Hebrew Voices #75 – Understanding the Difficult Words of Yeshua

Understanding the Difficult Words of Yeshua with Dr. Roy BlizzardIn this episode of Hebrew Voices, Understanding the Difficult Words of the New Testament, Nehemia Gordon talks with Dr. Roy Blizzard, a pioneer in understanding the Jewish roots of Yeshua. Dr. Blizzard explains how one momentous trip to Israel in 1966, turned his outlook on Christianity upside down and started him on a new path of discovery. Dr. Blizzard also shares what it was like to be one of the first excavators of the Temple mount, how we know Yeshua spoke Hebrew, and confirms the name of God is Yehovah.To help you in your study, a transcript of this episode has been included below.

I look forward to reading your comments!

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Understanding the Difficult Words of Yeshua - NehemiasWall.com

Nehemia: Shalom, this is Nehemia Gordon. Welcome to Hebrew Voices. Today I am in Joplin, Missouri with a man who is a genuine pioneer of the study of the Hebrew background of Jesus, Dr. Roy Blizzard. Shalom Dr. Blizzard.

Roy: Shalom Nehemia.

Nehemia: Ma shlomcha? (How are you?)

Roy: Ani ada’in chai (I’m still alive).

Nehemia: Tamid tov lihiyot chai, nachon? (It’s always good to be alive, right?)

Roy: Ata tzodek (you’re right).

Nehemia: Ata yachol lesaper li kzat al hachinuch shelcha? (Can you tell me a little bit about your education?)

Roy: Ehh, ata rotze shani esaper lecha be’ivrit o be’anglit? (Do you want me to tell you in Hebrew or English?)

Nehemia: You know what, let's do it in English for the people. Would you please do that?

Roy: I can do that.

Nehemia: You have a PhD from the University of Austin in Texas, in Hebrew Studies. Can I give a rundown quick and fill in some of the blanks?

Roy: Yeah, sure.

Nehemia: Dr. Roy Blizzard, PhD, and BA from Phillips University, and a major in religion. Two different master's degrees. One, Eastern New Mexico University in Archeology, Anthropology, and Religion. The other master's degree, University of Texas-Austin, in Hebrew Studies. And then finally a PhD at UT-Austin in Hebrew Studies. You are a co-author of a book, a book I read many years ago. It's called Understanding the Difficult Word of Jesus, co-authored together with David Bivin. Guys, this is a foundational book. If you are interested in understanding Jesus, or Yeshua, of Nazareth in his Hebrew and Jewish context you must read this book. He really is a pioneer, this man I'm sitting here with. He also wrote a book we're going to talk about, The Mishna and the Words of Jesus. Dr. Blizzard, I want to explain to people how significant this book is, and some of the research that you've done. I'm going to give you a chance to explain your background, how you came to this, in a minute. I was talking to my friend Keith Johnson about this and trying to explain to him what you and your colleagues did in trailblazing the study of the Jewish background of Jesus, and he came up with a wonderful, powerful analogy. I was explaining who you were and what you did. He said, "You mean he's like Lewis and Clark?" Lewis and Clark had no idea what was west of the Mississippi. And then they go and they venture. And look, they bring the Indian guide. You went to Israel and you had your Jewish guides.

But you were a trailblazer, beginning in 1966, as you'll explain to us in a minute. Today a lot of people say, "What's the big deal? He knows that Jesus was a Jew." Guys, this is Lewis and Clark who blazed the trail that you are now walking on and you think is so easy. It was revolutionary at the time. Dr. Blizzard, tell us how this began in 1966.

Roy: In 1966 I had a friend of mine that had been one of my young men in the congregation that I served in Oklahoma.

Nehemia: And you were a pastor for 13 years at a Christian church.

Roy: After I had my bachelor's degree in religion from Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma, which no longer exists, but because I had studied religion. This young man, David Biven, was studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I had finished my master's degree at Eastern New Mexico University in anthropology and archeology, and he invited me to come over to Jerusalem to study at the Hebrew University. He said, "If you'd come over you can live with me." At that particular period of time he was living at “Rechov Shimshon Shta’im” (Shimshon Street 2) in the Baka area of Jerusalem. I, of course, was as poor as Job's turkey. I didn't have the money to go. And I went to the bank and borrowed the money to go to Israel and study at Hebrew University in 1966.

Nehemia: Talk about stepping out on faith. Wow.

Roy: Yes, it was. But fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, the way you might view the subject, I was over there studying at the Hebrew University for about six weeks. And I realized all of a sudden that everything that I had studied before for a bachelor’s degree, for a master's degree, everything that I have learned...

Nehemia: And after 13 years as a pastor of a church! Wow.

Roy: …Yes, 13 years, was wrong. I had been taught, not intentionally, but from a completely different background and perspective, namely Christian background and perspective. Everything that I had learned was, I hate to use the term wrong because...

Nehemia: Would you say you went to Israel in 1966 with all the answers?

Roy: No, I did not.

Nehemia: Meaning, you thought you had the all answers. And you realized after a period of six weeks, the way you explained it to me yesterday, is...

Roy: I didn't know anything. And so, when I came back home I said, "I can't continue to do what I'm doing and be intellectually honest. I've got to go back to school.”

So I began a search to find out where to go. They told me that the University of Ohio had a good Hebrew program. I flew personally, because I'm a pilot. I flew up there. I came back home and said, "No, that's not going to work." Because they didn't have any grant money. And also I found out after I was up there that they had snow. Even though my name is Blizzard I don't like anything that's white or cold. So I came back home and began to look around elsewhere, and was told that there was a Hebrew program at the University of Texas in Austin. I investigated, flew down, met with the chairman of the department, who was Baharon Aharon, at that time. He told me, "We basically don't have any funds for anything like that. I can't promise you anything. But if you'd come down and start studying with us, I'll do what I can." So I just moved, my family, everything, with no assurance of anything. I went down to the University of Texas. I walked down and said, "well, I'm here." And he made me his administrative assistant. I didn't know a Hebrew character from a chicken track on the ground.

Nehemia: You know what I love about you? We were sitting yesterday and we were talking in Hebrew. And you made the remark to me, you said, "I bet I’m the only one you ever spoke to with an Ozarkian hillbilly accent." You said that, not me, while speaking fluent Hebrew.

What's incredible to me is a lot of people, I think, wouldn't think UT-Austin has any kind of Hebrew program. After 12 weeks you were taking courses in Hebrew. And I don't mean you were studying Hebrew. The instruction was in Hebrew by native Hebrew speakers.

Roy: By native Israelis.

Nehemia: That's incredible! Who knew that was going on at UT-Austin? I didn't know that. That's impressive.

Roy: Yes, it was very impressive for the time. Nothing else like it in the country to my knowledge.

But I continued studying two years of Hebrew in 12 weeks. After my first year Prof. Bardon, this is in 1968, said, "If you go to Israel and work on an archeological excavation at the Temple Mount with one of my former colleagues,” who happened to be Prof. Benjamin Mazar…

Nehemia: And just to give people the background, so in 1967 Israel liberates the eastern half of Jerusalem. One of the things they do, one of the first things they say is, "Hey, let's excavate around what we call the Western Wall." And people I don't think called it that, but it is the southern wall. So you were part of those excavations.

Roy: Yes. I started in '68. I was excavating with Prof. Mazar. Prof. Mazar and I became very good friends. I became friends with his whole family, and continued to excavate every year. Sometimes I'd go back five times during the year. I got to where I was taking students from the University on historical and archeological study seminars, we call them, where they went along and actually had the opportunity to excavate, or to be a part of an excavation, and to tour, and to study the different archeological sites. If you will recall, the excavations at the Temple Mount happened to be the most impressive archeological excavations in the whole country. Although there were other places that were excavating, everybody wanted to excavate at the Temple Mount.

Nehemia: Of course. Some of the people who have been following me for many years will remember me sitting on the steps leading up to the Temple Mount, which is an historical place. When people walked up from the city of David into the temple they walked on these very steps. And you were involved in excavating on those steps. That is incredible! Tell us about that. What was that like? You dug up those steps. People didn't know those steps existed. How far underground were they?

Roy: About that far.

Nehemia: That's it. So you just scraped away a few layers of dirt.

Roy: It was like the first shovel full of dirt you were hitting the stones. Because the area was known as the “Ophel,” and it was all built up. There was actually an Arab tent on top of the ground at that time. We used to sit up on the wall that joined the Temple Mount and watch them during the noon hour. It wasn't until after the excavations had continued for several seasons that they moved through the wall and over into the area of the “Ophel.”

Nehemia: What other things did you find in addition to the steps?

Roy: Ritual immersion baths.

Nehemia: So, you found “mikvas,” where people would immerse themselves and cleanse themselves just as they were about to enter the temple.

Roy: Let's give it a little more detail. These steps, known as the monumental staircase, that led up to the southern wall of the Temple Mount, was actually the meeting place for all of the Jews during the three pilgrim festivals. That was where they sat.

Nehemia: And my knowledge of those steps, the association I have, is the account in the Talmud about the rabbi that says, "Sitting on the steps on the back of the Temple Mount…” and he makes the decree about the calendar from that place. So there was some kind of rabbinical council, maybe informal, of some sort, that was meeting there on that very spot, and you excavated that. That's incredible!

Roy: On that very spot, and that's where they came together for the three pilgrim festivals Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.

Nehemia: Amen.

Roy: We did not know at the time when we started. I just happened, because I was close personal friends with Prof. Mazar...

Nehemia: And you had a degree in archeology.

Roy: Yes, I had a degree. But it was not all that impressive to the other archeologists that were in Israel with whom I was working at that time. I was just viewed as another laborer, so to speak, and given a shovel, and told where to go dig. About the first shovel full we hit stone. That later turned out to be the monumental staircase. But beyond that, which is I think very significant and important for our discussion, immediately adjacent to that monumental staircase was a whole series, not one, not two, but a series of ritual immersion baths called “Mikva’ot.” I had the opportunity to personally excavate in the largest, and the first one of those to be uncovered at the Temple Mount.

But it's not just the ritual immersion baths that was important or impressive. If you'll recall from the New Testament, in the Book of Acts, chapter two, it talks about the events that occurred on the day of Pentecost. It says, "The people all went up and got into the house." And everybody in Christendom thinks that that is a house someplace. That everybody went into a house.

Nehemia: It was a loft that Peter was renting, right?

Roy: Yeah, but it had to be a very big loft.

Nehemia: Okay. So what was it?

Roy: What does it say? They got themselves up into “Ha’ba’it.”

Nehemia: The house.

Roy: The house. And “Ha’ba’it” is the Temple.

Nehemia: So you're telling me on Pentecost, in Acts chapter 2, that that actually took place in the courtyard of the temple?

