Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace

J. Warner Wallace was an atheist and a homicide detective with many years of experience when he decided to apply his professional skills to evaluating the New Testament’s claims about Jesus. Now he’s a believer.

That’s what happens when you follow the evidence rather than your emotions and the orthodoxy of atheist dogma.

The New Testament makes certain claims about Jesus:

  • He was conceived through divine intervention.
  • He was born at a certain time and place.
  • He performed many miracles, including healing, manipulating nature, and raising the dead.
  • He was a popular Jewish teacher for a few years.
  • He repeatedly clashed with the Jewish religious leadership.
  • He was falsely accused of blasphemy and executed on a cross for being a rival to Caesar.
  • He rose from the dead and appeared to many people.
  • He ascended to Heaven.
  • And many others…

While some of these claims can never be proven through evidence one way or another, many of them should have left some kind of trail. The Gospels claim that there were many witnesses to Jesus’ miracles, trials, a crucifixion, and a resurrection. The first century wasn’t completely illiterate, so such remarkable events should have left some kind of historical record that can be examined and dissected in order to discover the real facts, or at least say which claims are more likely to be true than not.

In Cold-Case Christianity, Wallace takes you through the basic logical toolkit of a cold-case detective and applies it to the foundational claims of Christianity. The book is divided into two sections. The first section details ten principles of gathering and evaluating evidence, specifically Forensic Statement Analysis, the art and science of interpreting eye witness accounts and filtering fact from fiction. The second section takes those ten principles and uses them to test the witnesses and documentary evidence of the New Testament.

After reading this book, you will feel entirely justified in ignoring all further historical assertions made by people who claim that Jesus never existed. Nobody’s life is more thoroughly attested by ancient history than that of Jesus, and there is no stronger evidence that a person is historically ignorant than to claim Jesus never existed. By the end, Wallace demonstrates that the historical evidence for the existence of Jesus (aka Yeshua) and for the authenticity of the New Testament (the Gospels in particular) is stronger than for almost any other accepted fact of antiquity.

You can buy Cold-Case Christianity from Amazon [affiliate link] or from just about any other book vendor. If you don’t already have it, I highly recommend it.

After the Sixth Level of Hell…

I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. Hosea 14:4

…comes Heaven.

Well, hell and heaven on Earth anyway. Maybe not the real Hell and Heaven, but it might seem like it to those who experience it. Leviticus 26 describes seven phases of national existence as they relate to obedience or disobedience to God’s Laws. They only obliquely relate to faith in that faith in God is among his commands.

The Torah is both life and death, depending on how you relate to it. If you obey, it is life. If you disobey, it is death. (In another sense, if you rely for your salvation on your obedience to the letter of the law, then it becomes death again.) The first phase described is of obedience and blessing. Israel is promised an overabundance in every way if they obey God’s Torah.

The next six phases stem from disobedience. Each of these six phases, except perhaps the first and the last, is a seven-fold punishment, complete in itself. Each one represents another chance to repent and return to obedience. Before describing each of phases one through five God interjects an offer of forgiveness:

  • “If you will not hearken unto me…”
  • “And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me…”
  • “And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me…”
  • “And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things…”
  • “And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me…”

There is no explicit offer of forgiveness (although the possibility is implied) before phase six, which is exile. The last tribes of Israel entered exile in the sixth century BC, and except for a partial reprieve from 531 BC to 70 AD, she has remained in exile until recently. Even now, the return to the land is not total. As before, only a fraction of the people have returned and the current residents of the land are far from penitent. I believe that Israel will remain in exile until “their uncircumcised hearts be humbled,” they accept their punishment for what it is, and they seek forgiveness.

Some of the rabbis teach that Israel was returned to exile by Rome because of baseless hatred and lashon hora or speaking ill of others. Some of them blasphemed the Holy Spirit when they ascribed Yeshua’s power to Satan. Most of them blasphemed Yeshua when they called him a liar, an antinomian, a heretic, and a bastard. The made the same false accusations against the Twelve Disciples and the Apostles who followed them.

Most of the Jewish leadership is still guilty of those same things, but that is changing. Many rabbis are beginning to back away from those accusations and to realize they treated their Messiah unjustly. Many of them are even beginning to realize that he is their Messiah.

Every eye should be turned toward Jerusalem, because Israel is being drawn back again. Judah is looking again at Yeshua, and Ephraim is finding him and remembering Torah.

The cycle began with obedience and blessing followed by six levels of hell on earth, but God prophesied another level, one of repentance and forgiveness.

I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
Hosea 14:4-7

This eighth phase of this cycle, the restoration of the people of Israel (not the State of Israel!) and the return of Messiah Yeshua, may be approaching soon: A new beginning in greater obedience and greater blessing. May it be so!

Yeshua, the High Priest of Heaven

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Abraham, Isaac, the angel, and the ram in the thicket.

The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
John 1:29

[Yeshua] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Hebrews 9:26

Every male among the priests may eat of it; it is most holy.
Leviticus 6:29

Every male among the priests may eat of it. It shall be eaten in a holy place. It is most holy.
Leviticus 7:6

Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before YHVH?
Leviticus 10:17

YHVH has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Psalms 110:4

It is a time honored principle that a leader bears some responsibility for the behavior of his subordinates and also in atoning for their trespasses. In eating the sin and guilt offerings, the priests symbolically (and possibly in some real, tangible way) took the sins of the penitent into themselves. They took responsibility before God so that the people could be reconciled to him.

Yeshua is a priest of a higher order than Aaron’s, and his blood is more potent than that of any shed solely on earth. His sacrifice was an order of magnitude greater than any animal sacrifice, and being offered on the altar in Heaven, opened the door for all of us to surrender our guilt to him. We have but to trust in God and make our allegiance to him.

