In writing the review, I mentioned that I had gone back to J.K.McKee‘s A Part of Israel? as a resource for scholarly exposition of Scripture related to the place of non-Jews who come to Messiah. You’ll remember I lamented not having reviewed the book… Well, I started reading it again and couldn’t put it down! ‘Nuff said?
He is gracious in doing so, but is clear to demonstrate where there is error in various understandings of what the Kingdom of Israel looks like and who is in it! Example passages would be 30 pages dedicated to the predictably selected Ephesians 2:11-13 passage. He specifically addresses politeia, a Greek word we have looked at before, however, he understandably takes a much more coy approach as to whether non-Jews will have an inheritance in the land.
from portions of his review of
JK McKee’s ‘Are Non-Jewish Believers Really A Part Of Israel?
I normally ignore these sorts of topics since historically in the blogosphere, debating the issues involved in Jewish/Gentile relationships in modern Messianic Judaism and/or the ancient ekklesia of “the Way” have, at best, proven unfruitful, and at worst, hostile and abusive.
But I’ve always had good, civil, and friendly conversations with Pete, including in the comments section on another of his blog posts,. So when I read his review, I was prompted to consider responding. After all, the legal and community status of the ancient Gentile disciples of the Jewish Messiah King relative to the synagogue, Jewish co-participants, and ultimately national Israel not only have applications in modern Christianity, but ultimately will be realized in the Messianic Kingdom when the New Covenant Age comes toward completion.
I requested a review copy of McKee’s book from the publisher and received a very nice and prompt reply stating that they do not honor such requests. Fair enough, since self-publication does not usually allow for such an option.
When I read Pete’s review last night, I got stuck on a single word: politeia. My commentary rather narrowly focuses on this word and how it is used since I can’t comment more generally on what McKee has written.
The word “politeia” is used in the following passages of scripture:
Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.”
–Acts 22:28 (NASB)
…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
–Ephesians 2:12 (NASB)
I’ve bolded the English word corresponding to the Greek word “politeia” which is rendered as “citizenship” in both cases in the NASB translation.
However, this creates a number of questions.
- Is Paul telling us (or his readers) that non-Jewish members of the Messianic ekklesia are now legally citizens of national Israel by faith in Messiah?
- If so, then does such citizenship automatically require that the Gentile disciples adhere to, by obligation, the same Torah mitzvot in the same manner as the Jewish disciples/citizens?
- Can “politeia” be translated in any other way besides “citizenship” and if so, what are the implications for the relationship of Gentiles and Jews belonging to Messiah in relationship to national Israel?
As you can see from my source material, depending on the translation and in which part of scripture the word occurs, it can be translated differently. In Acts 22:28 using the KJV translation, it is rendered “freedom,” while in Ephesians 2:12, the NAS, KJV, and INT translations all present the word as “commonwealth”.
In fact, “citizenship” is only one of three major ways to translate”politeia”:
- the administration of civil affairs (Xenophon, mem. 3, 9, 15; Aristophanes, Aeschines, Demosthenes (others)).
- a state, commonwealth (2 Macc. 4:11 2Macc. 8:17 2Macc. 13:14; Xenophon, Plato, Thucydides (others)): with a genitive of the possessor, τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, spoken of the theocratic or divine commonwealth, Ephesians 2:12.
- citizenship, the rights of a citizen (some make this sense the primary one): Acts 22:28 (3Macc. 3:21, 23; Herodotus 9, 34; Xenophon, Hell. 1, 1, 26; 1, 2, 10; (4, 4, 6, etc.); Demosthenes, Polybius, Diodorus, Josephus, others).
I’m not a linguistic scholar, but I’ve known enough of them to understand that any sort of translation from one language to another is much more complicated than saying a particular word in language A always means another particular word in language B, especially when those languages are separated by nearly two-thousand years of history.
I am absolutely not saying McKee is making such a “rookie error,” but I will say that we all read and translate the Bible from a particular perspective, usually one that supports our own biases (everyone has biases, it’s not a dirty word). And yes, it’s easy to read those two verses in the New Testament and conclude that Paul must be making Israeli citizens out of Gentile believers in Jesus.
A lot of Evangelical Christians believe we’re “spiritual” citizens of Israel too, and expect to take over physical, national Israel when Jesus comes back. Naturally, Jewish people object to being kicked out of their own Land (even by allegory) and those teachers in Messianic Judaism who I follow do not believe we Gentiles will be moving to Jerusalem, or Tel Aviv, or Haifa once Messiah ascends the Davidic throne.
So where does that leave us? What’s the “differential diagnoses?”
If indeed it is the case that in Christ these Gentiles have a portion in [Israel’s covenant membership and national eschatology], i.e. that they are saved as Gentiles, then it suffices to apply to them the same ethical principles that would in any case apply to righteous Gentiles living with the people of Israel, i.e. resident aliens.
“Jewish Law in Gentile Churches:
Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Public Ethics”
(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2000), 165
While the gerim in the days of Moses were not Israelites as such and did not obtain full membership status in the nation due to lack of tribal affiliation, they did observe a large number (majority? nearly-full obligation?) of the Torah mitzvot in the days of Moses and beyond. The argument of some branches of the Hebrew Roots movement is that the gerim status can be wholly transferred to the Gentile disciples of Jesus and be used to justify Gentile Christian obligation to the full yoke of Torah. Lancaster has spent considerable effort in his commentary to illustrate how James and the Council exempted the Gentiles from the full yoke of Torah because they were not born Jews or converts. Now, he apparently brings in an element in explaining the four prohibitions that could reverse his argument.
-from my blog post Return to Jerusalem, Part 6
based on my reviews of First Fruits of Zion’s (FFOZ) Torah Club series Chronicles of the Apostles
The key to all this is in understanding what sort of decision the Council of Apostles and Elders made in Jerusalem about the legal status of Gentiles in “the Way”. The question was brought up (Acts 15:1-2) and after much debate, Paul and his detractors couldn’t make any headway toward a solution, so they took it to a higher authority in Jerusalem. After much deliberation, the Council rendered what amounts to a binding legal decision and issued halachah specific to the communal role and responsibilities of Gentile disciples of the Master. Did they have to undergo the proselyte rite and become wholly obligated to the Torah mitzvot? If not, how could they be included as equal co-participants in Jewish worship and community and yet not be Jewish? How could they be included in covenant?
How do we resolve the matter of the ancient Ger as applied to the late Second Temple Gentile God-fearing disciple? Lancaster doesn’t make that clear, but based on my own reading, particularly of Cohen, the full role of a Ger as it existed in the days of Moses was to allow a non-Israelite to live among the people of God as permanent resident aliens without being able to formally become national citizens due to lack of tribal affiliation. After the Babylonian exile, a tribal basis for Israelite society was lost and affiliation by clan was emphasized. By the time of Jesus, this clan affiliation basis was too lost, and thus the rationale for the status of Ger as it was originally applied no longer was valid. A Gentile in the days of Jesus or later, who wanted to join the community of Israel, in most cases, would convert to Judaism, since becoming a Ger was not an option.
-from my aforementioned blog post
To further cite Shaye J.D. Cohen:
Biblical law frequently refers to the “resident alien” (ger in Hebrew) who is grouped with the widow, the orphan, and the Levite. All of these are landless and powerless, and all are the potential victims of abuse. (An American analogy to the ger is the Chicano (specifically, undocumented alien) farmworker; a European analogy is the Turkish laborer in Germany.) The Bible nowhere states how a ger might ameliorate his status and become equal to the native born, because there was no legal institution by which a foreigner could be absorbed by a tribal society living on its ancestral land. Resident aliens in the cities of pre-Hellenistic Greece fared no better.
But there’s another authoritative source that should be considered:
and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name”;
and again he says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him”;
and again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.”
–Romans 15:9-12 (NASB)
To which Nanos responds:
Christian gentiles worshiping the One God in the midst of the congregation of Israel — my point exactly! (emph. mine)
-Mark D. Nanos
Chapter 6: Romans 13:1-7: Christian Obedience to Synagogue Authority, pg 326
The Mystery of Romans: The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letters
Paul is urging the Gentile believers to take note of their position, their role, and their halachic status as “resident aliens” within the midst of corporate Israel, which here is the synagogue context in Rome.
The alternative explanation, based Bockmuehl, Cohen, Lancaster, and Nanos, is that the Gentiles were included in the commonwealth of Israel but not as equal national citizens. It would be as if my wife, as a Jew, decided to make aliyah, become an Israeli citizen and live in Israel. As her husband, even though I’m not Jewish, I would be allowed a permanent status as a resident in Israel as well, but I do not have an automatic right to become a citizen, as does my wife, because I am not Jewish.
I would still have most or all of the same rights as Jewish Israelis and I would have most or all of the same obligations as Jewish Israelis, but none of that would make me Jewish, nor would the Chief Rabbis of Israel or any other Jewish religious authority expect me to observe Torah as they proscribe because I’m not Jewish.
I know you’re going to say that’s all secular law (with the exception of the authority of the Chief Rabbis) and has little or nothing to do with how God sees things, but I’m using the above example by way of analogy. When James and the Council issued their decision, it wasn’t some magical, spiritual event, it was a legal ruling on the same order as the authorities among the Pharisees made, and was binding halachah upon the community.
