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Understanding More Difficult Words of Jesus, Part I

By Roy B. Blizzard

In 1983, we first published the book Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus. A number of
things led to the writing of book – textual studies and, archaeological finds that had led scholars
working in the field, particularly In Israel, to arrive at new and significant conclusions regarding
the history and culture of the first centuries B.C.E. and C.E. These new discoveries would have
tremendous impact upon our understanding of the life, times, and in particular, the words of
Jesus.

Those of you who have read our book, or have listened to our tapes or lectures on this subject,
are already aware of the following facts I reiterate briefly. First-Jesus was a Jew. Second – As a
Jew, he would have, as all of the other Jewish boys of His day, begun at an early age committing
the Scriptures to memory. This is an important fact for our present discussion.

In Jesus' day, study meant memorization. By the age of fifteen, the young Jewish boy would
have had, at the very least, most of the biblical text committed to memory. This is of the utmost
importance in understanding the way Jesus taught. Third – Jesus was a rabbi and, as a rabbi,
utilized methods of teaching well known and widely practiced. The rabbis in Jesus' day would
use a word or a phrase that, when heard, would cause a mental explosion in the minds of their
hearers, as the word or phrase would be an allusion to a passage, a chapter, or a book well-
known to them. In using the word or the phrase as an allusion, it would formulate or reconstruct
the whole chapter, or theology, in their minds.

Jesus utilized this method of instruction to such a degree that almost every time He spoke, you
can ask the question, "Where did He get that?" or, 'To what passage is He referring?" Knowing
the passage or the chapter will assist in not just reconstruction of the theology as a whole, but
will enable one to understand the real message Jesus was attempting to convey. It is only when
we understand these very important facts that we can begin to look at the words of Jesus afresh,
and receive enlightenment and inspiration from the depth and true meaning of His teaching.

Without the knowledge of the way Jesus taught, however, many of His words are difficult,
confusing and misunderstood. For example, In Matthew 23:14, we read, "Woe unto you, scribes
and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye devour
widows' houses…" This passage Is parallel to Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47. Apart from any
textual problem that might be present, the question we are to address is how do you "devour" a
widow's house? What did Jesus mean that the scribes, or, as in Matthew, "…scribes and
Pharisees…devour widows' houses?"

To the non-Hebrew speaker, this phrase is not only perplexing, but meaningless. However, it
certainly meant something to the people of Jesus' day. But what?

In Hebrew, the word for house is bayit, but bayit in Hebrew can mean not only house, that is, a
physical structure or building in which one lives, but it also can mean household, family, clan, or
estate (Matthew 18:23-35). In order to understand this phrase used by Jesus in accusation of the
hypocritical scribes and/or Pharisees of His day, it might be helpful to turn to II Kings 4:1. "Now
there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy
servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord: and the creditor
is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen."

Because this poor woman was unable to pay her debts, the creditor was going to take her two
sons in place of the debt, and reduce them to servitude. Such was a common practice in Bible
days. In taking the poor woman's sons away and reducing them to servitude, he had, in essence,
"devoured her house."

This is reflected in Proverbs 30:11-14,

There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother. There is a
generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. There is a
generation, O how lofty are their eyes and their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation,
whose teeth are as swords and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor off the earth and the
needy from among men.

It may come as a surprise to some to learn that the debtors prison was a very present reality with
us well into the nineteenth century; and only in rather recent times in our country has the practice
been abandoned, In Matthew 18, in the parable of the unmerciful servant, we see this practice
clearly reflected in verses 23 through 35. We will only take time to note verses 28, 29, and 30 of
the parable, but you should read the entire passage in context.

But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him a hundred
pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying; "Pay me that thou owest."
And his fellow servant felt down at his feet, and besought him, saying, "Have patience with me,
and I will pay thee all." And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay
the debt.

I am sure that most of you know well, as the subject has been discussed before in various
articles, that the practice of tzedakah, or charity, was obligatory and the foundational principles
of biblical faith. To care for one's parents, widows, orphans, the poor, or the needy, was not just
a mitzvah, it was a duty, an obligation.

On several occasions, Jesus chastised certain of the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, for
placing ritual and tradition above the more practical aspects of law, that is, man's responsibility
to his fellow man. This is clearly demonstrated in Mark 7:1-13, which is parallel to Matthew
15:1-9. The hypocritical scribes and Pharisees had themselves chastised Jesus and His disciples
for transgressing tradition, and Jesus responded by chastising them for transgressing the
commandment of God by the tradition. Then, He used the example of how, in circumventing
their responsibility to their parents, they would bring an offering and declare it to be corban, or a
sacrifice offered unto God, and therefore, since it had been offered to God, they were able to
circumvent their responsibility in caring for their parents. Since it had been offered to God, they
certainly could not use it for such a mundane purpose as to assist in their parents' support!
In verse 13 of Mark 7, Jesus said, "Making the word of God of none, effect through your
tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye." Because of their hypocrisy
and lack of mercy In their relationships with their fellow man, it seems apparent that to "devour"
a widow's house means to sell the son, or children, into slavery to pay for the debt of the widow,
rather than being merciful and forgiving the widow's debt.

