The answer? Yes, right at the start! Rev. Aaron Eime takes a look at the first words Jesus taught in the synagogue and explains how understanding the Hebrew linguistics is crucial for us to understand Jesus' direct claim to be the Messiah.
Shhh, don't tell anyone...
Perhaps one of the more frustrating things about the Gospels is that Jesus never seems to tell people He is the Messiah.
When people actually figure it out He often gives instructions to be quiet and not to tell anyone. Which, on the surface, seems incredibly self-defeating for your mission if your mission is to be the Messiah and for people to follow you as such.
Taking a closer look...
Looking closely at what is said
Linguistics is the scientific study of languages in three major aspects:
- Language form
- Language meaning
- Language context
It is in the Hebraic context, the use of and meaning of the language of Jesus (Hebrew), that Jesus does indeed share His Messiahship and mission, and He does so at the beginning of His ministry - right at the start!
Jesus begins to teach
Luke 4 details the introduction to the ministry of Jesus, setting the scene in His hometown synagogue of Nazareth.
Jesus (Yeshua), obviously a trained Bible reader, is handed the Isaiah portion for the Haftorah reading from the Prophets. After reading from Isaiah 61 He delivers His first recorded teaching, a one line sermon.
Chapters and Verses were not introduced into the Biblical text until the 13th Century (for chapters) and 16th Century (for verses). In the English translation we can easily note that Yeshua, in reading Isaiah 61:1-2, does not finish the last sentence, drops a sentence from the text and even adds a sentence altogether.
If I stood up to read a portion from the Gospel of Matthew, and as I read I inserted some Psalms, a little bit of Pauline text and finished with a dose of Revelation, I might be asked to justify why I did not read the text as it was plainly written? What Jesus does though is perfectly applicable to His Jewish context and linguistic hermeneutic.
He is ‘allowed’ to do what He did, due to the way Hebrew language is constructed and how it is used and applied to Biblical interpretation during the 2nd Temple Period, the time of Jesus.
Remember, Jesus’ comment on this passage ‘Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’ (Luke 4:21).
The real question
The real question we should ask ourselves then is, what was fulfilled in the scripture?
The prophetic portion begins with רוּחַ אֲדֹנָי יֱהֹוִה עָלָי יַעַן מָשַׁח יְהֹוָה אֹתִי, ‘the Spirit of the Lord is on me’. Luke connects everything to the Spirit. Jesus is born of the Spirit, and now He is anointed by the Spirit, whereas Matthew focuses on the royalty of the Messiah.
Matthew has the visit of the Magi, the majestic gifts and the proclamation as King. Luke presents the poorer side of Jesus, with more details of the Messiah at a younger age. Now after coming out of the desert, having been sent there by the Spirit, Luke presents the ministry of Jesus beginning with the Spirit of God on Jesus.
Using Hebrew to connect the dots
Connecting the next portion of the sentence is the Hebrew word Ya’an, often translated as ‘because’.
The literal Hebrew word for ‘because’ is ‘Ki’ and doesn’t sound anything like ‘Ya’an’. ‘Ya’an’ comes from an old root word, and is not often used, meaning to pay attention, implying the purpose of something important to be heeded. It is used linguistically to stress the importance of what follows.
A modern day schoolteacher would make use of the word ‘Ya’an’ to inform the class that what follows in the instruction is fundamental and needs the class’ full attention.
What follows in the Isaiah passage is quite important, which is מָשַׁח יְהֹוָה אֹתִי. Literally the verb L’Mashiach means to anoint / make a Messiah / make an anointed one. The Messiah is indeed an anointed one. Our translations express this sentence as ‘God has anointed me.’
God has made me Messiah
All kings of Israel and some prophets were anointed. Each king is essentially a ‘little messiah’. However another way to say this in English is ‘God has made me Messiah’.
After Yeshua reads this portion He sits down and as all the eyes of the synagogue are on Him, He states, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’. Jesus did say that He was the Messiah.
He was quite clear and He declared it right at the start!
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