Friday, May 30, 2014

If you love me, you will keep my ...... connections John 14:15....

What is a mitzvah?  What are the many mitzvot?  What was the purpose of the mitzvot in regards to the process of redemption in the Old Testament?  What is the purpose of the mitzvot in regards to New Testament living?

Christians scholars regularly identify 'mitzvot' as Old Testament commandments, with most Christians in my world distancing themselves from those mitzvot as much as possible.

As for the mitzvot and today, II Timothy 3:16 relates directly, though I'm not sure exactly how directly and/or indirectly; when directly, and when indirectly.....:  "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness."

So you see, I still have some questions about those mitzvot......  And no, please don't throw those tomatoes this way  (would that fulfill the Jesus version of the shama anyway?).......  And yes, please remember that I said, "I have some questions...."  Okay?

For one thing, I'm trying to make sense of what Jesus meant by the word 'commandments' in John 14:15 when He said, "If you love me, keep my commandments......."

Now, I know we have been freed from the law of sin and of death.... (Romans 8:2, at least, we have been if we hold fast the word which has been preached to us, rather than having the seed sprout up and then die off..... I Cor 15:1-2, not that the work of sanctification is a work of the flesh, Galatians 3:2-5).

But is there any relationship between the commandments Jesus spoke of in John 14:15 and any of the mitzvot?  Are the only 'commandments' the Jesus version of the shama  (Mark 12:30-31):  the command to love, God, others, and ourselves with everything we have with which to love - which sums up all the other commandments?  Is the commandment just 'eternal life'?  John 12:50 says that His commandment is eternal life.......  I admit to feeling a bit silly thinking of God on His throne saying, "Live!  Live!  Live!"...... but it does seem that there is something at least vaguely akin to that in the essence of His commandment.....

As for the "scripture's original text's term for 'commandments'", at least in John 14:15, it is in the Greek language.   [Or so it has been thought for some time.  However, today, there are growing, well studied arguments that Jesus would have lived in a polyglot world in Israel, much like the polyglot world in the Israel of today.  In such a world, one would likely have spoken at least broken Latin in official settings, Aramaic in some trading situations, but still speak Hebrew in familial & social circles.  But most notably, they would likely have spoken Hebrew most particularly in religious circles (which is very similar to the practices of polyglot-lifestyles in Israel today).  Frankly, I've kind of suspected that for quite a while, after all, the precious Torah scrolls would have been pulled out in the synagogues and read in Hebrew often - even in Jesus day....., would they not? And the subsequent Jewish styled discussions of all the particulars that might be drawn from the Torah would have to be held in the Hebrew language for the most part, wouldn't they? Just sayin'....]

Those who argue for such a view of polyglotal linguistic inclinations in Jesus' day also argue that the 'original Greek' renderings of the New Testament will best be understood by considering what those texts would say in Hebrew, because Jesus probably spoke them in Hebrew.  If that is all true, then the gospels were probably first written in Hebrew, and there is even evidence of such an 'original text in Hebrew' if one looks at the Greek renderings and considers that, given the words used in the Koine Greek, they are highly likely literal translations from Hebrew.......  (or so say the scholars at the last link above)...

All that said, this debate is not going to be settled on this blog.  However, having read about these ponderings about a polyglot Israel in Jesus' day, the idea that the gospels were first written in Hebrew is a strong consideration in my heart and mind.

All of which might seem like meaningless dithering.... after all, while there are solid arguments that Jesus likely used the term 'mitzvot' in John 14:15, it is admitted that, for now, the only relatively early texts of John are in Greek.  So in what is often deemed to be 'the original texts', the term for 'commandments' is not, of course, the term 'mitzvot'.

So, knowing that *I* do not know yet what 'commandment' in the New Testament always means, and knowing from Romans 8:2 that we are free from the law of sin and of death, and knowing that all things are lawful for us but not all things are expedient......., it is time, at least for a moment, to move on from this unconfirmable series of questions.

The next pair of questions the arises then are:

Is there such a thing as 'sin' for an unbeliever?

If so, what does that mean about the New Testament use of the words 'commandment'/'commandments'?

In Romans 14:23 Paul says that 'and whatever is not from faith is sin' when he is talking about believers with strong and/or weak faith.

So we know something about 'sin' from that, but what of 'commandment'?

NT:  What is the New Testament era's understanding of 'commandment' and/or 'sin' to be?  It is interesting to note that even Wikipedia pointed out that, in the book of Mark as it comes down to us in the Koine Greek, there are no references to Greek or Roman literature, but only to Jewish scriptures, (though it seems that they were mostly referenced in their historically well known Greek form).  Therefore, one might conclude that the term 'commandment', while rendered in the Greek language, likely ought to be thought of in the context of the Old Testament, thus in the mindset of the Jewish meanings of the various scriptures.... Yes?  ..... No?   ...... Hmmmm......

