Havdalah

The Christianization of Acts 20

On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight.

-Acts 20:7 (NRSV)

Christians sometimes cite Acts 20:7 as evidence that the early believers met on Sundays: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread.” The narrative does not support that interpretation. If Paul met with the Troasian believers on Sunday morning, they had a very long church service. Paul spoke until midnight: “Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.”

The Greek text of Acts does not indicate that they met on Sunday morning at all. Instead it literally says, “On the first of the Sabbath …” The word “day” does not appear in the Greek. According to the Jewish reckoning of time, the first of the week begins Saturday after sunset.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
from Torah Club Volume 6: Chronicles of the Apostles
Tzav (“Command”): Acts 20:1-21:14, pg 653

It’s been awhile since I dug into a Torah Club study but I needed to get my bearings.

I probably shouldn’t even write this but part of my returning to church is to “experience church” relative to my own unique perspectives and practices.

I’d like to think that Pastor Randy, the head Pastor at the church I attend, and I have formed a friendship, and within the confines of that relationship, we are free to engage in candid and forthright conversation. He reads my blog, when he has time (he’s a really busy guy), so nothing I put here is meant to be kept from him.

I know that my criticism of “the Church” does frustrate him on occasion and I think he is authentically puzzled why, when he presents his educated and logical arguments about theology, I just don’t “get it” and accept his basic understanding of the fundamentals of Christianity.

Last Sunday morning, Pastor’s message was based on Acts 20:1-12. I was particularly interested in his lesson on the following verses:

On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight. There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting. A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead. But Paul went down, and bending over him took him in his arms, and said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” Then Paul went upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he continued to converse with them until dawn; then he left. Meanwhile they had taken the boy away alive and were not a little comforted.

-Acts 20:7-12 (NRSV)

Pastor always includes a page of notes in the Church bulletin, and I review what he’s going to talk about before services start. When I came across the section called ”Parenthetic Conclusion: Sunday worship,” I knew where he was headed. Then there was the quote from Justin Martyr he inserted. I’ll only use part of it here:

But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.

-Justin Martyr
The First Apology
“Weekly Worship of Christians” (c. CE 155)

Justin MartyrI won’t try to replicate all of Pastor’s points, but he did say the phrase “first day of the week” (although as Lancaster states above, the word “day” does not appear in the literal Greek) appears only three times in the New Testament (actually, there are a few more). In addition to the above-quoted verse, it can be found in Mark 16:9, the declaration of when Jesus rose from the tomb, and 1 Corinthians 16:2, which is part of Paul’s instructions to set aside funds for Paul’s intended donation to the poor and needy in Jerusalem.

There were a number of conclusions Pastor derived from Acts 20:7-12:

  1. The Roman rather than Jewish calendar was being used to fix the date of the gathering, so that we see they were meeting on Sunday evening rather than Saturday night after Shabbat.
  2. The breaking of bread was likely an enactment of the “Lord’s Supper” indicating the practice of communion.
  3. Preaching and teaching of scripture was a common activity in such assemblies.
  4. Collecting tithes for the church on Sunday was becoming a more common practice.

Both Pastor and my Sunday school teacher said this is evidence that “church services” within Paul’s lifetime weren’t all that different from what we have today: preaching the Word, meeting on Sunday, gathering tithes on Sunday (presumably as part of the service), and taking communion.

Sunday Worship

I’ll get into my reaction in a moment, but the one thing that puzzled me was Pastor’s proof that Paul had to be meeting with these believers in Troas on Sunday evening rather than just after Shabbat had ended (Saturday at sundown). He says that if this was a Saturday night, Paul, who intended to leave by ship the next day, would have had to wait two days, until Monday, to depart, so it had to be Sunday night.

But I either couldn’t hear the rationale or it went by so fast that I just plain missed it. I’ve read Acts 20 numerous times since listening to the sermon, but I just can’t see where this is coming from. I emailed Pastor after I got home from services asking for details, and hopefully he’s respond soon. Once I receive a response, I’ll edit this blog post to reflect his views.

Addendum, Tuesday, March 18: Pastor responded to my email with his explanation. He’s pressed for time, so the rationale is brief. I’ll put it in the comments below rather than interrupt the flow of the narrative here more than I already am.

Justin Martyr, Sunday, and Supersessionism

Now to my response. In the absence of the information Pastor possesses regarding why the assembly at Troas must have been meeting on Sunday, it is my opinion that a shift from a Saturday to Sunday Sabbath occurs here much too early in history. We have Justin Martyr’s writing declaring that Sunday is the proper day of Christian worship, but that isn’t published until some time after Paul’s death (and I find the reasoning, that it’s the day God separated light and darkness, completely disconnected from anything taught by Jesus or the Apostles). I don’t know that Martyr is relying exclusively on his interpretation of scripture and I suspect that he, like many of the other “church fathers,” may have had attitudes about Jewish people and Judaism that colored his thinking and possibly had him making doctrinal decisions about practice based on that bias.

I know Wikipedia is a poor source to quote, but it will have to do for my current analysis:

Justin was confident that his teaching was that of the Church at large. He knows of a division among the orthodox only on the question of the millennium and on the attitude toward the milder Jewish Christianity, which he personally is willing to tolerate as long as its professors in their turn do not interfere with the liberty of the Gentile converts; his millenarianism seems to have no connection with Judaism, but he believes firmly in a millennium, and generally in the Christian eschatology.

Justin saw himself as a scholar, although his skills in Hebrew were either non-existent or minimal. His opposition to Judaism was typical of church leaders in his day but does not descend to the level of anti-semitism. After collaborating with a Jewish convert to assist him with Hebrew, Justin published an attack on Judaism based upon a no-longer-extant text of a Midrash.

-from the Wikipedia page on Justin Martyr

Economic supersessionism is used in the technical theological sense of function. It is the view that the practical purpose of the nation of Israel in God’s plan is replaced by the role of the Church. It is represented by writers such as Justin Martyr, Augustine, and Barth.

-from the Wikipedia page on Supersessionism (Replacement Theology)

HavdalahNone of what I just quoted is rock-solid evidence that Martyr’s declaration of Sunday as the proper meeting day for Christians was motivated by supersessionistic ideology (and it was stated above that Martyr was probably not anti-Semitic), but it does open the door to the possibility that Martyr may not have been operating purely on his understanding of scripture. Based on my understanding of early supersessionistic bias and the church fathers (See my four-part article ”Origins of Supersessionism in the Church” in issues 109-112 of Messiah Journal), I believe there was a focused effort to create a set of practices of worship that specifically separated the budding Gentile Christian Church from its Jewish origins and heritage, replacing the Jewish institutions to which Paul and the other Apostles were accustomed with completely separate rituals, including a calendar disconnected from the Jewish holy days.

Please keep in mind that I have no problem with Christianity choosing a day of the week for corporate worship, but I consider it a tradition based on an emerging (in the mid-second century) reverence for the day of Jesus’ resurrection, not necessarily on a decision of Paul or any of the other Apostles.

Breaking Bread

Depending on the translation you’re using for Acts 20:7, the words the NRSV Bible renders as “break bread” are also read as “the Lord’s Supper” (New Living Translation) or “break the Eucharist” (Aramaic Bible in Plain English). Actually, all of the other translations I’m looking at just say “break bread”. I can’t access the Greek for this term, so I don’t know if it contains something that doesn’t translate into English, but, as Sigmund Freud is supposed to have said, ”Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” In other words, just because something is longer than it is wide, doesn’t mean it’s a phallic symbol.

Applied to the current context, I might say, “Sometimes breaking bread is just breaking bread, grabbing a loaf and tearing it in two or more pieces.” The term “breaking bread,” as far as I know, could just as easily indicate a meal of fellowship. It’s typical to “break bread” with friends and companions as a sign of affiliation and trust. Why does it have to mean communion unless we’re trying to make this verse fit a later institution created by the Church?

We were gathered for the disciples came, A.V. and T.R.; discoursed with for preached unto, A.V.; intending for ready, A.V.; prolonged for continued, A.V. The first day of the week. This is an important evidence of the keeping of the Lord’s day by the Church as a day for their Church assemblies (see Luke 24:1, 30, 35; John 20:19, 26; 1 Corinthians 16:2). To break bread. This is also an important example of weekly communion as the practice of the first Christians. Comparing the phrase, “to break bread,” with St. Luke’s account of the institution of the Holy Eucharist (Luke 22:19) and the passages just quoted in Luke 24, and St. Paul’s language (1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:24), it is impossible not to conclude that the breaking of bread in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is an essential part of the holy sacrament, which man may not for any specious reasons omit.

-from the Pulpit Commentary on Acts 20:7

The key scripture as far as “the Lord’s Supper” goes seems to be 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 but Acts 20:7 only mentions “breaking bread”. In comparison to that verse, almost all translations of 1 Corinthians 11:20 refer to “the Lord’s Supper”, so I can only imagine the original Greek is more specific here (only the Aramaic Bible in Plain English states, ”When therefore you assemble, it is not according to what is appropriate for the day of our Lord that you eat and drink.”).

I’m going to have to set the early initiation of what Christians call “communion” today to one side for the moment except to say that it is certainly not definitive that the group in Troas was assembled for the specific purpose of taking a weekly communion or Lord’s Supper. It’s even possible, as I mentioned above, that the very concept of a communion might have been a later invention of the Church.

Tithing

We see a strong record of Paul collecting money or directing the various assemblies to set aside money which he would collect when he arrived (1 Cor 16:1–4; 2 Cor 8:1–9:15; Rom 15:14–32). However, we also see Paul having a specific concern for the poor in Jerusalem (Gal. 2:10). Paul’s companions we find in Acts 20:4 were to accompany Paul to Jerusalem, presumably with donations from the various congregations they represented.

TithingSo Paul was collecting money for the poor and needy in Jerusalem, but this does not mean he was collecting money to pay for the operational costs of the local churches or the Jerusalem “church”.

No, I’m not saying that it’s wrong for the church to ask for donations from the congregants to support the costs incurred in running such an institution, I’m just saying the practice can’t be directly attributed to specific references in the Bible.

It is true that in ancient times, the Israelites did donate materials and services in the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the desert (Ex. 35:4-36:7), and King Solomon heavily taxed his citizens and required tens of thousands to contribute labor in the service of building the Temple in Jerusalem (starting 1 Kgs 6). But again, none of these point specifically to a church tithe. Frankly, neither does Abraham’s offering to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:20).

But like I said, I don’t think it’s wrong for the administrative office of the local church to request that members and attendees contribute to the upkeep of the church, since those attending are consuming the church’s resources. I also think it’s reasonable and Biblical for churches to collect money for the poor and even money to support missionaries (Paul alluded that he deserved to be supported but preferred to support himself to avoid being a burden). But I maintain that the modern concept of tithing, especially by having men pass around metal plates through the pews so that people can give their weekly donation, isn’t exactly what we see in Acts 20 or any of the other referenced scriptures.

Resurrection Day

I’m returning to the issue of Sunday here but with an eye on it being a day of reverence early on in the first century community of “the Way.” Do we actually see concrete evidence that the day of the Master’s resurrection was directly revered and added to (or replaced) the list of holy days traditionally observed in the various Judaisms? Did the followers of Christ move away from a Sabbath rest because Sunday became so incredibly important to them?

There’s no smoking gun but a lot of inference. I know that Sunday was an important day of gathering in the mid-second century, but is that because of what was gleaned from the Bible, or because the men establishing Sunday as the Christian assembly day needed to separate their religion from Judaism? In the latter case, the “invention” of Sunday worship would have come after the Apostolic Era ended and the church fathers would have just “mined” the various scriptures and verses to support such a decision, declaring it “Biblical” and “Holy Doctrine” of the Church.

Revelation 1:10 was brought up in Pastor’s sermon as well. John was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” when he had his well-known (but not always well understood) set of revelations and visions, but what did “the Lord’s Day” mean to him at that time? It’s assumed by many Christians to mean “Sunday” but Pastor thinks rather that it indicates Resurrection Day, that is, Easter.

Frankly, I don’t think anyone knows, and I think Christian theologians have developed various educated theories over the centuries. Each church denomination has adopted a set of practices that appear to map to certain parts of the Bible, but the question for me is which came first?

Do we believe, for example, that Sunday is the official day of Christian worship because it was established in the Bible, or was Sunday established nearly a century after the Apostles were all in their graves because the leaders of the Gentile Christian church needed to separate their movement from Judaism (and in this case, especially Shabbat observance) and they found portions of scripture they could leverage to support their requirements?

Past and Present

I know that sounds terribly cynical and I know this will make a lot of Christians feel hurt and angry. I know it can’t possibly please Pastor Randy when I write these things, and I know he’s being absolutely honest and sincere when he preaches on Acts 20 and draws conclusions that are consistent with modern Christian practices.

ShabbatHowever, I don’t think it’s all so clear. In fact, I believe if Paul were to walk into a Christian church today, even if he understood our language, he would hardly connect the experience to the practice of the assemblies he established in the diaspora nearly twenty centuries ago, and he absolutely wouldn’t see the Jewishness of everything he taught and the Jewish Messiah he lived and died for in modern Christian observance. I’m sure he’d wonder why modern disciples weren’t gathering on Shabbos.

I’m not saying modern Christian observance is bad or wrong as a set of practical traditions, just that it’s mostly not what Paul did. Yes, he’d understand collecting money for the poor. Yes, he’d understand preaching. Yes, he’d understand studying the scriptures with a learned teacher. Yes, he’d understand sharing a communal meal (though that’s more like Oneg than communion).

But I think it’s OK to admit that Christianity has evolved, and not in an entirely linear fashion, since the days when Paul planted his “churches.” I think it’s OK to admit that the majority of what Protestants believe and the majority of what they do has a history of more like five-hundred years rather than two-thousand. Evangelical Christianity is more a product of the Reformation than what you might call “Apostolic” or “Messianic Judaism”.