Another difficult passage frequently mistranslated and/or misunderstood can be found in


Matthew 24:28, parallel to Luke 17:37. Without going into a discourse on eschatology, it "will
suffice simply for us to note this particular saying. In Luke 17:30, Jesus spoke concerning the
day when the Son of man is revealed. In verses 34, 35, and 36, Jesus said that two will be in bed;
two will be grinding; two will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. And in verse
37, they asked, "Where, Lord?" Jesus responded, "Wheresoever the body is, thither will the
eagles be gathered together."

Misunderstanding is due in large part to mistranslation. Rather than eagles, the word should be
more properly translated vultures. This simple statement of Jesus was perhaps of much greater
significance than what we have previously thought. Vultures fed on carrion. In this saying, Jesus
was referring to himself as a dead body, and wherever that dead body is, there will the vultures
be feeding.

In the Gospel of John 6:31-35, and again in 51-58, this idea of one feeding on the body is
dramatically set forth. Here also, you should read the entire passage, but for the sake of brevity,
we will quote only verses 51-58.

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live
forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The
Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily; I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of
man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood,
hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my
blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in
him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he
shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat
manna and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live forever.

Now the question presents itself. How does one eat His flesh and drink His blood? In I
Corinthians 10:16, in speaking of the Lord's Supper, or communion, as it is commonly called,
Paul related, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ?
The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ?"

In Chapter 11, verses 23 through 31, Paul again spoke of the analogy of the Lord's Supper, and
the body and blood of the sacrifice of Jesus. This saying that seems so simple on the surface now
becomes pregnant with meaning: Whatever the circumstances, those who follow Him are
enjoined to look beyond the circumstances and to simply look to Him, to feed upon Him and, in
so doing, be nourished and sustained by Him. This, of course, was the purpose of the Lord's
Supper for the early Church:
In his book, Healing and Christianity, Morton T. Kelsey wrote,

Indeed, as Christians took part in the Mass, joining in the celebration of the Last Supper, they
found themselves transformed by the Spirit. The living presence of the risen Christ, as it was
seen, broke through, infusing the bread and wine and the worshiper; who gathered to make the
sacrifice. This sacrament became the experience par excellence in which men could be touched
and transformed, and sometimes physically healed, by the Spirit.

The communion service is just such a rite, through which the individual participated in the death
and resurrection of the Lord. Just as it was believed, that the Spirit is carried by men's material
bodies and that Christ was incarnated in a human body, so this rite is, basically, a structured
situation in which it is possible for the individual to find contact with realities in the spiritual
world that have moved Christians since the first century.

Another interesting event that is not all that difficult, but is nonetheless frequently
misunderstood, is recorded, by all three of our synoptic writers, Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28,
and Luke 6:1- 5. In the King James, it is especially confusing as the text reads in Matthew 12:1,
"At that time, Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were hungered
and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat." Luke records, "And it came to pass on the second
Sabbath after the first that He went through the corn fields and His disciples plucked the ears of
corn and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. And certain Pharisees said, 'Why do you do that
which is not lawful on die-Sabbath day?"

What did they pluck? Why did they rub it in their hands? And what was the violation of the law?
When we read these passages in English we see the word, corn, and quite naturally think of ears
of corn and the disciples pulling the husks from the corn the way we would shuck ears of corn.
However, corn, as we know it, was unknown in the Middle East until relatively recent times.
Corn, or maize, was a source of food for the American Indians, and only after the discovery of
America was corn, or more correctly, maize, known outside of the Western world. The word,
corn, simply means a grain, or a kernel, or any small, hard seed of grains such as wheat, barley,
or oats, but also other plants, such as apple, grape, or pepper.

Jesus and His disciples walking through fields of wheat were plucking the heads of wheat from
the stalk, which constituted reaping, and then rubbing the heads in their hands to separate the
kernel, or corn of wheat, from the chaff, which constituted winnowing, both of which were
forbidden on the Sabbath-with one exception. That exception was pikuach nefesh, the saving of a
life.

It was not forbidden for one who was hungry to pluck heads of grain, to rub the grain to separate
the kernel from the chaff, and to eat, as long as one ate all that was harvested. If one harvested
more than what they could eat, that then would constitute work, which was against the law. It
seems apparent from Luke that certain of the Pharisees thought erroneously that Jesus and His
disciples were harvesting more grain than was needed until Jesus explained their reasons for so
doing and gave the example of David's eating of the show bread. His explanation apparently
satisfied them, and Jesus then went on His way.
In Matthew 11:19, parallel to Luke 7:35, we find another interesting, and yet confusing,
statement by Jesus. In these Scriptures, some had accused Jesus of being a glutton and a
drunkard. In response, Jesus said in Luke 7:33-35, "For John the Baptist has come eating no
bread and drinking no wine; and you say he has a demon. The Son of Man has come eating and
drinking and you, say, 'Behold a glutton, and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'
Yet wisdom is justified of all her children."

