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C. Tribulation

 

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Gospel Questions III:

Least in the Kingdom, Millstones, Pennies, Pebbles, Babes,

Rhaka, Tallits, and the Crown of Thorns

Word RTF

Question #1:   Hi Dr. Luginbill: When Jesus spoke of John the Baptist in Matthew 11, He said that the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John (who was the greatest of anyone born of women). Does the statement that even the least in the Kingdom was greater than John indicate that he (John) was not worthy to enter that Kingdom? John did later express doubt about Jesus' status as Messiah while he was sitting in prison --- that doubt being very understandable in my view... I am not condemning him.

Anyway, I would be interested to read of any scriptural insight you might have in answer to this question. If John didn't make it, who can? Thank you in advance for your answers. I am praying for you and your ministry.

Response #1:  I would certainly agree with your statement "If John didn't make it, who can?". And I think that was to some extent part of our Lord's point. This is, to be sure, a difficult passage. John knew that Jesus was the Messiah because God had effectively told him so by revealing to him the sign of the Spirit descending upon Jesus as the mark of His authenticity (Jn.1:32-34). The fact that even John didn't understand why the Messiah was not taking control of Israel in a military and political way shows just how ingrained the idea of "the crown without the cross" was for the Jews of Jesus' generation. Our Lord's response to John through the disciples John sent was exactly along the lines of what scripture did prophesy, namely, the performing of truly unprecedented and miraculous deeds which only the Messiah could do (Matt.11:4-6; Lk.7:22-23). As you say, it's hard to blame John, especially when we consider that he languished in prison for two years (consider this chart comparing the ministries of Jesus and John; in SR#5 under "The Life of Christ"):

John clearly had trouble understanding what was taking so long. What was Jesus doing? Just as Jesus' disciples didn't understand the cross before the fact, despite our Lord's continually explanation of the necessity for "the Messiah to suffer", so John too lacked understanding on this point. He was not, however, wasting his time as he suffered in Herod's prison cell, for Jesus' earthly ministry could not have endured for the full three and a half years that it did if John had not still been alive to deflect and absorb to some degree the limelight that was growing around the Son of Man. This is shown by the fact that, when John finally was executed, the third and final year of Jesus' ministry turned out to be by far the most difficult, the one which ended in the entire nation opposing Him and demanding His crucifixion.

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ." Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
Mark 8:27-30 NIV

In the passage above, we can see from the fact that people think Jesus is "John" (Herod included: Matt.14:1-2) indicates that John was still the celebrity up until his death and only at that point did the celebrity factor begin to remove Jesus' freedom of movement and increase hostility to the point that this would be the final year of ministry. On that score, here is an excerpt from Bible Basics 4A, Christology (see the link):

Akin to the need to show perfect self-restraint in regard to rendering judgment was the similar necessity not to be swept up in the popular enthusiasm which came His way as a result of His miracles. Even Herod desired to see Him because "he hoped to see him perform some miracle" (Lk.23:8). Rather than craving celebrity as the rest of the human race does almost without exception, our Lord eschewed it as the passage above shows, and went to great lengths to avoid it as far as He possibly could (Matt.8:4; 9:30-31; 12:16; 14:13-14; Mk.1:43-45; 3:20; 8:26; 9:30; Lk.4:42-44; 5:15-16; 5:19).(53) For Jesus knew full well that the approbation of human beings is about as stable as the wind; He was looking not for human approval but to please His heavenly Father (e.g., Matt.26:42; Lk.11:2; Jn.4:34; 5:30; 6:38).

(1) Behold my Servant – I will support Him. My chosen One – my soul (i.e., heart) takes pleasure in Him. I have placed my Spirit upon Him. He will bring forth justice for the nations. (2) He will not cry out nor will He lift up His voice in the street.
Isaiah 42:1-2

John's ministry thus served its purpose in every way, and a moment of doubt and frustration certainly does not disqualify him from his reward (how much less from salvation at all!) – for Jesus still dubs him the greatest (i.e., "none greater"). On this point we may compare Peter's denial of Jesus, and our Lord's assurances to him before the fact that he would not only "turn" but also be instrumental in restoring the other disciples (Lk.22:32).

