Hebrew Gospel Pearls #16 – Meek with a Sword

In Hebrew Gospel Pearls #16, Meek with a Sword, Nehemia and Keith challenge one of the greatest thinkers of our time, show how the Greek and Hebrew explanation of "meek" differ from Christian tradition, and consider whether the New Testament "dejudaizes" Jesus.

I look forward to reading your comments in the Comments Section below!

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Hebrew Gospel Pearls #16 - Meek with a Sword

You are listening to Hebrew Gospel Pearls with Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Keith: You found someone that was talking about what it means to be meek. And I have to tell you, we decided to do a big thing. We decided to bring you into our study and show you what it was that Nehemia found.

Nehemia: Shalom, and welcome to Hebrew Gospel Pearls, Episode 16. We are going to talk today about “blessed are the meek”, but we need to talk about where we are here first, Keith. We’ve taken it up a notch. We’ve gone into a full-blown professional studio, and I’m very excited to be able to bring the program, rather than me sitting behind my computer and you behind yours, and we create this thing in post-production, where I go like this, and my hand turns into a ghost. I can actually touch him.

Keith: Let me say something. We are in what I consider… It’s in my hometown. We’re in Charlotte, North Carolina…

Nehemia: Charlotte, North Carolina.

Keith: …at the best production studio in all of Charlotte, the Production Group. I want to say that, because I’m sitting here and I’m looking at these professionals, and these cameras and all this stuff. And I’m like, “Nehemia, we actually get to bring people into this place where we have everything together like the old days, when we used to be at the table.” Do you remember when we were at the table?

Nehemia: I remember. We were at your living-room table and we literally had piles of books.

Keith: Piles of books.

Nehemia: And the incredible thing is, you still have your piles.

Keith: I still have my piles.

Nehemia: My piles are now included in my laptop and various pieces of software that cumulatively cost over $10,000.

Keith: I guarantee you folks, all of my books and things like that, compared to the cost of that, literally, Nehemia… So, we’re going to try to do this like we do it when we’re doing our personal study, and that’s what we’re excited about, for Hebrew Gospel Pearls, what I’m calling… Nehemia, it used to be called the Biblical Beatitudes Series. Now, I’m calling it the Buffet of Biblical Beatitudes Series, because we have so much.

And I’m telling you folks, listen. Stop everything right now. This guy here, if you notice, I’ve got the nice jacket, I’m in here in the studio. I’m kind of like the guy who’s going to ask the questions, and we’re going to unleash him, because what he has found in the last few weeks during the delay – I’m going to call it a delay, we called it a necessary time for research, and all of that sort of thing – it really is game-changing. And so we’re going to get started, Nehemia. Let’s get right into this.

Nehemia: So the verse we want to talk about today is, we’ve been doing what I call the Biblical Beatitudes, the Buffet here. And now, we’re in verse 5. We’ve finally made it to verse 5…

Keith: Stop the presses.

Nehemia: …which should be really easy. There shouldn’t be a lot to talk about.

Keith: No, no. Stop the presses. Two things.

Nehemia: What?

Keith: First of all, I’m looking at Howard.

Nehemia: Okay.

Keith: He’s got parentheses, Nehemia. Why does he have parentheses in Howard? What’s going on there?

Nehemia: So first let’s read the verse.

Keith: Okay.

Nehemia: So this is the New Revised Standard Version, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Really simple, really straightforward. And I remember, you know, I was on the phone talking to you, thinking, “What could we possibly talk about…?”

Keith: What could we possibly talk about?

Nehemia: “Blessed are the meek,” it’s pretty straightforward. And as we delved into it, I realized, “Oh, what was obvious to me isn’t obvious to everybody else.” And then, even things that were obvious to me were sometimes wrong, when you really get into it.

Keith: Let me tell you, the real game-changer, folks. The real game-changer is, I went to an Evangelical Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and when we were taught this verse, they told us very simply, “To be meek means power under control.” I said, “Okay, that’s what it means.” They told us, based on Greek. We took Greek classes, we did a little Latin, and all that sort of thing.

And then, I started doing something really radical. I started going to all of the preachers that preached about this verse, because there’s a whole lot of preachers who preach about this verse. And they all, to a person, said the same thing. But you’ve found someone that was talking about what it means to be meek, and I have to tell you, we decided to do a big thing. We decided to bring you into our study and show you what it was that Nehemia found that, in my opinion, sets the table for why we have to go into what the word means.

Nehemia: Now, before we get to that, you started with the question - why does Howard have it in parentheses? That’s pretty simple, although it’s not clear entirely from his book. You have to kind of read between the lines. So the reason he has it in parentheses is his base text, the text he’s using, is the British Library manuscript. And in the British Library manuscript, that verse doesn’t exist.

Now, at the bottom of his page he has what is called lower criticism, it’s called “lower” because it’s at the bottom of the page, and he shows you what’s in the other eight manuscripts that he had available to him. Well, since then, I’ve found another, I think it’s 19… 19 and 9 is 28? Yeah, 19 more manuscripts, although on this section there are only 20.

Of those 20 manuscripts, 7 of them… let’s see, 1, 2, 3, yes, 7 of them have what he had in only a single manuscript. He had in his Manuscript A, which is the manuscript in Leiden in Holland, it has, “ashrei ha’anavim shehem hayershu aretz.” “Blessed are the anavim,” “the meek,” if we’re going to translate that way- we’re going to get deeper into that - “for they will inherit the earth.” And I have that in six other manuscripts that Howard didn’t know about.

Keith: Absolutely.

Nehemia: So he put that as kind of like a little footnote, and I know that today we can say there are two families. We’ve talked about this in previous episodes, there’s what I was calling Family A and Family B, the one that has Manuscript A is by definition, in my case, Family A, that we’ve labelled Family A. Family B doesn’t have that verse at all. And we explained why in a previous episode, I think it was 15, when we talked about certain types of scribal errors, and also how you add something if you want to add it in. Whether this is original or not, I don’t know that we can answer that question. What we can deal with is, okay, in Family A, what does it mean? Now, you were saying in your tradition, that “Blessed are the meek” is…

Keith: Power under control

Nehemia: Power under control.

Keith: And I mean, listen, I was first… I was an un-churched person, and I remember when we went to the Book of Matthew and we got to this section, and they talked about it in the Beatitudes. I still remember it, and I remember this verse, them saying what it means to be meek is “power under control”. I just have to control myself.

Nehemia: Yeah, okay.

Keith: And I’m meek, and that’s all it means.

Nehemia: Well, I want to show a video here, really quickly.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: This is Dr. Jordan Peterson. He’s a professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto in Canada, and I would argue that at least as of this recording, he is probably one of the greatest, if not the greatest secular thinker of our time. I mean, the man foretold what we’re currently living through, as far as what they call the culture wars. He foretold this five years ago. People said, “He’s crazy, he’s a fanatic.” And it turned out to be worse than he predicted.

So he did a series, he did two main series. One is, he taught a course based on a book he wrote called Maps of Meaning. And then he did a series teaching the Bible, and he’s actually worse than us. After 10 hours or so, he didn’t get much past the story of the flood. You think that we’re verbose.

Anyway, he really is a brilliant man, but he’s not a biblical scholar and he doesn’t claim to be. He explains that he went to Bible Hub and he poked around at different commentaries. If we’re really honest, what he was doing is, he had certain ideas he brought with him from psychology, and he was looking for places in the Bible to support those ideas.

So he has this certain idea in psychology which fits perfectly with the standard Christian explanation of, “blessed are the meek,” which, I’m not saying it’s not correct, but first, let’s hear what it is. Here is Dr. Jordan Peterson speaking on Joe Rogan.

Dr. Jordan Peterson: The line, “The meek shall inherit the earth,” meek is not a good translation, or the word has moved in the 300 years or so since it was translated. What it means is this: “Those who have swords and know how to use them but keep them sheathed will inherit the world.” And that’s another thing I’ve been telling you…

Joe Rogan: Mmm-hmm.

Dr. Peterson: Yeah, no kidding!

Joe Rogan: That’s a big difference.

Dr. Peterson: That’s a big difference. It’s so great. Like one of the things I tell young men and young women as well, but the young men really need to hear this more, I think, is that “You should be a monster.” Because everyone says, “Well, you should be harmless, virtuous. You shouldn’t do anyone any harm. You should sheath your competitive instinct. You shouldn’t try to win. You don’t want to be too aggressive. You don’t want to be too assertive. You want to take a back seat,” and all of that. It’s like, “No. Wrong. You should be a monster, an absolute monster. And then you should learn how to control it.”

Nehemia: Wow.

Keith: Whoa, whoa, whoa. So folks, you understand why that changed the game? I mean, Nehemia, listen. And at this point, let me just say this. When we started on this verse, preparing for this verse, we didn’t know we were going to be in this great studio. We didn’t know we were going to be together. There were a lot of things that we didn’t know, but definitely, what we knew is that the bar was being raised. I mean, this is a major shift, I would say, from what he understands and what we find in the Hebrew Gospel.

Nehemia: So I think what you were saying though, is that what he presented isn’t really different from what you were taught in seminary.

