Friday, July 17, 2020

Doing What’s Life Instead of Believing What’s Right!

In my previous email, Adam Destroyed the Law But Jesus Didn’t (click here to read), I discussed what the words found in Matthew 5:17 meant to Yeshua, the Jesus of history. English translations have something like this:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:
I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”

Here is what he actually said:

Do not think that I have come to misinterpret the Torah or the Prophets.
I have come to correctly interpret them!

In my email, Making the Jesus of History Part of Lives and Discussions Today! (click here to read), I pointed out that in the first century environment in which Yeshua lived “correct interpretations of the Torah and the Prophets” were a very big deal. Yeshua wasn’t the only one claiming to “correctly interpret” them. He was competing with the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Hellenists and Herodians. So, the Jewish people living in Galilee and Judea faced the challenge of “choosing from six interpretations” of their Scriptures.

We know a lot about what the Pharisees taught from Rabbinic Judaism (Babylonian Talmud). With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls we learned much more about what the Essenes taught.

One thing the Pharisees and Essenes shared in common was that
they both insisted that members only follow their interpretations.

Yeshua, the Jesus of history, used their “mutual exclusivity claims” to a very important point – it was the one absolute requirement for membership in the Kingdom of Heaven!

Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments,
and teaches men so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Whoever does and teaches them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Make sure you understand this:
Unless your acts of tzedaqah exceeds those of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not be in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The key point Yeshua made is this:

Doing acts of tzedaqah is required for entering in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Accepting, following or teaching anyone’s interpretations
-- without acts of tzedaqah
isn’t enough for admittance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

What are “acts of tzedaqah”? I answered that question in my email, The Jewish Jesus and the Salvation of Gentiles (click here to read). In the first story in Genesis, the Story of the Creation of the Heavens and the Earth, the Creator used “The TOV Standard” to measure each act of creation:

Acts that are TOV protect and preserve lives,
make lives more functional and increase the quality of life.

Now pay close attention to the “acts of tzedaqah” Yeshua pointed out in the parable in Matthew 25:35-36:

Giving food to the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty,
bringing a stranger into a home, giving clothes to the naked,
visiting the sick, and going to see people in prison.

Acts of tzedaqah are acts are TOV -- they are acts that affect lives in TOV (good) ways. The acts Yeshua described in Matthew 25 are not the only acts of tzedaqah. For a human to survive and thrive as the Creator intended, their basic needs must be met:

Basic physical needs -- water, food, clothing, shelter, protection, etc.

Basic emotional needs -- affection, love, support, meaning, happiness, etc.

Acts of tzedaqah provide basic physical and emotional needs for another person.

The key point Yeshua taught his followers was always be aware what’s going on in the lives of people you encounter in the normal course of your day. He stressed the importance of love in people’s lives. Something that lots of Bible readers do not know is that in Yeshua’s culture the opposite of love was not hate

The opposite of love for the Jesus of history was indifference!

In my last email I challenged readers “to consider how the teachings of the Jesus of history can be applied to current circumstances.”

What would happen in America if Christians did
acts of tzedaqah like Jesus taught above in their lives?

I hope you found this informative and thank you for reading it. Please discuss it with others, too.

Jim Myers

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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Making the Jesus of History Part of Lives and Discussions Today!

In my last email, “Let’s not call him ‘The Jewish Jesus’”, I discussed how much I appreciated Dr. David Flusser’s work on Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity. I pointed out that Flusser called Jesus “the Jesus of history” and “the historical Jesus” – but he did not call him “the Jewish Jesus.” Today I want to share two more things that set Flusser apart from other Jewish and Christian scholars.

