Mattityahu Jewish New Testament

chapter 3
1. It was during those days that Yochanan the Immerser arrived in the desert of Y’hudah and began proclaiming the message,
Yochanan the Immerser, usually rendered "John the Baptist." The name "John,"' along with numerous variants in many languages — Jan, Juan, Jon, Jean. Ivan, Giovanni — comes from Hebrew Yo-chanan, which means, "YHVH was gracious, showed favor."

While the Greek verb "baptizein" is obviously the source of the English words "baptize" and "Baptist." its root meaning is "10 dip, soak, immerse" into a liquid, so that whal is dipped takes on qualities of what it has been dipped in — for example, cloth in dye or leather in tanning solution. But to understand what "baptize in" means here one needs the Jewish background. According lo the Torah one had to be ritually pure before entering the Tabernacle or Temple. Ritual purity could be lost in many ways; the preeminent means of restoring it was through washing, A quick review of Leviticus shows how frequently the matter is mentioned, and one of the six major divisions of the Talmud (Taharoi, "Cleansings") is devoted to it. Even though there is no longer a Temple, observant Jewish women immerse themselves in a mikveh (ritual bath) after each menstrual period, in obedience to Leviticus 15; see MJ I3:4N.

A person who immerses himself participates in an obvious yet living metaphor of purification, with the water, as it were, washing away the impurity. Here Yochanan the Immerser proclaims for the old practice of immersion a new context, cleansing from a life pattern of sin (see vv. 2&N, 6, II).

Today's ritual baptism in some branches of Christianity does not involve complete immersion of the body in water, but pouring or sprinkling instead. Some scholars believe that a( least in some instances, even New Testament baptisms may have been sprinklings or pourings and not actual immersions; verses such as Ezekiel 36:25 (MJ 10:22) and Lk 3:16 with Ac 2:17-18, 10:45 are adduced in support. The various "Baptist" denominations sprang from a movement in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that stressed complete immersion of believers, as opposed to sprinkling or pouring baptismal water on infants not yet old enough to have decided consciously to be Christian.

Traditional Judaism has developed its own theology of Christian baptism. Perhaps because a form of haptism (complete self-immersion in a mikveh) is required at the point when a non-Jew converts to Judaism, the latter has traditionally understood Christian baptism to be the moment when a Jew removes himself from the Jewish community and adopts a religion alien to. or even in opposition to, Judaism and the Jewish people. Because of these false associations which have become attached to the word "baplism" in the Jewish community, me text of the JNT uses the more accurately descriptive word "immersion" throughout.

2. “Turn from your sins to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!”
Turn from your sins to God. The English language has a perfectly good word for this, "repent," used in the King James and most other versions; but those who image an overwrought, undereducated charlatan yelling it at a frightened and equally illiterate crowd can no longer hear the message in the word. For this reason I have gone back to the original languages to educe the original sense. The Greek word "metanoiete" related to "nous" ("mind"), means "change your mind, have a complete change of heart." The underlying Hebrew concept is expressed in the word "/ 'shuvah" ("turning, returning"), which in the context of religious behavior means "turning" from one's sins and "returning" to God. Note that there is not only a "from" but a "to," for turning from one's sins is impossible unless at the same time one turns to God — otherwise one only turns from one set of sins to another! The Jewish understanding of repentance, correct on this point, is that each individual must do it, yet it requires God's grace to be able to do it — 'Turn us to you, О Adonai, and we will be turned" (Lamentations 5:21).

It is not without wisdom that a Jew raised with little knowledge of Judaism who later adopts an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle is termed a"ba'al-t'shuvah" literally, a "master of repentance," that is, one who has "turned" from his nonobservant ways and "returned" to an attempt at serving God in the manner prescribed by Orthodox Judaism. My heart's desire is that all Jews become true ba'alei-t'shuvah through Yeshua the Messiah, and that all Christians become truly repentant as well (1 Yn 1:9).
Yochanan's message here is identical with Yeshua's at 4:17.