Keith: Oh, no. 100 percent.

Nehemia: It’s essentially the same idea.

Keith: He just says it a whole lot better.

Nehemia: He says it far more eloquently, and he uses the metaphor of the sword which is sheathed. And he does something even more than that, which is powerful if it’s true – but it’s not. If it were true, it would be really powerful, which is that the actual meaning of the word “meek” in the original - and he says 300 years, he’s talking about the King James - well, I mean, I don’t know what to say, it’s kind of cute that he’s going to the King James. I mean, coming from your seminary background, you don’t go to the King James. You go to the Greek.

Keith: Absolutely.

Nehemia: And in this case, we can go to the Hebrew, but even if you go to the Greek… and I contacted my Greek expert who I talked to, Dr. Pavlos Vassiliadis, who is one of the top experts in the world in the New Testament in Greek. He’s a native Greek speaker. He went to a university in Thessalonica. I mean, how can you get more than that, right? It’s where… the Epistle to the Thessalonians… He lives there, he grew up there. I asked him, I said, “You know, I don’t want your opinion. I want to know, based on the meaning of ancient Greek, is this the meaning of the word? Does the word praeis, does that word in Greek mean ‘to sheathe a sword, and to have a sword and sheath and not use it?’” He said, “No, that has nothing to do with the meaning whatsoever.”

Keith: Stop.

Nehemia: And I looked for myself in all the dictionaries I could find, just to verify what he was saying. And he sent me other resources I didn’t have for ancient Greek, and none of them said anything of the sort. If you looked in any other text in the world - because Greek’s a language, right? - if you looked in Aristotle, or Plato, or Homer, whatever those Greek texts are, you would never find - according to my Greek expert - that this word praeis means “to sheath your sword”.

Keith: Now, you just did this - you just gave a big softball to us to have a moment, and here’s the moment, folks. We are not saying that the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew is the original source of the words that Yeshua spoke. We have never said that. We said that the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew is another witness to what? To the… Greek. Did you not say that?

Nehemia: Well, so I feel like…

Keith: Hold on. The reason I’m bringing this up, Nehemia, is I’ve had a few emails recently, and the emails are back to the old days where they’re saying, “How could you possibly say that the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, and Shem Tov… ” and they talk about Shem Tov. And we’ve always said, “another witness”. Now, here’s what you just did. Before you even got here, you went to a Greek expert to say…

Nehemia: Yeah, because I know the Hebrew. I don’t need him for the Hebrew.

Keith: Absolutely. But my point is that using these different witnesses, we get a chance to get what I call “HD”.

Nehemia: Well also Dr. Jordan Peterson isn’t coming from the Hebrew, he doesn’t know about that. He’s looking at the Greek. So I can’t judge him based on what’s in the Hebrew, or evaluate what he’s saying. And by the way, he might be right, but he’s not right about the meaning of that Greek word.

Keith: Exactly.

Nehemia: He might be right about the message that Yeshua’s trying to convey and communicate, but the way he presents it, whether intentionally or not, is that this is the meaning of the word. And of course, he doesn’t mention Greek there. He tucks 300 years in King James, 400. What’s 100 years between you and me?

Keith: What’s 100 years?

Nehemia: It’s like they say, “Oh, the Jews are 5,000 years old.” “No, I think Noah was between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago, whatever.” Let’s not split hairs.

Keith: What’s 1,000 years?

Nehemia: Yeah, what’s 1,000 years between you and me. So I want to be careful with what we’re saying here, there’s nuance involved here, and nuance is very important. You said the Hebrew’s not the source of what Yeshua said. Obviously not, because Yeshua said it, right? So then, the question is, when Yeshua spoke, how did those words get to us?

Keith: Exactly.

Nehemia: And certainly, the traditional Christian approach is to say that Yeshua’s words were recorded by different disciples, and people who were disciples of disciples, let’s say, in the case of Luke, and Mark, and that they were written down in Greek. And the argument that Howard had, which I agree with, is that whoever sat down to write the Gospel of Matthew - I’m just going to call him “Matthew,” make it simple - Matthew sat down and wrote a Gospel in Hebrew, and then he translated his own book into Greek. That was Howard’s original argument.

He has a parallel, where I’m told that that’s exactly what Josephus did. Josephus originally wrote his book in Hebrew, and then he translated it himself, maybe with an assistant, into Greek.

Keith: So the benefit of looking into the Greek and looking into the Hebrew is amazing, right?

