Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Part 2

In my previous post on the same topic, I related how the Melchizedek Scroll (11Q13) interpreted the passage of Isaiah 61 and it’s proclaiming “liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” in the same manner that Jesus understood it when he proclaimed this passage’s fulfillment in Luke 4. Both the author of the Melchizedek Scroll and Jesus understand these actions to relate to releasing the children of Israel from their sin.

In this post, I would like to continue with another DSS fragment also related to the same passage of Isaiah. It is fragment 4Q521. It is know by a few titles, but I think Geza Vermes’s “A Messianic Apocalypse” is apt enough for our purposes. A correlation between this fragment and Luke 7 has already been made by Martin Abegg, Jr. (Wise, M. O., Abegg, J. M. G., & Cook, E. M. (1996). The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. HarperOne, p.420.). I would merely like to introduce my readers to this, and expound upon it briefly.

In this passage we find a glimpse into the author’s envisioning of the Messianic redemption of the future where the Messiah will rule, and the reign of God will be over all the earth. The author describes this time as follows:

. . . [the hea]vens and the earth will listen to His Messiah, and none therein will stray from the commandments of the holy ones.

Vermas, Geza (1998). The Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Penguin Books, p. 391.

A brief observation is in order here. During this time, not only will the earth “listen to His [the LORD’s] Messiah, but the heavens as well. The reign of the Messiah during Messianic era is typically limited in scope to either a heavenly realm (as in much of Christian thought), or an earthly realm (as in much of Jewish thought). Here the author proclaims that both the spiritual and physical realms bend their will to the Messiah as they come under his leadership.

A second observation is that the subjects of the Kingdom will obviously have entered into the New Covenant spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah in which God “will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33, ESV). The problem of a unruly heart will have been cured, and we will submit ourselves to His lordship without any deficiency. However, in this text, the commandments of the Torah are said to come from “the holy ones,” rather than purely from God himself. I find this interesting, because it seems to attest to a tradition in the Apostolic Scriptures in which the New Testament authors declare that the Torah was administered by angels. This is too much information to insert here, so I will save this for a subsequent article.

Continuing on with our text, a few lines down we read:

For He will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor (Isa. lxi, I).

Ibid., p. 392.

The author links these events (healing the sick, reviving the dead, and bringing good news to the poor) to the time of the Messiah (whether through the Messiah or God himself is unclear), just as we have seen by Jesus. Yet there is something deeper in this text. Let’s take a look at another instance in which Jesus uses the text of Isaiah in a similar manner.

In Luke 7, Jesus is questioned by the disciples of John the Immerser as to whether he is “the one who is to come” or if they should “look for another.” Here is the full context:

And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?'” In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Luke 7:18b-23, ESV).

Again, we see Jesus using this same passage of Isaiah 61 as a prooftext of his Messianic appointment. He speaks to John’s disciples in what Daniel Lancaster terms as a “cryptic answer” (see FFOZ’s Torah Club Volume 4: Chronicles of the Messiah, 2010, Parashat Mishpatim, p. 458.). Rather than coming out and answering the question in direct terms, Jesus, the master of remez, couches his answer in scriptural allusions in order to allow the hearer to make several conclusions at once. But his answer brings us back yet again to Isaiah 61.

Let’s return to the line from the Messianic Apocalypse. The text states that during the time of Messiah, “He will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor.” The incredible thing about this is how the author associates the resurrection of the dead with the events of Isaiah 61. Although this concept is never explicitly found in the Hebrew Scriptures, the author of 4Q521 associates the resurrection of the dead with the arrival of the Messiah. This is a rare glimpse into Messianic Jewish expectation of the Second Temple period which offers us a perspective we rarely see in today’s Judaism and its scriptural interpretation, which has been shaped over the last two millennia in reaction to Christian exegesis.

One can only assume that both Jesus and the author of 4Q521 view death as a time of captivity awaiting the final redemption, and interpret Isaiah’s use of “the opening of the prison to those who are bound” as glimpse into the time of this time in which all things will be restored, including life. In the presence of Messiah, not even death can hold his captive securely.

Follow Your Heart…?

I have the privilege of being a part of the editing team for the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels translation from Vine of David. Every time I go through Aaron Eby’s translation I learn something about either Hebrew or our Master, or both.

