Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Passover and the Art of Deception
Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Hold on to your hats -- the Worldwide Church of God now teaches that the day doesn't begin at sunset! Furthermore, they misquote Jewish sources to intimate that the expression "between the two evenings," referring to the time the Passover lambs are slain, is after sunset! When churches deliberately withhold vital information, and only tell "partial truths," it is even worse than out-and-out lying and deception, because it is more difficult to detect. Here's what happening now in the new Worldwide Church of God theology!
by HOIM Staff
Shocking as it may seem, in a sermon given in the spring of 1994, David G. Hunsberger of the Worldwide Church of God informed the congregation he was speaking to that it is all right not to eat unleavened bread on days during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. He added, according to reports that reached us, that furthermore, it is all right to eat leavened bread during the Feast of Unleavened Bread!
Does that information shock you? Or are you now immune to any further shocks coming from the new direction and leadership of the erstwhile Worldwide Church of God?
Furthermore, we are now told that the Worldwide Church of God prefers to call the ceremony they used to name the "Passover" by the traditional "Christian" name, now -- the "Eucharist"!
How far they have departed from the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong. It just doesn't seem like the same church, any more -- yet the majority of thousands of members remain asleep at the switch, and are either unable or unwilling to do anything about the plunge into mainstream, traditional "Christianity" -- which Herbert Armstrong used to call the "daughters of the great whore of Revelation"!
How far will Worldwide go in their attempt to appease and maintain the loyalty and steadfast devotion of church members? Will they even go so far as to tell "half truths," and even outright lies or distortions of the truth?
Apparently so. An an illustration of this fact, an official letter from the offices of the Worldwide Church of God claims that the daily evening sacrifice of the ancient Hebrews took place after sunset, before dark -- and that the Jewish publication called the Soncino Chumash proves this.
David G. Hunsberger, in a letter from the Personal Correspondence Department of the Worldwide Church of God, dated April 16, 1993, writes on the subject of Passover to a member of the Church who had several questions. In his letter he stated dogmatically and authoritatively:
"The Passover Lamb was to be slain between the two evenings (Exodus 12:6). This is the meaning of the Hebrew beyn ha'arbayim. The same expression appears in Exodus 29:39, where it indicates the time of day when the evening sacrifice was to be made. The sacrifices of each day included two lambs; one in the morning and another in the evening. The evening sacrifice took place at the time when Aaron and his sons lit the lamps (Exodus 30:8). This is the time between sunset and the complete disappearance of light from the horizon, which is brief in the Middle East -- approximately one and one-third hours, according to the Soncino Chumash.
"The original Passover lambs were slain in Egypt between sunset and darkness as the 14th day of Nisan was nearing an end. The day comes to an end, as the above references show, when the last trace of sunlight has disappeared from the horizon (not precisely at sunset). The light of the sun determines the end of a calendrical day. In commenting on Exodus 12:6, The Soncino Chumash states that 'between the two darknesses' is the period of 'approximately one and a third hours between sunset and the disappearance of the light which subsequently penetrates through the clouds.'"
Is this true? Does it resonate with reality and fact? Or is it a spiritual casuistry -- full of clever but specious reasoning? Is his argument a modern sophistry -- deceptively subtle but erroneous? The ancient Sophists were a Greek philosophers in the 5th century B.C. who were famous for their adroit, subtle but often specious and fallacious reasoning!
Perhaps YEHOVAH God's people should be less trusting and begin to check up on those who officially speak and write for the Church! As the apostle Paul wrote, "PROVE ALL THINGS; hold fast that which is GOOD" (I Thessalonians 5:21).
Our Investigation -- and the Results!
A layman who reads the comments of David Hunsberger might be convinced that he is right. Doesn't his letter sound authoritative, and quite convincing? Are you persuaded he is right? Most people have never heard of the Soncino Chumash, and wouldn't know where to find one. So they would just assume, most likely, that it is accurate, and that nobody would be dumb enough or deliberately deceptive enough to misquote it completely.
On the other hand, let's not be too sure. Strange things happen, as we learn from the poem The Cremation of Sam McGee, in the land of the mid-night sun -- and in the smog-ridden environs of sunny Southern California, home to various assorted fruits, nuts and berries!
Unlike most people, we happen to have a copy of The Soncino Press Pentateuch and Haftorahs, commonly referred to as the Chumash, edited by Dr. J. H. Hertz. We looked up the reference of Exodus 12:6, which David Hunsberger referred to. And guess what? Surprise of all surprises, we found -- well, don't take our word for it. We will quote it for you, in full:
"6. at dusk. Better, towards even (M. Friedlander); lit. 'between the two evenings.' According to the Talmud, the 'first evening' is the time in the afternoon when the heat of the sun begins to decrease, about 3 o'clock; and the 'second evening' commences with sunset. Josephus relates that the Passover sacrifice 'was offered from the ninth to the eleventh hour,' i.e. between 3 and 5 p.m."
