It is a great spiritual pleasure for me to introduce you to an author (a Jewish believer in Jesus as “the Jewish Christ”) who says the goal of his work is to “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable in all areas of life.” I don’t know if you agree with me, but I think the first century Christians would most certainly have approved of that approach.
He is Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, and the adjacent photo shows the covers of his two latest books, Jewish Insights Into Scripture (2018) and The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel (2015).
The books were written for both lay-Christians and scholars alike, and they arose out of the author’s observation that, all too often, Christians’ understanding of both the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament has been clouded by “centuries of Western tradition and interpretation.” Writing in a precise yet understandable style, “Dr. Eli” (as he is known) pulls back the curtain and helps contemporary Christ-followers understand how the scriptures were understood by their original audience – up to and including the first century Christians.
Released just this month, Jewish Insights Into Scripture is a compact volume comprising 50 short (usually one page) essays designed to deepen our appreciation for familiar Bible passages and enhance our understanding of verses many of us have found difficult to interpret.
Over the last year, Dr. Eli has been emailing versions of these knowledge-rich nuggets to his mailing list, about once a week, and I confess that I search my inbox daily to see if his latest has arrived. I have yet to find one of them that either disappointed me or that did not make me want to research further and know more.
Dr. Eli is President of, and a professor at, the Israel Bible Center in Israel, which offers a steadily growing number of online, self-study courses in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, leading to a Certificate in Jewish Studies. Typical responses from students have praised the program’s “passion for the word of God,” calling it “not only engaging but also contagious” – and stating that it “reignited my passion for study of scripture!”
As part of its marketing for the study program, the Bible Center is making available a free unabridged eBook (.pdf) copy of Jewish Insights Into Scripture on their website. If you are interested in purchasing a bound copy, you can find how to do that here. (You may also download an abridged eBook (.pdf) copy of The Jewish Gospel of John – 86 out of the book’s 276 total pages – from them, as well.)
I have reproduced below the first of Jewish Insight‘s essays, to give you the flavor and feel for its content, style, and approach. I think you’ll find it fascinating, and certainly a thoughtful addition to your knowledge and understanding of Scripture. Below that, I have placed a video interview of Dr. Eli, in which he discusses the mission and goals of the Israel Bible Institute in greater detail. Enjoy!
Don’t Mess with Abraham!
Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg
Genesis 12:3 is a very well-known verse: “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.” That sounds clear, but a very important nuance is lost in translation.
The Hebrew verb meaning “to bless” is לְבַרֵךְ (levarekh), from the root ב-ר-ך (B-R-Kh). This root is connected to the concept of a “knee,” and thus implies rendering service to someone (i.e., bending the knee). Hence, one possible meaning of the divine statement could be, “I will serve those who serve you!” To “serve” implies doing good for someone, bringing benefit to a recipient – thus “blessing.”
In the second part of the verse God promised Abraham that “the one who curses you” מְקַלֶּלְך (mekalelkha) will in turn “be cursed” אָאֹר (aor). Notice that this promise (or threat!) uses two different words that are both translated as “to curse.” The first of these, מְקַלֶּלְך (mekalelkha) comes from a root connected to the idea of “lightness” (as opposed to “heaviness”). The second word, אָאֹר (aor), derives from a completely different root that means something like “to utterly destroy.”
Taking these Hebrew insights into consideration, an alternative possible translation of this famous verse might be as follows: “I will do good to those who do good to you, and the one who makes light of you I will utterly destroy.”
EXCERPT FROM JEWISH INSIGHTS INTO SCRIPTURE, DR. ELIYAHU LIZORKIN-EYZENBERG,
TEL MOND, ISRAEL: ISRAEL BIBLE CENTER, 2018, P. 6
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