Jesus, Halakhah, and the Evolution of Judaism, Part 4

Her unifying thesis is that modern Jewish thinkers invented the notion that Judaism is a religion in response to the distinctive challenges of European modernity. In the pre-modern period, “it simply was not possible…to conceive Jewish religion, nationality, and what we call culture as distinct from one another.” This was because Jewish communities were corporate entities whose authority over their members was recognized by the state. The community collected taxes, adjudicated civil disputes through rabbinic courts, and enforced halakhic norms by punishing religious deviants through fines, corporal punishments, or excommunication.

-Michah Gottlieb
“Are We All Protestants Now?”
from his review of Leora Batnitzky’s book
How Judaism Became a Religion: An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thought
at Jewish Review of Books

Why Native American religions, when scholars acknowledge that Native American tribes do not traditionally distinguish between religion and the rest of life?

-William T. Cavanaugh
Chapter 1: “The Anatomy of the Myth”
The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict

When I was reviewing Part 3 of this series, (which inspired a very spirited conversation) I realized that there were actually two overlapping topics involved. The first I’ve already attempted to address, which is whether or not Rabbinic authority is Divinely sanctioned or inspired. The second is implied but you have to be paying attention to see it. Is Judaism a “religion?”

Gottlieb’s review presents Batnitzky’s understanding of “the Protestant conception of religion” this way:

  1. “Religion denotes a sphere of life separate and distinct from all others” such as “politics, morality, science and economics.”
  2. Religion is a “largely private affair, not public.”
  3. Religion is “voluntary and not compulsory.”
  4. Religion is about “personal belief or faith,” which she contrasts with the view that religion is primarily about ritual practice or “performance.”

This very much reminds me of a significant point Cavanaugh made in his book about the problem in defining religion as a separate entity from other social, political, and cultural realms. Prior to the rise of the modern, western culture, it was impossible to separate religion (Christian, Jewish, Islam) from those other entities. More specifically, for the Jewish people historically, being “Jewish” wasn’t just a matter of what you believed but rather, it was an individual’s full, lived, experience and identity, biologically, culturally, ethnically, nationally, and communally.

The fact that Judaism has multiple expressions, both in ancient and modern times doesn’t change this understanding. Each community established and maintained its own local, internal standards across the boundaries of politics, social norms, morality, legality, spirituality, and more. Most likely, before a certain point in human history and development, so did Christianity, at least according to Cavanaugh.

While none of this speaks to the idea that the Rabbinic sages ever had “Divine authority” to establish binding halakhah for their communities, it does address strongly the right of Judaism to define itself biologically, conceptually, ethnically, culturally, educationally, communally, and behaviorally.

In Part 3 of this series, I presented a challenge to the Divine authority of the Rabbis as offered in a paper written by Tim Hegg: What Version of the Mishnah did Paul Read? (PDF). Hegg doesn’t specifically address the Jewish right to self-definition or self-government, but, for the Messianic Jewish believer, he does say that “there is no historical nor biblical case for accepting oral Torah as divinely sanctioned. Nevermind that all that encompasses the Talmud cannot simply be reduced down to the concept of “oral Torah,” as the initial writings of the Talmud (Babylonian and Jerusalem) and their subsequent commentaries, arguments, and judgments cross multiple expressions and sects of Judaism over nearly 2,000 years and are incredibly vast and complex. The question isn’t whether or not ancient oral Law is Mishnah. The question is whether or not the Mishnaic Rabbis have Divine authority to write Mishnah.

But setting aside the Biblical implications and matters of “Divine inspiration” for a moment, let’s take a look at Talmud in a different manner (I’m going to be compressing a lot of history into just a few sentences, so please be forgiving). After the destruction of the Second Temple and the exile of most (but not all) Jews from “Palestine,” Jews, as a people, were at dire risk of dissolving and assimilating into the surrounding cultures. The very heart of Judaism up to that point, the Temple in Holy Jerusalem, had been leveled and pillaged. The majority of the Jewish people had once again been exiled; barred from the Land that was the home and lifeblood of every Jew. What most defined Judaism and Jewish people was now gone and within a few generations, everything that history had once recognized as Jewish would follow.

The “salvation” of the Jewish people was that compilation of texts, wisdom, and rulings that we consider the Talmud. No, it was not an immediate “fix” and in fact, it would be centuries before the Talmud would become the central feature in Jewish life.

But it did become that central feature, replacing, in some manner, the Temple and the sacrifices with prayers and charity. Instead of Jews making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover or Sukkot, they fervently beseeched God to bring the Messiah and to restore all that was lost. Judaism was functionally reorganized to exist and in many instances, to thrive, as locally internal communities which both adapted to historical and environmental imperatives and preserved the essence of Judaism, the practice of the Torah and the mitzvot, and the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, both as individual and communal faith.

But as we’ve seen, it was impossible to separate the religion from the people. The definition for everything that was (and is) Jewish was (and is) encapsulated in that expansive collection of tomes known as the Talmud.

No one in their right mind is going to dispute the Jewish right to self-identification and self-definition. No Christian is simply going to walk into a synagogue and start lambasting the Rabbi, the Cantor, and the worshipers for following “man-made traditions” while ignoring the Bible.

However, the world of Messianic Judaism is unique. There are few halalaic Jews currently occupying Messianic Judaism, but their number is growing. Imagine being Jewish in that fully lived, experiential, educational, cultural, communal, ethnic (and so on) manner I previously described. Now imagine that fully lived Jew coming to faith in Jesus (Yeshua) as the one, true Messiah of God. This is not a Jew, like so many in the past, who has converted from Judaism to Christianity, leaving Mishnah and Torah in the dust. This is a Jew who has come to faith in the Jewish Messiah and who sees no dissonance in remaining fully and completely Jewish and acknowledging that the “Maggid of Natzaret” is the prophesied Moshiach.

Why can’t this Jew continue to live out the same Jewish experience he or she always has? Why can’t this person remain a Jew in every sense of the word, including all those words I used above to define a Jew? The Talmud, the historic and ancient Rabbis, the judgments, rulings, experiences, and everything else that is wrapped up in what is Jewish, cannot be separated out and compartmentalized for observant Jews (yes, different Jewish religious traditions do minimize certain aspects of that identity and Jews who are atheists may remove major portions of it altogether). For a Gentile and/or Christian individual or entity to demand that a Jew remove, discount, eliminate, or modify Talmud, halakhah, the mitzvot, and so on would result in removing Judaism from the observant Jew (Messianic or otherwise). What defines Judaism as Judaism would be gone.

Now, why in the world would Christians, including One Law, One Torah, and Hebrew Roots Christians, want to tell a Messianic Jew that, in order to be accepted by them and (in theory) by God, they had to do away with everything that made them Jewish?

If the Gentile Christians in these varied “Hebraic” Christian congregations and movements choose not to employ the Talmud or halakhah into their worship practices or lifestyles, it is probably for the best since they are not Jewish. But it is the height of presumptive arrogance to declare that any Jew who has faith in Yeshua as Messiah must dispense with the Talmud, and thus their Jewish identity, as well.

Whether the Talmud is an expression of the Divine will or not, it is illogical, unreasonable, and perhaps even a little cruel to demand that a Jew stop being a Jew in order to worship the Jewish Messiah. But by requiring that Messianic Jews devalue the Talmud, that’s exactly what many Gentile Christian pundits in the Hebrew Roots space are doing.

I’ve been accused of being overly concerned with the issue of Supersessionism, (I think “supersessionoia” was the term that was coined to describe me) but if you look at the dynamics I’ve been illustrating in this blog post, it seems rather plain that, even unintentionally, certain elements in the Hebrew Roots (One Law, One Torah, Two-house, etc…) movement are suggesting that the “Jewishness” of Jews in the Messianic movement be diminished in order to fulfill a Christian imperative.

My final note for this missive is one of irony. If written Torah, the Christian Bible, and Jesus are the only valid authorities for religious practice and lifestyle in the Hebrew Roots movement (including One Law/One Torah, and so on), then why do all of their groups and congregations follow a modern Jewish synagogue model when they worship? Why do all the men where kippot? Why do all the men wear tallit gadolim with tzitzit that are halalically correct? Why do they daven with modern Jewish siddurim? Why, in less than a week, will they construct their sukkot according to Rabbinically prescribed specifications?

In other words, why are you guys trying so hard to look and act Jewish when you’re not?

How can you disdain the authority of Jewish halakhah and Talmudic practice when virtually every religious act you diligently perform comes from the rulings and decisions of the Talmudic Rabbis?

Part 5 will continue with investigating the concept of “Messianic halakhah” and whether or not any of it apply to non-Jews within the various contexts of Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots.

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53 thoughts on “Jesus, Halakhah, and the Evolution of Judaism, Part 4”

  1. James,

    Did it diminish Judah’s “Jewishness” that there were converts coming into Israel and learning the Torah and Tradition? No, of course not. That’s why the term “supersessionoia” was coined. It describes the faulty logic that says converts to the faith of Israel are somehow eroding the identity of other Israelites. This is just as absurd as saying it somehow damages the identity of a natural born son when his father adopts a second son. Now, I grant you it has the potential to make the natural-born son extremely jealous. But it doesn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, hurt the natural-born son’s identity when the adopted son begins taking on the practices of the father. Hence, “supersessionoia” for such faulty thinking.

  2. I think that “supersessionoia” is actually a very positive thing to possess, a VALUABLE thing. All Jews and Christians should have it, but especially Christians. Those who don’t have it, they should look into acquiring it. Just imagine where the faith in Messiah would be, where Christians’ relationship with the Jewish people would be, where Israel would be in relation to Messiah today, if Christians had acute “supersessionoia” throughout the last few millenia.

  3. Peter, what are you talking about? I never mentioned Gentiles who have converted to Judaism. There is a well-established process for Gentiles to convert to the various Judaisms of our day and once the person converts, they are not to be treated any differently than a “born-Jew.” I have no complaints about converts.

    My issue is with One Law Gentiles (or any other Gentile Christian) presuming to tell Messianic Jews about how or if the Talmud should be applied to Jewish lives.

  4. “Did it diminish Judah’s “Jewishness” that there were converts coming into Israel and learning the Torah and Tradition? No, of course not.”

    Peter, I noticed that you are speaking from the Two House point of view again. I thought you dropped it?!

  5. Peter, what are you talking about? I never mentioned Gentiles who have converted to Judaism. There is a well-established process for Gentiles to convert to the various Judaisms of our day and once the person converts, they are not to be treated any differently than a “born-Jew.” I have no complaints about converts.

    Peter is correct, and this is why your arguments are invalid against One Law. You see, your view of conversion is different than our view, so from our perspective, of becoming fellow heirs and coming into the covenants by our faith in Messiah we are now responsible to the covenant we have now converted too. You actually agree with what I said, as you stated that gentiles who convert in Modern Judaism today, are not to be treated any differently than a born-Jew, it is just you disagree on how one converts, and then you anachronistically believe gentiles are somehow converting to Christianity, doesn’t make any sense. There, is the disconnect you seem to have a hard time seeing or maybe it is deliberate?

    My issue is with One Law Gentiles (or any other Gentile Christian) presuming to tell Messianic Jews about how or if the Talmud should be applied to Jewish lives.

    That is an over statement, instead we are dealing with the issue from our side of the table, which is different than your side of the table… we believe we are part of the same faith, you believe that gentiles have a separate faith apart from jews. This creates the whole dilemma we are dealing with. So from your perspective, we are leaving our Christian faith and going into a faith that is not ours and attacking theirs… But from a One Law perspective, we believe we are all fellowheirs, One Body, One Messiah, One Law, both in covenant relationship with God, though we are adopted, and they are natural, etc. So far, your argument misses One Law, instead it becomes more of a strawman, and from my perspective your view becomes racist… see the disconnect… We are claimed to be supperssionist and your shared view is claimed to be racist, so we both lose. 😀

  6. Zion said: “That is an over statement, instead we are dealing with the issue from our side of the table, which is different than your side of the table… we believe we are part of the same faith, you believe that gentiles have a separate faith apart from jews.”

    I believe that Christians and Messianic Jews give honor to the same Messiah and worship the same God, so in that we do have the same faith. However, we don’t have identical covenant responsibilities (we’re going to perpetually disagree on this one, I’m sure). As far as my investigation has gone thus far, I believe that the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and New Covenant are all primarily or exclusively directed at the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: the Jews. However, I’ve found that there are blessings in the Abrahamic and New Covenant that are specific to non-Jews through the Messiah. The Messiah is the hope of both Jews and Gentiles (Christians) but it is only through Jesus that we non-Jews have any covenant relationship with God.

    This isn’t racist, it’s reality. Only modern western culture requires that all people everywhere have access to all resources with no differentiation for background, history, culture, race, and in this case, type of covenant connection with God. God can choose and has indeed chosen the Jewish people as His “splendorous treasure” and given then the covenant of Sinai as their possession, along with the Land of Israel.

    In the Messianic realm, Jews are still Jews but are Messianic when they come to faith in Yeshua as Messiah. For we non-Jews, we become Messianic (but not Jewish or “Israelite”) when we also come to faith in the Messiah. The modern term for that is “Christian.” So far, that hasn’t been a problem in my life.

  7. I believe that Christians and Messianic Jews give honor to the same Messiah and worship the same God, so in that we do have the same faith. However, we don’t have identical covenant responsibilities (we’re going to perpetually disagree on this one, I’m sure).

    Of course we are going to disagree, I only brought all of this up to show you the actual argument as it seems you are missing. Your presumptions are not believable in my view. When you define Christians and Jews in context of the Apostolic Writings, you are being anachronistic, somehow you do not see this. Christianity did not exist in the Apostolic Writings, neither did the Apostles create Christianity… so your arguments are moot.

    As far as my investigation has gone thus far, I believe that the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and New Covenant are all primarily or exclusively directed at the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: the Jews.

    Something we can agree on!

    However, I’ve found that there are blessings in the Abrahamic and New Covenant that are specific to non-Jews through the Messiah. The Messiah is the hope of both Jews and Gentiles (Christians) but it is only through the Jesus that we non-Jews have any covenant relationship with God.

    I don’t know what you have found or how it lines with being fellowheirs and covenant members, but that is good that you realize covenant relationship happens in Messiah.

    This isn’t racist, it’s reality. Only modern western culture requires that all people everywhere have access to all resources with no differentiation for background, history, culture, race, and in this case, type of covenant connection with God.

    But again this misses the argument from a One Law perspective, we are talking about our religious faith and practice before God.

    In the Messianic realm, Jews are still Jews but are Messianic when they come to faith in Yeshua as Messiah. For we non-Jews, we become Messianic (but not Jewish or “Israelite”) when we also come to faith in the Messiah. The modern term for that is “Christian.” So far, that hasn’t been a problem in my life.

    What you are claiming lacks context of the scriptures, it maybe a nice opinion, but I base my religious faith and practice on scripture. Joining the national entity known as Israel does not mean one becomes a Jew… national citizen of any political entity does not change ones race… From a One Law perspective, a gentile does not, cannot and will not become a Jew.

  8. Zion said: Your presumptions are not believable in my view. When you define Christians and Jews in context of the Apostolic Writings, you are being anachronistic, somehow you do not see this. Christianity did not exist in the Apostolic Writings, neither did the Apostles create Christianity… so your arguments are moot.

    What you are claiming lacks context of the scriptures, it maybe a nice opinion, but I base my religious faith and practice on scripture.

    That said, there is nothing in scripture that requires non-Jewish people to take on board the full weight of the 613 mitzvot and become a homogeneous religious entity with the Jewish people. If there were specific blessings written into the Mosaic covenant, you might have a leg to stand on, Zion. However, while the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants have language in them (you have to go to the Gospels and the letters of Paul to see the New Covenant language) that includes certain blessings for Gentiles, the Mosaic covenant does not, thus you and I are not attached to God via the Mosaic covenant. And since the “Gerim” argument is dead, primarily because it was never intended to be a multi-generational, permanent covenant status for a non-Jew among Israel, the One Law argument is unsustainable in terms of scripture.

    I know you like to play the “superiority” card in these discussions Zion, but making such statements is not going to convince me of the correctness of your arguments.

    Oh, I like the word anachronistic. It’s a cool word. But I believe it better applies to how you (in the past) have used the “Gerim” argument to support One Law than my recognition of the covenant realities of being a Christian.

  9. James, you bring up interesting points and I note my issues with your post with humility.

    First, I agree Judaism has the right to define itself and Gentiles, no matter how delusional or insecure they are regarding their identity, have no right to come in and “correct” it. I also agree the Talmud brought unity to them and sustained them as a people. I’m glad Gene gave his approval to your Supersessionoia because I too posses this and seek to attain even more of it!

    My first issue is your assertion that it’s the Talmud that makes Jews Jewish.
    “they had to do away with everything that made them Jewish?”

    After all, there were Jews before the Talmud, and even before Jesse first suggested to Moses to create judges for the peeps. I honestly think it is (and/or should be) the Torah that creates and defines Jews. “Create” meaning that it’s the Torah that gives the account of the who, what, where, when, how, and (somewhat) why of Jewisness from the One who thought it up in the first place, and the one with whom accountability lies. I don’t see Him as a passive observer, but a creator and an artist, and that He’s to be adored and honored in His work by those that are called by His name. Is focusing on the Talmud as definitive subversive to God?

    The second issue is this:

    “But it did become that central feature, replacing, in some manner, the Temple and the sacrifices with prayers and charity”

    “Judaism was functionally reorganized to exist and in many instances, to thrive, as locally internal communities which both adapted to historical and environmental imperatives and preserved the essence of Judaism, the practice of the Torah and the mitzvot”

    I agree there’s much value to preserve what had been learned and decided regarding the HOW to observe the mitzvot etc. and that the religion is inexorably linked to their whole lives and existence.
    But the “reorganization” of Judaism, as practice as it may have been, also is why (I think) they cannot do as you say in this paragraph:

    “Why can’t this Jew continue to live out the same Jewish experience he or she always has? Why can’t this person remain a Jew in every sense of the word, including all those words I used above to define a Jew? The Talmud, the historic and ancient Rabbis, the judgments, rulings, experiences, and everything else that is wrapped up in what is Jewish, cannot be separated out and compartmentalized for observant Jews”

    My understanding is that Judaism was defined, via the Talmud, to exclude that very thing. As horrible as it is that Christianity defined itself AGAINST Judaism and all the junk that ensued, Judaism also redefined things in a defensive posture against the legitimate claims of Yeshua followers.

    The biggest problem, as I see it, is that the “reorganization” of saying prayers and giving charity in place of biblically prescribed sacrifice, while understandable from a strictly human POV, seems to be a way to block the heavy reality of un-atoned-for sin. The “reorganization” allows one to be lulled into a false sense of security to just follow the leaders, tradition, etc. Maybe this is why it’s (mostly) non Talmud educated Jews who are willing to see the realities of their need for Yeshua? Maybe that’s why the Talmud goes out the window (as you said, I think) when they come into a relationship with him? (I’m asking, not stating as fact)
    Because, maybe, it’s the Talmud and the extras added (meaning things NOT believed or taught during and prior to Yeshua) that blocks them from seeing their actual state?

  10. That said, there is nothing in scripture that requires non-Jewish people to take on board the full weight of the 613 mitzvot and become a homogeneous religious entity with the Jewish people.