However, there is another citizenship I have and one in which I’m looking forward to living out in the age to come. It’s a status I currently possess since according to at least one interpretation of the New Covenant, I need to start living my life as if the world were already fully under the rule of Messiah, Son of David, as he is seated on his Throne in Jerusalem.
I consider myself a citizen of the worldwide Messianic Kingdom to come and many wonderful blessings come from this status. I will be resurrected from dead flesh and made immortal (assuming I die before Messiah’s return). I will have my sins fully, permanently cleansed from me. I will have the Holy Spirit poured into me to such fullness that I will have an apprehension of God in the same or even greater manner than the prophets of old. I will have my heart of stone turned to a heart of flesh and God will write His Word upon it so that it will be my natural inclination to always obey Him and not return to sin.
And as a Gentile of the nations, I will reside in a country that is a vassal state to national Israel, subservient to Israel which will be the head of all nations, and ultimately I and my nation of residence will be accountable to the King of Israel, Moshiach. I expect that I and everyone else like me will be planning our vacations around the festivals and making regular pilgrimages to Jerusalem to spend time with family and friends and pay homage and honor to our King.
The goyishness of Christianity is a sign of its success, not its failure!
-Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann
“The Problem With Hebrew Roots, or, It’s Good to be a Goy”
R. Dauermann makes a compelling argument that Gentiles who attach themselves to the God of Israel are intended by God to remain Gentiles. The prophets of the Tanakh who spoke of the Messianic Age all seemed to share that belief. I’ll only quote two of them:
And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”
–Isaiah 56:6-7 (NASB)
“In that day
“I will restore David’s fallen shelter—
I will repair its broken walls
and restore its ruins—
and will rebuild it as it used to be,
so that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations that bear my name,”
declares the Lord, who will do these things. (emph. mine)
–Amos 9:11-12 (NASB)
And to quote verse 14:
and I will bring my people Israel back from exile. (emph. mine)
which can also be interpreted as:
will restore the fortunes of my people Israel. (emph. mine)
In both of these prophetic examples describing Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic Age, it is clear that Gentiles will become attached to the God of Jacob as Gentiles and as citizens of the nations. While Isaiah paints for us a portrait of Gentiles offering sacrifices at the Temple of God (something which was allowed during the time of Herod’s Temple), Amos 9:14 makes a clear distinction between the Gentiles of the nations who “bear my name” and Israel!
It is true that Isaiah describes Gentiles keeping to the covenant, but after all, we will receive blessings because of our Abrahamic faith under the New Covenant, and in Messianic Days, I expect it will be more common for even the citizens of vassal nations to have laws and observances that more closely mirror national Israel’s including Sabbath keeping.
I’m not even saying (with apologies to R. Dauermann) that Gentiles in Messiah shouldn’t observe Sabbath in the present age. I’ve met many who do.
What I am saying is that none of what I see in the Bible, particularly the use of a single Greek word, absolutely mandates that all non-Jewish people who are disciples of Jesus be made into citizens of Israel, either in the present age or in the Messianic future.
God made a covenant with Abraham that was specifically and narrowly passed down to Abraham’s son Isaac (but not to Ishmael or any of Abraham’s subsequent children) and then to Isaac’s son Jacob (but not to Esau) and then to Jacob’s twelve sons who became the heads of the twelve tribes, who became the nation of Israel (but not to any other people group or nations).
That Abraham would also become the father of many nations and that through his seed (singular) Messiah, the nations would be blessed, does not abrogate the part of the covenant that specifically promises Israel only to the direct biological offspring of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob.
Having not read his book, I can’t say for sure, but if McKee comes to a different conclusion in his writing, then in spite of his stated education and scholarship, I’m forced to disagree with him.
I don’t write this against Pete or anyone else who holds to his views of scripture, but rather to illustrate that there are other valid and educated views of the Bible that come to other valid and educated conclusions.
I considered just making a few comments on Pete’s blog but as you see, the response requires a lot of words and it’s easier to write out my thoughts here and then just to share a link to my blog with him (and anyone else who is interested).
Considering all of the different viewpoints involved in this sort of discussion, I see the position of One Law/One Torah (OL/OT) as existing at one end of a continuum and what’s been called Bilateral Ecclesiology (BE) positioned at the opposite end. While I obviously am leaning closer to the BE end of the scale, I’m not sitting right on top of it.
Of those congregations I am aware of that I consider authentic Messianic Jewish synagogues, including Beth Immanuel, Tikvat Israel, and Ahavat Zion, they all have a majority membership/attendance of non-Jewish people worshiping the God of Israel and giving honor and glory to Yeshua HaMoshiach (Jesus Christ), with a smaller membership and usually leadership of Jews. In fact, the primary teacher at Beth Immanuel is a Gentile: D. Thomas Lancaster. And yet Beth Immanuel is a Jewish community and worship venue that adheres to specific standards of established halachah.
From my perspective, that’s the current state of Messianic Judaism, or at least those portions I know about in my little corner of the world.
That I don’t consider non-Jewish disciples to be literally citizens of national Israel does not exclude us from many incredible blessings or from association with our Jewish brothers and sisters in Messiah. I am quite comfortable inside of my own skin, so to speak, being a person among the nations who is called by His Name. Being married to a Jewish wife, I am content to recognize that she is among her people Israel and I’m dedicated to supporting her, and all other Jewish people I’m associated with, being and becoming closer to the God of Jacob as HIs people Israel through the mitzvot and within their unique community and nation which was established forever by Hashem.
49 thoughts on “When Christians Aren’t Israel”
In my opinion, it is “either or”, for me, either One Law is right or Bilateral Ecclesiology is right. As I have stated before, if we as believing gentiles are not part of the covenant, then BE is correct, and I will simply have to change my theology one day…
But, what you offer, IMHO, is a lukewarm and confusing. Where gentiles have one foot inside the covenant and one foot outside the covenant, they’re are neither in or out, they are not responsible, but also responsible, and etc. I know you know this, you simply accept it as an intentional gray area, but I don’t think that was the intent or the message. I don’t mean any ill towards you, I do really consider you my brother, I am just stating in a very honest way, how I view your perspective based on what you stated…
With that said, I want to address a few points you made, if you don’t mind.
1) Concerning citizenship – I don’t think anyone in their right mind, would think that gentiles have a claim to citizenship in the modern current day affairs of Israel. If any citizenship is to be had, it would only be applicable in the Kingdom run by Messiah, and it would not be by pushing Jews out, but instead by joining. Will gentiles be granted a lot in the Land of Israel, in the Kingdom?, maybe, Ezekiel 47, gives detail to gentiles being allotted land among the Tribes, however, it would be an assumption, to think that every gentile who trust in the Messiah will live in the land, or even want to live in the land, on the other hand, it does give us proof that it is a possibility. Second, there is the reality of Israel being a proportionally larger territory than it is today, and I don’t just mean Gaza or the West Bank, but beyond the Jordan river to the North and East, which further offers another aspect in the kink, a larger Israel. With all that said, I find the Land to be a side issue and not something to dedicate too much time to…, wherever we are in the Kingdom, will be wonderful…
2) Concerning Acts 15 – Being that the very first verse, the context of the entire dilemma, is not about Torah observance, does not sit well with your interpretation, in my opinion of course, but that is not all, the fact that you are forced to interpret “the burden that neither we or our fathers have been able to bear”, as the Law of Moses, is terribly disturbing to me, as it is inconsistent with the writings in the Tanakh, concerning the Law itself. And the fact that gentiles in the Messianic Kingdom will be keeping the Torah, simply makes this all a contradiction. With that alone, I would argue that your perspective of Acts 15 is fundamentally flawed and thus not convincing.
3) Isaiah 56 and Gentile Torah Observance – In Isaiah 56, you pointed out how gentiles are keeping the Covenant, observing the Torah, and yet clearly these are not converts, in the use of the term today. I don’t see how that reconciles with your argument, and I honestly don’t see how you were using it. Also note, that not all nations will be called by His name, and yet many unbelieving will be spared. Where do they fit into your equation, considering they will exist in the Messianic era?
4) Metaphors and Reality – When understanding Romans 11, Ephesians 2, Galatians 3, etc, and their relationship to Gentiles, how we relate to Israel, Adoption, Citizenship, Abraham, the Covenants, and the Messiah, is a major factor in our theology. If we simply write them off as metaphors, which is more of what you believe, then we deny them having any literal relevance in our life, they become idle words…, they sound nice, but they don’t mean anything. If we understand they have both an element of metaphor and literal application, then we can see a more clear picture, which I think your perspective is lacking in, again all my opinion, but at least you can see where I am coming from, if you even care.
Actually Zion, I think there’s a staggering amount of variability in the Hebrew Roots to Messianic Jewish scale of viewpoints. Among those Gentiles who in one manner or another are attracted to “Torah” and whatever that means for various individuals, home study groups and congregations, how exactly a Gentile believer should relate to Torah observance or compliance or submission or whatever can be very confusing.
Just comparing perspectives such as Tim Hegg’s to Twenty Six Eight which is a local (Meridian, Idaho) group that bills itself as “a Christian, Charismatic/Spirit-Filled, and Messianic Church/Congregation” illustrates this point. It’s not a matter of just two selections: Tim Hegg versus say Mark Kinzer, for example.
I’ve already said that I don’t consider myself a strict adherent to Bilateral Ecclesiology because I not only see the current expression of Messianic Judaism as largely Gentile with a Jewish core (for the most part) but my reading of Paul and understanding of the Syrian Antioch synagogue of the Way reveals a mixed Jewish/Gentile ekklesia, with, at least in the beginning, Jewish leadership and guidance.
I don’t want to replicate what I’ve already written about the New Covenant and what it means to Gentiles since I’ve written blog post after blog post on this very involved topic. I think I’ve recommended some links on this subject to you in the past, but for the sake of whoever may be reading these comments, you can try my Jesus Covenant series (not that there’s such a thing as a “Jesus Covenant,” I was employing poetic license to make up a creative title) or series of reviews of Lancaster’s What About the New Covenant sermons. Both should illustrate my basic perspective on the matter, although unfortunately, I consumed a lot of time and blog space in my exploration.
It would be nice is all this was black and white but to the degree that the late Second Temple period Jewish community had no idea what to do with Gentile adherents to Messiah and had to finally consult with the Apostolic Council (and there are some indications that even after the ruling of the Council, James and Paul still didn’t see eye to eye about how inclusive to be relative to Gentile co-participation) we can see that this is no easy topic to address let alone resolve. In fact, it may never have been settled prior to the destruction of the Temple or the two Jewish revolts, which ultimately saw the Gentile believers separating from the Jewish expression of their faith and forming a separate and new religious movement called “Christianity.”
The fact that we continually debate on these matters should be no surprise if those people and groups so much closer to the source couldn’t see eye to eye. Being nearly two-thousand years removed from the debate makes things even more difficult to grasp.
I only mentioned Christians seizing Israel because some Evangelicals literally believe that’s how it’s going to work out when Jesus comes back. A person I know was visiting Israel many years ago with an Evangelical tour group and overheard and elderly Christian lady addressing the Jewish Israeli bus driver by saying, “Thank you for keeping all of this for us” (“us” meaning Christians). I don’t know how the bus driver reacted, but this is an indication that at least some Christians feel they are going to physically displace the Jewish people in the actual Land of Israel.
Acts 15:1-2 really does address the question of how Gentiles were supposed to relate to the covenant. “Saved” isn’t just “saved from sin” but in my opinion, references the resurrection and the Messianic Kingdom. How will the Gentiles be included in the covenant so that they can take part in the resurrection without undergoing the proselyte rite to become Jews and thus take on board the full obligation to the observance of the mitzvot.
The testamony offered before the Council of Apostles and Elders and the subsequent decision they handed down was designed to answer that question, and it established a specific halachic status and role for Gentiles as equal co-participants in the blessings of the New Covenant related to resurrection, salvation, and belonging to the Messianic Kingdom without having to convert to Judaism, become citizens of national Israel and fully comply with what could be considered Israel’s “constitution,” the conditions of the Sinai covenant which is the Torah.
If the Gentiles (in my opinion) were to simply become obligated to the mitzvot in an identical manner to the Jews, Luke could have worded the decision in a much different way in order to communicate that idea. He didn’t and he defined a very distinctive set of obligations for the Gentiles (granted, it was only a summary of the full decision, but then the entire Bible is a very brief summary of all the events involved in God’s interaction with human beings).
While the Gentiles were not obligated to the mitzvot, there’s a section of the Didache that says a Gentile disciple may voluntarily take on board as much of the Torah as they are able. If they choose to perform all of the mitzvot, so much the better, but if not, they should do as they choose. This pretty much does give permission to the Gentiles to “pick and choose” which of the mitzvot to observe, unlike their/our Jewish counterparts who are under covenant obligation to them all.
And like it or not, Paul used metaphors a lot, especially when communicating with Gentiles because most of them couldn’t be expected to have full familiarity with the concepts that were so well known to the Jewish people. As far as the word “citizenship,” I think I aptly addressed that one in the body of my text. I didn’t tackle “adoption” because, in spite of the length of my blog post, I still kept the focus narrow. Entire books can be and have been written on this topic. I’m not going to cram and exhaustive review of it in one little blog.
I wrote this blog post with the idea that I would have to “agree to disagree” with you or anyone supporting a One Law/One Torah perspective. Like I said, this isn’t an article designed to change your mind, or Pete’s mind, or anyone else’s mind necessarily. It’s a conversation where I hope the readers, most of whom will never comment and who knows how many surf in and are not regular followers of my postings, will be able to see that there is more than one way to understand what the Bible is saying relative to a Hebrew Roots and/or Messianic Jewish (Messianic Gentile) context. As I also mentioned, I deliberately chose to enter into a dialogue with Pete because we seem to be able to disagree without an emotional (anger and hurt) debate/fight ensuing. At the end of the day, regardless of our disagreements, we are all disciples of the Master (albeit in different conceptual streams relative to our being disciples) and we should treat each other with civility. As you well know, a lot of people involved in this dynamic are coming from a place of feeling hurt and even betrayed by “the Church” and insert themselves into these commentaries leading with those emotions.
I think it’s better to talk things through and if we can’t agree, then we can’t agree. God knows the truth and when Messiah returns, I suspect we’ll all have a lot to learn.
FFOZ’s “To Whom Shall We Go” CD’s are against BE & you mention how the people in that organization Are now promoting it (That’s Odd). Lancaster says this emphatically!
How come your not accepting the plain meaning of “Covenant of Promises” for Gentiles? Nothing against the One Law or BE crowds but if the BE people are saying Gentiles are second class citizens then that’s a lie.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Yeshua, says to baptize “in the name of …” This means, “in the authority of,” the person, place or thing, being referred to.
Note that there is also a signficant change of “direction” with this verse, regarding the offer of salvation. Here we have Yeshua telling His disciples to go out to the nations (goyim), not just the children of Israel (compare to His words in Matthew 10:6, where He told them not to go to the nations). Something significant and deeply mystical happened with the death of Messiah, that enabled the gospel to go out to the non-Jewish world.
This verse is often used to teach the Christian “trinity” – a concept contradictory to a Hebrew understanding of the Scriptures. G-d does indeed emanate in the forms of Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Ruach haKodesh), but also as; the Shekinah, Kingdom, the “voice of G-d,” the “face of G-d,” Tzaddik (“Righteous One”), New Jerusalem, the Bat Kol (voice from heaven),Wisdom, Understanding, Mercy, Judgement, Prophecy, and even “seven spirits” (i.e., Revelation, chapter 1).
It is often overlooked (and frowned upon by Protestants, due to Catholic dogmas about Mary being the “mother of G-d”), that G-d is also revealed in some distinctly “feminine” forms. These include the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit), Shekinah, Kingdom and “New Jerusalem” (which is also called, “Jerusalem above” and referred to as our “mother” in Galatians 4:26) and Bat Kol (literally, “daughter of the voice). All of these terms are feminine in the Hebrew – grammatically, and at a deeper level, theologically. We even see Yeshua speaking of Himself in “female” terms in Matthew 23:37. Recall that we are made in G-d’s image and that image is both male and female (Genesis 1:27).
G-d is not limited to three parts of a “trinity,” nor are any of these emanations solely a distinct “person” (i.e., “G-d the Father,” “G-d the Son,” “G-d the Holy Spirit”), as G-d is One. Such doctrines are attempts to put “G-d in a box” as many people don’t consider themselves to have strong faith unless everything is “black and white,” and they have a “tidy answer” for anyone that asks asks them to explain their faith.
Judaism recognizes that G-d is a bit more complex than we often “wish” Him to be. He reveals Himself in His Torah, and that Torah is infinite.
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Once again, we see that the Torah is for everyone, Jew and gentile — as what He “commands” is obedience to the Word of G-d.
Again, there is a great deal of mystical significance in the text. Just how is Yeshua “with us” always, when Scripture says He has returned to heaven?
Bruce, I can’t speak to “To Whom Shall We Go” since I’ve not experienced this teaching, but it’s important to remember that several years ago, FFOZ made a major theological shift, moving away from One Law and adopting a more traditionally Jewish (if I can say such a thing) viewpoint of scripture.
As far as the “plain meaning of the Covenant of Promises for Gentiles,” the root of my understanding of the New Covenant doesn’t come from Matthew 28:19-20. Yeshua may be the custodian of “better promises” but he didn’t make them up out of his imagination. The New Covenant language can be found principly in Jeremiah 31 (starting at verse 31 and going for several chapters) and Ezekiel 36, although there are many other references scattered across the Tanakh.
The links on New Covenant commentaries I put in my comment reply to Zion will point you to my understanding of Gentiles and the New Covenant, but it’s a lot of reading. You’d be just as well off to purchase the audio CDs of Lancaster’s What About the New Covenant sermons and spend a few hours listening to them. He explains it all pretty well.
No disrespect intended but are you a FFOZ worker? I Notice you rely heavy on their interpretation of Scripture…. And I already have Mr.Lancasters What about New Covenant teaching you can purchase To Whom Shall We Go from FFOZ since they still consider it a valid interpretation of there views (because they sell it) They removed all the teachings that they did which didn’t agree to there new shift ( Either the Shabbat Shalom CD or Yoke of the King CD says this)
I only asked about the FFOZ worker thing because if you are then there’s no need to really discuss with you since your affiliations are to them and all I would need to do is re-read there material to know where you stand.
Also I’m not attacking them, they produced a very awesome Shabbat Siddur and Book called Concealed Light. There a good organization for Christians to be exposed to the Jewish roots of there faith (ie: HaYesod). ….Anyway lol
I’m fully aware of the Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel comment but Yeshua’s comments there are not talking about Those passages…. He told them to TEACH THE GENTILES TORAH. Acts 15 Ends with And they’re read Moses every Shabbat (paraphrase) which re-enforces Yeshua saying to the Jewish people to teach Gentiles TORAH!
Gentiles and Jews are to know TORAH!! It’s All about knowing those 1st 5 Books for both Jew and Gentile.
So it’s strange to see commotion over “Do Gentiles have a place in Israel” when we are told we do. Gentiles keeping Sabbath in Isaiah and the Jewish people were commissioned by Yeshua to teach Gentiles the particulars in that.
For anyone to say they don’t do such and such because pastor/rabbi/pope says so better make sure their like the bereans in Acts who heard what Shaul was saying but was verifying it WITH TORAH.
Gentiles don’t replace Israel they Join them. Hand In hand. Not back of the Bus (them) front of the Bus (Us) segregation dogma.
The Jewish people should be teaching the Gentiles not Gentile pastor teaching Gentile… but Man diverts off the path as usual and now people have to get back on track to what G-d intended and He G-d is guiding this all in His master plan that man can’t grasp because just as Heaven is above the earth so are His ways over man.
No, Bruce. I don’t work for FFOZ. I did write a series of articles for Messiah Journal on the topic of supersessionism at their request but that would be in the role of contract writer. That’s pretty much the same role I take whenever I write a book commissioned by these various publishers.
That said, do have a relationship with a number of the people at FFOZ, having met them in different venues, and I do consume and review many of their works, finding them to be generally sound theologically (I’m going to take some harsh blow back for that statement).
As far as your interpretation of Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 15:21, this is a case where we’ll have to “agree to disagree” since I have a quite different viewpoint of those events. It’s assumed what Yeshua meant when he issued the commandment to make disciples of all nations. The fact that Peter had no idea what to do with Gentiles until Acts 10 and the debate about Gentile legal status came up at all in Acts 15:1-2 establishes the Jewish disciples had no clue how to go about fulfilling the Matthew 28 directive until decades after it was issued, and even then, there is strong evidence that Paul and James never quite saw eye to eye on this matter.
As far as Acts 15 is concerned, I wrote a six-part series on that one chapter called Return to Jerusalem. Yes, it’s a collection of reviews on D. Thomas Lancaster’s material in Torah Club volume 6: Chronicles of the Apostles, but it will give you my basic thinking on the matter.
There’s no crime in disagreeing and in fact, it’s one of the points of this blog post: the ability to discuss a matter from differing perspectives without personalizing that disagreement.
That’s fair and I don’t take it personal. People in the West have the mindset of either have it there way or no way sometimes, in the East many interpretations can be considered valid (ie: Talmud/Mishnah) occasionally will agree 100% on something but then will be 50/50 or 80/20 but I would never ridicule or slander you etc… My affiliations are to HaShem and Yeshua, I have that freedom. I come to my conclusion based of linguistics and what I see how the Sages debated about topics.
Did all Jedi agree on matters concerning the force? No but they were agreeable that the force was the true life giver of the galaxy and that it took YEARS of discipline and using your talents given to you to masterfully understand the many facets of it.
As long as we agree on Torah and Yeshua are central to our walk then your a brother to me.
Anakin was still a Jedi despite his interpretation of the Force but he eventually went rouge because of the Yetzir Hara becoming dominant but He eventually was “redeemed” and was restored as a Jedi again.
I think your friends at FFOZ would even tell you that learning a language (Hebrew or Greek) should be on the Top 5 of there Disciple to do list.
But if I hear you correctly, you don’t agree with Gentiles keeping Shabbat and you think that Gentiles don’t have access to the heavenly court yard (ie: 2nd Class citizens) much like the 1st and 2nd Temple era where Gentiles could only go so far in the temple because they were Gentiles.
I’m not sure where I said Gentiles were not allowed to keep the Shabbat. I think they can, I just think in the present age, they aren’t obligated to. As far as the Heavenly court, I have no opinion because in the resurrection, we won’t be in Heaven, we’ll be on Earth and the Temple will be in Jerusalem.
@James: If you made aliyah, you would obtain full Israeli citizenship even though you wouldn’t be considered Jewish unless you went through conversion.
The mixed multitude gained an inheritance in the land among the tribes where they sojourned. For the most part, Christians and other gentiles don’t sojourn among us. I see the few that do identifying with our brothers suffering in Israel and standing by them in practical ways. That would be my line of demarcation.
I don’t know why this thought just came to me, but during the 1973 war, when I was in high school, I remember that there was a line into the parking lot at the local JCC of people waiting their turn to donate money to help Israel. This was obviously before all the modern conveniences of spreading information and processing payment that we have today.
Chaya, I’m trying to find a metaphor that describes Jewish distinction relative to Israel. Even as a Gentile Israeli citizen, I still think there’d be certain differences, probably along religious lines, between me and a Jewish citizen. After all, it is a Jewish nation and even more so in the age to come.
Also, I’ve never heard of the idea that evangelicals (all 70 million of so of them) will take over the land of Israel and kick the Jews out.
I agree that Jews should teach gentiles, but most gentiles don’t want to learn from Jews.
I hear you, I wanted to offer a different perspective as well and show how I view your perspective, in relation to mine and why… but as you said, we will simply have to continue agreeing to disagree. Thank’s for the discussion!
Be’Shalom James Be’Shalom [No hostility intended]
Allow me to clarify my statements above with the following verse.
Revelation 14:12 – Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Yeshua.
Verse 12 is grounded in the Hebraic concept of both keeping Torah and “binding oneself” to a tzaddik, upon whose righteousness (i.e., “the faith OF Yeshua”), one is given “additional mercy” from G-d, (as seen in verse 4).
The commandments of G-d’s Torah act as the means to both understanding oneself and linking to G-d:
Every mitzvah is a bond between man and G-d. As such, the attitude towards the mitzvah must relate to both these points. Man must find himself in the mitzvah, and he must find God in the mitzvah. Love is the mode of the person finding himself in the mitzvah. Awe is the mode of finding G-d in the mitzvah.
Even the word for G-d’s commandment, “mitzvah,” carries with it the meaning of “unification”:
“Mitzvah” – commandment – also means companionship or union (from the Aramaic “tzavta” – companionship). One who fulfills a commandment becomes united with the essence of G-d, who ordained that precept.
Even Rabbi Nachman of Breslov stresses the importance of “binding oneself to the Messiah” as it is through such a righteous one that G-d is fully revealed. (This idea is fundamental to understanding the role Yeshua played – as a sinless tzaddik who further “opened the path.”) This increase in Torah knowledge (the Torah of Messiah) is equated to the River of the Garden of Eden (which we see “reappearing at the end of the book of Revelation for the first time since the book of Genesis).
Furthermore, “the River” refers to the Voice of Rebuke. The Voice of Rebuke is present in the Mashiach, represented by the tzaddikim who reveal the pathways of spirituality.
… the Torah is that sweet-smelling spice which emanates from the Voice of Rebuke, bringing all back to G-d.
… The Mashiach of each generation (i.e., the tzadikkim) are those who draw the power of Eden (prayer) into the Garden (Torah), giving form and shape to that which is beyond conception. This is their awesome power, and this is why they can reveal Godliness – for they are able to reveal the mitzvot (commandments) and advice with which we can relate to God. This is why the tzadikkim are called “the Voice of Rebuke,” “the River.”
… cleaving to the tzadikkim – to Mashiach – is crucial. Without it, one cannot hope to combine the aspects of Torah and prayer, and thereby come to recognize G-d.
… The Voice of Rebuke is the Song of the Future, which itself corresponds to the revelation of G-d’s Name.
We can thus conclude that the term “patience of the saints” in verse 12 relates to the “perfect path” one can take in life – i.e., following G-d’s Torah to the best of one’s ability, and “attaching oneself” to a great tzaddik who “paves the way ahead” for you through his greater righteousness.
For you to use the phrase “not obliged” is a slap in the face to Torah. We are obliged but everyone will only be able to keep certain commandments to the best of there abilities, all because James doesn’t keep shabbat to a certain level that someone else does doesn’t negate that other individual who’s taking there observance higher to draw closer to G-d. Same as the person who doesn’t even keep shabbat beyond the basic and fundamental level of just resting from there work.
No one would dare say “oh gentile your not obligated to the commandments” basically promoting a almost subtle “pick and choose” approach.
“Covenantal Arrogance” Shaul Addresses this in his Romans letter.
Romans 2:12 as many as have sinned without law..
Paul reiterates his position of chapter 1. Gentiles have no excuse even without the written Torah.
