matthew.gif (5610 bytes)
Background - Part 3
Use of Extra-Biblical Hebrew Materials to Improve Understanding

(Last updated 2/8/00)
A Hebrew or Greek "New Testament?"
Yeshua and the Talmud


Two common teachings heard in many Bible study circles are:

  1. You don't need anything other than the Bible to understand the Bible
  2. The "Holy Spirit" will guide you to understanding, so nothing else is required

Although it is absolutely true that Scripture is the best source for interpreting Scripture, the fact is that much of what is written in the Bible cannot be fully understood without turning to extra-Biblical Hebrew texts. Maintaining a "Sola Scriptura" approach leads to horrific error in understanding of the Hebrew texts, as everyone is then free to interpret the more difficult passages from their own personal viewpoint, rather than looking at where the author was coming from culturally and religiously.

Take the following questions as a simple example:

  • What is Rome?
  • What is a centurion?
  • What is a legion?

Of course most people might already know what these terms mean, having acquired the knowledge from their own education. But what if they did not already know? Does the Bible explain what these words designate? No. You would have to go outside the Bible to find out. If something as simple this requires looking into extra-Biblical material for proper understanding, how much more then does this apply to complex Hebrew religious concepts that are not defined in the pages of the Bible?

People often say they "let the Scriptures speak for themselves," unfortunately they don't practice what they preach. Typically, meaning is "assigned" to topics and verses in the Bible based on the particular doctrine of a person's religious denomination. (i.e., "The cart is put in front of the horse.")

Regarding the "Holy Spirit guiding you to understanding" -- though this statement is true, it is not an excuse for misinterpreting the texts due to your own bias, as will occur if you don't put them back into their Hebrew context. The Holy Spirit will not contradict what the authors were conveying within their Hebrew understanding of God's word.

There are many passages in the Bible to which people arrive at completely different, even contradictory, interpretations -- all caused by erroneously, "believing they are right because the Holy Spirit showed them," rather than using the minds God gave them to dig for the truth.


In order to gain insight into Hebrew interpretation of the Bible's Hebrew texts, this Matthew study (and all the studies on this web site) will make use of Jewish religious and historical texts including:

Talmud – Scripture commentaries from before and after Yeshua’s time, made up of:

Mishnah – Earlier material (much predating Yeshua) compiled around 220 CE
Gemarah – Later material compiled between 200-500 CE

Targums – Aramaic language documents that contained Scripture and commentary together. They were commonly read and discussed in Yeshua's day.
Midrash Rabbah – Includes very old material, compiled between 600-1000 CE
Zohar, Bahir, Sefer Yetzirah – Ancient material from the more mystical branches of Judaism
Rabbinic Commentaries – Including those of: Rashi, Maimonides and Nachmanides.
Qumran Texts – Texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls written from around 200 BCE to 180 CE
Historical accounts of Josephus, Eusubius, Philo and others
Apocrypha – 15 books written between 300 BCE and Yeshua’s time
Pseudepigrapha – 60 books written from 300 BCE to 100 CE. Hellenistic Jewish influences
Book of Jasher – An ancient Biblical history book, referred to in Joshua 10:13 & 2 Sam. 1:18
Book of Enoch – Another ancient text, mentioned in the book of Jude

It is critical to remember, that these texts contain a wide range of opinion. Their proper use will help shed great light on any Bible study and help in arriving at a proper Hebraic (original) understanding of the more difficult passages.

Many of the concepts Yeshua taught were already present in Jewish thought. His teachings were not entirely "new," but the authority with which He delivered them was. Click here to see to see 18 such examples from the books of Matthew and Mark.