april 12, 2014 § Lämna en kommentar
I would like to introduce to you a new term and a new concept for ”faith” which I just recently stumbled across. It would be pretty astonishing if this concept would be new for mainstream Christian theology, but that could pretty well be the case, for historical reasons. (See next paragraphs about that). Personally, this new concept of ”faith” came as a needed component in my struggling life of faith, so maybe this discovery is flavored by this need, but you as a reader can later decide if this is really a new discovery or not. I say ”later”, because this blog will be a little bit of a background to the discovery.
Historically, we have been caught between pillar and post, between James and Paul, when it comes to faith. So we have been literally blinded to any other outlook to what ”faith” could be.
This is unfortunate. I am fairly convinced that the difference of opinion we believe James and Paul had was a religious chimera originating from the schism of the Jewish and non-Jewish Christian communities. A typical cultural clash. Since the schism and loss of communication and understanding of the others mindset, we have not been able to understand the mindset of James, and to a certain degree, not of Paul either, since he is addressing the ”God-fearers,” who were sympathetic to Judaism. Because these two communities have totally different religious mindsets (to this day), we have not and can not understand the others mindset, ever since the time we denied the others existence, (that is, through the whole of orthodox church history).
The reason why I am fairly convinced, is because a few weeks ago I compared James and Paul on the issue of faith, but with consideration of the mindsets of these two authors. What I found is that they could very well be saying the same thing, but with different mindsets. James says specifically that he is writing to the twelve tribes, so he is a Jew writing to Jews. So when reading James you must put on the semantic glasses of the Jew. Paul though is writing to both Jews and non-Jews, but when warning the Galatians, for example, he is talking to non-Jews, and probably the so called ”God-fearers”, so when one reads Paul you need to put on the semantic glasses of the non-Jew. So when I read the pivotal verses about faith in the letters of James and Paul with the different mindsets taken into consideration, I found an astonishing third viewpoint about faith that harmonizes the two! I’ll quote from myself (from material not published yet):
But the Gospel is seen differently by Jew and Gentile. To the Jew, the Gospel is a deepening of the Law (=instruction from God to His people Israel) through faith in the Messiah. To the Gentile, the Gospel is the realization of the purpose of their faith, that is the realization of true communion with God and Mankind. For both Jew and Gentile, this is made possible by the Law of the Spirit. But the vocabulary to describe this is different for Jew and Gentile.
For the Jew who had the Law, they received faith in the Messiah in order to fulfill the True Intent of the Law in them, the Law of the Spirit. For the Gentile who already had faith, they received the Law of the Spirit of the Messiah in order that their faith in God would fully and totally reach its goal.
My conclusion: James and Paul are actually saying the same thing about faith, but with different mindsets, and thus with different words and expressions. I think we can express what James and Paul is trying to say in the following phrase: By faith we live by the Law of the Spirit.
Now, I don’t pretend that I know precisely what this means, and I guess it all boils down to what ”faith” here is supposed to mean. I think my ignorance has to do with the loss of experience and the loss of vocabulary, both mine and the Church’s. … (Our theological history has worsened our understanding of these terms, especially the term ”Law,” for which we have no longer the understanding of its origin and dynamic in the Israeli covenant. Instead we have added on laws from this Law as a sort of morality, which is both law to us (because they are ”Biblical”) and not law to us (so that Paul won’t get angry 😉 ) …)
But I think the abovementioned ignorance of what it means to ”by faith, live by the Law of the Spirit” is greatly reduced with my and maybe our discovery of a new term and concept for ”faith”! It is a discovery of what ”faith” could have meant before the orthodox church cut its cord with the Jewish Christians. … But instead of just saying it, I will let you have the joy of discovering it from the source from where I myself discovered it: In a quote from Ephesians 2:8-9 from the OJB (Orthodox Jewish Bible) version at this ”frantic” webpage: http://www.afii.org/studygkwus.htm (Don’t be intimidated by all the Hebrew and Yiddish terms. (They do reflect another mindset, and thus the words do pop up more emphatically.)).
