(NOTE: THIS IS MY ACADEMIC SUBMISSION FOR A CLASS I AM TAKING TOWARDS MY DEGREE TO BECOME A TEACHER FOR SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN. IN THIS CORE CURRICULUM CLASS WE HAD TO WRITE TWO LITERARY ANALYSIS PAPERS, ONE FICTON AND ONE NON-FICTION THIS IS ONE OF THEM)
(by Christopher Fredrickson)
In the Seminaries there is some confusion that troubles Christian scholars and has for almost 2,000 years and that is how the 4 gospels are supposed to harmonize. There seem to be striking differences in the 4 when read as a literal text. So the Christian community decided there is a source which all the gospel writers copied from and from each other that they decided to call Q. Now first of all it must be noted that there is no evidence whatsoever that a Q source ever existed, none of the early commentators sourced a source named Q or a source which all the gospel writers copied from. This theory was taken out of mid air. What is the problem then? Are the gospels fake? Was the Bible written by fallible men who made many mistakes in the text? Or, was the hermeneutic much older than something in the 1st century? And are the gospels not supposed to “harmonize”?
Most scholars attribute the differences in the texts based on the supposed backgrounds of the 4 gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Now the thing that is interesting is that all but one of these guys had Jewish names. This tidbit of information helps greatly in his writing style. If we analyze the gospels from a literary perspective and from the vantage point of hermeneutic as well as who these people were, we see the reason why the number of people Yeshua (Jesus) fed varies and chronology differs.
There is an ancient hermeneutic known by the acronym PaRDeS (which is a Phoenician word meaning “Paradise”) but to Hebrew speaking individuals it has another meaning. It is an acronym for a Biblical hermeneutic known as Pashat, Remez, Drash and Sod. We will get into what exactly these mean as we progress.
The book of Mark, is very linear, which would make sense it is written on the hermeneutic level of Pashat, which is the literal form of interpretation. We see Mark go into great detail in the when Yeshua (Jesus) healed the paralyzed man, he paints a picture for you that you can visualize literally the events happening. Mark is the shortest gospel and he is writing his gospel as though he were reporting stories for a newspaper. Everything is cut and dry with Mark this is why he uses amazing detail in terms of the surroundings and the places Yeshua was at, the things that were said to him, how he responded etc. You can read Mark like a novel and the spiritual message is cut and dry within Mark.
The book of Luke is written on the level of Remez. Remez means the “hint” level of hermeneutic. You are given a taste of something but not the full meaning, it is almost like subliminal messages being inserted into the text. Putting something familiar in a text to make you think of something else. It is like if one were to write a book and they would pay homage to the Wendy’s corporation by inserting the lines “where’s the beef?” in the story. Adding that phrase would direct the reader to think of Wendy’s and the old commercial indicating that there was hardly any meat on her sandwich. Luke does the same thing. In chapters 1-2 Luke is inserting the prophecies of Zechariah, directing them to read Zechariah to understand the message he is giving. He does the same thing in Luke 1:7 where he says, “But they had no child, because Elisheva was barren…” Luke is pointing to Genesis 11:30 where it makes note of Sarah not being able to conceive. Luke is trying to show immaculate conception and the parallel to understand story and forcing the reader to use research as opposed to Mark who hands it to the reader on the plate. Luke kind of speaks like Yoda from Star Wars essentially.
Luke is likened to that of a level of jewish writings known as “Mishna”, mishna means repetition. This is why Luke keeps harboring back to the previous sources to give people the correct connotation of what is going on, so they do not split up into 30,000 denominations. Luke is essentially saying you need to know and apply the old to understand the new. Mark does not do this. This would be likened to the old testament book of Deuteronomy which is considered a “mishna torah” (a repetition of the Torah, where the same laws are mentioned throughout but given more clarity and also pointing to the Sanhedrin saying “these guys have authority to tell you how to do these things if they are not covered here”) .
The next step in the Rabbinic ladder is the gemara, which parallels the book of Matthew and the Drash level of interpretation. The drash is the sermon level of interpretation known in Judaism as “Midrashim”. What the Gemara does then, is he explains the repetition (the mishna) and has the foundation as the pashat. It s like, if a scroll written in Hebrew has the letter tzadi written like ץ at the beginning of a word instead of צ the question would be asked, “was this a mistake that the sofit version of the letter tzadi ץ was at the beginning instead of the beginning form of the letter tzadi צ or is there a message being given to us because it is upright at the beginning as opposed to the end of the word (brief tidbit here: there are letters called sofit in Hebrew that have a different form if they appear at the beginning or the middle of a word than they do at the end of a word as the last letter, the tzadi is one of them). The drash level text has these textural anomalies often indicating there is another message beneath the text through the letters and through the message itself. Now it must be noted that the gospels were originally written in Aramaic via the Khabouris Codex but Aramaic follows the same rules as Hebrew. You find a lot of word play in the Aramaic you don’t find in the other gospels that have confused the greek translators because they didn’t understand this level of hermeneutic. Such as Matthew 19:24 Yeshua says, “it is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a gamala to go through the eye of a needle. Now, in Aramaic you have half vowels as opposed to whole vowels. The greek translators rendered it gamla as opposed to gamala, thinking it said “camel” as opposed to “heavy rope”. When properly translated to “heavy rope, through the eye of the needle” there is a spiritual dimension that is given to the text that it didn’t have before. Because, in the drash level of hermeneutic you have to think about the process. One has to ask, “did Yeshua say it was impossible for a rich man to get into heaven?” G-d forbid. Instead, he said it was really hard, so if you think of a heavy rope, a heavy rope is made up of many strands forming a sturdy rope, which represents financial strength but if a person takes a strand at a time they can fit that heavy rope through the eye of a needle. Showing the rich man must not be controlled by his wealth and he must unravel it as a safeguard one strand at a time. (As a side note my argumentative paper may be on Aramaic vs Greek Primacy).