In checking the reference of Exodus 30:8 and 29:39, we found further, a note under verse 8 which discusses the lighting of the lamps "at dusk," saying, "at dusk, towards even." In other words, the lamps were NOT lit after sunset, as David Hunsberger and the Worldwide Church of God seem to assume. Nor were the evening sacrifices offered after sunset, as they claim. The lamps were lit in the MID-AFTERNOON, and the daily evening sacrifice was offered at that same time.
However, there is another form of the Soncino Chumash, one edited by Dr. A. Cohen. We obtained a copy of this volume in the Fuller Theological Library in Pasadena. Under Exodus 12:6 we read the following:
"at dusk. lit. 'between the two darknesses,' that is to say, between the darkness of the day and the darkness of the night, viz. NOON AND THE BEGINNING OF THE NIGHT, A PERIOD OF SIX HOURS, reckoning the duration of the day from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. (R). It is a period of approximately one and a third hours between sunset and the disappearance of the light which subsequently penetrates through the clouds (E). N opposes E's view and approximates to R's explanation" (p. 387).
Isn't this interesting? Who would think that such a large, monolithic, and powerful institution as the Worldwide Church of God would apparently deliberately distort the truth in toto? Are they floundering so badly, are they so hard up to substantiate their Passover error, that they have to resort to CLEVERLY DISTORTING A PRIMARY SOURCE of knowledge, such as the Soncino Chumash, and deliberately quote only that which suits their purpose, leaving out the material which directly contradicts their purpose? WHY do they completely disregard the PRIMARY MEANING of the phrase, "between the two evenings," and IGNORE it?
In the introduction to the Chumash, Cohen points out that his source "R" is Rashi (Rabbi Shelomoh Yitschaki, Solomon ben Isaac) who was born in France in 1040 and died in 1105, a scholar who possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of the Rabbinic literature and a marvelous gift of clear and terse exposition. "E" is Abraham Ibn Ezra, a Spanish Jew born in 1092, whose commentary is essentially literary, being concerned largely with questions of diction, grammar and who aimed at extreme brevity, and who was "in consequence not infrequently obscure" (p. xii). "N" is Nachmanides (Rabbi Mosheh ben Nachman), born in Spain in 1194. He early gained renown as a Talmudical jurist.
As Cohen himself points out, the opinion of "E" concerning the expression "between the two evenings" is NOT the standard, accepted Jewish explanation, but is a minority opinion which is contradicted by both Rashi and Nachmanides.
The shocking, incredible truth of the matter is, simply, the Worldwide Church of God and its teachers and "scholars" and representatives deliberately IGNORED the commentary in the Soncino Chumash which interprets the expression as applying to the "AFTERNOON," between noon and six p.m., and only quote the one comment which suits their purpose!
Whether this was originally an "honest mistake," and some careless writer or researcher overlooked or deliberately ignored the primary portion of the passage in the Soncino Chumash, is hardly the issue. The point is, they are MISLEADING THOUSANDS of people -- they are guilty of PERPETUATING A FALSEHOOD -- of maintaining and promoting and disseminating an OFFICIAL ERROR!
Even if this was originally "an honest mistake" which nobody checked up on, and became widely quoted as the "final authority," THERE IS NO EXCUSE for only quoting a small part of this commentary, as if it were the complete story. There is no excuse for such official misrepresentation and misinformation! To overlook and ignore a major interpretation of Biblical scholars on the phrase "between the two evenings" is certainly misleading, at the very least, and utterly unworthy of a true scholar or representative of YEHOVAH God!
"Between the Two Evenings"
But since David Hunsberger has raised this issue, let's examine it more thoroughly. There are many more authoritative sources which we can turn to, for a truly sound exposition of this subject! We read in The JPS Torah Commentary, regarding Exodus 12:6 --
"at twilight Hebrew bein ha-'arbayim literally means 'between the two settings.' Rabbinic sources take this to mean 'from noon on.' According to Radak, the first 'setting' occurs when the sun passes its zenith just after noon and the shadows begin to lengthen, and the second 'setting' is the actual sunset. Josephus testifies that the paschal lamb was slaughtered in the Temple between 3 and 5 P.M." (vol. 2, "Exodus," p. 55).
The Chumash with Targum Onkelos, Haphtaroth and Rashi's Commentary, translated into English and annotated by Rabbi A.M. Silbermann, says in regard to this expression, as used in Exodus 12:6, the following:
"AT EVENTIDE --- The period beginning at six hours (reckoning from six o'clock in the morning) and hence forward is called ben ha arbayim, because the sun then inclines in the direction of the place of its setting to become darkened. The expression ben ha arbayim appears to me to denote those hours which are between the darkening of the day and the darkening of the night. The darkening of the day is at the beginning of the seventh hour in the day [1:00 P.M.], from when the shadows of evening decline; and the darkening of the night is at the commencement of the night (this period is therefore from noon until the beginning of night)" (p. 53b).
