Thursday, September 23, 2010

Can Someone be Forced to Take the Mark of the Beast?

By Brenda Cathcart

The message that many people hear about the mark of the beast is that we need to be careful not to take it by accident or let the “government” assign a mark to you that may turn out to be the mark of the beast. Back in the 1930’s, when the U.S. government first instituted Social Security numbers, preachers warned that they were the mark of the beast. Back in the 1970’s it was a tattoo, then it was a barcode, now it is a microchip implanted under the skin.

I think we all agree that the beast is a representation of Satan and that Satan wants to be God and imitates God in his deception of mankind. With that in mind, what does the Bible tell us about the mark of the beast? What follows is a short synopsis of a more detailed study in Shadows of Messiah, Volume 2, titled “Sealed for the Day of Redemption.”

1) Revelation 13:16 tells us the mark is on the forehead or the right hand. This is an imitation of the sign God gave the Israelites. They are to bind God’s Word on the foreheads and on the hands (Deut. 6: 6-8) The practice is to write the words of these verses on a tiny scroll placed in a leather box called tefillin which is then tied with leather laces to the forehead and the left hand. The tefillin remind them that God’s commandments are to be on their minds (forehead) and that they are to do them (hand). The left hand is chosen because it is closer to the heart; that is the motivation for doing God’s commandments must be from the heart. The left hand is usually the weaker hand implying that it is God’s strength that enables us to do His commands.

The mark of the beast, in contrast, is to be on the forehead or the right hand indicating that their minds are on the beast and his will. Revelation 14:9 tells us that those who receive the mark of the beast worship him. The right hand is the furthest from the heart and is usually stronger. Man’s motivation is his own selfish interests relying on his own strength.

2) Revelation 13:18 tells us the mark of the beast is the number of the beast’s name. Again, this is an imitation of God! God’s high priest also has a mark on his forehead. This mark is in the form of a gold plate with the words “Holy to Yahweh” on it (Ex. 28:36-38). The high priest wears God’s name on his forehead! Peter tells us that we are a royal priesthood with the purpose of proclaiming God’s praises (1 Peter 2:9). So, what does having the number of the name of the beast on one’s forehead indicate? That person belongs to the beast, worships the beast, is set aside for the beast all for the purpose of praising the beast. The number of the beast is 666. Six is the number of man. One is the number of God. When man has God in his life, his number is 6+1=7. Seven is the number of spiritual completeness. Three is the number of divine completeness. So, three sixes is man without God. It indicates that man and man’s accomplishments are supreme. It is the denial of the power or need for God.

3) Those who worship the beast and take his mark will not be written in the book of life and will be thrown in the lake of fire (Rev. 13:8, Rev. 14:9-11). Those taking the mark of the beast cannot be written in the book of life! Yeshua tells us that there is only one sin that will not be forgiven man and that is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31). So, taking the mark of the beast involves blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 12, Yeshua casts out demons by the Holy Spirit but the Pharisees attribute it to the power of Satan. Yeshua warns them that they are close to committing the unforgiveable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Willfully and knowingly attributing an act of God to Satan and vice versa is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Those who receive the mark of the beast commit blasphemy.

We also receive a mark or a seal. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:30, that the Holy Spirit seals us. Notice that it is an action by the Holy Spirit in response to our profession of faith in Yeshua! We cannot get the seal of God by accident.

Ephesians 1:13 NKJV 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,

When we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, Paul tells us that nothing can remove us from God’s hand (Rom 8:38-39). So, we cannot be forced to take the mark of the beast. Even if someone ties us down, implants a chip or tattoos us, we are not receiving the mark of the beast!

