With the growing interest today in the Jewish roots or Jewish origins of Christianity one thing Believers will quickly notice is the emphasis on using the correct Hebrew names for the Messiah, Yeshua, as well as the Father and Creator—Yahweh—and the Ruach HaKodesh (Spirit of Holiness, also Ruach Elohim – Spirit of God). As Christians begin to study the Jewishness of their faith they also begin to realize that the “Jesus” they have been led to believe in is a very different figure from the true Messiah, Yeshua, depicted in Scripture. The Apostle Paul even warns in 2 Corinthians 11:4 of counterfeits to the true Messiah Yeshua that people will embrace and mislead people to follow. In this study I will examine a few things about Yeshua that differs from the popular “Jesus” of mainstream Christianity. Certainly I cannot cover every area of difference in this message, but it is my hope that what I am able to cover throughout this discourse will at least help those who have been exposed to some aspects of the true Hebrew Yeshua and may be confused about where to go from there.
Before I go on, I want to note that this is not a discussion about the names themselves. There is a small movement, mostly through Internet communities, commonly referred to as “Sacred Name” where people are actively proposing all sorts of “correct names” for Yeshua and even for Yahweh. For this reason I will offer a general overview from real history and what is accepted by most actual scholars in Hebrew and Greek language on how we came to the name “Jesus” and we’ll leave it at that and move on to the primary discussion. I have addressed some of the concerns and presented a more in depth study of the names of Yeshua and Yahweh in a message titled The Sacred Name Of God for those who want to study more on that.
Understanding The Name
As I stated, the correct name for our Messiah is Yeshua, which is sometimes also spelled Y’shua. Anything other than that is probably not correct and is born out of this silly attempt by some well-intentioned people to find something that both does not need to be found and doesn’t exist (more on that in a moment). A good resource where the name is correctly pronounced is the movie Risen, a depiction of the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah told fictionally from the perspective of a Roman solider.
So how did we come to the name “Jesus”? Well, hold on for the ride, as I take you through it at a rather fast pace. The true name for the Messiah is Yeshua, which is the direct English transliteration of the Hebrew יֵשׁוּעַ. When the Hebrew was transliterated into Greek, it would be written Ιησους. This would directly transliterate into English as Iesous. So, from Iesous it eventually evolved into the modern English transliteration “Jesus”. Thus, despite some claims that the name “Jesus” is a pagan name, even going so far as to associate it with the Greek god Zeus, there is actually nothing wrong with using “Jesus”. I would, however, wonder why anyone who has been taught the correct name of Yeshua would ever want to keep saying “Jesus”, except perhaps in a situation where you are speaking to a group of people who have no knowledge of the name Yeshua and might be confused by it at first.
If we evolve directly from the Hebrew transliteration of Yeshua, we would come up with the name Joshua. This is because Yeshua is a shortened form of the name Yehoshua, which is the Hebrew form of Joshua, much like the name Tom is short for Thomas or Bill is short for William. Dr. Michael Brown has a short video that explains this very well called What Is The Hebrew Name For Jesus? It does not seem advisable to use the name Joshua in reference to the Messiah, however, because there are other key figures in Scripture and history with this name and we most certainly do not want to confuse them and the Messiah.
Lately, at the time of this writing, I have heard a Christian Pastor that I hold a lot of respect for using the phrase-name Jehovah Joshua Messiah to refer to Yeshua. This is very reminiscent of what those involved with this Sacred Name Movement are doing with the name, always trying to come up with their own unique name for the Father or the Son. Technically this one would have some merit, as Joshua is a correct transliteration directly from the Hebrew into modern English. Everyone else in the Bible named Yeshua or Yehoshua is named as Joshua in English Bibles. However, there is an issue when it comes to the name “Jehovah”, as this is a completely wrong name that developed by Christians ignorant of coding done by earlier Jewis scribes to write the name of God in such a way as to tell the reader to say ADONAI or ELOHIM when reading the text. A more correct rendering of the Pastor’s “special name” for Messiah would be: Yahweh Yeshua HaMashiach. You’ll understand why in a moment.
The proper name of God the Father and Creator is Yahweh. This is made up of the Hebrew letter Yod-Hey-Waw-Hey, which is from the more ancient form of the Hebrew language. In time the letter Waw evolved into the letter Vav. It is the same letter, it is just the pronunciation that changed. This is why some people today write the tetragrammaton as YHVH instead of YHWH, though the latter is the more historically correct.
After the development of Christianity and the incorporation of Gentiles into the Body of Believers, some well-meaning Jewish scholars decided that the holy name of God needed to be protected so that it would not be accidentally blasphemed or desecrated by these young converts who loved their God but did not have the history of knowledge held by the Jewish people. What these scribes decided to do was altar accent markings that dictated what vowel sounds were made to properly pronounce The Name, and also stopped pronouncing the name and instead simply said “Adonay” (Adonai), which is the Hebrew word for “Lord” and the reason why “LORD” is capitalized when written in some English Bibles.
In an effort to maintain this preservation, they went further and took the tetragrammaton YHWH (Yah-Weh) and insterted the vowels from “Adonay” into it, which if written in English would look something like “Yahowah”. This was never actually pronounced, however, it merely served as a reminder to pronounce Adonay/Adonai when the reader encountered the name in Scripture. There is another short video available from a group called The Bible Project called Word Study: YHWH – “Lord” that goes into a bit more detail about this.
