Do you read your Bible BACKWARDS?
Many Christians know their Bible back to front – when they should know it the right way round! David Andrew offers an appreciation of a recent two-part teaching from Chuck and Karen Cohen…
There’s a consistent note of sober purpose here, so don’t expect a snappy title. As it is, the title gets right to the point – and describes exactly what’s in the tin: “Breaking Down the Middle Wall of Partition: Confronting the Man-Made division between the Old and New Testament.”
Now some will be thinking: “This is clearly off-beam right from the title. Surely Jesus has already broken down the wall between Jew and Gentile? Surely Paul used a past tense?” No arguments there – but just because God has done something has never stopped us mortals from disagreeing with Him or revising the ‘truth’ to make it suit our prejudices. The clue to the title is in the ‘man-made division’ . As early as the early church, even Peter needed correction as he unwittingly started to rebuild the wall that Jesus had demolished (Galatians 2:11-21). Our authors are not in denial of Ephesians 2:14. Their argument – entirely dependent on Scriptural support – is that, historically, the Church in general has done a thorough job of rebuilding the wall by creating a false (distorting) division between the doctrine of the apostles and the ‘Old Testament’ writings they used to support their writings! The effect of this is two-fold:
1. Much of today’s Church lacks a Biblical view (i.e. God’s) of the Jews and of the modern state of Israel
What if we knew God had said that the reborn nation of Israel would be “born in a day” , that the return of Jews to their ancient homeland would not be a reward for their righteousness, nor for their faith but for the sake of His own reputation which had been diminished in the eyes of the nations because He had to judge and scatter them across the globe? What if He promised to bring them back to the Land in unbelief (!) and afterwards bring them to full New Testament rebirth (think Nicodemus) and plant them in His land ‘with all His heart and all His soul’? Should that have a bearing on Britain’s foreign policy in the Middle East? Should that give Christians pause to think about their unthinking support for the Islamic propaganda that resents ANY Jewish presence IN ANY BORDERS in the Middle East – propaganda that relentlessly presents undemocratic Muslim terrorists as victims and Israel’s democracy as the aggressor in our newspapers, TV and social media every day? Only a firm grasp of how Jesus and the apostles understood and applied the Old Testament can protect us from swallowing lies generated by a hatred as old as Esau.
2. New Testament interpretation has suffered from misuse, disuse and even abuse of the Old in ways that run counter to Jesus’ and the apostles’ own use and interpretation of their Hebrew Scriptures – the only ‘Bible’ they possessed and referenced to write the New!
It is as if Paul left chapters 9 through 11 out of his great letter to the Roman believers. These chapters explain God’s covenant intention towards Jews in every age – and warn the gentile church against boasting as if they have replaced the Jews in God’s affections. These three chapters are utterly integral to Paul’s exposition of the Gospel, but they would be meaningless without the apostle’s use of the Old Testament to support his case.
The problem, according to this argument, is not that Jesus left the ‘middle wall’ in place, but that,in practice, the Church has behaved historically as if the Old Testament is the ‘Jews bit’ of the Bible that has been rendered redundant by our ‘New bit’ . Consequently, many Christians use the NT to spiritualise the meanings of texts which Jesus and the apostles took literally…
A quick overview of these 23 A4 (approx.) pages of teaching is accessible through the authors’ clear question and answer structure.
Paper 1 tackles:
- What should we tell believers about Israel’s place today in God’s plan?
- Upon what verse does all Scripture depend?
- Why does the New Testament start by looking backward?
- Why did Yeshua call His grieving disciples “fools and slow of heart”?
- How does Paul view the ‘Tanach’? [a Hebrew acronym for the three sections of the Hebrew Bible which we refer to as the ‘Old Testament’ – Ed. ]?
Paper 2 answers:
- How did Messiah Yeshua interpret Tanach prophecies?
- How should we see Israel’s modern day restoration?
- God loves His Jewish people, but does God really care about Israel as a nation?