4) But wait, doesn’t the Bible say that no one can buy or sell without the mark of the beast (Rev 13:17)? Those who both buy and sell are merchants, traders, and businessmen. John tells us in the Revelation that those who mourn the fall of Babylon will be its merchants and traders! There will be no one left to buy their goods (Rev. 18). Zechariah prophesies that every pot in Jerusalem will be “Holy to the LORD.” These are the same words on the plate that the high priest wears on his forehead. Zechariah goes on to say that there will be no Canaanite in the city of Jerusalem. The literal translation of the word Canaanite is “merchant.” Young’s Literal Translation translates the verse this way:

Zec 14:21 And every pot in Jerusalem, and in Judah, Have been holy to Jehovah of Hosts, And all those sacrificing have come in, And have taken of them, and boiled in them, And there is no merchant (Canaanite) any more in the house of Jehovah of Hosts in that day! (YLT)

Those merchants who put greed above God act in the spirit of the Canaanites whom God told the Israelites to drive out of the Promised Land. We see once again that those who take the mark of the beast will be those who elevate mankind above God instead of humbling themselves before God.

Isaiah 23:9-11 NKJV 9 The LORD of hosts has purposed it, To bring to dishonor the pride of all glory, To bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth. 10 Overflow through your land like the River, O daughter of Tarshish (a merchant vessel); There is no more strength. 11 He stretched out His hand over the sea, He shook the kingdoms; The LORD has given a commandment against Canaan (the merchant) To destroy its strongholds.

God will humble all those who lift themselves up in pride, those who think too highly of themselves. He will destroy the stronghold of the merchant. Let me close with the words of Peter as he exhorts us to humble ourselves, to be watchful against the wiles of Satan and to allow God to lift us up when the Good Shepherd returns. Those who follow Peter’s advice are the antithesis of the beast and those who take his mark.

1 Peter 5:1-11 NKJV 1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. 5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

שלום ברוך
Shalom and Be Blessed
Dan & Brenda Cathcart

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Hebrew Word for "day" is יום "Yowm"

The definition of the Hebrew word translated as "day" in English is found in your Strong's Concordance.

#3117 יום "yowm" From an unused root meaning to be hot; a day (as the warm hours), whether literal (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or figurative (a space of time defined by an associated term), (often used adverb):--age, + always, + chronicals, continually(-ance), daily, ((birth-), each, to) day, (now a, two) days (agone), + elder, X end, + evening, + (for) ever(-lasting, -more), X full, life, as (so) long as (... live), (even) now, + old, + outlived, + perpetually, presently, + remaineth, X required, season, X since, space, then, (process of) time, + as at other times, + in trouble, weather, (as) when, (a, the, within a) while (that), X whole (+ age), (full) year(-ly), + younger.

A definition of a word does not necessarily give you a definition of the term. For that you must look at the context in which it is used. So what does Genesis chapter one, the first place where the word יום appears in the Bible, tell us about the definition of the term?

Genesis 1:5 MKJV 5 And God called the light, Day. And He called the darkness, Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

In this verse the word yowm יום is used twice. The first time it describes what “God called the light”. The second time it defines a period of time between “the evening and the morning”. This seems like a contradiction because the time between “the evening and the morning” is a period of time dominated by darkness or what we call night.

You have to look beyond the English translation and into the Hebrew context. What does this verse mean from the Hebrew cultural perspective? First of all the word yowm is three Hebrew letters "י", the "ו" and the "ם", Hebrew is read right to left. The letters are the Yood, the Vav and the Mem. The yood means hand, the vav means nail, to secure or control and the mem means chaos or waters. So in the literal meaning, yowm means “the hand that controls the waters”.

In Jewish tradition a “day” is defined as “between the evenings”, that is from one evening, or sunset to the next. The understanding is that the “evening” is the beginning of the period of darkness and the “morning” is the beginning of the period of light. And since the Torah describes a “day” (second usage) as “the evening and the morning”, a complete day always begins at sunset and continues to the next sunset including both the night and day (first usage) periods.

Elsewhere in the creation account in Genesis, we see that when God first created the earth and it was without form and void. He then, by His word alone created light. He then by His hand (yood) separated the light from the darkness. It also says in the Genesis creation account that God “separated the waters from the waters”. We see his Hand (yood), separating, or controlling (vav) the waters (mem).

