A Drunkard and a Glutton

400px-Maerten_de_Vos_-_Bruiloft_van_CanaAccording to the writers of Matthew and Luke, Jesus reports the following, “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Luke 7:333-34; cf. Matthew 11:18-19)

What, if anything, does this tell us about the historical Jesus of Nazareth, reportedly from his own words? On the surface it would seem that at the least, John and Jesus had different eating and drinking habits. John was apparently the more ascetic and Jesus was perhaps a bit less disciplined of diet. Is this what the text seeks to convey? Are we to assume that Jesus ate and drank too much, earning him a reputation as a glutton and a drunkard? Certainly this is not the way his modern day followers think of him! Some would admit that he probably tasted of the fruit of the vine, but would never go so far as to suggest that he ever over indulged. In the well-known gospel account of the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12), it is recorded that Jesus performed a miracle in which he changed water into wine, but many have debated on whether or not the wine was fermented. Did Jesus either miraculously produce or consume fermented drink? And why, we might ask, would his enemies call him a glutton and a drunkard?

Perhaps the charge had nothing at all to do with his diet. The source of the name-calling can be shown to be the Torah of Moses and has more to do with a charge of rebellion against authority than with having too much to eat and drink.

Deuteronomy chapter twenty-one contains a passage that sheds light on our understanding of the charge against Jesus contained in the gospel accounts.

RSV Deuteronomy 21:18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they chastise him, will not give heed to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, `This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard (zolel v’soveh).’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

While we do not possess evidence from the gospels that his mother or father ever brought him before the elders of ‘his city’ with this claim. We do however meet from time to time with family confrontations in the gospels, most of which are explained as examples of hyper dedication on the part of Jesus to perform his father’s business[1].

The passage in question, according to the Hebrew text of Shem Tob’s Matthew[2], as well as the Du Tillet’s Hebrew Matthew[3] both read zolel v’soveh in accordance with Deuteronomy 21:20. It is preserved in such a way that it hardly remains noticeable as a direct link to the charge indicated in the Torah. Rather, we are inclined to take the charge of the unidentified ‘some’ as a scornful reference to Jesus’ eating habits. While the eating habits of Jesus were unlike those of his ascetic cousin John, the text in Matthew 11:19 is more likely referring to the prevalent view of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day that he was a rebel.

Perhaps there are other sayings preserved within the New Testament corpus that are yet to be uncovered that will shed new light on the views of the religious authorities concerning Jesus. While blasphemy is normally understood to be the motivator of several attempted ‘stonings’ of Jesus (Mark 16:64; Matthew 26:65-66; John 19:7; John 8:59; 10:31-33) perhaps there were other factors such as rebellion against religious authority that led the Jews to a negative appraisal of his self-proclaimed task.


[1] Luke records how Jesus remained in Jerusalem while his parents were returning home. This apparently caused some dispute with the young lad, who retorted, “Don’t you know that I am about my Father’s business?” One could also include various accounts scattered throughout the texts that show some disparity between Jesus and his close kin. Examples would include Mark 3:30-35 and similar texts such as John 2:4 etc.

[2] Howard, G. (1995). Hebrew gospel of Matthew (2nd ed.). Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.

[3] Trimm, J.S. (1990). B’sorot Matti, the good news according to Matthew from an old Hebrew manuscript. Hurst, TX: Hebrew / Aramaic New Testament Research Institute.


The Prophet Nation

Scale_of_justiceIn this week’s teaching, Ross shares a message from Torah reading Shofetim. It is based upon two Hebrew words often translated as Justice and Righteousness. He illustrates how these two words form the foundation for Israel’s eternal mission, and define the Way of YHVH. Ross then demonstrates from Scripture that Israel is the Servant of YHVH – a servant with a task. The task is shown to be “messianic,” and as Ross explains, many of the prophecies attributed to a messiah figure are actually referring to the nation of Israel. Is Israel referred to as messiah? Can all YHVH’s people be prophets? What is required of a prophet? You will not want to miss this challenging teaching.


