Lancaster’s Galatians: Introduction, Audience, and What Happened to the Torah?

Apostle-Paul-PreachesThe Apostle Peter said that the writings of “our beloved brother Paul” contain “some things hard to understand.” If that was true in Peter’s day, how much more so today. Paul was a prodigy educated in the most elite schools in Pharisaism. He wrote and thought from that Jewish background.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
from the Introduction (pg 1) of his book
The Holy Epistle to the Galatians: Sermons on a Messianic Jewish Approach

I know I’m going to regret this, but if I wait until tomorrow or later in the week to write this, I’m going to forget something about my conversation with Pastor Randy. I have to get up at an insanely early hour tomorrow, but I need to make a record of what we discussed tonight.

As I write this it’s Wednesday night. I left Pastor’s office just about fifteen or twenty minutes ago after discussing the Introduction and first chapter of Lancaster’s Galatians book with him. You’ll recall I mentioned a few days ago our intention to make a study of Lancaster’s Galatians chapter-by-chapter, week-by-week as the subject of our Wednesday night discussions. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I agreed to focus our weekly talks on this book, but I never thought I’d be involved in such a densely packed conversation. Actually, I was afraid that we would run out of material, since Chapter One (really, Sermon One) is very introductory. However, we barely made it out of the Introduction section and into the first chapter before time ran out.

I finally confessed to Pastor Randy tonight that I’m more than a little in awe that we’re having these conversations. Debating theological topics with him, given his intellect, education, and his fluency in languages, makes me feel like a five-year old trying to discuss the Grand Unified Theory with Albert Einstein. OK, maybe it’s not quite that extreme, but I’m definitely out of my depth. To his credit, Pastor Randy said the benefit he receives is that I am well versed in the New Testament from a Messianic Jewish point of view.

I’m sure there are a few people out there who would disagree with that assessment or me, but such is life.

Did Paul convert to Christianity? That question came up rather abruptly.

No, not from my point of view and Pastor Randy agreed but he believes that Paul changed direction 180 degrees from his former life as a Pharisee, not just in turning from persecuting believing Jews to supporting them and evangelizing the Gentiles, but in his entire conceptualization and attitude about Judaism (as opposed to “Jewishness” which is the quality of a person being a Jew without the religious and halalaic implications) and the Torah.

Acts 15 came into the conversation very quickly and I realized that Pastor Randy believes that not only did James and the Council absolve the Gentiles from having to observe Torah, but the Jewish believers as well. As I’ve said before when addressing Acts 15, I don’t believe James made a decision that extended beyond the Gentile disciples of Messiah.

This all goes back to our previous conversations about the purpose of the Torah, which we’ve been having for many weeks. While Pastor Randy doesn’t believe Jews and their “Jewishness” ended with Jesus, ultimately, he believes the Torah pointed to Jesus as a sort of culmination and that it’s not Judaism but the message of the Gospel that saves. He believes that if Jews had continued in the “Messianic faith” (i.e. Christianity) beyond the first century or two after the ascension, the observance of Torah would have largely fallen away. Certainly the vast majority of what we think of as Rabbinic Judaism wouldn’t have gained traction and evolved and expanded to what we see today, particularly in Orthodox Judaism.

I know more than a few Jews reading my blog post probably just winced or gasped a bit. when reading the last few sentences.

On the other hand, looking at the opposite end of history, we both agree that the Jewish Messiah King will return and sit on the Throne of David in Jerusalem. There will be a Third Temple. The festivals will be reinstated. Gentiles as well as Jews will observe the festivals but, according to Pastor Randy, the Messiah will be the focus, not simply observance for its own sake.

But will “Judaism” disappear? Should “Judaism” (as opposed to “Jews” and “Jewishness”) disappear?

I didn’t hear Pastor say that Jews should disappear, quite the opposite, but we did discuss, and discuss, and discuss what is a Jew, what is Jewishness, and what is Judaism. My argument is that, whether you agree with everything that the Rabbis said, did, and wrote over the past twenty centuries, for right or for wrong, it was the necessary element and organizational structure for the preservation of Jews as a people and without that ethnic, traditional, legal, corporate structure, with only a string of DNA identifying the Jewish people as Jewish , they would ceased to exist as an identifiable people group in the world a very long time ago.

Both Pastor Randy and I agree that God will not allow the Jewish people to perish.

But what then are the distinctions between Jewish believers and Gentile believers in Messiah, both in ancient times and now? That was a hotly debated discussion. No, we didn’t get “hot under the collar,” but we did go around and around the point, orbiting it like two comets chasing each other’s dust trails.

judaismIf the Torah is to be observed in Messianic Days during the time of the Third Temple and if God meant for the Torah to be obeyed by the Jewish people prior to the first coming of Messiah and even during his lifetime, what was supposed to happen to it between the ascension and the return? Granted, we have no Temple today, but does that mean the entire Torah is in cold storage awaiting a spring thaw? And what about the sages? Are none of their interpretations, rulings, and judgments valid? Even in Yeshua’s day, he agreed with some of the halachah of the Jewish authorities (PDF) and indeed, he agreed they had authority to make such rulings.

At one point in the conversation, Pastor Randy said that he believes both Jews and Gentiles in Messiah in today’s world should look and behave in substantially similar ways, if not identically based on his understanding of the New Testament. His issue is that Torah was always impossible to keep and was put in place primarily to point to that impossibility and why we all need the Messiah. My point is that such an act looks like God just set the Jews up to try to obey an impossible set of rules for the sake of eventually pointing to Jesus. Those hundreds of generations of Jews who lived and died struggling to obey Torah would have led lost lives if the only reason for Torah’s existence was to make a point. What saved those ancient, devout Israelites?

“Grace,” says Pastor Randy.

My point exactly. Torah never, ever was intended to save. It was always faith and grace.

I think he can agree with the value of the Jewish traditions if they’re viewed as traditions and not behaviors one must do in order to please God. “But what about feeding the hungry and visiting the prisoner,” says I? The Torah didn’t stop, particularly the parts that clearly are a responsibility for Christians and Jews today. And if “Rabbinic Judaism” was God’s mechanism for preserving the Jewish people as a people since the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., then who is to say that it’s wrong? After all, what systems have been put into place to implement and sustain Christianity over the long course of history?

One of the big stumbling blocks in the discussion was “Rabbinic Judaism” which could be defined as relying on a “system” instead of what the Bible says. I countered that a Christian denomination is a system and that Pastor Randy operates within one. He countered that he can and has existed outside a denomination before and that what the Bible says is ultimately more important than a denomination or any other system of religious practice.

But do we have unfiltered access to the Bible and to God? Don’t we use “systems” as the means by which we implement what the Bible tells us to do in our daily lives? Yes, if we take all of the incredible detail involved in living life as an Orthodox Jew, for example, those “implementations” are vast, multi-layered, and frankly, there are many that seem to go too far (I know I’m going to catch heck for that), but it’s still fits my definition of what humans do to “operationalize” a life of faith. Christian denominations do this to a lesser or greater degree, but without the same level of formalization (after all, what is Christmas, what is Easter, and what is Lent?).

