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  1. I have been working on my scripture study and have started to look at ways to relate the teachings in the New Testament to teachings throughout the entire scriptures as they lead to and help with the understanding of Charity. I will start by posting this weeks studying I have done. Please feel free to comment and help me on my journey. Understanding charity to be the pure love of Christ, I let any expressions of that love and the Father's love become topics of my study to further wrap my mind around the depth and scope of charity. Wednesday 4/27/16 – Reading John 3:16 it mentions that “…God so loved the world…”. When looking into the love of God from the footnotes I discovered John 15:9 “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” Jesus continues to John 15:17 talking about our commandments to love one another and spread the Gospel. I looked to Moroni 7:47 where we read “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; …” The footnote on charity led first to Romans 13:10 “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” This is referring to the commandments to not commit adultery, not kill, not steal, not bear false witness, and not covet; to love they neighbour as thyself. (Romans 13:9) Thursday 4/28/16 – In John 3:17 we read “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” This led to D&C 132:59 which is hard to follow, but when substituting the pronouns and also the general “man” with Brandon, I was able to really grasp how the Lord will bless us if we are righteously following His laws even if it breaks the law of the land. This specific verse was talking about polygamy in full context, but by D&C 132:66, after the law of polygamy is laid out, the Lord makes clear that “[He] will reveal more unto [us] hereafter…”. I surmise that this “more to be revealed” was the eventual ending of the practice of polygamy after it had been restored, since all things had to be restored in this dispensation, and the need to use it for survival was over. The law did have purpose in our survival because there was much hardship for the Church to be established and I believe that was another expression of God’s love to give us a law throughout the ages that would ensure survival, but also that it be honored. In those last verses of D&C 132 the law pertaining to the women is outlined, but in D&C 132:38-45 we see how the law works for the men as well. The story of David is mentioned, who was given many wives. David, however, married women not within the bounds the Lord had set. We can find this story in 2 Samuel Chapters 11 & 12 in which we see how this led to murder as well. In 1 Kings Chapter 11 we see how Solomon didn’t follow the rules of the law as well and this led to his apostasy. We may have laws we don’t understand, but as we follow them and research them we can see how the Lord organizes them in a way that is out of love. We can still see evidence of that love and know that we are given things not to condemn us, but to give us true freedom from the adversary. We may not even have the Gospel if polygamy wasn’t restored because of the survival of the early Mormon pioneers. We could not have experienced full restoration if it was not put in place at some time in this dispensation. I feel the only appropriate time was chosen by our omnipotent Father and that it was ended when it was no longer needed. Friday 4/29/16 – In John 3:19-21 we read “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. / For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. / But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” When I looked up light, even the light of Christ I found John 9:5 “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Jesus makes it clear that He is the light in which we can substitute His name anytime we read about the light. And in John 12:35 we read “Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.” We need to hold onto the light we have been given. Having the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, means that we do have His light with us as we follow His Gospel. We know that Jesus is the light and that according to Romans 13:10 “…love is the fulfilling of the law.” Now when we look at Matthew 22:36-40 we can see a very important revelation. Jesus is asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? / Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. / This is the first and great commandment. / And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. / On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Through the light, even Jesus Christ, we learn that love is the great commandment. First, to love God and, second, to love everyone else. Love is the message of light, through light is love. So as we work to bring charity into the world which is the pure love of Christ, who is light, we are bringing love and the light to the world. As we remember this we can know why Jesus also commanded at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:14-16 “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. / Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. / Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Our light is our Lord and Savior, even Jesus Christ, as we spread charity we let Him shine to the world. Saturday 4/30/16 – As we read John 4:10 after a Samarian woman asks why a Jew would even want to talk to her, a Samarian, “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” I then looked into the gift of God, and as I found something to replace that with I came to Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Yet again we see this expression of God’s love for us as it comes through Jesus Christ. In fact, as we look back to John 3:16, and I’ll quote at full length this time, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” We see that here is another testament of Jesus Christ being a gift from God, given to us that we may experience everlasting life. Recalling the reference to “living water” in John 4:10, I wanted to see how this relates to everlasting life. I found in Nephi 11:25 as Nephi goes to the Lord to understand his father, Lehi’s, dream “And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.” Then in Revelation 2:7 we read “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” The tree of life is a representation of God’s love and is in the midst of His paradise. It is through His love that He has sent His son as a gift to bring us everlasting life. The living water that Jesus offers is the way to eternal life. In His continued conversation with the Samarian “The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. / Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.” (John 4:25-26) So another way to see John 4:10, with everything that we have taken in today and earlier this week, is to be able to read it as “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest [eternal life through Jesus Christ], and [I that speak unto thee am he]; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee [the way to everlasting life through the love of God, which is the love of Jesus Christ, which is Charity].”
