Some of my research time over the past two years has increasingly included talking about Scripture with some Chassidic Jewish friends. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned.
For example, the answer to age-old Christian question about what our responsibility is to the Law of Moses is quite simple. We are not required to obey the Law of Moses. Why? Because we’re not Jewish. There’s a whole history behind this answer, but it’s that simple. Gentiles are to obey what is called the Seven Laws of Noah, and interestingly enough, a summarized version of these laws are provided to Christian Gentile converts in Acts 15:29.
And of course, just as with the Jewish laws, the Noahic laws are not to gain eternal life, but in order to live in right fellowship with God and with each other.
Another area of Jewish background research has been my commmentary on the Gospel of Luke. I try to get as much Jewish background information in there as I can. Jesus was Jewish, after all. And so were the apostles and Paul.
I have spent the last four weeks reseaching the potential Jewish background on a very difficult word in Luke 6:1: deuteroproto (lit. “second-first). No, research and writing is not my full-time job, but I figure I spend about 10 hours a week or so in study. So this one word has consumed about 40 hours. Yikes.
But last night, I had a major breakthrough on it. I am super excited about what I discovered. So far, only my wife knows about it. She’s my biggest cheerleader and my inspiration. Hopefully now that I’ve found a solution, I can get on with writing the next portion of the commentary, Luke 6:1-5. You will have to wait until that is finished to hear my discovery.
In researching this word, I had numerous discussions with my Jewish friends about my possible theories. They were extremely helpful.
One thing I have found, however, is that discussing Jewish backgrounds with Chassidic Jews is a slippery endeavor. They only see things one way: their way (Just like all of us, I suppose.) They are the heirs of what we would call Pharisaical Judaism. Paul was a Pharisee, and Jesus probably was also. Or at least, in his thinking, theology, and practice, Jesus was closest to the Pharisees. He argues with them as one who is part of the group. He is not an outside critic.
But I have found that when I ask questions, I need to take what I hear with some discernment. For example, on one question I had about Passover (Jews call it Pesach), the Rabbi friend of mine answered the question and then said, “Every Jew everywhere throughout time has believed this way…”
I knew for a fact that the Sadducees and the Essenes did not, and that there were groups of Jews today who also have a different opinion. So I mentioned these groups and their views, and he said, “Oh, yes, well, they were not truly Jewish.”
I laughed to myself, but realized that we “Christians” are the same way. If a person believes and behaves differently than we do, it’s easier just to claim that they are not Christians than to admit that there might be something legitimate about their point of view.
What’s the point of this post? I don’t know. Study Jewish backgrounds. I’m still writing commentary. Something like that.
I guess I should just stop here.
Florin Hiltz says
What are some books or articles you would recommend for the study of Jewish history; that would help with Bible study and back ground, etc?
Here is a useful blog about Jewish studies. The blog posts are basically rebuttals to Judaism’s anti-missionaries.
The sin and atonement part is very interesting!
Thank you and keep up the good work!
Jeremy Myers says
I have not found any real good commentaries that help with Jewish backgrounds. The IVP Bible Background volumes are somewhat helpful, as are the Bible Knowledge Background commentaries by Craig Evans.
Most helpful are individual books by authors such as Neyrey, Pilch, Malina, Neusner, Flusser, and Brad Young. As I read these books, when I read something fascinating, I look at the footnotes to see where they learned their information, and if possible, I obtain those books. This leads to other helpful books, and before you know it, you’ve picked up some good background material.
Hope that helps a bit!
Jeremy Myers says
That’s an interesting website. I’ve added it to my Google reader page to look at more later.
I read his post on the Oral Torah. I’ve read some about the Oral Torah, and while I agree that it probably wasn’t given to Moses, I do think there are aspects of it that Jesus did in fact follow. For me, it’s helpful to think of the Oral Torah as Jewish tradition. And just as you and I follow some traditions of our culture and not others, Jesus did the same. He followed some Jewish traditions and not others. Does this mean He accepted all the traditions? Of course not. But He didn’t reject them all either.
Somewhere I’ve got a great article on the Oral Torah which I think I found online. If I can find it in my files, I will try to provide a link to it.
Jeremy Myers says
Here is an article on the Oral Torah I found helpful:
Rick Carpenter says
In a work I have in progress about Luke, I found your perspective on deuteroproto very helpful, and I’ve used your information, cited of course, in it. Will you look at the following and see if it accurately reflects what you have said? It follows theories by Edersheim, Alford and his sources, etc. Thanks.
Seemingly more convincingly however, Myers concludes that the deuteroprōtō sabbath is the Sabbath of Shavuot, the Feast of Pentecost (the fiftieth day after Passover). Myers based his evidence on the disciples’ actions in 6.1 and Jesus’ defense of them in 6.3-4, and the alternate means of referring to Pentecost. Raw wheat is one of the ‘first-fruits’ offered on Pentecost, as well as two loaves of bread made from the new wheat (םירוכב bikkurim, see Lev 23.17). The wheat for these loaves was prepared by priests by ‘rubbing and beating’ the wheat (see the later description by Maimonides in Laws of things forbidden for the Altar and Mishna Menachot, 6.5), not the usual threshing. The actions of the disciples in 6.1 mimicked those of the priests in preparing the grain and Jesus defended them by referring to 1Sam 21.6 where David and his men ate the showbread, שדק םחל or םיִנָּפַה bread of display (Lev 23.17). While the definition of στάχυς stachus, ear (as in grain) in 6.1 does not specify whether the fields were of barley (harvested around Passover) or wheat (harvested around Shavuot), Louw & Nida and Myers state that stachus was always used in the New Testament to indicate wheat. Although there were ‘first-fruit’ offerings for many agricultural products, grain offerings are the only ones which could have been referred to in 6.1-4. If this Sabbath (6.1) had been one during Unleavened Bread, the grain would have been the barley wave sheaf offering, תישאר re’shiyth in Lev 23.10-11, of the ‘first’ first-fruits, however barley does not mesh with 6.3-4/1Sam 21.6. If it was the Sabbath during Pentecost, as Myers contends, the stachus of the ‘second’ First-Fruits (therefore, per Myers, the sabbato deuteroprōtō of Shavuot) would be then rightly confirmed as wheat and thus mesh with 6.3-4/1Sam 21.6.
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, that is a good summary of the argument, I think. What is it you are working on?
Rick Carpenter says
Thank you Jeremy. I’m compiling references that detail or may help detail all mentions of time/chronology/dated history in Luke. Is any of your work in print?
Have you found anyone who agrees with your deuteroproto theory? Most scholars, if they choose to deal with it at all, tie it to Passover. Initially, I thought so as well, with it being further muddied by different calendric reckonings for when to start counting for Shavuot. Do you have more details on what you think regarding that?
Jeremy Myers says
It seems that I did find a scholar recently who held this view. I can’t recall who it was, or where I read it. I must have written it down somewhere, and will look around for it. …so many papers and books on my desk right now…
Yes, I initially thought it was related to Passover as well. But a Jewish friend told me something about how during Passover, they can only eat flour and grain from the previous year…nothing that has been newly harvested. This is another Jewish tradition that Jesus may or may not have kept, but along with this and some other considerations, I ended up rejecting this particular view.
Michael Wilson says
Jeremy, I have found the Chumash to be a very interesting help in studying Jewish thoughts on the first five books of the Old Testament. It’s opened my eyes to thinking through things in a different way. I would agree with your assessment that the commentators really see things from their point of view only but I have been guilty of that as well. The Chumash has been a valuable part of my library.