Can we live a life of just the Bible without a system (be careful how you answer that)? Are there portions of both the modern Christian and the modern Jewish “systems” that are valid interpretations of a Biblical life, even if Messiah would (and will) have “issues” with other portions?

Jesus made distinctions between halachah he supported and did not support (is it lawful to heal on the Shabbat?) when he was first here and I suspect that he’ll “straighten out” both Jews and Gentiles when he returns. Some Jewish authorities write that one of the things Messiah will do when he comes (returns) is teach Torah properly and I believe it, too.

Shofar as sunrisePastor Randy says he believes that Gentiles should and will observe Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot along with the Jews but you can’t do that without the Torah not only being intact, but valid, and able to be applied in our world.

You can see why we almost didn’t make it out of page 1, let alone the Introduction of the book, and this is where we spent most of our discussion time. Sermon One runs from page 9 to page 19. It’s where we’ll have to pick up next week, but we did encounter an interesting question in the Sermon One material, and one I thought I knew the answer to. To whom did Paul write the Galatians letter? Yes, the churches in Galatia, but who in those churches? On page 19, Lancaster says it’s to the “God-fearing Gentile believers in Galatia” specifically.

But get this:

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.

Galatians 1:11 (ESV)

Would Paul have called Gentles “brothers?” Wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to call his fellow Jews by that name?

We ourselves are Jews by birth…

Galatians 2:15 (ESV)

Paul is obviously talking to Jewish people at this point.

To give a human example, brothers…

Galatians 3:15 (ESV)

Brothers, I entreat you…

Galatians 4:12 (ESV)

I could go on. There’s 4:28, 4:31, 5:11, 5:13, and 6:1 to consider, but according to these references, there’s every reason to believe that Paul was addressing both a Jewish and a Gentile audience in this letter. That being the case, Pastor Randy suggests that Paul is explaining to both Jewish and Gentile believers that obedience to the Law is not necessary if one is in Christ. Is obedience to the Law unnecessary for either the Jew or the Gentile if Messiah is your Master?

Salvation is through Jesus but does that obliterate the Sinai covenant for the Jews? Pastor Randy and I agree that it is through Abraham and the New Covenant that we Gentiles are “grafted in.” We know that the Hebrew for the word “New” in “New Covenant” really means “new” and not “renewed,” even though the wording of the New Covenant (see Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36) largely confirms and expands all of the covenants that God previously made with Israel.

Something I didn’t remember to bring up during my conversation with Pastor Randy is the question of whether or not the New Covenant is already completely written on our hearts or if God is in the process of doing the writing? If the latter, then God may be rather slowly (from a human perspective) doing away with the old (yes, the Torah will go away when heaven and earth go away) and replacing it with the new, but that such a thing has not been accomplished yet (Hebrews 8:13). As I alluded to a moment ago, Jesus also said that “until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished,” (Matthew 5:18) and I don’t think that “all is accomplished” yet. After all, the Messiah hasn’t returned, we don’t have universal peace on earth, the Temple hasn’t been rebuilt, and Israel is not yet the head of the nations.

You can see why I didn’t want to wait until later to get this all down. I’m tired but energized at the same time. I’m fighting well out of my weight class, so to speak, but I have to keep going. I agreed to have these conversations in order to learn and I know that Pastor Randy is both teaching and learning as well.

There’s nothing better to show you what you truly know and believe than to have your belief’s challenged and be asked to give a “ready defense.”

western-wall-jerusalem-dayThe funny thing is, after the conversation was over and Pastor Randy was walking me to the door of the church (by the time we’re done talking, just about everyone is gone and he wants to make sure all the doors are securely locked for the night), he continued to share with me his love for the Jewish people and his fascination with Judaism. Listening to him talk about his life in Israel and his relationship with his Jewish friends, it is abundantly apparent that he adores the texture, fabric, and essence of living among Jews. But at that moment, his words and emotions seemed so inconsistent with his beliefs on the Law and Judaism relative to our conversation. And yet in every other way, he confirms my own belief in the exceptional “specialness” of what it is to be Jewish and to live a fully realized Jewish life. The Jewish Jerusalem is where we feel the beat of God’s heart.

If ten thousand religious Jewish people came to faith in Yeshua as Messiah tomorrow, should we really ask them to give up everything in their lives that defines them as Jewish and that allows them to worship God as Jews? It sure didn’t sound like Pastor Randy was saying that in those last seconds we had together before I walked out into the night. I know he agrees that we Christians haven’t gotten it all right and we’ve built up our “systems” that help us understand how to obey God. Someday, Messiah will show us what we did right and what we didn’t do right, what we should have included, and what we should have let go.

In examining the vast body of Jewish practice, particularly the complexities of Orthodox Judaism, can we say that much of it is right and necessary now but that when Messiah returns, he will also say what is proper and what is not? Will there be a distinction in Torah for Jews that will be Jewish and will be a Judaism but will not look quite the same as Judaism looks right now?

Incredibly tough questions. I don’t have the answers. Messiah does but he’s not here yet.

This series of conversations and my blogs about them are controversial by design and I don’t expect all of my readers to accept everything I’m documenting here. I have no idea what kind or how much “blowback” I’m going to receive, but I expect there will be some.

Please be patient and exercise kindness and even some restraint in your responses, should you choose to respond. This is a journey of exploration into what for me is an undiscovered country. If you know the territory and would like to share some details about the road ahead, you are welcome to participate.

The journey continues next week.

Addendum, March 15: After reading all of the comments and continuing to struggle with the conversation and the issues involved, I have produced another reflection of my thoughts in an “extra meditation,” Broad Strokes.

38 thoughts on “Lancaster’s Galatians: Introduction, Audience, and What Happened to the Torah?”

  1. Wooh! That was a whopper! (Wipes sweat off forehead in exaggerated manner) 😉

    A lot of interesting thoughts, James.

    I had personally never heard of Pastor Randy’s explanation that G-d essentially set the House of Israel up for failure concerning obedience to Torah, so that Grace would be a necessary condition for salvation, pointing to a “need” for Yeshua and His Atonement. Very interesting, not sure I buy it, but still, it’s always nice to hear opinions that I haven’t encountered before.

    Off to work.

    Make it a great day, friend. Shalom.

  2. Actually, I’ve heard it a lot, Nate. The Torah was supposed to be a pointer and a custodian that guided the Jewish people to Messiah. It was supposed to prove that people couldn’t do anything that could save then. Salvation is only through Jesus. I’m not sure why salvation and the mitzvot have to be mutually exclusive and I’m not convinced that they are (and I’m not convinced that Pastor Randy sees it that way either).

    Before others comment, I just want to say that nobody is throwing the Jewish people under a bus, including Pastor Randy. I don’t want my writing to characterize him as being against Jewish people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Part of the reason the blog post is so long is that I was trying to accurately describe our conversation, and I still didn’t get all of the details in.

  3. Real quick, before I head out.

    You said;

    “The Torah was supposed to be a pointer and a custodian that guided the Jewish people to Messiah. It was supposed to prove that people couldn’t do anything that could save then. Salvation is only through Jesus.”

    I agree with the first sentence, Torah was most absolutely a “pointer” if you will, to the Messiah.

    Not sure I agree with the second though. I agree that we cannot uphold Torah without falling short, but does that automatically mean that it was created with that intention in mind? Or is it more to the tune that, through Yeshua’s Grace, we are forgiven when we sin (break the law), but Torah is, eventually, meant to be followed to a “T.” It’s a process, but we well get there at some point through the help of Yeshua, and the Father?

    The failure of men to keep the commandments, does in fact, point to a need for a Redeemer. But I don’t know if it must follow that, because of this inevitable failure, the Torah was designed with that fact in mind.

    As an aside, I don’t think Pastor Randy is against the Jewish people, or that he is throwing them under the bus.

    Anyways, really off to work now.

    Peace, James.

  4. James:

    He said: Torah was always impossible to keep and was put in place primarily to point to that impossibility and why we all need the Messiah.

    His answer fails to explain what was impossible to keep and what Jesus changed. If suddenly allowing people to eat things like pork and work all seven days of the week instead of six made the “impossible” possible, can he explain how? If “love God with all your heart” is still a requirement, certainly that is much closer to “impossible” than “refrain from ham.”

    What does removing the sign commandments of Israel’s identity have to do with: (a) Messiah’s atoning accomplishments and/or (b) making a possible path of righteousness for the people of God?

    The impossible law theory does not explain why a few ritual commands and identity markers would be removed.

    That is how I would approach it if I were dialoguing with him.

  5. Nate and Derek, I think a lot of what Pastor Randy is responding to is his experience with Orthodox Judaism and the vast amount of halachah involved in living out Torah every day within that system. That should be balanced against the portions of our discussion where we both acknowledged that there are and will be significant portions of Torah lived out, not only the weightier matters of the Law, but those parts of the Law that, by necessity, will have to exist in the Messianic Age and with the rebuilt Temple.

    I agree that a Jewish lifestyle of Torah observance, particularly relative to the days of Paul, is not inconsistent with salvation and restoration of national Israel and saving the people of the nations. As we progress, I need to pay close attention to those portions of Acts 15 and Galatians where Christianity commonly believes the NT record says that the Law was done away with for the Gentiles and the Jews (and keeping in mind that Gentiles were never “under the Law” to begin with).

  6. It seems that the most common mistake made with regard to the keeping of Torah is the idea that something was, and is, wrong with the Torah itself. Which of course is not the case.

    It was, and is, our sinful, rebellious fleshly nature that makes Torah impossible for us to keep. This has been the situation since the Garden when there were two people and one commandment. The Torah given to Israel was added later to show sin for what it is, to focus our attention on our weaknesses. Or, as Christianity likes to say, point the way to Messiah.

    For us as human beings there was no way out of that dilemma. So Yeshua accomplished what we could not. Here is one small example:

    Romans 7:4-6, “Therefore, my brothers, you also were made dead to the law through the body of Messiah, that you would be joined to another, to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit to Elohim. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were through the law, worked in our members to bring forth fruit to death. But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that in which we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.”

    At the beginning of that chapter Sha’ul makes clear that he is addressing those who know Torah. While that may have included both Jews and non-Jews, he doesn’t make the distinction in the text. But he is explaining that their (and our) relationship to Torah has been changed through their (and our) faith in the completed work of Messiah.

    The implications of this teaching are huge to say the least. But if brought to its logical conclusion we will see that the provision of grace for salvation includes and involves both the validity and the necessity of Torah in the believer’s lives. They work together.

    And I like Derek’s logic test of some of Christianity’s favorite themes. Such scrutiny is needed if there is to be growth within the religious systems people depend on.

  7. Going back to the impossibility of keeping the Torah (or is it the impossibility of keeping modern Orthodox halachah?), I just came across an article written by Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar called Why Did G-d Make It So Hard for Me to Be a Good Jew?

    Rabbi Cotlar also concludes that the difficulty built into the Jewish lifestyle is included by design, but for a different purpose. Of course, it’s highly unlikely that the Rabbi is looking at the question from a New Testament point of view, but does the New Testament automatically remove the difficulty in living a life consistent with Torah, keeping in mind that Christians are supposed to observe a significant portion of the Law? If Torah is impossible to keep, why isn’t the holy lifestyle of a Christian impossible to keep?

    If the answer is that we have faith and grace vis-a-vi Abraham, then why didn’t that apply to all of Israel/Judaism from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob on? According to my conversation with Pastor Randy, it did, but does the New Covenant undo all that and replace it? Not if the New Covenant isn’t completely enacted yet and perhaps it isn’t since the Messiah did not finish his work during his first coming.

    In that case, we’re all continually dependent on God’s grace and our faith in Him, Jew and Christian alike. The Law, or certain portions of it, specifically identifies Jews in terms of national and covenant identity, even in relation to believing Gentiles let alone the unbelieving people of the world. Perhaps someday that will no longer be necessary, but given the continued dangers to national Israel and to individual Jews from antisemitism, terrorism, and assimilation, it seems as if the Torah continues to be required.

  8. (1) The Torah has never been impossible to keep. Human failing merely requires that we pay attention to keeping the parts that deal with the failures, errors, shortcomings, etc. that we call by the general category of “sin”. That’s what atonement is all about. This is the classic illustration of grace. Of course, it thereby serves the necessary and invaluable purpose of showing us what’s wrong with us and how we could do better (hence also pointing us toward the Messiah’s metaphorical atoning sacrifice in the heavenly Mikdash).

    (2) Halakhah is not impossible. It is merely the codification of all sorts of behaviors that become second nature in a society that is based in it. It only appears complicated to someone on the outside of the system who has not absorbed it by long experience. Regrettably, many Jews also are in this condition, hence Rabbi Cotler’s book.

    (3) The Hebrew word ” ‘hadash” can mean either new or renewed, depending on its context. When we talk about a new moon at the beginning of each month, we are not referring to a freshly-minted planetoid that has somehow replaced an old one that disappeared. We are talking about the renewal of a cycle of shifting sunlight reflections. The term in Jer.31:31, as “Brit HaHadashah” (feminine form of ‘hadash to correspond with the feminine “brit”) thus may mean either “new” or “renewed” covenant. The context shows that it is actually a renewal of the ancient covenant emphasizing the fulfillment of Deut.30:6 (“circumcision of the heart”), described alternatively as inscribing the Torah on the human heart. This internalization of principles from the same-old one-and-only Torah is what will make it possible to eliminate the exhortation to “know the LORD”, because that will already have been accomplished in all human hearts from the least unto the greatest (eventually). I find an interesting parallel here to the Matt.5:19 description of least and greatest in the kingdom of heaven, which also depends on Torah praxis and instruction.

