Mattityahu Jewish New Testament

chapter 6
1. “Be careful not to parade your acts of tzedakah in front of people in order to be seen by them! If you do, you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2. So, when you do tzedakah, don’t announce it with trumpets to win people’s praise, like the hypocrites in the synagogues and on the streets. Yes! I tell you, they have their reward already!
3. But you, when you do tzedakah, don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
4. Then your tzedakah will be in secret; and your Father, who sees what you do in secret, will reward you.
Tzedakah, Hebrew for "righteousness," but in a Jewish context "doing tzedakah" means "giving to charity, doing acts of mercy." This is reflected in the Greek text: in v. 1 the Greek word used means "righteousness," but in vv. 2-4 a different Greek word is used which means "kind deeds, alms, charitable giving."

5. “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites, who love to pray standing in the synagogues and on street corners, so that people can see them. Yes! I tell you, they have their reward already!
6. But you, when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
7. “And when you pray, don’t babble on and on like the pagans, who think God will hear them better if they talk a lot.
Compare the Mishna:
"Rabbi Shim'on said, '... When you pray, do not make your prayer fixed [repetitive, mechanical], but [appeal for] mercy and supplication before the Omnipresent, blessed be he.'" (Avot 2:13)

Likewise the Gemara:
"When you address the Holy One, blessed be he, let your words be few." (B'rakhot 61a)

New Testament scholars enjoy finding parallels to New Testament teachings in the writings of the rabbis. I enjoy it too — see 5:23-24N, vv. 9-13N, 7:12N and elsewhere throughout this commentary. Nevertheless, it is wise not to take this enterprise too seriously. To explain why I say this, let me present two of the "weighty conclusions" one might be tempted to draw — along with some weightier reasons for being very cautious:

(1) Conclusion: Judaism and New Testament religion are really the same, since Yeshua (or Paul, or the gospel writers) and the rabbis teach the same things. Caution: The logic is faulty, resembling the syllogism. "Grass is green. Money is green. Therefore grass is money." Moreover, traditional Judaism, as it has developed since the first century, has consciously distinguished itself over against Christianity, consciously defending itself against the possibility of accepting such a conclusion; and Christianity, throughout most of its history and in most of its expressions, has done the same. There is indeed room to speak of a "Judeo-Christian tradition" consisting of the common elements, but that is a far cry from simplisti-cally proclaiming the identity of two streams which equally stress their differences. I myself expect that in the future these streams will become confluent, but they are not now congruent (see my Messianic Jewish Manifesto, Chapter 111).

(2) Conclusion: The rabbis assimilated or copied Yeshua's teaching without giving him credit. Opposite conclusion: Yeshua, Paul and/or the New Testament writers assimilated or copied the rabbis' teachings without giving them credit. Cautions: The rabbinic writings mostly date from long after Yeshua (the Mishna was compiled in the third century, the Gemaras in the fourth to sixth, other writings still later), so prima facie one would suppose the borrowings would be mostly by the rabbis.

On the other hand, these writings report many statements made by persons who lived long before the date of compilation, and sometimes long before Yeshua. Moreover, they also summarize unattributed tradi lions which may be very old indeed — so that the ideas reported may well predate Yeshua. Jacob Neusner, a well-known Jewish scholar who deals with New Testament materials as pertinent to establishing the course of Jewish history, stresses the importance of dating any rabbinic or New Testament reference, together with its antecedents, before drawing conclusions about who influenced whom. Since the same first-century Jewish society was the crucible out of which came both Messianic and rabbinic Judaism, often the most reasonable conclusion is that both the rabbis and the New Testament figures and writers drew on a common pool of ideas. As for giving credit, one can make the case (it is beyond the scope of this commentary) that in fact the New Testament does acknowledge positive contributions made by "tradition" (i.e., the rabbis; see Mk 7:5-13N) and by the P'rushim (23:2&N).

8. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Compare Isaiah 65:24.

9. You, therefore, pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven! May your Name be kept holy.
10. May your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.
11. Give us the food we need today.
12. Forgive us what we have done wrong, as we too have forgiven those who have wronged us.
13. And do not lead us into hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One. [For kingship, power and glory are yours forever.] Amen.’
These verses include what is widely known as the Lord's Prayer, since it was taught by the Lord Yeshua. All of its elements may be found in the Judaism of Yeshua's day, so in this sense it is not original with him; but it is properly revered for its beauty and economy. Its first words, Our Father in heaven (Avinu sh 'haShammayim), open many Hebrew prayers. The next two lines recall the first portion of the synagogue prayer known as the /Caddish, which says, "Magnified and sanctified (Yitgadal v'yitkadash) be his great name throughout the world which he has created according to his will, and may he establish his Kingdom in your lifetime..." The plural phrasing — "Give us... forgive us... lead us" — is characteristically Jewish, focussing on the group rather than the isolated individual.

The Evil One. The Greek may also be translated simply, "evil," in the sense of "bad things that happen." The Talmud (Kiddushin 81 a) reports that "Whenever Rabbi Chiyya ben-Abba fell on his face [in prayer] he used to say, 'May the Merciful One save us from the Tempter.'"

[For kingship, power and glory are yours forever. Amen.] This doxology echoes 1 Chronicles 29:11. The oldest New Testament manuscripts lack it, hence the brackets. Roman Catholics do not include it when reciting the Lord's Prayer; Protestants do. On "Amen" see 5:18N; here it signals an expected congregational response.