    This statement lacks context, which gentiles? The scripture distinguishes between gentiles who are in covenant with God and those who are not. Of course a gentile who is not in covenant with God, cannot be responsible for covenant relationship, that makes absolutely no sense. On the other hand, saying that a gentile who is in covenant is no responsible for the covenant is just as ridiculous.

    If there were specific blessings written into the Mosaic covenant, you might have a leg to stand on, Zion.

    Blessings in the Mosaic covenant? I don’t understand how this relates to what we are discussing?

    However, while the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants have language in them (you have to go to the Gospels and the letters of Paul to see the New Covenant language) that includes certain blessings for Gentiles, the Mosaic covenant does not, thus you and I are not attached to God via the Mosaic covenant.

    Covenant relationship concerning Gentiles are found all through the scriptures, we see it in the Law of Moses, we see it in the Prophets, and we even see it in the eshaton both in the prophets and the Apostolic Writings. One of my favs, is Isaiah 56.

    And since the “Gerim” argument is dead, primarily because it was never intended to be a multi-generational, permanent covenant status for a non-Jew among Israel, the One Law argument is unsustainable in terms of scripture.

    No, it is not dead, in fact whether or not the descendants end up losing their gentile status, does not change the fact, that the person who came into covenant relationship, never becomes a Jew, that is a fact that has not and will not change. Regardless of arguments of what happens to descendants.

    I know you like to play the “superiority” card in these discussions Zion, but making such statements is not going to convince me of the correctness of your arguments.

    I am not following you, I am simply pointing out the obvious flaws, that does not make me superior, it just shows a side that you do not see.

    Oh, I like the word anachronistic. It’s a cool word. But I believe it better applies to how you (in the past) have used the “Gerim” argument to support One Law than my recognition of the covenant realities of being a Christian.

    If I am incorrect in regarding the sojourner, it does not now make your conclusion correct, it simply makes us both wrong. So arguing your view is better, is worthless.

  11. The point I’m trying to make Lrw79, is that you can’t really separate the “culture” of Judaism, which is significantly defined in Talmud, from anything else about Judaism or Jewish people. In modern Christianity and in modern western culture, we separate religion as a set-apart and distinct entity from the rest of our lives. I don’t doubt that there are many Jews that try to do that too with Judaism, but you really don’t have another “religion” that also encompasses race, ethnicity, culture, and the entire fabric of the identity of a people.

    OK, there are multiple cultures in Judaism. Just compare a Chabad Rabbi to a Reform Rabbi for example. Or compare an Ashkenazi Jew living in Norway to a Sefardic Jew living in Morocco. Both Jews and both have the same core Torah, but culturally, ethnically, and in many other ways, they’re two different people…and yet at their very heart, they’re Jewish.

    If you were to approach an observant Jew and had the ability to force that person to refrain from responding to or behaving in any way that is touched upon by Talmud, particularly the mitzvot, you would devastate that person. They wouldn’t know how to live a Godly life or how to even relate to God, since all that is defined in Talmud. I’m not saying that Talmud replaces Torah, but it interprets and operationalizes Torah. In essence, it “gives Torah legs” and tells it where and how to walk, so to speak.

    We Christians tend to miss the cultural, ethnic, and identity issues that are impacted by Talmud because Christians, by definition, can be all people anywhere. Our ethnicities, cultures, laws, customs, and identities can be highly diverse and even if we stop being Christian, nothing about all of those qualities would be impacted.

    As far as Talmud and Jesus go, only a tiny, tiny portion of the vast compendium of Talmud even (possibly) addresses Jesus and Jesus believers. The Talmud actually says a lot of good things about Gentiles which most folks don’t realize.

    If you had a Jewish person who lived a fully Jewish cultural, ethnic, and religious life and if that Jewish person should come to faith in Yeshua as the Messiah, then should that person give up their entire definition for how to perform the mitzvot, how to pray, when to pray, how to eat, what to eat, when to eat, how to thank God for food, how to…you get the idea; should that person be required to give all that up? How would they even understand what do to next?

    If you or I were Jewish and you or I were raised with the benefit of a Jewish education, in an observant Jewish family, going to shul, going to Hebrew school, learning Torah, learning Talmud, from early childhood all the way up to adulthood, my guess is we’d see life, God, the Torah, and Talmud differently than we do today. If we than became Messianic through the mercy of God and recognized the Jewish Messiah in Yeshua, I also believe we would not surrender Mishnah but include the teachings of the “Maggid of Natzeret” as the highest teaching, because we’d know that the Messiah (among many other things) will teach Torah upon his coming or as we understand it now, also upon his return.

  12. Zion, as far as which Gentiles I was referring to, you should be able to tell from context, so I suspect you’re being deliberately obtuse.

    You said, “Blessings in the Mosaic covenant? I don’t understand how this relates to what we are discussing?”

    You don’t understand how the blessings and conditions of each covenant are relevant to Jews and Christians? Now it’s my turn to act in an incredulous manner.

    Forgive the roughness of the following drawing. I wanted to put something together and respond in a timely manner.

    (You might want to read through my Jesus covenant series again to get the full context of what I’m trying to explain).

    We have two relevant covenants in the Torah (I’m discounting the Noahide covenant as not relevant here) and one in the Prophets, that apply to our discussion.

    Reading the Abrahamic covenant yields a very clear picture of how it applies to the Jewish people and the specific blessings within the larger covenant, through the Messiah, that apply to non-Jewish people and which allow them (us) to enter into covenant relationship with God. By the way, the sign of this covenant is circumcision, but because we non-Jews are not full receivers of everything this covenant contains, and we receive what we get only through Israel, we are not obligated to have our males circumcised.

    Reading the Mosaic covenant and it’s rather lengthy list of conditions (the Torah) yields a very clear picture of how it applies to the Jewish people, but we notice that there are no specific blessings within the larger covenant that can be applied to the non-Jewish people and in fact, the Messiah isn’t specifically referenced in this covenant.

    Here’s the important part. Unlike the Abrahamic covenant, the Mosaic covenant cannot in any way, shape or form, be applied to non-Jewish people. Therefore, unlike the Abrahamic covenant (and the New Covenant, which I’ll explain in a minute), you cannot apply any of the conditions of the Mosaic covenant, the Torah, on non-Jewish populations. So, we Christians aren’t connected to God via the Mosaic covenant. We aren’t obligated to the Torah conditions.

    The sign of this covenant is the Shabbat, which means Christians aren’t obligated to a Sabbath rest (though apparently we can and will be blessed if we do based on later Prophets).

    The New Covenant as worded in the Tanakh has no blessings for the non-Jewish people, but we can find them in the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper and certain of Paul’s letters, so we know that this covenant also puts us in relationship with God, but only (again) through the Messiah. The primary receivers of this covenant are again the Jewish people (Judah and Israel), and this covenant reaffirms and expands upon the previous convenants between God and the Jews.

    I don’t say all of this and consume my time because I think I’ll convince you Zion, but I’m sure our debate is of interest to others who may want to weigh our various points for themselves.

    That said, there’s a limit to how much I’m prepared to repeat myself, finding new ways of making the same points, before I call a close to this particular transaction. The original issue being discussed is Jewish halakhah and whether it is reasonable for Christians to attempt to devalue that halakhah and the entire religious Jewish lifestyle for Jews who are Messianic.

    If you can Zion, perhaps you could redirect your comments back to that theme.

  13. I don’t say all of this and consume my time because I think I’ll convince you Zion, but I’m sure our debate is of interest to others who may want to weigh our various points for themselves.

    Agreed and likewise. That is why debates are fun.

    Now on to the juicy details, saying that the Mosaic Covenant has nothing to do with Gentiles, is false on two accounts. One the Mosaic Covenant had a way for gentiles to take part, and in fact has a historical record of that exactly happening. Second, the Torah even takes its time to make mention of the Sojourner(gentile) many times for the purpose of showing their place among covenant relationship, for your interpretation to be correct, it would have been best for the Torah to have never included the sojourner. Third the New Covenant includes the Law that is present in the Mosaic Covenant, that being the Law of Moses, so we have another connection. And specifically that connection is found in the Messiah.

    Saying that gentiles are not obligated to their covenant relationship with God, is simply absurd, also saying that gentiles have a different obligation to covenant, without having a clear directive as to what that is, is also absurd. As Dan would say, “have your cake and eat it too”. Not being obligated to covenant, is how superssionism takes hold, as it means gentiles have no responsibility to their Jewish brethren. Which is what we see in Christianity today…

    The original issue being discussed is Jewish halakhah and whether it is reasonable for Christians to attempt to devalue that halakhah and the entire religious Jewish lifestyle for Jews who are Messianic.

    If you can Zion, perhaps you could redirect your comments back to that theme.

    These are interconnected and also, many of your claims are built off faulty presumptions, such as this:Now, why in the world would Christians, including One Law, One Torah, and Hebrew Roots Christians, want to tell a Messianic Jew that, in order to be accepted by them and (in theory) by God, they had to do away with everything that made them Jewish?

    Appeal to emotion or deliberate attack.

    I’ve been illustrating in this blog post, it seems rather plain that, even unintentionally, certain elements in the Hebrew Roots (One Law, One Torah, Two-house, etc…) movement are suggesting that the “Jewishness” of Jews in the Messianic movement be diminished in order to fulfill a Christian imperative.

    And again.

  14. Before we continue this discussion, I just want to remind everyone that Yom Kippur starts at sundown tonight. I just want to remind everyone (including me) that our highest duty is not to beg God to forgive us our sins, but to forgive others of their offenses against us, whatever they may be. I was just reminded of this and thought, given the sometimes “passionate” nature of the debate that’s been going on here, that I’d pass this along to everyone else.

