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A Dialog on Continuity in the Scriptures

Jewish Wise Men Find Messiah

Art by R. Chanin

The following dialog is between Dr. Peterson, a Ph.D. scientist, and David Black, who is currently part of a Messianic congregation in the metropolitan area of Baltimore.

Read this now... best if read when still fresh! Yes, we really do sit down and just start to chat in front of a recorder... read this like you are just sitting there listening to us. There is no rehearsal and we don't do massive edits to the dialog.

Addressing Confusion... to Identify a Missing Unity

Dave: There is today a general ignorance about the early church, which was in fact Jewish. The guys who wrote the Gospels were Jewish. But... if we say... Saint Paul... the thought is that's a Catholic thing... to name everybody saints and to have saints. And I remember the first time I ever heard that if you put your faith in Jesus, then you are considered a saint according to Scripture. Yet, I always thought that we Protestants don't have saints, but only the Catholics have saints.

Todd: If you turn back to the book of Daniel you find the word saints being used for believers. And certainly Daniel is talking to a Jewish audience. Interesting how easily we seem to separate our perceptions along lines that really do not exist... the evidence for the separation is not there, in fact upon a closer look we find the opposite case is reality and we've been misled by popularized teachings that are not wholly accurate.

Dave: For many people the challenge is in getting the right connections made for a first time.

Todd: I agree, in fact today I met a coworker on the train on the way to work. I mentioned WindowView and she was really interested in the Jew and Gentile concept supported by the web site. She commented on how, as a Catholic, she was totally blown away by a presentation on the Jewish roots to Christian faith. In fact, she heard all this in a presentation given by an Episcopalian Bishop who evidently goes around giving talks about the Jewish backdrop to the Gospels and early church. He puts it all in context. My friend commented that she and her 80-year old mother were very excited by the presentation. This whole encounter with the truth led her to think about how much she was not being told by simply attending her own church. Beyond being shocked she was really enthusiastic to hear all this. Lots of unanswered questions were all of a sudden being answered, mysteries were revealed and solved, and she sensed the truth was unfolding before for her like never before.

Dave: It's kinda like turning on a new light!

Looking for Consistency and Flow

Todd: All this is a great segway into today's topic which is to find consistency and flow from Judaism into Christianity. Like the misguided efforts to separate science and religion, these two faiths are defended as being unique or separate. I can't see the separation any longer, just like there is a way to clearly see science supporting the Scriptures, the streams of Judaism certainly flow into and are continuous with Christianity. There is no gap between them.

Dave: I agree and maybe through our dialog our WindowView visitors will get some appreciation for the Jewish roots like your coworker did in the seminar she attended.

Todd: The real problem here is being informed. Perhaps to make a criticism that I can take to heart myself, I really don't read the Bible as often as I might—presently, say, only once or twice weekly—still there are many in our society today that simply don't read what's in the Bible. Oh yeah, some folks might read in the text once or twice a year, but others just do not read—they are clueless and yet they are often the critics. That's frightening because that is simply part of an education that is available to us—especially the United States where the Bible is more a cornerstone of our nation's founding than what many acknowledge.

One of the e-mails sent to WindowView noted that the web site's presentation appears to assume visitors have some knowledge of the Bible. This is a good point and we'll keep this in mind going forward. In fact some resources on the web site are designed to teach a bit of the Bible's content in overview fashion. The 'Universal timeline' chapter of WindowView's on-line book (i.e., Creator's Window, Chapter 23) is essentially a quick study of some elements contained in the biblical text. Chapter 15 also contains a fairly comprehensive Bible study of the book of Daniel. Also, the article entitle 'Heart of God' provides a very people-oriented biblical account for a chronology and the character of persons who came to understand the heart of God from the first to those many generations later. So, we don't leave our visitors without resources, but there is no better way to learn more about the Scriptures than through a study group that is focusing on a book at a time while moving through the Bible. This is the only way to really see how an incredible network of informational links is woven throughout the Scriptures. Academics raise their doubts about words or passages, but so often forget this infrastructure that makes the Bible a truly complex document... and by complex I'm only referring to the inter-relatedness of its content... and not to say that the text is beyond anyone's understanding. That so many understand the text's intent and message is a global phenomenon of great significance in its own right.

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Dave: Two or three years ago, I heard it said that the majority of Christians read their Bible when the pastor says: ''Turn in your Bible to...'' and that's when the majority of Bible reading is done!

Todd: And you are only talking about people who have made the effort to go to a church service. [And how often do Jewish folks in a synagogue open their Bibles? Again, this isn't simply a Gentile or Jewish question!] I've got to admit, early on that description fits me, too. Getting back into going to services while in graduate school, getting to the service was the thing, reading the Bible came later. I realize I started by trying to find my place within a church community first, before really exploring deeper. Later I put myself into study groups and started to ask questions... and only stopped asking a particular question once I'd researched to a point of reaching a reasonable or well founded answer. As a scientist I approached this stuff like a detective looking for the who done it!