Eventually, just as in the name “Jesus”, the letter “J” replaced the letter “Y”, the Hebrew “Waw” evolved into “Vav”, and those who didn’t know what the Jewish scholars were doing in an effort to protect The Name came up with “Jehovah/Yehovah” from “Yahowah”. What that means is that anytime you see a Christian minister teaching the names of God as Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Nissi, Jevohah Shalom, Jehovah Shammah, Jehovah Tsidkenu, etc., it should really be Yahweh Yireh, Yahweh Nissi, Yahweh Shalom, Yahweh Shammah, Yahweh Tsidkenu, etc. Messianic Rabbi K.A. Schneider explains this in his message Yahweh Yireh.
What you will find when you encounter people who are embracing this sacred name stuff is a host of variations, none of which have any historically known use. One thing that is very common is the use the name “Yah”, which is a semi-acceptable short form of Yahweh, in the beginning of the Messiah’s name to create the form “Yahshua”. If you do a little bit of research from actual scholars in Hebrew and Semitic language you will find that they all discourage this as completely inaccurate. Again, Dr. Brown’s video speaks on this issue as well. Other forms I have seen include: Yehusha, Jehoshua, Yaishua, Yawsha, Yahushawah, and my absolute favorite Yahawashi—I think that is what you call Messiah after he takes a bath. I once came across a list that had about 50 variations that people had come up with. Let me help you out: This is NONSENSE and does nothing to advance the Kingdom of God.
These people are merely trying to make a name for themselves at the expense of His holy name.
So, now that I have that out of the way, establishing that Yeshua is the correct name for the Messiah but “Jesus” is acceptable and that this is not about the name, but instead it is about the real Messiah from Scripture and a mythical character who is absolutely not the Messiah. Again though, I really don’t understand why anyone would want to continue using the wrong name of “Jesus” after learning His real name: Yeshua. But I’ll leave that alone for now, let’s move on.
Who Is This Man Named “Jesus”?
If you asked most Christians today what “Jesus” looks like, they would describe a white man with long, clean, brown-blond hair, blue eyes, a neatly trimmed beard, wearing a white robe-like garment, possibly with a red sash over the shoulder or around the waist. There are some who have created a “Black Jesus” as well that’s popular, especially among heavily African-American sects of Christianity. Really, there is probably a “Jesus” representing nearly every ethnic background today. What I would like to know is how any of this sounds like a Jewish/Hebrew Rabbi living in the Middle East in the beginning of the first century? Dr. Ron Moseley in his book Yeshua: A Guide To The Real Jesus And The Original Church describes it like this:
Despite the multitude of volumes written about the history of Christianity over the past two millennia, there has long existed a sizable void concerning the Judaic nature of Jesus. This is due, in large part, to the changes each successive culture, from the first century on, has made to his image to meet their needs. The practice of altering the image of Jesus has been so prevalent that one scholar lamented, “We are casting God in our own image.” Since the end of the first century there have been a minimum of ten different “official” images of Jesus. A brief review of these shows why it is so necessary to understand the Jewish roots of Christianity and to recognize the significance of these roots to obtain an accurate perception of God.
During the first century, Jesus was one of many proto-rabbis teaching within the framework of pre-A.D. 70 Judaism. Although his message was similar to others, his mission and persona were different in that he was the Lamb, the High Priest, and the Sacrifice. Without an understanding of ancient Judaic customs and teachings, one could easily be inclined to view Jesus and Paul as rebels or outcasts from normative Judaism. But what indeed was normative Judaism?
Research indicates that there were some twenty-six to thirty different denominations within first-century Judaism – including the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Herodians, Boethusians, Galileans, Genistae, Meristae, Hellenists, and Nazarenes. As many as twenty-four of these sects were considered, at one time or another, to be outside the mainstream because of their questionable teachings.
After some further commentary on this point, Moseley goes on to say:
The first blurring of the true nature of Jesus may have been by the pseudo-Christian Gnostics, who portrayed him as a mystic teacher revealing the secret knowledge that would allow their spirits to rise above the physical contamination of this world. We find this today in some New Age teachings. Others saw Jesus as only a wise sage or philosopher, recognized for his knowledge, experience, and foresight. This concept continues to exist among Unitarian Universalists.
After providing further historical views of Yeshua, Moseley comes to a modern perception of Him by saying:
In the United States, many people picture Jesus according to their successful, middle-class, American life-style. Some have even forsaken the darker Jewish look for the blond and tanned Hollywood-like appearance, which is often displayed in modern art.
People of Third World countries commonly see Jesus as the one who will liberate them from their oppression, much like the Jews of his day expected him to free them from the tyranny of Rome. The Jesus of Liberation Theology is a social activist siding with the poor and outcast against established governments and mainline religious institutions.
Let’s seriously think about this for a moment. We know Yeshua was a Jewish man, of the lineage of King David, with ancestry tracing back through Judah and Israel. So how did we get to a place where this man looks like a pale-white pretty-boy? Yeshua, Jesus, is NOT Brad Pitt! (Or whoever the Hollywood pretty-boy of the day is these days.)
Consider for a moment what Isaiah said about the appearance of our Messiah in a portion of the famous “suffering servant prophecy”.
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
like a root out of dry ground.
He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him,
nor beauty that we should desire Him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief,
One from whom people hide their faces.
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
~Isaiah 53:2-3 (TLV)
I remember years ago a friend who I was in college with summed up this passage very simply by saying, “He was ugly!” Now, I am not so certain that we can say Yeshua was “ugly”, but He most certainly was not the clean-cut white guy that looks like he belongs on the cover of a romance novel instead of hanging on a cross as the sacrificial Lamb of God. That’s not to say He couldn’t have hung on the cross had He looked like that, but I think you get the point. Whatever the reason, the “Jesus” of modern Christianity is far from being the same figure as the Yeshua portrayed in the Bible. Let’s take a look at a few major areas where the two differ.
