The Way To Yahuweh
I am Yahuweh – That is My Name
Isaiah 42:8

Book Recommendation: Jesus and the Forces of Death

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Book Recommendation: Jesus and the Forces of Death

August 23rd, 2022

I rarely recommend books on here; which is a bit odd, as I do read a lot of them. This will be the first of several coming, so as to give something new for people as I work on numerous projects (which I’m not really close to finishing any of them!).

This book came to my notice as I was watching the Zoom Conferences as part of the Enoch Seminar’s July programme, The Next Quest for the Historical Jesus. All of the papers read by the speakers were excellent and insightful, but one in particular caught my eye: Matthew Thiessen’s paper on Purity as it corresponded to Yahushua’s (M.T of course used Jesus) mission (go and see Dr. Thiessen reading his paper out on the Enoch Seminar’s Facebook page here; he starts at 1:43:21). Accordingly afterwards, I had to purchase his book, Jesus and the Forces of Death: The Gospels’ Portrayal of Ritual Impurity within First-Century Judaism.

For those of us who have read the eye-witness accounts of the Messiah’s life (MattithYah through Yahuchanon) without the lens of Christendom, we will already know that not once does Yahushua repudiate any of the Torah’s commands, and in fact states that not even the smallest stroke of a letter would pass away (Matt. 5:17-20). Whilst He contended with Pharisees, Scribes, Herodians, Sadducees and others concerning the Torah, it was with regards to their misuse of it, as opposed to their usage of its correct application, plus not to mention all their pointless additions to it. Nevertheless, Christians and Christendom for many centuries (around 18+) have neglected most of the Torah (apart from when it suits their purposes), have taught it’s not necessary to follow (except for the 10 commandments, plus any one which fits an agenda, be it ancient or modern), and have even taught that the Messiah Himself didn’t follow all of it, and in several places superseded certain instructions – such as observing the seventh day Sabbath rest, eating “clean” or “unclean” animals – and, the one to which Dr. Thiessen has devoted the book, the ones pertaining to ritual purity.

Mainly in Leviticus (chapters 13-15), there are some instructions concerning what makes a person, male or female, ritually impure or “unclean” (Hebrew tame’ / טָמֵא). Contrary to popular opinion, being “ritually unclean” is not sinful; it only becomes sinful if one attempts to enter the “inner sanctuary” (of the Tabernacle in the wilderness; Temple in Jerusalem), or another Holy place, without waiting to become clean, and to have followed the instructions concerning what to do once you’ve become clean again.
Dr. Thiessen’s book is about this very thing, and how the Messiah is depicted in the eye-witnesses accounts when it comes to certain people who are in a state of perpetual ritual impurity: the leper (though more on this word shortly) as seen in Mark 1:40-45 (Matt. 8:2–4; Luke 5:12–14); the woman suffering the 12-year long bodily discharge of blood in Mark 5:24-34 (Matt. 9:20–22; Luke 8:43–48); the synagogue ruler’s dead daughter in Mark 5:21-23, 35-43 (Matt. 9:18–19, 23-26; Luke 8:41–42, 49-56); and the demon-possessed man in Mark 5:1-20 (Matt. 8:28–34; Luke 8:26–39). He also touches on related depictions of raising the dead and healing the demon possessed, but mainly focuses on these four.

Dr. Thiessen does a masterful job of highlighting how each of these pericopes have nothing to do with the Messiah’s supposed rejection of ritual impurity and the instructions pertaining to them, but are in fact His concord with them, and how the Messiah combats the source of the uncleanness (the skin diseases; discharge of blood; demon-possession; and death), curing each person in the pericope of what is making them ritually impure, and in the case of the leper in Mark 1:40-45, telling the man to go and follow the instructions in accord with what is required in Leviticus when becoming clean again.

One thing which struck me immediately in the book is Dr. Thiessen’s referral to Yahuchanon the Immerser not as the traditional “John the Baptist”, but rather as “John the Immerser” (emphasis mine – see pages 21-24, 64). Outside of certain Hebraic-roots (of which I’m not, before someone reading this accuses me!) or other non-mainstream authors, I can’t recall any other book which refers to Yahuchanon the Immerser as such. Throughout the book, Dr. Thiessen does in fact appear to be completely avoiding any mention of “Baptist” or “baptism”, which I was quite glad to see. Whilst I haven’t confirmed it, it would appear Dr. Thiessen is doing so in order to not confuse the modern reader with what modern baptism is usually perceived to be: something done to children with a brief splash of water on their face, followed by the sign of the cross. Dr. Thiessen more or less states this as such on page 22: “John’s immersive practices may remind modern readers of the later Christian rite of baptism (the common moniker “John the Baptsist” no doubt contributes to this understanding)”.

