Review of “The Gentile Believer’s Obligation to the Torah of Moses”

At the same time, believers sometimes assume that HaShem’s Torah applies only to Jews and not to Gentile disciples at all. Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the fact that the apostles “loosed” the Gentiles from these sign commandments, for the most part they are bound to the rest of the Torah’s mitzvot. It should be emphasized that Gentiles in Messiah have a status in the people of God and a responsibility to the Torah that far exceeds that of the God-fearer of the ancient synagogue and that of the modern-day Noachide (Son of Noah). Through Yeshua, believing Gentiles are been (sic) grafted in to the people of God and become members of the commonwealth of Israel. While membership has its privileges, it also has its obligations.

-by Toby Janicki
“The Gentile Believer’s Obligation to the Torah of Moses”
Messiah Journal
Issue 109/Winter 2012, pg 45
First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)

Excuse me. What did you say?

A few days ago when I received the latest issue of Messiah Journal (MJ) in the mail, I commented that was looking forward to reading Toby’s article, but I wondered if what he was addressing was just a rehash of previous write ups on the same topic.

No, it’s not.

Toby does something I’ve never seen done before (not that somebody else couldn’t have written about this and I’m just not aware of it). He takes the four basic prohibitions outlined in the Acts 15 “Jerusalem Letter” and deconstructs them, expanding the specific details underlying the directives of James and the Council, and then tying them all back into the relevant portions of the traditional 613 commandments. Basically, Toby uses Acts 15 as the jumping off point to explain the nature and character of a non-Jewish disciple’s obligations (yes, I said “obligations”) to the Torah given at Sinai.

I did something similar over a year ago, but my jumping off point was Matthew 28:18-20, which is commonly referred to as “the Great Commission.”

To get the true flavor of what Toby is suggesting, let’s review the basics of “the letter:”

For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. –Acts 15:28-29

As Toby points out, on the surface, it seems as if the Gentile disciples of Jesus had very few responsibilities to God, but this is deceiving. As he points out in the subsequent pages of his article, each of these prohibitions has an amazing depth all its own that isn’t apparent until you dig into it. This is, as Toby muses, probably why James also said “from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues” (Acts 15:21). The Gentile disciples would need to attend the synagogues to learn and understand the many and subtle details involved in just complying with their responsibilities to these “simple” prohibitions.

I won’t go into those details because then, I’d have to recreate large portions of Toby’s article (and you’d be better off getting a copy of MJ 109 and reading the whole thing for yourself). However, Toby doesn’t limit himself to the “Jerusalem Letter.” He responds to some of the criticisms about Christians being limited to “the letter” by explaining some of the more obvious prohibitions against murder, theft, and coveting, which were not written down and were considered “Duh…obvious commandments” (quoting D. Thomas Lancaster from his book The Holy Epistle to the Galatians [pp 252-253]). These “Oh duh” commandments also include loving your neighbor, although I notice Toby did not cite the most apparent example found in the Master’s own teachings:

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” –Matthew 22:34-40

Beyond that, Toby digs further and presents some commandments that apply to the Gentile disciples that are not “Oh duh” and not found in Acts 15:

They can rather be derived from a careful reading of the Apostolic Writings in light of Jewish thought. One such set of mitzvot is the Gentile’s responsibility of honoring the Temple.

-Janicki, pg 53

What? The Temple? Most people don’t realize that during the Second Temple period, a non-Jew actually could bring an acceptable sacrifice to Herod’s Temple and expect that it would be received.

While Gentiles were not to bring certain offerings at certain times such as guilt..or sin..offerings, they were permitted and encouraged to bring burnt (olah) and peace (shelamin) offerings. The priest would attend to these offerings just as if an Israelite offered them up, and Gentiles were required to follow the same standard requirements for the sacrifices, e.g., their sacrifices were to be unblemished (Leviticus 22:21) and from an animal seven days or older (Leviticus 22:27).

-Janicki pg 54

Toby goes on to describe how the laws regarding ritual purity relate to the Gentile, as well as the application of set times for prayer (see my article The Prayer of Cornelius for additional details) and mealtime blessings.

Toby’s article does restrict certain of the mitzvot to the descendents of the Hebrews such as the mitzvah of circumcision (brit milah). I had a brief phone conversation with Boaz Michael (founder of FFOZ) yesterday, and he mentioned how the picture of circumcision in Paul’s letters seems like such an obvious demarcation line in terms of those who are fully under the Torah’s yoke, with Titus and Timothy cited as the clearest examples. Yet even in this, Toby said something very surprising:

Gentiles are specifically enjoined not to be circumcised for the ritual covenantal status. We can assume that, like Maimonidies, the apostles would have no problem with Gentiles voluntarily being circumcised for the sake of the mitzvah, but to do so complete with expectation of covenantal status as Jews would be to “seek circumcision” in the Pauline sense.

-Janicki pg 58

I must admit that a lot of this took me by surprise. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never seen the prohibitions in the Acts 15 letter expanded in terms of their scope and tied back into the Torah. I have seen the Seven Noahide Laws expanded into between 80 or 90 different sub-commandments, but traditional Judaism doesn’t generally connect these sub-commandments to the Torah of Sinai (even though they have many thematic and operational similarities). I have seen traditional Judaism confirm that, at least in the time of the Third Temple, that sacrifices of the Gentiles would be accepted, so that part wasn’t a stretch for me.