Each day when the sun sets, and each day when the sun rises, remember that it is only by the hand of God that the universe is secure. That the “chaos” is “controlled” by His “hand”.

שלום ברוך
Shalom and be blessed
Dan Cathcart

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hebrew Origins of New Testament Scripture.

Much of the New Testament documents we have, although written in Greek, are translations from a Hebrew or Aramaic original.  Now, I have probably lost a bunch of you right here if not with the title of this piece, but bear with me and you will see what I mean.  Aramaic is its self a Semitic language structured along nearly identical cultural lines as Hebrew.  Hebrew and Aramaic share a common alphabet, syntactical and grammatical structure and Aramaic was the primary language of the largest Jewish population (1st Century) outside of the land of Israel in Babylon, approx. present day Iraq.  I will present this evidence of a Hebrew/Aramaic original the best I can and I have included many foot notes and an extensive, but non-exhaustive bibliography giving some of the source material so that one may research this for oneself.

We in the West tend to be very euro-centric in our thinking.  This leads us to dismiss entire parallel histories happening outside of our European, Greco/Roman world view.  There is strong evidence of a Hebrew/Aramaic, or Hebraic, origin of NT scripture not only in the scriptures themselves, there are hints in the Greek text that allude to an Hebrew/Aramaic original, but also in histories and NT manuscripts preserved by the early Aramaic speaking congregations in the Middle East.  These Middle Eastern congregations were far more meticulous in maintaining original documents than the western societies were in the early centuries of the Common Era. I will examine some of this evidence of the Hebrew/Aramaic origins contained within the western Greek fragments and manuscripts themselves as well as the remaining Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts from the 4th to the14th centuries and why we do not have much if any earlier Hebrew/Aramaic manuscript evidence in the West.

Before the advent of the Internet, and the vast amount of data available through this tool, we “lay persons”, would never have been afforded the opportunity to research this material on our own.  Raw data in the form of ancient original documents are now available to the average person and Bible student on line.  The vast amount of research being done in the last few decades has brought new light to our understanding of New Testament origins.  Our willingness to open our minds beyond our Western, euro-centric mindset has brought on a much needed paradigm shift in out understanding of the 1st century believers in Yeshua and our own Church history.

This treatise is by no means a comprehensive look at this subject, that would take a large book, but is meant to give you, the reader, an overview of the basic Hebraic nature of the NT scriptures and hopefully will further your journey to draw closer to the Father and to His Son, Messiah Yeshua.

A little Communication Problem Here?

I think everyone will agree that a language will reflect the culture from which it emanates.  The spoken and written language of a given people contains all the cultural idioms, syntactical structure, metaphorical references and other content that is common to the people that speak or write it.  A simple mechanical translation of one language to another renders largely gibberish.  There are words and phraseology in one language that make no sense or have no equivalent in another because of these vast cultural differences.  Let me give you an example:  The Old Testament is largely written in Hebrew, and in the case of the Torah, the first 5 books of Moses, where written more than 3500 years ago.  When we translate the Hebrew to English, we go back to the Hebrew and read it and translate it word for word, right?  Wrong!  Look at figure 1.  The Hebrew of Genesis 1:1 contains 7 words.  When translated to English there are 10 words.  Why is that the case?  Now, look at the 4th Hebrew word, it is not translated at all!  It is completely, and in all English translations, ignored.  This is because this Hebrew word has no English word or phrase equivalence that can be inserted here and have any hope of creating a comprehensible English sentence. (See my post titled “The End is Declared from the Beginning – Part 4 for an explanation available on this blog site).

In translating these vastly different languages one to another, we have to attempt to ascertain the intent of the author or speaker and be able to relate that message to the intended audience.  We have to know something about both, the author and the audience, their culture, their history, their way of thinking, their value system etc.  These all play into how a language is structured and how effective a translation will be.

Jewish Greek?

The translator is the mediator between the audience and the author.  If the translator doesn’t understand what is being said by the author, or has a different cultural mindset than the author and/or audience, then how is there any hope of obtaining an accurate translation?  An accurate translation requires an intimate knowledge of the historic, cultural and linguistic context of the text in question.