  2. I will post replies that are each daily notes as I have studied parts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and Looked to tie things back to charity. Please fill free to give me any input. I look forward to the insight and to continue sharing my notes.
  3. I've seen several of the books in the "Made Harder" series such as can been seen Here: and Here: And was wondering if anyone has read or used them. I was thinking about possibly getting one or some of them for scripture study, but was unsure if it would be worth it or not. I would like to hear about your thoughts, or reviews of them.
  4. As this year is the New Testament in Gospel Doctrine class I thought I would share a recent blogpost of mine. Calba Savua's Orchard: Did Saadia Gaon & Maimonides Believe in Eternal Marriage? I'm sure many are familiar with the following quote from Bruce R. McConkie's Doctrinal Commentary of the New Testmant. There are some ancient Jewish sources indicating a belief in eternal marriage, unfortunately, they weren't used by Elder McConkie.All the sources in Dummelow are taken out of context and distorted.
  5. SUzie said: The white shirt thread was closed, but I wanted to respond to this. Let me begin by stating that I am not attempting to exhonorate the Pharisees. I do however believe in setting the historical record straight. Especially considering that we are studying the New Testament this year. How popular wisdom sees Pharisees has just as much to do with century upon century of antinomism as it does with the facts. IE according to this conception Pharisees are a prime example of meaningless, hypocritical legalism. Lets at least make an effort to see things from their POV. Is it likely that their primary concern was with being self righteous? People hardly think that way about themselves. There has to be something in their faith or way of life which is appealing and meaningful to them. The Law of Moses separated the holy from the profane, the pure from the impure. Like any legal codex, the Law of Moses had to be interpreted as it was applied to daily life. No law by itself covers every situation, let alone fully. What the Pharisees set out to do was ensure that the meaning of the law was properly observed in daily life. Failure to comply with the Law of Moses rendered a man unclean. Unless he became clean he was cut off from the covenant community. So, for example, failure to render a proper tithe had serious implications. Hence the issue of tithing the tiny cumin and anise seeds. This was not an issue of wearing a tie to sacrament meeting or not. You said that the Pharisees pointed at those not dressed properly. I must have missed the reference. Would you care to provide it? I'd love to discuss the topic more fully, but for tonight I'll just add that the Pharisees were not a homogenous group. Jesus' teachings often fit with the teachings favoured by the school of Hillel, and that Jesus also had positive things to say about Pharisees.
  6. Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. -Matthew 5:33-37 When I served a mission in Russia, I lived for a few months in the city of Novorossiysk, along the shores of the Black Sea. Though the city itself was founded in 1840, the human history of the region stretches back far into antiquity. Not far from Novorossiysk is the resort town of Anapa, built on the ruins of Gorgippia. This Greek city belonged to the kingdom of the Bosphorus which controlled most of the northern side of the Black Sea. Gorgippia, a wealthy city indeed, covered over 40 hecatres. Its wealth came mainly from the grain trade, but it also supplied Greece and Asia Minor with fish, fur and slaves. Trade opportunities are what appear to have attracted the Jews to the Bosphoran Kingdom, where, by Roman times, they had a substantial presence and influence in all spheres of life. Gorgippia's community was prosperous and seems to have had its own synagogue. Several decades ago, a rather intriguing inscription was found, which though brief, provides an unparalleled glimpse into ancient Jewish society. I reproduce the translation given by Lee I. Levine in his book The Ancient Synagogue: The First Thousand Years. This inscription deals with manumission, or the freeing of a slave. It is a written testimony that Chrysa the slave-woman is now free and that Pothos' heirs have no claim on her. The names of the two Jews mentioned in the text- Pothos and Strabo- indicate how Jews tended to adopt the names used by their neighbours, much like in 20th century North America when a whole generation was named Irving and Ira. While at first glance the typical Jewish formula of a threefold invocation of God's name might appear odd, nay, even shocking, when combined with the blatantly pagan formula of an oath by Zeus, the earth and the sun, let us look at some other Jewish documents. Maimonides, a staunch opponent of paganism and idoltary if there ever was one, in his Sefer Hamitzvot (the book of commandments) rules that swearing by astral bodies is acceptable if one has the Creator in mind. In 1961, Yigael Yadin headed an archaeological expedition to the caves above the Dead Sea. The caves were the last refuge for some of Simeon bar Kosiva's (Bar-Kochba) rebels as they fled the Roman onslaught on Ein-Gedi. Among the astonishing finds in what became known as the "Cave of Letters" was an archive of documents belonging to Babatha, a wealthy widow and landowner in Ein-Gedi and Petra. In the subscription to one document, we read, "I, Babtha, daughter of Simon, swear by the genius of our lord Caesar that I have in good faith registered as has been written above." Italics mine. NOVA | Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land | Babatha's Scroll | PBS In page 215 of his Hellenism in Jewish Palestine, Saul Lieberman provides a translation of a responsum by a 9th century Babylonian, the Rab Hai ben Nahshon Gaon. Lieberman logically surmises that ignorant or crooked Jews abused a loophole in these kinds of oaths by sun and moon, which their gentile neighbours considered binding, but which they themselves did not. In fact, the closing formula in the Gorgippia inscription was standard legal fare in the Bosphoran Kingdom, and as such, seems to have lost most of its pagan connotations. I'll share a final source from the last decade of the first century AD, though not a Jewish one. This was provided by Lieberman as well. Martial seems aware of a Jewish prediliction for not taking gentile oaths seriously, and demands a stronger one, one that Jews would find binding. For those interested in further reading on the subject, I highly recommend Saul Liberman and Lee I. Levine's books, mentioned above.