Can you find the new term for faith here?:
For by unmerited Chen v’Chesed Hashem you have been delivered from Hashem’s Din(Judgment) and granted a share in the Geulah (Redemption), through emunah; and this is not [an ainfal (intuitive idea)] of yourselves, it is a matnat Hashem (gift of G-d); 9 Not the result [of the zchus (merit)] of doing ma’asei mitzvot (works) [Ac 15:1; Ga 5:3-4], so that before Hashem no man should be a ravrevan (boaster, braggart). [DEVARIM 9:5] 10 For we are His masterpiece, having been created in Moshiach Yehoshua for ma’asim tovim, which Hashem prepared beforehand, that we should walk our derech in them.[YESHAYAH 29:23; 42:7; 60:21;]
Did you find it? I will take on this new term of faith in my next blog (part 2) coming shortly! …
mars 9, 2014 § Lämna en kommentar
With the ongoing clash between fundamentalist and liberal Christians, one ultimately come to the question: What really is the Gospel? This question has not been posed to me in this manner since I became a Christian. And now posed, I realize that my belief in what the Gospel comprises is quite different than when I became a Christian, in many things except Jesus himself.
When I turned to 1 John to find out any clues to what the Gospel is, I was stunned that at least two chapters in the middle of the epistle is dedicated to answering that question! But in a way not expected. Instead of saying what the Gospel is in one sentence, it describes it instead, using a handful of synonyms which then make facets of description to what can be said about what the Gospel is. And it does it in a way to make every description holographic, so it, at the same time includes and infers the other descriptions.
These facets of descriptions taken together give a deep understanding of what the Gospel is, which is both excluding and also very including, which makes it a dynamic definition. This is also what surprised me.
I don’t know why I/we haven’t seen this before. I’ll get back to this in another blog, but as a teaser I can already now tell which these facets are which 1 John wants us to see as synonyms: love, Spirit, only begotten Son come in the flesh, following commandments, God, trusting that Jesus is the Messiah.
februari 13, 2014 § Lämna en kommentar
I believe I have found a parallel between the pericope of 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 and the pericope of Hebrews 11:1-12:3. If so, if the parallel is there, there could be another possible interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.
In 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 we meet a peculiar statement: The knowing that we are absent from the Lord, while living in this body, is a result of walking by faith. It is strange if you think about it, that faith would give you a consciousness of absence of the Lord. One would expect the opposite, that faith would give a consciousness of the Lord’s presence.
But in Hebrew 11 we actually find exactly this relation between faith and estrangement, especially in 11:13: ”All these died in faith, … having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
– Now, most believers misunderstand this as an estrangement on the earth per se, that is, life on the earth is in itself estrangement from God. This is _not_ the correct reading of this verse or the whole of Hebrews 11. This verse is alluding to David’s prayer for the project of building the Lord’s temple in 1 Chronicles 29:15: ”For we are sojourners before You, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope.” ”Before You” is literally ”before your face,” and is translated ”in your presence” in the NET Bible. ”Face” has to do with presence. It’s not surprising that David is speaking of the Lord’s presence since the prayer is about building the Lord’s temple where the Presence of the Lord will reside. What David is confessing is that the people of God are figuratively sojourners and nomads since they have not yet found a home in God’s Presence. In other words, they are still strangers to God’s Presence. This should mean that Hebrews 11:13 does not see the earth, or life on earth as foreign, but while alluding to 1 Chronicles 29:15, this passage sees the heroes of faith in the OT as foreigners before God’s presence. Distance from God’s Presence is what is foreign, not the earth, or life on earth. –
So, getting back to the curious relation between faith and estrangement, we find in Hebrews 11 that the heroes of faith experience themselves as strangers before God’s presence. Why? Because since faith ”is the assurance of things not seen,” (11:1), it also senses the Presence of God not seen, and yearns for it. So faith causes need, the consciousness of want.
