The Mystery of Romans: A Review of Chapter One

The Mystery of RomansMoreover, Paul does not seem to be confronting an inflated view of the Torah in Rome among the Christian gentiles (“judaizing”) as is often assumed. Instead, he confronts the failure of the Christian gentiles in Rome to respect the role of Torah in the life of Israel as God’s special gift; in fact, he emphatically elevates the status of the Torah. Note, for example, the great advantage of the Jewish people is “that they were entrusted with the oracles of God” (3:2), and elsewhere in the litany of Jewish privileges he includes “the giving of the Law” (9:4); that the “Law is spiritual” (7:14) and again, “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (7:12); and further that “the gifts [which clearly included as central the Law; cf. 9:4] and the calling [Israel’s election] of God are irrevocable” (11:29). Paul refers to the “Law of faith (3:27) and asserts that he is not teaching that faith nullifies the Law: “Christ is the end [goal] of the Law” (10:4). In fact, he even regards the “love” he is calling for among his Christian gentile readers “the fulfillment of the law” (13:8-10; cf. 8:4), not a demonstration of its failure but the embodiment of its true aims.

-Mark D. Nanos
“Chapter 1: To the Jew First and Also to the Greek,” pg 22
The Mystery of Romans: The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letter

No, I haven’t given up on my serial review of the articles in First Fruits of Zion’s (FFOZ) periodical Messiah Journal issue 114, but I’m also reading the Nanos “Romans” book (his book on Galatians is waiting in the wings) and I want to discuss my impressions so far (just gotten through Chapter 1 at this point).

As I read, I usually keep some post-it notes and a pen handy to take notes and stick on the appropriate pages for later reference (beats marking up the inside of the book with my poor handwriting). All I’m going to do here is review my notes and do a “data dump” into this blog post, along with a few of my thoughts on the matters brought up. To start off, I can certainly see why Nanos is considered “Messianic Judaism-friendly”.

For instance, in footnote 5 on page 23:

I don’t mean to suggest the doing of the Law was an “entrance requirement” for salvation, but rather the application of the Law and Jewish customs to the lifestyle of those believing in Jesus as the Christ; for the Jew believing in Christ Jesus would continue to be a Jew and thus obey the Law, and the gentile believing in Christ Jesus would continue to be a gentile and thus not under the Law, however, the gentile would now through Christ Jesus have a new relationship with Israel that made it necessary to respect the “rules of behavior” that had been developed in Judaism to define the minimal requirements of Law and custom for the “God-fearing” gentile wishing to associate with God and his people. Thus the phrase “Law-respectful gospel” is offered here to contrast with the “Law-free gospel” usually assumed to represent Paul and Pauline Christianity, incorrectly in my opinion.

A lot is packed into that one short paragraph regarding Nanos and his opinions on the relationship Jews and Gentiles in Messiah have with Torah, the Gospel, and each other. He is definite that the “Messianic Jew” remains a Jew and thus fully bound to the Torah of Moses, while the Gentile is bound, not to Torah as such, but to the essentials of the Acts 15 legal ruling that authoritatively established the halachah for Gentile admission into “the Way.”

Nanos, in my opinion, is also correct in saying that much of Christianity believes that Paul established a “law-free gospel” for both Gentiles and Jews in Christ and that the Church’s viewpoint has largely ignored what Paul was really saying. The quote from page 22 of the Nanos book above shows multiple examples of how Paul had a high view of Torah for the Jewish people in Messiah (and all of Israel). We also see from the “footnote 5” quote that Gentiles were admitted into the community of Messiah but with a different legal status than the Jews, one that did not make them “Israel” but that affirmed the Jewish people as “Israel” and “God’s people”. Gentiles are “associating” with God and Israel within the Messianic body.

That’s disturbing language for some Christians and Hebrew Roots adherents as it appears to develop “classes” within the body of Messiah, with the Jews in the ascendant position and the Gentiles being subordinate to them. My Pastor is an example of a Christian who believes Jews and Gentiles are totally uniform in identity and status based on the absence of the Law, while many in Hebrew Roots believe in the same uniformity, but based on an identical binding of Jew and Gentile to Torah.

Nanos also associates “Law-respecting lifestyle” for the Gentile with the concept of halachah, which literally means “walking” and denotes rules of behavior, usually as legally defined within a Rabbinic Jewish court system. As Nanos says, “it denotes rules of behavior…and is a frequent idiom in the Bible as well for discussing proper behavior” (pg 22, footnote 6). This again harkens back to the Acts 15 decision for Gentile disciples, which Paul appears to be upholding in his letter to the Romans (chapters 5-16, according to Nanos, and particularly chapter 14).

