The Mystery of Romans: Who are the “Weak” and the “Strong”?

Apostle-Paul-PreachesWelcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Romans 14:1-12 (NASB)

I’ve just finished reading the third chapter in the Mark D. Nanos book The Mystery of Romans: The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letters. Yes, it did take me a long time and for two reasons. Nanos is quite erudite in his writing, packing each page densely with information. I have to take copious notes on all points of interest while I’m reading. Thus reading and writing while I’m reading makes for slow going.

But I’ve gotten through the eighty pages of “Chapter 3: Who Were the ‘Weak’ and the ‘Strong’ in Rome?” Hint: they aren’t who you think they are, at least according to Nanos.

But first things first.

There is almost universal agreement (it appears to be an almost unquestioned fact) that the “weak” were Christian Jews who still practiced the Law and Jewish customs (with most maintaining that this group would have included “God-fearing” gentiles as well), and that the “strong” were Christian gentiles (as well as Christian Jews like Paul who have supposedly abandoned Jewish practices).

-Nanos, Chapter 3, pg 87

Mark NanosIn my previous review of Chapter 1 of this book, I noted that Nanos takes a high view of Jewish Torah observance and a Gentile “Torah-respecting” lifestyle, meaning that, from a Pauline perspective (according to Nanos), Gentiles in the ancient Messianic Jewish communities were expected to support and uphold Jewish Torah observance while at the same time, conforming to the application of Torah to the Gentile believers as defined by the halakhic decision made by James and the Elders and Apostles in Acts 15 (which was probably supported and expanded by an oral teaching that accompanied the “Jerusalem letter,” the Didache being one possibility).

I mention this, because it must be taken into account in the current conversation, for this position is the template for everything that follows in Nanos’ analysis of Paul’s famous letter to the Romans.

Let’s cut to the chase:

Paul was not concerned with distinguishing between Christian Jews/gentiles who practiced (“weak”) or did not practice (“strong”) the Law and customs, with the hope that all would eventually abandon the Law and customers as they grew stronger in their faith in Christ. His concern was rather that all the non-Christian Jews (“stumbling” in faith toward Christ) in Rome would recognize that Jesus was the Christ of Israel, their Savior, and that they would thus believe in Christ and become Christians (“able” to have faith toward Christ) — Christian Jews. As Christian Jews they would indeed continue to be Jews in that they continue to practice the Law and Jewish customs in faith, not in order to justify themselves, but because they are Jews justified by the Jewish Savior/Messiah/Christ, thus joining with gentiles who are Christians in giving glory with “one accord” and thus “one voice” to the One Lord: “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:6).

-Nanos, pp 154-5

In order to make that explanation work, the believing Gentiles and believing Jews must share a common synagogue or synagogues in Rome with the non-believing Jews. This isn’t as incredible as you might think. Most people assume that whenever Jews and Gentile God-fearers came to faith in Messiah, they left the synagogue and formed their own house churches. Sometimes that was true, but not always. Nanos and the resources he cites (you’ll have to see the book for the entire bibliography) support the idea that the believing body of Jews and Gentiles in Rome remained in their synagogue communities once they came to faith.

ancient-torahFor the Jewish believers, this probably seemed like a no-brainer at the time, since coming to faith in Yeshua as Messiah in the mid-first century was not particularly strange, and it certainly didn’t mean that the believing Jew was converting to a different religion as it would mean today if a Jew came to faith in Jesus and started going to Church (and for Messianic Jews today, they remain within Judaism as did Paul and the other Jewish believers in the apostolic era).

Also, Gentile God-fearers were commonly found in diaspora synagogues and although they had no covenant status reconciling them with God (unless some pre-Rabbinic status of “Noahide” were conferred upon them), nevertheless, they had come to believe that the God of Israel was the God over all. Once these Gentiles came to faith in Messiah, their was no requirement that their worship practices should change for after all, they were disciples of the Jewish Messiah King. Where else should they be but among Messiah’s people Israel? In fact, James and the Apostles in Jerusalem made this very point:

Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues.”

Acts 15:19-21 (NASB)

Once coming to faith in Messiah, in order to fully comprehend and practice his teachings, it was necessary to continue accessing his “source material,” which, according to the ruling of the Council, were to be found in the Torah and the Prophets.

