Love this discussion of the word “salvation” by Marvin Wilson, a professor at Gordon College, and author of, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith, in his talk, Understanding the Sabbath, the audio of which is available as a free download from iTunes. The talk primarily deals with the blindness Christians have to the Biblical message as the result of the influence of anti-Semitism, Gnostic thought, and platonic philosophy on early Christian theology.
I’ve transcribed, to the best of my ability, a few minutes of the talk, dealing with the meaning of the word "salvation," "yeshuah" in Hebrew.
Starting at about minute 48
…what is salvation? We talk about God’s redemption, his rescuing, his liberating, his saving of Israel at the waters of the Red Sea… We have this strain in the history of Christianity that salvation is escape. There was that popular belief in the middle ages that salvation meant to be lifted out of life, to be delivered from this world, to escape this vale of tears. You have it again in hymnology, “When all my labors and trials are o’er and I am safe on that beautiful shore.” This idea of escaping this life, this view of salvation, was especially attractive in the middle ages due to a desire to escape a corrupt world. Violence, poverty, immorality, hunger disease abounded, so it was escape to another world.
How did Biblical men and women view salvation? Not escape but rather to experience God’s presence and power to transform their lives and society…
About minute 50
What is the meaning of the Hebrew verb yasha. Isaiah’s name comes from this root, means salvation is of Yahweh. Jesus name was Yeshua… The noun in the OT is Yeshuah, translated “salvation.” In the OT this root means to liberate, to deliver from evil, to free from oppression. Hence it is to bring welfare or security or victory or wholeness to others. That is to do the work of salvation. To rescue people from themselves, from societal evils. To break the bonds of oppression and set people free.
So salvation is very much this worldly. I can’t show you five places in the Hebrew Bible where the word salvation is used for the other life. It’s concrete this worldly. Relief. Rescue. Deliverance. In fact, even in Luke, in the prolog in chapter 1 to the life of Jesus, Zacharia prophesies the salvation Jesus will bring includes the rescue of Israel from the hands of its enemies. You will call his name Jesus because he will “yasha” save them from their sins.
Now Jesus’ salvation he offers is salvation from sin, but when you only pick up this theme in the New Testament and don’t go back to the rich OT background for this word, then you eviscerate that word from its deep this worldly meaning.
In short, God’s salvation was his liberating power that breaks the bonds of earthly oppression and sets people free. When God brings Israel out of the reed sea, or red sea as it was later translated, that is yeshuah, that is rescue, that is deliverance, that is salvation. God may do it directly or he may do it by human instrumentality…
The word yeshuah is used of deliverance from disease in the OT… It’s used of delivering from trouble. God saves the poor and needy when they have no other helper. So Salvation then is very much this worldly as God takes charge in human lives through his liberating power. Yes he breaks the bonds of sin but he also can break addictions. He can also break people (free) who have psychological limitations where there not able to be freed up as human beings and relate socially. He can break people out of environmental things that have them incarcerated. There are many ways in which yeshuah can be understood to free people from self, from sickness, from oppression…
…But when you understand what his name means it’s more than dealing with the issue of deliverance from sin. It also brought relief, it also brought healing and deliverance from things of this worldly nature. So salvation then is primarily involved with life not escape from life. And if you have a holistic view of salvation and the possibilities of what that can be as you work with people, within your profession. You’re dealing with people who are bound emotionally, psychologically, physically. Intellectually, they don’t believe in themselves, they can’t do it. Environmentally. When you begin to see them delivered or set free from what restricts or binds them, or what has taken them captive, you are doing the work of salvation.
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