There are many traditions that have developed over the years in the practice of a Jewish wedding. Traditions such as performing the Tish, a form of teasing the groom and distracting him whilst he tries to read a Torah portion and expound on it. The circling, where the bride will walk around the groom seven times, or the most well-known, the breaking of the glass.
There are many traditions depending on which branch of Judaism and how it is to be enjoyed by all, but there are certain aspects that are present throughout. The most important being the signing of the Ketubah. The ketubah is the marriage contract between the man and the woman. The man will write the ketubah and detail in it what he will do as the husband and what he expects from the bride. Once the bride has read it, if she agrees to what is in it, she will say so and the official part of the ceremony is complete. At this point they are legally married; she is no longer the bride but the wife at this point.
This ketubah is then handed to the wife and it becomes hers as proof of what the agreement states and a record to refer to as to what both parties’ responsibilities are.
Then comes the ceremonial side of the wedding; the Kiddushin. This takes place under a Chuppah, the Chuppah is usually a covering held up by four poles and stands for the covering of the tabernacle in the wilderness and the practice of living in tents in those nomadic times.
Next, we have the Sheva B’rachot; this is a time of worship and prayer, a time the couple are bound together and prepared for the wedding supper. Often in this ceremony, the couple are wrapped up together in a Tallit or prayer shawl to remind them to be bound in prayer and togetherness with Adonai and each other. A symbol of communication.
This time is followed at once by what is called the Yihud; the Yihud is a short time where the couple can have some alone time to reflect on the importance of the events that have just occurred and often feed each other a little food symbolic of sharing their first meal together.
The next important part, and perhaps the most joyous is the wedding supper called the S’eudah Mitzvah; this is where all the invited guests will finally arrive to. They will arrive and take their seats. Once the table is full and there is no place left for more, the meal would begin followed by the Hora: the lifting up of the couple on chairs and celebrating their union. This is followed by lots of dancing and celebrating by all those attending.
The celebration is finalised by the Birkat Hamazon; this is the last part of the ceremony where the grace is said after the meal. These prayers are recited by all the guests, and it is usually finished of with some wine which is tasted by the one leading the blessings and poured out into two glasses for the couple to drink.
There are, as you can imagine, many other traditions that can be added or enacted differently, but these practices I have mentioned have been used within Judaism and are biblical practices and are important concepts that scripture sets up for all believers to understand.
Most people will never attend a Jewish wedding or see these practices or have any knowledge of them, so why am I bringing this up?
For any believer in the Messiah Yeshua/Jesus this practice and scriptural picture is highly relevant in understanding the marriage supper of the Lamb.
It is traditionally taught today that the marriage supper of the lamb is for Christians and that is when we become the bride of the Messiah or bride of Christ. I would like to point out that this is a traditional teaching not founded in scripture but a developed teaching because of the lack of knowledge given in the Torah and the rejection of the Jewish nature and understanding of scripture.
Let me explain:
The Ketubah or contract/covenant is an agreement between two parties for the purpose of laying out an agreed system of relationship. Both parties must agree to this contract for it to come into force.
At Sanai, when Moshe was given the Torah, it was classed and understood to be a contract or in this case a Ketubah, marriage contract between Adonai and man. We can see how this works when we examine the process that occurred.
Adonai gave the Ketubah or agreement to Moshe, Moshe came down and read it to the people. The people, including the gentiles present agreed with the Ketubah/Torah/Contract and all said yes, they would abide by their side of the agreement and Israel and those alongside went from being the bride to the wife. Moshe wrote down the agreement or Ketubah so that the wife could have her copy and refer to it to be reminded of what her responsibilities are.
The legal side of the contract was complete. After the contract was agreed, the ceremony began, the two parties were together for a time under the Chuppah. In this case it was the tabernacle, Adonai was in the tabernacle and a person standing for the people/wife was also allowed into the presence of Adonai and they would dwell together.
As with the wedding, what comes next is the time of prayer and reflection on the importance of the event that has occurred, a short time to get to know each other, to feed each other getting ready to spend the rest of their life together.
The Torah/Ketubah was given and agreed to, then the time of getting to know one another and reflecting on the importance of what occurred and coming to terms with the requirement of fulfilling our side of the covenant. Being obedient to the Ketubah as the wife is the period before the marriage supper. The time you prepare yourself and be ready to step into the state of actual marriage and what that will entail.
This is the time we are in now as believers. The marriage or wedding supper does not occur until after this time of getting to know Adonai and coming to terms with what it is we are expected to behave. Examining the Ketubah/Torah to live our side of the agreement is our responsibility as the wife. However, because we cannot live our side perfectly, Adonai, from His side prepared a way to help us through this struggle – the sacrificial system being brought to completion through Yeshua's sacrifice. He is looking after His wife as promised.
The wedding occurred when the ketubah was given, any who come alongside are adopted into the growing family that has agreed to become the wife. To be the wife the ketubah must be examined and practiced showing we agree with the head of that marriage who has promised to keep His side of the covenant. We see this promise fulfilled many times throughout scripture.
This short period of time (in relation to the lifetime of the marriage) will only remain open until the guests, those that are alongside in agreement with the marriage have taken their seat at the feasting table for the celebration. Once this table is full, no others can come in and the celebration of the agreement made in the Ketubah can begin. This is the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Now I do not want to start getting technical on this very simple concept by I do want to point out a point that will clarify a misconception.
