Why was Resurrection “on the Third Day”? Two Answers

by Lois Tverberg

Every year during Holy Week, Christians scratch their heads over questions about Jesus’ being raised “on the third day.” We look at our calendars and see that Sunday comes only two days after Friday. Elaborate schemes have been worked out to make the timing make more sense.

 

One neglected cultural detail suggests a simpler answer. Throughout the Bible, Jews counted time this way:

– Today

– Tomorrow

– Third day

What they call the “third day” we would call “the day after tomorrow.” It sounds surprising, but here are a couple examples:

When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire. (Leviticus 19:5-6)

The Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day.” (Exodus 19:10-11)

The idea is not to count 24-hour time spans but to name successive days, including the day of an announcement, which was understood as the “first day.” If an announcement came towards the end of a day, the beginning of the “third day” could arrive not much more than 24 hours later.

Seen in this light, if Jesus died and was buried on Friday, it would be completely logical that Sunday would be seen as the “third day.”

Why was the “Third Day” so Significant?

Understanding how the Jews counted days solves one mystery for our logical, Greek-thinking brains. But another insight comes from looking at Jesus’ words about “the third day” more Hebraically.

In several places we hear Jesus talk about his death, but then how he’d be raised on “the third day.” He makes this prediction over and over. Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide thinks that he did so because of a motif that Jewish teachers had noted in their Scriptures that reminded them of a promise from Hosea:

Come, let us return to the Lord;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him. (Hosea 6:1-2)

Hosea had rebuked the people of Israel for their sins, and they knew they were suffering from God’s punishment. But then the prophet invited them to return to the Lord, issuing a gracious promise that God’s forgiveness would soon come. Today might be a terrible day of his anger, but tomorrow would be better, and in not too long, life would seemingly begin again. This message gave them hope that even when God was angry, he desired to forgive.

When the rabbis looked back on the Scriptures in light of Hosea’s words, they noticed several places where the “third day” was when redemption came. They were not being woodenly literalistic in counting up days. They were not developing codes and prediction schemes. They were saying that scripturally, God’s forgiveness and redemption comes on “the third day,” poetically speaking.

Lapide writes that in Jewish thought,

“On the third day” has nothing to do with the date or the counting of time but contains for ears which are educated biblically a clear reference to God’s mercy and grace which is revealed after two days of affliction and death by way of redemption.

It made perfect sense to Jesus’ first Jewish followers that Christ would be raised to life “on the third day.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Genesis Rabbah 56. Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis, Fortress: 1982), 91-93.

For more about this motif of “the third day,” see p 214-216 in Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus (Tverberg, Baker, 2018).  It is part of a larger section called “Reading about the Messiah” (p 178-250) which discusses the distinctively Jewish, Hebraic way of reading the Bible that Jesus used to communicate his Messianic identity. Some of his boldest claims float right past us because we don’t know how he read his Scriptures, our Old Testament.

(Images: Raw Pixel, Dion Tavenier)

Original blog posted at ourrabbijesus.com. Re-posted here with permission.

Lois Tverberg

Lois Tverberg holds a Ph.D in biology and was a college professor. While in a Bible study class she became interested in studying the Bible in it’s cultural context. Discovering the answers to head-scratching questions and sharing the “ah-hah” moments with others became a passion. She began learning Hebrew and Greek, studying in the land of Israel, and exploring recent scholarship on Jesus’ first-century Jewish world. Ultimately, she left a life in academia to devote herself full-time to teaching and writing on the topic, and now has been at it for almost twenty years. She has authored five books and also directs the En-Gedi Resource Center, an educational ministry. 

Lois will be the speaker at “Through the Eyes of Jesus”, a Bible study seminar for men and women in Janesville, Wisconsin April 13 & 14, 2018. Registrations close April 6, 2018.

Registration includes Saturday lunch. Our time together will include worship, teaching, and practical application via round-table discussion. You will receive materials to take home with you for ongoing study. Information here.

Women of the Word is an inter-denominational, inter-generational, and inter-cultural ministry dedicated to transforming lives into the image of Jesus through growing disciples taught by God’s Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We honor our elders, learning from them as they mentor us. We value and strengthen the middle-aged. We seek to reach the millennials and younger generations to encourage and mentor them in the ways of the Lord. Our prayer is that we honor God together. We welcome men to join us at Bible seminars such as “Through the Eyes of Jesus” and on our Amazing Israel Adventure trips. 

Waiting for Resurrection

by Rose-Marie Slosek

Our life with God is in the process of growing:  there is a tension between the now and the “not yet.”  While the plan for who He meant us to be was in the mind and heart of God before we were conceived, the living out of that destiny takes place, here on earth, through a process of time and trust.

