Satan's Pendulum

One of the most important lessons I learned from my college days is "check your assumptions." Most arguments fail, not because of mistakes in logic, but because of false, unfounded premises. It is the a priori premises that ultimately determine what the final conclusion is. So, in general, the answer to most troubling questions is "check your premises." Most of the time, people disagree, not because of failure of logic, ignorance or some emotional attachment to tradition, but rather, because of differences in the assumptions and premises that form the basis of the beliefs.

To begin with, there seems to be an assumption that no one here at the Lamb Café has ever heard of arguments about the "True Name" of the Savior or "You must keep the TORAH" before. I assure you we have. It seems that about every 2-3 months someone comes in and asks the same questions and makes the same claims about "the law" and "the true name" and what food is proper to eat and what festivals must be kept, and so on. We don't have the archives from the old Lamb Café to refer to, or I wouldn't even bother writing this. Honestly, it gets pretty boring after awhile.

Just so everyone understands - it's no problem to me (and shouldn't be a problem to anyone else) if someone needs to work through these questions and to maybe rant and rave a bit in the process. If you need it to further your own spiritual growth, then do what is necessary as the Lord leads you. But, please stop with this business of implying (and sometimes stating out right) that anyone who doesn't believe these things as you do is not on the path to salvation. Only Jesus gets to make that decision; not me, and not you.

In general, the answer to these questions and rebuttal to these claims is, "your premises are all wrong." To begin with, it is wrong to believe that because there has been interjection of error into Christian doctrine that we must throw it all out. The history of the Church is filled with a mixture of truth and error, and over and over again men have sought to use the influence of the Church to further their own private agenda. So what? Guilt by association is not a valid argument for anything. If I hold to many of the doctrines of Christianity that have been passed down from the first apostles to today, that doesn't mean automatically that I agree with all of the errors as well. Surely no one is suggesting we discard all the great preaching of the past 2000 years just because some of what was taught was in error!

This is a phenomenon that I have starting calling "Satan's Pendulum." If the adversary can't get you caught up in a traditional religion of conformity, he swings you off to the other end where you get caught up in a non-traditional religion of conformity. It becomes the same business only on the other side of the street. I went through this myself many years ago and I see it repeated in other people's lives again and again. Once we discover that we have been misled, or even outright lied to, the knee-jerk response is to reject anything and everything associated with the organizations and people that lied to us. We end up getting swung back and forth between two extremes; liberal to conservative, Catholic to Protestant, theist to atheist, etc. The trick is to learn to get off the pendulum completely. This can only be done by a careful consideration of each doctrine or belief based only on the merits of each and not on who/what/when/where it came from.

In another topic, it was stated that "The Messiah's name was first corrupted around the 3rd or 4th century when the original writings were translated into Greek / Latin. The belief was 'hijacked' and westernized, mainly due to hatred of the Hebrews and the political needs of Constantine. (and so on)." Sorry to be rude, but this is pretty much total fantasy. I'm not sure where this idea got started, but it seems it will never die. The gospels and letters of Paul were written in Greek. No doubt there were other writings in Aramaic, Ethiopic, etc. around at the same time. But to claim that the gospels were not written in Greek in the first century by the first disciples of Jesus is to deny historical fact, reason and common sense.

Back up a bit - After the end of the Babylonian captivity, many Jews did not return to Judea. Some remained in the east and had already switched from speaking Hebrew to some variant of Aramaic. More importantly, many Jews dispersed throughout the area and into Greek speaking areas. These are traditionally referred to as the Jews of the "diaspora" and were "Hellenized" - i.e. they spoke Greek. With the spread of Alexander's empire, koine Greek became the dominant language of commerce around the Mediterranean Sea. The need of these Greek speaking Jews for copies of their scriptures in a language they could read eventually led to the development of the Septuagint. So, even if the ultra-orthodox Jews of Judea thought of Greek as somehow unclean, it is a well-know historical fact that there were many, many Greek speaking Jews. There is additional evidence of the use of Greek among Jews and early Christians, but this alone should be enough.

The gentiles, of course, spoke Greek as a commercial language just the same way that many people today speak English as a second language. English is today what Greek was at the time of Jesus. Simply apply a little common sense here. If the writers of the gospels and the epistles were going to communicate with the largest number of people, the language they would naturally have chosen was koine Greek. This is especially true of any writings intended for gentile converts to Christianity. Why would Paul write to people in Ephesus, Corinth, Phillipi, etc., in any language other than Greek? We know for certain that Paul spoke Greek because it says so in the Acts of the Apostles. The story was also told that Paul went onto Mars hill in Athens and preached to the philosophers there. To think that Paul could have spoken to them in any language other that Greek is just silly. Even if the gospel writers did not speak Greek, they could have easily found a scribe who could translate for them. Matthew was a tax collector and it would be silly to claim that he wasn't a scribe and didn't know Greek and probably Latin as well. In fact, Eusebius reported that Matthew wrote down the sayings of Jesus in Aramaic. These sayings of Jesus are most likely the basis of the gospel records. But, since we don't have existing copies (at least none that I know of) this has to remain speculation for now.

