"I am the Vine, you are the..."
Updated: Mar 17
There's so much meaning that's lost in English! It's not anyone's fault, that's just the way language and culture works.
It's like trying to create a movie out of a book. As accurate and well-meaning as the movie might be, it's just not the same. They're two completely different ways of communicating. And that's okay. (See also Chesed)
Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. -John 15:2 ESV
The word for "branches" here in Greek, klema, actually means "tendril" or "offshoot." The usual word for "branch" is klados.
The word klema is only used 5 times in the NT--all right here in this passage. So why did John use "tendril" instead of "branch"?
Passover Wine and Bread
Part of the reason might be because grapevines (very common in Israel) do not have branches separate from the trunk like trees do. The branches are just smaller offshoots of the main trunk.
"This Greek word klema comes from the root verb klao, which means “to break” — specifically, to break off a piece of bread. In other words, a branch is a piece of the main thing, like a piece of bread was once a part of the main loaf." Word from the Word
The verb klao is used whenever Yeshua broke bread for his disciples! I thought that little connection to Passover was so cool. Both wine and bread are referred to in this passage!
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
As usual, I try to find a Hebrew equivalent so we can connect what John is saying to its roots in the OT. I was really surprised by what I found!!
Its Hebrew root is "dal" meaning low, weak, poor (Ps 72:13, 113:7). Dal would have been the word Yeshua used in his Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit..." (Matt. 5:3).
Our English definition of "poor" often has a negative image to it: meager, destitute, oppressed, etc.
But the Hebrew word dal simply means "low" (like "low-calorie").
"In dāl the idea of physical (material) deprivation predominates... The dal are the powerless – without financial leverage, without political patrons, without advocates." Skip Moen
Dal describes someone who is in a vulnerable position and needs someone to watch out for him. Chaim Bentorah explains dal as someone who is lowered down into a well to dig for water:
"Digging a well in those days was a very dangerous job. When the well reached a certain depth they would lower a digger down into the well by a rope and he would carefully dig. If the walls started to collapse, which was a very common occurrence, they would quickly pull the digger up. Sometimes the rope handlers who were charged with watching for any sign of collapse would be talking about the stats for the star gladiator of the Babylonian Charioteers or the boss’s new assistant in that low cut toga and not notice the subtle signs of an imminent collapse. They failed to masekil el dal consider the poor." Chaim Bentorah
This image of being dal fits perfectly with how Yeshua describes us in John 15! We are all weak and vulnerable vines and we need to love each other--i.e. watch each other's backs--in order to bear much fruit.
There's so much more to uncover about this passage I can't wait to share with you all!