Every blood sacrifice must be perfect. Yeshua, the Son of God, is a King-Priest like Melchizedek, and he is perfect and sinless, and he gave up his life willingly. No mere human death would have been sufficient, yet neither would the death of anything not human and therefore unable to bear the responsibility of human sins. Any other person’s death would have been ineffective for the purpose of eternal atonement for the sins of all mankind. It would have been murder and nothing else.

Yeshua’s death on the cross was certainly murder, but it enabled our salvation. He went to his execution willingly, holding that torment to be nothing compared to the greater reconciliation of man to God. By allowing himself to be killed, he enabled life for billions. In shedding his perfect blood, he took our imperfections, all of our sins, whether intentional or not, upon himself.

We have only to let them go, to trust the Father’s grace to forgive, and to submit ourselves to our new King’s reign. Yeshua, our salvation.

The Woman and the Girl: A Parable of Israel

The woman with the issue of blood and the young girl who died are both Israel.

Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:22-43, and Luke 8:41-56 all tell the same story regarding an older woman and a young girl who were both healed by Yeshua. In each account, a pious Jewish man named Jarius asked him to heal his twelve-year-old daughter who was on the verge of death. As Yeshua followed the man to his house, a crowd gathered around him, and a woman who had had an issue of blood for twelve years touched his tzitzit (on the hem of his robe) and was instantly healed. Yeshua acknowledged the woman and then continued on to the man’s house where he brought the young girl back to life.

These seem like two separate events connected only by Yeshua and a shared moment in time, but the Gospel writers deliberately made the older woman’s story a part of the girl’s story by keeping it in the middle. The Gospels aren’t always told in chronological order, so there was no particular reason to maintain the order of events here unless there was a deeper significance. I believe that, while the story is completely true, it is a parable of Israel told through real life events.

Two Aspects of Israel

In the parable, the woman and the girl both represent Israel, as illustrated by the twelve years, but in different aspects or segments.

The older woman was that part of the nation that was/is conscious of her status as the chosen people of God. Her illness is a reflection of the people’s sterile spiritual state. Long before Yeshua was born in Bethlehem, the Jews had abandoned following much of the Torah as it was given by God to Moses. They still studied and revered it, but they had also adopted “the tradition of the elders,” which, through its myriad rules, rendered the real Torah “of no effect” (Matthew 15:1-20). Still today, the Jews follow their rabbis and traditions in direct opposition to the Written Torah. They claim to follow God’s instructions, yet they don’t.

When the woman touched Yeshua’s garments, she wasn’t just touching the cloth. It wasn’t his clothes that she was after, it was the tzitzit fastened on the four corners. Tzitzit represent God’s Law, the Torah, and whenever we see them, we are to be reminded to whom we owe our allegiance and our obedience. The woman, healed through touching the symbol of the Torah on Yeshua’s garment, represents the Jews (and those from the nations who have joined themselves to them) who were/are being/will be restored to spiritual health by faith in God. Their faith will be evidenced by acknowledgement of Yeshua as their Messiah and returning to Torah as he taught it.

The young girl was that part of the nation which remained scattered among the nations. They lived in idolatrous unbelief and had forgotten their identity as children of Jacob. Her father was an Israelite, and she lived twelve years in his house, but her life and awareness was gone by the time Yeshua reached her. Her descendants in the world today are being restored to life through Yeshua along with multitudes of gentiles, but they are neglecting God’s instructions. Like the Jews, they elevate man-made traditions above the commandments of God. The only difference in this respect is the specific set of traditions that have supplanted Torah.

Two Important Lessons

I want you to notice two other things about this story:

First, only those who were conscious of their illness were healed. Someone had to be willing to say, “Yeshua, heal me!” (or in the case of the young girl, “Heal my daughter!”) before they could be healed. People who don’t know that they are sick or who refuse to acknowledge their degraded spiritual state will never call out for salvation. Yeshua once sarcastically told the Pharisees that “Those who are well have no need of a physician.” A very large segment of the physical descendants of Jacob have been cut off and will never return because they refuse to acknowledge their illness and need of a Savior.

Second, after Yeshua raised the young girl, he didn’t tell her to go her way as he did with the older woman. He instructed the people of the house to feed her. In Scripture, food often represents spiritual instruction (See John 21:16-17, 1 Corinthians 3:2, and Hebrews 5:12-14). When the spiritually dead have been brought to life in Yeshua, it is vital that they be taught from the Scriptures or else they will die again. They must be made into disciples, taught to live as Yeshua lived.

Whether native born Israelites or grafted in from the nations, we have all inherited lies from our ancestors, traditions that confuse or entirely eclipse God’s commandments. “By your traditions, you have made the commandment of God of no effect.” We are saved from damnation by the grace of God and not our obedience to Torah. However, once saved, we require nourishment in the form of sound teaching and obedience to sustain our lives.

There will come a day when the New Covenant is in full effect and no person needs to instruct another in the ways of God, but that day isn’t here yet. We are obligated to love one another by keeping the commandments ourselves and by teaching others to do likewise.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving YHVH your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that YHVH swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20


For more on the divided house of Israel watch my Who Is Israel series:

Did the New Covenant Make the Old Covenant Obsolete?

Did the New Covenant make the Old Covenant obsolete?

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first [old covenant] obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Hebrews 8:13

In the course of a respectful (not sarcasm!) conversation on Facebook, a friend made this statement:

Based on other interactions, it’s clear that you hold that the New Covenant did not make the Old Covenant obsolete, and therefore you must have an alternative explanation to Hebrews 8:13 which – in English – appears to plainly state that the New Covenant DID make the Old Covenant obsolete.

I thought readers of American Torah might also appreciate my reply:

It depends on what you mean by “obsolete”. Whatever the author of Hebrews meant, it seems that he didn’t mean it was completely gone (annulled) at the time he wrote, decades after Jesus’ resurrection, because he wrote that the “old is ready to vanish away”, not that it had already vanished away.

In my opinion, Hebrews is the second most misunderstood book in the Bible (Revelation being the first). I’ll use a couple of metaphors to explain two core concepts that the writer discusses.

One, the writer compares Jesus’ priesthood with Aaron’s. Two, he compares the New Covenant with the Old (Sinai) Covenant. (I say one and two, not first and second, because he jumps back and forth and all around in making his points, which convinces me that Paul was the author, possibly through an intermediary.)

Two Priesthoods

Metaphor One: Think of the two priesthoods as a hammer and screwdriver. A hammer is great for driving nails, but terrible for driving screws. In fact, if you try to use a hammer to drive a screw, you’re likely to make a mess of the wood and break the screw, possibly a finger as well. Hammers were intended to drive nails, and that’s fine as long as you’re only nailing things together. But if you have a new task that requires driving screws, you’re going to need a new tool to drive them.

If the task at hand involves certifying a leper as clean or making a burnt offering in worship, you go to Aaron. That’s what he’s good for. The Aaronic priesthood is fine for what it does, but it was never capable of mediating eternal salvation. Aaron was completely incapable of permanently removing the stain of sin and restoring us to a right relationship with God for all eternity. If that’s your goal, then you need a new tool, a new priesthood: Jesus.

Hebrews doesn’t say that the Melchizedek Priesthood replaces the Aaronic. It says that, if you are dealing with a different covenant, altar, and domain, then you need a different priesthood too. One doesn’t replace the other, but operates in parallel on a different, higher level.

Two Covenants

Metaphor Two: Picture the Sinai Covenant as a full moon and the New Covenant as the rising sun. As the sun rises, the moon doesn’t cease to exist. It continues to “rule the night” and to influence the tides, but it does fade in comparison to the much brighter light of the sun. The moon gives light both at night and in daytime, but when the sun rises, the moon’s light becomes superfluous–osbsolete, one might say–as if it has faded with age.

Just like the moon, the Old Covenant has no light of its own. It is a reflection of a much greater covenant, that the Scriptures anachronistically call the New Covenant. It’s “new” because, although it was promised and existed in principle from the very beginning, the sacrificial blood that sealed it was shed relatively recently, and it is still not fully risen. Until the promise of Jeremiah 31 (quoted in Hebrews 8) is fulfilled, we can’t really say that the New Covenant has reached its zenith:

“And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.”

Hebrews 8:11 & Jeremiah 31:34

When Will the New Covenant Be Fully in Effect?

According to Jeremiah and Hebrews, one of the distinctive qualities of the New Covenant is that God’s Law will be written on the hearts of the people. They will no longer need a written Law because they will know God’s character instinctively, and will know right from wrong without having to be told. This presupposes that the Law as written in the Old Covenant is an accurate reflection of God’s character and what he considers to be moral behavior.

As we internalize his Law, we obey what the Law says without having to continually reference the written word. This absolutely does not mean that we are free to throw out all of the moral standards detailed at Sinai because we have the Law written on our hearts. If we believe that, then it is clearly NOT written on our hearts and we still need to be told what to do.

“The Law was written for sinners, not for the righteous.” But “If any man says he doesn’t sin, he’s a liar and the truth isn’t in him.”

I believe that when–or sometime after–Jesus returns, he will complete the process of establishing the New Covenant. We will finally have God’s Law fully written in our hearts and nobody will need to tell anyone “Know God” because we will all know him at every level. When that happens, we can say that the Old Covenant has finally become completely obsolete because its light and purpose has been fully subsumed into the light of the Sun of the New Covenant.

More Information…

A related post on Galatians: Galatians and Torah, the short version.
And for more on the false dichotomy of “Grace vs Law”: Grace vs Law.

6 Rules and 6 Excuses

What animals does God say qualify as food and what animals don't.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Peter’s vision of the sheet with the unclean animals and showed how it was not about animals and food, but about people and the Kingdom of God.

There are other arguments and New Testament passages that people frequently quote when they attempt to disprove Yeshua’s words in Matthew 5:17-19, but before I address some of those, I probably ought to define the topic.

What does clean and unclean mean?

God’s rules aren’t arbitrary. There is always a reason for them, and that reason is always for our ultimate good. What makes an animal unclean is still a difficult question to answer, though, because the Bible doesn’t spell it out.

About the only thing we can be sure of is that “unclean” (tamei) doesn’t mean soiled or sinful. Uncleanness refers to a spiritual impurity, and is most often associated with death or a loss of life-force: blood, disease, corpses, graves, and bodily discharges.

Nothing in the Bible says “This is what makes an animal unclean,” but it does list some unclean animals and describe characteristics of others.

Leviticus 11 lists the basic rules of what animals God doesn’t want us to eat.

  1. Land animals that are cloven-hoofed and chew the cud are food. Any animal with one and not the other is not food.
  2. Water animals that have fins and scales are food. Anything under the water with neither or one and not the other is not food.
  3. Birds of prey and carrion birds are not food.
  4. Certain other birds are not food, but due to translation uncertainties and a lack of defining characteristics in Torah, we have no way besides inference and tradition to tell us about birds that aren’t mentioned. (“Living the Law: Reinforcing the Tradition with a Palpable Precedent” by Rabbi Ari Z. Zivotofsky and Dr. Ari Greenspan is an interesting article if you can find it.) Songbirds and wading birds (herons, storks, etc) are probably out, while pigeons, chickens, and turkeys are acceptable.
  5. Insects and other creepy crawlies are not food except for four types of grasshoppers and/or locusts that have over-sized rear legs for jumping.
  6. Anything that walks on paws or slithers on its belly is not food.

That leaves most ruminants, most fish, and many birds as suitable material for stew, salad, or stir-fry, but reptiles, amphibians, and shellfish are not allowed.

But…but…Acts 10!

There are six common objections to a Christian or Messianic Jew to keeping kosher:

1.“Those rules were just because they didn’t have refrigeration. Now we know about tape worms and trichinosis and we keep everything frozen or at least cold before we cook it.”
Beef spoils if left unrefrigerated for too long, and chicken is notoriously dangerous. Yet both are kosher. The rules for clean and unclean animals have nothing to do with safety or refrigeration.

