17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
Once again, like the two previous calls, the one who hears is called to obey. Hebrew has no word for obedience. To hear someone means to obey him. He who obeys is described as conqueror and overcomer. To this particular overcomer, Christ is promising something very special – hidden manna and a white stone with a new secret name. First promise is easier to interpret than the second one.
Manna is a symbol of God’s sustenance and provision for the people of Israel in the wilderness as they came out of Egypt in obedience to God’s call, risking their own lives to go to a land they would only later be shown. When Jesus spoke with the Samaritan Israelite woman (John 4), his Judean Israelite disciples were returning from a nearby town with food acceptable for consumption by the Judeans (Ioudaioi). The disciples asked among themselves if perhaps someone already had brought Jesus food. He then answered them that he had something that was now, in this passage in Revelation, also being promised to the one who overcomes – the hidden manna. He said: “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” (Jn.4:32) This secret food that “the rest” did not know about is nothing less than divine energy that is able to provide sustenance in the most unimaginable and perilous circumstances. This characterized the-soon-to-be reality for believers in Pergamum. Jesus promised this energy to the one who obeys God’s words. This is why the one who obeys also is the one who overcomes.
As to the identity of the white stone things are more complicated. Among the most-likely interpretations that may fit the context is a suggestion that the white stones, with names of the recipients inscribed, were given to contest winners of the Roman sport races. The white stone inscribed with a personal name presumably served as a pass to a prestigious banquet only attended by the winners. This stone would have been received upon completion of the race. While this is not a particularly Jewish cultural reference, we do know of many biblical examples of the use of Greco-Roman cultural references as illustrations for and by the Jews. For example, the Apostle Paul used many Roman sports metaphors to make his points (Phil. 3:12-14; 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). The writer of the letter to the Hebrews also employed Roman sport imagery of running a race and receiving a winner’s wreath (See also Hebrews 12:1). This kind of imagery was well known in Judea that housed elaborate sports arenas. This kind of analogy much more closely matches the culture of the Roman city of Pergamum. No doubt the persecuted believers, both Jewish and former pagans, were aware of this practice and the elaborate banquets of honor for the overcomers/winners of the race. Most of the believers did not take part in these games by the virtue of the fact that the games included a dedication to the Roman gods. Christ tells them that in all reality they have not missed out on anything. The real race is the race of perseverance dedicated to Israel’s God. Whoever perseveres in this race and overcomes will receive a pass into the heavenly banquet of eternal honor.
Another intriguing possibility continues with the theme of priestly attire as was already used in the letter of Revelation. The high priest’s robe had 12 stones with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. One of the stones was actually white – Yahalom (it was a stone number 6), signifying the 6th son of Leah – Zebulun. What’s important about Zebulun? We read in Is. 9:1-7, quoted in Matt. 4:15 that:
“In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”
According to this interpretation, the sacred white stone is a symbol of Greco-Romans residing in Galilee who would receive light through the birth of Jesus. Could the secret here be the Messiah himself? Could the white stone point to Jesus through the yahalom stone once adorning the breast of the High Priest of Israel? Perhaps.
Join the conversation (58 comments)
Thank you Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg … your article really helpful for me to prepare the material for Sunday School teaching….
This is wonderful to hear!
I love how you encourage people to think. Different words in many articles jump out at me. This does seem like the two-fold revelation of Christ (I was dead, and now look, I am alive). Revelations by heavenly messengers explain the hidden manna, the name know only to the one who receives it, and predestination. Exodus 16:34 says that putting the manna with the stone tablets of the covenant law will preserve it. John 14:15 parallels this to asking for the Holy Spirit. Could the white stone represent the Kingdom (white symbolizing hair that is white like wool and snow)? I was reached with the gospel in two different ways. The One that holds the 7 stars in His right hand was Torah observant (Ex 16:34). The others (evangelism) separated the Manna and the Law and all I could see was Christ’s death.
I changed my question. Twice as much manna is gathered before the Sabbath. Is this why they would have had a two-fold revelation of Christ?
I think God gave twice as much manna simply that it would be enough to last through shabbat during which there were not to get it. No connections with Christ that “jumps at me” in the two day paradigm. eli
“When you see the white stone, do not say ‘Water, water.'” — admonition to Jews seeking to learn to read the scripture using Pardes.
When something is said twice, it means “in heaven and earth”.
‘White’ represents holiness.
‘Water’ is the word of God.
And stone אבן is father ‘ab’ אב and son ‘ben’ בן joined. The stone that was split is a picture of the cross when the Father and the Son were divided.