If so, then 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 might not be so cryptic after all.
But this then also brings upon the whole pericope 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 another interpretation altogether, which I wish to explore here.
Just as sojourning in Hebrews 11 and 1 Chronicles is not about earth being an alien place, but about alienation before God’s Presence; so also 2 Corinthians 5, if this parallel is correct, is not about being absent from the Lord while we are living here on the earth (and present with the Lord when we die), but about being absent from the Lord by being ”home in the body” which I interpret as merely living for oneself. Instead of waiting for death, the sojourner, here and now, yearns to be present with the Lord, to be ”clothed with our dwelling from heaven,” ”in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”
In the previous chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about the life of Jesus manifested in our body, and that ”He who raised [the body of] the Lord Jesus will raise us [that is, the bodies of our’s] also with Jesus … .” Then 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 has symbols of the temple (of his Presence) in verse 1, and then carries on to liken our bodies, especially our future bodies, as God’s temple. Taken together, it is natural to see verses 5:6-10 being about our mortal body being the sojourner’s tent, and the Lord’s life-giving body being the Lord’s temple, filled with the Lord’s Presence.
So verses 6-8 presents this idea of the two bodies/housings:
Living in our mortal body <——> Living in the Lord’s life-giving body
Though this is simply abbreviated by:
The body <——> The Lord.
What I am suggesting is this: The interpretation we have of verse 5:8, that Paul is longing to leave this earth in order to ”be at home with the Lord” is not the only interpretation possible. Actually, I see it as more plausible that the verse should be interpreted as wanting to less find ”a home” in our mortal bodies, and more and more find ”a home” in the ”dwelling from heaven” (v.2) which is the body that channels the life of Jesus (vv 4:10-11), … already now in this life. (But it is promised to become a fact when we leave this life of ours, (vv. 5:1, 3-4)).
So the idea of being ”at home with the Lord” not _only_ in the life after this, but actually during _this_ life, is confirmed by verse 10 where it says that we will be judged by our ”deeds in the body … whether good or bad.” (v.10).
Being ”absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” here and now, on the earth, while we live, is also echoed later in verse 5:15: ”and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again …” Mark the parallel: ”live for themselves” = ”home in the body”; ”live … for Him” = ”home with the Lord.”
This goes to show how strong an influence dualism has on our minds and imagination, so we can only understand a certain pericope in one way and one way only, since it has been interpreted that way a thousand times over.
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To summarize this article:
Before the Messiah came, those of faith felt the absence of the Lord’s Presence. Now when the Messiah has come, we still feel the absence of the Lord when living like we usually do for ourselves. But through faith, we prefer living for the Messiah instead, which fills us with his Presence. This is because when we let his life manifest itself in us, our body becomes his temple, his body.
So we gradually become more and more home with the Lord, while our mortal body trails along; until one day we lay off our mortal body and we are totally ”swallowed up in life.” So preferring ”to be at home with the Lord” is not about wanting to die, so as to be with the Lord. It’s about yearning to harvest what all the witnesses in the OT have been longing for, which is now brought to us in the NT through the Messiah. It’s actually about letting our body become His home right now, our body being transformed to the Lord’s body, thus not only being in his Presence, but also being a home for his Presence, … while we live, here on earth before we die, (… but, of course, even after we die too).
But isn’t the earth what makes our life sinful? No, because being on earth is not what alienates us from God, it is our ungenerated selves that alienate us from God. ”The city” the faithful were looking for (in Hebrews 11:10) will not be in heaven, but on earth, (Rev. 21:2,10). The earth is not the problem. It’s rather our ungenerated self that is the problem, … and finding a home in His Presence, the answer.
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Actually, after a second reading of 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, there is actually really nothing that should compel us to interpret the verses 1-5 to be relating to our death in particular. Yes, it talks of our deterioration, which everyone becomes aware of with growing age, but it needn’t necessarily be understood as our death. ”Earthly” and ”heavenly” can very well be understood symbolically. ”Earthly” could mean having to do with our ungenerated lives, while ”heavenly” could have to do with the Spirit filled life Jesus has invited us into. Reading it that way, vv. 1-5 can be readily read as our gradual bodily transformation from tents of sojourners to the temple of God’s Presence.
