By Shira Sorko-Ram
Reprinted with permission from Maoz Ministries (Newsletter May 2007)
In Israel the more ultra-rabbinical a sect, the less they read and study the Bible. Most ultra-Orthodox groups in Israel and elsewhere teach their young men the rabbinical books of the Talmud, and their average yeshiva student knows selected Biblical texts only through the pre-digested commentaries of the Talmud and other rabbinical literature.
However, there are branches among Orthodox Jews that are giving priority to the study of the Bible. One such individual was Rabbi Mordechai Breuer who recently died at the age of 86. He was born into a family of modern Orthodoxy and became a highly respected authority – although virtually unknown outside of Israel – on the Old Testament books of the Bible.
In 1958 he was asked to proofread a Hebrew edition of the Bible and suddenly found himself to be considered an expert on the subject. From then on, his life was spent examining the Hebrew Biblical texts.
The Oldest Existing Hebrew Bible
As all Biblical scholars know, there are a great number of manuscripts (mainly fragments) of the Hebrew Bible which have been preserved over the last thousand years and are used today by scholars who are studying the texts or translating them into different languages. But the Bible considered to be the oldest and most reliable in existence is the Aleppo Codex (Codex is an archaic word for the earliest form of a book. Biblical text were usually written on scrolls to be read in the synagogue. When scribes wrote the text in book form, it was only for scholarly study), copied around 920 A.D. in Tiberius by the famous scribe Aaron Ben-Asher. The priceless Bible was stolen in the 11th century and brought to Egypt, finally ending up in a synagogue in Aleppo, Syria for 600 years.
Up until the 1950’s, the complete manuscript in Aleppo was still in good condition. But with the creation of the modern state of Israel, and the ensuing Arab rioting, scholars pleaded with the Aleppo rabbis to move the Bible to a safer location.
However, for centuries the rabbis of Aleppo had fiercely guarded the codex, keeping it in almost total isolation and not even letting Jewish scholars examine the manuscript! What is worse, the rabbis would not allow the scroll to be photographed, probably out of superstition that as long as that Bible was the sole possession of the Jewish community in Aleppo, they would be safe from calamity. (http://www.bible-researcher.com/aleppo.html)
In 1948 the synagogue was set on fire; the codex disappeared and the Aleppo rabbis led the world to believe it had been destroyed by fire. But witnesses to the rescue of the manuscript informed the Israeli government, and with much behind-the-scenes pressure, worldwide, the rabbis finally allowed the Aleppo Codex to be smuggled into Israel page by page with tourists in 1958. However, to the horror of the Israeli scholars, only two-thirds of the Bible arrived; the Torah was almost completely missing along with a few other portions. Out of a total of 487 pages, only 295 arrived.
Until today, the missing leaves are a subject of fierce controversy as some scholars b elieve they are still hidden among the Jewish community of Aleppo.
A Modern Searcher for God’s Word
In 1968, Rabbi Mordechai Breuer was assigned the task of determining the Hebrew Bible’s wording, spelling, vowels and cantillation (chanting) from ancient manuscripts for a modern Bible commentary which would be faithful to the belief that the Biblical text was inspired by God.
Breuer would have given almost anything to have had access to the Aleppo Codex as the basis for his research. And by now, the Aleppo Bible was in Israel! However as scholars are prone to do, the professors at the Hebrew University studying the Bible would not allow any other researchers to share the asset! (Ha’aretz, 22Mar07)
Due to lack of choice, Breuer used five other most important Bible manuscripts (although newer than the Aleppo Codex). He began his own monumental reconstruction of the Masoretic texts (see the story below) comparing them word for word. His method of selecting the correct text each time he observed variations, was to choose the spelling and notations of what he found in the majority of the five manuscripts. For example, if manuscripts 1, 2, 3 and 5 agreed on a spelling, but 4 did not, he would use the majority spelling.
By accepting the version of the majority and discounting the deviations of the minority, Breuer was convinced he was uncovering the one authoritative original writings of the Bible preserved by Masorah (oral tradition) – the ancient version given by the inspiration of God. (Ibid)
Other scholars strongly disagreed with his methodology because they supposed that there were many oral traditions which came down through the centuries as Jews emigrated to different nations. But Breuer believed that from time immemorial there was a single universally accepted oral tradition and the variant spellings and notations in the different manuscripts were simply errors made by scribes.
Recreating the Text of a Lost Torah
Thus, Rabbi Breuer reconstructed the entire Old Testament by examining each word in the five most important ancient manuscripts. And then his wildest dream came true. Somehow, he managed to get his hands on a copy of the Aleppo Codex. He never even told his son how he came to possess the facsimiles, but the son said when he came home that day with the manuscript, “he acted like an accomplice to a crime!”
