Ancient Jerusalem

Zetterholm, Ancient Antioch, and the Problem of the Gentiles

In spite of this disheartening picture of the relations between Jews and Gentiles in Antioch there is, rather surprisingly, evidence of Gentiles who felt drawn to Judaism.

More relevant for the present discussion is whether there was a group of Gentiles with a clear interest in Judaism who may even have adopted several Jewish customs and who participated in the activities in the synagogue without having converted to Judaism.

-Magnus Zetterholm
Chapter 4: “Evidence of Interaction,” pp 121-2
The Formation of Christianity in Antioch: A Social-Scientific Approach to the Separation between Judaism and Christianity

This is both what Judaism has to offer and teach our confused and self-indulgent age. In the words of the psalmist, “Blessed are they who dwell in Your house.” (Psalm 145:1) The circuitous path away from the constricted focus on the self through the expansive world of the other. When we find renewal in the synagogue, we will have gained access to Judaism’s greatest boon: this-worldly salvation.

-Ismar Schorsch
“Holiness is a Communal Experience,” pp 431-2 (May 17, 1997)
Commentary on Torah Portion Emor
Canon Without Closure: Torah Commentaries

[This is a long “meditation.” Pour yourself a cup of coffee and give yourself the time to take it all in.]

This is something of a counterpoint to my previous blog post Zetterholm, Ancient Antioch, and Today’s Messianic Judaism. The prior write up was a look at the Judaisms operating in Antioch, including the “synagogue of the Way,” as they existed in the first century CE, through the lens of Zetterholm’s book and research. Today, we use the same lens to see how Gentiles were brought into this wholly Jewish religious stream, what the Jewish disciples understood about the social role of Gentiles, and how unconverted (to Judaism) Gentiles could participate in the New Covenant blessings.

It seems (and I’ve said this before) it wasn’t all that clear how to bring Gentile disciples into fellowship, and even among the Jews in the Way, opinions differed.

I’m going to focus on only part of this chapter, which is Zetterholm addressing “the Antioch incident” (Galatians 2:11-21) because the thirty some odd pages this author spends interpreting the conflict between Paul and Peter contains a great deal of commentary on the struggle to understand how Gentiles could be co-participants socially and benefit from Jewish covenant blessings without undergoing the proselyte rite and without being considered mere God-fearers (though God-fearers could not apprehend the covenant blessings).

Citing New Testament scholar J.D.G Dunn in his article The Incident at Antioch (Gal. 2:11-18), Zetterholm wrote:

Having evaluate[d] different exegetical alternatives, Dunn suggested that table-fellowship in Antioch involved observance of at least the basic dietary laws, since the Jesus-believing Gentiles were originally god-fearers. The men from James, shocked at what they regarded as too casual an attitude, demanded a higher degree of observance, especially with regard to ritual purity and tithing. According to Dunn, they referred to the earlier agreement made in Jerusalem (Gal. 2:1-10), where Paul’s mission to the Gentiles was agreed upon but where the specific issue of table-fellowship was never considered.

Zetterholm, pp 130-1

You’ll notice here that Dunn (apparently) believes in a “common Judaism” (see my previous article on Zetterholm) shared by all Jewish factions but variability in how to observe the mitzvot or at least to what degree to observe ritual purity customs within different synagogues of the Way. Zetterholm referencing Dunn states that it is likely the Jerusalem contingent, the home of James the Just, brother of the Master, and the core group of apostles and elders, held to a more strict observance of ritual purity than the Jews of the Way in Antioch.

Peter, as one of the original apostles of Jesus (Yeshua), may have originally held to the Jerusalem point of view, but his experiences with the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:28-29) modified that opinion. However, confronted with the more strictly observant emissaries from James, Peter gave in to peer pressure.

Notice, this doesn’t mean that Jews were eating non-kosher food, so the issue was about the competing halachot of the two Jewish communities relative to eating with Gentiles:

Dunn argued that this agreement in no way changed the obligation to torah observance for the Jesus-believing Jew.

According to Dunn, the reason why Peter suddenly withdrew from the table-fellowship was that “[h]e could not deny the logic of Jerusalem’s demand, that a Jew live like a Jew.” Continued table-fellowship could therefore lead to a severe loss of authority in relation to Jewish-Christian communities of Palestine.