Today, I was finishing up reviewing chapters 9-16 of Luke and came across a phrase which Aaron has translated: “He returned to his heart.” It was in the context of Yeshua’s parable of the prodigal son, and his making the decision to return home after his time of rebellion. This reminds me of the phrase we hear so often, “Follow your heart.” However, most of the time we hear that phrase, “Follow your heart,” it generally means: “Go for it!” “Dream big!” “Live the American Dream!” It is usually in the context of self-indulgence, where we are supposed to find that “inner-voice” that is telling us what we need to be doing with our lives to get the fullest experience of life…to “drink in life” with passion. It’s really the opposite of the Hebrew meaning of this phrase (which I will explain further momentarily).

It reminds me of this new movie Eat, Pray, Love, based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert (which could be subtitled, “Hinduism has allowed me to cast off restraint”). Sadly many Christians are looking to this as a spiritual expression for believers. They are searching for something “more.” They want adventure & romance, and if their current situation can’t provide it they search it out. I’ve seen countless Christian marriages fail in the last 3-4 years because of this. And the answer is usually the same, “I’m following my heart” or “God is leading me in a new direction.” But would God really wreck a marriage, the most primal institution of the world, in order to make “me” happy? Is it really all about me? According to the philosophy of “Follow your heart” it is. However, Scripture actually warns us about the deceptions of the heart:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

How many people are being told this? How many people have bought into the lie already, and it’s too late to recognize this? This is where being a diligent student of the Word will allow it to drive our lives, rather than allowing our hearts to drive them. In the context of the passage to which I referenced, the Hebrew literally says the same thing. It is וַיָּשֶׁב אֶל־לִבּוֹ. “And he returned to his heart.” But what does that mean? Does it mean that he finally found his “purpose” in life through reading The Purpose Driven Life? Does it mean he finally got up enough courage to hike the Himalayas? Does it mean he gave up his family, went off to a foreign country and lived it up? Wait… that’s what he did before he “returned to his heart.” So you see, “returning to one’s heart” in the Hebrew sense is not about all of these things, but about “coming to your senses.” It’s about following your head, not your heart. It’s about doing what’s right, rather than what feels good. Why? Because the right path and the difficult path are often the same, and when we choose the right over the wrong, the blessing will be in the journey. The joy will come from within, rather than from anything external. And the fruits will be eternal, rather than momentary.

Have you returned to your heart?

Is “Barak Obama” behind the Hebrew of Luke 10:18?

I’ve been trying to post this as a note on Facebook, but evidently they have a content filter in place that won’t allow me to post notes with the name of the President in it. I’m posting it on my site as an alternative.

I’ve had a few people ask me about the validity of the statements behind a video on YouTube (http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DsgHUZX&h=4b2921334b24fa472a39a1114ceb45d5) trying to make a connection between the name “Barak Obama” and Yeshua’s (Jesus) statement in Luke 10:18 that he saw “Satan falling as lightning” so I thought I would go ahead & post a note about it. The creator of this video claims that the original Hebrew that Jesus would have spoken would contain the name “Barak Obama” thus pointing to our current President as the Anti-Christ. My statements henceforth are neither an endorsement of the character of the our current President, nor any kind of slander.

First, let me say that I’m no Hebrew scholar by any means, AND I am willing to stand corrected by those who know far more about the intricacies of Hebrew than myself (i.e. @aaron.eby, etc.). However, from my current knowledge of Hebrew, this is my understanding…

Although the creators of this video have some basic Hebrew knowledge, they don’t have any understanding of Hebrew syntax.( FYI – A Strong’s concordance is not going to give you Hebrew understanding beyond a few root words.) The main error he made in this is that the Vav (he called it a “Waw” or “Vau”) is used primarily as a conjunction meaning “and.” If the Vav were where he says it would be, it would read “And I saw Satan falling and lightning.” There would be no mention of “from heaven” or “AS” lightning. Also, when the Vav comes at the beginning of a word, in all the cases I know of it has the “oo” sound, not the “oh” sound.

I’m looking at one of my Hebrew New Testaments right now, and this is how Luke 10:18 reads:

ראיתי את השטן נופל כברק מן השמים.

Which transliterates to:

“Ra’iti et HaSatan nophel k’varak min hashamayim.”

The word “k’varak” uses the root word “barak/baraq” which means lightning. But in this syntax, it doesn’t sound anything like what he is saying. The prefix “k” means “like” or “as.” It has to be there to say “like lightning” or “as lightning.”

Also, there is no mention of “bama.” The common Hebrew word for “heaven” is “shamayim.” In the Avinu (what we call “The Lord’s Prayer”), it begins with “Avinu Shebashamayim” (Our Father In Heaven) and would be rendered the same in any context. The word “heaven” or “heavens” is always rendered as “shamayim” since Genesis 1, especially when referring to the throne of Hashem (God).

This appears to be a very forced, and poor translation of the Hebrew behind the words of our Master.