Holding Back

This past year I’ve spent a lot of time being introspective. Lately I’ve been studying my personality type, and learning a lot. Learning that I’m an INTJ is not new or surprising to me. Understanding just what it means is. I’ve always been an introvert. I prefer thought experiments, and I also prefer being alone. Cabin fever is not an issue for me. If I had my way I’d never leave the house. Naturally though, I do interact with people, to varying degrees. One thing I have come to understand is that I hold back quite a bit. I may show my science side to one person, my theology side to another, and so on. This probably contributed to my divorce. Yes, I had lost my job, and yes I was in considerable pain, which lead to surgery. Out of this though, I retreated further within myself. I didn’t open up to my help meet, my wife. It got to the point where we barely talked anymore. Another thing I’ve come to realize is that I hold back from God. It’s like I have a side where I feel safe in revealing and communicating to God with, but the rest if off limits. God being who He is, respects this about me, and has patiently been waiting for me. I’m not sure how to open up. At this point, I’m just aware that I need to. I know it’d take my relationship with God to the next level, but I don’t know how…yet, to open up. There’s a lot that goes on in my head. Since I almost never reveal what is going on in my head, people have no idea. Of course God knows. He made me. I just don’t know how to open up yet.

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Problems with the Hebrew Roots Movement

July 12th, 2014, a few months before I came to Torah, I did a “Rant about the Church” in which I gave what I perceived as problems. Now that I’ve been following Torah for a bit, and came in, perhaps, via Hebrew Roots, it’s only appropriate that I do likewise.

Sometime ago I was talking with a friend about how people come to Torah. I had already recognized that the method in which people were coming in was a huge problem. See, by attacking what people, Christians, believe we set ourselves up as the attackers, the adversary and we profane His great name. Furthermore, a lot of the attacks are lashon hara at best. Where people will spread memes about what they believe, without checking it’s accuracy. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s deal with one issue at a time.

A lot of Hebrew Rooters come in thinking that they’ve been lied to all this time. That the church, as a whole, is corrupt and has lied to them. This sets the stage for a few things. One, it obviously sets the stage for dissention, but it also sets the stage for anger, betrayal, conspiracy theories, and of course…pride. In a lot of the attacks on Christians and Christianity is the air of pride. How that now, since they’ve come into this truth, then those who don’t accept it are wrong. This is pride. Now yes, there are problems with the church, with Christianity. One glaring one is they think that Torah is done away with. But one thing that Christianity and the church get right is love. So while Torah observant folks hound on Christianity about how they’re not following Torah, what they fail to see is that by attacking, they take on the role of the adversary (hasatan), and miss out of following the most basic principle of Torah, and that is love. If you don’t have love, then you’ve missed the boat. So rather that setting yourself up as being better than Christians, because you observe sabbath and the feasts and the dietary laws and such, and instead of attacking Christians because they mistakenly think that that stuff has been done away with, what we need to do is live it in such a way where they become jealous and start asking questions. See, when love is the motivator, that works so much better.

Another point that is glaring about Hebrew Rooters is the claims that are made. All these memes, and claims about what’s pagan and such, is ridiculous. This is one way where we can profane His name. How? Because when people take what you claim to task and research it, and then find out that you’re wrong, then now the entire Torah claim becomes suspect, and Christians rightly doubt it, because instead of presenting a well researched, factual presentation on what Torah is and why it’s important to follow it, you present some sensational claim that is easily debunked. When you present some sensational claim, and they research it and find that your claim doesn’t hold up, then they immediately associate Torah with that, since that’s the goal. So now Torah is discredited because of lack of research and presenting sensational, false, claims. I actually experienced this first hand. See, I was all new to Torah, and had watched 119 Ministries teaching “Sunburned” (which has now been taken down), I presented this information to my family. My brother took it to task and researched it and very easily debunked it. To this day, I still can’t use 119 Ministries stuff because they did a bad presentation, and I, instead of taking the time to vet it out myself, I just eagerly passed on the information. While I can excusify myself and say that I was over whelmed, which I was, or how that I couldn’t devote the necessary time to research it because of my neck and back, which was also true, it doesn’t excuse the fact that I regurgitated the info instead of verifying it. Ultimately, the buck stops with me. I presented it to my family. I was responsible for knowing the material, and I didn’t. I still see this going on, every holiday season, with my online friends. Inevitably someone shares some memes about how something is pagan, and they haven’t done the research. When we spread around sensational claims, such as what’s pagan, then we commit lashon hara, that is “evil tongue” by essentially gossiping. So we break Torah in order to bring people to Torah. That right there is the definition of hypocrisy, and profanes His name because we dishonor God and His reputation, by doing this. Essentially, we make His Torah low, of no repute, when we do this.

Because of the way it’s presented, that is that the church “lied” to us, then that creates dissension and conspiracy theories. We don’t need to put others down, in order for us, or Torah, to look good. It reminds me of when I used to be a Kirby salesman. It didn’t last long because I’m not a salesman, but one thing they said was that the vacuum should sell itself. We shouldn’t need to make claims as being “lied to”, in order to present our material. When we do, we take on the adversaries role, being the accuser. It’s also an act of pride. It becomes a matter of I’m better than so and so. Or ‘God revealed this to me’, in which case we’re making ourselves special, because otherwise God would have revealed that to everyone else too. As to the church lying to us…I don’t think the misinformation was intentional. Regardless, it’s not my place to judge. That’s God’s job. As a result of this, where we were “lied to”, it causes conspiracy theories such as the calendar, flat earth, and many other pointless arguments or debates. The Apostle Paul tells us to avoid controversies and foolish debates (Titus 3:9; 2 Tim 2:16, 22-23).

If we want people to come to Torah the right way, then we need to take the time and do like our master, Yeshua, and make disciples. We don’t need sensationalism. We don’t need to violate Torah in order to lead people to Torah. We can lead people to Torah, as an expression of greater obedience and love and a deeper commitment to the covenant that we’ve been grafted into. All this other stuff, the problems we see in the Hebrew Roots Movement, we are seeing the fruit of it. There were some bad seeds sown. Now we are seeing the results of those bad seeds. But it’s not to late to change, and do it right. Let’s honor God by doing Torah right and making it about loving Him, instead of how great or special we are. Cause ya know something? We aren’t special. We are dust, and we’ll return to dust. Kinda silly for dust to think it’s better than other dust. Yet that’s what we do.

Emotions-Stress-Anxiety

Emotions, it’s not something I am good at communicating. Sure, I have them. I can even relate to other people with emotions. My problem is in how I respond or interpret emotions. As a kid I learned emotions were bad, so I learned it wasn’t safe to have them. Therefore I stuffed them. This general confusion and stuffing may have been a contributing factor in my Impulsivity Disorder with Explosive features, now called; Intermittent Explosivity Disorder. It’s quite likely the my blowups were likely my pressure release. Like a pressure cooker. In my late teens and early twenties, my blowups came to ahead, so that I was no longer safe to live with. I became a ward of the state. My blowups continued, as normal, until one day I realized I didn’t have to act this way. I didn’t have to let other peoples opinions and such, have such influence over me. From that day on, I was changed. I no longer had these blowups.

While I did have an epiphany that changed my life, it didn’t quite change the core. The core being emotions. I still didn’t know how to express them properly. Instead, what I learned was that my emotions were so scary, that I could not let them out. So while as a kid I did stuff them to some extent, it was only the precursor to what my adult self would do. Even as a kid I rarely smiled, laughed, or showed emotions. There are very few pictures of me with a smile. When I listen to comedy, I rarely laugh. I might smirk if I think it’s funny. Instead, I learned to stuff my emotions even more. My emotions weren’t safe, so I can’t have them. They get me into trouble.

When I was at work a few years ago, I started sweating blood. When my supervisor took me to the doctor, I didn’t understand why the doc kept talking about the “Widow Maker”. I was thinking, what’s this got to do with me sweating blood? It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I made the connection. That I was under so much stress that my blood pressure was through the roof, to the point where I was sweating blood. While my marriage eventually failed, I still didn’t express my feelings. Even as I write this article, I still don’t have an idea of how to express my emotions. I’ve just come to realize that I need to express my emotions. I’ve come to realize that it’s my suppressing of my emotions that is causing my high blood pressure, and causes me to shake violently. I can literally feel my blood pressure and pulse go up. I’ve come to recognize that this shaking has to do with trying to suppress, contain, my emotions, and my body is literally telling me that it can’t do it anymore. Now, I have to learn how to express these emotions, things I’ve been stuffing all my life, things I’ve always learned were bad. This, in and of itself, is stressing me out. I have no idea how to express my feelings, and my past shows that it’s dangerous to express my feelings. Yet I have to learn to express these very feelings, as my body can’t take it anymore.

Crying for Messiah

In the last year or so, I have really noticed a strong division between the right and the left. The left being Liberal/Democrats, and the right being Republican/Conservative. I have often thoght to myself that this is the most volatile, hostile, and hateful I have ever witnessed America be. It makes me think, and wonder if prior to the Civil War it was like this. Or more recently, with the Civil Rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It seems like things are heating up, coming to a boil, type of thing. As I said, this is something I’ve been observing for over a year now, so I’ve had time to think about this.

Most of you know, to some extent, that I study the Bible from the perspective of the Ancient Near East. I enjoy studying the linguistics and the archaeology and anthropology of the Ancient Near East. So how does this relate? Great question! The Bible of full of Messianic text. According to the Bible, the Messiah would be a ruler who would reign in righteousness and justice. Moses is a great example of a messiah, as he lead the people of Israel, in obedience to God, in righteousness and justice. King David is another messianic archetype, as he, for the most part, ruled in righteousness and justice. But just like in Biblical times, where people started to determine, for themselves, what that looked like instead of following God’s instructions, so we today are doing the same thing.

We have one group who thinks righteousness and justice is one thing, and another group who thinks it’s another. As a result this is creating conflict, and a build up of socio and political wars. So far, it hasn’t been to bad…yet. But what neither side sees, for the most part, is that their definition, their perspective, of righteousness and justice, just like in Biblical times, is their own definition and not that of the Bible. This is why one group of people think a certain person would be a good leader, while others are outraged by the same person being a leader. It all has to do with how each side defines righteousness and justice, and how this leader measures up to that definition. Both sides point to the other about the others hypocrisy, and both sides are right. They are being hypocritical.

There’s a few things we need to remember and take away from this. 1) We need to remember that there is no person who is perfect and a result we will always have to compromise. 2) We need to remember that societies perception of righteousness and justice is dynamic and changes based on perception. For example, the homosexual life style, back in the 90’s, was considered by psychology as a “deviant life style”, where as today it’s not only accepted as the norm, but being promoted on TV, movies, and even in some schools. In the 80’s, a homosexual person, if discovered, face severe persecution. I can remember a case where some people beat a homosexual up. Some used baseball bats in this beat down. Was that justice? Most today would agree that that was an egregious wrong. I can remember another case where a boy contracted HIV due to a blood transfusion. As a result, lots of people thought he was gay, when he wasn’t. 3) As long as we remain rigid and unbending, then we will continue in this conflict, and will likely escalate. We need to remember that part of righteousness and justice, as the Bible prophesies about the Messiah, is love and mercy. You cannot dispense justice, or right ruling, without love and mercy. As long as you are hard and unbending, then you can’t dispense true righteousness and justice. There are some standards that are unbending. For example, murder is wrong, stealing is wrong, these are universally accepted as wrong. Until Messiah comes back, we interpret scripture based on our knowledge and our world view. So if we think that God is loving and merciful (which He is, but there is more than that to Him), then we will make interpretations and decisions based on that understanding. If we think God is a legalist and just waiting, up there, with a baseball bat for us to make a mistake so he can clobber us, then we will make interpretations and decisions based on that view. If we think there is no God, then again, we make decisions based on that view. In every case, it is our understanding, our perception of scripture, that is the problem. None of us have a perfect understanding.

So as I’ve been observing this, and meditating on this for over a year, the protests, the various articles and social media reactions, I’ve realized that while people are crying out for a leader who is righteous and just (that is one thing we can all agree on), it’s our varying perception of what that means is the conflict, and what people are really crying out for is for the Messiah…Even if they don’t realize it yet. He’s the only one that can administer true righteousness and justice. He will teach us the scriptures. Women’s lib likes to stand up for women’s rights and freedoms. That’s a good thing…in a way. It comes from the way women were treated in the past. Women were viewed as property, and therefore not having rights. Consequently this lead to a lot of abuse. They had every right to fight for their freedoms. It didn’t help that a lot of the people who were abusers called themselves “Christians”. As a result, women’s libbers today view Christians as abusers and oppressors. As times have changed, over the years, women’s lib has grown beyond just that, and they now include standing up for Muslims. Which upon examination, doesn’t make sense since the Muslim religion says that women don’t have rights, that women are property, and abuse is seen as discipline. This should speak to just how badly they feel they’ve been wronged by “Christians”, that they feel they need to run into another oppressive system, instead turning to Christians, who, by and large, have also changed their views on women and the treatment of women. That’s a lot of hurt, and unfortunately, a lot of it is justified. None of us are flawless. All of us have made mistakes. God is the only one who is absolute, and defines absolutes. We just do our best to interpret what we perceive. So let’s stop the fighting, at least fighting one another. Let’s all do what we need to, and that’s fall on our knees and cry out for Messiah to return, but not before his time. He isn’t willing that any should perish, but that all would turn around and change their minds and come to him. Let’s be eagerly patient.

Pride and Arrogance

I thought I got rid of my pride twenty some-odd years ago. Let me back up a bit. As a teenager, and even into my twenties, I struggled with my temper. In my mind, I killed people. I longed to kill people. Because I never followed through, I thought I was good. One day, James 2:10 hit me like a Mack truck; If we break one law, we’re guilty of breaking them all. When one connects this with what Jesus said; if you call your brother ‘fool’ you’re in danger of hell fire, then I was just as guilty as a murderer. I instantly saw that I wasn’t better than anyone else. In fact, in many way, I was worse. When I saw this, it required a choice on my part. I could continue in my anger, and maybe some day succumb to it, or I could change. Obviously, I chose to change. This was a massive change on my end. Previously I had believed that the anger was a part of who I was, and that I couldn’t change. I had believed that my anger was a part of who I was, and that it was impossible for me to change. Seeing this change come to pass, and it was virtually instantaneous, would be like watching a modern day miracle. Like watching someone grow an arm or leg or something, in a matter of seconds. That is what essentially happened to me. So naturally I thought that was it.

A couple years later I married my wife, who has multiple personality disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. I was reading an article on MSN once, about the second or third year into our marriage, about a guy who divorced his wife, with multiple personality disorder, after twenty years. I was beside myself. I thought it was incredulous at this. I thought; how could he do this after twenty years? I thought he was a wimp, and was giving up. Are you noticing something here?

Here I am, just after celebrating twenty years of marriage, and my wife left for the fourth time. She has this cycle where she’ll get manic, then psychosis hits, then she comes down. The first time it happened, I had people advising me to divorce her. I thought about it for a couple of days and chose not to. I figured that if she wants to divorce, she can file it. After a few days she came back home. I forgave her and welcomed her home. The same is true for the other times, except for the third time when I told her that I can’t keep enduring this. That it’s too hard on me. It was sending my blood pressure through the roof. So she promised me it’d never happen again, and we were fine…until it happened for the last time.

I went and filed for divorce. It took me a few months to file for divorce. My folks were concerned I’d change my mind, like I did the previous time. But I had taken steps to ensure that wouldn’t happen. From the time we separated, July of 2017, until now, I’ve been very introspective. Reflecting on choices and things I’d done over the last twenty years. One thing I noticed, time and again, was my pride and arrogance. I wasn’t intending to be either proud or arrogant, but the fact remained that I was. I had judged the man who divorced his multiple personality wife, as a wimp. I thought I was better. Yet here I was, at the same point, twenty years, doing the same thing.

Once I saw this, I began to see other areas where I was proud and arrogant. For example, I was giving marriage counseling when I hadn’t even been married a year. Or how when someone doesn’t know what I know, I can be very impatient and condescending, and judging. Over the last several months I’ve begun to see more and more areas where I struggle with pride. It’s been very uncomfortable, and painful and humbling. I’ve seen how patient and forgiving God is. I am awed and blown away and humbled by His great mercies and forgiveness. I don’t deserve it. Fortunately, it’s not based on whether one deserves it or not.

Tattoos and the Ancient Near East

Tattoos, within our society they’ve become increasingly popular. You can get a tattoo of just about anything, placed just about anywhere. Back in the WWII era, tattoos weren’t so common. Sure, some soldiers had some tattoos, those soldiers were usually considered the really bad dudes, the tough guys. Moving forward, tattoos were prevalent in biker gangs and prison inmates. Tattoos became a symbol of how tough you were. But tattoos were also used to display the person you loved. It was supposed to symbolize the permanency of that relationship. As time wore on tattoos became ever increasingly popular, till today where you can get a tattoo about anything, for any reason. I’ve heard of some who have used tattoos to let emergency personnel know about their disabilities[1, 2, 3].

One thing that has remained constant is peoples belief that the Bible, that God banned tattoos. Lev 19:28 sure seems to support that notion, but are we reading it right? Or is there something more? Are we projecting our culture, our understanding on to the verse, and maybe misunderstanding it? Is there something more? One thing is for sure, it’s a very predominant belief.

I watched a PBS show called “Iceman Reborn[4]. It’s about a person that was buried in the mountains for the last five thousand years. Because he’s so old he has to be kept in a special way or he’ll disintegrate. In order to study him better, they needed to make a replica of him. One of the things they noticed about this guy is that he has sixty-one tattoos, but these tattoos aren’t like the ones we’re used to seeing. What they find out is that the tattoos were a way to administer medication. The Smithsonian also has an article on the iceman’s tattoo’s[5]. This got me wondering about Lev 19:28, about the apparent ban of tattoos, according to scripture.

One thing I have been learning over the past couple of years, since I came to Torah, is ‘context, context, context’. So this made me look at the verses surrounding Lev 19:28 and I found that the context starts at verse 26, where it connects life and death with divination and soothsaying. There is much more going on here than just banning writing on flesh with in. Lev 19:28 cross references to Lev 21:5; Deut 14:1; 1 Kings 18:28; Jer 16:6. The reference to 1 Kings reminded me of a video I saw a while ago. In this video was a group of Muslim men with machetes and they were frantically cutting themselves in some sort of ritualistic frenzy. Also keep in mind, that the 1 Kings scripture is the face-off with Elijah and the four hundred prophets of Ba’al. If you’re not familiar with it, I encourage you to read it.

This got me curious about the cultural history, the anthropology, that is behind this, so I looked up ‘tattoos ancient near east’ and ‘Canaanite funeral rituals’ and a couple other variations of the search strings[6, 7]. The first things I noticed in my search ‘tattoos ancient near east’ was ‘Slavery in the Ancient Near East’ and ‘Slave and Master in Ancient Near Eastern Law’ page 1667 of the document which says “…slave-marks: in Old Babylonian the abbuttum, which was a mark or tattoo applied to a slave’s shaven head…”[8, 9]. Naturally this lead me to check out ‘abbuttum’, which then lead me to check out ‘Laws of Eshnunna[10]. ‘Abbuttum’ can be defined either as a hairdo peculiar to slaves, or a tattoo or mark on the body of a slave[11 page 163]. I feel like I have reasonably established that it was a custom to tattoo, or mark slaves in the Ancient Near East.

When it came to trying to understand the verses prior (starting at verse twenty-six) and going to verse twenty-nine, and the corresponding references to death, and especially in verse twenty-nine where it talks about prostitution, I was confused. At first I thought the references to death were about mourning, but as I pondered this, and researched it, it became clear it wasn’t about mourning. What could it be then? Are they just disjointed verses? As I continued my research, and even tried different queries, it eventually became clear to me. In a nineteen page article ‘The Biblical Prohibition Against Tattoos’ written in 2013, by John Huehnergard and Harold Liebowitz[11], after the Introduction, their first point is ‘Mourning Practices in the Ancient Near East’ in which they discuss the mourning practices listed in the bible, mourning rituals like sackcloth and ashes, bowed heads to the ground, rending garments, screaming and wailing, were among common mourning practices. The article goes on to discuss about cutting, slashing, and ‘gashing’ as a mourning practice, and cites a Ugaritic source called ‘Lament of Baal’[12, 13, 14], with in the ‘Ugaritic Baal Myth’, also known as ‘Ugaritic Baal Cycle’. So while it discussed mourning rituals, and cutting, it really didn’t address the passage of scripture we are concerned with. I read a commentary by Albert Barnes, pertaining to verse twenty-seven, about beards and hair cutting that said: “Round the corners of your heads – This may allude to such a custom as that of the Arabs described by Herodotus. They used to show honor to their deity Orotal by cutting the hair away from the temples in a circular form. Compare the margin reference.” I spent a lot of time trying to find this deity, Orotal, mentioned in this commentary. Other than this commentary, and another, that I forget off hand, there wasn’t any other reference or mention of this. I asked around too, but no one else heard of, or knew about this ‘Orotal’ deity. If I had been a dog, I’d have been chasing my tail. At least, that’s what it felt like trying to find out about this ‘Orotal’ deity and mourning rituals and tattoos.

I also checked with rabbinical commentary and literature, thank you Sefaria, for more information on tattoos, and the corresponding passages. What was interesting was that they added an element of idolatry to the subject. Mishnah Makkot 3:6 says that if you write without perforating, or perforate without writing, that he is not liable for lashes. Makkot 21a says that if you write HaShem’s name, you are not liable. There are seven references to tattoos, at Sefaria, one even relating to gentiles and cheese. It’s interesting to say the least, but really didn’t help the matter.

After mulling this over for a few days, and discussing the matter with some friends who assisted me in my research, it just dawned on me that it wasn’t about mourning after all. No! Verses twenty-six through twenty-nine all fit together. Once I began to think about the verses as relating to each other, and all that I had learned, above, that it all started to click. While it wasn’t about mourning rituals, it did involve temples and death and prostitution, and all that the verses discuss from verse twenty-six to verse twenty-nine. In fact, verse twenty-six is the key to the whole thing. In fact, one of the cross references is 1 Kings 18:28, which is where Elijah is confronting the prophets of Baal, and in verse twenty-eight, they are cutting themselves, gashing themselves, just as God instructed not to do in Lev 19:26-29. We also have the witch of Endor in 1 Sam 28:3-25. She was committing necromancy, or communicating with the dead, also called divination, which Lev 19:26 tells us not to do. I hope, at this point, it’s beginning to dawn on you what they all have in common, how they all tie into each other. Now, let’s revisit verse twenty-eight. It says that we are not to make cuts on ourselves for the dead or a tattoo. Notice how it references the dead, just as in verse twenty-six. Verse twenty-six is about death and divination, interpreting omens, soothsaying. The Hebrew word for soothsaying is H6049 anan and can mean bring, practice soothsaying, and so on. The Hebrew word nachash H5172 can mean divination, to learn secret things, observe signs and omens. Very similar to anan. So the tattoos, in context, has to do with necromancy, temple cult of the dead worship, divination, sorcery, and so on. Even the prostitution mentioned in verse twenty-nine, is all part of that. Matthew Vander Els, from Founded in Truth ministries has an excellent series on the Afterlife, that goes into the cult of the dead, and other things. I highly recommend it.

So does that mean that tattoos would have been accepted, or maybe if I put it in a better vernacular, it might be easier, would body art have been accepted in the Ancient Near East? No, I don’t think so. First, they might think you’re a slave, aside from that it would carry with it a lot of negative connentations that one would not want. Now, there is the tattoos, that were done for the application of medicine, but those were in specific places, for specific purposes. I don’t see much of an issue in that case. The tattoos, body art, that we do today, is very different from what Lev 19:28 is saying. I don’t think anyone is going to the local tattoo parlor to divine, or communicate with the dead, and commit prostitution. In today’s culture, tattoos are an art form, where the body is the canvas. Now, understand, I am not condoning it. I’m not saying, let’s all rush out and get tattoos. All I’m saying is that in context, that ‘tattoos’ mentioned in Lev 19:26-29 does not fit what we call tattoos today. Beyond that, I’d say it’s between you and God.

Sources:

1 CORRELATES OF TATTOOS AND REFERENCE GROUPS’ http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.569.8781&rep=rep1&type=pdf

2 Tattoos and body piercings in the United States: A national data set http://bxscience.enschool.org/ourpages/auto/2010/5/13/44313724/TATTOOS.pdf

3 An Ironic Fad: The Commodification and Consumption of Tattoos https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mary_Kosut/publication/227982899_An_Ironic_Fad_The_Commodification_and_Consumption_of_Tattoos/links/0912f50bbe8cd68609000000.pdf

4 Iceman Reborn PBS Nova http://www.pbs.org/video/2365669542/

5 Smithsonian Can tattoos be medicinal? http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/can-tattoos-be-medicinal-156450609/

6 Google Scholar search tatto ancient near east https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=tattoo+ancient+near+east&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=1%2C3

7 Google Scholar search Canaanite funeral rituals https://scholar.google.com/scholar?start=0&q=Canaanite+funeral+rituals&hl=en&as_sdt=1,3

8 Slavery in the Ancient Near East http://www.jstor.org/stable/3209170?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

9 Slave and Master in Ancient Near Eastern Law http://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3004&context=cklawreview

10 Laws of Eshnunna http://www.g2rp.com/pdfs/LawCollectionsFromMesopotemiaAndAsiaMinor.pdf

11 The Biblical Prohibition Against Tattooing* I. Mourning Practices in the Ancient Near East page 62-69 http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/30502908/Huehnergard-Liebowitz.2013.Prohibition_against_Tattooing.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1494440723&Signature=5QjdFsHoLWqTw0s1HyzqaO4CxwQ%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3D2013_The_Biblical_Prohibition_against_Ta.pdf

12 The Baal Cycle of Myths KTU 1.1-1.6 https://www.logos.com/products/7822/seeinside?iframe=True&height=600&width=600

13 KTU 1.6 Column I Lines 32 – 55 https://www.academia.edu/10195401/KTU_1.6_Column_I_Lines_32_-_55

14 BAAL AND YAHWEH IN THE OLD TESTAMENT: A FRESH EXAMINATION OF THE BIBLICAL AND EXTRA-BIBLICAL DATA http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk1/tape10/PQDD_0020/NQ46670.pdf

15 Sefaria search tattoo https://www.sefaria.org/search?q=tattoo

16 DIVERSIONS OF PLEASURE: SINGING SLAVE GIRLS AND THE POLITICS OF MUSIC IN THE EARLY ISLAMIC COURTS (661-1000CE): THEIR INFLUENCE, HISTORY AND CULTURAL ROLES AS SEEN THROUGH THE KITĀB ALMUWASHSHA (BOOK OF BROCADE) OF IBN AL-WASHSHA, THE RISALA ALQIYĀN (EPISTLE ON THE SINGING GIRLS) OF AL-JAHIZ, AND THE DHAMM ALMALĀHĪ (CENSURE OF INSTRUMENTS OF DIVERSION) OF IBN ABI’L DUNYA: https://library.umaine.edu/theses/pdf/restricted/NielsonLE2010.pdf

Seeing What We Want To See

Sorry it’s been a while, since my last entry. I recently had my life turned upside down, and it’s taken a while for me to adjust. I’m still adjusting, getting used to it. Initially I was going to title this “Repentance”, but I’ve already written at least one article on repentance. Repentance is such a big topic, that I’ll have to do a series on it, to begin to come close to doing justice to the topic. I’ve spent months meditating on this subject, going back to before my life was turned upside down. While I was intending on focusing on a particular group of people, I realized it applied to everyone in general, and to me personally.

I got the idea to write about this back around May of 2017. I was thinking about sin and it’s definition, and subsequently repentance and what it means. 1 John 2:2-6; 1 John 3:4-10; 1 John 5:2-3; 2 John 1:6; Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; 1 John 2:24; Rom 7:7-13. I could go on listing scriptures, chaining throughout the entire Bible, but hopefully these few have made their point. Sin is breaking the law, Torah. Christians often say that we are freed from the law, that they are under grace. So first off, let’s put this concept to the test. If the law, Torah, is done away with, then we no longer have a definition for sin and there is no judgement. Think of it like a speeding citation. An officer of the law pulls you over for speeding. You have broken the law, and he has every right to cite you for this violation of the law. If he instead decides to extend you grace, and give you a warning, does that then mean that you are no longer under the law, but grace? Do you see how ridiculous that logic is? Christianity does teach that repentance means to turn from, to do a one eighty. Some might even go so far as to turn from sin and to follow God. The problem is when you remove the law, Torah, from the concept, then “following God” becomes open to interpretation, and subject to what one thinks that means.