Kingdom of Heaven. The word "Heaven" was used in pious avoidance of the word "God" (see 1:2()N); and to this day Hebrew malkhut-haShammaxim ("Kingdom of Heaven") substitutes in Jewish religious literature for "Kingdom of God," an expression found frequently in the New Testament, first at 6:33 below. In the Jewish New Testament "Heaven" is capitalized when it refers to God; "heaven" is in lower-case when ii refers to the sky or paradise.

In both Yochanan's and Yeshua's preaching (4:17) the reason for urgency to repent is that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. The concept of the Kingdom of God is crucial to understanding the Bible. It refers neither to a place nor lo a time, but to a condition in which the mlership of God is acknowledged by humankind, a condition in which God's promises of a restored universe free from sin and death are, or begin to be, fulfilled. In relation to the Kingdom of God history can be divided into four periods: before Yeshua, during his lifetime, the present age (the 'olam hazeh) and the future age (the 'olarn haba). There was a sense in which the Kingdom was present prior to Ycshua1 s birth; indeed, God was king over the Jewish people (see 1 Samuel 12:12). Yeshua's arrival brought a quantum leap in the earthly expression of the Kingdom, "For in him, bodily, lives the fullness of all that God is" (Co 2:9).

The New Testament teaches two seemingly contradictory things about the Kingdom of God: that it is near or present (this verse, 4:17, 12:34; Lk 17:21), and that it is yet to come (25:1, Yn 18:36, Ac 1:6-7). The theologian George Ladd both highlighted and resolved this conflict by calling his book on the Kingdom of God "The Presence of the Future."

Today the Kingdom of God comes immediately and truly — but partially — to all who put their trust in Yeshua and his message, thus committing themselves to live the holy lives God's rulership demands, As an example of the "parti alness," they have peace in their hearts even though there is not peace in the world. But in the future, at the end of the present age of history, when Yeshua returns, he will inaugurate the Kingdom truly and completely (Rv 19:6); then God will fulfill the rest of his Kingdom promises. One of the most profound spiritual studies a person can undertake in the Bible is of the Kingdom of God in both the Tanakh and the New Testament.

3. This is the man Yesha‘yahu was talking about when he said, “The voice of someone crying out: ‘In the desert prepare the way of Adonai! Make straight paths for him!’” (Isaiah 40:3)
This quotation initiates the second part of the book of Isaiah (Chapters 40-66), which offers comfort to Israel and contains many references to the Messiah. The one who cries is Yochanan, identified in spirit with the prophet Elijah; see Mk 1:2-3N.

The voice of someone crying out: "In the desert prepare the way of AdonaiV KJ V has. "The voice of one crying in the wilderness. Prepare ye the way of the Lord"; and most versions, as well as the first two printings of the JNT, say that the crier is in the desert. But this is wrong; one leams it by examining the punctuation/cantillation marks in the Masoretic Hebrew text of Isaiah. These show that "in the desert" goes with "prepare the way," not with "someone crying." Although these markings are not God-inspired, they indicate how the text was read and understood at the time they were added (not later than the 8th century C.E.); and without a positive reason for understanding the text differently, ii is best to assume these markings are correct.

4. Yochanan wore clothes of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.
Camel's hair was woven into coarse cloth by the poor who could not afford wool garments. While the rich could afford ornate waistbands a poor man would wear a leather belt. Thus Yochanan, like many prophets before him, identified with the poor. But the leather belt also elicits association with Elijah (v.3N, 2 Kings 1:8).

Locusts. Leviticus 11:21-22 mentions four species of locusts that may be eaten. Mishna Chullin 3:7 defines the characteristics of kosher locusts and in the Gemara, Chullin 65a-66a analyzes these rules at length. Locusts were food for the poor in Yeshua's day; Bedouins cook and eat them to this day, as did the Jews of Yemen before thai community was removed to Israel by Operation Flying Carpet in 1950. Wild honey. Probably date honey, because oases near Yericho are known for production of dates both then and now, and bees do not live in the desert. (This sentence has been corrected from earlier editions.) The verse tells us that Yochanan lived outside the normaJ economic framework of the country so that he could be wholly devoted to his prophetic task.