Purim

I knew it was Purim when I walked into the church Sunday morning. So did Pastor Randy and Pastor Virgil. So did those few people in the church I know to be Jewish. Most other people would have missed it, though. I kept pondering the significance of experiencing the “Christianization” of the scriptures in Acts 20 as I listened to the Pastor’s message in church on Purim. Why is there a desire to “rush” history, so to speak, and to give the early Judaism of our faith the bum’s rush out the door while the Pharisaic Apostle Paul (or Saul if you prefer) was still alive and desiring to reach Jerusalem before Shavuot or Pentecost (Acts 20:16). He’d already been delayed so he couldn’t be in the Holy city for the Pesach sacrifice and meal (Acts 20:5).

Paul and the Moadim

Paul was an observant Jew and as such, he desired to obey the mitzvot associated with the moadim, the appointed times chronicled in the Torah. This is a clue we should pay attention to. Paul’s desire to return to Jerusalem was connected to specific seasons and events, Passover and Pentecost, Pesach and Shavuot. Wouldn’t it make more sense to believe that Paul also revered the Shabbat as did his forefathers? The Church (big “C”) changed quite a lot of things later on, but for Paul, there was nothing inconsistent with being an Apostle of the Messiah and practicing the Judaism of the Way. In fact, departing from the Torah and the traditions would likely never have occurred to him.

Regrets and Conclusion

I’m actually feeling pretty down about having to write this. I’ve been keyed up since hearing the sermon. I was nervous around the others in Sunday school yesterday. I didn’t sleep well last night. Obviously this bothers me. Last week, I wrote about fellowship in the church and today it seems like I’m doing a big turn around by disagreeing with the conclusions of Pastor’s sermon. Believe me, I’m not disagreeing just to disagree. I’m not being oppositional or “anti-Church.” I’m being who I am as a believer operating with a particular understanding and perspective on the Bible. I’m looking through a different lens, I’m standing at a different look out point. The Bible I see looks a lot more “Jewish” than most of the people I worship with suspect. I apologize if what I’ve written results in hard feelings. That’s not my intention, believe me. But someone needs to stand up for the Jewish Apostle to the Gentiles, and represent who I believe he was and is, and what he was trying to teach.

I started writing this “meditation” early Sunday afternoon and stopped. I figured I needed a “cooler head” before actually getting into this, and I really thought about not writing it at all. I consulted with a good Christian friend. I agonized over it. Finally, I needed to do this. I’m sorry. It’s not against you, or Pastor, or anyone else. It’s for Paul and it’s to keep my head from exploding.

The Jewish PaulThere’s the Paul the Christian church sees, the murderous Jewish Pharisee who encountered Jesus on the way to Damascus one day and became blind. Having his sight restored, he converted to Christianity and left his Judaism behind, preaching a Torah-free faith to Jew and Gentile alike. Then there’s Paul the Jewish Pharisee, who met the Messiah in a vision and having been blinded and his sight then restored, embarked on a journey to tell the good news of Moshiach to his brothers and sisters as well as the Gentiles, that the Messianic Age was at hand, the pinnacle of the history of the Hebrews was within reach, and even the Gentiles could be redeemed by coming alongside Israel through Messiah.

When Messiah returns, we’ll know, everyone will know. For now, I am a loyal subject of the Jewish King and I await his return. May he come soon and in our day. Amen.

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35 thoughts on “The Christianization of Acts 20”

  1. No one has commented here yet, but a few people have replied to me on Facebook. One person added a link to a webpage that presents something of the history, from a Hebrew Roots/Messianic Jewish perspective, that lead to the Gentile/Jewish schism and resulted in a totally Gentile Christian church just a few hundred years after the end of the Apostolic Era.

  2. You’re right that the Greek text of Acts 20:7 merely says that they broke bread, just as at any meal, with no Eucharistic overtones or implications. Even further, the purpose for which Rav Shaul cited to the Corinthians the instructions Rav Yeshua presented about remembering his death in the matza and wine of the Passover Seder was to shame them into a more orderly conduct of their fellowship meals, where the explicitly stated problem was that some had barely started and were still hungry while others had long since finished and become drunk by staying at table and continuing to refill their wine cups. Rav Shaul was not instituting a new ceremony, but rather recalling the orderliness of an existing one as an example, as well as invoking the authority of the rabbi who was martyred on their behalf.

    It was also common in Mediterranean-basin countries (and it still is) to eat an evening meal rather late, which would thereby offer an appropriate forum for Rav Shaul to begin a discourse that would last for several hours, until midnight or later. Verse 7 explicitly mentions that he spoke until midnight, and verse 8 re-emphasizes the nighttime framework by citing the presence of many lamps. In this case he continued longer than might have occurred otherwise, until dawn, perhaps because he was scheduled to leave that next day and possibly also because of the excitement about the boy who fell out the window and survived. The Roman (Julian) calendar also considered the sun day as the first of its working week, so there is no real discrepancy with the Jewish view of that day actually beginning in the prior evening as the Sabbath ended. I see no textual justification for presuming the meeting occurred Sunday evening into Monday morning at daylight.

    But I suspect that you’re not surprised to find that I agree with your Jewishly-informed perspective which questions the eisegesis that reads the elements of a Christian church service into this passage.

  3. I thought we’d see pretty much eye-to-eye on this one, PL, but I also knew you’d add more illuminating details. Thanks.

  4. Like you I’m not anti-Christian not even a little bit. You and I have had discussions about ‘that was then, this is now concerning the Church. We also had discussions about the Tent of David premise. And yes I’m pretty convinced like you that if Paul was here today he might be appalled.

    With all this being said where does that leave those that don’t necessarily agree with the Church but agree more with the model ‘Messianic Judaism for all Nations’?

    Or like myself who advocates trying to stick to biblical roots and trying to start within the same model as the 1st century ekklesia?

  5. We’ve had this conversation before, Macher. If someone like me lived within a reasonable distance of a place like Beth Immanuel or Tikvat Israel, they could attend alongside the Jewish Messianics since both synagogue environments are quite “Gentile-friendly” and yet present a wholly Jewish worship and community environment.

    However, if they lived where I live, options would be extremely limited. There are a few Hebrew Roots/One Law places around me, but I left One Law a few years back, and there are a ton of churches. Outside of that, there’s the “Lone Ranger” route, I suppose, which I’ve also done before.

  6. @James, for some reason I didn’t receive this post via email, like I usually do. Interesting you are rereading Orwell’s, “1984.” I feel like we are entering an Orwellian Twilight Zone with no escape hatch.

    I would be troubled by pastor using Justin Martyr, and if you explore his writings, it would be ridiculous to conclude that he didn’t hate Jews/Judaism.

    Whether it is spiritual blindness or cognitive dissonance, or perhaps these are the same; people rarely change their thinking. It takes courage that most don’t possess. It’s not that these people are stupid; usually it is quite the contrary. If we think about it, perhaps we lean too much on our Greek ideas of persuasive communication. Paul didn’t admit his error in response to mounds of evidence or skilled debate; he had the scales removed from his eyes.

  7. Don’t know what to say about no email notification. May be in your spam folder. Did you check the “Notify me” check box?

    I’ll have to re-read what I’ve got on Martyr now that I’m home.

  8. Looked into Barry Horner’s book Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must be Challenged and found the following on page 19:

    The hermeneutical shift from the more literal Palestinian Judaic tradition to dominant allegorical interpretation, as thought to be more “spiritual” according to Origen of Alexandria and Justin Martyr, resulted in the repudiation of supposed carnal Judaistic conclusions, and thus of any future national identity. Hence, following years of development, it was eventually believed that Israel had been replaced or superseded; this emerging emphasis was formally recognized as a “capstone,” by Justin Martyr at Ephesus in his “Dialogue with Trypho” c. AD 160. Here for the first time in extant literature, the church was plainly described as the new spiritual Israel, as well as the new custodian of Scripture. (emph. mine)

    So it appears that Martyr’s declaration of a Sunday worship day for “the church” (155 CE) and his declaring “the church” as “the new spiritual Israel” go hand in hand. Not a glowing recommendation for his motives, actually.

  9. Ahh… Acts 20:7. When I hear a preacher headed that direction I just grit my teeth… eisegesis all the way.

    A month or so ago I wrote a series on my blog dealing with errors I was finding in a commentary on Acts written by one of my seminary professors. Acts 20:7 received its own treatment!!

    In an odd twist in his writing, William J. Larkin, Jr., Ph.D. comments on pg. 289 of his IVP New Testament Commentary Series on Acts, after calling Acts 20:7 the first ‘unambiguous reference to early church practice concerning Sunday worship,’ saying,

    In a letter to Trajan from Bithynia in the early second century, Pliny the Younger describes Christian practice. “They had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verse alternately among themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god. . . . After this ceremony it had been their custom to disperse and reassemble later to take food of an ordinary, harmless kind” (Epistles 10.96.7). Hence although the first day of the week was a workday, Christians hallowed it at its beginning and end, through corporate worship in celebration of Christ’s resurrection (Lk 24:1).

    Italics mine! Here the good professor admits that ‘sunday’ was a workday!! Oy vey! Now we have Jewish Apostles ignoring the Sabbath, worshiping AND working on Sunday…

    I can see why you were fired up coming home from church!!

  10. It should be interesting in a few weeks when we hit Acts 21:20, Pete:

    When they heard it, they praised God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the law.

  11. Hi James. I don’t know if you have access to the Jewish New Testament Commentary but Dr. Stern has some good insights on Acts 20:7. If it wasn’t so darn cold in Hudson, WI I would contemplate moving there to be a part of Beth Immanuel. Blessings to you brother.

  12. Actually, I do, Mel. Never think about it much. Just opened it up. Said pretty much what I thought it would say about that verse. Essentially that the Christian church may choose its own day for corporate worship but that doesn’t “overwrite” the Shabbat commanded by God of the Jewish people. Also, the God-fearers who spent much time in the synagogue would have been accustomed to worship on Shabbat.

  13. Although the following doesn’t have a direct bearing on the topic of this blog post, I thought it would be helpful to remember the legacy of men like Justin Martyr and the other supersessionist church fathers:

    In 1656, Governor Peter Stuyvesant of New Amsterdam refused to grant the Jews permission to build a synagogue. Stuyvesant was infamous for his anti-Semitism. In 1654 he wrote: “The Jews who have arrived would nearly all like to remain here, but… [we have] deemed it useful to require them in a friendly way to depart… that the deceitful race — such hateful enemies and blasphemers of the name of Christ — not be allowed further to infect and trouble this new colony.” Jews were spared eviction because the Dutch West India Company was heavily dependent on Jewish investments. Stuyvesant contented himself with subjecting the Jews to indignities: He denied them the right to serve in the military and forced them to pay extra taxes. As for Stuyvesant’s refusal to allow a synagogue, history would take revenge: On this same date in 1897, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary was incorporated as America’s first Orthodox Jewish rabbinical seminary.

    From “This Day in Jewish History” for Adar 16
    Aish.com

  14. @ James, re:Acts 20:21.

    Don’t hold your breath. Christendom just loves to label those Messianic Torah zealots a ‘weaker brethren,’ contrary to everything we read in the tanak… Guess they don’t understand what it means when David was a man after God’s own heart!

    Sigh…

  15. It’s complicated, Pete. I’ve listened to all of the arguments and tried to counter them, but to no avail. I think for a lot of good, kind, and well-meaning believers, the paradigm shift is just too far to go.

  16. Pastor emailed me back with an answer to the question about why he believes Paul “must” have met with the congregation in Troas on Sunday. He’s pressed for time so his explanation is necessarily brief:

    20:7 ”the first day of the week” – true, the word “day” doesn’t appear in Greek; literally, it says “in the first of the week” (which by Jewish reckoning certainly wouldn’t be a reference to Shabbat)
    20:7 Paul intends “to leave the next day” and preaches until midnight
    20:11 Paul speaks “until daybreak, and then left”

    If this story begins the evening of “yom rishon” (our Saturday night), his departure in the morning could not be called “the next day”.

    If this story begins on Sunday night, as I suggested, “daylight” would appropriately be called “the next day” (Monday).

    I have my own ideas for a response, but I’ll need to leave my computer in a minute or two and invite anyone who would like to offer their ideas.

    Thanks.

  17. On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight.

    -Acts 20:7

    So, according to Pastor, if Paul was speaking on Saturday night after Shabbat, it would be the first of the week (from Saturday at sundown until Sunday at Sundown) and so the “next day” wouldn’t be until Sunday at sundown until Monday at Sundown.

    And yet, by daybreak after he was done speaking, he left (verse 11). Verse 13 picks up the action with “we” (Luke and the others) going ahead to the ship.

    This is actually pretty muddy.

    If it was Sunday, then it was Sunday evening and Paul intended to leave “the next day”. But if Paul counted all his days as from sundown to sundown rather than from sunrise to sunrise, then for him, the “next day” wouldn’t have been until Monday at sundown to Tuesday at sundown.

    But did Paul count all his days as sundown to sundown, or only religously significant days (Shabbat for example)? Further, Paul isn’t writing this. Luke is. This is from Luke’s point of view and according to author and attorney John Mauck in his book “Paul on Trial,” Luke wrote his famous gospel and Acts as a legal defense for the Roman court after Paul was imprisoned at Rome, so he knew his primary audience wasn’t Jewish.

    Luke was likely to use a Roman calendar to account for time except when attempting to describe events and times significant to Judaism. He’d need to clarify the Jewish aspects of his record, since, according to Mauck, one of the things Luke was trying to defend is that Paul wasn’t preaching a brand new and invented religion (which would be illegal) but simply a form of Judaism (the Way) which was legal.

    In the Greek, as noted above, Acts 20:7 which we read as “the first day of the week” is “On the first of the Sabbath…” indicating a specificially Jewish event, Motza’ei Shabbat or “departure of the Sabbath,” according to David H. Stern in his “Jewish New Testament Commentary” (pg 297), so we seem to have a fixed point in time that’s pretty difficult to ignore.