Romans 2:13 the doers of the law shall be justified…
Once again, Shaul makes clear that Torah-based works are part of faith. This is not to say we earn our salvation. Rather, thankful obedience is both commanded, and a sign of a right relationship with G-d. Shaul is also sending a message to any Jews who may have regarded their privileged status as not requiring observance to the Torah.
“John the Baptist” dealt with this pride among His brethren as well:
Matthew 3:9 – And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that G-d is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
Romans 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law…
Like any good teacher, Shaul knows repetition is important. Again, he stresses that G-d will judge gentiles based on what they should know. This raises the discussion of those who never hear the word of G-d but know to repent when they sin. Will G-d “save them” without their knowing who the Messiah is?
Genesis 18:25b – Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
Romans 2:15 the law written in their hearts…
There is an allusion here to Jeremiah 31:33 and the New Covenant, which is promised to Israel. Shaul uses this language in the context of gentile faithfulness, in that those who follow the One true G-d would share in the blessings, of the Millennium and World to Come, promised to Israel. Again, the theme of the Shema comes into play as there is One G-d (with His rewards) for faithful Jews and gentiles. (That faithfulness being defined by His Torah.)
Romans 2:15 – their conscience also bearing witness…
Elsewhere, Paul speaks of the effect on the “conscience” of man when affected by self-righteousness and continued sin:
1 Timothy 4:2 – Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
This is Shaul’s third “apostrophe” – this one addressed to the Jewish world. Shaul uses these “apostrophes” in Romans to point out pretentiousness of Jews, gentile pagans, and (as we will see later in his letter), gentile believers in Yeshua as well.
This was a lesson Peter says he was taught by G-d, which led to the decision of the Jerusalem council of Acts 15:
Acts 10:28b – but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
Shaul also takes aim at the Jewish missionaries of his day, stating that Jewish hypocrisy causes blasphemy on the part of the gentiles. Shaul states that a Jew does indeed have an advantage (3:1-2), but it is of no use to him if he uses what G-d has given him to boast and act in a hypocritical manner.
There is more to Shaul’s criticism of some of his fellow Jews in this chapter, than what meets the eye however. Shaul will use the point he makes against the Jews, to more effectively argue against gentile believers in chapters 12-15. As we will see, both groups are guilty of claiming special status that causes them to act arrogantly toward the other.
Romans 2:18 – And knowest his will….
G-d’s will is revealed in the Torah. “Trusting in the Lord,” means to follow the commandments of Torah, which “stand fast forever”:
Psalm 111 – Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation. The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honourable and glorious: and his righteousness endureth for ever. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion. He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he will ever be mindful of his covenant. He hath shewed his people the power of his works, that he may give them the heritage of the heathen. The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness. He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.
Romans 7:12 – Wherefore the law [Torah] is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
Romans 2:24 For the name of G-d is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you…
Israel is to be G-d’s “Messiah,” anointed to be a light to the gentiles: This why I said Jews are to teach Gentiles NOT the other way around.
Isaiah 42:6 – I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles
Isaiah 49:6 – And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
Matthew 5:13-16 – Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Yeshua made it clear, that the Pharisees had the truth of the Torah in their teachings, but criticized them for the same thing Shaul does in this chapter, hypocrisy and arrogance:
Matthew 23:1-3 – Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
Romans 2:25 circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law…
Shaul addresses the subject of “covenantal arrogance” – the idea some Jews had that they were righteous before God simply because they were Jews. Paul makes it clear that possessing the Torah is only advantageous for Jews if they are following it. Shaul uses the concept of “boasting” in the Torah, and teaches that Jews have nothing to “boast” about.
Romans 2:25 thy circumcision is made uncircumcision….
This verse (as with any in Scripture) does not stand alone. Some might take this to mean that as the Jews violate Torah (including rejecting Messiah) that G-d is done with them as His chosen people. Shaul makes it extremely clear in chapters 9-11 of this letter, that this is not the case. Such Jews remain G-d’s chosen, but now are not fulfilling the role they were given; “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” (9:6).
Romans 2:27 shall not uncircumcision … judge thee…
This does not mean gentiles will sit with G-d in judgment of Jews one day. Rather, the obedience of righteous gentiles will serve as witness (along with Torah) against Jews who violate Torah.
Romans 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly…
Unfortunately, this verse is often used out of context by some people to show that believers are all “spiritual Jews” and G-d no longer distinguishes between Jew and gentile in any way. The context however is quite plain – Shaul is “talking TO Jews” here – not to gentiles. The verse comes at the end of several, showing that being a Jew outwardly means nothing to God. He demanded circumcision of their hearts (being “born again”) since their beginnings with Abraham.
This is the same lesson Yeshua taught in John, chapter 3. Recall that He chastised Nicodemus for not knowing that he had to be born again. As a “teacher of Israel,” Nicodemus should have known that Moses himself taught this.
Romans 2:29 – in the spirit, and not in the letter…
This does not mean that one no longer has to follow the commandments of Torah. They are all still valid (Matthew 5:17-21, Romans 3:31). Following in the spirit means performing the commandments in faith as part of a proper relationship to the One true G-d. This means not only keeping the Torah’s minimal requirements, but going beyond them, as Yeshua taught in Matthew, chapters 5-7.
What so special about Jews anyway?? [before I answer that via scripture consider this]
Chasidic Jews and Orthodox Jews have a awesome phrase “We learn the bible in HEBREW” even Sir Issac Newton Read the bible in Hebrew and even John Lock….
A 60year old convert to Judaism will be taught Hebrew (it takes a good year to fully read the bible in Hebrew) after that you spend more years building your vocab and syntax understanding… Again 60 yr old converts are taught and end up learning and reading Hebrew. Same goes for the Talmud.
The reason? Biases with english sources. Plus it wasn’t written in English. Disciples of Yeshua should get familiar with greek as well.
All because your favorite teachers say such and such, do you swallow there words without examining? [Referring back to the text it was written in]……
The Whole BE argument is flawed and Shaul shows why its flawed…..
In Romans 3 Shaul explains what advantage a Jew has.
Having established that neither Jew or gentile has an “excuse” before G-d, Shaul continues in this section with a discussion of the importance of the Torah, and how it is to be followed in faith. What is missed in most studies (due to a lack of understanding of Shaul as a rabbi, Pharisee and brilliant Torah teacher) is the role of the Shema as the underpinning to his teachings. This is more fully explained in this chapter.
Romans 3:1 What advantage then hath the Jew?
After all the previous discussion (going back to 1:18) one might think that Shaul would say there is no advantage to being a Jew, but this is not the case. Shaul points to possession of the Torah as indeed being the “Jewish advantage,” but only if correctly followed in faith. As he points out, the mere fact of possessing the Torah does not make the Jews “superior.”
Yeshua, had the same message for certain self-righteous religious leaders, who thought their being born Jews automatically made them right with G-d:
Matthew 3:9 – And do not think you can say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones G-d can raise up children for Abraham.
In fact, the gift of the Torah to the Jews is directly attached to their responsibility – to take the Torah as a light to the rest of the world (Matthew 5:13-16) and work to bring in the Kingdom of God and fulfill the Shema.The fact remains that it was only the Jews that were chosen by G-d for this, and therefore they do have an advantage.
Shaul maintains the continuity of the position he shares with his Jewish brethren:
Romans 9:4-5 – Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of G-d, and the promises. Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, G-d blessed for ever. Amen.
The status of the Jews however, as being the only people that G-d has dealt with directly, puts them in a difficult position when they fail G-d:
Amos 3:1-2 – Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
Romans 3:2 unto them were committed the oracles of G-d…
G-d makes clear who the only people are that He has dealt with in such direct fashion:
Psalm 147:19-20 – He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.
Deuteronomy 4:7-8, 20, 32-34 – What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our G-d is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? … But as for you, the LORD took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are. … Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day G-d created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of G-d speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your G-d did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
This has not changed since Yeshua’s death and resurrection.
Romans 11:28b-29 – … but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes. For the gifts and calling of G-d are without repentance.
Chapters 9-11 elaborate on this more. With the free gift of faith comes a responsibility to G-d’s Torah. Beginning with verse 2 and ending with verse 31 in this chapter, Shaul shows that Torah is an integral part of the faith of the believer – Jew and gentile.
I can go on and further with an exposition on chapter 3 but I don’t want to be appearing as spamming on your blog and I’m not sure you’ll have a interest in reading all…..So I wait for your exposition or analysis to your argument on why we are “not obligated” to the Torah.
If your going to site someone person you heard then just let me know or if its a FFOZ book or CD then let me know cause I have most if not all of there material.
But I would like to hear what James has investigated in regards to these matters based off your textual analysis. If you don’t do that or don’t make time to do that then I’ll understand and will have a clear picture as to why you say what you say. 🙂
Bruce, you’re obviously on a roll. I don’t think I have the time to answer you point for point. Let’s see if I can work my way through your multiple, lengthy comments and craft a reasonably compressed reply.
OK, Bruce. I’ve written a response that was longer than I intended, but I want to be fair and at least try to hit the highlights of your argument. By the way, I realize there’s no hostility involved in our transactions. No worries.