Nehemia: So here’s the point. It’s a second witness to what Matthew had to communicate based on what he had learned from Yeshua. Now, is every word here what Matthew wrote? I don’t know. I have no way of knowing that. Probably not. Certainly, in the case of Matthew 5:5, we have about 20 manuscripts I believe it is. And of those, 13 don’t have this verse, and seven do. So is that what Matthew wrote? Maybe Matthew didn’t write any of this in the Hebrew. Maybe he wrote it in the Hebrew and it was lost in those 13 manuscripts. Maybe he didn’t write it in the Hebrew, but he did write it in the Greek, and somebody noticed it was missing in the Hebrew, and translated back from the Greek. All those are possibilities.

Keith: So I saw this show a couple of days ago, folks, called Planet. And in Planet they went down into the deep ocean and they had this fish, Nehemia. And they actually filmed this, I couldn’t believe it. So they take this fish, and he goes down and he gets a clam shell. And he takes it in his mouth, and he goes and he…

Nehemia: This is the fish?

Keith: No, the fish does this. I’m telling you, me and my son were watching it. And he goes like this, and it bangs against the rock. He does it like 15 times and eventually, the shell opens and guess what’s in there?

Nehemia: A pearl?

Keith: This is what we’re doing. We’re going to bang…

Nehemia: We’re banging against it to get the pearl.

Keith: We’re banging it against the rock to find out between what we find in Greek and what we find in Hebrew, what do we think the meaning was, to our best ability?

Nehemia: Well, what Jordan Peterson presents is really powerful. It’s a powerful word picture he paints.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: Right? Now, someone has already pointed out - this wasn’t my observation - that Jordan Peterson, long before he presented this to Joe Rogan, and maybe it’s presented somewhere else in the context of Matthew 5:5, but he used very similar language when he was talking about the flood in his flood teaching. So he takes the flood as these paradigms, as these patterns. He doesn’t believe there was a flood. He never comes out and says he doesn’t believe there was a flood, but he doesn’t believe there was a flood.

And what he’s doing is he’s saying, “Okay, the flood represents these ideas, these stories that people have been telling themselves for thousands of years, because they have these deep, profound truths in them.” That’s the approach he takes. That’s not my approach to Genesis, I believe there was a flood. But he comes up with interesting insights with that approach. And he views the flood as chaos, as there’s chaos that destroys the world, there was chaos at the creation, and then it returns, and then finally, an end is put to chaos.

And so he says this. Here’s a quote. He says, “The question is, should you turn into a monster? And the answer to that is, yes, you should.” And here, he’s talking about the flood, nothing to do with Matthew 5:5. He says, “But without the capability for mayhem, you’re a potential victim to mayhem. So you need your sword.” This is Jordan Peterson. “It should be sheathed, but you need to have it.”

Now, that’s profound. It’s probably true, but it has nothing to do with Matthew 5:5 and nothing to do with the flood. It’s a profound truth, but it just has nothing to do with the Tanakh or the New Testament.

Keith: Permission to speak freely.

Nehemia: Yeah.

Keith: One of the things that’s happened is, we’ve had some extra time, folks, since we taped 15. There’s been some time, and so it’s allowed me to do some further study. And I kind of said this earlier, but I’m actually really disappointed, Nehemia, at how many people I’ve found that didn’t go much deeper than that. In other words, they just stayed right there, and it’s just repeating the same thing a little bit different, a little parroting.

What I like about our study together, this is what I enjoy about our study together in the Hebrew Gospels, is that we’re talking about things that haven’t been parroted. Literally, people are going to hear some things, I’m telling you, stick with us. You’re going to hear some things about this verse that I can guarantee you haven’t heard before. Let’s keep going.

Nehemia: So what Jordan Peterson shares there, I think it’s a profound truth, it just has nothing to do with Matthew 5:5, or with the flood.

Keith: Exactly.

Nehemia: And it’s this truth that if you can’t defend yourself in this world… We live in this world where we have some of the most privileged people on the planet who complain that they’re victims. People who’ve never been out of the United States and seen how over a billion people live in the world without electricity…

Keith: Plumbing.

Nehemia: …without plumbing, without toilets, without indoor toilets. Some of them without toilets at all, like, all they do is go out into the field. Imagine that. Not to say people don’t suffer, there are people suffering all over the world. But to not recognize that, if you’re on unemployment and you can afford a car and a flat-screen TV, you’re one of the privileged people in the world, and it’s the truth.

So here’s a profound account I’ve found, and I want to say - and this is to show that what Jordan Peterson says is true - what convinced me that what he said is true was the Yazidi genocide in 2015.