While Flusser understood Jesus belonged fully to
the diverse and competing streams of Jewish thinking of the first century,
he felt no need to deny Jesus his high self-awareness.*

Flusser’s point about “diverse and competing streams of Jewish thinking of the first century” is critical for understand the people Jesus interacted with in the Gospels:






All of the groups above had their own interpretations of Jewish Scriptures and other writings. The historical Jesus added his interpretations to the mix. He made sure the people that knew him best clearly understood what he believed God had called him to do. He announced it at his hometown synagogue on a Shabbat (Luke 4:16-21):

“The Spirit of Yahweh is upon me,
because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed . . .
Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus told the people that he was the person God called to fulfill those words – he was “the anointed one.” When the Hebrew word translated “the anointed one” was translated into Greek it became “christos” – and when that was transliterated into English it became “Christ.”

By the way, in the Jewish Scriptures and Jewish culture
there have been many christs (anointed ones).

That is something that most people don’t know -- there were other people claiming to be “the anointed one” in the first century, too. For Flusser, Jesus seeing himself that way -- and others viewing him that way – wasn’t a problem. That is probably why Flusser said, “even Jesus’ most radical conclusions would have been unthinkable without the innovations of those in the generations of Jewish teachers before him and the nurturing environment of Jewish thought at the time he lived.”

However, because most people are not familiar with the Late Second Temple Period and the environment in which Jewish people lived, they cannot see the Jesus of history the ways his contemporaries saw himor the way he saw himself.

Because of how the human brain biologically works,
the only thing any human can do is “use the beliefs he or she has acquired
about Jesus and his world to give meanings to the words of the New Testament.”

Flusser did something else that I encourage others to do – apply the teachings of Jesus to current circumstances to see their relevancy. A graduate student of his provided this example:
On the eve of the Gulf War, January 15,1991, the streets of Jerusalem were virtually empty in anticipation of the outbreak of war and the consequent launching of scud missiles on the civilian Israeli population. The student went over to Flusser’s house to discuss a research project. Flusser opened the door and said, “Interesting days we are living in. What would Jesus say? Let’s go and find out.”

In closing let me challenge you to do the following:

1. Learn more about the diverse and competing streams of Jewish thinking of the first century.

2. Apply the teachings of the Jesus of history to current circumstances.

I hope you found this informative and thank you for reading it.

Jim Myers

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● Jesus by David Flusser © 1997 The Maness Press , the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel; pp. 10-12.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Let’s not call him “The Jewish Jesus”

Like research in other fields of human achievements and activities through the ages, the study of ancient Judaism and early Christianity must be done objectively, employing accepted and unbiased methods of scholarly endeavor. The starting point is a truism:

Christianity arose among the Jews —
it was once a part of Judaism.
Therefore if you want to analyze Christian origins,
you have to study ancient Judaism.”

Those are the words of the scholar I place at the top of my list for knowledge about the Second Temple Period and Early Christianity -- Dr. David Flusser (b. 1917 - d. 2000). He was an Israeli professor of Early Christianity and Judaism of the Second Temple Period (538 BCE to 70 CE) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His pioneering research on Jesus and Christianity’s relationship to Judaism won him international recognition. In 1980, Flusser, who spoke nine languages fluently and could read 26, received the Israel Prize, the country’s most prestigious honor.

As Israel’s foremost scholar on Jesus and Early Christianity, he was often asked to comment on “the Jewishness of Jesus” or to provide the “Jewish perspective.” Few requests irritated him more.

Flusser reminded his students that his is
not the study of “the Jewish Jesus” but the Jesus of history.
That Jesus was Jewish is a matter of historical record.

Flusser popularized the idea that Jesus never intended to start a new religion but was born and died a faithful Jew. It must be noted that whether reading the Greek philosophers, medieval theologians or the words of Jesus, Flusser did not work as a detached historian. He worked as “a man of faith” who saw his scholarship as having relevance to the complex challenges of the present age. Flusser was a devout Orthodox Jew who applied his study of the Torah and Talmud to the study of ancient Greek, Roman and Arabic texts, as well as the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Something that set Flusser apart from other scholars, however, was that while he understood Jesus to belong fully to the diverse and competing streams of Jewish thinking of the first century -- he felt no need to deny his role as the cornerstone of the faith of the early Christianity. Thus, Flusser did not hesitate to question assumptions which are foundational for many contemporary New Testament scholars.