    But if Paul and Luke were counting all days from sundown to sundown, we do have a problem as Pastor describes.

    However, if Luke, who is writing primarily to Gentiles, is only using Jewish wey of counting days and times when describing Jewish events of significance, we could make an arguement that he counted all other days/times from the more ubiquitous (in the diaspora) Roman calendar. After sundown on Saturday, Shabbat was over. It was Sunday, the first day of the week according to the Jewish religious calendar. But since ships probably don’t set sail in the middle of the night (or keep a Jewish religious calendar driven schedule), when Luke says Paul intended to leave the next day, he very well could have meant after sunrise on Sunday, when Paul’s transportation would count “the next day”.

    I can’t prove all of this naturally, but it is just as plausable as the counter argument I heard last Sunday morning.

    The other way to think about it is that even if the religious community in Troas was accustomed to gather to break bread on Sunday rather than Saturday (Shabbat), and remember, there’s a good reason to believe that “breaking bread is just breaking bread,” a sign of fellowship at a social occasions, that doesn’t mean this was their primary worship service. It was the last day (Roman time keeping) that Paul was going to be with them, and if it was the normal time to associate post-Shabbat worship (prayer service/Torah service) in a less formal setting, Paul may have been taking the opportunity to insert as much preaching and teaching as possible, especially since he believed (correctly) that he’d never see these people again.

    It would be like Moses’s great speech in Deuteronomy, where he talked and talked and talked, trying to impart as much information and wisdom to the Israelites as possible, because he too knew he was to die and he’d never see these people again.

    I can look at this situation and interpret it in a reasonable and logical manner that still doesn’t require an erasure of the Jewish Shabbat and a substitution of Sunday worship. In fact, as I said above, given that Paul was an observant Jew, my interpretation makes more sense than expecting him to abandon the observances of a lifetime, especially since Acts 21 and beyond is a testimony to his denial that he ever taught against the Torah of Moses.

    Comments?

  18. “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.”

    Despite all the evangelical teaching that “breaking bread” was a reference to “communion,” (which I’ve always wondered about anyway, in terms of the third cup of the seder being pulled away from Passover) I’ve always taken it to mean the fellowship of sharing a table (meal) and Paul “talking to them” as meaning Paul simply talked to them, because of the high degree of interest, he talked for a long time. I can picture that. On the other hand, it takes some interpretive gymnastics to turn his talking to them into a formal worship service of some kind to include a sermon.

  19. And yet, there are so many Christians who love the Jewish people and who support Israel who cannot believe that God ever meant the Jewish people to go forward in time as Jewish adherents of the Messiah, but instead, who must follow the alien path of a Gentile religion.

  20. Right, which forces their supersessionistic impressions into the text instead of letting the text speak freely…. creating the ugly sense of “triumphalism” that impoverishes the message of Messiah as well as the “aura” of hypocrisy that many intelligent non-believers see right through… and go the other way.

  21. I don’t know what the practices were during those times. But, “breaking bread,” makes me think of the “motzi,” when one says a prayer and then breaks off bread for each person. I assume, “breaking bread,” was shorthand for, “having a fellowship meal together.”

  22. Someone is trying to be far too woodenly literal with this text and is not approaching the language idiomatically. The word “day” has multiple applications, one of which refers to the entire day as a segment of the week, and another to only the daylight portion of a given calendrical day. It is perfectly legitimate to address the first day of the week that begins with motzei Shabbat on “Saturday” evening, and to refer to the next “day” as the impending daylight period. We do it all the time in Jewish circles, rendering the interpretation of this passage patently obvious. Even the model of a defense before a Roman court allows for this sort of idiom, because Romans were not entirely ignorant of Jewish perceptions about days.

    It seems to me that only someone with a theological axe to grind would eisegete a system or an example of Sunday worship into this passage.

  23. It seems to me that only someone with a theological axe to grind would eisegete a system or an example of Sunday worship into this passage.

    The thing is, if people in the church can’t find Sunday worship in the Bible, they have to admit that it’s probably a later invention and a tradition, which is at least uncomfortable for folks who believe that what they do all comes out of the scriptures. They also have to try and reconcile why, if this is Motza’ei Shabbat, were a primarily non-Jewish group of believers meeting on such an occasion.

  24. I dunno, do you think most Christians would be surprised to be told that their traditions are based on the Nicene Council? After all, they’re familiar with the Nicene creed as a positive notion. The harder task is clearly to induce them to look a bit farther back to see how significantly this caused Christianity to depart from the behavior and views of the original first-century assemblies.