  7. With the next Sunday School lesson being based around the Sermon on the Mount, I decided to post something I had written for an online debate with a certain concerning Christian and evangelical anti-Mormon over the context of certain portions of the Sermon on the Mount. He claimed that certain belligerent statements by Joseph Smith disqualified him as a Christian. Not only that, the nerve the saints had by defending themselves from the mob! There are five occurences of smiting the cheek in the Old Testament. Six, if you count a duplicate in Chronicles. The implications of smiting on the cheek are made clear in the following two scriptures. "They have gaped upon me with their mouth; they have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully; they have gathered themselves together against me." - Job 16:10. "He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach." -Lam. 3:30. In these verses, smiting on the cheek is linked to insults. This holds true as well for the following three scriptures: "And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so. Then the king of Israel called an officer, and said, Hasten hither Micaiah the son of Imlah. And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, having put on their robes, in a void place in the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them. And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith the LORD, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them. And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramothgilead, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the king's hand. And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good. And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak. So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king. And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD? And he said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace. And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil? And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee. But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee? And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself. And the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son; And say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace. And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the LORD hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, every one of you." - 1 Kgs 22:8-28. At the city gates (centre of public life), in front of the leaders of the people, Zedekiah slaps Micaiah on the cheek, humiliating him. All this for attempting to deceive the kings. "Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek." - Micah 5:1 (4:14). The besieging enemy will smite the ruler with a rod (symbol of authority) upon the cheek, an humiliating gesture of subjugation. "I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly." - Psalm 3:6-7 (7-8) The Psalmist calls upon the Lord to inflict a humiliating and crushing defeat on his enemies. If this was not a call for an humiliating defeat of his enemies, the psalmist's request would be comical. Now on to material from the rest of the ancient Near East: In the "Descent of Ishtar into the Netherworld," Ereshkigal of the abode of the dead curses a eunuch (or government official) with a great curse and says: "The food of the gutters of the city shall be your food; The sewers of the city shall be your drink; The shadow of the wall shall be your station; The threshold shall be your habitation; the besotted and the thirsty shall smite your cheeks." The eunuch will live in the gutter, and be humiliated by the lowest of the low- the drunks and bums. An Akkadian maqlu text preserves the following imprecation: "I strike your cheek, I tear out your tongue." - G. Meier, "Die Assyrische Beschworung Maqlu", 50, 8:101. As part of the Akitu, or Babylonian New Year ritual, the urgallu, or priest, would do the following on day five: "After reciting this, he shall remove the table; he shall summon the craftsmen together, he shall deliver the table with all that is on it to the craftsmen, and shall cause them to carry it to Nabu; the craftsmen shall take it, they shall go in the…to the bank of the canal; when Nabu arrives at ….they shall set it up for Nabu; when they have placed the table before Nabu, while Nabu is getting out of the ship Id-da-he-du, they shall offer the loaves of the table; then they shall place on the table water to wash the hands of the king. Then they shall conduct the king into Esagila; the