Teachings of Akiva (Part 1)

This week in my Tuesday night class, The Jewish Context of the Bible, we continued to look at famous rabbis.  This week was Akiva (45 AD – 132 AD), perhaps my favorite rabbi of all time right under Jesus and Paul (though Akiva gives Paul a run for his money – not kidding!).  You can find the audio on the website of Prestoncrest Church of Christ, or on my Audio Lessons page.

One reason I like Akiva so much is that his teachings were brilliant on their own.  The other rabbis we have studied so far have been brilliant, but Jesus seems to have a similar saying to match all of theirs.  Akiva, on the other hand, has several that sound like they could have been right from Jesus’ mouth, but I could not find a comparable saying.  So in this post I’m going to go over two of them that go together.

Continue reading

Shammai and the Zealots

This week my Tuesday night Bible study, The Jewish Context of the Bible, continued our series on Famous Rabbis.  Last time we started with perhaps the biggest one of all, Hillel.  This week we took a look at his most eminent halakic (legal) opponent, Shammai.  Next up is Akiva, then Sha’ul (aka: Paul, and with Paul we’ll look at his own first rabbi, Gamaliel) and finally ending with, Yeshua (Jesus).  Knowing and understanding the rabbis has helped me understand the teachings and writings of Jesus and Paul and I’m sure you will be excited as well as we apply all that we’ve learned. You can find the audio on the website of Prestoncrest Church of Christ, or on my Audio Lessons page.

In my readings about Shammai, I ran across something very interesting.  Apparently Shammai, a member of the peace-loving Pharisees, had some ties to the religious movement known as the Zealots.
Continue reading

Hillel and The Good Samaritan

This week my Tuesday night Bible study, The Jewish Context of the Bible, started a new series: Famous Rabbis.  We start with the three biggest names in first century Rabbinical Judaism: Hillel, Shammai, and Akiva.  Then we progress to Sha’ul (Paul) and finally culminating in, Yeshua (Jesus).  I think after examining these great rabbis it will mean so much more when we look at Jesus.  You can find the audio on the website of Prestoncrest Church of Christ, or on my Audio Lessons page.

In my study of the Mishnah to prep for this week, I looked at every single verse where the name “Hillel” was mentioned.  There were hundreds of them and most were not exactly relevant to what I wanted to present.  However, there were a few gems, most of which I presented in class.  There was one more that I found that I’d like to share with you that was too technical to share in class.
Continue reading

Rethinking Hell

This week my Tuesday night Bible study, The Jewish Context of the Bible, was on the Jewish view of the afterlife.  If you were not in the class, this is one lesson I’d say you need to listen to more than any of the others.  But I’ll give you the same warning I gave my class: this lesson will stretch you theologically.  It’s going to take you outside of your comfort zone and make you at the very least re-think your current outlook on the Christian view of the afterlife.  Don’t be afraid or worried if you think on these ideas for several weeks.  You can find the audio on the website of Prestoncrest Church of Christ, or on my Audio Lessons page.

There are many Christians today that don’t believe in Hell at all.  Many Christians who do believe in it don’t believe in Hell as presented by mainstream Christianity which is, in a nutshell, a place where the people who don’t believe in Jesus go after they die and stay there forever in intense torment.  Most people who believe in Hell don’t like to think about it, are comfortable with their belief about it, and don’t wish to revisit it.  But after all my research into the Jewish sources, this topic too warrants some thought.  Join me as I rethink the concept of Hell.

Disclaimer: listen to the lesson audio lesson first, or what comes after this really won’t make much sense.

Continue reading

The Game of the King

This week my Tuesday night Bible class, The Jewish Context of the Bible, was on the Romans. You can find the audio online at the website of Prestoncrest Church of Christ and also on my Audio Lessons page (along with the handout).

In the lesson we talked about Roman history and how the evolution of the Roman Triumphal Procession became a powerful symbol for the believers in Rome who Mark was writing1.  I’d like to go a bit deeper into one particular aspect of the Markan crucifixion narrative now with a short study on a brutal game that Roman soldiers played, likely with Jesus as their target.

Continue reading

Taheb – The Samaritan Messiah

We continue onwards through our journey of the socio-political groups of Jesus’ day with this week’s group the Samaritans.  You can find the audio online at the website of Prestoncrest Church of Christ and also on my Audio Lessons page (along with the handout).

One thing I was happily surprised to discover during my studies as I prepped for the class this past week was the similarities between much of Samaritan theology and that of the early Christians, especially regarding the Taheb, the Samaritan’s messiah.  If you listen to the audio lesson I gave three examples of where the Samaritan theology is strikingly similar to the book of John, and if you haven’t listened to it yet I encourage you to do so because it blew me away when I first read it.  There is one more comparison I’d like to make with the Samaritans and Jesus that I did not get the chance to make in class, so join me as we jump in.

Continue reading

The Would-be Messiah Menahem

This week my bible class, The Jewish Context of the Bible, was over the Zealots.  You can find the audio at website of Prestoncrest Church of Christ, or on my Audio Lessons page.

As I have been doing for the last few weeks I wanted to go into something a bit deeper than time permitted in class.  Specifically, the Zealots and their messianic hopes.

Continue reading

The Essenes and the Messianic Banquet

This week my Tuesday night bible class, The Jewish Context of the Bible, was on the Essenes.  You can find the audio at the Prestoncrest Church of Christ website, or on my Audio Lessons page.

One question I got this week after class was regarding the Essene practice of the Messianic Banquet.  The idea that a group of religious Jews were practicing a ceremonial feast which is very similar to the Christian Eucharist (Lord’s Supper/Communion) is intriguing.  I could tell it caught the imagination of many of the disciples there.  More specifically I was asked questions like: How did the practice originate?  Did they have a scriptural foundation for it, and if so, where can that be found?  What specifically did they do? etc.  So I’ve done some further research and below I have presented my findings.

Continue reading

Reflections on the Pharisees

Tuesday night was the first session of my summer class The Jewish Context of the Bible.  I was very blessed to have so many people attend, probably around 60 (Update: official count was 81! Wow!).  We had a good class, with some excellent questions.  The audio recording of the class has been posted and here is the lesson handout (yes, the notes are a .doc file).

As a follow up, I’d like to dive a little deeper into one area of the lesson that we had to blow right through, and that is one of the central theologies of the Pharisees and how it plays right into Jesus’ teachings.

Continue reading