    (4) Galatians was written solely to non-Jews; and Rav Shaul did consider them to be “brothers” (i.e., “fellow heirs with the tzadikim”). The Gal.2:15 reference to “we ourselves are Jews” is a contrast with the members of the Galatian assembly. Gal.5:3 distinguishes expections of Jews versus non-Jews vis-a-vis Torah observance; and tens of thousands of Torah-zealous believers in the Jerusalem area alone (cif:Acts 21:20) attest to proper Jewish behavior in the period between Rav Yesua’s ascension and his return.

    I suppose I could offer additional challenges to Pastor Randy’s reputed perspective that reflects common Christian misunderstandings and assumptions about Judaism, his friendly feelings for Jews (though not for Judaism) notwithstanding, but the above should suffice for the present.

  9. This is a wonderful opportunity for all to see these vital issues discussed and weighed, especially with two people coming from different perspectives and assumptions yet intelligent and, most importantly, not anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, or anti-Jew. If everyone agreed or kept these issues to themselves, there’d be no learning.

    Thanks for sharing these

  10. You’re welcome, Ruth. One of the things I want to point out, dovetailing on what you said, is that this conversation on my blog and my talks with Pastor Randy illustrate that people can have different points of view and can talk about them in a way that is mutually respectful and that results both (in Pastor Randy’s and my case) parties to be able to learn.

    This is in stark contrast to other blogs and content contributors in other areas of the blogosphere who treat these discussions as opportunities for conflict. I am very grateful to every one who is involved and particularly Pastor Randy. Yes, we can be different and still have good relations. This too is part of being in the body of Messiah.

  11. “Listening to him talk about his life in Israel and his relationship with his Jewish friends, it is abundantly apparent that he adores the texture, fabric, and essence of living among Jews. But at that moment, his words and emotions seemed so inconsistent with his beliefs on the Law and Judaism relative to our conversation.”

    I hear in Pastor Randy’s position a contradictory element that seems common among loving, sincere Christians who also have a heartfelt “love” of the Jewish people. I’m beginning to see an almost “gnostic” or “mystical” belief in the tenants of systematic Christian theology as a cause of this “split-dynamic” among many sincere Christians. As Jacob Fronczak generally puts it in his FFOZ Messiah Journal article on “sola scriptura,” Catholic and Protestant Christianity does not understand what the Bible is saying apart from its own traditions… that Christians are equally reliant on traditions and interpretations to arrive at their understanding of Scripture, which is laid out systematically as a body of theology; but, indeed, if held up to the Hebraically-based alternative of the Messianic approach, a heavily biased body of theology. I increasingly see the Christian tendency to over-indulge in systematic theology as a double-edged sword: on the one hand, as having value as a tool to explore the Scriptures, if only from a singular perspective, but also having a tendency to form a barrier-of-bias that limits further, deeper spiritual understanding by way of blockading one’s mindset against exploration outside the realm of Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy. As I live and work in a lively, sincere Christian environment I am increasingly aware of this split dynamic of thought, when “words and emotions [seem] so inconsistent with [his] beliefs on the Law and Judaism.” There is, as best as I can put it, an almost palpable barrier-of-bias that disallows the “successfully indoctrinated” Christian from honestly assessing a Messianic perspective, even though it’s what Jesus observed and taught, etc. The dogmatic, almost mystical trust of Christian Systematic Theology as it stands seems to become a presupposition that all but “disables” the dedicated Christian in terms of apprehending a different point of view–even one that is lived and “endorsed” by Yeshua the Messiah Himself. The fact that complete trust in systematic theological presupposition is considered to be a working asset that preserves one’s status of salvation seems to cause the true, sincere Christian to hold up those barrier walls at all costs ,sometimes while simultaneously “experiencing” the divinely instituted and nearly palpable “value” of the texture, fabric, and essence of the God-ordained, Torah-centric Jewish life. I don’t know if I’m expressing myself clearly, but am trying to think out loud about this as it is a fascinating dynamic close to the heart of something very important that you’re focused on here; a very valuable exercise that is worthy of exploring. I have great respect for Pastor Randy and look forward to the continuing series…

    1. @ Dan – To me your analysis seems quite clearly expressed and thoughful. I’m not convinced that everyone, or even Pastor Randy, is quite so systematic about the theology they hold, but the influence of nineteenth-century Christian perspectives often surfaces in discussions of this sort. Indeed, it is often challenged by the implications of events in the mid-twentieth-century, leaving well-meaning Christians in the twenty-first century with an as-yet unresolved dichotomy between the desire to participate in HaShem’s love for the Jewish people and the theology that reflects ancient anti-Jewish polemics and prejudices and rejects the Jewish religious system by which Hashem has preserved the people about whom He has made everlasting promises. I believe that Messianic Judaism holds the key to resolving that dichotomy, though its own develoment (and publication) of an alternative theological system is not yet complete.

  12. …that Christians are equally reliant on traditions and interpretations to arrive at their understanding of Scripture, which is laid out systematically as a body of theology…

    And that’s my point. No one has unfiltered or unbiased access to the Bible or to God. We all see the world and everything we encounter through our own past, our own experiences, our own personalities, and everything else we are.

    That isn’t a bad thing necessarily and especially since no one is immune, but we needs to gain the ability to shift perspectives and paradigms so that we can get comparative views. It’s through those multiple viewpoints on scripture that we can see how biased we are and determine if there are other, more valid ways in which to understand what God is telling us.

  13. Just a note of clarification. The Hebrew word for “new” and the word for “renew” look the same and are pronounced almost the same, but they are different. Context alone doesn’t define the meaning of the word. It is the vowel pointing that determines whether the subject of the sentence is “new” as in fresh, not existing before or “renew” as in bringing something back to its original condition and not starting from nothing.

    This can be seen clearly in the Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew lexicon. After seeing the difference in the words, look again at Yirmeyahu 31 and you will see that YHWH means “new” and not “renew”.

    All of the technical and theological aspects of the present covenant and its relationship to the other previous ones would be beyond the scope of this particular blog post. But it is a fascinating study if you have the time.

    1. Russ:

      It’s not a matter of mere lexicography. The continuity between the new and old is easily seen in that the teaching (which teaching) will be written on hearts. Also, in Ezekiel’s new covenant passage (36:24-26) the statutes continue in that future vision. The “new” thing seems to be people renewed and knowledge of God increased, not the sign commandments of Israel’s identity.

    2. @russ – You’ve got a typo there, lad. YHWH is an English-character representation of HaShem’s name, not of the word “hadash”. Yirmiyahu didn’t write the vowel-pointings; they were added later. The context, as I pointed out previously, shows us that the intention is one of renewal rather than any sort of fresh start. With all due respect to Hebrew lexicons, they can’t choose which of several related meanings should be applied to a particular text; and even Masoretic editors didn’t always select the best representation centuries after the original text was written. For that you need the help of a Hebrew speaker who is comfortable with the flavor and context of the literature (which I am). You cannot dismiss the clear content of the text that reiterates the ancient covenant, in order to claim that it must mean something brand-spanking new rather than a renewal of the covenant in improved form. There are, in modern Hebrew, alternative ways to adjust the ‘h-d-sh root to specify distinctions between new, renewed, renewal, renovation, and other variations of the “new” concept. In Yirmiyahu’s time, these particulars were not required, and there were other complexities of literary form that the prophets used to formulate their messages that are not all in current use. What can I say? — Language usage shifts over the course of millenia.

  14. PL,

    I agree with what you are saying to a point because we are all far removed from the original words spoken to Yirmeyahu and his writing of those words on a scroll. And I have only studied Hebrew for the past 12 years, so I’m hardly a scholar in the language, nor am I a Hebrew speaker.

    But it would seem to me that if Yeshua’s purpose was to renew the previous covenant He would have made that fact abundantly clear on the night of His final Pesach.

    Instead of saying, “this is the new covenant in my blood”, He could have said, “I am renewing the previous covenant in my blood”.

    And I’m not arguing that what is written on the heart of those who belong to Messiah Yeshua is different than the Torah of YHWH. But I don’t think that what He writes on a person’s heart depends on who the person is. I believe that what He writes is the same for all. Or else how shall we be judged? I don’t believe that there are different standards of righteousness for each person.

    And logically, if He meant to renew the previous covenant, then all of us who are in Messiah would be obligated in the same way to that covenant. But I hear people saying that there are different obligations for different people. How can that be?

    Does that line of thinking agree with the details of the present covenant?

    If I am a Gentile then I am not obligated to keep all the Torah that has been written on my heart? Or is the whole Torah written on my heart, but He only lit up a few things to do since I’m not a Jew? Or do Gentiles only have part of Torah written on their hearts and the Jewish cultural markers are left out?

    Or did He renew the previous covenant with the Jews and make a new one for the rest of the nations?

    Parallel truths, parallel righteousness, parallel covenants and yet only one Elohim. Something seems out of place to me.

    1. @russ – Those with whom Rav Yeshua spoke the night before his arrest had no need of specific emphasis on renewing the ancient covenant, when he invoked the phrase from Yirmiyahu. They already understood what Rav Yeshua had taught in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matt.5:18-19) about the enduring validity of the Torah and the Prophets. They did not suffer from later Christian presuppositions that all that old stuff had been replaced. Hence they were free to ponder the mechanism by which his “blood” (i.e., his death) would foster the goal of metaphorically writing Torah onto human hearts and bringing to fruition this fulfilment of Deut.30:6. The new or renewed covenant described by Yirmiyahu also was made only with Jews (described in Yirmiyahu’s time as the two political entities of Israel and Yehudah). No covenant was ever made with non-Jews, whose participation in the benefits of the Jewish covenant is always mediated by the Jewish people (even if only via Rav Yeshua’s mediation). Non-Jews who learn Torah as implicitly recommended in Acts 15:21 become eligible for HaShem’s assistance to progressively internalize it as an inscription on the heart (which is a gracious bonus extended even unto those with whom there was no explicit covenant). The fact that leniency was extended to release non-Jews from legal Torah requirements does not exclude them from learning and internalizing its principles, even if some of its practices do not apply to them. The door is wide open, and keeping the Torah means doing whatever is applicable to the individual. Some aspects of Torah apply to women but not to men; some to Cohens but not to Levis, and most aspects to Jews and few to non-Jews. And where a particular principle is illustrated for Jews by means of a mnemonic practice, non-Jews may learn to extract its principle by observation and analysis of Jewish practice. This is one reason why Jews must continue to practice the ancient ways, in order to perform their intended mediation to other nations by providing illustrations of HaShem’s instructions.

      Perhaps your sense of something out of place may be alleviated by the recognition that there is no parallelism. There is no non-Jewish Christian covenant in parallel with the ancient Jewish one. Non-Jews benefit from the singular Jewish covenant, without any rights or responsibilities of ownership. These benefits include an open door to righteousness, forgiveness and atonement, and an opportunity for restored relationship with Elohim, to “walk with him in the Garden in the coolness as day becomes evening” (which you may recognize as a summary description of the relationship once enjoyed by the family of Adam). It’s not a bad deal …. [:)]

  15. Again I agree with some of what you said but not with all. And I used to make the same point you are making for similar reasons. But after years of learning Torah I realized that I had left some very important things behind. And our exchange now is taking place as I transition back to the foundational teachings of Messiah contained in the new covenant writings.

    Which means that I’m not saying that anything has been replaced. Certainly not the Torah of YHWH. And yes I agree that He made the covenant with the two houses of Israel so as to incorporate them both once again into the whole house of Israel. And yes I agree that the nations are to join themselves to that new covenant. The results of that joining I’m sure we could discuss at length.

    As far as the “new”, “renew” debate goes I need to add more information to the one verse that is so often quoted.

    Yir. 31:31,32, “Behold, the days come, says YHWH, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Yisra’el, and with the house of Yehudah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Mitzrayim; which covenant they broke, although I was a husband to them, says YHWH.”

    So the righteous requirements of the Torah that were a part of the previous covenant would remain, but the method of application would be new and different.

    Yir. 31:33, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Yisra’el after those days, says YHWH: I will put my Torah in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their Elohim, and they shall be my people: ”

    His people are the ones who join themselves to His covenant through faith in the finished work of Messiah Yeshua. And His Torah is written on their hearts.

    I agree that there isn’t a Jewish covenant and a Christian covenant. There is only His covenant.

    1. @russ – Shavua Tov! It’s so nice to see how agreeable you are, but it appears that you’ve agreed with several ideas that were not stated or intended in the original blog (nor in any of my replies). I don’t know the history of your theological journeyings, but let me propose that your attempt to “transition back” to important “foundational teachings of Messiah contained in the new covenant writings” that at sometime you left behind can only succeed insofar as you recognize that they still cannot be understood apart from the historical, cultural and linguistic context in which they were written. I mention this because oftentimes ideas that some folks presume are foundational aren’t actually based on the original foundation (which, of course, hasn’t been replaced).