craftsmen shall go out of the gate. When the king has come in before Bel, the urigallu shall come out of the chapel; then he shall receive from the hands of the king, the scepter, the ring, and the harpe, or ceremonial weapon; he shall take his royal crown; he shall bring these things in before Bel, and shall place them on a seat before Bel. He shall come out of the chapel; he shall strike the king's cheek; he shall place…behind him; he shall bring him before Bel; he shall pull his ears; he shall make him kneel on the ground; the king shall repeat the following once: I have not sinned, lord of the countries; I have not despised thy divinity; I have not destroyed Babel; I have not caused it to be scattered; I have not shaken Esagila; I have not forgotten its rituals; I have not smitten suppliants on the cheek; I have not humiliated them; I care for Babel; I have not broken down its walls." - James Pritchard, "Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament", pg. 334. Around 750 BC, the Aramaeans Mattiel, king of Arpad, and Bargayah, king of KTK entered into a parity treaty. On stela I from Sefire the following curses are recorded, to be heaped upon the violator of said treaty: 40. [Just as] this calf is cut in two, so may Mattiel be cut in two, and may his nobles be cut in two! [And just as] 41. a [har]lot is stripped naked], so may the wives of Mattiel be stripped naked, and the wives of his offspring, and the wives of [his] no[bles! 42. And just as this wax woman is taken] and one strikes her on the face, so may the [wives of Mattiel] be taken [and… The laws of Eshnunna and the laws of Hammurabi both treat knocking out eyes, teeth, and slaps on the face as severe offences, for which large fines are levied. A little after Christ’s time, we read in the Mishnah, t. Baba Kama 8:6 that, “If one boxes another man's ear, he has to pay him a sela. Rabbi Yehudah in the name of Rabbi Yosei HaGalili says, [He has to pay him] a maneh [i.e., one hundred dinar;]. If he slapped him he has to pay him two hundred zuz; [if he did it] with the back of his hand, he has to pay him four hundred zuz. If he pulled his ear, plucked his hair, spat so that the spittle reached him, removed his garment from upon him, uncovered the head of a woman in the marketplace, he must pay four hundred zuz.” The Tosefta Baba Kama 9:31 expands the ruling: "If one struck someone with the back of his hand… he must pay four hundred zuz, not because it is a painful blow but because it is a humiliating blow." Smiting the cheek was part of the humliations Christ was subjected to after his arrest. “And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him. And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee? And many other things blasphemously spake they against him.” - Luke 22:63-65. Nahum Sarna, in his article "Legal Terminology in Psalm 3:8," relates an account from the life of Abraham Shapira: “In modern times, Abraham Shapira (1870-1965), head watchman of Petah Tikvah and a keen student of the ways and customs of the Bedouin, once observed the trial of two members of a tribe. One had been accused of stabbing someone with a sword, the other of having smacked someone on the face. The presiding sheikh dealt leniently with the stabber but severely with the other one. In explaining his verdict, he stated: ‘The striking of the cheek is a graver offence than stabbing with a sword, for the latter enhances the dignity of a man, while striking him on the cheek humiliates him.’" Earlier in the same study, Sarna comments that “the various contexts make it absolutely clear , beyond the peradventure of a doubt, that to be struck on the cheek was an intolerable insult, a deep humiliation, not a mere slight to be soon forgotten.” From personal experience growing up in Israel, I remember that fights, both among Jewish kids and Arab ones, did not get truly nasty until someone spat on another, or slapped him on the face. If that happened, knifings or severe beatings would immediately follow. Things could be patched up at any moment BEFORE such insults. After them, this was impossible without third-party intervention and serious peace-making efforts. Back to the Sermon on the Mount, we saw that eye, tooth and smote cheek are mentioned together. The context could not be any clearer: Christ talked of not returning the ultimate personal insults. Nowhere does he say that man must not defend himself, family and friends. Nowhere does he say that if one does not follow that, then one is not a Christian.
