Return to Jerusalem, Part 6

strangers-in-israelThis is the sixth and final part of the Return to Jerusalem series where I’ve been examining the Torah Club, Vol. 6 commentary on Acts 15. I trust you’ve been following along since Part 1, but if not, please go back and read the previous submissions including Part 5 before continuing here.

Last time I asked, so what are the four prohibitions for Gentiles in the apostolic decree and what are their implications for the Christians in ancient times and today? To try to render a complete and detailed answer would invite simply copying and pasting everything in Lancaster’s lesson into this blog which, as I’ve said before, I’m not prepared to do. However, and this is particularly interesting to me, Lancaster borrows the status of the “resident alien” (“Ger” in Hebrew) from various portions of the Torah and applies it to the “resident alien” Gentile disciples worshiping the Messiah and the God of Israel in the midst of the Jewish community.

If indeed it is the case that in Christ these Gentiles have a portion in [Israel’s covenant membership and national eschatology], i.e. that they are saved as Gentiles, then it suffices to apply to them the same ethical principles that would in any case apply to righteous Gentiles living with the people of Israel, i.e. resident aliens.

-Markus Bockmuehl
“Jewish Law in Gentile Churches:
Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Public Ethics”
(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2000), 165

But in citing Bockmuehl, Lancaster reintroduces a problem that flies in the face of his and FFOZ‘s official theological stance on Gentiles and the Torah. While the gerim in the days of Moses were not Israelites as such and did not obtain full membership status in the nation due to lack of tribal affiliation, they did observe a large number (majority? nearly-full obligation?) of the Torah mitzvot in the days of Moses and beyond. The argument of some branches of the Hebrew Roots movement is that the gerim status can be wholly transferred to the Gentile disciples of Jesus and be used to justify Gentile Christian obligation to the full yoke of Torah. Lancaster has spent considerable effort in his commentary to illustrate how James and the Council exempted the Gentiles from the full yoke of Torah because they were not born Jews or converts. Now, he apparently brings in an element in explaining the four prohibitions that could reverse his argument.

It doesn’t help that he explains the four prohibitions, which go well beyond the confines of the Noahide laws, as derived from Leviticus 17-18.

In those chapters, the Torah describes the sins of the Canaanites, warns the people of Israel against imitating their ways, and prescribes four prohibitions which both the Israelite and the stranger who dwells among the nation much keep. “These correspond to the four prohibitions of the apostolic decree, in the order in which they occur in the apostolic letter.” [Richard Bauckham, “James and the Jerusalem Church,” in “The Book of Acts In Its Palestinian Setting, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 459]

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Torah Club, Volume 6: Chronicles of the Apostles
from First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)
Torah Portion Mishpatim (“Judgments”) (pg 461)
Commentary on Acts 15:20-31

How was this all supposed to be lived out by the Gentile disciples of that day and what are the implications for modern Christians? As I’ve said in previous parts of this series, you’ll have to access the Torah Club (Vol. 6) studies relevant to Acts 15 for the full details, but it seems as if the four prohibitions were a significant subset of the Torah that was to be applied to Gentile believers above and beyond the Noahide laws of their day. That said, there is another source besides Lancaster who also discusses the same material and provides further illumination.

Toby Janicki wrote an article called The Gentile Believer’s Obligation to the Torah of Moses for issue 109 of Messiah Journal (Winter 2012), pp 45-62, and it provides a great amount of detail on the application of the four prohibitions.

I reviewed Toby’s article over a year ago and at the time, I recall being quite surprised when he suggested that our (i.e. Christians) obligation to the Torah of Moses went much further than I imagined, based on his analysis of the aforementioned prohibitions of the apostolic decree.

Toby’s article is still available in full in either print or PDF versions of Messiah Journal, 109 and I consider it required reading when attempting to delve into an understanding of the message of the Council to the Gentiles among the disciples of Messiah, both in the days of the Council and now.

As I’ve said, this message and how it was arrived at, remains very controversial in Christian/Hebrew Roots circles, but before attempting any sort of conclusion to today’s “meditation” and to this series, I want to remind you of how the Gentiles of that day received the “Jerusalem Letter” (Acts 15:22-29).

So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words.

Acts 15:30-32 (ESV)

the-joy-of-torahIn other words, it was really good news from the point of view of the Gentile God-fearing disciples. After what some of the Gentile believers may have experienced as “mixed messages” from different factions within “the Way” and/or between “the Way” and other sects of Judaism, it must have been a relief to have a final, definitive decision rendered by the Apostolic authority. Further, assuming we can accept Lancaster’s interpretation, it must also have been a relief to the Gentiles that they were not automatically required to convert to Judaism (some may have done so but many or most obviously did not) and thus come under the full weight of Jewish Torah observance and halachah. James had established a halachah for the Gentiles that “raised the bar” as far as behavioral expectations and observances of the Gentile believers, and was well above what was expected of the God-fearers who were not disciples of Messiah or members of universal humanity, but that bar was still not as high as the one God had set for the Jews that, according to Peter’s testimony, “neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear.”

One of the functions of the four prohibitions acted to allow Jewish/Gentile fellowship and interaction within the Messianic community of believers “by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.” (Ephesians 2:15) Jewish believer Gene Shlomovich puts it this way:

“Where in the written Torah does it prohibit Jews from eating with Gentiles?”

Nowhere! However, many of the Torah laws, including kashrut, were designed, in part, to make Israelites “kadosh”, “separated” or “set aside” from the nations. Since nations all around them ate “treif” or idol-sacrificed food, no devout Israelite would sit down with idol worshippers at the same table, if only because of the appearance of sin. Not only that, eating with idolaters implied fellowship with them, and perhaps taking on their customs and even religions.

However, with the coming of Messiah, G-d reached out to the Gentiles without requiring them to take on the full Yoke of Torah and live in the manner of Jews. Jews, for their part, had to overcome their Torah and culture ingrained aversion to sharing (no doubt still kosher) food with former idolaters-turned followers of the Jewish Messiah. It is said that the leader of the Jerusalem community and brother of Jesus, Yaakov (James) never drank wine or ate meat, but only ate vegetables. This may be because he wanted to fellowship with Gentile disciples of Jesus around their tables without violating the laws of kashrut, to which Gentiles were not obligated nor were expected to be versed in.

I can’t say that Gene has “solved” the conundrum of Ephesians 2 and how the Messiah created “one new man” out of two (without obliterating the Torah and Jewish identity), but it is a nice summary that seems to lead in an interesting direction. We are “one in Christ,” just as men and women, and just as slaves and freemen are “one in Christ,” though obviously still possessing many differences.

If Jesus did reconcile the Jewish and Gentile believers “to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility,” (Ephesians 2:16) then the apostolic decree of James delivered to the body of faithful disciples of Messiah from among the Gentiles by letter and by emissaries, may have been the means to bring down “the dividing wall.”

