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Book Review: The Concealed Light

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The Concealed Light by Tsvi SadanThe Concealed Light:
Names of Messiah In Jewish Sources
by Tzvi Sadan
Vine of David, 2012

Ordering Info

They say that quite often big things come in small packages. This is definitely the case with Tsvi Sadan’s, The Concealed Light. It is the most recent publication put forth by Vine of David, a ministry arm of First Fruits of Zion that specializes in early Messianic Judaism and the development of Messianic liturgical resources. Committed to excellence in both academic integrity and aesthetic presentation, Vine of David pushes the envelope in their latest offering. First, let me introduce you to Dr. Sadan.

“Dr. Tsvi Sadan is uniquely qualified as the author of this book. Born in Israel, where he currently resides, he holds a Ph.D. in Jewish History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and has researched Jewish and Christian views of the Messiah for more than twenty years. Tsvi has taken on the task of becoming familiar with traditional Jewish materials. In this book he draws on this knowledge to give a picture of the Messiah found in Jewish literature but known to few Jews and fewer Christians.” 1 He also had an article published in the latest issue of Messiah Journal, entitled Halachic Authority in the Life of the Messianic Community.

Now, let us move into the actual book.

Acher (Different), Even (Stone), Adoni (My Lord), Or (Light), Ar’yeh (Lion)… The list goes on from Alef (א) to Tav (ת). These are the names of the Messiah of Israel according to what the sages have derived from the Holy Writ. In this beautifully crafted book, you will find one hundred and one names in all, each presented in Hebrew with their English translations, explained in laymen’s terms by native Israeli and Hebrew scholar Tsvi Sadan. In The Concealed Light, Sadan goes deep into familiar rabbinic sources, such as the Talmud, Midrash Rabbah, Sifrei, Pesikta Rabbati, Zohar, etc. to pull obscure references to Messianic titles expounded upon by the sages, and clearly explain the significance of each one. But then he takes it one step further by delving into little known sources such as Sefer Yeshu’ot Meshicho and the Perushei Siddur HaTefillah laRokeach—many of which are only available in Hebrew—to bring out even more insights into the Messianic identity as affirmed by Judaism.

Here is a sampling of the amazing research he has pulled together for this:

Orphan

“‘We have become orphans without a father (Lamentations 5:3 NAS). … God said to Israel: ‘You have said to me, “We have become orphans without a father”; therefore the redeemer I will bring from among you has no father, for it is said … “Today I have begotten You””’ (Psalm 2:7). [He] “concluded from this that their Messiah … has no human father” (Sefer Yeshu’ot Meshicho). (page 116)

Olive

“‘Oil … for the light’ (Exodus 27:20)—this is King Messiah, who is also called ‘Green Olive Tree’ (Jeremiah 11:16). [He is called] ‘pure oil’ (Exodus 27:20) because he will light up the darkness for Israel, as it says: ‘That You may say to the prisoners, Go forth’ (Isaiah 49:9), and it also says, ‘The Gentiles shall come to your light’ (Isaiah 60:3)” (Otzar Midrashim, 138). (page 75)

Gold

“On ‘one day which is known to the LORD’ (Zechariah 14:7)—that day is a day of vengeance, when the Holy One, blessed be he, intends to wreak vengeance upon other nations. When he does, then ‘I will make a man more precious than gold’—this is King Messiah, who will transcend and be more precious than all the inhabitants of the world, all of whom will worship and bow down before him, as is written: ‘Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him … The kings of Tarshish and of the isles will bring presents’ (Psalm 72:9-10)” (Zohar, Vayera, 107b). (page 186-187)

Glorious

In an outstanding Jewish commentary from the ninth century CE on Psalm 36:9, “In Your light we see light,” the author offers an imaginary conversation between God, Satan, and Messiah which reflects his own understanding of who is Messiah and what is his role. In this conversation, Satan attempts to deter God from honoring Messiah. Challenged, God asks Messiah what he intends to do in light of the suffering inflicted upon him because of those whom he came to save, and the Messiah answers:

“Master of worlds, with the joy of my soul and the pleasure of my heart, I accept upon myself that none from Israel will perish and that not only the living will be saved in my day but also those hidden in the soil…and not only those will be saved, but all hosts whom you have thought to create but have not. This is what I desire, this is what I accept upon me” (Pesikta Rabbati, 36). (page 120-121)

This is just a small sampling of what this little package has to offer. In a sense, it is somewhat akin to Raphael Patai’s The Messiah Texts, in that it culls from a large volume of sources to offer us the very best gems. Couple this along with Sadan’s fluid elucidation, and you have a very palatable work. For Christians, this is a wonderful introduction to the Jewish concepts of Messiah and will help bridge the gap between the very limited understanding of the role of Messiah within Christianity and the dynamic range of insights found within Judaism.

