hebrew jesus

It’s easy for us to forget that the message of Jesus and the entire Bible come from an intensely Hebrew context and worldview. Jesus was a Jew teaching Jews, and bringing the words of scripture back to their original Hebrew language and setting, understanding what the first Jewish hearers of those words would have understood, is the closest we can come to their original intent.

Mangers and Inns

Dave Brisbin | 12.11.16
In the run up to Christmas, what does the infancy narratives in Luke and Matthew have to tell us that is relevant to our day to day lives and choices? Especially, what are the details in those narratives that, understood from a first century, Jewish point of view, can not only make the story real, but clue us in to the central principles the authors were trying to convey? When we know what the word that has been translated as “inn” really means—start erasing our modern western concepts—the story takes on new life. 

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The essential details of mangers and inns begin pointing us in the right direction: toward the personal character and circumstances of Jesus and his family, their status as “anawim” those so destitute that they have only God as their provider…dependent, vulnerable, yet fully grateful and present even to their poverty. Francis of Assisi, who 800 years ago returned himself and his followers to the state of anawim, was also the first to recreate a nativity scene, a full nativity play, in order to recreate the experience of mangers and inns in a truly life-transforming way.

Setting a Trap for God

Dave Brisbin | 9.25.16
How important is prayer? A kneejerk reaction says of course it’s important, essential to our spiritual lives. But a more important question may be what kind of prayer is essential to our spiritual lives? When you take all the different types of prayer that we commonly think of as prayer—recited prayer, freeform prayer, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, praise—what is common to all of them are words. Words form the basis of most if not all our prayers, and yet words can never capture the deepest parts of our spirituality or the relationship we have with a God who can’t be seen or expressed in any way. The Hebrew word for prayer, slotha, points back to the roots, sela, which is actually a hunting term for laying a snare or setting a trap. 

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Prayer to an ancient Jew meant to incline toward, lean in, focus, adjust, tune in, or literally to set a trap for God–to clear a space interiorly and exteriorly and prepare to receive and connect with God’s presence. We need more of this kind of wordless prayer, time regularly spent stepping aside from the words and images, the shields we carry around in our minds that limit God’s presence and scope in our lives. One form of this kind of prayer, centering prayer, comes from the earliest years of the Christian tradition, and practicing it regularly will take us a long way on our journeys of faith.

Intimate Trust

Dave Brisbin | 9.18.16
The Bible makes a big deal about knowing God. There are dozens of references to knowing that tell us this is an area to which we should pay attention. And we have been, but the solution of Western Christianity for the past 500 years to search scripture for any and every bit and piece of data to add to our collected theology has nothing to do with what the writers of scripture had in mind. To know in Hebrew is something borne of long, close association. It is an experiential knowing that could never come out of a book. Our word for such knowing is intimacy, and tellingly both words also serve as euphemisms for sexual relations: the closest and most intense knowing we experience as humans. 

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Jesus tells us that eternal life is the state of knowing God and himself, since he is one with Father. All these figures of speech—the best we can do in words to describe the infinite—now coalesce to form a picture of knowing as intimacy, the oneness that grows out of years of daily practice and simple showing up. It is not intense emotion that shows us our intimate moments, it is the quiet certitude of bare belonging, the trust of acceptance that comes with all that time together.

Prodigal Father

Dave Brisbin | 6.19.16
Fathers’ Day: Ancient Hebrews envisioned their God the way they experienced the patriarchs of their clans—as king, judge, executioner, administrator—as the strength of their houses, which is what the Hebrew word for father, Ab, actually means. And though they also had a balancing notion of God as mother too, as wisdom, compassion, love—the glue that held the family together—it was Ab by which they referred to God. Jesus had an ingenious solution to create balance. He called God his “abba,” the name children would use for their fathers…a term of intimacy and affection. 

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It created the perfect balance of respect and connection, masculine strength and feminine compassion. Then he went on to illustrate in story after story how this played out. And in the story of prodigal son, if we’re really paying attention we realize that it’s not so much the extravagant, even wasteful spending of the son that is the focus, but that of the father who lavishes all he has on his son, no matter the quality of his behavior. In that extravagant love, we see that our Father is prodigal too.


accidental radicals

Dave Brisbin | 5.15.16
Jesus is often seen, from a modern, Western viewpoint as a social reformer, a radical revolutionary, the founder of a new religion, working to tear down existing systems in favor of the poor and marginalized. Though Jesus was revolutionary in his expression of his relationship with God/Father, to see him as a social reformer or radical is to misunderstand his message, mission, and Jewishness. 

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Jesus wasn’t trying to start a new religion, but purify the one he was already in. He was an observant Jew to the core, but his sense of oneness with his Father, our Father, made him one with everyone and everything else in creation, including those his religion had excluded. When you look at Jesus and his way of life from a Jewish point of view, what you see is someone so immersed in life and relationship and the lived moment as to be truly radical, but the radicalness is only accidental, a by-product of purposeful immersion in life.

only a mother could love

Dave Brisbin | 5.8.16
On Mother’s Day, we look at the role of mothers and fathers in ancient Hebrew society as illustrated in the language itself. Father in Hebrew means “strong house” and mother means “strong water,” that when understood in context means the “glue that holds the family together.” Strong house and strong water speak to the necessity of both doing and being, of accomplishment and relationship that undergird human life as a whole. We won’t find meaning and purpose without both father and mother in our lives, and we won’t find God either. 

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God is neither masculine nor feminine and is both at the same time. Hebrews understood that their God carried the qualities of strong house and water in perfect balance, and that though God as king was indeed the strength of the house, we always experience him first as mother—the compassion, mercy, and wisdom of the glue that holds everything together. That Jesus always led every encounter, every relationship with compassion and mercy shows us the Way of God, loving first no matter how unlovely we may be—loving as only a mother could love.


dr. rocco errico | 4.3.16
Renowned international Aramaic scholar Dr. Rocco Errico, founder of the Aramaic Institute and long time student of Dr. George Lamsa, joins us to present Jesus’ model prayer, what we call the Lord’s Prayer, from a deeply Aramaic, Semitic point of view.

least of these

dave brisbin | 3.20.16
On Palm Sunday, we look again at our expectations and biases and try to pry loose all we think we know of Jesus: from what he looks like to what we believe of his mission and teachings to test whether we, like those greeting Jesus along the streets of Jerusalem would miss the moment of our visitation. 

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What we think we know limits what we see and are willing to accept as truth. Jesus rides into our lives on the back of the foal of a donkey, bringing a message and truth that unless we have conditioned ourselves to see with the eyes of a child, we will miss completely.

choosing sides

dave brisbin | 3.6.16
As we look at religion and church practice, it all looks so polarized, so black and white, right and wrong—so binary, as if all our spirituality comes down to a choosing of sides. Which side is right and has the power to save and which does not. A young poet writes about why he hates religion and lists all the evils for which religion is responsible. Religion is bad; Jesus didn’t do religion; Jesus ended religion. Really? Jesus didn’t do religion? 

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Truth is, Jesus was more religious than most of us could ever imagine or approve. He followed the written tenets and practices of his faith to the letter, but within that practice, he cleared a path to the freedom that actually fulfilled the intent of his religion. Jesus didn’t choose sides, and though he revered and followed his religion, he never put mere religious practice above the pure relationship his religion was meant to convey. When we study Jesus carefully, better, when we live Jesus carefully, we realize it was never about choosing sides, but about seeing both sides as one whole: each side contributing the structure, discipline, mercy, and compassion that is kingdom.

no room at the inn

dave brisbin | 12.27.15
As Christmas moves into the rearview, there is one more look we should give the birth narratives to see what they may have for us herenow. It’s always the tiny details of a story that give it its authenticity, show that the storyteller was fully present to the moments described. And in Jesus’ birth narratives we have some details that shouldn’t be missed: wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger, no room at the inn. These details have graced millions of nativity scenes for two millennia, but do we have them right? 

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What do the swaddling clothes and manger tell us about our God that we can use to experience him right herenow? And was there really an inn in the way we think of an inn? And if not, what would a more accurate translation tell us about Jesus’ family and our families and character and nature of those, like the Magi, who see through the details to the God they travel so far to worship.

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