News from Israel
Arianne* had heard something of the Gospel in a congregation some distance away from us, but in terms that were even further away. All she needed to do was to recognize that God existed, that he loved her and that Jesus is the Messiah, sent to Israel in fulfilment of divine promises. There was nothing about recognizing one’s sin and despairing of one’s ability to please God, nothing about repentance or casting oneself on the grace of God, little about Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. She was baptized and continued in the congregation for some months, taking more and more of an active role.
A friend invited her to visit Grace and Truth, where she found herself beset by doubts. We preach a different Gospel. We make much of God’s holiness, of man’s sin and, consequently, of the surprise of divine grace in God loving sinful man in such a way that he gave his only Son over to death for man’s salvation. We speak of the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, of the inability of man to earn God’s favour – even his inability to trust in God unless his nature is changed. We speak of a powerful, divine intervention in the life of individuals, transforming a human heart and moving it to faith and repentance. Arianne told us, “I’m not sure I am a believer. I should not take communion”.
Some months have passed. Arianne has sat through a pre-baptismal class and heard the ministry of the Word. Her mind is clearer now, and so is her heart. She comes to church with a greater confidence and an eagerness that is nothing less than delightful. We expect her to take communion soon and to enter more fully into the life of the church.
Editing of the last 9 chapters of Ezekiel has proven an arduous task. So far we have spent an average of 10-12 hours on each chapter in editing alone. But, once over that hurdle, we will fast be approaching the end of the initial editorial process for the whole of our next volume. Our work is then submitted to control groups, some of whom have already completed work on Isaiah and Jeremiah as well as a good part of the Minor Prophets. Our target date for the publication of volume 3 out of the 4 volumes planned for the Old Testament (The Prophets) is mid-2007. We have already commenced work on Volume 4. Other books in our commentary series and in the Christianity for Laymen are poised for publication and will be produced as soon as we have the resources.
Translating the Bible into modern Hebrew involves a great deal than meets the eye. At times it means extensive back-peddling or far-reaching conclusions. Following are two examples.
Is Copper Brass, and when is a Meter More Than a Meter?
Shoshi and I were working on the final chapters of Ezekiel when we arrived at chapter 40 vs. 3, which speaks of a glorious “man” who appeared to the prophet, “whose appearance was like bronze”. Now, for English readers there might be no question, but the biblical word used (nechoshet) means ‘copper’ in modern Hebrew, not bronze. So, which is it, copper or bronze?
Well, in many cases in the Bible, nechoshet is most likely bronze, not copper. For example, the clasps in the tabernacle (Exod. 26:11) were most likely of bronze because copper is too soft to hold large pieces of cloth together. This also holds true for the helmet Saul had David put on (1 Sam. 17:28) – copper would have provided very poor protection. So then, that settles it, nechoshet is bronze. Well, but bronze is an alloy, not a pure metal. How then can Moses speak of mining bronze out of the land of Israel’s mountains (Deut. 8:9)? We are forced to the conclusion (supported by other translations) that nechoshet is sometimes bronze and sometimes copper. All that is left for us to do is to determine when the one word means what – and that leaves us with a good number of texts to consider. Let’s take the one with which I began this little story: did the “man” who appeared to Ezekiel look like bronze or copper – if any of our readers have found an easy solution to this difficulty, please let us know.
How Long Is a Reed?
Still working on Ezekiel, we have chosen to translate the measurements the prophet provided into their modern equivalents. That makes understanding the text all the more easy for modern readers. Ah, but it makes our own work all the more difficult! You see, Ezekiel employed two different sizes for what he calls a reed, which was six cubits long. One is the normal cubit, used throughout the biblical text and referring to the length of an average forearm, equalling about 45-50 cm. The other was the royal cubit, also known as the “long” cubit, equaling about 60 cm, which referred to a forearm and a span (40:5, 43:13). Now, our problem is that Ezekiel uses both measurements interchangeably, usually without informing us as to which of the two he is referring. Attempts made by competent scholars to make architectural sense of the temple described by Ezekiel have broken on the rock of these measurements, forcing them to rely on external sources to resolve the difficulties.
Our task is to translate, not to resolve difficulties. That is why we are converting all biblical weights and measures into modern terms. But, when translating Ezekiel, when should we translate a cubit as 50 cm, and when should we translate it 60 cm? If any of our readers have found an easy solution to this difficulty, please let us know.
One thing is sure: translating the Bible is a holy, fascinating, intimidating task which often involves hours of agonizing over a single term or text. Pray for us, please!
Ancient Water Works Discovered
Archaeologists in Israel have unearthed an ancient water system. The network of reservoirs, drain pipes and underground tunnels served one of the grandest palaces in the biblical kingdom of Judea. The palace was first discovered in 1954. It was constructed on a six-acre (2.4 hectare) site near Jerusalem, where Kibbutz Ramat Rachel farm now stands. Excavations unearthed nearly 70 square meters (750 square feet) of a unique water system. Oded Lipschits, a Tel Aviv University archaeologist who heads the dig with an academic from Germany’s University of Heidelberg, said that they “had found a huge palace … grander than the palaces (found) in Jerusalem from the late Iron Age to the end of the biblical period in the 7th century”. The infrastructure was remodelled throughout the centuries to fit the needs of the Babylonians, Persians, Romans and Hasmonean (Maccabean) kings who ruled the Holy Land.
Israel in Numbers
The Israeli Central National Bureau for Statistics made the following information available on September 18, 2006:
Israel’s population is 6,990,700, of whom 5,313,800 (76%) are Jewish and 1,377,100 (19.7%) are Arab. The proportion of Jews in the population has decreased from 2000, when the proportion was 77.8%. The proportion of Muslims, on the other hand, has increased from 15.2% in 2000 to 16.3%. The proportion of nominal Christians remains stable, at 2.1%. 3.2% declared themselves of no religious identity compared to 3.9% in 2000. This is largely due to governmental and semi-governmental efforts aimed at encouraging non-Jews to convert. As stated here before, the Israeli Government is the only government in the free world that actively promotes the conversion of its citizens to a state religion.
International Jewish Evangelical Fellowship
IJEF 2007: TO THE JEW FIRST
April 11-13 2007, at Faith Reformed Baptist Church, Media PA.
One of the purposes of IJEF is to be a Gospel witness to our Jewish community, our families, and the church. Together we will discuss this task from a distinctly Jewish-Christian perspective. Topics to be discussed include:
– Evangelizing the Jewish People: Biblical Methodology and Social Distinctives
– Evangelizing the Jewish People: the Need and the Duty
– Making Jewish Disciples
– Provoking Israel to Jealousy
– The Gospel and the Old Testament
– The Gospel and the Jewish People
– Evangelism and Zionism
– Cromwell and the Jews: historical biography
Tom Martin of Philadelphia, PA will be teaching on the history of Cromwell and the Jews.
Jerry Marcellino, a Jewish pastor in the Deep South and moderator of FIRE will teach on the Gospel and the Jewish People.
Walter Chantry, retired pastor, Editor of the Banner of Truth magazine and member of the IJEF Executive Committee (EC), will bring an inspiring message on the Gospel in the Old Testament.
David Zadok, an Israeli and Elder in his church, will talk about discipling young Jewish believers, cultivating a Christian spirituality without denigrating Jewish cultural identity.
Baruch Maoz, an Israeli pastor and chairman of the EC will talk about Zionism and evangelism.
Al Herman, an Elder in his church and a member of the IJEF EC, will explain the why and wherefore of IJEF.
Fred Klett, evangelist to the Jewish people, member of the IJEF Advisory Council, will bring the devotions in the mornings.
* Not her real name.
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