The Focus and the Lens

The Sichos HaRan, zt”l, explains how fortunate we are to have received the Torah. “Non-Jews who did not receive the Torah have no idea how to act. A non-Jew who wants to discover the meaning of life must search for the truth and has very little chance of finding it. Jews are very fortunate, since God gave us the Torah which reveals exactly how we should act in any given situation. We can focus all of our energies on fulfilling the Torah instead of squandering them in an attempt to determine what to do.”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“God’s Charity”
Arachin 8

I have a difficult time understanding how the Sichos HaRan, zt”l can make such a statement and yet still call God charitable. After all, is God not the God of the Jew and the non-Jew alike? He makes it sound as if God left the Gentile people of the nations “hanging out to dry,” so to speak. In fact, even from a traditional Jewish point of view, it’s not that way at all.

Most religious Jews believe that God gave “the rest of us” the Seven Noahide Commandments which guide us along a path of Godly living. Of course, when you compare a mere seven laws to the 613 commandments that Jews believe comprise the Torah, it’s easy to believe that the Gentiles got the short end of the stick. After all, as the “story off the daf” points out, the level of detail in the Torah commandments, describe for the Jew “exactly how we should act in any given situation.” That’s not literally true of the written portion of the Torah, but once you factor in the Mishnah, Talmud, and Gemara, an astounding and even overwhelming amount of information is provided about every conceivable situation in which a Jew may find himself.

Even if you believe that the seven Noahide laws can be expanded out to 80 or 90 more detailed commentaries, it still seems like we don’t have nearly the same amount of Heavenly direction given to us as the Jewish people enjoy. If you’re an atheist, you probably couldn’t care less, and enjoy the type of freedom a secular world view provides. If you’re a traditional Christian, this only confirms what you’ve been taught about the freedom that the grace of Jesus Christ offers, and how the “chains” of the Law can no longer hold you (not that they ever applied to you in the first place).

Yet, as I have been reminded recently, for a number of Christians, the “grace of Christ” doesn’t seem to be enough. There’s a sort of “emptiness” some people feel in the church, as if a man starving for meat and potatoes is given only a can of soda pop for lunch. Lots of “fizz” but no substance. For these Christians, the substance seems to be found in Judaism and among some of these folks, Judaism becomes the focus, leaving God and faith in the Messiah in the dust.

I’m a Christian who, as you know if you’ve been following this blog for very long, chooses to view my faith in Christ through a Jewish lens (if such a thing is possible). However, it took me years to be able to distinguish the lens from the focus of the lens. The lens is the means by which I look at the Messiah and gaze at the image of God. The focus is the Messiah who leads me on the path of righteousness to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It’s important not to confuse the two.

I sometimes think even people in the traditional church suffer from this confusion. The theology, the music, the church programs, and even grace, all seem to substitute for the substance of God. Maybe that’s why people leave Christianity and either apostate completely or seek some aspect of Judaism onto which they can attach. However, since this type of confusion can strike at the Christian either in the church or in the synagogue, it’s not the religion that’s the problem, it’s the people. More specifically, it’s how people understand what they have faith in. Do you have faith in Christianity or in God? Do you have faith in Judaism or in God? Who or what do you worship and why? Do you even know if you are worshiping a thing rather than the Creator of the universe?

I’ve seen non-Jews in “Messianic” or Hebrew Roots groups who became totally enamoured with wearing a tallit gadol and kippah, praying with a siddur, and learning Hebrew. Nothing is necessarily wrong with using holy objects in the practice of your faith, but there is something terribly wrong if you wake up one morning and realize that its the objects you’re really worshiping. It’s even worse if you are worshiping the objects and never actually realize it.

There are non-Jews including some Christians, who convert to Judaism for various reasons and I am not here to question those decisions. However, I am concerned with those Christians who, in seeking the Jewish Jesus in the synagogue, lose sight of him completely, and convert because they have started worshiping Jewishness.

Any Christian who is worshiping and studying in a Jewish venue needs to periodically take one giant step backward and examine what they are doing and why. If you know your eyes need to be on the Messiah at all times but his “image” is becoming increasingly fuzzy, you may have allowed something to get in between you and him. If your lens has become your focus, stop everything, take a break, and get some fresh air. A life of study contains many details and a great deal of information, but at its core, a life of holiness is not complicated. It’s a simple as praying and can easily begin with the words, “Our Father Who is in Heaven…”

Never forget who you are and who He is to you.

