I learned a little Hebrew today. Thought it was worth sharing.
“Torah” = “Law” in Christian Bibles, but in a Jewish bible it’s almost always translated “teaching.” As Christians, we typically talk about the Old Testament law as the means by which God showed us, how much we needed a Savior. (“Cause we couldn’t live up to everything the “Law” required.) Therefore, we think of the “Law” as a condemning sort of thing. If we could think of it more like Jesus did, like our Jewish friend do, I think we’d be thinking more accurately.It may be subtle, but it makes a difference. Let me show you:
Psalm 1:2 – “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.”
but if we read it the way our Jewish friends do, it’d say:
Psalm 1:2 – “The teaching of the Lord is His delight, and he studies that teaching day and night.”
Our Jewish friends, think of the “Law” well the “Torah” very differently. The Torah is a blessing – not a condemnation. It’s God “teaching” which helps us to live life more fully. Their attitude toward “Torah” is much more in line with it’s intent, and therefore more in line with God.
In much the same way, “Mitzvah” is translated “commandment.” We hear that word as burdensome – as something which comes from a domineering authority figure. But our Jewish friends hear it differently – in a positive way. They say things like “I had the opportunity to do a mitzvah today when my neighbor needed some help.” It’s not a burden, but an opportunity to honor God in a special way.
Bottom line: I think our Jewish friends have it right. If we could learn to think of these terms like they do, I think much of the weight of our faith would be lifted and we could live in freedom by rejoicing in His “Torah” (teaching) and looking for opportunities to perform a “Mitzvah” (commandment).
I’m so glad that there are Christians all over the world who are trying to interpret the Gospel message to all sorts of cultures. I just discovered a new version of the Bible that’s written in the “Manga” format. For those of you who aren’t familiar – Manga is that Japanese animation that fills complete sections of your local bookstore.
I ordered a copy of the Manga Bible to use with the students in our church. It’s an interesting way to consider the scriptures and in general, it’s pretty accurate to the original. (There is certainly some creative license used, too.) Anyway, I just think it’s cool that like Jesus, the Gospel message is becoming more and more incarnate in different cultures.
Pretty cool animation of David and Goliath on the cover, huh?
Gosh! What are the Jehovah’s Witnesses gonna do now? Do I have your attention now?
No, I haven’t given up my faith. I’m not saying God doesn’t exist. I just learned something new in my Theology class last night. The word “Jehovah” was actually never intended to be used to refer to God. Here’s how it all happened: The Hebrew word YHWH (“Yahweh” which means “I am”) was used of God regularly in the Old Testament scriptures – as a matter of fact, God even calls Himself “YHWH.” (Exodus 3). Another word used of God was “Adonai” which meant “my Lord.”
Anyway, the name YHWH (Yahweh) was considered too holy to speak and so when the writers of the Bible wrote it they wanted to give the reader a “heads up” or a hint that the word was coming up so that they wouldn’t accidentally say it outloud. They took the vowels from the word “adonai” and placed them into the word YHWH – which would have made it look something like this “YaHoWaH.” The Hebrew reader would come across this word and would have known that it wasn’t a real word. This would have forced him to stop and think about what he was reading, and thus would avoid accidentally speaking the Sacred Name aloud. Unfortunately, when the German translators came along hundreds of years later, they didn’t understand what had happened, so they simply translated it as “Jehovah.” (The Hebrew “Y” sounds like a “J” in German and the “W” sounds like a “V”) We’ve been reading it that way ever since ’cause the English translators used the German translations as guides.
So the name “Jehovah” doesn’t exist. It is basically a translation error and was never used by the Jews – including Jesus.