29 April 2012

Review: New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus: Insights from His Jewish Context

New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus: Insights from His Jewish Context
New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus: Insights from His Jewish Context by David Bivin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having just the other day finished what I guess is the first book on this topic by the author, Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, this one seemed like an easy transition to move right into. I will say though that this one flowed a bit better and was a bit more cohesive of a story, even though it appeared this book is mainly made up of individual writings by the author that have appeared over time on their web site.

While the last book opened with the first portion attempting to make a case for the idea that the gospel books were most likely originally written in Hebrew and later translated into Greek, this one did not seem to push that idea as much. Instead, to me it seemed more to be stating that the gospel message of Jesus was most likely spoken in a combination of Hebrew and Aramaic, and was therefore filled with Hebrew thought, cultural understandings, idioms, and the like; and that when these sayings, etc. were then decades later written into Greek, the translation into that language caused some things to get lost and misunderstood from the original intent and understanding. This idea is a bit more acceptable than the former, in light of the scholarship and evidence of the early manuscripts.

This book then goes on to lay out an amazing story of Jesus, the culture, his position, the people around him, and the way some of his "difficult" sayings were in fact fairly common in light of their culture. At times I felt like I was walking the streets beside Jesus, seeing what he saw, hearing what the disciples heard, and experiencing much of their culture.

I just felt more engrossed in the happenings of the day, and began to get a whole new sense of the happenings and sayings of our Lord. Understanding Jesus in his day to have been more of a fairly typical Rabbi of the time (though with a more powerful twist to his message), and understanding the rabbinical thoughts, sayings and understandings of that time, allows so much of what he said and did to shine forth in a more clear way.

Section one focuses on Jesus the Rabbi and looks at his education, what it meant to be a disciple of a Rabbi, taking on the yoke of a Rabbi, and the preservation of a Rabbi's teaching.

Section two looked at Jesus in his first century context, and explored the Jewish practice of the day, the dress and traditions of the Rabbi, the name of God, the typical prayer to God (and how it influenced the Lord's Prayer we know), the non-marriage of Jesus and the miracle on the sea of Galilee.

Section three discussed various teachings of Jesus, like the rich man who rejected the kingdom, the Essene vow of hatred (the us versus them mentality), the discussion of Jesus and the jots and tittles of the law, Jesus versus pacifism, poverty, divorce and remarriage.

Section four ends the book with a great look into the Kingdom and it's presence in the first century, what it meant, how it was known, how Jesus was the "prophet" and "olive tree" promised, and what it took for the Gentiles to come in to the root.

Great stuff that really helps clear things up when seen in light of the full-blown Hebrew culture of Jesus' time. This book is a great introduction to understanding the Hebrew roots that assist in making the message of the New Testament much more understandable.

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