5. People went out to him from Yerushalayim, from all Y’hudah, and from the whole region around the Yarden.
6. Confessing their sins, they were immersed by him in the Yarden River.
Confessing their sins. Greek exomologeo, "agree, admit, acknowledge, declare publicly, confess," literally, "say the same thing." In the case of confessing one's sins, nne is saying the same thing about them that God says, acknowledging the deeds to be wrong, willing to declare publicly one's sorrow, guilt and resolution to change. On Yom-Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and other fast days, s'lichot (penitential prayers) are recited which can help people who say them with kavvanah (intention, devotion) to become more willing to admit their sins and agree with God's opinion of them. See Ynl:9&N,Ya5:16&N.

Sins. We live in an age when many people do not know what sin is. Sin is violation of Torah (1 Yn 3 A), transgression of the law God gave his people in order to help them live a life which would be in their own best interests as well as holy and pleasing to God. In the so-called Age of Enlightenment, two or three centuries ago, the notion of moral relativism began to gain a hold in Western societies. Under its sway people discarded the concept of sin as irrelevant. In this view there are no sins, only sicknesses, misfortunes, mistakes, or the outworking of one's environmental, hereditary and biological input (western terminology) or of one's fate or karma (eastern). Alternatively, sin is acknowledged to exist, but only as defined in one's culture — cultural relativism thus negates the biblical concept of sin as absolute wrong.

Much of the Bible is concerned with explaining what sin is, what the penalty for sinning is, how we can avoid that penalty and have our sins forgiven, and how we can live a holy life free from the power of sin, pleasing to God and to ourselves. See the book of Romans and especially Ro 5:12-21N.

7. But when Yochanan saw many of the P’rushim and Tz’dukim coming to be immersed by him, he said to them, “You snakes! Who warned you to escape the coming punishment?
P'rushim and Tz'dukim (plural; singular Parush, Tzadok), "Pharisees and Sadducees." These were the two main factions of the religious establishment in Yeshua's time. In 586 B.C.E. Babylon conquered Judea and Jerusalem, laid waste the First Temple, which King Solomon had built, and deported the ruling classes to Babylon. With the Temple, the sacrifices and the cohanim no longer functioning, the Jews in exile and after their return seventy years later sought another organizing principle on which to center their communal life. They found it in the Torah (the "Law"; see 5:17N), as can be seen already in the report of the reading of die Torah by Ezra (Nehemiah 8). The earliest students, developers and upholders of the Torah seem to have been of the hereditary priestly caste — Ezra himself was both a cohen and a safer ("scribe"). But later, as the cohanim were drawn back into caring for the sacrificial system as it developed during the Second Temple period, a lay movement which supported the Torah and favored its adaptation to the needs of the people arose and began to challenge the authority of the cohanim. The cohanim and their backets in the first century C.E, were known as Tz'dukim, after the cohen gadol appointed by King Solomon, Tzadok (his name means "righteous"; compare 6:1-4&N. 13:17&N).

Meanwhile, under the Maccabees in the second century B.C.E. those whose main concern was not the sacrifices but the Torah were called Hasidim. (Except for the name, which means "pious ones," there is no connection between these and the various Orthodox Jewish communities that follow the teachings spread by the talmidim of the seventeenth-century Eastern European teacher and mystic known as the Ba 'al Shem Tov.) The successors to the Hasidim were known as/* 'rushim, which means "separated ones," because they separated themselves from worldly ways and worldly people. These P'rushim not only took the ГйлаЛ/itobeGod's word to man, but also considered the accumulated tradition handed down over the centuries by the sages and teachers to be God's word as well — the Oral Torah—so that a system for living developed which touched on every aspect of life.