Roy: Not the courtyard. There at the monumental staircase. That's where they were all gathered together, because it was the day of Pentecost. It was on Pentecost that they gathered together or assembled there.

Nehemia: So you're telling me those are the steps, not only where a rabbinical court sat and proclaimed the calendar in the Talmudic account, but where Acts 2 took place?

Roy: Where Acts 2 took place.

Nehemia: How many Christian pilgrims go to the Holy Land and are told that?

Roy: None of them. They all go to the Holy Land but they don't know that.

Nehemia: This is huge.

Roy: What is even “huger,” if I can use that term, is that on the day of Pentecost Peter says, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you..."

Nehemia: And you found the mikveh where that was happening?

Roy: Where they were baptized. Right there by the monumental staircase. You know how far it is.

Nehemia: I've been there a hundred times.

Roy: Maybe 10-15 steps, and there are the ritual immersion baths. Not only that, but we also discovered that they were all “Ma’im Cha’im.”

Nehemia: Living water.

Roy: They were all living water. And there's several orders of ritual immersion baths, Tractate Mikvaot, you can read about it in the “Mishna.” To be completely cleansed of all form of sin it has to be in living water. Now, here's the question. Where did they get the water?

Nehemia: Let's put the context here. Jerusalem is not a place known for a lot of water. There are two springs in ancient times and they're both at the bottom of the hill. One of them is still there, “Ein Rogel” or “Ein Gichon,” that is. The other one, we're not sure where it is. How did they get this water up on the slope there?

Roy: This is amazing. They got the water four or five miles away from the “Birchat Shlomo,” from the pools of Solomon over by Bethlehem, about four or five miles away. How did they get it? They constructed a water aqueduct. All the way from “Birchat Shlomo,” over the Judean Hills, into the ritual immersion baths at the Temple Mount. We can still follow them to this very day.

Nehemia: Actually, if you come to Jerusalem, when you go to the “Tayelet,” the promenade, you can see just off in the direction next to the United Nations building, you can see part of that aqueduct system. How it crossed over the valley between the promenade and the...that must have been quite a structure to bring water down the valley and back up, or maybe it was some kind of...

Roy: It was quite a structure, but how did it get from there to the Temple Mount? Because the Temple Mount is 80 meters lower than the pools of Solomon.

Nehemia: So they use some kind of gravity.

Roy: Gravity flow.

Nehemia: And so, what you're saying is, when Peter is delivering the sermon and he's talking about being baptized, there's an actual place there where somebody could be baptized with “Ma’im Cha’im,” the living water.

Roy: They don't have to ask where.

Nehemia: And you excavated that spot.

Roy: I excavated that very spot. As a matter of fact, I've got a picture of me standing in that ritual immersion bath excavating. Before we knew it was a ritual immersion bath, by the way.

Nehemia: Okay, because you don't know as you're digging. That's amazing! I want to segue to something a little bit different. You mentioned the Mishnah, the Tractate of Mikvaot. I'll be honest with you, Dr. Blizzard, I haven't met a lot of folks with a heavy Ozark accent who can quote to me from the Mishnah. You actually wrote a book called The Mishnah and the Words of Jesus. Can you give us some examples from that book why it is important for somebody who's interested in Jesus, or as he was known back then, Yeshua, and we'll talk about that in a minute. Why is it important for them to interact with the Mishnah? Why would they want to know that?

Roy: In the first place they need to know, first of all and foremost, that Jesus was a Jew. As a Jew he was acquainted with all of these rules and regulations, the different instructions that one finds in the Mishnah, and how that they were all passed on from one generation to the next. There are so many things that you learn in the Mishnah that relates to Jesus. For example, in the Mishnah, in Tractate Avot, it tells what the young man in Jesus' day was doing.

Nehemia: Meaning how he was educated.

Roy: That at five years of age he started his formal education. A lot of people were not aware of it, but you can go to Israel today, even until this very day, and talk to a parent, and they will tell you that they start teaching their children how to recite the Psalms when they're as young as three years old.

Nehemia: I could testify on my own experience, sitting on my father's knee, at three years old he was teaching me about scripture. But even beyond that he was teaching me about Talmudic debates on various topics. Literally sitting on his knee at three years old, I remember him telling me about the debate between Maimonides and a rabbi named “Ra’a’vad,” about when Abraham came to know God, whether he was 40 years old or 3 years old. And he was telling this to a three-year-old. I don't know that I fully even comprehended it, but this is part of the Jewish experience. I want to read this passage. It's “Avot” 5:21. Actually, can I have you read the passage? Can I hand you my computer and have you read this passage? The first couple of lines. He's going to have to put on his glasses. Guys, this is significant.

Roy: “Hu haya omer.” This is what he said, he had to say. “Ben chamesh shanim l’mikrah,” five years of age, he's ready to start studying the scriptures.

Nehemia: Guys, I didn't say, "Hey, I'm going to hand this to you in the middle of the discussion and so prepare this." You probably haven't looked at this in years.

Roy: “Ben eser l’mishna,” at 10 he's starting to study the Mishnah.

Nehemia: Which is the repetitions, the teachings of the rabbis.

Roy: Yeah.

Nehemia: Amazing.

Roy: And “veben shlosh esreh l’mitzvot.” “Shlosh esreh” is thirteen, to the mitzvot.

Nehemia: This is where we get the idea of bar mitzvah here, from this passage guys, in the Mishnah. So this gives you an idea of Jesus of Nazareth, Yeshua, in his day.

