The Sin of Corban
Worshiping in vain
Mark 7:7 “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.”
Worshiping in vain is a serious accusation. Of course, the Pharisees had no idea that they were worshiping in vain. They believed in their own minds that they were God's chosen people, and that they were saved by His blessings. They taught what they believed to be sound doctrine, and were justified by their rituals and ceremonies. But Jesus disagreed. They had been doing something drastically wrong.
They knew they were to love their neighbor as themselves because Moses said so. They were very charitable as a people, but evidently not charitable enough. They thought their religion was pure and did not take kindly to the criticism, accusations, and threats from this man who had been proclaimed the highest son of David by the people of Jerusalem, the rightful king.
Jesus was warning them that their worship was in vain. If He were here today, would He tell us the same thing? The word worship, in Mark 7:7, is translated from sebomai. It is not the common verb for worship, but means “To revere, stressing the feeling of awe or devotion”. From sebomai we get the adjective semnos which was often used of the gods and divine things, meaning “august, sacred.”
The usual word translated worship is proskuneo. So why use Sebomai here? The verse quotes Isaiah 29:13, which was a revelation about people saying they draw near to God, but were actually far from Him. This was a common theme and complaint made by Jesus. Jesus had just told them in verse 6 that they were hypocrites because they honored Him with their lips only.
Reading on in Isaiah, the prophecy tells the people that wise men will be hard to come by. He goes on to talk about turning the world upside down where people deny the God of Creation, but it also talks about those who were blind getting new sight and understanding, and the meek increasing. Jesus repeated all these ideas of taking sight from those who say they see and restoring sight and understanding.
So, what were the Pharisees blind to? What did they fail to understand? How did they turn the world upside down? And what would Jesus do to turn it back again?
What traditions of men are they speaking about? Which commandments of God are laid aside?
The Traditions of Men
The word tradition, also translated ordinance, is from the Greek word paradosis which means 'giving over... the act of giving up .. the surrender of cities.' Jesus goes on to say:
Mark 7:8-9 “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, [as] the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”
Is Jesus upset because they wash their dishes or is He being a little facetious? Does His objection go much deeper? What doctrines and teachings, what surrendering or giving over are men being a part of and Jesus finds so objectionable? Jesus is talking about breaking the commandments, because they are giving something over surrendering. God told the people, through the ten commandments, to honor their Father and Mother so that their days may be long upon the land, and Jesus made specific reference to that commandment:
Mark 7:10, 13, “For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”
Jesus includes the idea of cursing Father and Mother, but in the original Hebrew text when this curse is mentioned, we see the word qalal, meaning to be of little account, be light. We must ask, be light or of little account with what? With your Father and Mother? How are you slighting Father and Mother with the cry of Corban?
Caring for parents and the bonds of family have always been at the foundation of all free societies. The early Church ministers needed to have their own families in order, but that practice was found in every successful culture. The sacrifice and care within the family was the foundation of a society bound by faith, hope and charity, rather than force and compliance. Without strong families, all society backslides into corruption and decadence, or chaos and disorder. So, how was the Corban of the Pharisees cursing this parental foundation of society?
Corban is a Hebrew word transliterated in the Greek text. This practice has been common in many other cultures and societies, including the Romans, who practiced Qurban in a variety of forms over their long history. It is referring to something that has been set aside, or is in the process of being given as a gift to God or the gods. The early Christian Church was accused by Rome of atheism. A Christian, named Justin, had written an Apology of Christian worship to the Emperor Antonius Pius, in 150 AD, where he pointed out that Christians supported each other in a system of social welfare dependent on free will offerings given and rightly divided through their ministers. Every member of the congregation, through their regeneration at Baptism, was made eligible for the benefits of Christ's government. All Christians who had received the baptism of Christ were cast out of the welfare system offered by the Pharisees, like the Israelites were cast out of Egypt.
The Romans had their own altars and temples that were first funded by contributions, then by a sort of investment, and then finally a government tax, and that Qurban provided welfare for the people in many forms - such as free bread.
The citizens of Judea did not hate Caesar. Many, including the Pharisees, loved and desired the benefits bestowed by his grace and the protection provided by Octavius so much that they, too, called him Augustus. Caesar was the protector of their peace, the benefactor of their welfare.
They applied for his benefits and pleaded for his justice. The price of his peace would be a portion of their freedom. What should have been for the welfare of the people included a social scheme that snared them under the growing Roman authority. The power of his benevolence brought subjection.
The Power of Protection
“Protection draws to it subjection; subjection protection.”
The ancient altars in a variety of societies were instruments of sacrifice, and a fundamental part of systems built on mutual community trust. The establishment of these social bonds were divided into at least two opposing methods. There was a method based on mutual concern and brotherhood amongst the people as a community sharing the same values and concern through the exercise of daily charity, in liberty; and, there was the other method. Both were called Corban, but they were not the same.
Free governments, like early Israel and early Rome, depended upon a network of freewill contributions offered by families gathering in a national network of small congregations of families. They were managed by honorable men of service who were furnished the resources by the people who believed they were doing a good job of providing community services and guidance, as well as impartial justice. Originally, they had no power to compel the offerings of the people. These public servants were part of what they sometimes called priests or ministers. Their office was of God, but recognized of the people, chosen by the people, for the benefit of the people.
The Hebrew word korban [qorban Nbrq] is said to mean “offer” or “sacrifice”. Scholars debate whether that the word korban has the idea of gift at the center of its meaning. Their conclusions are based on the fact that korban is from the base word qarab [brq], which is also translated “offer”, but means “come” or “draw near”. We do not find any word in the Old Testament translated charity but several translated love and offering, even sacrifice.
Pure giving to the general welfare of society in charity, with only hope, i.e. no entitlement of a return, does draw us nearer to God. Doing this in the name of God meant doing things according to His character, not merely reciting a word used to represent the divine identity of God. More than anything else, charity includes in its operation both love and faith, with an element of hope. This free giving and thanksgiving was not only the message of the sacrifice and blood of Christ, but the lifeblood of the Christian faith. The purpose of Christ's appointed Church and His ministers who worked and lived by faith, hope, charity and the perfect law of liberty was to practice this love in a system of Pure Religion.
It is not the shape or dimension of the altar or the etching upon it that makes it sacred, but the act of freely giving up what you have for the good of others that consecrates the stones of the altar of sacrifice. God’s stone and earth altars were made of living flesh, of men who have His law written upon their hearts and upon their minds.
“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5
The dedicated souls called out by God formed a network of alternative altars based in charity. The world offered a system based on entitlements from men who called themselves benefactors but exercised authority. What they offered as welfare was a snare. It promised to protect them, but made them merchandise.
The Fires of Faith
Corban was the practice of giving a sacrifice in Charity. It was freely given to the temple or local ministers in the hope that someone would be helped, and that we might also be helped in our time of need. Originally there was no stone temple. In fact, the altars spoken of in the Old Testament were also made of the living stones. Those stones were actually the ministers of the people, chosen by the people, for the welfare of the people. In many societies the most charitable men in the community were chosen to make sure that those in true need were not forgotten, overlooked, or neglected. This was what in the New Testament is called the daily ministration.
The Levites were called out to teach the people to live by faith, not by force, and not by coveting their neighbor's goods through social schemes that relied upon men who could exercise authority one over the other. Those Levites, who were called out of the camp of the Golden Calf, were to be the priests of society who tended to the needs and welfare of the tents of the congregations of the people. The people gathered in groups of ten families, and if their chosen minister did a good job of serving the needs of their society, then the ten families would tithe to them according to their service.
We have been led to believe that men were piling up stones and burning up animals on these altars to please God. There is no doubt that some cultures did this, but there were large religious groups who read and spoke Hebrew living at the time of Christ, and for hundreds of years before and after that believed the doctrine of burning up animal sacrifices on piles of stones was the result of fraudulent translations of the ancient text.
This will be very difficult for most people to accept or contemplate, but with a little study of the Hebrew language, many questions arise that modern doctrines are unable to answer. First, the Hebrew language was made to be written, not spoken. It is mostly composed of three-letter words with an absolute disregard for the presence of vowels. Couple this fact with the knowledge that Hebrew letters have meanings that are combined to produce the meaning of the words themselves, and a new window of understanding is opened to us in our study of the ancient scripts. A brief look can be eye- opening.
The word burnt (in Leviticus 9:10) is from the Hebrew word qatar, rjq, [Kuf, Tet, Reish] translated as incense 59 times, and burn 49 times, but is also translated “offer” 3 times, “kindle” and “offering” once each, with 4 other miscellaneous translations. It is said to be a primitive root, and identical to words given different Strong's numbers and translated doubts, joints, incense, and joined, and given the definitions of to shut in, enclose, join, knot, joint, and even problem.
Another word for “burnt offering” is `olah [hle], which is translated burnt offering, or burnt sacrifice. The same three letters, hle, are also translated ascent, go up, and up 676 times, offer 67, and more than a hundred other times as come, bring, ascend, go, chew, offering, light, increase, burn, depart, put, spring, raised, arose, break, exalted and another 33 other miscellaneous ways, including leaf and branch. One must ask, does the original word have anything to do with fire and burning things up at all? Before anyone dismisses the possibility that burnt offerings originally had nothing to do with burning up animals on piles of stone, they may wish to examine some of the evidence.
To understand what was really going on in the ancient yet practical cultures of struggling to survive, we need to look at all things anew. There was a purpose to the sacrifices of the people. If God lived in the hearts and minds of the living temple or the community of men, then their prayers were answered by a free flow of charity and love through the hearts of those people. This was the Kingdom of God.
People would donate the resources needed to provide for those of their community, or deliver aid to other communities in times of emergency or deprivation. These freewill offerings did more than provide a social safety net. They united the people together with unbreakable bonds of love and charity, creating trust and loyalty with honor and righteousness. Only in this way could they maintain a state of free dominion for all.
This dedication of substantive offerings unified the people without coveting their neighbor's goods through men who claimed to be benefactors and public servants, but instead, exercised authority. This daily sacrifice brought the people closer to God. It made congregations and communities a stronger and more viable nation by freeing the people from the oppression of their neighbor through their leaders who called themselves the benefactors of the people, but really exercised authority one over the other. This sacrifice in freewill and charity was called Corban, but that was not the Corban of the Pharisees.
Corban was to be the sacrifice of the people, in theory given to God, because it was given entirely and without the obligatory string of reciprocation. Freely given, and freely received. This was all done in fulfillment of the commandment of God to love our neighbor, given by Moses and by Jesus Christ.
The Corban of Charity
These gifts were the sacrifices of the people. These offerings created a sacred purpose trust, and the men who ministered that trust were chosen to those positions of trust as long as the people continued to view them as the best servants of the community. This giving was also described as casting your daily bread upon the water of society in Love and Charity, so that it would, in Hope and Faith, come back to you some day if you were in need. This was the law of liberty, and anything less than that sowed the seeds of tyranny.
Originally, Israel's civil power and responsibility was vested entirely in the family, and not in any central government or its treasury. The wealth of the Nation was held by the families and managed by Fathers and Sons of every family. The homes of the families contained kings and queens and priests. The Kings of the nation were the chief Elder of each family group, and the princes were the Fathers of each household. The high priest was usually the eldest son or first born. This is why it was written that there were no kings in Israel, because they were all kings. But the first-born priests of the “nation” of Israel were the Levites, because they stepped forward in faith answering the call of Moses to serve the Lord by serving the people. They were the public servants of a people who lived by faith, hope, charity and the perfect law of liberty.
Could such a system work today? Can any other system not based on liberty of the individual work, or are they all doomed to failure? We have always been warned about making covenants, agreements with those who do not believe in liberty. This is because “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
Mammon does not mean money but is “entrusted wealth”. Systems like Egypt, the golden calf, other common-purse systems, subject the people by taking away their right to make choices about their wealth and property. Such systems always fail due to corruption, avarice, and over-indulgence, so Jesus told us to seek the Kingdom and His righteousness.
“And I say unto you, 'Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.'” Luke 16:9
In the process of being freed from bondage, we may continue to pay the Pharaoh, Herod, or the Caesars of the “world” but we should not eat of the things sacrificed to these gods of force and fear. But, if you reject God and “... do that which is evil, be afraid ... Wherefore ye must needs be subject... For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute [is due]; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”
We should never forget that only “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.”
The gospel of the Kingdom is for those living now. That Kingdom is at hand. It has been at hand for those who will diligently seek it and the righteousness of God. We should seek it and it's righteousness, and not be like the governments of the gentiles. The Kingdom and His righteousness is a way that may save His people in this life and the next.
Real freedom under God requires that loving practice of charitable responsibility which sustains our God-given right and nurtures the spirit and virtue of our liberty in Christ. We are saved by the “Eucharist” of Christ, which is the Greek word for thanksgiving. That thanksgiving is the antithesis of covetousness, envy, and greed. It is the love of giving. It is the daily practice of charity and faith, hope and love.