In Yeshua's day the Tz'dukim tended to be richer, more skeptical, more worldly, and more willing to cooperate with the Roman rulers than the P'rushim. However, the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. ended the viability of the Tz'dukim by destroying the venue of their chief responsibility, and whatever tradition they may have developed has for the most part been lost. See Ac 23:6&N.

The P'rushim and their successors were then free to develop further their own received tradition and make it the center of gravity for Jewish life everywhere. Eventually, due to the dispersion of the Jewish people, which separated many from the living flow of tradition, these oral materials were collected and written down in the Mishna (220 C.E.), under the editorship of Y'hudah HaNasi ("Judah the Prince"). The rabbis' discussions about the Mishna during the following two or three centuries in the Land of Israel and in Babylon were collected to form the Jerusalem and Babylonian Gemaras. Combined with the Mishna these constitute the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds.

Centuries of Christian preaching have made the English word "Pharisee" virtually a synonym for "hypocrite" and "stubborn legalist" — witness the entry for "pharisaical" in Webster's Third New International Dictionary:
"Resembling me Pharisees especially in strictness of doctrine and in rigid observance of forms and ceremonies; making an outward show of piety and morality but lacking the inward spirit; censorious of others' morals or practices; formal, sanctimonious, self-righteous, hypocritical." While it is true that Yeshua himself lambasted "you hypocritical Tora/i-teachers and P 'rushim " for having many of these traits (see Chapter 23 and 23:13N), Christians often forget that his hard words were delivered in a family context — as a Jew criticizing some of his fellow Jews. A glance at any modem Jewish community newspaper will show that Jews are still critical of each other and willing to endure such criticism — reproof and rebuke are normal and acceptable behaviors in many Jewish settings. However, Yeshua does not lake his fellow Jews lo task for being Pharisees but for being hypocrites — the former does not imply the latter. Moreover, Yeshua's criticism was not of all P'rushim but only of those who were hypocritical. While some Pharisees were insincere or overly concerned with externals, others were "not far from the Kingdom of God" (Mk 12:34). and some entered it and became followers of Yeshua without ceasing to be P'rushim (Ac 15:5). In fact Sha'ul said before the Sanhedrin, "Brothers, I myself am a Parush" — "am," not "was" (Ac 23:6).

Because of the subconscious negative associations most people have with the English word "Pharisee," the JNT text uses the original Hebrew words "Parush" (singular) and "P'rushim" (plural), and for the sake of parallelism substitutes "Tzadok/Tz'dukim" for "Sadducee/Sadducees."

You snakes! Yochanan discerned that these particular Pharisees and Sadducees (see above paragraphs) were insincere. Whether they were dilettantes sampling the latest religious fad or envoys from Jerusalem investigating Yochanan's activities is unclear. Luke 7:28-32 suggests the former, Mt 21:23-27 the latter. In any case, in the end the religious establishment did not accept Yochanan's ministry.

The coming punishment, literally, "the wrath to come." God's wrath is spoken of here and frequently in the New Testament as the wrath, emphasizing how certainly — one might even say how automatically — God's wrath must follow sin. Just as God's physical law of gravity makes it certain that the automatic consequence of jumping from a tall building is physical destruction, so God's moral law of sin makes it certain that the automatic consequence of persisting in sins i.s eternal spiritual destruction in God's wrath.

8. If you have really turned from your sins to God, produce fruit that will prove it!
9. And don’t suppose you can comfort yourselves by saying, ‘Avraham is our father’! For I tell you that God can raise up for Avraham sons from these stones!
Don't suppose you can comfort yourselves by saying, "Avraham is our father"! The Messianic Jewish scholar Alfred Edersheim wrote,
"[D]id they imagine that, according to the common notion of the time, the vials of wrath were to be poured out only on the Gentiles, while they, as Abraham's children, were sure of escape — in the words of the Talmud, that 'the night' (Isaiah 21:12) was 'only to the nations of the world, but the morning to Israel' (Jer.Ta'anit64a)?