  25. I think there may be some intellectual ascent when confronted, but at least in Fundamentalist churches, there’s a strong drive to believe that a great deal of what they do is scripture-based and whatever the Roman Catholic church may have added post-canon was corrected by the Reformation. I know that’s a very simplified view of things, but that’s the sort of view that gives many people comfort.

    The tough part is seeing really educated and intelligent people who also must jump through a lot of textual and theological hoops to make their particular “system” work.

  26. It keeps coming back to the fact that most Jews know at least something of their history, while most Christians know very little.

    Here is an experiment I propose: Remove a passage from Mein Kampf and tell Christians their favorite teacher is the author. Ask for thoughts.

  27. @James, I wanted to reply directly to your comment about, “Future Israel.” Just happened to see on the Amazon page that none other than our beloved John MacArthur provided a blurb.

    “This is by far the best treatement of Israel’s future I have found. It’s a welcome antidote to the widespread apathy and confusion that have clouded this vital prophetic question. I found it clear, persuasive, thoroughly biblical, and difficult to put down. Future Israel should be required reading for every pastor, seminarian, and student of Bible prophecy.” — John MacArthur

    Now, this looks like something the publisher’s P.R. department dreamed up, vague, noncommittal and I suspect JM never read the book. In publishing circles, authors are expect to provide the courtesy of blurbing each other’s books. The “reviewer,” of course agrees to the quote, but usually isn’t the author of it. I know, because I have crafted many quotes for newspaper articles. For example, the owner/publisher of one paper I wrote for were obviously busy and not interested in picayune details. So, if I needed a quote, I just made something up that sounded good and like it might come from him, and the editor approved it.

  28. Here is an experiment I propose: Remove a passage from Mein Kampf and tell Christians their favorite teacher is the author. Ask for thoughts.

    Tempting, but I’d probably make a lot of people angry.

    I noticed that MacArthur endorsed Horner’s book as well, which I find highly ironic given his low view of Judaism in the Book of Acts. Most dispensationalists have no problem believing in a future role for Israel and I don’t think MacArthur is actively anti-Semitic, but Israel will always, for him, be second-fiddle to the primacy of the Church.

  29. I was suggesting this as a subject for a psychology experiment.

    MacArthur, I believe is almost 100% reform theology, except he adds a bit of dispie in regard to the future of Israel as a nation – but leaving out anything of Judaism or torah. It sounds like he expects a restored Israel, Jesus ruling and lots of neo-Calvinist churches dotting the land?

    Almost everyone wants to replace Israel: Christians, HR, even Jews who prefer a “social justice,” utopia.

  30. I don’t remember if I mentioned that I suspected one reason behind those who cling to the pre-trib rapture when there is so little evidence, is that they do see Israel in the fulfillment of prophecy. But they can’t let go of the primacy of the church as the vehicle and so have to believe they will be, “outta here,” before any of this comes down, before the end of the fullness of the gentiles.

  31. I agree, James. It seems to be part of the “path of least resistance” motivation to preserve “tradition” rather than seek and observe truth.

  32. Just came across this;
    I guess I am too simple. In my reading through the scriptures I noticed our L-rd would enter the synagogue when he first entered a new town. The Apostle Paul did the same thing. It is said, as his custom was…on the Sabbath he would enter into the assembly and reason with them out of the Scriptures. Those that believed would meet again the next day (that would be Sunday). These would be Jewish believers. I simply reason that as more and more gentiles became added they ‘drifted’ away from meeting on the Sabbath. Sadly we have lost much of the original understanding spoken of in Ephesians; One L-rd, one faith, one baptism.

  33. James, I think a very good question to consider regarding Rev. 1:10 is this. How did the “Day of the LORD” become the [Sunday] “LORD’s Day”? The “Day of the LORD” is consistent with language in the Tanakh and also has the apocalyptic element. Revelation is an apocalyptic book. Something to consider, based on my reading of Andrew Roth’s notes in his Aramaic New Testament. (Disclaimer: I certainly don’t support all of his views.)

  34. “Day of the Lord” is at least an ambiguous statement, Linda. Christianity tends to assume it must mean Sunday but that’s hardly the only interpretation.

  35. James, I’m not sure you followed what I sought to convey, so to clarify, Roth is saying that the Aramaic says in Rev. 1:10, “…b’yoma ’maranaYah” or “day of our Master YHWH” – referring to both Judgment Day and sacred occasions in Israel, which were/are marked with the blowing of the shofar, as this verse mentions. The only place in Scripture where “the Lord’s day” is mentioned is this one time – in English Bibles. And if it should really be “the Day of the Lord”, then there goes the “Sunday” footing the church claims from this particular verse. We don’t find anywhere in Scripture where Shabbat was changed to Sunday; it’s derived from eisogesis.

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