“Jesus” Was A Sabbath-Breaker
One of the most important topics of Torah study is the keeping of the Sabbath Day. It is, after all, the only of the Ten Commandments that Christians reject, question, or redefine as being changed to Sunday (but that’s a topic for another time). This belief hinges on the belief that “Jesus” broke the Sabbath—repeatedly—and therefore established the foundation for a change. While this alleged change was not officially made until centuries later under the decree of the Emperor Constantine, it is critical to the change that “Jesus” was the Sabbath-breaker that He has been touted to be throughout much of Christian history.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples that Christians love to use to say that their “Jesus” broke the Sabbath, justifying the breaking or changing of the Sabbath by Christians today.
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
~Luke 6:1-2 (NIV)
While the passage goes on to quote Yeshua as telling His accusers about how David ate the showbread from the Temple when he and his men were hungry, if we are not careful this too can be twisted to further drive the point that He broke Sabbath. After all, many would consider David’s actions to be motivated by rebellion against Torah as well. There is, however, an interesting Torah commandment given that tends to get overlooked here.
When you come into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand; but you are not to swing a sickle on your neighbor’s standing grain.
~Deuteronomy 23:26 (TLV)
Do you see what that says? That means that Yeshua was perfectly within the rights of Torah, as well as His disciples, when they were plucking the grain for personal use to satisfy their hunger on the Sabbath Day. They were not “working the field”; they were simply grabbing a quick bite to eat, which was perfectly permissible, even on the Sabbath Day.
Another thing that people like to look at when trying to say that their “Jesus” broke the Sabbath are accounts where Yeshua healed people on the Sabbath. Let’s take a look.
Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
~Mark 3:1-4 (NIV)
Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight.( “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
~John 9:14-16 (NIV)
Now, one would think that divine healing on the Sabbath should not be questioned, but apparently there were those who believed that it was wrong. Not only did Yeshua stump those questioning Him with His own questions, but there also were a number of man-made laws that had developed prior to the life of Yeshua. This occurred primarily during the 400 year period commonly referred to in Christianity as the “Intertestimental Period”, which is the time between the last words of the “Old Testament” books and the opening of the “New Testament” record. This is when the Talmud was developed, which is a written record of the oral traditions of the Jewish leaders.
Consider for a moment this gem I found from an ancient Rabbinical text, the Midrash Tanchuma, Noach 8:
R. Hiyya the son of Abba stated in the name of R. Levi: It is forbidden to place saliva on an ailing eye on the Sabbath, for that would be equivalent to healing on the Sabbath.
Rabbi Hiyya ben Abba lived from 180-230c.e., not too long after the time of Yeshua. This is a clear example of a man-made law regarding the Sabbath, not something found in Torah. Yeshua was not breaking the Sabbath by extending healing through prayer and faith on the Sabbath any more than a Rabbi would be “working” by walking to the podium of the Synagogue, taking a Torah scroll and carrying it to the desk, unrolling it, and proceeding to teach from it. Sometimes the lack of common sense from religious leaders, both in antiquity and in the present day, simple boggles the mind.
Yeshua Kept The Sabbath
The reality is that the true Messiah, Yeshua HaMashiach ben Elohim, was a Torah-observant Jewish Rabbi who kept the Sabbath. Take a look at this passage from Luke’s Gospel.
And He came to Natzeret, where He had been raised. As was His custom, He went into the synagogue on Shabbat, and He got up to read.
~Luke 4:16 (TLV)
It was the custom of our Master and Messiah to be in the Synagogue on the Sabbath Day. He was not at a job collecting overtime pay. He was not doing yard work around His home. We must consider is that if Yeshua did not break the Sabbath based on the above conclusions, and if He made it His custom to attend the local Synagogue services on the weekly Sabbath Day—not Sunday, but the Biblical Shabbat—then He kept the Sabbath.
Most Christians today believe that Yeshua is supposed to be our example of how to live as a Christian. My question then is simply: Why don’t they do what He did?
I have often heard stories of the life and ministry of Smith Wigglesworth, one of the main pioneers of the early Pentecostal Christian Movement. It was said that Wigglesworth saw phenomenal miracles in his ministry, even so much as raising the dead out of their coffins and commanding life back into their bodies. Now, I am not asking you to believe that, even though it was documented by the secular press of his day. I know some people have a hard time accepting the miraculous in the modern day, and that too is an issue for another time. But here me out for a moment.
Wigglesworth was a peculiar individual. Like so many others in the early Pentecostal Movement he refused to eat unclean things like pork and shellfish. He is also said to have maintained a unique pattern in his home, when not out ministering, where he would read Scripture for 30 minutes, then pray for 30 minutes, then read for another 30 minutes, then pray for another 30 minutes. He would follow this pattern breaking only for meals. He is also said to have never allowed any publication in his home except the Bible. A young preacher by the name of Lester Sumrall is said to have visited him one day with a newspaper under his arm, to which he was denied entry into the home unless he discarded the newspaper. Sumrall had his priorities right in that moment as the newspaper found it’s way in the bushes and he entered in to spend time in fellowship with Wigglesworth.
In referencing these things, I have often heard it said, “We don’t do what he did because we don’t do what he did.” To clarify, we don’t see the type of miracles in ministry that Wigglesworth reportedly saw because we don’t obey Scripture in things like our diet, we don’t engage in disciplined study and prayer, and we fill our minds with every sort of secular filth and gossip while rejecting the Bible. I know that’s probably not true of those who are actually reading an article like this, but it is true of way too many Christians today, including a large majority of Pastors.