Obviously, the Worldwide Church of God has a serious problem. They have rejected this plain and simple truth and swallowed a foolish and useless error! Says the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Critical, Experimental Commentary on Exodus 12:6, and the expression "between the two evenings":
"6....in the evening -- between the evenings....In the early period of their history the Hebrews had no proper divisions of time, and accordingly periods of the day were indicated in a very loose and general manner (Gen.15:12; 43:16, etc.). 'Between the evenings' is a phrase of similar import, denoting the part of the day between the declining and the setting sun, or between noon and sunset. As the slaughtering of the numerous victims required would of necessity occupy a considerable time, no particular hour was specified, farther than that the operation should be performed 'between the evenings.' But in order to be within the limits defined, it was necessary that it should be begun and completed between the commencement of the first and the termination of the second evening....In later times a controversy arose in reference to the time thus marked. The SAMARITANS and Karaites considered it as the interval between sunset and darkness. But the PHARISEES AND RABBINISTS (Mishnah, Pesach, V. 3), who maintained that the first evening began after noon, and the second with the sunset, taught that the paschal lamb was to be killed in the interval between the ninth and eleventh hour, which, at the time of the equinox, corresponded to one, three, and six o'clock P.M. Josephus states (Jewish War, bk.6, chap. 9, sec.3), that such was the PRACTICE OF THE JEWS IN THE TIME OF OUR LORD" (p. 310).
The Time of the Evening Sacrifice
Hunsberger further claims that the evening sacrifices were offered after sunset and before dark. This error, of course, actually follows from their first error. The truth is, the evening sacrifices were offered in the AFTERNOON, before sunset! Notice! Declares Unger's Bible Dictionary about the evening sacrifice, and how it was affected on the day of the killing of the Passover:
"...Each paschal lamb was to serve a 'company' of not less than ten or more than twenty, the representatives of each company going to the Temple. The daily evening sacrifice (Exodus 29:38,39), usually killed at the eighth hour and a half (i.e., 2:30 P.M.) and offered up at the ninth and a half hour (i.e., 3:30 P.M.), was on this day killed at 1:30 and offered at 2:30 P.M., an hour earlier; and if the 14th of Nisan happened on a Friday it was killed at 12:30 and offered at 1:30 P.M., two hours earlier than usual, so as to avoid any needless breach of the Sabbath" (p. 354, "Festivals").
Certainly, it is clear that the Worldwide Church of God not only misrepresents the Jewish Soncino Chumash, but they are in grievous error as to the time the Passover was killed! This error has let to another flagrant error. Because they think the evening sacrifice was offered after sunset, and yet was the second of the two "daily sacrifices," they have come to the conclusion that the day doesn't end at sunset after all -- but at twilight or nightfall! In other words, the Worldwide Church of God no longer teaches that each day begins and ends at sunset!
What Is a "Day" in Scripture?
Notice! David Hunsberger wrote, in his letter, as if he was an authority on the subject:
"The day comes to an end, as the above references show (sic), when the last trace of sunlight has disappeared from the horizon (not precisely at sunset)."
What kind of nonsense is this? The Soncino Chumash says nothing about the ENDING of the day! Worldwide teachers err by ASSUMING that the evening sacrifice took place after sunset, and that since the end of the "day" had to be after the evening sacrifice, it had to be at nightfall! The whole thing is what we might call "reasoning in a circle" -- which leads to "a comedy of errors," or one error compounding on top of another error! An edifice or "structure" built on such reasoning, of course, is a "house of cards," and must eventually topple over, and fall!
Says Unger's Bible Dictionary about the beginning and ending of the "day," according to the Jewish custom:
"From a very early period the time of reckoning the day was from SUNSET TO SUNSET, and this became the Jewish method (Lev. 23:32; comp. Exod. 12:18)" (p. 1098, "Time").
Says Rabbi Nathan Bushwick in Understanding the Jewish Calendar, Moznaim Publishing Corporation, 1989, about the "day":
"By creating the sun and the moon, God established three basic units of time for all mankind: the day, the month, and the year. The day and the year are determined by the sun. The sun sets, rises, and sets again. This cycle of rising and setting is a day....We know how long a day is from the rising and setting of the sun. It is that cycle that defines a DAY...
"To sum up, the DEFINITION OF A DAY IS ONE COMPLETE CYCLE OF SETTING, RISING, AND SETTING OF THE SUN. It is not defined by time on a clock or any other device. It is defined only by the SUN" (emphasis ours, p. 3-4).