Upon his arrival he would execute his customary two-step pattern to ensure the restoration of the dispersed of Israel in the synagogues of Rome first, thereafter bringing the good news to the gentiles also, which was, surprisingly, a necessary part of the process of Israel’s restoration, a “mystery” in which those addressed shared an extremely significant role.

-Nanos, pg 26

everlastingI’ve been writing about the “extremely significant role” of gentile Christians as “a necessary part of the process of Israel’s restoration” ever since I attended my first FFOZ Shavuot conference in May of 2012. I often include a link to my blog post Provoking Zealousness as an illustration of this principle. I originally wondered where Boaz Michael came up with such a concept, and I can see now that in part, it must have come from the research and writing of Mark Nanos.

In May 2012, this whole idea of the Gentiles exalted role in relation to Israel was as clear as “Mississippi mud” to me, but I chose to struggle with it rather than discarding it out of hand. I’m glad I did. Things are much clearer for me now.

Paul’s concerns are those of a Jewish missionary, and his message and framework of thinking are those of one who considers himself working within the historical expectations of Israel — the Savior of Israel has come to Zion to rebuild the tabernacle of David and to bring light to all the nations — for the One God of Israel is the One God of the whole world.

-ibid, pp 26-7

I don’t know if Boaz Michael was thinking of Nanos when he conceived of and authored his book Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile, but the connection seems very apparent, and dovetails well with Boaz’s message to the “Messianic Gentile” audience of the book in how we have a critical role in restoring Israel that must be communicated to our traditionally Christian brothers and sisters in the Church.

Notwithstanding the many historical concerns associated with harmonizing the Paul of Romans with the Paul of Luke-Acts (note the conclusion of Beker, “Luke’s Paul as the Legacy of Paul,” p. 511: “The history of research has made it abundantly clear that the attempt to harmonize the historical Paul with the Paul of Luke-Acts has come to a radical end”), features of Luke’s presentation of Paul’s view of Law-respectful behavior and his two-step missionary pattern are to be noted in the Paul we meet in the text of Romans (see particularly chapters 4 and 5 herein). Note the challenge of Jervell, “Retrospect and Prospect in Luke-Acts Interpretation,” on p. 403: “What made the Lucan Paul possible? We have at least three different Pauls: The Paul of the Pauline letters, the Paul of Acts, and the Paul of the deuteropauline letters and Pastorals…”

-ibid, pg 28, footnote 13

I include this note here to illustrate that the confusing image I get of Paul in different parts of the New Testament isn’t some failing on my part. New Testament scholars experience Paul this way too, and struggle to make sense of how one man can present himself or be presented in such contradictory ways. Just who the heck is Paul, anyway? If we are to accept that the New Testament is the inspired Word of God and therefore “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16) then we must believe that all that we read of Paul and about Paul is correct and consistent with a single man, who himself was consistent in regard to his faith in Messiah and his approach to the Jewish people, the Torah, and God.

So if the fault in understanding Paul isn’t to be found in an inconsistent and flawed New Testament record, it must be found in ourselves and how we are reading that inspired record. Where is the Holy Spirit when we need Him the most?

These observations challenge the prevailing views of Paul’s purpose for writing to Rome and, necessarily, the hermeneutical assumptions that lie behind the interpretation of Romans. Was Paul opposed to the practice of the Law and Jewish customs in the church in Rome? Did he believe that the church needed to sever ties with Judaic notions of righteous behavior? Was legalism his central concern, that is, faith versus works or grace versus the law? Was the church a completely separate institution from the synagogue that must seek to assert a Law-free interpretation of salvation and Christian behavior over against Judaism?

-ibid, pp 28-9

My Pastor would probably say “yes” to answer all those questions and then move on as if nothing were wrong, but I can’t do that. Nanos can’t either.