2. “Jesus made all foods clean. Jesus died so we don’t have to obey those laws anymore.”
Actually, Jesus never said anything of the sort. When debating the Pharisees about whether or not it is acceptable to eat food with unwashed hands when that food would otherwise be perfectly kosher, he told them that they were so concerned about their own traditions that they were ignoring God’s actual laws.His central point was this: What difference does it make if a man eats with dirty hands (or eats pork or lobster!) if he is a murderer, a liar, or an adulterer? If you put something into your mouth, your body eventually purges it. If you put something into your heart, however, there is no automatic, natural process to remove it.Jesus didn’t die so you could eat bacon. He died so you could have eternal life in spite of eating bacon.

3. “That was only for the Dispensation of Law. God told Noah he could eat any animal. That changed when God gave the law at Mt. Sinai, then it changed again when Jesus rose from the grave. Now we are in the Dispensation of Grace and can ignore the Law of Moses.”
Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 12:20 that the Israelites could eat whatever meat they wanted, but just 2 chapters later he repeated the list of things that God didn’t want them to eat.Sometimes one passage, when removed from the context of the whole Bible, appears to contradict one or another passage. That’s an illusion caused by our preconceptions and inability (refusal?) to consider those same passages from a more holistic perspective that harmonizes all of Scripture as a unified whole.
Everyone reads the Bible through a lens that colors their interpretations. The problem with most people is that they don’t know it, and act as if their vision is crystal clear with no possibility of tint or distortion. Humility is a rare commodity.

When you read about Noah after the Flood or Peter and Paul after the resurrection, consider–as an intellectual exercise if nothing else–reading those stories as if you believed that not a single letter could ever be removed from God’s Law. Do some of the words have alternate meanings (they all do) that work in the new context? Are you able to understand those passages in that light? If so, then it’s just possible that it is the correct light.

4. “Those are ceremonial laws. They don’t apply to us anymore. Only the moral laws are still in effect.”
I have never yet seen a reasonable defense of such a distinction in the Law. There is no civil vs ceremonial vs criminal or any such division in Scripture. It’s an invention of man. To the contrary, God said, “Do not take anything away from my laws nor add anything to them.” On one side are hazy conjectures and complicated theories. On the other side are several very clear, unambiguous statements from God. I’ll go with the latter.

5. “All of the Law of Moses was abolished. It was entirely replaced with a new set of morals defined by Jesus and fleshed out by Paul: Love God with everything you’ve got, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, he quoted the Torah, and he said that all of the rest of God’s words hang on just two commandments. He didn’t say that the rest of Torah was no longer relevant. He didn’t add or subtract anything at all from the Torah. He didn’t even say anything new, although it might have been new to the Pharisees with their burdensome traditions:
Matthew 22:37-40: And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (38) This is the great and first commandment. (39) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (40) On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus (aka Yeshua) wasn’t telling them anything new. He was just quoting Moses, words with which they were already very familiar:
Deuteronomy 6:4-5: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (5) You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Leviticus 19:18b You shall love your neighbor as yourself…

Earlier I mentioned something else Yeshua said about the Law of Moses:
Matthew 5:17-19: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (18) For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (19) Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Note two things about that statement: 1) Whatever “fulfill” means here, it does not mean to destroy. 2) Nothing can be removed from the Law until heaven and earth pass away.

6. “The Law of Moses is still valid and still applies, but only to Jews. It was never intended to apply to gentile Christians.”As far as salvation is concerned, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” However, the New Covenant was not promised to gentiles. It was promised only to the houses of Israel and Judah. See Jeremiah 31:31.Those of us, who were once Gentiles, have been grafted into the tree of Israel, not the other way around. There is only one body in the Messiah, one law, and one nation: Israel. If you want to be part of that body, then you have to become an Israelite, which means that, even if this objection were true, the Law must apply to all true believers in Yeshua. (Notice that I did NOT say you have to become Jewish.)

There are many strong-sounding arguments for ignoring God’s instructions regarding which animals are acceptable as food, and I don’t have time to hash them all out in this one article. Stick around, though. I’ll get to them eventually.

I assure you that every argument that relies on interpreting some Bible verse to mean the opposite of what Yeshua said in Matthew 5 falls apart when you start assuming that Yeshua knew what he was talking about.


Addendum on unclean birds

There’s a lot of understandable confusion about what flying animals (includes more than just birds) are clean and unclean. The Hebrew words that describe the various birds in Leviticus 11 are obscure, and translators can’t agree on what flying animals are actually listed.

Here’s a chart showing how some popular translations render the list:

Lev 11HebrewHCSBYLTJPSBrentonKJV
v13neshereagleeaglegreat vultureeagleeagle
 peresbearded vultureossifragebearded vultureossifrageossifrage
 ozniyahblack vultureosprayospraysea eagleospray
v14daahkitevulturekitevulturevulture
 ayahall falconsall kitesall falconsall kitesall kites
v15oreball ravensall ravensall ravensall ravensall ravens
v16bat yaanahostrichowlostrichsparrowowl
 tachamasnighthawknighthawknighthawkowlnighthawk
 shachaphsea gullcuckoosea mewsea mewcuckoo
 netsall hawksall hawksall hawksall hawksall hawks
v17koslittle owllittle owllittle owlnight ravenlittle owl
 shalakcormorantcormorantcormorantcormorantcormorant
 yansuphshort-eared owlgreat owlgreat owlstorkgreat owl
v18tanshemetbarn owlswanhorned owlred-billswan
 kaattawny owlpelicanpelicanpelicanpelican
 rakhamcarrion vulturegier eaglecarrion vultureswangier eagle
v19chasidahstorkstorkstorkheronstork
 anaphahall heronsall heronsall heronsall lapwingsall herons
 dukiphathoopoelapwinghoopoehoopoelapwing
 atalephbatbatbatbatbat

As you can see, there is unanimous agreement on some points and total chaos on others. We also classify flying creatures differently than the ancient Hebrews did. For example, we differentiate between flying mammals and birds. They didn’t. They made distinctions between various kinds of birds of prey that we can’t even decipher now.

Here is what we can say with relative certainty:

Definitely Not Kosher

  • Any kind of vulture, buzzard, condor, etc.
  • Any kind of raptor, like a hawk, eagle, falcon, or anything else we would normally call a “bird of prey”.
  • Any kind of raven or grackle.
  • Cormorants.
  • Storks, herons, and pelicans.
  • Lapwings and hoopoes.
  • Bats and all other flying mammals.

Probably Not Kosher

Based on those that are definitely not kosher, I think it’s safe to presume that these birds are also unclean, although I wouldn’t be dogmatic about it.

  • Sea-going predatory birds, like gull, terns, and penguins.
  • Long-legged wading birds, like flamingos, shanks, and egrets.
  • Semi-terrestrial, semi-predatory birds like roadrunners, killdeer, and woodpeckers.

I’d Avoid Them, Just in Case

These birds seem to me like they probably belong in the list and some translators include them explicitly. Your call, of course.

  • Large flightless birds, like ostriches and emus.
  • Song birds, like swallows, finches, and cardinals.

Probably Kosher

Or at least they don’t seem to fit cleanly into any of the forbidden categories and they definitely aren’t listed explicitly. Some people still disagree about them, though.

  • Ducks
  • Geese
  • Turkeys

If you are interested in an Hassidic Jewish perspective on kosher birds, check out this article from Chabad: What Are the Signs of a Kosher Bird?

P.S. WordPress is giving me a heck of a time keeping the formatting on this article the way I want it. It seems like every time I edit something, WordPress messes up all my formatting.

The Heart of the Tabernacle of You

Curtains, planks, loops, staves, horns, crowns, sockets, skins, hair, linen, gold, silver, bronze, red, blue, purple, white, cherubim, pomegranates, height, width, length, cubits, hands, two, three, four, five, six, ten, eleven, twelve, twenty, fifty… I understand why some instructions on the construction of the Tabernacle were necessary, but why such detail? And why do we need to know about it 3500 years later? Why wasn’t all of this recorded in a separate manual just for the craftsmen?

God said that the Torah is not difficult to understand or even to follow, and it’s not, at least not on the surface. It says to make a box of certain dimensions out of a certain wood, overlay it with gold, put certain decorations on it, and put certain items in it.

Simple to do. Not so simple to understand why. There are some things that we aren’t meant to know or that we are incapable of understanding, but I don’t think that’s the entire story here. The rabbis have many traditions about why things were done one way and not another, and some of those traditions might even be right. The book of Ezekiel also hints that the ancient Israelites should have been able to derive moral truths from these technical instructions. (Ezekiel 43:10)

There are actually three tabernacles, and the wilderness mishkan is the middle one acting as a sort of intersection or focus point for the other two. The first tabernacle is of Heaven (Hebrews 8:2). Yeshua is the high priest there, and it is a temple for all Creation (Hebrews 9:11). It is the highest and most real of the three. The second tabernacle is that of Moses (Hebrews 8:4), as already mentioned. Aaron is its high priest, and it is a temple for a nation. It is an earthly copy of the heavenly reality. The third tabernacle is every person, and, as the mediator between the body and the Creator, you are its high priest, and the Holy Spirit is the presence of God above the Ark. (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Moses recorded the details of God’s instructions on the earthly tabernacle so that we could use it as a model for reshaping our fleshly tabernacles into the image of the heavenly. Our goal is to be remade in the image of Yeshua, to remake our lives in the image of the tabernacle, and specifically to remake our hearts in the image of the Ark of the Covenant.

Moses recorded the details of God's instructions on the earthly tabernacle so that we could use it as a model for reshaping our fleshly tabernacles into the image of the heavenly.

The Ark of the Covenant was made of only two elements, wood and gold. It contained a golden* jar of manna, Aaron’s staff, and the stone tablets of the Law. It had a cover, made of pure gold and adorned with golden cherubim.

The wood, which formed the core of the Ark, symbolizes two things: a heart of flesh and the individuality of each person.

A heart of flesh instead of stone indicates that we are to be soft-hearted to allow God to work in us. His Spirit cannot commune effectively with a stone, but works to transform our hard hearts so that we can have a more perfect relationship with God.

Gold represents purity in righteousness, and the Ark was covered with it inside and out. This means that we should strive to conform our hearts to his standards of perfect righteousness, not only through our outward behaviors, but also through the internalization of his Word.

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Psalm 119:11

If this is so, why wasn’t the whole Ark made of pure gold?

The Ark is a pattern for everyone, and not just a single person. God wants to build his kingdom, his nation, through us, and you cannot build a nation out of a million identical units. An object made of metal is uniform throughout. It has the same density and consistency on the surface as it has a centimeter or an inch deep. Wood, on the other hand, is infinitely variable. If you analyzed every square inch of wood that has ever been grown, you will never find two of them the same.

If you want to build an army of robots, you might manufacture a million identical parts out of metal. If you want to build a nation of people with varying roles, however, you should consider the geometry of trees.

Within the Ark, the stone tablets represent God’s Law. At Sinai, they were written on stone. In the New Covenant, they are to be written on our hearts, and they were stored within the Ark as a metaphor for storing them in our hearts.

“And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD.”
(Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:11)

Aaron’s staff represents the life-bringing rule of the true High Priest, Yeshua of Nazareth. When we submit to his yoke, we find freedom and purpose. When we obey his direction, we find life.

The jar of manna represents our faith in God’s provision. The jar is pure gold, because it is our faith in him which makes us perfect in his eyes.

