- Does the Bible make complete sense to you?
- When you read the Old Testament, do you grasp all the Messianic references to Jesus?
- Do the interpretation of Hebrew and Greek words hinder your understanding of the text?
As a modern reader, there’s more that we don’t understand about ancient Middle Eastern culture than what we do understand.
And it can affect what we believe and how we believe.
Author Lois Tverberg, a Christ-believer, writes books that help us understand the Jewish background of Christianity. The first two books, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus and Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus, educate us about the Jewish religious customs during the time of Jesus’s ministry on earth. I learned much from both of them.
“I don’t think a day has gone by that some insight from the biblical world hasn’t made my reading more flavorful. Studying this way takes more time, of course. Not everyone has time to learn ancient languages, historical details, and cultural ideas, but you’ll be surprised how every little bit of learning is helpful.”
Now Lois has written an excellent third book in this genre, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus: How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding. Here she takes an expansive look at the cultural issues that hinder our understanding of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.
“My goal is not to make you feel you need to adopt the lifestyle of the biblical world but to help you be willing to view life through its lens for just a little while.”
The three parts of the book are:
- Repacking Our Mental Bags: Tools for the Journey
- How the Bible Thinks: Big Picture Ideas that You Need to Understand
- Reading about the Messiah: Seeing Him through Hebrew Eyes
Each main section is broken down into small sections with a focus on one particular aspect, such as the broad color and brushstrokes of the Hebrew language, insights from a communal perspective, and learning to “think small.”
“Hebrew words often shed new light on difficult sayings in the Bible and can even challenge our theology. They also employ delightful imagery to illustrate their meaning, because very few abstract words exist in the language. As a result, Hebrew is firmly rooted in the real world of the physical senses.”
~ * ~
“Hebrew also contains a smaller set of “pigments” than English—about eight thousand words, in comparison to one hundred thousand or more in our English language.”
~ * ~
“The more I study the Bible, however, the more I’m realizing the many ways that an individualistic approach misunderstands the text. . . .
When we look for the “gospel” in the Gospels we search for an individual message of salvation. Instead, Jesus was speaking in terms of redeeming a whole people.”
At the end of each chapter, Lois includes a section called, “Tools and Reflection.” Here she gives us additional Bible texts to read and questions to ponder, as well as thoughts and resources for going deeper.
Put together, this information helps us know God more clearly.
And don’t we also want more understanding of our own role in the Kingdom? How can we do this?
“By seriously engaging with the Old Testament for itself and not just to mine for proof texts and predictions of Christ. By loving the family of our Lord by opening our ears to hear their epic story, and then joyfully listening to its echoes in the New Testament.”
I also enjoyed Appendix B in this book: Thirty Useful Hebrew Words for Bible Study. It includes this paragraph on Law:
“Law (torah—H8451) The “Law” to many Christians is an onerous obligation, a joyless taskmaster. But the Hebrew word actually means “instruction” or “guidance.” For instance, the noble wife of Proverbs 31 has a torah of hesed (teaching of kindness) on her tongue (Prov. 31:26; see also 13:14). Biblically, we should see God as a father lovingly teaching us how to live rather than a heartless lawmaker. This is one of the most misunderstood words in church tradition.”
* * *
Read more from Lois at her website, Our Rabbi Jesus: His Jewish Life and Teaching.
Do you like to understand more context of the scriptures you read? Do you have a favorite resource you can share? Please let us know in the comments.
My thanks to NetGalley
for the review copy of this book