Then the next miracle happened. When Breuer began to compare his re-creation of the Biblical text from the five manuscripts to the Aleppo text, lo an behold, they were exactly the same except for two places! An incredible discovery! This comparison proved that from the time the books of the Bible were written there was one and only one universally accepted version of the Masoretic text that was handed from one generation to the next, and it proved that the Aleppo Codex faithfully recorded it.
Furthermore, this meant Breure’s method could be used authoritatively to reconstruct the missing portions of the Aleppo Codex. (Ibid)
Rabbi Breuer later issued an independent version of the entire Old Testament that was quickly accepted as the most reliable and accurate. The “Jerusalem Crown” Bible is a modern version of the Hebrew Scriptures based on the Aleppo Codex and the reconstruction work of Breuer. It is the official version of the Bible of the State of Israel and used when the President of Israel is sworn into office.
Dead Sea Scrolls 1000 years older than Aleppo Codex
With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, very few dramatic changes in the Biblical text have been found. The Dead Sea Scrolls have, in almost every case, confirmed the accuracy of the Masorah, and suggest that an ancestor of the Masoretic Text (a scroll or codex with notations) was indeed in existence at least 100 years before the birth of the Messiah.
There is one very interesting difference found in the Dead Sea Scrolls in Psalm 22:17 (English, 22:16). The Masoretic texts read “like a lion are my hands and feet” which does not make sense. But the Septuagint – a Greek translation of the Old Testament by Jewish scholars in the second century B.C., – reads, “They have pierced my hands and feet.”
Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed the Septuagint version of this verse! Since Psalm 22 is one of the most important and clearest chapters describing the death of the Messiah, this is an important verification. Many of the latest revised translations have incorporated changes due to research done with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Nevertheless, nearly all are theologically insignificant such as minor misspellings.
The Bible went through a remarkable history to make it into this century, especially in view of the ancient methods of transmitting texts by hand, sometimes in primitive conditions, and considering that the scribes lacked photocopy machines, computers, printing presses, and similar modern inventions. (http://byubroadcasting.org/deadsea/book/chapter2/sec3.html)*
The Mesorah notations in the margins of the text show the painstaking and passionate zeal these ancient scribes possessed in their quest to safeguard the accuracy of the sacred text from generation to generation. The world owes an enormous debt to these dedicated Jewish scribes who spent their lives copying the Word of God, letter by letter, notation by notation, so that after several thousand years, we may still find salvation through the authentic Words of God as originally written down by Moses, the prophets, the kings and inspired men of God.
*url is no longer available
Posted in Featured Articles, Israel & The Jewish People, News Tagged with: authority, bible, biblical scholars, Guest Writer: Shira Sorko-Ram, Jerusalem, Old Testament, orthodox jews
“…. let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak….” -Jacob 1.19
“…. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God….” -1 Pet. 4.11a
We are far too verbose of a people, and this is one of the characteristic signs that we have not been living as priests in the household of God. When we are quick to speak and always wanting to be heard by men there is little or no room for hearing the voice of God, and this affects the manner in which we hear men as well. Hearing is a great pastoral quality, but in our blabbing generation where everyone feels entitled to opinions and sees it as their self-serving right to make themselves known, we are suffering from a real famine of true hearing.
Hear Watchman Nee:
No worker of the Lord can do a good job if he can only speak to others but cannot listen to them. A worker is of little use to God if he can only speak to others, if he can only blast incessantly at others like a firecracker. No worker of the Lord can be an incessant talker. If he can only speak to others, but cannot listen to them and realize their problems through conversation, his usefulness is very limited.
….. This is a serious problem among many people; they simply cannot listen to others. They cannot discern what others have kept within themselves because they are too insensitive. It is impossible to expect such ones to “give…. food at the proper time” (Matt. 24.45).
…. If we cannot understand the audible words from men, how can we understand the words that God speaks to us in our spirit?
(Watchman Nee, The Character of the Lord’s Worker; Living Stream Ministry, pp. 2-5)
It is unfortunately the case that many saints simply talk too much. We need to remove our souls from the busy and boisterous tenor of this age, and to crucify our thoughts and our tongues. We need to clear the way for the voice of the Lord, that we might stand as priests in His house, sounding forth notes that ascend as worship unto Him, and witness unto men. Our innermost parts need to be stilled and our excessive speech truncated, that we might hear His voice, and thus rightly listen to those who are so in need of true bread from heaven.
We cannot speak from heaven unless we have circumcised our hearts and learned to listen to the Lord, and if we are hyper and opinionated rather than speaking with the life and authority of God, it has everything to do with the fact that we have yet to come into a life of authentic surrender and circumspection before Him. This soul sickness will inevitably manifest itself through an inability to listen to others, for if we cannot honor and hear those whom we can see, how can we live as priests before the invisible God?