God wants His people to be free. He wants them to “let every soul be subject unto the higher right to choose. For there is no right to choose but of God: our rights to choose that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore opposes the right to choose, opposes the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
All roads lead to Rome, and all roads lead to the Kingdom of God. Our only Choice is the direction we are going. This is why Christ came, calling all to Repent! To seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. The choice is given to every generation.
The Pharisees, at the time of Christ, no longer fed the people with the fruits of Charity. Christ was going to take the Kingdom from them because they bore no good fruit but made the word of God to none effect by their system of Corban. Israel was told to love their neighbor, not oppress the stranger in their midst, nor covet their neighbors' goods or anything that is their neighbors. They were even told to love their enemy just as Christ had warned them again.
The Pharisees still had some charity, many rituals and ceremonies, but free offerings were a token of the overall welfare of their society. Most of the benefits of their government were provided by funds collected through taxation. The once charitable offerings of the people had become an accounted and compelled contribution given to the temple. The amount was determined by the legislating powers of the Sanhedrin and the kings. That power to exercise authority over the people grew, as the people applied for the entitlements and benefits of the growing bureaucracy of the Pharisees. What should have been for their welfare had become a snare.
In Egypt the people could eat of the flesh pots of the Pharaoh. These flesh pots were in reference to the governmental structure which God opposed. The sons of Jacob had become entangled in Egypt and God said to never return there again. Because they had chosen to throw their brother Joseph into a pit of slavery, they did not have their own provisions and rations when famine came. When hard times were upon them they gave up their God-given rights, and went into bondage, becoming entangled in the elements of the world, making covenants with men who called themselves benefactors, but exercised authority one over the other.
The Fathers of the World
Rome had a vast system of welfare. Those who registered with Rome (and its increasing socialist state) were eligible for free bread. Rome imported 500,000,000 bushels of this grain each year from Egypt alone. There was a great deal of free entertainment provided, and a general promise of social security to those who chose to be a part of the offered system of Corban. The United States government was simply carrying on the Roman tradition and custom when it began birth registration to care for its children.
“Jesus said, “And call no [man] your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (Mt. 23:9)
To make such a statement was a shock to those who thought man's governments and the Roman political and judicial system, with its peace and commerce, was good for society and the business of men. This would be like saying call no man on earth president or senator or congressman.
In that Greek text of Matthew, we find the word Pater, meaning “father,” in the Latin. When Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world, He did not use the Greek word for earth or planet or inhabited places or age, that are also translated into “world.” The word world there is kosmos, “meaning a harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government”.
This was a jurisdictional statement. To “call no man father” was a jurisdictional statement. To be baptized was a jurisdictional event of allegiance. To worship is an act of homage to a lord or King. Jesus did not preach the religion of heaven but the kingdom thereof.
It had always been an option for the people to apply to the State for an enfranchised citizenship. Marcus Aurelius wanted no child to be left behind. He required, by Law, that everyone must register the birth of their children with the Secretary of Treasury or Provincial Registrars within 30 days.
The Christians could not. Such registration would be an application to the Father of the Roman State, and would be turning from Christ’s command. The State became the “In Loco Parentis,” which in the Latin means “in the place of a parent,” which is a turning away from the Family instituted by God.
They would not sell their birthright as God's people. They understood that by such act of giving up their liberty, they surrendered to the civil powers, to men and institutions created by the hand of men. In new systems instituted by men who promised to be the benefactors of the people, they became nothing more than human resources. When your parents were elderly or infirm, or even yourself, the temple would care for their needs through a system of national welfare, with funds collected by the force of law contrary to the ways of God. The people were subject, living under tribute. When they consumed those benefits, they ate of the flesh of their neighbor.
Charity, honor, and love were no longer the power that provided for their parents or those of society in need. Men thought it was the responsibility of the governing Pharisees and scribes to care for their family, and they thought they were free of that God-given responsibility.
With every God-given right, there is a God-given responsibility. If we neglect our responsibilities, we will lose these rights. Those who practiced this form of accounted Corban, compelled by ordinances, were defying the teachings of Moses and the system of God's Kingdom. They were also turning away from the commandments of God, making them to none effect. Any System that says we will care for your parents and you are free from that obligation is laying aside the commandment of God and we should know that Full well they reject the commandment of God.
In both the ancient and modern City-State, it has been common to set up temples or institutions with treasuries that care for the aged and infirm. The tax paid to the common treasury was given to take care of the poor, aged, and abandoned. There were even fees charged for the ownership or use of slaves, and restrictions with penalties for those who dumped unneeded slaves and wards on the common welfare.