On this day, Holy Saturday as the liturgical church calls it, Jesus is in a place of utter waiting and trust on God to resurrect Him.  As a man He did not have the power to resurrect Himself, He had to wait for His Father. So likewise, we cannot bring life to ourselves but must surrender to God, knowing that His love for us will not forget us, will not abandon us, will not hurt us, but will bring us to a higher life than we have known.  This is not a hopeful truism, but a living truth!

Jesus understands waiting in trust for God to bring life and resurrection. He understands the vulnerability of waiting in hope, and trusting in faith. Today we can all say that there is something within us that is giving place, perhaps in fits and starts, to who we are yet to become.  The sons and daughters of God are being revealed. The life of God is welling up within us ready to bud forth new things that will glorify and reflect God’s nature in us.

Ponder happily that this day signifies that we are moving from the valley of the shadow of death to our rightful place beneath the shadow of His wings!  So let us surrender ourselves into the hands of our Father. Though we be in an “in-between” place, a place of almost there but not yet, we know that “He who has begun a good work in us will continue to carry it through to completion in Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6)

Look to your Father and to your Saviour!  Resurrection awaits us!

Re-posted with permission. Original posted here.

 

Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations spreading the Gospel, and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.

Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel.

Jesus Celebrated Passover

by Betsy Roy

During Passover and “Holy Week”,  our focus is rightly on the things that transpired during this season in the life of Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew). Glorious LORD JESUS! Psalm 116:12 says, “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits to me?” Indeed! We cannot. But, we can set our hearts to follow hard after Him and honor Him with our lives as faithful disciples.

Sometime we get so busy with all the practical preparations, like cleaning,  cooking, and Easter egg hunts that we truly forget what this season is all about. We forget the purpose which is stated by God several times in Exodus Chapters 7-10, “Let my people go, that they may serve (sometimes translated ‘worship’) me!”  God’s purpose has not changed since the time of the Exodus. Jesus came to set us free from all that holds us in bondage so that we may serve (worship) Him and one another in spirit and in truth.

I encourage you to take time during this season which extends past Resurrection Sunday or “Easter” to read God’s Word and ponder it in your heart. Exodus 12 tells us how God instituted Passover. Do you see how it prefigures Jesus? In the New Testament, Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples. Read Luke 22:7 – 20. During the Passover Seder, Jesus instituted what Christians now call “Communion”. This all has great significance for us as believers in Jesus. Then read the rest of Luke 22 – Luke 24. Sometimes we are so familiar with a “bible story” that we miss some important revelations the Holy Spirit wants to show us because we don’t take the time to read it prayerfully. What is the text saying to you? How are you to apply the text so that you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ? Does an understanding of Passover from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) enrich what your read in the New Testament? Prayerfully so!

Also consider prayerfully reading the prophetic scriptures of Isaiah 42:1 – 4, Isaiah 49:1 – 6, Isaiah 50:4 – 9, and Isaiah 52:13 – Isaiah 53:12 known as the “Servant’s Songs” which speak of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). 

This year (2018) Passover begins at twilight March 30 and goes till sundown April 7.  Passover is really a “season of liberation”. It includes the Feast of Passover,  the Days of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Firstfruits. Jewish people read certain scriptures during this time and Messianic Believers add readings from the New Testament. I encourage you to read them. A great resource is Hebrew for Christians, which lists the scriptures and also teaches about this season which ends with the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) on May 19, 2018.

The celebration of the Passover Seder will occur throughout the world in Jewish homes this year (2018) beginning at twilight on March 30 (Nisan 14, beginning Nisan 15 on the Hebrew calendar). It’s an excellent time to pray for the salvation of Jewish people. Pray that their eyes will be opened and they see that Yeshua (Jesus) is their Messiah.

This year (2018) “Good Friday” falls on Passover. Because the Gregorian calendar, which we observe, and the Hebrew calendar are different, Passover and Easter fall on different days every year. While as Christians we might not take part in a Passover Seder, we can join in by also remembering what happened then and what happened to Jesus, the perfect Passover lamb! Let’s remember and rejoice because Jesus has set us free and wants to deliver us from every bondage so we can live the abundant life He has promised us; a life where we are free to follow Him as His disciples, serve Him, His people and gather in His harvest of souls.

Let’s give Him praise! The Hallel (praise) Psalms of 113 – 118 are read during the Passover Seder. We can read them too! Let’s begin right now!

“Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! (Psalm 113:1, 2)

The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

We have great reason to celebrate because our Savior is not dead. HE IS RISEN. HE IS ALIVE. The grave could not hold Him. The tomb is empty and because He lives, we have hope and we can face tomorrow. Yes, life has its difficulties and pain, but Jesus has promised to never leave us, nor forsake us. May this reality encourage you and may you truly experience His peace and joy during this season. The Lord abundantly bless you!

Wreath pictured with lilies from wreathswithareason.com, a non-profit organization that raises awareness and funds to combat sex-trafficking. 

Betsy Roy is the Director of Women of the Word, an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel

Betsy and her husband Jim lead the trips to Israel, which include visiting with local believers, both Messianic and Arab. Together they have 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren which are the delight of their hearts. God’s mercy endures from generation to generation. 

Stepping It Up a Notch at 60

by Rose-Marie Slosek

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:12-14)

While we are eternal beings in an ultimately real sense, we are also mortals while on this earth. The Psalmist tells us to “number our days” that we might gain a sense of how short they are, and how imperative it is that our earthly sojourn should count much for the eternal kingdom of God.

A couple of us at Women of the Word are turning 60 this year! With that comes a soberness of heart that causes us to turn to the Lord, and implore Him to use us as He wills. There can be nothing held back from Him in this hour. As our bodies age, our spirit can burn every more brightly because we identify with our Lord and understand His purposes and ways in an even greater way. The desire and pursuits of earlier decades give way to wholehearted and unreserved abandon to our God and His passionate work to win all peoples to Himself.

There are some things that can not be done when we are young because we do not yet have the experience. Maturity in God happens over the course of decades– line upon line of faithful walking with God, day in and day out, through the many storms of life.  While youth has energy, the seasoned know that of themselves, they can do nothing and their self-trust has given way to trust in God alone, or at least the beginning of that. There are no shortcuts to some things. Knowing where you end, and where God begins is a great wisdom.

Paul writes, “Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character produces joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.  Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. While we were yet in weakness [powerless to help ourselves], at the fitting time Christ died for us in our ungodly condition (Romans 5:3-6 Amplified).

By the time one turns 60, our character is soberingly starting to show itself for what it is. Now is our wake-up call to be awake, and surrendered, and fit for the Master’s use. For if not now, when? If we have not taken the claims of Jesus upon our life seriously, we had best get down on our knees. And if we have, there are always deeper, more wonderful depths to plumb. I feel that I am only getting to the starting line and I have endeavored to run the race with sobriety for these many decades.

God views our life from the finish point. He stands at our finish line and beckons us to run well, run with abandon, run with character, run with grace.  So let us do that, with all our mind, soul and strength. There is no time to lose, and no time like the present to press into God.

Re-posted here with permission. Original blog posted here.

Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations spreading the Gospel, and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.

Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel.

Aging from a Biblical Perspective

by Lois Tverberg

To understand your Bible you need to grasp the assumptions of its cultural world. Sometimes glimpsing its alternative point of view can even put our own reality into perspective.

For instance, in the Ancient Near East, advanced age was not seen as something to be avoided. Aging was seen a source of honor and dignity. Job saw a long life as a source of knowledge: “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” (Job 12:12)

We, on the other hand, live in a society that idolizes youth, where our heroes are Mark Zuckerberg and Justin Beiber. We can hardly imagine living in a society where growing older is actually seen as a good thing.

Our perspective is not universal, though. Even today, it’s an insult in the Middle East to estimate a person’s age as too young. Hasidic Jews line the cribs of their newborns with pictures of white-bearded rabbis, who are the “rock stars” of their world.

 

The Dynamic Heroes of The Prince of Egypt

Do you remember The Prince of Egypt? In Disney’s animated retelling of the Exodus story, Moses, Miriam and Aaron all look about 23 years old. But have you ever considered the fact that the real Moses was actually eighty, which meant that Miriam would have been in her mid-nineties, and Aaron even older? These three dynamic “leaders of the revolution” were all senior citizens, old-timers who’d be long out to pasture in our world.

Believe it or not, even more of the players in the “original” Prince of Egypt were distinguished by their age. When Moses went to the leaders of Israel with God’s plan, the ones he approached were the zakanim—the elders, or literally, the “beards.” Disney doesn’t seem to realize that every one of the key roles in the Exodus story was significantly aged.

Where Elders were Leaders

Throughout the Bible, communities were led by elders, zakanim. The early church continued the tradition of forming counsels from elders, presbyteroi. In the ancient world, advanced age was seen as a prerequisite for leadership, because of the wisdom that accrues from experience. This was even more important in oral cultures, where traditions were handed down from generation to generation.

Youth was actually seen as a disadvantage, if you wanted to be influential. Jeremiah protested when God first called to be a prophet, because he felt so young that no one would listen to him (Jeremiah 1:6). Likewise, Paul had to encourage his disciple Timothy by saying, “Let no one despise you for your youth.” (1 Timothy 4:12) To have no one in one’s family who lived to an advanced age was a curse. (1 Samuel 2:32)

What would it be like if Christians reconsidered our culture’s worldview and saw aging as a blessing, rather than as a burden? What if middle-aged pastors didn’t feel saddled by the expectation that they act like teenagers?  What if older folks were the most influential, sought-after people in a congregation, rather than being treated as a declining, needy group?