The admonition was written by rabbis who did not want Jews to see Jesus in their own scripture. So when they see the Holy Father/Son they are not to proclaim him to be the living Torah/Word, in heaven and earth.
The admonition is followed by threats should they choose to proclaim Christ.
Well… :-). Not really :-). First of all, the text Bavli (Haggigah 14b) does not say “When you see the white stone”, instead it says literally (I bolded the actual text in Aramaic):
“When you come to the pure marble stones”.
ורבי עקיבא אמר להם ר”ע כשאתם מגיעין אצל אבני שיש טהור אל תאמרו מים מים
Second point while you are correct that the rest of the Talmud’s page are about warning fellow rabbinic Jews not to engage in the Christian claims about Jesus, you are not correct about the stone being made up of two words (Av and Ben). The word stone (AVEN) is just that a word that is NOT made up of two (it is a not a compound word). There are many words in Hebrew that only sound like that but upon closer examination are not really 2-in-1 kind of words. We should be very careful not to read in the meaning into any text (such as what I think you did with the father and stone). Our theologies affect us more than we can imagine. Mine included. Let’s keep thinking together.
According to Rabbi Ginsburg, Hebrew letters have strokes with metaphoric meaning which combine into letters each having metaphoric meaning, which combine into two-letter sub-roots called gates, which then combine into larger roots and words. Each meaning is derived from the combination of underlying metaphors.
The meaning of a gate has a reversal (not an opposite as the western mind would think.)
שיש comes from the gate שש which means ‘bleach’ or ‘;white’. It is unchangeable since it is the same when the letters are reversed. The ש has a metaphor of the Spirit of God which returns to God having given life. Marble is the created thing which is white, or bleached.
Even Strong identified שיש as coming from an unused root meaning to bleach.
Rabbi Ginsburg seems to appreciate the breakdown of bereshit:
ב – a revelation to man:
ר – God revealed
א – to that which he created in silence (or that he spoke and created the heavens and the earth)
ש – that when he spoke there were two responses (heavens and the earth or ‘his word did not return void)
י – what he conceived before the creation.
ת – was finished.
Rabbi Foreman, before he passed also approved of such methods.
Rabbi Benjamin Blech also has a series of Books, where he does similar interpretation.
Since Jesus said that all the scriptures spoke of him, isn’t it fair to impose his theology on them? The Rabbis say that the scripture is full of riddle, and we must wrestle with the answers for ourselves. But they refuse to look at Jesus who is the fulfillment of the dark sayings of God.
Thank you for being accessible. I enjoy your writing.
Sure (about being available 🙂 and thanks for your kind comments that you enjoy the writing.) About honorable Rabbi Ginsburg and other kabalists like him (with all due respect) are I think truly mistaken and misled by other teachers of Hassidut that went before them. (providing we are talking about the same rabbi) :-).
I do not accept this way of interpretation. I consider it dangerous and unacceptable for several reasons: 1) We do not see this kind of interpretation practices in Scriptures (limited use of gematria is far as NT writers went for example) and 2) Once this method is adopted for interpretation it is amazing how many things can then be read into almost any word. If we do not stick to the grammatical meaning of the word, anything goes. In other-words when we hold a hammer in our hands, everything begins to look like a nail.
So, I would not go by Rabbi’s Ginsburg’s interpretive methods. They are as I said simply mistaken and unscriptural. The fact that other Rabbis Blech and Foreman approved of such a methods only makes more of the same weak point that was already made by referring to the authority of rabbi Ginsburg.
You write towards the end of your comment: “Since Jesus said that all the scriptures spoke of him, isn’t it fair to impose his theology on them?
Answer: No I think, in fact, it is not fair :-). The second does not follow from the first! I think we must look to Jesus on in all Scriptures but not using methods that are highly speculative and questionable. We must learn how the NT writers did it and learn from them!
You write: “The Rabbis say that the scripture is full of riddle, and we must wrestle with the answers for ourselves. But they refuse to look at Jesus who is the fulfillment of the dark sayings of God.””
A.: Answering this statement is complicated by me disagreeing with you about the methods :-). I would recommend listening to Prof. Boyarin’s lectures on this very text you brought up earlier (four rabbinical figures entering pardes) on our website. If you are looking for incredible Jewish teacher. Daniel Boayrin should get the priority!
Look for the Library in top menue. Then look for AUDIO and look for Professors Boyarin’s lectures.