Has FFOZ changed it’s stance regarding Gentiles and the Torah? I’m not sure (I didn’t specifically query Toby before writing this review). On the one hand, it isn’t quite the same position as the viewpoint FFOZ has previously referred to as “Divine Invitation”. Being “invited” to take on board additional mitzvot beyond a Gentile’s obligation is voluntary and pretty much a “take it or leave it” approach. On the other hand, this article states that a significant portion of what we refer to as “Torah commandments” are obligations the Gentile disciples (Christians) must perform and to fail to do so constitutes a sin against God. It seems (and this is just a guess) that FFOZ is doing what I’m doing: continuing to explore and investigate God, the Bible, and a life of faith and allowing their understanding of each of these to evolve progressively.

Wow!

There are a couple of obvious concerns.

The first is that other Messianic Jewish organizations, such as the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) may take exception to the idea that Gentiles have a greater Torah obligation than previously advertised. UMJC and similar “Jewish-oriented” groups, tend to take a more definitive stance on Gentile vs. Jewish distinctiveness in worship of the Messiah, with advocates such as Tsvi Sadan proposing a complete separation between Messianic Jewish and Christian/Gentile worship of the Jewish Messiah. The content of Mark Kinzer’s book Postmissionary Messianic Judaism: Redefining Christian Engagement with the Jewish People, which has gained a “foundational” status in the modern Messianic Jewish movement, likely operates in less then perfect accord to many of the points in Toby’s article as well.

The other concern is how all this applies to the church. It’s one thing to say that the Gentile Christian is “allowed but not commanded” to pray at fixed times (as Cornelius did), keep a “sort of” Shabbat,” and refrain from sexual relations with their wives during their menstrual periods, and another thing entirely to say these are all obligations. Once FFOZ states that there are aspects of the Acts 15 directives and other portions of the New Testament that actually obligate the Gentile believers to specific parts of Torah obedience, then we come to the realization that a very large part of the Christian world is (unknowingly) disobeying God.

OK, maybe I’m overstating the point, but Toby’s article seems to open up that can of worms and it also takes the One Law vs. Messianic Judaism debate to a whole new level. I’ve been actively participating in that debate (again) on this blog for the past several days (and I have the headaches to prove it) and I must admit, Toby’s article tosses some of the arguments presented into a cocked hat, so to speak.

As far as the debate regarding Gentile Christians, the Acts 15 letter, and the refactoring of Christian obligations to the Law are concerned (traditional Christians reading this blog cannot fail to be intrigued and maybe dismayed at this point), Toby Janicki’s article “The Gentile Believer’s Obligation to the Torah of Moses” may have put us into a whole new ballgame (please forgive the mixed metaphors). I highly recommend that you buy a copy of Messiah Journal, issue 109 for this article alone. Toby’s article is nothing less than landmark.

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43 thoughts on “Review of “The Gentile Believer’s Obligation to the Torah of Moses””

  1. James,

    You wrote: “Has FFOZ changed it’s stance regarding Gentiles and the Torah? I’m not sure (I didn’t specifically query Toby before writing this review).”

    Confusion happens when there’s two conflicting messages. FFOZ isn’t the first group to do this. Christianity did it with the law. They would say “the law has been nailed to the cross! we’re not under the law anymore!” But then they would say “may we never forget the Ten Commandments!”

    Like mainstream Christianity, FFOZ wants to have its cake and eat it too. They want to attract two distinct groups: (1) the gentiles who left FFOZ because of FFOZ’s change in doctrine regarding Torah; (2) the gentiles who don’t know about or care about the Torah (i.e. mainstream Christians).

    I have to believe that Toby is smart enough to know that he is sending mixed signals. He’s a smart guy, right? So what’s going on there???

    Sincerely,

    Peter

  2. James, thank you for your thorough review of the various articles in issue 109 of Messiah Journal, and thank you for your own contribution. You asked:

    Has FFOZ changed it’s stance regarding Gentiles and the Torah? … it isn’t quite the same position as the viewpoint FFOZ has previously referred to as “Divine Invitation.”

    The short answer is “No, absolutely not. We have not changed our position on Divine Invitation.”

    Remember the time we had coffee together and I shared with you that FFOZ never intended the term, “Divine Invitation” to become a title for a theological position? Well I guess it did—much to our disappointment. Worse yet, our critics and disillusioned constituents over-reacted and caricaturized Divine Invitation to mean, “Gentiles can keep the Torah if they want, but they don’t have to.” On the contrary, from the outset (Messiah Journal 101), we made it clear that the “invitation” and non-obligatory type of language applies only to the specific sign-commandments and markers of Jewish identity: “specifically to aspects of the Torah which comprise Jewish identity: circumcision, dietary standards, festivals, calendar, Sabbath, etc.” (Messiah Journal 101).

    We stated:

    A Gentile believer might rightfully ask, “Does Divine-Invitation Theology mean that I don’t have to keep Torah?” As regards the moral and ethical authority of the Torah, Gentile believers are under the same obligation as Jewish believers. The writings of the apostles and the teaching of Yeshua are all ethically centered, and they are all founded squarely on the Torah of Moses. As regards the Jewish distinctives of Torah, Gentile believers are granted an opportunity to participate. (Messiah Journal 101)

    Toby’s article simply continues the process of fleshing out and defining the apostolic position regarding Gentiles and Torah. The only new material here involves the logical application of Acts 15 which is where we have been pointing people all along. Toby already presented some of this material in HaYesod.

    So much got clouded when we presented our views at that time on Gentile obligation to the Torah. We had vocal and harsh critics doing their best to try to redefine our positions; we had alarmism taking place, gossip and assumptions, and a general misunderstanding of what we were saying. I think this article further develops, in our own terms and language, how the commandments intersect the life of the Gentile believer. So yes, you are exactly correct when you say,

    “It seems (and this is just a guess) that FFOZ is doing what I’m doing: continuing to explore and investigate God, the Bible, and a life of faith and allowing their understanding of each of these to evolve progressively.”

    We will never stop the search and hope that we can continue to communicate it more clearly and passionately than ever. (You should take a look at our latest work on Acts 15 in Torah Club Volume Four as well.)

  3. @Peter: Boaz answered your questions, so I don’t believe I have to build upon his words.

    @Boaz: Thanks for your comments and the clarification. I admit that I suspected you had not changed your stance, but from an objective reader’s point of view, the question had to be asked.

    You said:

    “Toby’s article simply continues the process of fleshing out and defining the apostolic position regarding Gentiles and Torah. The only new material here involves the logical application of Acts 15 which is where we have been pointing people all along. “

    I don’t know if you’re saying that your current theological position and understanding is fully formed and static, or if it ever undergoes any sort of changes (even minor ones) as new information and insights come to light as the result of study and discourse. I know as an individual, my position is the latter but as an organization, I understand FFOZ has to establish a firm foundation and produce teachings from that place.

    But knowing you as I do, I’d like to think that FFOZ is not only a teaching organization, but a “living and learning” organization that continues to develop and grow, even as we individuals develop and grow as disciples of the Master.

    I appreciate your insights and your efforts. Thanks, again.

  4. Peter,

    Do you get our materials? Have you read my other articles on this subject? If not I would highly recommend you do so before making such comments. Also please read Boaz’s comments above.

    I am fully aware that people disagree with our position and I understand where they are coming from because I too was once there. Everyone has the right to disagree and I completely respect that. However, I grow weary of people saying our shift was motivated by something other than what we felt the Scriptures were really saying. We did not change our position to gain more constituents, more sales, or to appeal to mainstream Christianity and/or Messianic Judaism. We changed because we felt we were wrong in our interpretation of Scripture. That’s what motivated us period. It was a costly decision but one that we all agree was the right one.

    We can debate the interpretation of Scripture and you can disagree with my conclusions but this endless slander needs to end.

    Shalom,
    Toby

  5. I hope Boaz doesn’t mind me saying this, but I’ve heard him remark more than once about how people’s attitudes have become increasingly hostile toward FFOZ since the organization has changed its perspective. In fact, when Boaz first announced the change, I was one of the people who was angry. I felt hurt and betrayed, as if everything I had been taught was the truth had suddenly become a lie. I had two choices: to revile FFOZ and stick to my guns as a One Law proponent, or to believe that FFOZ made their change in good faith and for good reasons, and to investigate whether or not those reasons were indeed valid.

    It took me a long time and a lot of different experiences, some of which are unique to me as an individual, a husband, and a father (since my wife and children are [non-Messianic] Jewish), but I did find the value in that changed and learned to change myself, by the grace of God. I think if I didn’t have all those varied experiences, I too would have ended up “loving Jews but hating Judaism.” One of the hardest things a person or a group has to do is take a good, hard look at the foundational assumptions by which we define ourselves and our lives. Then, upon facing dissonance, we have to do something even harder.

    Change, and then endure the ire and disdain of those who feel betrayed because we didn’t stay the same forever.

    Good job on the article, Toby. Hopefully, amid a sea of critics and those people who will feel angry and hurt by your words, my complement and appreciation won’t be the last.

    Blessings.

  6. Each of these statement’s and reply’s have great merit. To those unfamiliar with Messianic Judaism, I can see how it would cause great confusion. After all the mainstream Christian seminaries only tree top the scriptures. Therefore what is being brought from the pulpit is a tree top discipleship training. A lesson in whatever is popular. People have been taught to fear returning to Judaism. Not embrace it for what it is. A way of drawing closer to Hashem through Y’shua. My only negative comment in regards to these articles is the fact that they could be construed as too complex for the common man. Explain why this is different from the “judaizers” of old. Then I believe more will come to understand and accept these teachings. I hope this helps. Even if only a little.

  7. Dale said, “My only negative comment in regards to these articles is the fact that they could be construed as too complex for the common man.”

    I certainly agree. Messiah Journal is a bit involved and those reading it have to be very initiated. FFOZ is constantly working on ways to communicate these issues on a more popular and simpler level. Our developing TV show will be one for the masses and we are working on, or considering, keeping Messiah Journal for a more scholarly debate forum for these issues–while resurrecting the old Messiah Magazine for a more simpler and visually enhanced communication tool.

  8. Greetings Dale, and welcome.

    Actually, my understanding of what Christian seminaries teach (based on my reading of several NT scholars) is that the seminary students are provided with a very in-depth education but that when these students become ordained Pastors, the infrequently take what they have learned and display it in full to their congregations. The rationale for this is the concern that most Christians would find controversies such as inerrancy of the Bible (among others) too disturbing. The perception is that most Christians want to be comforted and reassured when they go to church, not be presented with a lot of difficult questions and few completely satisfying answers.

    I’m not trying to “beat up” the church, but this seems to be human nature and sadly, most Christian churches submit to the will of the crowd in order to keep the crowd in church. I don’t know if I’m being exactly unfair or not, however I do acknowledge that there are a great many Christians who love God and do the will of Christ in feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and many of the other mitzvot he taught. The “church” is only as effective as the disciples of Christ, and they are many and varied.

    As far as the complexity of Toby’s article goes, I’m sure it could have been a lot more complex. It’s true that, for a modern magazine article, it was a tad long (it takes about 15 minutes to read), but how much accuracy and authenticity should be sacrificed in order to appeal to the widest possible audience? That’s one of the reasons why people like me review articles and books, so that the reading audience has some idea if they really want to buy and read a publication on topics of interest.

    The concern of “Judaizing” by Messianic Judaism to the church will probably always be there. The minute you say “Jesus” and “the Law” in the same sentence, if part of that sentence doesn’t include “the Law was replaced by grace”, then much of your Christian audience is going to go “bye-bye”. To be fair, that’s because they were taught to respond that way. Those people who want to go beyond that simple position will pursue reading articles such as this one and then make up their minds about it. All I can do as a reviewer is present a picture and a recommendation. It’s up to God to change minds and inspire hearts.

  9. I really appreciate the discussion as I had never thought about following the teachings of the Old Testament. While I have studied it at Bible College, I am now at the age where it seems i understand more in view of life experiences. So now is the time to go back and rediscover all of the commandments of the Jewish faith. I thank the writers above for prompting me to do some studying as well as the continual evaluation of my living and setting priorities that are pleasing to Gd. Thanks.

  10. You are correct in what you have stated. I am happy that the Messiah Magazine could be “resurrected”. (No pun intended.) I was a seminary student for all of 2 years. (New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary). What I experienced there was not what I would call in depth teaching. In fact, when discussing the topic of predestination (sometimes I will play devils advocate for the sake of discussion), I was summarily sanctioned to the court of idiots by several of the so called resident scholars. It was actually through Rabbi Dale Cohen that I really discovered what I was missing. He put me in touch with an online Yeshiva course which has helped me greatly in understanding how we are to follow Torah. I am not perfect mind you. Nor shall I be this side of Glory. But, my understanding of what Y’shua taught and expects of me has cleared up greatly. The language is still difficult for me to fully comprehend, but it is coming with a great deal of time and dedication.

    James I really appreciate the time you take to review the articles. Boaz, I hope to be able to meet you in person one day. (This side of Heaven of course.) Stay faithful and committed. This discussion has been very uplifting and exhilarating.

  11. @ Boaz,

    You wrote: “As regards the moral and ethical authority of the Torah, Gentile believers are under the same obligation as Jewish believers. The writings of the apostles and the teaching of Yeshua are all ethically centered, and they are all founded squarely on the Torah of Moses. As regards the Jewish distinctives of Torah, Gentile believers are granted an opportunity to participate. (Messiah Journal 101)”

    I would love to publicly debate you on this. You’re attempting to create racial divisions in New Covenant Torah. This is wrong and I’m one of a handful of people in the country who could articulate persuasively why it’s wrong. Any chance you’ll be in Richmond in 2012? We could discuss the ground rules for the debate at your convenience if you’re interested. Actually, you could team up with David Rudolph of Tikvat Israel (also in Richmond) if he’s interested in such a thing. He could help you out in the debate because he wrote a doctoral dissertation at Cambridge that touched upon these issues.

    @ Toby,

    I’m familiar with your teachings. I disagree with them because they are not Biblical. The offer for a debate is open to you as well. (BTW, correct me if I’m wrong because it’s been a long time since law school: I thought slander involved a false statement about someone. Everything I said about your teachings is accurate. Which statement is false?).

    Your Brother in Yeshua,

    Peter

  12. Peter, it’s fairly unlikely that Boaz, Toby, or for all I know, David Rudolph will agree to enter into a face-to-face or online debate with you, given the time constraints placed on them by their ministries. I can appreciate that you have a perspective you want to discuss (and as an avid blogger, I can hardly argue against self-expression), but if you have a blog, or are willing to create one, why don’t you spell out your entire perspective there, including detailed citations? That way, you don’t have to wait until someone agrees to engage you in debate. You’ll also be able to transmit a more complete message than the limitations of blog comments allow.

    You describe yourself as “one of a handful of people in the country who could articulate persuasively” against the position held by FFOZ and a number of “Jewish-oriented” Messianic groups. Perhaps it’s time for you to create a forum that allows you to more fully express yourself.

    Just a suggestion.

  13. Boaz,

    You wrote, “…we made it clear that the “invitation” and non-obligatory type of language applies only to the specific sign-commandments and markers of Jewish identity: “specifically to aspects of the Torah which comprise Jewish identity: circumcision, dietary standards, festivals, calendar, Sabbath, etc.” (Messiah Journal 101).”

    I`m curious how you reconcile this with Yeshayahu 56, which says, ‘Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to HaShem say, “HaShem will surely separate me from his people”;’ (v.3) … ‘“And the foreigners who join themselves to HaShem, to minister to him, to love the name of HaShem, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the [Shabbat] and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord HaShen, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”’ (vv.6-8, ESV)

    Does the passage not plainly say that the very “identity markers” of the strangers who join themselves to HaShem include the observance of the Shabbat?

    Is not this what Shaul is saying in Colossians 2?