I’ll be celebrating my next birthday in a few weeks. With every year, I like the Bible’s positive view of aging more and more.

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness. Proverbs 16:31

Original blog posted at ourrabbijesus.com. Reposted here with permission.

Lois Tverberg

Lois Tverberg holds a Ph.D in biology and was a college professor. While in a Bible study class she became interested in studying the Bible in it’s cultural context. Discovering the answers to head-scratching questions and sharing the “ah-hah” moments with others became a passion. She began learning Hebrew and Greek, studying in the land of Israel, and exploring recent scholarship on Jesus’ first-century Jewish world. Ultimately, she left a life in academia to devote herself full-time to teaching and writing on the topic, and now has been at it for almost twenty years. She has authored five books and also directs the En-Gedi Resource Center, an educational ministry. 

Lois will be the speaker at “Through the Eyes of Jesus”, a Bible study seminar for men and women in Janesville, Wisconsin April 13 & 14, 2018. Early Bird deadline is March 19, 2018. Registration includes Saturday lunch. Our time together will include worship, teaching, and practical application via round-table discussion. You will receive materials to take home with you for ongoing study. Information here.

Women of the Word is an inter-denominational, inter-generational, and inter-cultural ministry dedicated to transforming lives into the image of Jesus through growing disciples taught by God’s Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We honor our elders, learning from them as they mentor us. We value and strengthen the middle-aged. We seek to reach the millennials and younger generations to encourage and mentor them in the ways of the Lord. Our prayer is that we honor God together. We welcome men to join us at Bible seminars such as “Through the Eyes of Jesus” and on our Amazing Israel Adventure trips. 

Ask Away

by Rachel Hansen

My 5-year-old son posed one of my favorite life questions in a car ride last month: “Mom,” he said. Pause. “We’re rockin’, right?” As I cranked the music volume up a couple more notches, I smiled widely and responded: “Yes, son. We are!”

I’m building a legacy here. As a musician, this moment felt epic! My heart beat to each sound of the drums, feeling the depth of the bass in my bones. My soul rejoiced in the innocence of such a simple, fun question — one of a million questions to date from him in five short years.

Questions. Questions. Questions. My oldest boy is full of them! I guess he’s a chip off the old block in this way. As crazy as they can be – the inquiries AND the kid – the truth is that I enjoy fielding my son’s questions. His asking is funneled through my open ears and an interested heart because I love him. This one inquiry a few weeks ago about pop/rock music was an easy answer. Some questions require much more thought. And others challenge me to my core! The challenge is welcomed because I want him to explore the world with me. He’s growing and trying to make sense of this place, of his world… as am I.  So, questions are welcome here.

If he’s the chip, I’m the block. Despite my laid back demeanor, my mind is a chatter box! The more time I have to think about something, more questions arise. The more time I spend with a person, the more I ask. Maybe it’s the journalist or philosopher in me? I just want to know MORE. I want to wrap my mind around “it” (whatever it is). I seek answers and understanding. I want to go deeper.

Where do you take your most important questions? Who do you entrust with hidden heart inquiries? Each of us needs a trustworthy, wise and available confidant if we intend to grow.

What I’ve grown to love about God is how gracefully He handles my questions. All of them. Grace. I can ask away. No filter.

(Timeout here. Talk to God? Yes.)

I wasn’t born ready to knock at God’s door with all my concerns. Life got me there. God found me in a very tired season when I had exhausted my questions and had no answers. For a moment in time, I had actually stopped asking… I call it a “tangled hanger” season — no matter how hard I tried to find the problematic root, to pull out the source of the tangle, the mess remained intact. How frustrating! The sad truth is I had already spent years confronted with these “tangled hangers” struggling under the oppression of nagging health issues. Doctors had not yet cured me and the Internet confused me with so much hypothesis. I become lost in the pursuit of knowledge while my body, soul and spirit suffered. So tired of dead ends, I stopped my pursuit of healing to rest. My efforts to fix myself had failed.

Sometimes a dead end can redirect us to truly experience the spiritual reality that God’s door is always open. And I needed to open my life even more to Him. Tired but desperate to become unstuck, I realized I had to ask God some REALLY hard life questions to find peace. I had to become completely honest about the struggle before I could grow from it.

So, with nothing more to lose, I made an event out of seeking God. I decided to press into Him harder then ever before! I remember the two seater small table in the bustling coffee shop where I sat and journaled to God looking at the empty chair in front of me (His place). I sat there in this caffeinated seat to hash “it” out. (Fascinating that God got there ahead of me and proved Himself ready and waiting. I think He was holding that last free table in the back corner for me! Little did I know this gut wrenching practice of complete honest dialogue with God — just writing to Him, periodically looking up at the empty chair as if He’d show His face — would become several years of table talk.)

