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MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (2)

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      The conventional perception of the mother of our Lord is off. It is way off. She is commonly depicted in religious art, iconography, and statuary as Caucasian, and often northern European.

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         Knowledge of her Hebrew heritage among Christians is largely lost. Even her actual name is mostly unknown. The name Mary derives from the Judeo-Aramaic variant Maryam, from the Greek Mariam, which was derived from the original Hebrew Miryam, the name of the elder sister of Moses and Aaron (which is translated into English primarily as Miriam). New Testament readers know this was a popular name for Hebrew women at that time, as there are several with the name in the Gospel accounts.

      As a young Hebrew maiden of eastern Mediterranean stock, she was likely dark complected with dark hair and Semitic features. Semitic refers to one of the three sons of Noah—Shem—whose descendants predominantly populated the Middle East and still do today. We know from early OT accounts that the ancient Hebrews shared their DNA with many different ethnos of the greater region, including the Canaanite tribes. There were also the two great disruptions to the nation when the ten northern tribes of Israel were deported to the east in 722 BC followed by the Babylonian captivity of Judah 136 years later. The three remaining tribes of the latter—Judah, Levi, and Benjamin—were removed to Babylon for 70 years. They were allowed to return but many chose to stay. The lands of Israel and Judah had been repopulated somewhat by foreigners in the interim, especially the Samaritan region. The land was then ruled by a succession of Persians, Greeks, and Romans. It is therefore difficult if not impossible to arrive at a definitive Hebrew nationality by the first century AD.

         Even so, we do have two extant genealogies of our Lord Jesus from that time, both of which stem from the tribe of Judah and feature the persons of Abraham and David. The genealogy of Joseph the carpenter in Matthew’s gospel descends through King David’s son Solomon, the third and final king of a united Israel. After Solomon’s death the kingdom split into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah. Luke’s gospel contains the genealogy of Mary, which also goes through David but by his son Nathan, Solomon’s brother. This family tree divergence took place over 900 years before the Lord’s birth. The last of the Hebrew kings of the Judaic line ceased with the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC. Zedekiah was the last king of Judah, but was somewhat illegitimate in that he was installed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC after the siege of Jerusalem. The king before Zedekiah was Jeconiah (AKA Coniah, Jehoiachin), who was carted off to Babylon a prisoner in chains. This is what the prophet Jeremiah said about him:

         “Is this man Coniah a despised, shattered jar? Or is he an undesirable vessel? Why have he and his descendants been hurled out and cast into a land that they had not known? O land, land, land, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the LORD, ‘Write this man down childless, a man who will not prosper in his days; for no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah.’” [Jeremiah 22:28-30]   

         The Hebrew monarchy was thus abolished. There were no more kings. No one could ever again qualify. Joseph the carpenter’s line included Jeconiah and he is listed in Matthew’s genealogy. Nevertheless, it was established that Joseph, the legal stepfather of the Lord, could trace his direct lineage to Solomon and David. Mary’s genealogy could also be traced directly to King David. This means the Lord Jesus had a legal right as king through Joseph and a biological right through His mother. Though the monarchial birthright was essentially revoked by Jeremiah’s prophecy, this did not apply to the Lord Jesus because he was not a blood descendant of Jeconiah. Thus, the only possible way the Davidic line of kings could be restored, even after a six century interval, would be through the following:

       “Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” [Isaiah 7:14]

GREETINGS FROM THE WOMB

         As described in Part 1, Mary was soon on the road south to Judea to visit her relative Elizabeth. The two women were anxious to share the great news of their pregnancies, both of which were only possible through direct miraculous means. Elizabeth was greatly humbled in her long life of barrenness but maintained her faith regardless. Mary was also burdened somewhat by an undisclosed life circumstance. Here we have the young and the old, both of whom must deal with the inevitable gossip of unbelievers, yet blessed abundantly as major players in the great plan of God for the salvation of Israel and humanity. But besides these two who knew each other well, there were others who met for the very first time:

        Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said,

         “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” [Luke 1:39-45][1]

         © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (Intro)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (1)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (3)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (4)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (5)

SALVATION OF JEWS WITHOUT JESUS? NOT ACCORDING TO MOSES AND PETER

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         “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12]

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         Both of these men had sterling Hebrew credentials. The first, Moshe, was chosen by God as a prophet, deliverer of his people, and  lawgiver. Without Moses there would be no Hebrew nation.

         The second man, Peter, was chosen by the Lord Jesus as the man to whom He gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Peter’s name in Hebrew is Kefa, and his given Jewish name before the Lord changed it was Shim’on Bar-Yochanan. Peter used the kingdom keys on the first Day of Pentecost showing the way to salvation and as the central leader and spokesman of the early Jerusalem Church.

       Regarding Hebrew credentials, no one has more sterling credentials than the Lord Jesus Himself: A member of the Tribe of Judah, He is a direct descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David.

THE NAME ABOVE EVERY NAME

         The New Covenant writers made it very clear that there is no salvation without Messiah Jesus (YeHoshua HaMashiach), as His very name means “YHWH-Salvation.” The apostle Paul (Sha’ul), a “Hebrew of Hebrews” in his own words, cites absolutely no distinction between Jews and Gentiles in his teachings regarding those in need of salvation:

       For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” [Romans 10:11-13]

         The entire Community of the Lord for the first seven to ten years of its existence after Pentecost was composed entirely of Jews. There were no Gentiles until the inclusion of an Italian named Cornelius, whose salvation came through the ministry of Peter, the historical account of which is listed in Acts Chapter 10.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF JEWISH NATIONAL TITLES

         The first man called a Hebrew in Scripture was Abram (Genesis 14:13). In general terms, the descendants of the Patriarchs were known as Hebrews until the Conquest of Canaan under Joshua, after which they were known as Israelites. The nation was divided into two kingdoms after Solomon’s death, and the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel were dispersed into permanent exile in 721BC and were slowly assimilated by other nations.

         The only remaining tribes of the original Israelite nation were Judah, Benjamin, and Levi, and these constituted the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The people of this Kingdom went into exile in Babylon during the Babylonian Captivity at the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple in 586BC. They were allowed to return to the land of Judah a half century later. Since the Southern Kingdom was known as Judah and because the three tribes composing it had somewhat maintained their distinct Israelite identity, the relatively small remainder of the original Hebrews/Israelites became known as Jews from that time forward.

MOSES PROPHESIES OF THE COMING KING

         “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’ The LORD said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.’” [Deuteronomy 18:15-19]   

         This prophecy and commandment delivered by Moses was referenced by Peter during the first days of the early Church when he spoke to a gathered crowd of Jews in Jerusalem right after the miraculous healing of the lame man:

         “Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’” [Acts 3:22-23]

          If someone polled Christians on whether or not they believed that the content of this Scriptural passage was true, many would say no. Of course, many would have never heard of it to begin with so it would appear foreign on two counts: On the first because a probable majority of Christians have never read the Book of Acts, and the second because they have been conditioned to believe that Jews can be saved without Jesus.

         But the Lord Jesus made it a point to anoint Peter to preach this word early on in the Church’s history and make a clear authoritative reference to Moses so all the Jews there would hear the truth.

THE BOLDNESS OF PETER AND THE SALVATION OF JEWS IN ACTION:

        “And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.’ For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” [Acts 3:24-26]

         Many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. [Acts 4:4] [1]

         After the awesome display of the Lord’s miraculous healing of the lame man, the bold preaching of Peter, the massive salvation of thousands of Abraham’s descendants, and the powerful display of God’s love, the Jewish religious leaders showed up and threw Peter and John in jail.

         © 2017 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.