    ‘Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a [Shabbat]. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Messiah.’ (vv.16-17, ESV)

    Is Shaul not saying they are a shadow of things to come, so do them?

    He continues, ‘Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism…’ (v.18) And, ‘If with Messiah you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?’ (vv.20-22, ESV)

    If Shaul is saying eat and drink, then is he not also saying keep the festival and new moon and Shabbat?

    Does he not likewise say, ‘Let us therefore celebrate the festival…’? (1 Corinthians 5:8, ESV)

    And where does Shaul plainly say Gentiles should go ahead and eat what is not ‘biblically kosher’?

    Shalom,
    Charles

  14. James,
    It is not just for the sake of advertizing that I mention that on my blog I have two articles regarding chapter 15 of Acts. What I wrote almost two years ago seems more relevant all the time. It is a bit wearying that after almost twenty years of “Messianic” walking about in the diaspora I find that there is still the ongoing debate as to how correct it may be for a “Gentile” to walk in love and wear tzitziot at the same time. Which is more important? I sure we all know the answer to that question. So why is there still a question?

    Russ

  15. Charles, I assume you must not be aware of FFOZ or VOD resources. No where have we discouraged Gentiles from keeping the Sabbath. We encourage and support Sabbath observance for all of God’s people. We celebrate and affirm those that simple mark the sabbath and respect and support those that need to have their toilet paper pre-torn.

    So, in the Spirit of the Dediache, keep as much of the Torah as you are able.

    I have no idea what you mean or are asking when you say, “And where does Shaul plainly say Gentiles should go ahead and eat what is not ‘biblically kosher’?”

    If you are referring to our forthcoming book entitled, “Biblically Kosher” I would encourage you to read it prior to assuming what we are saying. Do you eat Kosher? If you are like most in the Hebrew roots movement I think the book would be challenging for you. Some will discover that they do not hold to keep the standard of Kosher that the Bible presents.

    Grace and peace, Boaz

  16. @Charles: I know I’m not Boaz, but let me try to field your query. You might want to actually read Toby’s article because I think it answers most of your questions. Toby acknowledges (and I think I put this in my review) that Gentiles have always been able to make burnt offerings at the Temple. There’s really nothing Isaiah said in your quote that FFOZ would disagree with (Isaiah never talked about Gentiles who attached themselves to Hashem and remained Gentiles wearing tzitzit, and such). Toby’s article even speaks of records documenting Gentile Christians eating kosher well into the 2nd Century CE.

  17. @Russ: Are your articles online where I could find them?

    You said: “It is a bit wearying that after almost twenty years of “Messianic” walking about in the diaspora I find that there is still the ongoing debate as to how correct it may be for a “Gentile” to walk in love and wear tzitziot at the same time.”

    I don’t think these sorts of conversations will subside anytime soon and in fact, I think they’ll accellerate as time progresses toward the (eventual) return of the Messiah. The question is, as far as the specialness and choseness of the Jewish people goes, can we Gentiles just do what they do out of the desire of our heart, or did God ever reserve something special just for them? Would it be such a crime and such a disappointment for the Goyim disciples if the Jewish disciples had a unique status with God (not better, just unique)?

    I don’t wear tzitzit or lay tefillin at this point and if it turns out (as I believe) that these are reserved for the Jewish people, I am quite OK with that. I’m just glad God loves me too, even to send His only begotten Son to die so I can live.

  18. James,

    I meant for them to debate me in a public forum such as Tikvat Israel or perhaps some other location in Richmond. Not online. Face to face. I like it to be face to face.

    And I’ll think about your suggestion as regarding the blog.

    Sincerely,

    Peter

  19. Peter said: “I meant for them to debate me in a public forum such as Tikvat Israel or perhaps some other location in Richmond. Not online. Face to face. I like it to be face to face.”

    That wouldn’t do as much good as something accessable to a large number of people. Information that reaches only a limited audience tends to get shoved off to one side and eventually die. If you really want to make an impact, you have to be able to reach large numbers of Christians, Messianics, and Hebrew Roots people. Maybe if a video of the debate was posted on YouTube.

    I can’t speak for any of the people you want to debate, but I can tell you that I doubt most folks of repute would want to debate you for a couple of reasons (this is just my theory and nothing I’ve heard from anyone you have named). This sort of debate solves about as much as the political debates that periodically appear on television. Each person states their own position and why they think it’s right, and then proceeds to tell the audience why they think the other guy is wrong (which can get ugly). These debates actually solve nothing and the audience continues to be polarized based on their original belief systems. Also, people of faith and good character, understanding the potentially divisive nature of such venues, usually avoid them in order to not participate in an event that does not (apparently) promote peace among the disciples of Christ and that will result in the opposite of encouraing the “flock” of Messiah.

    I’m not saying that your desire to debate some of the more notable people in the Christian/Messianic/Hebrew Roots movements has poor motives, but if you think blog comment discussions have the potential for the expression of hostile emotions, imagine how much more so is the potential in a face-to-face debate.

    I think you’l get more “mileage” out of a venue, such as a blog, where you can have the liberty to express your opinions in a fully-constructed form, citing your expertise in religious matters and giving full transparency regarding your qualifications, education, and the process by which you arrive at your conclusions.

    JMHO.

  20. “hile this is good topic to dialog about I personlly feel many among the Messianic body miss the true “Jewish” understanding to “Torah”.