In order to understand the NT writings, we must first understand something about the people who wrote them.  Who were they?  Where did they live?  What kind of society did they have, including, and especially, their religious doctrines?  In other words it takes at least a basic sociological study of the culture of 1st century Israel, Judaism and their history up to that point to be able to translate their ideas correctly.

The Septuagint, the 3rd century B.C.E. Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, Tanach (ie: Old Testament), is an indispensable tool for studying the NT scriptures.  The NT Greek scriptures follow very closely the Septuagint in vocabulary and grammar.  And as with the Septuagint, the NT scriptures reflect a Hebraic culture and mindset of 1st century Israel rather than any standard form of Greek language or culture. 

Here is what Isidore of Pelasium, a 5th century Christian writer had to say about the Greek scriptures.  “The Greeks…despise the divine scripture as barbarous language, and composed of foreign sounding words, abandoning necessary conjunctions, and confusing the mind with the addition of extraordinary words.” 1 So at least in the 5th century CE, even the vernacular Greek speakers didn’t think much of the NT Greek.  They found it “confusing”.  If the NT authors’ intention was to communicate the Gospel message of the Messiah to the Greek speaking world outside of the Jewish culture, then why write in such a way that you diminish the message with bad grammar and made up words?  Why would they not use proper Greek language?  It is because the Greek language was written by a pagan, polytheistic people for a pagan, polytheistic culture.  Everything about the Greek language follows the cultural aspects of the society that developed it.

Many linguistic scholars call this Greek of the Septuagint and the NT “translation Greek” because it is not grammatically correct Greek in the Koine or Classical.  It reflects a different and very literal translation from a document or thought from a language with very different structure and cultural ideas.

Nigel Turner said that, “Biblical Greek…is usually so drenched in Semitic idioms and forms of syntax that it is extremely difficult to decide whether a book has been translated from Hebrew to Greek or whether it was originally composed in that language.”  He also said, “We may call this ‘Jewish Greek.’” 2 

The NT scriptures were written in this “Jewish Greek” for a reason.  Those who translated the NT writings into Greek were targeting a Jewish reader, living in the Diaspora, who spoke the native language of their now adopted country.  In other words, they wanted the scripture to be available in the common language of the Jewish people, not just the Synagogue leaders.  These translations were also done for the purpose of maintaining a Hebraic cultural unity among the scattered Jewish people around the known world.  This is the same motivation of the reformers in the 15th and 16th centuries in the Christian Church who, under the treat of death by Church leadership, translated the scriptures from the Latin to the everyday language of the people.  The NT Greek translators, as well as the 70 scholars and Rabbis who created the Septuagint translation of the Tanach, were certainly educated enough to write in proper Greek if they had desired to.  But that didn’t suit their mission.  They took great pains to craft documents that would retain as much of the original Hebraic cultural content as possible.  Any effort to approach these documents in a manor inconstant with their innate Jewish context is a mistake.

Greek was Unpopular in 1st Century Israel.

Hebrew, along with Aramaic, was the language of Judea, Samaria and throughout all of Roman controlled Israel as well as many Jewish enclaves in the Diaspora.  Much of the Jewish people living in the land despised the Greeks and anything Greek as a result of the ravaging of the land, people and the holy places by Antiocus IV Epiphanies (175-163 BCE) and his army less than 200 years earlier as recorded in many histories including 1st and 2nd Maccabees. 

The Hellenization of the Jews during the Greco-Roman era is just another case of the influence of pagan culture seeping into Jewish society.  The Jewish people were set apart by God to be “Priests to the Nations” and a “Light to the World”.  Yet, time and again, as recorded in scripture and other historical documents, they followed after “other gods” and turned away from the LORD.  Each time this has happened in history, it has resulted in a disaster for the Jewish people and it was no different in the 2nd temple era. 

