The Master Yeshua clearly stated that one of His purposes for coming as the Messiah was to teach, uphold, and fulfill the Torah (Matthew 5:17-19). Yet not only do many believers maintain just the opposite, but some also believe that Yeshua condoned breaking and violating the Shabbat (Sabbath)—just as the Pharisees accused Him. Let’s see if that’s true. Read more

Our generation of Messiah-followers is in crisis. Plagued by division, bizarre beliefs, and the overall watering-down of the Bible, we simply cannot afford to take the fundamentals of our faith for granted. So in order to determine if we can walk together as brothers and sisters in Messiah, here are six areas of non-negotiable belief that identify whether we share an essential, biblical faith.

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Q: I was curious, which English Bible translation do you find to be the most accurate? Is there a correct / accurate Hebrew / English Bible translation? Is there a good Hebrew Bible Dictionary other than the Strong’s? Is there a Messianic Jewish Commentary that I can trust? Any advice or guidance will help. Thank you.

A: These are all great questions—thank you for asking!

As you probably already know, he Scriptures were written in Hebrew (some in Aramaic) and Greek. So when we read the Scriptures in English, we are reading a translation. By definition, this means that no translation can be absolutely “correct.” A translation requires more than just the conversion of individual words. Concepts and connotations need to be understandable by the receiving audience. The various Bible translations fall along a spectrum between literal and paraphrase. A literal translation attempts to convey the original meanings of words and phrases. A paraphrase focuses on the translation of original ideas and concepts. Many modern translations attempt to preserve a certain level of what is called “dynamic equivalence” with the source texts, trying to strike a balance between the literal and paraphrase ends of the spectrum. Read more

The seventh-day Shabbat (Sabbath) is not only central to Israel’s calendar, it is at the heart of Jewish identity. Exodus 31:13 reports Adonai commanding Moshe to “speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘Surely, My Shabbats you must guard, for it is a sign between Me and you, to your generations, to know that I, Adonai, am sanctifying you….’” Yet the observance of Shabbat has historically been shrouded in rules and customs that can separate us from the very Shabbat we are supposed to be protecting. Beautiful, elegant—some-times strict—and infused with spiritual symbolism, the Shabbat traditions of Judaism nevertheless (and unnecessarily) complicate what may arguably be the simplest thing in Scripture.

While the practical out-working of Shabbat in the modern Diaspora does take some amount of forethought, the principles set forth in the Scriptures are easy to understand and apply—if we will only hear them. Indeed, wedged in our thinking is the belief that Jewish religion and culture supercede Scripture, and that centuries of practice amount to expertise. Not necessarily.

“How do I ‘do’ Shabbat?” is the question that kills Shabbat even before it begins. Candle-lighting, Shabbat dinner and special prayers are nice, but not what this holy day is all about. To “do” Shabbat, first consider the Scriptures (see image, above), and start by simply stopping. Don’t worry about going wrong with the way you “do” Shabbat… as long as you’re not going at all…

What do you think? Post a comment below.

This “Fast Foundations” article was originally published in Messianic Jewish Issues.

(Other extra-Torah or land-dependent Shabbat prohibitions include carrying a load out of one’s house or in through the gates of Jerusalem (Jer. 17:21-22), and buying from non-Israelites who are trying to do business in Jerusalem (Neh. 10:31, cf. 13:16). There are also explicit commands for Shabbat sacrifices. As for assembling for the purpose of worship, the Shabbat itself is a sacred assembly (Lev. 23:3), but what constitutes assembly, where, and of whom is not stated. Assembly of at least some members of Israel at the Tabernacle/Temple may be implied by Numbers 10:2&10.)

According to present-day halachah, in order for a Jew to make aliyah (emigrate) to the State of Israel, he must have at least one Jewish grandparent. While traditional halachah does not carry any divine authority, in this case, it does agree with the pattern of Scripture. Assuming other factors (i.e. a living heritage passed down generationally), Scripture appears to qualify a person as a Jew who is (genetically speaking) ¼ or 25% Jewish (see graphic, right)—that is, he has at least one fully Jewish (statistically-significant) grand-parent or equivalent lineage.

Why is this important? For Jews whose heritage has been obscured from them, it aids in the restoration of their birthright as sons or daughters of Israel. For Gentile believers in Yeshua who may otherwise be tempted to covet Jewishness (see “Am I Really a Gentile?”), it helps to affirm their birthright as the recipients of the blessings of Israel (Genesis 12:1-3), and keeps them strong in their identity as fellow-citizens with Jewish believers in the Household of God (Ephesians 2:19).

This “Fast Foundations” article was originally published in Messianic Jewish Issues.