What did Jesus mean when He said that wisdom is justified by her children? In Hebrew, the
passage reads, Va titzdak hachochmah al-yeday kol beneha. Let's work backwards. In this
context, "children" means disciples, students, or followers. Tzedakah, the word we have seen so
many times that means righteousness, or alms giving, can also mean to vindicate, or to justify, as
in a controversy with one's enemies. Hochma, the feminine noun for wisdom, can, in a certain
context, mean just the opposite.

Jesus was a master at sarcasm. Perhaps nowhere could we find a clearer example than here. Jesus
said that real wisdom is manifested by the intelligence of the offspring it produces. Since certain
individuals had attributed the works of Jesus to the devil, this was an indication of their true
stupidity, as one's true wisdom is manifested by the offspring it bears. Since these men had made
such a stupid statement, or had arrived at such erroneous conclusions, it was a real indication of
their stupidity, as true wisdom is obvious from its conclusions.

In effect, Jesus was saying, "Since you have concluded that I am a sinner, that is a clear
indication of your real stupidity." In the statement in Luke, Jesus was actually pointing out their
lack of wisdom rather than commending them for having any.

Understanding More Difficult Words of Jesus, Part II

By Roy B. Blizzard

Proverbs 19:17…A lender to God is one showing favor to the poor.

As we continue in 'our study, "Understanding More Difficult Words of Jesus," it is important to


reiterate a few basic facts.

As the Church moves to the West, off Jewish soil and away from its Hebrew roots, Christianity
begins to develop along quite different lines from that of biblical faith. It does not happen
overnight, but it does happen more quickly than what the average individual would believe.

Influenced by Greek philosophy and pagan theology, Christianity soon develops an "other-
worldly" mentality. This world is evil, the flesh is corrupt, and man strives and yearns for release
from the physical body and the present world in order to receive his eternal, heavenly rewards.
Menwhile, in this world, in the physical body, man's attention is focused upward, upward toward
God, upward toward his ultimate, eternal abode. Very quickly In its development, the theology
of "other worldliness" pervades Christianity. Man's attention, his focus, is upward on God. His
cathedrals and churches rise upward as monuments to man's yearning, striving, looking upward
for God.

Unfortunately, this attitude prevails in Christianity today. The focus is toward God, rather than
outward toward one's fellow man.

Biblical faith is diametrically opposed to the "other-worldly" theology of ecclesiastical


Christianity. Biblical faith is very much a religion of today, a religion whose focus is not so
much upward as it is outward. In many ways, man's responsibility to his fellow man is more
important than his relationship with, or to, God. Or, In other words, man's relationship to God is
determined by his relationship to, and his concern for, his fellow man. This is of the utmost
importance for us in understanding many of the statements of Jesus and other rabbis of His day.

Just recently, I received a rather lengthy letter of request from a lady in Dayton, Ohio, who wrote
for a more in-depth treatment of a passage treated briefly in our book, Understanding the
Difficult Words of Jesus, on pages 111-113. The passage in Matthew 5:42 reads, "Give to him
who asks of you and from him who would borrow from you, do not turn away." She wrote, in
part:

I am writing because I want to help a student in a care-giving class [How to be a People Helper]
in which I am taking part. A lady in our group shared she was being plagued with requests for
money, food, clothing, etc., by some of her readers. The lady further asked, "After all, does not
the Bible teach to give to every man who asks of you?" I shared with this lady and the class from
your book but no one understood what you wrote. Please help us apply the principles you meant
to convey. We need help and practical advice. These readers are not Christians. I thought
Christians were not to borrow money and that we are not to expect loans we make to be returned.
This is what is taught in an Institute in Basic Life Principles/Financial Freedom Seminar. Is this
correct?

The answer to your question is NO. It is not correct. What is? And how do we understand these
words of Jesus?

Most of Jesus' teachings relate to man's responsibility to his fellow man. This is especially true in
the corpus of material we know as the "Sermon on the Mount." In this discourse, it is important
to note that Jesus is, in a very practical way, telling man how he is to live with his fellow man.
The principles set forth in His teachings are those that characterize the individual who is ruled by
God, or is a part of His kingdom, His movement, here on earth. These are the characteristics that
identify those who comprise, or make up, the kingdom. The context in which the passage in
question is couched deals with the relationship of man to his fellow man or, more specifically,
brother to brother; that is, those who are a part of the family of God-how they relate to other
members of the family. For example, "Your unruly brother strikes you on your right cheek, turn
to him the other and say, 'Go ahead and hit me on my left cheek if it will assist in our being
reconciled to each other and to God."' "If your brother asks of you, give to him.…"

Before we continue, let us note that there are two different Hebrew words used here and,
although we have the common Hebrew parallelism in the two phrases in this sentence, there is,
nonetheless, a slight difference in meaning. The word 'ask,' sha'al, can mean a number of things
but, in this context, means specifically to ask as a favor for temporary use, as opposed to the
word, lavah, used in the second phrase, which means borrow as a matter of business.

