The Broken Soreg

0 RBut now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Ephesians 2:13-16

Paul states that the Messiah abolished the “enmity” between Jew and Gentile. This is not the same as saying he abolished the Torah. Instead, the Messiah abolishes the requirement for Gentile believers to undertake circumcision and the covenant signs of Israel (the Law of commandments contained in ordinances) before they may be regarded as one body with the Jewish people.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Commentary on Acts 21:15-22:30 (pg 689)
First Fruits of Zion’s Torah Club
Volume 6: Chronicles of the Apostles
Reading for Torah Portion Shemini (“Eighth”)

I’m sure most Christians will find Lancaster’s interpretation of Ephesians 2 to be very creative but not very convincing. The traditional Christian interpretation is that Jesus took down the wall by abolishing the Torah. Jews and Gentiles are identical in Christ and there are no distinctions based on Jewish observance of the Torah of Moses.

I’ve looked into Ephesians 2 before, but at the behest of someone who had the exact opposite opinion of this scripture. He said:

Ephesians 2 establishes gentiles as now part of the covenants, which I wonder how you deal with such, as I have never seen you address Ephesians.

This interpretation is probably just as startling to most Christians as Lancaster’s, since it declares that all believers, Jewish and Gentile alike, are obligated to the full observance of the Torah. In discussing the Hebrew Roots interpretation of Acts 15, Lancaster has this to say:

Hebrew Roots teachers often claim that the apostles only gave the four essentials to Gentile believers as a starting point. After that, the Gentiles were expected to learn the rest of the Torah in the synagogue every week. Eventually, they would be responsible for keeping all the laws of the Torah in the same manner as their Jewish brothers and sisters.

Acts 21:25 indicates that the apostles understood their ruling differently…Instead, the apostles viewed the four essentials as a standard for the God-fearing Gentile believers. They did not require a gradual process by which the Gentiles adopted the rest of the commandments.

-Lancaster, pg 686

I covered Acts 15 and its implications in much more detail in my multi-part Return to Jerusalem series so I’m not going to revisit that material here. I just wanted to briefly provide the different interpretations that could be applied to Ephesians 2 and where Lancaster stands on the matter of Jews vs. Gentiles and Torah observance.

But what about this “dividing wall of hostility” Paul mentions? I’m about to suggest something a little radical.

In the course of his massive remodeling of the Jerusalem Temple, Herod the Great extended the Temple Mount platform significantly by constructing a retaining wall and adding fill. A balustrade made of stone lattice work (soreg) marked off the original holy precinct. The balustrade functioned as a perimeter fence that kept Gentiles from straying into the sanctified area. The Mishnah reports the lattice work wall stood ten handbreadths (three feet) high. Josephus recalled it as slightly taller at three cubits (five feet) height. The people referred to the courtyard outside of the barrier as the Court of the Gentiles because Gentiles were allowed to congregate and worship in that courtyard, but they could not draw nearer than the balustrade. The Levitical guard posted plaques on the balustrade forbidding Gentiles from trespassing beyond that point.

-Lancaster, pg 688

middle-wall-partitionTo the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in the written Torah that mandates such a wall or a “Court of the Gentiles” on the Temple grounds, however especially during the days of Jesus and afterward, until the destruction of the Temple, there was much existing halachah that kept Jews and Gentiles apart. We see evidence of such in the vision Peter had in Acts 10 when Jesus makes clear to Peter that the halachah requiring that a Jew never enter a Gentile’s home was incorrect. God did not make the Gentiles an “unclean” people.

But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction.

Acts 11:9-12

Could Paul be using the idea of the soreg metaphorically in Ephesians 2?

I told you it was a radical idea. I’m not saying that this is even a valid interpretation of the text, but it is an interesting idea. In order for Paul’s mission to the Gentiles to be successful, one of the things that had to be broken down was Jewish hostility toward Gentiles. In the diaspora, by necessity, Jews had to interact, at least to a degree, with Gentiles, but in Israel and especially in Jerusalem, this was not the case (with the exception of forcibly having to “interact” with the Roman military occupation).

