“Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus” -- By: Weston W. Fields

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 05:2 (Fall 1984)
Article: “Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus”
Author: Weston W. Fields

“Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus”

Weston W. Fields

Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, by David Bivin and Roy Blizzard. Arcadia, CA: Makor Publishing, 1983. Pp. 172. Paper. No price.

It was during my sabbatical year in Jerusalem that I first became acquainted with David Bivin, Robert Lindsey, and other students and colleagues of David Flusser of the Hebrew University. Thus it was with considerable anticipation that I began reading this book by David Bivin and Roy Blizzard, which popularizes some of the results of a whole generation of research into the linguistic and literary background of the synoptic Gospels by Prof. Flusser, Dr. Lindsey, and their associates in Jerusalem. The ideas of the book are generally good, and I can be enthusiastic about most of them. The informal style and largely undocumented format in which these ideas are presented, however, may for many detract from their ready acceptance.

The Milieu and Burden of the Book

It is important to understand that this book was born out of a combination of circumstances which cannot be found anywhere except in Israel and which could not have been found even in Israel only a few years ago. These factors include a rapprochement between Jewish and Christian scholars in a completely Jewish University, freedom of study unhampered by religious hierarchical control, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and a growing appreciation for their bearing on NT study, and most importantly, the fact that gospel research in Jerusalem is carried on in spoken and written Hebrew very similar in many respects to the Hebrew idiom (Mishnaic Hebrew)1 of

Jesus’ day. All of this, moreover, is accomplished in the midst of growing recognition among NT scholars that the key to understanding a number of sayings in the gospels has been lost, unless one finds it in Jewish and Hebrew sources.

The more technical background of Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus is to be found in scholarly literature authored by Flusser, Safrai, and others at Hebrew University,2 but especially important as a prelude or companion to this book are two works by Robert L. Lindsey, pastor of Baptist House in Jerusalem for the past forty years. Accordingly, discussion of Lindsey’s work is integrated here with the suggestions of Bivin and Blizzard. The first of Lindsey’s works is entitled A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark (with a foreword by Flusser),3 and the second a pamphlet entitled simply, The Gospels.

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