In God's Kingdom the people took care of most all of the needs of the community within the family. The Levites ministered to the tents of the tabernacles of the congregation, just as the servants of God fed His sheep in the early Church. They received the sacrifices given freely by the people and those given as an offer of repentance. In turn they gave away those offerings within the scope of the daily ministration to the poor, needy orphans of society, those without sufficient family to care for themselves, or simply needing additional assistance. It was a public ministry of true charity for the people, run by public servants who were true servants of the people, provided of the love of the people.
But time and time again the dog returns to his vomit and the pig to his mire, rejecting God and making gods of men:
“And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, [It is] Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; [he shall be free]. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” (Mark 7:9, 13)
At the time of Christ, a person might give money into the treasury and then say that he had honored Father and Mother. In that way, he provided for their social security through others by Corban.
It is not only that man has decided to keep his own tradition and continue making his own ordinances, knowing full well ye reject the commandment of God (Mark 7:9), but he has also bound himself with covenants and contracts, so that he is no longer free. He has prayed to God with his lips, but prayed to the gods of the world with his soul - knowing that his neighbor will be forced to pay the price.
“Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:” (Ex 34:12)
Over three hundred times, the Bible talks of the concept of contracts, covenants, and pledges. From Adam to Abraham and Moses to the Messiah, contracts between God and man or man and man were a major topic of concern. Even the word “testament” refers to the contractual arrangement made by God and man.
“Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:” (Ex 34:12)
We are warned against making contracts, lest it be for a snare. Isn’t a contract just a contract? How could it be a snare or a bait? What would be the trap? Can’t we just break a contract? What does God care about the contracts of men?
“Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though [it be] but a man’s covenant, yet [if it be] confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.” (Galatians 3:15)
Doesn’t God consider contracts to be binding? If they are not binding, why does He warn us against making them? Modern systems of social insurance and security are a form of religion, because they are used to take care of the needy of society, but they are not unspotted by the world. They depend on the power and exercising authority of the world.
“Servitude. A term which indicates the subjection of one person to another person, or of a person to a thing, or of a thing to a person, or of a thing to a thing.” Bouvier’s 8th, 1859
All who enter those systems pledge a portion of their labor as in the days of Egypt. Such systems are a form of bondage. It is slavery, but the point at which we are bound is a place where we volunteer to be bound. It is called statutory servitude, or corvée.
“The corvée was different from other forced labor arrangements because it was labor performed for the government, involuntarily, on large public works projects. (The word 'corvée' meant ‘contribution,’ signifying one’s obligation to the state.) In some cases, the corvée meant a specified amount of time given to the state every year, as prescribed by law. Another name for it was, therefore, statute labor. It was used by the Romans for the upkeep of roads, bridges, and dikes, but got its name in France early in the 18th century.”
We often hear tax obligations of the world called a contribution. In Pharaoh’s Egypt, the tribute tax paid by Pharaoh's subjects was equivalent to two-and-a-half months of labor, all the gold and silver was in the government treasury instead of the hands of the people, and everyone only had a legal title to their land, their stock, and their lives. In 1995, to pay off the average corvée tax liability of employees in the United States required four months and five days of labor. A citizen of the United States Government, who has legal title to what appears to be his property (land, vehicles, labor etc.), has no right to its “beneficial interest” nor its use, and, therefore, has no right to the profits they produce.
Christ appointed the Church to serve the congregation of the people. We simply assist in making a record in service. The early Christian community did not apply to either Rome’s Qurban or Herod’s Corban for assistance. Christians depended on thanksgiving, called Eucharist in the Greek.
“For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2Pe 1:11
There are many things that people do today that are contrary to the teachings of Christ, but still they think they are Christians. We were told that many will be deceived, and be under a strong delusion. We are told that many will think they are doing a great work in God's name ,but they are actually workers of iniquity and are far from Him. We need to learn and do the will of God, and follow the sayings of Jesus. It is about turning around and seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
“...If a man shall say to his Father or Mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” Mr 7:9-11
When Christians had needs, they went to Christians and their charitable altars tended by the good men they chose, but not the altars of Rome. In Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” he praised “the union and discipline of the Christian republic.” He also pointed out that “it gradually formed an independent and increasing state in the heart of the Roman Empire.”
If men wish to be free they must repent, turn around, change their ways, and return to the ways of Jesus and John, Moses and Abraham. They must learn to live by a union of faith, hope, and charity, freeing their neighbor from their own greed so that all may be free souls under God.