The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew with Nehemia Gordon (Open Door Series – Part 2)

Open Door Series Part 2 features Nehemia Gordon speaking on the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew. Nehemia Gordon, a Karaite Jew and academic scholar, relates how he joined together with Keith Johnson, an African American Methodist pastor to study an original Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew. Gordon explains the flaws inherit in the best translations and explores the rich meaning in the word puns only present in the Hebrew text. He focuses on passages from the Lord’s Prayer, which led him to the realization that the concept of God as Father is also prevalent in the Tanakh (Old Testament). Gordon concludes with a moving account of a personal revelation of God’s Fatherly love and his willingness to carry the sin debt for us.

Transcript

The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew with Nehemia Gordon (Open Door Series - Part 2)

You are listening to the Open Door Series with Nehemia Gordon. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Nehemia: I’m going to talk to you today about A Prayer to Our Father, the book that Keith and I wrote on the Hebrew origins of the Lord’s Prayer. And we actually did the main research for this book about four years ago. Keith flew over to Israel where I’ve lived since 1993, and we travelled around the Galilee, searching for the place where Yeshua, Jesus, taught this prayer, what’s commonly known in the Christian world as the Lord’s Prayer. And here’s actually a picture of us from four years ago, when we were doing this. You could see, I looked a little bit different back then. I used to be black.

[laughter]

What’s really funny about this is, I used the same joke over, I believe it was in Kansas, a couple of years ago, and one woman walks up to me afterwards, and she has this confused look on her face. Let’s bring the picture up again. She has a confused look on her face, and she says, “How did you get your skin to be so white?” [laughter] No, I was the fat, white guy with hair. Okay, yeah.

Anyway, but really, I think this picture speaks a thousand words. What on earth am I, a Karaite Jew, doing together with Keith Johnson, who is an African-American Methodist pastor? It’s almost like the introduction to a joke, what on earth are we doing together? And we’re studying the Hebrew origins of what his people call the Lord’s Prayer. I mean, what on earth is that about?

And first, I have to explain what a Karaite Jew is. I explained a little bit yesterday.

Keith and I were speaking over, I believe it was in Ohio, about a year or two ago, and when we arrived there, the pastor, she sits us down before the presentation and she said, “Look, I didn’t really know much about you guys. My mentor told me that I need to have you come and speak at the church. I don’t really know what this is about, but I’ve been reading the literature, and I have just one question. What is a karate Jew?” [laughter] Huah! Huah! No. No, no, it’s not about martial arts. It’s Karaite Jew, say “Karaite”.

Audience: Karaite.

Nehemia: Karaites are Jews who believe strictly in the Old Testament, and I explained a little bit yesterday that many Jews today believe in the teachings of the rabbis, that these teachings were handed down by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. And as a Karaite Jew, I believe strictly in the written scripture, in the… what Jews call the Tanakh, or the Hebrew Bible. Christians refer to it as the Old Testament. And when I was growing up, I actually studied the written Scripture, and I would see there, “And the Lord spoke to Moses saying; And thus says the Lord.” And I saw in the words of the rabbis, one rabbi says one thing and another rabbi disagrees and says something else. And then I am told, “Both of those opinions of the rabbis aren’t just opinions - those are the words of the living God.” And I said, “This doesn’t make any sense,” and I went to my rabbis, to my teachers, and I said, “Surely, this is the word of God. We should embrace this, and love this, and live by this. And this other thing, it’s really interesting. It has some interesting statements, but it’s the words of men. And when it contradicts the word of God, we should cast it aside.”

And I thought I would be praised for this - that my name would be shouted from the rooftops for bringing this great revelation to the world. Instead, I was rebuked by my rabbis. They said, “You mustn’t say that. That’s what those heretics, the Karaites say.” And I said, “Tell me about these Karaites. They sound like they know what they’re talking about.” And I found out that throughout Jewish history, there always have been Jews who only believed in the written Scripture.

Well, one of the things I realized, studying Scripture, was that the rabbis had this immense power, and the power was through translation. They could take a verse, and through translation make it say the exact opposite of what it actually said in the text. And I realized at a very young age, I needed to learn to read the word of God, for me, the Tanakh, the Old Testament, in the original language.

I grew up going to a Jewish school, several Jewish schools, and was able to read the Torah by the time I graduated high school. But I wanted a much deeper knowledge than that, and so I decided to move to Israel in 1993, and I eventually studied at the Hebrew University and got my bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies there, and archaeology. I did a double major, and did my master’s in Biblical Studies. And throughout these studies, I studied all kinds of ancient Jewish texts, that from my perspective, would shed light on my Bible. I was studying the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Apocrypha, and the Pseudepigrapha, and Josephus.

One of the texts I ended up studying was the New Testament. And I wasn’t reading it like many of you who are probably in the audience read it, as your Bible. I was reading it as an ancient Jewish document saying, “What light can this shed on ancient Judaism?” And particularly, I was looking at a problem I talked about yesterday in the Gospel of Matthew, and it was to me, absolutely fascinating. I was like a kid in the candy store. I’m reading this ancient text, and it’s blowing me away that no one else is really dealing with this Hebrew text.

And what I found is, most of the Jewish scholars, who are these great experts in Hebrew, have really very little interest in the New Testament. And on the other side, you have these Christian scholars who are these great experts in Greek, who really don’t master the Hebrew the way that they master the Greek language. And I realized, this text is falling through the cracks.

And one thing that really highlighted this for me is when I was looking at this one particular manuscript of Hebrew Matthew, one from St. Petersburg, Russia. And now, St. Petersburg, Russia, used to be called Leningrad. And in 1991, I believe it was, the Soviet Union fell, and after that, this library in St. Petersburg was opened up to the Jewish world. These Israeli scholars rushed over there and photographed everything in the library, because they didn’t know if a week later, or two weeks later, another coup would rise up and shut the gates again.

And so today, in Israel, in Jerusalem, they have a photographic collection of every single document there in St. Petersburg, which is the largest Jewish collection of Jewish manuscripts in the world, in St. Petersburg, Russia. I went to look at this one particular manuscript of Hebrew Matthew. Now, Hebrew Matthew wasn’t discovered by me, it was discovered by this professor at the University of Georgia, his name was George Howard. And George Howard was studying Hebrew Matthew, and he thought this was a translation from Latin or Greek, but he came to the conclusion at the end of his study that, wait a minute, this is not translated from Latin or Greek - this is an original Hebrew document.

Now, he based that study on nine manuscripts - not six, Keith, I’ve been trying to get him to remember that number for several years - nine, say, “nine”.

Audience: Nine.

Nehemia: George Howard had nine manuscripts, not six. And this manuscript that I was looking at from St. Petersburg was one that Howard didn’t have. Now, why didn’t he have it? Because he discovered this in 1987, back when I was in high school, and when I came along like 10 years later or so I had more than nine manuscripts available to me. And I looked at the one from St. Petersburg - I actually had to fill out a form and check it out from the librarian. It was kept in a special place. And when I came to return this microfilm of the manuscript, photographs of every page, the librarian said a very interesting thing to me. He said, “Was there anything interesting in that manuscript?” I thought that was a strange question. I’d looked at many manuscripts during my research, not just at Hebrew Matthew, in other fields. I said, “Why did you ask that?” You know, being a Jew, I have to answer a question with a question. “Why are you asking this question?” I said. He said, “Because you’re the first one to check out that manuscript from the library.” And I’m thinking, “This is amazing. This manuscript’s been available to the scholarly world for 10 years, and no one’s looked at it. It’s fallen through the cracks.”

And I realized, this is a field that needs to be researched. I mean, I talked yesterday about that one letter in Matthew chapter 23 in the Hebrew Matthew that completely changes the message. I mean, it’s one letter, a single stroke of a pen, the letter Vav, that changes the message, and here are over a dozen manuscripts that are not being studied.

And at that point, that was when I contacted Keith, and I said, “Keith…” I’d actually talked to him when I did the research on Matthew 23, I haven’t made that commonly known. But I had consulted him on that, and I decided, “There’s so much information here that needs to be researched, would you come and would you research this with me?” That was on this Hebrew Matthew.

One of the things on Hebrew Matthew that’s really exciting is why George Howard thought that it wasn’t a translation from Latin or Greek, because if you ask most New Testament scholars, 99 percent of New Testament scholars, “What is the original language of the New Testament?” They’ll tell you, “Greek.” And that’s what Howard thought, as well. He was a professor, a part of the whole system, and when he’s reading this Hebrew Matthew, there’s something in the text that convinces him that it’s actually something written in Hebrew.

First of all, let me tell you a little bit about the background of Hebrew Matthew. Here’s a quote from Jerome. Jerome was one of the most famous Church Fathers. He’s the one who translated the Bible from Hebrew into Latin. That became known as the Latin Vulgate. That was the Bible used by the Catholic Church, the Western Church, for over 1,000 years.

And he says as follows, and he’s writing in the year 392. He says, “Matthew composed a Gospel of Christ first published in Judea, in Hebrew.” He’s telling us matter of factly, it was written in Hebrew. And then he says, “The Hebrew itself has been preserved until the present day in the library at Caesarea.” Now, Caesarea is a city on the coast of Israel, and if he says that the Gospel of Matthew is in the library at Caesarea, he knows what he’s talking about.

He goes on and he says, “I have also had the opportunity of having the volume described to me by the Nazarenes of Beroea, who use it.” Now, who were these Nazarenes? Nazarenes were the original descendants of the Jewish followers of Yeshua. They weren’t called Christians. They weren’t called Christians until the Gentiles in Antioch were following him as Christ, in Greek, and they were called Christianos. But the original followers, who were Jews, were called “Notzrim” or Nazarenes.” And the Gospel that they would naturally use was this Gospel in Hebrew. It makes sense, they’re Hebrew speakers, and if you look at ancient education, you might have a Jew who spoke Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. That was very common, to speak all three languages.

Keith mentioned how if you speak three languages, you’re trilingual. When we traveled to South Africa, what we found out is that you’d think the more educated a person is, the more languages he speaks. It turns out, the less educated and the lower economic class someone is, the poorer they are, the more languages they speak. Now, why is that? Because when they come and they have to work for the rich people, they can’t speak their own language, they have to speak the rich person’s language. So, we met people in some of these townships in South Africa who spoke four, five, or six languages. And then, we’d go to the people in these beautiful palaces, and they would speak the one language, the one language that they grew up speaking.

And that’s what things were like, 2,000 years ago in Judea. You had people who spoke all three languages - Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek - but they didn’t read all three languages. The average Jew only read one language, and that was Hebrew, because that was the language of discourse. That was the language of the synagogue. They had to learn that to be able to pray in the synagogue, to participate, to read from the Scriptures in the synagogues.

So, these Nazarenes who were reading this Gospel of Matthew, it had to be in Hebrew as the original language. When it was taken to the Gentiles, then they may have translated it into other languages.

This Hebrew Matthew disappears for about 1,000 years after the time of Jerome, and it reappears in Spain in the writings of a rabbi named Shem Tov Ibn Shaprut. And in the year 1380, he publishes this Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew. Now, where did he get it from? Howard, the professor who discovered it in 1987, assumed that Shem Tov translated it from Latin or Greek. The internal evidence shows that it was actually an original Hebrew document.

And this is actually a page from the Gospel of Matthew from the British Library manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew. And on this page, you can see how Howard knew that the Gospel of Matthew was not only written in Hebrew, but that this was a Hebrew original document. And here, if you read it in Hebrew, I’ll read to you what it says. This is actually from chapter 1 of the Gospel of Matthew, verses 18 to 25, the scene in the Gospel, the birth scene. Particularly, the verse we’re going to look at is where the angel appears to Joseph and tells him what name to call the unborn child.

And here in the Hebrew, the angel says, “Veteled ben vetikra shemo Yeshua, ki Hu yoshia et ami mi’avonotam.” Now, do you all see how that proves that this is an original Hebrew Matthew? [laughter] Hey, and sometimes I’ll get people in the audience who’ll say, “Yes,” and that’s proof that they’re no longer paying attention, they’re now asleep.

All right, let me read you first the English translation of the Greek, and then we’ll look at the Hebrew. The English translation of the Greek in Matthew chapter 1 verse 21, the angel says to Joseph, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus,” in Greek, “Yesus,” “for He will save His people from their sins.” Now, this is what we call a Hebrew word pun. This is one of the core characteristics of ancient Hebrew writing, connections between words, and especially, names and the reason for the names. And the fact that it says “for”, “for He will save His people from their sins,” “for” is a word of causation. It tells you, why will he be called “Yesus,” “Jesus?” “For,” because, “He will save His people from their sins.”

Now, when you read this in Greek, English, Aramaic, and in Latin and every ancient language - except Hebrew - you’re left wondering, what on earth does the name “Jesus,” “Yesus,” have to do with the statement, “He will save His people from their sins?” It’s a non-sequitur.

Now, let me give you an example of a Hebrew word pun, so you understand what I’m talking about. We’re told the first woman is called “Chavah”, say “Chavah...”

Audience: Chavah.

Nehemia: …and “Eve” in English. Why is she called that? Because she’s the mother of all that live. Say “live”.

Audience: Live.

Nehemia: Now, the Hebrew word for “live” is “chaya.” Say “chaya.

Audience: Chaya.

Nehemia: So, she’s called “Chavah” from the word “chai,” life, “chayah,” living. Now, how do we know the Bible wasn’t written in English, the original Bible? Because if it was written in English, what would she have been called, the first woman? Not Eve, because Eve has nothing to do with the word “live”. She probably would have been called something like “Livvy,” and that sounds ridiculous, but that’s how the Hebrew word puns work. You take a name and you find a word similar to that name, and you connect them. Well, “Yesus”, “Jesus”, has nothing to do with the statement, “He will save His people from their sins.” When you look at it in Hebrew, it makes perfect sense.

In Hebrew, the angel says, “And she will give birth to a son, and you shall call His name Yeshua.” Say “Yeshua”.

Audience: Yeshua.

Nehemia: “For He will save my people from their iniquities.” Now, Hebrew’s a very concise language, and the three English words, “He will save,” say “He will save...”

Audience: He will save.

Nehemia: …translates to one Hebrew word, “yoshia”. Say “yoshia”.

Audience: Yoshia.

Nehemia: So, if you read it in Hebrew, it’s obvious why he’s called Yeshua. It jumps off the page, and it makes perfect sense. And you really can come to no other conclusion than that this was written in Hebrew. I mean, it’s ridiculous. If the angel were speaking Aramaic, then this just didn’t make any sense, because the words don’t connect. It doesn’t make sense in Latin, it doesn’t make sense in Greek, or any of the other languages of the ancient world. It only makes sense in Hebrew.

Now, I’m a very skeptical person, and as I was studying this, I wasn’t studying this as what you would call a “believer”. I’m a believer of my faith, I’m a Jew, but I’m not what Christians or Messianics would call a believer, meaning in Christianity and what the Messianics believe. And so I’m studying this as a skeptic. And we called the book, A Prayer to Our Father, really it began as a prayer to Keith’s Father. That’s how I looked at it. I’ll explain more about that. It was his prayer, it wasn’t my prayer to begin with. And it was like with Michael, “This is research, very interesting. It’s intellectual exercise.” It wasn’t anything that really changed me, at first.

And as I was studying this, as a skeptic, I’m saying, “How do we know that this Hebrew document wasn’t written in Hebrew?” No question it was written in Hebrew. I mean, you’ve got to have faith in little green men to believe this wasn’t written in Hebrew. Thank you, Donovan. It clearly was written in Hebrew.

This would be the greatest conspiracy of all time, or the greatest coincidence of all time if this wasn’t written in Hebrew. Can we just show that for a second there? I mean, look at that. How can that not… For he will call his name Yeshua,” again say “Yeshua”.

Audience: Yeshua.

Nehemia: “For He will save His people from their iniquities.” So, why was he called “Yeshua?” Because…

Audience: He will save His people.

Nehemia: You work with Keith, you won’t work with me? Because yoshia, why will he be called “Yeshua?” Because…

Audience: He will save.

Nehemia: That’s what the angel’s saying. It had to be written in Hebrew. But again, as a skeptic, my question was - maybe it was written in Hebrew, translated into Greek, and then maybe translated back into Hebrew? How do I know that didn’t happen? Because after all, Shem Tov Ibn Shaprut lived in 1380, over 1,000 years after the last reference to the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew by Jerome, in 392, 1,300 years after the book was written. So, how do I know that this is a Hebrew original document?