We see recorded in Acts 21:37-22:21, Paul apparently successfully defending himself against his Jewish accusers after the near riot he endured at the Temple when he was falsely accused of speaking against the Jewish people, the Torah, the Temple, and bringing a non-Jew past the Court of the Gentiles and into the Temple (Acts 21:28-29). It’s only when he mentioned the Gentiles, did his Jewish listeners go quite berserk:

And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this.

Acts 22:21-24

I’d certainly call that a “wall of hostility.”

So one interpretation of having “broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances” is doing away with all Jewish Torah observance, which was apparently what was causing the separation and bad feelings between Jewish and Gentile believers. Except the Torah doesn’t say that. First century Jewish halachah said that and the lesson Peter learned was that such separation was incorrect halachah.

Another interpretation is that the wall being broken down was the wall that kept Gentiles out of membership in national Israel, and once broken down by their being “grafted in” (Romans 11:11-24), Gentiles gained full covenant relationship with God and Israel by essentially becoming Israel and thus, required to observe all of the Torah mitzvot. The only thing they didn’t have to do was convert to Judaism, but otherwise, they certainly looked like converts. That makes even less sense if the wall was broken down by “abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.” Nothing is abolished, the Gentiles are just added into the “law of commandments expressed in ordinances.”

Lancaster suggests that what Jesus broke down in his flesh when he was executed was how Gentiles were prevented from covenant relationship with God and the Jewish people without converting to Judaism. The legal requirement for conversion was the law that was abolished. This makes a bit more sense because it is through Messiah that we among the nations can become disciples and we are not required to convert to Judaism. But then, where does all the hostility come from that was preventing Gentiles from entering into covenant?

If what went away was a faulty interpretation and application of Torah that promoted an extreme hostility of Jews against Gentiles (which is not too hard to understand given that the Jewish nation was at that time being occupied by a harsh and cruel Gentile imperial army), Ephesians 2, especially when compared to Acts 10, begins to make more sense.

I’m sure my amateur interpretation can be criticized on a number of levels and again, I’m not saying that my little theory has much, if any, weight of evidence to support it, but I want you to think about it. I want you to consider the possibilities, especially in light of how Jewish audiences took less exception to the message of Jesus as the Messiah, and much more exception to the idea that such a message required doing away with the Torah, the Temple, and including unconverted Gentiles as equal covenant members.

infinite_pathsPaul was fighting an uphill battle and he was never entirely successful during his lifetime. In fact, after his death, the hostility between Jews and Gentiles continued to grow until Christianity was no longer a branch of religious Judaism, but instead, represented an entirely new theological discipline…one that was actually opposed to Judaism.

To the degree that Judaism and Christianity are still separate religions, with neither one wanting to have anything to do with the other for the most part (there are noteworthy exceptions), that wall of hostility still exists today. Part of why I write this blog is to offer avenues at, if not deconstructing the wall, punching a few holes in the “soreg” so we can see each other more clearly and even have a bit of a conversation.

When the Messiah returns, I believe he will finish what Paul started. I believe he will finish removing the wall we continually rebuild. I believe he will show us how to live with each other in peace. And Jews will remain a distinct people and nation as Jews. And Gentile believers will remain distinct from the rest of the world as non-Jewish disciples of the Master. And the different parts will truly act as one within a single body.

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17 thoughts on “The Broken Soreg”

  1. Great article James. i agree with you especially in your last two paragraphs. I do believe it’s all in God’s plan and one day soon it will come to pass. Reminds me of this beautiful message in Psalm 133:1-3-CJB~ Oh, how good, how pleasant it is
    for brothers to live together in harmony.
    It is like fragrant oil on the head
    that runs down over the beard,
    over the beard of Aharon,
    and flows down on the collar of his robes.
    It is like the dew of Hermon
    that settles on the mountains of Tziyon.
    For it was there that Adonai ordained
    the blessing of everlasting life.