In the first phrase, if a brother comes asking to borrow, as a favor, an item such as a book, then it
would be loaned with the understanding that the book will be returned to the person from whom
it was borrowed in the condition in which it was borrowed. In the second sense, if a brother
comes in the course of a business transaction to borrow money, then that brother would be
required to return not the same money but the same amount.

A number of points again should be noted for a clearer understanding. That this is couched in a
context of a relationship between brothers is established from verse 43 when Jesus speaks of
one's relationship to his 'enemy.' In Greek, the word is ekthros and simply means, in New
Testament Greek, one who hates you. In classical Greek, however, there are three words for
enemy, polemios, ekthros, and dusmenis. A polemios is one who is at war with you. A dusmenis
is a brother who has been alienated for a long period of time and refuses to be reconciled. But an
ekthros, the Greek word used here, is one who has been philos, or a brother, but is alienated.

In the Mishnah, in Order Nezikin, Tractate (chapter) Sanhedrin 3, Mishnah 5, an enemy is


identified as anyone who has not spoken with his brother, through enmity, for three days. As
such, he was disqualified from acting as either a judge or a witness in a court of law.

So we see the relationships discussed here are those of brother to brother. But there is more to be
said, since everything belongs to God and we are simply stewards over that which He has
entrusted to our keeping, we have a responsibility to see to it that that which we loan will, first,
not be abused, and second, that we know the individual well enough to know that they are
responsible and an individual of integrity. If we know that a person is irresponsible, not a person
of his word, and has no intention of returning that which was borrowed, we have a responsibility
not to lend.

It seems apparent that, in the discourse we know as the Sermon on the Mount, the basic thrust of
Jesus' teachings is man's relationship with his fellow man or, more specifically, brother to
brother, those who are a part of the family of God with other members of the family.

All this raises the question, to what degree is man responsible for those outside of the family of
God? Or more specifically, what responsibility does the child of God have to unbelievers, or
pagans?

In Jesus' day, it is questionable that the Jewish community, generally speaking, would have given
all that much consideration toward pagans. However, it was a point of law that the ger toshav or
the ger tsadik [resident stranger] was entitled to the full support of the community. One's concern
for the needs of the pagan, or the outsider, undoubtedly would have varied from sect to sect,
from the more rigid and orthodox to the more liberal. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a
perfect example.
During the late Mishnaic and Rabbinic Periods, the idea of charity, or almsgiving, is considered
to be an obligation and one of the foundational tenets of biblical faith. The word tzedakah is
widely used to convey this idea of responsibility in assisting the needy in acts of charity.

Charity was considered to be one of the principal attributes of God. In Deuteronomy 10:17-18, it
is stated, "For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords.…He doth execute justice
for the fatherless and the widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raimant."

Rabbi Assi stated that tzedakah is as important as all the other commandments put together
(Baba Batra 9a, Talmud). In Sukkah 49b, Rabbi Eleazar said that the passage in Proverbs 21:3, to
do righteousness, (tzedakah), and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Therefore,
charity (tzedakah) is greater than all the sacrifices.

The rabbis also taught that to give a tenth of one's wealth was considered to be a "middling"
virtue; to give a twentieth or less is to be "mean." But, they warned, one should not give more
than a fifth lest he become impoverished himself and depend upon charity. (Ketubah 50a)

Other interesting concepts of one's obligation of charity are found in the Shulkhan Arukh YD
251:3, "Women take precedence over men in receiving charity…poor relatives take precedence
over strangers…the poor of your own community take precedence over the poor of another
community…the poor of Israel take precedence over all."

But there is another interesting and important point in our study. It was taught that charity should
be dispensed even to the non-Jewish poor in order to preserve good relationships. However,
charity should never be accepted from a non-Jew unless it was unavoidable. Maimonides
declared that the highest form of charity is not to give alms but to help the poor to rehabilitate
themselves by lending them money, taking them into partnership, employing them, or giving
them work, for in this way the end is achieved without any loss of self respect.

In more recent times, it has been the Jewish community worldwide that has taken the lead in the
establishment of charitable institutions and associations of all kinds, including hospitals, nursing
homes, orphanages, medical schools, and schools for the blind, deaf, dumb, and handicapped.
Many of these agencies continue to this present day and are international in scope. Because of
this foundational principle of tzedakah, there can be no doubt but that the Jews have made a
significant contribution to charity and welfare that is unparalleled in human history.