    First off the law of Torah is not enforced today. If I find you driving your car on Shabbos I cannot stone you to death or legally punish you in anyway shape or form. Why not? Because the Beis HMikdash is not standing and there is no legal Sanhedrin. Thus, as long as the original legal system of Israel is not establish it’ constitution (Torah) cannot be legally enforced. Sounds stupid? It’s not. This is a topic that came up at a local kollel one time in which the Rabbi told us this is why Rabbinic Law has taken presidence over Torah Law. Rabbinic Law by its Beit Din can enforce certain fines of small judgements if a violation of halacha is occured upon.

    With this in mind many Messianics debate positions of Torah without having formal knowledge of wheather or not such matters of Torah are enforced or not enforced upon gentiles. And this is also why Rabbinic Judaism looks at Messianics with such a frown because many Messianics attempt to identify themselves in a system of Judaism overlooked by Rabbinic Law and not Torah Law. According to Rabbinic Law gentiles are not obligated to follwer Torah. If a goy wishes to follow Torah then they convert and are eligible to make Aliyah where Eretz Yisrael can be there home. Rabbinic Law see’s that since there is no Torah Law enforced that gentiles who keep the 7 laws of Noach (4 outlines in Acts 15) are able to enter into Olam Haba, thus Torah is not an obligation for Eternal Life according to Rabbinic Law. From my personal review, it seems FFOZ falls along the same understanding of the Rabbis except with belief in Y’shua.

  21. James,

    My hope was that it would be videotaped to reach a large audience.

    Also, why do you think audiences love to see experts debate in their field? Because this promotes intellectual honesty. You get to see who really knows what they’re talking about and who has the most persuasive evidence. And, sure, it’s also dramatic.

    That’s why, if left unmoderated, a debate can get out of hand. But that’s why we have moderators—like yourself—who can make sure that the debaters stick to the ground rules.

    I don’t think they’d accept either. They are afraid that someone will poke holes in their false doctrines. This is not slander by the way because what I’m saying is true and the New Testament gives us a responsibility to confute false doctrine. Paul wasn’t slandering Peter when he withstood him to his face and, in front of everyone, explained how Peter was promoting false doctrine.

    Shalom,

    Peter

  22. Shalom Alechem To All,

    It seems like FFOZ should start their articles off with, “O.K, first, this is what we ARE NOT SAYING…”. We have a love-hate relationship in which I love them again.

    Zachary, La.
    Sidney W.

  23. @Peter: I am in no way qualified to moderate such a debate, nor to I have the slightest desire to do so. I’ve seen what happens when Boaz (for example) gets up in front of a crowd and they try to “debate” him. No thanks.

    You said: “I don’t think they’d accept either. They are afraid that someone will poke holes in their false doctrines.”

    That’s a pretty bold statement and while you assert that it is not slander, please be extremely careful with what you say and why you’re saying it. It is impossible for me to experience your “heart” the way God does and communicating over the Internet doesn’t help any. I have my face-to-face experiences with Boaz and our friendship to tell me who he is, but unfortunately, I have only these wee debates in various blog comments to show me a small part of who you are. In any real sense, I don’t know you at all (last name, where you live, your education, your background, your personality, your motives, and so on).

    You say you’re an “expert” and you want to debate other authorities in Christianity/Messianism to reveal their “false doctrines” because you are one of the few people who have the “true doctrine” (I’m paraphrasing). Please don’t take this in the wrong way Peter, but do you know what that sounds like?

    One of the reasons I’ve encouraged you to create a blog is so you can more completely and transparently allow others, including me, to have a better look at you, so to speak. For better or for worse, what you see here on my blog is who I am. I wear my heart on my sleeve, which isn’t always comfortable, but I find that it’s necessary in order to show people not only what I write, but the man behind the keyboard.

    You might want to do the same.

    @Boaz: My Hebrew is more than rusty, it’s thoroughly oxidized. What did you say?

  24. Boaz,

    I am familiar with FFOZ, and I respect your work, and I am thankful for your diligence, but I must speak up in regards to the perspective you are presenting above. I know you encourage and support Shabbat observance and Torah for all, but as you plainly say above, certain parts of the Torah are identity markers that are not “obligatory” for Gentiles, and I believe that the position of FFOZ in this regard is leading many away from the truth, in this regard. In fact, a prominent Messianic “Rabbi” recently presented to me FFOZ’s repentance from One Law, for example, to insist that “we are not under the legal obligation to keep the law.”

    But HaShem said, for example, that the very identity marker of the stranger who is joined to HaShem is that they hold fast to His covenant and keep His Shabbat, and Shaul instructs Gentiles to observe the Shabbat, and the feasts, and furthermore he says that Gentiles have been grafted into Yisrael (Romans 11:17-24), into the people to whom HaShem gave His Torah, into the people whom these Gentiles were once far off from, but who are no longer strangers and foreigners in Messiah Yeshua, but fellow citizens (like Paul’s status in Rome per Acts 22:28) with the saints and of the household of God, as Shaul says (Ephesians 2:11-22).

    As Messiah Yeshua says, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’ (Mattai 28:19-20, ESV)

    And he says, ‘whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…’ (Mattai 5:19, ESV)

    So then this, too, the Master has said to all nations that would join themselves to HaShem,
    to minister to Him, to love the name of HaShem, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Shabbat and does not profane it, and holds fast His covenant… for they are Yisrael if they abide in Messiah Yeshua, and ‘whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.’ (1 John 2:6, ESV)

    With regards to eating ‘biblically kosher,’ I’m simply responding to what you are saying. I am not referring to an upcoming book that I have not read. If eating the way HaShem has instructed Yisrael to eat is required only for physical descendants of Avraham, according to the flesh, where does Shaul plainly say this?