Those Jews and Gentiles in the local Roman synagogues who came to faith while davening and worshiping within those communities would still be attached to those communities, to their friends, to the Rabbis. And since Yeshua-worship wasn’t inherently “non-Jewish,” Nanos suggests the believing Gentiles and Jews would have remained in their original synagogues.

Why should we care about this?

Because we have several populations co-mingling within a single religious and community setting: non-believing Jews, believing Jews, and believing Gentiles.

Now this next point is important. As Gentile God-fearers, the non-Jews who regularly attended synagogue would have been observing a set of behaviors that would allow them to co-participate in the community without violating the requirements of Torah observant Jews. They would eat the same foods, probably pray the same prayers or prayers modified for non-Jewish people, and otherwise not interfere with the Jewish “ascendency” in their own synagogue.

In other words, they wouldn’t make waves.

But once the God-fearers became believers and realized, through Paul as well as through the halakhic ruling of the Apostles, that they were not obligated to convert to Judaism and take on the full yoke of Torah but they were still fully equal co-participants in salvation and justification before God, they got a little cocky.

ancient_jerusalemIn Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the primary problem population (say that three times real fast) were “judaizers,” Jews or Jewish converts who were attempting to convince the Gentile population in the Galatian faith-communities that they had to convert to Judaism to be saved (and probably to re-enforce the idea among the Jewish population that being ethnically Jewish and Torah observant was what justified them before God, not faith in Messiah). The target population of Paul’s letter to Rome had the opposite problem: “gentilizers.”

The believing Jews wouldn’t bat an eye about continued Torah observance. For them, it would be a given, and of course, for the non-believing Jews in the synagogue, why should they change the observance given to them by their forefathers? But for the believing Gentiles, who didn’t have the same set of standards (although they definitely had standard of obedience as disciples), they started to “bug” the non-believing Jews about how now the believing Gentiles were “equal” without having to conform to the full body of Torah mitzvot.

And Paul was taking these Gentiles, the so-called “strong,” to task for disrespecting the “weak” who he felt in time, would also come to faith in Messiah. By their behavior, the Gentile believers were actually in danger of inhibiting Jews from coming to faith in their own Messiah (the parallels between this situation and the modern Christian Church are undeniable).

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Romans 14:13-23 (NASB)

Nanos asks his readers to look at this passage in sort of the opposite direction than the way we’ve been taught. Also keep in mind that, just like the situation we see in Galatians 2, the issue is table fellowship and offensive treatment, not food. If your brother or sister (here, Paul has to be relating believing Gentiles to non-believing Jews as “brothers and sisters,” perhaps because they attend the same synagogue community) stumbles (in their faith) because you, as a Gentile, are not obligated to keep the kosher laws, you are no longer walking in love.

While the Gentiles were “mere” God-fearers, they were in a “one-down” position in the synagogue because of legal status and let’s face it, it is a Jewish synagogue. Once they became co-participants in salvation because of Abrahamic faith, the Gentile believers became a tad bit obnoxious to the non-believing Jews and stopped “walking in love.”

There’s a lot Nanos says about the halachah of “walking in love” and the two greatest commandments of Jesus (Matthew 22:36-40) that applies here. You can’t really love God if you are taunting your neighbor who is “weak” in faith and has not yet become reconciled to Messiah.

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.

Romans 9:2-3 (NASB)

stuart_dauermannPaul was desperate to share the “good news” to every Jew and he desired, above all else, that his own people should come to faith and redemption. So much so, that he was willing to surrender his own salvation if it would save some of his non-believing Jewish brothers and sisters. Clearly, Paul didn’t see himself, as a believing Jew, in any way disconnected from the larger community of non-believing Jews in Israel or the diaspora or national Israel as a whole. In other words, to reference Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann, all Jewish people for Paul were Us, not Them.

I had a tough time with this chapter. I knew that Nanos was going to reframe the “weak vs. strong” argument in Romans 14, 15, but his build up to even stating his point took a long time. I finally had to jump back to the last pages of the chapter so I’d have some idea of what Nanos was getting at. Once I did, I found it easier to make it through the intervening pages.

According to Nanos, the “strong,” the believing Gentiles in the synagogue, should have known better than to try to “gentilize” the non-believing Jews and thus damaging relationships not only with them, but with the believing Jews who were also continuing to observe Torah and the Jewish customs. The Gentiles were cheapening their own “freedom” in Yeshua-faith by suggesting that the Torah devotion of non-believing Jews was a “weakness” on their part. However, Paul was actually saying that where they were weak was not in their faith in God and observance of the mitzvot, but their faith in Yeshua as Messiah. The Gentile “strong” were greater in that faith but ironically, they weren’t that strong either, for they became arrogant in their new status and in lacking love, I suspect they were also “weak” themselves.

Nanos makes such a complex argument, I don’t know that I can completely apprehend all of the nuances in just one reading, but I don’t really have the time to pour weeks more of study into a single chapter. The Mystery of Romans is such a compact container for such a large amount of data that I have no doubt I’ll have to read it a second time (or more) to tease out additional understanding and meaning. For now, I’m willing to entertain the idea that the “weak” and the “strong” can conform to an alternate meaning and in fact, they must if Paul is to remain consistent as a personality and in his theology throughout his letters and as depicted by Luke in Acts.

Addendum: Having just finished Chapter 4, a number of the points Nanos made about “weak” and “strong” are clearer, especially in relation to Gentile behavioral responsibilities toward Jewish people in general (both believing and non-believing). My next “meditation” on the Nanos book should be a great deal more coherent.


28 thoughts on “The Mystery of Romans: Who are the “Weak” and the “Strong”?”

  1. Wonder what Paul would think about today;s world and the history of wars that were caused by extremism of religious beliefs since his day.

    What the world needs now in addition to love is wisdom.


  2. I am learning a great deal through your studies. Thank you for bringing many teachings to light for me. A new perspective has been gained as I read your posts and I am sharing it with others.

  3. @scatterwisdom: When Messiah returns, not only will he establish a Kingdom of absolute peace, but he will teach use wisdom. The Bible even speaks of a time when we will no longer have to be taught, but we will know God in a way even greater than the prophets of old. Exciting times are coming.

    @Tammy: Thanks for the complement. I appreciate it and your continued visits to my blog. I’m glad something of what I write is helpful.

  4. Since I don’t have any background in Greek, I recall reading that the word translated, “weak,” could also mean, “more sensitive,” instead. I am not sure if the author was Skip Moen, Brad Young, Tim Hegg or someone else. That also fits with women being described as, “the weaker vessel.” I don’t believe women are weaker than men, and in some ways are stronger. Women went to the tomb while the men hid. But women are more sensitive, and therefore will be hurt more easily. This definition turns things around, as the more sensitive one is closer to the things of God, not farther away.

    I can understand how a person coming from a “one-down,” position happily moves into a, “one-up,” position over their former, “betters.”

    @scatterwisdom: Paul did tell us what he thought, as he saw what was to come. He warned that following his death, wolves would come in FROM AMONG YOU and not spare the flock.

  5. One aspect of paganism brought into the growing church was their hatred of Jews, for their refusal to worship human and other idols, and having practices that were different and sometimes abhorrent, and dwelling apart. I am going to guess that the God-fearers lived between two worlds; honoring the God of Israel and seeking to learn from his people, but unwilling to take steps that would cause them to share the lowly status of Jews. I assume that these God-fearers, as those mentioned in scripture, were mostly upper class Roman citizens, who would have something to lose, unlike the slaves and lower echelon of society.

    A friend of mine experienced a situation like this. In college he was the star student, was always the one who helped everyone with their projects and graduated magna cum laude; I believe with a perfect 4.0 GPA. But several months following graduation, he hadn’t found a professional position, and was still working at the part-time position he held while a student. He caught up with a couple of the students that he had helped during senior project time, both average students who had received no honors or accolades, and discovered both of them had obtained good jobs at major local companies, who offered to, “put in a good word for him.” Now, my friend was happy at their offer of help, but discomforted by the role reversal. I asked him why he thought the others were able to be hired quickly, while he wasn’t having success in the market. He told me that he thought he appeared nervous during interviews, so perhaps didn’t showcase his abilities in the best manner, although his recommendations and honors were stellar. In addition, Denver, a very liberal city, was big on affirmative action at the time, and that brilliant white male lost out to his colleagues, an average female and an average African-American applicant.

  6. I like the concept of a “weaker vessel” as drilling down into the concept of the “weak” non-believing Jews who were “stumbling” in their faith toward Messiah, as Nanos understands the term. Certainly Paul felt great compassion and concern over the non-believing Jews of Rome and greatly desired that they come to faith.

