Hebrew Gospel Pearls #6 – Matthew 3:1-6

In Hebrew Gospel Pearls #6 (Matthew 3:1-6), Nehemia and Keith discuss Baptism from a Jewish perspective, the surprising connection between John the Baptist and Christopher Columbus, and what led medieval rabbis to read the New Testament.

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Hebrew Gospel Pearls #6 - Matthew 3:1-6

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.

Nehemia: I was talking last night with somebody about this, and they said, “Well, what is there really to talk about? It’s only six verses.” I said, “In this one verse, verse number 2, there are three separate things. Return and repentance, the Kingdom of Heaven, close to coming. And each one of those we could probably talk for an hour on.”

Nehemia: Shalom, and welcome to Hebrew Gospel Pearls episode number 6. Today, Keith Johnson and I are going to be discussing Matthew chapter 3 verses 1 through 6 in the Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew. Shalom, Keith.

Keith: Shalom, Nehemia. And are you sure you’re ready?

Nehemia: I am ready. We’ve been going through all kinds of technical difficulties…

Keith: Again.

Nehemia: …you wouldn’t believe. But hopefully we have it ready to go now. Keith, I’m really excited about this portion before we get to it. We’re living in a historic moment now. People are going to be watching this for years to come, and they’re going to learn in history about the great pandemic, the great virus that came in 2019 and 2020, and maybe beyond. And it’s just struck home. I just found out your son has come down with the Wuhan Virus.

Keith: Yeah. You know, it’s something - I thought about this, Nehemia. We actually started this process, the way we got into this process of Hebrew Gospel Pearls was from a phone call you actually sent to me when I was in Israel. We came back. You called me again. Israel had major changes regarding what was happening with this Coronavirus, and that started us on what we would call… what was the name of the program we did?

Nehemia: Well, we did a series called “Live from Quarantine”.

Keith: So, people actually should go to nehemiaswall, Nehemia’s YouTube channel for this. Really, if you want some background on how we got to this, that really is very helpful. But yes, my son, Kyle, is an essential worker. He works out in the community. He came down with sickness, and as a result of the sickness they told him to go home and to get tested. He got tested, and unfortunately came out positive with Coronavirus.

The real issue though was that Coronavirus itself doesn’t always turn into COVID-19. COVID-19 is the disease that you get that attacks the lungs and different parts of the body. Unfortunately, a couple of days ago we found out that he was experiencing those symptoms, so our family had to make a really big change. And of course, this is why we’ve got our in-home studio. Nehemia’s got an in-home studio. So, while we’re doing this, we’ve got my son, who’s struggling with COVID-19, my wife who’s got asthma - she actually needed to leave to go to her sister’s. So, my name is Dr. Johnson for my son, and in the middle of all of that we’re doing Hebrew Gospel Pearls.

And I will tell you something, Nehemia. I really am still humbled just by the way circumstances have led us to this point. This would be an example where I think the Father in heaven can take a situation that, on the outside really looks terrible, and work it out for the good. And in the midst of this, I would just say there are many people praying. We’re seeing some good progress with him, and so I’m able to stop doing that so we can do this, which I’m excited about because there was a game-changer Nehemia, last night, when you and I talked.

I have to tell you, folks - this is going to be one of those sessions where you’re going to get a chance to get a glimpse of just… and I said this, and I don’t mind saying it again publicly - I feel like I’m working with a genius.

Nehemia: Wow.

Keith: And I mean, that, Nehemia. I can ask you a question and it can morph into something that really is a game-changer. So, let’s get right into it, and then I’ll get to that question. [laughing]

Nehemia: Well, the “genius”, as you call it, discovery that I had, was something that, I’m like, “All right, I’m going to prove Keith wrong.” And instead, I was proven wrong, and I was thrilled, because now we have some truth we didn’t have before.

Keith: And you know what’s interesting? You’ve said this before. I’m under some attack right now beyond the Coronavirus. I’ve got some people who are just adamant about the fact that since Nehemia doesn’t believe the way that they believe, how can we possibly do this program together? I don’t know if you’re feeling any of those pressures on the other end, but on my end…

Nehemia: Oh, absolutely.

Keith: …I’ve got those people.

Nehemia: Look, I’ve gotten it from some people on my side who said, “Nehemia, we were into Torah Pearls and Prophet Pearls, and we didn’t mind that you did something every once-in-a-while on the New Testament, but to do a whole series on the New Testament - we don’t want to hear this. This isn’t what we’re about,” you know, from the Jewish side, I’ve heard from some people. And my challenge to those people is, “Well, you might learn something.”

Keith: And you know, what I was going to say is the attack - and I want to say this carefully, because it’s not… compared to what I’m dealing with with my son - and COVID-19 and Coronavirus is not an attack - but in terms of what we’re doing, it was kind of an attack, and I really challenge this person also to think. And this person’s point was, “There are some things we just don’t need to have questions about.” And he was talking about Episode 2, which is way back then when we were talking about the virgin birth.

By the way, folks, if you didn’t go to Hebrew Gospel Pearls Plus at nehemiaswall for Episode 2, [laughing] you missed it. And it got me in a lot of trouble, but I’m actually glad about it. So, now we’ll keep plugging, my friend.

Nehemia: In Israel we’d say, “If you didn’t go to watch Episode 2 at nehemiaswall.com, you’re a freier.” Anyway, Google what that means.

Keith: It’s really interesting. So, that’s the beauty of this process is, and I want to say something about that, if I can. People have really been coming along with this. I think initially when it started, there were some people wondering, “Why is there the Regular and the Plus?” But I think people are starting to understand that. So we can really, like I said, get right into this. It really is an important shift that took place regarding Matthew chapter 3.

Nehemia: Let’s read the first verse. Let me read it in Hebrew, you read the English.

Keith: In fact, you know what? We had a suggestion, Nehemia, from some people, that we should really go ahead and do the Hebrew and the English.

Nehemia: I’ll read the whole thing in Hebrew, verse by verse, with the English. “Bayamim hamem, bar Yochanan haMatbil doresh bamidbar Yehudah,” “In those days came,” or “arrived” or “entered”, “John the Matbil, the Baptist,” it’s translated usually. We’ll talk about that, “seeking or preaching in the wilderness of Judah.” “Vayamar,” “And he said,” “chizru betshuvah shemalchut shamayim krova lavo,” “return in repentance, for the Kingdom of Heaven is close to coming.”

And I was talking last night with somebody about this, and they said, “Well, what is there really to talk about? It’s only six verses.” I said, “In this one verse, verse number 2, there are three separate things; return in repentance, the Kingdom of Heaven, close to coming” And each one of those, we could probably talk for an hour on.”

Keith: Absolutely. We’re not going to get out of verse 1 but keep going.

Nehemia: Well, hopefully we will. “Lekayem ma shene’emar al yedei Ishayahu haNavi,” “To establish or to fulfill what was said by Isaiah the Prophet,” “kol korhe bamidbar panu derech Hashem,” it says here. “Yashru ba’arava bemesilah l’Eloheinu.” I’m not going to translate that verse. That’s the verse usually translated, “A voice calling in the wilderness.” We’ll get to it. “Vehinei Yochanan haya lavush betzemer hagmalim, ve’or shakhor azru bemotnav, umezono ha’arbeh dvash haya’arim.” “And behold, John was dressed in wool of camel and a black leather belt around his loins…” meaning around his waist, “and his food was locusts and honey of the forest.”

Az yatzu elav meYerushalayim u’mekol Yehudah umikol hamelachot sviv haYarden.” “Then they went out to him from Jerusalem and all of Judah and all of the kingdoms around the Jordan.” “Ve’az mitvadim chatatam,” “And then they were confessing their sins,” “vetovlim beYarden al ma’amaro,” “and immersing in the Jordan based on his word, according to his word.”

So, that’s the six verses, the Hebrew reading.

Keith: Yeah, six verses. Folks, if you don’t know about this, one of the things we have provided, it’s been a team of people, actually, that have helped to do this. But we’ve created an interlinear, so you can see the Hebrew word. You can then match that with what Nehemia’s saying. It does a beautiful job. And then there’s an English word that we provide under it. For all of the folks that are in the Plus episodes, there will be a downloadable PDF where you can have that for yourself, for your study. Okay, can we get started?

Nehemia: So you raised an interesting question. We were looking at the commentaries that we’ve committed to studying, which are the Jewish annotated New Testament and the one by my cousin, which is… interestingly, the name of the commentary in English, it’s called something like… what is it, The Talmud…?

Keith: The Bible, the Talmud and the New Testament.

Nehemia: The Bible, the Talmud… isn’t that an interesting title in itself? Until just now, I never thought of it, right? The Bible, the Talmud and the New Testament as three separate things from the perspective of the author, who was an ultra-Orthodox Rabbi in the 19th century, my second cousin five times removed, Rabbi Eliyahu Zvi Soloveitchik.

And so, we looked at these two commentaries and you made the remark to me. You said, “Before we actually get into the verses and what they’re talking about, let’s talk about John the Baptist as a historical figure.”

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: And you said, “Isn’t there something in the Talmud there?” and I said, “There is in Josephus, but to my knowledge there’s nothing in the Talmud. But I’ll double check.”

Keith: Tell them what you really said. [laughing]

Nehemia: Why? What did I say? [laughing]

Keith: Somebody said to you, “Come on.”

Nehemia: Absolutely. I’ve actually had a number of Christians say to me, “Why is it that you Jews accept John the Baptist but you don’t accept Jesus? What’s wrong with you? Don’t you see John pointed to Jesus?” And my response, and the response of most Jews is, “In the Jewish world we hear nothing about John the Baptist.” John the Baptist is an unknown figure outside the New Testament for the average Jew.