The immersion of which Yahuchanon, and following him Yahushua and His followers, performed, was the full submersion of an adult in water, something seen in the ritual washing basins found throughout Israel by archaeologists. As noted by Dr. Thiessen, Yahuchanon’s immersion is a direct mimicking of contemporary bathing rituals in Judaism as it corresponded to ritual impurity/uncleanness, though for Yahuchanon and Yahushua, not to mention their followers, it was also symbolic for the removal of sin – an inner cleansing rather than just an outward one.

The second, and most important in my opinion, thing of which I was mostly unaware was the Greek word λέπρα / lepra, usually translated as leprosy, didn’t actually mean leprosy as we understand it today (medical term is Hansen’s disease), but in fact was used to any group of skin diseases which caused scabs, scales, or whiteness of skin and hair. The whitening of skin is something particularly mentioned in Leviticus 13 as a consequence of contracting צָרַ֫עַת / tsara’at, the word usually (and incorrectly) translated as leprosy; problem is Hansen’s disease does not result in the skin or hair turning white! According to Leviticus 13, צָרַ֫עַת / tsara’at can also infect houses and clothing; this, again, not being something leprosy actually does. To spoil all of this slightly: neither צָרַ֫עַת nor λέπρα were Hebrew or Greek words for Hansen’s disease/leprosy, as both were being used before leprosy was even known in the Middle-East or the Mediterranean. When they were finally seen in either place (around 2nd-3rd century BCE, long after Leviticus was originally written), the Greeks referred to it as elephas/ἐλέφας or elephantiasis/ἐλεφαντίᾱσις (yes, from whence we get the English elephant), due to the belief it was brought to the Mediterranean and Middle-East from India by Alexander’s army (again, something Dr. Thiessen notes is also mistaken – it was likely the slave trade which brought it from India to the west; see p. 46). Hence Leviticus 13 can’t be referring to Hansen’s disease, as it was something likely not even in existence when Leviticus was written, and when MattithYah, Marcus, or Lucus use λέπρα (Yahuchanon interestingly doesn’t mention anything of λέπρα), this was not yet a word used to refer to the more modern commonly known disease (this wouldn’t happen until the 9th century CE, never mind BCE). As to what disease they were referring, no one seems to know exactly which one, and a multitude could be indicated, as they appear to affect more people than would be expected.

Anyway, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s well written, scholarly, and does actually have something that speaks against ancient and contemporary Christian (mis)understanding of the purity instructions, and the Messiah’s response to such things, that shouldn’t turn off most Christians from reading it.

Jesus and the Forces of Death on Amazon (USA)
Enoch Seminar: First Zoom Session
Enoch Seminar: Second Zoom Session
Enoch Seminar Webpage
Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements Webpage

Oldest Hebrew Text from around 1200 BCE found

March 27th, 2022

A team of archaeologists have claimed to have found the oldest-dated Hebrew text in Israel, including two instances of YHW (a shortened form of YHWH/Yahuweh), in the proto-Hebraic script. This information was announced Thursday 24th March 2022, at a press conference in Houston, Texas, USA.

Albeit it has yet to be independently verified, so as with all “early announcements”, it’s probably best to be a bit sceptical as to the exact age (see, for instance, the hubbub around “first-century Mark”). This does not mean however that it isn’t the oldest; we just require confirmation. Of further interest is the fact this is not the result of a new excavation, but the re-checking of finds from an earlier one in the 1980s. Archaeology isn’t known for its speed.

If this turns out to be as old as stated, the question of “Hebraic literacy” effectively pushes it further back than scholars have been ready to admit.

You may read more about this in the following news articles: Times of Israel | Ha Aretz.

More DSS Fragments Discovered

March 17th, 2021

Still the discoveries go on from within the Qumran caves (well, technically Nahal Hever in this case).

Several more fragments from the Nahal Hever Greek Minor Prophets scroll have been discovered during excavations on the site as reported by The Times of Israel.

Once images of these new fragments have been uploaded onto the Leon-Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Database, I shall incorporate them into the transcription of the Greek Minor Prophets scroll which can be downloaded from the Downloads Page.

Here’s hoping there’s more discoveries to follow!

The End of 2020 / Start of 2021

January 4th, 2021

Like most of you reading this, 2020 was not that great of a year. World-wide country lockdowns, people losing their job, the word “isolate” being used more than any other time in history. To call 2020 a “turbulent” year doesn’t quite capture the essence of what 2020 was.

Nevertheless, this is a new Gregorian-Calendar year, with a hopefully more optimistic outlook for everybody. Throughout last year there was no major update on TWTY; I did however spend the time going through all the current things on TWTY and making sure all errors etc., were fixed/rectified. The only new thing is the Google Translate Toolbar in the header at the top of the website.