Before leaving this subject, I would like to make a further comment regarding the question of
borrowing and lending. It has frequently been stated that the child of God should "owe no man
anything": that is, they should not borrow, nor buy anything on time, pay only cash, and so on.

Again, all these conclusions are taken out of their proper biblical and historical context.

Buying on credit is one of the foundation stones of our modern economical and financial
institutions. True, it can be a double-edged sword, but properly used, it is one of the things that
has made this country great.
When a person buys on credit, there is an agreement between two people, the seller and the
buyer. The seller agrees to sell for a certain amount. The buyer agrees to pay a certain amount,
weekly or monthly, over a said period of time until the total amount is repaid. As long as the
buyer has the capability of paying what the seller requests and makes his payments on time, he
has not violated the principle of "owe no man anything." He owes only if he fails to make
payments as agreed. As long as one is diligent in management of household finances, and a
person of integrity who is careful not to extend beyond his ability to pay, no biblical principle
has been violated. As far as I personally am concerned, a lot of what has been said and is being
said is poor biblical exegesis and does nothing but place one in spiritual bondage.

Another passage that is extremely difficult for the non-Hebrew speaker is one that is actually a
continuation of this same instruction about which we have been speaking, namely, man's
relationship to his fellow man. It is the passage in Matthew 5, verses 21-22: "You have heard that
it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of
the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall
be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of
the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."

What is Jesus saying? What does it mean by "Whosoever is angry with his brother without a
cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be
in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire"?

It was a popular idea several years ago in certain circles that Jesus spoke Aramaic and that the
New Testament was originally composed in Aramaic. This idea was promulgated mainly by a
gentleman by the name of George M. Lamsa. Mr. Lamsa happened to be a personal acquaintance
and had, on occasion, attended seminars I conducted in San Antonio, where he lived at the time.
He was a fine gentleman and I respected him greatly for the monumental amount of work that he
had done with little formal training.

Mr. Lamsa, in addition to his translations, wrote a book, Idioms in the Bible Explained: A Key to
the Original Gospel, published by Harper & Row. I do not mean to take anything at all away
from the intelligence and integrity of Mr. Lamsa, but much of what he says in this book is
terribly in error. For example, his treatment on this passage [on Page 94] is as follows: "But I say
unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the
judgment, and whosoever shall say to his brother Raca, shall be guilty to the council, and
whosoever shall say, Thou effeminate one, shall be doomed to hellfire" (Matthew 5:22, literal
translation from Aramaic).

Then Mr. Lamsa goes on to explain, "Raca in Aramaic means to 'spit in one's face.' In the East,
spitting in each other's face is done very frequently during the business hours and the times
persons enter into heated arguments. When a merchant and his prospective customer disagree in
their bargaining, they generally spit in each other's face."

Such a translation and commentary forces me to question how well the late Mr. Lamsa knew
Aramaic. In both Aramaic and Hebrew, the word Raca is a word of derision, meaning empty-
headed. We would say the person is stupid, or an idiot, or extremely dumb – beware!
When translated literally from the Hebrew, the passage reads, "…Everyone that is angry with his
brother without cause is liable to the bet din, or local congregational court. Everyone that says to
his brother, 'You are an empty-headed idiot,' is liable to the Sanhedrin, and everyone that says,
'You are a fool [Hebrew, Naval]' is liable to the fire of Gehenna."

In order to understand the passage, notice the increasing order and severity of both the crime and
the punishment. The one that is angry with his brother will be brought before the local
congregational court for judgment. Remember, every congregation had its own court of law
which judged certain transgressions. However, whoever slandered a brother would be brought
before a higher court, namely, the Sanhedrin, for judgment, as cases of libel or slander could be
judged only by the higher court. But, whoever called a brother a Naval was in danger of eternal
judgment.

What was a Naval? And why was this transgression so heinous? In Everyman's Talmud, by
Abraham Cohen, published by Schocken Books, paperback edition, Page 3, we read:

Whether Atheism, in the sense of the dogmatic denial of God's existence, was accepted by
anybody in Biblical and Rabbinic times is doubtful; but both in Bible and Talmud the concern
was with the practical atheist who conducted his life as though he would never be held to
account for his deeds. In Biblical literature, the statement, 'There is no God," Is made by the
Naval, ie., the morally corrupt person who, while acknowledging the existence of a Creator,
refused to believe that He was at all interested in the actions of His creatures. His counterpart in
the Talmud Is the Apikoros, or Epicurean, who likewise "denies the fundamental principle of
religion" (Baba Batra 16b) by his abominable conduct. The Rabbis defined the atheist as one
who affirmed "There is no judgment and no Judge" (Genesis Rabbah XXVI.6) in the Universe,
irrespective of his disbelief in the existence of God.