ISIS came, the Islamic State came, and they captured northern Iraq and Northern Syria, and they murdered hundreds of thousands of people, most of them Christians, but also Muslims. There are accounts that are just horrific, I can’t even share, where they would go into a village and they’d just murder everybody, for what? Because they were Christians and refused to convert to Islam. And at least in some cases, they gave people a choice. In others, they didn’t.

So I want to read to you an account that appears in a book called Guns, Germs and Steel. And it essentially illustrates the difference between a pacifist and someone who chooses to be peaceful but has the ability for violence. And I’ve had this argument with a friend of mine who’s a pacifist, and my argument is: total pacifism is evil. That if you’re not willing to defend yourself in certain situations against people who will not respond to pacifism… And look, this is something that Gandhi had said. Gandhi was a pacifist. He said, “The Jews should have just passively not resisted Hitler.” That’s okay when you’re dealing with the British. When you’re dealing with the Nazis, that doesn’t work.

So this is an account about these two groups of people, one of them was in New Zealand, they’re called the Māori, and the other was in a place five miles east of New Zealand called the Chatham Islands, and they’re called the Moriori, and they’re actually genetically the same group of people. A bunch of Māori got on a boat and ended up in the Chatham Islands and settled there, and the people in New Zealand forgot they existed. Now, the New Zealanders were a war-like people. They had pretty big islands, actually, but they were crammed into these islands, there was nowhere to go. What would they do if they needed more space? They’d just kill their neighbors.

The Moriori were on a tiny island, a very small island, and they made a decision early on that they would live peacefully with each other, and if there were any conflicts, they would work it out with peaceful resolution. So let me read this to you. It’s talking about the Chatham Islands, 500 miles east of New Zealand. “With no other accessible islands, the Moriori had to learn how to get along with each other. They did so by renouncing war.” That’s so beautiful. “The result was a small, un-warlike population with simple technology and weapons. In 1835, an Australian seal-hunting ship brought the news to New Zealand of islands where ‘the inhabitants are very numerous, but they do not understand how to fight, and have no weapons.’ That news was enough to induce 900 Māori to sail to the Chatham Islands. On November 19 in 1835, a ship carrying 500 Māori armed with guns, clubs and axes arrived. Groups of Māori began to walk through Moriori settlements, announcing that the Moriori were now their slaves, and killing those who objected. An organized resistance by the Moriori could still have defeated the Māori, who were outnumbered two to one. However, the Moriori had a tradition of resolving disputes peacefully. They decided in a council meeting not to fight back, but to offer peace, friendship, and a division of resources.”

“Over the course of the next few days, the Māori killed hundreds of Moriori, cooked and ate many of the bodies and enslaved all the others. A Māori conqueror explained, ‘We took possession in accordance with our customs, and we caught all the people. Not one escaped. Some ran away from us. Some we killed, and others we killed. But what of it? It was in accordance with our customs.’”

So it’s fine to be a pacifist when you’re an Indian in India, when you’re Gandhi dealing with the British. Or let’s say in the case of the Civil Rights Movement, when you’re Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he’s dealing with vicious, violent people, but it’s on television. And the people on television seeing it, at some point they’re going to say, “No, this can’t go on.”

What the Nazis did wasn’t on television. If you tried to resist passively, they don’t care. They’re just going to kill you. You just made their job easier. They couldn’t care less. And they didn’t put it on television, they kept it a secret up until very late, until after the war, essentially.

So we actually have very few videos of the Nazis doing what they did, and that’s because it was illegal to take videos or photos. So we have 15-second clip from, I think it’s Latvia, where a soldier was on his vacation and he happened to get a little clip of Jews being murdered. But it’s very rare, because they didn’t want to advertise, because if there are good people who will see that and say, “This is intolerable, we can’t allow this.”

So, all of this is to say that what Dr. Jordan Peterson said is correct, you shouldn’t be a pacifist to the point where you can’t defend yourself. And therefore, to be meek doesn’t mean to be weak. I actually agree with that part. But is that the meaning of the Greek word? No. That’s just common sense.

And here’s where it’s common sense. We have this commandment in the Torah not to work on Shabbat. So if I’m in a coma and can’t work any day of the week because I’m not even awake, does that mean I kept Shabbat? No. And so being weak, where you can’t defend yourself, is not being meek, I agree with that. Well, I mean, you have no choice in that situation, right?

So really, to be meek is to have the ability to defend yourself and choose to act with humility, and here we’ll get into what it really means. It’s a beautiful idea Peterson presents, but it has nothing to do with the actual linguistics or grammar of the Greek word, praeis.