  2. This will be something Messiah will have to accomplish. It is apparent that all of our efforts to understand and implement his plan for the body of Moshiach have not proved successful. Until then, we must all try to respect and love one another and even if unsure, to allow the Jewish people within the community of believers to live out lives of being Jewish without impediments or demands from the Gentile parts of the body.

  3. James, have you dissected the Greek of Eph. 2:15 yet? You probably already know that Christian commentators have argued that this verse refers either A) to the Torah as a whole, and thus God has gotten rid of it, or B) that it refers to the “Ceremonial Law,” and thus God has gotten rid of it.

    What’s fascinating though, if you look at the Greek, is that the Greek seems to say something very different here, with Paul referring to:

    τὸν [the]
    νόμον [law]
    τῶν [of the]
    ἐντολῶν [commands]
    ἐν [contained/in]
    δόγμασιν [‘dogmasin’ from ‘dogma’ = decrees]
    καταργήσας [having annuled]
    ἵνα τοὺς δύο κτίσῃ ἐν αὐτῷ εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον ποιῶν εἰρήνην
    [that the two he might create in himself into one new man, making peace]

    Which begs the question: what are these “commands contained in dogma/decrees, that Paul is referring to? And is it a coincidence that they are mentioned directly after the wall of partition you refer to in your article? (something that was added later, and not found in Torah — and thus a tradition that drove a wedge between Jewish & non-Jewish believers?)

    Also fascinating: do a word study on the Greek word δόγμα [dogma] — out of the 5 times it’s used in the bible, 3 of those instances clearly refer to the “decrees of caesar” [i.e. manmade decrees, or regulations]. The other two instances are Eph. 2:15 and Colossians 2:14.

    Colossians 2:14 is remarkable here because Paul is using it in much the same way as he employs it in Ephesians 2:15 [referring to the “handwriting of decrees that were against us…. and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross”]

    That was longer than I had intended, and will be part of a longer commentary on these verses that I have in the works. Perhaps your thinking about these verses travels along similar lines.

  4. Interestingly enough Rob, your analysis of the Greek seems to fit what I’ve been describing if erroneous halachah (i.e. man-made decrees, or regulations) regarding Gentiles was fueling Jewish hostility toward them/us. Once that perspective was removed, then (ideally) Jewish and non-Jewish believers could enjoy fellowship as we see between Peter and his Jewish companions in the home of Cornelius (Acts 10). In that sense, Ephesians 2 can’t be speaking of removing Torah observance from Jewish believers or necessarily adding the obligation to Gentile believers, since Torah isn’t the object of Paul’s commentary.

  5. First century Jewish halachah said that and the lesson Peter learned was that such separation was incorrect halachah.

    James are you denying the authority of the first century? Gene would quickly point to Matthew 23. I am surprised he hasn’t already jumped all over you. 😛

    Another interpretation is that the wall being broken down was the wall that kept Gentiles out of membership in national Israel, and once broken down by their being “grafted in” (Romans 11:11-24), Gentiles gained full covenant relationship with God and Israel by essentially becoming Israel and thus, required to observe all of the Torah mitzvot. The only thing they didn’t have to do was convert to Judaism, but otherwise, they certainly looked like converts.

    You don’t consider Acts 15:1 to be such a wall? Even the Apostles disagreed on their position not just for gentiles, but also for Jews. Paul also took issue in Romans 5, teaching covenant relationship to be established by faith, not by circumcision. If Paul is correct in understanding conversion by faith, then a conversion by circumcision is erroneous.

    That makes even less sense if the wall was broken down by “abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.” Nothing is abolished, the Gentiles are just added into the “law of commandments expressed in ordinances.”

    That is if the sentence is referencing the Torah, but if it is not referencing the Torah, as I agree with you, then this statement makes perfect sense. How are gentiles going to come into covenant relationship with God, if the natural covenant members are hostile to them, they don’t get covenant acceptance or status. Whats changed?