In my upbringing, I heard about Choni haMe’agel. He was the famous rabbi who drew a circle around himself and prayed to God that there would be rain. We have learned about Hillel, we learned about Rabbi Akiva, we learned about Herod as a bad guy. Nothing about John the Baptist in my entire upbringing. I never heard about John the Baptist outside the context of hearing Christians talk about him, in my upbringing.

Keith: So then, what happened though is you said that, and so then I’m thinking, you guys, I’m thinking to myself, “What are you talking about? This is John the Baptist.” And I have to tell on myself, Nehemia - the first time I ever read John the Baptist… Remember now, folks, I was 14 years old. They gave me the little book. I’m reading in Matthew. I get to Matthew 3 and I happen to be going to Methodist Church, and I’m new in the church. And I hear about John the Baptist and I’m thinking, “Oh, okay. So, that means [laughing] he’s a Baptist.”

Nehemia: He’s a Baptist.

Keith: “I’m a Methodist. There’s John the Catholic. There’s John the…”

Nehemia: Okay, so this is a true story. I have a friend here in Texas who is a Southern Baptist church planter. His father was a Southern Baptist preacher. But his mother was actually from a denomination of Christians called “the Nazarene”. And when she married the father, when they got married, she had to join his Church, but she used to always make fun of him and kind of tease him and say in her deep Southern drawl, “Well, John was a Baptist, but Jesus was a Nazarene,” based on her… But the denomination of Nazarene, the denomination of Baptists has nothing to do with John the Baptist.

So look, my objective last night was not only is there nothing in the Talmud about John the Baptist, but nothing in all of Rabbinical literature ever even mentions John the Baptist with maybe the exception of when they’re debating with Christians and saying, “You know, it says in your New Testament about John the Baptist...”. That was my objective.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: So, I took my database, which is the Bar Ilan Responsa Project. It’s estimated to have something like 100,000 Jewish Hebrew Rabbinical books typed in. Just to give you an idea, the Talmud is considered one book in that collection of 100,000 books and it has over a million words alone, so when we say it’s 100,000 books, it’s a lot of words. It’s books that stretch all the way to the modern times and back to the earliest Rabbinical literature that’s survived. So, Megillat Taanit, for example, from the 2nd Temple period.

So I do a search for John the Baptist, and then I decided to do a second search for Yochanan ben Zecharia, because that’s what Rabbi Soloveitchik refers to him as. He calls him, “John, son of Zecharia.” And I was 100 percent sure and confident I would be able to come back today and say, “Well, Keith. I looked in the Bar Ilan Responsa Project, the core of Rabbinical…”. It’s not every single book in Rabbinical literature, because there are books that are still in manuscript form, right? But it’s essentially almost every book that’s been printed, over 100,000 books.

I was confident I would be able to say, “John the Baptist is never even mentioned once in Rabbinical literature, and certainly not in the Talmud.” And I got a big surprise - that in fact, there is one rabbi in the Bar Ilan Responsa Project database who refers to John the Baptist, and he actually refers to him three separate times. And then, when I looked, “Well, who is this rabbi? He’s some obscure rabbi I never heard of,” I found out he’s actually a really famous rabbi who I’d never heard of. He was definitely famous in his day, and in some circles he’s still pretty well-known.

Let me pull up what he said. He’s a rabbi who was born in Salamanca, Spain. In 1492 he had to flee from Spain and he went to Portugal, and during a brief period in Portugal he changed the world. He essentially established the foundation of the modern world that we lived in during his short stint in Portugal. When the Jews were then persecuted in Portugal he fled to Tunisia and eventually died either in Jerusalem or somewhere in that region, possibly Damascus.

The rabbi’s name was Rabbi Abraham ben Samuel Zacuto, 1452 to 1515. So, this rabbi wrote a book called Sefer Yuchasin, which some people translate as the Book of History, but really, it’s the book of genealogies. What it gives is the whole history of the Jewish people from creation down to his time in the 1490s or early 1500s when he’s writing this. And in section 6, or Ma’amar Shishi, he mentioned John the Baptist three times. Now, before I get to that, I want to explain who this rabbi is, can I do that?

Keith: Please.

Nehemia: Because like I said, I hadn’t heard of him. But when I looked up who he was I was like, “Wow, he’s a really important figure in history.” So, this rabbi is best known in history, not for his Sefer Yuchasin, his book of genealogies, but he’s better known in history for a book he wrote called HaHibbur haGadol, The Great Book or The Great Composition, literally. The Great Composition was translated into many languages, and the reason it was translated and was so important is it established astronomical tables that were accurate enough to use for navigation at sea.

In addition, this Rabbi Zacuto also invented a new type of astrolabe, that up until then… they were in a ship and they were trying to travel to India. So, they’d have to pull up to the coast, land on the coast, take a measurement, go back to sea. He invented an astrolabe that could be used at sea. It’s a thing where you’re able, essentially, to navigate not only at night by the North Star, but during the day using the sun. So he invents this astrolabe and then he teaches Columbus how to use it, as well as Vasco da Gama.

Keith: Back up. When you say, “He teaches Columbus,” you mean, the Columbus?

Nehemia: Christopher Columbus, we know for a fact, used his tables in The Great Composition, HaHibbur haGadol, based on a Latin translation. And Columbus used it particularly - there’s an incident that took place in February of 1504 – this is incredible stuff, this history! So Columbus is in Jamaica in 1504, and he’s run out of food, and the locals in Jamaica are feeding him, and they feed the guy for six months, him and his men who are stranded in Jamaica, waiting for a certain time of the year to be able to travel back to Spain. And finally, the Jamaicans are like, “Dude, get a job, we’re not going to feed you.” [laughing] Like, “Why are we feeding you for six months? Go do some farming.”

Keith: [laughing] It worked for a month. You’re telling me, after a while they’re like, “This is not good. We’re not going to continue.”

Nehemia: They’re like, “The benefits have run out. Get out of here, dude!”

Keith: Yeah, find employment.

Nehemia: So Columbus goes to their leader, and he says to them, “If you don’t feed me, God will get angry with you and turn the moon red as blood.” And what Columbus had done is, he’d looked in the tables of Rabbi Abraham Zacuto and he saw that that night, there was going to be an eclipse.

Keith: So, you’re telling me it was that accurate? It’s that accurate?

Nehemia: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Oh, it’s even better. So, then Columbus goes into his boat, into his headquarters, and the people start bringing food, because the moon has turned red, it’s a lunar eclipse. And they’re terrified. They think, “Wow, the Gods are angry with us.” And he times it to come out 10 minutes before the eclipse ends, and he then proclaims to the natives in Jamaica and he says to them, “Okay, God is no longer angry with you, because you brought me the food. The moon will turn back to its regular color.” 10 minutes later it turns back, and this saves Columbus. So, he actually used this to trick the native Americans of Jamaica into believing he had the power of the gods, or whatever. But the tables were that accurate.

Vasco da Gama was personally trained by Rabbi Zacuto in how to use these tables in the astrolabe, and then Vasco da Gama ended up becoming the first person from Europe to make it to India. Columbus wasn’t trying to get to Jamaica and the American Republic, Hispaniola - he was trying to get to India. Vasco da Gama actually got there in 1497, 1498, using Rabbi Zacuto’s tables.

So, what does Rabbi Zacuto, who wrote The Great Composition, who also the history of the Jews from creation to his time, he says three things about John the Baptist. Now, he gives the years in Hebrew years. I translated them into BC and AD. He says, “In 1 BC, John the Baptist was born. John, son of Zechariah the Priest, and his wife, were barren, and John was born six months before that certain person.”

Keith: Slow down [laughing] for a second, Nehemia. This is for me and for those that are listening. You’re telling me that there was a rabbi who is an author of some really important works…

Nehemia: The most important book of the 15th century, absolutely.

Keith: Okay, really important works. One of them has to do with the history of the Jewish people, the genealogy…?

Nehemia: Well, I mean, it’s called Sefer Yuchasin, which is the Book of Genealogies or Histories. Literally “genealogies”.

Keith: So, he’s going to write about this, and you’re saying in the midst of this he mentions John the Baptist.

Nehemia: Oh, he’s giving the history of the Jews, right? He gives it year by year. He says, “2 BC, 1 BC, 1 AD,” right? And he doesn’t say it in AD and BC, he’s giving it according to the chronology from, as he understands, the creation of the world.

And then he goes on… Now it’s interesting. So you could ask the question, how does he know that John was the son of Zechariah, the priest and his wife, and Zechariah the Priest and his wife were barren? And he says, “six months before that, a certain person…” meaning Jesus, right? Because he’s living under persecution in Portugal. He’s got to be really careful, anything he says about Yeshua could get him killed. So, he refers to Him indirectly. He’s afraid to talk about Yeshua, but he could talk about John.

Then he says, “In the year 13 CE,” or AD, “Herod Antipas reigned and took over the Kingdom of Archelaus’ brother. He reigned 24 years and divided the kingdom into four parts, with the Galilee by itself,” et cetera. That’s why Antipas is also called Herod the Tetrarch. This is one of Herod’s sons. “He was cruel,” and this is an incredible line. This is the rabbi writing this. This is a rabbi who was persecuted by Christians! He is not trying to be an apologist to make Jews look good in the eyes of Christians. He’s writing to a Jewish audience; he’s hoping Christians never see this.

So here’s what he writes. “Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch, was cruel and killed his sons, deposed priests, and violated the Torah by slaughtering John the Baptist, because John rebuked him for taking the wife of his brother.” Now, we’re going to get to that, John’s rebuke, taking the wife of his brother, maybe in a later section we’ll get to it.

But that’s interesting - this rabbi could have said, “The one thing that Herod Antipas did correctly is he slaughtered the saint of the Christians, who was a sinner who violated the Torah.” Instead he says, “Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch, was cruel, killed his sons, deposed priests, and violated the Torah by slaughtering John the Baptist.” That’s pretty cool.