Therefore my understanding of the statement about which you ask, "least in the kingdom" is that it was thus not a repudiation of John at all, but indeed the highest of praise. After all, Moses and Elijah are the two witnesses to come, and they are types of Jesus and John (see the link, in Coming Tribulation part 3A, "The Two Witnesses"). This not only puts John in the most elite of company while on earth, but actually pairs him with our Lord. Therefore I believe what our Lord means when He says "he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" is that in the resurrection the share that each of us will have in the Lord, and our experiencing of Him and our Father forevermore will be so wonderful and marvelous that the "last person through the door of salvation" will be more blessed, better off, and indescribably happier in every way than the greatest and most blessed human being still alive on earth today and still in a natural body. This should help us to realize how inexpressibly wonderful the world to come is going to be, so wonderful that it will exceed in every way even the unattainable best of this present world, and do so to an as yet unfathomable degree. So it is that our salvation, even the salvation of the last one in line, is worth more than this entire present world.

Hope this helps with your question – and thank you so much for your prayers.

In Him whom we love though as yet we see Him only dimly, our glorious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Doc!

"It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones."
Luke 17:2

I'd like some opinions on this verse. I know of a situation where the dad is doing everything he can to throw stumbling-blocks into his little ones' lives. Would this verse fit that?

Response #2: 

As the parallel passage of Matthew 18:6 makes clear, the "little ones" are those "who believe in Me", that is, believers. The offense Jesus mentions is "scandalizing" believers, and in the context, scandalizing in particular those who are "young and innocent", that is, those who may not yet have the life-experience to "know better" in the same way that an older believer would/should. So it is indeed talking about "scandalizing" vulnerable believers who are vulnerable not through their own sloppy approach but because of their age (whether chronological or spiritual). The verb in Greek, skandalizo, is talking about leading someone else into apostasy, that is, "tripping them up", or "making them stumble" in their faith to the degree that they may lose that faith and hence lose their salvation as a result (see the link in CT 3A: "Definition, Etymology, Process and Prophecies of the Great Apostasy"). The usual way that this happens is through the active tearing down of faith through lies, and by directly sowing of seeds of doubt about the gospel, or indirectly through leading these vulnerable believers into compromising practices, whether of false religion or sin or both, which in turn undermine faith. So these verses are talking about those who have actively taken up arms in the cause of Satan to assault the faith of believers, something which is bad enough when their targets are mature believers (in terms of years and/or spiritual growth), but absolutely horrific when their targets are the young and vulnerable (in terms of years and/or spiritual growth). In this case, our Lord assures us, He and His Father are not going to stand idly by. Such individuals will be dealt with in the most severe terms, a fact that shows for certain that there is a differentiation of greater and lesser degrees of divine judgment both in this life and the next. One thing is for sure: given our Lord's extreme description of the fate of those who serve the devil in this most heinous activity of trying to deprive of salvation those who are particularly open to assault through no particular fault of their own, we can be certain that He is not just using hyperbole here. Those who engage in this activity have a reckoning coming which is sure to be both swift and a cause for shuddering for all who hear tell of it.

In our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Mark 12:15:  Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.

I noticed the word "penny" being used in this verse and many others. I think the original word is denarion or denarius, which was a silver coin issued by the Romans and was valued at 16 copper coins in the time of Jesus. On the other hand, a penny was the smallest denomination of the English monetary system at the time of the writing of the King James Version of the Bible. The only association between the denarius and the penny [that I am aware of ] is the symbol used in writing "penny" which is "d" [after 1971 it became "p"] and this symbol is said to have come from the Latin word "denarius" which referred to the Roman coin. I am wondering if there may be a reason why they chose to use "penny" instead of the actual name of the coin, denarius, since the "penny" never existed in Roman culture of the time. Thanks in advance!