What was the Naval? In Psalm 53, we read, 'The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'
Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that does good. God looked
down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that
did seek God. Every one of them Is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none
that doeth good, no, not one. Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people
as they eat bread: they have not called upon God. There were they in great fear, where no fear
was: for God has scattered the bones of him that encamps against thee: thou hast put them to
shame; because God has rejected them."

Notice the character of the individual. The Wicked does only abominable deeds and is rejected
by God. When one says those things of another brother, he is, in essence, pronouncing judgment.
He has usurped a place and position of judgment that belongs only to God and, in so doing, is in
danger himself of eternal judgment. Perhaps the moral is that only God knows the true heart and
intent of man and it ill behooves us to stand in judgment.
Understanding More Difficult Words of Jesus, Part III

By Roy B. Blizzard

In continuing our study of the difficult words of Jesus I am going to be treating material that I
have never written on before. The information that follows was the introduction to a series of
studies on previously untreated passages that I delivered in a seminar in California. It is basically
a transcription of the first session and, rather than beginning with the words of Jesus, I started in
Matthew, Chapter 3, with the words of John.

The article has been transcribed basically as delivered live, so the style will be slightly different
from my regular writing style. However, I elected to leave it as is for a different flavor.

In Matthew 3:11, John states, "I indeed baptize with water unto repentance, but he that cometh
after me is mightier than I whose shoes I am not worthy to bare. He shall baptize you with the
holy ghost and with fire," What's that mean? This is important to us in understanding the whole
theme and purpose of Jesus' teachings. What is He trying to accomplish? John says He, that is,
Jesus, is going to baptize you with the holy ghost and with fire. When we hear that most of us
think that the two words are synonymous, and that Jesus is going to come and baptize with the
Holy Spirit. Right? We associate fire with the cloven tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost. In
Luke 12:49,50, it is written:

I am come to send fire on the earth and what will I if it be already kindled. But I have a baptism
to be baptized with. And how am I straightened until it be accomplished?

In Hebrew the word for straightened is tza'ar ('troubled'). As in, "How I'm going to be troubled,"
or "How I'm going to be distressed." Until all of what is finished? Until His Baptism. But what
kind of baptism is it? Remember, Jesus said, "Suppose ye that I'm come to give peace on the
earth? No, but rather division. For from henceforth there shall be five and one half houses
divided. Three against two and two against three. The father against the son, the son against the
father. The mother against the daughter, the daughter against the mother. The mother-in-law
against her daughter-in-law, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." What's He talking
about? Fire! In Verse 12 we read, "…whose fan is in His hand and He will thoroughly purge his
floor and gather His wheat into the garner, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
He shall baptize you with the holy ghost and with fire." It states that His fan is in His hand and
He is going to purge the floor and He's going gather the wheat into the storehouse. But…He is
going to burn the chaff with unquenchable fire. In other words, the fire He is talking about is the
fire of judgment. Fire equals judgment! People are going to be judged by how they respond to
the words and teachings of Jesus. Father against son and the mother against daughter. The house
is going to be divided because of Him. Some will heed and will accept and others will reject. He
says I'm sorry about that. I didn't come to bring peace, or, that peace is not going to be the end
result of my coming. But by the very nature of what I have to say, it will set brother against
brother, father against son, daughter against mother. People are going to be judged by the way
they respond to my teachings.
Now if that's true, then that means His words, whatever it is that He has to say to us, must be
important. It means we ought to know what He says and we had better know what it means if
we're going to be judged as to how we respond to what it is that He says. Fire means judgment!

In Verse 13, Jesus comes from the Galilee to the Jordan river unto John to be baptized of John.
But, John forbade him, saying, "I have need to be baptized of thee and comest thou to me? Jesus
answering said unto him, 'suffer it to be so now for thus it becometh us to fulfill all
righteousness.' And then he suffered him." What does that mean? Have any of you ever been
perplexed by that? Jesus said, "suffer it to be so, because it behooves us to fulfill all
righteousness." What does that mean? Who is this that is coming to be baptized? Jesus! Why is
this confusing? Well, for a lot of Christians, it is confusing, because they know nothing about
baptism. It could be anything from sprinkling a little water to dunking them completely under.
Neither knows what they are doing.

Most Christians are completely ignorant when it comes to the subject of baptism. What is
baptism? What was the purpose of baptism according to Jewish law? Even to this day, at this
very moment, we know exactly what it was. We know how it was done. We know where it was
done. Why? Because we've had extant all of these years, since the time of Jesus, written
information that tells us about the Jewish ritual and rite of immersion. We know where it was
done. We know the size of the ritual immersion baths in which they were immersed.

Almost every Jewish community that we've excavated has had a ritual immersion bath, called a
mikvah, very close to the synagogue or somewhere in the town center. And even though we have
excavated in certain communities where we have not found it, we've probably not been able to
because those sites are so large. But we could expect to find it. It was necessary to the whole
performance of Jewish law and ritual.