He was an original thinker willing to give fresh consideration to the evidence
— even if it meant challenging long-held opinions, sometimes even his own.

For Flusser, a better understanding of the ancient sources of two world religions — Judaism and Christianity – is needed to eliminate innate prejudices.

A study of the New Testament and early Christianity without
an intimate knowledge of Jewish sources
leads to inaccurate and fragmentary results.

Hence it is essential for a New Testament scholar – and readers -- to have access to all the available Jewish sources, as well as sound knowledge of the trends and groups of Judaism in antiquity.” Often people are surprised to learn the whole New Testament reflects Jewish thought and life from a time period earlier than most of the rabbinic texts -- not just the synoptic gospels. And likewise, evidence from New Testament research is also very fruitful for Jewish studies of that period too.

While reviewing notes from my earlier research recently, I realized I needed to change something I have been doing a lot in recent years. In the future, instead of referring to “the Jewish Jesus” I will refer to “Yeshua, the historical Jesus” or “Yeshua, the Jesus of history.”

Just as Christianity has changed over the past 2,000 years, so has Judaism. Two very different religions have emerged. Therefore, “the historical Jesus” or “the Jesus of history” better defines “the Jewishness of his world.” I hope you found this informative and thank you for reading it.

Jim Myers

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● Jesus by David Flusser © 1997 The Maness Press , the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel; pp. 10-11.
● Judaism and the Origins of Christianity by David Flusser © 1988 Magnes Press, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, p. xii.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Will America Fail and What Role Will the Rich Play?

If you read the histories of tribes, kingdoms, empires and nations you will find some common factors led most of them to ultimately fail. A narrow group of elite people gained control of political and economic institutions of a society and restructured them.

They structured political institutions to remove restraints on their use of power.

They structured economic institutions to extract resources from the rest of society.

The synergistic relationship between extractive economic and political institutions introduces a strong feedback loop:

Political institutions enable the elites controlling political power to choose economic institutions with few constraints or opposing forces. They also enable the elites to structure future political institutions and their evolution. Extractive economic institutions enrich the same elites, and their economic wealth and power help consolidate their political dominance.”

Daren Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, in their book Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, argue that when you combine rotten regimes, exploitative elites and self-serving institutions with frail, decentralized states, you have something close to a prescription for poverty, conflict and even outright failure.

Extractive economic and political institutions,
though their details vary under different circumstances,
are always at the root of this failure.” (p. 372)

Today, a new narrow elite exists, the Global Power Elite. One of the reasons they exist is that the resources they have accumulated are larger than nations. They control entities that are larger and wealthier than many nations – multinational corporations. Below is a quote from Peter Phillips’ book Giants: The Global Power Elite:

The richest 1 percent of humanity in 2017 controlled more than half of the world’s wealth; the top 30 percent of the population controlled more than 95 percent of global wealth, while the remaining 70 percent of the population had to make do with less than 5 percent of the world’s resources.”

For the 1% elite group to extract that much wealth required the restructuring of political and economic systems of many nations so global wealth would flow into their hands. Interestingly, Peter Phillips not only exposes what the 1% have been doing – he provides a list of the names of the wealthiest members of the group.

Based on what Daren Acemoglu and James A. Robinson discovered in their research about why nations fail, if we want to understand how the 1% to extracted so much wealth from so many nations, we need to identify the following:

1. rotten regimes

2. exploitative elites

3. self-serving institutions

4. frail decentralized states

Political institutions are thus inexorably intertwined with economic institutions, as the enforcer of law and order, private property, and contracts, and often as a key provider of public service.

The people who control inclusive and extractive economic institutions
both need, use and require the state to achieve their objectives.

“The” question that needs an accurate answer today is this:

What roles are rotten regimes, exploitative elites
and leaders of self-serving institutions playing
in using the media and social media to polarize
and turn members of societies against each other
in order to keep them from seeing what they are doing?