    But he says, ‘all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.’ (Romans 2:12-13, ESV)

    And Ya’akov says, ‘If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.’ (Ya’akov 2:8-10, ESV)

    As the Master says, the first commandment is love God, and the second is love your neighbour, as Didache reiterates, and on these two commandments hinge all the Torah and the Prophets (Mattai 22:34-40). As Shaul says, circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but a new creation (Galatians 6:15). And he says, circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but faith working through love (Galatians 5:6). And he says, circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God [is what matters] (1 Corinthians 7:19). Does he not say this to Gentiles?

    How can one then conclude that Gentile followers of Messiah Yeshua, who ought to love God and their neighbour, just as Jewish followers of Messiah Yeshua ought, are not obligated to fulfill any of the Torah? Has Shaul himself not plainly said otherwise? And where he may or may not have said ‘it’s okay to eat,’ did he say that explicitly somewhere? Has he really somewhere said, “Now you Gentiles in Messiah Yeshua who are grafted in to Yisrael are not required to eat the way Yisrael is commanded by God to eat?” Are not all of the Torah and the Prophets the love of God or the love of neighbour, or both? Would it not then be a failure to love God or neighbour to reject some of them?

    How then are they merely identity markers for Jewish people? Are they not identity markers for Yisrael? Is not Jew and Gentile Yisrael in Messiah Yeshua? One new man? (Ephesians 2)

    Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. And this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments…

    ‘…most of them… unless we’re Gentiles by birth… then some of them we are not obligated to keep…’

    Is that what it says?

    Grace and mercy and peace in Messiah Yeshua,
    Charles

  25. Hi all,
    Thanks to Boaz recommendation, have just encountered your blog and this conversation through Facebook James. Will be following you now.
    Discussions around Acts 15 absolutely fascinating.
    Very much like to learn what Peters full position is.
    Love the spirit of humility in which these conversations are conducted.
    Praying that you will all continue to disagree agreeably :0
    Blessings,
    Andrew

  26. Boaz and Toby’s claims here are a total fabrication.

    Tim Hegg In response to FFOZ’s “One Law and the Messianic Gentile” ( Messiah Jounal 101), wrote and article titled “an Assessment of ‘Divine invitation’ teaching,” where he tore this Bizarre “theology” to shreds. He demonstrates clearly how this organization is talking from both sides of their mouth. The article is available on Tim’s website Torahresourse.com for everyone to read. To my knowledge FFOZ never responded to the article, except to say that they are “too big” to join the frey. I guess they only join the frey on blogs that drink their kool-ade.

  27. Yechezkel,

    Gentile observance of the Torah is not simply the result of being unaware of what the rabbis teach. But one must choose between the rabbis and The Rabbi where their opinions differ.

    ‘When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Yeshua said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Perushim and Tzedukim.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Yeshua, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Perushim and Tzedukim.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Perushim and Tzedukim.’
    – Mattityahu 16:5-12

    ‘But woe to you, soferim and Perushim, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, soferim and Perushim, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single convert, and when he becomes a convert, you make him twice as much a child of Gihennom as yourselves. Woe to you, blind guides…’
    – Mattityahu 23:13-16

    ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore WHOEVER relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but WHOEVER does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the soferim and Perushim, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’
    – Mattityahu 5:17-20

    ‘But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.’
    – Mattityahu 23:8-10

    Shalom,
    Charles

  28. OK. That’s it, Dan.

    While I am all for frank and even “passionate” discourse, I will not let this conversation degrade into a “hate fest.” You’re personalizing conflict and deliberately making an individual the “bad guy” just because you disagree with his theology. I disagree with the Pope, but I don’t personally bash him or bring his personal life into it. Even when I disagree with you, I don’t make it personal. I insist you show others the same courtesy (feel free to slam and slander people on your own blog if you must).

    I can and will remove any comment that I feel crosses the line into juvenile insults, and please don’t suggest that I’m being unfair and that you have some sort of “right” to post anything you want on this blog. As the blog owner, I reserve the right to refuse to allow any comments I find offensive, and I don’t have to justify my decisions.

    Addendum: Upon a little more reflection, I have decided to close all comments on this blog post. The insults that have been posted here tell me that this conversation is now over. I’m sorry I have to become the “parent” and create limits for folks who should be adults but don’t behave in that manner. Everyone pause a moment, look in the mirror and ask yourselves if everything you’ve said here meets the approval of your Lord and Messiah to whom you at least say you are devoted?

    Peace.

  29. Hello all.
    As a Gentile believe in Yeshua and as a middle aged man living in Dublin (Ireland) i feel wholly unqualified to ‘butt in’ to this comments box.
    However… i will.
    My walk with G-d took a LONG break and my return to Him and our Master only occurred last year. When i left this walk i left Jesus, a Sunday congregation and a world in which ‘Torah’ was not applicable because if we believe in Jesus and kinda act nice everything will be ok.
    Last year G-d started placing massive sign posts in my life and taking my wife and i on a journey akin to a bucket of ice water in the face. When G-d woke up my heart it was Yeshua waiting for me.
    I don’t mean to ‘testimonial’ but this is not an uncommon story. Torah and the law are becoming a pulsing heart in the gentile followers of Yeshua. More and more are seeing that main stream church is guiding them astray (however unknowingly). I know it sounds harsh but it is true. Sabbath is not Sunday ( i know you know) millions keep it. It is a worry. Especially as i am the common man, not really able for such scholarly debates and learning. I try to keep Torah in my own humble way.