In Judaism, baptism meant one thing – baptism for the forgiveness of sins. It was for spiritual
cleansing for right relationships with God. It wasn't to get into the Church. It wasn't to be a
member of the Church. It wasn't the outward sign of an inward act that had already taken place.
It was for the forgiveness of sins. It was by immersion. However, in Judaism, nobody ever
immersed anybody else. Now it may come as a real surprise to learn that John the Baptist did not
baptize Jesus. That is, he didn't take Him and dunk Him under. In Hebrew, the name, "John the
Baptist," is Yehochanan Hamatbil. That last word, Hamatbil, in Hebrew, should be translated as,
John the one who by virtue of what he is saying is causing the people to go under. It's in the
causative verbal construction, which means he's causing them to go under.

In Judaism, all baptism was self-administered. They went down into the water, into the ritual
immersion bath. We know exactly how big the ritual immersion bath had to be. It had to contain
at least 120 gallons. If it contained 120 gallons minus one spoonful it wasn't kosher. The people
went down into the ritual immersion bath, stood with their feet apart, their hands out in front of
them, fingers apart, usually with their eyes and their mouths open, and they just dunked
themselves under. BUT..there had to be a witness to ensure the person was completely under,
because if just one single strand of hair was out of the water, it wasn't kosher and they had to do
it all over again. So, the witness was there so that he could assist them to make sure they were
completely under. So the baptism would be kosher. But again, what was the purpose of it?
Forgiveness of sins or right relationships with God. In order that the person might be in right
relationship with God. Well, any of us who know anything at all about Jesus, know one thing.
That He wasn't a sinner. He didn't have any need to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Not
only do we know that, John knew that. And when Jesus came to him for baptism, John
immediately said, "You don't need to be baptized. I need to be baptized by you." Then Jesus said
something very interesting, in Verse 15, "And Jesus answered and said to him, 'permit me
because it behooves us to fulfill all righteousness.'"The word tzedakah is translated in English as
"righteousness," but it means so much more than that.

Because we have never understood the meaning of this word, we have never really understood
the whole mission of the Church. We've been out here playing some kind of a little silly game,
that we call "church" and most of us do not have the foggiest idea about what the program really
is. One reason is because we have never understood this one word, which serves as the whole
foundation upon which Biblical faith is built, Tedakah.

Tzedakah comes from the Hebrew tsade, dalet, kof – Tzedek; the masculine noun means what is
right. What is just. What is normal. It means rightness. It means justness. It means rightness as in
government. It means rightness as in undertaking justice or performing justice, or carrying out
justice. It means rightness insofar as what is ethically right. It also means justification in the
sense of a controversy with one's enemy. Now remember shortly after His baptism, what's going
to happen? Jesus is going to be carried by the Spirit where? Out into the wilderness to be tempted
by the enemy. So Tzedakah has to do with justifying the individual as far as his rightness is
concerned. It means delivering one from trouble. It means victory. It means redemption.
Tzedakah, righteousness in government, of a judge or ruler or king. It's equal to mishpat, which
means judgment of the law. God is a righteous judge. It has to do with one of God's attributes as
sovereign, as the King. It has to do with God's attribute in administering justice or administering
punishment. Remember what John said? John said, "He's going to baptize you with the Holy
Ghost and with fire." Remember what Jesus said? Jesus said, "I've got a baptism to baptized
with", What was it going to be? Judgment!

In Malachi 4:2, it says, "…but unto you who revere and worshipfully fear My Name, shall the
son of righteousness arise with healing in His wings." Now there is something here so fantastic.
The word "wing" in Hebrew is kanaf. In Numbers 15:37, it says, "And then the LORD said to
Moses, 'speak to the children of Israel and say to them that they shall make the fringes (tzitzit) in
the corners (kanaf) of their garments.'" And here kanaf does not mean a corner, but a wing. You
see, on the Hebrew prayer shawl, the fringes (tzitzit) are on the corners. And the "corners" here
are called wings (kanaf). When worn, it looks like you have wings. "And they should put with
the fringe of each wing a thread of blue." And how long were they suppose to do this?
Throughout all of their generations.