In addition to the quality of the text itself, Vine of David has done a brilliant job of packaging this gem to make it outwardly appealing as well. With its darkly contrasted tone-on-tone cover, deckled page edges and beautiful typesetting, The Concealed Light is not only a unique reference source, but could also double as a daily devotional or inspirational coffee table book. With its list of resources, which will inspire further research from the more scholarly, and its quick reference list of the various messianic titles in English, The Concealed Light will definitely be an attention grabber wherever it goes. I highly recommend it as an addition to your reference library, book club discussion or coffee table adornments. This book is available to purchase online from the Vine of David bookstore.

Disclosure: I received an advanced copy of this book from Vine of David.

  1. Taken from the book jacket.

Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels Released

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Delitzsch release

As many of you know, Vine of David (a division of FFOZ) has been working diligently on an English translation of Franz Delitzsch’s Hebrew translation of the Gospels for the past few years. It is officially called the Delitzsch Hebrew-English (DHE) translation. As of yesterday, it has been released and is available for pre-ordering.

Another Translation?

Why is such a work important? Because it attempts to place Jesus and his apostles back into their proper place among Jewish history and spirituality. It is an attempt to reconnect Jesus and his message with his people. It is an attempt to bring the reader into the Jewish world of Jesus. While David Stern’s The Complete Jewish Bible attempts the same, it only works to bring the non-Jewish reader into the Jewish text. The DHE takes it another step by trying to connect Jewish people with their Messiah. This has been done through presenting the full text of the Gospels in a parallel Hebrew translation, along with traditional blessings for the studying of the Holy Text, all in an elegant presentation as you would expect from publishers such as Artscroll. This text hopes to help Jewish readers see Jesus and his Jewish message as part of Judaism, rather than an outside voice from a separate religion.

Delitzsch & His Translation

Franz Delitzsch (1813–March 4, 1890) was a German Lutheran theologian born in Leipzig, Germany who grew into a unique man of God. Widely known and respected as a “Christian Hebraist,” he was a pioneer in the area of Jewish studies in the New Testament and in the development of the Hebrew language. Delitzsch was a prolific writer, translator, and biblical commentator. His greatest and most enduring work is his New Testament translation into Hebrew. At his eulogy, Delitzsch was memorialized with the following words: “Indeed, not only in the Christian, but also in the Jewish world the name of Delitzsch has shone. For he was at home in the literature of the Rabbis as none other among the living, and perhaps as none before him. We may say the truest friend of Israel is dead. A great man has fallen in Israel.”

Delitzsch’s work is important, because of his “extensive knowledge of mishnaic Hebrew and first century Judaism… [which created] a translation and reconstruction of the Greek text back into an original Hebrew voice.” It is reported that the famed Dr. David Flusser, a devout Orthodox Jew and renowned New Testament scholar of Hebrew University, said that the Delitzsch Hebrew New Testament was the best translation of the New Testament extant in any language.

Needed Support

Much support is needed for this project. It is going to take people like yourself to purchase the DHE and share it with others. You can do that on a personal level, or at a larger level. Vine of David is also publishing a Levy Hirsch Memorial Edition, which will is available solely for the purpose of distributing to Jewish people who do not yet know their Messiah. Vine of David will be taking donations to dedicate a specific number of these editions toward distribution among Jewish people.

If you would like to a part of this momentous event, then support Vine of David and order your copy now.

Website Link

http://vineofdavid.org/resources/dhe/index.html

In Heaven As It Is On Earth?

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Recently, fellow Messianic (& prolific) blogger Derek Leman posted an article highlighting what is typically known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” He details a few issues surrounding this prayer (the differences between Matthew’s record and Luke’s, the connection of disciples with the prayers of their rabbi, use of liturgy, etc.), and also introduces us to Vine of David’s upcoming DHE (Delitzsch Hebrew-English) Gospel translation, which I was fortunate enough to be on the review team (I intend on posting more about this resource soon).