    Lancaster suggests that what Jesus broke down in his flesh when he was executed was how Gentiles were prevented from covenant relationship with God and the Jewish people without converting to Judaism. The legal requirement for conversion was the law that was abolished.

    Exactly, not the Torah, instead the halachah. The idea that one can convert through a circumcision ritual is not found in the Torah.

    Have a question, Lancaster stated that gentiles through Messiah have a covenant relationship with God, what covenant did gentiles join according to Lancaster and where did he come to such a conclusion? If you don’t know, no problem, but if he writes about it, I would like to read or see his argument on the issue.

  6. Hi,
    I just seemed to come across this post almost by accident. In response to your thoughtful comment:
    “hostility between Jews and Gentiles continued to grow until Christianity was no longer a branch of religious Judaism, but instead, represented an entirely new theological discipline…one that was actually opposed to Judaism. ”
    I hope you don’t mind my adding my thoughts to this, just to expand on that:
    (If you accept Catholics to be included as “Christians” ) then Catholics generally believe that the Jewish people are their fore-fathers in the faith. From that perspective, Catholics do not oppose Judaism. We believe the roots of our faith are in Judaism, the shoot which sprung from the root of Jesse being Christ himself. In this regard, we have great respect for Judaism. We see the New Testament as a fulfilment of the old, and much of our present day worship is based on Old Testament models. (I am making the comment as a Catholic.)

  7. Ah, Zion. I had a feeling you’d come around. 😉

    I’ve been critical of the halachah that kept Jews from entering Gentile homes in the first century more than once. My understanding of Peter’s vision in Acts 10 is that Messiah is saying that it is incorrect halachah…people are not “unclean.” No sure Gene would disagree with that, otherwise he might have to abstain from entering homes like yours and mine.

    Acts 15:1 (I covered all this in my Return to Jerusalem series… you should re-read it) was the classic problem of how to allow entry of non-Jewish people into a Jewish religious structure. The aforementioned “Jerusalem” series outlines my understanding of the halachah James and the Council of the Apostles issued with the approval of the Holy Spirit answering that problem.

    But while the ruling was made, it doesn’t mean all believing Jews accepted it. Paul relates in Galatians 2 how Peter seemed quite comfortable having fellowship with Gentiles, but when “certain” (important) men from James came around, Peter pulled back from the Gentiles. One way of looking at Peter’s action is that, although these men were from James, they did not approve of or at least were not comfortable with Jews having close relationships with Gentiles, so peer pressure won out over Peter.

    The death of Messiah may have broken down all of the walls of hostility that kept Jewish and Gentile believers from having fellowship, but while we are free to associate, that doesn’t mean human prejudice is easy to overcome. Paul seemed quite successful, but Peter continued to struggle.

    I agree that it was the halachah that required mandatory separation of Jews and gentiles that Paul was saying was broken in the body of Messiah, but it doesn’t mean that identity and covenant distinctions were obliterated at the same time.

    What covenant attaches Gentiles to God? Why primarily the Abrahamic covenant (which I’ve also covered at length) which was re-enforced in the New Covenant and enacted in the body and blood of Messiah. That’s what gives the people of the nations covenant access to a relationship with God, not observing the Torah mitzvot in the manner of the Jews.

    Torah observance doesn’t save anyone, it is a set of national and “people” behaviors that are meant to separate and distinguish the Jewish people to God and to the rest of the world across human history. Jewish and Gentile believers have faith and grace in common, and faith in God, as we saw in Abraham’s case, is what saves.

  8. geloruma, thanks for reading my blog post and commenting.

    The way I understand the progression of events across time, historically, the early Catholic church had a more “adversarial” relationship with Jews and Judaism than exists today. I admired Pope John Paul II for his positive relationship with Jewish people and Israel, and Pope Francis seems to be carrying on in his footsteps. We Christians in all of our denominations, have less than a stellar track record in relation to the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, but I believe that is changing. Your words are encouraging.

    By the way, the fellow I sit closest to where I work is Catholic and he’s one of the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever met. I consider him a Christian (though I know in some circles, that statement is probably controversial).