Now I am not telling you to pattern your life after Wigglesworth. He had a notable ministry marked with some great teaching on faith, but he was still just a man. I watch television, but when I do I am typically watching things that can educate me in something I can apply to ministry, whether it be informational programs, or cultural shows, or even in some cases programs that portray good marketing skills. So, no, I don’t think we need to live exactly the way Wigglesworth did, but there are some basic principles in his life that we should apply.
Can we apply this to Yeshua? Certainly we can! We don’t do what He (Yeshua) did because we don’t do what He (Yeshua) did. Christians don’t keep the Sabbath—and NO, going to Church on Sunday is NOT keeping the Sabbath because Sunday IS NOT THE SABBATH DAY—they don’t live a Torah-observant life, they have all but renounced anything and everything Jewish, even mocking Jewish culture and anything “Jewish” from the Bible, seemingly not even realizing that Yeshua is Jewish, still blindly citing Constantine’s Creed without even realizing it.
“Jesus” Made Pigs Clean
One of the other things that people like to say about “Jesus” is that He changed the dietary laws from Torah. This seems to be important not only to the image of “Jesus” that Christianity wants to adhere to, but also in justifying the rejection of Torah that most Christians want to live by. For whatever reason, it is important to the “grace” doctrines of modern Christianity that we reject at least some instructions from Torah, and one of those things seems to be the food laws. The go-to passage is out of Mark’s Gospel:
“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
~Mark 7:18-19 (NIV)
I have addressed this passage in greater detail in a message titled Does The New Testament Void Old Testament Dietary Laws?, so for now I will just keep it direct and to the point. I would advise going to that article and reading the section on this passage if you want further verification of what I will say here.
Reading this passage in the full context of the entire chapter of Mark 7 reveals that this had nothing to do with clean or unclean animal meats, the “food” called into question was bread. It is also further clarified in Matthew 15 where the same account is recorded and it is clearly stated that “eating bread without washing your hands first” is what does not defile someone.
This was all based on a man-made tradition of the elders to perform a detailed ritual hand washing prior to eating anything. Obviously it is a bad idea to eat without washing your hands first, that’s one of many ways that people get sick. But at the same time, eating a dry food like bread that you take with your fingers has a very low risk of getting contaminated with germs, and your body has natural defenses against moderate levels of potential infections. In short, this was very, very different than allowing for the eating of filth like pork, shellfish, or other things outright called unclean abominations in Torah.
Also, we know that Yeshua had a high regard for food, as He always instructed His disciples to gather the leftovers after feeding large crowds so nothing would be wasted. If that’s the case, one must wonder why He was fine with casting devils into pigs and causing them to be drowned in the sea if He regarded pigs as food. It’s simple really: Yeshua didn’t consider pigs to be food! Maybe the man-made Christian “Jesus” did, but the true Yeshua of the Bible did not. In his book What Would Jesus Eat? Don Colbert, M.D. says:
The foods that Jesus ate were based on Levitical law, the law that was given to the Israelites from God through Moses. The foods that Jesus ate in accordance with the law provided Him with the raw materials to produce a healthy body and a healthy mind. He lived and walked in divine health. The good news for us is this: the ancient dietary secrets associated with Jesus’ way of living can bring us greater health today!
“But,” you may be saying, “ I don’t live under the law. I live under grace!”
Let me respond this way: God is giving you the grace today to learn about His law and live according to it. The law that Jesus fulfilled completely in His own life and death had to do with our spiritual atonement. We no longer need to sacrifice animals or shed blood in order to experience the forgiveness of sins. Jesus became the sacrifice for our sin on the cross. When we accept His sacrifice, we are freed from the bondage of sin in our lives, and we are empowered by God to enter into a new relationship with Him and live a new life.
Accepting Jesus as our Savior and Lord, however, does not “free” us from keeping the Ten Commandments. Rather, we are empowered to want to keep them and to actually keep them! The same is true for the other laws in the Old Testament that are not directly related to our spiritual salvation. Accepting Jesus empowers us to want to keep these laws and to actually keep them. The apostle Paul made it very clear in his letters that we are not freed from the law in order to sin further; we are freed by Christ in order to keep from sinning.
I remind you of the words of 1 John 3:4 (CJB), “Everyone who keeps sinning is violating Torah — indeed, sin is violation of Torah.” The “Jesus” of modern Christianity is a Torah-rejecting, swine-eating, Sabbath-breaking, rebel who takes the majority of the Bible you claim to follow and throws it in the garbage. Yeshua, the true Messiah of Scripture, is a Torah-observant Jew. Which one makes more sense to follow considering the pattern of Scripture?
I also want to follow on where Colbert says, “…laws in the Old Testament that are not directly related to our spiritual salvation.” While it is true that we neither earn nor maintain salvation through obedience to Torah, a rejection of Torah can be a rejection of your personal salvation. When you have accepted Yeshua as your Messiah and then you read a command in Scripture, you have a choice to make. You can allow His Spirit in you to drive you to obedience, or you can reject the law and in so doing you are ultimately rejecting Him, as He is the Living Torah. Yeshua and the Word are equated as one in the same in Scripture. You cannot reject Torah, in whole or in part, without simultaneously rejecting the Messiah. You cannot earn or maintain your salvation through obedience, but through rejection you can place your salvation in jeopardy.
“Jesus” Was Born On Christmas Day And Resurrected On Easter
We’ve all been taught the stories of the Nativity and the Resurrection, the stories of “Christmas and Easter”. The problem with these stories is that they are completely wrong!