Response #3: 

You are correct about the denarius. It was generally considered an average day's pay for a highly skilled worker. Beginning Roman legionaries only made 275 denarii per year. I don't know what the purchasing power of a penny was in late 17th century England, but I would suspect it was far less 3-4% of a decent yearly salary. It could be that the translators felt the relative values of the coins were irrelevant to the point or that they were ignorant or the "exchange rate" or that this was a compromise. Three teams from three major English universities worked on the KJV and the finished product though impressive for its day is neither without errors nor seamless (as in "Holy Ghost" vs. "Holy Spirit" in the same version, e.g.). The process was kept anonymous and there are not translators notes nor explanations, so all we can do is speculate. For more about this last subject, please see the following links:

Who wrote the King James version?

Strengths and weaknesses of various Bible versions (including the KJV).

The NIV and issues of translation.

Are new Bible translations part of a conspiracy?

KJV "Onlyists"

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Most of my friends believe that Peter is the "rock" because Jesus called Peter "the rock." However, I do recall Jesus being spoken of as the rock in other passages. Is the rock Jesus or Peter? Thanks!

Response #4: 

You are exactly right! Jesus is the Rock (the petra); Peter is the pebble (petros). And it is "on this Rock" (i.e., on Jesus referring to Himself: petra) that the Church is built. Here is what I have written about this elsewhere (see the link in Peter #2):

The Pebble and the Rock: What precisely is the Lord predicting about Peter's life by giving him the name "stone"? One common view incorrectly claims that Jesus meant Peter to be the cornerstone of the church, and its proponents usually cite Mt.16:13-20 for support. But in that passage, Jesus tells Peter "I tell you that you are Peter (Greek petros, a small pebble or stone), and on this Rock (Greek petra, a huge rock or mountain side) I will build my church." Now in the context of Matthew 16, Peter has just acknowledged that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the Living God". Jesus is thus underscoring the truth of Peter's statement. By "this Rock", Jesus refers to Himself as the cornerstone of the church (a teaching well documented in scripture: see especially Is.28:16; 1Pet.2:6; Eph.2:20), not to Peter (a false notion not supported by any other verse; cf. 1Cor.3:11). Jesus thus uses the near demonstrative pronoun houtos ("this") with Rock to refer back to Himself in the same way as in Jn.2:19 He prophesies the resurrection of His body ("this" temple): "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (cf. Jn.6:50).

Please see also the following links:

In BB 4A, Christology, "Christ the Rock"

Christ the Rock (of Meribah)

In Jesus, the Solid Rock on which the Church collectively and on which our individual house of faith is built.

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Dear Dr. Bob,

A quick question: Would you explain Matt 11:25-26 for my bible study group. No one in the class knew what Jesus was saying and none of the study bibles that were available said anything to clarify. I knew you could answer it!!

Blessings,

Response #5: 

Thanks for your confidence (hope I can justify it with this response)! In this passage, Matthew 11:25-26 (see too Luke 10:21), our Lord expresses a point of truth that, as with the rest of Jesus' teachings, is also taught both previously in the Old Testament and later the New Testament epistles. This is often the case – for virtually every point of Bible teaching, we are blessed to have three different approaches to the same basic truth (if we look hard enough for the parallels). I believe that our Lord is expressing the same principle here that Paul does in 1st Corinthians 1:17 - 2:16 to the effect that the wisdom of this world cannot approach the wisdom of God and that, indeed, the world truly does not even have the ability understand it. This sentiment of the essential foolishness of human wisdom as revealed by the wisdom of God is also found in the Old Testament (e.g., Is.24:19, which Paul actually quotes at 1Cor.1:19; cf. Job 5:12-13; Is.44:25; Jer.9:23). But perhaps the key element of this passage in Matthew which is essential for fully grasping its complete meaning is Jesus' use of the word "infants" (KJV "babes"). Our Lord is clearly contrasting "the wise" (from whom the truth is hidden) to "babes" (to whom it has been revealed). It is therefore certain that our Savior means "babes" in a spiritual sense (since literal infants, etymologically in the Greek "those who do not yet have the power to speak", clearly are not yet able to understand any sort of complex verbal communication, much less divine revelation). We can see precisely what Jesus means by this analogy by examining Matthew 19:14:

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
Matthew 19:14 NIV

By the phrase "to such as these" our Lord makes a very helpful and useful analogy between literal, small children and adults who are also true believers (or those with the hearts to become true believers). The haughty, the proud, the arrogant, those who are wise according to the wisdom of this world, would never deign to come to Him. Only those of us who approach Him with the simplicity of faith of a little child are able to understand, because truth can only be received in humility. Truth has to be believed, and to believe something that cannot be proved takes child-like faith, the same faith that we had in our parents when we were very young, when we believed the information they gave us even though we had no way to verify it. Later on in life, human beings tend to become skeptical and demand "proof". This is not a bad thing where the world in general is concerned. The ancient Greeks had a saying, "For life, you need first to learn to swim, and second to learn to disbelieve". In a world of coasts and islands and ancient sea transport, swimming was an essential survival skill and these world-wise ancient Greeks saw skepticism in regard to our fellow man as only just second in importance in terms of survival.

But when it comes to God, when it comes to salvation, when it comes to the heavenly wisdom which comes down from the Father of lights, when it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the very opposite is true. When it comes to the truth, we need to suspend our normal skepticism and instead believe everything God tells us without any mental reservation. Just as we used to believe our parents as small children, so now we ought to believe our divine Parent, our heavenly Father – and to an infinitely greater degree, since everything He tells us is absolutely the truth. If, instead, we approach the Bible with the same human, worldly skepticism we employ elsewhere, we will never understand what God is telling us, because divine truth cannot even be perceived unless it is believed (please see the links below). We have to have faith that divine truth is indeed true before we can really understand it, before the Holy Spirit makes it real to our spirit (thus circumventing fleshly epistemological process), because such true wisdom is not perceptible to the empiricism of eye and ear – only God can tell us what is really true, and only God can teach us the truth (Jn.14:17,26; 1Thes.4:9; 1Jn.2:27; cf. 1Jn.2:20):

But as it is written: "What the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard, and [what] has not entered the heart of man, [these are the very] things which God has prepared for those who love Him". And God has revealed [these very things] to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches out everything, even the deep things of God. For who knows the things of a man except the spirit of man which is in him? In the same way too no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. And we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, in order that we might know the things graciously given to us by God. And these are the very things we are speaking about, not in words taught by human wisdom, but with words of the Spirit, communicating spiritual information to spiritual people. Now the unspiritual (lit., "soulish") man does not receive the [deeper] things of the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness to him and he is not able to understand them because they are appreciated [only] through spiritual means. But the spiritual man does appreciate them all, though he himself is not appreciated [in this regard] by anyone. For [as it says] "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who will instruct Him?" But we do have the very thinking (lit., "mind") of Christ (i.e., His truth from the Spirit).
1st Corinthians 2:9-16

Thus in Matthew 11 when our Lord rejoices that our Father has revealed to "infants" what He has hidden from the wise, He is saying that only those who approach Him and His Word with that same humility of faith can ever receive the revelation of the truth, whereas all those who attempt to filter God's truth through a prism of skepticism, holding themselves back from anything they cannot verify empirically, these latter have, in effect, blinded their eyes to the truth. This is a cause for rejoicing indeed, because it shows God's grace and mercy towards all who are willing come to Him in genuine faith, regardless of their worldly limitations, whereas those who are stiff-necked and refuse to accept the truth of what He says because of their stubborn adherence to worldly, material standards, are not accepted even though they may possess many worldly advantages.

Please see also the following links:

The "Mind of Christ" in 1st Corinthians 2:16

Christian Epistemology

Agape and Epistemology

Thanks be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has confounded the worldly wisdom of the wise and made available to us who believe all the treasures of the true wisdom of God!

In Jesus in whom are hidden all those treasures of wisdom,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Hello Bob,

Question came up in my group: In Mat.5:22 Jesus was teaching the Disciples and said - anyone who says, "you fool!" will be in danger of the fire of hell. Then in Mat. 23:17 He says "You blind fools". How do you separate the two?

Gods Love

Response #6: 

To start with, let me reassure you that the only way to get into hell is through "self-selection" by means of rejecting Jesus Christ. All who put their faith in Him and hold fast to Him to the end are saved. Our Lord's point on that score here is that the behavior criticized here is indicative of a very sorry spiritual state (at the very least), so that whether the person is an unbeliever or a believer on skids, damnation is a very real possibility – because of no faith or loss of faith respectively.

