Nothing spoils a good Religious Argument like Context – Brook Potter
Many years ago, I preached a message about our Union with God and the power of our words. In the Midst of the message I quoted Psalms 8:4-5, and explained that in the original Hebrew, the scripture actually records that man was created a little lower than “Elohim” which is translated as God. This translation was very much in line with God’s Ultimate purpose of Creation and many versions of the Bible translate thus, including the New American Standard Bible and Youngs Literal Translation.
My critics however, misquoted me, and claimed I was quoting from Hebrews 2:6 where Paul did in fact use the Septuigent’s translation that reads that man is lower than Angels. The original Hebrew says God, but the Greek translation of the Septuigent as well as the Apostle Paul’s use of the verse Says Angel, which is it?
Well historical context may help us understand why the Hebrews translators chose Angels as the translation rather than God. Simply, the Greek culture in which the translators lived was full of god-man mythology either by way of “divine coupling,” as in the case of Heracles (Roman legand of Hercules), or Historical figures that were raised to divine status after their death, such as Achilles, hero of the Iliad and battle of the Trojans. It is believed in that Greek Culture, the Jews did not want their Holy Scriptures in any way to be used to support these teachings, so the translators decided to translate the word “Elohim” as Angels. I’m not saying that is what happened, but it makes for an interesting study.
A similar historical context is found in the Book of James, that many of us are not aware of. The early Christians lived in a similar Roman Imperial Cult, where the Emperors were worshipped among the many Roman gods under penalty of death. There was however, an exemption given to Jews who paid their taxes, that they would not have to confess the deity of the State, but were free to confess, that there is only one God, that is Yahweh.
This liberty causes real problems for the early church when persecution of Christians started. The State had a simple way to find Christians, anyone who did not confess that the Emperor was god would become a target of persecution. The Jewish Christians had an exception, they could simply confess, that there is one God, Yahweh, and would not technically be denying Christ.
There was increasing animosity between the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers. This is the context when James opens his Epistles written to the 12 Jewish Tribes. James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
James goes on to address the many issues in the fellowship of believers, including the very issue of the Jewish confession, urging his Jewish brothers not to hide their confession of Faith, under the guise of the Jewish exception while their Gentile brothers are suffering.
James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
James at length speaks about the importance of our confession as the work, and how we should not speak with a divided tongue (James 3:10). He addresses much in these chapters about the behavior of the brethren, and compels the brothers to forgive each others sin so that their relationships can be healed and restored (5:15-16). While some have struggled to understand the book of James, a clear historical context and audience relevance helps us to see what is really being conveyed.
Dr. David Neiman, talking about the early church, and eventual split between Judaism and Christianity.