In the early centuries of church history, the Hebrew foundations of Christianity were removed due to anti-Jewish biases and the cost to both Jews and Christians was huge. Context and culture are incredibly important for understanding the Bible correctly. Leonardo da Vinci’s
The Last Supper was painted in 1498 and over half a millennia later it was in a terrible condition. Some paint was flaking, it was damaged from pollution and humidity, and was in such disrepair that, in 1977, Pinin Barcilon was tasked with restoring the masterpiece.
She had to tackle nearly 500 years’ worth of dust, grime, deterioration, mould, candle soot and several appalling attempts at restoration from the eighteenth century. Heavy coats of varnish, glue and poor efforts by painters filling in the gaps with their own interpretations needed to be removed.
Every square centimetre of the painting was photographed, and months of preparation work undertaken before it was even touched. Once the work commenced, a good day may have revealed a section the size of a postage stamp, it took 22 years to restore The Last Supper, finishing in 1999.
If you want to understand the words of Jewish prophets, kings, priests, apostles and the Messiah Himself, then you need to understand Hebrew culture…
The essence of the scene was unchanged but the gloomy shadows were gone. Andrew was no longer sullen, Jesus’ face glowed, Matthew had blond hair not black, Peter’s beard and nose were finally clear, Thomas had his left hand restored and the vibrant colours of the master were revealed after being hidden for centuries. The ‘before and after’ photos online show the difference the restorers made.
It was the same picture but with far greater clarity and vibrancy.
I use this example to make my point about the Hebrew foundations of Christianity. The Bible is Jewish, the words in it come from Jewish thought, mind and cultural contexts. The language of the Scriptures Jesus used is Hebrew; the prophets were Jews; the apostles were Jews; our messiah Jesus was, and remains, a Jew. If you want to understand the words of Jewish prophets, kings, priests, apostles and the Messiah Himself, then you need to understand Hebrew culture and custom, and the environment in which those words and events took place.
The picture you already have won’t necessarily change, but the details, clarity, significance and the message will absolutely take on greater meaning and depth. Some things will absolutely be very different—but the goal is to know truth.
Foundations is a new Vision programme focusing on the Hebrew basis of our Christian faith. My hope is that the segments will enrich your life and reignite your passion for Scripture.