Essays for King Jesus
- Marlin Sommers
Your heart matters. We are to love and honor God in our hearts. Pseudo-religion from an evil heart offends God. But what is the heart? Or, more to the point for this essay, what should the heart be contrasted with?
Some people contrast our hearts with our actions; what’s in the heart, versus what we do. Jesus, on the other hand contrasts the heart with the lips. What we really are, versus the front we put on with our words. Instead of talking about people who did the right things but had bad hearts, he talked about people who said (some of) the right things with their lips but had bad hearts.
We do much better to follow Jesus in contrasting the heart with the lips, rather than adopting the modern habit of contrasting the heart with our actions. Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” He describes how they generate a pious appearance with careful rules about washing their hands (for ritual purity), and fine words about their wealth belonging to God while engaging in substantive wrong by withholding support from their own parents (Matthew 15:1-9).
- Vince Beiler
6. The Masoretic Text
In prior posts we touched on some developments of the Hebrew Bible over the course of its 3,000 plus year history.
Now we move to a specific group of Jewish scribes who made a name for themselves due to the way in which they transmitted the Bible. These scribes were active throughout the Middle Ages, but the oldest complete copies of their work date to the early part of the 10th century. These scribes are called Masoretes and the text they produced is called the Masoretic Text. The reason this Hebrew text receives its own name (the Masorah/ the Masoretic Text1) in what was heretofore referred to simply as the Hebrew text is due to several factors, which I will explain in the coming paragraphs.
To begin, the Masoretic scribes who wrote these texts were exceptional in two ways. First, the Masoretes were the ultimate conservationists, always concerned that the text was copied accurately. With this goal in mind, the Masoretes were careful to ensure that the transmission of the Hebrew text was of the highest quality, an effort so extensive it remains remarkable, even today. Secondly, and somewhat ironically, the Masoretes were innovators, finding new ways of recording the text so that every detail was made plain—and thereby adding still more details in the process. It is chiefly due to the skills of the Masoretes on these two fronts that the tenth century Hebrew text was termed Masoretic, a term which has continued to be used up to the present.
- Vince Beiler
In a prior essay, we discussed how the (Hebrew) Bible gradually went from a scattered compilation of scrolls to being considered a single entity. We also discussed how the careful preservation of specific Hebrew word forms allow us to date parts of the Bible relative to one another. Finally, we discussed the Septuagint and its role as a highly regarded translation from the time of Jesus down to the present day. In the present essay, I would like to consider the Dead Sea Scrolls and how they help to broaden our understanding of the Hebrew text of the Bible. Read Part 1
Some decades before the birth of Jesus, a group of Jews left Jerusalem due to conflicts with the High Priest over aspects of religious observance and leadership. This group was puritanical in nature and apocalyptic in their expectations for the world, believing that they should withdraw from Jerusalem for a time after which God would set the world right. Among other things, this group expected that ‘true’ worship would be restored at the temple and their leader would be instated as the High Priest. The group’s chosen place of exile was Qumran (possibly Secacah, see also Joshua 15:61), a small settlement near the coast of the Dead Sea and about 25 miles southeast from Jerusalem. Both the group and their beliefs would have been lost except for a surprising discovery there in 1947: small caves near the Qumran settlement were found to contain scroll fragments, some of which contained portions of the Bible. The most significant of these caves is pictured below: