Welcome message

Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Guest post by Samuel Martin: New Thoughts About The Woman At The Well

New Thoughts About The Woman At The Well

Announcement: I am very honored and pleased to be guest posting over at www.thatmom.com.

I have admired Karen Campbell's work for many years and am sincerely grateful for her support and encouagement for over five years.

I rejoice that this is my first (and I pray not the last) guest post on her wonderful blog.

Here is where you can find the post.


I urge you to get connected to Karen's blog. She is talking about many subjects and bringing many people into beautiful discussions and thoughtful exchanges of information.

Thank you once again Karen for allowing me to be a part of your wonderful work at - www.thatmom.com.

Blessings from Jerusalem,

Samuel Martin

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Family Purity - “Greet one another with a holy kiss”

Family Purity - “Greet one another with a holy kiss”

I was on my way to Jerusalem last Friday morning and as I waited for a bus to come, I saw a car stop in front of me and a young man about 18 got out and greeted another young man right in front of me. He did so using the traditional Arab cheek to cheek approach. Generally speaking, you find men doing it to relatives or friends at special occasions or when they have not seen each other in some time. Normally, the parties will “kiss” the other persons cheek two or three times, but for relatives or very special events like weddings or the like, you will see them “kissing” each other more than two or three times. Such was the case of these two young men who looked as if they were not related, but that they had not seen each other in some time. I heard what they were talking about and one boy told the other that he was going to visit a nearby village and his friend insisted very vigorously that he allow him to take him to his destination. Then, they both got in the car and left.

I thought about this event when I attended the Independence Day celebration at the US Consulate in Jerusalem on July 4 (2007). What a kaleidoscope of people from all different races and backgrounds: Israeli and Palestinian politicians including the new Palestinian Prime Minister among many others) from all political spectrums including the Jerusalem mayor (who I happily introduced myself to); religious leaders from all of the Christian denominations (about 13 are represented in Jerusalem) and all of Jerusalem’s business community were also there. It was quite an event.

However, one thing happened to me that echoed back to these two young men greeting each other and this concerned one of the people that I met at the event. While passing through the assembled crowd, I noticed an elderly Orthodox Jewish man sitting in a wheelchair and I went over to him and introduced myself. Of course, after being introduced, I thought that I recognized who this man was. His name was Rabbi Menachem Porush. Rabbi Porush has just retired from politics and was a member of the Israeli parliament for over 35 years. Rabbi Porush is still an exceedingly powerful political figure in Israel today and his son Rabbi Meir Porush is currently a member of the Israeli parliament. After introducing myself, I talked a little bit about my background and immediately had some common ground with him. He was attended by a younger Rabbi, who I only came to know as “Rabbi David.” They spoke together in Yiddish and then Rabbi David translated my comments to him. He was especially interested in what I had to say after I told him a story about my contact with one of the leading Rabbinical families in New York, that of Rabbi Moses Feinstein, who was one of the leading Rabbis in the world before his death in 1986. He was the de facto leading scholar of Orthodox Judaism in the USA at the time he passed away. I had some contact with his son, Rabbi Reuven Feinstein, in 1996 when I was first doing research for my first book.

What happened next was very interesting because it was a very subtle event that only one familiar with the Jewish faith will understand and appreciate. While I was talking to Rabbi Porush, a young couple came up and also started to speak with him. The young woman, who could not have been more than 30 years old, reached out her hand to shake the hand of Rabbi Porush and he politely declined! A short comment from Rabbi David ensued saying simply: “I’m sorry, but he’s a Rabbi.” There was no further explanation, but I knew what had happened.

Why did Rabbi Porush not allow that young woman to shake his hand? It comes down to the rules of family purity that are outlined in Leviticus 18. There are very specific rules that are laid out in Leviticus 18 concerning, believe it or not, men and women even shaking hands (among other things). The fact is, Rabbi Porush could not take the chance that the young woman was in a state ritualistically according to Jewish law that would have designated herself as not “clean.” Had he have touched her, he could not have been sure that she was not, so he would have then become “unclean” and would have had to visit a ritual purification bath. (rituals baths – known as mikvahs are all over the place here in Israel and they are used regularly by religious Jews in the performance of their faith.) It may sound silly in a way, but the issue of family purity found in Leviticus 18 and found in other sections as well is the reason why he would not touch her hand. [Some of you might be reminded of this in the film The Seventh Sign, which I have brought up before. When Demi Moore’s character goes to meet the Rabbi to help her translate a letter in a mystical Hebrew language, she knocks on the door. Then the Rabbi answers and she asks some questions and then touches the Rabbi. He immediately closes the door expressing his anger at her actions and will not have anything to do with her after that (because he thought that he was made “unclean.”) Then she meets the young Jewish boy who then gets involved with her in the rest of the film and he explains that she was not supposed to touch his father (once again because of the family purity laws).

So, now how does all of this relate to the issue that serves as the heading for this short section: “Greet each other with a holy kiss?” The point is, we find this phrase used by Paul four times. These are: Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; II Corinthians 13:12 and I Thessalonians 5:26. Now isn’t it interesting that Paul encouraged these Gentile churches to greet each other in this fashion. Certainly, they did touch each other in the process and more importantly, Paul himself must have been “greeting people with a holy kiss”; that is, he was physically touching Gentile people! Note in I Corinthians 16:19, he even mentions “Aquila and Prisca (a woman) and then he urges them to greet each other in this fashion. Isn’t it interesting that Paul seemingly was not in these occasions adhering to the Jewish laws of family purity, which were essential elements of the life of a religious Jew in the first century. These laws are still in force on all religious Jews today who are required to rigorously keep them, but a preliminary examination of these texts indicates that Paul was not adhering to the laws of family purity found in Judaism very rigorously if at all. This may have been different when he was in Jerusalem and undertaking religious observances associated with the Temple, but when he was in Gentile areas, he seems to not have been keeping kosher when it came to family purity laws.

So what do we mean when we talk about a Shame vs. Honor culture in the Bible?

So what do we mean when we talk about a Shame vs. Honor culture in the Bible?

This term may sound like a highly technical matter only to be understood by university professors, but I assure it is not. In fact, it will be understood quite well by those who are a little bit older and will remember a time in most Western countries some 50 or so years ago when most Western cultures operated according to this approach. Let us not how Bakke defines this issue:

“It is helpful here to remember that Mediterranean culture at this period was what cultural anthropologists call a ‘shame/honor culture.’ One primary aspect of such a culture is that, unlike modern Western culture, the group and the collective are more significant than the individual, who receives his or her status from the group. People perceive themselves primarily in terms of their relation to other person and groups. This does not mean that person’s own estimation of himself or herself is irrelevant to that individual’s perception of his or her own value; but the degree of honor depends ultimately on the response and evaluation of others. Accordingly, although one may claim honor on the basis of one’s own self-estimation, this becomes real honor only when the group recognizes and confirms the claim.” (Bakke, pg. 154-155)

This is a really important issue when it comes to understanding Biblical culture and lifestyles. Bakke continues:

“Basically, honor could be achieved in two ways. A person might claim honor because of his status, for example, because of inherited wealth or his noble family. In such cases, one need not do anything active in order to be honored, and this is called ascribed honor. Acquired honor is based on deed that the group recognizes as virtuous. In cases where a person’s claim to honor is not recognized by the group with which he identifies, that, the ‘significant others,’ he is put to shame. Such a culture might therefore be described as a culture of competition – competition to increase honor and avoid shame.” (ibid.)

When relating this idea to the Bible, we find it pervading many passages of Scripture and we need to be aware of its influence to help us increase our understandings of what was taking place. Let us look at some examples.

In the Biblical period, there were some groups who had ascribed honor. We can think right away of Aaronic priests, Levites, and the elderly. Of course, Jesus being recognized as being descended legally from a Davidic family would have accorded him some ascribed honor.

When we think of achieved honor, look at someone like John the Baptist, whose actions and lifestyle demonstrated to the people at that time that he was virtuous and he thereby acquired a very high level of honor.

It is important to understand that the cultural environment we are talking about here was a highly conservative one. People were very conscious about avoiding actions that might bring shame on a family. Where actions took place that were outside of the perceived social norms, whole families were shamed due to the actions of an individual member.

In this light, we can read the narratives of the birth of our Lord and can fill in the gaps of what is not said and see what might have taken place between the families of Mary and Joseph in response to her becoming pregnant prior to their marriage being consummated. This issue no doubt was a scandal, which could have had disastrous consequences, but Joseph took specific actions to take responsibility for the situation so that he was recognized as Jesus’ legal father. While he did this and it was recognized legally, no doubt there was lots of whispering and talking about this family in Nazareth at that time and things like this in that culture are not quickly forgotten. It affected the whole family from that point forward.

In a shame versus honor culture, people who violated social norms are outside of the norm and standard that the community expects. It used to be that way in most Western countries some 50 years ago when we talk about issues like children conceived out of wedlock or people who have children and the father is not present or specifically known.

Even today among Christians here in Israel this method of living is still the norm. According to the most recent surveys we have seen, the divorce rate among Christians in Israel today is about 1%. In all the time that I have lived here approaching 13 years of my life, I have not known of one Christian girl who became pregnant outside of marriage. In addition, concerning divorce, it is so rare and it is absolutely frowned upon and people avoid it like the plague because it is considered such a “shame” and it is almost impossible to restore the  “honor” of the family after going through such a thing.

These issues are really important for us to understand because they are present in our modern cultures and they were present in the Biblical cultural. For us today who are seeking to better understand the Bible, it is important that we take these issues into account.

To conclude, let us remember the importance of knowing what were the prevailing cultural themes that were in place and affecting the Biblical culture and narratives. If we do this, we have a much greater opportunity to understand the Bible in its cultural and historical contexts. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Guest Post from Heather Schopp - A Personal Testimony

Introduction: Heather Schopp is one of my dear friends and I am honored to have her here on my blog. I have hosted Heather's posts before (http://samuelmartin.blogspot.co.il/2013/03/jesus-christ-our-true-calling-guest.html) and plan to again.

Of late, I have been asking for some more personal testimonies from Christian mothers to share their stories about their experiences with the issue of corporal punishment/spanking/smacking.

Heather has here given us own testimony.

This post originally was posted on Heather's FB account on February 18 2014. It is used by permission. I have also added several comments which appear on the original thread found here - https://www.facebook.com/heather.schopp.1/posts/10152043822624495?comment_id=28826721&notif_t=like

These additional comments are too powerful to be ignored. Some of them are some of the most powerful things I have read in many years. Get ready to be blessed. I have not edited Heather's original post.

A personal testimony

recently i received an email from a dear friend in which he stated that the bible clearly teaches we must scourge our children.

there are many arguments out there, for and against, i’ve read some of both. and i encourage you to read them, do some searching. God speaks to us, if we are willing to listen, if we do not confine our thinking to the rigid lines drawn by people, by ourselves.

ultimately, what i have on my side, and on my conscience, is my experience. as a wise college professor once told me, “share your experience, no one can argue that.” so here is a bit of my journey….

when forrest (my first born) was a toddler, i was given a book from a Christian whom i trusted and respected. the book was _shepherding a child’s heart_ by tedd tripp. i read it and immediately began applying its (tedd’s) principles (because i thought i should), principles such as: expect instant obedience; spank if there’s not instant obedience. those are two i remember most clearly. and i also remember he made it clear that God expects parents to “discipline” little ones this ways; if we don’t, we’re disobeying Him. so i told little 2 year old forrest, “when i call you, if you don’t come, i will spank you.” and of course, he didn’t come; so i spanked. as i continued to read tripp’s book, i felt more and more unsettled with his teachings. and spanking never felt right (that was the Holy Spirit). mostly, as i look back, the only “rightness” i felt was that i was doing what supposedly God says, and what everyone else (whoever that may be) expected me to do. by the time i finished the book, it turned my stomach so much that i pitched it (now i wish i would’ve kept it as a resource). i still spanked on rare occasions; i wasn’t yet convinced it was ok not to…but that still small voice was still speaking.

another turning point (although not yet a full 180) was hearing a friend, karen campbell, speak. her daughter mollie encouraged me to go, and that’s why i did (i’m not a retreat sort of person—i don’t like sitting; plus i and a three year old and a one year old, both of whom nursed, and i didn’t care to leave them—even though i knew they’d be fine with neil, and they were). i don’t remember many details, but i remember she talked about the one-anothers in the bible—and that those all applied to our children and our relationships with them. and i had never heard or thought of them that way. i’d always heard/seen children children and parents placed on tiers, and thought of them almost as different sorts of animals (which in some ways they, we are), as outside the realms of “normal” behavioral, relational patterns and expectations…and hearing this, i began to see children, my children, as “my neighbors.” “love your neighbor as yourself”—the ultimate one-another….and i thought, how does hitting them (because that is what spanking is) fit into that? so after her talk, i went up to her and said, “it sure seems like you’re saying spanking doesn’t fit into the one-anothers” and she said “then you heard me right.” i asked her what book(s) she recommended. i don’t remember if there were more than one, but i ended up reading _heartfelt discipline_ by clay clarkson, and in it was an exegesis of those passages that many christians have used to proclaim that spanking required by God—and mr. clarkson came up with quite a different conclusion.

and basically, i came away seeing that the bible really contains little explicit instructions regarding parenting and discipline….the Holy Spirit had led me to karen and to clay, who had taken me a bit further down the path away from spanking.

and from that point on it was just a continued journey down that path as the Holy spirit worked in my heart, and showed me through my children and Jesus’ teachings and God’s character and others’ wisdom just exactly what spanking really is—hitting.

and eventually, i can’t tell exactly when, there was no more traveling down a path; there was a closed door. and a complete paradigm shift. and this is where i am: these children are precious gifts from God. they are His children, just as much as we adults are. and they are not only my children, but my sister and my brothers. being their mother is a privilege. what an honor to be able to show them God’s love. just as God desires a relationship and unity with us, so do i with my little ones….and hitting has no place in that.


 The first comment is from Karen Campbell (www.thatmom.com) who we all know and love dearly!

Heather Schopp yesterday I was talking to a very influential man in homeschooling circles who lamented with me the fact that there are so many teachings that promote an adversarial view of relationships in the body of Christ. I told him this, and I believe it, moms in their heart of hearts don't want to be adversaries of their children. They just need to be encouraged that there is a better way and that it has already been given to us in Scripture. My desire is to spend all the rest of my years, whatever the Lord gives me, preaching that message! It is only saying what moms already really know!

The next comment

I look back with regret at all the "Bible teachers" who led me astray years ago. I wish so much that I could go back and do things differently with my kids. Thankfully I didn't succumb to the extreme end of the whole spanking thing though. I once went to hear a guy talk about child rearing who actually emphasized that we should spank our disobedient children all the way til they left home. He shared a story of spanking his 18 y.o. daughter just prior to her leaving home (she was soon to be married, I believe). Absolutely nutso!

The next comment - One of the most powerful testimonies I have ever read anywhere!

L Janel Martin My two younger, of four, children were not spanked. My older children do not spank. I love my daughter, now 20, so much that I will would risk hell for not scourging her. If I even say something harsh or see a flicker of hurt on her face or in her eyes, I feel like hell. i can't imagine that God the Almighty who loves me so much he would allow his own child to be killed for me, would want me to hit my child for any reason. His Son's teaching and life was to not harm a child. It breaks my heart that I harmed my older son the few times I did spank -hit - him. and I am grateful that they do not hit their children.

If it's ok to hit children, my son has every right to hit me. Or any one, really. And, that's not allowed. Adults can't hit other adults.

The next comment from Cindy Foster, who has come out aggressively against corporal punishment/spanking.

Cindy Foster I read Tripp's book after leaving The Baptist Taliban 13 years ago. I have 8 children and had always believed CP was the only Biblical way. After spending so much of my life in a severely rigid 'church', I actually found his book very gracious and recommended it to others as a balanced view on child discipline. Well, I have come a loooooooonnnnng way since then and no longer have those blinders on. Takes a long time to undo false teachings. Anyway, here's my personal testimony. I so appreciate Samuel's work. It's what put me in tune to my conscience.


The next comment


Here we see a number of Christian mothers telling us how the Holy Spirit is leading them and has lead them away from family violence. 

Here are some more testimonies of 22 other Christian mothers. 


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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The month of Nisan – A time to forget

The month of Nisan – A time to forget

Living in Jerusalem allows one the unique opportunity to learn new things all the time. As one who lives here is closer to God’s culture, it will not surprise people to believe that this is the case.

One interesting story that I heard recently relates now to the time of year we find ourselves in. The month of Nisan began this year (2007) on March 20. This begins the springtime festivals of Israel starting with Passover coming up on April 3. Now Nisan in Hebrew refers to “first fruits” or “something new,” however, there is an interesting idea that someone proposed to me recently which I wish to share it with you and it may represent a very ancient way of looking at this month of the year.

April Showers

I think that all of us have heard of the phrase “April Showers.” It refers to those early spring rains that are so lovely and help make spring into the beautiful season that it is.

However, there may be something more to those April showers than just helping the plants grow. A woman that I know here in Jerusalem told me a very interesting story. She relates that on a trip into Jerusalem’s Old City, she passed by an apothecary to get some spices. Now, traditional herbal medicine is quite common here in the Holy Land and they have these amazing shops which have almost every spice you can think of. (Note that Israel is located on an ancient spice route see http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1107/, which documents a new designation of this spice route from UNESCO).

When the woman went into the apothecary, she was looking for something to remove a small wart on her hand. She had tried numerous other remedies, but to no avail. So she asked the man what to do about it. He then produced a bottle of regular water and told the woman to put the hand affected by the wart inside. She asked him what that was and he said it was rainwater collected in the month of Nisan (which normally occurs around April time). Now, in Arabic, the names of the months are about the same names as the Hebrew names, however, the word Nisan comes from the Arabic root which means, “to forget.” Then, the man told the woman: “Immerse the affected area in this water and forget about the wart.” She did as she said and she told me that within a few days, the wart disappeared.

This may sound like an interesting story of folk medicine, but isn’t it interesting that in the month of Nisan, just before the Passover in 30 AD, God, in a sense, put all of the sins of the world on Jesus Christ and with his death, they were forgotten.

To close, in this regard, it is good to refer to that very important passage in Jeremiah 31:31-34, which talks about that new covenant between God and Israel, and the final thought in that very important passage is that “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (Jeremiah 31:34). It is a wonderful thing to remember at this time of year that God “forgot” our sins. Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful gift.