BOOKSHELF WITH REVIEWS

“James The Brother of Jesus—The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls” by Robert Eisenman, 1997, Penguin Books (ISBN—0-670-86932-5)–in this voluminous book Dr. Eisenman reveals little known information about James, the Brother of Jesus. This read will open your eyes into the real origins of our Faith and how orthodox Christianity has downplayed, and in many cases, intentionally obscured the true facts of the first century Church. We found this to be a difficult read, but well worth the increase in applied gray matter.

“The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity” by Jeffrey J. Butz, 2005, Inner Traditions (ISBN—1-59477-043-3)–Mr. Butz provides us with some well established facts as well as he postulates some conversial prospectives on James, the Brother of Jesus, and the first century Church. This proved to be a much easier read than Eisenman and it kept you engaged. But one must approach this read with a willing and open mind.

“Popular Beliefs–Are They Biblical?” by Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph.D.; Biblical Perspectives, 2008–outstanding treatise on some of the most popular beliefs of our Christian Faith. It will be an eye-opener for the uninitiated and a well researched primer for the more intuned reader.

“The Doctrine of the Trinity–Christianity’s Self-Inflicted Wound” by Anthony F. Buzzard and Charles F. Hunting, 1998; International Scholars Publications (ISBN–1-57309-309-2)–highly controversial book that is well researched and well written. If you have always wondered about the pre-existence of Jesus from a purely Biblical prospective and have an open mind to separate tradition and pagan history from the unadulterated truth of the Bible, this book will change your life and make you love Jesus our Lord even more than you do right now.

“The Two Babylons or The Papal Worship” by Rev. Alexander Hislop, 1959; Loizeaux Brothers, Inc (ISBN–0-87213-209-9)–difficult read, but like Eisenman, it is an essential read for every professing Christian who wants to know the true origin of the Faith. This book is also a life changer.

The Aleppo Codex–In Pursuit of One of the World’s Most Coveted, Sacred, and Mysterious Books–Matti Freedman. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013

I just concluded one of the most compelling and attention grabbing reads than I’ve had in quite some time. As I was preparing for my series on the Bible, I happened across this wonderful book written by Matti Freedman entitled “The Aleppo Codex—the True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible.” As I pored over the many sources of information regarding the Bible and its fascinating history, I was made aware of this mysterious Bible of all Bibles called the Aleppo Codex. Of course I was able to quickly get some basic information as to what the Aleppo Codex was, but I was dissatisfied with simply a general definition which Wikipedia and various websites handily provided. I’d like to think that the Holy Spirit addressed my curiosity by fortuitously bringing me face-to-face with this amazing book—I mean I was helping my wife take care of some business at our local library and I had absolutely no intentions of looking for any book on the codex at the time. I happened to look on a bookshelf and there it was. At first I was doubtful that I’d even have time to read this book having such a long list of books already slated to be read in my Kindle. I determined that I would make a modest effort to read at least a portion of the book before I was forced to return it to the library.

I was about a week into having the book on my magazine table, having not touched it since bringing it home. As I passed by the table I picked up the book and decided to read just the introduction. That was a most fortuitous mistake indeed. I immediately became obsessed with the book which kept my attention from introduction to the final closing paragraph. In spite of my jammed packed schedule I was able to polish off this book in less than a couple weeks which for me is blazingly fast.

Quite simply: Mr. Freedman takes his readers on what feels like a 1940s-1950s cinematic black and white mystery. Truly the story of the Aleppo Codex is nothing short of a mystery. The story starts in Tiberias in the 10th century when the codex was meticulously penned by  Rabbi Shlomo known as Ben-Buya’a, described as a swift scribe. Shlomo worked directly under the supervision of renowned scholor and Jewish sage Aaron Ben-Asher. If you ever have a moment of time and your curiosity is peeked, please go to youtube and pull up a video or two that shows how a Torah scroll is drafted…the level of work and dedication is monumental if you ask me. Thus I have nothing but awe for these men who made it their life’s work to replicate and preserve the Sacred Writings. Scribal errors were not and even today are not tolerated. A misprint by a scribe, if it can not be physically corrected, will result in the scrapping of the scroll or codex and starting all over. It is a painstaking effort that requires intense concentration. It is said that before each word the scribe pens, the scribe will utter it aloud so as to ensure that he is acutely aware of what is to be written on the parchment.

