CHAPTER 8:1-34 TEXT:
8:1 And, behold, there came a leper ... shew thyself to the priest
This meaning of this verse is missed in modern Bible commentaries. Many Bibles cross reference this section to Leviticus chapter 13 and 14 and what they call the "laws regarding leprosy." Although the link to Leviticus is correct, the common interpretation of the ailment being "leprosy" is incorrect. For instance, the Geneva Study Bible even has a caption in chapter 14 entitled, "The Law Concerning Leprous Houses."
Of course the idea of a house having leprosy is absurd. The text of Leviticus clearly shows this is not the disease of leprosy:
The affliction spoke of in Leviticus is known in Jewish Bibles as tzarrat. (The first two letters are pronounced like the double z in "pizza.") Scripture shows that this was a specific disease inflicted directly by God Himself, for hidden sin among the people. It is taught in Judaism that tzarrat was directly associated with the sin of lashan hara (an evil tongue). This was when people would speak evil of others, behind their backs. In the book of Numbers, chapter 12, we see Moses own sister, Miriam, afflicted with tzarrat when she spoke against Moses.
Another point to note in this section is that Yeshua commanded the man not to tell anyone but to inform the priests. As already mentioned, He was following Torah by instructing the man to go see the priest.
A question to consider is: Why does Yeshua (here and later on as well) tell people not to spread the word of His miracles? We will address this in the next section of this study.
Going back to the subject of "tzarrat." There is another interesting story in the "New Testament" that seems to be related to this sin-related condition. One could ask, "Who more than anyone else, was speaking lashan hara against the Messiah and his followers?
This was Sha'ul (Paul/Saul), of course.
In Acts chapter 9, we read of Paul's encounter with Yeshua. He is stricken with an ailment that blinds him. The details of this affliction are given when it comes to an end:
The Greek word for "leprosy" as found in the "New Testament" is lepra, from the root lepis, meaning a flake or scale. (Strongs #3014, 3013). This is the word used to describe the "scales" that Paul received on his "road to Damascus." It is also the word used to describe the man healed by Yeshua in verses 8:1-4. Thus, an argument could be made that Paul was stricken with Tzarrat, which was healed through his encounter with Yeshua.
While we are on the subject of Paul's "conversion" (as some call it), it is important to note that Paul did not lose all of the knowledge he had acquired in his training as a Pharisee. His problem was the same as he would later note concerning his fellow Pharisees:
The word "knowledge" is epignosis (Strongs #1922) meaning to have full discernment. Paul, like the other Pharisees, had abundant understanding of the Scriptures. (They had "knowledge" in this sense.) However, it required the illumination of God's Spirit to take that understanding and turn it into wisdom -- the wisdom that then showed him that Yeshua was the goal of the Torah. We will cover this in detail in our upcoming Romans study.
8:5 ... there came unto him a centurion
The centurion clearly knew the Torah and Jewish culture to recognize that Yeshua was the Messiah. Many gentiles of that day were attracted to the faith of Israel. In Scripture and other writings, we see gentiles in various stages of practice and growth in the faith of Israel. Some were known as "God-fearers," who acknowledged that the God of Israel was the one true God, and followed some of the Torah commandments. They would not be on an active path of conversion. Others would be actively learning and taking on more of the Torah, with the intent of full conversion.
The issue of the necessity of conversion (taking on all of the Torah) for gentiles coming to faith in Yeshua would become a point of discussion in the early Messianic community as we see in the fifteenth chapter of the book of Acts as well as in some of Paul's writings.
Although conversion to Judaism and taking on all of the Torah is not a prerequisite to faith for gentiles, God makes it clear that gentiles have and will always have a relationship to Torah and the faith of Israel. In fact, those who claim to be of the faith of God are warned about separating themselves from God's Sabbath and Israel's covenant - the Torah:
Scripture is clear that at the end of days it will be gentiles that come into the faith of Israel, and its Messiah, Yeshua -- NOT Jews entering into some gentile "church" that has replaced the faith God established with Israel:
Zechariah 8:23 - Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.
8:12 ... But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out
Although many Jews rejected Yeshua at that time and throughout history, Paul (in Romans, chapters 9 through 11), warns gentiles, not to boast againt the natural branches (the Jews) as God can easily cast out the gentiles to put them back in. As Paul teaches in Romans, there is always a remnant of faithful Jews, and in the end, all of Israel will be saved. This subject will be dealt with extensively in our Romans study.
8:16 ... they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils
There are moments in history when significant spiritual activity occurs. When Moses was born, there were miraculous events and an increase of demonic activity -- much of it geared to killing Moses. The same occured just prior to the arrival of Yeshua. This is seen noy only in the Gospels, but also in the text of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The book of Revelation paints the same picture occuring prior to the return of the Messiah, in the period of time known as "the Great Tribulation."
8:22 ... let the dead bury their dead
The man's father was not dead yet. The request to "bury the father" was a Hebrew idiom meaning, "Let me take care of all the affairs of my family." However, God required an instantaneous response. The Kingdom offer was present with Yeshua. Anyone placing the physical cares of this world ahead of the spiritual concerns of God was not worthy to take part in the latter.
8:26 ... Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea
There is an interesting section found at Qumran, in a fragment that deals with a priest that is to appear in the future, whose righteousness brings light to his generation, but who also arouses fierce opposition (1):
Although a literal-level connection can clearly be made to "the sea being made quiet," this terminology (the "sea") is rooted in deep Jewish mystical teachings regarding the end times. We will address this over the summer in our Revelation Study.
8:29 ... art thou come hither to torment us before the time?
Even the demons know their time is limited. However, they were also aware that the Kingdom offer had not yet been accepted, and thus "correctly challenged" Yeshua.
1. The Dead Sea Scrolls a New Translation, Wise, Abegg and Cook, 1996, HarperSanFrancisco, p. 260.