The result of the atrocities perpetrated on the Jewish people during the reign of Antiocus IV Epiphanies was profound.  He did not do this entirely on his own.  He was aided and abetted by many of the Jews who were “Hellenized” and had turned from their ways and followed after the paganism of the Greeks. This, of course, did not sit well with the main body of the Jewish people and the Pharisees who were the developers of the Synagogue system.  During the reign of the Hasmoneans, there was a concerted effort to rid the land of Israel of the Greek influences including the use of the Greek language where practical.

Even the famous 1st century Jewish historian and scholar, Flavius Josephus (37-100 CE) admitted that he was not fluent in Greek and that the speaking of Greek or any other foreign language was largely frowned upon in the Jewish culture. "I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understanding the elements of the Greek language although I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own language, that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness: for our nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations".3

Josephus was born Joseph ben Matthias, a Jew of a priestly family, a descendant of the Hasmoneans.  He was well educated and at age 19, joined the sect of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees were the most orthodox of the Jews of the 2nd Temple era.  The Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews of today carry on the traditions and teaching begun by the Pharisees.  If Josephus did not speak Greek until he had to learn it later in life, it is logical that the more common, perhaps less educated Jewish resident of 1st century Israel would not have bothered to learn Greek or any of the “languages of many nations”.  Yeshua chose His disciples from among the common Jewish people of Israel, specifically the area of Galilee where Aramaic was the common language of the people.

Greek or Hebrew/Aramaic Original?

There is much evidence which points towards the New Testament being originally written in Hebrew and/or Aramaic and not Greek.  Biblical textural scholarship is increasingly validating the case for a Hebraic original New Testament.  It is a fact that the original authors of the New Testament Scripture were all Hebrews (Jews) in the land of Israel or from the land of Israel with the possible exception of Luke and Paul.  In the case of the Apostle Paul, he was from Tarsus in Asia Minor originally, but lived and studied most of his life in Jerusalem, and by his own admission, a “Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee” (Philipians 3:5( partial)) born and raised a Jew, trained in the most orthodox of schools under the leadership of Gamaliel.  Paul, or Rabbi Shaul, his proper Hebrew name, was definitely not a “Hellenist Jew” in his personal beliefs.  Although being from Tarsus, Rabbi Shaul would have had an intimate understanding of Greek philosophy and teaching which is evident in the narrative in the book of Acts.  Luke was most likely a Proselyte, a Gentile convert to Judaism.

Over the years, many scholars have viewed the Greek in the Septuagint as well as the Greek in the New Testament manuscripts as the common or vernacular (koine) Greek of the day.  A closer examination reveals that it is not quite that simple.  The koine, or common vernacular Greek was quite different from city to city and regionally due to cultural differences just as English has differences from region to region here in the US and internationally. The Greek NT text retains some innate Hebrew/Aramaic syntax, such as reversed noun/verb pairings that are bad Greek, even in the vernacular, but are perfect Hebrew syntax and grammar.  There are also transliterated words; Hebrew or Aramaic words with Greek spelling so the Greek reader/speaker can pronounce the Hebraic word.  As an example if I write the word “shalom”, I am writing a nonexistent English word.  What I have just written is a “transliteration” of a Hebrew word, not a “translation” of the word.  An approximate translation of “shalom” would be “peace” and as you can see, not even close to a similar spelling.  The NT Greek text contains many such transliterations in order to preserve as much of the Hebraic understanding of the original text as possible.  The transliterated Hebrew/Aramaic word contains an intrinsic Hebrew cultural meaning that can not be communicated by simply using a Greek approximation.  Over time, these transliterations tend to be accepted into the common vernacular of a language and the exact origins of these words tend to be lost. If the original authors of the NT scripture spoke in Greek and wrote their accounts and epistles in Greek from the very beginning, assuming that they are doing so for the benefit of a non-Hebrew (non-Jewish) reader, then why did they use all the intrinsic Hebraic content and grammatical structure that is contrary to the Greek society of the day?  Why use transliterations, idioms and metaphors that make no sense in the Greek culture?