Revelation 14:12 doesn’t presuppose that both Jews and non-Jews in Messiah will be observing Torah in the same manner. It can also be interpreted as those following the commandments as applied to them.
For instance, Priests have to obey commandments not incumbent on other Jews. Jewish women have commandments that apply only to them and also Jewish men have gender specific commandments. I believe there are commandments that are only incumbent upon Gentiles, in that we have a responsibility to support Jewish Torah observance (just my opinion). It doesn’t mean we’re all “cookie cutter” people who all have the same identical role and responsibility to God and to our fellow human being.
That said, if you voluntarily choose to take on board additional commandments, as long as you are not deliberately attempting to make others believe you are Jewish, you can do so. But, in my opinion, you’re not actually fulfilling certain of the mitzvot (such as donning tzitzit or laying tefillin) by performing those acts.
As far as Romans 2:12 is concerned, I said:
And for Romans 2:13-16, I commented:
But the Law written on our hearts are the laws meant for Gentiles, in my opinion, not an identical set of mitzvot to the Jewish obligation. There is significant overlap so I am certain the weightier matters of the law, mercy, charity, justice, will all be there. There are only a few observances that are strictly reserved for the Jews because of their special chosen status among all the nations of the Earth.
John the Baptist was speaking to an exclusively Jewish audience and it would be anachronistic to believe we can apply everything he said to Gentile believers as well. He was chastising those Jews who prided themselves on their lineage, not saying that he was going to replace them with stones.
I don’t read Romans 2:25-29 in the same way you do apparently:
And I’m well aware of the advantages Jewish people possess being born into a covenant relationship with God:
Bruce, you said:
I think you are overextending what the Jewish responsibility was/is to be a light to the world. You assume that it’s the passing on of full Torah obligation to every man, woman, and child on Earth, in effect, converting all human beings to Judaism. But that was never intended by any of the Prophets, by Yeshua, or by Paul. The fact that in all the Messianic Prophecies and in Paul’s writings, it is continually said there is Israel and there are the people of the nations who will all worship God in the end. This means that there will continue to be that distinction.
And what defines Israel and the Jewish people. They were made a people and a nation at Sinai. Their relationship with God was defined by covenant and the conditions of that covenant are the Torah mitzvot. If we, as Gentiles, insist that all of the conditions of the Jewish covenant with God also belong to us by obligation, we are usurping their identity and their role, either effectively converting ourselves (by our own authority) to Judaism or conversely watering down Judaism and Jewish identity until it is meaningless, erasing Israel’s “chosenness” (not that we really can since God established it).
I agree with what Moses said in Deuteronomy about how the nations were to be attracted to Israel because they were operating under laws established by God, but that doesn’t automatically mean we were to “cookie cutter” those laws and say they are ours. Otherwise (again) we turn the whole world into “Israel” and Jewish Israel becomes meaningless.
To spare you the rest of your exposition on Chapter 3 of Romans, you can read (or re-read) my commentary on the matter.
Again, I point you back to my Return to Jerusalem series as well as what I wrote about a Gentile’s connection to God via the New Covenant, which isn’t as easy to track down as you might imagine.
The bottom line for me is that Gentiles who attach themselves to the God of Israel have a different legal status than Jews based on the fact that we weren’t the focus and object of the Sinai Covenant. The New Covenant doesn’t replace Sinai but adds to it. The conditions for covenant fidelity for Israel are never changed in the New Covenant and a single blessing of the Abrahamic covenant, amplified in the New Covenant, is what connects us to God through Messiah.
This is what I believe and this is what I live. It’s also personal. I refuse to usurp or unjustly lay claim to what I believe belongs exclusively to the Jewish people including my Jewish wife and children. How could I effectively “rob” my own family of what is rightfully theirs by covenant and heritage?
To understand how I feel about all this within a family context, I recommend a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago called Cherishing Her Yiddisher Neshamah. I think being intermarried to a Jew, particularly one who is not Messianic, has given me a special insight into Jewish “specialness” that most Gentiles, particularly within some expression of the Hebrew Roots movement, don’t understand. It’s sort of like being a parent. When my wife was pregnant for the first time (many years ago), I read all the books I could find on fatherhood and parenting, but nothing really prepares you for the actual experience, and that experience changes drastically as your children grow up.
The same is true for being intermarried and having a close, intimate relationship with a Jewish spouse. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” Paul commands husbands to love their wives with a self-sacrificing love, “even unto death”. What wouldn’t I give up for her. What wouldn’t I recognize about who she is that is special to God?
None of this will impact your life obviously, but for me, it’s a profound truth of my existence, of my marriage, and of my relationship with God, that I will be who I am, who God made me to be, and not try to be someone else. God made Jewish people Israel. He didn’t make me Jewish. That doesn’t mean I’m pond scum. I’m just as loved by God as my wife and I’m just as special. I’m just special as a Gentile, not a Jew.
[my caps are to represent “bold” not yelling]
I never in ANY of my comments said gentiles usurp or replace Israel, Gentiles are grafted in to the greater olive tree Israel, they are equal heirs. The JEWISH PEOPLE have a different MISSION then gentiles, They (the jewish people) should be TEACHING GENTILES/NATIONS since THEY WERE CALLED OUT TO DO SO BY HASHEM (i.e: Kingdom/Nation of Priest). If you want to split hairs we shouldn’t be learning from Gentiles ANY Gentiles, so that means no more christian church or anything thats outside of the Jewish framework of learning, Jews were and still are the called out Teachers for the Nations to know the oneness of G-d (i.e: The Shema) but unfortunately Not as many of them doing that.
My question is So what are gentiles to obey? Noahide? Not even FFOZ promotes that for gentiles.
Also Its elementary understanding knowing that women haver certain commandments, men, farmers, priest, slave owners, slaves, children, etc… MJ & HR get into a fray over Tzitzit and Tefillin bringing up Acts 15 when Acts 15 wasn’t even about that.
The whole acts 15 decision was based on Gentiles NOT having to convert to Judaism to have a relationship with Messiah and the G-d of Israel. And your FFOZ friends even confirm this in there HaYesod material [since you weigh on there every word I will try to use there material to help shed light on my discussion] Thats All Acts 15 was about do gentile need to convert to HAVE A RELATIONSHIP? The council ruled NO….but they must abstain from such and such …. and Hear and Do the Torah as it applies to them (i.e.: men not doing female specific commands and vice versa etc.)
You said gentiles aren’t obligated to the Torah (which is a lie). Acts 15 doesn’t support your argument. I never even hinted at Judaizing.
Romans 15:2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
The “strong” in this context includes Paul as this includes both Jew and gentile in Yeshua. (Though his instruction is directed toward gentiles within this sub-group.) Paul’s instruction is to “bear the infirmities of the weak” and “to please his neighbor,” for the purpose of “edification.”
Again, note that it is the “strong” (the gentiles he is addressing), who have the responsibility, as part of their faith, to understand and respect the halakha of the Jews, even to the extent of modifying their own behavior as to not offend them as this may permanently drive them away from Yeshua, and even inadvertently blaspheme G-d. (See notes to Romans 14:16.)
The term “edification,” is oikodomee in the Greek, and has to do with the “act of building.” This is consistent with Paul’s message here and in his other letters (i.e., Ephesians) where he is concerned with the Jewish and gentile followers of Yeshua, coming together as “stones” that build up the body of Messiah.
Note that Paul refers to the “weak” as the “neighbor” to the strong, establishing a link back to Romans 13:9-10.
3 For even Messiah pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.
The model for gentile believers to follow is Messiah Himself, who did not exercise His rights, serving others instead so they would be built up. The “ability” of the “strong” carries with it an obligation. Gentiles are not to to “slaves of sin” (asserting their “right” to act any way they want within their faith), but are to be “slaves of righteousness” who are able to please their “neighbor” (the Synagogue Jew), by observing dietary lawas, thereby building them up.
In this way, these Jews (the “weak” who haven’t accepted Yeshua), will see the grace of G-d that has come to the gentiles through Yeshua, giving validity (in their eyes) to Paul’s ministry, resulting in more of them coming to faith. (Refer to Romans 11:11-13 where Paul’s desire to “provoke” these Jews to jealousy is tied directly to “magnifying his office.”)
4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
The “things written aforetime for our learning” is the Tanach (the “Old Testament”), which was the only “Bible” at the time the letter of Romans was written.
Paul’s comment resembles that which he made in his letter to Timothy, where he instructed him that the Scriptures were all Timothy needed for his faith. Thus, the entirety of faith in Yeshua in Messiah is based in the Tanach. The Tanach was all the disciples used to preach Yeshua from. When Paul praised the Bereans (Acts 17:11), for checking the Scriptures to see if what he taught about Yeshua was true, it was the Tenakh they were looking at.
When Yeshua, Paul or any of the other “New Testament” writers, speak of “the Word of G-d,” it is the Tenakh they refer to. When both Paul and James said we are to be “both hearers and doers of the Word,” they meant we are all to learn G-d’s Torah from the Tanach, and make it part of our lives. When John wrote (1 John 2:2-4) that that those claiming to be of the faith yet not following his “commandments” were liars, he meant those who did not follow the Torah.
Another way to consider this is as follows. If any first century gentile heard Paul preach about Yeshua, and asked the apostle, “What am I to learn and do, now that I want to follow the Messiah?”, that gentile would have been told to attend the Sabbath services at the local synagogue as this was the only place he would hear the Scriptures taught (i.e., Acts 15:21). There was no “New Testament” written yet — Paul did not have any “What Would Jesus Do?” booklets to hand out. Faith in Yeshua remained the faith of Israel with its Torah. Gentiles were now welcome to be part of this with it (Torah) ordinances (Ephesians 10:10-13), not some new Torah-less faith.
It is ta strange twist of history, that today, when someone comes to “Jesus,” their entire faith is based not on the Tenakh, but on some interpretation of the “New Testament” which typically stands in opposition to what the Tanach teaches. (i.e., We no longer follow the faith of Israel and G-d’s Torah, but a replacement faith not grounded in Torah.) How many churches actually hand out paperback “New Testaments” (without the Tanach), to “new believers?” The cart is continually placed in front of the horse.
The book of Romans and the rest of the books of the “New Testament” were never meant to be read outside of the context of a Hebrew understanding of the Tanach.
Romans 15:2 when understood from a non-christian mindset is a valid argument about distinction….. but to go around regurgitating other peoples teachings isn’t what Acts 17:11 was trying to teach. You can’t say “Gentiles aren’t obligated” because Paul would rebuke that claim.
Additionally No offense but being in Brooklyn NY and interactive with non believing and believing Jews gives you a clear understanding about the “practicality” of these topics. The christian dogma that divides these groups are painful at times. Secular Jews and gentiles are no different.
Since your awe struck with FFOZ they Actually have an amazing Vine Of David bio on Yechiel Lichtenstein and it is a prime example of a non jew coming to faith. It was done by the persistent and provoking to jealousy of a gentile believer [Franz delitzsch] Franz didn’t succumb to watering down Torah to appeal to His benefactor (i.e: “oh I’m not obligated” etc..). Franz actually defended the Talmud and The Jewish people to the point where His almost father like friend [Lichtenstein] was pressed to read the Gospels and then saw for himself. The Jewish Messiah. Franz did what all Gentile are called to do, provoke to jealously the Jewish people back to Oneness with Hashem in light of Messiah.
Franz immersed himself in hebrew and greek and rightfully divided the word (Tanach) to show His friend that Yeshua is Messiah and for those anti-semitic christians of His day who kept telling people you need to convert to christianity. Franz kept Shabbat, Tish’a B’av (yes Tish’a B’Av He did it in such a way where the Jews he visited felt convicted to observe the minor holiday themselves) Sukkot, Torah (being a male and outside the land of Israel that what applied to him) …. Thats what gentiles do. Our Mission is to provoke the Jews back. The Jews Mission is to Teach the Nations about the oneness of the G-d of Israel in Light of Yeshua.
Buy or re-read the VoD bio and that may help you with your relationship.
First of all, “ouch”. Hard not to interpret all caps as not yelling, but I’ll try.
As an aside, you can use a limited number of HTML tags including the bold tag (I can’t actually put an example of the tag here because your browser will parse it and make the same word bold.
Here’s a link that shows you how: http://www.w3schools.com/html/html_formatting.asp
I didn’t say you made any comments about usurping or replacing Israel, however, you wanted to know my rationale for not being One Law and I gave it to you. It’s not just your point of view, it’s how Jewish people see what “Torah observant” Gentiles do. I became very sensitive to my own behavior in davening was I watched my wife continue to explore her Judaism and make in-roads into the local Jewish community.
What laws should we obey? Oh, let me see. Not killing anyone, which includes baseless anger or hatred. How about visiting the sick, donating food to foodbanks to feed the hungry. Donating clothing so those without can have clothes. Showing compassion to the grieving and the suffering. In other words, lots and lots and lots of commandments that you find in the Torah. I think these are obligations for living a life that pleases God and that helps other human beings.
Interestingly enough, I find some of the most “Torah observant” people in the world are church-going Christians. They don’t believe they are “under the Law” and wouldn’t call what they do “Torah,” but the result is the same. They still do good to other people and are devoted to the worship and adoration of God. That’s a lot of Torah.
Toby Janicki wrote an article for FFOZ’s Messiah Journal magazine called “The Gentile Believer’s Obligation to the Torah of Moses” for the Winter 2012 issue.
I initially reviewed it back then:
Then I revisited the article and wrote more last year:
No, we are not to merely conform to the Noahide commandments because those are incumbant upon all of humanity and as disciples of Yeshua, we have a higher calling under the New Covenant (which amplifies the Abrahamic Covenant).
There’s more than one way to be called out, one for Israel, and one for the people of the nations who are called by His Name (Amos 9:11-12).
Mark Nanos would agree with you about the “strong” and “weak” in Romans, which in his book “The Mystery of Romans,” and I have to believe you have learned your definitions from his work.
Yes, thank you. I’ve read the book about Lichtenstein and am familiar with Delitzsch’s work.
I never said that Gentiles couldn’t study Hebrew or Torah or Talmud or keep the Shabbat. As far as your statement about our job being to provoke the Jewish people to greater observance of Torah and ultimately to Messiah, I couldn’t agree more. Also, a large part of my being in a church is to pass along my perspectives on the Jewish people, Torah, and Israel to my more traditional Christian counterparts.
I think I said somewhere in this blog post that I wasn’t writing this so anyone could win an argument or anyone could lose one. This isn’t about arguing. It’s about discussing different perspectives without the expectation of changing someone’s mind. I’m not trying to change your mind. I’ve been in enough of these debates on the web to know that’s impossible (short of the Holy Spirit intervening). All I’m trying to do is show that there is more than one side of this issue and probably more than two sides. You will proceed from your’s and I from mine. I don’t see any point in being upset over that. Do you?
I can’t tell if you meant it this way, but that did sound kind of “snarky.” Just sayin’.
I suppose we could do this all day long Bruce, but if you don’t know my point of view by now, based on all the links I’ve been tossing at you, I don’t know what else to say. You certainly don’t have to agree with me and I don’t expect you to. I’m not hurting you or anyone else by my beliefs or how I live my life. You’re asking me questions and I’m answering them in as honest and civil manner as possible.
*non believing jew
You quoted boaz michael in your “this jesus covenant” and I agree with Boaz as Romans 11 says:
27-29 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
The phrase “they are beloved for the father’s sake,” is in the present tense, and impacts how gentiles should behave — even though these Jews appear to be “enemies” of the Gospel. This will be elaborated on by Paul in chapters 12-15.
The gifts of Israel (Torah) and calling of Israel are irrevocable and eternal. They don’t go away with the coming of Yeshua, nor are nullified or made obsolete (Matthew 5:17-21; Romans 3:31). This is the same Torah-based faith that gentiles are called to (Ephesians 2:10-13).
30-31 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
The gentiles at Rome were benefiting from the “unbelief” of these Jews, yet (as we will see), condemning them because they (the gentiles) did not see God’s unfathomable ways (re: verse 33). Both the Jewish disobedience and God’s mercy are in present tense. Mercy is shown to the Jews through gentile inclusion in the faith of Israel. The present stumbling of these Jews is a blessing, not a curse (in God’s deep wisdom) as it brings salvation to gentiles and provokes unbelieving Israel to reconsider.
Your overall confusion at times in your blogs appears to be at a lack of knowledge of the words being used in your english bible. being at the mercy of NASB KJV ESV ABC 123 english is painful.
Do ever use lexicons? That is a good way to help your faith and have more clarity in your understanding of the Scripture…. FFOZ’s hebrew learning materials are great start, My 2 yr daughter will be using that as her Hebrew 101 curriculum in the coming months.
early Shabbat Shalom and Shavuah Tov
Well played, James. Just a nudge of encouragement in light of your impressive capacity for patience.
@Bruce: I don’t disagree about how we should behave toward Jewish people in the present age based on Romans. I don’t disagree that the gifts of Israel are irrevocable or eternal. I’m not sure why you’re making a point of addressing this with me since I have not written one word against the Jewish people or their continued observance of Torah as an obligation of their covenant with God.
Admittedly, I’m continuing to learn, Bruce. I apologize if I at times seem confused, but I must admit that I don’t know it all yet. I probably won’t until Messiah’s return and the New Covenant promises are fully realized in our world including this one:
Until then, I guess I’ll just have to plod along as best I can. But then again, I didn’t create this blog so I could dazzle anyone with my scholarly insights. I created it so I could share my journey, including all of the detours, potholes, and dead ends, with anyone who cares to travel with me.
Shabbat Shalom, Bruce.
@Dan: Thanks. I appreciate the support and encouragement.
🙂 @Dan I love your book and its been a great resource for many….I also wasn’t trying to be a person to test james’s patience. There’s nothing wrong with debate and discussion even if it doesn’t fit the normative view of many or the few.
I privately apologized to James if I wronged him and
@James i will additionally ask for his forgiveness if I did something I failed to ask.
Shabbat Shalom to you Too Mr.Hennessy
I got the email and replied. It’s all good.
