Skewing the Basic Facts of Scripture



I was recently talking to a Messianic friend of mine who had just attended church over a week ago while visiting relatives out of town. This church is fairly large, with several Sunday services that serve well over a thousand in attendance. The service lasts one hour. There are some announcements, some praise songs, and then the pastor puts his Bible down on a barstool and speaks off-the-cuff for twenty minutes. Everything he says, as far as I was told, was spoken spontaneously.

Last week, this pastor apparently was speaking on the encounter of Yeshua with the teachers in the Temple complex (Luke 2:41-42). This is certainly a familiar scene for many of us, as Joseph and Mary’s family had visited Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and on their way back to Galilee they notice that Yeshua is not with their traveling party. They have to turn around and go back to Jerusalem to find Him.

The pastor, trying to make a joke I assume, flippantly declared how concerned Mary must have been for the young Jesus—only twelve—being in the Temple. She would have been ranting at Joseph and haggling him, no different than any Twenty-First Century American housewife, at why he let Him get away.

As it was reported to me, why would Jesus want to have been in the Temple, anyway? Surely he was too young at the age of twelve to have been there. The pastor said that Mary would have asked Joseph, “Why couldn’t you have let Him wait until He was 16?!”

Upon hearing this, my Messianic friend did not know what to do. Did this pastor really not prepare his sermon for Sunday? Or did he really not understand First Century Judean Jewish culture?

For us as Messianics, this is an easy one. The ages of twelve to thirteen were the time when Jewish boys would traditionally be bar mitzvahed and acknowledged as responsible members of the community (although probably without much of the ceremony that is attached to it today). Even the venerable NIV Study Bible—surely a resource this pastor has in his library—recognizes this:

“At age 12 boys began preparing to take their places in the religious community the following year.”[1]

Yeshua’s words to Mary, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) were entirely appropriate. Our Lord was being properly prepared for His future adult ministry, already developing a reputation with the Jerusalem Rabbis. Yet, as the pastor paraphrased Him, “Mother, didn’t you know I would be in church?”

It can be pretty easy to criticize Christian pastors for making errors like these—even though many pastors would in fact, prepare their sermons in advance. This pastor, however, did not prepare his sermon. But what happens when similar errors are seen in the Messianic community?

I was also recently handed a newsletter from a major Messianic organization. The lead article in this newsletter spoke on some of the significance of Chanukah for us as the Messianic community. In the article, its author spoke about the parallels that exist between the story of the Maccabees and the Last Days. Then appeared this paragraph:

“The days were very similar to those described by Timothy. However, by Timothy’s time the days of Antiochus Epiphanes were long past and Israel was now under Roman rule. Timothy was writing about the last days, days that we have not yet seen…”[2]

When I read this paragraph, I honestly did not know what to do. Part of me wanted to laugh, part of me wanted to scream, and part of me wanted to clean my glasses to check that I had read this properly. A very glaring error had been made.

There was no passage of Scripture referenced to in this article regarding the Last Days, but I am assuming that it is 2 Timothy 3:1-5:

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.”

But what was the problem with what was said? It is very clear for anyone who has read either 1 or 2 Timothy: “Timothy was writing…” I have a feeling that the author of this Messianic article failed to read 2 Timothy 1:1-2:

“Paul, an apostle of Messiah Yeshua by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Messiah Yeshua, To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Messiah Yeshua our Lord.”

Or for that same matter, 1 Timothy 1:1-2:

“Paul, an apostle of Messiah Yeshua according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Messiah Yeshua, who is our hope, To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Messiah Yeshua our Lord.”

One does not have to go very far to see what the problem is; the Apostle Paul is author of 1&2 Timothy. Certainly, there are liberal theologians who believe that the Pastoral Epistles of 1&2 Timothy and Titus are all Deutero-Pauline, meaning that Paul did not write them. But I have never heard about Timothy writing to himself. I sincerely hope that the reference to “Timothy was writing…” was just an omission on the part of the Messianic writer, and this mistake just did not get caught in time among proofreaders in his office.

In all candor, though, these are the kinds of mistakes that we would expect second graders in Sunday School to make—not grown men who lead Messianic organizations.

Some people may wonder at times why our ministry is a stickler when it comes to details. Well, if a Jewish person were in attendance at the church, hearing that the young Yeshua in the Temple complex at twelve was a bad thing, he or she would think that the pastor did not know what he was talking about as it was clearly connected to His bar mitzvah. It could seriously turn the person off to hearing the gospel! At the same time, passing on an inaccurate statement about Timothy writing the letters that Paul actually wrote to him, does not exactly help Messianic credibility, either.

Are you concerned about the basic facts of Scripture? I hope so! If you are, then remember that Outreach Israel Ministries is always in the process of producing new, cutting edge educational materials (including commentaries) that can help you in your distinct Messianic walk. I would highly recommend that if you have not done so already, you purchase a copy of our Survey of the Apostolic Scriptures for the Practical Messianic study. Be informed about the discussions that have been going on for decades in the realm of Biblical composition. Do not get caught unaware when skewed facts are passed along, be they by a Christian pastor or even a Messianic leader.


[1] Kenneth L. Barker, ed., et. al., NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1572.

[2] Scott Diffenderfer. “Lessons from Hanukkah” Messianic Israel Alliance Herald December 2007, p 2.