  8. Last week in Sunday school someone commented that "Jesus never taught in the synagogues. He went out to the people." I held my peace. Laying aside the fact that the gospels do state that Jesus taught in synagogues, I want to address the assumption that synagogues were some sort of stronghold of a distant, detached religious elite. Nothing could be further from the truth. In Hebrew a synagogue is beit-kneset, the place of the assembly, or congregation. Knesset Israel is one of the epithets frequently applied to the entire Jewish community. Another term for synagogue was beit ha-am, or place of the people. The synagogue was a building for the community, built and maintained by the community. .This inscription shows the dual role of the synagogue both as a religious building and as a secular one. The scriptures were read and expounded in it, but it also contained guest rooms for lodging strangers. Lee I. Levine describes the synagogue as "the Jewish public building par excellence," and states that it functioned "first and foremost as the central communal institution in each community."[1] The synagogue was where the community gathered, where meetings of all kinds were held, where children were given an education, where the community dealt with internal discipline and legal squabbles, where communal feasts were given, and where visitors could be lodged. On sabbaths and holidays people would gather to the synagogue to offer prayer and to read and expound portions of the Pentateuch and other biblical writings.[2] This was particularly important for members of the community in an age where literacy rates were lower than today, and where scrolls were rare and costly. The synagogue readings were their most frequent exposure to the scriptures. Rabbis, as we understand them, did not exist during Christ's day. They grew out of a Pharisaic movement led by Yohanan ben Zakkai in Jamnieh after the temple was destroyed. Even during the 3rd century the rabbis did not control the synagogue. Rabbi Simeon would translate (and expound in the process) the Bible verses read in the synagogue of Tarbanat. The congregation requested that he only translate half a verse at a time, so they could explain it to their children. When R. Simeon refused, the congregation had him dismissed from his role as preacher.[3] This would have been unimaginable if the people did not control the synagogue. There is much more that could be written about ancient synagogues, but this introduction should be enough to dispell some common misconceptions encountered by readers of the New Testament. A final word on the picture at the beginning of my post. This is part of the synagogue discovered at Capernaum. It is several centuries later than Jesus, but is probably built over the one he frequented. [1]Lee I. Levine, Judaism and Hellenism in Antiquity, pg. 139. [2]Lee I. Levine, From Community Center to 'Lesser Sanctuary': The Furnishings and Interior of the Ancient Synagogue, Cathedra 60. [3]Lee I. Levine, The Galilee in Late Antiquity, pg. 212.
  9. Continuing with my New Testament material in aid of this year's Sunday school, the traditional image of Christ's profession is that of a carpenter. Through the ages this image has been featured in works of art[1], literature[2], music[3], and even film[4]. In the 1970s, Geza Vermes challenged this understanding of Christ as a carpenter. On the face of it, Geza Vermes presents a strong case. Is it though? The talmudic passage Geza Vermes refers to begins at the very end of the Babylonian Talmud, m. Avodah Zarah, 50a. The phrase we-leyith naggar we-la bar naggar diparkeina literally means there is no carpenter or son of a carpenter to dismantle it. The context is of a rabbinic debate in Babylon over the propriety of a Jew taking stones from a pile dedicated to Mercury and using them in construction. If a Jew does it, the road he paved is forbidden for Jewish use, yet the same thing done by an idolater is permitted. This is said by the Amoraic rabbis to be such a difficult question that there is no carpenter or son of a carpenter to dismantle it. We are obviously dealing here with a proverb, one that seems to mean a problem none can solve. Rav Sheshet says that though he is no carpenter or son of a carpenter, he can solve the problem. Rav Sheshet was a Torah scholar addressing other Torah scholars! If a carpenter was a metaphor for scholar, then the use of it here is rather bewildering. Geza Vermes' interpretation seems to be drawn from what Rashi had wriiten centuries earlier in his commentary to the Babylonian Talmud. Elsewhere in the Talmuds, whenever the word naggar appears, it is always in the context of an actual carpenter or woodworker. Even Rashi explains bar naggara (carpenter's son) as an ordinary woodworker[5]. The context of Mark 6 does not fit a metaphorical reading of the word carpenter either. The people of Nazareth hear Christ teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath and are surprised, indeed, startled by his wisdom (and perhaps his originality as well). Why would that come as a surprise if carpenter were a metaphor for learned scholar? The surprise of the people is due rather to their not expecting one of the regular guys, a carpenter whose family everybody knows, to be able to expound scriptures like that. An added factor to consider is that next door almost to Nazareth was the big, bustling city of Sepphoris, which was undergoing a building boom during Christ's lifetime. A carpenter would be a logical choice of profession. In those days, a carpenter was more of a contractor, he helped with blueprints, and tricky, technical work, such as hinges and shutters. It was one of the only professions to be paid in money. By today's standards, Christ was probably lower middle class. All in all, I think the "charming picture" stands. [1]Luca Cambiaso, "The Holy Family in the Carpenter's Shop: Jesus hold a lamp while Joseph carves a design." [2]Elizabeth Linton, "The True History of Joshua Davidson." [3]Christopher Wren, "Jesus Was a Carpenter." [4]Owen Wilson's character in "Meet the Parents." [5]See Rashi's commentary on the Babylonian Talmud, m. Baba Bathra, 73b. [6]Miriam Feinberg Vamosh, Daily Life at the Time of Jesus, pg. 51.