And you can really see it very clearly from other examples. One example could be a coincidence. Here’s another example, Hebrew Matthew chapter 18 verses 23 to 35. We have the parable of the debt. It’s a parable that talks about a man who owes a debt to a king, and he can’t afford to pay the debt, so he goes and he puts the squeeze on his servant, who owes him money. In the meantime, the king forgives the man, but the man doesn’t forgive his servant. And the moral of the parable is, if you want your heavenly King to forgive you, you have to forgive those on earth who have wronged you. It’s a very powerful message of forgiveness.

Now, the central theme of the parable is the concept of paying. The Hebrew word for pay is “shalem”. Say “shalem”.

Audience: Shalem.

Nehemia: Five times it says, “Pay, pay, pay, pay, pay.” It proves Yeshua was Jewish. Five times it says this. [laughter] I’m Jewish, I’m allowed to make that joke. Five times it says, “to pay”. Shalem is the word. Say “shalem” five times. No, don’t do that. Shalem, shalem, shalem, shalem, shalem. Five times the central theme of the parable.

Now, what Hebrew word puns often do is, they use the same word with different meanings. And here, he does that in verse 35 in the moral of the parable. And I’m going to ask somebody… who here has a King James version of the Bible, who has a strong voice? Who has a King James Bible? New King James is fine. Okay, I’m going to ask you, turn to Matthew 18:35. I’m going to ask you to stand up in a minute, and read it. If we can get her on camera and on mic, that would be great.

So what he says in the Hebrew is, “So shall my Father in Heaven do if shall not forgive each man his brother with a complete heart.” And the Hebrew word for complete is “shalem”. Say “shalem”.

Audience: Shalem.

Nehemia: Now, shalem was the central theme of the parable. Five times, it said “shalem”, “to pay”. And then, the central theme of the parable, shalem, is reused in the moral of the parable where it says, “So shall my Father in Heaven do if shall not forgive each man his brother with a complete heart.”

Now, as a skeptic, I asked the question, how do I know it wasn’t written in Hebrew, translated into Greek, and then translated back into Hebrew? And what I’m going to look for in the New King James, which is a translation from the Greek is the word “shalem”, or in this case the English translation of the word “complete”. So, please read it, ma’am, and read it slowly. And listen as she’s reading, for the word “complete”, or something similar to complete. Yes, verse 35.

Woman: Matthew 18:35. “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you if you, from your hearts, forgive not everyone his brother their trespass.”

Nehemia: Did you all hear that? What was the word included “to complete?” It wasn’t there. It says, “from your hearts”. It doesn’t say anything about a “complete heart”, or a “half heart”, or a “three-quarters of a heart”. It just says, “from your hearts”. And that’s a Hebraic expression, “a complete heart”.

Now, that key word, the key word that ties everything - you can sit down, thank you - the key word that ties everything in together is missing in the Greek. 5,000 Greek manuscripts, and none of them have this, and this can’t be a coincidence. This is the central theme of the parable, and what this proves is, we’re not dealing here with a translation from Greek. We’re dealing here with an original Hebrew document that has these connections in Hebrew that are lost in other languages.

Now, what I’m not saying is that every single letter and every single word in this Hebrew version of Matthew is what Matthew wrote in the first century. And that might sound like a little subtle technical difficulty, like what are you talking about? If this is the Hebrew original, then doesn’t that mean every letter is the original of what Matthew wrote in Hebrew? But think about it - Matthew wrote it 1,400 or 1,300 years before Matthew - Shem Tov copied it. That was copied, and copied, and copied many generations, and things may have changed over the generations, just like they did in the Greek. There are over 5,000 manuscripts of the Greek and no two are identical. The Greek is still the primary text, though. Anybody who comes to you and says, “Throw away your Greek text, you don’t need the Greek,” that’s not part of serious scholarship. The Greek is the primary text of the New Testament.

What the Hebrew does is it serves as another witness to that original message that Yeshua taught, and sometimes, things that are lost in the Greek are still preserved in this Hebrew, because although it was transmitted over a long period of time, it’s in the original language and wasn’t translated.

So, you know, I think the more witnesses you have, the better, especially if you’re dealing here with a witness that didn’t need to be translated. If we have 10 witnesses to a car accident and 9 of them speak Spanish and I have to hear what they say through a translator, and the 10th one is speaking to me in English, and that’s the language I speak, or in Hebrew, I think I’m probably better off taking all the evidence I can, and putting the picture together and saying, “What did this man say, 2,000 years ago?”

This is my book The Hebrew Yeshua vs. the Greek Jesus, I go into more detail there about his whole issue of the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, and I bring there an example, this is also in the video, Raiders of the Lost Book. I bring there an example where I think you’d have to have profound faith in coincidences to believe that this Hebrew version doesn’t have something to contribute to the study of what Yeshua taught.

Today, I want to talk to you a little bit about the prayer itself, about what Christians commonly refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. And this is a prayer that appears in Matthew chapter 6 verses 9 to 13, and what Keith and I decided to do was to look at this prayer in Hebrew and compare it systematically to the Greek. We didn’t throw away the Greek text, we used that as a basis of reference, and in most of the Prayer, we found the Greek and Hebrew were identical. What we did find sometimes is the Greek was ambiguous - it could be interpreted in two different ways, whereas the Hebrew was unambiguous. It cleared up all doubts and all questions. And hopefully, if we have time, we’ll look at an example of that.

So, the Lord’s Prayer opens with the words - this, by the way, is a page from that manuscript in St. Petersburg, the one that I first went to look at, or to check out, anyway, after 10 years. Here, in the St. Petersburg manuscript, we see the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Avinu shebashamayim.” Repeat after me, “Avinu…”

Audience: Avinu.

Nehemia: Shebashamayim.

Audience: Shebashamayim.

Nehemia: Now, I’m going to have you sing it. No, just kidding. [laughter] All right. Now, these words translate as, “Our Father in Heaven,” or, “Our Father who art in Heaven,” if you want to get all poetical in English. And here, really the Hebrew and Greek are identical. There’s no fundamental difference. And you might think, “Well, there’s nothing to really say about this.” But for me, this was, I think, one of the most profound passages that changed me, because as I said, I started out looking at this as Keith’s prayer to his Father. But for me to pray to God as Father was an alien concept. I thought, “You know, okay. I’ve seen that Yeshua, Jesus…” or Yeshua as he was known, 2,000 years ago, “was teaching this message which seems to be a Jewish message.” And all of a sudden, I get to this prayer, and he’s teaching them to pray as Christians pray.

And the reason I thought that is that obviously Christians have the concept of Father and Son, when they think of God, and for me as Jew, that’s a concept that’s completely incomprehensible. I mean, I don’t even understand what that means, as a Jew. And so to think of God as Father was alien to me. And I wasn’t the only one who said that. As Keith and I were doing this research, we looked at all kinds of scholarly writings, and commentaries, and studies, and articles in these prestigious journals, and we had these great scholars, experts in Greek and all the ancient languages saying, “Hey, wait a minute. When Jesus taught the Jewish multitudes to pray to God as Father, it shook the very foundations of the Jewish world. It was a scandal. People were upset.”

What we decided to do is not just take my gut feeling and what these scholars were saying, but to actually look in the sources, because my approach has always been, “Let’s see what the ancient sources say.” I was approaching this as a textual scholar, and I said to Keith, “Look, you approach this as a believer in Christianity, I’m approaching this as a textual scholar, let’s meet in the middle and see what we can find.” And I think what we found, coming from those two different perspectives, has been amazing.

And here, I think, is a great example of it. So, God as Father, we wanted to know, what did the ancient Jews who heard Jesus, Yeshua, preach this message, what did they understand when he said that? Was that a scandal, did that upset people? And how do we answer that question? Well, you have to look at the ancient literature that they read and that they wrote.

So, we looked at the Dead Sea Scrolls, and we looked at the Apocrypha, and the Pseudepigrapha, and all the ancient Jewish literature from that period, and one of the main things we looked at, though, was the Tanakh, the Old Testament. And why did we look at that? Because many of these Jews who were coming to hear Yeshua preach, they were what we call in Hebrew, “am ha’aretz”. Say “am…

Audience: Am

Nehemia: Ha’aretz.

Audience: Ha’aretz.

