We're here for you!
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For Hebrew Verses we read Genesis 39:1-12. Some of the things we touched on: The possibility that Potiphar was a castrated eunuch, which would explain his wife's behaviour. The literal concrete meaning of success. An aberrant i.e. freaky plural usage of a singular word that may hint at the spirituality of Joseph. An unusual usage of the aleph and tav as a preposition, again hinting at Joseph's relationship with Adonai. An example of the dangers of text outside of context - unless Potiphar's wife really was also the wife of God. Watch it here!
We also read Matthew 15:1-15. Some of the things we touched on: How "Hebrew" can mean transgressor, and is related to the word for blind. What Kaballah actually means. Why the words for honouring or cursing one's parents come from the verbs to be light or heavy. The difference between the traditions and commandments of men, and why traditions aren't usually bad. Watch it here!
Jonathan released his newest "fun emoji Hebrew Scripture" video, reading through Proverbs 3:5. Watch it here!
And on the blog, Ashley wrote "The Oil of Obedience". Read it here! And Ana wrote "Who Do You Choose?" Read it here!
Eunice is following Yeshua in a Hebrew way - or, as she would put it, learning who he is in a Hebrew way! Here’s her story.
It is possible that I don’t really belong to this tribe – my religious practice isn’t Jewish. Although I love celebrating Shabbat with my friends when I visit Israel, and I love listening to Hebrew worship songs, as of now I only do these things as a gentile “guest,” and not as my regular practice. I am not following Yeshua in a Hebrew way, but I am learning who Yeshua is in a Hebrew way. What has captured my heart at this point is the study of the Hebrew Scriptures, and I will tell you the story of how that came about. If you are not interested in that, please feel free to skip to the next story.
I grew up a pastor’s daughter in a Seventh-day Adventist family and culture in South Korea. Even through my family’s immigration to the United States, Adventism was the constant theme of my life into adulthood. I went through their school system, served in the church, and even married in the church. It was within this family and religion where I learned as a toddler about Yeshua (Yesu in my language) dying for me on the cross, and then formed a habit of reading my Bible every day as soon as I learned how to read.
My parents worked at the Adventist seminary in Seoul, Korea, where Hebrew and Greek were required subjects for theology students. Because seminary professors often preached sermons at the college church, I was introduced to little tiny bits of the Biblical languages, theology, and even archeology. My heart leapt at these exposures, and I dreamed of studying these extremely interesting subjects when I grew up. When I proudly told my father about it, his reaction stunned me. “But you can’t, because you are a girl! Even if you were to study theology in college and get a degree, no one will hire you. It is no use!” So died my early dreams, and it seemed unfair.
During my late twenties, when Randy and I were still practically newlyweds, I started to feel an intense hunger and thirst to meet and to know God personally, rather than being content in having “all the right doctrines,” as I was taught we had. For a long time being a part of the remnant and being very good, even flawless, at keeping the law of God was the most important thing to me, but the hunger to meet Him and know His presence now became overpowering. It didn’t seem fair for St. Paul to have met the risen Lord personally and I couldn’t! Or Could I? Because, if I can’t, how in the world am I to be His witness?
Just when the hunger became unbearable God providentially led us to Randy’s former Adventist high school Bible teacher, who had left Adventism and was now pastoring a charismatic church. This opened up our eyes to the real presence of the Holy Spirit, and we spent the next several years joyfully learning how to experience and minister in the Holy Spirit. I don’t mean to say by this that the Holy Spirit wasn’t in the Adventist church. Quite the contrary! After we got introduced to the Holy Spirit, when we occasionally visited the Adventist church that my father was pasturing, I felt the Holy Spirit’s presence come when my father invited Him in prayer! The personal encounter with the Holy Spirit was so life giving and healing, and I began to experience increasing freedom in my life. He was setting me free from patterns of sin I was stuck in, and training me how think & perceive according to God’s word, and how to break free from old habits of thought and destructive self talk. Head knowledge was starting to become heart knowledge, and heart knowledge was forming a new framework for healthy habits. It was incredibly fun to watch people get miraculously healed, learn to listen to the voice of God, and to begin to minister to others in confidence that God was present right there as you prayed - speaking, touching, loving, forgiving, healing, delivering, and empowering people!