When I sat with God that day and wanted to spill my guts, it felt intimidating to be completely honest! Before I ever wrote Him a single word in my notebook, a few questions haunted me: Was I in fact going to question the God of the Universe? Who was I to demand answers from God? I wasn’t brought up this bold in the church. Talking to God was much more polite. My questions seemed less reverent and way more gritty. I was going there, to the hard places. What would He say? Would I even hear from Him? I had to find all this out for myself. I put my ability to hear from God to the test! I took a risk.

Surprisingly, His immediate response changed EVERYTHING. I heard one simple and profound reply:

“I can handle your questions. Ask me.”

Can you imagine hearing these words? Have you?

God raised the volume of His voice to me a couple notches. It still astounds me! This open door response changed my relationship with God in a moment and began my healing journey. It brought me deeper into prayer and ongoing, honest conversation with Him. I better understood then that I am His child and like my own little boys now, I also need to press into Him as children do to their parents. He could handle me. No filter.

unsplash.com

Now when I look back into my notebooks, I had so many “why” questions at first. (Which is so like my other son, the 2-year-old! One of his first words was in fact “why”!) And in time — as I asked God questions and read His word — the “why’s” turned into “what” questions:
What should I do in this circumstance?
What do I say to him? To her?
What do you want me to do for you God?

Because God met me in my “why’s”, I grew to trust Him with the “what’s” of my life. And then I gave over the “who” and “where” questions. The often most difficult “when” questions came last! I learned that the door to God is open and yet His response timing is His own. If I haven’t heard His voice or seen His response, I can trust He is still working on my behalf. After all, I’m His child.

“No question is a bad question.” I still hear that elementary encouragement because I stored it in my heart. We expect and encourage little ones to press in. Go ahead. Ask away. But when we “grow up” some of us inquire less. And with the hardest questions, we may wait to ask God or not ask Him at all.

Today, if you’re holding onto deep unresolved questions, take a leap of faith! Take a risk and talk openly to God. Ask away. He can handle you! Then wait and see how He responds… He’s waiting with open ears and an interested heart because He loves you.

Maybe you’ve already spoken to God about an issue in the past and received no answers. My guidance is the same: Take another leap of faith! Keep knocking at His door. Or don’t knock at all because the door’s actually open wide! Walk right in and share your heart. Again if needed. No filter. He’s expecting you and has a two seat table waiting for you! Take your seat at the table.

Relationships starve on silence. Don’t silence yourself. Don’t turn down God’s volume. Seek God out. Ask away. My hope is that God speaks personally to your heart and soul. And in these divine moments your spirit will find strength.

Original blog at pressingintogod.com. Reposted here with permission.

Rachel Hansen

Rachel loves tracking the movement of God in and around her, sharing the miraculous hope found by faith in everyday life. An adventure seeker with a curious heart, she loves living by the Spirit exploring wherever life takes her! She has Midwest roots as a former Chicagoan and currently resides in Southern California. As a full time mother and wife serving God, two energetic little boys and her husband, she’s often on the move and lives in her running shoes! Passionate about the transformative power of God, she enjoys prayer ministry and serves as a leader of women’s ministry at her church, The Bridge, in Pasadena. She’s currently working on a faith based book and sharing spiritual insights on her new website.

Notebooks image credit unsplash.com

 

Getting Beyond Me-O-Centric Bible Reading

by Lois Tverberg 

This blog is based on an excerpt from Lois Tverberg’s latest book “Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus”. You can read the first chapter free here

Did you know that you can now order a copy of a Bible translation called “Your Personalized Bible” which will insert your name in more than seven thousand verses? Here are a few verses from my copy:

Lois like a sheep has gone astray. Lois has turned to her own way; and the Lord has laid on Him Lois’s iniquity. (Isa. 53:6)

Lois is the light of the world. (Matt. 5:14)

You have made Lois a little lower than God,
And crowned Lois with glory and honor.
You make Lois a ruler over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things under Lois’ feet. (Ps. 8:5–6)

You might think I’d be a fan of this style of study. I’m single, never married. I’m self-employed. I work by myself out of my own home office. I have no boss, no husband, no children. I’m queen of my own pleasant little world.

I’ve heard the siren call of individualism and succumbed as much as anyone, so you’d think I’d want to read my Bible that way. The more I study the Bible, however, the more I’m realizing the many ways that a me-o-centric approach misunderstands the text.

Take, for instance, this Bible’s translation of 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Lois is a temple of God.” Often people read this line as saying, “Your body is a sacred ‘deity-shrine’ and you must pamper it accordingly.”