On the Torah observant side of things, it’s often said that repentance is t’shuvah. T’shuvah comes from the root shoob, meaning to turn, and can be translated as repentance, but even this is incomplete. The Yale Anchor Bible Dictionary says the following; “Repentance 1. OT Background. In the LXX both metanoia/metanoeō and metamelomai translate the Heb nāḥam a total of 35 times, again emphasizing the elements of a change of thinking and regret. It has been commonly held that the NT concept of ―repentance‖ follows the meaning of the frequent Heb verb šûb (TDNT 8:989; NIDNTT 1: 357). However, such a view cannot be sustained from LXX usage because šûb, which is used over 1,050 times, is always translated by epistrophō (―to turn, be converted‖) and its kindred terminology (TDNT 8:726–29; NIDNTT 1: 354). Thus, any possible shift in meaning took place during the Intertestamental Period, perhaps under Hellenistic influence (TDNT 4:989), though such a conclusion lacks fully persuasive proof (Wilkin 1985).” You can really get a feel for epistropho by looking in the LXX, Septuagint. Metamelomai has three equivalent Hebrew words; asham, naham and nacham. These three Hebrew words give a better concept of the Greek metamelomia, which is often translated as repentance. It’s to, not just be guilty, but to also be “sorry”, to feel regret and remorse, that leads to a turning away, a conversion. In this case, a conversion to enter into covenant with God, which would mean following His rules, law, Torah. 

So while Christianity gets it simply as to turn away from sin, they may even include being remorseful and regret with the turning away, because they have removed Torah as the definition for sin, then the Christian concept of repentance is incomplete. It’s only when we get that it was the violation of His Torah that caused Jesus, Yeshua, to come and die for us, so that we could be restored. Why would restoration be so important? Because we were always meant to live by the Torah. The Torah was just supposed to be the minimum requirements. Jesus, Yeshua, called us to live better, to restore us to before the fall, when we were walking in covenant with God.

One thing that God has been showing me, in recent months, is how prideful and arrogant I am. It has been a very humbling and painful time. While I could justify it, to do so would be to negate the work that God is doing. The time to go into details is not now. For now, just be content with what I’m sharing.

There are eight hundred and seventy eight texts, in Sefaria, that include not just the TaNaKh, but also rabbinical texts and commentaries. There is just so much to this subject. I can only hope that I have wet your appetite for more on this subject. We do need to be guilty, remorseful, sorrowful, and to be converted, so that we come into covenant with God and His Torah. Most of you reading this would already consider yourself to be in covenant with God, to which I say “great”. When we look at it biblically, it’s just like a marriage. So if we aren’t abiding by His rules, Torah, then we are not being faithful. In fact, God considers adultery and idolatry to be the same thing. So clearly, abiding in Him, following His Torah, is a big deal to Him and the minimum requirements for what He considers being faithful to Him.

I called this entry, “Seeing what we want to see” because in the toldot Torah portion, Rabbi Chiam Richmond of the Temple Institute was speaking about Esau and Jacob and Isaac. He showed how that in Gen 27 when it describes Esau as a hunter, it’s really a bad translation, and perhaps it’s better translated as “trapper“. We really get a concept of what it’s talking about when we think about verbally trapping someone. It’s this sense that this portion is talking about. Esau knew what to say and how to present himself, so that he appeared as a good boy. Isaac, as the text says, loved Esau. Isaac, saw what he wanted to see. He saw Esau as a good boy, even though Esau only cared for himself and not his birthright or blessing…Until Jacob got it. Then he cared. He married the local Canaanite women, which is another example of how he didn’t care for what his father and family thought, or the legacy. Yet Isaac, it says, loved Esau. We too, are like this. We see what we want to see. One of the biggest problems with biblical interpretation, today, is that we read our culture, our world view, into the text. Instead of looking at it as, it wasn’t written to us, but for us. Moses, when he was writing this, was addressing the six hundred thousand that came with him out of Egypt. He wasn’t addressing us, but it is certainly for us. As a result, we wont understand what the text is saying until we understand what was being said to those who came out of Egypt. We need to take off our glasses, where we see what we want to see, and see the truth. Once we see the truth, then we can repent.