All right, let’s get back to the Greek. Look, the word in Greek there is praeis, and here’s what I do. I always look and see, first I’ll look in the Greek dictionaries, for sure. But what’s more important in the Greek dictionary is to see what word in Hebrew… that word translated in the Septuagint, which is an ancient Greek translation of the Tanakh. And the word that translated is “anav”. Can we talk about that?

Keith: Absolutely. That’s what...

Nehemia: So one of the places that this appears very clearly is where it’s talking about… let’s see. It’s talking about Moses, and it says, here it is, Numbers 12:3, “Va’ish Moshe anav me’od mi kol ha’adam asher al p’nei ha’adamah,” “And the man, Moshe, was very anav,” “he was very meek, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.” And the word there in Greek is the same word, praeis, and it translates as “humble,” both in Hebrew and Greek. So meek, he’s right, it’s not a word we even use anymore in English. The word in modern English is “humble.” Now, it’s very ironic that statement, can we talk about that?

Keith: Absolutely.

Nehemia: And I asked someone to go through our Torah Pearls on this portion, because I didn’t have time. But someone checked it and we didn’t talk about this when we did Torah Pearls. So can we talk about this verse, Numbers 12:3?

Keith: Sure, absolutely.

Nehemia: “The man, Moshe, was very humble.” And the question is, who wrote that? Did Moses write that?

Keith: Was he not inspired to write it?

Nehemia: Well, it’s possible Moses wrote about himself through the spirit of prophesy, or something like this, that God took control of his hand and he wrote, “The man, Moshe, was very humble.” That’s possible, or maybe it was Joshua who wrote it. We see Joshua writing in the Torah in Joshua 23. It says, “He wrote in the Torah of Elohim.” Whoever wrote it, it’s kind of like the song, “It’s hard to be very humble,” how does that song go? [sings] “It’s hard to be humble when you’re…” How does it go? “When you’re perfect in every way.”

So imagine you’re Moses, and you write, “No one was more humble than Moses.” And there’s actually a parallel to this in the Talmud, it’s profound. This is cool. So it’s the discussion in the Talmud about Rabbi Yehudah haNasi, who was a rabbi who was very active around the year 210, 200 – 210. It says, “When Rabbi Yehudah the Prince, Rabbi Yehudah haNasi died, that humility, humbleness disappeared from the world.” And one of the rabbis who’s in the discussion says, “No, that’s not true. I’m humble.” Now, if you say you’re humble, in some sense by definition you’re not humble, right? So what does it mean, “to be humble”? What have you got?

Keith: I will tell you this. When I read that verse, thinking about Moses, I thought to myself, “Now, did Yeshua…? He’s looking at Numbers and he’s saying, ‘Okay, I’m going to use the example,’” because this is actually connected to the second part of the verse. “I’m going to use the example of Moses and say he was humble,” and then I’d ask you a question. Is it actually connected to the second part of the verse?

Nehemia: Yeah.

Keith: I don’t know how long we’re going to be able to do this, but it says, “Whatever this is, being meek, being humble, you get a chance to do something.” What is it that Yeshua says you get? You get to inherit the earth.

Nehemia: Right, and we’ll get to that in a minute. But here, I want to go back to Jordan Peterson. Humble has nothing to do with “I sheathed my sword”. Humble has nothing to do with what he’s described… In other words, he takes “meek” in the sense of, “I choose not to act in violence, even though I could.” And maybe that’s true about the word “meek”. It’s not true about the word “humble”. Humble is, “I realize, ‘Wow…’” And here’s part of it, because humble could be, “Well, I’m just a very simple person. There are people who are greater than me.” No, humble is to realize something great in yourself, and still realize, “Wow, there are people who are smarter than me, there are people who are better than me, and even if I’m the smartest person in the world, I’m Albert Einstein, God is above me.” That’s what humility is.

Keith: So Nehemia, here’s the issue that I have. Before we got to this study, when I would read this, the word “meek” doesn’t mean anything, in my mind. The word “humble”, just the word itself, doesn’t mean anything. People can tell me what they say that it means. When you read this - and folks, we’ve been talking about The Bible, the Talmud and the New Testament, which is the commentary by your cousin five-times removed…

Nehemia: Something like that, yeah.

Keith: Delitzsch, the Hebrew Gospels, all of this stuff, what I really wanted to ask you was this question - when you first read that verse in Hebrew, does the word “meek” come in your mind?

Nehemia: No, “humble”. The first thing I think of is Moses.

Keith: Okay, excellent.

Nehemia: No question about it.

Keith: Excellent, excellent.

Nehemia: And what is the context there of Moses? He’s having an argument with his brother and his sister, and he’s the only person in all of history, according to the Torah, who ever spoke to God face-to-face.

Keith: My God!