    1. It was interesting that Paul mentioned that some eat only vegetables due to their sensitivity (see I picked my own preferred translation :)) I have relatives that are Orthodox, and when we eat in a restaurant that is not a kosher restaurant only because there is no other choice, they will order a clean fish or vegetarian dish. Now, the stricter Orthodox will not eat in an establishment unless it has the hescher, the stamp of approval of their leadership. So, I am going to guess that these Jewish believers ate only vegetables when not dining in their own homes or the homes of those they could be sure kept kashrut. Just a thought.

  7. That would be my understanding as well. In Daniel 1:12 we see young Daniel made the same choice rather than be defiled by the King’s food.

  8. I nice, short, clear explanation that supports what I believe Nanos is saying in Chapter 4…and the document was written in 2006. Thanks for posting the link, Steve.

  9. “The Gentile ‘strong’ were greater in that faith but ironically, they weren’t that strong either, for they became arrogant in their new status and in lacking love, I suspect they were also ‘weak’ themselves.”

    I agree. Gentile believers, at first, would likely have come into the Jewish fold meekly, as learners, neophytes striving to understand the norms and morays of their new culture; much like new immigrants being naturalized into citizens, they likely listened and agreed. But as Chaya says, paganism was their luggage; eventually it intervened on their good and proper, more humble sensibilities, leading them down a road of decreasing humility and increasing pagan, anti-Jewish thought and behavior; first “making waves,” then causing convulsions, then leaving or being asked to leave. Certainly, loyalty issues during the Roman conflicts had huge impact. Then, we see historically, through the actions of the early Roman Church Councils how that institution injected the “Christian” community with heavy doses of toxic paganistic thought and practice, simultaneously banishing Jewish thought and practice from within its domain. I think that it is not extreme or hurtful, but rather, instructive, to say that over time the early Gentile believers were essentially “Christianized” away from the Judaism of Jesus. Tragically, we know the rest of that story up through the 20th century.

    Even the “strong” among them would have been pulled toward their “home” culture, their family and friends who remained pagan. As the Messianic movement moved further from Jerusalem, this would become even more of a determining factor.

    Very good information and thought in this book-blog, James. Thanks.

  10. Thanks, Dan. I also notice that you’ve pulled together a nice summary of the content of the last several blog posts.

    I’ve probably said this before somewhere, but Romans seems to be one of the earliest indications of the eventual problems that would crop up between Jews and non-Jews in the body of Messiah. I’m convinced that Paul knew (prophetically?) that this was all going to happen, but his devotion to his own people as well as the Gentiles he had brought into the body necessitated that he try to keep them together and interacting as long as he could.

    Unfortunately, that effort probably died with him in Rome and so here we are today.

    1. Yes, I’ve been reading right along… My heart goes out to the good Paul… I believe his heart was constantly aching as he worked to build commonality and relationship between the Jewish and Gentile believing communities. We often take his work to be “too perfect” in terms of how and what he said. Even divinely inspired text reflects the personality of the writer… Paul got it all right, of course, but I wonder if his contemporary audience was able to process and understand it as we do, today? I think perhaps we spiritualize both Paul’s writing and Paul, the man, too much, not realizing the arduous upstream battle he was engaged in. Announcing the coming of the long-awaited Messiah after so many centuries of waiting was just the beginning of his mission… the other being to EXPLAIN the Messiah and His teaching as it related to all people, the Jew first, then the Gentile. Oy vey. When one wonders about it…. imagine the challenge of such a mission !?!?

  11. I think we, and especially the “sola scriptura” crowd, tend to believe that the Bible is all God and no man. God inspired each of the human authors in what they wrote, but human pain, personality, and hope were infused with each and every word they penned, including Paul’s letters. I’m not trying to separate God’s influence from the Holy Word, but let’s remember that God chose these men, including Paul, because of who they were, because of who He made them to be. God accepted them, bruises, warts, and all. If the Bible weren’t a human book, we would never be so moved by it.

    1. “God accepted them, bruises, warts, and all.”

      Amen. Agreed. We should fight the urge to turn all of the biblical figures into “superheroes” of some kind. I cannot hardly wait to sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and company and hear their telling of the stories. Imagine. We have great times ahead of us to inform us of what happened behind us.

  12. I’m thinking that if Paul hadn’t been sent to the gentiles, then we might not have had 2,000 years of Christian antisemitism. Okay, the pagans hated Jews also, but it appears their hatred was related to the emperor worship which the Jews refused to partake of along with the dissing of their gods by failing to do proper obeisance to them. While abhorrence of Jews may have been an aspect of pagan thought and society, it certainly wasn’t foundational, as it was in Christianity. But this was all part of the plan, and Paul/Sha’ul was called for that purpose.