This particular codex was produced for the sole purpose of being a reference guide whereby other codices and scrolls would emerge. Quite simply, the Aleppo Codex is believed to be the most accurate manuscript of the sacred Hebrew canon that we have in existence today and thus its value to Judaism and Christianity is immeasurable.

From Tiberius the codex made its way to Aleppo Syria where it was kept within a safe in a Jewish Synogogue for centuries. It was overseen by a lineage of Jewish overseers throughout these centuries, rarely ever emerging out from its double locked safe to be viewed, read, and studied by anyone. Through the centuries, the vast majority of requests to study this text were denied. Thus its existence was known only by a privileged few in the scholarly realm.

When the United Nations voted to allow Israel to become a nation in 1947, riots erupted in Aleppo. The synagogue where the Crown (the nickname for the Aleppo Codex) was kept was ransacked and burned. The Crown itself was believed to have been pulled from its safe and the pages strewn in a heap on the floor of the ransacked synagogue. Efforts were made by the overseers of the synagogue to salvage the Codex and it is at this point where the great mystery of the Crown starts to take flight.

Ultimately the Crown makes its way to the newly founded State of Israel where it was and remains to this day housed permanently at the Ben-Zvi Institute, “a government-funded academic body named after the man who was given the manuscript upon its arrival in Israel–Itzhak Ben-Zvi, ethnographer, historian, and Israel’s president between 1952 and 1963.” (Freeman). After it’s receipt at the Institute, it was quickly learned that about a 1/3 of the codex pages were missing and the remaining pages appeared to have been burned on the edges (believed as a result of the ransacking of the Aleppo Synagogue). Many scholars accepted the incompleteness of the Crown as a misfortunate happenstance of the Syrian riots of 1947. But author Matti Freeman questioned this dismissive story upon learning that missing pages of the Crown had shown up in odd places around the world, owned by interesting yet secretive people.

The remainder of the book tracks Mr. Freedman’s search for the missing portions of the Crown as well as obtaining answers as to who was responsible for desecrating this of Bibles. Freedman finds himself in a world of intrigue, lies, mistrust, and to some extent danger. Given the length of time that has passed since the Aleppo riots, many of the witnesses to the Aleppo’s demise and current state have died; those few remaining presented themselves as hostile witnesses to Freedman as he would seek their assistance in arriving at the answers to why the Crown was devoid of so many pages. His ultimate conclusions about the Crown’s current state of being and its history suggests that those who were entrusted with protecting and transporting the Crown to Israel betrayed that trust and took liberties to secure a piece of history for themselves with the hope of receiving great wealth and personal blessings.

It is a story that is filled with many characters and at times it was difficult to keep track of who was who in the zoo. However, Freedman seemed to understand that and he made it a common practice throughout his book to provide the reader with gentle reminders of who these individuals were and the roll they played in the Crown’s story. Freedman’s style is that of a classic novel-writer with a hard and gritty news reporter chaser…indeed. I enjoyed every bit of this book, from beginning to end. Freedman did not presume his readers to be Biblical scholars and thus he caringly spent several pages in educating the reader about the development of the sacred texts and how the Aleppo Codex came into being. That said, Freedman cares enough about his readers that he takes you on this most murky journey but never leaves the reader behind to fend for his or herself. He is protective of the reader and that I applaud.

If you have time in your busy schedule, I would highly recommend that you read this book. It will be well worth your time. How did my reading of this book help me spiritually: I gained an even greater appreciation for the greatness, the historicity, the ordering and protection of the Word of Yehovah. There is no doubt that the Bible is the Word of the Most High, written by devout men who He, Yehovah, selected and inspired with His precious Holy Spirit, to write. As a result of the toil, the turmoil, and the lives that have been expended so that we may have in our hands these sacred writings, it is mandatory that we not squander this gift–the Holy Bible.

Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence by Nehemia Gordon

Title: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence–The Hebrew Power of the Priestly Blessing  Unleashed

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Author: Nehemiah Gordon

Hilkiah Press, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9830981-1-9

Having completed my read of this well written inspiring book–about one Karaite Jew’s personal journey to unravel the true name of the Creator–during our 2013 observance of the Feast of Sukkot was quite appropriate. Appropriate in the sense of the Feast of Sukkot being a time of reflection and introspection for the Messianic Believer and appreciating all things Kingdom related. Certainly delving into such a read where the primary focus is on the Eternal and the power behind His long forgotten name as well as the author’s zeal to reintroduce the name of the Father to the world was quite simply powerful.