Thus we have a historical fact that Christianity spread westward during the first century A.D. to Greek speaking people, both Jew and Gentile. By the time of Nero there were enough Christians in Rome to make it worthwhile to blame the problems of the government on them and begin persecution. So, "western" Christianity did not start with the councils called by Constantine. All that Constantine did was to bring a group of Bishops together to get them to quit fighting amongst themselves. The decisions were made by the Bishops of both the East and the West and released as a set of "canons" at the end of each council. Most of what they decided was based on what they believed to have been the original beliefs of the earliest Christians. You can go read their arguments for yourself if you want to. (I've only read some of them because for the most part they are quite boring. It's a little like reading the committee report of some church business meeting. Maybe it's interesting to scholars of church history, but not much else.) The councils may have been wrong on some things, but there was no overt attempt to create a new religion as some have claimed. Now, can we finally put to rest all this stuff about rejecting everything of Christian writings that came since the 4th century? There is no "Original and TRUE Jewish/Hebrew Christianity" that is any different than what you read in the writings of the New Testament. If anyone wants to claim there is, then please tell me what authentic writings of that period you are going to base your claims on? If you accept that the gospels and epistles that we have are authentic, then you are relying on the decisions of the councils of Nicea and Chalcedon for the source of your beliefs. Get it?

Once you come to understand this, all the outrageous claims about the using only the "True Name" of the Messiah fall apart. The disciples of Jesus, the ones who lived with Him on a daily basis, went out into the world and spread the gospel to the surrounding nations. They created writings in Greek, and when they did so, they used the Greek transliteration of the Savior's name: Iesous. That alone will tell you that from the very beginning the ones who knew Jesus the best had no problem with using a variant spelling and pronunciation of His name. Over time the Greek spelling evolved into the modern spellings and pronunciation. If anyone needs to confirm this, go to a large library and look up the entry in the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language. It has a fairly extensive etymology.

Now, why would it make any difference at all that I write and say Jesus? If it didn't make any difference to the first followers of Jesus, then it makes no difference at all to me either.

The arguments that are put forth usually rely on phrases like "in his name" or "by the name of" and so on. This is another place where the difference is not some misunderstanding or wrong belief based on tradition. The difference is whether or not you treat these phrases as literal or idiomatic. Look in an English dictionary under the entry for "name" and you will probably find a statement like this:

- in the name of 1. In appeal or reference to 2. By the authority of; as a representative of 3. As belonging to (Webster's New World Dictionary, Second College Edition)

In English, this is a phrase that is not used literally, but figuratively. It is not unreasonable to say that the writers of the Bible used it the same way. These phrases indicate an intimate knowledge and relationship to the person. To make a silly analogy, I could call up the Whitehouse and ask to speak to George, but just knowing the name of the President and calling his name won't get me very far. On the other hand, if I was an old college buddy of Mr. Bush, I could probably get right through. It's not the literal knowing of the name that's important. What is important is the relationship between the two people. I claim the Bible should be interpreted the same way and have yet to hear or read a coherent argument to the contrary.

"The intent of the law is the force of the law"

"Justice is the end, law is but the means"

These are two ancient maxims that always apply to law. Without understanding of these maxims, no understanding of law is possible. An analogy:

If I enter into a covenant with you to paint your house I cannot simply come over, open up some cans of paint and splash paint all over the house. That may meet the letter of the covenant (i.e. put paint on your house) but it does not meet the intent.

To understand God's covenant, you have to always look for the intent. There are many things God's law intends but the most important is for man to learn God's ways. We must have a "contrite heart" of repentance and turn back to God and away from the carnal self. That is the first intent of God's law: Love the Lord thy God with thy heart, soul and mind.

The intent of the tithe is not to provide material gain to either the recipient or to the giver. Those things are "side effects" of the way God set things up. The idea that the tithe was necessary to provide for the Levitical priests is to totally ignore the fact that God provided manna from Heaven to the Israelites in the wilderness. He could have done the same thing for the priests. So, God doesn't need "our" money. It's all His to begin with and furthermore, He can create any amount of material wealth at any time He wants. This was demonstrated by Jesus feeding the thousands with a little basket of food.

So we don't give in order to produce material blessing either to the recipient or to the giver as God will manage that as He sees fit. If you had food to eat TODAY and a warm place to sleep TODAY then God has met His obligation to you. It doesn't matter if it was a tuna sandwich and a tar-paper shack or prime rib and a mansion on the hill. Tomorrow He will do so again so long as you trust Him. Thus the end goal of the tithe was and is - do not use for yourself the things the Father has set aside for His use. Acknowledge His sovereignty and be willing to let it all go for the Kingdom. We give solely because we are good servants and our master says to give. That principle is always true, is it not?

Satan's pendulum swings people between the idea that you don't have to keep any law and the idea that you have to keep the exact letter of the law. Both ends are wrong because they confuse law and justice or they totally divorce law and justice. It is justice that must be done and it is an error to confuse law and justice. "Justice is the end, law is but the means." By faith in Jesus, we gain the regenerated heart that will know and do justice. And, "justice is that virtue which renders to every man his due." Or in other words, love thy neighbor as thyself. Thus:

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40 )


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