First, when Revelation 19:7 is referred to and quoted, in almost every case I have heard it said that this will occur when the bride has made herself ready. But you are only the bride until the legal side of the marriage has occurred. Immediately after the legal agreement has been gone over, the bride becomes the wife. The wife is walking in agreement with the Ketubah and when she gets to the wedding supper, they are already married and under contract to each other.
Let us quickly read what it does say in revelation about the supper and not what is usually explained:
Rev 19:6 And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Rev 19:7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
Rev 19:8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
Rev 19:9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. (KJV)
Notice it is the wife that has prepared herself: she has taken the time during the Sheva B’rachot period to get to come to terms with what is expected of her and her husband and understand through prayer and the study of the Ketubah what is required to live a life in harmony with her husband.
The word translated here as wife is, according to the Strong’s concordance:
Probably from the base of G1096; a woman; specifically, a wife: - wife, woman.
There are several bible translations that interpret this as bride rather than the correct term wife because of the theological stance of the translators rather than what it does say. The word γυνή never means bride.
So, the wife is now in the period of preparation leading to the marriage supper. The marriage supper always occurs after the legal side of the wedding and not before that. There cannot be a wedding supper unless a legal marriage has first occurred.
It is usually said that Yeshua’s death on the cross was the contract, but that is not the case. Yeshua’s death on the cross was a part of the fulfilment of His side of the Ketubah. He was fulfilling His promise to do what He said He would do: to protect His wife.
There are several depictions in scripture that help us understand this concept; grafted into Israel (the wife), adopted into the family etc… These are all simple ideas that help us understand this important relationship and what it means to come alongside. I am not saying that all Israel are the wife by default, no, in historic and biblical recognition, a wife can leave the husband, she can go and commit adultery and walk away from the marriage, but the Torah, Adonai’s wedding contract is available to agree to for any that choose to be grafted in or adopted into the agreement.
This wedding supper is then followed by the Birkat Hamazon, the time of giving thanks and praising Adonai. This is the picture we have throughout scripture once we are in the kingdom, we spend eternity worshipping our saviour.
Once this has happened the married couple are to sail off into the sunset together and live happily ever after.
Not understanding the Torah, its importance and relevance to the rest of scripture and what it is we have agreed to as the wife, who should be preparing herself through prayer and study, and what it is the husband requires and we agree to. We end up missing the context of scripture and the importance of marriage.
We hear the saying: “the sanctity of marriage” but sadly do not grasp in its entirety what that really means.
This is a rough overview and there is much to say on this topic. We see this model of contract and agreement throughout scripture and its importance.
Just something to think about.
The Bus Ride
I was trying to think of a way to describe Israel and the remnant of believers in Israel with the picture of how the gentiles are grafted in. It is a complicated topic that is further confused by the plethora of different beliefs prevalent on the topic.
So, I came up with the idea of a bus to explain it in what I hope is a simple, yet easy to understand the depiction of what scripture intends for us to understand on these topics.
I think this analogy will work, so please bear with me as we examine this in terms that I hope we can all understand.
A bus driver and his son decide to build a bus. Knowing that passengers can be fickle and have a tendency to disrupt other passengers, they produced a set of rules before they build the bus so that passengers could understand what is required of them if they want to board and remain on the bus.
The bus driver reaches the point in his scheme to build his bus and after much disappointment with previous possible contractors, he employs a chap with some integrity and along with his family are prepared to help the driver construct it. The driver promises this helper that when the bus is complete is will have many seats for his family and any that come alongside him.
It took a while, but once the bus was complete it was given the name of Israel. Many, many passengers were riding this bus, but some of them decided they did not want to follow the rules for staying on the bus. Some decided they did not like the direction the driver was taking them and got off the bus. Others decided that the driver of the bus wasn’t even real as they couldn’t see him from where they sat, so they too got off the bus. Others thought they could find a better bus driver who would give an easier ride and allow them more latitude than what was allowed on the bus.
Passengers would get off the bus and go their own way, but if they came back to the bus driver, apologise for their disobedience and agree to again follow the rules and have a relationship with him, they would be allowed back on, but only if they had not committed anything unforgivable according to the drivers’ standards.
Any troubles that began on the bus would occur when the passengers tried to reinterpret the guidelines the driver had set and make them more palatable and convenient for themselves.
Conversely, others would take the instructions and add more guidelines around each original instruction making it extremely difficult to differentiate what was from the driver and what was of the passengers’ good intentions. In this latter case, however, it eventually developed to a point that the new instructions designed to protect the original instructions became more important than the bus drivers’ conditions.
In their eagerness, to protect the original instructions from being broken, they began to place their ideas, which were originally designed, in their mind, to protect the drivers’ instructions as more important. This led to passengers being heavily burdened with the promise of riding a bus their teachers were no longer on. Though they are a part of the passengers the bus was designed for, they spent all their time examining all their new instructions, they did not even realise that they had gotten off the bus. As a result, they were actively, but unknowingly, stopping others who the bus was designed for from getting on.
Ultimately, it got to the point where there were very few passengers left on this bus, a remnant of passengers who enjoy the ride and are happy to follow the instructions of the driver and his son.
But this bus was designed to take many passengers, and the bus driver is never happier than when the bus is full. So, to remedy this situation, he put into action a plan for just such an occasion, one that he and his son had prepared in advance before they even built the bus.
The bus had a schedule to keep, so to allow passengers to fill the seats, the driver sent his son to go amongst the passengers who had got off the bus and offer them a way to get back on. Now, rather than them having to read all the instructions and try to interpret what was meant by them, as the would-be passengers were being confused by all the ways these instructions had become interpreted, the son went amongst the would-be passengers and showed them what it meant to observe the rules. In doing this, he let them see that they were complicating a simple thing. These rules weren’t a burden, but a practical way to behave when in the presence of the bus driver.