I Have A Dream – 51 Years Ago

Martin_Luther_King_-_March_on_WashingtonFifty-one years ago, on August 28, 1963 an estimated 200,000+ people marched on Washington, D.C. in what was called the march on Washington for jobs and freedom. It was during this march that the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now famous I Have a Dream speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The speech is arguably one of the greatest speeches of the twentieth century and is a hallmark of the Civil Rights Movement in America. In the speech, Dr. King referred to some of America’s founding documents as justification for freedom for ALL. It was an appeal to all who heard his words, to live true to the words of our cherished beliefs that declared liberty and freedom to all of the citizens of America. It was an open challenge for America to live up to its creed, or as Dr. King put it,

I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream – one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream . . .”

Following the speech, Dr. King was recognized as TIME Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1963 and in 1964, he became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Here is that speech.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. While I claim to be no authority on the man, I have always been inspired by his speeches and have a great admiration for his work – namely in his efforts to achieve social justice and equality on behalf of his people.

I am a student of Scripture and so from this perspective I wanted to share something relevant in regards to the man and his work that I discovered several years ago. As a student of the Torah, I follow the weekly portions of the Law of Moses and in my classes I tend to look for ways to connect our present world with the ancient through these readings which have been in place in Judaism for nearly 2,000 years as far as we can determine. Time and again I have discovered interesting points – where current events seem to coincide with something found within the Torah reading. Several years ago as I prepared my class on the portion of Scripture that deals with the Exodus from Egypt, I immediately thought of Martin Luther King, Jr. who found much similarity between the struggles of his own people and the ancient children of Israel. As it turns out, the regular Torah reading for the week that Martin Luther King was born was the Hebrew Torah Reading that contains the story of the departure of the Children of Israel from the oppressive Egyptians! The texts contained in this reading are Exodus 10:1 – 13:16. Like a modern day Moses, Martin Luther King Jr. would devote his adult life to a struggle for freedom for his people.

I find it worth mentioning that the week he was born, all over the world Jewish people were reading Moses’ words to Pharaoh – “Let my people go!” Did these words carry in the wind into the ears of a small baby who would grow up to speak them again to the oppressors of his own generation? One can only wonder if somehow, these Torah portions contain a glimpse of what our own purposes are to be. At least in the case of Martin Luther King Jr., it would seem to be the case.

In light of the interesting connection between the Hebrew Moses and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, watch this video of his final speech. He would be killed the very next day.

On the anniversary of the March on Washington and the I Have a Dream speech, I have to wonder. For what cause would our generation assemble in such vast numbers. Would we travel great distances at great costs and come together in harmony for any cause? Who is the moral leader of our generation? Who is the voice that could convey a message that has the power to peacefully inspire change? May we all be inspired to seek out injustice in our own world. For as Dr. King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”


Regarding Moses – Revisiting an Old Sermon

How should Christians regard Moses? Are his words beneficial for the followers of Jesus? What of his laws? Are they contrary to faith? Have they been done away with?

On August 27, 1525, 489 years ago today, a now famous Christian preacher delivered a sermon that was intended to answer the question once and for all. The sermon was entitled, How Christians Should Regard Moses. For several years, on the anniversary of this sermon, I have published this article with slight edits and am doing so yet again this year.

The Sermon

The preacher set out to show that God gave only two public sermons from heaven. The first is recorded in Exodus chapter 19 and 20, the second is recorded in chapter two of the book of Acts. Though not mentioned by the preacher of this sermon, both of these events are reported to have taken place during the third month of the Hebrew year, 50 days after the Hebrew Festival of Passover, at the Feast of Shavuoth or Pentecost.

The author of the sermon was not interested however in finding correlation between the two events, but rather in pointing out the distinctions between the sermons designated by him as the Law and the Gospel. His sermon was intended to declare once and for all that “these two sermons are not the same.” Note the language of the sermon on this very point from the text of the preacher’s sermon.