Keith: Wait. Go to the third one, and then I have to ask...

Nehemia: And interestingly, he doesn’t call him, “Yochanan haMatbil” in this passage, which I would have expected, and he does in the next one. He calls him, “Yochanan haMetabel”, which is just a different grammatical form of the same word. In other words, he uses the piel form, for those who know grammar, instead of the hiphil form, not very important, but for those who know grammar it’s interesting.

Then he says, “In the year 1105…” and here he actually gives the Christian year, “the Genoese captured Tripoli and Sicily,” and some other cities he lists. “They gave these cities to the king of Jerusalem who was a Christian at that time.” So, this is during the Crusades. “It is said that they brought at that time the ashes of John the Baptist to Genoa for his body was burned, even though his head is in Rome.”

So, those were the three references to John the Baptist - one when he was born, one about him being killed by Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch, and the third about his ashes brought to Genoa. Now, how does he know the ashes were brought to Genoa? I mean, he read this in some Christian book somewhere, or somebody told him that. He wasn’t there, it was 300 years before he was born.

Keith: Okay. $67,000 question. The sources of his information about John the Baptist?

Nehemia: It’s hard to believe the sources of his information are anything other than the New Testament.

Keith: And that’s all.

Nehemia: Meaning, he’s read Luke. He’s clearly read Luke. He’s read Matthew. He may have read some of the other Gospels. Specifically, we know he must have read Luke because Luke’s the one that mentions Zechariah the Priest. We don’t hear anything in Matthew about that.

Keith: Now, this is important, Nehemia. You have a background in what I’m going to ask you, and there’s a lot that we can unpack here, but one thing I would like you to help unpack is, why is it at that time, that he would have read the New Testament?

Nehemia: So, it’s possible that he may have actually been forced to read the New Testament. That’s a strong possibility. In 1492, he and hundreds of thousands of other Jews were told, “Either convert to Christianity,” and really, Catholicism, “Convert to Catholicism or leave Spain.” So, many left. Most left. Some stayed behind and they said, “Okay, you know what? We’ll just pretend to be Christians and continue to practice Judaism secretly in our homes. Nobody needs to know what we’re doing.” Then they were persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition.

He left. He went to Portugal. And in Portugal, I believe it was 1497, a number of years later, they then say to the Jews, instead of “convert or leave”, they say, “convert or die”. And this rabbi had enough resources where… I don’t know if he bribed somebody or he snuck out in the middle of the night, but he was able to flee to Tunis, to Tunisia, and there he was able to continue to live as a Jew for a while, until he had to flee to some other place.

So, why is it he read the New Testament? He may have been forced to. It may have been part of the process where they said, “Look, we’re going to kick you out of this country. We might kill you but read the book.” And then he may have read the book. Maybe he thought, “You know what? Maybe I will convert. You know what? What’s so horrible about this religion?” And he reads the book, and if I was him reading the book, and then I look at the Catholic Church and I’m like, “Wait a minute. You guys don’t follow the religion of this book.”

But here is a rabbi - and think about this, this is actually pretty profound - so, this is before Martin Luther translated the Bible in Germany into German. It’s certainly before the authorized version in England in 1611. I’m not sure when Wycliffe was, this might have been after Wycliffe. But the average Christian had not read the New Testament, and this rabbi had.

Keith: Nehemia, you know, I’ll tell you something that threw me a curve ball when we were going through this. I immediately started thinking about the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew that we’re studying, Shem Tov’s Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, and when that would have been penned, and why it was penned. And it sort of brings it back to context here, that what was happening at that time and why the Jews had to take a look and peek into the New Testament and understand it, and again, what source would that be? Maybe he’s looking at a Hebrew Gospel…

Nehemia: Oh, he very well may have read Hebrew Matthew.

Keith: Yeah, exactly.

Nehemia: But this is also a man who clearly was able to read Greek, and certainly Latin he read. Whether he read Greek, I guess we could argue about it. But he definitely read Latin. He probably read Arabic. I’m sure he read Spanish in its various dialects. We have the Catalan Gospels, which survive in the Vatican, which it’s understood at least by many scholars, were translated into Hebrew from Catalan. Maybe he read those in Hebrew, I don’t know. He clearly had read something of the New Testament, or he spoke to Christians and they told him about the New Testament. But it sounds like he read it. He gives the impression that he has some serious knowledge.

Keith: It’s so detailed. Now, another thing that we were talking about before you found this was that one thing that I do think that many Jewish people would respect is Josephus.

Nehemia: Oh, yeah. Let’s read Josephus. Now, bear in mind, Josephus didn’t survive in the Jewish world. If you go and look for the manuscripts of Josephus, they all come from the Christian world. They were all copied by Christians. The earliest manuscript, I believe, is from the 9th century, 800 years after Josephus wrote, approximately. And all of them survived from Christians, most of them are much later than that. And there’s one passage that actually mentions Yeshua in Josephus, and it’s widely considered to either be completely a forgery or to partly be a forgery. And the reason it’s considered to be a forgery is that he talks about - and this is something for a different discussion, right? We’ll probably get to this later - but Josephus’ description, he refers to Yeshua as “He was more than a man,” which doesn’t sound like something a Jew in the 1st century would say.

One explanation is that Josephus actually converted to Christianity, except he never mentions that. He mentions how he dabbled in all the different Jewish denominations, he went to study under the Essenes, and he studied with the Sadducees and finally decided to become a Pharisee. It doesn’t mention anything about Christianity, or Yeshua as his teacher, other than this one passage which is considered doubtful.

In contrast, the passage that describes John the Baptist is generally considered to be authentic, and we’ll see in a minute why. It’s not something a Christian would write. Let’s see what he says. This is Josephus Antiquities, Book 18, sections 116 through 119. And actually, maybe before we read that, I just want to mention that another place to learn about John the Baptist outside of Matthew is… You know, we’ve reached the point now in the study where we’re dealing with what’s called the “synoptic problem”. The synoptic problem is where you look at Matthew, Mark and Luke and you find the same stories. Sometimes you find them verbatim in the Greek and then sometimes they’re different words. Sometimes in English they sound almost verbatim, but the Greek uses one word for Matthew, and then in Luke it’ll use a different word. And one of the ways to study the synoptics is… I mean, the word “synoptic” itself - “syn” means in Greek, “together”, and “optic” is “to view”, like “optics”. Synoptic is you look at them together, side-by-side. And so, for example, I ordered this book from Amazon to study these synoptics. It’s called Gospel Parallels, and it’ll show in one column Matthew and in another Mark, and in another Luke. I also have an app on my program that’s actually better than this book.

Keith: Can I tell you something funny?

Nehemia: Yeah.

Keith: I actually still have this book, I don’t want to stop the recording and get it. It’s around here in my library, but we had to take a course called The Synoptic Gospels. And they give us this huge book. I mean, the book is huge. How big is that book?

Nehemia: This one’s pretty big. But the one you’re talking about is probably the one in seminary you use, made by Kurt Aland. So, I have that one, too. I actually have that in the app within Accordance. It’s called Gospel Parallels, and Kurt Aland, who was famous for the Nestle-Aland New Testament, he and his team established what is considered by most Churches the most reliable text of the New Testament in Greek. One of the things he did is, he mapped out side-by-side Matthew, Mark and Luke and then John also, when it was relevant.

In this case, John talks about… there’s the Gospel of John, John the Baptist. But we’re not going to have time, I think, to look at all the synoptics here. But Mark 1:2-8, Luke 3:1-20 and John 1:19-28, those are both the synoptics and John - John’s not considered a synoptic. But in this case, he tells the story of John the Baptist, and if you want to understand, I think, John the Baptist in the New Testament context, first you need to read each of these individually, and then compare them systematically, then you can get the conglomerate picture. But first, you need to understand them individually. We’ll barely have time to get through Matthew’s version of it, but we’ll mention from time to time the others.

Okay, so Josephus now, as essentially, you can maybe call him the “Fifth Gospel”. So, Josephus, of course, was a Jewish historian who lived in the 1st century. He started out as a general in the Galilee, fighting against the Romans. He was captured by the Romans, and then he ended up writing two major works – others, but also two major works, Antiquities of the Jews and The Jewish War. In Antiquities 18:116-119 he says, “Now, some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God.” And here’s where things get a bit confusing. There are lots of people called “Herod”. [laughing] There’s Herod the Great, there’s Herod the Second, there’s Herod Antipas, Herod Philip, Herod Archelaus. In other words, Herod the Great had several sons, and one of them had Herod as part of their name. This is one of Herod’s sons.

“Some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called ‘the Baptist’. For Herod slew him, who was a good man…” meaning Herod killed John, “and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue…” again, we’re talking about John, “both as to righteousness towards one another and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism.”

And this is a really important passage we’re about to read here. And now I’m reading it from Whiston’s translation, “For that the washing with water would be acceptable to Him,” to God, “if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away or remission of sins, but for the purification of the body, supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness.”

“Now, and many others came and crowds about him, for they were greatly moved by hearing his words. Herod, who feared less the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power an inclination to raise a rebellion, for they seemed ready to do anything John should advise, thought it best by putting John to death to prevent any mischief he might cause and not bring himself into difficulties by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it should be too late.”

“Accordingly, John was sent a prisoner out of Herod’s suspicious temper to Machaerus, the castle I before mentioned…” meaning Josephus, “and was there put to death. Now, the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod and a mark of God’s displeasure against him.”

So what we learned from Josephus is there’s this massive Jewish following of John the Baptist, and one of the Herods, one of Herod’s sons, saw John the Baptist as a political threat, that he might raise a rebellion against him. It doesn’t say why. We learn about that from the Gospels, but he has this massive following, and the people are upset that Herod has killed John the Baptist. But what’s, I think, really interesting is the purpose of baptism, according to Josephus… In other words, when John is having people baptized and calling on people to be baptized, the question I ask is, what is the function of baptism?

Before we get into that and pick apart Josephus here, what is the function of baptism in Christianity, Keith, traditionally?

Keith: The forgiveness of sins.

Nehemia: Okay. So, explain how that functions.

Keith: So, this really brings me back a long, long time. The first time I ever visited Israel in 1987, they offered a baptism in the Jordan River. I had never been baptized, I was a new Christian at 15, and I went to Israel, I think it must have been 20-some years… I must have been close to 28, 29 years old.

Nehemia: You were 28 and you’d never been baptized?

Keith: I had never been baptized. For me, I was unchurched. And maybe that’s why I’m a box breaker, I was unchurched. I didn’t go to church, no time until I heard this message that I needed to read the Bible. I’ve told the story many times, but I will tell you something that happened, Nehemia, and it’s related before we get to this. Because I’ve got to bring up something about the first verse about John the Baptist. Like you say, language, history and context.

But I want to say this, so my first opportunity was in Israel. And our pastor, who was my first ever pastor, said to me, explained to me, “Keith, this is an opportunity for you to have a renewal of life. Baptism would be one where you would go down into the water, and that would be an image of death into the water and come up born again and having your sins cleansed and washed anew.” And there are many things I’ve learned since then, but that was my experience of what baptism was, my first experience was in the Jordan River in Israel.

Nehemia: Wow. That’s pretty cool. So, I was talking to a Christian friend, and what was told to me - this was yesterday - I said, “Okay, I’m studying this passage. What does it mean in your Christian background?” And the response was that baptism means converting to Christianity, that a person becomes a Christian when they’re baptized.

Now, I understand it’s different in different denominations. In the Catholic world, if you have a baby who’s unbaptized, like don’t they go to hell or something like that? Or maybe they go to purgatory, I don’t know. I’m not an expert on that. But I know there’s a big concern some people have that if the baby isn’t baptized, then they could die and they’ll go to hell or purgatory.

Other people say you have to be baptized as an adult, because it has to be a conscious choice. So I know within the Christian world there are different views on it. There does seem to be this idea that baptism makes you a Christian, that as you said, you’re born again and truly become a Christian through the baptism. Is that fair to say?

Keith: Well, oftentimes the baptism is the outward manifestation of an internal commitment that you’ve made. People would become a Christian and immediately say, “I need to be baptized.” So there’s a first step, it’s an internal thing. Baptism ends up being an external picture of what happened to you internally, spiritually. There are many people that interpret it that way.

The reason this is important, I just have to bring one thing that’s important about this first verse. And it says, “In those days, John the Baptizer, or John the Immerser, preaching in the wilderness of Judah.” And when I hear “the wilderness of Judah,” I can’t forget what that looks like today. And in fact, I’m going to bring a little something that you and I did, and it was a very interesting… to John the Baptist.

We went to Qumran to go look for this place where the caves were, if you’ve never heard about the Dead Sea Scrolls… talked about it before. We go to this place and you sit me down and there’s a film at Qumran. Do you remember this? We walk in and watch the film…

Nehemia: I’ve seen the film many times. I don’t remember us specifically seeing it.

Keith: Okay, you’ve done it many times. I’ve done it many times. But the first time I ever saw it, I was struck, because in the film they’re talking about the Essene community. And in the Essene community, they’re calling out this idea that John was an Essene. There’s a question, was he one of the ones that was within our community? Now, why is that important, for me?

In context, when it says, “the wilderness of Judah”, I can now see from Jerusalem out into Judah and the possibility… where’s the River Jordan? Why would he be in that area? Why would he be connected to that? I mean, for me it makes sense having been there, just seeing it. Now, I’m not saying 100 percent. I think your cousin makes the statement that he believes that he was an Essene, and that’s been a popular opinion that he was an Essene. But we don’t know that for sure, but what I remember about that movie was this guy in the movie basically saying, “We heard about this person being killed, John the Baptist. Was this the same John who was in our Essene community?” That’s what hit me when I…

Nehemia: So, here’s what’s happening. Jewish scholars are reading this passage about John and the other ones about John, and they’re saying, “Where in Judaism do we have this idea, certainly in this period, that you would be immersed in water as somehow having to do with getting rid of your sins?” Maybe we’ll get to that in Part 2. I think we have to save this for the Plus. But this is the $64,000 question. What on earth is the function of baptism, and how does it… within the context of John - we can all agree, John was not telling people to be baptized so they can become Christians, because John wasn’t a Christian, right? And we hear about that later in other passages in the New Testament, that the people had the baptism of John but not the baptism of Yeshua. We’ll get to that, maybe not even in this episode but in a future one.

So, the point is, what was the function of baptism, and where do we have a Jewish parallel where someone who was full of sin said, “Oh, I’m going to immerse in water to get rid of my sins” as part of the process of repentance? And so they say, “We don’t really have that in Judaism. That must have come from some Jewish denomination, Jewish sect whose documents we don’t have, because in the documents we have it doesn’t say that.”

At the time Rabbi Soloveitchik wrote his commentary, we didn’t have a single Essene document that we knew for sure was written by the Essenes. After he lived, 80 years after he lived, we have the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are now generally considered to have been written by the Essenes. So, we get a little bit of a better picture, and in the case of the Essenes more importantly, we have Qumran itself which is full of mikvehs, full of pools where people were immersed.

Now, I just want to say a little bit about a mikveh, and I think this is important, a little bit about terminology. A lot of the folks who I deal with who come from the Christian background, they believe in Yeshua, and they’re studying the Hebrew context, they’ll use these terms - they’ll talk about “being mikveh’d” and being mikveh’d is really Hebrew terminology that they’re using. What they really want to say is “being baptized”, but they don’t want to use the word “baptism” because they think that’s somehow a gentile term.

Josephus writes here, and he’s writing in Greek. He originally wrote in Hebrew, but it was translated into Greek. He mentions “Yoanu tu episca lumino Baptistu,” “John who was known, who was called as the Baptist,” right? So, he uses literally the word “Baptist, Baptistu,” which is from the “bapto, baptisto, baptiso”, “to be baptized”, in Greek. Baptistes is the nominative form. So, Baptist is actually a Greek word that a Jew would use to describe what John did, and in fact he does use it.

So they’ll use the word “mikveh” as a verb. However, in Jewish usage, modern Jewish usage, and as far as I know, ancient Jewish usage, mikveh is not used as a verb. Mikveh is a noun and it refers to a body of water that’s used for immersion. I can tell you what it can’t be - it would not be a swimming pool. There’s an entire tractate of the Mishnah called “Mikvaot”, which deals with the nuances of how a mikveh is structed. One of the big things is it can’t be water that’s pumped or drawn, it has to be rainwater or naturally flowing water. So a swimming pool that goes through pipes or a pump, that wouldn’t count unless that water is in a certain way mixed with rainwater.

Without getting all those details, John was using the Jordan River to immerse people. And where did he get this idea of using the Jordan River? Well, I guess we’ll get to that, probably in Part 2. But what I do want to bring up here is… I was once invited by this family of believers in Yeshua who were keeping Torah, and they came to Israel and they said, “We’re so excited. Our 16-year-old daughter is going to be mikveh’d and we want you to come and witness the mikveh-ing of our daughter in this spring outside Jerusalem.”

And I said, “Um, I don’t think that’s appropriate. In fact, that sounds a bit creepy. You want me to see your 16-year-old daughter be mikveh’d?” Like, “What’s wrong with you people, you bunch of degenerates? What are you talking about?” And they said, “No, it’s a beautiful thing. She’ll be immersed in the water and she’ll come out a new person. She’ll be born again.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but do you know what mikveh means in the Jewish context?” And they didn’t, clearly. Because in the Jewish context, when a woman goes to be mikveh’d, and really the word is “tovel”, tovel is “to immerse, to dip”. Literally, “to dip”. Like for example, it talks about Ruth dipped her bread in the vinegar, and the word there is the same word, “tovel”. So, when a Jew is tovel in the mikveh, they are naked as the day they were born, and in fact, women who go to be immersed in the mikveh, to be tovel in the mikveh, they will take off their jewelry, they will take off their earrings, and very devout women in the Jewish world will take off their nail polish, so that they go in the mikveh like the day they were born. [laughing]

So, these folks who were from the US were inviting me to go see their daughter, their 16-year-old daughter be mikveh’d. I’m like, “Is there something wrong with you guys? Or am I missing something in the picture here, because there’s no way I want to see a 16-year-old be mikveh’d. That don’t sound right. Not my thing.” And they’re like, “Why?” and I told them, “I mean, isn’t she going to be naked?” They’re like, “Oh, no. She’s going to be wearing her clothes.” “Oh, so that’s not mikveh in the traditional Jewish sense, at least.”

Keith: But isn’t that interesting, Nehemia? So, if you asked a person from my background, if you’re thinking about being baptized, there’s an image. But from you, you have an image, because this is what it actually has been, historically.

Nehemia: Look, not just historically. When I was a little kid, my father would take me to the mikveh. We would go on Friday, and what it was explained to me was, “Well, in biblical times you’d go to the mikveh to then go into the Temple. We don’t have the Temple, but we go on Friday as a tradition to try to remember that purification, going into Shabbat.” So, we’d go to the mikveh, and with my father and 10 or 20 other men in the locker room, we’d strip down naked, go take a shower and then immerse ourselves in the mikveh. Why would we take a shower? Because that’s rainwater. It’s not replaced every day. And the mikveh we went to wasn’t even chlorinated. In Israel, they do chlorinate them. But this mikveh in Chicago wasn’t even chlorinated. And so, we’d go in the mikveh on Pratt Avenue and we’d immerse ourselves, naked as the day we were born. So, it wasn’t just something from history, it was something I grew up with, right? And so, the idea that you would go and see a teenage girl being tovel in the mikveh - what now?