The son managed to persuade many to get back on the bus and trained other passengers to go into the world to demonstrate the way needed to get on the bus, the way the son had taught them to follow, understanding and following the rules the way the driver wanted.
The news of this bus driver and the bus called Israel spread around the world and many passengers who never considered getting on this bus were persuaded to do so. But, sadly, many of these passengers also fell into the same mindset as so many of the previous passengers and decided to go their own way.
They started to ignore the bus driver and claim the son showed them a different way from that of the bus driver. They rejected the bus drivers’ teachings and directions and said the son gave them a different way, even though the son came and showed them the way to live the drivers recommended lifestyle, which was required to stay on the bus.
The bus called Israel and its driver became relegated to a road seen as old and undesirable. One that was full of potholes and no longer maintained. This had become, in the mind of would-be passengers, an old road that was for the previous passengers who existed before the son showed the way. Sadly, the son did show them the way, but they reject that and turned what the son said into something more pleasing and softer for man to follow. A new road that is easy on the back and a smooth simple ride.
The bus driver, however, will not be stopping to pick up passengers who do things contrary to the driver and the son who is obedient to his father. The travellers outside the bus all go in directions that suit themselves and can never reach the destination only this special vehicle can manage. Only the driver and his son know the way to the final destination. Those that come alongside the bus called Israel, but who had not previously heard of it, but displaying by action that they listened to the son and want to obey the driver are allowed on.
As the bus gets towards the final destination and heads down a road that only this bus can go on, many will start to want to jump on board. They will not look to the driver but the son and say, “we heard everything about you, we went out into the world and sold many tickets for the bus so let us on the bus, please.
We made new roads for the bus to drive on, we built big shiny bus stops for you to stop at and pick up the passengers, we even told our family and friends about you.”. But the son will look sadly at these passengers and say, “I don’t know you; you should have got on the bus and obeyed the rules instead of following your own, I never asked you for new roads or big bus stops. I asked you to follow me and I got on the bus with my father whom I obey”.
It’s time to re-examine the requirements of the driver and son to see if we are getting on the bus, being adopted into the family of passengers on the bus called Israel, or are we doing things a different way and expecting the driver to forget his rulings and let us on anyway.
Whose rules will prevail?
Those that want on the bus under their own steam with ideas that suit them, or those of the driver who hold the keys and says how one is to get on the bus and what is expected if we are to remain there.
Two people listened to a story. Both people heard the exact same information from beginning to end. But when these two people were tasked with sharing the story with others, many of the details became changed. As a result, both those retelling the story came to different conclusions on what they perceived was said. As a result, the story passed on to others was different from the original, not in major detail, but as this story is retold many times, these little differences add up to the story becoming completely different from the original.
How does that happen?
There is a well-known game called Chinese whispers. You can have 10 people in a line. You would whisper a short story into the ear of the first and they would whisper it on to the next person in the line and by the time they got to the end of the line, the story can be completely different and bear little or no resemblance to the original story.
Why does this happen?
Each of us at the time we hear a story are the sum total of all we have learnt throughout our lives in conversations, education, reading and our desires, both fulfilled and unfulfilled. This sets us up to be biased in what we take from a story or something we witness. Not intentionally, but because we have become accustomed to doing this rather than becoming overloaded with a constant barrage of information. However, this does mean that we have to make an effort to examine something from another perspective, especially when it goes against what we are accustomed to.
When the police take a statement about an accident or other event from witnesses, the different statements can vary wildly in their description of what happened. This is because the witnesses will have a different perspective on what they saw depending on where they were standing, what they were doing and even what was on their mind at the time. Each person is certain in their own mind as to what they saw. One person can be positive the person involved was wearing a blue shirt and jeans and another just as certain that they were wearing red trousers and a hoodie.
When we hear something or see something, we do not always process all the information we receive, but we mentally take cliff notes. We hear or see something that we recognise, and it is that that we tend to focus on. It is not a deliberate act but focusing on the familiar is easier mentally than processing new information. To learn something new we have to focus on the information and realise it may well differ from what we are used to hearing or seeing. To learn we must apply ourselves, in other words, make an effort to examine all the information and not just what we already know and is familiar. This applies to everything from learning a new language to studying Scripture, learning to use a new machine via a manual to learning to cook and become a chef.
We come across new information every day, but we only take in a small amount of the information we are faced with, if something does not pique our interest or is unfamiliar, we usually just let it pass by us. This is why law enforcement officers and agents of government organizations are trained in observation and how to keep this constant slew of new information available to repeat back and use at a later date.
If this practice of retaining without bias all the information we absorb were natural and easy to all, it would not have to be taught to people as a special tactic that must be honed over time.
For the rest of us we must realise that we are not infallible in our understanding of what we hear, see and understand because of this taking in the bits of information that grab our attention. This does not mean we do not want to learn something new or believe that we are only hearing what we want, but we always automatically focus on the familiar. When something comes along that challenges the familiar, we have a tendency, all of us, to try and justify our position because we do not like to be wrong.
Is this pride or fear?
Being wrong because our conventional views are challenged can make us uncomfortable, and as a result, we more often than not, will reject out of hand what is making us uncomfortable or challenging a long-held belief system. This is true of every aspect of our lives. When we are driving a car and we are obeying the law as taught in the highway code and somebody else doesn’t, we have a reaction. They are not doing things the way we were taught they should be done, as a result it instantly gets our “back up”. Even if what they do does not directly affect us, we have our own thoughts on the matter which we will often verbalise or let the horn speak for us.