-ibid, pg 131

J.D.G Dunn
J.D.G Dunn

I don’t know if I completely agree with Dunn’s and Zetterholm’s conclusion here regarding the compromise of authority, and it seems that Paul certainly didn’t think his halachah of table-fellowship with Gentiles was a problem based on his criticism of Peter. I do think this brings into sharp relief the potential differences between Paul and James, especially prior to the Acts 15 halachic ruling regarding the legal status of Gentiles in (Messianic) Judaism.

Of course Dunn isn’t the only New Testament (NT) scholar to have an opinion on this “incident.” P.F. Esler, according to Zetterholm, didn’t think it was a matter of the degree of observance but an outright halachic ban across the board on Jews eating with Gentiles, with perhaps only a few exceptions. From Esler’s perspective, this was a matter of the preservation of Jewish identity, which could only be maintained by a strict separation of Gentile and Jew with no table-fellowship between the two groups, period.

E.P. Sanders didn’t agree with either Dunn or Esler, and Zetterholm tends to favor Sanders’ viewpoint most of the time. Sanders didn’t think the issue had anything to do with ritual impurity, since most Jews are in a state of impurity (which has nothing to do with sin) most of the time, and must only be pure when participating in a Temple ritual. He also didn’t think it had much to do with social interactions, particularly in Antioch which, like other diaspora communities, required fairly free transactions between Jewish and Gentile inhabitants.

Sanders really did think it was the food, not that the Gentiles were insisting on eating ham, but the Gentile origin of the food itself was an issue. How could the Jews be sure that at least some of the meat hadn’t been sacrificed to idols?

I tend to think Dunn may have the most accurate perspective on the matter, especially given B. Holmberg’s opinion:

Holmberg suggested that James demanded a higher degree of observance not on the part of the Jesus-believing Gentiles but on that of the Jesus-believing Jews, and furthermore, a virtual separation of the Christian community into two commensary groups.

-ibid, pg 134

According to Holmberg, both Paul and James believed that the Gentiles benefited from the covenant blessings that issued from being grafted into the Jewish root, but their perspectives were different. While Paul advocated for Jewish and Gentile interaction and fellowship within the community of Messiah, James advocated for separate communities of Gentiles and Jews operating side-by-side rather than intermingled. This was to preserve the integrity of Jewish identity. Paul (according to Holmberg) disagreed.

To James and Peter, the Jerusalem agreement made no difference in how the Jesus-believing Jews related to torah, while Paul requested that the demands of a Jewish identity should cede to those necessary for maintaining a common Christian identity.

-ibid

This isn’t to say that Paul was advocating for a Torah-free practice for the Jewish believers, but rather for a more lenient halchah relative to Jewish/Gentile fellowship and co-participation in worship and social interactions.

Rabbi Mark Kinzer
Rabbi Mark Kinzer

It’s interesting that Holmberg’s perspective on James, Peter, and the Jerusalem community maps at least somewhat to that of modern Messianic Jewish author and scholar, Rabbi Dr. Mark Kinzer who wrote the rather controversial book Postmissionary Messianic Judaism: Redefining Christian Engagement with the Jewish People.  R. Kinzer advocates for a position called “bilateral ecclesiology,” which essentially establishes two communities within the body of Messiah, one for Jews and the other for Gentiles.

While many in the Church and in Gentile Hebrew Roots feel R. Kinzer’s position is a recent development, we see now that at least one NT scholar, Holmberg, suggests that it (or something very much like it) existed within the early Jerusalem Messianic ekklesia at the highest levels of leadership. What would this have said for Yeshua’s perspective on the matter?

We can’t know the answer to that one with any certainty, but it’s a compelling question. Yeshua rarely had dealings with Gentiles and stressed that he came “for the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). He only issued the directive to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28-19-20) after the resurrection and (shortly) before the ascension.

Just to summarize, the explanation behind the “Antioch incident” was the degree of ritual observance for Dunn, food for Sanders, social intercourse for Esler, and Jewish vs. Gentile identity (related to observance issues) for Holmberg. Depending on your theological preferences, you can choose the scholar that fits your perspective. I think we all tend to do that and I’m just as guilty of the practice as the next person. Hopefully, I can cut through some of that and present a reasonable case for my conclusions, such as they are.

Zetterholm said that the problem is…

…that the text contains several gaps that must be filled in through an act of interpretation. The fact that scholars put forward different and sometimes even contradicting suggestions to solve a given historical problem often emanates from the character of the text: what we want to know is simply not in the text but must be supplemented from outside the text world.

-ibid

Not a very comforting thought, especially if you are a proponent of Biblical sufficiency.

I presented, in my previous blog post on Zetterholm, the nature of Jewish communities in Antioch and their implications for modern Judaism including Messianic Judaism. Now, I’m trying to solve the puzzle of how or if Gentiles could have been reasonably integrated into a Jewish community without compromising the Jewish nature and identity of that community. I think it’s clear Paul was convinced this was possible, but as history shows, it didn’t work out so well. I can only believe all this has profound implications for modern Messianic Judaism and the role of Messianic Gentiles within that Jewish context.

The issue for Paul in his letter to the Galatians was the Gentiles and encouraging them to maintain a Gentile identity within the Jewish Messianic movement, which did not require them to undergo the proselyte rite, become circumcised (males), and take on the full yoke of Torah observance. This is the same issue (Gentile role and status) within the Antioch synagogue (Acts 15:1), which most Christians would call “Paul’s home church.”

The challenge though, wasn’t just how to smooth over the wrinkles added by including Gentiles in a Jewish religious and social space, but how to understand the covenantal relationship (if any) Gentiles apprehended when they became disciples of the Master. I know in my own studies of the covenants, it is very clear how Jewish people and Judaism are in covenant with God, but Genesis 9 and Noah aside, when a Gentile comes into relationship with God through Messiah, just how does it work? There’s no clear and easy path in the text explaining it.

D. Thomas Lancaster
D. Thomas Lancaster

I came to my own peace with Gentile inclusion in the New Covenant about a year ago and more recently, in my multi-part review of D. Thomas Lancaster’s What About the New Covenant lecture series, I affirmed some of my convictions and discovered new information.

But what did this look like to the various groups inside of the Jewish Messianic movement in first century Antioch, or for that matter, from the perspective of James and the Council of Apostles and Elders in Jerusalem?

Based on various scriptures in the Tanakh (Old Testament) you could conclude that either Gentiles were cursed and would ultimately be wiped from the face of the Earth (for instance, Micah 5:9-15, Zephaniah 2:4-15), or that Gentiles had an eschatological future wherein at least some members of the nations and perhaps all nations would come into relationship with God and worship Him and Him alone (Isaiah 19, Isaiah 56:7, Zechariah 14:16).

From my point of view, I reconcile the opposing viewpoints in these texts by believing any nation (or any Gentile individual or group) which goes against Israel will ultimately be defeated by God and be cursed for cursing Israel, and any nation (or any Gentile individual or group) that joins with Israel in supporting her and her precious, chosen people, the Jewish people, will one day be called up to Jerusalem along with the returning Jewish exiles to worship God and to pay homage to the Jewish King.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “on the wrong side of history” in the news or social media recently, but applied to the Gentile nations and their relationship with Israel (for or against), those words take on a whole new meaning.

Believe it or not, I’m still talking about the Antioch incident, since how the Jews in the Way saw the Gentiles in relationship to the Jews, including socially and in the nature of their eschatology, was at the heart of the conflict.

If, however, we assume that he (Jesus) confirmed that Gentiles were to be embraced by the final salvation, it is not strange that within the early Jesus movement different concepts developed of how to relate to Gentiles and of how the actions of the god of Israel, through Christ, would also relate to the nations of the world.

-ibid, pg 140

Zetterholm, citing Sanders, said that the Jewish believers had no issue with Israel’s relationship with God since the Torah provides the means of atonement and…

…everyone living within the boundaries of the covenant and remaining in the covenant through obedience and atonement will be saved.

-ibid

But…

The soteriological system was, of course, for Jews only. Exactly how the Gentiles would be saved is less clear.

-ibid

The Church today takes its status of being saved rather for granted, although I doubt most Christians have ever seriously studied the New Covenant and encountered the challenge of finding themselves anywhere in the text. If they did, they might have some small idea of what the Jewish believers were facing when trying to insert Gentiles into the Jewish community, short of formal conversion to Judaism.

Magnus Zetterholm
Magnus Zetterholm

Zetterholm is convinced, citing T.L Donaldson and others, that what was not required ultimately, was the need to circumcise Gentiles and have them brought under the Torah in the manner of the Jews. But since circumcision was tied directly into the covenant relationship, it remained a mystery (apparently) to the first Jesus-believing Jews, exactly what status and role uncircumcised Gentiles played in Judaism and in covenant (if any). Salvation comes from the Jews, but how?

The Acts 15 decision was designed to settle all of this and render “halakhic clarification”, since, as Zetterholm says (pg 144) it was believed that the end of the present age was at hand and Gentile status had to be settled quickly before the Messianic Era arrived.

Zetterholm puts Luke’s Acts and Paul’s epistles in tension with each other, believing that Luke may have represented Paul differently than Paul actually saw himself. Zetterholm believes that Paul’s epistles are a more valid representation of Paul and how he saw Gentiles in covenant with God, but that view, given the complexity of Paul’s letters, isn’t all that clear.

We do know that Paul did support the continuation of Torah observance for Jesus-believing Jews as a given while at the same time, did not impose said-Torah observance along with circumcision upon the Jesus-believing Gentiles.

It is clear that under no circumstances would Paul accept that the torah be imposed on the Jesus-believing Gentiles.

If Paul accepted the apostolic decree (Acts 15) was applicable to Jesus-believing Gentiles, this would not mean that he imposed torah on them, since, strictly speaking, the halakhah for righteous Gentiles or god-fearers was not the torah but something to be observed by Gentiles not having been blessed with the gift of the torah.

-ibid, pg 148

This doesn’t answer the question of how Gentiles are included in the covenant blessings, but makes clear that Paul, as Zetterholm understands him and agreeing with Mark Nanos, believed the Sinai covenant and its conditions outlined in the Torah, was not the covenant operating that provides salvation for the Gentiles and brings them into relationship with God.

I do want to say that Zetterholm seems to more strongly relate the Noahide Covenant (which Zetterholm says was fully documented in the Tannaitic period [10-220 CE]) with the status of Jesus-believing Gentiles than I would. The Noahide covenant defines a very basic relationship between God and all humanity (all flesh, really) but if that were it, then Gentiles wouldn’t need an additional covenantal connection to God that required faith in the Messiah. The New Covenant, though made only with Israel and Judah, I believe is also apprehended by Gentiles who are Jesus-believers (see Lancaster’s New Covenant lecture series for details).

Finally, through his very long and winding narrative, Zetterholm came to the same place where I have also arrived.

The inclusion of the Gentiles meant for Paul the inclusion in the covenant, since it was the covenant that provided the ultimate means of salvation. By connecting the inclusion of the Gentiles with the promise given to Abraham in Galatians 3:7-29, Paul interprets the salvation of the Gentiles in covenantal terms, since the promise given to Abraham is a covenantaly promise as stated in Genesis 15:18: “[o]n that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.”

-ibid, pg 157

Mark Nanos
Mark Nanos

This allowed Gentiles to remain Gentiles, remain uncircumcised, and to be accountable to a different set of conditions of covenant than the Torah (or conditions with some overlap), and yet be able to enjoy the blessings of a covenantal relationship with God. It was and is that Abrahamic faith in Messiah that opens the door to our drawing near to God in a way denied to the ancient God-fearers and the modern Noahides.

Zetterholm concludes that both James and Paul agreed the Gentiles enjoyed covenant blessings, but James…

…demanded a separation of the community into two commensality groups, one for Jews and the other for Gentiles, since too close social intercourse would have confused the boundaries between Jews and Gentiles.

-ibid, pg 166

Paul, on the other hand, declared:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28 (NASB)

Zetterholm explains:

Paul, however, stressed that, “in Christ,” all distinctions between men become, on one level, superfluous. But here comes the paradox: this unity “in Christ” is arrived at only when the social distinction between Jew and Gentile is maintained. It is as “Jew” and “Gentile” that mankind becomes “one in Christ,” since the god of Israel is the god not only of the Jews, but of all humanity.

-ibid, pg 164

How does this speak to the relationship between Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles in community today?

If it seems like there’s been a lot of bickering, confusion, and debate over the status of non-Jews in the Jewish religious space called Messianic Judaism, but this is actually revisiting very old territory. It is, in some sense, a replay of what Paul went through in advocating for a Gentile presence as co-participants in Jewish community and fellowship, and in the covenant blessings of God. That the Gentiles are included in the New Covenant blessings, as difficult as that can be to trace down in the scriptures, isn’t the big problem, though.

The big problem is how to integrate Jews and Gentiles in Messiah in a religious, social, and halachic context. What role does the Messianic Gentile play in Messianic Jewish space? What are our obligations relative to Jewish obligations (which are far more clearly spelled out)? What does table-fellowship look like? Was James right in demanding social segregation between Jews and Gentiles, or is it more likely Paul, as Messiah’s special emissary to the nations, was correct in stating halachah should be constructed to allow closer social interaction and intermingling while still maintaining identity distinctions between the two groups?

Answering the ancient questions, if such a thing is possible, would also help answer our modern questions.

But while Paul was convinced within himself as to the intentions of God toward the nations in relationship with both God and Israel, others in the Way may not have been convinced. Zetterholm’s view of the Paul – James conflict is an educated opinion. At the level of the Christian sitting in a pew on Sunday morning, we all want to believe that the apostles were in complete unity with one another and that early “Christianity” presented a complete and undifferentiated whole within itself, only opposing the other Judaisms and pagan idol worship.

But what if Paul, Peter, James, and the rest were human after all? What if they disagreed, especially on such an emotionally hot-button topic as Gentiles within Judaism?

DaveningIf all that is true, it means we can look to the New Testament to help us understand what the problems are that we’re experiencing today, but no final solutions may be coming our way this side of the Messiah.

But as my quotes of Zetterholm and Schorsch at the very beginning of this missive testify, there is something about being in community that transcends all of the petty bickering. As a Gentile, I’m envious (I guiltily confess this) of Jews in a minyan, the reciting of the morning prayers, the special connectedness of synagogue life. Maybe it’s because I never quite feel integrated in the church. Maybe, like my first quotes above attest, I am one of those Gentiles who sees holiness in Jewish community, since that’s where we come from and I believe that’s where we’ll be returning to in the Messianic Kingdom.

For more on this and related topics, see my commentary on Shaye J.D. Cohen’s book From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, Second Edition.

Advertisements

18 thoughts on “Zetterholm, Ancient Antioch, and the Problem of the Gentiles”

  1. “Fiddler on the Roof” helped me understand. Yes, I too, am guilty of being envious of the Jewish people and their ‘calling’. But I understand whatever people group was ‘chosen’ would have experienced the same privileges and sufferings as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. As a ‘kingdom of priests’ it was necessary that they remain separate. “Be ye holy for I am holy..” But they are priests for the L-rd to nations. If the priests profane themselves among the nations, we will have confusion. Today, Yeshua the Messiah is our High Priest in the Heavenlies making intercession for us, Jew and Gentile, but when He returns He will be King and Israel will function as the priests and we will have an earthly High Priest which is why everything in Jerusalem will say ..”holiness unto the L-rd.” (I am doing this from memory and not looking up the Bible sources) As gentiles we are ambassadors for His Kingdom, and not priests, that calling is reserved for Israel. If you recognize the G-d of Israel as the only true G-d, and Yeshua as King of Kings, ( as the wise men did) then you will have part in the ‘world to come.’ I ponder when ‘mortality will put on immortality’ if that happens at the end of the millennium rather than the beginning. Perhaps there will be a resurrection like that of Lazarus for those to enter the Kingdom and inherit the promises of the Kingdom and at the end of the thousand years, then you have the rapture? My point, ( I am not good at this writing to get a point across) is there is always an earthly separation between Jew and gentile and it is our eternal state that there isn’t a separation. Paul wanted (IMO) the Jews to be Jews and gentiles to be gentiles. I believe the gentiles were to receive Torah/instruction from the Jewish believers, after all, we will not have ‘repair of the world’ until His Kingdom comes and instruction goes out from Zion. When we mix eternal salvation with earthly functions, we can muddy the waters. (If my mind didn’t go in different directions at once, this would be easier)
    Wow, I’m sorry this is so very long. Did I just say everything you said only differently?