However, there was a cost to pay for such exciting life in the Spirit – many people that I knew in this new environment weren’t well grounded in the Bible, and some were going into extremes in teaching and practice. Often the “spiritual gifts” became so elevated that people who exhibited supernatural gifts were exempt from scrutiny. No one pastored certain gifts or called out the errors and excesses to help people grow in proper use of the gifts - maybe because everyone was afraid to quench the Holy Spirit. This resulted in some people using God as an excuse to do ungodly things that they want, some getting offended by weird manifestations, while some got hurt by the gifts that had gotten out of hand.
One problem that I could see was our knowledge of the Bible was too shallow – in my old church we often used the Bible as a puzzle to figure out the end time events. When we did that we tended to see the Bible as a collection of proof texts. On the other hand, in some of the “spirit-filled” churches we have attended we were taking a very loose, subjective view of the Bible and let ourselves get carried away by the wind of the spirit, which isn’t always holy, and which is often indistinguishable from our own thoughts.
Here is what I am learning. We need sincerity and obedience, and we need flexibility to learn from the Holy Spirit and to have Him correct our misunderstandings. But in order to accommodate both sincere obedience and flexibility to be corrected, we need to know what the Scriptures really say! In every generation people need to interact directly with the text of the Bible to understand what the authors were saying to the original audience, and what is the picture of God that emerges from the books, what Jesus says about that, and then how to apply that understanding to their particular time, culture, and community. In order to do that effectively I believe that each community needs to be connected to the original texts and cultures of the Bible. It is not enough for me to figure out what God is saying to me personally, but the believing community as a whole needs to engage with the Bible to work out a common understanding of God, His kingdom, and His purpose for that community.
Learning Biblical Hebrew and Greek is critical in that effort. Keeping up with developments of archeology and history are important. Learning even the background literatures in which the books were written is also important. Obviously this is more than a 4-year degree pursuit. It is a lifelong habit and culture, and God is worthy of all that trouble and effort to get to know. And I believe that when a community of believers, across the denominational, ethnic, and cultural boundaries, engage with the Bible and with each other this way, we will see profound unity in the body of Christ.
A parallel development with my spiritual journey was my husband’s literary career. Though Randy was trained as a theoretical physicist, he had an intense interest in the 1st century Israel, Biblical archeology, the church history, and he loved reading fiction. All these interests combined into a dream of putting everything loves together into well narrated, action-filled stories that bring readers into the first century Israel to the beginnings of the Christian faith. While I was busy raising our children and homeschooling them, Randy started attending the local Messianic congregation, learning Hebrew, and he even went to Israel to see for himself the lay of the land of which he was writing. I was glad of all that he was doing, but finances were tight and my time was being poured out into the kids, so I didn’t feel I could start learning right along with him.
Fast forward 20 years – Around the time I graduated all our children, Randy bought for his research a software called Logos Bible Software, in a package that included the Hebrew Bible, linked with the Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew & English Lexicon, and he kindly loaded up a simplified version of it on his old iPad so I could use it to learn to read the Hebrew scriptures! The only daunting thing was how to sound things out and learn the grammar. It turned out that Randy also owned a copy of Kelley’s Biblical Hebrew Grammar, but I didn’t feel very comfortable slogging through the grammar book as my first introduction to the language. I needed an audio Hebrew Bible, and I needed a teacher to get me started. So off to the internet I went, and there I found the Holy Language Institute, with Izzy Avraham’s Hebrew Quest! Furthermore Holy Language Institute had audio files of all 39 books of the Old Testament, read by the fantastic Father Abraham Shmuelof on YouTube! This completed my wish list of resources! Almost. I am still waiting for the audio files of Shmuelof to be linked to Logos Hebrew Bible word by word.
It’s been so fun to sometimes study Hebrew with Randy, and recently I started going on trips to Israel with him for archeological digs and tours to learn the place of the Bible. Strangely enough, after each trip my Hebrew study accelerates!