Keith: Here’s what’s interesting. We are going to get into the nitty-gritty of this, but I want to say this, because in the first verse, when he says, “In those days, John the Baptizer,” in English, “the Immerser…”

Nehemia: HaMatbil.

Keith: I actually think it this way, he’s John the Dipper. He’s dipping.

Nehemia: Well, yeah. It’s matbil, he’s the Dipper, to dip the…

Keith: So, he’s preaching in the wilderness of Judah.

Nehemia: Dip the bread in the vinegar.

Keith: So, the issue has to be, what is John doing in the wilderness preaching, and what is he preaching? I mean, to me, when I read the verse I could jump right ahead, I could think about the issue of the name that he’s been given, the title being “a Baptizer”. Or I could focus on the preaching and what’s he preaching, and why is he in the wilderness? And then it says what he preached. I mean, we’re going to get to that, right?

Nehemia: We will, I think in Part 2, or maybe in the next episode. But here’s an important point. Why in the wilderness of Judea, you ask, right? And we find out it’s not just anywhere in the wilderness of Judea, it’s specifically in the Jordan Valley at the spot in the Jordan in the southern section of the Jordan River which touches the Judean Desert. Well, we know where that is, really within a few miles. Some people say they know the exact spot. It’s the ford over the Jordan River. It’s actually the same spot where it seems the Israelites crossed over into the land, the very same spot as where John took people to immerse them.

Why do we say it’s the same spot? Because there are a lot of places in the Jordan River that aren’t accessible, where there’s a precipitous drop. It’s difficult to get to the shores of the Jordan River. And then here we actually have a ford over the Jordan River. It’s a place where you can cross over, and so it’s believed that’s the spot the Israelites crossed over and where John immersed the people.

And that may have something to do with the imagery here. In other words, why didn’t he do this in Jerusalem? He could have said, “Everyone, come to the Gichon Spring and repent of your sins, and we’ll immerse you in the Gichon Spring.” He could have done that. Well, the Gichon Spring isn’t really that big. And even if he did the Pool of Shiloah, even in ancient times, it wasn’t that big. You couldn’t have had hundreds… maybe you could have hundreds, you couldn’t have had thousands of people. At the Jordan River, you could have had thousands of people coming. It was on a major trade route where people were traveling up to the north of Israel and back to Jerusalem, and to the south. So you had people who were coming and going around that area, so really it was a good location if you wanted a lot of people there.

It was also a good location if you didn’t want to get arrested, right? If you wanted to get arrested in Jerusalem, gather more than 10 people and watch how long it took before you got arrested. The Roman authorities and their cronies would almost immediately arrest people and kill them because they were afraid… you know, if you had more than 10 people, that could be a rebellion. In fact, in the Roman Empire, one of the reasons the Christians were persecuted early on was because they had these gatherings on Sunday. And there’s a famous letter of Pliny, who is a governor in what today is Turkey, in Asia Minor, and he writes to the Roman Emperor and he says, “I’m not sure what to do with these Christians. The only people who are allowed to gather in large gatherings are firemen and other people who are authorized, and these Christians get together in these gatherings and I know I’m supposed to kill them, right?” And he writes to the Emperor, saying how he’s persecuting them because they’re gathering.

So, if you wanted to get persecuted, gather a bunch of people and see how that works. Now, they did gather on Shabbat in the synagogues, the Jews had a special dispensation. But if you’re gathering outside the synagogue, you’re going to get in trouble. But out there in the desert, you know, they’d kind of leave you alone, although John did get arrested in the end! [laughing] So I guess it didn’t really work so well.

Keith: Nehemia, so this is back to this person that’s saying to me why I shouldn’t be doing these teachings and why you and I shouldn’t be working together. And isn’t it true, Nehemia, that we’re talking about John before the whole death and resurrection issue of Yeshua? We’re talking about John before Yeshua starts his public ministry. We’re talking about John who’s out in the desert, and we’re going to get to this. Is it fair to say that whatever John was preaching at that point was specific to people who were Jewish?

Nehemia: I would definitely say that the main audience here are Jews. We read in verse 5, “Then they went out from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all the kings around the Jordan.” There could have been people around the kingdoms in the Jordan who weren’t Jewish.

Keith: Now, and this is what I wanted to get to.

Nehemia: There were people who came from Scythopolis, which is the Jewish Bet Shean, but it was at that time it was a pagan city. Maybe they came from there, that’s possible as well.

Keith: But here’s why it excited me - because here you have a message, and we’re going to get to this in the Plus section. I really am excited about this. I want you to preach like John what the message was. I’m serious, in the Plus section... Folks, I want you to come to the Plus section. I’m glad it’s at nehemiaswall, because I’m going to ask Nehemia to preach like John and ask him if the words that John is preaching could still be preached today in a synagogue. Could they still be preached today out on the street? Could they still be preached today in context? Now, I’m not going to answer that, but I think this is where we get to hear you preach the message from John.

Nehemia: Yeah, okay.

Keith: I’m serious.

Nehemia: I will definitely address that. There are so many other things I want to bring, but I guess we’ll have to save them for the Plus section. And, you know, it’s interesting, so here we have chapter 3 in Shem Tov’s Hebrew Matthew, which is broken up into three different sections, and I asked you the question before we did this, how can we possibly just do verses 1 through 6? [laughing]

Keith: No, no. What you actually said was…

Nehemia: And it is a challenge, because how do you do verses 1 through 6 when you’ve got to look at what’s in Mark, Luke and John, and then also, how do we talk about repentance without looking at verse 8? It sounds so straightforward, right?

Keith: But this is the beauty of this. What I’ve been arguing is this, and I’m telling folks this, and I mean it. You don’t have to go any further. You can just do what we talked about - language, history and context if you’re reading Matthew chapter 3 verse 1. But I’m going to tell you something. We could go further even before we get to verse 2. But my point is that that’s the further study. The further study isn’t just for us, it’s for the people that are listening, people that want to go further. And I’m telling you, you can go further. We get to second verse, I’ll be surprised if we can get out of it [laughing] in the Plus section.

Nehemia: Well, that’s just more homework for everybody else, and I hope people do this. I hope they’re not just listening to what we’re saying, but they’re going out and studying for themselves, looking synoptically, Matthew, Mark and Luke and then comparing it to John. Because this is really a special opportunity - that we have a description of John the Baptist in all four Gospels. And then in Josephus, and then in some other sources as well, which you could take as reliable or not.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: I mean, some of them seem a bit dubious. But certainly, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Josephus are five very reliable sources, I think, in the context of John. He’s mentioned in Acts, I mean, there’s all kinds of interesting things here we’re not going to get to. And there’s a reference in Paul where he re-baptizes people - all kinds of fascinating things here that we probably won’t have time to get to.

Keith: Well, we actually will have time to get to, because we’ve got a second section we’re going to do here, for those who are going to follow us.

Nehemia: Well, but in the second section there’s so much more I want to share here. There is something unique in Hebrew Matthew not found in any other source, something that I looked at every single surviving manuscript of Shem Tov’s Hebrew Matthew.

Keith: No, no, no! [laughing] Again? You’re telling us again, you’ve got something?

Nehemia: Well, it’s really interesting, because it’s kind of a small detail, but it’s unique to Shem Tov’s Hebrew Matthew. I looked in the Greek manuscripts, at least what’s recorded in the apparatuses. I also looked in the Latin, looked for old Latin in the apparatuses. There’s a reading in Hebrew Matthew which you’re like, “Okay, well there’s no agenda here, why would he have this difference?” He seems to be preserving something going back to a relatively early period, some information about John which is kind of a trivial piece of information. But the fact that it’s trivial, I think, is in itself important. Because otherwise you might say, “Well, okay, he has this agenda or that agenda.” Here, it’s just like a detail, like, “Wow, where did this come from?” We might actually have a testimony here that goes back to the 1st century.

Keith: And with that…

Nehemia: On that, yeah.

Keith: …let’s prepare for the Plus section, Nehemia. I’m serious, folks. You’ve been going with us now, this is our sixth episode. Folks have been tracking with us, tell your family, tell your friends. It’s already available. It’ll be available to everyone, this first section, but for those that really want to go deeper, Nehemia, I’m telling you for myself, these pearls that keep coming up, [laughing] they’re beautiful. So, I’m looking forward to finding out what this next thing is.

Nehemia: Excellent. All right, let’s end in a prayer. Yehovah, Avinu Shebashamayim, Father in Heaven, so many people out there are struggling with this pandemic and the disease and the sickness. And in years to come, people listening to this will be facing their own disease, their own sicknesses. Yehovah, who sees all, who controls all, Yehovah, be the healer. You said that You will be Yehovah, rofecha, Yehovah, your Healer. Be Yehovah, rofeinu, Yehovah, our Healer. To all those who love You and call upon Your name, and those who seek You and don’t even know Your name, be the healer in their lives, Amen.

Keith: Father, thank you so much for the opportunity to share even in the midst of the pandemic and the struggles of my own home, of my son, and COVID being right around the corner, and how will it affect me, and how does it affect him, and my wife not being here, Father, in all of that, I still trust You completely and believe that by the time we hear this episode, You will have done just that, what Nehemia has mentioned. There will be healing for Kyle and our household will get back to a place where there is no Coronavirus or COVID-19. Thank you for this section that we’re looking at. Help us to be open in our hearts and our minds to the message that may be affecting even us today. We pray that we would have open ears and open eyes that anything that You have for us, we could accept it. We ask Your blessing upon this study, not only the one that we’ve just done, but the one we’re about to do. In Your name, Amen.

Nehemia: Amen

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  • sean kraft says:

    Nehemia, are you listening? The conversation about “it was very dangerous to be a male of known Aaronic decent” is very dangerous talk these days. Understand what is happening. Be prepared. The end times is upon us. Understand the times.