At the beginning of his post, however, he links to Roman & Alaina, a messianic music group who have created melodies for the Avinu (the “Our Father”) in both Hebrew (based on the DHE) and English. As I listened to the sample of the English version I heard the following:

Our Father, Who is in Heaven
May we sanctify Your Name
Your Kingdome come
As Your will be done
In Heaven as it is on earth

Unfortunately, we see a problem immediately. The last line takes poetic license, and reverses the phrase from “On earth as it is in Heaven,” to become, “In Heaven as it is on earth.” I am definitely one for poetic license, but not when it reverses the sense of the text. So, now, rather than the will of the Almighty coming in perfection from His throne in Shammayim (“Heaven”) and bringing Ha’aretz (“the Earth”) into its submission, this top-down approach put forth by Yeshua has been turned on its head. In this version we see the will of Heaven submitting to that of Earth.

I see where they may have tried to work around this by changing a few of the conjunctions, but overall it has the same end result: the will of (perfect) Heaven being transformed into the image of what is done on (imperfect) Earth.

This goes against the entire mission and teaching of our Master. I would encourage Roman & Alaina to consider re-working the English version, even though they have probably sold many copies of their CD already, in order to maintain the integrity of the teachings of our Master

Yeshua’s Use of “Good Eye”

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Fellow blogger Derek Leman has a short post on his Yeshua in Context blog site about Yeshua’s teaching on the eye as the “lamp of the body” in Matthew 6:22-23. Although I commented on his post & gave some of this information, I thought it would be good to post a more complete version of my thoughts here.

Good Eye, Bad Eye, Lamp of the Body

Matthew 6:19-24 is one of the first passages I point out to people who want to know why it’s important to understand Yeshua’s teachings from its original context, particularly the Hebrew idioms & terminology behind his words. Let’s look at this entire passage. I’ve used the NKJV, and left the headers from the translators to show the misunderstanding even at the level of scholarly translation.

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The Lamp of the Body
22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
You Cannot Serve God and Riches
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

I begin by having the person read verses 19-21 and then interpret Yeshua’s message. Then I do the same with verses 22-23, which often results in a confession of not knowing what he is talking about. Then I have them read verse 24, and they are able to interpret this just as easily as verses 19-21. Then I point out the theme of the three sections of this passage as such:

  • Verses 19-21: Money, things & stuff
  • Verses 22-23: Unclear
  • Verse 24: Money, things & stuff

From there, they usually see a pattern, and that verses 22-23 “should” fit back into the context.

They are then able to realize why it is so important is that we know the intended meaning of his teachings. It is easy for them to see how we will totally miss the point of what he is trying to convey if we don’t understand the original sense of the message, which hinges upon a Hebraic . And without this information, we will invariably make up a meaning that has absolutely nothing to do with his original teaching. For generations, Yeshua’s teaching in Matthew 6:22-23 has been interpreted in ways that are completely unrelated to the context of his subject, and stripped of its context (even at the pashat level).

Often this text is used as a prooftext for moral purity and guarding the eyes. Although this is indeed a principle that Yeshua advocates (cf. Matthew 5:28), it is not at all what he is talking about here. However, this passage, if understood as being Hebraic in nature, fits completely within the context of the surrounding verses (19-24). And, unlike many instances of passages found within the Apostolic Scriptures, we do not have to turn to an outside source (such as non-canonical or rabbinic works), Scripture actually illuminates this passage itself.

Put it back in Hebrew

First, we need to put this passage back into Hebrew. From there we can begin comparing it to other Scriptures in the Hebrew Bible, the Tanach (or the “Old Testament”). The Bible Society in Israel translates the phrase “your eye is good” in Matthew 6:22 as “עֵינְךָ טוֹבָה”, (ein’ka tovah) literally corresponding to our English (some texts translated the eye as being “single” or “clear” verses “good”). When we focus on the phrase “your eye is good” and we come across a passage in Proverbs.

In Proverbs 22:9, we have almost this exact phrase in the form of, “טֹֽוב־עַיִן” (tov eiyn) or “good eye.” Since this passage is being translated by Hebrew linguists, all dynamic English translations understand the meaning of this quite easily. Why? Because it is obvious in the Hebrew. However, when we are presented with a Greek text, such as the Apostolic Scriptures (the “New Testament”), translators try to impose a Greek understanding of the text, since it has been delivered to us in the Greek language. But this approach fails, as we will clearly see in this passage. But back to our correlation in Proverbs. The NASB translates this verse as follows:

He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9)

From here we can see it is obvious that the one with a “good eye” is a generous person. Now, let’s put this new terminology & understanding back into Yeshua’s teaching in Matthew and remove the last two inserted headers (modifications in bold italics):

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The lamp of the body is generosity. If therefore you are generous, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if you are miserly, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

With our new understanding in place, it completely changes our understanding of the words of our Master. Rather than three separate teachings, we see a cohesive unit of teaching by which he warns against being attached to wealth and the “things” of this world and encourages us to create spiritual “wealth” in its place. This reading completely fits the context of verses Matthew 6:19-24, telling us this is indeed the intended meaning of Yeshua’s words.