The writer’s efforts in exploring the history behind the mysterious band on the Jews’ use of the true name of the Father–followed by the seeming “copy-cat” actions of the Catholic and later the protestant churches; determining the Creator’s revealed name via meticulous examinations of dozens of manuscripts and ancient extra-biblical writings; and explaining the status quo as it relates to the use of the name among Jews and Christians today, was indeed a solitary one. Certainly, this great undertaking by the writer was not something that the two great religions of the world–Judaism and Christianity–expressed any palpable interest. On the contrary, both faiths seem quite content at avoiding the use of the name altogether without the slightest interest in understanding why, when, and what of this complex name situation.

But in defense of this notable work, the efforts behind the research, writing, and publishing was more of a personal journey for the writer and not so much something where the author was attempting to enlighten or educate the world of his discovery. As a Messianic Believer, I can attest that this great piece of literary will likely go unnoticed by the Jewish and Christian public. The deep things of both faiths seem reserved for only the most committed as we are experiencing this in our ministry today.

Prior to reading this book, we had been introduced to Nehemiah Gordon through the ministries of Michael Rood (www.aroodawakening.tv) and Keith Johnson (hishallowedname.com). Both Michael and Keith are Messianic Believers while Nehemiah is a Karaite Jew. In the normal world, the two worlds of the Messianic and the Karaite Jew do not mix well at all. But it would seem providence brought this three extremely committed men together and produce some very compelling pieces of work that is taking the Messianic [Christian] community by storm. I guess it would be safe to say that both sides of this religious equation found profound benefit in what the corresponding other side had to offer their body of work.

Indeed, coming from our perspective, Nehemiah Gordon has a great deal to offer. Mr. Gordon is a Biblical and archeological scholar having extensive experience translating some of the manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as other ancient Hebrew manuscripts. He grew up in a ultra-orthodox Jewish home and has resided in Israel most of his life. Thus, having such experience and knowledge under his belt, any Truth seeking believer would be foolish not to realize Nehemiah as an unparalleled resource. Understanding and establishing the true name of the Creator is just one of the great benefits realized by the Messianic community of today through the work of Nehemiah Gordon.

As we mentioned above, this book was a solitary work. Yet it was more. The writer’s efforts to unravel the mysteries behind the abolition on the use of the true name of the Father by Jewish leaders in the second and third century was sandwiched between two great tragedies occurring in Nehemiah’s life during the period of his research and writing of this book. These tragedies were the dissolution of Nehemiah’s engagement right at the time of his planned marriage and the death of his father. Thus, Nehemiah’s work was–which if presented alone would likely bore the average reader to tears–was peppered with emotions–Nehemiah’s emotions–which he expressed well without losing balance and the overall purpose behind his work. Thus, having a personal story underlying a story about Biblical research was a smart move by Mr. Gordon and likely went a long ways towards holding this reader’s attention. Although the death of his father played a significant role in the telling of his story and the search for the name of the One True God, I did not get the same feeling of significance when Nehemiah was expounding upon the effect that the engagement break-up had on his search for Biblical truth. However, that did not get in the way of my gaining valuable information about this subject.

It is clear that Nehemiah knows what he’s talking about. Apart from his top-drawer credentials, the writer’s ability to tell his story is excellent and his book is well organized. Although many of the principles he presented in the book built upon principles previously mentioned in the book, Nehemiah was always good at reminding the reading of previously taught principles without burdening the reader with having to undergo a long rehashing of previous material.

Overall, we liked this book. Was it life-changing: Not really. Was it enlightening? Yes. Did I learn anything? Absolutely. Was it a pleasant read? It was indeed. Would a Messianic Believer benefit from reading this book: Most certainly he or she would. We were not “gaga” over this book because the name Yehovah as the true name of the One True God has been known in many circles for many years, especially prevalent in the  expressing of God’s name in “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance” translation of the term LORD (aka: YHVH/YHWH). We will say, however, that this book affirmed information that was and is out there and that my friends goes a long way towards being of value to the Truth-Seeker. Additionally, Nehemiah provides the reader with invaluable insight into the mind of a Jewish Biblical scholar, the mindset of the Jewish establishment as it relates to the use of the name of God, and the meticulous yet rewarding work of a Hebrew manuscript translator. I would say to you, get a hold of this book and find a weekend to read it all the way through with as few interruptions as possible. You will be blessed.

 

 

A Prayer to Our Father by Nehemia Gordon