Roy: And this is what he's doing.

Nehemia: This is his curriculum, of presumably how he studied. I want to backtrack a little bit. So you go in 1966 to Israel and you realize, "I don't know anything. I've been pastoring for 13 years in a church. There's a lot I don't know." Then you eventually get your PhD from UT-Austin in Hebrew studies. When you go to Israel now... I've spoken to you in Hebrew, we've held conversations. You go to Israel and people ask you... They see you know some Hebrew stuff. They say, “ata Yehudi?” “Are you a Jew?" What do you say to that?

Roy: “Ani omer lo” (I say no).

Nehemia: You say no?

Roy: I tell them no. Then they say, "What are you? ata notzri?”

Nehemia: Are you a Christian?

Roy: And I say no. And they say, "Well, you've got to be one of the two." And I say, "No. Ani Ma’amin.” I am a believer. And they say, "What do you mean by that?" And I said, "I have rejected Protestantism. I'm not protesting anything." I have rejected Catholicism. You have to keep in mind that Jesus was a Jew, and he had certain followers that followed after him. He taught certain things. We know historically that the movement that Jesus established continued to grow much after Christianity as we know it was established. And according to some authorities on the subject you can trace the existence of this Jewish Christian movement, so to speak, well into the fourth century of the present era. I'm simply one who has projected...

Nehemia: Say it in Hebrew.

Roy: “Ani pashut echad shma’amin beYeshua. Ve’ani mitkaven lilmod velenasot la’asot kol shehu oseh.”

Nehemia: Can I translate?

Roy: Yeah.

Nehemia: He said, "I'm one who believes in Yeshua. And my intention is to learn and do everything that he says." Is that a fair translation?

Roy: Yeah, that's fair.

Nehemia: Wow! I want to tell people what we're doing here. You have a website, biblescholars.org. I was on your website reading an article, just some article I'm reading, minding my own business. And I see at the top it says something. It says there's an opportunity to come and study in a small group with Dr. Roy Blizzard. And I thought, "That can't be true. This is the man who wrote the book I read years ago when I was exploring the Hebrew background of Yeshua.”

Look, I'm a scholar. I came from an academic background. I'm doing my own research, but I also want to see what the scholars are saying. And I find this book that you wrote, and the book by Dr. Flusser, a book by Dr. Brad Young, and other books. I'm reading articles and books. And I see there's an opportunity to come and study with the man who wrote the book, and study personally with him in Joplin, Missouri. And here I am, I've spent the last two days sitting here in your living room. I invited my friend Keith Johnson along. We're both sitting on your couch. And you've got these stacks of books, over 10 books. Everything you say, you pull out a book and you read us a source. I love that. This isn't just your opinion. You're giving us the sources. This is what I'm about. This has been for me an incredible experience. Guys, go over to his website, biblescholars.org. Can other people also do this, or do you have to have a master's degree from Hebrew University to come and study? Is this open for everybody, Dr. Blizzard?

Roy: It's open for anybody that's interested in the study.

Nehemia: If you want to come in humility and with a sincere desire to learn, you can come and sit in this man's living room and learn things from one of the pioneers in the field. This is an incredible opportunity. I don't want anybody to miss this. This is an important thing, Dr. Blizzard.

In your book... I want to back up to what you were saying. You told me something sitting here that to me was incredible revelation from an historical perspective. You explained how... you said that you tell Jews in Israel “Ani ma’amin beYeshua m’Nazteret.” Then you were talking about how that word “ma’amin,” believer, was used by the early followers of Jesus who were Jews. Is that right?

Roy: Well, yes, they used the term “ma’amin.” But those who weren't Jews or weren't believers used the term “Minim.”

Nehemia: Right. I knew about “minim” because “Birkat HaMinim” is part of the 18 benedictions. I think most Jews know about this. It's essentially a curse on the Jewish followers of Yeshua that was established around the year 90 AD, and that uses the word “minim,” which means heretics. But you had this profound thing you shared that the believers in Yeshua called themselves “ma’aminim,” believers. The Jews who were opposed to them took a part of that phrase and as a slur called them, “minim,” which is the last two syllables of believers, “ma’aminim.” It's almost like they called them lievers. "You lievers, you've left the true faith," that is, Rabbinical Judaism. But they called themselves believers. I asked you earlier today, I said that I've never actually heard anybody share that. That's pretty profound. And you said, "But it's obvious." I love that. There are things that are obvious to you that are not obvious to even people who have been studying this for years. That's a really, really important piece of information there. In other words, you're telling me that the early followers of Yeshua, or Jesus, didn't call themselves Christians?

Roy: That was the term that was used, probably very late. We don't know how long. But we do know that when it says that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch, referencing Acts 11:26, “And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” They used the term, “meshichim” (messianics). Christian was a much later term that was used.

Nehemia: In other words, in Hebrew... did Jesus speak Hebrew or Aramaic?

Roy: You want me to prove it, what he spoke?

Nehemia: First answer the question, and then you prove.

Roy: Only Hebrew, although he probably knew Aramaic and Greek. He may have known, maybe, even some Latin.

Nehemia: How do you know he spoke Hebrew? I don't want opinions. I want to share with my audience facts and information.

Roy: Look, man, this is just as clear here as it can be. It's often just overlooked, because people do not know the languages well enough. But if you turn to Mark, let me show you here, in Mark chapter 15, verse 34, in English it says that the last hour, the 9th hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” Notice that it's, “Being interpreted, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But here it is.

