About a year ago I started waking up about 3 am every morning and was unable to sleep. I felt wide awake, but frustrated knowing my alarm would go off in a couple of hours. I would dread the sound of the alarm and would dwell on the thought of how tired I was going to be. Each night, for three or four nights, I would toss and turn trying to will myself to sleep. I couldn’t shut my brain off. I couldn’t stop thinking about Paul’s letter to the Galatians. This seemed odd to me since I had not really paid much attention to it before. After a few days, I finally succumbed to the thoughts, crept downstairs, and started reading Paul’s letter. I think I read it a two or three times.
I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to teach this letter to the adult Sunday School class from as much of a Jewish perspective as I could figure out. To teach a class, in a church that I was not a member, that does not embrace this perspective at all, seemed like a crazy and disrespectful thing to do. Yet, I found myself in the pastor’s office explaining my idea. I fully expected to be asked to step down from teaching or at the very least have this idea turned down. To my surprise he agreed to have me teach from this perspective. This led to about a 4 months study of the letter. Most of which was very much outside of my knowledge spectrum and comfort zone.
I was still trying to understand what Hashem had revealed to me just a few months earlier regarding the Jewish roots and perspective of all scripture. I had been listening to some audio teaching by D. Thomas Lancaster from Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship. I remember listening to some of his series on Galatians, but I don’t remember anything standing out significantly that would cause me to have a burning desire to teach a class.
I spent several hours studying each week, sometimes toiling over one word that would have me stuck. I remember writing a lesson two different times, and just feeling like it didn’t make sense. I don’t remember how I learned this, but I learned that the original text would not have included quotes so the translators added the quotation marks based on their understanding of where they should go. Comparing multiple translation versions, the quotation marks were in different places. I had a eureka moment. I can still remember telling my wife what I found about quotation marks while she looked at me like I had lost my mind and asked if she was going to have to sit through Sunday School class and listen to a study about where quotation marks belonged.
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.
2 Peter 3:15-17 (ESV)
Peter provided a warning that Paul’s letters were hard to understand and were easily twisted. My goal was to study as much as I could from a historical and contextual perspective. Instead of viewing Paul’s letter(s) through the lens of 2,000 years of Christian theology, I worked hard to view his writing from the perspective of a first century reader. I recognize that Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament and that his letters are the basic foundation for many Christian church doctrines. My intent is not to offend anyone or to incite anger. It is only to explain the perspective that came to me while I was teaching this class. At the time I taught this class, I did not feel qualified. I still do not feel qualified and imagine that over time some of my understanding may change. I chose not to use any single study guide when teaching this class. It was me, Hashem, a cup of coffee (or several), my English Standard Bible, and the internet.
The notes I have are currently written in outline format designed as a study guide for a Sunday School class. I will be reformatting each lesson and posting these periodically. If you’re like me, you probably have your cup of coffee and a bible close by.
I welcome your thoughts, whether you agree or not.