TWTY receives many visitors from around the world, so whilst not perfect, Google Translate does a decent job of translating, so I hope the addition assists those who come to this site whose first language isn’t English.

Plans for 2021? I think it’s about time I sorted out Version 3 of the translation. I also think Version 3 should really be Version 1, Version 2 should be the current Version 1, and there be no other version. It would satisfy the need I foresaw back in 2005, and provide an easy-to-read version, and a more in-depth one for those requiring more. My plan is to get the eye-witness accounts done this year, and the other books/letters in 2022.

Here’s to 2021 being a much better year for all of us!

New Blog! 4QSama Identification

October 2nd, 2018

As has been mentioned previously, I’ve finally got around to finishing a blog post on a newly identified fragment in the extensive Dead Sea Scrolls manuscript 4QSama (also known as 4Q51 Samuela).

Along with this, there’s been some corrections / updates to the following:

Give the main blog post a read over here 🙂

Update! New Ancient Papyrus Transcription

April 4th, 2018

Yup, it’s that time again!

I’m pleased to finally upload the completed transcription and translation of Papyrus (P) 45, a rather large codex containing text from MattithYah (Matthew), Marcus (Mark), Lucus (Luke), Yahuchanon (John), and Acts!

Please find it under the Ancient Papyrus section on the Downloads page 🙂

In the next few weeks or so, I should have a new blog post discussing the identification of a fragment from one of the largest Dead Sea Scrolls discovered (4QSama).

So as always, watch this space! 🙂

Update! New DSS Manuscript + Blog Post

March 13th, 2018

To coincide with the release of a previously unreleased Dead Sea Scrolls manuscript (named MurIsa – see the Downloads Page), I have also done a Blog post explaining the transcription process, plus a few other tidbits about the Dead Sea Scrolls.

This is actually my first blog post in over 7 (!) years; I plan on doing quite a few more this year, as there is quite a lot to say about things concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls, Scripture, and anything and everything in between 🙂

Keep an eye out for further Blog posts in the near future 🙂

Update! New Dead Sea Scrolls Page

March 5th, 2018

You might be wondering, if you’ve visited this site before, why on earth I’m announcing a ‘new’ Dead Sea Scrolls page, when I’ve already got several.

This one is a little different. It’s not really ‘more’ information on the Dead Sea Scrolls etc., but rather a link to all the images that are transcribed on TWTY!

So not only can you see the transcriptions, but have an easy to reference page for the actual images of the DSS manuscripts themselves!

For most manuscripts, the first few image links are of the full ‘plates’ (these have more than one fragment on them, usually in order as to how they match up with the text they reproduce); the rest are images of individual fragments, mostly in fragment-number order. Also indicated is the official publication that the images were initially printed.

Having gone through the images again, I ended up discovering a Dead Sea Scrolls manuscript that I’d missed (Whoops! There are a few of them…), but also identified an unpublished fragment of 4Q51 Samuela (4QSama) which I have already incorporated into the transcription of said manuscript.

To make up for the fact that I had no updates in February, look out for some up and coming blog posts on the above two mentioned items. Should make for some good, light reading 🙂

The above two mentioned Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts have already been put on TWTY – brownie points to those who find the new Dead Sea Scrolls manuscript, and even more to the one who can identify the place in 4QSama where the new fragment has given us more of the text!

Update! New Section, and More!

January 26th, 2018

For the year of 2018, TWTY will be endeavouring to be giving a few more updates than has been occurring the past year or so, so it gives me great pleasure to announce a new section for TWTY: Septuagint/LXX Manuscript Transcriptions.

This is a ‘sister’ section to the Ancient Papyrus one (which concentrates on Renewed Covenant manuscripts), and is already a collaborative one, with Dr. Th.A.W. van der Louw of the Protestant Theological University (Netherlands), and SIL International Member, kindly providing a transcription of one of the oldest Septuagint Manuscripts (P. Ryl. 458). With his permission I have turned the transcription into TWTY format, which can be downloaded from here.

Another release is provided by TWTY reader Galen, who has created two Bibleworks Databases that contain the TC Editions of the DSS text! Due to the limitations of the Bibleworks Software, both Greek and Hebrew portions are in separate files. Despite this, it is still readable and searchable, giving greater capabilities for those with the Bibleworks Software.

Give the modules a download from here.

Here’s to more updates like this in the future!

Update! New Design for 2018

January 7th, 2018

It’s that time again where the look of TWTY needs an overhaul.

Those visiting the site the past few days will have seen the new design, plus a few times where the site was inaccessible due to my inability to code correctly!

Anyway, I’m done (I think), so here you go! Hopefully this should be easier to get around, plus the design is now universal (no separate ‘downloads’ etc)!

As always, any issues you may have, please let me know 🙂