Nehemia: Wait. I want to stop you for a second. In the Greek it has the words, “Which, being interpreted, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" In other words, that's not just in English, the phrase “which is being interpreted.” That's in the Greek. So it's translating from some other language.

Roy: Yes.

Nehemia: And what language is that?

Roy: This is Aramaic. But notice it says, "But some of them which stood by when they heard it said, "Behold, he calleth for Elijah." Which is “Eloi.” “Eloi lema shabachthani?” But if you turn back to Matthew, in chapter 27, in verse number 46 it says, "And in the 9th hour Jesus cried with a loud voice saying, ‘Eli, Eli lama Sabachthani?’ which is my God, my God, why has thou forsaken me. What's the deal? Some say he calls for Elijah. “Eloi, Eloi,” in Aramaic just means one thing, "My God." So you could never from hearing “Eloi, Eloi,” think that he was calling for Elijah. But if he says, “Eli, Eli, lama Sabachthani?” What's Eli?

Nehemia: “My God,” but it also sounds like Eliyahu.

Roy: It's a short form for “Eliyahu.” And every other person that you meet on the street in Israel that's male, his name is Eli.

Nehemia: It's a very common name.

Roy: So this is a very clear and positive declaration establishing that Jesus spoke Hebrew, not Aramaic.

Nehemia: One of the things you say in your book, and that's Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, co-written with David Biven, you say that he actually probably said “Eli, Eli, lama azavtani?” Which is the exact words from Psalm 22. So you're saying he spoke these words in Hebrew. Somewhere there was a transmission where they ended up with one of the words in Aramaic. But then to understand the context you’ve got to go back to Hebrew.

Roy: Yes. But also even beyond that, proves that Jesus was speaking Hebrew. And there's another point to be made. That is that “shavak” is also used in Hebrew.

Nehemia: This is a really important point. And you talk about this in the book, Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus. One of the things you bring in this book... I actually studied archeology for my undergrad. One of my professors was Meshorer, who is the leading expert on coins. But you have something in the book which I believe came from Meshorer which didn't occur to me, that somehow I missed, is that virtually all the coins that were minted by Jews were in Hebrew with one exception, which is a coin I think of Alexander Yanai if I'm not mistaken, or Aristobulus , one of those kings. Interestingly the coin has Alexander “Malka” which is Aramaic, instead of “Melekh,” But other than one coin all the coins are in Hebrew. What's interesting is it's in Paleo-Hebrew too, even the Aramaic one. That's the part I definitely didn't know. I had somehow missed that. But that's actually really significant that Hebrew was this language that was widespread, and now with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and you have many quotes from this, particularly the Bar-Kochba Scrolls. We know for sure that people were speaking Hebrew in 135 AD. So certainly they were speaking that a hundred years earlier.

I want to bring a quote from your book here, and I this actually I believe is an introduction from David Biven. He says, “…the truth is that one can keep reading the bible forever, and the bible will not tell him the meaning of these difficult passages.” You're talking there particularly about the parables and teachings of Jesus. “They can be understood only when translated back into Hebrew.” Can you give us some examples of that? That's a powerful statement.

Roy: Well, for example, and this is one passage I think that we had noted earlier, but everybody needs to know it. They probably can quote it from Matthew chapter 6, verse 22. It says, "The light of the body is the eye. And if therefore thine eye be single thy whole body is full of light." I don't know what translation you've got there.

Nehemia: I've got several translations here and they're all different. They're all different because they don't know what this verse means. So they're doing their best to guess. They're blundering their way through it because they don't know what it means.

Roy: Some say they're single, some say whole, some say healthy, some say clear. What is it? In Hebrew... This is a Hebrew-ism, and it's used even until today, as you know well.

Nehemia: You asked me this yesterday, and I'm like, "Yeah, of course." So, can you read this verse in the Hebrew? This is a Franz Delitzsch Edition I believe. Delitzsch is this wonderful Hebrew scholar in the 19th century. He translated the New Testament from Greek into a “Mishne” biblical style of Hebrew. This is probably very close to what it would’ve sounded like.

Roy: Yes. “Hu ha’ayin, ve’im eincha hi tmima o tova kol gufcha yeor, ve’im eincha ra’ah az kol gufcha yichshach. vehi’ne im yischach haor asher bekirbecha ma rah hachoshech.” If you've got a good eye, your whole body is filled with light.

Nehemia: And good eye has nothing to do with vision.

Roy: But if you've got an evil eye your whole body is filled with choshech, darkness, and how great is that darkness.

Nehemia: It was interesting, there was a lady who was sitting here as part of the study group where you are teaching people all day yesterday and today. And she made the remark, she said, "We've read that our whole lives and we just blur past it, because we don't know what it means. We just move on right past it. It's just words. It sounds really pretty, but we don't know what it means." I hear that in Hebrew, I know exactly what it means. Would you tell people what it means? What's an evil eye?

Roy: Evil eye means miserly or stingy, and a good eye means generous.

Nehemia: That's right. And these are just Hebrew expressions.

Roy: And they use them today.

Nehemia: “Ad hayom hazeh,” until this day.

Roy: Give with a good eye.

Nehemia: And you think about where it comes from is, "I don't want to give that." And you're looking at it like you're not happy about giving it. That's the bad eye. And the good eye is like, "Here, I'm generously giving."