This reading of Romans suggests that the traditional answers to these questions are inadequate and that the historical situation addressed in Romans should be approached in a vastly different light than it has been in the past. For example, the message derived from Paul’s letter to Galatia should not be allowed, as it has so often in the past, to dictate the probable interpretation of Paul’s intentions toward Rome. The implied audience and the circumstances are quite different, including the important fact that Paul had an instrumental role in the development of the community he wrote to in Galatia while he had never been to Rome. Galatians was written to confront Christian gentiles attempting to “judaize,” and thus, in the opinion of Paul, to compromise the universal application of the promised salvation to all people equally through faith in Jesus Christ, whether Jew or gentile, for Paul emphatically argued that the One God of Israel was also the One God of the nations equally accessible to gentiles through faith in Jesus Christ.

ibid, pg 29

Mark NanosTraditional answers are inadequate and we cannot apply the situation and circumstances that inspired Galatians to what we see in Romans. We cannot ignore the context of each letter, the period of time in which each one was written (in all likelihood, Galatians was written before the Acts 15 decision and Romans afterward), Paul’s intent, his state of mind, the identity of his audience, and how they likely would receive and comprehend Paul’s words within their historic, cultural, linguistic, educational, and national context…a context which we either largely lack or ignore in favor of our historical, cultural, and traditional interpretation of Paul within the Christian Protestant church.

Nanos goes on to give a smart summary of why Paul wrote Galatians and how his motivation was different in writing Romans based on different circumstances. The Gentiles in the Galatian churches were somehow led to believe that only by converting to Judaism and observing all of the Torah mitzvot in the manner of the Jews could they be justified before God. This may have been driven by Jewish ethnocentrism or the belief that the Jews and only the Jews had the inside track with God, the Messianic Gospel notwithstanding.

In Romans, the problem seemed to be the opposite among the Gentiles. They believed that the grace of Jesus Christ diminished if not extinguished the binding of the Jewish believers and non-believers to Torah and even watered down any Gentile sensibilities required for Gentile/Jewish fellowship within the synagogue. There seems to have been a dynamic play between the Gentile position and the Jewish “pushback”, with each population asserting that they had the upper hand, the Gentiles because of grace and the Jews because of the Law. Paul was trying to “balance both sides of the equation,” so to speak. No easy task as anyone from the modern Messianic Jewish movement has discovered in speaking with our more traditional Christian brothers in the Church.

These traces have survived in the texts of Romans and the Apostolic Fathers in spite of Roman Christianity’s later disregard for these Jewish roots as it developed into the thoroughly gentile organization (the “gentilization” of the church).

-ibid, pp 32-3

It wasn’t that long ago that I had my own gentilization experience in my Sunday school class, and I can tell you it was disturbing. According to Nanos, we see the first, encroaching shadows of this behavior among the Gentile disciples in the synagogue in Rome, and it has been “snowballing” ever since.

Nanos repeatedly declares in this chapter of his book that Paul’s letter to the Romans was a reminder to the church in Rome, a large group of Gentiles associating with Jews under the authority of the synagogue, “of the importance of their ‘obedience of faith’…to clarify just how important the halakhah that had been developed in the synagogues of the Diaspora to define the behavior incumbant upon righteous gentiles really was now for redefining the Christian gentiles…” (ibid, pg 34).

In modern Judaism, there is also the concept of righteous Gentiles usually associated with those non-Jews who served some role in rescuing Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust, but a Gentile can be considered righteous as a Noahide as well. I find it rather illuminating to classify the status of the early Gentile believers in Jesus the Messiah as “righteous Gentiles” seeing that no one, Jewish or Gentile, has any righteous standing before God apart from faith in Messiah.

On page 37, Nanos states that the Gentile believers were “equal coparticipants in the blessings of God through faith without the need to become Jews.” He goes on to say that the Gentile “coparticipants” possessed an “explicit obligation…to serve non-Christian Jews in love by subordinating themselves to the authority of the synagogue…” inserting the idea that the problem with the Jewish/Gentile relationship in the synagogue did not only involve believing Jews. Was this the first recorded occasion of (Gentile) Christians playing the “grace” and “salvation” card in a game with the Jewish people, asserting superiority over the ancient people of God? Many Christians have historically played that card and many Churches today continue to do so, much to their shame.

However, Romans includes the unmistakable caveat that while Israel’s historical place is preeminent it is not exclusive, and while Christian gentiles must practice the intentions of the apostolic decree they must not misunderstand this and assume, as some were being tempted to assume in Galatia, that they are thereby in need of placing themselves fully under the Law…in order to be equal coparticipants in the blessings God promised to Abraham and revealed in Jesus Christ for all who believe in Him.