When it comes to scripture and what it says we have two views we must consider. Today when we examine scripture, we do it through the eyes of someone brought up from a western gentile perspective. We do it through the lens of our Greek mindset and culture giving us a preconceived perspective on how we view things. As a result, we pick out the parts when learning that fit in with our worldview.
The other is the Judaic view. When the first Jewish believers heard the gospel message it was not new to them or different. It was a familiar message that tied in with the worldview they had been brought up in.
Understanding that any perspective is based on our upbringing, culture and social expectations providing us with a mindset that may differ from others will help us become aware of the need to study all the information we receive to come to a correct conclusion. A child brought up in a home that is rampantly anti-Semitic and aryan in its views will congregate with other like-minded people as they grow. This is the worldview that shapes their opinions and what they take from a conversation or something they see. However, a child brought up in a home that has a love for the Jewish people will conversely congregate with others of like mind.
Society is complex and has many subsets of views based on the network of friends, education and bias of teachers, especially our universities. This reveals the importance of recognising the different views people have when approaching a topic and what they may take from the information given. There is a cult in India that do not believe in fear. They will not use the breaks on their vehicle when driving and weave madly in and out of the traffic until they reach their destination or crash. To us that seems like lunacy, but to him brought up in that cultural belief it is normal practice. He may even believe that it is everyone else that is wrong.
Again, we are all a product of our upbringing and the worldview we have had instilled in us. When we come to Yeshua Messiah, we are to renew our minds, in other words, change our perspective from what we have been taught by our society and worldview to come in line with what scripture declares is correct. The problem is, when we examine from a western perspective, we inherently take from the writings what is familiar. Doing this gives a completely different perspective from those who approach with a Judaic perspective. They take from scripture what is familiar from their worldview.
It is important to remember that the scriptures were given to the Jews by a God who created the Jewish nation and called them His people. He gave the commandments, righteous lifestyle and desire for holiness to these people. As western Christians it is important to understand that we are grafted into people that has been created to worship Adonai.
This does not mean we are to observe rabbinic Judaism or become Jewish as gentiles. But we must come to understand the faith of the people Adonai created and moulded to bring the gospel message to the rest of the world. A very Jewish message with a Jewish Messiah that we are grafted into.
Whenever we read a book, it has a beginning, a middle and an end. As we progress from page one through the rest of the chapters, the story develops, and as a result, we gain a clear picture and representation of what it is the author is trying to convey.
It doesn’t matter if it is a book explaining the way to build a website from scratch or a novel about a detective solving crimes, to understand the story and development of the plot or procedures required we must start at the beginning. Should we start in the middle, we are missing the developing storyline and left in the position of having to try and make sense of text without the prior information giving outline and context.
When we read a book from the beginning, we are introduced to the characters in play, their location, what it is they do, their background or history, how they interact with other characters, and even the jobs they might have or the reason they behave in a certain way. Without this information the story becomes disjointed and the interpretation of the events by reading from the middle of the book become sporadic and misplaced.
For instance: if the first line you read in the middle of the book says, “He pulled out the gun and instead of shooting, he threw it in the river”. Without knowing the character, the context of this event, who he did not shoot and why we are left in the position of trying to imagine what had occurred previously, we have to try and piece together something that makes sense from the second half of the book. We need to become detectives ourselves using only the context of the half of the book we are reading. If the next line in this book said: “When they saw this, they ran away as fast as they could”. What do we understand of the story? It is, in fact, a bit more confusing. We have no context with which to discern the events and why they are happening.
So, there are only two ways to try and resolve the problems that come along with this:
1. We try and move on, placing ideas from our mind and experience into the story to try and make sense of the events.
2. We go back and study the beginning of the book to gain a correct perspective on events to make sense of the story.
The first way leaves the story open to the interpretation of the reader. They would have to try to evaluate the events in some way so that they will make sense. The limits on imagining what has happened and what is intended by the author are infinite. Only limited by the imaginations of the people trying to make sense of a book read from the middle. You could end up with as many as 40,000 or more different versions of the events perceived from the minds of those that continue to study the material from the middle. Despite the many differing opinions of the various people, blindness comes over them leaving them in the position whereby they continue in their efforts to make sense of the story from the middle because it has become a tradition to do so.
Once this position becomes prevalent, the readers will all start vying with each other to make determinations as to who is right and will start to resent others who have a different interpretation. The authors intent has been long left behind at this point and the opinions of the interpreters are debated instead of understanding the books original storyline.
This creates many problems, not so much with a novel or short story, but when a book is giving instructions on how to do something particular, it becomes of major importance. If you do not correctly and in order follow the instructions clearly on how to mix the chemicals for fertilizer, you could end up blowing yourself up instead, as when some of these chemicals are mixed, they become explosive. If you read in the second half of the manual the final list of chemicals needed but have not read the first half on the ratios required, you could literally “blow your mind” trying to figure out the correct mixture.
On the other hand, when the book is read in its entirety, the main concepts of the author are made visible, and though people can dispute some of the conclusions of the author. The meaning remains clear. In any English literature class, books are often read and dissected by the students at the behest of the teacher. Characters are examined and their intent is discussed. There are times when a student will have a differing opinion of the teacher as to which theory is right. Was a particular character losing his mind, or was he calculating and cold? Was the protagonist actually in love with the subject of his desire or trying to control them through manipulation?