Nehemia: Everyone else has spoken to God in a dream, or in a vision, and he actually spoke to God face-to-face as a man speaks to his fellow, whatever that means, in a state that he’s awake, or something like this. And he’s having this conversation with his brother or sister, and it’s not clear exactly what they’re debating. But it’s something about his actions, and they’re saying he’s in the wrong. And instead of saying, “Who do you guys think you are? God chose me to speak face-to-face. You think you know better than me?”

Keith: Right.

Nehemia: Instead, he acts with humility and said, “You know what? We’re all equal before God, and maybe you guys are right, and maybe I’m in the wrong.” And then God goes and humbles them.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: So humble is to realize, humility is to realize that in the eyes of God, we’re all human beings and He’s greater than all of us.

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: That’s what humility is.

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: The opposite of humility is pride. What’s the picture of pride in the Tanakh? The king of Babylon, Nevuchadnetzar, Nebuchadnezzar, conquers the known world, and he walks around his empire, and he looks around and he says, “I did all of this with my own might.”

Keith: I’m it.

Nehemia: Boy, I am it.

Keith: Yeah.

Nehemia: I did all of this with my own might.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: “God didn’t do this for me, no man did this for me, no other power. This was all me.” Instead of recognizing, “Wow, I had a lot of loyal people under me who helped me do this, and it was only through the grace of God that this was given to me,” that would have been humility. He says, “I did this all by myself.” That’s pride, it’s the opposite of humility. And what does it mean, “the humble will inherit the earth?” Let’s look at that in Psalm chapter 37 verse 11. And here I’m going to ask you to open up the Bible. No, it’s the Jewish Annotated… do you have that book? Oh, you didn’t bring that?

Keith: That’s on the computer.

Nehemia: Okay, I have that here. So the Jewish Annotated New Testament comments on this. But first, can you read Psalm 37 verse 11?

Keith: Okay. It says here, and I’m reading the NASV, “But the humble will inherit the land, and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.”

Nehemia: All right, so here’s what it says in the Jewish Annotated New Testament, page 10. It says… let’s see, “In terms of content as well, the Beatitudes draw upon scriptural precedent. For example, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, and blessed are those who mourn’ may be dependent on Isaiah 61:1-3, which also speaks to the poor, and those who mourn. ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’ is a near quotation of Psalm 37:11.” Then they say, “The Hebrew of the Psalm speaks of inheriting the land, aretz, which should be taken as a reference to the Land of Israel.”

“The Septuagint, and hence the New Testament, reads, ‘ge’”. Well, it’s the Greek word, “ge”, “which could be translated as either ‘land’ or ‘earth’. The reading of ‘earth’ served to de-Judaize Jesus.” I want to read that again. “The reading of ‘earth,’” according to the Jewish Annotated New Testament, “serves to de-Judaize Jesus by disconnecting Him from any specific concern for the Land of Israel.” Wow.

So… wow. I read that and I thought, “Okay, I mean, no. That doesn’t even make any sense.” I mean, the word “ge” is just a translation of the Hebrew, “eretz”. And I thought, “All right, let’s see if the…”

Keith: If you’re going to disagree with the…

Nehemia: Absolutely.

Keith: You’re going to disagree with the Jewish annotated…

Nehemia: So look. Sometimes I think, especially in today’s society, people get kind of over-sensitized to their… I’ll give you an example. Last night, I’m at the hotel, and there’s this gentleman who checks us in. It says on his little label, his name is Mohammed. And he says, “That first name of yours, how do you pronounce it?” I said, “Nehemia”. He said, “Is that a…?” and he has this look on his face, like, “is that a Jewish name?” And I don’t think he was trying to be offensive. I could have been offended and said, “Okay, you’re Muslim, and you’re asking me about my name.” Okay, he’s curious. What’s wrong with that? I have no problem with that.

Keith: You didn’t call his manager?

Nehemia: Not at all. I think he’s curious, and he said, “Oh, so you pronounce the ‘H’ as a ‘kh’?” I said, “Yes,” and I know in Arabic there’s two letters, “kh” and “khuh”. So he doesn’t know if it’s “Nekhemia” or “Nekahemia”. That’s what he’s asking, right? I’m not offended by that. I could have been over-sensitized and said, “I’ve been persecuted!” And then he sent us to a bad room that had problems with it, so I was a little suspicious.

Keith: Nehemia, most rooms are bad for you. You know, it’s hard to find the right room.