OT:  As I make inquiries as to the meaning of the Old Testament term for commandment, it turns out that throughout the ages, the Jewish people also knew the mitzvot to have been an integral part of man's connection with God - a way of having a relationship with God.  But why did they think that?

From my limited glimpses into Jewish literature, Jewish scholars do seem to consistently teach that there is a very close relationship between the Jewish terms 'mitzvot' and 'tzavot': with the first term relating more to command, and the second, relating to the ideas of "relationship or of a joining."  Furthermore, they claim that 'tzavot' is the root word for 'mitzvot' (as evidenced on pg. 19, paragraph 4 in this text, _Truth for Today_ by Daniel Rendelman).  Since I am not a Hebrew scholar, and I don't even have a Hebrew etymological dictionary,  I cannot draw any connection between these two Hebrew words except to surmise that if one takes the 'a' out of 'tzavot', it could realistically and quite easily be a root word for 'mitzvot' - just in a contracted form (but then, when the vowel points are not used, how 'contracted' is it?).  But that is merely surmising on my part to date. All I am confident about is that there seems to be a consistent claim that these words are related, as per both Messianic friends and from online sources.  So, to date, I believe the claim to be valid.

Thus it seems to be that the Hebrew term for 'command' has its root in the word for 'relationship' or even 'to join' - with an understood inference in the Jewish-believing-community that the purpose of man is to be joined into a relationship with God........, and that the commandments help to clarify a great deal about how that 'joining into a relationship' can be accomplished (at least, in the Old Testament covenant).

There is even strong evidence that this 'joining into a relationship through the law' was quite intentional on the part of God if one considers the following quote:  "Together, the 613 commandments forge the ideal relationship where the two parties become one. Interestingly the numerical value of the phrase "kesher echad" (one unit, or one bond) between God and man, is 613 -- the total number of Torah commandments."
With that in mind, I have a new, changing paradigm from which to ask what Jesus meant when He said:

"If you love me, keep my commandments/means-of-connections/relationship-together...."  (John 14:15)

Jesus could not have meant 'Keep the law of sin and of death' referred to in Romans 8:2.  However, Romans 8:2 also tells us that it is the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus (that) has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

So, what is this 'law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus' which did the work of setting us free from the 'law of sin and of death'?

When I asked my now 18 year old son about this 'new' law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, he was quick on the trigger to ask, "Why do you think you can know that it is a 'new' law?" ......  Good observation!  If it is not a new law, was 'the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus' in any way applied to Abraham as a result of Abraham's faith?  (e.g. - Genesis 15:6)

*If* so, then it would be reasonable to ask from yet another angle:  Is this 'law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus' related in any way to the 'commandments' which Jesus told us we are to keep if we love Him?

To date, it is clear that there are conflicting opinions on the subject.  It is certain that we are not to 'continue in sin so that grace may increase' (Romans 6:1)

It is certain that without faith it is impossible to please God, and that anything without faith is sin.

But what does the term 'commandment' mean in the New Testament for NT believers?

While searching the scripture, looking for scriptural insight, it is very interesting to note the difference in the NAS and the CJB in the punctuation that follows this verse and leads on to the section that says....

"......and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforting Counselor like me, the Spirit of Truth, to be with you forever......"

There is certainly a different view of scripture seen between the Christian community and the Jewish community in many ways.


But the thing that most amazes me about what I have found to date about 'commandments' in the Old Testament and Jesus' version of the Shama in Mark 12:30-31, is summed up simply by this Jewish question and answer:

"Man is the paradoxical synthesis of two parts.  He has a physical body, within which pulsates a Heavenly soul.  How can these opposite forces unite?  The physical and spiritual connect in the performance of a mitzvah.  A mitzvah can be described as the action and force that expresses the spiritual world of God in the physical world of man....."

Does this 'connection' of the parts of us into an integral whole somehow relate to  how 'The law might be fulfilled in us' through faith in Christ (Romans 8:4)?

And while I might take issue with the term 'perform' in the quote above....., and while I might well state this somewhat differently myself, this tying together of that which is broken because of the sin of man?  This power to unite that which was most likely united prior to the fall of man anyway?  It seems to be an integral part of understanding the shama of Jesus:

"And He said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."

After all, we cannot do that without the power of the spirit living in us..... without faith in 'The Way, The Truth, and The Life' empowering our new-living-spirit to work together with 'the mind of Christ' in us, and with His Spirit working in us 'to will and to do' according to His good pleasure, as well as working with (and healing when/how He deems fit) our new heart of flesh....

One God...... Triune.........

Mankind....... made in His image...... made whole through the cross...... through His love........

Through the connecting/relational-power of His commands perhaps as well???

Just askin'................

No comments:

Post a Comment