  2. I enjoy the film (and stage version of) “Fiddler on the Roof,” but I never thought to apply it to this situation. I’ve said on numerous occasions, that I believe we non-Jewish believers have a unique calling to support and endorse Jewish return and adherence to the Torah in order to increase overall Jewish fidelity to the Covenant. Jesus said (John 4:22) that salvation is from the Jews, but that means there have to be faithful Jews, both in Torah and in Messiah, in order for the rest of the world (us) to be saved.

    Far from a functional separation making Gentiles second-class citizens, it casts us in a vital role, one that, if we didn’t exist and occupy that role, would perhaps result in believing Jews not remaining or returning to Torah fidelity and thus (perhaps) delaying the return of Messiah.

    I’m reading a paper on the “Antioch Incident” written by NT scholar Mark D. Nanos now and it will probably be the basis for a “part 3” of this series.

  3. “I doubt most Christians have ever seriously studied the New Covenant and encountered the challenge of finding themselves anywhere in the text. If they did, they might have some small idea of what the Jewish believers were facing when trying to insert Gentiles into the Jewish community, short of formal conversion to Judaism.”

    Bingo! But this is lost on Christians in general, since we’re so bathed in the theology of replacement.

    Regarding being jealous of Jewish distinction and calling, may I say that it is precisely this issue that has, in my opinion, brought about so many problems? I know you don’t mean it in a destructive way James, and I don’t mean to imply otherwise, but I too have wrestled with this and I think when looking at these things we have to BEGIN where He tells Jews to begin, which is to believe that He is God. (Commandment número uno in Jewish reckoning) and then to submit to His sovereignty and recognize He is Holy, merciful, righteous, good and just.

    Once we do, we can see that He doesn’t create junk, make mistakes, or play favorites, (which is evident in multiple places) The distinctions He creates (namely gender and Jewish and non-Jewish) are for mutual blessing and lead to life.

    Of course the problem (besides what you outline in your article) is that the Church historically became “jealous” of the Jewish distinction and saw “chosenness” as though God meant “favorite” and only loves and cares about Jews, so we had to override this somehow, to calm our chronic spiritual inflammation and thus, Supersessionism is born.

    I see God’s character as above this, and the concept of chosenness differently. We Gentiles have an equally Holy, beautiful, and VITAL calling that only we can do (just like only Jews can fulfill theirs) but unfortunately our (historic) lack of trusting God’s awesomeness and character has caused us to focus on their calling , and to attempt to usurp it, leaving no one to do the job we’ve been called to do in the plan of redemption.

    Had we understood our Holy calling and identity for what it is, rather than historically coveting theirs, I’d say that things would be altogether different. Dear LORD history would be so different.

    Anyway, just my .2 cents.

  4. IF the prophets truly speak of a time when the nations will appear before Hashem (presumably at the Holy Temple,) doesn’t that seem to indicate that they will have to comply with the laws regarding ritual purity and acceptable offerings? This is way outside any Noachide laws. Heck, it is way outside Christian praxis as well.

    This makes it hard for me to imagine that the Jerusalem Council’s rulings were definitive. IMO they were introductory for Gentiles ‘for every Sabbath Moses is read in the synagogue.’

    I recall reading in the Talmud? that when a Gentile converts and immerses ‘immediately he is given a few light and a few heavy commandments’ rather than discouraging him by dumping the entire weight of halachah on him. I think this is what Acts 25 is all about.

  5. There may be some indication that Paul disagreed with the fine details of the decision of James and the Council and that their view of Gentile disciples was driven as much by human judgment as by the Holy Spirit. Especially in Evangelical Christianity, we like to think of the New Testament as this neat, tidy package where all the Jewish and Gentile believers agreed with each other and there were no differing opinions, but it’s possible that, just like today, their interactions were a lot more messy.

    Even in the days of Herod’s Temple, Gentiles were allowed to offer sacrifices. They had to undergo the mikvah and attain a state of ritual purity first and offer a sacrifice as described by the Torah, but they could enter the Court of the Gentiles and a Priest would make the sacrifice.

    There’s nothing in the New Covenant connectedness of Gentiles (through Israel) with God that contradicts Gentile believers in the Messianic Age from going up to the Temple in Jerusalem and offering prayers and sacrifices.

  6. Hi James. Going to “The Jesus Covenant, Part 11: Building My Model”, through your reference in this post…

    Have you ever considered the number 153 in your model?

    “Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.” John 21:11

    It leads you to “And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi even unto Eneglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many.” Ezekiel 47:10, according to http://yeshuaincontext.com/2011/05/gematria-in-the-new-testament/

    Reading Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. Ezekiel 47:8-9, you find a river of healing waters coming from the Temple and flowing into the Dead Sea. (Engedi being to the East of Jerusalem http://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/en-gedi.html)

    In my current understanding, the Dead Sea is referring to Gentiles: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:12

    This might be part of the Sod that Paul is talking in Ephesians 3:1-13

  7. Hi James. You ask “The big problem is how to integrate Jews and Gentiles in Messiah in a religious, social, and halachic context. What role does the Messianic Gentile play in Messianic Jewish space? What are our obligations relative to Jewish obligations (which are far more clearly spelled out)? What does table-fellowship look like?” . I remember commenting several weeks ago, about Paul’s arguments about the “weak” and the “strong”. (1 Corinthians 8:1-13, Romans 15:1, 1 Corinthians 9:22, etc.) I think it also applies to this question.

  8. I can honestly say that none of what you’ve written has ever occurred to me before. For the most part, I stick with the pshat meaning of the text because even on that level, I believe we have left much unexplored traditionally.

  9. Alfredo, as far as your “weak and strong” comments, can you replicate them here or at least tell me on which blog post you made these comments? It’s not easy to find the exact reference. Thanks.

  10. @James. Too bad you are sticking with the pshat meaning of the text. This issue (“Gentiles’ salvation without converting to Judaism”) was hidden from plain sight to Paul and his teachers, otherwise he would not have called it a mystery. (Sod)

    By the way, something very interesting (awesome to my eyes, actually) happened to me about this conversation with you. Today I had to wait for a friend to drive me to work (which doesn’t happen at all) so I picked a book that I had purchased several days ago and haven’t had the time to read completely. So I opened it and there it was: Chapter 16. Mayim Hayim. Living Water Flowing! (The book is “Listening to the Language of the Bible” by Lois Tverberg with Bruce Okkema, maybe you have it…) Well, the thing is that this small chapter is about Ezekiel 47! Explaining the Bible’s rich imagery in this vision, the authors write at the last paragraph of that chapter:

    “The trickle of God’s Spirit became ankle deep as many in the city became believers, and then knee deep as the Gospel spread to the surrounding countries. Instead of running out of energy, the river of the Spirit got deeper and wider as it flowed! And its ultimate destination is the most desolate of wastelands, full of the poisonous water of the Dead Sea – the dark reality of a world devoid of knowledge of the living God.”

    Shalom!

  11. The problem with the Sod level of Torah interpretation is that it can be easily abused and misunderstood, leading to interpretive error. If you read my five-part Meaning of Midrash series, you’ll know that I concluded that the Rabbis can take things too far.

  12. I know. Reading what Tverberg and Okkema think about the Dead Sea make me feel that I’m not alone about that interpretation. .)

  13. @James. You asked “as far as your “weak and strong” comments, can you replicate them here or at least tell me on which blog post you made these comments?”

    Finally found it. (It was off topic because you had closed commentaries on “Once Again Foolishly Rushing In” the previous day.)

    https://mymorningmeditations.com/2014/02/12/sermon-review-of-the-holy-epistle-to-the-hebrews-sundry-times-and-divers-manners/#comment-17290

    February 15, 2014 at 2:11 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s