Or click here to get there directly http://iibsblogs.wpengine.com/media-center/ (they are second from the top). Enjoy! What is your name by the way? I feel bad about talking with you without knowing how to address you properly :-). Dr. Eli
I am Bob, and happy to meet you.
I suppose this is a topic that we will have to agree to disagree on.
The mystery is something that has been hidden from the beginning.
It is likely that Jesus taught how to see it when he was 12.
During the next 17 years they perverted his teaching in order to hide that he was the Messiah. He calls them liars, not misguided teachers.
He said the Kingdom of heaven was like leaven, which he used as ‘teaching’.
And after he said he would give the keys to the kingdom, he showed the the pictures of the cross in the OT.
He said the teachers would not enter in, nor would they permit others to enter. They had perverted the teaching so they would not see him as the Messiah.
Jerusalem means ‘teaching of peace’ and the New Jerusalem means the New teaching of peace. Jesus ushered this in when he said “You have heard it said… but I say…”
Then the Bereans were able to see the mystery as they challenged Paul’s testimony.
Then the Jews warned against applying Pardes to Christ.
And modern Jews tell us that the hidden meaning still speaks of Messiah.
Pardes is not Kabbalah. Pardes is simply interpreting scripture literally (pashat), by reference (remez), by comparison (drash) which reveals the hidden mystery, which they say is Messiah.
Kabbalah was invented to poison the well of pardes so that Jews would not see Christ in the scriptures when applying pardes. The warning is evidence that Pardes must reveal him, or there would be no need for the warning.
When pardes is properly applied, every verse of every chapter of every book participates in a hidden picture of Christ which is validated by the NT. This is certainly not Kabbalah. Just because the rabbis apply it in a free-for-all fashion, does not make it dangerous for Christians when the rules are applied. When something is a metaphor, like garments being works, it must be that in every place. And the sod must speak of Christ in a way that is validated by the NT. The rabbis have no such controls. Rabbis have many answers to the riddles because they do not have THE answer which is Christ.
However since you have already decided against it, showing you that in fact Jesus and the apostles actually did use it, will not get a fair hearing. And I suppose since you consider it dangerous, that a public discussion of it on your blog would be inappropriate, however I am happy to chat with you privately. I think you have access to my email through the blog.
I would love to show you the birth of Christ in Gen 38, and how Paul teaches us to see it in Acts 12. The source of the prophecy that Jesus would be called a Nazarene, and how Matthew teaches us to find it. John’s use of pardes in John 1:1-4 as he interprets the first three words of Genesis 1.1.
I believe I can show each method of Pardes being used by all of the NT authors. Is there a private forum where I can show you the evidence?
Either way, the Jewish admonition against saying “water, water” supports your speculation that the white stone is Christ. Thanks again.
Agreeing to disagree seems to be in order. Blessings and much peace, Dr. Eli
Thank you for always being patient and enlightening. I agree with you that we must be careful not to read what is not intended in the text. The overriding rule of interpretation has always been “stick to the context”, whether we use pardes or not. I believe that G-d means what He says in every word. What we see in present Hebrew alephbet is not the original one from Moshe but is actually Aramaic in origin (please correct me if I’m wrong). So, to impute meaning in each stroke is farfetch because much of what is written was first oral and since the original Torah was not written in the Aramaic text, we have a problem. I truly believe that the Word is only accurate 100% in the original; although the present Scripture is not really that far from the original. But we can’t just interpret whichever way we want. This would lead to confusion which is what the enemy wants us to do. Adonai is a god of order.
Thankyou for inviting me to your blog, i am so excited to learn more about our Father!
Welcome to our community, Linda! Dr. Eli
Another little clue, to the meaning of the white pebble (rather than ‘”stone”-different Greek word) is to be found in Acts26v10 where the Apostle Paul says in the Greek ‘I paid my pebble against them.’ The AV has ‘vote’ for pebble, so the meaning is clear! The black stone may have been for condemnation and may be the origin of the term “black-balling” and the white stone that of aquittal.
I like that a lot. Thank you so much for your contribution! Dr. Eli
I would like to know everything about my savior
Rhonda, let’s keep learning together!
Thank you for an email inviting me to join your blog. I am blessed to have received it and being able to see what is here and what is available to me. I have shared with my membership in social media. Looking forward to learning here until one day when I can become an official student. 🙂
Thanks very much for the study
Thank you for jewishstudies!
Welcome to our forum, dear Marco! Dr. Eli
Very enlightening! Answered questions that I have had for years. Thank you!
It is supposed to remain a secret for what is told to us by the father is not for anyone else to know.