      Your first stated agreement is in error. The covenant made with the two houses Yisrael and Yehudah had nothing to do with bringing them back together. That process was accomplished in part by the Assyrian demolition of the northern kingdom Yisrael, and completed by the Babylonian exile of its refugees in Yehudah along with all the rest of its Jewish population. When the Jewish people returned from Babylon, all the tribes of Israel were again identified as from Yehudah. They had all become “Yehudim”, which is how our modern term “Jews” came to apply to all of Israel apart from tribal associations. If you were to attempt to associate the new/renewed covenant with that re-unification, you would have to say it came into effect centuries before Rav Yeshua’s appearance, and you would have great difficulty finding any evidence between then and now that HaShem has been writing Torah on hearts in any manner suggesting that it had become obsolete to encourage one another to “know the LORD”.

      Your second stated agreement is also in error, because no one joins a covenant (old or new, Jew or non-Jew). A covenant is not a club that accepts members or excludes them. A covenant is a set of conditions or provisions that apply to stated parties in a defined relationship. The nature of the particular covenant currently under discussion allows it to serve as an example which may be emulated by others who thereby share in comparable benefits.

      Further discussion of the new/renewed issue requires closer examination of more Hebrew text then merely the phrase “brit hadasha”. For simplicity here I will omit copying the Hebrew text itself and will offer transliteration only.

      “Hineh yamim ba-im”, Behold days (are) coming, also renderable as “Look (at) approaching days” or “Look to the future” (says HaShem)…

      “v’carati”, which is a complex linguistic structure comparable to the Greek aorist tense and to the English subjunctive, and which might best be rendered as “and it will be perceived that I have already completed the action of cutting” (i.e., executing a covenant)…

      “et Beit Yisrael v-et Beit Yehudah”. meaning “with the House of Israel and with the House of Yehudah”…

      “brit hadasha”, meaning a covenant described by a matching adjective whose form conforms with the feminine gender of “brit”. The form of this adjective also may carry a potential sense of motion or trend in its final character “hey”, but that is an implication (i.e., a “remez”) that cannot be extracted directly from the phrase alone until additional context suggests it.

      … “lo ca-brit”, “not like the covenant” (or, more idiomatically, “unlike the covenant”)… This phrase requires us to ask the question: “So in what way was it ‘unlike’?”, which will be explained in a later phrase.

      But first we see the answer to a different question, which identifies the reference covenant that is somehow “unlike” the conditions now to be described. That is, “the covenant I cut with their ancestors when I personally took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt”. And then we read a phrase that describes a significant aspect of the conditions pertaining to that covenant, which is that it was breakable. And, of course, this phrase tells us that these forefathers did, in fact, breach the demands of that covenant, despite the relationship that HaShem describes as “ba’alti bam”. That phrase “ba’alti bam” can be rendered with two perspectives. One is “I husbanded them”, which is an archaic term that we might understand from the concept of “animal husbandry”. It pictures the care of a shepherd for his flock, tending to all manner of needs in his animals. This use of the term “husband” has been somewhat neglected in how we envision the marital role of a husband to a wife, which is why we don’t always recognize the use of the word when HaShem describes Himself as a “husband” to Israel. A second rendering of the Hebrew verb “ba’al” used here invokes the meaning of “ownership” and “responsibility”, much like the owner of a sports team who provides whatever the team needs to ensure that the players can perform to their greatest potential.

      Now we read the phrase that begins to clarify what is the new covenantal condition of interest in this passage: “ki zot ha-brit asher ecrot…”, because this (is) the covenant that I will cut…”. Notice that the passage doesn’t contain a very detailed description of covenantal conditions or provisions, as if a brand-new covenant were being defined. In fact, the final clauses of the sentence re-iterate the identical conditions that define the Sinai covenant that was broken and then restored with a second copy of the Torah tablets: “v-hayiti lahem l’elohim, v’hemah yihiyu li l’am”. Again we see that complex tensal structure: “and it will be perceived that I have already been for them for their ‘Elohim’, and they will be to Me for (a) people”. This sameness, and yet with a difference, is the reason for interpreting the phrase “brit hadashah” as a renewal of the covenant and not something entirely brand-new.

      So what is different? The Torah will be internalized, “written on the heart”. But is this, in fact, any different from the aspiration of Deut.30:6 about circumcising the heart? I think not. Nonetheless, while the provisions of the covenant are the same, the administration of the covenant is predicted to be different. And the result is predicted to be different and better than prior results, in that everyone will know HaShem, Who will forgive their iniquities and no longer recall their shortcomings. In acceptance of the metaphorical sacrifice represented by Rav Yeshua’s performance as perceived in the heavenly mikdash which is the archetype for the earthly one (depicted also in the letter to the Hebrews), one may claim the benefit of that forgiveness. We might call this a down-payment on the ultimate fulfillment of this covenantal administration. The completion of its fulfillment, in which everyone has intimate knowledge of HaShem, remains yet to occur, though Rav Yeshua opened the door to it two millennia ago.

      Now, your final stated agreement is also in error. It is true that there is no covenant that HaShem has ever cut with Christians (by which I mean non-Jewish followers of Rav Yeshua). However, HaShem did cut a covenant with Avraham the father of the Jewish people, and He has renewed that covenant repeatedly to ensure that it will be fulfilled as He promised Avraham that it would (despite a continual lack of cooperation from Avraham’s descendants). This covenant must be described as a Jewish covenant and not just some generic-sounding covenant of HaShem. The extension of covenantal benefits to non-Jews who conform themselves with HaShem’s principles in allegiance to Rav Yeshua does not constitute an amendment of the Jewish covenant, which always included a provision for non-Jews to be blessed. The stipulation of this blessing was that it would be mediated by the Jewish people. This is still true, both in the mediation by one Jew who is Rav Yeshua and in the mediation of the Jewish people who have preserved the ways and the instructions of HaShem.

      I hope you will find this perspective, and my linguistic explanations, helpful.

  16. And just a quick note about the Hebrew word chadash. One spelling is a verb and the other spelling is an adjective. The word used in Yirmeyahu 31:33 is an adjective, not a verb. The adjective is describing the noun “covenant”. You can tell because the adjective matches the noun in gender, number and definiteness.

  17. I appreciate your lengthy reply. I still disagree with much of what you’ve said. Your interpretation of the text in Yirmeyahu strikes me as being more rabbinical than grammatical. But since I don’t know you personally my perception of what you are trying to communicate may be inaccurate.

    Due to space and time limitations I did not present an involved explanation of what I believe it means to “join” a covenant. So let me just state that joining a unilateral covenant offered by HaShem ( I’ll use that word if helps the readability of what I’m writing) means that you would agree to all the conditions, privileges, promises and responsibilities of that covenant. Similar to joining a club where you would have to abide by the rules of that club to enjoy its benefits.

    Moving on to Avraham.

    I believe that it would be more accurate to say that Avraham was the father of many nations, as scripture says, and that Israel is one of them. Spiritually he is the father of those who believe, not just the Jews. And remember that at the time HaShem made a covenant with an uncircumcised Gentile, a Kasdim. That covenant contained certain promises which were fulfilled in the new covenant which Yeshua brought to all mankind. I don’t see the fulfilling of the promises of a previous covenant as being the same thing as renewing that covenant, because they are not the same.

    I do believe that all the previous covenants given by HaShem build on one another, creating a firm foundation for us to rely on by faith. But each one is unique and it is important to know and understand the differences.

    HaShem made a covenant with a man called Phinehas. It was a covenant of peace and an eternal priesthood for him and his descendants. Quite an amazing covenant! But it has nothing to do with me unless I’m a descendant of Phinehas. No one else can join that covenant because no one else was invited. And therein lies an important difference. We, all of us, Jew and non-Jew, can only partake in the covenants to which we have been invited.

    A renewing of the covenant made at Sinai would mean that the original invitation list would need to be restored as it was at that time. I’m sure that you would not see that as having been changed or being a problem at all.

    A new covenant would have a different invitation. And different promises. And different rules. They may be similar in many respects, but they would not be exactly the same. Renewing, restoring, rebuilding all relate to effort being expended to put back what was destroyed. If the covenant with Israel made at Sinai did not work, the reasons for which I have already stated, why rebuild it?

    Hence the use of an adjective to describe the new covenant. Not a verb. The verb in the sentence is the act of sealing the covenant,“v’carati”. I understand that translating can often be a matter of deciding how the verse should or could read. But that decision should be made in the context of not just the surrounding words, but also within the entire context of the promise.

    And we have the advantage of being able to look back at the completed picture of the promised new covenant. Which is helpful for us who are so far removed from the original events and language.

    I’m liking this discussion. It is not often that I get to work through Hebrew passages with someone as knowledgeable as yourself. Perhaps in Jim’s future posts we will meet again.


  18. @russ – So are you suggesting that a rabbinical interpretation is somehow at odds with a grammatical one? Nonetheless I’ve given you the grammar and the context. I’ll reiterate that no one can “join” a covenant. There can be no “invitation” to do so. The covenant described to Yirmiyahu applies only to the Jewish people. Note that “renewed” is just as much an adjective as “new”. The covenant with Avraham applies only to his circumcised descendents through Yitz’hac and Y’akov (i.e., Jews), regardless of how many other nations are also descended from him. It doesn’t apply to Ishmaelites nor to Esavites. The only problem with the Sinai iteration and administration of the covenant was the hardheartedness of the people to whom it applied. Other than that, the covenant works just fine. [:)] It was restored by HaShem immediately after it was broken, and continues not only to the present day but will continue as long as heaven and earth endure (see Matt.5:18-19). And, yes, its “invitation list” (as you called its defined limited applicability) remains the same. The perspective that non-Jews often find difficult to accept is that non-Jews do not actually participate even in the new/renewed covenant administration, but they may enjoy “nourishment” from it as “grafted wild olive branches”. That may sound excessively exclusive, but in its effect it is not so at all. It might be viewed as a matter of legal definition (which is restrictive) rather than one of practical application (which is only conditioned by voluntary conformity). And this demonstration of “greater grace” to non-Jews also grants them greater merit when they conform with and cling to Torah (as described in Is.56), because they are not obligated to do so in the way that Jews are obligated as subjects of the covenant. Thus non-Jews may demonstrate faith in the same manner as the uncircumcised Avraham, which is why Rav Shaul cited Avraham’s example in his letter to the Galatian assemblies. I know it sounds strange and incredible to Christian ears that they don’t actually own any of the covenants, and especially not the new/renewed version, because Christian doctrine has mistakenly claimed otherwise for so many centuries. Thus also they failed to understand the legal mechanism by which they participate in HaShem’s eternal grace.

    1. @ Steven – That citation of Heb.13:10 is a bit cryptic. I’m not certain about what point you intended to offer by it, but it is one of those passages that identifies the distinction between the earthly mikdash and the heavenly archetype on which it was patterned. As pointed out in Heb.6:13-14, Rav Yeshua was from the tribe of Yehudah, from which no one ever served at the altar of the earthly mikdash and of which Moshe said nothing about including any of them among the cohanim. Rav Yeshua is not eligible to serve as a cohen in the earthly mikdash, but in the heavenly one he is accounted as similar to Melki-Tzedek. Likewise the Levitical priests of the earthly one are ineligible to serve in the heavenly one (nor is anyone else except Rav Yeshua and Melki-Tzedek). The fragile earthly mikdash receives its authority from the indestructable heavenly one, but it is at the altar of the heavenly one that Rav Yeshua presents his offering on our behalf. This was the encouragement offered to Jewish messianists in the days when the mikdash was no longer available to them (likely because it had just been destroyed by the Romans) and their faith was a bit shaken because they were unsure how atonement would continue to operate without the earthly mikdash to illustrate it. The midrashic emphasis here on the indestructable heavenly one (whereby we may answer to a higher authority) was just the sort of reassurance needed. Thereby we Rav-Yeshua messianists turn our attention to the heavenly altar and the one who serves there, remembering the illustration of the earthly one even while is is not in operation. And, of course, we look forward to the day when it will be rebuilt to restore the full earthly illustration of what has been performed at the heavenly level all along. Thus will the nations be able to celebrate Sukkot in Jerusalem along with Jews in the messianic kingdom as described in Zech.14, and Yehezkel’s visions also may be fulfilled. Meanwhile, the nations can just muddle along with the heavenly mikdash just as Jewish messianists must do. [:)]

  19. PL, I don’t muddle along….I am the temple of the living G-d. I dwell in Messiah and he dwells in me and we are in the Father and he has given me his name.

    1. @ Steven – My, my, ain’t we all-fired high-falutin’ this fine day?! That’s a fine collection of metaphors, which bolster a sense of security. However, they do not alter the fact that we are all utterly dependent on HaShem’s unmerited grace.

      At some other time it might be beneficial and instructive to “unpack” the meanings of these metaphors. For example, being given the “name” of something or someone is illustrated by a Hebrew phrase about learning Torah for its own sake, that is, “lishma” (lit. “for her own name”), and not for some ulterior motive or benefit. In other words, learning Torah “lishma” is to learn it for its own goals and purposes. Hence being given the name of the Father or of Rav Yeshua is to become acquainted with the goals or purposes of redemption for humankind, that began with HaShem’s pilot program for the Jewish people in response to a promise granted to Avraham whose trust in HaShem was exceptionally exemplary. We may ask, then, how we may best serve that name, which is to serve or contribute toward that redemptive purpose.

      Other metaphors may elaborated similarly for “being in”, “dwelling in”, participating as a “living stone” in a “temple of the living G-d”, or being oneself an entire “temple of the Holy Spirit”. A great deal of spiritual understanding may be developed thereby. However, citing such metaphors without such understanding can obscure entirely their meanings. I recommend, along with the writer of Proverbs in Prov.23:23, “Buy truth, and do not sell it; acquire wisdom and instruction and understanding”.

  20. Those who eat at the altar which the Cohen have no right to eat…..have no need to offer up animal sacrifices and no need of an earthly temple made by human hands. Our atonement was completely accomplished, we are justified. We ARE the temple in which dwells the very Spirit of the Living G-d and we are seated in heavenly places with him. “for through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father.” It’s awesome….

  21. Steven, that there are many metaphors about believers being Temples or stones in the Temple does not exclude the possibility of their being a Third Temple which Messiah will build in Jerusalem upon his return. Also, most of the sacrifices in the Temple have nothing to do with sin. Zechariah 14:16 says that the nations will send representatives to Jerusalem every year in the Messianic Age, to celebrate Sukkot, which can only be done in its fullest sense if the Temple exists.

  22. “Those who the son has saved are saved indeed” and all done without a temple in Jerusalem….the true worshipers of G-d worship not in Jerusalem but in “Spirit and in Truth” for G-d is a SPIRIT and seeks such to worship him. Those who are “in Christ” are 100% saved, redeemed, atoned for, justified, holy, clean, righteous apart from man made temples (which G-d does not dwell in) and apart from the law.

    Christ managed to do all of that for his believers in his own body and blood. Some may think this is just “muddling along” but I find it quite remarkable. What the temple could not do, G-d has done in his Son. One greater than the temple has come. Hallelujah!

  23. I think it’s all quite remarkable too, Steven. I also think that when Christ comes back to rule and reign in the Messianic Age, he’s going to need to do it from somewhere. That probably won’t be Austin, Texas or Schenectady, New York. 😉

  24. @russ – So are you suggesting that a rabbinical interpretation is somehow at odds with a grammatical one?

    Yes. And you have demonstrated that fact much better that I ever could.

    If Jewish preeminence is your goal, then you will have a very difficult time with much of what Yeshua said during His time here on earth. Not to mention the Hebrew prophets.

    But I’m sure that somewhere in Jame’s next several posts the opportunity to examine those words will present itself.

    Until then.

    1. @russ – Well, Russ, I’m sorry you feel such an antagonism toward the knowledge that is characteristic of Jewish rabbis and related scholarship. We Jews have been preserving the Hebrew language and biblical accuracy for a very very long time. If what I replied seems to you reflective of Jewish preeminence, please understand that it is a reflection of biblical fact rather than any goal that I pursue. Rav Shaul reminded the Roman assemblies in his letter that HaShem does, in fact, assign a preeminence to the Jewish people with whom He has been striving over the course of 4 millennia (viz.: Rom.3:1-2; 9:4-5). Nothing of what Rav Yeshua said contradicts any of this, despite arguments with and criticisms of various individuals and groups who were Pharisees, Sadducees, and/or Scribes. He even ratified the Torah authority of the scribes and Pharisees in Matt.23:1-3 (immediately before reviewing a list of their faults, which, by the way, are also criticised in Talmud so that they may be assiduously avoided by subsequent generations). Never is there a condemnation of the entire Jewish people or a removal of their Torah-defined position that is guaranteed with HaShem’s own personal promises. None of the criticisms from the Prophets does anything more severe than to chastise those who set aside the principles of Torah. We have been exiled and regathered (twice!); we have been oppressed continually, persecuted time and again beyond measure and virtually destroyed; but we are not destroyed precisely because of HaShem’s unbreakable promise. And what then, shall we say of the righteous remnant who stand by their trust in HaShem (and in His annointed messiah king)? In Rom.11, the wild branches are explicitly warned not to boast or vaunt themselves above the natural cultivated branches (though this has been characteristic of Christian history). So if, at the present time, I speak as if to counter or dismiss any trace of Christian triumphalism, to speak straightforwardly as a Jewish messianist as confident in HaShem’s grace as was Rav Shaul (to be seen similarly as something of a madman as he cited in 2Cor.11:23), please understand that there is precedent and justification for it.

  25. Hi I’m a Jewish believer who has been attending a Church for some time, about 1-2 times/month. I’m also a member of a Messianic Jewish synagogue.

    Anyway I’ve gotten friendly with the pastor and he knows that I’m Jewish. The theology is somewhat like your Church and pastor which I consider more middle grown than most denominations. The church is pretty involved with Friends of Israel with is local to the church (and myself) in southern NJ. So love for the Jewish people the pastor has with no doubt in my mind. The problem is as you stated with your pastor is Torah observance. He sort of sees my being Jewish as important in regards to the Gospel(Romans 11 etc) but doesn’t see Torah observance as ‘as’ relevant if you know what I mean. He’s a very young pastor of a somewhat medium congregation. Since he’s young I think he is more open minded(very early 30’s). He wants to meet with me one on one to talk about where I am in my walk with the Lord etc. I might suggest after a while maybe a weekly meeting on Lancaster book Galatians. He knows where I stand sort of about Torah observance.

    Any suggestions?

  26. I’m flattered that you’re asking me for advice, Masher.

    It’s been almost a year since I posted this missive and for most of that year, I’ve been continuing to meet with my Pastor. At some point in our review of the Galatians book, and we didn’t get very far, my emphasis on the continuation of Torah obligation for Jewish people, including Jewish believers, pushed him a little too far, and we ended up agreeing to not continue that particular discussion.

    He’s very cemented in to his viewpoint that the Torah was discontinued and that it’s primary purpose was to show the Jewish people (and the rest of us) that no amount of “good deeds” could justify a human being before God. It takes faith and grace and trust in Jesus Christ.

    I keep trying to explain that the point of Galatians wasn’t to convince Jewish and Gentile believers that the Law was dead or that Torah observance and grace are mutually exclusive. Alas, he can’t or won’t entertain the idea of a paradigm shift.

    So he spends his time trying to convince me of his point of view and I maintain mine. We haven’t spoken for over a month now, partly because he was away for the holidays and partly because for most of January, he’s been away as part of his Ph.D program.

    Advice? It depends on how open he is. Some Christian Pastors already suspect or flat out know that traditional Christian doctrine is somewhat at odds (and that’s putting it mildly) with what the Bible actually says, but they aren’t very public with that opinion because their congregations wouldn’t accept it.

    The first thing you probably should do is to respond to his concern about your “walk with the Lord.” He has to know that being Torah observant isn’t taking the place of faith in Messiah and that you know that faith in God is what justifies anyone before Hashem, not observance. Then, assuming he’s willing, you can take him on a tour of the portions of the apostolic scriptures that explain the law not being dead.

    Admittedly, this is a tough one because the information isn’t contained all in one place. Lancaster’s book is pretty good, but it isn’t perfect. As far as the basic argument, the First Fruits of Zion television episode The Torah is not Canceled is a good place to start.

    Of course, if he’s not willing to listen to your perspective, then it’s a show stopper. In my case, at least I intrigue my Pastor enough for him to continue our discussions.

    Not sure if any of this helps but I hope some of it is valuable.

    If you want to continue this dialog as things progress on your end, I’m willing.

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