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26 thoughts on “The Focus and the Lens”

  1. James,

    If the Noachide “laws” are valid and not a racist invention then why aren’t they in the New Testament?

  2. Peter, I didn’t say the Noahide Laws were a valid theological construct or necessarily the will of God for the nations. I was using the Noahide Laws vs. the 613 Laws as an example of why some non-Jews might be attracted to the greater structure and richer set of rituals and traditions provided in Judaism.

    I made a thematic shift in my blog post from that point to how some Christians feel that the “grace of Christ”, and the absence of all but a few identifiable commandments in the New Testament seem to make them feel as if they were “short changed”. In a sense, I was describing a situation that you’ve mentioned before, where your friends who studied at the Chabad, eventually abandoned their faith in Jesus and converted to Judaism. I was saying that, unless a person’s faith in Christ is very well grounded, that immersing themselves in Judaism or any other religious tradition could result in lost of Christian faith.

    And I’d be careful about calling the Noahide Laws a “racist invention”. Another way of looking at them is that Judaism believes God abandons no one and that there is a way to merit the life in the world to come for both the Jew and the Gentile. It just isn’t the same way. Most other religions require that the “non-believer” join the club, so to speak, in order to be “saved” and that there is only one path to God. In that sense, traditional Judaism can be seen are rather “generous” compared to Christianity.

    All that said, God provided a better way than the Noahide laws for those of us who are not Jewish, and that way is Jesus Christ. Through him, we can all be called sons and daughters of the Most High.

  3. Peter, I forgot to mention this earlier. I know we’ve previously discussed how we got our Bible and whether or not each and every word and sentence is literally factual or not. I came across something on one of Derek’s blogs that illustrates how the origin of the Gospels isn’t exactly clear cut. There are several competing theories. See Derek’s brief article The Q Theory for more.

  4. “However, it took me years to be able to distinguish the lens from the focus of the lens.”

    I know you understand how important the lens is. But you’ve put your finger on what is perhaps the most endemic sin of “believers” – what we believe becomes more central than in whom we believe. It is a form of idolatry that is “hidden in plain slight.”

  5. When a person is born of the Spirit, he is a new creature with a new sense of ethnicity, a hunger for fellowship with people like himself, and a readiness to lay his life down for a worthy cause.
    These things compel him.
    Hebrews 11 tells us of this age-old unction that made God’s promises the lens through which all people of faith are able to see that the New Covenant was the Lord’s plan for setting up a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.
    Therefore, the prophecies were the lens through which Israel and Judah were supposed to focus in order to prepare themselves to populate Melchizadek’s royal priestly order under Christ in the world that was still future to them.
    However, both sisters (Israel and Judah), having been married to the Lord, broke the Old Covenant giving rise to the need for a new (and completely different) one.
    The chief priests of Israel in Judah dissolved the union of Judah and the Lord saying, “We have no king but Caesar”.

  6. Dear James,
    Men began sneaking into the believers’ ranks looking for a way to bring them back into bondage. One of the strategies that has been used has been to replace the definition of grace so that lawlessness is able to abound. Titus 2:11-13 tells us that the grace that saves teaches us that we should deny ourselves and live righteously in this present world while focusing on the appearing of our God and Savior. This teaching is found in the commandments of the New Covenant. Paul told the Corinthians that the things he wrote to them were the commandments of the Lord. Peter exhorted his audience to stir up their pure minds reminding them to be mindful of the things written by the prophets and the commandments of them, the Lord’s apostles.
    Thus, the disciples who were,before, not a people become the people of God with a holy ethnicity.

  7. @Carl: In reading Rabbi Gordis’ book God Was Not in the Fire , he paints a picture of a spiritual life driven, not by an abstract belief system, but by actions. It seems that the words of Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale) in the film Batman Begins (2005) serve to explain this position:

    “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

    Faith in God as “believers” requires that we worship God by “doing” worship and thereby keeping Him in focus. For those of us who are disciples of the Jewish Messiah, that means doing what he did; feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, helping the lame, and so on. In doing these “mitzvot”, we continually address our faith to the author of humanity. In that sense then, Christianity and Judaism become interfaces by which we enact our faith and worship, but their purpose is to point to the object of our faith, not become that object.

    @scythewieldor: Welcome and thank you for your comments.

    I can’t agree with you that we become “new creatures” in Christ as a new “ethnicity”. That’s like saying that before I came to faith, I was of German/Czech descent and now as a believer, I’m of Jewish/Middle Eastern descent. God didn’t rearrange my DNA to create a new body with different ethnic characteristics for me when I declared Jesus as Lord, Savior, and Messiah. I became a new creature in the sense that I was no longer a willing slave to sin and my own egotistical desires, and became free to turn to God, hear His voice, and obey His will.

    My ethnicity has nothing to do with it and unless you can show me otherwise, I can’t see in the Bible where it says I change ethnically (becoming a citizen of the Kingdom doesn’t change a person’s ethnic status).

    Unfortunately, it sounds like you’re saying that because in the history of the Jewish people, there were periods of time when they were not faithful to the Mosaic covenant, that God annulled that covenant and replaced it with the Messianic covenant, which somehow became only available to non-Jews (or Jews who were willing to abandon their Jewish identity and convert to a form of Christianity that denies Christ as first and foremost, the Jewish Messiah, come for his “lost sheep of Israel”). I’m afraid I can’t accept that.

    First of all, Paul said that all of Israel would be saved (Romans 11:26) and taking the larger context of his words into account, he was defining “Israel” not as the non-Jewish believers who came to faith in Jesus, but his own countrymen, the Jewish people, the inheritors of the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    Historically, we see Peter, Paul and apparently the rest of the Jewish disciples continuing to follow the Mosaic practices even after coming to faith in Jesus, so it certainly looks like faith in the Messiah is not inconsistent with a Jew continuing under the Mosaic covenant. In the ancient near east, covenants didn’t really replace one another so much as ratify one another, so the coming into existence of the Messianic covenant, while a completely new thing for the non-Jewish people, did not wipe away the Mosaic, but added to it what the Mosaic covenant was always pointing to: the Messiah; Jesus.

    One of the reasons I use some of the Jewish writings and wisdom as my “lens” through which I gaze at the actions, life, and promises of Jesus, is to better understand the Judaism of Christ, both as he taught in ancient times and as a lived out experience in the modern world. My wife and children are Jewish, so I’m able to see the work of God in the world through their eyes and experiences as well as my own as a Christian. The Mosaic and Messianic covenants are not mutually exclusive anymore than grace and Law are incompatible. While we non-Jews are not bound to the same obligations that God applied to the Hebrews, we still experience our faith, not merely through abstract mental and emotional processes, but by what we do for others and how we behave ethically and morally in our day to day lives (see James 2:14-26).

    James was describing a very “Jewish” concept and it would be experienced as such even in modern Judaism, but it’s not what the church always teaches. That’s one reason I choose to keep one foot in each world, because there is value in learning and living in both, as long as my focus remains constantly not on things or specific religious practices, but on God.

    I know this flies in the face of most of your comments, but I feel people can learn more sometimes by disagreement and debate, as long as conflict is not personalized or made into an emotional issue. It’s from that point of view that I’m writing this response.

  8. James,

    Well said. You wrote: “so the coming into existence of the Messianic covenant, while a completely new thing for the non-Jewish people, did not wipe away the Mosaic, but added to it what the Mosaic covenant was always pointing to: the Messiah; Jesus.”

    We agree on something at last! : )

    Peter

  9. Blogger seems to be having “issues” lately so that may be part of the problem. I’ll have a look at your new blog post. Thanks.

  10. “The Mosaic and Messianic covenants are not mutually exclusive anymore than grace and Law are incompatible.”

    I see the law and the Mosaic Covenant as not the same thing, meaning once the law was given at Mt Sinai, God made terms of Covenant which included if’s and a possible end, but the law did not include if’s and had no end.. What is the same about the Mosaic Covenant and the Messianic Covenant is the law. What is different between them might be an important lens perhaps we should include? I only mention it because I believe we have to learn to distinguish between what passes away and what remains, what is “my word shall never pass away” and “behold, I make all things new”.

  11. Dear James,
    Ethnicity may have a racial component. However, as in the case of the people organized under the New Covenant, race can be irrelevant to it.
    In 1 Peter 2:9-10, Peter tells an audience of strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia that, though they had been “not a people”, they had become the people of God and a holy nation- a holy ethnos.
    In this passage, Peter uses the phrase Isaiah uses on Is. 7:8-9 to describe the change of identity about to effect the wife which the Lord divorced – Israel.
    They were about to become “not a people”.
    Most Zionists are unaware of the lack of racial homogeny made necessary when 12 tribes come from 5 different mothers (i. e., Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, Zilpah, and Asenath).
    Ten tribes were cast out with the promise that, in the places where they would be called “not God’s people”, there, they would be called “the sons of the living God”.
    Peter told this audience that they was the generation chosen for the fulfilment of God’s promise to Israel through Hosea.
    Thus, the New Covenant is the will of God for the regenerated 12 tribe Israel of God.

  12. @Steven: I must admit, I have a difficult time separating the Mosaic covenant from the Torah since the Torah defines the Mosaic covenant in terms of formal conditions. All of the language in the Prophets about God separating from His chosen people, the Israelites “for only a moment” and then bringing them back to Him tells me that he never rejects the Jews forever and that exiling them for disobeying the covenant is always temporary. I’m not sure how to reconcile your point of view.

    I believe we have to learn to distinguish between what passes away and what remains, what is “my word shall never pass away” and “behold, I make all things new”.

    I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive terms. If the Word never passes away, it can still be made “new” in terms of experience and interpretation. We do know that in the end, the very end, even the Torah and the Temple will pass away and God and the Lamb will the the Temple and the light, but that’s not until after what we think of as the “Messianic age” and the final restoration of Eden at the very end of the Book of Revelation.

    @scythewieldor: In trying to grasp the points you’re making, I looked up the dictionary definitions of Ethnic and Racial, but I’m not sure they help. As far as the comments in 1 Peter 2:9-10 go, it seems clear that in context, Peter is addressing non-Jewish disciples who held no particular covenant status with God up until they became disciples of Jesus. Of course, all people were created in the image of God and we are all subject to God as His creations. Also, God created the nations so in a sense, we all were different “peoples” in that we had national affilations and racial and ethnic distinctions.

    What did change in terms of what Paul is describing, is our status in relation to God. Peter, being a Jew, is referring back to how the Hebrews became a people unto God, a chosen nation and a holy priesthood by means of covenant. Their actual ethnic and racial distinctions were beside the point. It’s also besides the point in terms of non-Jews who attach themselves to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, through Jesus the Jewish Messiah. We are all different in terms of our countries of origin, race, and ethnicity, but we are one people thanks to the Messianic covenant and the promises of hope in Jesus.

    Ten tribes were cast out with the promise that, in the places where they would be called “not God’s people”, there, they would be called “the sons of the living God”.
    Peter told this audience that they was the generation chosen for the fulfilment of God’s promise to Israel through Hosea.
    Thus, the New Covenant is the will of God for the regenerated 12 tribe Israel of God.

    I’m not sure where you’re going with this. You could be saying that Peter’s audience was the “lost” ten tribes or that the Gentile believers Peter was addressing symbolically replaced the ten tribes. Not sure which one you’re saying.

  13. To explain how I see the covenants, I might compare to cars. I had an old car and it served me well for a time to “transport” me between my job and home. I had laws to follow on the road. When the car was getting old and my needs changed (perhaps more family, carpooling or whatever) I traded in for a “better car” or one that suited the need better, or to fulfill my purpose which remains transportation (salvation).

    The cars changed but what does not change? The need for transportation (salvation) and the law of the road (Law of Moses).

  14. Dear James,
    Thank you for being so cordial.
    First, let me assure you that I do not subscribe to the idea that God is through with the Jews. Until their governors repent and are converted, Jesus won’t come back.
    Jacob had 12 sons. He gave the birthright to Joseph and took Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own sons in Joseph’s place. Thus, Jacob had 13 sons.
    Jacob had 2 blessings. He got 1 from Isaac and 1 from the Angel he wrestled.
    With the 2 blessings, Jacob established 2 houses – the 1 tribed Judah and the 12 tribed Israel.
    Jacob gave the names Abraham, Isaac, and Israel to Joseph’s sons.
    In his prophecy over Ephraim, Jacob said he would become a multitude of goi – gentiles. Thus, the promise to Abraham that he would be the father of many goi would be kept in Ephraim.
    David became king of Judah 7.5 years before he became king of Israel. Later, the Lord took 10 tribes from David’s house leaving Levi for Jerusalem’s sake and Benjamin for David’s.
    After the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi returned from Babylon, Zechariah prophesied that the Lord would Ephraim bring back to the same place, spread him out again, and, then, bring him to Lebanon and Gilead from the places where he remembered Him.

  15. “Jacob gave the names Abraham, Isaac, and Israel to Joseph’s sons.”

    I assume you mean Genesis 48: 15-16 (ESV):

    And he blessed Joseph and said,

    “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
    the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,
    the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys;
    and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
    and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

    My understanding is that it was necessary for Jacob to “adopt” Joseph’s sons since their mother was an Egyptian and so there would be no question about their right to inherit, making each of Joseph’s sons the father of a half-tribe (full tribe being Joseph). The language he uses is the formal language used in the ancient near east (to the best of my understanding) for adoption procedures. Jacob doesn’t literally rename Ephraim and Manasseh “Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.”

    In his prophecy over Ephraim, Jacob said he would become a multitude of goi – gentiles.

    You mean from Genesis 48:19: “Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude (in the Hebrew “fullness) of nations.”

    Addressing the offspring (singular) of Abraham being a blessing to the nations, this is commonly referred to as the Messiah blessing the nations, not Abraham having literal blood descendants who were goyim (although this is true through his son Ishmael).

    I think it’s a bit of a stretch to interpret the formal adoption language in Genesis 48:15, attach it to the specific blessing upon Ephraim in Genesis 48:19, apply a prophesy of Zechariah (presumably Zechariah 9:13), and come up with the goyim inheriting Lebanon and Gilead because they (we?) are somehow descendents of Ephraim. Later use of the name Ephraim by the prophets was generally poetic rather than literal in nature, and almost always referred to Israel or the ten tribes in general and sometimes to all 12 tribes. Look at the construction of Zechariah 9:13 in full:

    I will bend Judah as I bend my bow
    and fill it with Ephraim.
    I will rouse your sons, Zion,
    against your sons, Greece,
    and make you like a warrior’s sword.

    Ancient Hebrew poetry didn’t rhyme and it created associations by parallelism in verses. The use of the words “Judah”, “Ephraim”, and “Zion” are meant to refer to the Hebrews in general. Zechariah, in vv 9-13, is telling all of Zion to rejoice at the coming of the Messiah, not just a specific tribe:

    “See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
    lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

    Now look at the actual event when Jesus does come riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s foal:

    The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

    “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

    “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

    “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Matthew 21:6-9

    If your literal interpretation is true, then it should only be members of the half-tribe of Ephraim or extending your metaphor, a collection of Gentiles yelling “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Instead, given the context, it was the Jewish people present (perhaps just members of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi) who were welcoming the King, the Son of David.

    I can see where you’re going with this, but I’m afraid I can’t agree with your interpretation. The specific return of the ten tribes to Israel and how and when that will be accomplished isn’t specifically outlined in the Bible, so we’ll have to wait for God to do all that He has promised. However, I am content to believe that God would not abandon the goyim who have no distant connection back to Ephraim or any of the other “lost tribes”, and that people like me can be adopted by God through the shedding of the blood of Jesus just because God loves all of his creations.

  16. Dear James,
    I am sorry that my phone has a hard time with long entries requiring me to write a second part.
    When Jesus spoke of the garment with holes that couldn’t could’t be patched with new cloth, he was referring to the new garment that Ahijah tore into 12 parts when the Lord gave 10 tribes of Israel to Jereboam, son of Nebat.
    Upon the degeneration of the nation of Israel, they became ‘not a people’. Nevertheless, they had a promise that they would be gathered with the children of the house of Judah under 1 Head.
    In other words, Israel and Judah were the two vessels of mercy prepared for glory by the prophecies Paul sited in Romans which Paul says makes the calling of the gentiles that got saved equal to the calling of the Jews who got saved.
    It’s what John was talking about in ch. 11:50-53.

  17. “When Jesus spoke of the garment with holes that couldn’t could’t be patched with new cloth, he was referring to the new garment that Ahijah tore into 12 parts when the Lord gave 10 tribes of Israel to Jereboam, son of Nebat.”

    I assume you’re referring to Matthew 9:16-17:

    “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

    It would be pretty unlikely your interpretation is correct given the larger context of what Jesus was teaching. In Matthew 9:14-17, Jesus is answering a question about fasting. The accepted interpretation of vv 16-17, given the context of this part of scripture, is that Jesus is explaining how his teachings (unshrunk cloth) will not correctly attach to an old garment or “a student who holds to different teachings”. If Jesus were speaking of the garment Ahijah tore into 12 parts, it would have been such a sudden shift in context that none of the people listening to him would have understood what he was talking about or why.

    I know you could counter by saying that his words had a hidden or mystic meaning, but I’m not reasonably sure we can apply that here. We tend to think of the Bible as “the Holy Word of God” and forget that significant portions of it record conversations between people. Jesus was communicating with John’s disciples trying to explain why it was difficult for them to understand his teachings because they were attached to the teachings of their own Master, John. In context, this makes perfect sense. I can’t see how your interpretation can possibly apply.

    “It’s what John was talking about in ch. 11:50-53.”

    Do you mean John 11:50-53 or another book in the NT? John 11:50-53 says:

    You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

    He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

    As I understand this, Caiaphas, the High Priest, was responding to the concerns of the corrupt religious heads among the Pharisees and sitting on the Sanhedrin, who were worried that Jesus would stir up a rebellion and cause Rome to retaliate by destroying the Temple and wiping out their religious power base (which eventually did happen in 70 CE). Caiaphas was correctly prophesying that Jesus would die for the nation of Israel. Though his motives were corrupt, he was essentially correct, but he was talking about the Hebrews and how the death of Jesus would eventually bring the Gentiles into faith and reconcile them (us) to God along with the Jewish people, most likely including the (eventually) returned ten tribes. However, none of this must be interpreted that the Gentiles who happen to be attracted to the Torah and the Jewish teachings have to the members of the lost tribes. I really don’t subscribe to that collection of information generally called “Two House”.

    May I ask where you get your information? I’m not trying to be mean, but your interpretations are extremely unusual and don’t seem to follow the rules of Biblical exegesis which in part require that scripture be interpreted within its larger context and in logical relation to other parts of the Bible. While you do connect your key scriptures to other Biblical verses, the linking does not appear to be logical and you have a tendency to ignore the context in which the verses occur.

    Sorry to go all “Mr. Spock” on you, but understanding the Bible does have certain rules attached. While not all NT scholars agree with each other, it is doubtful that any credible authority would accept how you are presenting the information from Matthew 9:14-17 and John 11:50-53.

  18. Dear James,
    Thank you for continuing to be so courteous. It is fine for you to ask these questions.
    About the John 11 passage, first, I would say that part of it is the response of the Holy Spirit to the statement made by Caiaphas as related by John.
    Concerning the garment question, I can see your objection and I will not contest it until can do so from my computer.
    I have learned in many places. Jesus said we live by every word that proceed out of the mouth of God. Therefore, I’m not free to let good information hide behind an ancient Hebrew sausage grinder.
    You, also, use terms as if you don’t know their sources.
    Did you know that Jacob gave the birthright to Joseph?
    Did you know that the receiver of a birthright got 2 portions of an inheritance. That means that, if there are 12 sons, there are 13 portions.
    Did you know that the tribe of Manasseh became 2 half tribes because some settled on 1 side of Jordan and some on the other? The half on the east side went into exile many years before the other half – the west side half. Therefore, though you can find a reference to a half tribe of Manasseh, you won’t find a reference to a half tribe of Ephraim.

  19. “Did you know that Jacob gave the birthright to Joseph?”

    Actually, according to both accepted Christian and Jewish sources, the “blessings of the firstborn” were not so neatly transferred. For instance, Chabad.org has this to say:

    Reuben the firstborn, the rabbis explain, should have been entitled to priesthood (“foremost in rank”) and kingship (“foremost in power”). The Jewish priests and kings should have emerged from Reuben. But Reuben forfeited these privileges and they went instead to his brothers Levi and Judah, respectively. (Aaron’s family of priests came from Levi; the Davidic dynasty of kings came from Judah). Reuben remained the firstborn, “my firstborn,” with many of the privileges conferred by Jewish law on a firstborn, but he lost the priesthood and kingship.

    A Christian commentary states:

    “Because of Reuben’s instability the birthright ends up being divided. Usually the firstborn was the spiritual and social leader of the “clan”; but the rights of blessing, priesthood, and ruling authority were divided among the sons of Israel rather than being centralized in one.”

    I really can’t find (and I looked) evidence to support that the full blessings of the firstborn were lifted off of Reuben and deposited as a single unit upon Joseph. He got his own blessing, of course, but not Reuben’s.

    Also, traditionally, when the first born got a double-portion, it was not something that could be subdivided (turning 12 into 13). Let’s say we’re talking about property. If 11 portions were 100 acres each, the firstborn’s portion would be 200 acres. They’re still just 12 portions. The first born’s portion is just twice as big. That’s all.

    I’m aware (and I said this previously if you’ll review my earlier comments) that Ephraim and Manasseh were half-tribes, but again, I must point out that your research is less than accurate and does not support the supposition that non-Jewish people who are attracted to Judaism and the Torah are somehow the lost half-tribe of Ephraim.

    You said: I have learned in many places. Jesus said we live by every word that proceed out of the mouth of God. Therefore, I’m not free to let good information hide behind an ancient Hebrew sausage grinder.

    I think we all try to live by each word that comes out of the mouth of God, but we seem to have very different ways of interpreting that word and it’s not a foregone conclusion that your interpretation is correct. Not sure what you mean when you say “an ancient Hebrew sausage grinder.” Is there a problem with Hebrew?

  20. Dear James,
    I love the languages in which the Lord chose to preserve His oracles. However, far too many passages of God’s oracles get tossed into the grinder with the suppositions of men who lack the faith to hold those oracles without doubting.
    Some opinions are held, and passed on, in ignorance; other times, there is intentionality.
    Did you check a concordance for scriptures containing the word ‘birthright’?
    Did you read 1 Chr. 5:1-2?

  21. Dear James,
    Have you checked your concordance for scriptures that showed the relationship of the word ‘half’ to the word ‘tribe’? Check out Num. 32:33 & Num. 34:13-14.

  22. scythewieldor:

    The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel; so he could not be listed in the genealogical record in accordance with his birthright, and though Judah was the strongest of his brothers and a ruler came from him, the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph)— the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel. -1 Chronicles 5:1-3

    So far this is about the only valid point you’ve got, but you didn’t mention this specific scripture when you made your previous argument. It would be helpful when you refer to scripture if you also provide the specific citations, since none of this is in Genesis. It’s also true that (and I know this surprises some people) the Bible contains a number of internal inconsistencies, so we sometimes have a difficulty determining exactly what is and isn’t a “fact” (although the “truth” of the Bible is firmly established).

    Then Moses gave to the Gadites, the Reubenites and the half-tribe of Manasseh son of Joseph the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan—the whole land with its cities and the territory around them. -Numbers 32:33

    Moses commanded the Israelites: “Assign this land by lot as an inheritance. The LORD has ordered that it be given to the nine and a half tribes, because the families of the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance. -Numbers 34:13-14

    These scriptures are not in dispute, but it doesn’t make you or me a member of that half-tribe, either. It means what it means. That these half-tribes were given the lands being referred to. It’s a quantum leap to say that they are “us”. There is not rational or scriptural bridge that turns me into a distant descendant of Manasseh. I suppose it’s not impossible, since no one has any idea whatever became of the “lost tribes”, but it is hardly an established fact, either.

    I’ve devoted a significant portion of my resources to this conversation and I realize I have no hope in convincing you that your research (at least as I see it) is full of holes. You can cite no specific sources or authorities in terms of the origin of your theories, no accepted Bible scholars in either Christianity or Judaism support what you suggest, and almost everything you’ve said up to this point is taken way, way out of context.

    I don’t want to be mean or disrespectful, but there’s nothing in your argument to even remotely tempt me to consider the “Two House” model. You are perfectly free to hold your beliefs and to share them with others of similar mind, but I’m not going to be one of those people. Paul complemented the Bereans for checking everything he taught with scripture. I’ve done the same with you and found your teaching wanting.

  23. Dear James,
    According to the prophets, Ephraim was a whole tribe of superior eminence in Israel. Ezekiel was very plain.
    Have you read Eze. 37:16-19?
    When Ezekiel writes this, Israel has been in exile for, maybe, 200 years and Judah is well into the Babylonian captivity.
    Notice the connection of Ephraim to Joseph and Israel. Notice the distinction the prophet makes between Joseph and Judah.
    After Judah returns to Jerusalem, Zechariah makes the same distinction. In ch. 10, vs.6, the Lordssays He will strengthen (KJV- Hebrew word seems to mean ‘prevail’) the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph…
    To me, this begins a passage that prophesies the regeneration of the house of Israel in Jerusalem when Jesus consummated the New Covenant by drinking the fruit of the vine on the cross.
    It tells how the Lord uses Judah like a bow to shoot Ephraim like an arrow out of Judea.
    Sown among the people, Ephraim forgets his identity as the restored tabernacle of David. In far countries, Ephraim remembers, and turns back to, the Lord.
    The Lord, then, brings them back to Lebanon and Gilead.

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