The net result of my study of Acts 15 using the Torah Club, Vol 6 materials seems to be that we Gentile Christians owe a great debt to our Jewish “forefathers” and share a great heritage with our believing Jewish brothers and sisters. The most exciting part though, is that we are walking side-by-side together toward a future where we are united by a resurrected and returned Messiah King who will finish what we have been commanded to start: rebuilding the fallen tent of David, and restoring the glory of God on earth among both the Jews and the nations.

white-pigeon-kotelHow do we resolve the matter of the ancient Ger as applied to the late Second Temple Gentile God-fearing disciple? Lancaster doesn’t make that clear, but based on my own reading, particularly of Cohen, the full role of a Ger as it existed in the days of Moses was to allow a non-Israelite to live among the people of God as permanent resident aliens without being able to formally become national citizens due to lack of tribal affiliation. After the Babylonian exile, a tribal basis for Israelite society was lost and affiliation by clan was emphasized. By the time of Jesus, this clan affiliation basis was too lost, and thus the rationale for the status of Ger as it was originally applied no longer was valid. A Gentile in the days of Jesus or later, who wanted to join the community of Israel, in most cases, would convert to Judaism, since becoming a Ger was not an option.

I can only conclude that James (and this is speculation), in establishing halachah for Gentile entry into the Way as Gentiles and equals to the Jewish disciples, was taking some aspect of the Ger status as the best method available to forge an identity of “alien” Gentile disciples living and worshiping among the Jews in their religious sect. I realize your opinion (and for all I know, Lancaster’s) may vary.

The Jewish role in serving God as we see it in the Bible seems all too clear, but we in the church must always remember that our blessings only come by fulfilling our own unique role as “Gentiles called by His Name.” We are not Jews and we are not expected to “act Jewish,” at least to the degree that we appear to be what we’re not. In fact, we rob ourselves of the path God has laid before us by adopting an identity that is not our own. Acts 15 was the starting point on that path and the beginning of that journey for the early Gentile disciples. It is also where we begin today to understand who we are as Christians and what we must do if we are to be considered faithful disciples of our Master and worthy sons and daughters of God.

I know this series has been challenging for some, largely because going against established doctrine (regardless of the doctrine to which you’re adhered) suggests change and nobody likes change. Maybe none of this will result in anyone thinking any differently, but I hope I at least got some people to think about what they believe and consider that there may yet be something new we can discover about ourselves in the Bible.

“If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”

-Woodrow Wilson, 28th U.S. president

So concludes the series Return to Jerusalem. I hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to (politely) tell me what you think.

Blessings.

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79 thoughts on “Return to Jerusalem, Part 6”

  1. “If Jesus did reconcile the Jewish and Gentile believers “to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility,” (Ephesians 2:16) then the apostolic decree of James delivered to the body of faithful disciples of Messiah from among the Gentiles by letter and by emissaries, may have been the means to bring down “the dividing wall.”

    What is especially sad and ironic, is that in a hundred or so years after the above words were written down the so called “Ephesians wall” between Jews (including Jews who believed in Jesus as the Messiah) and Christians would become even taller and more impenetrable than it has ever been at any time in history of Jewish- Gentile relations.

  2. Only in this case Gene, it was the Gentile Christians who provided most of the bricks and mortar in remaking and strengthening the wall. It’s our job now to re-engage the words of the Master and the teachings of his emissary to the Gentiles, and once again remove the “wall of hostility,” and restore peace among the disciples of the Messiah, may he come soon and in our day.

  3. Great series, James.

    I must say, if being honest, my mind is still not made up. (Takes me a good while before I get to that point haha…)

    I commend you for undertaking such a public study, it was interesting to see another (Lancaster & your own) perspective on the issue at hand.

    Peace to you, friend.

  4. Thanks Nate, and no worries. All I can hope for is that people will read and think about it, turning over the possibilities, and asking God about it all. The rest is up to Him. I can be wrong…but He can’t.

  5. //The argument of some branches of the Hebrew Roots movement is that the gerim status can be wholly transferred to the Gentile disciples of Jesus and be used to justify Gentile Christian obligation to the full yoke of Torah.//

    Those who argue carefully along these lines will note that the ‘ger’ is not a perfect image of what non-Jewish-believers-in-Yeshua are today, since the ‘ger’ could have had all manner of reasons for sojourning among the children of Israel (maybe the ‘ger’ simply wanted to ply his/her trade, make money, and be on their way — and thus, it made sense to apply one standard of justice to him/her, but maybe didn’t make as much sense to apply certain other commands in the same way).

    Passages like Romans 11 and Ephesians 2 seem to point to an even *fuller* inclusion of non-Jewish believers within the commonwealth of Israel, then the ‘ger’ had in the land of Israel — partly because the motives of the ‘ger’ for sojourning could very well be suspect.

    If we take just the food laws for example — something that some people call a “unique identifier” for God’s chosen — the Torah speaks of the clean/unclean as something intrinsic to the created order. God created some animals to be food for his people, and others to not be food for his people. It makes very little sense, therefore, for a non-Jewish believer in Yeshua to desire to eat things that God did not create to be food for them. Just like it makes very little sense for a non-Jewish believer to engage in homosexuality, or any number of other sins.

    Yes. Non-Jewish believers do such things. But in doing so, they sin (they miss God’s mark). Put another way, they violate the natural order in which God has instructed them (believers) to live.

  6. “It makes very little sense, therefore, for a non-Jewish believer in Yeshua to desire to eat things that God did not create to be food for them.”

    G-d disagrees with you, Rob, that is pertaining to Gentiles: “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” (Genesis 9:3)

    Judaism, for its part, always understood this to be the case. Jews were set apart from other nations, and their special diet was one such requirement for the job. As far as pigs not being inherently “food” – Jews themselves are allowed, by understanding that to preserve a life is more important than anything, to consume pork or other non-kosher animals as food when kosher food is not available and life is at stake.

    “in doing so, they sin”

    I think it’s a great disservice and judgement call to call Christians “sinners” on account of doing something that they were never forbidden to do, not by Torah nor by the apostles.

  7. I just published a new “meditation” called Why I Go To Church based primarily on a conversation I’ve been having in the Google+ “Messianic Judaism” community, but it’s spilled over into my Acts 15 series as well. I’ve spent so much time struggling against anti-Jewish prejudice, even when found in portions of the Hebrew Roots movement, that I forgot about the anti-Christian sentiments some folks have.

    Rob, you say you are not anti-Church (your comment on Google+), but depending on your viewpoints on Genesis 9 and Acts 15, it is at least highly debatable if a Gentile Christian is sinning if he doesn’t keep a Saturday Shabbat or should eat a ham sandwich (and if you’re really going to drag kashrut into this, then you have to consider all of the laws and ruling pertaining to keeping kosher, such as two sets of dishes, kashering one’s kitchen and so forth).

    If a Gentile Christian chooses to “keep the Torah” however they conceptualize those set of actions, up to a certain point, I don’t think there’s anything stopping them (it gets a little strange when Christians start dressing “ultra-Orthodox,” but that almost never happens). Do as you will in your life as you feel you’re led. However, accusing other Christians of sin based on your personal convictions is a little over the top.

    1. Are you really saying that it’s “debatable” whether a believer in Yeshua is sinning (missing-the-mark) by not keeping the 4th commandment? And why do you stop at the 4th commandment? What about the other 9? Are those “debatable” as well?

  8. (I have no problem bringing kashrut into this, but the Sabbath command is probably the bigger fish to fry — and just because I believe the laws of clean/unclean apply, it does not necessarily follow that I believe we need two sets of dishes, or to kasher our kitchens, etc. Based on what I currently know, the requirement to keep two sets of dishes is a halachic fence that was put up around the Torah’s instructions, and not itself a Torah command — thus it is not a measure that I follow — but I do not judge or look down on those who do.)

  9. Rob, if you’ve read all six parts of this series, then you know I believe that the full yoke of Torah was not imposed upon the Gentiles. You also know that, while all humanity is obligated to what we now call the Noahide laws, James also imposed four prohibitions upon the Gentile believers based on sections of Leviticus. To the best of my knowledge, nothing in there specifically states that the Gentile disciples were to be obligated to the Shabbat.

    Of course, back in the day, when God-fearers and Gentile disciples of the Master were worshiping with their Jewish mentors, they did so in the synagogue and they did so on Shabbat. They had a problem in the Roman world since the Romans allowed the Jews to not work on Shabbos because Judaism was a recognized religion in the empire…Gentile “Christianity” was not, and the Gentiles taking a Saturday Shabbat was not a likely scenario in every case. If James and the Council did not want to burden the Gentiles turning to God through Messiah, would he (and the Holy Spirit) have automatically set up the Gentile believers for harsh treatment across the board by imposing a mandatory Shabbat observance?

    Yes, that’s a personal opinion, but lacking anything more substantial (and there’s no smoking gun in the NT saying that the Gentile disciples always observed Shabbat), that’s the best I can do.

    Again, If you are shomer Shabbos, more power to you. I have nothing against that. Just don’t judge and condemn millions of Christians for not doing what you do.

    I personally would be delighted to be able to observe Shabbos, but for a lot of reasons, it’s not to be, at least currently. Let it be between God and me and if he judges me harshly, it’s His right to do so.

    and just because I believe the laws of clean/unclean apply, it does not necessarily follow that I believe we need two sets of dishes, or to kasher our kitchens, etc. Based on what I currently know, the requirement to keep two sets of dishes is a halachic fence that was put up around the Torah’s instructions

    That, however, brings up the question of how to interpret the laws of kashrut. If you reject the rabbinic interpretation, then the only one you have left is your own.

    1. //Again, If you are shomer Shabbos, more power to you. I have nothing against that. Just don’t judge and condemn millions of Christians for not doing what you do.//

      Have my words been condemning James? Just because someone points out an error in someone else’s thinking, or walk with Abba, doesn’t mean that they are condemning them. (I do realize that some in our movement have been and can be quite condemning though.)

      Re: the 4 prohibitions — there were a LOT of things that weren’t covered in the 4 prohibitions (in my understanding, they were simply introductory, to get non-Jews far enough from paganism so as to gain them entrance into the Synagogues). Don’t you think non-Jews knew (or would have learned) to observe the Sabbath, soon after going to the Synagogues and hearing the Torah read….. on the Sabbath?

      Or are non-Jews simply left to pick and choose which commands apply to them, and which ones don’t?

  10. “Sabbath command is probably the bigger fish to fry”

    Rob, if Shabbat was such a “big fish” when it came to Gentile believers observing it, if G-d really wanted them to become “Shomer-Shabbos” (which would be create intolerable burden on Gentiles, especially slaves among them) one would expect the apostles and the Holy Spirit would make this abundantly clear that Gentiles were to observe it. Instead, in keeping with Judaism’s understanding of Gentile relationship to Torah, they do everything but obligate Gentiles to start observing it.

  11. //if G-d really wanted them to become “Shomer-Shabbos” (which would be create intolerable burden on Gentiles, especially slaves among them)//

    How do you reconcile the “intolerable burden” Shabbat would have been, with Yeshua’s words in Matthew 11:30 Gene? “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

    What did Yeshua mean that *his* yoke — *his* teachings — *his* halacha — is both easy and light?

  12. “Or are non-Jews simply left to pick and choose which commands apply to them, and which ones don’t?”

    Rob, what do you think the whole letter from the apostles (and the Holy Spirit!) to the Gentile believers was about if not directives of what they were obligated to observe? Why do you think they accepted the letter with such gladness? The apostles should have just written to them to “observe all Torah” – and if they were the U.S. “One-Law” cloud they would have!

  13. As far as the four prohibitions are concerned, relative to the Torah Club Vol. 6 teaching and Lancaster’s interpretation of Acts 15, you’ll have to get a hold of the relevant pages to read his full comments. Blog posts would be prohibitively long if I simply transcribed all of his notes into my blog.

    Yes, of course a lot of what the Master taught was left out, which is why James said in Acts 15:21:, “For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” You can’t understand the teachings of Yeshua unless you learn the Torah. That said, it still doesn’t mean that the full yoke of Torah is implied in what they/we were/are supposed to learn.

    Don’t you think non-Jews knew (or would have learned) to observe the Sabbath, soon after going to the Synagogues and hearing the Torah read….. on the Sabbath?

    That the Gentile believers were expected to attend Shabbat services at synagogue to hear the Torah read does not automatically mean they were expected to keep Shabbat in the manner of the Jews. As Gene wisely pointed out, the burden especially on Gentile slaves of Romans would have been intolerable. I also mentioned the related burden to any Gentile living in the Roman world.

    Let’s take that into the world today. There are times when a person cannot take each and every Shabbat off. Some people have jobs where they are required to work on Saturdays. Sure, they can ask the boss for time off, but if the boss says “no” and the person involved has a family to feed, they can either quit and trust that God will provide, or keep on working at a job they believe was provided them through the will of God. Before I suggest to someone to quit working due to Shabbos, I would remind them (and you) that the Master also said, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test (Matthew 4:7 quoting Deut. 6:16).

  14. //Rob, what do you think the whole letter from the apostles (and the Holy Spirit!) to the Gentile believers was about if not directives of what they were obligated to observe?//

    Obligated as introductory commands, so that they’d be accepted in the Synagogues, and could learn the rest of God’s commandments. But to say that the 4 commands is the extent of the teaching that non-Jews were expected to follow, would have been tremendously unloving towards them — imagine, non-Jews being at liberty to steal from one another…. or lie to one another…. etc, etc.

    //Why do you think they accepted the letter with such gladness?//

    Because they wouldn’t have to undergo proselyte circumcision in order to be part of God’s people (Acts 15:1), nor would anyone have to *order* them to keep the Torah — rather, the expectation was always that they would learn God’s commandments and expectations slowly, and accept them out of love for what God had done on their behalf.

  15. I think you’re being somewhat overly literal, Rob. It stands to reason that part of what they’d learn from the Torah is what Yeshua taught. I’d already linked to my review of Toby Janicki’s article The Gentile Believer’s Obligation To The Torah of Moses and Toby answers all these questions and more in his rather lengthy magazine piece. You can still get a copy of Messiah Journal 109 where the article is published, either in hardcopy or PDF.

    rather, the expectation was always that they would learn God’s commandments and expectations slowly, and accept them out of love for what God had done on their behalf.

    At best that’s an interpretation and at worst, a wishful assumption, but it isn’t a concrete conclusion established by the text. It took me six blog posts to point out that there is another interpretation available, so I think you can say that I’ve done my homework.

    In anticipation of the response I was going to get, I quoted Woodrow Wilson above.

  16. //There are times when a person cannot take each and every Shabbat off. Some people have jobs where they are required to work on Saturdays.//

    To be clear, there are certain jobs that *must* be done on Shabbat — this has always been understood in both Jewish and Christian theology. Doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, etc, etc.

    And of course, if you must take a job that forces you to work on Shabbat, or your family will starve, then again, in most Jewish and Christian circles, you should work that job (similar to Gene’s example of eating unclean meat if you were starving).

    But something tells me that most people who choose to work on Shabbat are not in danger of seeing their families starve. And to these people, if they desire to follow Yeshua, and have thereby been grafted into the cultivated Olive Tree of Israel — God is clear — “Do no work on the Sabbath.”

    If I have a non-Jewish-Yeshua-following friend who works on Shabbos, isn’t it more loving to encourage them to find a job where they don’t have to work on Shabbos? That way they can better conform their lives to the pattern that God has laid out in his commandments?

  17. Per this discussion, it seems like you both (Gene and James) are arguing that if my Messiah-believing friend is working on Shabbat, I should ask them first if they are are Jewish. Then:

    A) If they are Jewish, tell them that God commands Jews to keep the 4th commandment. Or:
    B) If they are not Jewish, shrug my shoulders, say “Oh well, not for you anyways,” and be on my way.

    Does that really sound like God’s plans for His people?

  18. If I have a non-Jewish-Yeshua-following friend who works on Shabbos, isn’t it more loving to encourage them to find a job where they don’t have to work on Shabbos? That way they can better conform their lives to the pattern that God has laid out in his commandments?

    You are obviously living out your convictions Rob, but you’d first have to convince your Saturday working Christian friend that your interpretation of scripture was sound and that there couldn’t be another way of looking at it. Theological debates and disagreements have been going on ever since we’ve conceived of “theology.” They’ve only been given longer and faster “legs” with the advent of high-speed Internet access and blogging.

    I’ll come clean and say that even when I believed I had an obligation to observe Shabbos, at one point, I was caught between a rock and a hard place, or rather, a meager slave job that I needed to have and keep in order to feed my family (lean times back then) or risk, perhaps not starvation, since I doubt our family and friends would have allowed it, but dire consequences nonetheless. A man who I thought was my friend strongly encouraged me to quit my job because I was compelled to work on Shabbat. Of course, no compassion for our situation was communicated and it was one of the things that eventually ended our relationship. There was a sense of commanding others to observe what he believed he was observing, but there was no love in it.

    If the “law of love” or compassion doesn’t override the mechanics of the Law, then what is the Law worth? Even the local Chabad Rabbi doesn’t insist that the Jews attending Shabbat services not drive, though I know he’d prefer it. It’s a step in the right direction if they even show up. If an Orthodox Jew can show compassion to fellow Jews by “bending” a little, how much more should we who claim the name of the Moshiach be compassionate for our brothers and sisters in the faith?

  19. “the expectation was always that they would learn God’s commandments and expectations slowly, and accept them out of love for what God had done on their behalf.”

    Rob, to take your words literally, “slowly” would have meant that it would have been OK for Gentile believers to kill in the mean time, as well as to steal and lie – until they were taught otherwise in synagogues. Remember, these were disciples of Yeshua already and not some base pagans. Don’t you think they already knew all this stuff of common sense morality to become disciples of Jesus? The only question that remained for them – do we have to become Jews and observe Torah to full extent (as some who from James’ group taught them without authorization), including all the purification, Shabbats, holy days, and live in the manner of Jews, and if not, what is the nature of our obligation to Torah? The answer – no need to become Jewish or partake any particular observance, all the Jewish minutiae. Rather, stay away from idolatry and everything associated with it (since this was their “weakness”), something that had to be re-addressed in subsequent letters. Paul wrote in Romans that Gentiles already had “Torah” written on their hearts, that is they already knew right from wrong when it came to killing and stealing.

  20. //A man who I thought was my friend strongly encouraged me to quit my job because I was compelled to work on Shabbat. Of course, no compassion for our situation was communicated and it was one of the things that eventually ended our relationship.//

    I find that exceptionally sad Gene, that a brother in Messiah would A) show no compassion for your unique situation, and B) eventually end his relationship with you over a non-heresy/non-heretical issue. But please, don’t let a bad experience make you think that folks who think the Torah applies to all of God’s people (like me) are running around, cutting off relationships with those who don’t see it our way! Heaven forbid. I have lots of friends from my old church, whom I still get together with for beers (er… one beer), and whom I’m still close with. I realize that many Messianics fall into the trap of feeling they must cut off relationships with those who don’t see things their way — but this is mostly due to a lack of good teaching on this particular topic. It is *not* a logical or consistent outworking of “One-Law” theology.

    //If an Orthodox Jew can show compassion to fellow Jews by “bending” a little, how much more should we who claim the name of the Moshiach be compassionate for our brothers and sisters in the faith?//

    We should be even *more* tolerant of those who don’t hold to our halachic views, because unlike the Chabad Rabbi, we have (spiritually) met with, and identified with, and been accepted by, the Messiah and King of Israel.

    Perhaps you and I aren’t so far apart in our views after all….

  21. Out of curiosity Gene, is there a NT text that persuades you that the Sabbath isn’t for non-Jewish believers? (I’m guessing its not Acts 15, because so *much* is missing from those 4 prohibitions)

  22. We should be even *more* tolerant of those who don’t hold to our halachic views, because unlike the Chabad Rabbi, we have (spiritually) met with, and identified with, and been accepted by, the Messiah and King of Israel.

    Perhaps you and I aren’t so far apart in our views after all….

    I don’t doubt that we’re alike in many ways, Rob. Obviously, we have a difference of opinion on how “Messianic halachah” is applied to the Gentile believers, but then my Pastor and I don’t always agree with each other either and yet we seem to get along just fine, have much mutual respect, and have many opinions in common.

    On this blog, I sometimes find myself fighting a battle on two fronts: a battle against those to disdain Jews, Judaism, and Jewish halachah, and a battle against those who believe Christianity is either a dead religion or one that has become hopelessly corrupted.

    Periodically, I meet with a couple of other guys for coffee. We each have different theological perspectives, but the fact that we get to talk about *anything* and still be OK with each other is a real plus. It’s not reasonable that we’ll agree with each other on 100% of the issues 100% of the time (or anything close to that). It’s the dialog that sharpens us, as long as it doesn’t degrade into personalization of conflict or open hostility (more likely on the web than in person usually).

    What I’m trying to communicate here and in most of my other blog post is that we need to think about who we are and what we’re doing and never assume that we can’t be wrong about something.

    Oh, and two beers would be OK. too. 😉

    1. //What I’m trying to communicate here and in most of my other blog post is that we need to think about who we are and what we’re doing and never assume that we can’t be wrong about something.
      Oh, and two beers would be OK. too. 😉 //

      Ha! A hearty here-here on both fronts! (c:

  23. “Out of curiosity Gene, is there a NT text that persuades you that the Sabbath isn’t for non-Jewish believers?”

    Rob, what persuades me is not any one NT passage, but the totality of the Tanakh, the NT, the Halacha and also plain common sense. However, it is not to say that a non-Jewish believer honoring Shabbat in some manner somehow does evil, as Christian anti-Judaism has historically painted it. In fact, I would say it’s commendable (but, unlike Jews, I do not believe that they would be liable for judgment if they do not observe, either from G-d or from man).

    1. If I asked you why you carve out the 4th commandment, but seem to leave the other 9 commandments in place — would you respond the same way?

  24. “If I asked you why you carve out the 4th commandment, but seem to leave the other 9 commandments in place — would you respond the same way?”

    Rob, because Shabbat was given to Israel (specifically) as a sign of a perpetual covenant between G-d and the people of Israel for all their generations.

    Now, don’t get me wrong – I understand the underlying reason WHY One-Law folks believe Shabbat is theirs too – they believe that by believing in the Jewish Messiah they have become “Israel” along side Jews. There’s really no need to discuss “Gentile obligation to Torah” if this is indeed the case – that is that G-d considers Gentiles “Israel”. If “Gentiles are Israel” – that part should be discussed instead, since it is from this belief that OL theology (as well as a good chunk of other assorted theologies and Christianity’s historic view of itself) flows.

    1. //Rob, because Shabbat was given to Israel (specifically) as a sign of a perpetual covenant between G-d and the people of Israel for all their generations.//

      I agree that Shabbat was given to Israel as a sign of a perpetual covenant — note: I’m not saying that it was given to the nations. The Torah itself, in fact, was *only* given to Israel, and not to any other nation.

      There are many reasons I believe non-Jewish-believers-in-Yeshua are a part of Israel. I suppose we could start with Romans 11 Gene. Are you in agreement that the cultivated olive tree represents Israel, and that the wild olive trees represent the nations? Or do you believe it represents something else?

  25. Rob, my understanding is that the commandment to observe the Shabbat is modified by Exodus 31:12-18 and represents a “sign commandment” specifically between God and the Children of Israel relative to God freeing them from Egyptian slavery. The obligation is specific to the Jews for that reason.

    Personally, I think observing Shabbos in some manner or fashion is a wonderful thing. I wish the family would be more observant here, because I fondly recall the times when my wife would light the candles on Erev Shabbat. It would be a pleasure to turn off the world for 24 plus hours and to read, study, discuss, and allow peace to enter the home and tarry.

    There are personal reasons why that isn’t going to work out for us right now. If it works out for you, then please continue to observe Shabbos, turn off your TV and computers, and put the car keys away and just spend time with God.

    Blessings.

  26. //If it works out for you, then please continue to observe Shabbos, turn off your TV and computers, and put the car keys away and just spend time with God.//

    Again, perhaps the crux of our disagreement is the Orthodox interpretation of how to keep the Sabbath James — because you keep bringing up Orthodox halacha (kashering one’s kitchen, separating milk and meat, not driving on Shabbos, etc).

    For me personally, the Sabbath is not a burden, precisely because I don’t keep the stringencies of all of the nuanced and heavy Rabbinic halachic instructions. If I did keep them all, I’d probably be more apt to say that Shabbat *is* a heavy burden. But I don’t, so it’s not.

    I can attest, in fact, that during my years of keeping it, it has been a joy.
    I’m sure you’ll want to discuss this though.

  27. “Are you in agreement that the cultivated olive tree represents Israel, and that the wild olive trees represent the nations?”

    Like any analogy, Paul’s olive tree analogy in Romans can only be taken so far. Suffice to say, I believe that the “tree” is Abrahamic faith or even the Messiah himself (the root) – something unwavering, insusceptible to corruption (Israel hardly qualifies). Israel (individual Jews) represents the native cultivated branches of that good tree and Gentiles the wild ones. The wild branches get their nourishment from the cultivated root from which Israel draws nourishment, but they do not become the native branches (Israel). Everyone partakes of the same nourishment without becoming something they are not.

    1. //Like any analogy, Paul’s olive tree analogy in Romans can only be taken so far. Suffice to say, I believe that the “tree” is Abrahamic faith or even the Messiah himself (the root) – something unwavering, insusceptible to corruption (Israel hardly qualifies).//

      Is there scriptural precedent for Abrahamic faith ever being likened to a tree in the TNK?

  28. For me personally, the Sabbath is not a burden, precisely because I don’t keep the stringencies of all of the nuanced and heavy Rabbinic halachic instructions. If I did keep them all, I’d probably be more apt to say that Shabbat *is* a heavy burden. But I don’t, so it’s not.

    OK, so where do you get your standards for exactly *how* to observe the Shabbat, keeping in mind that the Bible doesn’t operationalize it exactly, and keeping in mind that when the various parts of the Bible mentioning the requirements for Shabbat were written, cars, microwave ovens, and personal computers hadn’t been invented yet (I wrote that level of detail into my question because I suspect your answer is going to be “the Bible”)?

  29. Besides Rob, where did you get the idea that not having to drive anywhere, not being plugged into the front of your computer or the TV, and being able to read and discuss Torah with friends at your leisure is a “burden?”

  30. //Besides Rob, where did you get the idea that not having to drive anywhere, not being plugged into the front of your computer or the TV, and being able to read and discuss Torah with friends at your leisure is a “burden?”//

    Being able to read and discuss the scriptures is always a blessing. Not being able to turn on the lights, or not being able to ride in an elevator, or not being able to turn on the coffee pot, or turn on my car to get to services, or not being able to read an electronic version of the bible, or sort fruit for friends to eat, or not being able to rub mud off my boots when I enter a building, or not being able to add cream to my coffee, etc. etc. — these things, I personally, would consider a burden.

  31. I assume (but I could be wrong) that you’re not Jewish and certainly you’re not adhered to the Orthodox interpretation of halachah related to Shabbat, but there are two things to consider.

    The first is that (in my humble opinion based on Lancaster), James and the Council of Apostles (and the Holy Spirit) never intended for the Gentile believers to be bound to the full Torah of Moses and Jewish halachah. In Acts 15, James developed and established halachah that was specific to the Gentiles and (again, in my opinion) that Gentiles beyond a certain level of obligation, could take on as much additional Torah as they desired and felt capable of or not so much of the Torah.

    Second, one thing I’ve learned about performing a mitzvah is that you don’t just take it on and expect to do it all and do it all right the first time. Learning to perform a mitzvah, especially one with as many aspects as Shabbos, isn’t like flipping on a light switch (although light switches are involved). It’s a gradual process of integration, starting with one thing and moving on to another.

    I came across a great website called Sabbath Manifesto that really puts keeping Shabbat in a positive light and has many wonderful suggestions.

    Of course, I’m talking from a particular perspective where we non-Jews are allowed to voluntarily approach observing Shabbos and thus, we can pick and choose how we will do so within our desires and capacities. In other words, we can take the information we know about how Jews ideally observe Shabbat, and adapt it for our own needs, since it’s not an actual obligation in halachah for us.

    If it were an actual obligation for us with consequences for less then perfect performance, then picking and choosing what we will or won’t do in order to be shomer Shabbos would have tremendous problems.

  32. “Is there scriptural precedent for Abrahamic faith ever being likened to a tree in the TNK?”

    Rob, I don’t know about a tree analogy used in the Tanakh pertaining to Abraham, but I do know than he is called the father of many nations. Yet only one branch – Israel – is the cultivated one of all the branches that descended from Abraham. Other, that is “wild” branches of Abraham can be grafted into him by faith – adopted to be his children (Galatians 3:29).

    I also noted that the analogy may refer to Messiah Himself. Well, does not in the gospel of John Jesus call himself the vine and his followers the branches? So, even though analogies go so far by their nature, it seems quite fitting.

  33. I did a quickie Google search to see what would come up and a couple of top sources (top of the search results page, that is) say that the tree/root isn’t Israel, meaning that by being grafted in, we non-Jews aren’t being “joined” to Israel. The first seems to spiritualize the tree, making it the “spiritual commonwealth of Israel” (as opposed to “physical Israel) Gentiles are being joined to, while the second says that the tree is theologically God’s promise of salvation through faith to both the Gentiles and the Jews. Neither explanation seems ultimately satisfying, since the root and nourishing sap must come from Israel (salvation is from the Jews), but the second explanation better fits my idea that the promises we non-Jews are joined to and share with the Jews are those of the Messianic future and the Kingship and peace that will accompany the return of the Messiah.

  34. Gene said: I also noted that the analogy may refer to Messiah Himself. Well, does not in the gospel of John Jesus call himself the vine and his followers the branches? So, even though analogies go so far by their nature, it seems quite fitting.

    Good point.

  35. “Not being able to turn on the lights, or not being able to ride in an elevator, or not being able to turn on the coffee pot, or turn on my car to get to services, or not being able to read an electronic version of the bible, or sort fruit for friends to eat, or not being able to rub mud off my boots when I enter a building, or not being able to add cream to my coffee, etc. etc. — these things, I personally, would consider a burden.”

    Rob, Jews were forbidden to light a fire. This means that G-d did not want them to light a lantern after Shabbat commenced, to cook any food, or boil any water. Those things were meant to be done BEFORE Shabbat started. This was made clear when we recall the story of the manna that spoiled when Israelites tried to gather it on Shabbat – they were suppose to get their food prepared beforehand. Yes, it required effort to make Shabbat holy. However, does not the use of a recently invented modern technology that accomplishes the same lighting, cooking and boiling that was clearly forbidden because it required literal fire circumvents the spirit of the Torah that seeks to honor Shabbat and does it by claiming to abide by a strict letter? I think the Jewish people have the right idea here while the Sola Scriptura people violate the spirit of Shabbat while claiming to uphold Torah.

  36. Since you brought it up Gene, Jacob Fronczak wrote a great article on the problems with sola scriptura in a recent issue of Messiah Journal (and I reviewed his article of course). I think it’s worth reading, especially since his commentary can and should impact how we tend to study the Bible (and thus our conclusions about what the Bible says).

  37. //Yes, it required effort to make Shabbat holy. However, does not the use of a recently invented modern technology that accomplishes the same lighting, cooking and boiling that was clearly forbidden because it required literal fire circumvents the spirit of the Torah that seeks to honor Shabbat and does it by claiming to abide by a strict letter? I think the Jewish people have the right idea here while the Sola Scriptura people violate the spirit of Shabbat while claiming to uphold Torah.//

    I’m not saying I can’t see where the halacha comes from. I do see where they might get that idea. But does it necessarily follow, therefore, that *all* Israel, living outside of the land, must sanctify Shabbat according to…. well, I guess that’s the question isn’t it. According to who?

    Are you saying you wouldn’t ride an elevator on the Sabbath Gene? And that it would be sin to do so?

  38. Re: the olive tree in Rom. 11, while the TNK likens Israel to a tree in various places, Jeremiah 11 is probably the closest parallel:

    “16 The LORD once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ But with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed. 17 The LORD of hosts, who planted you, has decreed disaster against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done,”

    You have all the right parallels here with Rom. 11 (Israelites doing evil, consumed branches, etc).

    If this is the Israel that non-Jews have been grafted into (into the House of Israel/Judah), you have genetically/ethnically “wild” non-Jews being grafted into the cultivated “ethnic” Olive tree of Israel — which wouldn’t change the genes of said non-Jews, but it would be strong evidence for them being considered “full covenant members” (or “full converts”) depending on how you want to phrase it.

  39. Rob… I believe that the scripture teach that Israel will be the head of the nations of the world (Jeremiah 31:7) and Messiah will rule from Israel. Do you believe that? Furthermore, I believe that Gentiles will be members of the Kingdom of Israel and will be greatly blessed. Does this joining Israel in the Kingdom somehow mean, as Christian supersessionism has taught for centuries, that all believers in Israel’s Messiah somehow too become “Israel” and are now ‘Israelites’. Does that also mean that Gentiles will not remain as distinct nations which G-d created to be a blessing on earth? What do the prophets say?

    “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” (Isaiah 19:25)
    “In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth.” (Isaiah 19:25)

    By prophet mentioning three nations, one can extrapolate that all nations of the world would thus become “G-d’s people” and will be a blessing. G-d will have Egyptians, Assyrians, Bulgarians, Chinese, and Navajos as his people, not AS Israel, but in ADDITION to Israel, as brothers with the Jewish people!

  40. “Are you saying you wouldn’t ride an elevator on the Sabbath Gene? And that it would be sin to do so?”

    I do not use elevators on Shabbat, but in Israel many elevators have special mechanism installed that allow unattended use of elevators. However, a far bigger question remains – why are sola scriptura messianics sinning and breaking the letter of Torah by leaving home on Shabbat, going up and down their elevator and driving somewhere in the first place when Torah clearly commands people to stay in their homes?

    “You see that the L-RD has given you the Sabbath, and so on the sixth day he gives you food for two days. Let each person stay where he is; let no one leave his place on the seventh day.” (Exodus 16:29)

    This, of course, was not problem for the Jewish interpreters of the law. They said – well, “his place must mean something more than just one’s home”. Let us go to worship G-d in the Temple (and later synagogue)! Jesus apparently approved of this interpretation, as this was his custom to worship in a synagogue on Shabbat.

  41. which wouldn’t change the genes of said non-Jews, but it would be strong evidence for them being considered “full covenant members” (or “full converts”) depending on how you want to phrase it.

    If you’ve read through all of my “Jerusalem” series (a lot to digest, I must admit), you’ll see that James ruled that the Gentiles were (and are) fully equals with the Jews in the Messianic promises, grafted in as it were into the Kingdom of God and salvation as “people called by God’s Name,” but without having to convert into Judaism and become Jews.

  42. //Rob… I believe that the scripture teach that Israel will be the head of the nations of the world (Jeremiah 31:7) and Messiah will rule from Israel. Do you believe that?//

    Yes. Up to this point I do. But we probably define “Israel” differently. You would define Israel, I’m guessing, as those believers who are ethnically Jewish (however that’s defined), plus converts. I would argue that non-Jewish believers in Yeshua, who have gone through conversion [that is, they’ve been through a mikvah (to include a Christian mikvah), and have committed themselves to walking in the footsteps of Yeshua (that is, have committed themselves to keeping the Torah as Yeshua kept it], are indeed “full converts,” or “full covenant members” — and thus the Torah, when it speaks *to* Israel, is *also* speaking to them.

    Otherwise, the Torah is *not* speaking to them, and they’re really just wasting their time because both the Mosaic and “New” covenants would not be for them.

    Jumping to prophecies that are still yet in the future, pointing to gentiles in those prophecies, and saying: “hey look, you non-Jewish, Torah-committed believer, you’re out there, and *we* (the natural branches and the “official” converts are in here), really misses the work that God has done (and is doing) amongst non-Jews. And misses the whole concept of God grafting in the non-Jewish wild branches from the nations, *into* the cultivated Olive Tree, that is, the Household of Israel.

  43. “And misses the whole concept of God grafting in the non-Jewish wild branches from the nations, *into* the cultivated Olive Tree, that is, the Household of Israel.”

    Rob, a far better news for Gentiles (and for any person) is that G-d has accepted them as themselves, as children of G-d, without requiring them to become someone else (in this case, “Israel”). Yes, he has done this through Israel’s Messiah.

    Apostle Peter put it succinctly:

    “I now realize how true it is that G-d does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”

    Now, if the above means that G-d converted Gentiles into Israelites instead of accepting them as “nations”, there would not have been much for Peter to “now realize” – Judaism in his day and today already accepted Gentiles who converted to Judaism and became “Jews”. It is acceptance of nations AS nations that points to Jesus as the Messiah.

    1. //Now, if the above means that G-d converted Gentiles into Israelites instead of accepting them as “nations”, there would not have been much for Peter to “now realize”//

      But God has *always* accepted non-Jews into the commonwealth of Israel. So we know that the upshot of Peter’s vision was not that God finally accepted non-Jews. The upshot was that the halachic ruling of a sect of the Pharisees (the extrabiblical designation of “commonness”) prevented Jewish believers and non-Jewish believers from having fellowship (see Acts 10:28).

      The overturning of this halachic ruling was Peter’s realization — a realization that really opened the flood gates to the first century ekklesia bringing the gospel to the nations.

      And pay particular attention to Acts 10:44-48, because it’s a passage that gets lost in this episode, yet with regards to this discussion, it’s just as important. Note that to the surprise of all, the holy spirit is poured out over non-Jewish believers, and Peter declares:

      “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

      Why was the mikvah being witheld from these non-Jewish believers? It seems clear that the “circumcised” (Jews and converts) witheld it because they did not accept those who would/could not get circumcised as converts. But Peter says that the circumcised were not to withold the mikvah (full conversion) to the gentiles, simply because they would/could not get circumcised.

  44. But God has *always* accepted non-Jews into the commonwealth of Israel. So we know that the upshot of Peter’s vision was not that God finally accepted non-Jews. The upshot was that the halachic ruling of a sect of the Pharisees (the extrabiblical designation of “commonness”) prevented Jewish believers and non-Jewish believers from having fellowship (see Acts 10:28).

    So are you saying that Jesus was and is irrelevant, Rob? My understanding is that the really “big deal” about the Messiah is that he did something that had never been done before. He allowed non-Jews to enter into a covenant relationship with God without converting to Judaism! Of course, in ancient days, the concept of conversion really didn’t exist because one cannot convert into a tribe or clan within the Israelites, so God passed down laws that allowed resident aliens to live along side Israel, obey many of its law, but not become actual Israelites. The ancient gerim eventually intermarried and generations down the road, assimilated and disappeared from history.

    Jesus did something new via the “New Covenant” in his body and blood. He allowed us, me and thee, to enter into a covenant relationship with God and be co-sharers of the Messianic promises with his people, the descendants of the Children of Israel, the Jews. Jesus gave us life spiritually when we had no life. Without him, we would have no covenant relationship with God at all!

    Oh..Cornelius and his Gentile household didn’t undergo “full conversion” because they weren’t circumcised between receiving the Spirit and being baptized. The Gentiles were baptized into Jesus, not converted to Judaism or even to being “Israelites.”

  45. //So are you saying that Jesus was and is irrelevant, Rob?//

    By no means! Not only through Yeshua do we have forgiveness of sins, but in Yeshua, these walls that people love to build so much (ex. between Jewish and non-Jewish believers) have been broken down. “Commonness” in Acts 10 was just one example. Paul later refers to the “dividing wall” (the handwritten ordinances that were against us), as being other halachic rulings that served to divide Jews and non-Jews.

    //My understanding is that the really “big deal” about the Messiah is that he did something that had never been done before. He allowed non-Jews to enter into a covenant relationship with God without converting to Judaism!//

    I would tweak that only to say that a “covenant relationship” with God necessarily entails joining Israel (literally joining; as in, become a part of): or else the covenants (Mosaic & “New”) do not apply to you. In other words, you cannot take hold of a contract, if you are nowhere mentioned in said contract.

    So part of the good news of the gospel is that non-Jews, in being grafted into Israel, are no longer “strangers and sojourners” but “fellow citizens” and “Members of the Household of God” — that is, the House of Israel.

  46. I’ll agree that the Abrahamic and “New” apply to us, but not Mosaic (I’m sure you already knew that). As far as Eph. 2 goes, scroll up to the actual content of this blog and read my commentary on it (with an assist from Gene). We are fellow citizens…in the Kingdom of Heaven.

  47. Hard to take the above as a serious discussion of Ephesians 2, since it doesn’t even mention Paul’s use of non-Jews no longer being “strangers/sojourners,” where Paul connects this passage back to the stranger/sojourner designation in the Torah.

    If non-Jews are no longer strangers/sojourners among Israel, what does that make them? No need to appeal to the “Kingdom of Heaven” since that’s not what Paul was discussing in Romans 11, and there’s no mention of it in Ephesians 2.

  48. ” But Peter says that the circumcised were not to withold the mikvah (full conversion) to the gentiles, simply because they would/could not get circumcised.”

    Rob, that makes no sense, since neither John’s nor Jesus’ own baptism was about “conversion” to the Jewish faith nor into Israel. It was more unto repentance from sins and into the Kingdom of G-d. Otherwise what need would there have been for born-Jews themselves to get baptized, but especially for Jesus himself to undergo it? What did Jesus convert to?

    I also find it sort of strange that while the OL crowd claims that Judaism is man-made and was somehow the cause of the “wall” between Jews and Gentiles (and claims that Gentile conversion to Judaism is also an “unbiblical invention” of rabbis and thus invalid), yet it freely appropriates Judaism’s mikvah ritual to make it signify Gentile conversion into an Israelite. Never mind that Jews and even Jesus himself were baptized!

  49. As Gene says, I think we are sharers in the blessings of Israel and that we are no longer strangers/sojourners (like the ancient Gerim and the God-fearers). I just don’t think he’s saying we’re ersatz Jews. It’s hard for me to take seriously that Jesus meant for the Gentiles not to convert to Judaism but to, in effect, “convert” to Judaism in all but name (and no circumcision for the males) only. It also completely flies in the face of the halachah James established in Acts 15, which was the whole point of the chapter and the Jerusalem letter.

  50. If that were the case Gene, then why would the “circumcised” have withheld baptism from the “uncircumcised”?

    First: receive the holy spirit. Then, become baptized. At least that’s how it seems to work in the context of Acts 10.

  51. Note James, I never said anything about gentiles being “eretz Jews” in Messiah. Orthodox Jews have their halacha for bringing people into God’s Household (Israel). What we see in the first century is a different — albeit more lenient — halacha, for bringing non-Jews into God’s household.

    You seem to want to make the term “Jew” and “Israel” coextensive. I’m arguing it doesn’t have to be.

  52. “If that were the case Gene, then why would the “circumcised” have withheld baptism from the “uncircumcised”?”

    Precisely for the same reason as the OL crowd – being Israel-centric and forgetting that G-d loves and has plans for ALL nations and not just Israel, that all nations will be drawn to Israel’s G-d and to Israel’s Messiah. They mistakenly believed that Gentiles had to become Israeltites (“Jews”) and take on the whole Torah before being allowed into the Kingdom of G-d (“be saved”). (Today Judaism no longer believes that).

  53. (Today Judaism no longer believes that).

    I want to qualify the above by saying that I don’t believe that Judaism of the first century believed that either (since there were many honored G-d-fearers who didn’t undergo full conversion), only that some individuals apparently did or had that understanding. I think the main issue was the receiving of the Holy Spirit, which Jews found to be incredible that Gentiles would be gifted such without the full yoke of Torah or conversion to Judaism. That was all very new and unprecedented.

  54. You seem to want to make the term “Jew” and “Israel” coextensive. I’m arguing it doesn’t have to be.

    While I believe that God has specific and special plans for Israel and the nations and that we non-Jewish disciples are Gentiles who are called by His Name.

    I suppose we could debate this point forever, but my point is that I self-identify as a Christian (and that’s how my Jewish wife sees me…she never thinks of me as an “Israelite”). I’m a non-Jewish disciple of the Jewish Messiah King who as been graciously grafted in to the “root of Jesse,” so to speak, and a co-heir in the promises of the Messianic Era, and of eternal life and peace.

    As far as Jew and Israel being coextensive (great word, by the way…I’ll need to teach it to my daughter…she likes to add to her vocabulary regularly), the Jewish people today are the inheritors of the Sinai covenant and all of the other covenants God made with Israel (since we don’t have twelve distinct Israelite tribes with us today).

    Gene said: I think the main issue was the receiving of the Holy Spirit, which Jews found to be incredible that Gentiles would be gifted such without the full yoke of Torah or conversion to Judaism. That was all very new and unprecedented.

    Yes. Agreed. My point exactly.

  55. Gene, my comment to James applies here as well:

    “You seem to want to make the term “Jew” and “Israel” coextensive. I’m arguing it’s not, and doesn’t have to be.”

    //being Israel-centric and forgetting that G-d loves and has plans for ALL nations and not just Israel//

    Nobody doubts that God loves and has plans for the nations. And the nations (as collectives) have benefited much from the Scriptures and Israel has been a light. But once someone from the Nations comes to faith in Israel’s Messiah, they experience a change of heart and a renewing of the mind that causes them to desire to walk the way He walked — i.e. in God’s Torah. But this *only* makes sense if that person self-identifies with Israel. Otherwise they are left in the wind — without hope in the New Covenant, or the promises and blessings that God gave to Israel (of which, there are many).

  56. I agree with all of that except that we don’t change nationalities and aren’t obligated to the full Torah, though we can, as a result of “a change of heart and a renewing of the mind” accept as much of the Torah as we desire and feel capable of, which is largely how you have described yourself relative to Shabbat.

  57. “But once someone from the Nations comes to faith in Israel’s Messiah, they experience a change of heart and a renewing of the mind that causes them to desire to walk the way He walked — i.e. in God’s Torah. But this *only* makes sense if that person self-identifies with Israel. ”

    Rob, I think that you will be very hard pressed to show from scripture (other than a one or two arguable quotes from A. Paul), either TNK or NT, that G-d identifies righteous Gentiles as “Israel” or “Israelites”, spiritual or otherwise. On the other hand, supersessionist streams of Christianity as well as some Hebrew Roots groups base their whole theology and self-identity on just such a belief, and nearly always to Israel’s (and their own) detriment. It’s very weak rootless and unscriptural system.

    1. I’ve given many, many scriptures above. And I have no problem with agreeing to disagree on how to interpret them. But it does leave me wondering Gene, why so much resistance? There’s supersessionism out there. Sure. I get that. But a lot of us OL people aren’t supersessionists.

      So why not simply say: “Baruch haShem, there are swaths of non-Jews walking in Torah, who believe themselves to be a part of God’s household, and helping build the Kingdom”?

  58. So why not simply say: “Baruch haShem, there are swaths of non-Jews walking in Torah, who believe themselves to be a part of God’s household, and helping build the Kingdom”?

    I can’t answer from Gene’s perspective, but as an intermarried husband, I think the answer has to do with the difference between taking the issue as involving masses of anonymous people groups and taking it personally.

    When I was in the OL movement, for me, the “epiphany” began when my wife began seriously exploring her Jewish identity in first the (combined) Reform/Conservative synagogue and then with Chabad. She was raised in an intermarried household and did not have a strong Jewish identity. Of her and her four siblings, she’s the only one who had any desire to pursue “being Jewish.”

    As I watched her engage the local Jewish communities and begin for forge a niche for herself and an identity that was uniquely Jewish, I felt increasingly uncomfortable going to my “One Law” group with a bunch of (mostly) other Gentiles and “dressing up” Jewish (I realize this isn’t how you see yourself, but this is how I felt in relation to my Jewish spouse). I realize the bad Hebrew and the poorly practiced Shabbat observance later, that what I was doing not only was insulting to Jewish people (though my wife had the grace to say nothing about it), but after a lot of investigation (and more arguments with Gene than I can count), I realized that a Gentile Christians attempting and maintaining a “Jewish” identity was Biblically unsustainable.

    But as you ask, what’s the harm, though. Like I said, it’s personal. For nearly 2,000 years, Christianity has attempted to erase Jewish covenant uniqueness, Jewish religious practice, and Jews from the face of the earth. God didn’t allow it and I can see the church turning away from all that and increasingly toward valuing the Jewish history, present, and especially future role in the Kingdom of God.

    But while I was “practicing” a sort of Jewish role, I was saying to her that my being Christian was exactly the same as her being Jewish in any tangible way, and when I did that, I was saying that being Jewish was meaningless. It’s sort of “supersessionism” looked at through the other end of the telescope. I stopped “doing” OL for a lot of other reasons, but a really, really big one was to stop taking something away from my wife that I felt belonged only to her and the rest of the world-wide Jewish community.

    I don’t think a person who isn’t Jewish or isn’t married a Jew can really “get” this. I’ve tried to blog about it a number of times (including Cherishing Her Yiddisher Neshamah), but the message just never seems to stick. Other people have other reasons for supporting an OL approach to Hebrew Roots or refuting it, but a lot of my reasons for leaving are simple love for my wife.

    I really wish people could understand what an act of love looks like.

  59. “But it does leave me wondering Gene, why so much resistance.”

    Because I can see that in claiming themselves as ‘Israel’ (stealing identity) while at the same time being anti-Judaism (denigrating “rabbinic” Judaism as a man-made burden, while still borrowing heavily from it) and teaching that they know better than the Jewish people how to interpret the Torah G-d gave to Israel, the OL Hebrew Roots groups proclaim a very bad news for the real Israel.

    Now, why would I or any Jew say a hearty “Barush HaShem” to something like that?

  60. Just to be clear, I in no way am “anti-Judaism.” I’m not even sure what that means. Where Jews have been faithful interpreters of the Hebrew text, I agree (and there’s no added burden). Where they add to it, I disagree (that’s where I see the burden). I suppose your worldview would be a lot simpler if I just rolled over and said “fine, I’m anti-Jewish!” But the fact is, I’m not, and neither are a *lot* of OL folks. I wish you’d be a bit more charitable Gene.

  61. “I wish you’d be a bit more charitable Gene.”

    Rob, I’ll give you this – many of the OL folks are very sincere in their beliefs and may not perceive themselves as having any of the negatives toward the Jewish people that I outlined in my previous comment. At the same time, I’ve met and befriended many former OL people who have realized that what they have been taught is wrong and detrimental, and they have repented.

    However, I do enjoy conversing with you, Rob.

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