What is the ancient faith? Is it Judaism? Well, there are many ancient faiths, but the one we are concerned with is Judaism. Not just any Judaism, but the Judaism of the Bible, the Judaism that Messiah practiced and promoted. This Judaism that we are talking about is the kind the Torah promoted, not necessarily the kind everybody succeeded at practicing.
The reason for this is simple: The Torah tells us how to live, how to eat, sleep, mourn, rejoice, etc. Torah gives us understanding in how to do everything we need to do in our lives, in a way that is pleasing to HaShem(G-d). But not everyone in the Bible actually followed that Way. A good example is the three friends of Job. I find it sad that people actually quote their unacceptable words as if they were Bible promises! When HaShem plainly told Job that these ‘friends’ were totally wrong! As today as yesterday, He says there is nothing new under the sun. There are hundreds of examples in the Scriptures of people who are doing it wrong, and few examples of those who did things right. That may surprise you, with the list of ‘Greats’ there are in the Scriptures, but if you look carefully at the numbers, you will find that the bad examples greatly outweigh the good.
Is the Scripture trying to teach us with people’s bad examples? Yes. There are several reasons why these bad examples exist. One is that these things really happened and it was written down! Two, we need to have them to learn from. Other reasons include the fact that Israel’s history, unlike the history of many other nations, is recorded honestly. Many kings and governors in those eras would not record failures and losses, because they wanted to look good. These kings (Egypt is a prime example of this) believed themselves to be gods, or incarnations of gods, or sons of the gods. To fail meant they were humans so they carefully covered up their mistakes.
In Israelite history, no such belief occurs and therefore mistakes are not covered up in order to prove something that is not real. Instead, Moshe and other Scribes inclined to recording history did so much more honestly and accurately, in the hope that the people would learn from the mistakes and make the nation less prone to them in the future! This is why in the Bible there are so many mistakes mentioned. It is NOT because Jews are more prone to them than other people. If this were so, the rest of the world would be a much better place than it is today! But it isn’t. You see paganism and idolatry wherever you go, if you look at this world with the Scripture’s eyes. Paganism and idolatry are a sad condition of people everywhere, a harsh state of mind that rules over the godliness and sensibility of almost everyone.
There is a great difficulty of understanding Scripture when it is looked at through 20th century American eyes (which generally are deeply affected by Greek culture, or Hellenism), instead of looking at the Scriptures through ancient Hebrew eyes, from which viewpoint they are written.
What then, does a Hebrew see? It is well enough to realize that any communication must be understood within its language and cultural bias to be truly understood, but how does a Hebrew see?
Well, a Hebrew sees and communicates the Scriptures using four major interpretive levels. These are called PRDS. In Hebrew it is pronounced ‘pardes’ and it is an acronym of four different words:
Pashat (Heb. ‘simple’)
Remez (Heb. ‘hint’)
Drash (Heb. ‘search’)
Sod (Heb. ‘hidden’)
These are like the layers of an onion".
These are the ways they work: Pashat is the simple literal meaning, the surface. The next level is the Remez, which is the implied meaning of the text. A hint at deeper truth than the literal. The Drash is the allegorical (not exactly the same kind of allegory as there is in Greek thinking) but more a typological application of the text. Sod (pronounced ‘sode’ is the mystical meaning of the text. It is considered hidden, difficult, and secret. See 1 Cor 2:7, Matt. 13:11, Romans 16:25, 1 Cor. 15:51, Rev. 1:20, etc. There are many other areas in the New Testament writings that include the word ‘mystery’. In Hebrew thinking, this is the ‘sod’ of the Scriptures. In fact, they seem to imply that believing in Yeshua at all is part of this mystery, or ‘sod’. We will get to that, but for now, consider that although the Scriptures in Genesis, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Psalms, etc. seem to the believer in Messiah to plainly point to Him! A prime example of this is Matt 2:15 where a prophet is quoted as saying, "Out of Egypt have I called my son"… well, in the literal, that prophecy most certainly means Israel! In its hidden meaning, or sod, it means Messiah!
The problem with some of these methods of interpretation, especially Drash and Sod, is that they are open to creativity. If a person is not at first schooled and obedient to the Pashat, or literal interpretation of the Scriptures, he/she will then most CERTAINLY GET THIS WRONG!!! Why the caps? Because this is what has happened to the Bible and it is atrocious!