In order for America to reverse the dangerous path it is clearly on, members of society must adopt a shared vision that includes the following:

1. political leaders with inclusive values and morals that value human life

2. inclusive elites that use their wealth in ways that benefit all of society

3. leaders of political and economic institutions that make them accessible to all members of society.

4. strong networked states

If you have a better idea, please let me know. However, based on what I have learned from over three decades of research, from the earliest written documents until today – the common factors listed above have been part of mankind for the last 5,000 years.

Thank you for reading this. Please share and discuss it with others.

May your life be blessed with an abundance of TOV,
Jim Myers

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Friday, June 26, 2020

Make Sure You Know What The Jewish Jesus Means

I use the phrase “Yeshua, the Jewish Jesus” to distinguish between the person that lived in the first century who was named “Yeshuaand the person they read about in the New Testament called “Jesus” and “Jesus Christ” and “beliefs about Jesus” that were created centuries after the Romans executed him.

I think there are a lot of people, Christian and Jewish, that have a “Pre-K understanding,” like I used to have, about what “Christian and Jewish” mean. I was an ordained minister and I viewed 2,500 years of history as the histories of two religions – Judaism and Christianity. Back then I viewed “Jesus as the founder of Christianity” and “the Jews as the people that opposed Jesus.” In other words, my whole reality was built around “my beliefs about Jesus.”

In order to know what “The Jewish Jesus” means we have to view Yeshua in the context of the world in which he lived and know what “Christianity” was like in the second and third centuries CE.

The World of Yeshua

Based on our research, Yeshua was born in 6 BCE and was executed around 27 CE. He was a resident of the village of Nazareth in the Galilee for almost his entire life. Around 24 CE he founded a movement and preached “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God.” In Yeshua’s world there were other groups that were much older and larger than his – and some preached a “Kingdom of God” message too. They included the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Hellenists and Herodians. They were all “Jewish” too.

Understanding what “Jewish” means in relationship to Yeshua,
requires knowing what distinguished Yeshua’s group from
the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Hellenists and Herodians –
and what Yeshua’s group shared with them.

Yeshua had attended the synagogue in Nazareth all of his life. He had gone with his family to Jerusalem to celebrate the major festivals at the Temple all of his life. Two things members of the above groups shared were God’s covenant with Abraham and a commitment to the Torah. Yeshua became a part of God’s covenant with Abraham when he was circumcised and he made it very clear that he was totally committed to the Torah.

Yeshua clearly worshiped the same God as the members of the above groups and the Temple in Jerusalem was the closest place a person could come to His presence. He kept many of the same Jewish customs as members of the other groups, and just like them, he had his unique interpretations of words of the Torah. All of the apostles were “Jewish” like him. His teachings were about Jewish things that his Jewish audiences understood.

Early Christianity

A lot is known today about Christianity during the second and third centuries. It was a period of rich theological diversity that surprises most Christians today.

Christian Beliefs About God -- Some Christians believed that there was only one God, the Creator of all there is. Other Christians insisted that there were two different gods — a God of wrath and a God of love and mercy. These were not simply two different facets of the same God, they are two different gods. And there were other Christians that insisted that there were twelve gods -- others said there were thirty godsand still others said there were 365 gods! All these groups claimed to be Christian, insisting that their views were true and had been taught by Jesus and his followers.

The Christian New Testament -- Why didn’t the groups above simply read their New Testaments to see whose views were wrong? It is because the New Testament Christians read today did not exist. All the books of the modern New Testament had been written by this time, but there were also lots of other books that claimed to be written by Jesus’ own apostles — other gospels, acts, epistles, and apocalypses.  They had very different perspectives from those found in the books that eventually came to be called the New Testament. The New Testament itself emerged out of these conflicts over God (or the gods), as one group of believers acquired more converts than all the others. That group decided which books should be included in the canon of scripture.