Myths Fading into Facts Along timelines

Dave: Indeed, once the initial impressions of biblical stories fade to fact, the answers carry weight and an importance that's not always so obvious at the start.

Todd: WindowView looks along time lines. And I'm sure for the Jewish visitor there have never been biblical gaps in time. That is to say first there was Torah followed by the other writings, proverbs, psalms, and prophets... and then there is just history and time.

For Gentile visitors who think of themselves as Bible-believing, they might think of having an older covenant and a newer covenant with some sort of gap between these two. We hear reference to some 400 years between the writings of Malachi to the first words of Matthew.

For the sake of argument we can ask if there really is a gap. We can certainly go back to Jeremiah 31:31 that promises a new covenant. And if that's the new covenant text in Bibles today, then is there really a gap in time and a gap between Judaism and Christianity. This begins to approach the question of there being Jewish roots to a Messiah-based faith that so many are aware of today.

So, how does this all work and how does this enhance our understanding?

Are there any sources we can refer our visitors to that provides a biblical overview along the lines we are addressing here? Anything come to mind that fills that need?

Dave: It's really difficult to think of any one source to meet that need, but a little bit of research will reveal what was going on at the time of the 'gap' as you are calling this time in history. There was lots of activity all around the globe at that time and certainly events relevant to following along with both covenants.

Todd: I have to agree and perhaps we can embellish our time line pages at WindowView to help capture something of this perspective that we are talking about here. And maybe some text will come to our attention that we can cite later. I certainly hope our visitors will send us e-mails with comments and suggestions all to an end that helps WindowView be a more complete resource.

Certainly there are study guides that go book-by-book through the Bible. These may not be much fun to read for the newcomer to the Bible. Likewise, just reading from anyplace in the text may result in getting immediately bogged down and then being discouraged. That's where a study group or conversation with someone with some familiarity can at least get us going on what's the big picture and how various specific aspects of the Scriptures really work together. That will start to fill gaps all over.

Again, WindowView's use of time lines helps to fill the gap in that the story of the Maccabees takes place around 168 B.C.E. and is important in that this is the point at which Hanukkah originates and this furthermore has Messianic implications. The Maccabees fought to return the Temple to its full function and essentially prepared the stage for the arrival of the Messiah.

Scott Brown refers to the streams of Judaism pouring into the stream of Christianity. [Scott is a WindowView Associate] This reminds me there is a continuity over time and we can even find cause and effect types of connections leading right into the first century.

Hanukkah and Preparing a Way for Continuity

Dave: Thinking about Hanukkah, this really represents a very important time in history for the Jewish people. This is also important for the writing of the Gospels... and the reason is that Matithius (Maccabees) with his sons and others took back Jerusalem, took back the Temple, purified the Temple, and re-instituted what we would call traditional Judaism.

When the Syrian armies arrived they intended to Hellenize all of Israel along with the rest of the world. They wanted to bring everything into a Greek order of life style, though, and culture. And the best way to control a people is to culturally absorb them into the overpowering culture. That's what was attempted and there were great atrocities attached to the Jewish people as they failed to conform. This was not a choice for them, they were expected to conform and thus could not teach the Torah, nor use their prayer books, or follow their religious practice. The rabbinical schools were outlawed and these were import centers of learning for Judaism at that time.

The rabbinic sages tell us that the highest form of worship is to study God's word. And worship is a whole other area for discussion, but you can see the level of importance the Jewish people had in relation to study and knowledge.

The scribes were up there in the culture, whereas a tax collector was the lowest of positions that one could hold. You might become wealthy, but culturally you were a traitor by collecting money for this outside culture. The best place was to be a rabbi, sage, Pharisee, or Sadducee... someone gifted in understanding the Law, and I'm not speaking about political law, but God's Law.

A World of Activity

Todd: I'd remind our visitors, and myself too, to think that there was lots of activity all around the globe two millennia ago. I've studied the Mayans and Anasazi cultures a bit and they were either active or developing here in the Americas as well as social structures and associated events that transpired in Europe, Egypt, or China. When I look at the events described in the Bible I have to really remember that these things occurred along within a greater human history... the history in Israel holds a special significance atop of all that outside activity.

Through all of these histories of the nations, the Jewish people are following the original mandate through Abraham as a dedicated people to follow God's purpose for us all. So, there is a fine light of focus on Israel within the greater history. I think that human events might have taken off in any direction... other than to have that focus on Israel... but the cultures in the Americas faded, so too Egypt, and elsewhere... all of these people held to a focus outside of the single God of Israel. This too brings our attention to the focal point of light that remains.