That said, the word in both passages you mention is indeed the same, namely, the standard Greek word for "fool" in the usual English sense (i.e., moros, from which we get "moron", though the Greek word does not have quite the same ironic connotations as it has developed in the English derivative). However, it is pretty clear what Jesus is not saying in Matthew 5:22, namely, He is not saying that anyone who ever uses the word "fool" is going to hell or is even doing anything wrong. Scripture uses the word "fool" (and related synonyms) in godly contexts many, many times, so it is not the word per se but the manner in which it is used that is at issue here. In the context of Matthew 5:22, our Lord tells us clearly that the problem is not word choice but motivation. It is only if someone uses these words "in anger" that there is a problem. That is confirmed in verses 23-24 where we are told if our brother "has something against us" that we need to seek reconciliation with him before seeking reconciliation with God. In other words, true repentance backed up by deeds is a critical part of confession and forgiveness; forgiveness comes to those who seek it genuinely, not to those who are merely going through some religious ritual (as the person who doesn't really care about his behavior or intend to change it but merely wants to be forgiven on the basis of works would be doing).

In Matthew 23:17, our Lord is not speaking out of sinful anger or attempting to hurt somebody's feelings by using abusive language (as is the case in the examples given in Matt.5:22; cf. the word rhaka which was apparently quite an insult although there is some doubt in the scholarship as to its precise meaning). Being tough and straight with someone for their own good is often erroneously confused with being spiteful and antagonistic, and our Lord's pure and holy motivations were very often taken the wrong way by those He took to task. Indeed, it seems from the sequel in the gospels and in Acts that very few were like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, two exceptions among the religious class (castigated in chapter 23). These two men were unique in responding to Jesus' challenge to change instead of seeking to destroy Him for pointing out the truth. A person who, as in the third woe of chapter 23, finds more value in the truly meaningless material trappings of the temple rather than in the temple itself (a divine construction which teaches much about the Persons of God and the sacrifice of the Messiah) is missing the whole point of God's message and is indeed "a blind fool". To sugar-coat this truth would do no one any good. So in the first instance, Matthew 5:22, we have a sinful human being committing a sin by verbally abusing a brother, whereas in the second instance we have the perfect Son of God telling hard truths to a resistant audience for their good and ours as well, the difference being found in the subject and in the circumstances rather than the vocabulary choice.

One small footnote here: again, Jesus was perfect and so was His judgment. We are not perfect, and our judgment is less than perfect as well. While we are most certainly not going to hell if we call someone "fool" or their actions "foolish" even if we are wrong and our true motivations not as pure as we may feel them to be, it would nevertheless certainly be a good policy to avoid verbal abuse as much as possible. This doesn't mean that there aren't times when in a position of authority, responsibility, or influence we should not tell it to people straight – there are times for this (as in the discipline of our children, for example, or the correction of our subordinates). However, I think of the example of the apostle John and his third epistle. At the time of writing, John was the only surviving apostle, and so the closest thing to a true "pope" the Church has ever had. Yet in spite of the exceptional and genuine authority he possessed, he still tread very softly in matters of discipline, at least as far as his verbal expressions were concerned. The point is that while the "fool" and "rhaka" examples of Matthew 5:22 serve to illustrate that no one can be righteous and all are sinners, nevertheless it is still better to stay as far away from anything questionable as we can (since we are nowhere near as good at threading this needle as our Lord was). Like John, there are ways to make the point without resorting to epithets, and in my judgment for most of us at most times that is the best policy.

In our perfect Lord who always took the perfect way no matter what the cost.

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Dr. Bob--

We know that the Apostle Paul was a tentmaker by trade. I wrote this short study on tassels for my own benefit and discovered that "tentmaker" might have an interesting meaning. Please read this when you have time, and let me know what you think, especially where I may be going wrong.

Thanks a lot!

In His Love,

Tassels & The Law by _____ (all rights reserved)

There are 613 individual laws given by God in the Pentateuch.

248 of these are Positive Laws. Interestingly, there are also exactly 248 columns of writing in the Torah Scrolls.