    A thought just occurred to me. James, you have a number of blog entries dealing with the cessationist/continuist debate. What if removal of the divine hand in miraculous works is a curse upon the church for its turning on the Jews? What if the outpouring promised in Joel will be upon the Jewish people and their servants and handmaids? This doesn’t describe a Pentecostal church or “fire,” stuff. Ez. 39:28-29 Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore. And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.”

    1. While you would be right, chayah, that without Rav Shaul’s efforts (or those of someone like him) we wouldn’t have a 20-century history of Christian anti-Semitism, but Jewish suffering under non-Christian Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and others can’t be discounted. They also held religious beliefs that impelled them to act atrociously against Jews. In fact, it may be suggested that the underlying problem in Christianity stemmed from its absorption of such views after rejecting the Jewish perspective that could have “saved” it from them.

  13. There is a blog/FB page called Sola Sisters. They thought I was their good buddy until they posted an anti-Messianic article, that was (very poorly) written by a DTS student. It was so bad, the author made various sweeping statements about MJ/HR, and then claimed there was no spokeperson to interview regarding his “research.” I posted a polite rebuttal, detailing where the author was in error both factually and biblically, as well as listed a number of contacts that could have provided background for his article. Sola Sisters posted their anti-torah proof texts, and I posted some other scriptures and asked questions about them. Then I got blocked and my posts deleted. I asked a friend who liked to promote that group why they had blocked me, and not even communicated with me. He talked to them and informed me it was because I “promoted Hebrew Roots.” Duh, I thought they were so big on sola scriptura, but these types really aren’t, if you show them something that they can’t answer and it doesn’t fit inside their truth box. What I have discovered is, that if , scripture and/or reality conflict with one’s tradition/theology/doctrine, it is scripture and reality that lose.

  14. PL, yes I see that too, and also understand that this was an aspect of the divine plan. It was the rejection of Jews and Jewish practices that led to the embrace of pagan thought and practice, which included hatred of Jews. Christianity had organization and a propaganda machine that the pagans lacked, however. I see this as the Gen. 12:3 curse: Okay, you don’t want Jews or torah? I’ll give you pagans and their disgusting traditions. Europe didn’t want Jews, so now it is blessed with Muslims.

    I know @James has written a few articles dealing with the Strange Fire/Holy Fire/MacArthur vs. Brown, Cessationism vs. Continuism debate. I am working on an article with a different twist. See, since Israel is the center of the universe from the vantage point of heaven, perhaps the removal, to a great extant, of the miraculous spiritual gifts is due to a curse upon the church for their treatment of the Jews. And the restoration of these gifts is related to repentance toward the Jews. The promise in Joel seems to be to the Jewish people and their servants and handmaids, not to the general population. “All flesh,” may not mean, “the world,” but perhaps you have a better take on that? Is there any evidence in scripture non-Jews had gifts of healing, etc.? I don’t see that, although Bila’am was a prophet, although outside the covenant. What if one of the reasons ten men will take hold of the tzitzit of one Jew, “because we know God is with you,” is because they will seen confirming miraculous signs and wonders? Just a thought.

    1. Well, chaya, you may be on the track of something there. Christian rejection of Jews brought with it a rejection of various aspects of Jewish knowledge as derived from Jewish scriptures. A variety of blessings are thus lost; and the exploration of charismatic gifts at the beginning of the 20th century CE in the USA, following after some sporadic considerations in the mid-1800s, had as one of its characteristics an openness to what were then non-traditional readings of the scriptures. They were trying to believe what they were reading actually meant what it said. Hence they might be compared to those ancients who attended the “schools of Shem and Eber” which were likely the source of knowledge about the One G-d to Whom Bil’am prayed some centuries later. Gifts of healing and miracles were not unknown to ancient non-Jews; and these events were undoubtedly one aspect of the signs that Rav Shaul referenced in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans which indicated HaShem’s existence and nature. However, repentance about the treatment of Jews was not specifically a characteristic of the pentacostal/charismatic renewal, though they were somewhat influenced by dispensational theology that included views about a future period in which Jews would be restored to the land of Israel and acknowledge the Messiah. Therefore I wouldn’t make any strong connection between such specific repentance and the re-appearance of “the spiritual gifts”.