Now the first sermon, and doctrine, is the law of God. The second is the Gospel. These two sermons are not the same. Therefore we must have a good grasp of the matter in order to know how to differentiate between them. We must know what the Law is, and what the gospel is. The Law commands and requires us to do certain things. The Law is thus directed solely to our behavior and consists in making requirements. For God speaks through the Law, saying, ‘Do this, avoid that, this is what I expect of you.’ The Gospel, however, does not preach what we are to do or to avoid. It sets up no requirements but reverses the approach of the Law, does the very opposite and says, ‘this is what God has done for you; he has let his Son be made of flesh for you, has let him be put to death for your sake.’ So, then, there are two kinds of doctrine and two kinds of works, those of God and those of men. Just as we and God are separated from one another. So also these two doctrines are widely separated from one another. For the gospel teaches exclusively what has been given us by God and not – as in the case of the Law – what we are to do and give to God.”

The preacher continued his sermon by comparing the two sermons to two kingdoms – the temporal and the Spiritual – where the temporal equates to the Law and the Spiritual to the gospel.

He then identified yet another kingdom that resides between the temporal and the spiritual – one that is half and half as it were. According to the preacher, it is constituted by the Jews, with commandments and outward ceremonies which prescribe their conduct toward God and men.

From this platform, he went on to attempt to show that “here the Law of Moses has its place.”  While admitting some good within this middle kingdom, he was clear to show that those things which apply to Gentiles are only those which are “written by nature into their hearts.” He preached this on behalf of a group he referred to as enthusiasts. This group “reads Moses (the Law), extol him and bring up the way he ruled the people with commandments. They try to be clever, and think they know something more than is presented in the gospel; so they minimize faith, contrive something new, and boastfully claim that it comes from the Old Testament. They desire to govern people according to the letter of the Law of Moses, as if no one had ever read it before.”

He saw no way to reconcile the two sermons. In fact he placed them against one another using very strong language. Notice the following quote from his sermon.

We would rather not preach again for the rest of our life than to let Moses return and to let Christ be torn out of our hearts. We will not have Moses as ruler or Lawgiver any longer. Indeed God himself will not have it either.

He further told those present at his sermon to tell those who would preach Moses to simply respond with the statement that “Moses has nothing to do with us.”

The preacher went on to state that the Sabbath was abolished and in fact he said that “not one little period in Moses pertains to us.

Finally he sought to set the record straight and informed the laity of why they should even retain Moses at all and not as he put it, “sweep him under the rug.” He identified three things “to notice in Moses.”

• Certain commandments are good for Christians. Not, said he, because Moses gave them, but “because they have been implanted in me by nature” and “Moses agrees exactly with nature.” He went on to share which commandments he gladly and willingly accepted.
• He said that he also accepted those things in Moses that he called “the promises and pledges of God about Christ” – promises that as he put it, “sustain faith.”
• The third thing to be seen in Moses as worth keeping it around are “beautiful examples of faith, of love and of the cross, as shown in the fathers, Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and all the rest.”

The sermon discussed above was delivered on this very date (August 27, 1525), 489 years ago by a preacher named Martin Luther as part of a series of seventy-seven sermons on Exodus preached between October 2, 1524 and February 2, 1527.

I could not let the day pass without announcing that I stand with the historical Jesus against Martin Luther on the anniversary of his sermon and declaring that NOT “one jot or one tittle” will pass from the Torah until all is fulfilled – stating further that whoever breaks one of the least of the commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven, but whoever does and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

This gives me more reason than ever to Preach Moses Every Sabbath in the Synagogue. The phrase “preaching Moses” comes from the New Testament book of Acts (15:21) as part of the decision of James concerning non-Jews coming into the faith. If Christians spent more time listening to the preaching of Moses every Sabbath, they would be less likely to be led astray by teachings that are contrary to sound doctrine.

Ross Nichols Preaches Moses every Sabbath
10:30 AM CST on www.SHMA.tv


Word of his grace. (2007-2009). Retrieved from http://www.wordofhisgrace.org/LutherMoses.htm


The Great Test

gerizim-ebalIn this week’s lesson, Ross teaches on the great test of faith contained in Torah Reading Re’eh. He begins by presenting two ways – the blessing and the curse. The way of blessing is for those who listen to the commandments, the way of the curse is for those who will not listen to the commandments, and who turn aside from the commanded way. Ross goes on to point out that the way of the curse is associated with walking after other gods. He goes on to describe the distinction between the true faith and a way of apostasy. Is your faith good and upright in the eyes of YHVH or right in your own eyes? How does one demonstrate love for God? You will not want to miss this teaching.