No Centralized Theology -- During the second and third centuries, there was no agreed-upon canon of New Testament books and no agreed-upon theology. There was a wide range of diversity: diverse groups asserting diverse theologies based on diverse written texts, all claiming to be written by the apostles of Jesus.

Some Christians Celebrated PassoverAs late as 170 CE the Christians in Asia continued to observe the Passover.

But everything changed with “the conversion” of Constantine the Great, Emperor of the Roman Empire. The event that changed everything was the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, a meeting called by Emperor Constantine. He invited all Christian bishops of the Roman Empire to attend. However, because Christians had witnessed many persecutions in the first three centuries – some by officials of the Roman Empire and others by pagan mobsmany bishops chose not to attend.

By the end the fourth century, the Roman Catholic Church emerged as a religion backed by the authority of Roman Emperors and institutions and it gave Christians a theology and a New Testament. It also made Christianity and Judaism two separate mutually exclusive religions.

I hope you found this informative and thank you for reading it.

Jim Myers

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Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why By Bart D. Ehrman © 2005; HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY; pp. 152, 187.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Exploring Biblical Heritages or Blind Faith in Unexamined Beliefs?

The Bible is one of the most important books in the world because people of every nation, people of every color and race, and people that speak thousands of languages read it, believe in it and used it to learn about God and what God wants them to do. But, Bible readers also go to war against other Bible readers. Why?

We call finding an answer to that question -- Exploring Our Biblical Heritages.  It is a science based approach to discovering the histories of the Bible and Bible based institutions. It is the journey described on the above graphic, which introduces people to twelve important factors.

#1. Prioritizing facts before unexamined beliefs.

#2. Incorporating the roles DNA and the brain play in belief systems and human actions.

#3. Learning about the roles three Persian Kings – Cyrus the Great, Darius the Great and Artaxerxes I – played in the creation of Second Temple Judaism [6] (building the Second Temple [#4] and creating the first Torah scroll [#5]).

#7. Translating the Jewish Scriptures from Hebrew into Greek (the Septuagint), which created Hellenistic Judaism and provided future gentile Christians with the Greek Old Testament.

#8. Yeshua, the Jewish Jesus, created a Jewish movement he called “The Kingdom of Heaven.” It was not a new non-Jewish religion.

#9. Roman authorities governed the Jewish homeland, crucified Yeshua, and executed Peter, Paul and Yeshua’s brother Jacob (called James in modern Bibles). A Roman citizen from Tarsus created the movement in which members were first called “Christians.

#10. Roman Emperors -- specifically Constantine the Great, Flavius Claudius Julianus, Valentinian I and Theodosius the Great -- played major roles in the creation of the Roman Catholic Church and Rabbinic Judaism.

#11. Decisions about which books are in the Christian Bible were made Roman Catholic bishops and councils.

#12. Without the biblical based phrases – “all men are created equal” and “they are endowed by their Creator” – the United States of America as we know it would not exist.

I was an ordained minister and I was unaware of any of the factors above. My professional education taught me how to persuade people to believe my church’s doctrines (listed in our statement of faith) and defend them against people who attacked them.

I believed that people had to believe the right things
to go to Heaven so they would spend eternity with God
instead of spending eternity in Hell with the Devil!

That was my top priority. Today I know when those beliefs originated, who created them, why they were created and how they evolved over the centuries. I also know that simply giving people a new list of “the right things to believe” doesn’t work.

In order to effectively change long-held trusted beliefs
fact based stories about those beliefs get the best results.

Exploring Our Biblical Heritages educational emails are designed to connect readers to those stories, provide additional information and pose questions for explorers to consider and discuss. Thank you for being an explorer and reading this email.

May your explorations make your life safer, more fulfilled and happier.
Jim Myers

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Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Jewish Jesus and the Salvation of Gentiles

Did the Jewish Jesus require gentiles to convert to Judaism in order to be saved? That is a question I hear a lot and the answer is “No.” When the Creator created the Heavens and the Earth he also created a kingdom – he did not create a religion.