    Blessings.

  9. Ah, Zion. I had a feeling you’d come around.

    😀

    I’ve been critical of the halachah that kept Jews from entering Gentile homes in the first century more than once. My understanding of Peter’s vision in Acts 10 is that Messiah is saying that it is incorrect halachah…people are not “unclean.” No sure Gene would disagree with that, otherwise he might have to abstain from entering homes like yours and mine.

    You have a Jew in your house, so he might visit you on account of that, you have a 1-up on me.

    Acts 15:1 (I covered all this in my Return to Jerusalem series… you should re-read it) was the classic problem of how to allow entry of non-Jewish people into a Jewish religious structure. The aforementioned “Jerusalem” series outlines my understanding of the halachah James and the Council of the Apostles issued with the approval of the Holy Spirit answering that problem.

    Thanks I might do that, I was just giving a different perspective.

    The death of Messiah may have broken down all of the walls of hostility that kept Jewish and Gentile believers from having fellowship, but while we are free to associate, that doesn’t mean human prejudice is easy to overcome. Paul seemed quite successful, but Peter continued to struggle.

    Agreed.

    I agree that it was the halachah that required mandatory separation of Jews and gentiles that Paul was saying was broken in the body of Messiah, but it doesn’t mean that identity and covenant distinctions were obliterated at the same time.

    I agree with this as well. Take for example, gentile covenant relationship found in the Torah, the ger is always distinguished from the native born. I think it is safe to say, Yeshua was doing anything against the Torah, instead He was re-establishing the Torah over that of contradicting Halachah.

    What covenant attaches Gentiles to God? Why primarily the Abrahamic covenant (which I’ve also covered at length) which was re-enforced in the New Covenant and enacted in the body and blood of Messiah. That’s what gives the people of the nations covenant access to a relationship with God, not observing the Torah mitzvot in the manner of the Jews.

    My question was more in reference to what Lancaster thought, but thanks for giving your opinion. I agree with you in the most generalized way. The covenants are intertwined and not separable, at least without destroying certain parts of the covenant. With regards to that, the Law of Moses is not a covenant, it is the rules of a covenant. In the Torah, the ger were given rules on how to follow the Torah, so that should be the example followed and laid out. Anything outside that is simply speculation. Basically should ger act like native born’s, no, they should act like a ger.

    Torah observance doesn’t save anyone, it is a set of national and “people” behaviors that are meant to separate and distinguish the Jewish people to God and to the rest of the world across human history. Jewish and Gentile believers have faith and grace in common, and faith in God, as we saw in Abraham’s case, is what saves.

    Agreed on salvation, but covenant obligation is a different point all together. As you stated Jews and Gentiles are both saved the same way, but how we are to obey God is in regard to covenant relation. Gentiles who are in covenant are also to be distinguished from the world, just as their Jewish brothers (Apostolic Writings make reference to this many times, ie Eph 4:17). The only clear instruction we have concerning gentile covenant obligation is found in the Torah.

  10. In regard to your last question Zion, based on Acts 15 and Acts 21, the Gentiles were exempted from full observance of the mitzvot. Lancaster’s opinion on this is stated in the body of my blog post. There’s nothing inhibiting a non-Jew from voluntarily applying more mitzvot in their (our) lives, but we don’t have the same requirement as the Jewish people.

    I’m sure by now you’ve read Toby Janicki’s lastest blog post on Gentiles and the Shabbat and he says pretty much the same thing, with the emphasis on Gentiles observing the Shabbat in some manner or fashion, perhaps into the fourth century CE.

    Shabbat observance is one thing I think the church has lost and I believe all Christians will return to some sort of Shabbat observance in the Messianic age.

  11. In regard to your last question Zion, based on Acts 15 and Acts 21, the Gentiles were exempted from full observance of the mitzvot. Lancaster’s opinion on this is stated in the body of my blog post. There’s nothing inhibiting a non-Jew from voluntarily applying more mitzvot in their (our) lives, but we don’t have the same requirement as the Jewish people.