I went through Hebrew Quest, and started attacking the first book of the Torah. Although progress felt very slow I kept on going. I listened to the audio recordings over and over to get my ear imprinted with the voice of Father Shmuelof, and started working through the text/vocabulary from Logos Bible Software. I am almost 60 years old now, and I give grace to my old age. I don’t mind forgetting the vocabulary often, and having to look things up again and again. I don’t mind listening to the same recording 100 times, because I only need the rate of my learning to be faster than the rate of my forgetting. I know that some is sticking, because sometimes I can read entire sentences without pausing to look things up!
The really satisfying progress with my Hebrew learning started to happen as I took on a project to start memorizing passages. With a printed copy of the passage and a color pen in hand, I carefully listened to the recording over and over. I marked accents, trying to understand voiced and unvoiced shevas where the dagesh caused the doubling of consonants, etc., so that everything I heard was coded into a reproducible format. Then I started slowly reading this extra coded passage, mimicking as closely as possible the reader’s pronunciation, putting into memory words, phrases, then connecting phrases into an entire sentence. Then I gradually increased speed. I also made up facial expressions and gestures to lock in my understanding of the meanings portrayed in each sentence. This is my “mother tongue” method that I am using, with Father Shmuelof as the “mother”, to learn Biblical Hebrew as a spoken language.
As I slowly gain fluency, I become increasingly familiar with the sounds and structures of the language, much as a baby would by listening to and watching the family speak. Then I slowly add grammar, and it suddenly brings a chunk of text or groups of texts I have been committing to memory into a sharp focus.
I admit that my learning pace is slow. I started almost two years ago, but I haven’t mastered the language. I don’t mind. My goal is to become increasingly familiar and conversant in Biblical Hebrew over my lifetime, not get 15 units of Hebrew credit for a degree. I hope I have 40 years. I want to read the scriptures that Yeshua read and see the picture of the Father that Yeshua saw, with the help of the same Ruach Hakodesh, and and walk the walk that Yeshua would walk if he were me.
I have a feeling that I have set for myself an achievable goal. So far I have Psalms 23 and 145 memorized, and these two psalms are my daily morning prayer and meditation, and they have enriched my life enormously. I also have graduated to using the app on my husband’s old laptop, where the vocabulary is linked to the full entry in the lexicon, rather than the abbreviated one in the tablet version. As of now I am halfway through the book of Judges. I now can read a chapter or two a day. I must be absorbing more now than I did when I started Genesis 1, because even though I am reading quite haltingly, looking up things often, the passages I read at least occasionally evoke emotional responses.
I have enjoyed learning Hebrew so much, and I see a deep need for the believing community, Messianic or not, to be connected directly to the Hebrew scriptures, that I am putting together a Biblical Hebrew reading group for my little town of Battle Ground, Washington. It will be open to people at my church as well as anyone of any age in the community who wants to learn. I am looking forward to having little children join us, and become fluent by high school graduation, and go on to become excellent theologians, archaeologists, pastors, teachers, and Bible translators!
A pretty suitable meeting place has been located for the Hebrew reading group at a restaurant in the heart of the town, where the owner is a Palestinian Christian, fluent in Hebrew! The game plan is to have everyone study Hebrew individually, and meet together so we can practice reading out loud in public, translating, and also present to the group something they are learning. This way everyone will have something to contribute and get lots of exposure to the sounds and grammar to speed up their individual progress. I hope that the restaurant owner can come from time to time to be our coach. We will have regular performances, where we will present a prepared passage to the public. Isn’t this so exciting?
I am sharing all this with you even though the Hebrew study group hasn’t begun just yet, because I want people in the tribe to think about starting their own study groups all over the world. I would also appreciate input, advice, and coaching from those of you who are already doing what I am only beginning. If you want to contact me, here is my email address: Eunice@Ingermanson.com I am also on Facebook as Eunice Ingermanson.
Thank you for patiently reading my story!
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Hats off to Robert Williams for this meme! Make your own Hebrew meme here or here and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll share yours too.
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