Nehemia: Now, in your English Bibles, that’s translated as “multitudes”. It literally means, “people of the land”. These were simple people, shepherds, and farmers, and fishermen. Think about Peter, who was a fisherman before he came and joined Yeshua. These were simple people. They didn’t have sophisticated, complicated ways of arguing themselves out of what Scripture actually said. They read what Scripture said, and they said, “Let’s do it. It’s very clear what it means. Let’s just live by it.”

And one of the things we’re told by the ancient rabbis is they actually have a technical discussion about the technical definition of what in Hebrew is usually understood to mean “ignoramus”. Say “ignoramus”.

Audience: Ignoramus.

Nehemia: And in Hebrew, the phrase for ignoramus is “am ha’aretz”. Say “am ha’aretz”.

Audience: Am ha’aretz.

Nehemia: What I explained literally, it means, “people of the land”, when it talks about the multitudes. The rabbis heard the word “multitude” and they said, “Oh, ignoramus.” And the rabbinical definition of a Jewish ignoramus is someone who has read Scripture and read it a second time but has not served under the rabbis as a student, as a disciple. These were people who came every week to the synagogue, heard the Scriptures read, and that was their main frame of reference for everything.

Now, let’s jump forward 2,000 years in the United States of America, the 21st century. What is our main cultural frame of reference for most Americans? TV. And after TV, what is it? Hollywood movies. And now it’s becoming increasingly the Internet. If you want to understand what an ancient Jew, an Israelite understood, you’ve got to look in the Tanakh. That’s their main cultural frame of reference. And especially, those Jewish am ha’aretz, those multitudes, the masses who came to hear Yeshua preach, that was their frame of reference.

So, we decided to look in the Old Testament, in the Tanakh, to see what it says there about God being a Father. And it didn’t take all but 30 seconds to find out I was wrong, and that those great scholars were wrong, who said it shook the very foundations of the Jewish world. And I was thrilled to find out I was wrong, because it meant I had found truth.

And let’s look at this one verse that blew me out of the water completely, when I saw it. And I’d read this before, and I was like, “Why didn’t this hit me before? It was right in front of me.” Here, Isaiah is speaking to the people and he’s functioning in his role as the biblical prophet. What’s the primary role of an Old Testament biblical prophet?

We think today of the prophet of somebody who tells the future, but if you look in the Tanakh, the primary function of the biblical prophets is to call on the people to repent, return to the word of God, repent. And then the second role is to tell the future. What are they telling the future about? “Here’s what happens when you don’t repent. There are going to be consequences. And then, once you do finally repent, when God slaps you so hard you say, ‘Okay, Father. Take me back, I repent,’” then they give the prophesy, the future of what they call in Hebrew, “nechama,” a word that’s actually the derivation of my name, which means the “reconciliation”, the “consolation”, the “comfort”. If you look at Isaiah, for example, 40 and on, that’s the nechama, the consolation, the comfort.

And those are the main two roles of the biblical prophet that we’re familiar with, but the primary, the most important role of the biblical prophet, is what I’m calling here the third one, but it actually appears first in the Old Testament, in the Book of Genesis chapter 14. What is that, the role of the prophet? It’s to pray, as an intercessor. The first time it appears is Genesis 14, when God says to Avimelech, who’s the Philistine king who has been stricken with this plague, He says, “Go to Abraham and ask him to pray for you, for he is a prophet.” And God listens to the prayers and the intercession of the prophet.

There’s actually a passage in Jeremiah where God says to Jeremiah, “Don’t pray for this people, because if you pray for them, I’ll have to listen to you, and they don’t deserve it.” So God commanded him not to pray for the people to intercede in that particular case. Here, in this verse in Isaiah 63 verses 15 to 16, Isaiah’s functioning in his role as the biblical prophet.

And he says there, praying to God, “Look down from heaven, for You are our Father.” He calls God “our Father”. Say “our Father”.

Audience: Our Father.

Nehemia: In Hebrew, Avinu. Say “Avinu”.

Audience: Avinu.

Nehemia: He says, “For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us.” Who are Abraham and Israel? They are the literal forefathers of the people of Israel. Israel is Jacob after he wrestled with the angel. “The literal forefathers,” he’s saying, “can’t help us. They’re dead right now. The only one who can help us, the only one who can redeem, You, O Lord, are our Father, our redeemer. You’re the only one who can save us in this situation. We need You.” Isaiah was interceding here, asking for God’s redemption. “Abraham and Israel couldn’t do anything for us right now.”

Now here, he’s turning to God as our Father and he’s saying, “Look down from heaven,” just like what Yeshua taught, 2,000 years ago, when he preached to the Jewish multitudes. Now, this is a very solid biblical message. Yes.

Now, when I was looking at this, I’m like, “I’ve read this verse, I don’t know how many times.” Isaiah is one of my favorite books. But did it ever happen that you read a passage, and you read it over, and over, and over, and somehow, it doesn’t hit you what it means? It’s like it’s right in front of you, and how do you not see it?

And when we started to look for this, we realized, “This is everywhere.” It started popping up everywhere, all over the Bible. And one of my favorite passages was Jeremiah 3:19, because there, God is speaking to Israel, and He says to Israel, He says, “I said you shall call Me ‘My Father,’ and not turn away from Me.” Following God, living according to God’s word, is part and parcel intertwined with the idea of calling Him “Father”. And I said to myself, “How did I not see this?” He literally says, “call Me ‘My Father.’” In the second place, He also says that.

Now, when I was studying this with Keith, he asked a great question. Keith asks good questions. And as a Jew, I often answer those questions with other questions. But in this particular case, he asked a question. He said, “Nehemia, okay, God’s speaking to you as Israel.” And one of the things I love about Keith is a lot of Christians who are exploring and rediscovering the Hebrew roots of Christianity, what they’ll do is, they’ll shake the family tree until a Jew falls out. [laughter]

Have you met people like that? “Yes, 30 generations ago, my father was a Jew somewhere.” Now, what Keith has done is, he shook the family tree and nothing fell out, and to the best of his knowledge, he’s not Jewish. Maybe he is, I don’t know. He says to me, “Okay, as a Gentile, how can I approach God from an Old Testament perspective? Can I call him ‘Father’? And if not, then maybe that’s something new that Yeshua was teaching that did shake the foundations of the Jewish world.” When they heard Yeshua stand up there and say, “Everyone, pray to God as our Father,” maybe they said, “Oh, no. That’s only for the Jews.” Is that possible? I suppose it is.

Well, we didn’t want opinion, I don’t like opinions. I want to see Scriptural fact. That’s been my approach with everything. We said, “Let’s leave our opinions out of it, and look in the Tanakh, in the Old Testament, and see what it says about that.” And we came across this verse and others like it, Malachi chapter 2 verse 10. It says, “Have we not all one Father?” Say “Father”.

Audience: Father.

Nehemia: “Did not one God create us?” Here, he’s telling us that all mankind, all of His creations, every human being, that He is the Father of us all. We are all His children. Now, this is not an opinion, it’s a Scriptural fact. So when Yeshua taught the Jews to pray as Father, this wasn’t a scandal that shook the foundations of the Jewish world. They heard this and they said, “He is our Father. We know this. This is a message we hear every week in the synagogue. We need to return to this message and repent.” One of the places we found God honored as Father was in Jewish names. For example, the name Aviezer, means “my Father helps”. Many ancient Hebrew names are short sentences. My name, Nehemia, means “Ya comforts”. Ya is the poetic name of our Father. “Aviezer”, “my Father helps”, “Avinadav”, “my Father gives freely”, “Avihud”, “my Father is glory”, “Avituv”, “my Father is good”, “Avishalom”, “my Father is peace”, “Avigail”, “my Father is joy”, We could go on, and on, and on. “Avishua”, “my Father saves”.

The Jews who came to hear Yeshua preach in the very names that they bore, they testified to God as our Father. And so when Yeshua taught that message, no one was shocked. No one tore their clothes and said “blasphemy!” They said, “God is our Father. We must return to Him.”

Now, when I realized this, it blew me away. I’m like, “This is amazing.” This is a prayer… think about this. This is what’s commonly in Christianity called The Lord’s Prayer, what’s called in Hebrew, the Avinu prayer. Say “Avinu”.

Audience: Avinu.

Nehemia: Avinu is the Hebrew word that means “our Father”. In Hebrew, you name things after the opening words. The Avinu prayer, the “our Father prayer”, is a prayer that any Christian, obviously, can pray. But if you think about it, any Jew can pray this prayer. When Yeshua taught that, nobody said, “Oh, no. We can’t pray this. This is a Christian prayer.” It made perfect sense to them.