The ”non-death” interpretation in vv. 1-5 can then be seen as a basis for interpretation for vv. 6-10: ”while … home in the body” = ”indeed in this [earthly tent] we groan,” ”we are absent from the Lord” = ”longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven,” (verse 5 vs verse 2); but we are ”of good courage,” preferring ”rather to be absent from the body” = ”the earthly tent which is our house is torn down,” we are instead ”at home with the Lord” = ”we have a building from God.” (verse 8 vs verse 1).
”… [I]f the earthly tent which is our house is torn down …” in 1 Corinthians 5:1 is most probably an allusion to the story of Hezekiah’s illness and restoration in Isaiah 38, where also the temple is mentioned. ”Absent from the body” in verse 8, as equated with our ”earthly tent” being torn down, can then be seen, as in Hezekiah’s illness story, as our cross. This is what can be understood in verse 9: ”whether at home [the presence of his glory in our lives] or absent [the cross in our lives], [we have the ambition of being] pleasing to Him,” (with my interpretation in the first two brackets).
There is a similar transformation where God resides first in the tent of meeting and in the tabernacle, and then eventually in the temple. God as stranger living in a tent is told in Jeremiah 14:8 thus:
”O Hope of Israel,
Its Savior in time of distress,
Why are You like a stranger in the land
Or like a traveler who has pitched his tent for the night?”
Interestingly, ”Hope” as a name of God is the same word for ”hope” in David’s supplication in 1 Chronicles 29.
* * * * *
Edit: correct 2 Chronicles to 1 Chronicles.
Edit: the addition of an ”Addition” including new tags.
Edit: Rewording at the end of the 8th paragraph.
januari 23, 2014 § Lämna en kommentar
There is a formidable resistance against using the intellect in evangelical churches. I believe this is both very scarry and devastating. If there is one antidote that God has given for preventing a community developing into a sect, it is regular human reasoning. Take that away from Christians, and any kind of brainwashing has the potential to develop depending on the circumstances.
This is why I took these three and a half hours to put this together: because there is so much at stake.
There needs to be a stop, once and for all, to this gross and terrible nonsense of categorical anti-intellectualism, among a people who call the Provider of mind and intelligence their God.
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There is one pericope in the Bible, foremost among all others, that clamps down on thinking and reasoning, on engaging philosophically in God’s world, and that’s 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; which a friend of mine reminded me of the other week.
Paul’s quote from Isaiah 29:14 brings a few major blows to an intellectual outlook:
”I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (v. 19 ESV)
(Paul is quoting from the LXX, but he replaces the last word with another Greek word meaning ”thwart”. According to the article Paul the Paraphraser or Paul the Septuagint-Quoter?, this replacement is a sort of a ”one-word” conflation with Psalm 33:10-15 which has a similar vocabulary, carries a similar message, and uses this same Greek word for ”thwart”.)
The next big blow comes in vv. 27-28: ”… God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, … God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are.” (NASB)
It can’t get worse than this for those who are thinking Christians.
… Something fishy though: The same word used for the ”wise” in 1 Cor 1 is used later by Paul in 1 Cor 6:5: ”… Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren …?” (NASB) So there is use for the wise among believers after all! I thought Paul just said that God had shamed them and nullified them. So a seemingly contradiction?!
One also sees something very similar in the pericope Isaiah 29:9-24 from which Paul quotes from in 1 Cor 1. After God discounts, not only the wise and the discerning, but also the prophets, the religious, and the socially corrupt, Isaiah relays God’s final words in the pericope: ”Those who err in mind will know the truth, and those who criticize will accept instruction.” (NASB) Both in Hebrew and Greek, the word translated ”truth” here is the same word translated as ”discernment” previously in v. 14, quoted by Paul. The contrast is not as stark as in 1 Corinthians, because the language is a bit more nuanced in Isaiah, but the contrast is surely there. What gives?