  • Patti Yager says:

    Thank you Nehemia for this series. Surely Yehovah blessed us all when He created you for this Time!

  • davidheilbronprice says:

    Black leather
    Roman leather was used extensively including for the military tents. It was predominately brown. Other societies used different tanning methods and hence had different colored leather. Black may have been the usual color in Parthia. Leather could be prepared by smoking the hides with certain leaves, compared to the Roman method.

  • Clovis Sundquist says:

    Nehemia and Keith, DO NOT STOP Gospel Pearls! We love this so much! Thank you for all you do. We cannot wait for you to continue these fantastic studies.

  • Yvonne Russell says:

    To Jake Wilson: re. Paul as a “Jew.”
    I think before you criticize you should really read the Scriptures with a spirit of truth. Not to weaponize the Word of God to try and prove your point. That’s what I see going on here with certain people. They want their way. It must be an ego problem. But I can tell you from my perspective they are not genuine.
    To answer your question you have to read the Scriptures with some purpose of logic combined with spirit and truth.

    Paul was severely threatened with death by the Jews, and was rightfully protected by the Romans as a result of his citizenship. He was accused by the Jews of changing the law. He was not being technical when dealing with hysterical people that wanted to kill him. The only people that can be
    legitimately known as Jews as those from the Tribe of Judah. When they came back from Babylon the word Jew was lost and became loosely used for the purpose at hand. And still is to this day.
    Use logic.

  • hanotzrim says:

    Hi Sean,

    Generally speaking, the terms ‘Hebrew’, ‘Jew’, and ‘Israelite’ are used interchangeably in Scripture.

    Though Abraham and Isaac were technically non-Jews, it was their line that birthed the Jewish nation, and to them the promises and the eternal sign of circumcision was given (the Arabs also circumcise, but they didn’t receive the promise).

    Yes, the scattered tribes had all been circumcised as infants, and then, upon repentance, underwent ‘heart circumcision’ performed by the Messiah (immersion in water in Yeshua’s name).

    For 7 years the New Covenant was only entered by Jews, and then also non-Jews accepted it (Samaritans and Gentiles). The Jewish Nazarenes maintained of course physical circumcision on the 8th day because they were Jews They were increasingly persecuted till they disappeared from history in the 4th century.

    The Gentile Nazarenes, – who were persecuted together with their Jewish brethren – kept the entire Torah (Sabbath, festivals, dietary laws, etc.) except physical circumcision. The parallel chapters of Gal 2 and Acts 15 confirm that non-Jews are not to be physically circumcised (unless they want to convert to Judaism or Islam :-)).

    • sean says:

      Hanotzrim, unless you are referring to the Talmud as scripture, or unless I’m wildly missing something in my lifelong studies, your first sentence is simply, all together, completely wrong. Hebrew, Jew and Israelite are very distinctively used throughout the old and new testaments. I understand that they may sound to some, that they are used interchangeably. The falling out of use of “Hebrew”, the use of “Jew” to describe those left after the northern tribes departed, Paul calling himself a “Hebrew”, the Jewish keeping of the Levitical dietary laws given to the 12 tribes as the nation of Israel, the distinction of Jews as a race and as those who do “Jewish” things, all of these have complexity, but in no way do these make them “interchangeable”. Frankly, to say they are interchangeable sounds lazy to me.

      I think problems come from wanting the whole “we are set apart” thing. Zechariah says the Jews are the apple of God’s eye. But as in Jeremiah 31, the grafting in of Gentiles is to the nation of Israel. All the tribes. Not just the Jews. My understanding is that the Talmud gets rid of that whole thing, leaving only Jews to be saved. Only Jews are Israel. Any tribes lost were Jewish, especially Ephriam and Manasseh, but when they left they lost God’s promises and vanished, never to return. When nothing could be further from the truth as per prophecy.

      Clearly, physical circumcision is not a requirement for non-Jews who accept Christ. But physical circumcision is not wrong. It is one of uncountable legalisms that some men use to bind others with.

      I once had an acquantance attempt to apply some legalism to me because in a paragraph, I neglected to capitalize “God”. At his unrelenting insistence for a non-official and merely conversational script, that I make the correction (that I normally would and did elsewhere in the script), I refused and warned him that he risked assuming the role of a modern Pharisee.

      So the question would be, would a secular Jew who accepts Christ and becomes Messianic, still need to be circumcised? ha

      • hanotzrim says:

        Hi Sean,

        I think the verse is quite clear:

        “Was someone already circumcised when he was called? Then he should not try to remove the marks of his circumcision. Was someone uncircumcised when he was called? He shouldn’t undergo b’rit-milah.” (1 Cor vii 18)

        Also, the emphasis was on ‘generally speaking’, so I don’t see a problem (we were discussing Messiah’s circumcision, not Judahites, “Idumean Jews”, etc.).

        But I happily agree to disagree. Certain Hebrew Roots folks push Gentile physical circumcision, but I have given my opinion (and agree with Paul).

        PS: If James wrote to the scattered tribes, they are not lost; the split into the two houses was neither watertight nor permanent.

    • Yvonne Russell says:

      Simplify it. The distinction between a Jew and a Hebrew was determined by the 12 sons of Jacob. (Gen 49)
      Abraham, Issac and Jacob were Hebrews. The tribe of Judah, the messianic king line, were always referred to as Jews.
      The 10 northern tribes were all Hebrews. Judah, Benjamin stayed in south with the Temple along with some Priesthood Levites who were never considered a tribe. When Judah and Benjamin returned from Babylon they were known as the Jews. Whoever lived in Judea were Jews in the eyes of the Romans. One could be an Eskimo and if he lived in Judea they were considered Jews. However, notice Paul was the tribe of Benjamin and he knew he wasn’t a Jew but a Hebrew. (Phil 3:5) When Paul was preaching, he discouraged any more recognition of genealogies. (Titus 3:9) (1Tim 1:4) Strict genealogies were kept from the garden onward in order to establish the messianic king line which almost became extinct under Athaliah.(2Kings 11:1-3) Christ had to be of the messianic lineage. After Christ there was no more need to distinguish any distinction between tribes All were together including gentiles if they believed in Christ.No more argument as to who is who. Believe in Christ.

      • Sean says:

        Yvonne, indeed, indeed, yes indeed. Except that lineage is still applied in eschatology.

        • daniel says:

          I agree, Sean. It seems the YDNA comes into play when sealing the 12,000 from the 12 tribes – Yehovah only knows who is really who.

      • hanotzrim says:

        Paul was a Jew and also a Hebrew (a Scot is also a Brit 🙂

        • Yvonne Russell says:

          Saul Id himself as a Hebrew, tribe of Benjamin, not Judah. Was also a Roman citizen with Roman rights born in Tarsus, Cilicia. But still a Hebrew. Changed his name to Paul when he converted Sergia Paulus with the Gospel against the advice of his prophet
          Acts 13

          • Jake Wilson says:

            So, when Paul said in ACTS 21:39, “I am a Jew”, he was lying?

          • sean says:

            Jake, Paul’s obviously not lying or contradicting his profession to be a Benjamite. So considering the he was speaking to a Roman who would know what a Jew was, and might not know what a Benjamite was, I would say he was probably giving a familiar reference. Like saying “I’m from Denver”, when you are actually from Littleton, CO.

        • Sean says:

          Indeed he was Jewish. Not a small lineage issue though, considering that all the disciples were Benjamites except for Paul and Judas, if memory serves. And technically, they were all Hebrews, and before the split, they were all Israelites.

          • daniel says:

            Actually, Matthew was a Levite. It’s assumed Jude and James the Lesser were Judahites if Joseph was their father by Mary (Luke’s genealogy) – not sure where the others were called Benjamites – but by 2nd Temple standards all were considered ‘Jews’.

  • hanotzrim says:

    Thanks Reyes,

    That’s interesting as it underlines the carnality of the soul.

    I was only referencing man’s threefold nature as in 1 Thes 5:23 (spirit, soul, body).

    Obviously, only the body is physical and no soul runs through my veins nor does the soul contain any blood (neither pure, sinless, poisonous or any other types of blood).

    Btw., I fully agree with Nehemia, Keith, and Josephus 🙂 that John’s baptism meant ritual cleansing after repentance. I somehow jumped the gun here by mistake and was referring already to “Christian water baptism” 🙂 sorry.

  • Yvonne Russell says:

    You people are getting too stuffily academic for me. All I know is in Job “Though worms shall devour my flesh and my bones be as dust, YET…YET I shall see God whom I shall see for myself and my eyes shall behold him and not as a stranger.” (Job 19:26) (So only spirit) The flesh profits nothing.(John 6:63)

    Christ told woman at well God desires no religiosity but only Spirit and truth. (John 4) God breathed life into man. (Gen 2:7) You were chosen from the foundation of the world. (Ep 1:4) Did not the soul make the human what he is?

    When God made man/woman he wanted a family to enjoy what he had created. Adam had dominion over creation. Be fruitful and multiply. She is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. There is blood in that soul. How else would life be created between man and woman? God made woman’s body not to blend with the infant’s blood. The man predominates. Life is blood.

    Why was Abel’s blood sacrifice accepted and Cain’s was not. Not only did Cain give a cursed offering not caring whether blood counted as righteous which he didn’t give. Abel valued life’s blood that he chose to sacrifice. Cain gave only brush of the ground.