I fully realized this almost two years ago, when I was doing a little teaching over in Seattle. My sister was in the audience, and like me, she was raised as an Orthodox Jew. But unlike me, she hasn’t studied Christianity, couldn’t tell you what the names of the four Gospels are, or the 12 Disciples. She’s a very educated woman, a professor at the University of Washington, but doesn’t know anything about Christianity. And I thought it would be interesting to put her on the spot and say, “Sharona, can you recite for us the Lord’s Prayer?” And I asked her to stand up in the middle of the presentation, and she’s able to do it. She says, “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” And I thought, “Wow, I’ve proven my point, I can now go on.” And then, she did something she did throughout my whole childhood, she interrupted me. And she said, “Nehemia, I know another prayer.” And I thought, “Okay, I called on you. I asked you to stand up. What’s this other prayer?” And she begins to recite, “Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed art Thou amongst women, blessed is the fruit of Thy womb.” [laughter] And she said she knew this from this scene in the movie, The Godfather, where Frankie is on the boat on Lake Tahoe, and he’s saying these Hail Marys. She’s a big fan of The Godfather series, from number two, I believe. And that’s where she knew that prayer from.

But it made me realize, there are two prayers that the average American with their cultural frame of reference - movies - they know these two prayers. But think how different those two prayers are. The one prayer any Jew could pray. The other, and I’m not putting down Catholics. Many Catholics may find this profound in their faith, that’s between them and God. As a textual scholar, I don’t feel that’s my faith. Maybe Keith will come up and do that, I don’t know. [laughing] I threw him under the bus. But as a Jew, I want to present people with the facts, and they need to work it out for themselves, in fear and trembling, with prayer and study.

But I, as a Jew, could never have anything to do with the Hail Mary prayer, it’s praying to Mary. And I don’t know about you guys, I couldn’t have anything to do with that. But a prayer to our Father, if you think about it, is a perfectly good Jewish prayer. And I’m going to say something controversial. Not only could a Jew pray this prayer, I believe a Muslim could pray this prayer, and a Buddhist, and a Hindu could pray this prayer. And any human being in our humanity could turn to God as our Father in Heaven and pray to Him, and praise His name, and bless His kingdom. I mean, what a powerful message this is. And at the end of this I realized, this isn’t just Keith’s prayer, just a prayer to his Father. This is a prayer to my God as Father, to our Father. And that’s why we decided to call the book, A Prayer to Our Father. It was really the culmination of the process. In the beginning, it wasn’t called… Can I tell them what the book was originally called?

Audience: Yeah.

Nehemia: Okay, I won’t tell them. [laughter] So generally, when I say, “Can I tell them?” I do it anyway, as Keith knows very well. But originally, it was called… I don’t remember the exact name, but something like, Yeshua’s Prayer, or something like that, or The Hebrew Prayer of Jesus, something like that, because it wasn’t my prayer. That was Jesus’ prayer, nothing to do with me. And I realized, this is a Jewish prayer. This is a prayer that has swept the world, that people know more of this prayer than probably any prayer in the world, if you think about it. If you ask people, it’s been translated into every language, it’s universally known.

I want to look quickly at another part of the prayer. This is the part of the prayer where in the English it says, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” And that’s how it reads in Matthew. But in Luke, this is a famous contradiction between Matthew and Luke in the Greek. Instead of “debts” it says, “sins, forgive us our sins.” And which one is it? Maybe you’d say, “Well, it’s not important. It’s the same sort of thing.” But I don’t know, if you guys believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, then I would think every word he said is important, and it should make a difference. You know, what did he say, “Forgive us our debts” or “Forgive us our sins?” And some people, somewhere next Sunday is going to be sitting in a pew, maybe even tomorrow, and he’s going to be looking at this and saying, “Wait a minute. These guys can’t even get their story straight.”

Now, it turns out that both debts and sins are two different translations of the same Hebrew word, and that Hebrew word is the Hebrew word, “mekhol”. Say “mekhol”.

Audience: Mekhol.

Nehemia: Mekhol is a word that literally means, “to cancel a debt”. And the image of mekhol is when you take out a loan from a bank or from a moneylender, you write out a certificate of debt that proves that you owe the money. And when the debt is completely paid off, you take water and you pour it on the debt and you erase it. Now, why water? Because they didn’t have those erasers for the #2 pencil. The way to erase in ancient times is, you would blot something out. You’d take water that dissolves the ink. And so they would erase the debt, that’s what mekhol means. It comes from the Hebrew word, “makha”. “to erase”. That’s canceling a debt by erasing the certificate of debt.

Now, by extension in Hebrew, the same word that means “to cancel a debt”, this technical monetary term, also means “to forgive”. The problem is that in Greek, the two words have nothing to do with each other. The concept of canceling a debt and forgiving are two completely different concepts.

Now, imagine if you’re a Greek speaker in Athens, or Ephesus, and this Jewish Apostle comes to you from across the sea, from the backwater of the Roman Empire, from Judea. Really, it was a backwater back then. It’s like coming from some little town in the middle of Texas somewhere, you know, Tyler, or someplace like that, right? Is that even on the map? I don’t know, is anybody here from Tyler? Is that not in the middle of nowhere, am I wrong about that? That’s what it’s like for someone to come to you from Judea, and they’d say, “Our Messiah has appeared to us, and He taught us how to pray. And in this prayer, He taught us to pray to our Father in Heaven and ask Him to forgive us our debts.”

Now, you as a Greek speaker hear this, and you’re not Jewish, you’re a Greek pagan. You hear this message, and you’re completely confused. “Forgive us our debts?” You say, “Why does He teach us to forgive us our debts? Why are these Jews always talking about money?” Again, I’m allowed to make that joke, and you have permission to laugh. Okay, you too.

But really, it would confuse you. It wouldn’t make any sense. It would be like today if you said, “O Lord, forgive me my mortgage,” which I know many people in this economy want to pray, but if you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense. I don’t owe God a mortgage. I haven’t taken out a mortgage on my soul. Why would I ask in Greek, “God, forgive me my debts?” I don’t owe Him money. I’ve done other sins, violated His covenant in other ways.

And that was the problem that Matthew and Luke faced. When Matthew decided to translate it into the Greek literally, or whoever translated it from the Hebrew, he translated “mekhol” as “forgive us our debts”. And in a way, he honored the Hebrew, but did a disservice to the Greek speaker.

Luke, on the other hand, said, “I can’t translate this as ‘forgive us our debts’, no one will know what I was talking about. It literally would be like saying, ‘forgive us our mortgage’.” And so he translated it based on the Greek idiom, “Forgive us our sins.” And so it’s not that Matthew and Luke contradict each other. It’s that in the Greek, they’re two different translation solutions to the same Hebrew problem. And that’s one of the problems in any translation, even translating modern documents. There’s an old saying, “The translator is a traitor.” And what that means is, you could either translate literally and take the flavor of the original but do a disservice to the target language, or translate based on the target language, but then lose some of the beauty of the original.

And that’s the problem you have when you read any translation. A lot of people ask me, “What translation do you read?” And I say, “In the Tanakh I read it in the original Hebrew.” And the reason I do that is, every translation is someone’s interpretation. No translation is perfect.

All right, okay. I’m going to jump through, we’re running out of time, yes. Okay, let’s go through this. Here, I’ve got to talk about this, really quickly. All right.

One of the things I’ve seen, traveling around and speaking in churches, and Messianic congregations, and Keith and I have even spoken in Jewish synagogues. I don’t mean Messianic synagogues, I mean, no offense - real Jewish synagogues. And we’ve been traveling all over, and we actually were at something called the Jewish Book Council. It’s like speed-dating for Jewish authors, or authors on Jewish subjects. We had two minutes to present our topic, and I said, “Two minutes. That means, I only have 60 seconds, and it takes me usually, 45 minutes to tell my name. What are we talking about?” And it was a challenge. Well, we eventually got invited to speak at these Jewish community centers and synagogues all over the United States. And one of the things I’ve seen, particularly in the churches and the Messianic congregations though, is what I call “the spirit of Marcionism”. Does anybody know who Marcion was? He was what’s known today as an early Christian heretic. The Catholic Church called him a heretic. That, in itself, doesn’t impress me. [laughter]

But the thing that he taught was that the God of the Old Testament was distinct from the God of the New Testament. He said, “The God of the Old Testament was a God of vengeance, whereas the God of the New Testament is a God of forgiveness.” He said, “The God of the Old Testament was a God of hate, and the God of the New Testament was the God of love.” And in his Bible, there was no Old Testament. There was only a New Testament, and he only had 10 books in his New Testament. And I’m not saying anybody is saying exactly that, but I hear that a lot of times, like, “Oh, you as a Jew, there’s no forgiveness in your Bible. And your God is very vengeful.” “Really? I think my God and your God are the same God. And He doesn’t change, according to the Book of Malachi, in your Bible as well. Remember, that wasn’t in Marcion’s Bible, but it is in your Bible.”