So, even when a story is read from the beginning, some disagreement can occur because the authors intent can be questioned. However, this format of reading brings much more clarity and leaves a lot less to the imagination than the former method. Despite readers coming to some differences of opinion over issues explained the book, the authors intent is easier to discern, the story is understood. The novel makes sense, and in the end, it wasn’t the butler who did it after all. With the book on fertilizer manufacturing, all safety protocols and measurements were adhered to and a usable product is produced.
So why call this article “The Next Chapter”?
If we start reading a book from the middle, the picture we try to develop about the intent of the author without background leaves us scrambling for definition. So, by the time we get to the next chapter we have already started to determine what the book is about from our perspective. As a result, the next chapter must be interpreted in light of what we have just read and determined in our minds as to what is correct. The next chapter therefore must reinforce what we have determined, and if it doesn’t we have to change its context to suit our definition. This is often done by allergisation, the practice of trying to draw out what it is believed the author intended to make the pieces of the puzzle fit together. The trouble is, the intent of the author is not fully known because the beginning of the book is neglected.
This method can and does, often, leave a very distorted view far from the authors intended meaning. Especially after the wrong, although good-intentioned manipulation over many years by various people trying to make the text make sense. As a result, it becomes a tradition to interpret the work this way and this technique becomes prevalent. The first part of the book is no longer regarded as relevant and all focus is on the second half of the book with the now newly perceived ideas as to its meaning. The first half of the book and its instructions and the characteristics of the protagonist are deemed unnecessary as a new way has developed.
However, when one reads the entire book and the full sweeping scope of the story is understood; for example, why does that particular building hold such importance for the people? What happens when the protagonist is disobeyed and what are the punishments for that disobedience? If the storyline in the first half of the book develops a plot where the importance of a certain document is critical in the development of the story at the end of the book, why is it not recognised as important in the second half? The importance of this document is dismissed because it is not understood as relevant anymore. The new storyline developed over the years has succeeded in making the importance of the original document to the story immaterial.
When this happens, the story is no longer the story of the author but a new story, a new way to find an ending that suits the desires of the people trying to find meaning in the second half of the book.
When read in light of the authors intent, we can already perceive the meaning of the next chapter. We read it in light of the information previously building the plot and already provided in the book. If a document was important and is understood to be integral to the story, we see it in everything we see the author writing. He no longer has need by the second half of the book to keep making mention of it and how it is to be used and understood, that was established in the first half of the book.
The same problems can occur when we only read the first half of the book and don’t bother to finish it. The first half prepares us for the end, it builds the picture of what is to come. There are hints and promises of a beautiful ending to the story despite the adversity and hardship the characters go through. By not reading the second half, we never see how the story turns out and the full extent of the capacity of the story.
As a result, we have similar problems as with those that only read the second half. The first half builds the story beautifully, it demonstrates all that is needed to understand the protagonist and what he promises to bring about. Reading only the first half though leaves the reader having to develop in his mind what he thinks will happen in the end. He has read the promises, he has understood the plans laid out bringing the plot together, but the ending is missing. So, he develops an ending according to what he thinks it should be according to the information he has and his imagination.
Like those that only read the second half, he does not have all the information and the conclusions of the authors intended complete story are missed entirely.
To understand the next chapter of any book, we must start at the beginning, understand the concepts and principles the author is bringing out. Come to terms with the plot and trust that the author knows how the book will end and bring it about in a way that surprises, delights and satisfies the reader. An ending without the beginning can leave the reader without a sense of joy because he misunderstood the importance of the document outlined in the first half, resulting in confusion when the end is nothing like they imagined.
The same for those that read only the first half, when the ending comes, it is not what they were imagining, they expected the document and the future it promised to be one way, but it was not, they missed the stories true intent and are also disillusioned with the ending once it is revealed. It didn’t go according to their desire and imagination, not according to the practice of justifying their position through the tradition developed.
When a book is not read in its entirety, understanding can only come by developing a technique of interpretation to justify the preferred half of the book. It then becomes an issue when someone wants to read the whole book and reunite the story. Those reading the first half only reject your conclusions about the books ending because they have decided on an ending themselves.
Those reading only the second half disagree with you because you understand the importance of the document in the story which clarifies the ending. But is disrupts the practices and ideology they have developed rejecting that document as irrelevant and unimportant to their half of the book.
As a reader of the whole book, you become a pariah in the eyes of both sides. You are rocking the boat and when their positions are challenged, they tell you that you are deceived. Using arguments to justify their position from the traditional teachings developed coagulating their perspective into a professed truth beyond the scope of the true story and the authors intent.
Read the whole book and get the full story. Don’t let others who do not do this lead you into a position where you are led away from knowing the true intent of the author. Know the first half of the book and how it was intended for all the people reading it to understand, so the second half is understood in the correct context and the ending makes more sense.
Because of the promotion of the microchip in the news lately, I have been receiving dozens of emails or messages through Facebook etc all declaring some different views on what the Mark of the beast is.
Some declaring unflinchingly the mark is the new Covid-19 immunization, yet other declare just as certainly that the mark is all about taking the microchip. However, I also remember a few years back that the mark of the beast was definitely the barcode system as it was introduced followed by the chip and pin cards in the banking system. These and many other developments over the years have been declared as the mark of the beast by both well meaning believers and conspiracy theorists alike. Yet so far none have panned out - Why?
Because when getting excited over the next thing to be classed as a mark of the beast, scripture is bypassed for an enthusiasm over an exciting theory, one that those followers can say “we have special knowledge” and we will tell you it with no uncertainty despite scriptural ignorance on the issue.