The remaining 365 laws are Negative Laws. This, of course, corresponds to the 365 days in the year.

In Numbers 15:37-40 and Deuteronomy 22:12, all Israelite males are commanded by God for all generations to wear tassels at the four corners of their outer garments, connected by a cord of blue.

As the passage in Numbers comments, "It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord."

Because of the 613 Laws, Jewish men put exactly 613 blue tassels around (or at the "four corners" of their robes.

Thus, Jesus wore tassels as well.

In Matthew 9:20, Mark 6:56, and Luke 8:44, the "edge," "fringe," "border,"or "hem" of Jesus' outer robe, which persons seeking healing tried to touch, can be translated as "tassels." Jesus chided the hypocrites who wore overly large tassels and yet who ignored the true tenets of the Law (Matthew 23:5).

At some point, the 613 tassels began being transferred to the prayer shawl, known as a "tallit" in Hebrew (pronounced ta-leet'). Men would pull the shawl over their heads for privacy in prayer. This was called going into one's tent or closet.

Jesus said, "But when you pray, go into your closet, and closing the door, pray to your Father." (Matthew 6:6). He was specifically referring to the use of the prayer shawl.

In Acts 18:3, Paul is said to have been a "tentmaker," as were Priscilla & Aquila. The word translated "tentmaker" is the Greek word "skenopoios," meaning a person who makes small tents of leather or cloth. As we have seen, the tallit prayer shawl was commonly referred to as a tent.

Thus, it is more than likely that Paul, the very highly trained Jewish scholar (Acts 22:3), had as his occupation the making of prayer shawls.

This makes sense for him as an educated city dweller. Any ther kind of tent-- such as those lived in by desert Bedouins -- would not be "small," but large enough to house an entire family. They would also not be made of "leather or cloth," but of black goat hair. After all, desert dwellers did not go into town to purchase tents, but rather made their own and handed them down generation after generation.

Meet Paul, the tallit maker.

Response #7: 

Thanks for sharing your interesting study. I will say right off the bat that this is an interesting take and, as far as I am aware, a unique one at that. I have seen a lot less interesting and provocative ideas make it into print. However I suppose that what would be most helpful to you and what you seem to be asking for here is a critique of the argument for further development. If I were writing an academic paper as I often do, I would want such criticism too, in order to help me address weaknesses or perceived weaknesses and point the way for further research. So the following comments are offered with that purpose and in that spirit.

1. The word skenopoios: All of the references I was able to check on this word and the related verb indicate that it means what the roots indicate it should mean, namely, a maker of tents. According to Meyer's research of classical geographers (Commentary on the New Testament, in. loc. Acts 18:3), Cilicia was known for its trade in and manufacture of tent materials. Old Comedy admits the word as one who makes the skene, the "tent" backdrops for plays, but this is largely the same thing, that is, the construction of large, crafted pieces of material.

2. Jewish tradition: I am always very careful about the use of rabbinic tradition. I couldn't find but one small tangentially related reference in the Mishna not particularly germane to this discussion, so that all this info which you have on the tassels doubtless comes from the Talmud (or Gemara) et al. These are later sources (certainly no early than 500 A.D.), which, while they may perhaps reflect practices of Jesus' day, often give us instead medieval developments and interpretations of the Rabbis and scholars who flourished in the centuries after the temple was destroyed. We can say that the Pharisees wore tasseled garments according to their interpretation of Num.15:37ff. et al., but we also know that the only time this is mentioned in the NT it is in a context of criticism:

But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.
Matthew 23:35 NASB

3. Logic of the argument: A lot of your argument depends upon the premise "prayer shawl = tent". You write: "This was called going into one's tent or closet". Jesus does indeed tell us to "go into our closet" to pray, but He doesn't mention tents. I have to admit that your argument is extremely ingenious (and you are to be commended for that). However, as an editor I would want to know just who it is that calls this practice "going into one's tent" and how commonly the shawl is referred to as a "tent". It seems to me that if you can make that connection with convincing evidence, you would really be getting somewhere. On a monitory note, I am also wary of casting Jesus in the light of a practicing Hasidic Jew (or sim.). Clearly, our Lord did fulfill the law in every true spiritual sense, but just as clearly He was more often than not dismantling the traditional point of view (e.g., His practices vis- -vis the Sabbath), teaching His contemporaries instead to see the spiritual truths behind the law and emphasizing those spiritual realities (and exposing their adding on of layers of ritual to the ritual which lost sight of the underlying spiritual reality altogether). They crucified Him for it.