The continuity from Judaism to the Messianic Judaism that arises in the first century that gets labeled Christianity... the continuity there does not encounter any gap. But as you are noting, there are forces at work trying to assimilate Israel in various ways and that's really gone on throughout history anyway. Yet all the while the Jews are worshiping God and carrying their traditions through time. So, looking at the Maccabees in particular, how many people do you think were aware in their time of the significance of the words of Daniel... and I'm referring to Daniel's specific words that address events after his time in Babylon and long before the Maccabees revolt some 150 years before Yeshua (Jesus) arrived. Was there anyone anticipating the arrival of the Messiah?

Jewish Wise Men Find Messiah?

Dave: I think it's very clear that there were people anticipating the arrival of the Messiah. We can see that in the Gospel stories themselves. For example, it's very common for Christians at Christmas services to sing: ''We three kings of orient are...'' But who were those men? How did they know to come to Israel and to Jerusalem? ... particularly where Herod would be located.

Who were those men and why did they bring gifts? What was the significance of the three gifts? Why were they searching the skies at that time? I've heard it said... thought many of us think the reference to the orient means China and southeast Asia... that in reality orient in this context refers to Israel in context as being Asian, something we don't think today. So, where is this orient? These wise men were quite possibly men coming out of Babylon, from those schooled under Daniel in Babylon. We know there is a Babylonian Talmud and a population of Jews existed in that area two millennia ago; even long after the original period of Israel's captivity in Babylon.

So, were these men observant Jews that remained in Babylon, schooled in Babylon, were these the Wise Men referred to in the Gospel? These men were likely elevated in Jewish culture through learning and worship.

I see these as Jewish men, with Jewish understanding, who were seeking something they had found in scripture and the timing seemed correct to them.

Also we have a picture of Miriam, mother of Yeshua... who with her husband presented her baby at the Temple for circumcision... they were met at the Temple by a man who was waiting for them! This man had been praying and the Lord had promised him that he would live to see the coming Messiah. This was a man who spent all of his time at the Temple. He waited there for the child and then when he saw this child he blessed Yeshua before he went in for circumcision. After the circumcision there was a woman there at the Temple who was a recognized prophetess, a Jewish prophetess, known among all the Jewish people... and she blessed the child also because she recognized who he was.

So, it's clear there were a group of Jewish people who understood the Scriptures and understood the signs and who were looking for God's promised Anointed One.

Todd: I see from all this, the admonition for all of us is to understand the continuity that is very important. So, the gap I referred to earlier is really filled by events that have a sequence that bring us right on through from covenant to covenant... not to mention the fact that the new covenant writings are penned by Jewish hands and address a Hebrew audience is just a continuation of that...

Dave: ... and one additional thought here is ... to know Messiah, to know he could be the very one... is that he fulfilled all of Torah's requirements for a man of that time. He was able to walk in complete obedience to the Law. Part of that obedience meant circumcision and as an eight-day old baby he didn't decide to do this, but it was something he was born to through observant Jewish parents.

Likewise, to go back to the story of Hanukkah, the fact that there was a Temple... and observances were again made possible through the re-dedication of the Temple by the Maccabees... the people could again worship God, study Torah, and so many years later you have Joseph and Miriam bringing this baby to the Temple to be observant in a Jewish way.

Todd: I also think, that from the very beginning of the Creation of the universe, there is this material stage put in place, including the earth and its environment... all this serves as the fully assembled stage on which this whole story plays out over time. Obviously if Israel in the ['Egyptian'] wilderness is finding itself and comes into the Land and builds a Temple that really is occupied by this [God's] presence—even the first temple out in the wilderness had this presence as fire by night and smoke by day—then the incarnation story that is sometimes difficult for folks to at first accept... then we have this incarnate being coming in and physically visiting the Temple. Well, without the work of the Maccabees, to clean up the Temple, to dedicate it and make it holy and worthy of the Messiah's entry—entering stage left if you will—well it all comes together.

This is the real significance to Hanukkah for me. Yes, there is the miracle of the oil, with so little to keep the lamps lit, yet the oil that was there kept the lamps burning for eight days. This is a miracle in the provision of oil when there was an insufficient amount—God is the provider here. This is something special, that was a sign at that time, but I'd remind folks to look further not just at a day in the past, but into time that follows and the importance of the story comes to fullness in time.

Also, I like so many others when new in their faith, when I first read the Bible I was unaware of the New Covenant making reference to Hanukkah (the Feast of Dedication).

Dave: Right, that is in the book of John (10:22).

Todd: So, it's there and possibly subtle in its presence, but it's also one of those elements that is part of the larger array of connections that run throughout the biblical text. Again, this speaks to the greater harmony and the continuity that we are discussing here. So really there is no gap, but what we have to do is to think of there being enough information for discovery... that this can be put together. And this in part is the reason for putting a time line up on the web page. A time line connects a series of events and represents a continual flow of connected information.