  15. James, great thoughts, and I agree with a lot.

    Growing up as the only Christian in my family, I’ve spent many Christmases and Easters in my home and others homes who were “celebrating” the holiday without hearing one mention of Jesus or the Luke account of his birth etc. it is totally possible (and sadly common) to be all decked out in our homes, gather and provide a feast for the event and yet never hear one word about him, God, the bible etc…

    Conversely, I’ve spent Passover with Israeli friends who are ATHEIST and yet the entire evening was spent talking about what God did, saying prayers to Him etc and generally acknowledging Him in spite of the fact that they don’t believe in Him. Interesting conundrum…

    As you said: “you really don’t have another “religion” that also encompasses race, ethnicity, culture, and the entire fabric of the identity of a people.”

    James, I don’ advocate dumping the Talmud. But I’m also mindful that God distinguishes between “our ways” (humans) and His way. Humans are capable of deceiving themselves and of being deceived. I’m NOT saying that the Rabbis/Sages were doing anything deceptive, what I AM saying is that I’m a proponent of “separating wheat from chaff” and keeping the mind God gave us in use, not to hang it up at the foyer of the Church, or Synagogue. And forgive me, I’m more than uncomfortable with any religious system that demands one do that. (Not accusing, just saying my overall pov)

    Your point: “then should that person give up their entire definition for how to perform the mitzvot, how to pray, when to pray, how to eat, what to eat, when to eat, how to thank God for food, how to…you get the idea; should that person be required to give all that up? How would they even understand what do to next?”

    I would never condone requiring a person to give up Talmud or tradition because I believe God is honored in that system. However, the “not understanding what to do next” is the more troubling aspect of what I’m saying. Creating a dependence upon extra biblical issues, or shall I say, the elevation of extra biblical to the place of holy writ, is where I feel the problem lies, not that there’s a tradition, but the elevating that tradition to be higher than the bible. Does that make sense? I feel it’s a sad situation.

    Remember when the teacher would hand out dittos of an outlined drawing and identical boxes of crayons to all the students? The only rule was to stay within the lines, so although it may have been a drawing of a kite, none of the pictures looked exactly the same, they were all individual expressions done within certain predetermined guidelines (what would be the point of 30 dittos colored on the exact same way?). One can surmise that the teacher DIDN’T want total uniformity otherwise some precise pattern would have been given to follow. The teacher also didn’t give a blank sheet of paper for the students to just draw whatever they fancied either. This exercise develops the students creativity, and requires the student to engage and invest in the outcome. The picture becomes their own, within certain predetermined guidelines of course.

    Well, I don’t think God gave a blank sheet for Moses, nor do I think He gave a paint-by-number situation. Personally, I think God in His infinite wisdom, gave a ditto with His parameters clearly marked out, and then gave everyone crayons and simply wants us to “stay within the (His) lines.

  16. Zion, the Gerim argument is dead because, as I’ve said many times before, the status of the sojourner was never meant to be a permanent, multi-generational status of Gentiles living with Israel and doing everything they did but never becoming Israel. It was a way for the non-Jews who came out of Egypt with the Children of Israel and who stood before God at Sinai, to have their descendants (probably the third generation) assimilate into Israel. Today, such Gentiles would just convert to Judaism. That’s why the Gerim argument is also anachronistic. It doesn’t apply to the present time and place and it actually negates the fact that we non-Jews now can come into relationship with God through the Messiah.

    That you say my argument is absurd means that it’s absurd to you, but perhaps not to everyone, Zion.

    As far as “appeal to emotion or deliberate attack,” I believe I’ve been fair about this whole set of transactions. If you look at what some people are saying in the Hebrew Roots movement and you at least try to see it from a Jewish point of view, it very much looks like an attack on the Jewish religious and cultural lifestyle. I know you worship in both a church and a synagogue, so I’m puzzled that, associating with Jewish people, you don’t grasp how they might view the One Law perspective as offensive. Do you describe to your Jewish friends that you believe you, as a Gentile Christian, are equally obligated to the 613 mitzvot as they are?

    You can choose how to conduct your religious life and if you voluntarily want to take on board additional commandments, the “mitzvot police” (I say that tongue-in-cheek) won’t come along to stop you. But at least give the Jewish people the same right to worship, live, and love God as Jews.

  17. Before we continue this discussion, I just want to remind everyone that Yom Kippur starts at sundown tonight.

    Thanks James, but Yom Kippur is Jewish, so you should not be participating, as someone might think you are Jewish and thus stealing their identity… The best thing in this situation, would be to go eat at a buffet tonight so that everyone will know. (tongue-in-cheek)

    On a serious note, thanks for the reminder, I will be going soon to prepare, thanks for the discussion everyone, please forgive me if I have offended anyone with passionate or intense words, hope everyone’s fast goes well, and may we all be inscribed in the book of life!

  18. Well James, I find you EXCEEDINGLY gracious, even when you don’t think you are. Your responses drip with kindness and reason so for anyone to accuse you of an attack is laughable.

    I also really appreciate you answering him about the Gerim because I’d not considered it that way.

    Thanks James.

  19. Lrw79, as far as we Christians are concerned, very little if anything in Talmud applies to us, so from our point of view, we don’t need to be concerned about “following man-made rules” (although keeping in mind that many churches have “man-made rules” as part of their doctrine).

    I’m trying to present a “Talmudic lifestyle” for a Jew as a context. For a lot of religious Jews, halakhah is the only “interface” they may have to operationalizing the mitzvot. You and I may disagree with them about whether or not halakhah is Divinely inspired or even just Divinely permitted, but if observant Jews understand that halakhah as the proper way for Jews to obey God, who are we to say otherwise?

    In sure in the days or Moses and Joshua, how the mitzvot were performed and understood were somewhat different but as you say, the underlying core, the Torah, the Word of God, is the light upon the path that they followed leading to God.

  20. Just seen your post, so I will make this quick…

    I know you worship in both a church and a synagogue, so I’m puzzled that, associating with Jewish people, you don’t grasp how they might view the One Law perspective as offensive. Do you describe to your Jewish friends that you believe you, as a Gentile Christian, are equally obligated to the 613 mitzvot as they are?

    As for the Jewish congregation that I associate with, they are more accepting of my beliefs than many Messianic Jews, sad when your own brothers in Messiah have a hard time accepting you, lol, and make nasty claims of being supersessionist. Anyways they often refer to me as being more ‘Jewish’ than them, all the while knowing I am a gentile, I am proud of that fact, I do not want to be Jewish, I just want to serve God, if I happen to end up looking Jewish in the process, no problem, I love my Jewish brethren and the Messiah. I always make point that when I say I don’t want to be a Jew, I don’t mean that in a racist or negative way, I hope people understand that, I am happy with how God created me.

  21. Well James that’s my point and probably only problem with Talmud.

    Creating a dependence on it over God is, in my view, not what God seems to want. Why is He always asking them to wake up? Why is He always sending warnings via the prophets? Why does Yeshua go after the leaders so harshly? ( yes, I know this is a Jewish way of debate, but still he points out their leading the masses astray too).

    Why are they in exile? Looking at it from what your saying one would surmise that their state of exile is due only to them being victimized (please don’t misunderstand me to be saying they haven’t been, dear Lord, I’m not saying they have received what’s coming to them by ANY stretch of the imagination) but we do have to engage the texts where God says He is judging them and punishing them. Thankfully, that is temporary but still, according to Him they are in rebellion.

    So has the Talmud brought Jews into a “right” relationship with God, or has it blocked them from one? I’m ASKING, and exploring, not accusing at all.

  22. So has the Talmud brought Jews into a “right” relationship with God, or has it blocked them from one? I’m ASKING, and exploring, not accusing at all.

    On the other hand, you might say that the closer you are to the source, the higher standard you are held to. Why have so many misfortunes befallen the Jews? Was it their fault? According to popular Jewish thought, the Second Temple was destroyed and the Jews exiled because they harbored baseless hatred for one another.

    Tonight is Yom Kippur. In the next day or so, Jews all over the world will stand together in community and stand before God. They will corporately confess their sins in the Vidui, repent, and beg for forgiveness. If the Jewish people have failed God as recorded in the Tanakh, and at the end of the Second Temple period, in spite of their myriad tragedies, they still continue to try and draw ever closer to Him.

    Are we Christians any better than the Jews or are just not “feeling” the pressure? We’re not a people group. It’s not so easy to round us up and put us in a ghetto. Especially in the western nations, we don’t look as out of place, don’t act in an unconventional manner, don’t stick out in a crowd (more’s the pity).

    How many Christians look and act just like everyone else in their neighborhood, at their jobs, in their cities?

    My guess is that if we were to draw closer and closer to God, the challenges would become greater and we would struggle and many of us will fail. What will happen to Christians when real trouble comes to the world? What if, just what if there is no rapture? How many of us will lose faith, will go against God, will rebel?

    How many of us rebel every day and yet, because we believe in grace and forgiveness and Jesus Christ, we say a quick prayer and then we’re off to the races once again, thinking God has let us slide? Maybe we’re no better than the Jews of old. God just hasn’t called us into accounts yet.

  23. Agreed on on every single point you made James, and no, we Christians are no better and I wasn’t saying any of that to point fingers at Jews or even to criticize them, please trust me on that.

    And yes they’re held to a higher standard too.

    But I’m saying that as I read the Tanakh He is calling for them to return to Him and His ways. Meaning, they DON’T have it all sewn up and correct. And when that message goes out, they tended to kill the messenger, correct? So something’s amiss, correct?

    Yeshua says basically the same thing several times. Ez 36 (and many other places) talk about God’s anger at them and restoring His great name etc. and so I’m trying to reconcile the biblical text with the reality on the ground, so to speak, and it just seems that if the traditions that were eventually recorded in the Talmud were spot on, then the situation would be different and they wouldn’t have been expelled from the land. Right? The blessings and curses for obedience and disobedience are laid out. So it seems strange to uphold so highly a set of beliefs that seem to point to being the cause of the failure in the first place.

    What am I missing here?

    I’m trying to reconcile is all James, no one seems to “go there.” It has to be all or nothing, either one totally denigrates Judaism, Talmud, Sages etc. or one totally ignores what seems to me to be a conundrum.

  24. OK. Traditional Christian thought says that the ancient Israelites failed because they didn’t have the spirit. They had the law but not grace. That’s why they repeatedly failed God. Then Jesus comes and offers grace and freedom from the Law. The Jews reject it but the Gentiles accept it and receive the Spirit. God wipes out the Temple, exiles the Jews, and switches all of His covenant promises from the Jews to the Christians. End of story.

    Well, in stereotypical Christianity, it’s the end of the story. I don’t know how to explain what we read in the Tanakh except to explain that it’s not just a story about God’s relationship with the Jewish people (although it certainly is that) but about God’s relationship with human beings. We have to remember that everyone who we see in the Bible before Abraham failed God, too.

    Look at the Tanakh record as a cautionary tale for anyone who is in covenant relationship with God, which includes we Christians. It’s a story about how, no matter what we do or how we try, we will all fall short of God’s expectations (Romans 3:23). On the other hand, no matter how badly the Israelites failed, God was still there, disciplining them, coaxing them, assuring them that if they’d just abandon their sinful ways and return to Him, He would wipe away their troubles in an instant.

    It’s like having a rebellious teenage kid who is doing drugs and having promiscuous sex. You disapprove of them. Maybe you kick them out of the house and call the police on them. But inside, you are in agony and you are begging God to help your kid see the light, stop doing such harmful things, and return to the home. You’d take that kid back in an instant if they’d just stop doing dangerous stuff and apologize…because no matter what bad things your kid does, you love our kid…you always will.

    That’s how God is with Israel. He’s with them still. That’s also the promise of grace, which God gave to the ancient Israelites in abundance. Through Christ, that grace is available to us as well, no matter how much we screw up.

  25. James, maybe I should try to explain what I’m saying by way of analogy.

    Replacement Theology is rooted deeply into Christianity, and its a huge ERROR of theology that has consequences.

    Yet, if a Christian only studies God and the Bible thru the lenses of the “approved” Church Fathers and holds them and their decrees as authoritative then that person will never be able to remove the error of RT from their thinking and will probably never even identify it. They will assume (as many have and do) that it is proper and correct and SUPPORTED by the biblical text.

    So it wouldn’t do for those of us “Supersessionoia- phobes” who want to erraticate RT from Christianity to continue to point people to the very Chrurch Fathers who created the error in the first place, even though not ALL of what they did was error or harmful.

    Does that help clarify what I’m saying?

  26. James, I posted last one before I saw your last response.

    Again, I agree with every point you made and will also say regarding your first paragraph that Christianity as you explaind it, is in huge error. I think you’re assuming that I don’t respect Judaism and that’s not the case at all. I’m not looking at this as an “us vs them” we’re “good and right” and they’re “wrong and sinful”. I’m trying to reconcile the biblical text and what God says with the reality.

    I happen to think one of the reasons God exiled Jews is to bless other Nations, (which they have) and to give the nations with Jews in their midst the opportunity to BE blessed by loving and protecting their Jews. I believe the (most) Nations will be very sorry for not taking that opportunity.

    I’m just saying, to piggyback on my analogy in my previous post, why would we continue to point a Christian who we want to stop practicing RT to St. John Crysostom’s sermons against the Jews? We would need to establish an authority higher than him, and show that Christian the ERROR of his teachings and prove the ugly consequences of following that teaching.

  27. Yet, if a Christian only studies God and the Bible thru the lenses of the “approved” Church Fathers and holds them and their decrees as authoritative then that person will never be able to remove the error of RT from their thinking and will probably never even identify it. They will assume (as many have and do) that it is proper and correct and SUPPORTED by the biblical text.

    First of all, I apologize if I’m misjudged you. Actually, I’m just concentrating on trying to answer your questions the best way I know how. I haven’t really come to any sort of conclusions about what you think or believe.

    I’m probably not explaining things correctly. I think if I were a Jewish person who had grown up in an observant home and had that entire “lived” experience, I’d be in a better position to say what I’m trying to say.

    Look, don’t take this personally, because I have no idea who you are, what you know, or beyond what you’ve said, where you’re coming from. I know that for me, the Talmud has historically been a big mystery. I decided to try and figure out what it was at a basic level, so I picked up a book that I thought really explained things well to someone totally uninitiated in Talmudic thought. I still have this book and should probably read it again.

    It’s written by Rabbi Aaron Parry and called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Talmud. Once you get past the title, it’s actually a terrific book. There really is no analogy in Christianity to the meaning and role of Talmud in Jewish life, so many understanding more about Talmud will help us (like I said, I need to re-read it) figure out why it is such an integral element in observant Jewish life.

    One thing about the Talmud is that it’s application is dynamic over time. Your analogy on Replacement Theology assumes that we are going back to the same authoritative sources in Christianity and interpreting them in the same way. Even Christianity is evolving and learning to leave supersessionism in the dust, albeit at a slow pace. Judaism, even Orthodox Judaism, my also be evolving: case in point.

    Whether you agree with the direction my last link suggests or not, it does show that even Orthodox Jews who are heavily involved in Talmudic life can adapt their application over time. Talmud isn’t just a static set of rules and regulations, although they certainly do establish a foundation for Jewish practice. It’s also a living, breathing document that flexes and changes to meet the needs of different generations of Jews or even the same generation of Jew who live in different countries or are part of different cultures (Ashkenaz, Sefard).

  28. Well James, I’m not even sure what to say about this.

    You call it “flexing” and it is certainly a reality for both Christianity and Judaism that they’ve grown over time and yet, you use homosexuality, gay marraige and gay rabbi to illustrate the point.

    Let me assure you that due to my profession I have many colleagues who are gay. Additionally, I have family members and friends who are as well. All during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s while most of society (even liberals) were still repelled by gay’s — in person — I’ve been interacting with them all along. Frankly I find it a bit annoying how many people now suddenly think it’s so cool to know someone who’s gay and even women who “hope” their son turns out gay. That’s another topic.

    Back to my analogy about coloring within the lines that God drew. That’s fundamentally how I interpret His word, and the story, as much as we’re able to grasp it anyway. When Christianity or Judaism “flexes” so much that its willing to ignore or re-write His specific Laws, then I would cease to call that “flexing” and begin to call it disrespect, open rebellion, sin, and eventually, destruction.

    As a bible believer, a God Fearer, I stand firmly on the fact that there are behaviors that are simply wrong, no matter how politically correct they may be presented. The Israelites didn’t get blasted immediately for failing to keep the land Sabbaths, right? Or even for idolatry. God is patient and kind. But judgment did come, He is true to His word.

    So, it seems to me the simple way to answer the question you put forth is by asking this: if it could be considered as “flexing” and ” growing” to allow an openly gay Orthodox Rabbi to keep his ordination and to permit, preside over, and “bless” this Torah forbidden union, then what about the other Torah forbidden unions? Are we biblically able to flex and grow into incest or beastiality? Answering all of those questions consistently and without resorting to cop-outs will be the most illuminating.

    But by far the most troubling thing you’ve brought up isn’t that Judaism or Botach would permit, justify, or excuse this situation, they’re just human after all, rather it’s that they still regard a Jew believing in Yeshua to be the only deal-breaker even though no such commandment exists in the Torah.

    So, according to my interactions with a Chabbad Rabbi who assures me there’s just “no room” for a Jew who believes in Jesus to be in Judaism, I guess it’s preferable for a Jew to be in open rebellion to Torah.

    This just illustrates my point that when we get so far afield and allow God to be redefined in human’s terms and or by the calendar, we surely fall away.

  29. I just have to say something else regarding R. S. Boteach’s remarks and the gay Rabbi.

    It illustrates my point when he said “just turn off the T.V. for Shabbat…. As if God would be pleased that His “non” commands i.e., light Shabbat candles, turn off TV, not mixing meat and cheese… are observed, but His DIRECT commands are excused and ignored and/or redefined. It’s hilarious! Be sure to have 2 separate dishwashers, dishes, etc but go ahead and abuse your body by taking into it that which shouldn’t be taken into it. Oy vey…

    Well, therein lies my objection to formal religion, it allows those in charge to speak for God and do all manner of evil in His name.

  30. I used homosexuality because I wanted to use an “extreme” example of what might be possible within Orthodox Judaism. I’m aware that it’s controvertial and I’m not attempting to evaluate the “rightness” or “wrongness” of this issue within that religious context. Nor am I saying outright that halakhah will “flex” to the point of full scale acceptance of gays or more specifically, gay “behavior” within the Orthodox community.

    We’re all trying to “color within the lines” of the Bible, but I’m not convinced that it’s so easy. Judaism especally has been struggling to adapt ancient tradition with modernity over the centuries with varying degrees of success. And yet, if religious practice doesn’t adapt at all, adherents to that faith won’t be able to interact with the world around them. We’ve seen the delicate balance that Jews have maintained between their culture and faith, and the world of “goyim.” They are in the world but not of the world…but they can’t leave the world, either. Neither can we.

    “Well, therein lies my objection to formal religion, it allows those in charge to speak for God and do all manner of evil in His name.”

    Is there such a thing as “informal religion?” Unless you are a religion of one, if you belong to a group, there will always be a human authority in charge. Human beings are designed that way. I once took an interesting group psychology class where the instructor met with the class a couple of times a week, but didn’t participate or give us any sort of instruction. We just sat around trying to figure out what to do. Only once in awhile would the teacher say something and it was a rather bland observation of the group’s dynamics. Eventually we found out the point was to show us that even in a completely undefined group, the group will, by necessity, develop a purpose, a leader or leaders will emerge, goals will be established, a formal process will be constructed. That’s what religion is for people of faith when we gather together. Religion is just the interface human beings use to try and understand God.

    We don’t do a very good job of it most of the time, but we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got. Part of the reason Judaism has survived tremendous problems is because their lifestyle and culture is at once stable and dynamic and that balance is well maintained. I’m sorry if my example of homosexuality threw you for a loop, but I thought it would dramatically illustrate, not only the ability of religion to adapt, but to remain stable. Only a minority population within Orthodox Judaism accepts homosexuality as an active lifestyle among its own community, but when encountered, the system reacted and interacted with the element attempting to make changes in order to determine if the system; Orthodox Judaism, could successfully adapt and still “color between the lines.” My guess is that ultimately, it won’t but there’s something else.

    Orthodox Judaism and probably other conservative religious traditions will eventually get to the point where they may continue to not accept active homosexuals as members, but they will have to start treating gays as people and not things, reacting to gay people as human beings who have the same basic rights, feelings, thoughts, attitudes, and consciousness as straight people. Hopefully, even when we disagree with each other, we’ll all be able to get that far too.

    BTW, do you have a first name I can call you? “Lrw79” seems a little impersonal. And what is your profession? Email me if you don’t want to respond openly.

    Thanks.

  31. James,

    I understand what you’re saying and I understand the perspective you have, I too feel these pulls at trying to wrestle with issues. However, when you say “Religion is just the interface human beings use to try and understand God” I can’t agree that this is the case across the board.
    It’s true for some, but I also believe the bible shows us that there’s higher thinking than our’s and willingly adhering to God’s ways creates a sort of funnel effect where many will quit before long before they conform to His will.

    As I read the bible I see Him wanting willing humans to do life His way, not theirs no matter how hard, how politically incorrect, or how many people hate you as a result. Where do you see otherwise James? where does He say to follow His ways unless you feel uncomfortable with the peeps around you? I don’t see that.

    And as I mentioned its exactly what Yeshua spoke about to the Pharisees about how they’ll elevate their CUSTOMS/TRADITIONS above Gods COMMANDS and also nullify the Word of God by doing so. Clearly Yeshua isn’t giving the latitude to redefine and ignore Gods commands if its more comfortable.

    I get what you’re saying, we all live with the pressure to conform and to let go of biblical convictions. So basically did the Jews in the Greco Roman world, but I don’t see God giving them a pass to act like the pagans then. But mostly, as I said, it’s laughable to think God would prefer a Jew to light Shabbat candles, turn off the TV, separate meat and dairy, none of which are commands, but not care about the specific command for them not to engage in same sex relations. I’d tell the person just the opposite, if you’re going to violate this specific command of God, who really cares if your TV is on or not?

    I’ll email you privately when I have time..

  32. I’m probably not communicating very clearly. I never meant to imply that traditions or halakhah were supposed to override commandments in an effort to adapt. Halakhah is the sanctioned method of performing the mitzvot and *obeying* the commandments. For example, how does one tie tzitzit? The answer isn’t anywhere in the Bible. In Judaism, there are several specific traditions for how to tie tzitzit and thus obey the mitzvot of wearing fringes. The halakhah varies among the modern Judaisms, with Orthodox men wearing a tallit katan daily so that they are wearing tzitzit their every waking hour, while Reform men only put on a tallit gadol to wear tzitzit in prayer.

    It’s how the application of performing the commandments that adapts, and that adaptation exists only within carefully constraint limits. The commandments themselves remain static. That’s the stability part I was describing.

    What’s the halakhah or using a microwave oven or driving a car on Shabbat? Those pieces of technology weren’t invented when Torah was given at Sinai or when Jesus was teaching in the Temple courts. But once they were invented, some authority in the various Jewish communities had to render halakhah to take into account how their use affected Jewish obedience to the commandments.

    But mostly, as I said, it’s laughable to think God would prefer a Jew to light Shabbat candles, turn off the TV, separate meat and dairy, none of which are commands, but not care about the specific command for them not to engage in same sex relations. I’d tell the person just the opposite, if you’re going to violate this specific command of God, who really cares if your TV is on or not?

    That’s the perspective that you and I lack. Interestingly enough, we Christians have an all or nothing approach to obeying God. We either think we must be perfect or we have failed completely. Since we can never be perfect, we rely on grace to cover us and in some mystic way, we think that makes us look perfect to God.

    Jews rely not just on their own behavior but on the merits of their fathers. They realize that obeying the commandments is extremely important and in fact, behavioral obedience to God is much more important to an observant Jew than to most Christians. Rabbi Boteach is kind of unusual among Orthodox Rabbis in that he spends a lot of time talking to the media and he gives the appearence of being a tad more “flexible” than most of his peers. Nevertheless, he’s showing just a bit of grace when he says, that if a person can obey only 611 out of 613 commandments, that they aren’t a total disaster area. It’s up to God to judge those last two commandments.

    There are plenty of liberal synagogues and liberal churches who are totally accepting of gay people. But I don’t want to make this discussion about gays.

    On the other hand, while lighting shabbos candles may not be a commandment in the Bible, I don’t believe it contradicts any of the commandments. Personally, I find it a beautiful way to welcome the Shabbat rest into the home. Who’s to say if God isn’t pleased by the gladness it gives His people when they turn off the world for 24 hours and a bit and turn their hearts to Him?

  33. “halakhah varies among the modern Judaisms, with Orthodox men wearing a tallit katan daily so that they are wearing tzitzit their every waking hour, while Reform men only put on a tallit gadol to wear tzitzit in prayer.”

    That’s what I mean; we’re to color within the lines God gives. Since He didn’t specify HOW to tie them, I’d argue that He’s not only pleased that they took it seriously enough to come up with a way to do it, but that this was His intent all along, so they would become INVESTED in their way of life that He both prescribes and proscribes. That said, since there’s no instruction on how to tie them, or if they should or shouldn’t wear them at all times, all the expressions you mentioned (from Orthodoz- Reform) would all be acceptable. Again, each picture will look different even with the same crayons and drawing. Of course arguing that with a clearly given commandment isn’t the same thing.

    “we Christians have an all or nothing approach to obeying God. We either think we must be perfect or we have failed completely. Since we can never be perfect, we rely on grace to cover us and in some mystic way, we think that makes us look perfect to God.”

    The “cheap grace” you’re talking about, although a common trend now in American evangelicalism, has not always been present in Christianity. But what is the difference between CG in the mind of a Christian and of the example you sited of a Jew keeping “all other” 611 laws earning him his justification before God? For one thing this “611” is of course hyperbole since all “613” laws have never applied fully to any one human. Secondly, there’s only 270 (ish) commandments eligible to be carried out today, and not all of THEM will apply to any one individule.

    “They [Jews] realize that obeying the commandments is extremely important and in fact, behavioral obedience to God is much more important to an observant Jew than to most Christians.”

    That’s what *I’M* saying! Obeying God and His commands are what separate the Jews and make them distinct from the rest of humanity and it will be uncomfortable and at times difficult. But IF they are free to “flex” or “grow” in issues that are clearly forbidden then what is the point? They cease to be separate and are rejecting explicit commands given by God and the idea that as long as they keep traditions that (I argue) are optional (for lack of better word) then ther’re ok, is just beyond my comprehension. Let me try to be more conscise for you:
    1. God gives clear boundaries that are’t negotiable. (Don’t go outside of these lines)
    2. God gives general instructions. (They are to do something but no direction is given as to how. (God is saying to go ahead and make it their own, work it out, but keep His principles and then do what works. In other words, one community may use the red crayon where another community uses the yellow crayon and yet another an orange one. There is no “right” color, just stay within the lines.)

    But in this issue, I hear R. Boetach, the orthodox supporters of this gay rabbi, and you to some degree, saying that as long as he keeps the areas where God isn’t so invested i.e., #2’s as if they were like #1’s, then it’s ok if he ignores some of the #1.’s if they are too uncomfortable for him.

    Here’s a few questions that come to mind and I’d love your answers:

    1. If this law against same sex acts (that you used as an example) can be “flexed” to accommodate a person who doesn’t wish to keep them, what about a person who doesn’t wish to comply with another law? We can keep it “apples to apples” and only discus this in terms of any prohibited sexual behavior or, we could keep it in broader strokes and use, say, murder or any other commandment.
    2. Which ones are “eligible” to be re-worked and are they based on the culture around us? For instance, since beastiality isn’t (presently) an issue being forced on us in society, does it not count?
    3. Why is the concept of a remnant who keep Gods word prevalent in scripture if we have His approval to ignore, or flex past, His commandments?
    4. What about the issues of Gods judgment? How does Ps 81:12 and Romans 1:24 square with this concept?

    “Who’s to say if God isn’t pleased by the gladness it gives His people when they turn off the world for 24 hours and a bit and turn their hearts to Him?”

    I’m not at all denigrating the beautiful tradition, I was talking about upholding it as if its a direct commandment, while tossing out a direct commandment. And, I’m not more enamored of tradition (Christian or Jewish) of which there is much beauty to be found, than I am of God.

    As I read the bible there really are consequences to behavior and while I’m not judging a person or weather God will or won’t forgive, I also won’t give a pass on forbidden behavior IN HIS NAME.

  34. That’s what I mean; we’re to color within the lines God gives. Since He didn’t specify HOW to tie them, I’d argue that He’s not only pleased that they took it seriously enough to come up with a way to do it, but that this was His intent all along, so they would become INVESTED in their way of life that He both prescribes and proscribes. That said, since there’s no instruction on how to tie them, or if they should or shouldn’t wear them at all times, all the expressions you mentioned (from Orthodoz- Reform) would all be acceptable. Again, each picture will look different even with the same crayons and drawing. Of course arguing that with a clearly given commandment isn’t the same thing.

    I think we’re on the same page here. Of course, I can’t really know how God thinks, but based on the Rabbinowitz paper, I’d have to say that God would be tolerant of variations of Jewish halakhah, even if He didn’t agree with all of the implementations.

    …Jew keeping “all other” 611 laws earning him his justification before God? For one thing this “611″ is of course hyperbole since all “613″ laws have never applied fully to any one human. Secondly, there’s only 270 (ish) commandments eligible to be carried out today, and not all of THEM will apply to any one individule.

    I probably should have been more clear about that. I know that only about 270 of the mitzvot can be performed today and not all of them apply to all Jews. One correction I’d like to make through is that I don’t believe Jews consider themselves “saved by works” exactly. They are “Children of Abraham” and they have the merits of the Patriarchs. I suppose another way of saying it is that their covenant relationship is what “saves” them (Gene could probably help me out here). In any case, Jews don’t really think of “salvation” as such. They do believe that the righteous have a place in the world to come, but Judaism as a theology is much more focused on the here and now rather than what happens when a person dies. The focus is on loving God and performing the mitzvot which is also the dynamic struggle for each observant Jew, since no one can perfectly perform the mitzvot at all times.

    But in this issue, I hear R. Boetach, the orthodox supporters of this gay rabbi, and you to some degree, saying that as long as he keeps the areas where God isn’t so invested i.e., #2′s as if they were like #1′s, then it’s ok if he ignores some of the #1.’s if they are too uncomfortable for him.

    I kind of regret using that example right now because I think it’s getting in the way of what I’m trying to say. Christianity seems to think that homosexual behavior is worse than bank robbery, wife beating, and stealing from the cookie jar all rolled into one (I’m obviously exaggerating here). All I was trying to say was that even the Orthodox system (which is the most conservative form of Judaism) may attempt to examine an “extreme situation” in order to see if they needed to adapt. I sincerely believe that the vast, vast majority of Orthodox Jews will not bend on this issue.

    On the other hand, it’s like I was trying to say before. Even if a Jew is gay, he’s still a Jew. He’s still a human being. If he obeys the vast majority of the mitzvot, Jews feel that it’s not a total waste. Conversely, if a Christian were to admit being gay in a conservative Christian group, it wouldn’t matter how else he behaved, that he visited the sick, that he gave to charity, that he took care of his disabled mother. He’s be scum of the earth and out of the church.

    Sadly, I think it’s correct what I once heard, that “the church is the only army that shoots its own wounded.”

    That’s probably true in most Orthodox synagogues as well, but I think (and this is just a guess) that Boteach is trying to encourage *all* Jews to live as Jewish a life as possible. Remember, the Orthodox don’t think very well of Reform Jews, either.

    In any even, there are liberal Christian churches and liberal Reform synagogues who have openly gay members and gay members on their boards, so it’s not like either faith has an advantage over the other in this arena.

    My basic, underlying point is that religion is a balancing act between the static realities of the Biblical commandments and the “flexing” of their application, both in Christianity and in Judaism. Think of halakhah as the method by which a Jew obeys those static commandments. As I said previously, how those commandments are to be obeyed must shift over time because situations may exist today that didn’t exist hundreds or thousands of years ago (recalling my automobile and microwave oven examples).

    I know I probably sound like I’m being oppositional or that I have no firm moral values to call my own, but I assure you that’s not the truth. What I’m trying to say is that (and most religious people don’t like to talk about this) we don’t really know how to perfectly obey God. The Bible is more like an outline than a detailed book of instructions. There are pieces missing. Lots of questions have gone unanswered.

    In the absence of information, we human beings have done our best to comply with the requirements of God, but we don’t know everything. Like I said, cars and microwaves aren’t covered in any of Paul’s letters so we have to try and infer how or if they should be treated relative to our lives of faith.

    I tried to better explain myself in today’s extra meditation but I’m not sure how well I did.

  35. “On the other hand, it’s like I was trying to say before. Even if a Jew is gay, he’s still a Jew. He’s still a human being. If he obeys the vast majority of the mitzvot, Jews feel that it’s not a total waste. Conversely, if a Christian were to admit being gay in a conservative Christian group, it wouldn’t matter how else he behaved, that he visited the sick, that he gave to charity, that he took care of his disabled mother. He’s be scum of the earth and out of the church.”

    That’s all true and unfortunate. Homosexuals are no less human beings that any one of us and it’s none of my business what they choose to do in private. However, in modern times we have a new phenomenon – we have some people, activists who publicly flaunt their aberrant behavior for others to see, who force it on others (and especially impressionable children through public schools) and who work through every channel available to them to change the perception of their behavior from sinful to healthy and even praiseworthy (if it’s “love” it can’t be bad). That must be confronted and it’s a sin for the righteous to remain silent.

  36. “I kind of regret using that example right now because I think it’s getting in the way of what I’m trying to say. Christianity seems to think that homosexual behavior is worse than bank robbery, wife beating, and stealing from the cookie jar all rolled into one (I’m obviously exaggerating here).”

    James, I think you are a wonderful and gracious man, and because of that I’m choosing to not be offended by your insinuation that I’m a closed-minded, intolerant, and/or ignorant Christian who thinks in this way. I can assure you I’m not and I honestly don’t think you can find an example in my writings to say that I am. What you (and those who like to frame the issue in the way you just did) forget is that there’s not, to my knowledge, a group of Americans who are “pro bank robbery” lobbying for justification in our land. There aren’t any practicing bank-robbers and wife -beaters unifying and beating down social norms and forcing their way into public schools to let the chillin’s learn about the grander of such a lifestyle. We also don’t have special protections for bank-robbers and wife-beaters and scientists saying, but never proving, that it’s not their fault, or that these bank-robbers and wife-beaters MUST act on these urges or suffer great harm. And, most importantly to the Christian, we don’t have anyone saying it isn’t against Gods commandments to rob a bank or beat your wife. (I’m sure there are exceptions, please note I’m saying on any scale big enough that all Americans are aware of). If these things began happening then I’m sure you’d see more of an uprising.

    But how can you have it BOTH ways? You said Christians aren’t nearly as concerned about Gods commandments as religious Jews are, but I’ll be darned if your not now finding fault with Christians who refuse to go along with the tide regarding homosexuality. Hmmm. And, as far as I can tell its been Christians (Catholics even!) that are front and center on the issue of life. I honestly can’t remember a Jewish organization that is nearly as vocal about it but I could be wrong.

    “On the other hand, it’s like I was trying to say before. Even if a Jew is gay, he’s still a Jew. He’s still a human being. If he obeys the vast majority of the mitzvot, Jews feel that it’s not a total waste.”

    We’ll, to bad this isn’t across the board! Take out the word “gay” and insert “believer in Yeshua” and see if the sentence still works.

    “how those commandments are to be obeyed must shift over time because situations may exist today that didn’t exist hundreds or thousands of years ago (recalling my automobile and microwave oven examples).”

    Perhaps in the non specific commandments, or in the case of literally not being able to do them (sacrifices in the Temple) but James, if its as loose as you say (obey based on the calendar, societal pressures etc.) regarding the NON negotiables of scripture, of which I think there are plenty) then I keep asking you to use that formula in another area. Murder–is it wrong? Adultery–Is it wrong? I’ve had many men tell me that they just cannot be faithful to their wives even tho they’ve tried so hard. They concluded that they just weren’t “made” that way. What are your thoughts here?

    But maybe my error is in assuming that you believe there are ANY non negotiables in scripture.
    So I’ll ask instead of assume: do you think there are any non negotiables in scripture? And, do you think God hold His people accountable for them (if you agree there’re any).

    “we don’t really know how to perfectly obey God. The Bible is more like an outline than a detailed book of instructions. There are pieces missing. Lots of questions have gone unanswered.”

    I agree to a point, but I wouldn’t categorize the sexual sins specifically listed in Leviticus 18 as an example. I’m not sure how you can. Not having sex with your Mother or with your Fathers sister doesn’t leave a grey area in my mind, or with an animal.

    Are there any specific commandments that actually mean what they say and God expects full adherence to? I’m not talking about accidentally going against a commandment which we all do, nor am I talking about even intentional sin which we all do. I’m talking about making the choice to live in a sin– to order ones life in such a way as to plan on committing that sin on a regular basis, and to be KNOWN for that sin i.e., not concealing it. Now, you say you’re uncomfortable with the homosexual example that you used and pointed me to, fair enough, I’ve suggested testing your theory with any other sin.

    Cars and microwaves aren’t covered in the Torah or Paul’s letters because they hadn’t been invented yet, but homosexual acts were already around and God (and Paul) weighed in on the matter. These are not equal issues.

  37. Like I said, I don’t want this to turn into a discussion about gays and religion, but you bring up a good point, Gene. If a gay person in a conservative congregation (Jewish or Christian) were to defend their right to be gay and attempt to change the basis for the prohibition of homosexual behavior in that congregation, he’s likely get the boot. If, on the other hand, the person were gay but didn’t draw attention to the fact, he might be “tolerated,” even in an Orthodox shul.

    Of course with the gay opposition to the military’s former DADT policy and the drive to “live out loud” and “marriage equality,” many (most?) gay people are unlikely to keep quiet about themselves. At that point, the gay person can decide which is more important: a continuing association with his religious community, or being outspoken about his sexuality. If the latter, he would be better served by seeking out a more liberal form of Judaism.

    However, the original blog post had nothing to do with homosexuality and everything to do with the concept of halakhah evolving over time to serve the needs of different generations and possibly having that evolutionary process (as long as the core values of Torah were maintained) be OK with God.

  38. I realized that this didn’t really look right!

    “I’ve had many men tell me that they just cannot be faithful to their wives even tho they’ve tried so hard. They concluded that they just weren’t “made” that way. What are your thoughts here?”