Nehemia: That’s true. Well, in any event, so I wasn’t going to be sensitive about it and think he’s trying to offend me, or something like that, or he’s trying to harm me. I think he was curious. And I think here, they’re being a little bit over-sensitive to how this word “ge” is being used. And I looked up to see… so for example, Exodus 23 verse 20 translates, “taking possession of the land.” What word does it use? It uses the word “ge”, right? 1 Samuel 13:19 translates the phrase, “Eretz Yisrael,” “Land of Israel” as “ge Israel.” So I think they’re kind of playing the anti-Semitism card here, like, there are plenty of places where anti-Semitism is taking place.

Keith: And you’re saying you don’t think it exists?

Nehemia: It definitely exists, but not in this case.

Keith: In this situation, you’re saying it doesn’t exist.

Nehemia: They’re just translating mechanically. “Okay, this word translates this way, right?” ‘Eretz’ is ‘ge,’ they’re not thinking about it. Now, maybe they’re making the point that you translating it as “earth” versus “land” is intended to disconnect the statement from the Land of Israel. I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think in the Psalms or in Matthew 5:5, the intention was necessarily, or even at all, that if you do these things, you’re going to come and inherit the Land of Israel. Maybe in a sense, yes – meaning, we have this idea in Judaism which is derived from certain statements in the Torah. I don’t think we’ll have time to get into it today, but I think we’ll get into it in a future episode. And it’s this idea that in the future time, we’re not floating around on wings in heaven. We’re resurrected, and we take possession of the Land of Israel. So in that sense, yes.

And you have this phrase in Judaism of that period, which is, “Those who have a portion in the world to come, and those who don’t have a portion.” And the word for “portion” is “nakhalah”, which is an inherited piece of land, of the Land of Israel. So in that respect, maybe yes, but the word “ge” has nothing to do with that, right?

Keith: Yeah. Now, I want to read this verse in English again. I want to give our folks that are listening so far, a very simple… Here’s what is says in the NASV, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” And in my mind, when I read that I’m saying, “So if I’m gentle in the will, I’m going to be given this inheritance in the future.” What we’re doing is kind of ripping away at that a little bit. We’re going under and saying, it’s fair to say in English, “Blessed are, or happy are the humble, for they shall possess the land.”

Nehemia: So here’s what we could say. Unequivocally, this verse is based on Psalm 37 verse 11.

Keith: Yes, 37:11.

Nehemia: No question about it. We have “anav” translated as something like “praeis” in Greek, and we have “inheriting the land”. Obviously, this is based on this passage in Psalm 37:11.

Keith: Can I read this Psalm 37:11? And then, I want you to do something that excited me in our personal study.

Nehemia: Yeah.

Keith: Nehemia, I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get to this, but what you showed…

Nehemia: We might have to do Part 2.

Keith: No, I want to read this, okay. “But the humble…” The word that you just mentioned, “…will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” Psalms 37:11. Now, this has been great. We’ve been going around, we’re looking at the Greek, we’re looking at the English. You’re giving me Jordan Peterson, you’re telling me about all these other extra sources. That’s great.

Nehemia, when are you going to talk to us about this word, “anav”?

Nehemia: Well Keith, I think we’re going to have to head over to the Plus episode for the rest of this discussion. And I am so excited about what we’re going to talk about in Hebrew Gospel Pearls Episode 16 Plus.

Keith: And where’s it going to be?

Nehemia: It’s going to be over at nehemiaswall.com.

Keith: Excellent.

You have been listening to Hebrew Gospel Pearls with Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon’s Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

We hope the above transcript has proven to be a helpful resource in your study. While much effort has been taken to provide you with this transcript, it should be noted that the text has not been reviewed by the speakers and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. If you would like to support our efforts to transcribe the teachings on NehemiasWall.com, please visit our support page. All donations are tax-deductible (501c3) and help us empower people around the world with the Hebrew sources of their faith!

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  • Susan Lein says:

    Thank you for this incredible episode! What a blessing to have you both together in studio — thrilled to see it!

  • Bible believer says:

    I really like the visuals in your new studio.
    Well done!

  • daniel says:

    An example of ‘pride’, i.e. the opposite of ‘humble’, can be found in Luke 18:11 “…God, I thank you that I am not like other men…”

  • Daniel Contreras says:

    It all good 👍

  • Paulette Gray says:

    Chatham is pronounced Chat’ham or Chat’am) (no ‘th’) and the reason is that it is a suffix and separate from the preceding identifier. The suffix ‘ham’ or ‘am’ means settlement in Anglo-Saxon.
    My response to the NASB translation as ‘gentle’ is that it is definitely taking us away from ‘humble’ as discussed in this episode and towards a pacifism that would deny that we must resist evil.

  • Rae Lloyd-Jones says:

    All good now 🙂 WOWEEEEEEE!!!!