-ibid, pp 38-9

returning-the-torahI know I continue to repeat myself, but how like the current difficulties we experience in the Messianic movement were the struggles of Paul and the “church” in Rome. Paul could see clearly their dilemma and ours, but in the final chapter of his life, he was helpless to stop the rift between Gentiles and Jews from forming and ultimately dividing them and us. The question is, can we succeed where Paul (apparently) failed? Paul knew the answers we struggle so hard to acquire and yet he still couldn’t stop destiny’s cruel hand. On the last page of this chapter (40), Nanos reiterates what he said before about the true role of the Gentile in the Jewish community of “the Way”:

…Paul’s intended trip to Rome to bring about in Rome the beginning of the “fulness of the Gentiles.” This procedure would mark, paradoxically, the end of the suffering of the part of Israel presently hardened as it triggered the saving jealousy of “some of them,” resulting in the eschatological restoration of “all” of Israel — for of at least one mystery Paul was certain: “all Israel will be saved.”

The only hope Christianity and the Messianic Jewish movement has of coming to terms and then to unity is in the realization of Paul’s goal for the Romans, the proper orientation of the Gentile believers, not only to Messianic Jews, but to Israel as a whole, and that by provoking Jewish “zealousness” to repentance and Torah, we will not only help in sealing that ancient and bleeding wound, but summon the coming of Messiah, Son of David, may he come soon and in our day.

If this is what only one chapter of the Nanos “Romans” book holds, I’m looking forward to reading (and reviewing) the rest of it.

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36 thoughts on “The Mystery of Romans: A Review of Chapter One”

  1. Reading “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:19)

    I wonder, what would someone do if it happens that Gentiles DID have to practice all the commands in Torah, and such person has been teaching them not to observe all of the Torah mitzvot in the manner of the Jews???

  2. If you’re speaking of me, then I suppose I’d be the least in Messiah’s Kingdom. That said, I really try to do my best to understand what the Bible is saying and to respond in like manner. If I am wrong, then I will accept whatever consequence is due me. In my defense (at least to other people), I can say that my motivation is not to exalt myself or to take a position at the Master’s table that is higher than my station. I’m content to take the seat of the least.

  3. It’s all very well to wonder and to speculate, alfredo, but we already have a definitive answer to this speculation in the form of a halakhic pronouncement from the Rosh ha-Mo’atzah for the Jerusalem Council of Emissaries in Acts 15. Non-Jews are explicitly exempted from this responsibility, so the notion of “have to” cannot be applied to them. However, it is certainly fair to ask how this would affect non-Jews in their pursuit of the kingdom of heaven from the Matt.5:19 perspective that Rav Yeshua expressed to a specifically Jewish audience on a Galilean hillside. Nevertheless, there is a significant difference between the fallacy of “setting aside” even the least of Torah precepts and the responsibility to discern how any given precept does or does not apply to any particular person or situation. Non-Jews who seek to obey the precepts of Torah in order to pursue the kingdom in this manner must obey Torah as it applies to their own particular situation and not as it applies to someone else’s. Misapplying Torah from someone else’s situation rather than one’s own is not pursuing Torah. Levites cannot pursue Torah by usurping the role of a Cohen; women cannot pursue Torah by usurping the roles of men; non-Jews cannot pursue Torah by usurping the roles of Jews. In fact, one of the roles that non-Jews are prophetically identified as performing is the support (e.g., strengthening, restoring) of the Jewish people; and that would include the strengthening of Jewish identity in place of modern efforts (even well-intentioned but mistaken ones) to dilute it or confuse it. I might suggest that a portion of non-Jewish greatness in such circumstances would consist of clarifying precisely what aspects of Torah do and do not apply to non-Jews. Such clarification is certainly needed; and it requires a deep understanding of Torah to attempt it. It is not so obvious as merely defining some precepts as “sign commandments”. The notion of universal uniformity of belief and praxis was one of the problems instigated by Roman Imperial Christianity which denied Jewish particularism and exceptionalism; and Nanos is pointing out that these attitudes were already forming in the Roman assemblies that Rav Shaul addressed with his letter.

  4. Levites cannot pursue Torah by usurping the role of a Cohen…

    As Korach and his followers discovered.

    In fact, one of the roles that non-Jews are prophetically identified as performing is the support (e.g., strengthening, restoring) of the Jewish people; and that would include the strengthening of Jewish identity in place of modern efforts…

    One of the points of today’s blog post and what I’ve been writing for the past several days.

    I might suggest that a portion of non-Jewish greatness in such circumstances would consist of clarifying precisely what aspects of Torah do and do not apply to non-Jews. Such clarification is certainly needed; and it requires a deep understanding of Torah to attempt it.

    We’ll spend all of our lives studying, learning, praying, and seeking an encounter with God, serving Him as best we can. With all that on our plate, we really don’t have time to worry about much else.