Did Paul write his letters in Greek or Aramaic?  We know that his epistles were sent to synagogues throughout Asia Minor that comprised both Jewish and Gentile believers whose legal faith practices were governed by the authority in Jerusalem.  We have two accounts in the Book of Acts, chapters 9 and 15, to attest to the authority stemming from Jerusalem.

I think that we would all agree from the historical record that Paul was very well educated.  But when we take a close look at the Greek manuscripts and fragments that remain of the Pauline Epistles, there is an inconsistency that is observed in the quality of the writing.  This is not consistent with someone who is fluent in the language in question.  There are marked and distinct differences in the quality and linguistic style of the Greek text.  Galatians is the poorest example and there is some evidence that Paul may have, at least partially, scribed this one in his own hand (Gal. 6:11).  1st Corinthians is much more consistent with someone versed in Greek.  Bible textural scholarship indicates that these two epistles were written within two years of each other.  Why would Paul, who is known to be highly educated, be so inconsistent in his Greek manuscripts?

Our best scholarship places Paul’s death in 67 CE.  He writes of events at the Temple in Jerusalem in the present tense, so his letters could not have been written later than 70 CE, when the Temple was destroyed.  Paul’s letters were not considered scripture at any time in the 1st century.  Marcion was the first Christian leader, later declared a heretic, in recorded history to propose a canon of what he called the “New Testament” Scripture.  This was in about 140 CE, 80 plus years after the time Paul wrote his letters!  The first major figure to codify any widely accepted Biblical canon was Origen of Alexandria (185-254 CE)

When Paul wrote what we know as his second letter to Timothy, he writes

2 Timothy 3:16 KJV All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

But let’s back up a little and take this in a broader context.

2 Timothy 3:14-17 NKJV But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Paul reminds Timothy in verse 15 that “from childhood you have known the Holy Scripture” and that they “make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”.  Paul was specifically referring to the Torah, Prophets and Writings, The Tanakh.  Paul was reminding Timothy of the foundation of faith in Yeshua as Messiah that come from and is squarely grounded in the Tanakh!

Again, Paul states in Galatians 6:11 that he has a poor scribal hand and training.  Paul also always traveled with others in attendance.  Both epistles to the Thessalonians open with a salutation from Paul, Silvanus and Timothy.  Several other places in his epistles, he mentions traveling companions.  The scribe Tertius writes his own name at the end Romans (16:22).  With the absence of John Mark at Pamphylia, Paul then travels with Luke and others (see Acts).  Paul is never recorded as traveling without companions. It is highly likely that these fellow travelers provided the service of translating Paul’s communications into Greek for benefit of the Greek speaking believers in Asia Minor and interpreted communications addressed to Paul. Remember that Paul, Rabbi Shaul, was a Jewish man, a Pharisee, highly educated, yes, but first a Hebrew, a Jew.  This accounts for the widely varying Greek style and polish of the Pauline Epistles.

The classical western theological position that Greek was the common language of the Disciples of Yeshua is rather far fetched when we understand the Hebraic nature that is embedded in the Greek text of the manuscripts, and especially that these early followers were themselves Jews from Israel.  They were followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  They were mono-theists, an entirely foreign concept in Greek culture and language.  They were by any definition Jews, and they came to understand their Jewish Messiah by the thousands as recorded in the Book of Acts.  The followers of Yeshua were Jews who studied the Hebrew Tanakh, many being Pharasees, Scribes and Priests, and spoke and wrote the vernacular Hebrew and Aramaic of their land and culture.  They relied on the Tanakh to prove that Yeshua was and is the Messiah, the Holy One of Israel, their promised King and redeemer!  The highest authority of Scripture and ideas from which to make our arguments for the Messiahship of Yeshua come from the Tanakh!  Yeshua Himself taught us this when He appeared to His disciples on the road to Emmas, the account of which is found in the Gospel of Luke:

Luke 24:27 NKJV 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

When we speak to both Jews and Gentiles about the Messiah Yeshua, it is imperative that we base our arguments on the firm foundation of the Tanakh, testified to by the words and deeds of the 1st century disciples of Yeshua themselves, as recorded in the New Testament, so as to establish the authority of the Messiah.