● The Heavens and the Earth are the Creator’s Temple in the first story in Genesis. (Click here to learn more.)

● The Creator’s Kingdom is a kingdom of creatures “created in his image.” (Click here to learn more.)

The Jewish Jesus was a member of and practiced Late Second Period Temple Judaism. The Jerusalem Temple and the Laws of Moses played major roles in his life. His movement was a Jewish Movement. But his primary message was about the “Kingdom of God (Heaven)” and he preached it to Jewish audiences, but it wasn’t a message that was exclusively for Jews. Pay close attention to his words below:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him,
then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him.
(Matthew 25:31-32a)

This is the judgment of all of the nations of the earth. Connected to his Kingdom of God message, was an urgent warning that the Great Day of Judgment will come soon. He believed it would happen in his lifetime. The Great Day of Judgment will be a repeat of what happened when God caused the Great Floodthe earth would be cleansed of people that did violent and evil things! For the Jewish Jesus, only those in the Kingdom of God will be saved from the fire that God is going to use to cleanse the earth this time (Malachi 4:1).

For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven,
and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the Lord of hosts

God saved Noah and his family because Noah was the only man of integrity -- a tzadiq – that God saw on earth. A tzadiq is a man that does acts of tzedaqah. In English translations, tzadiq is translated as “righteous” and “tzedaqah” is translated as “righteousness,” but the English words do not reflect the Hebrew meanings. I encourage you to incorporate the Hebrew words in your vocabulary. The Jewish Jesus taught that those who did acts of tzadaqah will be the ones that will be saved from the firesjust like Noah was saved from the waters. (Matthew 25:34, 37a).

Then the King will say to those on his right hand
(those who did tzedaqah) “Come, you blessed of my father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

God does not judge the nations of the earth by Jewish laws. He uses the standard that existed long before the Jewish nation existed. It will be the standard the Creator uses to judge his actions -- the TOV Standard:

Acts that are TOV protect and preserve lives,
make lives more functional and increase the quality of life.

Now pay close attention to the type of acts the people had done, which Jesus said would be saved:

They gave food to the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty,
brought a stranger into their homes, gave clothes to the naked,
visited the sick, and went to those in prison.
(Matthew 25:35-36)

They are acts are TOV. They affected lives in good ways – and, interestingly, Jesus was quoting Isaiah (58:6-8):

Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out, when you see the naked cover him, and do not hide from your own flesh?

Then (after you do the things above) your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, your acts of tzedaqah shall go before you; the glory of Yahweh shall gather you.

Tzedaqah was one of the most important words in the Jewish vocabulary in the Late Second Temple Period – and it still is in Rabbinic Judaism.

Tzedaqah is greater than all sacrifices.

Tzedaqah hastens the redemption.

Tzedaquah atones for sins.

Tzedaqah saves one from death.

The view of the Kingdom of God (Heaven) the Jewish Jesus taught was not the only view that existed. Some groups taught that the Kingdom was only for Jews, others taught the Kingdom was only for Jews that followed their interpretations of the Laws of Moses, still others taught the Kingdom was for Jews and Gentiles that did tzedaqah – and there were other Jewish views too.

But there is one thing that no Jewish group taught, including the Jewish Jesus and even the Roman Catholic Church:

The salvation of individuals.

You can credit Martin Luther with the creation of individual salvation. In the Jewish Scriptures and the teachings of the Jewish Jesussalvation is a group thing. When Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church -- he lost the only way of salvation. Luther had to come up with “a new way to be saved” – and he did it!

No Christian group before the 16th century taught that belief!

How important is that information? We believe it should be of great interest to any Christian and that is one of the reasons we Explore Our Biblical Heritages. We want to identify the origins of our beliefs!  Please share and discuss this with others. Thank you for reading this.

May your life be blessed with an abundance of TOV,
Jim Myers

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