"For, no principle was more fully established in the popular conviction than that all Israel had part in the world to come (Sanhedrin 10:1 [quoted in Ro 11:26aNJ), and this specifically because of their connection with Abraham." (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, New York: Anson D. F. Randolph and Company, 2nd edition [1884], Volume I, p. 271)

God can raise up for Avraham sons from these stones, even as he raised up Isaac from the stone altar in figurative resurrection; compare MJ 11:19&N. The English phrase, "sons from these stones1' is an attempt to preserve by alliteration the Hebrew wordplay which the Greek text ignores. "Sons" in Hebrew is banim, "stones" is written abanim (pronounced avanim). A less likely possibility is that "from these stones" means "from these clods, these 'am-ha 'arelz" (see Yn 7:49N, Ac 4:13N). Wordplay has been common in Jewish speech from ancient times to the present, with many examples in the Tanakh itself; see 2:23N.

10. Already the axe is at the root of the trees, ready to strike; every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown in the fire!
11. It’s true that I am immersing you in water so that you might turn from sin to God; but the one coming after me is more powerful than I — I’m not worthy even to carry his sandals — and he will immerse you in the Ruach HaKodesh and in fire.
12. He has with him his winnowing fork; and he will clear out his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn but burning up the straw with unquenchable fire!”
Fire. Some commentators see this as a purifying fire that wi!l eliminate the wicked from the Jewish people along lines set forth in Malachi 3:19-21(4:1-3) and Psalm 1:6 ("The way of the wicked will perish"); see Rv 20:15. The same psalm also compares the ungodly with straw (Psaim 1:4). Others take it as enthusiasm for holiness, being on fire for God.

He will immerse you In the Ruach HaKodesh, the "Holy Spirit," the Spirit of God. A promise made by Yeshua himself (Lk 24:49; Yn 15:26,16:13-14; Ac 1:8); its fulfillment begins at Ac 2:1ff.

13. Then Yeshua came from the Galil to the Yarden to be immersed by Yochanan.
14. But Yochanan tried to stop him. “You are coming to me? I ought to be immersed by you!”
15. However, Yeshua answered him, “Let it be this way now, because we should do everything righteousness requires.” Then Yochanan let him.
We should do everything righteousness requires. Yeshua himself did not have to be immersed for his sins because he committed none (MI 4:15). Some have suggested he was fully identifying with sinful humanity, who did need purification (see 2:15N, Ro 8:3&N, Pp 2:6-8). On what it is that God's righteousness requires, see Ro 3:24-26.

16. As soon as Yeshua had been immersed, he came up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, he saw the Spirit of God coming down upon him like a dove,
Some ancient manuscripts add "to him" after "opened."

17. and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; I am well pleased with him.”
Voice from heaven or bat-kol; see Yn 12:28&N, Ac 9:4N. "Heaven" here has a dual meaning — (1) the sky, (2) God; see v. 2N.

This is my beloved son. While it is true that everyone is in a sense God's son, Yeshua is so in a unique way — his "only" (or"only-begotten") son (Yn 1:18&N). Two other passages come to mind: one in which Adam is referred to as God's son (Lk 3:23), and Psalm 2:7, "Adotiai said to me, 'You are my son; today 1 have become your father.""Combined with 1С 15:45, in which Yeshua is called "the last Adam," and Ro 5:12-21, where Yeshua and Adam are further compared, these texts show us that in thinking about Yeshua's person and ministry one must keep Adam in mind. This is especially important in the verses immediately following, in which Yeshua, like Adam, is tempted by the Adversary, Satan. See also v. 15N.

In whom I am well pleased. The language is reminiscent of Isaiah 42:1, one of the "Servant" passages; Isaiah 42:1-4 is quoted below (12:18-21); see also 17:5. The "Servant" passages sometimes refer to the people of Israel and sometimes to the Messiah, a fact which strengthens the point made in 2; 15N that Yeshua the Messiah represents and stands for the whole Jewish people.

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