4. Logic of the situation: The last question I would have is of Paul's position generally. The word skenopoios occurs at Acts 18:3. Just a few verses later, Paul has a powerfully discordant run in with the Jews of Corinth who refuse to accept Jesus. I have to ask myself how many prayer shawls he is going to be able to sell to people who want him dead - and this was the inevitable state of his relations with the vast majority of Jews generally wherever he went (as anyone who has read the book of Acts knows only too well). Too, there is also the question of what kind of witness and what kind of a message such work would send. After all, Paul is the only apostle who consistently and courageously stood up to the Judaizers, ever making it clear that grace not law is the basis for our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Making shawls, especially if you are right and at the time they were putting on hundreds of tassels (a clearly legalistic addition that goes beyond anything in the Bible), Paul would seem to be putting himself in a position of sending what could be a mixed message to his flock.

Not all of the above criticisms are equally strong or necessarily fatal. Scripture doesn't give us a lot to go on as far as Paul's "doings" are concerned. Even in terms of the chronology of Paul's life and ministry, there is great debate. One thing that, as a linguist, I can say with a certain amount of emphasis is that words mean what they mean, and we know what they mean by how they are used. So the very first thing I would do if I were to wish to pursue this idea would be to find all the references to this word and related words in ancient Greek and do a careful examination of each context (you might try the TLG). That would pretty quickly let me know if I had any room to maneuver.

In any case, I certainly enjoyed reading this, and am interested to know more about your sources. I look forward to your further development of the idea.

Keep up the good work of digging deep into the Word of God!

In our Savior Jesus Christ, the true Messiah.

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Dear Dr. Bob--

Thank you for your clear and insightful critique of my elementary study on this matter of tassels. You are absolutely correct that a much stronger connection must be made on the matter of tents and prayer shawls, with attention paid to the original languages. Among the many excellent points you have made is the irony of Paul (if it were to be true), of tediously making legalistic prayer shawls, at the same time he is trying to set the Jewish people free. More than irony, in fact, it would possibly be hypocrisy.

I do dearly love the World of God, and delight in pondering the most minuscule points, especially to learn how the entire written record points to the life and glory of our Lord.

And I do understand the vital importance of bouncing my ideas off the wisdom and scholarship of devoted and learned men such as yourself.

If I decide to pursue this particular study further, and find stronger references, I will be happy to relate to you my findings.

I continue to pray for you and your ministry.

Thanks again!

Response #8: 

I really do appreciate your mature and godly attitude. I would be delighted to look at the next installment - or anything else you might wish to share with me. I would also be happy to help in any way I can. I certainly have learned some things from this exercise and I appreciate and am grateful for that too.

Whatever critiques I might have about this individual point, I heartily and enthusiastically affirm your approach. The Word of God is how we know our Lord, and it behooves us both to love it and to delve deeply into ever bit of it. I cannot tell you how many times a point or an observation that seemed minuscule at the time has turned out to be critical for understanding something else down the road.

May God bless with the greatest success all of your efforts for the Word of God, the people of God, and the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

In our Lord who is the truth, the way and the life.

Your friend in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Hi again Doc!

Genesis 3:18 - Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

Matthew 27:29 - And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

Galatians 3:13 - Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Deuteronomy 21:23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

I was thinking that there might be some sort of connection in these verses, but don't want to make haste and speak nonsense. So I wanted your expert viewpoint. Thanks in advance!

Response #9: 

This is very nice! I am sure you are correct that the crown of thorns relates to Genesis 3:18 and is a symbol of our Lord bearing the curse of sin for us.

You might have a look at these links:

The Crown of Thorns

The Trial before Pilate: Second Phase

Gospel Questions I

Gospel Questions II

Good for you!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

 

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