The Gentile Believers and the Western Church

The Rabbinic teachers of the 1st century spoke and taught in Hebrew and/or Aramaic as witnessed by the many Jewish documents dating from this time.  When the Jewish scholars began to write down the “oral law”, what became the foundation for the Talmud,   following the Jewish revolt in 132 CE, and their expulsion from Jerusalem and the rest of Israel, these documents were written in Hebrew and Aramaic.  The early believers of Yeshua as Messiah were still meeting in the synagogues along with the rest of their Jewish brothers.  There is no reason to postulate that the early believers in Yeshua being nearly all Jewish, (again, see the book of Acts), would have chosen to use Greek as their “official language”.  They spoke and wrote in Hebrew and Aramaic.  It makes absolutely no logical sense to postulate otherwise.

The purpose of, and the reason for, the later manuscripts being in Greek is many facetted.  For one, the Jewish population in the Diaspora in Asia Minor and other places in the Greek speaking world, spoke Greek as their primary vernacular language.  As time went on, more and more Gentiles were joining the body of believers in the synagogues.  There was much debate about what should be required of the new Gentile believers (see Acts 15).  Many issues arose between the Jews and the Gentiles with their strange pagan ways.  In other words, there was a clash of cultures going on among the early believers.  Rabbi Shaul, was the Apostle to the Gentiles, and he wrote letters and traveled to these Synagogues throughout Asia Minor addressing the issues as they arose in the various congregations.

As the Gentile believers became the vast majority of the body of Messiah in the Greek speaking world, keeping and maintaining Hebrew and Aramaic documents became less and less important.  This was especially true if those documents were not considered scripture.

After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE, persecution of the Jews vastly increased.  Many of the Gentile believers who did not want to be associated with the Jewish population and be persecuted themselves, moved “underground”.  In parallel to this, the Greek speaking Gentiles brought more and more of their pagan traditions into their new “Christian” religion, abandoning observance of Jewish traditions and festivals so as not to appear too Jewish and be subject to the murderous persecutions being perpetrated on the Jews.

These violent persecutions took many forms, from outright murder, to killing for sport and show in the arenas.  Along with the persecutions and killings, synagogues were vandalized and sacred writings were burned or otherwise destroyed.  In many cases, Hebrew and Aramaic documents were singled out for destruction because those were without question, Jewish in origin.

The Safe Haven of the Eastern Church.

The Aramaic textural history was preserved by the Eastern Church which resided largely outside of Roman control.  This parallel history is fascinating in the meticulous detail in which these churches kept the original NT documents put in their charge.  The Eastern Church had an accepted cannon of scripture long before the West which included much of the Pauline epistles in their original Aramaic.  The Eastern Aramaic speaking Christians have a solid, provable textual history dating well back into the 1st century.  The Eastern scribes followed the traditional Jewish methodology of copying manuscripts considered scripture where no embellishments or changes were tolerated.  The Western Greek textual history has no such provenance.

The biblical record tells us that three of the early disciples traveled East.  These would be Peter (Keffa), Nathaniel bar Tulmay (Bartholomew) and Thomas.  A very large population of Jewish people, perhaps the largest of all, resided in the former Babylon (today’s Iran/Iraq).  The Biblical record in the Tanakh shows that only a fraction of the Jewish people returned to the land of Israel following the time of the exiles.  See Ezra an Nehemiah. 

A Shift of the Center.

Just as mathematics is the engine and currency of physics and astronomy, so scripture is the currency of theology.  Text, translation and interpretation are the engine that drives our religious world.  Our entire belief system is built on a kind of  theological mathematics.

When we think of the Bible, we usually think of a particular translation that we are most familiar with.  For some it is the KJV, others it’s the NIV or the ASV, etc.  Translations are necessary, but only if they are accurate.  An accurate translation will make the original message available to the reader.  An inaccurate translation distorts the message, sometimes beyond recognition.  A good example of this is found in Genesis 27:39 between the New King James Version and the New International Version:

Genesis 27:39 NKJV Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: "Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, And of the dew of heaven from above.