Paul, however, wasn’t trying to convince us to apply more UV-blocking moisturizer and eat more leafy green vegetables. Rather, he was telling the Corinthians that all together they were the temple of God, and that they were being built together into one dwelling place for his Spirit. Pagans had many temples, but the true God had only one. They were the “house,” the beit that God had promised to David—not just a structure but a lineage, a family. Paul’s focus was not on each person individually but rather on the body of believers as a whole.

Lois Tverberg

Lois Tverberg holds a Ph.D in biology and was a college professor. While in a Bible study class she became interested in studying the Bible in it’s cultural context. Discovering the answers to head-scratching questions and sharing the “ah-hah” moments with others became a passion. She began learning Hebrew and Greek, studying in the land of Israel, and exploring recent scholarship on Jesus’ first-century Jewish world. Ultimately, she left a life in academia to devote herself full-time to teaching and writing on the topic, and now has been at it for almost twenty years. She has authored five books and also directs the En-Gedi Resource Center, an educational ministry. 

Lois will be the speaker at “Through the Eyes of Jesus”, a Bible study seminar for men and women in Janesville, Wisconsin April 13 & 14, 2018. Early Bird deadline is March 19, 2018. Registration includes Saturday lunch. Our time together will include worship, teaching, and practical application via round-table discussion. You will receive materials to take home with you for ongoing study. Information here.

 

Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus

An Interview with Author and Speaker Lois Tverberg

You’ve written a couple of other books before this one that have similar titles – Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus and Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus. How do they relate to your new book?

Lois Tverberg

Sitting at the Feet was about the Jewish customs that deepen our understanding of Jesus’ life and ministry, like the biblical feasts, the Jewish prayers, and the relationship of rabbi and disciple. Walking in the Dust was about the Jewish context of Jesus’ teachings. Many of the things he said make much more sense when you know the conversation that was going on around him. Disciples are supposed to “walk in the ways” of their rabbi and obey his teaching. So I chose some of Jesus’ teachings that are especially practical for our lives and have a Jewish context that sheds light on their meaning.

My newest book, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus, pulls back a bit and starts by looking at cultural issues that get in the way as we read the Bible in the modern, Western world. Among the things I asked myself as I wrote was, what cultural tools can I give readers to read the Bible more authentically? How does a lack of grasp of Jesus as a Jewish Middle Easterner cause us to misunderstand his words? Ultimately, my goal was to equip the average Christian to read the Bible more like a first-century disciple. 

In your new book, you talk about cultural differences that get in the way of understanding the Bible and suggest that we need to grasp how the Bible “thinks.” What do you mean by that?

I started the book with a story about when my five-year-old nephew arrived in Iowa from Atlanta for Christmas. He had never seen snow before, so he asked, “What do you do with the snow when you have to mow the lawn?” He couldn’t imagine a reality where people didn’t mow their lawns year round, so he assumed it was universal. In the same way, many of our problems with the Bible come from misunderstanding its cultural reality and projecting our own onto it instead. We need to grasp how the Bible “thinks” – the basic background assumptions that biblical peoples had about life. Often these were very different than ours today. It’s also important that we don’t mix these two worlds together inappropriately, like mixing lawnmowers and snow.

You mention an acronym, “WEIRD,” that psychologists coined for the ways that that American culture is unusual compared to the rest of the world. How do you think this comes into play in reading the Bible?

The acronym “WEIRD” stands for “Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic.” All these traits tend to characterize Europeans and especially Americans. We live in an educated, Western culture that values scientific thought above all else. We are industrialized so that our world does not revolve around family and clan but around work and business. We are relatively rich so that many basic worries are simply not on our radar screens. We live in a democracy and dislike all hierarchy and authority.

I point out that these same characteristics tend to set us apart culturally from the Bible, so that major biblical themes, like farming and kings, simply do not resonate. I explore these and other cultural difficulties that modern readers (especially Americans) have with the Bible.

There’s a chapter titled “Greek Brain, Hebrew Brain” where you discuss the difference between Western vs. Eastern thought. How does this influence how we read the Bible?

Western thinking is very analytical, theoretical and focused on abstract concepts. It began in Greece in the 5th century AD and has deeply affected European-based cultures. We see it as the essence of mental sophistication and have a hard time imagining that anyone could think any other way. Much of the Bible, however, communicates in a more ancient way. It speaks in concrete images and parables rather than abstract concepts and argumentation. In this chapter, I show that brilliant ideas can be expressed this way too, and to give readers some basic skills to bridge the gap between East and West.

Another chapter is called, “Why Jesus Needs those Boring ‘Begats.’” In it, you point out that many people wonder why the Bible contains so many meaningless lists of names. What is significant about genealogies, culturally? Why were they included?

In the Bible, the family was central. Even if you don’t agree with it on every issue, you have to grasp how it “thinks” in terms of family as the center of reality in order to follow its most basic themes. The growth and relationships of a family were the core of how societies functioned. The main theme of the biblical story is God’s promise to Abraham to give him a great family, and the covenant that God makes with that family, Israel. Every time genealogies are listed it shows how God is fulfilling his promise. Even in the New Testament, whether or not believers in Christ needed to be “sons of Abraham” (Torah-observant Jews, who lived by the family covenant) was a major issue.

How does our perspective change if we read the Bible as a “we” instead of merely as an individual?

Americans are very individualistic, and we tend to focus on the Bible as a series of personal encounters between individuals and God. We also assume that the ultimate audience for Bible reading is “me.” We miss how often the Scriptures focus on the group rather than the individual. When Jesus preaches, he’s almost always addressing a crowd. When Paul tells his audience that they are a temple of God, we hear it as about how “my body is a temple.” But Paul is actually talking about them all together as God’s temple, not to each of them individually. In this chapter, I point out many places where things make more sense when you see them in light of their communal implications.

Here’s another example of how “we” is important. People talk about Jesus is “my personal savior” and struggle to find the gospel in the Gospels. That’s because the biblical imagery is actually about Christ saving a group of people. Jesus is the “Christ,” God’s anointed king, who has come to redeem a people to be his kingdom. When we “accept Christ” we are submitting to his kingship and joining his people. The imagery of a “kingdom” is inherently plural, so it passes right by us.

You tell about a Christian scholar who theorized that Paul knew his Scriptures by memory. Christian scholars were very skeptical, but Jewish scholars strongly agreed with him. Why was this story important to you?

When I first started hearing about Jesus’ Jewish context, I was skeptical about whether it could be of use to Christians. I was also skeptical of ideas like that Jesus and Paul likely knew their Scriptures (our Old Testament) by heart and expected their listeners to be very familiar with them too. I was told that they would hint to it and drop in little quotes often in their teaching, and these hints were often quite important to grasp the point.

At first, I absolutely didn’t believe this. But as I studied more about traditional Judaism, I discovered that even since the first century, rabbinic sermons have been overloaded with hints, quotes and subtle links to Bible passages. Memorization has been strongly stressed. I laughed when I read about a scholar on Paul’s Jewish context who spoke about this at conferences about twenty or thirty years ago. Christian scholars would all poo-poo him and say, “highly unlikely” or “totally impossible.” The Jewish scholars in his audience, however, would all nod their heads in agreement and say, of course, he did!

In the last section of the book, I go into more detail about how Jewish teachers studied their Scriptures and alluded to them in preaching. Most importantly, I talk about how some of Jesus’ boldest claims to being the Messiah, the Christ who God sent as Savior, were delivered in this very subtle Jewish way. There are a lot of skeptical scholars who have said that Jesus was just a wandering wise man whose followers exalted to a divine status. But they know nothing about Jesus’ Jewish habit of hinting to his Scriptures, so they miss some of his most powerful statements about being the Son of God.

What started your interest in the Jewishness of Jesus? Was there a particular event that piqued your interest?

I was raised in a devout Christian home. I’m not Jewish and my overall interest is in understanding the reality of Jesus and the Bible, rather than Judaism per se. A little over twenty years ago I signed up for a seminar on ancient Israel and the Jewish culture of the Bible at my church, thinking it would be just some dry historical information. But all of a sudden Bible stories that were foggy and confusing became clear and deeply relevant to my life. I started hearing the words of Scripture through the ears of its ancient listeners, and it made all the difference in the world.

My background was originally in the sciences, and I have a Ph. D. in biology. I was teaching as a college biology professor and my background in research compelled me to dig deeper. Over the years I’ve traveled to Israel several times to experience the land and history in person and to study the language and the culture. Every time I come home I’m newly inspired because in the past few decades scholars and archaeologists have unearthed enormous amounts of information that clarifies the Bible’s stories, particularly the Jewish setting of Jesus.

Why do you think that so many Christians are unaware of their Jewish heritage?

All of the disciples were Jewish, and the New Testament was written almost entirely by Jews. But within only a couple centuries Gentiles became the majority in the church, and many were hostile to its Jewish origins. Even in Romans, Paul warned the Gentiles not to be arrogant toward the Jews, but his words went unheeded. One reason was that early Christians needed to establish their identity as a new movement, and they defended their faith by focusing on their differences with Judaism.

Through the ages, there has been occasional interest by Christians in understanding their Jewish roots, but for much of its history, the church has struggled with anti-Semitism. And Jews who had felt the persecution of Christians were understandably less than interested in helping them understand the roots of their faith. It’s only been in the last century that Christians have become avidly interested in the topic. One reason for this is because we mingle so much more. Jews and Christians now have relative freedom to discuss their beliefs, and both groups are curious about how the other reads their common Scriptures.

Click to read a FREE chapter of Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus

Lois Tverberg has been a speaker at Women of the Word. We look forward to her return with us in April 2018 for “Through the Eyes of Jesus”. Click here for more information. This event is open to men and women. Please join us.

Spicy, Savory Words

By Lois Tverberg

Have you noticed the latest food trend? Growing numbers of people are into artisanal foods. They love organic cheeses and heirloom vegetables, farmer’s markets and food co-ops. They want to eat slow food, not fast food. It takes more time and effort, but it’s worth it, they say.

You know what? I’m into artisanal Bible study. As Christians, we all know that it’s important to sustain ourselves daily with the Scriptures. But time is short, so many of us do Bible study microwave-style nowadays. We gulp down a pre-packaged devotion with a few slurps of coffee before heading off to work. Is it at all surprising when it’s as bland and unmemorable as a vending machine sandwich?

There’s actually a way to spice up your study, by getting to know some of the Bible’s wise Hebrew words. They’re aromatic and savory, carrying a distinct scent of the rich, earthy depths of their ancient origins. (A sample study is attached at the end of this blog.)

Have you ever tasted fresh pita bread made by the Bedouins? It’s out of this worldchewy and hot, crispy in spots, and a little smoky from the open fire. When a veiled, wizened old woman flops a piping hot piece into your hands, you need to rip off a chunk and pass the rest on before your fingers burn. Smeared with olive oil and dried hyssop, it’s like nothing you’ve ever tasted before.

It’s the same with Hebrew words. Out of necessity for us to read them, we’ve had to “package” them into English sen- tences, like the bagged pitas you find at the grocery store. But some of their more subtle flavors simply don’t travel well across languages and time, even if their “nutritional value” hasn’t changed. In order to taste the breadth of expression of the Bible’s ancient words, you have to travel back mentally into their original Middle Eastern setting.

Why Hebrew? Well, Hebrew is God’s heart language— the mother tongue of the Scriptures Jesus read. Hebrew is also an extremely rich, poetic language that looks at the world in very different ways than English. Grasping the depth of even a few words greatly clarifies and enriches reading, and casts new light on things that you thought you understood. You’ll see humor, irony and timeless wisdom where you passed it by before.

Often, knowing the original, fuller sense of a biblical idea will challenge and change you, as its ancient wisdom puts your life into the perspective of God’s eternal Word.

Roomy Suitcases

Let’s look at Hebrew words another way. Rather than being “packaged” into sentences, you could say that words themselves are packaging. Words are the luggage that we use to transport our thoughts into the minds of others.

In English, we have an enormous number of “suitcases,” words with various shades of meaning and formality. Some dictionaries put the number at 100,000, some more. But believe it or not, biblical Hebrew has only about 4000 words, a tiny fraction of the vocabulary of English.

You might wonder how Hebrew can communicate with so few words. The reason is that each “suitcase” is roomier inside—deeper, wider, more spacious. Many Hebrew words carry a wider range of meaning than the corresponding word in English. Unpacking the ideas within a Hebrew “suitcase” is often enormously helpful in Bible study.

We English speakers are used to very precise meanings, and we expect to have everything carefully defined. But Hebrew words paint scenes in broad brushstrokes, leaving the listener to discern the meaning from the context.

The prophets and biblical writers actually seemed to delight in pondering the nuances of their language. They often made wordplays based on a word’s ambiguity, deliberately invoking multiple layers of a word’s meaning.

For instance, the word ruach (roo-AKH) means “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit.” When God’s ruach blew through the Valley of Dry Bones to bring new life in Ezekiel 37, we see that all of its various meanings are intended.

I’ve always imagined that God chose to reveal his Word in Hebrew because the language invites us to think more deeply. As we read the Scriptures, we ask God what he is saying to us again and again.

Hebrew is helpful not just for reading the Old Testament (which was mostly written in Hebrew), but the New Testament too. Although it was written in Greek, it was composed almost entirely by Jews growing up in a Hebrew-speaking, Semitic-thinking culture. Often you hear a Hebraic “accent” even in the Greek text. Knowing more about the Hebrew way of looking at the world is helpful in reading the Scriptures from beginning to end.

Lois Tverberg has written a wonderful study available in e-book form entitled “5 Hebrew Words that Every Christian Should Know”. A sample of it is attached here (pdf).  You can purchase the entire e-book (pdf) for $3.99 here.  Lois is a biblical scholar,  author and speaker.  Women of the Word, a Christian women’s conference ministry, is blessed to have her on our speaker team. She brings great insight into understanding the Bible from its Hebraic context. This helps us to walk out biblical principles and become better disciples of Jesus.