  5. Ok. Let’s see. According to responses on my question, one Gentile that has discovered the Jewishness of Yeshua and His message and teachings given directly to Jewish people, has no option to have anything to “celebrate” as in a feast.

    I mean, modern Catholic and Christian Church celebrate “Easter”, “Christmas”, etc. which clearly are “Roman”, and on the other hand, Messianic Jews celebrate Shabbat, Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, etc… which clearly are the Lord’s appointed times (Lev 23).

    What am I suppose to “celebrate” as a Gentile? Be home, close my door and get to sleep on those days??? Mother’s day? Valentine?

  6. There’s a difference between what you are allowed to celebrate and what you are obligated to celebrate. Just because you don’t have an obligation to observe Passover (for instance) the same as a Jewish person doesn’t mean you can’t go to a Seder. I went to my first Seder long before I was a believer. A Jewish friend invited me and said it was a mitzvah to invite a Goy.

    You can choose to observe Sukkot, Shavuot, Chanukah, and so forth if you wish to, you just don’t have to as a matter of obligation. No one is taking anything away from you, Alfredo.

  7. It is indeed interesting how the emergence of Torah positive Gentiles and MJ congregations seem to have resurrected the dialectical milieu of Paul’s day.

  8. PL said:

    It’s all very well to wonder and to speculate, alfredo, but we already have a definitive answer to this speculation in the form of a halakhic pronouncement from the Rosh ha-Mo’atzah for the Jerusalem Council of Emissaries in Acts 15. Non-Jews are explicitly exempted from this responsibility, so the notion of “have to” cannot be applied to them.

    You said the above, and then you said:

    I might suggest that a portion of non-Jewish greatness in such circumstances would consist of clarifying precisely what aspects of Torah do and do not apply to non-Jews.

    If gentiles are not responsible to the Torah, then you cannot show which apply and which do not.

    For those who do not get the argument, here is a summation:

    “Gentiles do not have to keep the Torah, but gentiles do have to keep certain commandments of the Torah.”

    *giggles*

  9. I wonder, what would someone do if it happens that Gentiles DID have to practice all the commands in Torah, and such person has been teaching them not to observe all of the Torah mitzvot in the manner of the Jews???

    Yeshua said, go make disciples of the gentiles… this means two things, if Yeshua’s words, since He was speaking to the Jews in the context, only apply to the Jews, then Yeshua’s words are irrelevant to gentiles, but if Yeshua’s words are irrelevant to gentiles, since He was speaking to Jews, then making disciples of the nations (everything I taught you), makes no sense.

  10. Zion said: For those who do not get the argument, here is a summation:

    “Gentiles do not have to keep the Torah, but gentiles do have to keep certain commandments of the Torah.”

    *giggles*

    Your summation might be better worded:

    “Gentile disciples to not have to keep the Torah in the same manner as the Jewish disciples, but some aspects of Torah to apply.”

    How Torah is to apply to the Gentile disciples as derived from the Apostolic Scriptures is a matter of great debate. Even traditional churches seem to apply some of the Torah mitzvot to themselves, they just don’t call it “Torah” (feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and so on). I think this is one of the biggest struggles facing the Messianic communities today, and I think this was a large part of what Paul was trying to address in his letter to the Romans.

    Zion said: Yeshua said, go make disciples of the gentiles… this means two things, if Yeshua’s words, since He was speaking to the Jews in the context, only apply to the Jews, then Yeshua’s words are irrelevant to gentiles, but if Yeshua’s words are irrelevant to gentiles, since He was speaking to Jews, then making disciples of the nations (everything I taught you), makes no sense.

    There might be a lot more embedded in Yeshua’s words in “the Great Commission” than we might imagine, especially since, after about fifteen years, Peter still didn’t understand what the Master meant until it was revealed to him in a vision, and the his subsequently witnessing Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit without having to be circumcised (Acts 10). The Acts 15 ruling and letter also support the idea that the meaning of Matthew 28:18-20 wasn’t readily apparent to the Jewish apostles and required a great deal of “decoding,” so to speak.

  11. Your summation might be better worded:

    “Gentile disciples to not have to keep the Torah in the same manner as the Jewish disciples, but some aspects of Torah to apply.”

    How Torah is to apply to the Gentile disciples as derived from the Apostolic Scriptures is a matter of great debate. Even traditional churches seem to apply some of the Torah mitzvot to themselves, they just don’t call it “Torah” (feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and so on). I think this is one of the biggest struggles facing the Messianic communities today, and I think this was a large part of what Paul was trying to address in his letter to the Romans.

    My summation was laughing at the fact of saying “Gentiles do not have to keep the Torah”, then turning around and saying “Gentiles have to keep the Torah”… it does not matter if you are saying only certain parts, the whole argument is a contradiction. The way the argument from your perspective should be taught, should go something like this:

    “Gentiles have to keep the Torah, specifically the parts that apply to them.”

    The other contradiction is in saying what parts apply to them (gentiles), the Torah itself is for those who are party to the Mosaic Covenant (Israel and the gentiles who join), thus invalidating any gentile obligation to the Torah outside of the Mosaic covenant. If gentiles are not party to the Mosaic Covenant, trying to apply the Law to a gentile is then moot. Defeating the whole argument to begin with, while concluding “Gentiles do not have to keep the Torah”, end of discussion.

  12. Again, we’re going to disagree on this matter, Zion. It is apparent from the Apostolic Scriptures that how Gentiles were to be integrated into a Jewish religious stream as co-participants without converting to Judaism was quite a struggle. If it was as apparent as you make it seem, then a legal ruling probably wouldn’t have been necessary to define the status of a Gentile within “the Way”. They’d just be “converts” without being called “Jewish” if all they had to do was to imitate Jewish Torah obligation.

    The fact that the Jewish community and particularly Paul, struggled with such a definition for Gentiles and struggled with the process of integration (something that never quite seemed successful throughout the New Testament record) supports this outlook. I’ve read Orthodox Jewish commentaries that said the Torah applies to everyone, Jews and Gentiles, but in different ways. How much more is this true from a Messianic Jewish perspective?

  13. If it was as apparent as you make it seem, then a legal ruling probably wouldn’t have been necessary to define the status of a Gentile within “the Way”. They’d just be “converts” without being called “Jewish” if all they had to do was to imitate Jewish Torah obligation.

    I think you defined it well, in fact it actually says those converting from among the gentiles in Acts 15, without having to go through a proselyte ritual that was opposed to the Gospel, and were able to remain gentiles.

    You can’t say imitate “Jewish Torah obligation” without contradicting yourself. The Torah was only given to the Israelite people, the very Torah itself is an identity issue, thus you are either part of Israel or you are not and if you are not, then you have no responsibility whatsoever to the Torah, unless passing through the land as tradesman, meaning you have to abide by the land you are in, etc. The fact that Israel is obligated to the Torah, proves that if gentiles are keeping the Torah, even what you call “Jewish Identity commandments” they are violating Jewish identity, as the Torah is for Israel. Thus either gentiles have no responsibility to the Torah, thus violating Jewish identity if they keep any Torah commands or gentiles are now part of Israel through Messiah and are thus not violating Jewish identity by keeping the Torah.

    The fact that the Jewish community and particularly Paul, struggled with such a definition for Gentiles and struggled with the process of integration (something that never quite seemed successful throughout the New Testament record) supports this outlook.

    If it is this confusing as you suggest, this would mean, you or me, have no right to comment on whether gentiles should or should not follow the Torah, because the Jews and Paul did not know what to do, we just have to live in wonder. I tend to look at it a bit differently. The struggle was over halacha versus scripture( not to say all halacha was in error). The Jewish community saw only one way to enter, a way, that turned out to be contradicting to the Gospel, that being proselyte conversion, which also means it is contradicting to the Torah, unless we want to say the Gospel and the Torah are in contradiction, it would be much safer to say that man is in contradiction.

    I’ve read Orthodox Jewish commentaries that said the Torah applies to everyone, Jews and Gentiles, but in different ways. How much more is this true from a Messianic Jewish perspective?

    I have too, we can easily pick this up from the scriptures as well, Isaiah 2, Micah 4, Isaiah 56… the scriptures clearly speak of the Torah reaching the Gentiles. Eliminated the argument that “gentiles do not have to keep the Torah”.

    But how, can gentiles be responsible to a covenant they are not part of, unless they have some how become part? To say gentiles are not part, yet responsible, is a contradiction, and yet this is your very argument, makes my head spin… 😛

  14. Zion said: But how, can gentiles be responsible to a covenant they are not part of, unless they have some how become part? To say gentiles are not part, yet responsible, is a contradiction, and yet this is your very argument, makes my head spin…

    Mine too. 😉

    It took me a long time to develop a working model, but it’s not easy to explain. I developed it writing eleven separate blog posts starting here, but I know you won’t want to read eleven separate blog posts. So I summarized my model into something I hope is more concise.