Roy: It’s used many, many times in the Mishnah.

Nehemia: So you can't really understand that phrase without understanding the Jewish context and the Hebrew context of that expression. What a great example. That's the type of thing, guys, in the book, Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus. I want to ask you for another example. This one we talked about before, Matthew 5:21-22. I heard this one and then I'm like, the connections there after you say it is obvious. But I don't know that I would've ever made these connections myself.

Roy: “You’ve heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whoever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of hellfire.” I want to ask the people that are in the audience how many have ever heard their pastor, or anyone else for that matter, ever preach or give a sermon, or exegesis, on this particular subject? And the answer to that question is probably very few.

Nehemia: And certainly, if an exegesis was given, if the expression was given, it's not what you were about to explain. He read it to me from Franz Delitzsch’s Hebrew and then explained it. And I'm like, that makes perfect sense. The people in the audience would've understood this. These were Jews in the audience, the Sermon on the Mount, standing there at the bottom of the mountain as Yeshua was teaching and preaching, and they understood these things.

Roy: “Shamatem ki ne’emar lakadmonim lo tirzsach. Ve’ashser yirzsach mechuyav lebeit din.” I might explain that in the first century in Judaism they had certain courts of law. They had the “Beit Din,” which was the house of judgment, that was actually a congregational court. But they also had additional courts that were called “Sanhedrin.” The people that are watching may be more familiar with the term Sanhedrin than with the “Beit Din.” But they had a small Sanhedrin, and they had a large Sanhedrin. The large Sanhedrin sat in Jerusalem, the Council at Sanhedrin, 71 members of the Great Sanhedrin. This says, "But whosoever shall say to his brother “raca” shall be in danger of the Sanhedrin. But whosoever “yomar ata hana’val…”

Nehemia: Explain what that means.

Roy: “Ata hana’val.” I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to go to this book, Everyman's Talmud. And I'm going to open it to page three. It has to do with the doctrine of God and I'm going to read it right here.

"Whether atheism in the sense of dogmatic denial of God's existence was accepted by anybody in Biblical times and Rabbinic times is doubtful. But both in Bible and the Talmud, the concern was with the practical atheist who conducted his life as though he would never have to be accounted to for his deeds. In the Biblical literature the statement, there is no god, is made by the Na’val. In other words, a morally corrupt person who, while acknowledging the existence of a creator, refused to believe that he was at all interested in the action of his creatures. His counterpart in the Talmud is the Apiko’res, or the Epicurean, who likewise denies the fundamental principle of religion by his abominable conduct. The rabbis defined the atheist as one who affirms there is no judgment and no judge in the universe irrespective of his disbelief in the existence of God.” And the whole deal is that in Biblical text in the Psalms 14:1 it says, "The fool has said in his heart there is no God."

Nehemia: What you're doing here is you're tying this all together. You're using a Jewish resource. And what people didn't see in the book, there are all these notes, Babba Barta 16-B. In other words, this Rabbi isn't just making things up. He's basing it on ancient Jewish sources. You're tying all that together with Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1 where it says in both of those, "The Na’val says in his heart, the fool says in his heart, there is no God." And when Yeshua says, "Don't call a man a fool," essentially, I'm paraphrasing, but if you call a man a fool then you'll be subject to the hellfire or whatever. Explain what you explained yesterday, what that means. What is he really saying here? What does it mean to call someone a fool?

Roy: What it means, na’val, is this person is separated from God. He's not in any kind of relationship with God. He doesn't care about God. We would say that he was an atheist today, but that's not the term that they were using. It's that he was an individual who might have believed that there was a God but didn't believe that in any way he was responsible for his own actions.

Nehemia: And what you explained yesterday is that Jesus is saying, when he says, "If you say you fool, you'll be liable to the hellfire." I understood from you yesterday he's saying, "Don't question somebody else's relationship with the creator of the universe."

Roy: Once you do you have made yourself to be God.

Nehemia: I want to reiterate this. This is powerful stuff. Because what I've encountered with a lot of Christians is, and I don't think this is just Christians but I've seen this with a lot of Christians, and even some Jews. They say, "That person has the wrong doctrine. That person's relationship with God is not right. We have the correct thing over here and those people are wrong." What I understood from you, yesterday is that, "And if you say na’val you'll be liable to hellfire," it's not just you're saying the person is stupid, you're saying he doesn't...

Roy: They're lost. They're separated from God.

Nehemia: And so you should not accuse someone of being separated from God.

Roy: No. Because it's not up to you. That's not your decision to make. Judge not that you be not judged.

Nehemia: Amen. Wow. Wow! This is powerful stuff, Dr. Blizzard. I want to sit with you all day, but we've got to start wrapping it up. I want to ask you one last thing. This is something that came up completely unexpectedly yesterday. I'm sitting there yesterday on your couch, and you mentioned something about pronunciation of names. It's not a secret to people that the pronunciation of God's name is something really close to my heart. And so I asked you what was really just a very innocent question. I said, "Dr. Blizzard, you've got a PhD in Hebrew studies. You've been studying these things for decades. You've got stacks of books. In your understanding what is the pronunciation of the name of the God of Israel in the Hebrew Bible?"

Roy: Well, it's not my pronunciation, it's what the biblical text says.

Nehemia: And what does it say?

Roy: It says, God says, when Moses asked him what shall I tell the people when I go back down there to Egypt, who was it that sent me. And he says “E’he’ye asher E’he’ye.” Then He goes on to explain that it's Yehovah.

Nehemia: Would you read us those verses from the Hebrew Tanakh?

Roy: Yehovah. In the book of Exodus, chapter 3. Moses is asking God a very innocent question. Moses says to God...

Nehemia: I want to stop you here. His finger is moving along the Hebrew text and he's translating in English as he goes.

Roy: He says, whenever I get back down there who am I going to say sent me? And “Vayomer Elohim,” and God said to Moses, “E’he’ye asher E’he’ye.”

Nehemia: And how do you understand that phrase?

Roy: It means, I am who I say I am, and it's really not any of your business. I am who I will. I will be who I will be. “Ko tomar l’Bnei Yisrael E’heye shalach oti eleichem” He says again, "Again, I'm going to say to you, say to the people of Israel, Benei Yisrael.” And, if I'm reading correctly, this says Yehovah.

Nehemia: That's what it says right there. You've definitely heard people say it's Yahweh.

Roy: Yeshua, Yahuwah...

Nehemia: So you've heard those before?

Roy: Oh yes, I hear it everyday, because it's all on Facebook, or it's someplace else on the internet. And coming forth from people that are supposedly well-meaning, good folk. Except they've got one major fault.

Nehemia: What's that?

Roy: They don't know Hebrew.

Nehemia: And there it is people. Thank you. From Joplin, Missouri, you heard it right here from Dr. Roy Blizzard, PhD, the author of the groundbreaking work, Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus. Shalom.

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Related Posts:
Temple Mount Treasures
The Renewed Sanhedrin
Heavenly Father’s Day
The Name Yeshua in Ancient Babylon
Reading the New Testament Through Jewish Eyes
Nehemia Gordon's Teachings on the Name of God

Dr. Roy Blizzard's Website

Related Books:
Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus
Mishnah and the Words of Jesus

Verses Mentioned:
Act 2:2
Pirkei Avot 5:21
Matthew 27:46
Psalm 22:1
Mark 15:34
Matthew 6:22
Matthew 5:21-22
Psalm 14:1
Psalm 53:1
Exodus 3:15

31 thoughts on “Hebrew Voices #75 – Understanding the Difficult Words of Yeshua

  1. I too listened to the interview but there’s a fact among the Jews believers or Messianic Jews that, there’s a perception only through the language Hebrew, the word of God might be understood perfectly and I have no issue with that, but what do they., the Jews achieved by understanding those Hebrew Scriptures? No, nothing. Frankly speaking, they were many people suffered & sacrificed their lives to made available the word of God to the masses, I hope even both Nehemiah & Dr.B would agree with me, however, my point is that Yeshuah said in Matthew 5:22 especially, its last syntax is that applies only between brothers, whereas if a Godly person calls an atheist a fool, then this verse is not apply to him b/c he’s just invoke what the Torah says, thus it’s not belongs to him. I think Dr.B is imperfect when comes to the word of Yeshuah.

  2. Love this interview! Todah rabah, Nehemia! I also love the great humility you both have, seeking His truth on all matters!

    One small thing I would like to point out about Yeshua and His education- He says this:

    John/Yehochanan 7:14-18 Now about the middle of the Feast, Yeshua went up into the temple and taught. And the Yehudim marveled, saying, “How does this man know letters, ***not being taught?”*** Yeshua answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, ***but His who sent Me***. If anyone desires to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of Elohim, or I speak from Myself. He who speaks of himself seeks his own glory, but he who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. Did not Mosheh give you the Torah? And yet not one of you keeps the Torah! Why do you seek to kill Me?”

    So from this it’s my current understanding that Yeshua did not start learning the Mishnah at age three. Yeshua taught His Father’s doctrine/Torah, not man’s.

    Shalom! 🙂

  3. I just finished reading, “Understanding The Difficult Words of Jesus”, and am looking forward to reading more of Dr. Blizzard’s books. Thanks for introducing him Nehemia!!

  4. I got sidetracked earlier. 🙂 Just wanted to say I thought this was an excellent interview that provided some really mind blowing food for thought. I was fascinated by Dr. Blizzard’s illumination of what Yeshua said concerning calling somebody a fool. You almost never get fed such wonderful meat in most churches and seminaries. Most of the teaching is pablum. That explains why so many of these institutions are faltering or dying. Thanks Nehemia for consistently providing such quality material!

  5. Interested to see what take Dr. B. has for “an eye for an eye”. Using the Rule of First Reference to interpret scripture, the Torah details (and I’ll paraphrase) “when two men contend with each other and an innocent bystander is injured, recompense shall be paid…” , Yeshua says to turn the other cheek, and a Jewish friend pointed out that His response was brilliant – Don’t get into a fight with the other man even if he strikes first, and you will avoid a judgment!

  6. Jake Wilson, I believe it IS, absolutely, our job to warn a professing believer, if he or she is cheating on their spouse, cheating their customers, oppressing the poor etc. that their behaviour is not in line with that of a set apart person, and that if they don’t repent they are placing themselves in spiritual jeopardy. (See Matt.7) It’s NOT our job to say for certain where they will ultimately end up for eternity and it is most certainly not our job to tell them they’re headed for the Lake of Fire if they disagree on something that’s purely a matter of opinion! 😀 Our job is to be messengers, Y’hovah’s job is to be judge; that’s the bit we’re not to get mixed up.

