victor christensen's blog

Torat Hashem and Yir’at ‘Elohim

Posted in Uncategorized by victorchristensen on July 25, 2009

To the ancient Hebrew Torat Hashem (God’s Torah) was considered sacred in absolute terms.

As often as Torat Hashem was read to the people it had the force of an original utterance. It was as if when Torat Hashem was read it was not a mere a recital of history but the congregation was reliving an historical event. For Israel Torat Hashem was not a body of words but a medium for actualizing the divine presence.

In Jewish tradition when Torat Hashem is read the people say; “today we are all standing at Mount Sinai.” For the Jew reciting God’s words creates a sphere of personal encounter as if they are hearing God speaking.

“So when the Holy One spoke, each person in Israel in said He spoke to me, as it does not say I am the Lord your God, but rather thy God…and He spoke to each and every one according to his ability.” (Pesikta De-Rav Kahana 12)

On Seder night (the Passover night) every Jew reads the following passages from the Mishna,

“In every generation, we are obligated to see ourselves as though we personally had gone out of Egypt.” (Mishna Pesahim 10:5)

“one must show himself as though he himself has just exited the slavery of Egypt.” (Devarim 6:23)

“the ultimate goal of the evening is ‘Shirah’ … re experiencing the Exodus.” (Haggadah Shel Pesach)

“we are to experience that moment as if we, too, were there at Sinai.” (Torat Hayim)

(See also W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, SPCK1955 p.103)

The idea every Jew personally participated in the exodus event is derived from the Hebrew concept of “corporate personality”. John A T Robinson, (The Body SCM p.50,) prefers the expression “corporal” to “corporate” because it captures the idea the many are not “in” the one but the one “is” the many.

“To be a Jew means first and foremost to belong to a group, the Jewish people, and the religious beliefs are secondary, in a sense, to this corporate allegiance.” (Nicholas De Lange, An Introduction to Judaism p.4)

This idea of corporate personality is found contemporary Judaism, where at the celebration of the “Passover each Jew is obligated to regard himself as if he personally had come out of Egypt, not simply his ancestors.” (I. Breuer, Concepts of Judaism, ed. J. S. Levinger (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1974), p.296)

“For the Jew … death is the end of the individual person, but the corporate personality of the Jew continues. Death … does not … break the continuity of history itself.” (Ray Anderson, Theology, Death and Dying, p.126)

The concept of corporate personality is expressed in the idea that Levi “paid tithes through Abraham.”

“One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.” (Hebrews 7:9)

The notion of corporate identity is foundational thinking in Paul’s concept of the body of Christ where the believer died “in” and “with” Christ’s and is raised from the dead “in” and “with” Him by means of an organic union with Him on account of the believer becoming “one body” with Christ in “one Spirit.”

The Hebrew concept of corporate personality was driving Paul’s thinking when he wrote,

“God … made us alive together with Christ … and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:5-6)

“We have concluded this: that One has died for all, therefore all have died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14)

The concept one is many and the many is one is the controlling hermeneutic for understanding the entire Bible. The notion of corporate existence allows for the revelations in the Torah to transcend the historical moment and permits each generation an active participation in the historical experience of the group.

When God speaks to His people at a point in history He is speaking personally to His people for all time.

The ancient sage Rabbi Joshua Ben Levi claimed God’s voice from Sinai transcends the temporal order and hearing God “speaking” is accessible to all. This means for Judaism the giving of Torah was not a one off event, reducible to a single text; but a happening that unfolds itself in a perpetual personal encounter with God. Whenever it is proclaimed “Sh’ma Israel” the people are to know that they are hearing God speaking.

Luther said,

“Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scripture.” (Ewald M. Plass, What Luther Says: An Anthology, Vol. 3, (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), p. 62)

Scripture always retrains its status of God speaking to each one personally. When the Word of God is preached from the Torah “we are to experience that moment as if we, too, were there” in the original assembly. If we do not understand Torat Hashem as God speaking we misunderstand Torat Hashem entirely.

Whenever we open the Bible we are to immerse ourselves in the idea we have come to a place where God is speaking to us personally. At such times the only acceptable attitude in our reading of the Bible is what the Jews describe as yirat haromemut (awe of God’s grandeur.) Without yirat haromemut we are unbelievers.

Yir’at ‘Elohim – the Fear of Yahweh

The Bible warns that end-time corporate Christianity would seriously depart from God. (Revelation 18:2)

There is growing evidence when corporate Christianity talks about God in its worship practices and teachings it is not biblical religion that is being preached. Is it biblical religion when theistic evolution has become the new orthodoxy? The most popular doctrine in contemporary Christianity is universal unconditional forgiveness. Can unconditional forgiveness be biblical when Jesus taught the exact opposite?

