Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Interdependence or Collapse

communityPaul’s letter to the Romans offers us a vision and model for Jewish-Gentile reconciliation. This is because Paul deals with the division between Jesus-believing Jews and Gentiles in his own day. Though Gentile believers were probably a majority in the church in Rome, they were theologically marginalized. For most of history that situation has been reversed, yet part of Romans addresses in advance even that problem.

-Craig Keener
“Chapter 17: Interdependence and Mutual Blessing in the Church” (pg 187)
Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Its Ecclesial Context and Biblical Foundations

In some ways, the problem briefly defined by Dr. Keener is one that hovers around the fringes of the Christian Hebrew Roots movement today. For the better part of two weeks, I’ve been writing a series of “mini-reviews” on the different chapters of Rudolph’s and Willitts’ book which address interrelated themes within larger Messianic Judaism. They have been received positively and even enthusiastically by most of my vocal readers but a few have perceived the information in a negative light. Accusations of inequality and even racism between Jews and Gentiles have been raised periodically, and I believe part of the underlying problem is a covert or even unconscious fear among these Gentile disciples of Jesus that Messianic Judaism seeks to “theologically marginalize” non-Jewish participants in the Messianic Jewish movement, which spills over into Hebrew Roots, since many of those who are involved also identify themselves as “Messianic Judaism.”

Is the Messianic Jewish movement seeking to marginalize and even to eliminate the Gentile Christian (Hebrew Roots) believers from their ranks and from coveted access to the Torah mitzvot? A casual observer (or one with a specific bias) might say “yes,” but let’s consider what we can learn from different analyses of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

In addition to Keener, Dr. William Campbell and Dr. Scott Hafemann also present their viewpoints on Romans to support the concept of interdependence between believing Jews and Gentiles. The ekklesia doesn’t function correctly and perhaps doesn’t even exist at all without the co-inhabitance and cooperation of both Jews and Gentiles in the body of Messiah. Perhaps that’s why, over the past two-thousand years or so, we haven’t been doing so well in certain areas, because Christianity historically has marginalized Jews theologically (and in just about every other way). It’s time to restore the balance.

Campbell, in “Chapter 18: The Relationship between Israel and the Church”, believes that Paul addressed his Roman letter only to the Gentiles and was speaking about Jews but not to Jews, which seems to be a minority opinion. Keener, on the other hand, presents the main focus of Paul’s letter as being on both Jews and Gentiles:

Although scholars have offered other reasonable proposals, the most widely accepted background for Paul’s letter to believers in Rome involves disagreement between Jesus-believing Jews and Gentiles regarding Jewish customs.

-Keener, pg 187

Apparently, when the Jewish population in the Messianic community in Rome began to dwindle, thanks to the emperor Claudius expelling some or most of the Jews (Acts 18:2), Gentiles began neglecting some or all of the Jewish religious customs they had been taught in relation to the worship of the God of Israel. This rather begs the question of just how much Torah did the Gentiles keep in those days, but does confirm that, for the most part, Gentiles weren’t very driven to Torah observance in the manner of their Jewish mentors (Acts 15:30-31).

For Keener, the primary message of Paul to the Jews and Gentiles in Rome was unity:

Unity was a frequent topic of exhortation in antiquity, and it is central to Paul’s plea for Jewish-Gentile reconciliation in Romans. This is clear and not least because he climaxes his larger argument by inviting unity (Romans 15:5-6) and inviting believers to welcome each other (Romans 15:7). He underscores this point by showing from Scripture that God’s plan includes faithful Gentiles (Romans 15:8-12). The letter’s final exhortation includes a warning against those who sow division (Romans 16:17).

-ibid, pg 188

PaulPaul issues warnings specifically to the Gentiles against fomenting division between them and the Jews and expresses his dismay that the Gentiles have neglected his warnings.

Relative to interdependence, Keener stresses that the Gentiles have a special role to play in relation to Israel to “provoke jealousy” because of the temporary state of Israel’s non-acceptance of the Gospels.

In Romans 11, however, we learn another divine strategy in Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. Gentiles received mercy through Israel’s failure to embrace the gospel; now Gentiles would become a divine vehicle of bringing Jewish people to Christ. What did this reversal involve? Scripture promised that God would restore and exalt his people in the time of their ultimate repentance (e.g., Amos 9:7-15; Hosea 14:4-7).

They (Gentiles) would in turn help the Jewish people by provoking repentance.

-ibid, pp 190-1

Keener also emphasizes what he is not saying:

I am also not urging all Gentile Christians to join Messianic Jewish congregations. First, they would numerically overwhelm those congregations and their cultural identity. Second, Paul is clear that while Gentile believers in Jesus are spiritual proselytes to Judaism, they are responsible only for the moral heart of the law and not for Israel-distinctive elements.

-ibid, pg 191

(It should be noted that, at least in the United States, all of the Messianic Jewish congregations of which I’m aware, do have a majority membership of Gentiles, but are still designed and administrated as a Jewish religious and community space)

There’s a sort of balancing act involved in Gentiles pursuing their (our) mission of provoking Jewish people to repentance and not overly involving ourselves in Jewish communities to the point of overwriting Jewish identity. Also, Keener says that by over-emphasizing Gentile presence within the Messianic Jewish community for the sake of Jewish repentance, we would likely inhibit part of the Messianic Jewish mission, which is to act as a bridge into the larger Jewish world community.

Messianic Jews, in Keener’s view, depend on their Gentile counterparts to provide resources for the support of the Messianic Jewish community. This isn’t always by sending donations, as Paul did by taking up a collection among the Gentiles to carry to Jerusalem (although it can be), but to, in a larger sense, continue to acknowledge our kinship to our Jewish brothers in Messiah, and even humble ourselves by remembering that salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22) and that “the people whose heritage we share and from whom our faith springs (Romans 9:4-5), may help us surmount the past barriers of Gentile Christian anti-Semitism.” (idid, pg 193)

But while Keener addressed primarily how the Jews depend on the Gentile believers, Campbell, in Chapter 18, takes a different approach.

Their gentile arrogance is based on mistaken assumptions, and Paul gives no allowance to such misunderstandings of God’s purpose according to election (Romans 9:11). It is no accident that in Romans Paul stresses the order of priority, “to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile” (Romans 2:10 KJV; cf. 1:16). This points to the identity of gentile Christ-followers not as an independent entity, but as interdependent on the call and identity of Israel, to whom as Ephesians 2:13 asserts they “have been brought near.” As Ian Rock asserts, “to affirm the lordship of Christ is to simultaneously recognize the preference of Israel. But to recognize the primacy of Israel is also to accept the importance of the Jews.

Campbell, pp 202-3

jewish-prayer_daveningThe flow of dependence is reversed. In addition to Jews depending on Gentiles to support their repentance and uphold their identity, it is the Gentiles who, without the Jews, are also without the promises, and thus have no independent connection to salvation or covenant with God. The covenants are through Israel and we Gentiles are able to enjoy the blessings only because of Israel.

They (Gentiles) could not really share if they had taken over Israel’s inheritance, as they would then be the sole inheritors. So Paul reminds the gentile Christ-followers, “Do not boast over the branches…remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you” (Romans 11:18 RSV).

-ibid, pg 203

Campbell concludes his chapter with an illuminating chronological construction of Romans 15:9b-13 which seems to say it all.

Because David’s past vindication establishes God’s promise to David’s seed (v.9b), therefore the Gentiles should not give up hope, but learn from the experience of disobedient Israel to rejoice in God alone (in the midst of the false security that comes from the nations’ current reign in the world) (v. 10);

specifically, the Gentiles should not give up hope, but learn from the experience of the faithful remnant to praise God for his truthfulness and mercy (in the midst of the adversity that comes from being part of God’s elect in the world) (v. 11),

because the future vindication of David’s seed in fulfillment of God’s promise is the hope of the nations (v. 12).

-ibid, pg 212

In “Chapter 19: The Redemption of Israel for the Sake of the Gentiles,” Dr. Hafemann returns to the Gentile’s dependence on Jewish Israel.

As Paul argues in Romans 15:7-13, God’s commitment to Israel for the sake of the nations forms the bedrock of the Church’s hope. Viewed from this perspective, Messianic Judaism reminds us not only of God’s faithfulness, demonstrated in Israel’s history, and of his grace, now magnified in the Messiah, but also of his promises for the future of his people, to be fulfilled in the final redemption of Jews and Gentiles.

-Hafemann, pg 206

So we see that God has been historically faithful to Israel for her own sake, but also for the sake of the Gentiles who will be saved through His promises to Israel. Again, we see that without Israel, the Gentile believers have no leg to stand on, so to speak, and that any covenant connection we have with God through Messiah vanishes like a morning mist under the summer sun if we dispense with Israel and the Jewish people. Not only must Israel continue but it must continue as the head of the nations as a wholly Jewish nation, unique and distinct from the people of the nations, we Gentiles, who need them for our hope in salvation.

The linkage is through Abraham, as I’m sure you realize by now:

Since God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles, both the “circumcised” and the “uncircumcised” will be justified “through [the] same faith” (3:29-30), the faith of Abraham, for “he is the father of us all” (4:16).

-ibid

By Gentiles desiring to supersede the Jews in the promises or to fuse our identity with theirs, creating a single Israel and eliminating our identity as the people of the nations called by God’s Name, we are disconnecting ourselves from the very salvation that we desire to claim only for ourselves. There is a wonderful eschatological promise for the Christian church, but only if there is a wonderful eschatological promise for the future of Israel as well.

Hafemann continues:

Paul’s chain of Scripture will therefore focus on the purpose of Israel’s redemptive history with regard to the Gentiles, rather than referring merely in a general sense to the inclusion of Jews and Gentiles within the church. The Gentiles are to glorify God for what he has promised to do for Israel (Romans 15:9a) since the future redemption of the nations, including the resurrection from the dead and redemption of the world (cf. Romans 5:17; 8:19-22, 31-39), is tied to the rescue of Israel (Romans 5:18; cf. 11:15). The current experience of Jews and Gentiles as distinct but equal identities within the Church therefore takes on significance precisely because it is a foretaste of the consummation yet to come for both Israel and the nations.

-ibid, pp 207-8

destruction_of_the_templeThis is something that Boaz Michael of First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) was trying to say during last year’s Sukkot conference. I wrote about it in a series of blog posts, including Redeeming the Heart of Israel, Part 1 and Part 2, but I was never clear on how this interdependence was rooted in scripture until this time. I see now, more clearly than ever, that any form of supersessionism damages not only Israel, but the hope of the nations for salvation and redemption, since our hope only comes from the Jews.

When the Church tries to replace Israel in the covenant promises or mistakenly chooses to believe they (we) are Israel, it is like a man who decides to cut off his legs in order to stand taller and straighter. Instead, he only causes great pain and permanently cripples himself.

It is said that in ancient days during Sukkot, Israel offered sacrifices at the Temple for the sake of the nations to atone for their (our) sins. When the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 CE, they also stopped those sacrifices and thus the atonement Israel provided for the nations of the world. Basically, the Romans cut off their own legs when they destroyed the Temple, ravaged Jerusalem, and scattered the vast majority of the Jewish people to the four corners of the earth.

As Christians, when we dismiss Israel from the covenants and in one way or another, try to take their place, we are doing exactly the same thing. As it takes two healthy legs to support the body of a man, so the ekklesia requires the one “leg” of Messianic Judaism and the other “leg” of Gentile Christians. If we cut off the Jewish leg or if we try to fuse the Gentile leg and the Jewish leg into a single mutilated limb, the best the body can do is to hop around impotently. More likely, the ekklesia will just fall down and break apart.

We depend on each other, but we can only support the body of Christ by being two limbs of the body standing side by side, walking together.

154 days.

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44 thoughts on “Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Interdependence or Collapse”

  1. First post again, I must be special, lets get this ball rolling… 😛

    Much of what you posted I agree with, especially dealing with replacing Israel, I don’t think it gets any clearer than when Paul said:

    “for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.”

    If God is not going to keep His promises to Israel, all of us gentiles need to go find another religion, were toast.

    Now with that said, lets rumble…

    When the Church tries to replace Israel in the covenant promises or mistakenly chooses to believe they (we) are Israel, it is like a man who decides to cut off his legs in order to stand taller and straighter. Instead, he only causes great pain and permanently cripples himself.

    Lets first start by saying, there is no definitive “Church” as you describe found in scripture. Instead there is the body of Messiah defined as both Jews and Gentiles who put their trust in the Messiah, a continuation of the remnant that has existed from the beginning of time. So arguing from the perspective of a “Church”, being defined as a bunch of gentiles who trust in Messiah, is bogus, a nice little myth. When Paul describes gentiles in Romans 11, concerning the Olive tree, he describes two trees, one that Jews are naturally part of, and one that gentiles are not naturally part of, the tree the gentiles are naturally part of, they leave for the tree that belongs to Jews. They do not form another tree, we see this same language in Ephesians as well, gentiles are now fellowheirs, they do not get their own entity or replace any entity, they only get to join. Yet trying to build a doctrine of there being such a thing as a Church for gentiles, separate of Israel, is creating a replacement theology, in and of itself, so guess who gets shot in the foot this time?

  2. @Karen: Thanks.

    @Zion: What we find in the New Testament record is for the first fifteen years or so after the ascension of Messiah, the branch of Judaism known as the way was full of Jews…only Jews.

    Peter’s fateful encounter with a sheet of trief on the rooftop of a tanner changed all that and so did Paul’s encounter with the Messiah and a really bright light on the road to Damascus.

    But integration of the Gentiles into the Jewish community of “the Way” was really, really hard. Paul generally felt that Gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism or take up the full yoke of the Torah (Galatians 5:2-3), but that decision was contested by other believing Jews (Acts 15:5).

    I know you’re going to say that the only issue was whether or not the Gentiles had to keep the Torah in order to be saved but otherwise should keep the Torah for non-salvational reasons, but from my perspective, the issue was by what mechanism could Gentiles be included as equal partners in a Jewish religious stream without converting to Judaism.

    The answer was famously issued by James and the Council of Apostles (and the Holy Spirit) as we read later in the same chapter in Jerusalem.

    As far as your olive tree metaphor goes, you miss the point that there are Jewish branches and Gentile branches. The root is Judaism which is why the natural branches are Jewish. Gentile branches are grafted in but they remain Gentile branches, nourished by the root but not ever becoming natural. It would be as if the natural root and branches were blue but the “wild” Gentile branches were orange. It would be completely possible to graft in a different (orange) variety of olive branch into a (blue) olive tree, but nothing would ever turn the orange branches blue.

    In other words, we have two separate types of branches both being nourished by the same sap, both producing flowers and fruit (but different flowers and fruit depending on their variety), but remaining distinct. Two branches on one tree. Two different streams of humanity in one Messianic body.

    I’m not creating a myth and certainly not advocating for replacement theology. I don’t see how the portrait of the blue tree with blue and orange branches can be construed in such a way.

  3. “In other words, we have two separate types of branches both being nourished by the same sap, both producing flowers and fruit (but different flowers and fruit depending on their variety), but remaining distinct. Two branches on one tree. Two different streams of humanity in one Messianic body.”

    James, thanks for advocating OL theology on your blog…Like you said, the distinction is ethnicity. Zion, or OL teaching never advocate otherwise….

  4. // When the Church tries to replace Israel in the covenant promises or mistakenly chooses to believe they (we) are Israel, it is like a man who decides to cut off his legs in order to stand taller and straighter. //

    Ah James, so non-Jews aren’t grafted into Israel then? Or we are grafted into the olive tree of Israel, but that doesn’t make us a part of Israel? I know this teaching is becoming more popular, but how does this make sense?

    And according to this logic, coverts to Judaism aren’t Israel either — they only “mistakenly” believe that they are Israel, “mistakenly taking her place.”

    C’mon brother. I know there’s better in you!

  5. “I’m not creating a myth and certainly not advocating for replacement theology. I don’t see how the portrait of the blue tree with blue and orange branches can be construed in such a way.”

    Well, James, the blue and orange do not grow in different gardens, as the BE, DI, UMJC and the rest of the alpha-bet soup groups try to make us believe….

  6. // Not only must Israel continue but it must continue as the head of the nations as a wholly Jewish nation, unique and distinct from the people of the nations, we Gentiles, who need them for our hope in salvation. //

    A “wholly Jewish nation”? But the foreigners who live there today aren’t Jewish. And even today, Judaism is composed of “ethnic Jews” as well as converts to Judaism (gentiles, in other words). So Israel as a nation, as well as almost all forms of Judaism today, are composed of both ethnic Jews and gentile believers. Huh. Interesting.

    Essentially what you’re arguing for here, is that for those who believe themselves to be grafted into Israel (like myself), we’re not REALLY a part of the commonwealth of Israel. Why? Because we haven’t converted to Judaism. Once we convert to Judaism, THEN we can be a TRUE part of Israel.

    But how must we convert? Well, according to the theology you’ve been laying out recently, we must convert through the “proper halachic authorities”? Only problem is, most Orthodox Jewish authorities won’t allow it. So Messianic Judaism had to create its own halachic authority, and thereby choose who a true convert is, and who all the “gentiles” are. But those who’ve converted to the religion of the Patriarchs, and Yeshua, through other channels (a Christian church for example), THEIR conversion doesn’t make them Israel. Their conversion still means they’re a gentile, and thus, the Torah, the Covenants, the Blessings, The Promises are not given to them.

  7. OK, first things first. Grafted in:
    grafted in
    Notice that most of this tree is the same. The “root” and the “natural branches” are all the same. I did create a single “grafted in branch” that is a completely different color with different colored leaves. Did “grafting in” turn the red branch into a black branch? No. The black “root” nourishes the black and the red “branches” with the same “sap” but it doesn’t turn the alien branch into a civilized branch. The co-exist, but they are not identical units or widgets.

    @Dan: Same garden, same tree, just different types of branches.

    @Rob: Why are you so eager to roll over Jewish people and Israel and become them? It’s not good enough to be grafted in, now you (and Hebrew Roots Gentiles) have to push Jewish Israel to one said and say, “No, we are you, too…you aren’t chosen anymore…we’re all chosen together.”

    That’s probably not your intent, but it’s the same result.

    I once read a story by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I can’t remember the name and the story is so obscure, it’s hard to find. Basically, the story is set in a world where it is illegal for anyone to have an advantage or difference of any kind over another. If you can run faster than someone else, you are fitted for weights to slow you down. If you can sing better, your throat is treated so you can only sing as well as everyone else. Can you draw when others can’t, then your fingers are broken and reassembled until you can only draw as well as everyone else.

    It’s illegal to be different. It’s illegal to be chosen. It’s illegal to be distinctive in any way from anyone else. That’s how I see what One Law is proposing. It’s not acceptable for Jews to be Israel and for the nations to be called by God’s Holy Name and to come alongside Israel in a unified ekklesia, the body of Messiah.

    I know you don’t see it this way and certainly it’s not your intent, but it’s the functional result.

    I just started reading Dan Hennessy’s book Remembrance and Repentance, so I may be a little sensitive about these issues at the moment. Israel is called a “Jewish nation,” even today when its Jewish population is mostly secular. Yes, there are resident aliens who live permanently within her borders, but it’s still a Jewish nation. In it’s ideal, it is a place where Jews can feel safe (not in its current, terrorist-ridden incarnation), where they don’t have to fear the next pogrom, inquisition, or, heaven forbid, holocaust. One day, the King of the Jews, the King of Israel and the world will return, and he will rule Israel and the people of the nations will stream into her borders to pay homage and to worship.

    Why is that a bad thing?

  8. But James, in Paul’s metaphor, the tree is obviously “Remnant Israel.” The “natural” branches referring to those who are true, biological decendents of the patriarchs. In Paul’s analogy though, whether a gentile is converting to Messianic Judaism, or converting via a Christian Church, BOTH are foreign branches that were broken off of a “wild”/”foreign” tree, and have been grafted into Israel.

  9. Yes, natural branches can be broken off, but so can grafted in branches, so please don’t feel too secure. The “glue” is faith, not Torah, so all of the “Torah obedience” by either Hebrew Roots Gentiles or Jewish believers won’t keep you “stuck on.” Being grafted in never makes you natural. You’re always grafted in. But at least you, we…all of us, are there together.

  10. “@Dan: Same garden, same tree, just different types of branches.”

    So how different is it from the OL teachings? It is the alpha-bets who are making the distinction. They want the red branch to transfer to a different garden…

  11. Dan, I can only tell you how I interpret all this. I’m not in control of Messianic Judaism or your perceptions of it. You are free to disagree and look at the situation through different eyes.

  12. Why do I sense I’m being led down the garden path, Dan?

    This feels like one of those moments when the sales guy says, “You don’t need to read the fine print…just sign the contract.” 😉

    According to Wikipedia, here’s the basics on religious conversion. Why don’t you just skip to the chase and tell me where you’re going with this, Dan? Or can I figure it out for myself?

    EDIT: Actually, on Sunday, I’m publishing a “meditation” that more or less addresses what does and doesn’t happen when a Gentile becomes a disciple of Messiah. You might want to table this part of your commentary until then. Just a suggestion.

  13. // @Rob: Why are you so eager to roll over Jewish people and Israel and become them? It’s not good enough to be grafted in, now you (and Hebrew Roots Gentiles) have to push Jewish Israel to one said and say, “No, we are you, too…you aren’t chosen anymore…we’re all chosen together.” //

    Come again? How does being grafted into Israel (and thus becoming part of the commonwealth of Israel) roll over the Jewish people? To use a physical example, does it “roll over the American people” when a foreigner moves to the USA and assimilates? Does it “dilute” American identity? To use a spiritual example, does it “roll over” a Presbeterian congregation when someone comes in the door and joints it’s ranks? Does it dilute “Presbeterian” identity?

  14. I think we’re looking at this from two different viewpoints, but let’s use your foreign naturalized citizen metaphor. The whole assumption is based on the idea that the person from another country legally enters ours, goes through the required classes/activities our government has established for people who want to become naturalized citizens, takes and passes a test, and woohoo, they’re a citizen.

    But looking at it from the BE Messianic Jewish viewpoint, they’re saying, “Hey, waitaminute. It’s not quite like that.” From their point of view, we can become alien residents in “Israel” but to actually become Israel, we’d have to convert to Judaism (which isn’t the same thing as becoming a Gentile believer). Converting to Judaism is at least problematic in the Messianic realm, so I won’t even go there right now.

    But from a Hebrew Roots perspective, Messianic Jewish objections aren’t valid and the Gentile simply declares themselves a citizen and that’s the end of it.

    Continuing your metaphor, it would be as if someone entered the nation on a visa and then simply said, “I’m an American now.” I know that’s more or less what you believe the Bible is saying, but from a BE MJ perspective, the mechanism for Gentile joining is “with” (that is alongside as a resident alien) Israel, not “into” Israel. It doesn’t really describe a “citizenship” or a “conversion” mechanism so those metaphors don’t really apply.

  15. // Converting to Judaism is at least problematic in the Messianic realm, so I won’t even go there right now. //

    Ah, but that’s the crux of the issue, is it not? Since current non-Messianic Jewish “authorities” don’t recognize MJ conversion, does that make MJ conversion “illegitimate”? Doesn’t it at least open up the possibility that maybe “conversion” is more than having the right authorities present, and more a matter of the heart, one’s inward commitments to God, to Messiah, to God’s Chosen people, etc?

  16. So what you’re saying Rob is that by having an “inward commitment to God and to Messiah” you can do the equivalent of declaring yourself “an American citizen” without so much as a “by your leave” to the “American government.”

    But any government or religious organization (or most organizations at all) usually have some sort of mechanism by which people from the outside are brought inside (assuming the organization brings in outsiders). You’re saying that all you have to do is interpret the Bible in a certain way, and faster than you can say “Bob’s your uncle,” you are “Israel” (since you’re not actually declaring yourself “Jewish”).

    However that depends on two things. One is your perception, belief, theology, doctrine, which is internal and personal to you. The other depends on God’s perceptions on a Spiritual level which cannot be examined objectively.

    I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say that God’s perceptions can be examined objectively by studying the Bible and up to a point, you’re right. But there’s two problems. The first is that not everyone agrees about what the Bible actually says and means, which is why we’re having this conversation in the first place, and the second is, the mind of God is infinite and the Bible only “scratches the surface,” of His mind, so to speak.

  17. // So what you’re saying Rob is that by having an “inward commitment to God and to Messiah” you can do the equivalent of declaring yourself “an American citizen” without so much as a “by your leave” to the “American government.” //

    No. You’re forgetting the distinction One-Law believers draw between Israel as a country (a Physical nation) and the Israel that Messiah will come again to be Lord and King over (Kingdom Israel). Our conversion, and thus our citizenship is in the later, and obviously not the former.

    Messianic Judaism isn’t off the hook here either though, since “National Israel” doesn’t recognize their conversion. Which begs the question: which “Israel” are Messianic-Jewish-converts a part of then?

  18. The Kingdom of Israel or the Kingdom of God? They’re not the same, otherwise Messiah, when he returns, is only the King of Israel and not the rest of the world, unless you believe God turns the entire Earth into “Israel.”

    Christians tend to spiritualize Israel and make it something kind of ghostly and amorphous, while Jews think if spiritual and national (physical) Israel as the same thing, at least in the messianic age. Right now, national Israel has “issues” (it did in Messiah’s time on Earth as well). In the messianic age, national Israel and the kingdom of Israel in a religious sense will be the same thing. But every knee will bend, which means not just Israeli knees but the knees of every man, woman, and child on the entire planet, in every nation on Earth. We won’t all be Israel, but we will all be subjects of the King of Israel and the King of the World.

  19. “EDIT: Actually, on Sunday, I’m publishing a “meditation” that more or less addresses what does and doesn’t happen when a Gentile becomes a disciple of Messiah. You might want to table this part of your commentary until then. Just a suggestion.”

    well, I think I will do it now, so you will have time to edit your Sunday post….LOL!

    You see, it is not me, but the Sages who say that Shavuot giving of the Torah holiday is the day the people of Israel converted and entered into a covenant with God. (keritot 9a). You see, the Israelites functioned as a nation even before Sinai. Do you know what this means? That from the time of the Sages onward the center of national gravity, territory, language, dress and culture–was abandoned in favor of fulfilling the covenant with God.

    Rabbi Saaadia Gaon said: ” our nation is no nation except through its teachings.” Even though Scripture never states that god demanded a physical act for entering the covenant, by accepting the covenant the Sages used the written text as an axe to entrench their understanding of reality and preserve the Jewish people.

    The sages distorted the text by deciding that Israel converted by doing three things: circumcision, immersion in ritual bath, and sacrifice, they also invented the ritual of a proselyte for Gentiles, openly abandoning their affirmation that conversion is for the purpose of the covenant with God. (see RAMBAM’s Laws of forbidden intercourse 13:4).

    Now fast forward to today. In the modern age, Israel through rabbinic rulings abandoned the “covenant with God” and returned to a nationalistic affinity, as other nations have.

    Now, you do the math….

  20. Oh, no, I missed out on all the fun… 😀

    As far as your olive tree metaphor goes, you miss the point that there are Jewish branches and Gentile branches.

    I never missed this at all. I am still a gentile last time I checked, I hold a card that says “Gentile – The forbidden fruit”…

    The root is Judaism which is why the natural branches are Jewish.

    No, the tree is Israel, and more specifically, “remnant Israel”, that is why the natural branches are Jewish.

    Gentile branches are grafted in but they remain Gentile branches, nourished by the root but not ever becoming natural.

    We are finally on the same page. 😀 It is impossible to change your biology and ridiculous to think it.

    In other words, we have two separate types of branches both being nourished by the same sap, both producing flowers and fruit (but different flowers and fruit depending on their variety), but remaining distinct. Two branches on one tree. Two different streams of humanity in one Messianic body.

    And olive branch can only produce olives, in this case, what we don’t have is two different olive trees, thus we don’t have a Christian Church and Jewish Synagogue, lol. We have a body of believers(Jew and Gentile) part of a single entity.

    I’m not creating a myth and certainly not advocating for replacement theology.

    Anytime you teach there is such a thing as a Church which represents gentiles as a separate entity of the already existing body of remnant Israel, then you are creating a myth and replacement theology.

  21. This is a fascinating back-and-forth, but I do have a few questions . . . What is BE Messianic Judaism? And what does DI stand for? I finally figured out OL after reading all the comments . . . Ha!

  22. Dan said: You see, it is not me, but the Sages who say that Shavuot giving of the Torah holiday is the day the people of Israel converted and entered into a covenant with God. (keritot 9a). You see, the Israelites functioned as a nation even before Sinai. Do you know what this means? That from the time of the Sages onward the center of national gravity, territory, language, dress and culture–was abandoned in favor of fulfilling the covenant with God.

    First of all, I’m stunned you’re quoting the sages as evidence of One Law, Dan. I thought you weren’t a big fan of the sages.

    Rabbi Saaadia Gaon said: ” our nation is no nation except through its teachings.” Even though Scripture never states that god demanded a physical act for entering the covenant, by accepting the covenant the Sages used the written text as an axe to entrench their understanding of reality and preserve the Jewish people.

    So anyone can shoehorn themselves into being Israel (and being Jewish) just by accepting the “full yoke of Torah” upon themselves? I’d like to see that work by me walking into one of my local synagogues. I don’t think they’d be accepting me as a fellow Jewish person.

    Zion, nothing you said leads me to the inevitable conclusion that I must be obligated to the 613 mitzvot and that I become indistinguishable from Jewish Israel in thought, word, and deed because I’m grafted in. As far as replacement theory goes, the minute you walk into a synagogue and (obviously being a goy) say, “I’m the same as you and there’s nothing you can do about it,” you may not call it “replacement theology,” but I promise you won’t be considered “one of the gang,” either.

    Of course you’re free to try, but you can’t force me to do the same thing.

    Anytime you teach there is such a thing as a Church which represents gentiles as a separate entity of the already existing body of remnant Israel, then you are creating a myth and replacement theology.

    Saying there can’t be Jewish and Christian aspects to the Messianic ekklesia is saying that believing Jews and believing Gentiles can’t co-exist and remain distinct from one another. It’s saying that the Gentile believers must not remain distinct, otherwise they will try to take over and replace the Jewish believers. Hmmm. Let’s look at this.

    I am a Christian and my wife if Jewish. We are two different entities based on that fact existing within a single marriage. You’re saying that my distinguishing myself as a Christian within our marriage is somehow allowing me to “replace” her as a Jew? I don’t see it.

    As a side note, I posted today’s meditation to describe how in unity, the Jewish and Gentile believers in Messiah’s ekklesia (sorry, there’s no better word for it and it doesn’t mean “church”) are completely interdependent upon each other. We need each other. We can’t function as Messiah intended without each other. And yet this sentiment seems to have spawned more separation and division than ever.

    I know this is a little extreme, but the meme of the “overly attached girlfriend” just popped into my head. Here’s an example:

    You don’t have to become someone to love them and to be close with them and to exist within the same relationship with them.

  23. The Kingdom of Israel or the Kingdom of God? They’re not the same, otherwise Messiah, when he returns, is only the King of Israel and not the rest of the world, unless you believe God turns the entire Earth into “Israel.”

    That is only an assumption on your part, can God not bring in the gentiles who have been called and rule and possess them as part of the commonwealth of Israel, Paul did not seem to see this as a contradiction. But let us also consider that the Kingdom of Israel today, will be very different in the Messianic Age.

    Christians tend to spiritualize Israel and make it something kind of ghostly and amorphous, while Jews think if spiritual and national (physical) Israel as the same thing, at least in the messianic age.

    Correct, but we are not talking what most Christians tend to do, we are talking about what we see in scripture.

    Right now, national Israel has “issues” (it did in Messiah’s time on Earth as well). In the messianic age, national Israel and the kingdom of Israel in a religious sense will be the same thing. But every knee will bend, which means not just Israeli knees but the knees of every man, woman, and child on the entire planet, in every nation on Earth. We won’t all be Israel, but we will all be subjects of the King of Israel and the King of the World.

    You left out another category, not all people who enter the Messianic Age will have put on the Resurrection, where do you see these people who put on the resurrection and those who do not in your equation?

    Those who put on the resurrection are known as “sons of the kingdom”, so where does it work in your mind?

  24. Kari said: This is a fascinating back-and-forth, but I do have a few questions . . . What is BE Messianic Judaism? And what does DI stand for? I finally figured out OL after reading all the comments . . . Ha!

    BE – Bilateral Ecclesiology or the idea that the Ekklesia or Body of Messiah can be composed of two, parallel ecclesiastical entities: Jewish Israel, and the Gentiles called by God’s Name. It presupposes separate or at least overlapping roles between Jews and Gentiles within the Messianic Body, with Jews retaining their Jewish identity and Gentiles generally not adopting Jewish identity markers, such as wearing tzitzit or keeping kosher.

    DI – Divine Invitation, which was a short lived idea from Boaz Michael and First Fruits of Zion that suggested non-Jewish disciples were not obligated to Torah but were “invited” to take on board additional mitzvot beyond what we’re obligated to. It was rather poorly expressed and the concept is no longer used or supported by FFOZ.

  25. “First of all, I’m stunned you’re quoting the sages as evidence of One Law, Dan. I thought you weren’t a big fan of the sages.”

    Well, get a hold of yourself….I read and study the Sages…Next time you are in Vegas I will show you mt library…

    “So anyone can shoehorn themselves into being Israel (and being Jewish) just by accepting the “full yoke of Torah” upon themselves? I’d like to see that work by me walking into one of my local synagogues. I don’t think they’d be accepting me as a fellow Jewish person.”

    Your problem is with the Sages and Gaon, not with me…I just present the facts….BTW “being Israel” and “being Jewish” are two different things, but your stance forces you to blur the lines…

  26. That is only an assumption on your part, can God not bring in the gentiles who have been called and rule and possess them as part of the commonwealth of Israel…

    No, but it would obliterate portions of Amos 9. Of course it’s not impossible, but then again, it’s not impossible for God to turn me into a big sunflower and plant me in an nice big field in southwestern Idaho. Chances are He’s not going to do that anymore than He’s going to turn me into an “Israelite.”

    Correct, but we are not talking what most Christians tend to do…

    We are talking about what your interpretation of the Bible is requiring, which is transforming Israel into a supernatural concept rather than a nation and Kingdom.

    You left out another category, not all people who enter the Messianic Age will have put on the Resurrection, where do you see these people who put on the resurrection and those who do not in your equation?

    Those who put on the resurrection are known as “sons of the kingdom”, so where does it work in your mind?

    Sons of the Kingdom of Messiah, which not only includes Israel but the entire planet. Anyone, Jew or Gentile who is a disciples of the Master will see the resurrection (actually, everyone will be resurrected no matter who they are, but then there’s final judgment and only some of those resurrected and judged will be called servants of the Lamb (Rev 22:3)

  27. Zion, nothing you said leads me to the inevitable conclusion that I must be obligated to the 613 mitzvot and that I become indistinguishable from Jewish Israel in thought, word, and deed because I’m grafted in.

    James that is impossible anyways, some commandments are for Kings, slaves, men, women, children, etc… 😛

    As far as replacement theory goes, the minute you walk into a synagogue and (obviously being a goy) say, “I’m the same as you and there’s nothing you can do about it,” you may not call it “replacement theology,” but I promise you won’t be considered “one of the gang,” either.

    I would never say that, for a million reasons, but lets start with the obvious, I am not a Jew, so I can’t say I am a Jew, which would devalue not only them as Jews, but it would devalue me, as the ultimate gentile ;P. I don’t find my acceptance in God’s household in modern day Judaism, as they are not part of the Body of Messiah. My acceptance is based on God alone, one day Yeshua will rule the Kingdom of Israel and He will recognize us both as sons of the Kingdom. Although, you might have to walk over hot coals for a full conversion ceremony…(joking)

    Btw, great meme…

  28. Dan said: BTW “being Israel” and “being Jewish” are two different things, but your stance forces you to blur the lines…

    If I’m Israel but not Jewish, then all that makes you Jewish is a string of DNA and your family history. Otherwise, we are identical units or widgets in Messiah. Jewish “chosenness” vanishes like a snow cone in a blast furnace.

    From my point of view Dan, you are uniquely connected to God because of Sinai as well as the Messiah. I have been graciously included in salvation and redemption because of Messiah alone.

  29. Zion said: I would never say that, for a million reasons, but lets start with the obvious, I am not a Jew, so I can’t say I am a Jew, which would devalue not only them as Jews, but it would devalue me, as the ultimate gentile ;P. I don’t find my acceptance in God’s household in modern day Judaism, as they are not part of the Body of Messiah. My acceptance is based on God alone, one day Yeshua will rule the Kingdom of Israel and He will recognize us both as sons of the Kingdom. Although, you might have to walk over hot coals for a full conversion ceremony…(joking)

    This is very close to what I’m saying (except for the hot coals). I am in the body of Messiah and so are you. So are believing Jewish people. However, the Jewish believer in the body of Messiah and me, the Gentile believer are still Jewish and Gentile respectively. The Jewish believer and me are both “sons of the Kingdom.” You and I just have different ideas of what that Kingdom is. You say the only kingdom is Israel and I say that Messiah won’t be limited to ruling Israel but will rule the entire world…all the nations.

    Yeah, I thought the overly attached girlfriend meme fit. 😉

  30. “Saying there can’t be Jewish and Christian aspects to the Messianic ekklesia is saying that believing Jews and believing Gentiles can’t co-exist and remain distinct from one another.”

    OY….No one said it. Not in different gardens, houses, pots,or what have you. Your side insists on separation using the “Jewish” aspect again and again for lack of anything else…

    One more time: None of us ever say, shouts, or teach that Gentiles who join the covenants are now Jews. I admit, there are some uneducated people who insists on it, but they are in both camps.

    “I am a Christian and my wife if Jewish. We are two different entities based on that fact existing within a single marriage. You’re saying that my distinguishing myself as a Christian within our marriage is somehow allowing me to “replace” her as a Jew? I don’t see it.”

    No, he does not say that. what he is saying that your wife being Jewish insists that you move to reside in another house, but still function as husband and wife…Can it work?

  31. “If I’m Israel but not Jewish, then all that makes you Jewish is a string of DNA and your family history. Otherwise, we are identical units or widgets in Messiah.”

    I think he got it…I think he got it….

    “Jewish “chosenness” vanishes like a snow cone in a blast furnace.”

    Not at all, I still posses the DNA. remember? You just said it in the same paragraph…

    “From my point of view Dan, you are uniquely connected to God because of Sinai as well as the Messiah. I have been graciously included in salvation and redemption because of Messiah alone.”

    You are finally starting to get it….BTW, Messiah kept the full Torah….

  32. Dan, I think there’s a disconnect between what I’m presenting from the Rudolph and Willitts book and how you’re understanding the BE “branch” of Messianic Judaism.

    Here’s part of what Rudolph said about his relationship with co-author/co-editor, Joel Willitts who is a Gentile Christian:

    Joel and I became good friends and found that much mutual blessing took place whenever we had conversations about the Bible and theology. I valued Joel’s perspective as a Gentile Christian and Joel valued my perspective as a Messianic Jew. There was a synergy in our exchange that often led to fresh insights and unforeseen avenues of theological inquiry. My experience at Tyndale House with Joel and other Gentile Christian friends taught me that there is indeed a God-designed interdependence between Messianic Jewish and Gentile Christian ecclesial perspectives, and that one without the other is woefully inadequate.

    Those were magical days in Cambridge. Joel and I talked about what we wanted to accomplish after we completed our doctoral programs and agreed to write a book together.

    -Rudolph from the book’s Introduction, pg 18

    It seems completely possible for Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians to get along, have warm, close friendships, and attend the same congregations. In just a few weeks, I’m going to be attending the annual FFOZ Shavuot conference in Hudson, WI and I’ll be “rubbing elbows” with a number of BE Messianic Jews, including one of the contributors to the Rudolph/Willitts book.

    Like last year, I don’t believe I’ll be kicked out, asked to attend a church down the street, not be able to eat at the same table, or otherwise be forbidden to associate with the Jewish people attending the conference.

    I don’t know how it works elsewhere but my experience hasn’t been one of rejection or marginalization.

  33. Dan said: “From my point of view Dan, you are uniquely connected to God because of Sinai as well as the Messiah. I have been graciously included in salvation and redemption because of Messiah alone.”

    You are finally starting to get it….BTW, Messiah kept the full Torah….

    Yes he did, Dan. He was and is Jewish and the living embodiment of national and spiritual Israel. I’m not.

  34. You say the only kingdom is Israel and I say that Messiah won’t be limited to ruling Israel but will rule the entire world…all the nations.

    I say, those gentiles who trust in Messiah are part of the commonwealth of Israel, and are called “sons of the Kingdom” who will have put on the resurrection, with those among their Jewish brethren.

    Some of the nations will be spared going into the Messianic age, who will not have put on the resurrection, they are not sons of the Kingdom. But those who are sons of the Kingdom will be brought to the feast and will sit at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, this also means, that sadly, some of the natural sons, will not be present.

    I don’t see this in your equation at all or how it will actually look.

  35. “It seems completely possible for Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians to get along, have warm, close friendships,”

    thank you for describing in detail, yours and mine relationship…LOL!

    “and attend the same congregations.”

    Only if one agrees to attend on a different level than the other….


    I’m going to be attending the annual FFOZ Shavuot ”

    Say hi to Boaz from me.

    ” asked to attend a church down the street, ”

    No, they will not ask you that. But they will also not ask you to make Alya LaTorah…Not because you don’t know to read Hebrew, but because you are a non-Jew (Well, then again, so is Boaz and he reads…)

    “I don’t know how it works elsewhere but my experience hasn’t been one of rejection or marginalization.”

    Check Ahavat Zion in Beverly Hills…

  36. “Yes he did, Dan. He was and is Jewish and the living embodiment of national and spiritual Israel. I’m not.”

    James, you know you are opening a whole Pandora box here, don’t you? By the same token I can say that he is not your Messiah, since he said that he came only for the lost Children of Israel, and your insistence that you are not Israel….It works both ways….

  37. James, you know you are opening a whole Pandora box here, don’t you? By the same token I can say that he is not your Messiah, since he said that he came only for the lost Children of Israel, and your insistence that you are not Israel….It works both ways….

    Exactly, lets not forget Romans 9:4-5:
    who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

    It all belongs to Israel, not gentiles.

  38. @Zion: All I can say is we have very different visions of the messianic age. In my vision, both Israel and the nations are there. I’m not sure where you think we people of the nations are supposed to go except to be absorbed into Israel.

    If you interpret scripture as everything belonging to Israel and the nations being a “non-event,” it denies huge amounts of other scripture (which I’ll be quoting from in Sunday and Monday’s blog posts). I’m not going to turn myself into someone and something I’m not just to satisfy One Law doctrine. I think God loves the whole world, not just Israel, otherwise there would be no mention of the nations in God’s plan.

    @Dan: I do like you, and I’m sure we could be better friends if we didn’t “bang heads” so much. I’ll be glad to say “hi” to Boaz for you when I see him. I don’t expect an aliyah in Hudson any more than I’d expect one at the local (non-Messianic) synagogues where I live.

    I’m not a “Beverly Hills” kind of guy, though I drove through once just to see what it looked like.

    G’night, folks.

  39. Thanks for the encouragement, Carl.

    gerbertznachriya (what a name), thanks for the link. I appreciate the aid for my failing memory.

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