  7. Thanks for introducing us to Roy Blizzard! Yehovah works in mysterious ways but I’ve often read He likes to join a Gentile with a Jew to accomplish great things (like King David and the king of Tyre, Mazar and Blizzard, Bullinger and Ginsberg, you and Keith 😉 ). I wonder if you have checked out the works of James Adair, Irish historian to the American Indians in the 1700’s. I believe he concluded the so-called civilized tribes in North America shared many customs with Biblical Hebrews and Wikipedia includes the remark they shared worship of “a great spirit, Jehovah”! It would appear then it wasn’t “Yahweh” in the 1700’s. Wouldn’t you love to know how they pronounced the Name as they danced around the fire in worship! Many thanks and much love from our household to yours, Nehemia!

  8. Enjoyed the part where you two discussed how one can know that Yeshua spoke Hebrew. There is one other very simple and clear portion of Scripture that reveals that it was still Hebrew and not Aramaic that was spoken in Jerusalem – look at the 3 languages which were used to write the sign above Yeshua’s head as he was crucified.

  9. Shalom. I too do not not of a verse that speaks of baptism in living water. However, it certainly makes sense for how can you wash anything away in standing water?

  10. I watched a teaching about what Yeshua said on the stake, if you go back to Psalm 22:1, GOD H410, and then in verse 3 Israel H3478, could it be possible that HE, Yeshua, was addressing Israel, instead of Yehovah? I never understood why HE would ask THE FATHER that question, knowing that is why HE came. Can you please give me some insight into this?

    • He could not have died unless (at least for one brief moment) he lost his faith. Which is according to His own teaching. See : John 11:26. “And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? “

  11. What a treasure! Amazing insights and wisdom with an obvious first hand working knowledge of the culture, language and archeology. Thank you, thank you, thank you Nehemiah!!

  12. I always knew there were more to those sayings. Awesome! It is exciting when doors open. The kingdom is coming! Gives me hope. Thank you Nehemia for your work. Dr. Blizzard needs more exposure for sure – this man has some awesome testimony! Maybe Michael Rood could have him as a guest. Love to hear more. Definitely getting his book. This is one of the most exciting videos you have done. Thank you and Shalom!

  13. This was a FANTASTIC interview!! I’ve always believed in my heart that Yeshua spoke hebrew, with everything I know of God…well, it only makes sense to me!
    But to hear Dr. Blizzard make light of the evidence from Yeshua’s own Words, it gave me chills! Also, when Dr. B is asked what the correct pronunciation of YHVH is, and finally says “Yehovah”, I was certain Nehemia would get up and dance….of course, it occurred to me afterwards that it wasn’t the first time Nehemia had heard him say it lol. Much love and shalom from Michigan!

  14. This was incredible!! It gave me so much to think about. Dr. Blizzard is such a special man! Thank you for doing this interview!

  15. This was truely one of the most eye opening experiences for me, it makes me wonder about my translation of the Bible. I went to 2 Bible colleges, I always heard that the Jews were uneducated, when I tried to correct them, telling them at each male child was taught to read and write starting at age 5 they just brushed me off, than I would ask them, why were the Jews in all the courts of the world, even as far as China, as scholars? I thank you for the link also, I am going their webpage, Again, Thank You for opening my eyes and let the light shine on me.

  16. Praise Yah for this discussion! This is so refreshing to see two people seek the truths of scripture together without judging each others “place” before the conversation even begins.

  17. Wow! Interesting interview, I identify myself with professor Blizzard because if we love Yeshua, we have to admit and learn all the Jewish and background HE was living in. That way our love for Israel can grow as well our love for the Meshiah, YESHUA!
    Thank You for this information Nehemia I posted on Fl and I don’t like to use Fb that much though,

  18. That was so exciting. Thank you both. And, no, Dr. Blizzard, I have never heard Matthew 5: 21-22 taught from any pulpit; I’ve only tried to study it myself, thank you for opening my eyes. Looking forward to being on the steps at the southern wall, thinking of Acts 2:2, this video and Dr. Blizzard’s involvement with the excavation. May it be – next year in Jerusalem!

  19. Hi Nehemia–

    Praise Yehovah for the timing of this podcast. I’ve been listening to this with my mouth hanging open. The Spousal Unit and I are dealing with a member of family in relation to the part talking about questioning a person’s relationship with Yehovah, and putting oneself in his place by doing so. This has been divinely timely for us and I THANK you for putting it up. May more people be blessed by it, and may you also be blessed in every way in his name.

  20. Interesting to hear about the miqvaot, and the monumental steps where the 120 talmidim met (which makes sense). There may well have been that aqueduct, but the baptism with living water referred, first and foremost, to Spirit baptism as per JN 7:37-39.

    I mean, on Shavuot the B’rit Chadashah was cut with Israel & Judah (represented by those 120), fulfilling JER 31:31-33. The outpouring of His Spirit, His Living Water was the event of the day, but not some superstitious ritual of baptism with special water (sounds a bit like the Pope’s “holy water”). I would be interested to see a verse which states they had to be baptised in “living water”.

    Also, “not to judge anybody” can be a convenient excuse for not warning people about eternal damnation, a prospect which Yeshua warned about, the Tanakh warns about, as well as the Book of Enoch (which I personally consider canonical).

    I don’t think the nicey, nicey, “You’re alright buddy – I won’t tell you where you’ll spend eternity if you carry on like this. After all I am not God; I don’t judge you, etc” – I don’t think this is what Yehovah had in mind when telling Ezekiel to warn the people (EZ 3:18).

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