    After sin, blood became poisoned. You must leave will die. Nothing dies in God’s Kingdom. Christ’s sinless Blood paid penalty for broken Sinai covenant. (Liv 17:11) Only currency in earth Satan’s kingdom that could pay it. However, man’s Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. (1Cor 15:50) When we the living depart, we will be changed and will have the same resurrected body that Christ had. When he rose he told Thomas, I’m flesh and bone – no mention of blood. (Luke (24:39) Of course not, John said, I saw the blood go down into the earth. (1John 5) Our bodies on
    earth are containers (tabernacles) for God’s spirit. Christ told Peter flesh and blood did not reveal God to you but only spirit of God. (Matt 16:17)

    Christ said you must be born again. A second time to reestablish your original spirit in order to inherit the Kingdom of God. (John 3:3) It all boils down to the spirit of Almighty God. Just as he breathed his spirit into man. He will return man’s spirit to himself. Christ said, Father into your hands I commend my spirit – nothing more. (Luke 23:46) So it’s spirit and truth folks. No convoluted words of academic Wisdom. What is wisdom? the knowledge of God from a spiritual standpoint. 1Cor 3:16) Because God is spirit. Hope it helps explain my position.

  • Yvonne Russell says:

    Hi hanotzrim
    I suspect you are seminary educated. I disagree. Your theories sound matter of fact and stilted. Obviously, no matter, no worries, but friends, Thanks for responding.

    • Jake Wilson says:

      Never seen a seminary; born of water and Spirit 30 years ago (with tongues).

      • Reyes Nava says:

        Shalom Jake & Yvonne,

        This website contains Nehemia’s teaching “Yom Kippur – The Day of Atonement” where he says:

        …….It should be pointed out that one of the meanings of the word “NeFeSH”, commonly translated as “soul”, is in fact “appetite”.

        [Linguistic note: NeFeSH has the literal meaning of “throat” as in the verse “Save me, O God; for the waters have reached [as high as] my throat (NeFeSH)” (Psalms 69:2) and thus by extension came to signify: breath, life, appetite, etc.]…….

        With Nehemia’s insight of the soul (throat) being the seat of the appetites these proclamations come to life: “my soul thirst for you” and “Yehovah is my portion says my soul”

        Just like the physical throat has its appetites and desires we can visualize the soul as the throat to the heart and be blessed when seeking Yehovah. (Proverbs 2:10).

        “For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;”


    • Anita Burke says:

      i was encouraged by your introduction but then disappointed you mention seminary. also would love for you to expand in your post

  • Bill Black says:

    Wasn’t John doing Mikvah?
    Christians don’t because it in the TORAH/law which they are no longer under so they also miss the promised blessing from YEHOVAH!

    • Jake Wilson says:

      Except for circumcision, grafted in Gentiles are subject to God’s instructions (Tora); sadly most are not aware of it.

      • Anita Burke says:

        why not circumcision?

        • hanotzrim says:

          Because since the New Covenant is available, Gentiles are no longer grafted into Israel through physical circumcision. Joining Israel as depicted in JER 31:31–34 is only possible with a circumcised heart.

          Thus, the cutting away of the foreskin of the heart (removal of the sinful Adamic nature) is mandatory for Jew and Gentile. But through performing physical circumcision a Gentile thwarts the New Covenant since he tops it up with a covenantal allegiance to sinful Israel, i.e. Jewry outside the New Covenant (see 1 Cor 7:18).

          A Jewish person, on the other hand, is commanded to be physically circumcised because he is of Abrahamic stock; the “circumcision made without hands” (COL 2:11) does not replace physical circumcision.

          • sean says:

            Today, a nice way to put it, would be that who-is-of-what-stock is often very incorrect. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Hebrews, the Israelites, Ephriam, Manasseh, Levites and Benjamites are all called “Jews”. I have yet to figure out why this is. But given that the “tribes of Israel” who were known in Greece and Rome were being preached to by Paul, it could at least be said that the first Christians among the Gentiles were also of Abrahamic stock. The practice of physical circumcision was probably still in effect among them.

        • daniel says:

          Anita, If my interpretation is correct circumcision must be done on the 8th day, or you missed it. Adult circumcision is serious business, and I wouldn’t recommend it on a whim.

  • hanotzrim says:

    Through water baptism the HEART is circumcised. Let’s drop both Judaism’s idea of Yetzer Hara that can be squashed through Torah observance and Augustine’s extreme idea of ‘original sin’ – since both are wrong (btw. no infant will be condemned; kids are only liable from a certain age onward, depending on their maturity (see Num 14:31; Deut 1:39). But anyway, ALL of Israel will be saved.

    God said that HE would circumcise the heart, and during baptism the foreskin of the heart is removed through the Messiah (it is a ‘supernatural heart operation’, if you will).

    Maybe tedious, but to grasp that one has to look at the fall:

    Attached to God’s spirit, the human spirit originally led the soul which in turn led the body. With the expulsion from Eden, when the spiritual union of man and God was severed, the soul was severed from the spirit. Sin raised a DIVIDE between soul and spirit, aka the ‘foreskin of the heart’. Contrary to original design, and sadly considered as ‘normal’ today, man is merely led by his soul (and body), i.e. by his intellect, emotion, and will – a condition which the Scripture refers to as ‘stony’, ‘darkened’, or ‘blind’. Like the knowledge of good and evil, this heart condition has been passed on through procreation.

    The ‘circumcision made without hands’ heals the broken heart, it removes the veil and the partition between man and God, i.e. it removes the old sinful Adamic nature (which the blood of animals could not remove). Note: it does not replace physical circumcision for Jewish males.

    Naaman, the leper, healed through dipping in the Jordan foreshadowed this; many Rabbinic sources call the Messiah the ‘Leper Scholar’ because he took our leprosy (sin) and enabled our healing.

    To heal and restore God employs water AND FIRE – the earth was baptized in water in Noah’s day, and the coming fire baptism will result in a NEW earth, a restored creation (the millennium).

    I trust that will be covered in the next parts, but no one is BORN AGAIN or becomes a Christian through mere water baptism (that is churchianity). Water baptism won’t save anyone; Noah would have died on his boat had God not dried the earth by ‘ruach’.

    Neither does Scripture say that baptism is an “outward manifestation” and that all is fine the moment your heart is right. All the Israelites would have died in Egypt with their “good heart attitudes” had they not crossed the Red Sea, the latter foreshadowing water (and spirit) baptism.

    • Yvonne Russell says:

      hanotzrim See if I’m on your page. This is what I’ve figured out. Yes When God made the body he breathed (spirit) into man and he became a living soul (Blood is in the soul) Yeshua poured out his soul (life blood) for our salvation.

      So man had spirit (breath) led by the soul (blood) Life is in the Blood. When man sinned he was separated from God. His blood was poisoned and he would die. His severed spirit became the focus of Satan. And God would not allow man to stay in his Garden.

      Agreed Water “baptism” a pagan description. That one quick dunk whether pretense or not is all that it takes seems far fetched. John the Baptist never claimed to make people “born again.” It was for the purpose of repenting and then to wash themselves so as not to sin again. Man is in Satan’s kingdom and he has the constant battle not to succumb to sin.
      As John said: But there’s one coming that will “baptize” of the Father for the indwelling fire of Holy Spirit.

      • hanotzrim says:

        Well, ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ are sometimes used interchangeably and at other times ‘soul’ denotes a person. ‘Heart’ is sometimes called ‘soul’ and sometimes ‘spirit’ (it’s a bit confusing).

        But if one considers all Scripture, and as per 1 Thes 5:23, man is composed of spirit, soul, and body.

        Man’s soul or ‘mind’ was originally led by his spirit which in turn was linked to God’s Spirit (you wrote that the soul led the spirit, but it was the other way round).

        ‘Amen’ to the rest you have written. Yes, the fallen cherub is real, and his realm of control is typified through Egypt – escaping the slavery of sin is only possible by crossing the Red Sea = water and spirit baptism (or ‘wind’ baptism).

        • Yvonne Russell says:

          No. I believe God breathed his breath into man which was God’s spirit. Then man became a living soul. The blood is in the soul. (Gen: 2:7) I believe soul (man’s blood) and spirit (God’s spirit) are separate. (Lev 17:11) Man lost God’s spirit when he sinned. Then he was ousted and his blood life/soul was w/o God’s spirit. That predominated until the one to come that had the remedy to rectify the situation. Christ’s Blood was sinless. He reunited man with the Holy Spirit of the Father. (John 6:63) Remember the (body) flesh profits nothing. It’s the spirit that quickens. God’s spirit was/is life.

          • hanotzrim says:

            No worries, Yvonne. I guess this is my final input, and then I happily agree to disagree.

            You confuse the different meanings of ‘soul’:

            1) ‘Soul’ can refer to a PERSON, as in: “The soul that sins shall die” (it does NOT mean “body and spirit can stay alive, only the soul shall die”).

            2) ‘Soul’ can refer to a PART OF A PERSON, the latter consisting of spirit, soul, and body – spirit and soul are non-physical; the body is physical.

            3) ‘Soul’ can refer to LIFE in general, as in Lev 17:11: “The life of the flesh is in the blood.”

            I am only talking about the 2nd meaning where ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ refer to the HEART of a person (not the physical heart). That heart is the center of a person, i.e. the real ‘you’ – resident in a body of flesh. That is what God breathed into man when He made him a living person.

            Just like a physical heart, the spiritual heart consists of two halves: spirit and soul (which is why sometimes ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’ both mean ‘heart/mind’ and are used interchangeably).

            Initially, man’s heart was UNDIVIDED and the human spirit (i.e. that measure of Spirit given by God) could freely lead the soul, to wit, the will, the emotions, the intellect, the imagination, and the memory. Put differently, the heart was WHOLE, and man loved God with his WHOLE HEART.

            Since the fall, the heart is DIVIDED. Just as our physical pump, the heart of natural unregenerate man is now PARTITIONED, i.e. the spirit is severed from the soul. Instead of guiding the soul, the spirit lies dormant. In other words, THE HEART IS BROKEN, and only the Messiah who heals the broken-hearted and sets the captives free (from their sinful nature), can fix it. And then, once we are healed, we can love God WITH OUR WHOLE HEART.