Now, what am I getting at? Well, Moses goes on and tells the people what God told him. That
this tzitzit or this fringe was going to be a tzitzit that they were going to look upon and remember
all of the commandments of the Lord, to do them. "That you may remember and do them. All the
commandments of the Lord and be holy unto the Lord."
In Matthew 9:20, we read, "And behold a woman which was diseased with an issue of blood
twelve years came behind Him and touched the tzitzit of His beged." Jesus' name in Hebrew is
Yeshua. What does Yeshua mean? We're always talking about "getting folks saved." Well, what
are we going to do with them? Put them in the bank and let them draw interest? What does it
mean to be saved? What do we do when we get folks saved? What should be happening when
someone is saved? You're going to call His name Yeshua because He's going to yoshiah His
people from their sins. What's that mean? Well, for one thing it says He is going to save His
people, and we see that whenever someone comes that's not one of His people, He doesn't want
to have anything to do with them. Remember on one occasion Jesus says, "The Son of man is
come to seek and to save those that are lost." Where did He get that? Did you know that He was
just quoting from the Old Testament? Remember now that not only is Jesus a Jew, not only is He
a rabbi, not only is He speaking Hebrew, but He's using rabbinic methods in teaching. He is
always alluding to something that has already been said. Something that's already been written.
Something already in the Biblical text. Almost every time you hear Him speak you can ask
yourself, "Where did He get that?" If you will just look and you know enough about the Biblical
text, enough about Hebrew, enough about Jewish law, you can usually find exactly where He got
it. When Jesus said "…the Son of man is come to seek and to save those that are lost," He quotes
from Ez. 34.

Let's look at Verse 11, "For thus says the Lord God, I myself will search for my sheep. I will
seek them out as a shepherd seeks out his sheep that are scattered in the day that he's among the
flock so will I seek out my sheep. I will rescue them out of all of the places they've been
scattered. I will bring them out from the people," etc. Verse 16, "I will seek that which Was lost.
I will bring that which was strayed. I will bandaged the hurt and the cripple. I will strengthen the
weak and the sick." In these passages are four synonymous parallelisms. These four sentences
are synonymous in Hebrew. They are all parallel one with the other. What does it mean to be
saved? "I will seek that which was lost." What does that mean? It means he is going to bring
back those who were strayed. He's going to bandage the hurt and the cripple. He's going to
strengthen the weak and the sick. But He is going to destroy the fat and the strong and the
perverse. And He's going to feed them with judgment and punishment.

What does tzedekah mean? "And the son of righteousness is going to arise with healing in His
wings." The One who delivers, who heals, who exhalts His people. And that's what tzedakah is.
And notice here, when this little woman hears Jesus speak and she recognizes Him for who He
is, "the Son of righteousness," she reaches out and touches the tzitzit of His beged. The "wings"
of His garment. And when she reaches out and touches Jesus, what does she get? She gets saved!
Listen again to what she says, "…she says within herself, 'if I can just touch the tzitzit of His
garment, I'll be Yeshuaed'. And Jesus turned and looked at her and said, 'My power.'" And then
He said to her, "my daughter." When Jesus says, "My daughter," what does that indicate? She
was already a part of the family. She was already one of the sheep, except she was lost.

So what does lost mean? It doesn't necessarily mean that she was separated from God. It doesn't
necessarily mean that she wasn't going to have her place in the world to come. It meant that she
was a sociological outcast NOW. With the issue of blood, nobody could touch her without
becoming unclean. She couldn't come into physical contact with her children. No one could even
sit on the same bench on which she sat. No one could sleep on the same bed on which she had
slept. She could have no sexual intercourse with her husband. You talk about lost. You and I
don't even understand that. We can't relate to that kind of a condition. She wasn't interested in
whether she was going to get to go to heaven or not. She wanted to be whole in this world.
NOW. And Jesus turned to her and said, "…my daughter, your faith has Yeshuaed you." And it
goes on to say, "…and the woman was Tivasha (completely whole) from that hour." She was
saved from that hour. But when she was saved, what did she get? Don't even think in terms of
healing. Because even that is too limited, too narrow. Think in terms of wholeness or
completeness. Think in terms of restoration. That which was lost was found. That which was
strayed had been brought back. That which was unclean was now clean. That which was only in
part was now made whole. And what caused that to happen? Tzedakah, "the son of tzedakah."
This is the reason why Jesus says, "permit this or allow this, because it is absolutely necessary
for the purpose of fulfilling and completing tzedzkah. In order that I might become the son of
righteousness. That I might be the anointed to save, in the fullest sense of the word. To seek and
to save those that are lost."

What does the word Messiah mean? It means the anointed one "Messiah." It's translated into the
Greek as "Christ." When we say Jesus Christ, we think that "Christ," is His last name. But Christ
in Greek, Christos, means the same thing, "the Anointed One." When did Jesus become the
Christ? Only after His baptism. When he fulfills all tzedakah, it says, "And Jesus when He was
baptized went up straight way out of the water and to the heavens were opened unto Him and He
saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Him and lo a voice from heaven
saying, "this is My beloved Son in whom I'm well pleased." And now God can present Him to
the world. "This is My Son." The Son of tzedakah who came to seek and to save those that are
lost. Had not Jesus gone through baptism, would He have been the Son of righteousness? The
answer is obviously no. Had He not fulfilled all Tzedakah, He would not have had the annointing
to fulfill His mission of Yeshua. Had he not undergone baptism He would not have been in right
relationship with God. Hence, the necessity and importance of Jesus' baptism.