14. For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you;
15. but if you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours.
16. “Now when you fast, don’t go around looking miserable, like the hypocrites. They make sour faces so that people will know they are fasting. Yes! I tell you, they have their reward already!
17. But you, when you fast, wash your face and groom yourself,
18. so that no one will know you are fasting — except your Father, who is with you in secret. Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
19. “Do not store up for yourselves wealth here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and burglars break in and steal.
20. Instead, store up for yourselves wealth in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and burglars do not break in or steal.
21. For where your wealth is, there your heart will be also.
Pharaoh understood very well that where your wealth is, there will your heart be also. This is why he refused to let the Israelites take their property (Exodus 10:8-11, 24-27).

22. ‘The eye is the lamp of the body.’ So if you have a ‘good eye’ [that is, if you are generous] your whole body will be full of light;
23. but if you have an ‘evil eye’ [if you are stingy] your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
22-23 "The eye is the lamp of the body." Apparently Yeshua quotes a common proverb and comments on it. If you have a "good eye." This is in the Greek text, but the explanation, that is, if you are generous, is added by me the translator because in Judaism "having a good eye," an 'ayin tovah, means "being generous," and "having a bad eye." an 'ayin ra 'ah, means "being stingy." That this is the correct interpretation is confirmed by the context, greed and anxiety about money being the topic in both the preceding and following verses. This passage is another link in the chain of evidence that New Testament events took place in Hebrew; I made this point when analyzing v. 23 in Section I of the JNT Introduction. See also David Bivin and Roy Blizzard, Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: Destiny Image Publishers. 1984.

24. No one can be slave to two masters; for he will either hate the first and love the second, or scorn the second and be loyal to the first. You can’t be a slave to both God and money.
25. “Therefore, I tell you, don’t worry about your life — what you will eat or drink; or about your body — what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?
26. Look at the birds flying about! They neither plant nor harvest, nor do they gather food into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they are?
27. Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to his life?
28. “And why be anxious about clothing? Think about the fields of wild irises, and how they grow. They neither work nor spin thread,
29. yet I tell you that not even Shlomo in all his glory was clothed as beautifully as one of these.
30. If this is how God clothes grass in the field — which is here today and gone tomorrow, thrown in an oven — won’t he much more clothe you? What little trust you have!
How much more. This phrase signals a form of argument known in rabbinic literature as kal v'chomer ("light and heavy"), corresponding to what philosophers call a fortiori reasoning: If A is true, then, a fortiori (Latin, "with (even] greater strength"), В must also be true. The English phrase, "how much more," equivalent to Hebrew kol sh 'khen, expresses this sense and force. Explicit kal v 'chomer arguments appear in the New Testament twenty-one times, the others being at 7:11, 10:25, 12:12; Lk 11:13; 12:24,28; Ro 5:9,10,15,17; 11:12,24; 1С 12:22; 2C 3:9,11; Pp 2:12; Pm 16; MJ 9:14,10:29,12:25.

The fact that the New Testament uses kal v'chomer reasoning so often points to a foundational principle of New Testament hermeneutics overlooked by most Christian scholars. The Jews who wrote the New Testament participated in the thoughtforms of their time, and these included certain principles of interpretation (hermeneutical rules, Hebrew middot, "measures, norms") widely used to understand the Hebrew Bible. There have been several listings of such middot in Judaism; best known are the thirteen middot of Rabbi Ishmael. They are found in the introduction to Sifra, a halakhic commentary on the book of Leviticus compiled in the fourth century, but Rabbi Ishmael himself was a tanna (a teaching rabbi quoted in the Mishna) who lived in the late first and early second century, and he is undoubtedly summarizing principles "earlier than Hillel" (fl. 10-20 C.E.; Encyclopedia Judaic a 8:367). They are also included in the Siddur (Jewish Prayerbook) to be recited daily as part of the Birkat-HaShachar, the "morning blessings" that begin the synagogue service. More than half of the article on "Hermeneutics" in the Encyclopedia Judaica (8:366-372) is devoted to them.

I have heard the objection that Yeshua came to bring newness, so that "old" rabbinic principles are not to be taken into account in understanding the New Testament, that its writers had "freed themselves" from rabbinic attitudes and practices and were no longer "bound" by them. Just as at 5:18N I said it was facile to invoke Yeshua's "originality" to justify assuming that Yeshua's "Amen" has a novel meaning, so I say it is likewise facile to invoke his "newness" to justify ignoring the historical, social, religious and intellectual ambience of the time and place in which he lived, and imagining instead a hothouse environment insulated from the Judaism and Jewishness of his surroundings. The middol were surely part of everyone's conscious or unconscious background in approaching Scripture, and it is gratuitous to suppose that Yeshua, Sha'ul or the other New Testament writers constituted an exception. Traditional, rabbinic viewpoints are an essential element to take into account in understanding the text of the New Testament.

31. “So don’t be anxious, asking, ‘What will we eat?,’ ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘How will we be clothed?’
32. For it is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all.
33. But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34. Don’t worry about tomorrow — tomorrow will worry about itself! Today has enough tsuris already!
Tsuris, Yiddish adaptation of Hebrew tzarol, "troubles." Leo Rosten's informal lexicon, The Joys Of Yiddish, lists under "tsuris " what he calls a "folk saying": "Don't worry about tomorrow; who knows what will befall you today?" This could be an instance of New Testament material, purged of its origin, resurfacing in a Jewish context (see 5:2IN); or, alternatively, Yeshua may in this verse be quoting a proverb already current in the Jewish culture of his own time.

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