Genesis 17:1 gives another example of these three elements in the life of a believer: “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” “I am the Almighty God” echoes the first commandment on the stone tablets; Abraham walks before God who is his shepherd and high priest symbolized by Aaron’s staff; and he was considered perfectly righteous because of his faith in God symbolized by the golden jar of manna.

The atonement cover on the Ark is Yeshua, our Messiah and King. He is wholly sinless as solid gold. He covers us with his blood, with his perfect life, and with his authority. Our prayers rise from our heart through him, between the wings of the Cherubim, to the Father in Heaven. So it is that no man comes to the Father except through him, and so it is that our prayers will be hindered if we do not forgive and love according to his example.

There is one true Tabernacle in Heaven, and Yeshua presides there as High Priest. We are to pattern our lives after it, and our hearts after the Ark within. The earthly tabernacle was given as a pattern for us to follow until the final veil is removed and we might see the reality with our own eyes.

For now we look forward to it through the lens of the tabernacle as described in the Torah and the Prophets.

 

*Only the Septuagint says this jar is made of gold, but it is confirmed by Hebrews 9:4.

Yeshua, Our Great Atonement

Whenever you see the numbers 4 or 40 in scripture, I suspect that you will find some lesson about the Messiah nearby.

  • The fourth day of creation brought lights to rule the heavens.
  • Esau, a type of antichrist, married two Hittite women when he was forty years old, a pre-figuring counterfeit of Jacob.
  • Jacob was mourned for forty days.
  • Israel ate manna, bread from Heaven, in the wilderness for forty years.

There are probably dozens of other examples, but Noah and the flood is one of the best known. The rains fell for forty days and nights. One clear connection between the Flood and the Messiah is in the salvation of Noah and his family, as well as the means of that salvation.

There are three words in Genesis 6:14 that are directly connected with the atonement of Yeshua.

  • Gopher – גּפר (gofer)
  • Cover – כּפר (kafar)
  • Pitch – כּפר (kofer)

Since vowel points weren’t added to Hebrew for two thousand years after the Torah was first written down, the only difference between these words in print is the gimel (hard g sound) in gopher versus the kof (k sound) in the other two words. Otherwise all three words are spelled the same. The puns are clearly intentional.

What makes this even more interesting to me is that kafar (cover) and kofer (pitch) are also identical in spelling to the Hebrew for atonement: kippur. (The F and P sounds are represented by the same Hebrew letter, peh.) Kippur is the root of kapporet, which is Hebrew for mercy seat*. See Exodus 25:17 and 30:10 among many other verses.

These particular words (gofer, kafar, kofer) were used in Genesis 6:14 as a deliberate allusion to atonement.

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. (ESV)

Make yourself an ark of atonement wood. Make rooms in the ark, and atone it inside and out with atonement.

Noah’s ark was covered with pitch to shelter the survivors from God’s wrath, while Moses’ ark was covered with the mercy seat to be a buffer between us and God’s overwhelming presence. The first ark contained God’s chosen people and miraculously provided sustenance. The Ark of the Covenant contained emblems of God’s Law (the stone tablets), guidance (Aaron’s staff), and sustenance (manna), all given to God’s people and carried by them through the Wilderness.

Messiah Yeshua is the atonement which carried Noah through the flood by which the earth was cleansed of violence and tyranny. Ultimately, he is the atonement, which carries us through Death itself to be resurrected and to stand before the Judgment Seat of God. He will cover us and carry us through that as well.

Back to the numbers…

Noah’s Ark protected its inhabitants through forty days and nights of rain that eventually covered the whole earth, crushing and drowning millions, possibly billions of people. How can such unimaginable destruction contain a teaching on the Messiah?

One of the most profound truths of the Messiah is that he not only saves us from death, but he saves us by and through death.

We cannot approach God directly in our sinful, corrupted state. We need atonement to cover up our stench. The blood of bulls, goats, lambs, and doves was offered on the altar and on the mercy seat as a temporary atonement, but Yeshua’s blood atones for our sins more completely than that of any animal. His blood makes a permanent atonement that cleanses not only our flesh, but our spirits from all taint of sin.

Through Yeshua’s death, we have been enabled to live eternally, but we must pass through death ourselves to obtain it, just like Noah and his family had to pass through the rains in order to be saved from the destruction that took the rest of the world.

Messiah is the atonement which carried Noah through the flood by which the earth was cleansed of violence and tyranny. Ultimately, he is the atonement which carries us through Death itself so that we may be resurrected to stand before the Judgment Seat of God. He will cover us and carry us through that as well.

Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
Revelation 7:15

Yeshua doesn’t always save us from trials, but he does save us through them. Our faith and mettle is tried continually by flood and fire and death, and his atonement will never fail us. We will come through the other side one day with a trove of refined spiritual gold, silver, and jewels in exchange for our own faithfulness.

* “Mercy seat” is a terrible translation of kapporet. Although the cover of the Ark of the Covenant could be considered the seat or center of God’s mercy, “covering” would be a much better translation.

Shadows of Jesus in Joshua

There are shadows of the multiple roles of Messiah revealed in the anointing of Joshua to succeed Moses.

The role of the Messiah is a complex subject, and like most complex subjects, you can often convey more information with a story than with a simple list of facts. And for this topic, just one story won’t do the trick. Fortunately, the Scriptures are full of them–Isaac, Joseph, David, etc.–like multiple shadows cast by the same man struck by light sources at different angles. Each character shows a different facet or role of who Messiah is supposed to be. Sometimes the same character plays several roles.

Moses and Joshua are two such types of the Messiah.

Moses set the people free from slavery, led them through the Red Sea after a three day journey, taught them from a mountain top, and guided them to the border of the Promised Land. He even told of another “prophet like me” to come.

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.’
Deuteronomy 18:15-18

After Moses died, Joshua took the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. He led them in war and destroyed their enemies. He fulfilled the promises that God made to Abraham to give that land to his descendants. He even had the name of the Messiah: Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name) literally means “salvation”, but it was a common diminutive form of the longer Yehoshua (Joshua’s Hebrew name), which means “YHWH saves”.