Look for my upcoming post, “Yeshua’s Use of ‘Righteousness’” which will give another example of insights gained from looking at the Hebrew beneath the Greek skin of the NT. It will elucidate more of Yeshua’s teachings, and expound upon many of the things discussed in this post.

Upcoming Resource

Do you want a resource to help you see these things in the Apostolic Scriptures?

One is on its way. Have you heard of the new, DHE (Delitzsch Hebrew English) translation of the Apostolic Scriptures from Vine of David (First Fruits of Zion)? Vine of David is in the process of taking Delitzsch’s Hebrew text of the Apostolic Scriptures and putting them into English for the first time. Here is some brief info on the project. I will be posting more thoroughly on this project soon:

Franz Delitzsch (1813 – 1890) was known as a “Christian Hebraist” he was a pioneer in the area of Jewish studies of the New Testament. Delizsch was a prolific writer, translator, and biblical commentator. His greatest and most noted work was is his New Testament translation into Hebrew. Deliztzsch re-contextualized the Gospels back into their Hebraic foundations. He understood and revealed the Hebrew / Jewish underpinnings of the Gospels. He devoted his entire life to restoring Yeshua back his people. The primary goal of this translation was to create “an edition of the Gospels that is sensitive to and reveals the Jewish essence of the teachings of the New Testament is vital to helping God’s people connect with the Jewish foundations of the Christian faith.”

Follow Your Heart…?

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I have the privilege of being a part of the editing team for the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels translation from Vine of David. Every time I go through Aaron Eby’s translation I learn something about either Hebrew or our Master, or both.

Today, I was finishing up reviewing chapters 9-16 of Luke and came across a phrase which Aaron has translated: “He returned to his heart.” It was in the context of Yeshua’s parable of the prodigal son, and his making the decision to return home after his time of rebellion. This reminds me of the phrase we hear so often, “Follow your heart.” However, most of the time we hear that phrase, “Follow your heart,” it generally means: “Go for it!” “Dream big!” “Live the American Dream!” It is usually in the context of self-indulgence, where we are supposed to find that “inner-voice” that is telling us what we need to be doing with our lives to get the fullest experience of life…to “drink in life” with passion. It’s really the opposite of the Hebrew meaning of this phrase (which I will explain further momentarily).

It reminds me of this new movie Eat, Pray, Love, based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert (which could be subtitled, “Hinduism has allowed me to cast off restraint”). Sadly many Christians are looking to this as a spiritual expression for believers. They are searching for something “more.” They want adventure & romance, and if their current situation can’t provide it they search it out. I’ve seen countless Christian marriages fail in the last 3-4 years because of this. And the answer is usually the same, “I’m following my heart” or “God is leading me in a new direction.” But would God really wreck a marriage, the most primal institution of the world, in order to make “me” happy? Is it really all about me? According to the philosophy of “Follow your heart” it is. However, Scripture actually warns us about the deceptions of the heart:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

How many people are being told this? How many people have bought into the lie already, and it’s too late to recognize this? This is where being a diligent student of the Word will allow it to drive our lives, rather than allowing our hearts to drive them. In the context of the passage to which I referenced, the Hebrew literally says the same thing. It is וַיָּשֶׁב אֶל־לִבּוֹ. “And he returned to his heart.” But what does that mean? Does it mean that he finally found his “purpose” in life through reading The Purpose Driven Life? Does it mean he finally got up enough courage to hike the Himalayas? Does it mean he gave up his family, went off to a foreign country and lived it up? Wait… that’s what he did before he “returned to his heart.” So you see, “returning to one’s heart” in the Hebrew sense is not about all of these things, but about “coming to your senses.” It’s about following your head, not your heart. It’s about doing what’s right, rather than what feels good. Why? Because the right path and the difficult path are often the same, and when we choose the right over the wrong, the blessing will be in the journey. The joy will come from within, rather than from anything external. And the fruits will be eternal, rather than momentary.

Have you returned to your heart?

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