Genesis 27:39 NIV His father Isaac answered him, "Your dwelling will be away from the earth's richness, away from the dew of heaven above.

Wow!  Between these two popular translations, we have an example an exact opposite meaning in this verse.  Which is the correct one?  Which is the one that accurately translates the intention of the author?  They can not possibly both be right!  As it turns out, the NIV translation is the one which agrees most with the Hebrew Tanakh and the historic Hebrew literary practices and traditions.

This is a classic example of what happens when a translator, although perhaps skilled in the language, fails to understand the cultural context of the scripture he or she is translating.  Most of our translations of the NT Scriptures contain similar misrepresentations.  There are systematic errors that come about through the failure on the part of the translator or translators to recognize the original linguistic and cultural context.  This may not have been done maliciously, or through a lack of knowledge.  It is possibly simple result of a translator’s misperception of the nature of the text.  NT translators assume that they are dealing with a Greek text written in a Christian context... Let me say that again.  NT translators assume that they are dealing with a Greek text written in a Christian context.  It is this assumption that is a gross error.

An accurate translation requires not only an academic understanding of the language of the text, but an intimate understanding of the historic, cultural and linguistic context in which it was written.  With that in mind, we must begin to shift our center of thinking away from our Western mindset and culture and to a 1st century Hebraic mindset and culture.  We must think like a 1st century Jew!  In this multi-part treatise, I will attempt to examine a great deal of evidence supporting a Hebrew/Aramaic origin of the NT scriptures.  Stay tuned, it will be most interesting and for some of you, it will be a bumpy ride.

שלום ברוך
Shalom and Be Blessed
Dan and Brenda Cathcart

Figure 1


1. Epistle 4.28, in Migne, Patrologia greca, cited in Semitic interference in Marcan syntax, Elliott C. Maloney, Scholars Press, Chico, CA, 1981, p.5
2. Nigel Turner, “The Testament of Abraham: Problems in Biblical Greek,” NTS 1, 1955, pp222-223, cited in the Apocalypse and Semitic Syntax, Thompson, p.108
3. Flavius Josephus, “The Antiquities of the Jews” book 20 11:2


The research for this treatise was derived from these and some other sources. Many of the following are also a recommended reading list.

Matthew Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts, third edition.
D. Bivin and R. B. Blizzard, Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus.
E. W. Bullinger, The Companion Scriptures.
Dr. F. C. Burkitt, The Earliest Sources for the Life of Jesus.
Prof. C. F. Burney, The Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel.
Epiphanius, Panarion 29:9:4 on Matthew.
Edward Gibbon, History of Christianity.
Dr. Frederick C. Grant, Roman Hellenism and the New Testament.
Dr. George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew 1980.
Dr. George Lamsa, The Holy Scriptures from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts.
Dr. Alfred F. Loisy, The Birth of the Christian Religion and The Origin of the New Testament)
Dr. Isaac Rabinowitz, Journal of Semitic Studies vol. XVI (1971), pp. 151-156.
Hugh J. Schonfield, An Old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew's Gospel, (1927) p. 7.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus.
R. B. Y. Scott, The Original Language of the Apocalypse
Prof. Charles C. Torrey, Documents of the Primitive Church, entirety. Also, Our Translated Gospels, entirety.
Dr. James Scott Trimm, The semitic Origin of the New Testament.
Max Wiolcox, The Semitism of Acts (1965), entirety.
F. Zimmerman, The Aramaic Origin of the Four Gospels.
Nehemia Gordon, The Hebrew Yeshua vs. The Greek Jesus.
Brad H. Young, Ph..D., Paul, The Jewish Theologian.
Daniel Gruber, The Separation of Church and Faith, Copernicus and The Jews.
The Aramaic English Net Testament, Netzari Press second edition 2009