Christmas and Easter are both secular-pagan celebrations that were taken by post-Constantine Torah-rejecting Christians who wanted to blend in with the pagan cultures around them. According to some scholars, these early Christians took the pagan festivals of the unsaved people they lived among and changed the names of the pagan gods to be about Jesus in the case of Christmas, and since Easter fell very close to Passover they simply celebrated Easter together with a mention of the Resurrection while completely rejecting the Passover Week (which includes the Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits) of the Bible. I’ll not dwell on this at this time; I have other articles that detail the pagan aspects of both Christmas and Easter. In addition, I recommend reading through my article WWJB: When Was Jesus Born?
Yeshua Celebrated The Feasts Of Yahweh, Not Pagan Festivals
Yeshua was absolutely not born on December 25th or anywhere remotely close to it. While this is a topic that is broad enough to warrant it’s own teaching, we do know with a good amount of certainty that He would have been born during either the Spring Festivals or the Fall Festivals given in Torah. While I have heard good arguments for both, it is my current position to accept that He was born during Sukkot, also called the Feast of Tabernacles. But this point is not really what is important to this study.
Yeshua is recorded in Scripture as celebrating many of the Feasts of Yahweh given in Torah, as well as the two minor feasts of Hanukkah (also called the Feast of Dedication and the Festival of Lights) and Purim (which commemorates the deliverance of God’s people recorded in the Book of Esther). Though a couple appear to be “missing” from the record, the pattern seems clear that He celebrated all of them as a Torah-observant Jew. Let’s take a look at records from the Gospel writings where He is found celebrating these Feasts.
• Pesach, aka The Feast of Passover, including The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 2, Luke 22, John 2, John 6, John 11-13)
• Sukkot, aka The Feast of Tabernacles (John 7)
• Hanukkah (John 10)
• Purim (John 5)
That He likely celebrated even the minor festivals of Hanukkah and Purim seem to be enough to conclude that He would have most certainly celebrated all of the commanded Feasts from Torah, which include Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles. While there are a couple of the Feasts not specifically mentioned in the Gospels, perhaps most notably Shavuot (Pentecost), we do know that Yeshua was brought up in a Torah-observant family as Luke 2:39 (TLV) tells us, “When Joseph and Miriam had completed everything according to the Torah of Adonai, they returned to the Galilee, to their own city of Natzeret.”
While Shavuot (Pentecost) is not mentioned in the life and ministry of Yeshua, we do find that the disciples were celebrating it when the Ruach HaKodesh fell upon them, marking the day for what many Christians claim to be the birth of the Christian Church. Acts 2:1-4 (TLV) records, “When the day of Shavuot had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And tongues like fire spreading out appeared to them and settled on each one of them. They were all filled with the Ruach ha-Kodesh and began to speak in other tongues as the Ruach enabled them to speak out.”
There is no reason to doubt that Yeshua: raised in a Torah-observant family, a Jewish Rabbi, and most importantly the Hebrew Messiah, made it a point to celebrate the Holy Feasts of His Father. We also know that He certainly did not celebrate Christmas and Easter as these festivals either didn’t exist in His lifetime, or they would at the very least have still been the pagan celebrations that would eventually be turned into unbiblical Christian celebrations. We must always remember that in Deuteronomy 12:29-31 (TLV) we are instructed, “When Adonai your God cuts off before you the nations that you are going in to dispossess, when you have dispossessed them and settled in their land, be careful not to be trapped into imitating them after they have been destroyed before you. Do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods? I will do the same.’ You are not to act like this toward Adonai your God! For every abomination of Adonai, which He hates, they have done to their gods—they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.”
I often wonder why Christians neglect the seven Torah-commanded celebrations and the two additional celebrations of Hanukkah and Purim, several of which lasting many days or even longer than a week, which Yeshua Himself celebrated, only to trade them for 2 or 3 pagan celebrations (Christmas, Easter, and, for the truly backslidden, Halloween) that only last a day each.
It’s almost like the Sabbath Day. Christians act like they would rather work seven days a week, which seems like it would part of the curse (Genesis 3:9 “By the sweat of your brow will you eat food, until you return to the ground, since from it were you taken. For you are dust, and to dust will you return”) than to take the God-appointed day of rest called Shabbat that begins Friday evening at sunset and concludes Saturday evening at sunset. Having only two days a year designated for commemorating our Messiah’s birth and resurrection instead of nine celebrations that total about thirty days in the year as depicted on the Hebrew Calendar. Why Christians don’t do what their “Christ” did is something I simply don’t understand.
Yeshua… The Pharisee?
As pointed out earlier, there were a large number of different groups/sects of Jews during the life and ministry of Yeshua. As often happens, there are also sub-groups that develop when a group develops to some significant size. As the Pharisees appear to be the majority group within first-century Judaism, or at least get the most attention in the Gospels, let’s take closer look at some of what is known about them and where Yeshua may have fit in with them. J.K. McKee in his book Introduction To Things Messianic says:
It is probable that Hillel was probably deceased by the time that Yeshua the Messiah began His ministry, but Hillel’s followers were most certainly still alive. You can probably already see a few parallels between Hillel’s teachings and those of Yeshua, just from cursory memory. This is not to say that Hillel’s teachings are those of Yeshua’s, or vice versa, but it is to say that Yeshua did very much teach like a Jewish Rabbi of His time. When He spoke to the Pharisees about applications of Torah commandments, and seemingly had strong disagreements about them, He may very well have entered into internal debates between the Schools of Hillel and Shammai. Certainly, as Yeshua dealt with people with a fallen sin nature, there was legalism present in both Hillelites and Shammaites, so Yeshua could just as well be criticizing followers of Hillel as opposed to just followers of Shammai. But let us not assume that the Messiah is criticizing all Pharisees without having the appropriate background information.
Because Pharisaical theology profoundly impacted the theology of the First Century ekklēsia, it is important for us to understand that there were different types of Pharisees in the milieu of First Century Judaism. Many Christians have failed to consider this in their examinations of the Gospels, and in the corrections that Yeshua issued to the Pharisees. When we examine various issues related to Torah observance, and what has historically been interpreted by Christian theologians as a rebuke by Yeshua of the Torah—as opposed to Torah application—it will be very important for us to remember the different types of Pharisees that existed in His day.
Moseley, later in his aforementioned book, says, “The teachings of Jesus had more in common with the teachings of the Pharisees, especially the school of Hillel, than with any other group of his time.” Another fascinating source of information is Harvey Falk’s book Jesus The Pharisee: A New Look At The Jewishness Of Jesus. In commenting on Falk’s work, despite considering it “a less than scholarly argumentation”, André LaCocque states in his book Jesus The Central Jew: His Times And His People:
The author focuses in his thesis on a sever clash in Jesus’s day between the so-called house of Shammai and the house of Hillel. Falk is convinced that Jesus was a “Hillelite” in conflict with the “Shammaite Pharisees” (deceptively called “the Pharisees” in the gospel).
A good example of Falk’s theological basis for this is found in this excerpt from his book, which relates to the matter of Yeshua healing on the Sabbath (as already covered earlier in this message). Says Falk:
The Gospel (Matthew 12:9-14) then relates that Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, and was criticized by the Pharisees for doing so. Since Jesus evidently healed through prayer, this incident appears to refer to a dispute between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel over whether it is permitted to pray for the sick on the Sabbath (Tosefta Shabbat 17:14); Bet Hillel permitted such prayer, and Bet Shammai forbade it. Jesus concludes his argument with the Pharisees concerning the Sabbath by stating, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” In addition to prayer for the sick, this would allude to other disputes between the two schools, such as where Bet Shammai rule that it is forbidden on the Sabbath to promise charity for the poor in the synagogue, even for the marriage of orphans, nor may betrothals be arranged, nor may discussion be held for a youngster’s education, nor may mourners be comforted or the sick visited, while Bet Hillel permit all of these (Tosefta Shabbat 17:14 and Shabbat 12A).
In the Talmud this distinction between Shammai and Hillel is discussed. They even have a disagreement over whether or not it is permitted to kill head lice on Shabbat! If Yeshua were a Pharisee, certainly He, like Paul, was among the House of Hillel. It is worthy to note, however, that these two schools of Pharisees had many conflicts and without knowing this Christians have erred in demonizing all Pharisees and making the term “Pharisee” a disparaging term. “Modern Pharisees” is what most Christians call someone they disagree with, especially if they are (often wrongly) addressing someone they wish to label legalistic or a Judaizer. This is because the general term Pharisee in “New Testament” writings—without the distinction between Hillelite and Shammaite Pharisees—is as misunderstood in plain reading of English Bibles by American Christians as is the general use of the term law without distinctions made as to what refers to Torah and what refers to man-made religious or civil laws of the first century in those same “New Testament” writings. The reality is that the conflicts between Hillelite Pharisees and Shammaite Pharisees is much more like the disputes between Calvinst and Arminian Protestants than it is “Jesus and all Christians” against the whole of Jews and Judaism. So, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing to be a Pharisee after all. Consider what Brad H. Young, Ph.D., a graduate professor at Oral Roberts University who received his doctoral degree at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, says in his book Jesus The Jewish Theologian:
Unfortunately, the image of the Pharisee in modern usage is seldom if ever positive. Such a negative characterization of Pharisaism distorts our view of Judaism and the beginnings of Christianity. Little recognition is given to the Pharisees and their contributions to religious thought. For example, we Christian scholars accept the fact that the Pharisees built a foundation for later rabbinic Judaism but downplay their influence upon Christian theology. But the theology of Jesus is Jewish and is built firmly upon the foundations of Pharisaic thought. The Pharisees’ strong beliefs, spanning from the doctrine of God to the resurrection of the dead, have influenced Christian belief in a much greater measure than is commonly recognized. Theologically, the early Christians were very close to the Pharisees. Certainly Jewish thought was greatly diversified during the Second Temple period, and the Pharisees were among the many influential religious movements of the time. Here in order to appreciate fully the parable of Jesus, we must appreciate the positive aspects of Pharisaism. The Pharisee’s key role in the drama of the story must be fully appreciated. The Pharisee represents piety and holiness and not self-righteous hypocrisy.
Many have also considered, with what is known of the group, that the teachings of Yeshua resembled in some ways the beliefs and teachings of the Essenes. This seems logical as there is no actual mention of the group in Scripture, so it could be assumed that Yeshua never engaged in rebuking those in that group. This is all speculation, however, based on what scholars have discovered about the Essenes and then comparing those things to the life and ministry of Yeshua. There are beliefs found in the group that are also strikingly different than those held by Yeshua.
One of the groups named by Moseley earlier were the Galileans, and we know that Yeshua was from Galilee. Another were the Nazarenes, and we know that this is the group of Believers in Yeshua chronicled in the Book of Acts.
Many times a focus is placed one where Yeshua rebuked the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other groups of Jews in His day, but there were times when He commended them as well. We must not forget this. The appearance is that Yeshua, unlike the “Jesus” of modern Christianity, was a member of all religious divisions of His day and at the same time a member of none of them. He is the Messiah! As such, He stood in the midst of His people and told them all where they were getting it right and where they were getting it wrong. This is not unlike those in the United States today who stand between the political parties of Republicans, Democrats, and all of the smaller parties and commend what they get right while rebuking what they get wrong. Yeshua is, after all, called our mediator by the Apostle Paul (see 1 Timothy 2:5). Whether or not He actually belonged to the Hillelite Pharisee or Essene sects, and regardless that His beliefs and teachings were more in harmony with those two groups than other Jewish sects, it is wrong to label any of the first century Jewish groups as self-righteous and legalistic hypocrites the way most Christians today do.
Let me further illustrate this by telling where I generally feel like I stand within the multitude of Christian divisions or denominations in existence today. There are, after all, well over 40,000 Christian denominations, which is rather incredible considering that modern Christianity has only existed for 500 years (for those who are not sure what I mean by that, the Protestant Reformation started 500 years ago, and all modern Christian denominations, including non-denominational modern Christian groups, stem from this one event). Even if we split the Pharisees into the houses of Shammai and Hillel, referring back again to the list given by Moseley, that is only 13 distinct groups of Jewish thought after thousands of years. Apparently the [Hebrew] people who wrote The Book had a lot less disagreement over what Yahweh said than modern Christians do.
Having to address people who associate me and the ministry I do with groups like Messianic Judaism or the controversial Hebrew Roots Movement, I often tell them that I am a Believer in Yahweh, a follower of Yeshua the Messiah, and a recipient of the Ruach HaKodesh, I adhere to Christian doctrines most commonly associated with Pentecostal Christian ministry, but I also hold to a Torah-observant faith. Seeing my connection with well-known Pentecostal ministries, I then get questioned about my Torah-based beliefs and sometimes I am even called legalistic (which generally means I need to explain legalism, but that is for another discussion).
I have read written works from Charles Finney that I completely agree with, but I am not Presbyterian. I agree with the general plan of salvation that the many Baptist denominations teach, but I would never want to be associated with the Baptists because of their Calvinist beliefs like predestination, eternal security, and radical cessation of the gifts and ministry of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), all of which I consider great heresies. I love some of the work of John Wesley, but I am not a Methodist. I have even read works from Martin Luther that I agree with, but I would never want any association with a man who spewed out some of the most hatefully filthy racist propaganda against the Jewish people that I have ever read, nor would I want to be a part of a group like the Lutheran Church that is openly ordaining homosexuals to pastor their Churches.
Years ago a guy I was in the Navy with asked me what my religion was, after declaring himself to be, “Protestant, the lenient religion.” I told him I am a Christian. He found that impossible to understand and began to argue with me that I could not be just a Christian, I had to be something, I had to belong to some denomination or faith group within Christianity. While I do not use the term Christian as much anymore to describe my religious faith because I feel like it has come to mean just about anything but the true faith held by first-century believers who were part of “The Way” mentioned in the Book of Acts, I have never really considered myself anything other than a Christian or a Believer in Yahweh, follower of Yeshua, and recipient of the Ruach HaKodesh. There are points made by practically all Christian Preachers and Jewish Rabbis I have listened to that I agree with, some more that others, and points made by all that I don’t agree with, again some more than others. I have even stumbled upon points of truth in sects considered extremely controversial and even deemed to be cults by many Christians like the Seventh-Day Adventists or the Worldwide Church of God (which is based on the teachings of Herbert Armstrong and has split into many divisions since he founded the WCOG). I cite religious texts all the time written by people I don’t wholly agree with. If I had to agree with everything another Bible teacher says in order to quote them, I wouldn’t be able to quote anyone.
The point is, I could be associated with any of these groups because of some of the things I teach, and yet I am associated with none of them. Like our Messiah did within the many sects of Jews in His day, I stand in the midst of all of these groups and simply declare the truth, without regard for who accepts it and who doesn’t. You see, we only have two responsibilities to our God: 1. We are responsible for our on personal salvation and faith-walk, and 2. We are responsible to share the truth. What people do with the truth we share is completely on them, they will be the one to answer for their acceptance or rejection of truth, including and especially Torah, when they stand before God in judgment, not you.
We know the Pharisees were not all bad. Paul was a Pharisee. Sure, he didn’t have such a great start, but he was also trained by Gamaliel in the house of Hillel, and it was this same Gamaliel who suggested to the other Jewish leaders that the movement being carried out by the Apostles may truly be from Yahweh (see Acts 5:34-39). Christians have erred in their blanket demonizing the Pharisees (and Sadducees) as a whole. They may not have gotten everything right, but they probably had a whole lot more right than the majority of Christians today who have completely misidentified their Messiah. Whether or not Yeshua was a part of the sect of the Pharisees, He often commended them and even told His disciples that their righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees, showing that He recognized this group as generally being more right than wrong—perhaps especially regarding Hillelite Pharisees. Also, we must always keep in mind it was always a few select Pharisees among the leadership that He rebuked when He did, not everyone who was a part of the group. It would be a whole lot more like rebuking a handful of Christian Pastors today who are teaching in error than rebuking all Christians for simply following what their “respected leaders” taught them. If you are among the multitude of Christians that have been taught that being a “Pharisee” is some great evil, I encourage you to rethink that a bit.
Yeshua, The True Hebrew Messiah
Yeshua is the Messiah, and He was and is a Jewish Rabbi. The “Jesus” of modern Christianity is a fictional character, the imagination of Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian folklore, ever-evolving through the ages to fit the image of the men who want to worship themselves and justify it by creating a “Jesus” that fits their own desire of who they want Him to be. As someone recently commented on something I shared, “Your Messiah was a Torah observant Jew who kept Sabbath, ate kosher, taught in a Synagogue and kept the Father’s Feast days. Not a pig eating, Christmas and Easter celebrating Christian.” That really sums it up! Another way to put it would be what author Jacques Baldet says in his book Jesus The Rabbi Prophet: A New Light On The Gospel Message:
To understand Jesus’ message, we must first understand the religion in which he was educated. As we shall see … the available sources clearly demonstrate that Jesus had no intention of founding a new religion, nor a new church. For him, what the Jews customarily call “the Law and the Prophets”—or the teaching of the Torah—was the foundation of his relationship to God. … Jesus had no intention of abolishing the Law; on the contrary, he intended to reinforce it. … The notion that Jesus intended to overturn the Mosaic Law, with its high ethics of life, would appear to be nonsense.
It’s not about the name, it is possible for you to use the name “Jesus” and have a correct perception of the Messiah. While most who get a true illumination on the revelation of who Yeshua is prefer to use His real name, there are those who have this revelation but have been called to minister to the mainstream Christian Church. As a result, they will often use the name “Jesus” when ministering to the ignorant Christians they are called to reach while maintaining the use of the name Yeshua in their private times of prayer, study, and devotion, as well as when they have opportunities to minister to those who do know the truth. As noted at the beginning of this message, “Jesus” is acceptable, even though not preferable, so long as you know who He is. Before closing this message, let me share with you a short story I wrote that I believe really sums up the heart of this message:
Imagine for a moment a gathering in a great auditorium. All of the seats are filled, and everyone present in the audience are men named “Jesus”. There is every man-made “Jesus” in the history of the Christian Church there. The “White Jesus” is their with his pale pretty-boy face, long and flowing blonde hair, and perfectly groomed beard. The “Black Jesus” is there with his strong authoritative expression. The “Asian Jesus” is there, the “Native American Jesus” is there, the “Indian Jesus” is there. Also present in the crowd are such characters as the “ultra-liberal Jesus”, the “hyper-grace Jesus”, the “angry Jesus”, and so forth. There is an “American Jesus”, a “European Jesus”, a “Russian Jesus”, an “African Jesus”, and a “Chinese Jesus”. There is a Jesus representing every culture and ethnicity that Christianity has ever reached since its inception. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of men bearing the name “Jesus” representing every concept of the Savior that Christians have ever imagined in the nearly 2,000 years of Catholic-Christian history.
Then a man walks onto the stage, dressed in a nice suit of clothes. He takes the microphone and announces, “Gentleman, we are gathered here today to present to you, all to whom the title of ‘Savior’ has been bestowed, the one and only true Messiah of humanity. Will the real Messiah please stand and come to the platform to address the audience?”
“White Jesus” turns to the “Jesus” on his left and says, “I got this, after all, I’m the most popular ‘Jesus’ of all-time”. He tries to stand and finds himself unable. Something seems to be holding him to his seat. Then he gets a tap on his shoulder. It’s “Black Jesus” who says, “‘White Jesus’, you know good and well ‘Jesus’ was not a White guy, I’ll take it from here.” “Black Jesus” then tries to stand and he too is unable to get out of his seat. All of the hundreds of men in the audience find that they are unable to stand up, some unexplainable force is holding them down. There begins to be a lot of commotion as all of the men in the audience start talking to each other trying to figure out why they cannot stand up.
Then, from the far back row a strange looking character stands up. He does not look like any “Jesus” that has ever been imagined over the years by Christians. He has some tone to his skin, but not quite as dark as “Black Jesus”, more Middle-eastern. He has a beard, but it is a bit longer and not quite as neatly groomed as “White Jesus”. He has a Jewish Tallit (“prayer shawl”) over His head like a hood, draping down over his chest and dangling down over his thighs bearing a name: The Word of God.
As he begins to walk down the main aisle toward the stage, all of the others begin to notice and start to look at Him and before long there is a silence over the crowd so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Then the man receives the microphone from the host and begins to speak:
“My name is not “Jesus” as with all of you. My name is Yeshua. I am not a Christian, I am a Jew. My lineage traces back through David, king of Israel, and goes all the way back to the Hebrew Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I did not come to start a new religion, nor did I come to create a replacement for My people. I came for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. I came to offer salvation to the Jew first, and then allow all nations to come into the family by being grafted into the cultivated olive tree of Israel.
After I left the mission into the hands of My disciples, I raised up one more who would carry My message. His name was Sha’ul, but many know him today as Apostle Paul. He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, the Jewish sect that many of your followers have wrongly labeled as the enemy. It was only ‘certain of the Pharisees’ that were a problem. I had to correct them at times, but they were still My brothers and friends. Many of them became the original sect of Believers labeled the ‘Nazarenes’ in the Book of Acts. Paul tried to warn Believers about all of you. He said: ‘For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus whom we did not proclaim, or if you receive a different spirit that you did not receive, or a different “good news” that you did not accept, you put up with that well enough!’, and, ‘But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should announce any “good news” to you other than what we have proclaimed to you, let that person be cursed!’ (see 2 Corinthians 11:4 and Galatians 1:8).
Now, enough is enough. Stop pretending to be Me and stop deceiving people into thinking you are the Messiah. None of you are, you are all imposters.”
Then this man, Yeshua, walks off the stage, back down the aisle, past his seat in the back row, and out the doors of the auditorium.
Now, the question remains: Will you continue to follow any of the hundreds or thousands of counterfeits named “Jesus”, or will you follow the true Hebrew Messiah: Yeshua?
It is my hope that this message has at least helped to clear up the clutter of confusion that has been created by both mainstream Christianity and in some of the extremist groups within Messianic, Hebrew Roots, and Sacred Name ideologies. Your Messiah is Hebrew, and if you accept Him as your Master and Messiah you are too. It’s time for the Body of Messiah to start renouncing the paganism long embraced by Christianity and start returning to the ways of Scripture. And that starts with you.
~Blessings and Shalom~
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