    I did read Lancaster’s view on this above and I don’t see this conclusion in Acts 15 or Acts 21, not including the inconsistencies it would raise with other scriptures and their own doctrinal stances.

    I’m sure by now you’ve read Toby Janicki’s lastest blog post on Gentiles and the Shabbat and he says pretty much the same thing, with the emphasis on Gentiles observing the Shabbat in some manner or fashion, perhaps into the fourth century CE.

    Yes, except that, Toby, tried to argue for gentile obligation to the Shabbat, but failed to produce the evidence, he makes a lot of assumptions concerning gentile obligation, without prefacing why gentiles are obligated, he simply assumes that because some gentiles kept the Shabbat in the first century or because God sanctified the seventh day from the beginning, it must have been mandatory, but there is no real logic to his arguments. I have asked him about this, but he doesn’t have an answer.

    FFOZ’s position would hold more weight if they offered solid evidence to their claims, but instead they spend more time on opinions and assumptions than anything, which we are all welcome to believe however we wish, so its hard for me to share the same views.

    Shabbat observance is one thing I think the church has lost and I believe all Christians will return to some sort of Shabbat observance in the Messianic age.

    I hope so too. 😀

  12. Like much of the Torah, I don’t think we Gentile believers carry an identical obligation as Jewish believers, but I don’t see why we would be forbidden for observe some sort of Shabbat either.

    I think I read Toby’s blog differently, because I didn’t see him saying Gentiles were obligated, just that it was “normalized” for believing Gentiles to observe Shabbos in the 1st Century CE since so much of their connection to worship was in the synagogue.

  13. Like much of the Torah, I don’t think we Gentile believers carry an identical obligation as Jewish believers, but I don’t see why we would be forbidden for observe some sort of Shabbat either.

    Well, if gentiles are not obligated to keep these commands, then truly they should not be keeping these commands, there is a reason not too if that is the case… so its more than simply if a gentile would like too.

    I think I read Toby’s blog differently, because I didn’t see him saying Gentiles were obligated, just that it was “normalized” for believing Gentiles to observe Shabbos in the 1st Century CE since so much of their connection to worship was in the synagogue.

    Depends which blog you read, they are contradicting… in his blog post labeled:

    “God-Fearers: Some Practical Shabbat Advice”

    Jew and Gentile both need to set aside a holy day for rest and sanctification.

    If a gentile is not obligated to keep the commandments, then a Gentile does not need to set aside the Sabbath, the Sabbath does not mean anything to a gentile not responsible. His claim lacks evidence.

  14. Well, if gentiles are not obligated to keep these commands, then truly they should not be keeping these commands…

    I craft what I eat in part because I’m married to a Jewish woman but also as a matter of personal conviction, not because I’m commanded. I don’t see the problem unless someone should call me a “wannabe Jew” although that has happened too.

  15. I agree with James in his illustration of the principle that a lack of obligation does not become a prohibition. Non-Jews are not prohibited from adopting Torah behaviors that further the progress of their “sanctification”. Why else would Acts 15:21 hint at a recommendation for non-Jews to learn Torah in synagogues each Shabbat? There would be no point for non-Jews to learn Torah at all if at least some aspects of it would not be applied in their lives eventually. And Rav Yeshua’s description of greatness in the kingdom of heaven (viz: Matt.5:19) seems to depend on the performance of Torah. Does this not apply to non-Jews also?