            That is what water baptism in Messiah’s name is all about. The Messiah cuts away the partition wall between spirit & soul to restore man to his pre-fall state:

            “The word of God [Messiah] is alive and powerful; sharper than a double-edged sword; piercing the divide between soul and spirit.” (Heb 4:12)

            (This operation also removes the partition wall between Jew and Gentile, and the veil between man and God).

            ‘Blood’, ‘wine’, ‘oil’, ‘water’, ‘wind’ and ‘fire’ are all symbols of God’s Spirit, but let’s leave Spirit baptism for another day.

  • UKJ says:

    Shalom and thank you for these wonderful works that you do!!

    I do have some nagging questions please!I

    If John is a descendant of Aaron on both his father’s and mother’s side, then why is there no mention in the records done by the priests ?

    After all, people of such important descent would have been recorded for their genealogy ? Or do I understand this wrong?

    • David Price says:

      John’s father, Zacharias, was a Levitical priest but not necessarily a direct descendant of Aaron. Elizabeth= Elisheva in Hebrew was a daughter of Aaron, Luke 1:5. That meant John’s grandfather was Aaronic on his mother’s side.
      In Herod’s time it was very dangerous to be a male of known Aaronic descent. You would get killed by Herod. High priests were considered to be ‘ethnarchs’ — the rulers of the nation. There was no Davidic king.
      Herod hunted down and killed all legitimate Davidic claimants to ‘his’ kingdom. He wanted to control the priesthood. He married a daughter of the Maccabees then killed off the Maccabee priestly line (even though they may not have been Aaronic). The last one, Alexander the boy-high priest, was drowned by his Gaul guards. (Josephus Wars, 1:22,2 (437)).
      The priesthood had slightly different ‘genealogical’ rules to kings. Think of each part of Temple being run by
      a family guild. Some were singers, some musicians. Priests had to be of the correct family pedigree but those named in the priest-lists were those who were registered in the Temple for the specific offices: makers of incense, those in charge of sacrifices, checking animals, infrastructure, guards at the gates, captains of the guards etc. Thus a guard-priest might not be followed by his son but by a nephew. (The son might live abroad or be disqualified for one reason.)
      You will find the high priestly genealogy or chief priest-list of Jehoshua in Luke 3. Note that it uses the same formula as Josephus when referring to priests: the word ‘son’ does not appear in the Greek. The Chief Priest and high priests took office in their thirtieth year in Hebrew reckoning. Jesus was recognized as the legitimate successor and (Greek: enomizeto, legally registered) son of Joseph of the Eli, of the Matthat, of the Levi etc.
      John’s priestly line obviously followed some of these ancestors as John and Jesus were cousins and related in terms of their priestly families.

      • UKJ says:

        Thank you David ! I really appreciate your answer !

        (Herod hunted down and killed all legitimate Davidic claimants to ‘his’ kingdom. He wanted to control the priesthood.)

        Now that you have pointed this out, it seems so obvious !
        Yeshua had been killed …
        … and John has been a cousin to Yeshua …

      • Neville Newman says:

        ” a Levitical priest but not necessarily a direct descendant of Aaron”

        Did you mean to have the word “priest” in there? As I read the Bible, the priestly line was given by Yehovah to Aaron’s descendants, never to any other. Non-priest Levites had critical tabernacle and temple duties, but only descendants of Aaron could be legitimate priests. Or do you read and understand it differently?

        • daniel says:

          I agree, Neville. Luke’s account says he was ‘blameless’ in every way, and I consider that to include he was no ‘pretender’, but probably the last legitimate Cohen Gadol by Torah standards – and Yeshua says he was indeed slaughtered by Herod’s men. James’ account provides a 2nd witness. It’s a critical point when considering his heir, John, was executed – leaving Yeshua as the heir apparent (confirmed by the incident on the Mt. of Transfiguration).

  • Janlyn Gosse says:

    Another edifying episode! These studies are a highlight in our days of difficult news. And yes, I am using your discussion as a beginning and also using other reference materials including the ones that you have recommended. I am sure that I am part of a large group of listeners who are doing that. I say that as a form of encouragement to both of you, Keith and Nehemiah.
    I loved the discussion about Rabbi Zacuto. He sounds like an incredible man and it enriches my life to know about him and his connection with Columbus.
    Thank you both!

  • UKJ says:

    I do apologise, it should read ‘Genealogy’

  • Yvonne Russell says:

    Hi Nehemia: I heard you mention, I believe, your Rabbi relative who told Columbus how to read the solar systems to navigate. Did I hear you say that this same Rabbi when examining his theories said that Yeshua was born in the year one? If so, then MRood’s research claims that Yeshua was born in year 3? Which one is correct? Any info would be appreciated. Thank you. Great info.

  • Sylvia L Maltzman says:

    Shalom, Nehemia. Regarding Gospel Pearls 6, why would Yochanon’s body have been cremated? That sounds like another relic hoax. The teaching was excellent, btw!! Thank you!!

  • sean says:

    According to 1 Peter 3, Baptism is ” saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”

    • Yvonne Russell says:

      I am under the impression that when Yeshua told John the Baptist that he wanted to be “baptised” for Righteousness sake I’m thinking that he was referring to being sanctified and “washed” just before he met his Father. Yeshua was not there to “confess any sins” as some religions teach. At this moment John discovered that Yeshua was the Messiah when he came up out of the water and John saw the 2 signs. John did not know prior to that point. Am I wrong in saying that this is what Almighty God wanted when he told Moses to get the people “washed” before they were brought to Sinai to meet him. That would be a sign of respect and righteousness as what the Messiah said.(Exodus 19:10)

      • Jake Wilson says:

        Yeshua was simply re-enacting his birth as the “Light of the World”, born of water and Spirit on day one (Gen 1:2-3). That’s why the Gospel of the Hebrews mentions the voice saying, “This day have I begotten you.”

        It had nothing to with showing respect, but is a pattern for man to follow. To be saved, man needs to be born of water and Spirit, i.e. born of God.

  • eshetchayil says:

    Box breaker!! I love it. I am often referred to as a boat rocker. And you guys ROCK!!! My paradigms are shifting – AGAIN!

    “Gather more than 10 people and see how long it takes to get arrested.” Hmmm. Are you sure that referred to a couple thousand years ago?

    How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news,
    who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

    • Janlyn Gosse says:

      I know – I was also totally thinking that about the gathering together of groups. And yes, I love your “How beautiful. . .” quote!

  • Owen Murphy says:

    Is it not almost prophetic that gatherings by Christians were prohibited by the Roman authorities and gatherings by Christians is prohibited by ‘authorities’ in the USA. in 2020

    • daniel says:

      Absolutely. In Texas they haven’t ‘prohibited’ yet, but strongly discourage to the point that churches have ‘self-prohibited’ their own gathering. I find it very fearful and Faith-lacking.

  • JW Brakebill says:

    Thank you Nehemia. History seems to have forgotten Columbus and the eclipsed moon incident. I found that very interesting.

    I found something about 21 minutes into the podcast that seems curious or a possible discrepancy. The New Testament confirms that Yeshua was 6 months older than John the Baptist. But in your conversion of years you placed John’s birth about 1 BC. Then say Rabbi Zacuto uses a date equivalent to around 13 AD, and that Herod killed John. Would that not have put John at 14-15 years old when beheaded? Thus Yeshua, being 6 months younger also in that age range? Yet NT verses point to Him being around 30.(Luke 3:23)

    Possibly I misunderstood what you or the rabbi was saying, but seeming discrepancies, tend to jump off the page at me, or in these podcasts.

    • daniel says:

      I had to listen to that part again – it seems the rabbi was giving the timeline of Herod the Tetrarch beginning his reign in 13AD.

  • Aron says:

    #6 is a very intriguing history lesson: what ‘religious’ people will do for food. I like to call John, Yochanan ben Zechariah haChoen. Well done.

  • Donna Dozier says:

    Re John’s baptism and the term “born again”: Rabbi Bob Gorelik, in one of his discussions of Second Temple Judaism, says that the term “born again” was used when a God Fearer was converting to Judaism. The conversion was complete when the person went down into the waters of baptism (running water, or “living waters”), and he emerged, it was said that he was “born again” as a Jew by birth, with no trace of his old nature. That would help explain Nicodemus’ shock at being told he needed to be “born again.” It does seem convoluted when the term “born again”, sometimes referred to as the “evangelical lynchpin”, has been totally reversed as referring to a new Christian.

    • Jake Wilson says:

      It simply means “born of God” (or born from ‘above’). It refers to the restoration of man to his pre-fall state; nothing to do with a new Christian.


    Hello Brothers. I have been following Nehemia and Keith for about a year now. I love it. New testament question. Many times Yeshua is asked – Are you the son of God. The answer is often – You have said it. I suspect now that I understand a little bit of Hebrew grammar that the reason is the only way to communicate a question is through intonation, the sound of your voice or what part of the sentence you emphasize. So that a statement and a question are in the same form grammatically. Is that correct?

  • Alan Corrie says:

    https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/bbr/baptist_brown.pdf ……. for John the Baptizer’s Jordan River symbolism !! Alan

    • Grano, Marcos Aurélio says:


    • Oma says:

      Yes! The counter proposal is right on. All these events in Scripture can be looked at in various ways. We each have to believe we are being guided by Yehovah’s holy spirit and doing the best we can as He gives us understanding. Thanks for sharing.

    • UKJ says:


      Very interesting viewpoint !! Thank you for sharing!
      ‘Page 47 footnote 31’ sums up the motivation of ‘John’s baptism’ realistically well! Nothing happens in a vacuum … !

      After all, the people who should have been responsible to proclaim the word of Yehovah, missed the mark in doing so! … And without the understanding of the law, the people go astray!
      John came to proclaim repentance of sin, for sin is the transgression of the law! … Therefore he must by definition, also have turned the hearts of the People back to Yehovah, through the teaching of the law or ‘word’…