    Suffice to say these men told me this in a totally respectable and acceptable environment!
    🙂

  39. “However, the original blog post had nothing to do with homosexuality and everything to do with the concept of halakhah evolving over time to serve the needs of different generations and possibly having that evolutionary process (as long as the core values of Torah were maintained) be OK with God.”

    But James, you used the issue of homosexuality to illustrate your point about halakah. So you’re presenting a way of interacting with the bible and specific commands of God as if we have no way of knowing anything.

    You’re downplaying the absolutes He lays out and acting as if, because He allows for personal/ communal expression in some areas, then it’s acceptable to pretend we have that right even in the areas that He has give absolutes in. That is what I’m taking you to task for, I don’t care if you remove the issue of homosexuality, like I’ve said, move on to another less “hot- topic” issue.

  40. We’ll, to bad this isn’t across the board! Take out the word “gay” and insert “believer in Yeshua” and see if the sentence still works.

    A Jew can be a buddhist and still be accepted in a minyan. He can be an atheist and is still a Jew. That doesn’t work for a Christian for obvious reasons.

    But maybe my error is in assuming that you believe there are ANY non negotiables in scripture.

    Negotiable may not be the right word. Maybe situational is more what I have in mind, such as Paul’s prohibition about women not going without a head covering. I think there’s variability, particularly over time, regarding halakah, that was intended to apply to specific circumstances but not be considered eternal truths. For instance, why to Ashkenaz Jews consider beans as leaven during Passover but Sefard Jews don’t? The answer is lengthy but illuminating.

    Are there any specific commandments that actually mean what they say and God expects full adherence to?

    Let’s take “Thou shalt not kill.” But does it mean under all circumstances? What about if your a soldier in a war? What about if you’re home alone and an intruder tries to assualt you? What did God mean? Is the commandment better rendered, “Thou shalt not murder?”

    All I’m trying to say is that we can’t always be 100% of how to apply the Bible in all possible circumstances and situations, especially across different geographies, cultures, and periods of history.

    Also see my above response to Gene’s comments about homosexuality. I don’t want to beat a dead (gay or straight) horse when there are much bigger issues to address.

  41. “I’ve had many men tell me that they just cannot be faithful to their wives even tho they’ve tried so hard. They concluded that they just weren’t “made” that way. What are your thoughts here?”

    Suffice to say these men told me this in a totally respectable and acceptable environment!

    Since I have personal experience at being a married man, I can tell you that the fellows who made the above-statement seem to be feathering their own nests a bit. Suffice it to say, I disagree with them. 😉

  42. “Let’s take “Thou shalt not kill.” But does it mean under all circumstances? What about if your a soldier in a war? What about if you’re home alone and an intruder tries to assualt you? What did God mean? Is the commandment better rendered, “Thou shalt not murder?””

    The word used in the Torah is different than “kill” (take a life) is it not?

    “A Jew can be a buddhist and still be accepted in a minyan. He can be an atheist and is still a Jew. That doesn’t work for a Christian for obvious reasons.”

    Obvious reasons? Really? Open, outright rebellion (living in sexual sin) or outright rejection of Him and His existence, and that’s ok. Believe in Jesus and your cooked… I’m sorry, isn’t that person still a Jew? This points to a problem in theology in my opinion…

  43. “Since I have personal experience at being a married man, I can tell you that the fellows who made the above-statement seem to be feathering their own nests a bit. Suffice it to say, I disagree with them. ”

    Well ,I’m just glad you didn’t take that statement to mean something I didn’t intend! 🙂

    Regarding your comment, I’m glad you disagree, but I can assure you they were just as adamant as gays I’ve known pleading their case. All of us humans look for reasons to excuse our wrong behavior is all. C.S. Lewis puts it beautifully when he points out that we never seek to justify or excuse our “right” behavior.

  44. Obvious reasons? Really? Open, outright rebellion (living in sexual sin) or outright rejection of Him and His existence, and that’s ok. Believe in Jesus and your cooked… I’m sorry, isn’t that person still a Jew? This points to a problem in theology in my opinion…

    Being a Christian and being a Jew aren’t the same things. Being a Christian is entirely dependent on what you believe and acting consistently with those beliefs. Being Jewish, because it has an ethnic, genetic, and cultural component, cannot be removed from a Jew, even if they’re a total atheist.

  45. True, but technically, I’m not really addressing only Messianic Jews but Jews in general. That most Jews don’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah doesn’t remove them as God’s covenant people.

  46. Btw James, it’s interesting that in the Levitical Law of chap 23 where it spells out the rime of uncleanness regarding the acts of intercourse, menstruation, childbirth etc. nothing is mentioned about the length of time uncleanness is an issue for same sex acts.

  47. “True, but technically, I’m not really addressing only Messianic Jews but Jews in general. That most Jews don’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah doesn’t remove them as God’s covenant people.”

    Wow, we’ve slipped right off the slope. I never was making that argument at all. I’m saying that your response that these supporters of the gay Rabbi are doing so because he’s still a Jew and some mitzvot are better than none is hypocritical because it isn’t applied across the board. I used MJ as an example of that.

  48. Again, the hazards of a text-only communications interface. I’m not saying that the Torah supports homosexual sex acts. I am not saying that homosexual acts aren’t forbidden in the Torah and I’m not even saying that halakah somehow allows homosexual acts in the Orthodox Jewish community. I am saying that being gay wouldn’t cause a Jew to become a non-Jew and that, in certain cases (or in certain sects of Judaism), a gay Jew might continue to be part of the community if being gay didn’t become an issue.

    That said, according to Wikipedia’s page on Steve Greenberg, In response to the ceremony which Greenberg calls “a same-sex commitment ceremony”, more than 100 Orthodox rabbis signed a statement calling gay marriage a “desecration of Torah values”, saying: “We, as rabbis from a broad spectrum of the Orthodox community around the world, wish to correct the false impression that an Orthodox-approved same-gender wedding took place. By definition, a union that is not sanctioned by Torah law is not an Orthodox wedding, and by definition a person who conducts such a ceremony is not an Orthodox rabbi.”

  49. OK, obviously we are going around in circles. Let’s try looking at the issue from a different direction:

    “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.Revelation 2:13-17 (ESV)

    In this example, Jesus obviously has issues with this church and warns them that they must repent and if not, he will come soon and war against those who hold to the teaching of Balaam and practice sexual immorality. OK, that much seems clear, but he also says that “you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith,” so for Jesus the human imperfection and frailty of this group of believers isn’t something he missed. They weren’t perfect and he told them so, but at the same time, he did commend them for the part they got right.

    This is somewhat like the scene in Matthew 23 as described in the Rabbinowitz paper when Jesus strongly criticized the Pharisees and scribes and yet acknowledged their legitmate authority to issue halakhah in Israel. God’s core standards may be black and white but he knows we’re not, so he doesn’t just flush us if we do wrong. Yes, there’s an ultimate consequence, but if any of us had to stand up to God’s judgment today because of our righteousness, could we?

    Getting back to halakhah (remember, this is a blog post about halakhah), my position, given all of this, is that halakhah is probably not perfect either. But it’s a standard of operationalizing how to perform the mitzvot within the various Jewish communities. I suspect (though I can’t possibly know) that when Jesus returns and he relates to the Jewish authorities of his day, he will speak to them somewhat in the way he spoke to the Pharisees, criticizing them for what they got wrong and acknowledging what they got right and that they had the authority to do what they did in making halakhah in the first place.

  50. No argument James. I guess I’m just drawing a distinction where you don’t, namely, there’s a possibility (and according to the bible, a likelihood) that, due to our sinful nature we’re able to veer off the path. Even our leaders.

    Halaka is fine and needed and even (I believe) expected but that doesn’t make it (halakah) binding on God. I don’t believe He submits to it especially when it’s in flagrant opposition to His word. Is He understanding and forgiving where it’s not clear-cut? I believe so, although I cannot speak for Him either. But I reject that He will overlook flagrant violations (and the encouraging others to follow suit) of commandments. I base this on scripture.

    P.S. I’m talking about those who obviously support him, not those who don’t. But according to your Wikipedia quote, would you say that these Rabbis are now guilty of “shooting their wounded” and thinking gays are worse than bank-robbers, wife-beaters, and cookie jar theifs? 🙂

  51. I fully acknowledge that leaders of any kind can veer off the path as can followers. There have been enough scandals, both in Christianity and Judaism to prove that. It’s what makes discovering the difference between acceptable evolutionary changes and halakhah and just plain error difficult to discern, at least up to a point.

    It’s interesting that you say halakhah isn’t binding on God. Ultimately, of course, I agree and I wasn’t suggesting that it would be. However, one way of looking at “whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven” is to say that what we do, even to the level of halakhah *does* have an impact of some sort in the heavenly realm. Of course then we get into metaphysics and mysticism and the path becomes to difficult to follow.

    I think the passage from Revelation illustrates that flagrant violations of His Word will not be overlooked, but that God can also see who we are, both the good of us and the bad of us. We aren’t just all good (how can we ever be) or all bad because we have a flaw or a weakness. Even in our failures, God still loves us and desires that we succeed. Look at all of Israel’s failures across the long centuries as recorded in the Old Testament. God may have harshly disciplined them, but He never permanently left them.

    Oh, you’re talking about Greenberg still. Shooting your own wounded has to do with anyone who makes a mistake, no matter what, steps into some sort of scandal, and even if he/she repents or asks for help, he is rejected and outcast.

    In Greenberg’s case, this is not true because he not only was “in your face” about being gay, but officiated at the wedding of two gay Jewish men. Not something that either conservative Christianity or Orthodox Judaism would tolerate based on the Bible.

    And no one is perfect. Especially some Ultra Orthodox/Haredi Jews have committed seemingly non-sensical and even hostile acts in the name of their religion.

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