“If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”(Matthew 6:15)

Bible history presents Israel as a nation with an insatiable passion to experiment with sensuous religion. Historically Judaism was more attracted to a religion catering for personal satisfaction than in obeying God.

Israel’s tragedy was that when it changed its forms of worship it changed its God without knowing it.

“While the worship of Yahweh remained outwardly correct in reality He had come to be regarded as a nature deity like the Canaanite Baal. From him men sought of the fertility of the soil and of marriage, He was worship with the forms of nature religion and with sacral prostitution, as man worshiped the baals. Yahweh became Baal. The name of one of David’s warriors … Bealiah (Yahweh is Baal) demonstrates exactly this programmatic assertion. Thus without knowing it Israel had begun to misunderstand the very nature of its God because the professional guardians of the true knowledge of him were asleep.” (Walther Zimmerli, The Law and the Prophets, Basil Blackwell 1965, p.79)

Do we imagine that Israel’s unconscious relapse into false worship could never happen to us? If not why did Paul warned of the danger of worshipping “another Jesus?” (2 Corinthians 11:4) And what does this mean?

In his analysis of the Old Testament Walther Eichrodt discovered a truth which determines whether God accepts our worship. In our approaches to Deity as an indispensable element in our acceptance God requires yir’at ‘elohim or godly fear in worship. If you do not worship God with yir’at ‘elohim He is not your God.

“This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2)

“The predominant trait in the personal relationship of Man with God in the Old Testament is given linguistic expression … as the fear of God or of Yahweh, yir’at ‘elohim or yir’at yhwh, and likewise, right religious conduct is termed God or Yahweh-fearing, yere’ ‘elohim (yhwh), … religious fear is bi-polar or ambivalent, and conceals within itself at the same time both anxiety and trust … so that the mid point in this basic religious feeling may be described as ‘awe‘. … .”

“…. alongside this profound awareness of the destructive and therefore terrifying otherness of the divine nature we find, as equally indispensable elements in the fear of God, confidence and trust in the help of this very same Being. The religious feeling of terror does not have the character of panic, nor even that of servile anxiety, but contains a mysterious power of attraction which is converted into wonder, obedience, self-surrender, and enthusiasm.” (Walther Eichrodt, The Theology of the Old Testament SCM press London 1967 pp 268,269,270)

The Bible teaches that without yir’at ‘elohim experienced as “a mysterious power of attraction … converted into wonder, obedience, self-surrender, and enthusiasm” we cannot be saved. What is called yir’at ‘elohim is pure faith cleansed from presumption, when we live by the fear of Yahweh we see God as the “great and awesome God” (Deuteronomy 7:21) a maker and destroyer of worlds who pities those who participate in His empathy for a failing humanity but who visits frightening severity on all who deliberately choose to do evil.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer came to the heart of the matter when not long before his execution he wrote,

“Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (London: SCM Press Ltd.), p. 35)

Bonhoeffer’s costly grace is what Paul was referring to when he wrote,

“Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.” (Romans 11:22)

“It is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God but the doers of the law who will be justified.” (Romans 2:13)

God set out the implication of costly grace when He informed Jeremiah, “Do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to Me in the time of their distress.” (Jeremiah 11:14) Costly grace operates only within strict limits and does not cover deliberate sin.

You have heard it said there are no limits to grace and “God loves you no matter what you do?” This is a lie.

“The Lord Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: ‘Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,’ says the Lord, the Lord Almighty. (Isaiah 22:14)

You cannot earn forgiveness by your goodness but you can forfeit it through insincerity and duplicity.

Jesus preached costly grace, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:33)

We are not to fear that serving God is like walking through a minefield and that one small misstep will be fatal. God has promised “a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19) The new spirit that God puts in us is yir’at ‘elohim or a godly fear of Yahweh. The implantation of yir’at ‘elohim becomes the glue that binds us to Yahweh and makes our obedience certain and rock solid. The gift of yir’at ‘elohim provides absolute assurance and power to obey.

God has only one means of imparting yir’at ‘elohim, the fear of Yahweh comes only through receiving the Bible as Torat Hashem- as God speaking- in unconditional surrender and exact compliance to its teaching.

“Gather the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words, so that they may learn to fear Me (yir’at ‘elohim) all the days that they live on the earth.” (Deuteronomy 4:10)

If you want an experience that will stand the test you will only get it if you submit your will to the Word of God in total terms. It is here where many stumble. For all their religion many find it impossible to submit their will to God. It was this situation that prompted Jesus to say “how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!” and “the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”(Mark 10:24, Matthew 7:14)

Christianity has always been populated by people who, like the rich young ruler, are willing to go so far in their obedience but no further. For them the news is bad news – very bad news. With God it is all or nothing.

