Thursday, June 15, 2006

Don Preston Debate postponed

This post may seem like a sequel to a movie that hasn't come out yet for many readers, but I also know that many of those who read this blog keep up with me through other avenues, and this is one of the best ways I know to keep everyone on the same page.

Some background for those not already in the know: A couple of months ago, a few weeks before Pesach, I was pinged to a thread on FR in which the opening article had been written by one Don Preston espousing a preterist view of Scripture. A number of Don's supporters, including Bill Fangio, who started the thread, signed onto FR for an impromptu debate. Unfortunately, the swarming of the forum for the express purpose of promoting Don's point-of-view did not meet with the approval of the mods, who erased the thread and banned the newcomers. However, before this happened, I had agreed on the thread to debate Don.

Confession time: At the time, I assumed that Bill meant for a written debate online similar to the one between Samuel Frost and Tim Warner here. When I realized that we were discussing a live, on-stage debate, I took the matter before the Lord in prayer as well as before Gavri'el, seeing as I would be representing Beth HaMashiach and Yeshua HaMashiach Ministries, before accepting. The date for the debate was originally given as late August.

Unfortunately for those looking forward to the debate (including me), scheduling conflicts both for the venue we wanted and for advertising and radio interviews leading up to the event arose which gave us a choice: To seriously scale-down the debate and risk lacking an audience, or to push it back until May of 2007. We agreed that we would rather delay gratification than to have the debate fizzle for lack of time and advertising.

The link to Don's website and announcement of the debate is here.

I'd like to go ahead and take the time to say that Don is a wonderful, affable, gentlemanly Christian with a love for the Word and an earnest desire to know God's will and obey it. The fact that I believe that he is off-track in his eschatology and ecclesiology (and he believes the same of me) does not alter this fact one iota.

I'll keep updating here as we know more, and as we get closer to the date and lock down some details, we'll hopefully be posting those details on the Beth HaMashiach website.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

On the Need for Apologetics

I came across this article indicting the Church for its failure to teach Christians why they should believe anything the bible teaches a while back, but kept putting off linking to it. It's well worth a read. Actually, the entire site is well worth the read; while I disagree with the author on some matters of eschatology and the place of Torah in the Church today, he has an enormous respect for and understanding of the original cultural and linguistic context from which the Bible came. I'll probably be posting links to him fairly regularly for a while.

Anyway, here's the article in a nutshell:
The only way to solve this is with a solid educational program, which is exactly what we lack in so many of our churches. It's time for fewer prefab sermons, with their rampant decontextualizations, and time for more demonstrations on textual criticism, the authenticity of the Gospels, and so on. It's time to make such efforts a priority and not something we take after the damage is done and we need to play "catch up". It's time to be proactive instead of reactive. It's time to make these things something that is discussed from the pulpit on Sunday morning, not hidden away in Sunday night church training classes or Wednesday night Bible study. It's also time to make this part of our evangelism, and throw away or at least de-prioritize all the gimmicks like the "Evangecubes" (I can never get a full picture on all six sides anyway) and the poorly drawn Chick tracts.
Amen and shalom.

The Name of God, Pt. 3: Ineffable?

When I was growing up, I was told that the Name of God is ineffable--that is, unpronounceable--due to being written without any vowels. Of course, what the person telling me this didn't say (and probably didn't know) was that much of written Hebrew lacks vowels. That is to say, the vowels are inferred by the reader. The result is much the same as the way some people today write English in shorthand; for example:
My name is Michael, and I live in Atlanta.

My nm s Mchl, nd I lv n 'Tlnth.
More difficult to read, certainly, but hardly unpronounceable--though there might arise a debate about whether "Mchl" should be pronounced Michael, Machil, Mochul, etc. One might also debate whether the "y" in "my" is meant as a vowel (as indeed it is) or a consonant, so that the first word of the sentence could be rendered my, may, mya, etc.