Consider the Ten Commandments! How many people out there think HaShem changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday? Well, He didn’t! I even read a book one time that said that HaShem decided that we no longer have to keep the Sabbath at all! Yet nowhere in the Scriptures does it say the Sabbath was changed, and careful application of Jewish culture to the Scriptures proves that it was indeed not changed. The Roman Empire changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday as a method of persecution of the Jews. Jews found worshipping on the Saturday Sabbath were killed. The early believers in Messiah, already having problems between their Jewish and Gentile sectors, were much more deeply divided after that. The Gentile sectors were eager to transfer over to Sunday once again, because their former pagan religions used that day as the "Sabbath" anyway. This left the Jewish element of the early congregation dangerously exposed. There was a deep division in the believing element over Sabbath. This happened around 125 C.E. Most of the Jewish believers that still were part of the Nazarene sect of Judaism were destroyed, and Christianity began to arise as the new religion of Messiah.
People who are ‘scholars’ of modern Christianity usually know this stuff. It is public knowledge, and can be found out in major libraries world over. It is part of Christian history, and is now usually glossed over or shuffled under the rug. The truth is, the earliest believers in Messiah kept the Sabbath, knowing that the rulings Messiah put into effect (one can eat grain from a field, one can carry his bed when healed, one can do good on the Sabbath) are now in effect, but that the Sabbath still must be observed. This is due to the fact that Elohim does not change, and His expectations surely do not change either.
This lack of change on HaShem's part is central to understanding the Judaism of the Scriptures.
So much misuse and abuse has gone into interpreting the New Testament of today that it almost takes a scientist to extricate the stuff the early Catholic organizations have added, and subtracted. The New Testament is usually interpreted from the "Majority Text" although there are several other texts used. The "originals" that everybody thinks are inspired by God are the Textus Sinaiticus and the Textus Vaticanus. These are both rewrites of original papyri and are approximately 15% different from one another. The original papyri are incomplete at best, and are themselves not original, but date no later than 200 C.E. This makes any "inspiration" of HaShem unlikely. And to make matters worse, Bible translators everywhere further alter the texts we have.
It is not so with Torah. The different texts we have are in addition to, not exclusive of, the "original". The Torah today can be read, and compared to Torahs owned by the ancient Samaritan people, that are identical to what we have today. We can at least say that in the last 2000 years, the Torah has not changed by even one letter. The major text in use today is the Masoretic text, which was created by the Masoretes between 600 and 900 C.E. The original text has not fallen out of disuse, and is available in Torah Scrolls world over in every synagogue. Painstakingly copied by hand, when a mistake is made, the page it is on is buried with a funeral. Erasable ink is used for very minor mistakes. It is forbidden by Jewish law to use permanent ink, because mistakes could not be taken care of! No letter may be added, subtracted, or altered in any way. The text is required to be as close to perfect as is humanly possible. The Scribe found out to write a Torah inaccurately was ex-communicated, and the Torah buried. This was not a preservation type burial, but it was simply buried in the earth, where its lambskin pages would decompose. This is why the Torah is still a trustworthy document today. The same care was also used in preservation of the rest of the Tenach, or "Old Testament".
I am not saying to discard the New Testament. FAR FROM IT! This document is invaluable in our understanding of Messiah! There certainly was at one time an original text, and thus we have the Synoptic Gospels, assumed to be from that document. Many scholars affectionately know that document as the Q text. It is believed to have been written in Hebrew or Aramaic or a combination of both. There are implications in extracurricular writings that it existed, and it makes logical sense. There is the belief that this Q text was destroyed or hidden prior to 200 C.E. which also makes sense, because then there would be a need to try to replicate it, and the imperfection of that replication, found in the Synoptics. The New Testament, although tampered with, is not wholly changed, and the remaining Jewishness of it is proof. Because the culture of the Jewish people is poorly understood by most non-Jews, those interpreters who were/are openly hostile to the Jewish people still are totally unable to extricate all Jewishness from these texts. To do so would be almost impossible anyway. The very fact that these texts are Jewish in nature is proof that they are valid testimonial about a very Jewish Messiah.
We must learn to compare the words of the Tenach with the Words of the New Testament if we want to see with these new eyes. There are no moral or ethical changes and there are no arguments as to the purpose, source, death, resurrection and eventual return of Messiah.
Most people who believe in Messiah hold to the idea that the New Testament is the Word of G-d. To use these documents as they are intended is to get closer to HaShem, not farther away. The Tenach (Old Testament) is Scripture, which should be inculded first in your study the Word then in light of that look at the New.
As believers of HaDerech (the Way). Let us learn how to rightly divide the Word; First in the Tenach and then in the New Testament. Learning the Way of:
Pashat (Heb. ‘simple’)
Remez (Heb. ‘hint’)
Drash (Heb. ‘search’)
Sod (Heb. ‘hidden’)
With New Eyes!
"She is a tree of life to all who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace."