Saturday, October 1, 2011


Belz Center in Jerusalem 
Hasidic believers hope that Moshiach will visit the synagogue 
during His jubilant entry to the Temple in the Old City.
Image wikimedia

"You don’t have to be Jewish to eat bagels and lox, and neither need you be Jewish for Moshiach to touch your life. Moshiach will not just redeem the Jewish people from exile—he will redeem mankind from meaninglessness, and teach the purpose of life to the universe."

"Moshiach is the phrase “Messiah” comes from—it’s a Hebrew word meaning “the anointed one.” Moshiach is the number-one belief in Judaism, next to Torah and G-d Himself. It is Belief #12 of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith."
(Quoted from What is Moschiach)

Promised in the Torah
Indeed, a central theme of the Torah is that God of Israel will give His people a worthy King, anointed one.  People had asked for a king like other nations have and got Saul and then the house of David and the house of Omri and others.

1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
 6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
1 Samuel 8:1-9 NIV

Alas, the kings anointed by people, from prophet Samuel on, turned out to be disappointments with very few exceptions (Hezekiah, Josiah).

So the Jewish people are today still waiting for this promised anointed king. To make it clear that Jesus of Nazareth was not the promised Messiah many religious Jews use the Hebrew form of the word, Moshiach, for the coming King. (See the pages What is Moschiach for more details.)

Who decides?
Messianic candidates are not that rare in the history of the Jewish people as especially during difficult times - and there are plenty of them in the history of the Jews - expectations run high. Hoshianna - Oh God, save your people!
In the Hellenistic-Roman period the High Priest in the Temple of Jerusalem together with the Elders had the authority to decide on the candidate claiming to be Moshiach . Accordingly High Priests Hanna and Caiaphas rejected the claim that Jesus of Nazareth were the King - after finally getting from Him the confession outrageously referring to the vision in Book of Daniel 9:13-14 as if the prophecy was talking about Him.

Jesus Before the Sanhedrin   
57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.  59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.
   Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”
 62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.
   The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
   64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”
   “He is worthy of death,” they answered.
 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”
Matthew 26:57-67 NIV

Rabbinic decisions
After the Romans destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 the authority moved to the rabbinic councils. They had authority to endorse or reject Messianic candidates.

The highly respected rabbi Akiva accepted Bar Kochba and the people of the Revolt (132-136) had great faith and hope that this would be the King of Salvation given by LORD to the people of Israel. What happened, instead, was very much what High Priest Caiaphas had feared at the time of the other candidate:

You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.
Caiaphas John 11:50
The Plot to Kill Jesus
 45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.    “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
 49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
 51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
John 11:45-53 NIV

The pattern of rabbinic decision about Messianic candidates continues to this day.

There have been many false hopes - one of the great ones that caused much excitement among the Jews living in the Diaspora in Europe was the kabbalist rabbi Sabbatai Zevi (1626-1676). While raising much hope also among the Jews living in the Middle East and in Palestine, some rabbis supported him while other influential rabbis of the time rejected his claims and threatened those who believed in him with excommunication.

Today there are some Chabad rabbis who have not outright rejected the popular call that perhaps Menahem Schneerson was the one. You can still see in the streets of Israel - and Brooklyn - his pictures with big letters welcoming the Moshiach. 

Past and Future
I think that the Messianic hope based on the Torah, people sitting in the dark and waiting for the Moshiach, has been of utmost importance to the Jewish people and their preservation through the history.

The wait turns eyes towards future. Something much better, a more just time, a righteous Ruler and Judge, a time of peace is coming!

Christians share this futuristic look although they include some very dark episodes that are expected to happen, Apocalyptic things in the true sense of inter-testamentary time literature, bad and evil before the victory of the good.

Both great monotheistic religions look at the past as important but wait for a better future, watch the signs of time, the Jews evaluating new Moshiach candidates and the Christians waiting for the Second Coming of Christ.

In this sense Islam seems to me to represent the fundamental idea that the best of times has already been in the past. The meaningful history of humanity begins with the Messenger proclaiming the divine truth and that was the greatest of times.

The look of the Muslim is in a way to the past rather than to the future as the Golden Age. This seems to be true at least to some influential groups, like the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia seeking the purity and simplicity of the early days of Islam.

True, there are Islamic expectations for the future, as well - God will let the entire world learn to know the true religion and the numbers of Muslims will grow becoming the largest and most important religion on Earth. Also, Islam shares with Judaism and Christianity the expectation of resurrection, that the coming life after death will offer much better conditions to believers in Paradise.

Jews learn from the past and idealize their ancient Kingdom, keep their faith in the present despite of all and hope for a great future for their nation and God.

Christians learn from the past and repeat past mistakes, keep their faith in the present, many loosing it in these days, and hope for a great future, after many tribulations, to the Son of God, the true King of Israel.

The youngest of the three great monotheistic religions of the Book, Muslims learn from the past and idealize the Golden Age of the Messenger, keep their faith in the present and hope for great future for the true religion.


A most important concept and so influential in the history of humanity!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


"Sicarii (Latin plural of Sicarius 'dagger-men' or later contract-killer) is a term applied, in the decades immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, (probably) to an extremist splinter group of the Jewish Zealots, who attempted to expel the Romans and their partisans from Judea using concealed daggers (sicae)." (quote from wikipedia)

Royal Sceptre
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples."
Genesis 49:10

 לא־יסור שׁבט מיהודה ומחקק מבין רגליו עד כי־יבא שׁילה ולו יקהת עמים
The traditional English translation of this prophetic verse from Hebrew is a bit difficult "until Shiloh comes"  According to my understanding the word shiloh could also be read "to whom it (the sceptre) belongs". That would make more sense in this context.

The scepter would be the Royal Scepter of the King of Israel. This verse is often connected with another prophecy in the Torah

“I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near;
A star shall come forth from Jacob,
A scepter shall rise from Israel,
And shall crush through the forehead of Moab,
And tear down all the sons of Sheth."
Numeri 24:17

This is another difficult prophecy with its violent military content. Rabbi Akiva Ben Yosef (17-137 AD) famously used it to endorse the Messianic leader of the second Jewish war against occupying Rome  - the tragic Bar Kochba Revolt (132-136 AD) that ended in the utter destruction of the Jewish state in the Holy Land and the diaspora. bar kochba is Aramaic for "Son of Star".

After the Second Revolt sceptre departed from Judah.

For a Jewish believer this is a huge problem, how come Messiah did not come and yet the Kingdom ended?

For a Christian believer Messiah did come before the sceptre was removed from Judah and the Temple destroyed.

Rejection of military role by Jesus
The King of Israel rejected the burning Messianic hope that He would redeem the People of God from the hated Kittim, as Dead Sea Scrolls called the Roman occupiers.

So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.
John 6:13-15

In contrast, Bar Kochba did not reject the military role of the Messiah and led his people to fight in the name of God of Israel who had given the Maccabeans such a victory against the Greeks and Syrians.

Jesus and swords
Jesus rejected, apparently after some hesitation, the use of swords in His defence at that hard Thursday night in the Garden of Gethsemane in the Valley of Kidron east of Jerusalem.

And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.”
And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.
For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.”
They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”
Luke 22:35-38

In the Gospel of Matthew the King of Israel famously said
“Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword."
Matthew 26:52

Simon the Zealot
Two swords were enough, and even too much, as the story of the night continues. It is therefore interesting that among the disciples of the King of Israel there was a zealot, belonging to an extremist nationalistic group we today would call terrorists.

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.
Matthew 10:2-4

"Simon who was called the Zealot"
Luke 6:15

Matthew uses the Aramaic word Κανανίτης kananites and Luke the Greek word Ζηλωτής zelotes.

Nationalism, daggers and Uzis
Obviously modern Israel needs plenty of swords to protect itself against her enemies and in order to conquer the Promised Land from its current inhabitants.

There are zealots in the army and among the civilians as there are in every country, United States of America included with the Civil War about abolishing slavery or Indian Wars about conquering the Wild West. Or in England or in Libya or in ...

What is different between the zealots and the sicarii is in the attitude towards fellow citizens and soldiers. The great sin and tragedy of the sicarii was turning against their own people who were considered traitors of the course, unbelievers and unworthy of living.

The hidden daggers were not only used by these Jews against the Roman occupying force and its hated cooperators among the Civil Administration, the publicans.

The Cause, the Idol which is Jerusalem, invites also murderous behaviour in the name of God, to root out the weak and the meek.

Josephus tells about the sicarii and how the wheat stores of surrounded city of Jerusalem were burned down by the inhabitants.

News tell about the sicarii of today who have shown by the tragic murder of the Prime Minsiter of Israel that the Promised Land is for them more sacred than Human life.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Physical punishments in the Bible

Western people are shocked by the stonings of women in Islamic countries and the plan to blind the eye of a man in hospital who had blinded someone else made top stories. Not always do people know that some of these cruel practices do have background in the holy Bible and more specifically the Torah.

(Not all practices in Sharia, though, for as far as I know amputating the hand of a thief comes to Sharia from other sources and is not mentioned in Torah.)

Islamic Sharia law maintains Byzantine period legislation and punishments and is applied in many Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan while some other Moslem countries apply Sharia law in more restricted manner, for example Turkey, Syria and Jordan.

In my opinion Sharia law reflects common practices in first millennium Mediterranean world, Justinian Law Code with its Roman roots, but they are strongly modified by Islamic faith. An essential element in the legal heritage is the Judeo-Christian religious law is Torah known in 6th century Mecca and Medina.

Torah itself reflects Bronze Age and Iron Age legal systems and some elements in it can be compared with Hammurabi in Mari or Hittite Laws in Anatolia and so on. But this heritage is strongly modified in the light of the religion of Israel and the special requirements of that society.

I have no doubt that Torah is revelation by the God of Israel but it uses real language of the time and talks about real issues that also other nations faced at those times in Ancient Near East.

Harsh physical punishments in the Bible include commandments that are reminiscent of Sharia law and may be the original source at least in some cases.

Public burning to death (this was later done by pouring melted metal to the mouth so that the body of the law breaker would survive to the day of resurrection)
And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.
Lev 20:14  

Public stoning of underage boys disobedient to their fathers
If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
Deu 21:18-21   

And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
Deu 21:22-23

Public stoning of adulterous woman or male or female witch
A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them. 
Lev 20:27 

Physical mutilation - an eye for an eye a tooth for tooth
And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.
Lev 24:19-20 
In general we observer, that death sentences were given in those days on many crimes that would not be so judged today in Western judiciary system but possibly still in Sharia, for example homosexual act or the execution of a bride who is not virgin.

The Jewish rabbis, experts of the Law of Moses, have interpreted and applied the regulations on death sentences so that modern Judaism is not giving such harsh sentences. Some rabbis still want to apply the Iron Age War laws as is, but why then not the entire Law of Moses?

Torah makes difference between punishing slaves and free men.

The King of Israel was executed on the cross like a slave or rebel - the only ones against whom this horrible method of torture killing was applied. He was judged guitly of death as a blasphemer of the God of Israel.

And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. But neither so did their witness agree together. 
And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? 
But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?  
 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.  Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? 
And they all condemned him to be guilty of death. 
And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands.
Mark 14:57-65

Friday, July 15, 2011

State of Israel - failure or vindication of Judaism?

The flag of the State of Israel has Star of David on white background between two blue bands. Symbolically it combines the state with the religion of Judaism. (By the way, the Star of David is a relatively new symbol for the ancient religion of Judaism. In Herodian period artifacts and buildings we often see Menorah).

Similarly, the Scandinavian flags connect state and religion by setting a cross on simple background, the flag of Finland for example a blues cross on white background. United Kingdom flag combines the cross, Union Jack, and St Andrew's cross making it a flag of a Christian country.

Many Moslem countries have the Moon crescent symbolizing Islam.

This symbolism is carried on in the signs for emergency services - Red Cross on the ambulances comes from the flag of Switzerland with a red cross on it. Israeli ambulances have the Star of David painted on them and Palestinian ambulances have the Red Crescent.

Failure of Judaism?
Well. There are few Jewish citizens in the State of Israel today who are not embarrassed by the serious court cases against their rulers with such heavy crimes as rape (former President of the State) and deep corruption (former Prime Minister). There are still pending court cases in serious matters of misuse of political position for personal gain (current Foreign Minister). Some citizens, of course, think that the ability to fool the state for money is a sign of truly great leader who can handle the system and knows how to pull the ropes for his or her benefit.

This in itself is nothign new or specific to the Jewish state. Tanakh is not blue-eyed and naive when it talks about the Kings of Israel and Judea in the Iron Age. The State was pretty corrupt, to the point that God of Israel utterly destroyed the Northern Kingdom and sent the citizens of the Southern Kingdom to Exile. Nor were all the Maccabean period kings and High priests praised by the people of their times, even if we do not mention what Alexander Janneus did.

In modern State of Israel there are many religious Jews, especially among the politically powerful ultra-Orthodox camp, with a long list of complaints against the secular citizens. They complain that there are godless Israelis who do not respect the mitzvot of the Torah and, to take one exmaple, break Shabbat by driving their cars on Levi Eshkol boulevard in northern Jerusalem.

Similarly, some secular Jews have some complaints against the religious Jews, for example the lack of respect for women and the Iranian style demand for segregation in public transportation. Many secular and also religious Jews abhor the harsh boycott of some 80% of the Jews in the world by Orthodox rabbies in the Knesset who consider them as "non-Jewish" because they belong to Liberal or Conservative synagogues and not really Jewish synagogues.

Accordingly, the citizens themselves are not completely satisfied with the idea that the State of Israel is the beacon of light to the nations:

And now the LORD says—
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
and gather Israel to himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD
and my God has been my strength—
he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
Isaiah 49:5-6 NIV

Regardless of how people react to anti-Semitism it is a fact - as the King of Israel prophesized according to the Gosple of Luke, there is a deep hatred of the Jewish people among the Gentiles.

“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."
Luke 21:20-24 NIV

Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and finally in 134 AD and there is a great wrath against the Jewish people among the nations.

United Nations is a case study. Simple statistics of the human rights and other issues brought to the General Assembly against the member nations demonstrates the number of accusations against the State of Israel. Everybody agrees, also the Jewish people themselves, that not everything is so good what has happened. But there are some Christian and Moslem and Communist states in United Nations that have not exactly fulfilled the ideals of the UN Charter during the past sixty years of its existence. There are many motives in singling out Israel but anti-Semitism surely is one of them.

(The word anti-Semitism is in itself a misnomer, since today there are rather anti-Semitic feelings among the Semitic Arab people, sons of Ishmael. So a better word would be anti-Jewish but the word is so widely used that there is no hope for correction.)

Many UN votes and resolutions do not give great glory to the modern State of Israel or Judaism as a religion. But these resolutions must be taken with a grain of salt and in a context of a truly hostile courthouse. Nevertheless, in many ways they do present world opinion and there are people among the nations who do not exactly love the Jewish state.

It is interesting that while early Zionism was developing the heated discussions among the Jews also included this subject - that is with the raise of a Jewish state there will be national level anti-Semitism and not just individual cases of hatred of the Jews. These warnings have turned out to be true.

Vindication of Judaism?
With the State slowly but steadily moving towards theocracy, religious nationalistic monarchy and the absolute rule of God as in the Iron Age holy Bible, many religious Jews are feeling more and more at home in the State of Israel. Reconquista of the Promised Land according to the will of the God of Israel, flourishing settlements in the ancient home land of God's people in Judea and Samaria, prophecies are coming true in front of the eyes of the people of our times.

Despite all the misfortunes and fortunes among the Gentiles for two thousand years the touching prayer of the Jewish people in Diaspora has been the Passover Seder L'shanah haba'ah b'Yerushalayim!

Very few Gentiles have believed that after so many years this would ever happen and the Jewish people become a nation again.

And yet it has happened.

Vindication of the God of Israel
Despite all the valiant human efforts of early Zionists and other Jewish people during the revival of nationalism in 19th century Europe and elsewhere in the world without which there would not be such a national state it nevertheless does not seem to me that the birth of Israel in 1948 was a vindication of Judaism.

I think that the birth of modern Israel and its survival in this hostile world is a vindication of the LORD, the God of Israel.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Alien democracy in the Near East

When the fathers of Zionism arrived from Tsarist Russia to Ottoman Palestine and then to the British Mandate ruled Palestine they came with alien ideas about human society, social democracy and communism. These ideas were very un-Islamic and alien to the traditional Near Eastern societies.

The fathers and mothers established ideal societies, Kibbuts, groups, that lived to the fullest according to the theories of Karl Marx and Engels and succeeded in doing where the Soviets failed - creating living productive communities without the curse of private ownership and capitalism based on the freedom to stay or to go. 

The Zionists also made a green revolution, wanted to turn the deserts into blooming gardens as told by the prophets of Israel. Huge water channels were dug into the ground to bring waters from the North, from Kinneret and upper Jordan to Northern Negev. Beer Sheba was turned into a green area of lush wheat fields watered by artificial means in an area of very low natural rainfall. 

The father of modern Israel, David Ben Gurion (1886-1973), loved the desert and lived much of his life in kibbutz Sde Boker where he is buried with his wife Paula.

Those were people of vision and they made a great impact, watering the desert and establishing a genuinely democratic State of Israel with the separation of powers as Montesque had told, full voting rights to women and participation in Knesset for Israeli Arabs.

But these are alien ideas to the Near East.

Slowly but surely the realization has sunk in that desert is desert and watering it is dangerous to the limited fresh water resources of the Land of Israel. The green revolution has stopped and may have to be reversed in some areas because of the lack of water.

Slowly but surely the genuine religious Jewish establishment is taking control of the State of Israel and the alien ideas of European and Russian social theorists of 19th century and the experiments in democratic rule following those godless French Revolutionaries is fading and is being systematically reversed.

Clean separation of the powers is history and State of Israel today is ruled by differetn power blogs: royalist Messianic religious Jews are very powerful as watching over the spiritual heritage of the people of Israel that also includes the Land and its Laws. 

The latest immigration wave of Russian Jews in the 1990'ies brought in a different kind of people from those 19th century Russian immigrants playing with the new ideas of communism and socialism. This generation of Israel Betenu and Avigdor Lieberman has experience socialism and communism and has no love for it. So how is modern Russia ruled? By strong men and their supporters, President Putin knows how to pull the strings to get things done. Democracy is not the top value in this kind of world.

Judaism is not democratic, nor is Christianity nor Islam - these religions understand God as an Absolute Monarch and earhtly monarchs and emires and rabbies present Him and interprate His will in the society.

This is natural in the Near East with its ancient history.

Democracy is in decline - naturally.

Torah תּוֹרָה‎‎ and Sharia شريعة

Swiss Theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) forcefully emphasized that divine revelation comes to us directly from above, "senkrecht von oben".

This is the fundamental understanding of Moslem believers - Qur'an is originally written in Heaven and the dictating of the holy book by angel Gabriel to Muhammad is a fresh new start and revelation of previously unknown messsage. Fresh light illuminates the dark world.

Similarly, for many Christians New Testament is essentially the holy book and the Old Testament is reduced into the role of John the Baptist, preparation of the ground and foretelling of what is going to happen in Jesus Christ.

Both religions have their background in ancient Judaism. For many religious Jews Simchat Torah, the Joy of Torah, is the new light that illuminated the world when God gave the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.

It is difficult for these believers to realize that religion has history, roots, evolution, developments and that they depend on each other.

For Moslems there is a holy secret - the learned scholars know about the relationship between Qur'an and the Bible and understand Islam as a completion of these books and as the full revelation, return back to the simplicity of the Monotheism of Ibrahim, el-Khalil, the friend of God.

Christians have persecuted Jews, the people of Torah, who do not accept Jesus of Nazareth as their King. The role of Judaism changed from "mother religion" to enemy already in early Christian centuries and religious anti-Semitism raisis its head already in the second century AD.

Jews abhor the Canaanites and there are the Biblical warnings against this religion and lament of the penetration of paganism into the pure religion of the fathers and of the Sinai desert. But modern scholarship has demonstrated essential connections and links between the religion of the Hebrews and the religions in the ancient Near East.

Religions are organic, social, historical realities developing in place and time. Archaeology shows often structures that have a history from one religion to another - the Canaanite holy spot, that became the location of the Temple of Salomon and now has the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques is a great example of this continuity and change through centuries.

So the Canaanite supreme God El gives the word Elohim to Hebrew and Allah to Arabic. Organic, connected and yet different in function and role and religion. The spouse of this royal rather passive god of Ugarit, Elat, lives in the name of the city of Eilat and there was a pre-Islamic goddess Allat.

It is important that we realize the historical background of the religious Moslem Sharia Law شريعة

The Law of Moses, itself related to ancient Near Eastern legislation, possibly to Hammurab, gives comamnds to stone people to death and to burn people publicly. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

While rough ancient habits, punishments and law code survive in the holy Scriptures we need to remember that at time many of the laws were constructive and protective and probably inhibited some of the worst things in ancient courts and their decisions.

For example, it is often said that the Sharia law does not "allow a Moslem man to have four wives" but rather "limits the number of wives to four".

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Theocracy at rise in modern Israel

Theocracy is on the rise in Israel. On Tuesday 28th of June 2011 PM Benyamin Netanyahu has publicly taken side in this deeply significant rift in the society emphasizing the equality of all in front of the laws of modern Stateo of Israel.

Chief Rabbi Dov Lior represents ideas of genuine theocracy where divine Will is way above the rule of the earthly commissaires.

This reliance on the Torah is not only theoretical faith but has led to very concrete consequences also in the streets of Jerusalem these days. One of Israel's finest, soldier and statesman Yizhaq Rabin, rests in his tomb and there are other dead people who have stood on the way of the Reconquest of the Promised Land by the people of God.

So it is very important and shows remarkable courage, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upholds the earhtly laws of the society against the divine Will as understood by Rabbi Dov Lior.

That very secular newspaper Haaretz reports on Wednesday June 29, 2011 Sivan 27, 5771:
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the arrest of Rabbi Dov Lior on Tuesday, saying that “Israel is a law-abiding state”. He added that “the law includes everyone and I call on all Israel’s citizens to uphold it.”
Lior was arrested, questioned, and released on Monday after refusing to appear for an inquiry for his endorsement of the controversial book, “Torat Hamelech”, which justifies killing non-Jews.
The tension between the rule of divine Law and the rule of secular law is deep and significant to the entire Jewish people, those living in Israel and those abroad in Diaspora.  And to some extent it is important also to those gojim marked as fair game for killing by some of the rabbis of Israel.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Four Divine Covenants

There is only one true God - the God of Israel. All other so called gods are something else.
People have not initiated covenants with Him. As a Sovereign He himself has made covenants with the people and other living things He has created as He pleases.

Bible describes the four divine Covenants giving some or all of these elements
  • Between which parties the Covenant is made
  • Content of the Covenant
  • Promise 
  • Token of the Covenant.

1. Covenant of Noah
And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,

Between which parties the Covenant is made?
And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.

What is the Promise of the Covenant?
And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

What is the Token of the Covenant?
And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.
Genesis 9:8-17

Sovereign God has made Covenant
  • with Noah and his seed and all life upon earth, humans and animals
  • Promise: God of Israel will never again drown all life on Earth
  • Token of this covenant is the rainbow in the clouds that reminds God of His promise

2. Covenant with Abraham
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,

Between which parties the Covenant is made?
As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, (Abraham)

What is the Promise of the Covenant?
and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. 

Between which parties the Covenant is made?
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant,

What is the Promise of the covenant?
to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

What is the Token of the Covenant?
And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. ... And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

A. God has made a Covenant
  • with the person of Abraham
  • Promising he will become the father of many nations
B. God has made a Covenant
  • with Abraham and his seed
  • Promising that they will inherit Canaan Land
  • the Token of this Covenant with Abraham and his seed is circumcision of male offspring

3. Covenant at Sinai (Mosaic Covenant)
And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying,

Between which parties the Covenant is made?
Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.

What is the content of the Covenant?
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant,

What is the Promise of the Covenant?
then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.
And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.

God has made a Covenant in Sinai
  • with the house of Jacob, the children of Israel
  • Content: they obey His voice and commandments
  • Promise: they will be unto Him chosen people and holy nation
There is no token in this text.

4. Blood Covenant in Christ

 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
1 Cor 11:23 - 26

  • The Covenant is made between Christ and His disciples
  • The Covenant is the cup of the Blood of Christ
There is no Token in this text nor is there any direct Promise.

The New Covenant (Latin testamentum) is quite a subject - which one of the other Covenants in the Bible is made Old by the New?

I wish to point out in this context a striking fact - these words come to us from beyond the grave, from a dead man.

They are in one of the oldest books of the New Testament, the authentic Pauline letter to the newly established congregation of Christian in the city of Corinth (probably mid 50'ies AD) and Saint Paul states absolutely clearly that these words about the New Covenant were given to him directly by the Lord. (This was probably during the fourteen years when Paul had his private lessons from Christ in the Arabian Desert).

The New Covenant is quite strikingly different. Although Blood Covenant is well established in the Biblical rituals at the Temple of Jerusalem a Jew would never even imagine a covenant with God that would include the drinking of human blood.

Thus this Covenant is not invented by men but similarly to the other Covenants it is made by the Sovereign God of Israel.

The same God who happened to command the token of circumcision for the Covenant of Abraham - a religious practice so essential to Judaism that is now under attack by "enlightened people" in California and elsewhere in the world.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

King of the Jews and the Jewish people

The relationship between the King of the Jews and the Jewish people is very complex and generally quite often misunderstood both by those who do believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and by those who reject that claim.

The student of rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, Saint Paul, has written significantly about this relationship in one of his major texts surviving to us in the canonical New Testament, the Letter to Romans. This is not the subject of my little study now for we know that the Jewish man from the party of the Pharisees, Saul from the city of Tarsos, was chosen by the King to tell about Him to gentiles, gojim. These were early on freed from the kashrut requirements and other Mosaic laws and are not expected to be circumcised. Christianity according to Paul is another religion, another covenant. (Apostolic decision on the matter was taken in Jerusalem perhaps in the late 40'ies after the birth of Christ Acts 15:1-35)

That the King was rejected by His people is the foundation of everything and source of salvation to the Jews and Greeks and men and women and slaves and free (Gal 3:23). This also is not the subject of the blog.

King of the Jews speaks to His people  
In Luke 21:20-24 His Majesty speaks in most severe way to the people who have rejected Him but the sad text has a magnificent ending

Destruction of the city of the Great King, Jerusalem, by the Romans
“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 

Hatred of the Jews (anti-Semitism) and Diaspora
There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations.

Crucial role of the Jews in world history
Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Times of the Gentiles
Now there is no end of gentile people who think this and that about the role of the Jews and their national movements and religion and everything. The gojim have learned to know something about the people of God through the long years of Diaspora but mostly the Jews have kept to themselves even when not being forced to a ghetto.

There are many who do not think that the Jewish people have anymore any role in any divine plans for this planet. There are many who do think that they do have and among them some rather powerful Christian groups in the United States.

What people think is one thing.

What the King of the Jews says about His people is another thing.

He has brought them back to the Promised Land and there are preparations for the rebuilding of the House of God where it once stood and where there is now the Wailing Wall for Tisha beAv.

What are these times of the gentiles Luke, writing to a pious Sadducee, most excellent Theophilus who may be related to rabbi Gamaliel the Elder. 

Jerusalem trampled by the gentiles until their times are fulfilled.
ἄχρι πληρωθῶσι καιροὶ ἐθνῶν

kairoi ethnon - the Greek work kairos has many meanings but we might understand it here as an epoch.

The King sees world history in sequences of events centered in Jerusalem.

There is that hiatus, when His people are away, and then the city of Jerusalem will no more be trampled by the gentiles, but is back in the hand of His people.

Mysterious message
Those were told to the people and are of interest also to the gentiles.

King of the Jews has a mysterious message to His people whom they can understand but which is difficult for us gentiles to grasp in its depth.

The overall meaning is, however, clear and shows that the future of the people of Israel is in the hand of their God and it is not a future they are particularly waiting for right now and a future that is hard for the gentiles to believe.

The King of the Jews has spoken:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Matthew 23:37-39

But then they will see Him again.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Buffalo Bill and Olive Ofer

William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody (1846 – 1917)
image wikimedia

Life in the North American continent was changing fast towards the end of the 19th century because of the push of the white man to the wild West. After Christopher Columbus and his crew had discovered Americas both Spane and Portugal had greatly expanded their influence in South and Middle America and Spain had established strong northern footholds beyond Mexico. Names like Los Angeles, San Fransisco, San Diego and others are reminders of those earlier times of settlement by Spanish Catholics.

Towards the end of the century the independent United States had settled the Civil War and was rapidly expanding from the Atlantic coast towards the Pacific coast through the great plains. California was the golden land and economic incentives were strong to the easterners to leave everything, jump in the wagons and start new life far in the West despite of the dangers on the way. Gold rush was not the least among them but wonderful farming land, orange groves, cattle farms and many other things were calling.

But what to do with those native Americans who had lived on those plains since crossing the Bering straits in prehistoric times? Obviously something had to be done as these cruel primitives did not leave the Iron Horse to cross the plains in peace and those wagons had to be set into circles to defend the white woman from horrible fate in their hands. Most of us have experienced through American TV series and movies these feelings and taken part in the pioneer spirit and admired the courage of these settlers dreaming of new life in the West and felt the wonderful relief when US cavalry finally reaches the crisis spot with flags flying and horns blowing and Rin Tin Tin saving the child.

There were several methods how to secure the new settlements and the rail road and the wagon trails in the vast plains were crude pagan native Americans were riding those horses and dancing wildly in their camps around those totem poles and planning the next attack on the white man.

Selling whisky to them was one efficient medicine to the problem of their existence. The fire water had profound influence on them.

Preventing them from getting fire arms was crucial and those bastards who made money by selling deadly Winchesters to the people of "India" are common criminals in American Westerns.

American bison, Buffalo 
image wikimedia

A more fundamental solution was needed, one that approaches true genocide. While some native American tribes were farmers, others were totally dependent on that magnificent animal, bison or buffalo, that roamed freely and provided almost everything to the hunter-gatherer societies. Not all American Indians lived on buffalo hunting but many did.

So, the damned animals could block the rails stopping trains, they could crush the maize and other fields of white Christian Americans trying to make honest living along the wagon caravan routes and they provided nourishment and protection to those hated natives lurking in the dark.

A project was started to slaughter these animals.

William Buffalo Bill Cody was born on February 26, 1846 in the Iowa Territory near LeClare. This territory existed from 1838 to 1846 and it was admitted to the Union as State of Iowa (December 28, 1846).
From wikipedia we learn about the earlier inhabitants of Iowa territory:
"When the American Indians first arrived in what is now Iowa more than 13,000 years ago, they were hunters and gatherers living in a Pleistocene glacial landscape. By the time European explorers visited Iowa, American Indians were largely settled farmers with complex economic, social, and political systems. This transformation happened gradually. During the Archaic period (10,500-2,800 years ago), American Indians adapted to local environments and ecosystems, slowly becoming more sedentary as populations increased. More than 3,000 years ago, during the Late Archaic period, American Indians in Iowa began utilizing domesticated plants. The subsequent Woodland period saw an increase on the reliance on agriculture and social complexity, with increased use of mounds, ceramics, and specialized subsistence. During the Late Prehistoric period (beginning about A.D. 900) increased use of maize and social changes led to social flourishing and nucleated settlements. The arrival of European trade goods and diseases in the Protohistoric period led to dramatic population shifts and economic and social upheaval, with the arrival of new tribes and early European explorers and traders. ...
Approximately seventeen different American Indian tribes had resided here at various times including the Ioway, Sauk, Meskwaki (called Fox in many sources), Sioux, Potawatomi, Oto, and Missouri."

But whats a few thousand years of history, even ten thousand, when these people stand on the way of the progress and legitimate needs and rights of the white man?

"From 1868 until 1872 Cody was employed as a scout by the United States Army. Part of this time he spent scouting for Indians, and the remainder was spent gathering and killing bison for them and the Kansas Pacific Railroad. In January 1872 Cody was a scout for Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia's highly publicized royal hunt."

Buffalo Bill got his Medal of Honor. Many other white men like him were involved in the politically motivated strategic slaughter of the American bison, the buffalo.

Why? Well, we all know why, don't we?

As for the olive tree, the symbol of peace

After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark.

He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.
Genesis 8:6-12.

Olive tree is also the beautiful symbol of the people of Israel and can live undisturbed over a thousand years. It is told that the slow growing tree begins to produce oil about thirty years after planting.

Olive oil production and export to Jordan and other countries is the most fundamental source of income for Palestinian farmers in the West Bank of Jordan.

The popularity of those John Wayne classic Wild West movies depicting bad Indians has steadily declined also in the United States after the publication of Dee Brown's book Bury my heart at Wounded Knee in 1970 which was adapted into a movie.

The other side of the coin can be told now when the conquest of the West is solid and Indians live in their reservates peacefully and without posing any danger to the white man. The social psyche can look at the 19th century conflict more broadly and bravely about hundred years after it is over.

A particularly strong description of the change and how modern Americans see their ancestors not so long ago on their way to settle West is the seven Academy Awards winning movie Dances with Wolves shot in South Dakota and Wyoming.

The Sioux Nation adopted Kevin Costner as an honorary member.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The City of the Great King

Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise,
in the city of our God, his holy mountain.

Beautiful in its loftiness,
the joy of the whole earth,
like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion,
the city of the Great King.
God is in her citadels;
he has shown himself to be her fortress.
Psalm 48:1-3

Great King has great capital which is nothing less than the city of the God of Israel.

Quite a city it is.

Sorry, but it is not West Jerusalem where the State of Israel has the parliament house Knesset, residence of the president, supreme court, main rabbinate and other important buildings. This is a modern city that had its beginnings with Baron Moshe Montefiore who in 1878 founded Mishkenot Sha'anim to provide living quarters for poor outside the Ottoman city walls. These "suburbs of Jerusalem" have since spread with the rapid growth of the city that today has more than 500.000 people.

Sorry, but it is not East Jerusalem which greatly resembles older parts of Amman and grew under the rule of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Despite of the importance of the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque of al-Aqsa king Hussein was determined to maintain the prominence of Amman as the capital of his kingdom.

Yes, it is the Old City. This is the historical and archaeological area including the city within the Ottoman city wall and the Hill of Ophel south of it and Mt Zion with its slopes. The wall was built by orders of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and was finished in 1548. It is the best preserved Turkish city wall in the Mediterranean region. Ophel is the lower hill south of the temple area and the original City of David which he took from the Jebusites.

Sultan Suleiman was furious that the the wall was not built along the southern gorge of the Valley of Hinnom with its deep slopes and left much of Mount Zion outside. It is said that the two architects were hanged for this and are buried inside Jaffa Gate. However, the wall is mighty and was never broken by an enemy force - it even withstood the special conical explosive built in 1948 to break into the city.

Psalm 48 talks about the city of the Great King in many terms but especially because in the heart of the city stood the Temple of the God of Israel.

Do not swear by the city of the Great King

Rabbi Jesus told the Jewish people in the Sermon of the Mount that they should not swear so much. He gave interesting reasons against swearing by heavens, earth, one's own head or by Jerusalem - all apparently popular witnesses for the truth of the statement in the Herodian period.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.“
Matthew 5:33-37

Direction of prayer
Jewish people have always prayed towards Jerusalem.
Christians do not care about the direction but their churches are built so that altars are in the east where sun rises as the symbol of resurrection.
Muslims first prayed towards Jerusalem, then towards Mecca, then under the Ummayad caliphate towards Jerusalem and towards Mecca since the rule of the Abbasids.
It is said that the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, first told his followers to pray towards Jerusalem. But after he noticed that the Jewish people did not accept him as a true prophet of God the direction of prayers was turned towards Mecca where is the holy black stone of Kaaba.
After the Four Righteous Caliphs the leadership of Islam was taken by the powerful Ummayads from Damascus who conquered the world from India to Near East, North Africa and Spain. It has been said that these rulers became worried about the loyalty of the people and that praying towards Mecca and making pilgrimages there would weaken their rule. Therefore, a new holy city was needed. Caliphs Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, al-Walid I and other Ummayad rulers constructed magnificent buildings to enhance the importance of Jerusalem; Dome of the Rock, al-Aqsa mosque (705 AD), palaces and madrasas, fountains and gardens in this holy city al-Quds. Roads were paved and new ones constructed for pilgrims to al-Quds. (In my opinion, "Hisham Palace" is actually a five star caravanseray on the way from Damascus to Jerusalem to enhance the importance of the city.)
But what theological reasons could the Ummayad rulers give to the holiness of Jerusalem in Islam?

Lailat al Miraj
Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless,- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things).
Qur'an, sura 17 (Al-Isra), ayah 1.
Hadith Sahih Buhari gives more details about the nightly vision in which Muhammad rode Buraq to a distant mosque ( المسجد الأقصى‎, al-Masğidu 'l-’Aqṣà) and visited Paradise in the companion of archangel Gabriel (English translation here). Since the geographical location is not told Omayyad caliphs were able to chose Jerusalem and the platform where the Temple of God of Israel once stood as the location of that distant mosque. It was told that righteous Caliph Omar himself participated in cleaning the huge platform of the garbage from the city and build a small house of prayer there. Yearly feast of this beautiful vision is the second most important celebration in Islam, Lailat al Miraj, and brings Jerusalem to the minds of over billion Muslims around the world. al-Aqsa Mosque is called the third holiest shrine in Islam after Mecca and Medina.

Saint Paul in paradise
Interestingly, also New testament tells about a vision in which apostle Paul visits Paradise. This visit of a mortal man in third heaven has never had any cult meaning in Christianity and is not even known by many Christians.

"I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations."
2 Corinthians 12:1-7

Near human sacrifices
The Bible talks about Mount Moriah where Abraham took his son Isaac to sacrifice him to God.
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love — Isaac — and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
According to the Jewish tradition Mount Moriah was the location of Arauna's treshing field and the site where king Solomon built the great temple as a dwelling for the God of Israel.
According to Qur'an Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son to God. Qur'an does not mention Abraham's son by name (sura XXXVII: 100-107) but it is generally believed that it was Ishmael the firstborn from Hagar. This dramatic event is located to Mecca and the feast of Eid el Adha is time of great annual pilgrimage Hadj to Mecca.

Political and religious powder keg
The city of the Great King is quite old. When Rome was established Jerusalem was already two thousand years old.

Yet this old venerable city is today in the heart of world politics, a most modern problem that affects the entire human race.

In nutshell the thing is that the holiest spot on earth for the Jews is under the third holiest mosque in Islamic world.

If the Jews would only have historical and archaeological interest in that spot bordered by the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) there would be no tension and the temple area would not be the powder keg threatening to blow the world into massive world war.

But this is not the case. Judaism today is without temple, without sacrifice, a handicapped religion with the Yavne substitute of prayer for sacrifice.

Royal Judaism in its full glory needs the House of God for the King to enter His capital.

Yesterday 25 May 2011 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated to the congress of the most powerful military and political power of today, United States of America, that Israel is not going to divide Jerusalem between Jews and Arabs.

Why he says so?

Not because of West Jerusalem, not because of East Jerusalem, not even because of the Old City.

Because of the temple of the God of Israel he says so.

And the people of Israel say Amen.

Great King has great capital which is nothing less than the city of the God of Israel.

Quite a city it is.

So keep watching world news.

And keep praying for the peace of Jerusalem!

Oseh shalom bimromav!

Because only God can make peace between the Jews, Christians and Muslims all revering Jerusalem as a religious capital..

Friday, May 20, 2011

King ruling the entire world!

There are many kinds of Messianic expectations. The ideas represented here hardly even scratch the surface of this momentous subject.

I find it kind of sadly ironic that the well-oiled Third Reich propaganda machine used the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion published in Russia in 1903 to such an extent accusing the Jewish people for seeking world domination - and in the same time Adolf Hitler made himself quite an effort to become the sole ruler of the world.

Yetr, it is true that Jews as a people do wait for a world class King.

The wish for the promised King, Messiah (Mashiach), is alive and well in the hearts of many Jews. In Israel - and also in Brooklyn - one can see posters of that elderly gentleman, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the revered Lubawitcher rebbe, greeting crowds gently and with the text Messiah or Welcome Messiah. If I understand right the feeling among his ardent followers is that he was a really close call and anyway on of the greatest teacher of Torah.

Historical expectations
There is a long line of candidates since the days of the Assyrian conquest and before when the God of Israel promised a just and righteous king from the house of David. Was Hezekiah the promised king? What about the just king Josiah killed by Pharaoh Neco in the plane of Megiddo?

During the Roman period expectations of Messiah were high for a King who would free the people of Israel from the hated occupation and build the House of Israel. New Testament tells about one such candidate and mentions others. The great historian of this time, Josephus, tells about this as well.

Dead Sea Scrolls are giving us a detailed view of one group waiting the promised King to free the people of Israel from the Kittim.

That Jesus from Nazareth was utterly rejected by the religious and political leadership at the time. Another candidate, Shimon Bar Kokhba, was warmly accepted by the great rabbi Akiva - the star of Jacob is rising! (Num 24:17). This was met by Roman force and with utterly destructive consequences to the Jewish people leading to expulsion from Jerusalem and the beginning of the long diaspora.

False candidates have come and gone. In the Medieval Europe news spread about the arrival of the Messiah in the Ottoman empire, Sabbatai Zevi, but the news turned out to be bitterly wrong.

The long wait goes on!

Of course, some say that Messiah will not come and does not even bother to make a phone call, but the pessimists are wrong. hashana birushalaim, beshana haba im melekh mosiach!

King of Peace

There may be many different variations of Messianic expectations from ultraorthodox teachings to most liberal opinions. Ultimately all the expectations are based on the Holy Scriptures and the wonderful words of ancient prophecies speaking in the name of the God of Israel.

The image that rises from the Scriptures is bright, brilliant and beautiful.

Jewish people are waiting for their King to bring peace to the world and the people "will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks". (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3).

Maybe there are still those who are ready for a holy war like the people in the Dead Sea scrolls describes the War between the children of Light and Darkness.

Major Jewish criticism against the claim that the man of Galilee, Jesus, would be the promised King is that there really is no peace in the world after him and that his followers have been pretty aggressive in the history of the world.

Forcing the law
Hassidic believers and others may hope that Mashiach will force all the world to follow the Laws of Moses. This is their concept of a religion where things must be done and those who break the law must be punished by the society, the King.

For the King of Israel to bring light unto the nations by force would indeed require world domination. This should include a central government in control of global court system that implements the commandments of Torah and mitzvot as interprated by the learned rabbies. The King should also have an efficient law enforcement system where those breaking the Shabbath and other laws are punished accoring to the rulings.

Comparison to Sharia law
King of Israel who establishes a rabbinically ruled world, kind of maximum theocracy, with forceful enforcement of Mosaic law is a vision of some belieivers. It is conceptually perhaps not so far from the Islamic dream of world domination. The ultimate purpose of the conquest of the true religion is to spread the light of Islam as a blessing to mankind. But it includes forcing all people upon Earth to live under the religious laws of sharia and their interpretations. As we know, many Muslims are so dedicated to the will of God that they gladly sacrifice even their lives to reach the situation where Allah is ruling the entire world through His obedient and willing servants.

Messiah restores the kingdom of Israel

Many Christian followers of Jesus of Nazareth expect Him to return back to Jerusalem as promised to the men of Galilee as written in the New Testament Acts of Apostles:

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.
Acts 1:9-12 KJV

Not all Jews are comfortable with the apocalyptic Messianic expectations of American Christians who are truly ardent political and practical supporters of the State of Israel. These visions about the future of the world include the conversion of all Jews to believing in Jesus.

Not irrelevant!
Nobody can say that the King of Israel is irrelevant. Because of His earthly political connotations also counter-terrorism experts in various countries around the world know the subject thoroughly. These are very powerful ideas when people are not just sitting and waiting but turn them into political activity. Things reach headlines of modern news when people feel compelled and invited to become active participants in the preparations for the coming fo the King.

Que sera, sera, whatever will be will be ...

We shall see.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Israel police, pride and prejudice

Now mention one country in the Near East where even a former president can be interrogated about rape charges raised by a simple worker girl from the office.
Well, mention one such country from North Africa?
Europe? South America? North America?
Yes, such things are usually handled by squashing the accuser and her supporters by the powers that be, hidden under carpets and the rapists keep their honor and position.
The law enforcement people of Israel are justly a cause of pride to this struggling small democracy.
I still remember President Moshe Katzav sighing all so softly after another atrocity committed by Arabs "we are so different". And indeed, Israel is truly different but perhaps in somewhat other way that President Katzav had in mind.
One cannot overestimate the importance of such equality before the law, justice that is visible to all. It is like fresh oxygen to people and makes the nation feel good.
People feel sick under truly corrupt regimes where also the police force is controlled by lawless and evil people, organized crime and cannot imagine bringing to justice people in the top of the hierarchy. For example, Egyptians have been telling - now - about the things their local police did to them without inpunity They seek for better government and a police force they can trust.
Law enforcement and even legislation itself, court system up to the High Court, are under pressure in Israel more than in many other countries, totalitarian or democratic, and it takes much personal courage from those in charge to uphold what is right. Sometimes such decisions come with heavy personal price tag. Professionalism, international cooperation, highly skilled technicians, investigators and police force that understands their own people - gifts from God!
Israel Police can be brutally effective, as for example the students experienced under the previous premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu, when they were sent to break up student protests. The press was not kind about this. Israeli Arabs do have their experiences about the deadly efficiency of the police and there is prejudice. The situation is not simple in such a small country like Israel with so many different people!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

State of Israel 63 years

Congratulations to 63 years old State of Israel!

In Finland we do know the location of the State of Israel in geographic maps. It is in Near East on the shores of Eastern Mediterranean and has Egypt as its Southern neighbor, Jordan in the East, Syria and Lebanon in the North.

But it is less clear how the modern State of Israel is located in our spiritual maps that Christians carry in their minds and hearts. Since Israel is one of the most central themes of the Bible and the entire future of the world and the eternal fate of every human being depend on the King of Israel, this is not a minor one.

In this blog I try to sketch in simple lines three basic mappings that I have noticed while looking at life in Christendom, past and present.

Let us first take a look at some Geographic and Demographic facts about the country.
Within the 1967 borders the size of Israel is 20,700 square kilometers. It is 424 km long and at broadest 114 km, at narrowest 15 km. The western border is 270 km of Mediterranean shoreline. Modern Israel is separate from the small Gaza strip and it is actively settling the West Bank of Jordan which has total area of 5,879 km2.

However, it is very important to notice that a large part of Israel - 12.000 km2 - consists of the southern desert, Negev, which in large parts is not habitable. Accordingly, the area that is fertile and good for living is only about 8.000 km2 and from this should be reduced the inland water areas, Lake Kinneret and Dead Sea 445 km2.

Central Bureau of Statistics tells that 63 old Israel has a population of 7,746,000 people. Of them 5,837,000 (75.3%) are Jewish, 1,587,000 (20.5%) Israeli Arabs and other people, Druze, Circassian and others are 322,000 (4.2%).

When State of Israel was established May 14 1948 (5 Iyar 5708) there were 806.000 Jews. The number of inhabitants reached one million in 1949 and two million about ten years later, in 1958.

These statistics make more sense when we compare the fertile area of Israel with the majority of the inhabitants with our own Finnish numbers.

wikipedia tells:
Uusimaa area is 9 096,50 km2 (3,0 % of entire Finland). Sweet waters cover 471,40 km2 (1,4 % of Finnish sweat waters) and sea water6 489,99 km² (12,4 % of entire Finland).

Inland waters without sea is 5,2 % that is about half of Finnish average values.

Uusimaa is by far the most densely populated area of Finland with 1 533 639 people.
About 30 % of all Finns lives in Uusimaa and density is about ten times higher than the average in Finland.

So the surface of Uusimaa is about 9000 km2 as the most dense area of Filand with about 1.5 million people.

The fertile area of Israel within 1967 borders is 7500 km2 with over 7 million people.

Smaller area than one tiny part of Finland, Uusimaa, and almost four times more people, with three quarters Jews and one quarter mostly Muslim Sunni Arabs.

Great majority of the inhabitants of Uusimaa are Evangelic-Lutheran Christians. The number of Jews and Muslims living in Finland is marginally small.

1.Map: Total break between Biblical and Modern Israel

Secular world deals with the State of Israel that was established by a by United Nations vote as one state among others, an ally of United States in the Near East.

Israel is one of the many states with which Finland has normal diplomatic relations and Finnish men and women have served in Peacekeeper troops on her borders in Sinai, Golan Heights and Lebanon.

There is normal commerce, tourism from Finland to Israel is active, there is cooperation in the realms of Science and Technology and other things, and in UN votes Finland follows usually the line of European Union.

Finnish politicians follow actively and support attempts to create a lasting peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Experts are interested in the internal battle between democracy and theocracy and the treatment of minorities living in Israel.

This mapping where Biblical and Modern Israel are sharply kept separate from each other takes different shapes among the Christians.

The Catholic Church has been the leading force in this mapping. The Old Covenant between God and the people of Israel has been replaced by the New Covenant. Instead of the Temple of Jerusalem and the animal sacrifices there is the single sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

By this the Jewish people have lost their status as Firstborn and is no more the chosen people and a Jew is not in the Kingdom of Heaven and has no eternal life there. Christians are circumcised in heart and are now the real Jews and the chosen people of God. Greeks and Jews and all people are similarly saved by faith in Christ with no difference between slave or free, man or woman, Jew or goi.

Church of Christ is the kingdom that Messiah King rules and not the secular modern State of Israel that has no connection at all to the salvation of mankind.

2. Map: Modern Israel is the sign of end of days

Secular world does not recognize such mapping and does not use essentially Biblical and Theological terms when considering State of Israel.

Christians who adhere to this view see the rebirth of Israel as a sign of cosmic significance. The prophecies are coming true and the watches began to count the final time for the world in 1948.

Such ideas have strong roots among the Christians in United States of America, especially among Pentecostals and Baptists. From there they have spread with books and movies and other media to the rest of the Christian world.

Those US Christians who think along these lines have very fundamental ideas about the role and position of Israel in God's plans for this world and its end and the new creation. It is an essential ingredient in their faith and they follow carefully their own congressmen and senators and leading politicians and their statements and actions concerning the State of Israel and especially its security. Many Israeli politicians are welcome to the Christian meetings to talk about current issues and to TV programs and press interviews.

In the elections of the most powerful ruler of current world, the President of the United States, the position of a candidate towards Israel is important to these Christians. Interestingly, while many American Jews vote traditionally for Democrats, Christans often support the Republicans.

In addition to political support, these Christians are actively collecting money and supporting all kinds of projects to help Israel in the difficulties of modern times. This way they not only give humanitarian help but feel participating in the great events in the plans of the God of Israel for the good of the mankind.

Also Finnish Christians have been active in political life in these matters especially during the Cold War when Soviet Union was the strong supporter of Arab-Socialist countries in the Arab Israeli conflict and distributed also to the Finnish people propaganda on the matter aimed mostly at the secular population.

During the time of President Urho Kekkonen Israel became part of inner politics also in Finland, not to the extent of USA of course, and modern political leadership of Finland carry with them various influences from their youth in the Finland of Kekkonen.

The chairperson of the recently chosen parliament is strongly Finnish despite of his definitely non-Finnish name Ben Zyskowicz. Also Max Jacobsen was decidely Finnish: he was almost elected as United Nations Secretary General.

This cultural and political undercurrent obviously affects also Finnish theologians and common Christians and their opinions about modern Israel. In Theology it is a a question of the relationship between Old and New Testaments.

Professor Risto Lauha declared to his students with strong emphasis during a lecture on Exegetics that Old and New Testament have absolutely nothing to do with each other. He probably presented the views of many scholars in Helsinki University Faculty of Theology - but not of all of them.

So if there is such a total break between OT and NT so modern Israel has absolutely nothing to do with Theology. Christian fans of Israel represent to them politically motivated groups of ignorant citizens.

Also in Finland there are many Christians who do not really connect Bible with the hard realities of modern times. Since in general faith has little to do with reality and is a private matter taken care on Sundays, modern Israel is understood in secular terms with no theological significance. These Christians do not expect the end of the world anytime soon. They do not really know the Bible and have only a superficial knowledge of Judaism.

3. Map: Jewish view of the modern State of Israel

Among various groups of Christians there are also those who have studied the Bible and understand Covenant Theology more deeply and are familiar with Judaism and also know more accurately what Jesus and Paul have said about the people of Israel. (Both Jesus and Paul are genuine Jews, children of Abraham).

Third mapping helps Christians to look at modern Israel through the point of view of Jews themselves, on the foundations of Tanakh, Talmud-Judaism totally rejecting Jesus and New Testament Judaism totally accepting Jesus and leading to Christianity.

In my opinion this way is a genuine and fruitful spiritual way of looking at modern Israel and takes into account Bible, wants to learn to know better the Word of God, to learn about the past and present Messianic expectations of Jewish people, the happy and sad moments in the history of God's people, disappointments and hopes and also tries to evaluate the actions of modern Israel from the world of values of Jewish religion today.

Personally I think that the Third mapping would be the best road for Palestinian Arabs in their search for a way to live with the Jewish people in the Near East. They abhor the politically active US Christians who are sometimes quite fanatic in their views of modern Israel and divine rights to Reconquista of the Land and hostility towards Palestinians. (I must add that some actions by the Palestinians or on their behalf have greatly contributed to this hostility also among non-religious Christians.)

It is easily considered "pro-Israel" to know something about the Jewish people and their religion. Almost total ignorance about Judaism and its world causes many problems in attempts to discuss life in the Promised Land and has been quite costly to the Palestinians in the past decades.

Also for Finnish politicians dealing with issues of peace and stability in the Near East it might be a good idea to learn to know the aspirations of the Jewish people more closely and to understand their history more deeply than at the level of knowing what New York Times writes today.