    As for removing a dividing wall of hostility — Let me note that a change in the application of one halakhah, that applied validly to a situation that existed at one period of time, does not invalidate all halakhot or the entire halakhic perspective. The situation to which I refer was a period when all non-Jews were idolators and therefore metaphorically (and often physically) “unclean”. Kefa’s vision and the message about what HaShem had cleansed did not automatically apply to all non-Jews. It applied only to particular ones that HaShem had cleansed because of their pursuit of a relationship with Him and His annointed Jewish king the Messiah Rav Yeshua. These were cleansed “in Messiah” (or “by the Messiah”, i.e., by his metaphorical atoning sacrifice). This cleansing placed these individuals, and others like them, outside of the framework to which the halakhah applied when it forbade contact between Jews and non-Jews. This is the “breakdown” of that halakhah provided by affiliation with Messiah. The particular halakhah that prohibited Jewish contact with idolatrous non-Jews no longer applied to this new category of non-idolatrous non-Jews, who would, presumably, be distinguishable from the rest of the idolatrous non-Jews to which the halakhah did still continue to apply. Of course, a failure to recognize this distinction might have some bearing on the accusation leveled against Rav Shaul in Acts 21:29, whereby some falsely presumed that he had allowed Trophimus the Ephesian to enter areas of the Temple precincts that would be prohibited to non-Jews on the basis of a long-standing halakhah that had not yet been modified officially nor had any such change been announced publically. Regardless of Rav Shaul’s view that such a halakhah should not be applicable to “cleansed” non-Jews, he would not have set a stumbling block before the Temple-attending public by not adhering to established official protocol. One might wonder if greater public awareness and acceptance of a new kind of “cleansed” non-Jewish G-d-Fearer might eventually have enabled the issuance of special passes to such non-Jews to allow them access where non-Jews could not go previously. However, such wishful thinking is rather beyond the scope of anything that actual history permitted.

    We might even wonder if there is any limit to the acceptance by today’s non-Jewish Christians of any cleansing comparable to that performed by HaShem for the men whom Kefa was to accompany subsequent to the sheet vision reported in Acts 10. Sometimes the blogosphere seems to reveal a notable lack of such metaphorical cleansing or acceptance, and some who view themselves as sheep may ultimately find that they are actually goats (to invoke a different metaphor). But I suppose that issue should be reserved for a different blog discussion. [:)]

  16. As for removing a dividing wall of hostility — Let me note that a change in the application of one halakhah, that applied validly to a situation that existed at one period of time, does not invalidate all halakhot or the entire halakhic perspective. The situation to which I refer was a period when all non-Jews were idolators and therefore metaphorically (and often physically) “unclean”. Kefa’s vision and the message about what HaShem had cleansed did not automatically apply to all non-Jews.

    An interesting perspective. I hadn’t actually considered that one. Oh, and I agree that the vision of the sheet, while addressing one particular halachah did not invalidate other halachot or the system within Judaism as a whole.

    …and some who view themselves as sheep may ultimately find that they are actually goats (to invoke a different metaphor). But I suppose that issue should be reserved for a different blog discussion.

    Yes, I think I did have that different blog discussion.

  17. agree with James in his illustration of the principle that a lack of obligation does not become a prohibition. Non-Jews are not prohibited from adopting Torah behaviors that further the progress of their “sanctification”. Why else would Acts 15:21 hint at a recommendation for non-Jews to learn Torah in synagogues each Shabbat? There would be no point for non-Jews to learn Torah at all if at least some aspects of it would not be applied in their lives eventually. And Rav Yeshua’s description of greatness in the kingdom of heaven (viz: Matt.5:19) seems to depend on the performance of Torah. Does this not apply to non-Jews also?

    Well, I don’t hold to the doctrine of FFOZ, or James, so this actually is not an issue from my own perspective, I was only arguing from their own perspective. The main point was that Toby Janicki tried to argue for obligation, but failed to produce the evidence, the second argument is based on if gentiles are not supposed to keep the Torah on the basis that the Torah is what makes Jews distinct from the world, then we have an inconsistency here. In this case, some have chosen to simply pick what is and what is not blurring the lines.

    I believe that gentiles who are in covenant are responsible to the covenant, so again, no issues here.

    With that said, I completely agree with the points you made above.

    Let me note that a change in the application of one halakhah, that applied validly to a situation that existed at one period of time, does not invalidate all halakhot or the entire halakhic perspective.

    My point was more of a joke concerning Halachah, it is clear though from the text that some Halachah invalidates God’s word, this does not mean all Halachah does. Some though, consider it to all be valid, which is a mistake.

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