Until John…

Luke 16:16

16:16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presses into it.

Until – At first reading of this passage in English, it sounds like Jesus is contrasting two periods of time – the time of the Law and the Prophets up until John the Baptist, and then the time after John the Baptist when the “kingdom of God is preached and everyone is pressing into it”. Is that, in fact, the case? Or is there something else going on here that we’re missing in our English, Greek-influenced western understanding of the text?


For a start, Jesus was a Hebrew rabbi, speaking in Hebrew to Hebrews living in the 1st century Hebrew culture and starting from a Hebrew world view, yet we’re reading an English translation of a Greek text assembled from a whole collection of fragments of Greek manuscripts! Obviously if we’re going to understand what Jesus is saying we’re going to have to do some homework.

The word “were” should be in italics in your Bible, because it is not in the original text. It was added by the translators because saying “The Law and the Prophets until John…” doesn’t make any sense in English.

The word translated as “until” is the Greek word mechri. In English usually means that one thing is replaced or superseded by another.

Looking back into the Septuagint (LXX) we find that this word was used to translate the Hebrew word owd (spelled ayin-vav-dalet – the vav is a cholam vav which has the long ‘o’ sound). Owd is sometimes translated until, still or while (meaning continuance) but in this form literally means witness, testify, record, charge, take or admonish.

That isn’t all. There is something else going on here that is even more important to understand that has to do with Hebrew grammar and tautologies. A tautology is a statement that says, “A is (equivalent to) B”. The word “is”, which is a form of the verb “to be” links A to B and is known as the “copula”.

“So what?”, I hear you ask. The point is that while the copula is required in English, it is not required in Hebrew, but rather may be implied. In other words, Hebrew understanding allows tautological statements without the copula.

In the passage in question, the Law and the Prophets are equivalent to John, because the Hebrew language focuses on the function or purpose rather than the subjects. John, the Torah and the Prophets all paved the way for Yeshua, so in this purpose they are equivalent. The word ‘owd‘ can also mean ‘meet‘, so now we can render Luke 16:16 as “The Law and the Prophets meet in John…” or “The Law and the Prophets testify with John…”.

But wait – there’s more. The the name Yochanan means “God is gracious” and is from the root word chen which means grace. This means that if the Law, the Prophets and John are functionally the same then the Law, Prophets and Grace are also equivalent! Therefore there can be no dichotomy between Law and Grace; in the Hebrew world view they are equivalent and cannot be separated!.

One last thing. If we reverse the letters chet-nun to nun-chet we get the name Noach (Noah) which means rest. Because Noach and chen use the same consonants they have the same numerical value (the same gematria) and thus in Hebrew thought are also equivalent. So now we have Torah, the Prophets, Grace and Rest all being linked together because of their function and purpose.

Both chen and Noach have the pictoral meaning of “the fence around life”. A fence delineates the boundaries, protects and gives security. “Noach found chen in the eyes of YHVH”. He obeyed God’s instructions and was protected through the flood when the rest of the world was swept away. Obedience led to protection. Grace led to rest. The Torah is the expression of God’s grace, embodied in Yeshua HaMoshiach. It is the fence around life; within its boundaries are protection and rest. Outside is peril and danger. Stay inside the fence and be safe!

Rodney posted at כ״ה באייר ה׳תש״ע (May 9, 2010) Category: Torah, Uncategorized

4 Responses Leave a comment

  1. #1Wendy Norman @ כ״ה באייר ה׳תש״ע (May 9, 2010) 08:01

    Hi Rodney,
    Thanks for your clear, thorough, liberating teaching. I appreciate your sharing of all your hard work here on your blog. It’s quite an eye opener to see the way Law and Grace are ‘equivalent’.
    Is there an English version of the Bible you could recommend? I’m assumimg that just reading English won’t cut it anymore though, ie won’t suffice to understand what Yeshua said. What basic texts do we need when studying the Bible?
    Also, what criteria does one use these days to choose a fellowship place with other believers?
    Thanks
    Wendy

  2. #2Rodney @ כ״ה באייר ה׳תש״ע (May 9, 2010) 12:02

    Hi Wendy – great to hear from you. Regarding Bible versions, I’m starting to quite like the ESV (English Standard Version) but it is not the only one I refer to by any means. Sometimes comparing different versions can shed new light on a verse, other times it is not so helpful. Stick with one you’re comfortable reading every day (but perhaps have others to compare to if you think you need to). I usually compare with the KJV (still my favourite in most cases. although it can be hard to read), the NKJV and the NASB.

    If you’re really serious about going deeper into studying the word, a good Hebrew and Greek interlinear (esp. one that has the transliterated Hebrew/Greek texts) should be on the list. Then you need a good Bible dictionary (a Strong’s concordance in most cases won’t cut it) and Lexicon, and some idea of how to use them effectively. Jeff A. Benner’s Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible is a good one, but you need to read Hebrew to use it effectively (which I’m still but in the early stages of learning). It is much easier to use in electronic form e.g. it is available as a module for e-sword).

    You can do most of that, though, with a fantastic online resource called Blue Letter Bible. Thanks Skip for introducing me to that one.

    Doing the word studies to find the original language roots can be hard work and I’m very definitely only a beginner at this stuff. I’ve learned plenty from Dr Skip Moen over the last few months (in fact, it was you who introduced me to him at Carly’s wedding – thankyou!). If you want to learn how to do it effectively, listen to Skip’s audio series on hermeneutics. It can be hard going, especially if you’re not a Masters’ of Divinity post-grad student (which I’m definitely not) but it’s worth the effort.

    I’d also suggest getting hold of some good, solid weekly Torah teaching, like that done by Monte Judah of Lion and Lamb Ministries. Their weekly Shabbat services are streamed online and can be downloaded for a couple of weeks afterwards.

    Regarding choosing a fellowship place, the most important thing is to be where God calls you to be, with other like minded believers who are walking the same journey. It really is up to each of us to be where God has called us to be. Obedience is key to our usefulness in the kingdom (more on that in another post soon).

    Blessings,
    Rodney.

  3. #3Amanda Youngblood @ כ״ה באייר ה׳תש״ע (May 9, 2010) 19:20

    I LOVE the Blue Letter Bible! I was using it for quite a while before I heard Skip recommend it… I just didn’t realize the full usage of the tool I had. Good stuff!

  4. #4Wendy Norman @ כ״ו באייר ה׳תש״ע (May 10, 2010) 13:15

    Thanks Rodney, I appreciate your response. This helps alot.

    Keep up the good work. You’re dilligently developing God’s gifts in you, and the fruit will benefit many in living out the Kingdom ways. I sense your pleasure in your studying and teaching. How wonderful that we have such joy when we exercise the gifts He’s placed in us. What a great God.

    Thanks Amanda too.

    Bless you,
    Wendy