It appears people would rather listen to the conspiracy theorists or biblically ignorant than actually check what scripture itself says.
Lets examine what the book of Revelations has to say on the issue:
The first thing to notice about the mark of the beast, as I have highlighted in the scriptures above, is that it is to do with worship and a specific mark that people will recognize to prove this worship of his image. This mark is something that people take to prove they are in league or agreement with the anti-Messiah. Without this mark they will not be able to buy or sell or be allowed to in any way perform acts commerce.
Many generations since the the Messiah left us with the promise of His return, groups of people have always found something in their society to be classed as the mark of the beast. Some believed the Catholic Church was the mark of the beast, others the symbol of the cross among the plethora of things declared as promoting the number of the beast. Even some major companies logos were seen as proof these companies were in league with the anti-Messiah and their logo may even be the mark.
For this Mark to have any meaning, the anti-Messiah must already be revealed and people must be making a personal choice to accept his mark and follow his ways. Having an injection to fight a virus is not the mark of the beast. Nor is new technology such as the microchip. The microchip might possibly be used in the future to decide who can buy and sell, but of itself is not the mark taken by choice to worship the anti-Messiah, who has not yet been revealed. Once we have the cashless society the microchip may or may not be a part of that system. New and improved technology is constantly being revealed in this age of great scientific leaps. The chip, like the barcode theory may well be obsolete in a year or two.
Of course it is possible that the microchip will be in use and essential for commerce as it keeps track of where we are and what we spend. But the same people screaming conspiracy, and declaring this is the mark, are the same people who buy online, have store cards and chip and pin bank cards all of which provide as much info, and perhaps more with our online presence, than the microchip ever will. We have phones tracking our every movement, with people using ApplePay etc to purchase goods. The ever changing face of technology, who can keep up with it let alone make sweeping declarations of certainty as regards the worship of the beast with out the worship part.
I would say taking the microchip, the injection against Covid-19 or shopping at a store that may or may not have a dodgy logo is a matter of conscience and is at this time certainly not the mark of the beast.
If the mark of the beast is to be anything, it is likely to be a tattoo or skin marking. One people take to prove their loyalty to the beast. I say this because scripture warns us as believers not to have tattoos. Tattoos have become so common place and a part of society for both male and female, it is likely the mark will be something that is seen as an innocuous tattoo acceptable by the many.
Let’s stop following and chasing conspiracy theories and spend more time studying the word that gives us the truth of the topic and not guesswork people declare as fact.
Just this week, I had the privilege of speaking about bible translations as a result of my previous article on that subject. I was speaking with Roni Mechanic of Shalom Radio UK, and as a result of that discussion a new program is developing, we call it the MaxRon Discussions. we will be covering many topics associated with Messianic Judaism and some of its various issues, sound teachings and some news in general. We welcome your comments on each topic and feel free to ask questions for us to examine.
We are very excited about it. You can listen to the show Here and visit The Shalom Radio UK site.
Christians and those that follow the teachings of the bible in one form or another; I would like to ask us to contemplate this question: What are we believing and why? Not to cast doubt on Scripture, but to encourage recognition that there is more to what is taught in churches, and why, than generally understood.
I am not writing this article as an expert in biblical translations, as I am not. But I am writing as someone concerned with some of the issues behind this controversial topic. I say controversial because of the enmity that is inherent in many believers who declare only they have the correct God inspired translation, thus making their theology which may be derived from the version used as the only correct interpretation.
It may not be commonly known amongst the general populous that is Christianity, but there are many books written, challenging the various translations and the groups behind them. Some scholars challenge each other constantly over these versions and their validity. It is a challenging topic but one that is right to discuss, exposing some of the issues, so people have an awareness of the complexities involved.
It is interesting, when I started to examine the issue of Bible translation into English, or any other language, that most believers gravitate towards a particular translation and stick to it like glue. But I ask these questions:
• “If all translations are the word of the living God and infallible, why do they, in some instances, not only contradict each other, but bring about a division in Christianity which leads to over 40,000 denominations worldwide and counting?”• Why are there so many translations? According to Bible.com, there are currently 2,162 translations of the bible in 1,477 languages. With 61 of those translations in the English language alone.
Did you know that not all translations are as literal as they claim they are? There are several reasons for this, and they must be considered when looking to study a bible and accept what the translators' claim is biblical accuracy.
With this statement, I am not declaring these translations are heretical, nor stating that there are those written to deliberately deceive. All the translators of each version have come to the table with the yearning to bring out the truth of the scriptures, yearning to help followers of the Messiah come to a correct understanding of what the intent of scripture is. The problem arises when we examine what the intent of the translators is in relation to their theological bias.
Over the years as the doctrinal position of many denominations has expanded and separated. From each other, so has the desire to have a translation that represents these particular theological positions. This means that in many cases, where the bible has words or concepts from within its Judaic or Greek context that are difficult to interpret, the translators use their theological bias to bring out of the context what they think it should say.
One example of this can be found in Luke:
Luke 23:43 (KJV) And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Most but not all translations have this verse written this way. However, it is also possible to translate it:
Luke 23:43 (AFV) And Jesus said to him, "Truly, I tell you today, you shall be with Me in paradise."
Notice the difference, one supports the theological position that when one dies, they immediately go to be with our Messiah in heaven. The other leaving the option to defer this event till the end days when the Messiah returns and brings about the resurrection of the dead. One is present tense, the other future. All based around a comma placed to “bring clarity”.