A Sign of the Covenant

Dave: In that continuing from one covenant to the next, the circumcision was a sign of a covenant, and the word covenant means 'cutting.' When there is a cutting of flesh, whether animal or human, there is bleeding so with a covenant there is always blood. Jesus entered into the covenant with the shedding of blood with his circumcision. He did this as do all other Jewish males as they enter into the covenant with God. And with shedding of blood at the end of his life He fulfilled the requirements of that covenant.

Todd: Just as an aside... do you know why they wait eight days to perform the circumcision.

Dave: Ah yes! It's a biological reason having to do with the blood being able to clot.

Todd: Indeed, without waiting to the eighth day the baby would bleed to death! And funny thing because a Jewish scientist friend of mine reminded me of this some time ago during my post doctoral days doing research. Furthermore, I find this interesting because many Gentiles are circumcised and while many Christians really don't focus on the specifics as presented by the Torah, all this reminds me of how the book of Leviticus talks about the strangers or foreigners who lived in the Land with the Jews. Gentiles have taken part in these observances, by choice, from a long time ago and now even to this day. The practice may be followed for health reasons or whatever, but this parallels something that has been there from the beginning of a covenant with Abraham. I see this as something that prepares the way for the Gentiles to enter into a relationship with God through the Messiah.

I know that WindowView does not really delve into church history in a big way. In part, this is done to keep an emphasis on the Messianic time line. I also feel that to interject a lot of history would only cloud the picture and in some cases church history only illustrates a smothering of the truly important issues with lots of divergent activity. Do you agree?

Dave: Right... in a lot of places in church history we see a breaking of the continuity that we are considering here, more so than a clinging to the continuity. Especially if you look at significant times in that history and look at significant forms of thought there is a lot of breaking away from the continuity.

Please -- Remove the Blank Pages!

Even today, if you look into a common Protestant Bible, whether it's the New American Standard or NIV or whatever, I believe there is an injustice done by the publishing houses. After the last page of Malachi and then before the first page of Matthew, there is often times a completely blank page. On that sheet of paper it may even have the title: The New Covenant or New Testament. This is just set in there as if there is a divider to represent those 400 years. God was not absent or silent in that time. He was still involved with the people. Certainly there is a renewing of God's covenant, but there is not a doing away with a covenant... it's the same God and same message. There is a new sacrifice paid now by the Messiah and this is an Anointed One, a promised One that comes in with this renewed covenant. God promised this coming person through David, by the words of Daniel and Isaiah and other verses of the Scriptures themselves.

The blank page between the covenants is an injustice to many Gentiles, that is, those who are Christians. It gets in the way of the continuity and the understanding.

Todd: That's interesting because there should be blank pages between specific books of the Bible where there is time between on writing and the next. I think of for example academics, who serving as reductionists, they whittle away and explain away the significance of elements in the Bible. But I'm reminded time and again there are threads and connections throughout the entire Bible, new and old covenant together. On that level, the network of information is so tight as to speak volumes to us. This is the benefit to stepping back to see everything in an overview fashion. Yet, we lose sight of the fact that the books are metered out over time with periods of silence between some of these writings--not just new or old. And really God is not silent at any time.

Dave: When you talk about the periods of silence, I find it hard to comprehend a silent God. The silent gods are like Baal, who will never answer anyone--ever! As people, we look at the layout of the Scriptures we have time frames, like in the first five books (Torah) and even Joshua and then the Judges, there are time frames in there with events in series, all in specific order. But then we carry that thinking through to the prophets... yet two may have been operating at same times but at different locations and at another completely different time another prophet was writing alone apart from all others. And there are gaps of time there. We have their writings but these were not always chronologically continuous without breaks.

But I can't see God as ever being silent. He has spoken to my heart and changed my life and that of others around us. Is He silent now? I'd say no, God is never silent. He is always speaking to those who will listen.

Todd: Well, I'll add a testimony... the time line pages were added to WindowView because we could see people searching for time lines using the Internet search engines. In fact, there are days when over half of the visits come in via a search on these keywords. People are concerned with time and events.

Time lines help illustrate a flow and a continuity... and as we are talking here we are touching on how Jewish roots exist to support the trunk and branches of Christianity. The branches are now both Jewish and Gentile and intertwined in one body of belief. It's not my opinion, it's a product of time and it is reinforced by the Scriptures themselves (Romans 11:14-21). People, I suspect, like the three wise men, the Three Kings, they were clued in, they saw the star and the signs, their wisdom guided their way to the Messiah. Even today, people are aware of what has happened in history and what Scriptures tell us... and now they are running along the time lines in anticipation of the Messiah who will come again. They are looking for Him, looking now!

Well, we will end here for today... I think we have at least started to address the issue of continuity for both Jew and Gentile alike.

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