There is an interesting set of phrases in the anointing of Joshua as Moses’ successor in Deuteronomy 31. (There are a number of interesting things going on in the structure of that chapter. See here: A Chiasm in Deuteronomy 31.) Take a look at these two verses:

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it.”
Deuteronomy 31:7

And the LORD commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.”
Deuteronomy 31:23

Notice that when Moses commissioned Joshua in verse 7, he said “You will go with this people,” but when God commissioned him in verse 23, He said, “You will bring the people of Israel.” It is a subtle difference that is easy to miss and even easier to dismiss as inconsequential, but there is a difference, so we know that there must be a reason for it.

Consider the idea of the two Messiahs as illustrated in the stories of Judah and Joseph (mentioned here May It Please Our Lord, We Will Be Servants of God and here The Betrayal of Mashiach ben Yosef).

Messiah ben Yosef comes to serve, to teach, and to suffer for his people, while Messiah ben David comes to throw off the yoke of foreign oppression and to lead his people to victory.

Moses’ told Joshua to “go with this people”. This implies that he must be one of them. He must not elevate himself above his fellow Israelites, but lead by example. Yeshua did exactly that. He lived among the people as a man, he experienced our pain and our temptation, spoke with us, ate and drank with us, he taught us how to live according to Moses’ instructions, and lived those instructions perfectly. Finally he died the most humble of deaths for us. As Messiah ben Yosef, the suffering servant, he truly “went with” his people.

God, on the other hand, told Joshua to “bring the people of Israel”. To bring a people anywhere requires authority and power. A commoner doesn’t bring his people anywhere unless he first earns or captures a place of influence over them. Yeshua didn’t need to take control, because the Father caused him to be lifted up (John 3:14). He was resurrected and elevated to the right hand of the Father, preceding his people into eternal life. He was made to be King, not only of Judah, but of the whole re-united Kingdom of Israel, wherever her people might be. He was the first across the River of Death and Resurrection into the ultimate Promised Land and will one day take the rest of us with him.

When Yeshua returns, Paul wrote that those who died believing in him will be resurrected (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Yeshua does not need to return to the grave to bring them out. He will command it, and they will rise because they are his subjects. He will also send fishermen to draw out those of Israel who are ready to receive him and hunters to flush out those who are hidden (Jeremiah 16:16). These too might have no choice in the matter, and it will not be a pleasant experience for all involved–there are sins to be recompensed and character flaws to be rectified–but they belong to the King, and he will not lose a single one of those whom God has given him.

Like Moses, Yeshua will lead his people out of bondage again, and, like Joshua, he will bring them back to the Promised Land as the Father promised through Moses and the Prophets. But he will not come again as the suffering servant. Our debt has been paid in full; his blood is fully sufficient to remove the stains of all our sins, and his resurrection has opened the way for us to follow.

Instead of him humbling himself to become like us, we will be exalted to become like him. Yeshua will always be our King, but by God’s grace, we will finally be made subjects worthy of him.

Tearing out the Tares

One vital point in understanding the parable of the wheat and the tares is that the two plants are very difficult to distinguish until they bear fruit.

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed [tares] among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the [tares] appeared also.

And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have [tares]?”

He said to them, “An enemy has done this.”

So the servants said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?”

But he said, “No, lest in gathering the [tares] you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the [tares] first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Matthew 13:24-30 ESV
(I changed “weeds” changed to “tares” in this quote for clarity.)

When I was growing up, I heard this parable taught many times in Sunday School. The point made most often was this: Watch out for those tares. They look like real Christians, but that’s only a disguise on the outside. God knows what’s really in their hearts, and at the judgment, he will be able to tell them apart. The wheat will go to heaven, while the tares will go to hell. So don’t be like the tares. Be a real Christian, all the way through.

That’s good advice and all true as far as it goes, but it’s not complete. What about the man’s instructions to his servants?

Don’t pull out the tares, lest in doing so, you root up the wheat along with them.

I quoted the full parable in Matthew 13 at the top of this article from the English Standard Version, but I think this is one of those few cases where the ESV is clearly wrong. Certainly a tare is a kind of weed, but it’s a specific kind of weed, and that fact is important to the parable. I changed that word in the quote to make sure that point isn’t lost.

Fausset’s Bible Dictionary says this about the tare:

Darnel; at first impossible to distinguish from wheat or barley, until the wheat’s ear is developed, when the thin fruitless ear of the darnel is detected. Its root too so intertwines with that of the wheat that the farmer cannot separate them, without plucking up both, “till the time of harvest.” The seed is like wheat, but smaller and black, and when mixed with wheat flour causes dizziness, intoxication, and paralysis; Lolium temulentum, “bearded darnel”, the only deleterious grain among all the numerous grasses. (Fausset’s Bible Dictionary)

The landowner in Yeshua’s parable didn’t want his servants to weed out the tares because of three distinctive features:

  1. The tares are nearly indistinguishable from the wheat throughout most of their lifecycle. A worker, being unable to tell the difference, might pull up wheat and tares indiscriminately.
  2. The roots of the tares intertwine with those of the wheat, so that, even if correctly identified, removing them might still remove neighboring wheat plants.
  3. When they begin to ripen, the tares finally become evident to even the most untrained worker. All of the plants can be cut together and the tares separated out by hand.

Besides the Sunday School lesson I referenced above, what can we learn from this?

There are three kinds of believers that can be described as tares:

  1. Hypocrites who appear like saints to everyone else, but who harbor secret sins.
  2. The licentious who justify their behavior using alternative translations or interpretations of Scripture.
  3. Heretics who profess extra-Biblical revelation or who rely on obscure, mystical interpretations of Scripture to support a belief that could never be derived from a plain reading of the text.

Did you notice that I worded each of those to influence your opinion against the people being described?

