The Scriptures both in the Tanak – Old Testament and the B’rit Hadashah – New Testament are filled with complex passages which are difficult to understand. When the Scripture refers to a custom or expression which is unknown to us, we either gloss over it or attempt to interpret it through our frame of reference, often resulting in a misinterpretation, and losing its true meaning.
All the authors of the Bible, from B’Resheet – Genesis to Revelation were from the Nation of Israel, and so the entire Word of God was expressed through the lens of Hebraic thought, language and culture. Even though certain manuscripts are in Aramaic and Greek, the Hebrew significance also shines through them. To correctly understand and interpret complex passages in the Bible, we need to consider the Hebraic perspective from which they were written.
Many passages contain idioms, poetry, expressions, and customs which can only be understood through the Hebrew language and culture. Understanding the underlying Hebraic context is often key in clarifying the verses which are otherwise difficult to understand.
Example of a Complex Passage
As an example; In Mathew 6:19-24, Jesus spoke to the crowd about wealth, and admonished them to build up treasure for themselves in heaven through their love for God versus building up treasures on earth for themselves, while serving mammon.
Being able to do so is every believer’s desire, but do we understand from this passage exactly how we can accomplish it?
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.
23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
(NKJV-New King James Version)
In verses 19-21, Jesus spoke about wealth, and then in verses 22-23, He changed the subject, to a person filled with light or darkness, and completed His teaching in verse 24, by returning to the subject of finances, stating that you cannot serve God and money. The expression of a person being filled with light or darkness; binding the two concepts of building a treasure and who we serve together, becomes difficult to explain. In our reference, we normally associate light or darkness with good or evil.
This interpretation often leads to the understanding that if we build up wealth on earth, we are filled with darkness and are serving mammon instead of building up treasure for ourselves in heaven, being filled with light and serving God. It has led many to believe that creating wealth on earth is not desirable. The result being, those with wealth feeling guilty and alienated and those without, being viewed as devoted.
When we study this passage from a Hebraic understanding, we gain a whole new perspective on the teaching of Jesus.
He used a Hebraic idiom to explain the principle of tzedaka – generosity.
To have a good eye – ayin tovah or a bad eye – ayin ra’ah is a common expression in Judaism. Someone with a good eye is a generous person and having a bad eye means that person is stingy. The mitzvah of tzedaka – the good deed of generosity, is valued as a very important principle in Hebraic custom and charity, and taught throughout Scripture, underscoring the second command of the New Covenant, to love your neighbor as yourself.
Clarification from a Hebrew Understanding
From a Hebrew understanding, Jesus admonished people to build up treasure for themselves in heaven by living out the principle of tzedakah – being generous, and helping those in need. By doing so they demonstrate their care for others, and in this way, they serve God. Alternatively, a people who focus on accumulating personal wealth just for themselves and their own needs, and do not take care of their fellow man, are considered to be stingy and serving mammon.
It is just one example of many similar occurrences in the Bible.
Studying the Scriptures from a Hebraic perspective forms an integral part of our teachings, as we seek to provide a thorough understanding of Scripture in proper context.
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