Well, what Paul is really getting at is found in the source from where he’s quoting from in verse 31, at the end of the pericope. It’s not directly visible in 1 Corinthians, but can be viewed in full sight from the surrounding verses from where he quotes, from Jeremiah 9:24:
”Thus says the LORD, ”Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this; that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.” (Jer 9:23-24 NASB)
So what I hear Paul saying through his quote from Jer 9 is that being wise is not the problem, but boasting of one’s wisdom, instead of boasting of knowing the LORD, is the problem. It all comes around to what or Who is center in one’s life, and to what or to Whom one gives thanks.
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As a thinking intelligent Christian, my highest desire is knowing the LORD, and any thinking or reasoning is for knowing the truth, which is, to me, ultimately God’s truth manifested in the Messiah. All reasoning and all truth ultimately serve the LORD and his Anointed, and unto that end I long with all my heart.
The Cross is where the Good News was actually actualized in this world. We can’t fully phantom what God did there through the Messiah, though some things are revealed in the Bible. As a thinking Christian, I don’t deny this. On the contrary, I desire to realize the workings of the Cross and the Good News spiritually, physically, in my daily walk, deep in my soul, … and also by and in my thoughts and reasoning. Besides, this is what the ”greatest commandment” is getting at, here quoted from Luke 10:27: ”… ”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, …”” (ESV)
I will continue loving the LORD my God with _all_ my mind!
And let it be said once and for all: God who has given you a mind, wants you to use your mind. As long as you boast knowing the ”LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth” you can use the intelligence he has granted you to know Him and His ways of ”lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth.” Totally devoted to God, use all the intelligence you think is necessary to live a life worthy of His love He has shown to you. Do not let any person or organization tell you that you may not think as a Christian: Only God may tell you that! (according to Paul and Isaiah) … But as long as you love the LORD with all your being, he will never tell you that.
So keep thinking, you intelligent, in-love-with-the-Messiah Christian!
januari 12, 2014 § Lämna en kommentar
[I am a layman, not an academic, when it comes to theology, so please check the facts for yourself].
It came to my attention two commandments of Jesus in Luke 12:33 and Luke 14:33.
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Luke 12:33, quoted in David Servant’s book Great Gospel Deception, chapter 9 Striving against Sin, listed as one command among a whole lists of commands from the Gospels and Romans: ”Sell our possessions and give to charity”, or as translated in the NASB translation: ”Sell your possessions and give to charity.”
In Bible.org’s commentary page on Luke 12, it comments on this request: ”12:33 ”Sell your possessions” This is an aorist active imperative. It is not a universal command, but deals with the priority structure of our lives …”
It’s the aorist active imperative form that makes this a specific command for the moment of utterance and not a universal command. This is spelled out in the grammar book Learn to Read New Testament Greek, by David Alan Black, on pages 185-186:
”… The aorist imperative generally denotes an urgent command without regard to its continuation or frequency, while the present imperative generally denotes a command to continue to do an action or to do it repeatedly. The difference is well illustrated in the parallel versions of a petition in the so-called Lord’s Prayer. Matthew uses an aorist imperative, whereas Luke uses a present imperative: … Here [Matt 6:11] Matthew’s aorist emphasizes the simple act: ”give [today],” whereas Luke’s [11:3] present imples duration ”keep on giving [each day]. …”
”Another important distinction between the present and the aorist imperative is the difference between genral precepts and specific commands. A general precept is a moral regulation that is broadly applicable in many situations, while a specific command is a request for action to be done in a particular situation. As a rule of thumb, general precepts in the New Testament emply the present imperative, and specific commands the aorist imperative. …”
Thus the command to ”sell your possessions and give to charity” was a command at that moment, and not neccessarily a command for all time.