To understand the Drash level a person first of all must understand the first 2 levels of hermeneutic (Pashat and Remez) and they must also know idiomatic expression such as “snakes a vipers” (Matthew 23:33) if it was meant as the level of insult Christians claim it is then why would he say to listen to them and do as they say 20 verses previously in Matthew 23:3? It would seem to be a contradiction correct? But the fact is it isn’t because because even the Rabbis of the Orthodox call each other “snakes and vipers” meaning their theological strike comes through the knowledge in the head as opposed to the heart. Though it was an insult it wasn’t like calling someone a “piece of crap” in today’s time.
Finally there is the Sod level of hermeneutic which is the gospel of John, as well as Revelation and several other “mystical” books of the Bible. The Sod level is the mystical level of interpretation. It uses a lot of numbers and word play. This is why John’s census numbers do not align with Mark’s, because John’s is not an actual number. They deal with gemaria values (which is saying that each letter represents a number and you add up the numbers in a word to reveal a parallel or message). Take for instance John 3:14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness so must the son of man be lifted up”. Now there is a parallel here, because the semitic word for snake is “nachash” has a gematria value of 358, the word Mashiach (meaning Messiah) also has a gematria value of 358.
With the Sod level texts, you cannot get the full meaning from a translation either. You have to go back to the original texts and languages. One example of this is the first line in John, which is “Bereishit atohi hwa miltha….” Most render this as “in the beginning was the word.” Though technically correct it does not render but ¼ of the meaning. Because the word “miltha” has several meanings all of which are correct and each one the reader is expected to know and understand. The word “miltha” means “manifestation, word, instance and substance.” The greek translation which renders “logos” has taken away a great deal of the meaning thus causing the text to not fully be understood.
With these writing styles, through the hermeneutic process of PaRDeS we can think of it as the Pashat being like a child’s understanding and having a pop-up book being read to them. They can visualize easily what is being said. The Remez being like the old Boxcar Kids books, which were novels written on the elementary school level to young teens level. The Drosh is like your James Patterson and the popular authors today. Obviously, language skills are defined at this time. Then the Sod is likened unto Einstein’s paper presented to his acclaimed peers in the science community .
These premises are not understood in the western world, because the seminaries teach the same as the academic world from elementary school through low level college classes as the world being linear and thought patterns linear. Voiding the texts of any internal meaning. This is why the sages of Judaism said, “cursed is any man who teaches greek or raises swine and teaches greek wisdom.” Now this was said to the Jewish community not to the rest of the world, keep this in mind. Linear thought, does not work in Biblical hermeneutic, otherwise we have issues for instance when it says in Exodus 33:20 “But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." But in Exodus 33:11 it says “The L-RD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.” But when student must write their senior thesis or they take a philosophy course, then they see through Jewish thought in many ways because they see the world as three dimensional in the hermeneutic of life.
One can tend to see the greek mind is the knowledge one obtains in school to become a surgeon, they learn where the heart is and all the vital organs. But the Jewish mind kicks in when they actually do surgery and there are judgment calls that need to be made. They learn and develop through seeing things as three dimensional and endless in terms of possibility and practice. Dr Ben Carson for instance was able to separate siamese twins successfully by looking beyond the textbook and applying the foundation and building off of it. Taking the established things that may not seem on the surface to be interconnected such as “math’ and “english” and applying the two together when the action must be carried out.
It can also be compared to the formation of a soft drink, Coca Cola and Dr Pepper are both soft drinks correct? They have similarities, even though Dr Pepper is an independent bottling company, and Coca Cola is made by Coca Cola Corp. many of the ingredients are the same, though they may taste very different. Both still classify as a soft drink. Thus, all 4 gospels are not based on a mystical Q source but rather the Torah (aka the Pentateuch) and one goes down the rabbit trail deeper than the other. Though all 4 are true, each was written on a level of understanding and interpretation. Would Fonzie be saying “Eyyyyyy” in the 21st Century if they were to remake Happy Days and Fonzie was in his 50s? Would he be wearing a leather jacket or Dr Shouls?
Let me conclude with saying, I am not speaking in any way shape or form Unitarianism, like that would matter in an academic setting anyway. But what I am saying is an incompatible hermeneutic or a “make it up as you go along” mentality doesn’t work when doing a textural analysis of ancient texts. There is a different level and dynamic that is often ignored. When a person takes a 1st Century text they cannot analyze it without looking at how people at that time would have written and analyzed it. But sadly today, the Biblical “academic” community such as the CBL do just that. It is like saying, “why didn’t Herman Melville give his protagonist a speed boat or a military vessel in Moby Dick with sonar gear to track down that whale?”. If I wrote that paper in a college they would find me to be a nit-wit and I would fail that paper horribly.
Therefore, I would conclude with this paper in saying, that one thing we have yet to cover in this class and the text book doesn’t say which I personally think it should; is when doing literary analysis one must take into account where the author resided, where he received his education, what time period he existed in, cultural implications to his writing style and the language which his text was originally in. If a person analyses any paper in this fashion, they will in turn get more out of their academic achievements because they can back up their theories on the texts in question.
Theological Insights from Rabbi Eved Banah at Beit Geulah in Morganton, NC (www.BeitGeulah.com)