I recently read The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn. One of the things that struck me was how clever Cahn was to explain Hebrew concepts to his target audience: people who are ignorant of the Hebrew roots of Christianity. The main character in Cahn’s book is a secular writer with minimal knowledge of religion at all. By the end of the book, Cahn has this character using commentaries and researching doctrine with historical documents and ancient texts. If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. A whole lot of us have made this transition.
What this part of The Harbinger brought to mind is how much information and revelation mainstream Christians are missing by building a wall between the New Testament and the Old Testament. As I have rhetorically asked a number of times, who put that piece of paper between Malachi 4:6 and Matthew 1:1? Indeed, that artificial division is the least inspired of all additions to the Holy Scriptures in this author’s opinion.
When studying a foreign language, one can only get to a certain point in the language before learning is impeded without exploring the culture of the people who speak the language one is trying to learn. This is the same with the scriptures. Some things just make no sense without understanding the context of a first century Jewish setting. Without understanding the culture of Israel, God’s culture if you will, then some verses will just be words on a page to a twenty-first century reader. For example:
Now it happened that He was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain. Luke 6:1 (NASB)
In a twenty first century mindset, one might wonder why they were not chided for trespassing and stealing grain. In our culture, once a field of grain is ripe, it is harvested with extreme efficiency and the yield is taken to market. Stealing a farmer’s crops is more than frowned upon today. But, in God’s culture, it’s very likely that field had already been harvested!
‘Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God. Lev 19:9,10
Yahweh made provision for the needy and the alien (and the traveler) to eat. He built into His culture a method for people to be able to freely move about the land of Israel during harvest times, providing that Israel observed Torah, with the confidence of being able to eat. This is important because the people were supposed to travel around harvest times to keep the annual Sabbaths. The passage in Luke 6:1 (it is also in Mat 12:1 and Mark 2:23) shows that they were walking on the ground of a righteous man. The later verses in that passage are often erroneously referenced to show that the Law, specifically the Sabbath, was done away with, but the passage shows the opposite! It shows that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all expected their readers to understand Torah! And this is missed in modern Christianity due to a desire to build a wall between the Old and the New Testaments.
Other points are not quite so subtle. In Acts 27:9, Paul is on his voyage to Rome and the seas are getting dangerous. He uses the phrase “since the fast was already over” to indicate a change in seasons. Much like an American today might use Halloween or Thanksgiving to mark autumn, the author of Acts uses the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) to mark the beginning of fall. This is when the seas became too rough to sail and sailors would port until the weather turned favorable. And in 1 Cor 5:8, Paul writes to a predominantly Gentile church of believers to “celebrate the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” which is a direct reference to the spring Passover/Days of Unleavened Bread Holy season.
The Gospels and the Book of Acts were written many, many years after the things within them had taken place. Yet the authors of those New Testament books fully expected their readers to be familiar with the Hebrew culture. In fact, they expected their readers to be living Hebrew culture as much as possible!