Hebrew Mind vs. Greek Mind
WORSHIP AND SPIRITUALITY
by Brad Scott
It should be quite obvious that the subject of the nature of 'Elohiym cannot be discussed or compared in this short course. We have taken just two aspects and compared them. Actually, everything we will discuss is part of the nature of YHVH in one form or another. We are now going to look at some of the doctrines or practices of religious life and see the difference between the way the one YHVH of the Scriptures designed them and how the anti- or instead of culture sees them.
THE GREEK VIEW OF WORSHIP
Worship is at the very heart of Greek culture. Many great colosseums were built to accommodate the throngs of worshippers gathered to idolize and revere the gods. These gatherings were thought to please the gods and cause them to cast favor upon the people. Different gods were worshipped for different reasons in that each god was hovering over a different aspect of the world. Songs were sung, instruments were played, and nude dancing was common. Singing songs, playing, and dancing to the gods was worshipping, and this worship is what unified the people. Homosexual acts were quite common in that the body is irrelevant to the gods. It was the state of mind that the gods were interested in. The Stoics, however, would have nothing to do with this kind of activity. Worship to them was equally a state of mind, however, a proper state of mind does not succumb to the writhing pleasures of the body. The Greek concept of worship, (proskuneo, (προσκυνέω)), was seen as a specific act of reverence or homage. Modern worship is also seen from the Greek point of view. We worship on Sunday morning. Praise and worship teams are popular today, as those who lead in Sunday morning worship time. Praise is seen as upbeat with a faster tempo and worship is when the tempo is slowed down and more serious adoration is displayed. When the weekly mundane cares of the world go through their cycle, then Praise and Worship begins again with the next Sunday morning. There are also special occasions for Praise and Worship that generally take place on anniversaries or semiannual events. To the western mind, worshipping is an event and not part of the daily Greek lifestyle. When the event was over both the worshipers and the worshipped were pleased and content.
THE HEBREW VIEW OF WORSHIP
Worship is also at the heart of the observant Jew. The difference is how worship is defined and acted upon. The Tehillot (Psalms) are full of the worship and adoration of YHVH. All the writers of this book are singing, playing various instruments, clapping, shouting, and dancing unto YHVH. But there are several fundamental differences between the worship of the nations and scriptural worship. The first difference is in the actual meaning of the word worship. The Greek word used to translate worship has defined out some of the crucial focus of the Hebrew word. The Greek tends to separate worship from service, which is the background in Hebrew thought, to understanding worship. In the Hebrew culture the word avodah (עבדה) is understood as service, worship, or servitude. The Temple service, before Yeshua', was called The Avodah and a false worship is known as avodah zerah. A servant of YHVH was a worshipper of YHVH, and worship was a continuous act. It was not limited to set times, even though worship was part of the set times (feasts, Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, etc.). Worship was intimately tied to work or service. Service to 'Elohiym was not seen as secular and worship as religious or spiritual, but rather they were the same act. Why is this? Because everything is seen as theological to the Jew. When a man goes to his job, he is going to worship and serve YHVH. He is worshipping YHVH when he tends to his wife's needs. He does not separate out ordinary daily activities from his religious duties, for they are one and the same. So, whatever he does he approaches it with the motivation, kavanah (כבן), that this is his worship and service to YHVH. All of life is a unity, just as he sees himself. We will talk more about this later. In Hebrew thought, all occupations are holy and sacred, and they are to be observed as such. One might ask, "So then is a tatoo artist a holy and sacred occupation?" The answer is no. Well I thought you just said that all occupations are holy! That's right! But to the observant Jew, a tatoo artist is not an occupation. When everything you set out to do is understood to be worshipping YHVH, your perspective changes dramatically. It would be very foreign to the scriptural mind to worship YHVH for one to two hours a week, and then go back to the secular life for one week and repeat the process over again. I have read and come in contact with many observant Jews who are aghast when observing Christian worship. Many would say that our God is a part time God. They would observe that what goes on inside the walls is not practiced outside the walls and vice versa. For example, most westerners have no problem with jumping up and down and shouting at a sporting event, but would not dare jump up and down or shout in their assembly. I would think that YHVH has done more for them than the Broncos have. Many would also have no problem in kneeling and praying inside the walls of the assembly, but would not be caught dead doing that at work or at play somewhere else.
THE GREEK VIEW OF SPIRITUALITY
This is one of the subjects that hits at the very core of differences between Western thinking and Scriptural thinking: "what it means to be spiritual". Unfortunately there are many eastern religious ideas of spirituality that are very similar to the Hellenistic way of seeing this subject. When we talk about Eastern vs. Western thinking, we are using them as very general terms. The Scriptures are not eastern per se. Scriptural thinking is Scriptural thinking. What is called the Middle Eastern culture is closest to Scriptural thinking. I only use the term eastern to distinguish the thinking of Scripture from all other non-scriptural philosophies which are generally referred to as Greek, or gentile, ways of the nations, etc. The Scriptures consistently use these terms and they do not come from me. I will sum up the Greek idea of spirituality first and then we will get more specific. To the Greek mind, true spirituality is otherworldly. It is found in living outside of this world and this philosophy can and does lead to all kinds of "New Age" teachings and related religions including modern Christianity. The gods lived outside of this world and so a truly spiritual man lived outside of the cares of this world, as well. Denying the physical and condemning emotion was part of this philosophy. Right thinking and right ideas were the hallmarks of the spiritual person. Only the truly educated (the rich) could attain true spirituality, as the poor were destined to take care of the mundane, daily necessities. They were the ditch diggers, caretakers, farmers, and, of course, carpenters. Worshipping was something you did with the mind and was not to be demonstrative. As I have mentioned before, this philosophy was easily blended into a young gentile church and launched the monastic systems. Denying ones self was very spiritual, because the physical was evil. The sooner one entered the heavenlies the better. This is why suicide was a very noble thing in Greek thinking. Any Scriptures dealing with a heavenly citizenship was seen as advocating this otherworldly existence. Marriage was seen as of this world and was shunned. Abstaining from meat and certain foods was also promoted as obtaining a higher calling with the new logos. Since the logos was considered the mind of the minds, focusing on correct thinking was being "in the spirit". This would also lead to the correct path of receiving revelations from the logos. (Hopefully you have read the logos lesson by now.) To have the mind of Christ (or the mind of the logos) was to have correct thinking. During the rise of Gnosticism, they would have been wearing bracelets that said WWJT instead of WWJD. There will be extra credit on the next test for anyone who can tell me what WWJT means. It is not a coincidence that today we use the term "a Platonic relationship" to describe two people who are only interested in each other's minds or intellect.
Emotions were also looked down upon in Gnostic thinking. To show emotion was to demonstrate weakness and spiritual immaturity. When emotion was stoic and the body denied then the initiate was truly spiritual. The hair was seen as a worldy demonstration of haughtiness and pride, so the shaving of the very top of the head was a sign of unworthiness. Many times uncomfortable clothes were also worn to demonstrate the denial of the body. Many early initiates of gnostic thought were vowed to silence, as there was nothing that a truly spiritual person could have to say. Early initiates would live together away from the other people for a time in order to focus on their thinking. When they returned they were the truly spiritual people who only could communicate with the logos. This led to the great gulf fixed between clergy and laity. Yeshua' more than likely referred to this thinking when He condemned the Nicolaitans. These men would take a vow of celibacy for life, as they were married to the Lord (the only true bride).
THE HEBREW VIEW OF SPIRITUALITY
There is a very stark contrast between the Hellenistic view of spirituality and what it is in Hebrew thought. To begin with, true spirituality is earthly and not otherworldly. To the Hebrew, man was placed upon the earth and given responsibilities to take care of the earth. He is given instructions on how to take care of the body and how to love your neighbor. He is told how to plant crops and when not to plant crops. He is instructed as to when to celebrate, how and why to celebrate. He is told when to rest and when to work. He is told how and when to take care of the poor and how to handle money. To the scripturally spiritual man the other world is the reward, not the goal. To be spiritual was to be involved in his world, to live life to the fullest according to YHVH's word. Yeshua' said, "My words are spirit and they are life". YHVH came into His world and lived in His world. He suffered in His world, died in His world, was buried in His ground, and rose again IN HIS WORLD. True suffering was always a result of standing firm for the word of YHVH. It was not self-inflicted. Being a part of changing this world was to be spiritual. To be "in the spirit" was to act according to YHVH's word, to celebrate life, spirit, soul and body. To be spiritual was to be in this world, fully aware and fully focused on your part in all that you do. Emotions are part of the nature of 'Elohiym. Emotions are natural, but guided by His word. In other words, there is a time and a place for emotions. In Hebrew thinking, the dying process is a time to mourn and weep. According to Schlomo (Solomon), there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. There is a time to embrace and a time not to, a time to speak and a time to be silent. There is a time to love and a time to hate. The Tehillot (Psalms) are replete with emotions. It is not that emotions are worldly, it's discerning the correct time and place for them. I would guess that hysterical laughing in the middle of a serious sermon is bad discernment. Emotion is not the evidence of truth but rather a reaction to it. Marriage is perhaps the most spiritual thing a man and woman do. All that is involved in a Godly marriage is seen as spiritual to the Hebrew. Sex in the marriage is especially spiritual. It is seen as the fullest expression of the nature of 'Elohiym. It is designed to be a physical pleasure, only touching the surface of what our union with the Messiah should be. In Hebrew thought, the Ruach HaQodesh (Holy Spirit) dwells between the marriage partners at those special times. The body is not evil, according to Scripture, Old or New Testaments. When the Scriptures speak of the flesh, they are speaking of the other nature in you, the one that wars with the spirit. This other nature is the very nature that we are talking about when we speak about Greek thinking. It is this worldly system we are to come out from among. It is this worldly culture that stands against YHVH. More on this when we conclude this class.
To Plato, the cosmos is dualistic and man is a picture of that dualism. The body is a prison for the soul. The immortal soul is incarcerated in an evil, defective, body and salvation only comes at death. Life is doomed, cruel and hopeless, and subject to the fate of the gods. The best man can do on this earth is to think his way into blissfullness, and to escape the body through esoteric knowledge. The Hebrew mind sees the body and his surroundings as good, and he understands that he is to humbly dedicate these to YHVH, as a responsible steward of the Creator's good gifts. He sees the human being as a dynamic unity, called to serve 'Elohiym his Creator passionately, with his whole being. He sees the body as the vehicle for 'Elohiym's grace and His conduit for justice and righteousness in the earth.
1 Corinthians 10:31So whatever ye eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Shalom Alecheim! ◊