The Masorites added vowel-marks to the text of the Tanakh in order to provide guides for those less familiar with the Biblical text than a native-born Hebrew speaker who grew up hearing the text read aloud, for which we owe them a tremendous thank-you. (However, it should be noted that because the vowel-marks are a late addition, as indeed are the spaces between the letters, we have to be careful in how we lean upon them.)

In any case, this shows that the lack of vowels would not make it impossible to correctly pronounce a word. Moreover, many Hebrew letters can be either a consonant or a vowel, and this is the case with all of the letters of the Name YHVH.
yod = either a y or an i
heh = a small breath, just like the name of the letter
vav = either a v (consonant) or a u or o (vowel)
We can be certain that the popular English pronunciation Jehovah is not correct. First of all, the yod is never pronounced like an English j. Secondly, this pronunciation came about because of the custom of substituting Adonai (Master, or Lord) for YHVH when reading the text aloud--the Masoretic scribes inserted the vowel-marks for Adonai (a-o-e) into the letters of YHVH, which resulted in an amalgamation of the two (YaHoVeH). Thirdly, Yahoveh in Hebrew would be broken into Yah and hoveh; the latter word means "a ruin" and "disaster" (Strong's #1943)--in other words, it's like saying "Yah is a ruin and disaster"!

The two most likely and popular pronunciations are Yahweh and Yahveh, the main point of contention being whether the vav should be pronounced as a consonant and a vowel. Proponents of the former view lean on Josephus, who stated that the Name written on the High Priest's turban was comprised of "four vowels" (Wars. 5:5:7, ref. Exo. 28:36-37). The early Church fathers seem to have preferred this reading:
It was in connection with magic that the Tetragrammaton was introduced into the magic papyri and, in all probability, into the writings of the Church Fathers, these two sources containing the following forms, written in Greek letters: (1) "Iaoouee," "Iaoue," "Iabe,"; (2) "Iao," "Iaho," "Iae"; (3) "Aia"; (4) "Ia." It is evident that (1) represents , (2) , (3) , and (4) . The three forms quoted under (1) are merely three ways of writing the same word, though "Iabe" is designated as the Samaritan pronunciation. (The Jewish Encyclopedia, Tetragrammaton)
The Samaritan pronunciation, mentioned above, favors the pronunciation as Yahveh, as a b-sound may be easily derived from an original v-sound. It has the advantage of having come from an area geographically and linguistically close to Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the bulk of the early testimony and scholarly study is on the side of Yahweh. I myself am not 100% sure, though I tend to use Yahveh right now, with the slightest of skips, not quite a breath, on the first heh, making it Yah'veh. (A good friend has told me that his uncle, who is a native Aramaic speaker, also pronounces the first heh, saying, "The heh is the breath of life; it should be pronounced!")

This study has, of course, been extremely brief. Those readers interested in a more in-depth study will find a longer article and a link to an e-book here. I don't agree with all of its conclusions, but the chapters dealing with the pronunciation of the Name were of immense interest and help to me.

A final caveat, which has already been said, but bears repeating: We have to walk a tightrope here. We want God's Name to be known and used in proper reverence, but we never want it to become common. Nor do we want it to be a stumbling block for anyone. For this reason, Beth HaMashiach uses the traditional circumlocution ADONAI in prayer and liturgy, and even omits the vowels from L-rd and G-d, lest a Jewish visitor think we are being too light with the Name.

But at the same time, let us remember to bless the Name of YHVH.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Feminized Christianity

Sorry, I know I've been slacking on the material lately. I've been in the process of moving, and I'm only just starting to get my study area back into shape. I'll finish the series on the Name of God soon.

In the meantime, here's a link to an interesting article which makes this keen observation:
"Every Muslim man knows that he is locked in a great battle between good and evil, and although that was a prevalent teaching in Christianity until about 100 years ago, today it's primarily about having a relationship with a man who loves you unconditionally," Murrow said.

"And if that's the punch line of the Gospel, then you're going to have a lot more women than men taking you up on your offer because women are interested in a personal relationship with a man who loves you unconditionally. Men, generally, are not."
Gee, ya think?