And one of the things I find, you know, when Yeshua taught this message, “forgive us our debt as we forgive our debtors,” or literally in Hebrew, you could translate it as, “forgive us the debt of our sins as we forgive the debt of those who sin against us.” And this is a message of forgiveness. It’s a powerful message of reconciliation and forgiveness. And the question is, is that really a message that has a basis? Like, when the Jews heard that on the hillside when Yeshua was preaching this, was that a scandal? And if you look in the Tanakh - again, the main cultural reference for these ancient Jews - then you see that God, very clearly, is about forgiveness.

There’s a verse in Exodus 34 verses 6 to 7. I argue this is one of the most important passages in the entire Bible. And the reason it’s one of the most important passages is here, Moses, in Exodus 34 says to God, “Show me what You’re like. Reveal Yourself to me.” And God starts off by proclaiming His Name. He says, “Yehovah, Yehovah.” He proclaims His name twice, and then He says, “A God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger.” So, what does He do when he reveals Himself? He says, “You can’t see My physical form, My face, but this is what I’m like.” He says, “Yehovah, Yehovah, a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger. Abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.” This is one of God’s core characteristics in the Hebrew Bible. He’s not a God of vengeance that doesn’t forgive. If there’s repentance, He will forgive.

And what really blew me away when we were researching this is this verse, Psalm 99 verse 8, where God is called “El nose.” Say “El nose”.

Audience: El nose.

Nehemia: El nose is translated in Psalm 99:8 as a “forgiving God”, but the literal meaning here is so powerful. Remember, if you translate literally, you do a disservice to the target language. You translate here based on the idiom, then you lose the flavor of the original Hebrew. The Hebrew word “nose” comes from the word “masah” which is a burden being carried on the shoulders. And “El nose” means, “He is a God who carries the burden of sin on His shoulders.” This is in the Old Testament, and they translate it correctly when they say, “a forgiving God”. But for Him to forgive means He’s got to carry that burden of sin on His shoulders. That’s a powerful message in the Tanakh, in the Old Testament.

This is a picture of my dog, Georgia. Say “Georgia”.

Audience: Georgia.

Nehemia: I can’t hear you. You’re not going to work with me? Georgia.

Audience: Georgia.

Nehemia: Okay. And Georgia here is looking up to me after she probably did something, she got into the food, or the garbage, or something that she wasn’t supposed to do. And she’s saying, “I’m so cute and pretty. Please forgive me,” looking to me as her father. And one of the things I’ve found is that our Heavenly Father, when we look up to Him like that and we say, “I’m so cute and pretty.” Maybe not the pretty part. “Please Lord, forgive me.” And He does, He forgives us. He sees a face like this, Georgia. Say “Georgia”.

Audience: Georgia.

Nehemia: And He says, “How can I not forgive this face?” And I want to end with… Do I have a little bit more time? I want to end by sharing a testimony. And I know everyone’s looking forward to hearing exactly what happened in Smithfield. That will be tomorrow. I’m going to share a different testimony that gives you the background of what happened in Smithfield. And this is a testimony that I think maybe I’ve once publicly shared this. It’s difficult for me to share. Maybe I won’t do it.

Audience: No. Share it.

Nehemia: Well, so this book came out two years ago, A Prayer to Our Father. And about three years ago, I met this woman and I fell madly in love with her. And I’d actually been married before, and went through a painful divorce, and was divorced for a number of years. And I think, “I’m done with love. I don’t want to get married again. I don’t want to have anything to do with this.” It was too hurtful the first time. And I meet this woman, and I’m madly in love with her. And Keith would be calling me up. He’s like, “Where is he? He’s with her. What’s going on?” [laughing]

And after about a year - this was less than a week before I was about to go on a two-month speaking tour in the US, leaving Israel to the US for two months. A few days before I’m about to leave, she breaks some news to me that broke my heart. There was an issue of betrayal, I won’t go into what that was. But it really broke my heart, and I end up traveling around the US for two months. And I’m speaking at places and standing up in front of all kinds of congregations, and churches. And when you get up to do this, you’ve got to be excited about it. Am I excited?

Audience: Yes!

Nehemia: You’ve got to be excited about it, otherwise, people fall asleep. And you can’t fake that. That’s one of the things I learned from Michael, you can’t fake it. If you’re not genuine about it, people immediately pick up on that. And so I’d be traveling around, and my heart is broken. And I’d be sitting in my hotel room five minutes before I’m about to go on, in tears. And I say, “Okay, you’ve got to put that aside. You have a job to do. This is what God has called you to do, go up and do it, and suppress your real feelings, and go up, and it has to be genuine.” So, that’s a very difficult thing to do, to muster that courage and that strength. But somehow, God gave me that ability to do that.

But I’d go back to the hotel room, five minutes later I was in tears again. This went on for two months. I was a wreck. I was in this deep depression, and I remember traveling, driving through Colorado, through the mountains of Colorado, and these forests all over. And objectively, it’s the most beautiful thing - outside of Israel - that I’ve ever seen. [laughter] I’m biased about Israel, but it’s physically the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And all I feel is numb. I can’t enjoy it, because I’m just so sad. What I felt was the love of my life had betrayed me. I realized that what I needed was to do what Elijah did.

Elijah’s one of my favorite characters in the Tanakh. Elijah did something. He stood up on Mount Carmel and he was called out, and he faced the 400 prophets of Baal. And they were all saying, “We’re going to prove our power, and prove our might. Our god is stronger than you.” We all know what happened in the end. The prophets of Baal are defeated. And you would think that Elijah would be brought into the streets of Jezreel - the capital city of Israel at the time - in a wonderful procession as the great victor. But instead, he was hunted down like a dog. Jezebel, who was the queen, Izebel in Hebrew, she wanted to kill him, because he killed her prophets. She actually wasn’t an Israelite, she was a Sidonian princess, who was brought over by King Ahab. He married her, and she was zealous for the gods of the Canaanites, and she wanted to stamp out the worship of the true God in Israel.

Now, there had been idolatry going back to the time of Joshua. Let’s not lie and say, “Oh, the Israelites were so righteous.” If you read the Bible, there was idolatry the whole time, but it was idolatry - we’ll talk more about this tomorrow - it was idolatry mixed with truth. There was still a little bit of truth there. Jezebel said, “No more truth. We’re going to completely sweep this away. We’re going to annihilate this.” And Elijah had to flee for his life from Jezebel.

Now, I didn’t have half the problems of Elijah or half the faith, but I felt I was fleeing from a spirit of Jezebel. And when I got back to Israel, I called up a friend and I said, “We need to go to Mount Sinai.”

Now, some of you may or may not know that there’s this famous place in Egypt, which is the Sinai Peninsula, and there’s a place called St. Catherine’s or Mount Moses. That’s where most tourists go to as Mount Sinai. Where I wanted to go was this place in Saudi Arabia. Now, being an Israeli citizen, that’s kind of a bad idea. I’m kind of particular about my neck and my head, and I would prefer them not to be separated from my body. [laughter] And so I decided that I wasn’t going to go to Saudi Arabia. Instead, I went to a place called Nuweiba. Say “Nuweiba”.

Audience: Nuweiba.

Nehemia: Nuweiba is on the shore of the Red Sea, and it’s apparently, as far as I can tell, the place where the Israelites crossed over from bondage into freedom. And here is actually a picture of Nuweiba from sitting on the beach, and I actually sat on this beach for days with a friend of mine named Adam, from California. Hi, Adam. We were sitting there for days on the beach, and I’m thinking, “Okay, this is somehow going to heal me.” And I can look across and over here, I know somewhere in those mountains, I don’t know exactly where, is the real Mount Sinai. And if only I could get there somehow, my heart could be healed. But I know God can heal me anywhere. And I’m sitting there, day in, and day out, and it’s so beautiful, i hear the water lapping up... I’m sitting here on this Bedouin couch, and the water’s lapping up here. That’s how amazing this place was. It’s beautiful. Sunsets you wouldn’t imagine.