    There probably isn’t much hope that you’ll convince me to change my mind or I’ll convince you to change yours, but the least I can do is to show you why I operate from the perspective that I do, agreeable or not.

  15. Ya know, the early church left us the Dicache and the Apostolic Constitutions which seem to be a very early form of halakah for Gentiles.

  16. Actually Steve, I recently bought a copy of the Didache with commentary to explore the possibility of it being early Apostolic halachah for the Gentiles. Haven’t gotten a chance to go through it yet, though.

  17. I don’t understand why this concept is so difficult to grasp. Non-Jews are exempted from legal obligation to the Torah; they don’t “have to” obey its precepts as part of the definition of their identity or as a responsibility under its covenant. They are, nonetheless, bound like all humanity by the general Noahide principles, which happen also to be included and elucidated within the Jewish Torah. They also have a voluntary option to adopt aspects of Torah that they find edifying and supportive of their spiritual maturity. This is why Acts 15:21 noted the availability of synagogues and the teaching of Torah each Shabbat, so that they might learn properly what blessings might be available to them as those who might “share” in the blessings that derive from the Jewish covenant. It was not so that they might all become Jewish or imitate Jewish cultural behavior; it was so that they might all become wise to the ways of HaShem the Creator of heaven and earth. By such means the Torah may become “applicable” or meaningful to all peoples, rather than only to Jews.

    And if, on occasion, the imitation of Jewish cultural behavior is beneficial, as with a lot of Jewish comedy, mebbe it’s not such a terrible t’ing. [:)]

  18. I think there’s another “layer” of responsibility added to the non-Jewish disciple that general non-Jewish humanity does not have. All mankind has a responsibility to God in accordance with the Noahide principles. I believe that when non-Jews become disciples of Messiah, a greater responsibility is incumbent upon them. That was the decision the apostles were debating in Acts 15. The “four essentials” can be unpackaged to reveal those additional responsibilities that accompany their co-participation in “the Way.” The Jerusalem letter went out with a set of oral explanations that didn’t make it into Luke’s account of Acts, so we can only speculate how this was to be lived out. This is the reason for my desire to investigate the Didache as a possible (though non-canonical) description of apostolic expectations of the non-Jewish disciples.

  19. What I mean is that the Didache is a very small document… All you need is 10 minutes to go through it… So, I don’t know why you have been postponing such reading…

  20. I know it’s small. But I’ve been reading Messiah Journal 114, The Mystery of Romans, and Dune Messiah, so I just haven’t had the time to squeeze it in. Don’t worry. When I shoot through it, you’ll know…because I’ll blog about it. 😉

  21. I was hoping you would clarify on this… 😀 From your point of view, Yeshua has no literal impact on Gentiles, there is simply no difference between a gentile who trust in the Messiah and one who does not. That does not speak very highly of the Messiah…

  22. When did I say that Messiah had no impact on Gentiles? If Messiah hadn’t come, then Gentiles would have no covenant access to God through the Abrahamic covenant. As Paul said, it is Abraham’s “seed” (singular), that is, Messiah, who is the blessings for the nations.

    We were allow to participate in the blessings without following the path of the physical descendants of Abraham to Sinai and the Torah. Did you click those links I provided earlier? I had hoped what I wrote before would be the clarification.

  23. When did I say that Messiah had no impact on Gentiles? If Messiah hadn’t come, then Gentiles would have no covenant access to God through the Abrahamic covenant. As Paul said, it is Abraham’s “seed” (singular), that is, Messiah, who is the blessings for the nations.

    Sorry, James, I was speaking to ProclaimLiberty and did not post who I was responding too. I know you believe that gentiles are different in the Messiah as you posted that.

    We were allow to participate in the blessings without following the path of the physical descendants of Abraham to Sinai and the Torah. Did you click those links I provided earlier? I had hoped what I wrote before would be the clarification.

    Yes, although I find your view contradicting, again though I wasn’t addressing you in the above post, my fault though for not clarifying.

  24. No worries. I had a similar conversation with my Pastor last night, and although his position is quite different from yours, he disagreed with me as well.

  25. @Zion — I’m afraid I must respond exactly as did James. How could you possibly infer that what I said offers no impact to non-Jews? Do you define “impact” solely in terms of being legally required to do something in order to gain contracted benefits? Does it seem to you that becoming “wise to the ways of HaShem the Creator of heaven and earth” offers no impact on individuals and the societies they affect? Do you think that voluntary students of Torah remain as ignorant as other non-Jews who ignore HaShem’s instructions entirely? Do you think that they cannot be considered disciples of the Master Rabbi Yeshua because they are “volunteers” rather than being obligated like Jews? That would be as erroneous as the position reported in Acts 15:1 that would have required non-Jews to convert to Judaism in order to be “saved”. Why do you find this concept so difficult to grasp?

  26. You seem to have missed the problem with your point. If a “Noahide” who does not believe in Yeshua and a “Noahide” who does believe in Yeshua, are no different in terms of status and covenant relationship to God, what is the point of Yeshua? Just stay a Noahide.

    Thus your philosophies do not cut it, try to come up with something solid.

  27. Zion said: If a “Noahide” who does not believe in Yeshua and a “Noahide” who does believe in Yeshua, are no different in terms of status and covenant relationship to God, what is the point of Yeshua? Just stay a Noahide.

    Which is why I answered above that, in my opinion, the Gentile disciples of Yeshua had expanded behavior responsibilities beyond the Noahide. I suppose in this, PL and I don’t quite agree either.

  28. “Status”, Zion? — Is that your sticking point, a lack of special status or your very own covenant? Being a disciple of a rabbi, even of a master teacher such as Rav Yeshua, is not a means to derive personal status. The benefits of being such a disciple are found in what one learns from that rabbi and what one can apply to improve one’s life. In this case, the benefits include learning how to obtain a permanently acceptable atoning sacrifice for sins and how to experience the kingdom of heaven on a moment-by-moment basis. These go far beyond the basic experience or benefit of other humans who “merely” conform with Noahide principles of civilization. Is it not enough for you that non-Jews may experience a portion of the benefits that were once reserved for Jews under the Torah covenant? Can you not be satisfied by these practical benefits without demanding your own covenantal status or denying to Jews their distinctiveness? Can you not trust HaShem to care for you without a solid “guarantee” such as you perceive that the Torah covenant offers? What do you make of the notion that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (cif: Heb.11:1)? This was written as a reminder to Jews; do you think it would not also apply to non-Jews? Trusting HaShem because of what Messiah ben-Yosef has accomplished is the basis of a “solid guarantee” for anyone, Jew or non-Jew. Accept what HaShem has graciously granted to non-Jews; and rejoice in it. Do not envy, and do not resent, what He has granted distinctively to Jews.

  29. ProclaimLiberty,

    You are not actually addressing my point, it does not matter what I want, which makes your argument a strawman, but what the difference between a gentile believer in the Messiah and one who is not, your view makes no difference, you simply make some philosophical assumptions hoping it will satisfy your contradiction.

  30. @Zion — I have presented no philosophical assumptions in my response to you; and you have not identified what is your point that I have not addressed. Nor have you identified any contradiction. I’ve told you that you do not understand what I’ve written, nor the relevant halakhot. You’ve said (elsewhere) that you disagree with Nanos’ research and conclusions about Galatians (which have some bearing also on Romans); you probably should offer more specific description about any such disagreements. I’ve identified the basis of distinction between Jews and non-Jews, as well as features of spiritual approach and activity that may be applied by either or both. The philosophical tenets that I derive from Tenakh and from the Rav-Yeshua messianic writings that are applicable here include the notions that Jews should continue to remain faithful to their Torah covenant, that pursuit of the Jewish Messiah doesn’t change that but rather re-emphasizes it, and that non-Jews should continue as non-Jews even when their pursuit of spiritual understanding and righteousness under Rav Yeshua’s teachings takes them into Jewish territory and gains them a measure of Jewish blessings.

    The reason for which I ask what you want is that it appears to me to affect your reading and interpretation of the scriptures, and possibly explains why you seem not to understand what I’ve written.

    @alfredo — The word “should”, in the sense of something that is required, is precisely what I have said does not apply to non-Jews. But Is.56 demonstrates that non-Jews, who are not required to keep Shabbat, are commended by HaShem for doing so. Perhaps less obviously, they may experience blessings similarly to Jews in doing so. Should they keep Shabbat in order to be commended by HaShem, or to obtain blessings? Or is there a more subtle and significant element in the motivation of the folks whom HaShem commended to Isaiah? I leave it to you to figure that one out.

  31. Alfredo, no one is stopping you from observing Shabbos in whatever manner you see fit. It’s not like the “Halachah police” is going to break down your door a few minutes before sundown on Friday to see if you’re lighting candles or not. As PL said, there’s plenty of room for non-Jewish disciples of the Master to explore the mitzvot as a way to honor God.

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