    What i really want to say is.. FFOZ is a really important resource and ministry for people like me. We in Ireland are led by a church that is MAN led. We do not have messianic churches or hebrew roots groups and rely on people like Boaz and Toby and the rest of the FFOZ team to give us teaching and insight where we cannot find it ourselves.

    Debate on ‘did you mean’, ‘are you saying’ is all well and good. As long as the black and white of G-ds intention is made clear. I personally feel Torah is something us Gentiles should observe.

    …. reading this back im not sure i actually made a point lol but i feel better.

    Thanks all 🙂

  30. Question concerning gentile obligation and “sign commandments”. In Ephesians 6:1-3 Paul states:

    “1 Children, what you should do in union with the Lord is obey your parents, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” — this is the first commandment that embodies a promise — 3 “so that it may go well with you, and you may live long in the Land.(Ex 20:12)”
    Stern, D. H. (1989). Jewish New Testament : A translation of the New Testament that expresses its Jewishness (1st ed.) (Eph 6:1-3). Jerusalem, Israel; Clarksville, Md., USA: Jewish New Testament Publications.

    1.How is Paul justified in giving this promise to the Ephesians (IF) and a big (IF) this promise was for Israel? and then….

    2.How is Paul justified in saying this “commandment that embodies a promise” is obligatory(Exodus 20:12) but not the “commandment” directly before it,i.e., Sabbath observance(Exodus 20:11)?

    It would seem VV 11-12 would be obligatory to a certain group of people; those who join themselves to HaShem(Is.56)?

  31. Greetings, Sidney.

    I think more than a few folks thought FFOZ was expanding their original understanding of the distinctions between Gentile and Jewish Torah observance. I talked to Boaz about it and he told me that this really is what they’ve been thinking all along, since their theological restructuring, but that they haven’t presented their stance at this level of detail before.

    I can’t speak for Toby of FFOZ, so you’ll probably have to direct any questions you have on this matter to them.

  32. Shalom

    I enjoyed Toby Janicki’s article and your review James.

    In the article Toby starts off basically by saying that the 4 things decided
    upon in Acts 15 are just a summary of a wider body of Torah for Gentiles to observe.

    Now although this may be true, after last weeks parasha (Achrei Mot & Kadoshim) however,
    I do not think that this was what was in their mind at the time.

    Lets start with the following verses from Acts 15:5-6:
    “But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed,
    saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command [them] to
    keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to
    consider of this matter.”

    Now when we read this from our perspective I think that we are missing
    what the actual issue was under discussion because we interpret it
    literally. If however one takes a moment to reflect on what this means
    from a Jewish/Pharisee perspective of the time then the issue, that I
    think is being raised, is “what must Gentiles do to be part of/accepted by
    the assembly”. Notice that it was BELIEVERS from the sect of the
    Pharisees raising this issue and their perspective was that to be part of
    the community of believers one had to be circumcised.

    So the next thing that happens is that Peter/Kepha says that God has
    accepted the Gentiles, and so should they (vs 7-9). James
    reiterates/confirms this (vs 14-18) and then determines 4 requirements
    that they should keep (vs 19-20).

    The question is what do these 4 things have to do with the original issue
    of “being part of the assembly” ? The answer is that all 4 of these
    things have something in common. The thing they have in common is that if
    you transgression in these things, it leads to being “cut off from his
    people”.

    Things sacrificed to idols:
    Lev 17:7+9 And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils,
    after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever to
    them throughout their generations. …. And brings it [qorban] not to the
    door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer it to YHVH; even that
    man shall be cut off from among his people.

    Fornication:
    Lev 18:29 For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the
    souls that commit [them] shall be cut off from among their people. (also
    Lev 20:17)

    Lev 20:18 And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and
    shall uncover her nakedness; he has exposed her fountain, and she has
    uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off
    from among their people.

    Blood:
    Lev 17:10 And whatsoever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers
    that sojourn among you, that eats any manner of blood; I will even set my
    face against that soul that eats blood, and will cut him off from among
    his people. (also Lev 7:27)

    These then were the essentials that they needed to know about, so as to be
    able to fellowship and not be cut off from the assembly.

    There are about 17 mitzvot that reference being “cut off”. Four are
    related to Moedim, six to Qorbanot and the Tabernacle/Temple, four to Acts
    15, and then three others. So these 13 others, as well as the rest of Torah, they would learn in due course when reading Moses in the synagogues.

    This comment is not meant in a critical light but more with the idea of sharing a possible insight with regards to this part of Scripture.

    Blessings
    Jurgen

  33. Greetings, Jurgen.

    Thanks for your comment. It’s still early here (around 4:35 a.m) so my brain hasn’t fully engaged yet, but I wanted to acknowledge your comments. As Toby pointed out in his article, the implications of the “Jerusalem letter” are complex and lead to many conclusions, not all of them being incredibly obvious. As the “hebraic consciousness” of the church continues to develop in the months and years ahead, I suspect that believers from all different backgrounds will turn their gaze back to the beginning of our faith and consider what it means for us now…and in preparation for the Messiah’s return.

    Blessings.

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