And nothing’s happening. I still feel empty and dead. Finally, I say, “Okay, we can’t go to the real Mount Sinai. Let’s go to the fake one, [laughing] because God can heal me anywhere.” And so we actually, through a series of adventures, end up going to what’s called Mount Moses next to St. Catherine’s Monastery. We climb to the top, and it takes us three hours. And we do this in the middle of the night, because it’s too hot to do during the day. We get to the top and I’m sitting off to the side, and I’m praying to God and I’m saying, “Please take away this pain from me.” I don’t think I’ve ever prayed so hard in my life. And nothing. I’m still feeling the same pain I’ve been feeling for over two months now.

And it was if she had shoved her fist through my chest and pulled out my still beating heart, and it’s going “Du-du, du-du, du-du.” I’m dead inside, and I’m praying, I’m asking God to take away the pain, and nothing happens.

And then I go to the top of the mountain, after I’ve prayed, and it’s almost before sunrise. It’s a few minutes before sunrise, and it’s beautiful up there, but we’re jam-packed. I can barely move. What I really want to do is get over there, to the highest spot. There’s actually a mosque built there, and over here is a church. And I find myself between the Mosque and the Church. I’m in this no-man’s land, and I can’t even move, because there are so many pilgrims from all over the world who are there, and they’re singing, and they’re praying in different languages. And I’m just feeling, “God, please take this pain away from me.”

Then something happened to me, something that’s never happened to me before in my life. I felt this wave of emotion, it’s the only way I can describe it, and just started crying. I burst into tears, and it came in these waves. And I don’t know if it lasted 15 seconds or 15 minutes, it just came in waves, again and again. I was bawling in tears all over the place. And then, in my mind’s eye, I heard God say to me, “I’m going to take this pain off your shoulders and carry it for you.” And I felt His hand reach down from heaven and take away my pain.

[applause]

At that moment, it was like I completely changed. I’d been walking around and it was like there was this veil in front of my eyes for two months. And all of a sudden, it was lifted and actually, on my way up the mountain, I’d stubbed my foot in the dark and didn’t even feel it. And now, all of a sudden, my foot is aching, and I was like, “That’s the greatest pain I’ve ever felt, because I’m alive! And I feel again!”

At first, I didn’t share this with anybody, because you have to understand where I come from. I’m what’s called a “Litvak,” say “Litvak.”

Audience: Litvak.

Nehemia: I can’t hear you. Litvak.

Audience: Litvak.

Nehemia: Litvak are Jews who came from Lithuania, and if you ask the Litvaks, they’ll tell you, “We were the intellectual elite of European Jewry before the Holocaust.” No question about it, they were famous for their book learning and study, they wrote volumes and books, and there are entire libraries written by the Litvak Jews. One of the things of the Litvak Jews is, they looked down upon the am ha’aretz. Say “am ha’aretz”.

Audience: Am ha’aretz.

Nehemia: That’s the Jewish multitudes. They said, “Those Jewish multitudes, they have their dreams, and their visions, and their superstitions. We’ve got the books. We’ve got the truth. They’ve got that inspiration…” say “inspiration…”

Audience: Inspiration.

Nehemia: “…but we’ve got the information, and the information is better.” This is what my ancestors believed, and what I was raised with, and the way I lived most of my life. And when this happened, I said, “Wait a minute. That’s not supposed to happen to me. That’s what happens to the am ha’aretz. That’s what happens to the multitudes, the superstitious masses.”

But this was real. I couldn’t push this away. I felt again, after being in so much pain for so long. It was real, so there was no way I could ignore it. And I had to find a way to process this information. I said, “This doesn’t make sense. There’s a certain box that I’ve always had God in,” and I’m thinking, “God, what are You doing? Get back in Your box! You’ve gotten out of the box, and You’re doing these things and You’re giving me this inspiration. That’s not supposed to happen.”

And boy, we’re going to have a great time tomorrow, I get to share the rest of this story. But Keith hears about this story, and one of the things I love about Keith is, Keith hears Nehemia had this experience and he said, “I need to have the same experience. I need to go to the Mount Moses, just like Nehemia did.” Now, when does he decide to do this? He decides to do this, I believe it was just after the riots began to overthrow Mubarak, if you remember that, earlier this year. Keith says, “I’ve got to have the Nehemia experience. Tell me what I need to do.” And I said, “Well, you take this bus and you wait there for four hours until the Bedouin comes and picks you up. Good luck with that, Keith. I wish you success.”

Well, Keith arrives in Israel, this is back in February, and I decide, “I’m going to go with him.” And we go down to Eilat, cross over the border in Israel. We arrive in Nuweiba at this place, we’re sitting on the shore of the Red Sea, and then finally we get over to Mount Moses. We climb to the top and I’m thinking, “Okay, one time that happened, it was a fluke. God, I forgive You. You’ve repented by not doing this again. I forgive You for that spiritual experience, that mystical experience You gave me. Just don’t do it again.” I get up there and guess what God did?

Audience: He did it again.

Nehemia: He did it again! [applause] And this was more unexpected for me than the first time, because the first time it just completely caught me off guard. The second time, I knew this wasn’t going to happen, because the first time He tricked me. I wasn’t ready for it, now I’m ready. There’s no way this is going to happen. And I get to the top there, and I just started crying. And then, in my mind’s eye, I feel His arm on my shoulder, His hand on my shoulder, and Him say, “I still love you, My son.” And I say to Him, “Toda, Abba,” “Thank You, Father.”

I want to ask all of you to stand up and say a prayer with me, to my Abba, to my Father. Repeat after me. This is the prayer that Yeshua taught the Jewish multitudes 2,000 years ago, as preserved in this Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew. He taught them to pray to our Father. “Avinu.” Repeat after me, “Avinu.

Audience: Avinu.

Nehemia: Shebashamayim

Audience: Shebashamayim.

Nehemia: Which means “our Father in Heaven.” Yitkadesh.

Audience: Yitkadesh.

Nehemia: Shimkha.

Audience: Shimkha.

Nehemia: May Your Name be sanctified, “vayitbarekh.”

Audience: Vayitbarekh.

Nehemia: Malkhutkha.

Audience: Malkhutkha.

Nehemia: And may Your kingdom be blessed. “Retzonkha yihiyeh asui bashamayaim u’va’aretz.” “Your will shall be done in heaven and on earth.” “Retzonkha.

Audience: Retzonkha.

Nehemia: Yihiyeh.

Audience: Yihiyeh.

Nehemia: Asui

Audience: Asui.

Nehemia: Bashamayim.

Audience: Bashamayim.

Nehemia: U’va’aretz.

Audience: U’va’aretz.

Nehemia: Vetiten.

Audience: Vetiten.

Nehemia: Lakhmeinu.

Audience: Lakhmeinu.

Nehemia: Temidit.

Audience: Temidit.

Nehemia: And give us our bread continually, daily, U’mekhol.

Audience: U’mekhol.

Nehemia: Lanu.

Audience: Lanu.

Nehemia: Khatoteinu.

Audience: Khatoteinu.

Nehemia: Ka’asher.

Audience: Ka’asher.

Nehemia: Anakhnu.

Audience: Anakhnu.

Nehemia: Mokhalim.

Audience: Mokhalim.

Nehemia: Lakhotim.

Audience: Lakhotim.

Nehemia: Lanu.

Audience: Lanu.

Nehemia: Which means, “And forgive us the debt of our sins as we forgive the debt of those who sin against us.” Ve’al.

Audience: Ve’al.

Nehemia: Tiviyenu.

Audience: Tiviyenu.

Nehemia: Lidei.

Audience: Lidei.

Nehemia: Nisayon.

Audience: Nisayon.

Nehemia: And bring us not into the hands of a test. Veshomreinu.

Audience: Veshomreinu.

Nehemia: Mikol.

Audience: Mikol.

Nehemia: Rah.

Audience: Rah.

Nehemia: And protect us from all evil, and let us all say, “amen”.

Audience: Amen.