      There is, nonetheless, a problem that the charismatic movement has not well-addressed, which is a lack of discernment about the underlying driving force in any particular psycho-spiritual manifestation. Hence some of the phenomena observed in that framework are no different from those which have appeared among shamans and charlatans throughout history. One might well ask if there is some Jewish wisdom that needs to be applied to sift the wheat from the chaff, in order for the charismatic movement successfully to “clean up its act”.

      The reference to “all flesh” in Joel is not limited to Jews, nor even to human beings alone; but each kind of creature that has breath to praise HaShem may be expected to respond differently to outpourings of His Spirit. Certainly Joel focused his prophecy on Jewish old men and maidens, sons and daughters, without mentioning any broader view, because he was addressing only a Jewish audience. Jewish views of what constitutes the miraculous are somewhat different from what non-Jews are attracted to in that vein, hence I wouldn’t expect that to be the impetus that will attract 10 non-Jews to seize the tzitzit of a Jew because of a perception that “G-d” is present with, or on the side of, the Jewish people. And I would recommend against Jews seeking after such miraculous events or signs. One of the dangers in doing so is failing to recognize that such events are truly “gifts” from HaShem that are initiated by Him to serve His purposes. They are not magical powers to be possessed by and operated at the whim of any human or any group of them. Nor are they intended to be viewed as a form of entertainment.

  15. Thank you, that was a very good explanation. I am going to add a bit of that comment about “flesh,” to my article. Just when I think things are done I have to do more editing 🙂 I understand that flesh (basar) does refer to all living beings, including animals, as it is also the word used for meat. Could I post this in the comments section following my article? Or perhaps you might like to do that?

  16. Correct me if I am wrong, as I am not a history scholar by any means, but I have read on the subject, and my general understanding of historic antisemitism has always been that Christian antisemitism has been, overall, more violent and lethal than historical pagan or “classical” or “pre-Christian” antisemitism, as pre-Christian antisemitism seems to have been the result of the friction caused by differing religious customs wherein the Jews would not reciprocate as most pagan religions did. Which was insulting but not necessarily “evil;” whereas Christian antisemitism operated from the very beginning on a hatred based upon the accusation of deicide that made the Jewish people “cursed,” therefore outright “evil.” Again, I am not a history scholar but up until the rise of the Third Reich it seems that there was no “focus” on the Jews as targets of hatred as long-lasting and sustained as that of Christian antisemitism, wherein the Jewish people have been viewed as “demonic” and “vermin” and “accursed” for over two full millennia. Just wondering if this is anyone else’s take on the matter… and I would be grateful for any good, well-documented sources of historical information on the subject.

  17. Thanks for this. I remember pouring over this book in 1997 after picking it up in a bookstore in Azusa, CA. Then reading it on a trip river rafting in Colorado where an elder from my church was with my dad and I. I brought up the concepts to this elder (and still friend) to which he countered with the anti-Judaic concepts of traditional evangelical Christianity. Despite it all, I was further convinced that we are missing out on a lot of beauty by dismissing Jewish history and traditions.

    We Christians have a lot of the pencil lines that give us a general idea of the scenes. But, we miss out on a lot of the shading and colors that bring out the beauty of this painting by the God of Israel.

  18. That is an excellent resource. You might want to notice that some of the links are no longer good. I am reading, “A Convenient Hatred,” and this book delves into antisemitism prior to the first century.

  19. Thanks much,Steve, for that extensive resource. And I referenced “A Convenient Hatred,” as well, Chaya, which is a very expansive view.

    There are respected sources out there I cannot call immediately to mind that support the notion that pagan antisemitism (up to the Third Reich, of course) was, over time, actually less “lethal,” if you will, than Christian antisemitism. Somewhat in that regard, here is an interesting, if highly generalized, chronological-sequential summation by the late Holocaust survivor and scholar, Raul Hilberg, may his memory be blessed (there were, however, many “pogroms” by the Church that were lethal to Jewish populations during the Crusades and the Inquisition in-between and during the time of “the secular rulers” and the Nazis):

    “The missionaries of Christianity had said in effect: ‘You have no right to live among us as Jews.’ The secular rulers who followed had proclaimed: ‘You have no right to live among us.’ The German Nazis at last decreed: You have no right to live.’”

    ~ Raul Hilberg in “The Destruction of the European Jews,” page 9

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