Christians (and Jews and every other religious group…maybe I should just say “people”) have a long history of attacking their own over seemingly minor disagreements. We let our emotional attachments to our own opinions trump reason, knowledge, and love, and in the end, all we accomplish is destruction. We are like the servants in Yeshua’s parable, but instead of asking him what we should do, we take it upon ourselves to pull up what we perceive to be tares.

Let me give you some examples of the three types I listed above.

Secret Sins

A deacon at your church is respected and liked by the congregation. He has served honorably for many years. But recently you saw him exchange envelopes with a strange man in a restaurant. Was it a drug deal? A blackmail payoff?

This man looks like wheat to everyone else, but now you’ve seen something that makes you wonder if he might be a tare. Should you expose him?

What has he actually done? Did you see drugs, money, photos…anything actually bad at all? In reality, all you saw was two men exchanging envelopes. It could be a contract, landscape design, or project specs. You don’t really know anything at all.

God’s Law doesn’t authorize us to snoop in other people’s private lives. (See “So Shall You Purge the Evil from Your Midst“.) If someone is flaunting their sin or if it becomes public knowledge somehow, that’s another story, but if someone has sin in their closet that nobody knows about except him and God, then leave it be. You don’t know what unwarranted damage you might cause by meddling where you don’t belong.

Differences of Opinion

Reasonable and well-meaning people will have different opinions on what God’s instructions mean. That’s normal. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

One person believes they should never eat meat sacrificed to idols, while someone else believes it’s okay as long as you don’t participate in the ritual itself. They both might feel very strongly that they are right and that the other person is engaging in legalism or idolatry. They both love God with all their hearts and do all they can to help their neighbors, but based on this one issue, they are ready to excommunicate each other.

They have both identified the other as a tare, when in reality they are both wheat. Being wrong about something doesn’t condemn a person to hell or make them into a wolf in sheeps clothing. It just means that they’re wrong about something.

We all believe things that other people don’t, even things that seem to us to have clear and incontrovertible support from Scripture. Investigate why others believe the way they do, and you will almost certainly find that they have good reasons, and aren’t in rebellion against God. When we find ourselves on the opposite side of an issue from knowledgable and godly people, we need to step back and acknowledge that we might be wrong. That doesn’t mean you have to change your mind. It only means that you need to extend a little grace to your brothers and sisters in Yeshua when the Bible isn’t quite as black and white as we would like it to be.

Religious Dogmas and Esoteric Theories

Infant baptism or only adults? Sprinkling or immersion? Trinitarianism or unitarianism? Yeshua or Yahusha? Cessationism or continuationism? Young earth creationism or theistic evolution? There are countless more examples of controversies within Christendom that have no real impact on how we look or behave.

If you keep the Sabbath and don’t bow down to any graven images, does it really matter if you believe that God does or doesn’t have semi-autonomous parts? Nope.

If you don’t murder or steal, what practical difference does it make if you call the Messiah Jesus, Yeshua, or Yahusha? Zilch.

Does believing that the earth is 6000 years old or 5 billion years old matter if you honor your parents and respect your neighbor’s property? Not a bit.

Does reading the Bible in English make you any more or less a Christian than reading it in Latin? Christ didn’t read the Scriptures in either one, so I can’t see how it could.

These are matters of vain philosophy and imagination. They are myths and just-so story telling. Yet so-called devout Christians have killed each other over these issues because they refused to heed the parable of the wheat and the tares. In attempting to uproot what they believed was a tare, they caused hatred and division in the Body of Messiah. They destroyed lives, both innocent and guilty, and they continue to do so today by accusing their brothers and attacking one another over relatively trivial matters.

Deuteronomy 29:29 says “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” The secret things that belong to God are sins that are done in secret as well as those things that God has not chosen to reveal to us in any detail.

The Bible hints at many things that are not explained in depth and never addresses many others. For example, there are a number of instances in the Old Testament in which an angel is referred to as God. There are seven spirits of God. In mystical language, John said that Yeshua is God, and then there is the Holy Spirit, but the Scriptures also say that God is one. So is God one, three, or seven? We are created in God’s image, yet God doesn’t have a body. We have a body, so how can we be made in the image of a God that doesn’t? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and the plain fact is that neither does anyone else. God is God, and he is beyond human comprehension. He has not chosen to give us a detailed description of himself or his anatomy, and if he had, we shouldn’t expect to understand it anymore than an amoeba would understand ours.

Only pride insists otherwise.

When we insist, in the guise of stamping out heresy, on attacking one another over questions to which nobody could possibly know the answers or that don’t have any practical application, then we are like hamfisted workers, carelessly tearing out good wheat with bad tares because we think we know better than our master.

In our zeal to purify the Body of Messiah, we have tainted it by filling our hearts with hatred.

There are things that are clear in Scripture. In the context of the parable, we might say that thistles are easy to tell from wheat. Someone with spiritual eyes to see and hands to touch will never confuse the two. If you can uproot what is clearly evil without harming what appears to be good, do so. This is also part of our master’s instructions.

Open homosexuality, murder, theft, idolatry… Only those who are are in active rebellion against God and his Law will defend them. These things mark the truly reprobate from the righteous, and we are commanded by God to remove them from our communities to prevent their spread. We aren’t authorized to go looking for them in people’s closets, but if they are revealed, then we have to deal with them.

Speculations about esoteric matters that have not been revealed to us can be interesting, even enlightening at times, but are more often simply a waste of time. As long as they don’t lead people to reject what has been revealed or to behave contrary to God’s commands, they aren’t worth fighting over and driving off good people.

In the end, even every stalk of grass will be known by its fruit, and sometimes we just need to let them all grow and leave it to the Master to sort them out.

The master wanted his servants to wait for the harvest because there are things they don’t know. They can’t see the roots of those tares. They can’t see the DNA that truly defines one from the other. There’s a good chance they can’t even tell the difference between the wheat and the tares by looking directly at them.

Those things that God has not chosen to reveal to us are his business, not ours.