However, in the Greek, there is no comma in this verse, therefor it can be used to infer either, so a decision is made, and doctrines are formed. Either preformed ideas cause the comma to be placed where it is to support a preferred narrative, or, the narrative becomes based around the placement of the comma. This is something that needs consideration. Each will have their theological position and some really good arguments to defend their position, but at the end of the day, someone is wrong.
It might appear a bit nit-picky to focus on this one verse which can be written differently, after all, what is one comma in the great scheme of the bible and its meaning? However, when consideration is given to the fact that this verse can decide overall the way much of the rest scriptures are interpreted; we need to pay attention to what the translators have as bias, in how they translate.
This includes the translators of the King James Version. This one comma can affect the understanding of where someone goes when they die (Straight to heaven as a believer upon death, or sleep in the grave till the resurrection of the dead), this can have a major impact on the belief and direction scholars go in further interpretation.
The Bibles written into English and other languages must have punctuation to help us understand the context and demonstrate the sentence structure in our language. But, as we see above, punctuation can be used to influence the reader in a particular direction just as much as the words used. I can only comment on the English translations as I do not know the punctuation systems for translation of all languages, though I would imagine they have the same issues
All honest bible translators write a proviso in the introduction to their translation, sometimes it is obscured in jargon no one reads, or make it sound like the most natural thing in the world. It usually says something similar to this: “When we come across words or ideas that do not translate directly into English, we try to write what we believe the intent of the scriptures to be. Not all words have a direct correlation in the English” (my wording).
It would be sensible to read this for yourself in the translation used. The smaller the group of translators the more theological bias will be found. A large group of translators from various fields will, in most cases, bring about a more balanced translation. However, when they differ on points of theology, they agree on what they think is best to suit all. This, however, can lead to an interpretation of some scripture by the consensus of the people, rather than its actual biblical contextual meaning.
Translating is not an easy thing to do, many biblical concepts need to be considered, and must be understood, not all of the translators have a grasp of all these doctrinal concepts, therefore, the translators favour translating from their own understanding, limited in some occasions, despite their academic credentials (no man knows all things, we only know in part 1 Cor. 13:9). There are also those that favour theological positions that oppose the actual teaching of the scriptures themselves and emphasise points to favour their belief. We can find instances of this in the non-mainstream protestant branches of Christianity such as the Catholic, Mormon and the Jehovah’s Witness translations.
This is not new; we have examples of people doing this throughout history. People such as Marcion who rejected anything, including the Epistles that did not support his position. He refused to accept the scriptures from the Bible that disagreed with his theology. Strangely, he was recognised as a heretic amongst his peers, yet his teachings can still be found in various forms today.
There are groups today that claim the teachings of Paul should not be in the bible as they see him as a form of anti-Christ or demon. Much of our understanding of scripture comes from the scholars who attempt to inform us of what it was Paul meant in his teachings. Of this, there is much contention.
Some groups will only preach from and observe the teachings in red that Jesus spoke in the King James Version. These groups teach that the rest of scripture pointed to the Messiah and are now finished with, as we have Jesus to tell us what to do, and now follow.
Sadly, there are denominations springing up and re-writing the bible for a context they prefer according to their doctrinal stance. Men understand only a small part (and not always correctly) of what the scriptures are imparting to us. If we are studying in truth, we all grow, and our understanding of certain concepts develop. What we were certain of last year can be different this year. Growth brings change, that includes the way we understand. As a result, we currently have the aforementioned 61 English translations, and I am sure this number will grow over the next few years.
There are two main types of translation, those that attempt a word for word direct translation and those that paraphrase. The paraphrased bibles are directly linked to the theology of the translators more obviously than word for word. The direct translations try their best to bring a literal translation in plain English for the reader. But as I mentioned earlier; the more difficult concepts found in the scripture are open to the interpretation of the translators.
Idioms for instance, do not translate across languages, they are culture specific. If they are not understood in their original context, they will require a re-interpretation to deliver a medium that makes sense, both in language and in the theological position of the translator. This can leave a major shortfall in the information required to bring clarity by those teaching.
There are many that teach, especially in bible study groups that we do not need extra biblical books to interpret the bible. But this is a rather closed-minded view in gaining an understanding of what scripture says on certain issues. For instance: if you wish to know what a centurion or legion are, you would go to a dictionary or history book. Often, the writings of the time period can help us interpret what the scriptures are referring to. Our knowledge of scripture and its interpretation can be enhanced by this extra biblical knowledge.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it demonstrates the commitment of translators to attempt to prove the theological position taken without compromise. The fact that a translation is paraphrased is enough to give many pause. Unless one agrees with the theology of the paraphrase, it can be especially confusing when trying to follow someone reading from a translation that says something different. However, again I say; even these translators of the paraphrases are doing it with the best of intentions and genuine desire to share, what they consider is the truth.
Both have their pro’s and con’s – a paraphrase can get across a point the original author was making in the context of the time. But this is, of course, limited to the translators understanding of the history, their theology and period they are referencing.
On the other hand, a literal translation, though giving as close as possible, a direct translation from one language to another, does not convey the historical context or idioms and cultural understanding of said text.
We also have to be aware that the original Hebrew OT scriptures were translated into Greek, the Greek is then translated into English, in some cases via the Latin. How much contextual understanding can we lose through this process?
We should now be starting to understand how difficult it is to translate a Bible into English, or any language worldwide.
This leaves us with some things to ponder: What are the rules for translation if any? Do translators use specific recognised rules? Who decides what rules to follow?