Nehemia: Okay, please sit down. Before I hand it off and end, I want to share with you, that was the information. Now, I want to share with you some inspiration, which is, when Keith and I were traveling in South Africa, we were approached by this man who said he’d taken these words that we provided in the information in the book, A Prayer to Our Father, and put them to music. And we were so moved by this, we said, “Okay, where do we buy the CD?” He said, “I don’t have a CD. I just composed the music and played it. I never intended to play it again.” I said, “You must share this with the people!” And I’m going to now play for you the music video that he created, with our help, of this prayer, sung in Hebrew.

[Man Singing]

Avinu Shebashamayin, yitkadesh shimkha, veyitbarekh malkhutkha. Retzonkha yihiyeh asui bashamayaim u’va’aretz. Vetiten lakhmeinu temidit, u’mekhol lanu khatoteinu ka’asher anakhnu mokhalim lakhotim lanu. Ve’al teviyenu lidei nisayon veshomreinu mikol rah. Amen, amen, amen, amen. amen, amen, amen.”

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Nehemia Gordon's Teachings on the Name of God

  • Sean Lewis says:

    Of course, yeah, I’d love to hear a Hebrew Gospel Pearls series.

  • John Flaherty says:

    Dear Nehemia, I find the Hebrew Matthew fascinating. I have been reading that it is regarded by many as a lost book and only fragments remain. My curiosity begs me to ask the obvious question first: How much of it do we actually have of it?

  • Jason Livingston says:

    Do you plan on doing a full translation of the Hebrew Matthew or only translate the important bits that better clarify how the original may have actually been written?

  • mussa says:

    Dear Nehemia

    I am researching on The day of the LORD which focus on the book of revelation i have seen the 2 chapter translation is their a full translation i would read ?

    Thanks

  • Dirk de Klerk says:

    I find your work very informative and clear.

  • Stephanie Shiflet says:

    I am so very excited to have in hand A Prayer To Our Father! I am still reading it but it is certainly a MUST Read. I am in the process of learning the Hebrew Mathew version in Hebrew. Your Wall has a teaching; word by word by Kieth Johnson! For years I have said the KJ version. Now I can learn to say it from the Hebrew Mathew in Hebrew!

    Bless you Nehemia, what a mighty worker of YeHoVah you are to His Kingdom!

  • Charles Atkinson says:

    You mentioned on A Rood Awakening 4-20-18 that when you found this Hebrew Matthew manuscript in the early 2000’s that you also found Mark, Luke, and John.

    Why did you wait until now to mention these?
    Money to purchase a photo copy so they couldn’t be swept into hiding? No interest in them until now? Someone else told you to wait?

    Thanks
    Charles

  • Rich Stuart says:

    I am excited about your work. I got “A Prayer to Our Father” for Christmas and was blessed by your and Keith’s chapters. Now I am studying John’s words about repentance in George Howard’s Hebrew Matthew, and am stumped by the second word in Mt. 3:2. Can you tell me whether it is a misprint and what you think the Hebrew word there is supposed to be?

  • Forest and Andrea Acker says:

    Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!!! Nehemia your ministry is so beautiful!!! In this, the ‘acharit ha yamim’ Yehovah is truly gathering in the exiles!!! I love the hebrew version of the Our Father prayer!!!! So powerful!!!!!

  • ScottinTexas says:

    Nehemia,

    What is your opinion about the likelihood that the books and letters comprising the New Testament were written in Hebrew (completely, partially, or not at all) vs. Greek? What evidence can you point to in support? Purportedly, even the book of Hebrews references are to the LXX. Do you agree?

  • Seth Moore says:

    Shalom Nehemia,

    I just heard on Torah Pearls #42 that you are working on an authoritative translation of the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew in English. I am very excited to get my hands on this and wondered if you had a deadline for when this would be released.

    Blessings,
    Seth

  • nebiyu says:

    What did it say the genealogy of Yeshua, Is Joseph the father of Marry?

  • Truth Seeker says:

    Keith could be a Israelite, a Hebrew. We know Ethopians are and others from Africa. And more evidence is being shown that you are most likely not a Hebrew but an adopted European into the Jewish faith. A lot has been hidden including this book and other books in Hebrew. I love you brother and I know your growing in knowledge. 🙂 Keep growing. Praise Yah.

  • Bruce Smith says:

    Hello Nehemiah ;
    I was a student of Dr. Howard in the early 80s. Since I had been raised an Jehovah’s Witness and I was in school to be a Methodist minister, Dr. Howard took a special interest in sharing his work in progress on Shem Tov’s Matthew. I appreciate what you have said about Dr. Howard, I have many fond memories of him. Thank you for your work.
    Regards,
    Bruce Smith

  • sias fourie says:

    Hi Nehemia, I also downloaded the 1st part, does it have a 2nd part as you have written, and if it is true, where did you find it, or could you possibly sned me the link please?
    I just love the work that you do, and please forgive me for saying this, but I believe that you have come to know Yeshua quite well and I just think that I havent seen many people resist Him, He is just so awesome and I have come to love Him so much, that I just think that you Love Him too!!!!

    By the way, I am a South African and I can speak and write English and Afrikaans and I can also speak Zulu and Xhosa, as I was born in one of the so called Homelands, the Transkei. I have found that the Dutch and Flemish language is very close to Afrikaans and I understand it very well and apart from understanding it when I am spoken to in a slow manner and I can read it also!!! I am not saying it for any other reason than to inform.

    May Yehowa Bless you and may you experience His Peace!!!!
    Sias Fourie.

  • Hanna Jacobson says:

    Greetings Nehemia!

    In the HGM, Chapter 4:9-
    and said to him: All these things I will give to you if you bare your head to me.

    Will you please expound the Hebrew idiom “bare your head”?

    Thank you for this and all of your teachings.

  • Michael says:

    Hey Nehemiah, I understand the concept of a paragogic nun but if שקר means lie and שקרון liar, wouldn’t נסיון mean tester? As in, “Don’t bring us into the hands of a Tester”?

    Thank and I really admire your work.

    Mike

  • Margaret Pretorius says:

    A minor correction, Nehemia. Rich South Africans did not speak only one language. They had to be fluent in speaking, writing and reading both English and Afrikaans, to be able to pass High School. They often also spoke a smattering of other languages too, such as Fanagalo – a pidgin language that came about due to the tribal mix of the work force on the mines.

    • During my visit to South Africa, I encountered people both old and young who only spoke Afrikaans. I don’t know how common this is, but I was surprised to encounter it.

  • Brian V says:

    Three things.

    1. Forgive me for bad assumptions about you.

    2. Thank you for explaining things, because what I believe from for example the apostle Paul, all scripture is (reffering to the Torah/prophets) inspired by God and good for proof, teaching and it may/cannot contradict itself.

    3.Why dont you believe Yeshua is the Messiah?
    And if you did study tanach and the NT you must have read the apostle Pauls letters; (and I believe God our Father keeps his promise,) I can think of reasons why you dont believe, but know you are beloved by Abba for the sake of the fathers.

    I prayed for you.

  • Mimi E says:

    Shalom Nehemia, thank you. We all have one Father, how beautiful is that. Thank you for sharing such a personal account and intense experience in your life.

  • Neville says:

    Greetings, Nehemia,

    I would like to know if you have a suggested version of the Hebrew Matthew (ideally with interlinear English translation), for those who like to read it? Or, I should ask, do you have one that you would recommend other than Howard’s book?

  • Ed Dipple says:

    YES , thank God for the friend that sent this link to me

  • Nehemia Gordon relates how he (a Karaite Jew and technical scholar) and Keith Johnson (an African American and Methodist pastor) together studied a non-translated Hebrew Gospel of Matthew. Gordon explains the flaws inherit in the best translations and explores the rich meaning in the word puns only present in the Hebrew text. Gordon focuses on passages from the Lord’s Prayer and his discovery that the concept of God as Father is present in the Tanach. He concludes with a moving account of a personal revelation of God’s fatherly love and his willingness to carry the sin debt for us.

    Keywords: “Hebrew Matthew”, “Lord’s Prayer,” “Our Father”, “Father in Tenach”, “Father in Judaism”, “Karaite”

  • John Froust says:

    I downloaded the Hebrew Matthew by George Howard. Thank you for your information on this book.

  • John Froust says:

    Great information on the origins of the Book of Matthew!!! Very inspirational!

  • steve nixon says:

    good teaching and justification for the accepting of the authority of the Hebrew Matthew.

  • Laurie Jo says:

    Inspirational! Two thumbs up. Vav! that’s wow in English.