The account in Luke 16 of Lazarus and the rich man has been quoted often within Christianity. Those that believe in an eternally-burning hell, where the unsaved person descends directly after death, state that this account is definitive proof of the existence of an ever-burning hellfire (see article Is ‘Hell’ Really Eternal? for my position on this). They believe this story to be a prophecy told by Yeshua to warn people of what would happen to the unsaved upon their death. Others, however, believe that it is, in fact, not a prophecy, but rather simply a parable. Still others believe that, although it is a parable, it is also intended to describe the eternal torment of hell. I suggest reading the account in Luke 16 prior to reading this article.
All too often we see doctrines created with little to no support or study poured into them. The age old declaration from the Protestant Reformation era of Sola Scriptura, or “by Scripture only” was the foundation of Protestantism. It denied any decree or doctrine not found directly within, or by logical deduction of Scripture. But what does Scripture itself say?
Acts chapter 15 is debated in many circles today. Protestant Christianity points to it as proof of the authority of the 12 Apostles to “change the rules.” Messianic Judaism (note: ‘Messianic Judaism’ is separate from the ‘Messianic’ belief for the purpose of this writing) uses Acts 15 as its “gentile flagship.” That is, that the four laws given to “gentiles” (lit. ‘nations’) in verse 20 (and repeated in verse 29) are the only ones required of the converts. These four laws are: to refrain from the “pollution” of idols (this is commonly viewed as being food sacrificed to idols), to refrain from eating anything strangled, to refrain from eating blood, and to refrain from whoring (sexual immorality).
Let’s explore these four laws a little further. Then we’ll consider the logic behind the decision of these four laws. Lastly, we’ll examine, in FULL context, the entire encounter of Acts 15.
Many today believe that circumcision is no longer necessary. Christians simply write it off as being part of the Old Testament that has passed away. However, there are also many amongst the Messianic/Hebrew Roots crowd that believe circumcision has not necessarily been done away with, but rather replaced. Are they correct, or are the Christians? Perhaps the Jews? What if they’re all slightly off? That is what we’ll look at in this study.
Here lately I have seen many attacks on the Hebrew Masoretic Text. Many people out there claim that it contains certain readings that were altered after Yeshua's time, in order to combat the teachings of the early Believers. It is said that these sections alter prophecies that are applied to Yeshua in the NT. These people also say that the Greek Septuagint (LXX) is more accurate, because it does not contain these later alterations. They state that the NT writers quoted not from a Hebrew text, but from the LXX, and that the early "church" used the LXX far more than any Hebrew text. Thus, they conclude, we should trust it more than we do the Masoretic. Is this true? Is this indeed the route we should be taking in our quest for the Truths of Scripture? Surely no one wants a corrupted text. If your base text is corrupt, then any and every translation of it will also be corrupted (unless corrected based on a different text).
If you have not yet read my series, How We Got Our Scriptures, I suggest you go and do that first. That series will lay a foundation for what is going to be discussed here. If you already have an understanding of who the Masoretes were, what they did, and so on, then you probably know enough to continue reading. I just don't want to thrust the reader into an issue he/she knows little about.