Many pastors will not get involved with the ‘Israel question’ because they (rightly) seek to protect the gospel from the distractions of politics – especially since Christians so often divide at the ballot box. But wait… Israel – ancient and modern – is firstly a theological, not a political issue – at stake is the very character of God and our grasp of covenant and Gospel truth. In the relatively short space of this two-part paper here is a soundly Biblical (but concise) argument which calls us to review our use of the Old Testament and it’s modern-day evaluation of Israel – IN THE FULL LIGHT OF “ALL SCRIPTURE”. In this helpful teaching, the New Testament itself is the source of revelation of the apostles’ – and their Lord’s – regard for the Old Testament, illuminated by their methods of interpretation, application – and extensive citation.
No-one who loves “the glorious gospel of our blessed God” need fear that this teaching undermines either the authority of Scripture or the message of unique salvation in Jesus Christ. It ought to be self-evident that, if we have a different understanding of the Old Testament from Jesus and the apostles, it is we who are at risk of diminishing the Gospel we love and preach. Not only so, but in these days when anti-Semitism is again rising to 1930s levels across Europe and the West it is vital that the Church’s relationship to the Jewish people is securely Biblical and proofed against propaganda.
There’s a challenge here also for folks whose view might be expressed as “Jews yes, Israel no” (which would include many Jews who live outside of Israel). Recently a German court found in favour of three Muslims who tried to burn a synagogue because they were supposedly motivated by ‘anti-Israelism’ and not ‘anti-Semitism’ . This entirely false distinction renders Europe’s Jews more vulnerable than ever.
A fair reading will easily establish for Biblelovers whether this teaching is merely proIsrael propaganda or if indeed there is a prophesied work of God going on with modern Israel which we ignore or dismiss at peril to the Church’s own testimony – and at peril to the fullest understanding of God’s grace. Many today have their reasons why Israel should or should not exist – but what about God’s reasons? If we must all give an account to Him, might it not be important to be sure that we understand Israel’s role in the Middle East from His (revealed) perspective?
Christian leaders especially must someday give account to God of their care of His flock. These papers are developed from two events at which Chuck spoke to meetings of pastors and leaders. The problem is that these events are so often populated by those who are already convinced of the arguments and simply wish to be better equipped to ‘stand with Israel’ . I’m personally blessed in fellowship with many godly leaders who love the Lord, love the Gospel, stand on the final authority of Scripture and yet many can’t see why some in their churches make such a fuss about Israel. Admittedly, their misgivings are often well-founded. There are too many misguided Christians whose testimony is to Israel – and only Israel. It’s terribly possible that they have ‘another Gospel’ where Israel is their boast instead of Jesus (‘Yeshua’ to Hebrew speakers). For that reason it’s legitimate to ask what is the place of Our Lord in these teachings about the correct use of the Bible. Here is a revealing stat:
- Part 1 has 33 references to ‘Yeshua’ in 88 paragraphs
- Part 2 has 33 references to ‘Yeshua’ in 80 paragraphs
Jesus Himself is so central to this argument, that every lover of the truth and the Gospel would wish to consider the case as presented.
I conclude with two of the more arresting paragraphs from this teaching which, although addressed in the first instance to pastors and leaders is clear and easily readable by anyone who can read their Bible. These statements invite perhaps startled inspection and are typical enough of their authors’ approach to generate an appetite for the full meal:
1. “A common problem causing many believers to misinterpret scripture is viewing the Bible backwards! Historically the only Bible the people in the New Testament [NT] had was the Old Testament [Tanach], the only Bible Yeshua read and taught from. Many Christians today learn to interpret the Tanach through the eyes of the NT, when in fact Yeshua and His disciples, the early Messianic Body and all the NT authors, used the Tanach to interpret and prove that what they were saying in the NT was God's revealed truth.”
2. “Yeshua explains the spiritual principles behind the Law of Moses, but expects a literal fulfilment of the prophecies. Yet much of global Christianity is afflicted with theological dyslexia and does just the opposite! It interprets the law literally, and would join those wanting to punish the woman caught in adultery – and at the same time it has for at least fifteen hundred years interpreted the prophecies allegorically or spiritually, instead of literally as Yeshua did.”
Both parts of this teaching can be read at: http://www.ifi.org.il/teachings/