Neo Bibles and the Destruction of Torat Hashem

It is difficult for many to believe that in the final attack on Christianity Satan would use the Bible or distortions of it, as a primary weapon to destroy the truth but that is what has been happening now for years.

The plan is diabolically simple, if you cannot destroy the Bible invent many Bibles saying different things so there will be a war between conflicting Bibles. Instead of reproducing the original text exactly the plan is to infuse the Bible with erroneous commentary to the point where it becomes impossible to know what the Bible teaches and what the translator made it say. By employing this method in one generation it is possible to entirely transform the religious profile and convert Christianity into something it was never meant to be.

Satan’s method for achieving this end is the use of dynamic equivalent translations and paraphrase Bibles.

Eugene Nida explains how dynamic equivalent translations in reality replace the Bible with something else.

“God’s revelation involved limitations. … Biblical revelation is not absolute … Even if a truth is given only in words it has no real validity until it has been translated into life. … The words are in a sense nothing in and of themselves. … the word is void unless related to experience” (Eugene Nida, Message and Mission, New York: Harper & Row, 1960, pp. 222-228)

The neo Bibles based on the claim “words are in a sense nothing in and of themselves” are now the norm.

Nida’s approach in making the Bible easier to understand involves eliminating all complexities from the biblical text to the point where the biblical writer is a given a new personality and a whole new vocabulary.

One of the things sacrificed in this new method of Bible translation is the idea God Himself is the primary author of the Scriptures. This involves repudiating the concept that Scripture is Torat Hashem or God speaking through an agent. The frenetic quest for simplicity does not allow even the words of Jesus to retain their original format. Jesus is not allowed to speak for Himself but the translator finds it necessary to tells us what He meant. So radical is this transformation that hardly any of the original biblical text remains intact.

Commenting on Nida’s teachings in his Future of the Bible Jakob Van Bruggen wrote,

“Nida states emphatically that the biblical revelation is not ‘absolute’ and applies Paul’s statement that ‘now we see through a glass, darkly’ (1 Cor. 13:12) to the biblical revelation itself, which as the really incarnate Word can offer no absolute truth. Because it is a medium of communication within a limited cultural context, human language is unsuited as a vehicle for supernatural, eternal truths that would, in fact, need a language that is unhuman or divine.” (Jakob Van Bruggen, Future of the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1978, p. 76)

According to David Burke, the director of the American Bible Society translation program dynamic equivalence translations (and “paraphrase” or worse “interpretive paraphrase” Bibles) “differ from other translations in that it is not a word for word and sequence by sequence rendering which reproduces the syntax of the original texts.  … Instead it is an idea by idea translation, arranging the Bible’s text in ways understandable to today’s reader of English.” (American Bible Society Record, June-July 1991, pp. 3-6)

The fundamental problem with an “idea by idea translation” is that we inevitably get the translator’s idea of God’s idea which frequently is not what the original text is actually saying. The dynamic equivalence translation method works with a priori demand that dilutes the biblical text so that it matches the ignorance of the targeted receptors. This means the translator’s prejudices and the receptors biblical illiteracy function as a hermeneutical principle to create what is not a translation but a massively invasive commentary.

This would be bad enough if the dynamic equivalence translation method was intended merely to create material that functions as an aid to understanding the Scriptures. But the plan is for the “idea by idea translation” method to become a replacement model for a literal translation of the biblical text in total terms.

The intention is to cease publishing literal translations of the Bible because its language and symbolism has become incoherent to the general public. The plan of the American Bible Society in their long-term programming is to only print Bibles that explain themselves. In fact all Bibles currently distributed in Third World countries by the American Bible Society are based on the dynamic equivalence translation method.

If Satan can perfect his plan ultimately corporate Christianity will not possess or reproduce a real Bible.

We are told,

“The 1992 merger with Living Bibles International brought together the NIV efforts, the Wycliffe/SIL partnership, and IBS and LBI projects worldwide. Partnership with Wycliffe Bible Translators/SIL has helped meet the needs for the world’s smaller language groups, and has resulted in the publication of 166 New Testaments and 1283 Scripture publications in 506 languages.” (Light Magazine, Special Edition, 1997)

Not one Bible from this source which produces the majority of Bibles represents a literal translation. This means people speaking 506 languages will get a translator’s commentary on the Bible and not a real Bible.

At a time when Torat Hashem is under serious attack the Adventist church has joined the assaults on the Bible by printing and circulating many thousands of copies of the Clear Word Bible which leads the pack in its abuse of the inspired biblical text. For that reason, “the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:16)

When a chorus of errant Bible translators becomes the surrogate thinkers for the masses Christianity is seriously imperiled. When the masses couldn’t care less, without divine intervention, Christianity is doomed.

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