G-d's Word once again universally known
Monday, October 17, 2011 at 9:17PM
Shema Yisrael in Bible, God's Word, Jewish Roots, Jewish Roots, New Testament, Scripture, Torah, Word
When Christianity was cut off from its Jewish roots nearly 1,700 years ago, it lost some key components. Over the past few decades several of these roots have been restored, including circle dancing as a form of joyous Biblical worship, about which I have previously written in this space. Another Jewish root that G-d is in the process of restoring is the universal knowledge of His written Word.

In Biblical times, Jewish children learned to read Hebrew by studying the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Then they memorized it by putting melodies to the words and chanting them. By the time they were young teenagers, they had the Torah committed to memory.

This method of Scripture study resulted in much of the population knowing a significant portion of the Bible by heart. This knowledge was important because access to the written word was very limited. Each village had only one copy of the Old Covenant, or Old Testament, on scrolls in the synagogue. The scrolls were hard to transport, and it was difficult to roll and unroll the scrolls to search for a specific passage.

We can see the evidence of this widespread biblical knowledge in the New Covenant, or New Testament. Its authors, except for Paul, were not scholars, yet they frequently and accurately quoted passages from the Old Covenant in their writings. It also enabled the early followers of Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name), who were not just Biblically literate, but also able to quote the Scriptures from memory, to spread the Good News quickly without copies of the Old Covenant to distribute.

When Christianity became Rome’s state religion, the Roman leaders followed the practices of pagan religions. Only the leaders were initiated into the “sacred mysteries,” while the common people worshiped in relative ignorance. Only ordained priests could read and interpret the Bible. Later, church leadership also resisted attempts to translate the Bible from Latin into the common languages. In fact, they discouraged people from learning to read at all. By the Middle Ages, most people were illiterate and those who were literate had no access to Scripture. These policies enabled leaders to maintain control over the people and to implement many unbiblical practices. Unfortunately, similar policies are still in place in many parts of the world.

When the printing press was invented, G-d began re-connecting the Body of Messiah to this vitally important Jewish root. The written Word became much more accessible, many more people learned to read, and the Bible was translated into many languages. The development of books made searching for a specific passage much easier than it had been with scrolls. Now, in the digital age, we are even able to carry electronic versions of the Bible in our pockets to read, and our ability to study the Bible has also been tremendously enhanced with instantaneous word or subject searches with computer software or on the Internet.

Praise the Lord that we live in a time when G-d has restored a widespread knowledge of His Word—an important Jewish root— so that today all who have a hunger to know the Word, like our ancestors in Biblical times, can easily satisfy that hunger.

Article originally appeared on Congregation Shema Yisrael - Rochester NY (http://www.shemayisrael.org/).
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