YEHOVAH God says regarding the Day of Atonement, "It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath " (Leviticus 32:32). Says the Critical, Experimental Commentary, in its comments on Leviticus 23:32, "The Sabbaths were reckoned from sunset to sunset."
Let's Get It Right, Once and For All!
If we are sincerely desirous of obeying YEHOVAH God, and keeping His commandments, then it is high time we repudiated the spurious "scholarship" of errant "savants" and admitted the simple truth. Once a group embraces a fundamental error, that act changes the very direction of the group -- and they cease to follow YEHOVAH God and His truth, and plunge off into the "unknown." Rather than follow the proven pathway of YEHOVAH's Laws, they begin going off the trail, skirting rocks and boulders, picking their way through underbrush, and thickets of weeds, and trees, until they get farther and farther from the truth -- and, like an errant hiker, become LOST!
Eventually, unless they are found, and get back to safety, on the RIGHT PATH, the pathway of YEHOVAH's Laws and His Truth, they will die from exposure to the elements, or a fearsome wild "beast" -- a ravening false prophet or teacher -- will devour them.
By rejecting the truth about the expression "between the two evenings," the Worldwide Church of God has also rejected the fundamental truth about the Passover itself, and has even lost the knowledge of the beginning and ending of the "day" itself! Error compounds itself! Error leads to error, and as errors multiply, spiritual confusion and chaos ultimately result -- just what Satan the devil wants, for he is the author of confusion (see I Corinthians 14:33; James 3:14-16). Therefore, it is high time we repent of error, which departs from the truth, and return to the truth of YEHOVAH God, and embrace it with all our being. Yeshua the Messiah said, "Ye shall know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH shall make you free" (John 8:32).
With so many false teachers around, some of whom even misquote esteemed authorities, and pervert the truth, to establish their error, we need to be doubly careful and on our spiritual guard. The apostle Jude wrote, "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should EARNESTLY CONTEND FOR THE FAITH [truths, body of beliefs and doctrines] ONCE DELIVERED UNTO THE SAINTS. For there are certain men crept in unawares..." (Jude 3-4).
Says the Living Bible, as it interprets this passage of Scripture:
"I had been planning to write you some thoughts about the salvation God has given us, but now I find I must write of something else instead, urging you to STOUTLY DEFEND THE TRUTH which God gave, once for all, to his people to keep without change through the years. I say this because some godless teachers have wormed their way in among you...." (same verses, Living Bible ).
Those who are truly obeying YEHOVAH God, then, must be on their guard against the foolish teachings of false prophets and false teachers, who twist, distort, pervert, and alter the truth of YEHOVAH God through their spurious exegesis and untrustworthy reasoning. We must be VERY careful, lest we be deceived! The apostle Peter warns us,
"But there were false prophets, too, in those days, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will CLEVERLY TELL THEIR LIES ABOUT GOD, turning against even their Master who bought them...These teachers in their greed will tell you anything to get hold of your money....But false teachers are FOOLS -- no better than animals. They do whatever they feel like; born only to be caught and killed, they laugh at the terrifying powers of the underworld which they know so little about; and they will be DESTROYED along with all demons and powers of hell" (II Peter 2:1-12, Living Bible).
Notice this warning! These false teachers will "CLEVERLY TELL THEIR LIES." Peter says that they are really only interested in getting hold of your money! He calls them out-and-out "FOOLS"! But like the demons and devil they really serve, they will die in their folly and be destroyed in the Lake of Fire called Gehenna!
Will You Be Deceived?
What about you? Are you taken in by the clever fabrications of false ministers who claim to know YEHOVAH God and to be His representatives? Are you easily deceived and misled? Are you a "trusting" and "believing" soul? Can you easily be led astray by an "authority" figure?
The world is entering a period of unparalleled deception, horror, intrigue, and suffering. The Messiah warned that EVEN THE ELECT might be deceived, if they are not carefully watching and ON THEIR SPIRITUAL GUARD! (Matthew 24:24).
The apostle Paul warned that this end-time age would be characterized by "evil's undiluted power to deceive, for they have refused to love the truth which could have saved them. God sends upon them, therefore, the full force of evil's delusion, so that they put their faith in an UTTER FRAUD and meet the inevitable judgment of all who have refused to believe the truth and who have made evil their playfellow" (II Thessalonians 2:10-12, Phillips Translation). The Berkeley Translation translates the Greek expression pas ["all, any, every, whole"] apate ["delusion, deceit, deceivableness"] as "limitless deceit."
Is part of your belief structure an "utter fraud"? Could you be deceived? Have you been a victim of Satan's end time deception and limitless delusion?
Many have been led astray. Deceivers have multiplied and lifted themselves up in high arrogance and egotism. Many have been befuddled, deluded and deceived.
Where do you stand?
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