The measure of holy power in our speaking is intricately linked to the quality of our hearing.
Our opinions may be correct, but they cannot produce life in men. For that holy dynamic to take place, we have got to be priests before God, standing single-eyed in the holy place, with hearts unmoved by the winds of this age. We have got to see Him high and lifted up, recognizing the uncleanness of our own lips- even our correct religious jargon- that He might purge our hearts, tame our tongues, and make us into servants who are fit to preach and bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: authority, God, hearing, Jacob, Jesus Christ, pastoral, Watchman Nee, worship
Called to Pray:
and from Jesus (the Messiah) the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father… (Revelation 1:5-6a)
In Revelation 1:5 the Messiah Jesus is identified according to His authority. He is the faithful, resurrected witness, the ruler of the governments of this world. This glorious king is also a priest, our “great priest.” (Hebrews 10:21) According to His inherent power and authority, He has made us to be a kingdom of priests. (Revelation 1:6)
Apparently, the believing community has forgotten this primary calling. Generally speaking it is not considered a good thing if someone wakes up and cannot remember where they work or what they do. It is important for every believer to recover and live in this aspect of our identities. We really are priests. (1 Peter 2:5,9)
The Spirit of God, through the Scriptures, shows us our identity and reveals the nature of our Creator. As spiritual priests we know, and freshly discover, Who we worship through the Scriptures. Let us know and rediscover our intercessory priestly priorities as well. For direction in prayer, the first place we go to receive our assignments are the Scriptures. Since we are submitted to God through His Scriptures, let us be attentive to enscriptured apostolic guidance.
Paul gives a doxology in 1 Timothy 1:17 – To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. In the light of the reality that the Messiah Jesus is king, (five verses later) Paul prioritized prayer for governments.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
We are called to pray for the social and economic climate in which we find ourselves. We are called to pray for the structure of civil society to be amenable to the manifestation of the Kingdom of God through the church. To pray for the Kingdom’s purposes to advance in our nation we must identify with the King’s heart for those who govern. First, we must renounce wrath, rebellion and resentment.
Renounce Wrath, Rebellion and Resentment:
Here’s a principle offered by an apostle: Peter wrote that husbands must live “in an understanding way” with their wives “so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7b) There is an analogy to be made concerning prayer for our government. We must make sure that our hearts are right with God before we can expect to be heard.
To wisely pray we must have hearts that are free from wrath and rebellion.
Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. (1 Timothy 2:8)
“Wrath” in this context has to do with being angry at the repressive Roman regime. The dissension spoken of in this verse is not referring to rebellion within the church. It is speaking directly to the priestly call to pray for those who ruled a godless, amoral, idolatrous, tyrannical empire. This follows the instruction of the Messiah Jesus. He told us that if we are to effectively pray we must have hearts that are free from resentment.
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)
Anger, rebellion and rancor pollute the streams of our relationship with God and revelation from God. Let us rid ourselves of the deception that we will be enabled to maintain holy intercessory interaction while ignoring this important injunction.
Honoring God’s Heart:
We must diligently watch over our hearts.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
Many who read this may view President Obama and this administration as adversaries of important godly priorities. I am not contending with that perspective. However, let me ask us a question – what is it about loving our adversaries that we don’t understand? Jesus shed His blood for those who were adverse to God’s righteousness. He loved His enemies. He died for sinners. He expects us to reflect this love, even in the light of serious political oppression.
The degree of despotism experienced by Israel under Roman occupation and what we are enduring in our nation is not worthy of comparison. Yet, Jesus said this, “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:41) What a test this verse provides for many of us in this current political climate. Look at this section of Scripture that follows:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
How serious is the oppression we are enduring? In comparison to what believers suffer throughout the world, we are not suffering. If we cannot walk in love during this season, how can we hope to do so in a time of serious tribulation?
Here’s something else to consider for those seeking to fulfill their role as priests: Can we come before God, through the blood of Jesus with an attitude which is antithetical to the motive which caused this blood to be offered? Dare we come with a different spirit? His blood speaks love and cries out for forgiveness. If we are to effectively pray for our nation’s leaders we must have a similar spirit.
To pray effectively there must be a thorough, heartfelt, renunciation of anger and rebellion. To be heard in heaven, we must honor the heart of God by embracing His love for His enemies.
During this time before the elections, let us consider our ways, return to the Lord and pray that righteousness would be exalted.
Posted in Law & Politics Tagged with: attitudes, authority, election, government, humility, obedience, prayer, praying for leaders, rebellion, submission, worship