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The next command, of similar kind is found in Luke 14:33, also quoted by David Servant in his above book: ”Put all our material possessions under His Control,” or as translated by NASB: ”So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
The verb ”give up” is ἀποτάσσεται in Greek, which is 3rd person present middle indicative singular. ”Present Tense with the indicative mood represents contemporaneous action, as opposed to action in the past or future.” according to the scheme in Greek Quick Reference Guide.
So neither of the commands on possessions in Luke 12 or Luke 14 are universal commands of Jesus, but were commands requested by him at the moment.
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This doesn’t mean that possessions didn’t have a place in discipleship later on. We see that the first congregation of believers in the Messiah had everything in common. They laid down there possessions at the feet of the apostles, who then distributed according to everyone’s needs; very similar to the Essens and the Qumran Community, as illuminated by the paper ”The Community of Goods among the First Christians and among the Essenes” by Justin Taylor, S.M.
There is even speculation that ”The Poor” in Qumran (a name which the Community called themselves) could actually be the same ”Poor” as mentioned in Galatians 2:10: ”They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do” (NASB) and Romans 15:26: ”For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem”, (NASB).
We see here, in the first Church, an economic struture that existed parallel to the surrounding society, where the people of the Messiah shared there goods with everyone else, and where every person able to work and bring income to the Community, did so; and where also there would be common meals. (Atleast, that is how the Essene community worked). This could be the background to 2 Th 3:10: ”For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either”. (NASB)
This is a step up from just selling your possessions and giving to charity. This is a radical change of the power structures of society.
According to an international study, most of the money given to third world aid is ineffective, due to the unjust social structures in the receiving country.
I also heard of an author or authors, of book I unfortunately don’t remember the title of, who analysed the root source of starvation catastrophies and the like: and it was not nature, but unjust social structures.
So these alternatives economic societies of the first Church was head on. While Jesus walked the earth, he said sell your possessions and give to charity. But that was at that moment. The first Church moved on to the next level and corporalized the important economic side of the Kingdom of God.
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So what does Jesus want of our possessions today? It’s hard to tell, but it is far from obvious that we should just sell all of our possessions and give to charity. In Jesus day, there was an embryo of the Community, financed by a group of rich women. Presumably, one belonged to this Community if one followed Jesus. So selling off all of one’s possessions was traded by an alternative Community, which eventually becaome another economy, an economy where one’s love of one’s brother and sister was realized in even economic terms.
That’s the silent assumption: the alternative economy. An alternative that’s not present in the modern Church. So I’m not sure how Jesus’ commands of his day could translate to today’s reality. Selling off all of one’s possessions would be of unproportional great devastation compared to the small import of the result. At the same time, all of the possessions of today’s disciple is at the Master’s disposal, well, because we were bought with a price.
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The real challenge is finding an alternative economic and social structure for believers, for the benefit of its poor stratum. That should be on our minds. Until then, we must help the poor among us as intelligently as we could, knowing that the cost of discipleship is giving up all of our possessions, since they are not really ours: That application of His Kingdomship should also be on our minds.
november 21, 2013 § Lämna en kommentar
I have for a long time been wanting to comment on the Bible. It hasn’t corporealized, but it may come about in a weird way: in the way of defense against Christian extremism. Then I reflected that this might be a very good way of shewing the messages of the Bible. It would be defense and offense at the same time: thus similar to the ”Jeet Kune Do” school of Bruce Lee, which means ”the intercepting fist”, i.e. a fist which affords defense and offense at the same time.
I will also try to imitate both the quickness and accuracy of kung fu, not having to be bogged down into details. This will necessarily entail incompleteness and even errors. I will have to let the reader and myself keep this caveat in mind, letting the commentary be a process over time.
I will post the link to the commentary here in a near future.
A ”Hello World” is appropriate for this introduction, thus the Hebrew letters ”translated” into English letters and words:
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Edit: I changed ”attack” to offense, since I am not attacking anyone. The offense is forwarding the Bible’s positive message.