There are some basic rules to biblical interpretation. However, these are interpreted to suit, for the most part by the group translating.
Pure Bible Press for instance declare these translation rules:
First six of their fifteen recommended rules, which many do follow:
“1. The Authorized King James Bible is to be followed, and as little altered as translational accuracy and honesty will permit: Pure Bible Press is very careful, clear, and unwavering in this point.
“2. The names of the prophets and the holy writers, with the other names in the text, to be retained, as near as may be, according as they are commonly used.
“3. The old ecclesiastical words to be kept; as the word church, not to be translated congregation, etc.
“4. When any word hath divers significations, that to be kept which has been most commonly used by history and Christianity, being agreeable to the propriety of the place, and the analogy of the faith.
“5. The division of the chapters to be altered, either not at all, or as little as may be, if necessity so require.
“6. No marginal notes at all to be affixed, but only for the explanation of other pure vernacular words (which cannot, without some circumlocution, so briefly and fitly be expressed in the text), and certainty given that no doubt is brought to the mind of the reader of the plain text of scripture.
Translators, in general, have a system to adhere to, however, that system insists that the translation fit their criteria and the translation they recognise as truth. There, of course, has
to be some parameters from which to work. As a result, the group will share a list of general rules, but use them in a way that suits their vision.
Here is a list of criteria that I believe are not considered and examined, even though challenging, when translating scripture:
1. Neglecting the research and advancement being made today in understanding the scriptures from their socio/religious, and archaeological findings; this void leaves a gap in important information, opening scripture to the interpretation of the reader. In some cases, negating what these scriptures are actually declaring.
2. It is important to note that the biblical authors were trying to convey Judaic, well- established framework of practice and thought into the Greek language, many of which are idioms spoken and understood in the culture from which they are derived.
3. Idioms do not transfer when copied into another language without the knowledge of the original intended meaning. The words will be there but not the concept being transmitted.
4. Translating from a biased theological perspective provides support for a man centred doctrinal outcome.
5. The transfer of biblical knowledge is diminished when the original Judaic meaning is reinterpreted to fit a modern western narrative removing them from their Near East 2nd Temple period belief system.
Another consideration is the issue of copyright. For a bible to be considered for publication, certain rules must be followed. There must be a 30% difference between each translation for it not to be considered plagiarism. This in itself creates problems. What words to change to keep within the context but make it different enough to get the meaning across and not infringe on previous translations. I have the greatest respect for the people who try to take on this mammoth task regardless of denominational background.
These are just a few of the issues that need to be considered. Whenever a new translation is released, within a short space of time there will be ‘Experts” or “detractors” who declare it heretical or wrong in some aspect. What manuscripts they used become something to dispute, or which previous bible did they use as a basis for their translation.
There are those that declare emphatically that if it is not based on the KJV it is not scripture. We have proponents of the KJV that declare it as the only viable translation. However, we have others who explain that some of the newer manuscripts such as the KJV used are in fact added to by creating verses from the side notes of the transcribers who copied the Greek scriptures over the centuries. Declaring this, as the particular verses under dispute are not in some of the older manuscripts.
This is a many faceted and complicated issue with more to consider than just translating a word for word version. Even when translating a word for word version, words are often translated to fit the narrative of the translator rather than what the word means in the context of the people it was written to. Translators try to avoid this, but it becomes inevitable as doctrines believed will influence them regardless, referring back to my previous demonstration about translating Luke 23:43.
What is the solution? Do we all need to go out and learn Hebrew and Greek to gain a better understanding of what scripture is saying, studying the Judaic context from a first century perspective?
Though it would be great if we could all do this, it is not what is needed or practical. When examining scripture, it would be expedient for those studying to use several translations of the Bible, to gain an overview. It would also make sense for believers to not just accept all the teachers say we are to believe as they also tend to disagree with each, even on some points that are of major importance. The issue of salvation, for instance and what is required can be interpreted differently from alternate translations that allow for certain interpretations.
It is important to be aware that when we are listening to various teachers who, either translate the scriptures or interpret them, that there are certain Christian words that are understood differently by different groups. “Christianeze” is not as uniform in word meaning as one might think.
The word Repentance for instance. To some it means to change one’s mind from unbelief to belief in the Messiah. This group tend to teach that because repentance is only mentioned a few times in the NT that it is something that happens when we believe; repentance is faith and comes about because of our belief.
Others interpret it to means, turn from your sin and be obedient to God. This position teaches that once one understands who the Messiah is and what He has done, we put our faith in Him and the proof of this is the turning to Gods teachings and follow the Messiah. There are, of course, many variations of the theme.
This also includes such words as justification, sanctification and salvation. All these words have different meanings to different branches of the Christian faith. This can be confusing as people go from one church to another thinking they all mean the same thing when using these terminologies.
I have not written this article to confuse people but to make them aware of the difficulties and differences inherent when translating a bible from the native language. We lose much of the nuance and importance of comprehending what the people who were written to, and those writing, were, not only thinking, but intending when it was penned.
This is a problem that is not going to go away anytime soon. It is estimated that there are currently around 40,000 denominations worldwide with an average of 2.5 new denominations springing up every day. This does not work towards the unification of belief and bringing believers together but of division. So, I have to repeat my first question: What are we believing and why?
2 Timothy 2:15 (ISV) Do your best to present yourself to God as an approved worker who has nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of truth with precision.
Dr M Debono-De-Laurnetis
'Though born in England, the author was brought up in Brooklyn NY within the Jewish community as his step-father was Jewish.