Well, Bruce, I want you to know I’m enjoying reading and have been/am being blessed by your writing… wherever on the “spectrum” I or anyone else is or may ever be. I haven’t read everything yet, am sort of up to the explanation that all caps is in lieu of bold (just the very beginning of that one). I haven’t been able to figure out how to do italics or bold on my kindle, so, I appreciate that too.
James said, *John the Baptist was speaking to an exclusively Jewish audience and it would be anachronistic to believe we can apply everything he said to Gentile believers as well. He was chastising those Jews who prided themselves on their lineage, not saying that he was going to replace them with stones.*
Nothing as to my perception of James’s and Bruce’s differences (I think they pretty much see things the same way or really close), but this stood out to me today. It’s funny that then the stones build. I wonder if that was meant at all at the time to be a little ironic; even stony hearts… in time…
Well, anyway, guys, thank you. I have my candle sticks and kiddush cup out. I won’t even take the Karshi brand stickers off the bottom of the pomegranate sticks or the Aram tag off the olive cup so as not to give the impression Sabbath observance happens here, but I do believe I am blessed with my children and that my children are blessed.
Happy Sabbath to your household, James, and others.
That might have been a bit inexplicable (above). What I mean is that I like to remember the Sabbath. At the same time, I feel I have to be honest about what even approaching keeping it would involve.
I almost forgot to mention… I’m pretty sure the instance where someone says he paid for his freedom or citizenship is not an example of becoming a citizen [for “politeia” in Acts] of Israel but of Rome. Paul had both citizenships, but he didn’t pay for his Roman citizenship as the official had done.
Hello, Bruce… Really more of a general comment to James that I affirm from time to time as he moves through the blogosphere with the sensitivity of a feather and the dedication of a Coast Guard ice-breaker. He is absolutely “glacial” in his constant movement toward the goal: knowing Messiah better.
I appreciate your obvious desire to know Messiah better, as well, although I lean more to James’ p.o.v. in this case. And that the value of these blogosphere efforts is best found in articulating your point of view for your own sake – to clarify our own thoughts – more than for the sake of changing minds. You are doing what we are all supposed to be doing as all of this earthly translation of divine wisdom gets sorted out prior to His coming. I, too, get a bit “snarky” at times, or sound as such. Our words don’t always translate as we intend through the Internet medium…
Thank you very much for your kind words as I continue to try to be an “ice breaker” as an activist for Holocaust education… especially as antisemitism grows in scope and intensity in both Europe and the US. Your encouragement is very much appreciated.
@Dan, I wonder if, in the context of Holocaust education, you discuss historical antisemitism? It seems the history courses I took in high school and college failed to adequately fill in the gaps, as if this was some anomaly that just burst onto the scene.
@chaya, yes, my foundational presentation is titled “An Overview of the Holocaust from a Critical Perspective” specifically because it emphasizes the history of Christian Antisemitism from the late 1st century, on, an aspect of Holocaust education that is normally left out. I use ancient primary documents and quotations of the Church Fathers, explaining the Adversus Judaeous tradition of the Church as it relates to Martin Luther’s antisemitism and the translation of Medieval Church Canon Law into the Nuremberg Laws of the Third Reich. I do my best to “connect the dots” between Church legislation and behavior and the long-running anti-Jewish climate in Europe as Hitler came to power.
At a Yom HaShoah talk at my alma mater, State University of New York at Geneseo two years ago, I spoke with students from the Hillel group who then invited students from the Newman Community, the Catholic group on campus, to a presentation entitled simply “Christian Antisemitism and the Holocaust.” There were dramatic results evident in the discussion to follow, the Catholic students, who, of course, were largely hearing about the history for the first time, were smitten and incredibly predisposed to “apologizing” for such a history… and the Jewish students were unabashedly open to accepting such apologies as were offered. Sadly, there was no opportunity to follow-up on this moment of potential healing and bonding. However, I am currently working with a team of people who are helping me to enter into the world of the college speaking circuit in the near future. I hope to continue this work, with HaShem’s blessing, to bring knowledge, understanding, and healing to college-age audiences wherever I’m allowed to do so.
Dan, I am blessed that you think so highly of me and embarrassed to admit that I’m as flawed as any other man. Thank you for your support, my friend.
@James, I constantly pray for you as you continue to cause hearts and minds to open up to the greater things at work in HaShem’s unfolding universe / plan of redemption. I am inspired by your capacity for patience and your grace toward others as you engage them at such deep thought levels, which are also often controversial. I see HaShem using you as you model Yeshua’s patience to the best of your ability… allowing individuals to think and speak from the heart without fear of reprisal or rebuke, etc. He has given you a proper demeanor for opening up subjects of eternal consequence to others, moving them toward more openness of vision to the higher ways of Adonai beyond manmade theologies… like a good shepherd who moves his sheep from overused pastures to greener pastures they are unaware of… leading them, not beating them with a stick… 🙂
I haven’t had the opportunity to read through all the comments, but you mentioned the Chicano living in the US and I started thinking about Resident Aliens. A resident alien might not enjoy all the privileges of citizenry, but he must follow the law. Perhaps that’s just Western thinking, but thought I’d throw that into the mix.
That’s probably pretty close to the point I’ve been trying to make, Ro.
Then I guess I’m a bit confused, James. Maybe it’s because, as you said, you don’t stand on top of BE. And, in a sense, I don’t stand on top of OL/OT either.
In reading/studying with FFOZ, my understanding of their opinion is that Gentiles are not under obligation to follow Torah, but can observe if they desire. (I’ve been known to be wrong on many occasions, so this could be the case.)
I wrote a four-part series that started with House Rules. I really feel called to help my Gentile brothers and sisters understand that the Torah is just as valid today as it was when God gave it on Mt Sinai.
As a Gentile disciple of Yeshua, I am still trying to find my equilibrium in following Him. I agree wholeheartedly that we do not replace Israel, and in some sense we don’t have equal footing with Israel, but as a follower I feel obligated to follow the rules of my Father’s house.
I am certainly looking forward to seeing the discussion between you and Pete regarding JK McKee’s book.
Ro, your statement presupposes that there is only one application of the Torah mitzvot for all populations everywhere (I am probably oversimplifying your position and if so, I apologize). The issue hinges on the legal status of the Gentiles admitted as participating co-equals in (as it was in the day of Paul) Jewish worship and communal space.
I’ve been accused of denying Gentiles equal status in the Commonwealth or more accurately, the Kingdom of Heaven (the Messianic Kingdom), which is completely untrue. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean we are equal citizens in Israel, making us “Jews without a bris” or some sort of “Israelite” (think “Two-House”).
I believe we all have equal standing before God in the Messianic Kingdom, but the Kingdom encompasses a lot more than just the national boundaries of Israel. Israel belongs to the Jews. Period. The minute we say that Jesus-believing Gentiles are citizens in national Israel too, we are usurping the place of the rightful citizens. It would be as if someone from Puerto Rico or Guam (this is an imperfect analogy) were to claim automatic U.S. citizenship because they were born in one of our unincorporated organized territories.
As far as how or if that affects what we call “Torah obligation,” the Didache states that Gentiles are made perfect if they/we keep all of the laws of Torah but if they/we cannot, then whatever they/we can keep is good.
Jews don’t have that kind of leverage and their obligation as a matter of the Sinai covenant is absolute.
The only issue I have personally, given that I’m married to a Jew and have three Jewish children, is a Gentile engaging in what one person called “evangelical Jewish cosplay” giving the impression that they are Jewish too or that by virtue of “One Law,” the Jewish people ceased to have a specific and God given called out and chosen status relative to the nations, even members of the nations who have cleaved to the God of Israel through faith in Israel’s Messiah. As I’ve experienced my wife becoming more involved in the local Jewish community, I’ve become aware of how Jewish community needs to be protected and even cherished, and I have chosen to be a protector rather than stride in and claim I “own” anything identified as uniquely Jewish, including the nation of the Jews, Israel.
Given the current conflict in Israel and how Hamas is attempting to devalue and destroy the Jewish state, I think that those who claim to love the Jewish people and Israel would be particularly mindful of all this right now.
We Gentiles do follow the rules of our Father’s House, but those rules aren’t identical depending on who we are. They vary between populations such as Jewish and (believing) Gentile, and they aren’t even identical to all people within Judaism.
Does that help?
I’ve run into some of those strident types lately, and no wonder they hang out with their own. They lack the sensitivity to see that their behavior at least borders on antisemitism, if not full on.
Whether or no you were born Jewish, you are a part of a Jewish family, and it wouldn’t make sense that you would be set apart from them. You could certainly make aliyah with your family. The letter organization leaders all consider their gentile wives Jewish anyway, despite whatever theology they maintain.
James, I don’t think you can oversimplify my position, because I am not sure where I land in this whole matter. Though I’ve been a believer for over 40 years, it is only the last 3 years that I’ve pursued Messianic Judaism. (And it feels like being born again…again!)
I agree with you wholeheartedly that ”Israel belongs to the Jews. Period.”
”As far as how or if that affects what we call “Torah obligation,” the Didache states that Gentiles are made perfect if they/we keep all of the laws of Torah but if they/we cannot, then whatever they/we can keep is good.
Your statement reminded me of a conversation with Rabbi Matthew Salathe (from Temple Aron haKodesh) on my first visit there. Some Christian friends were chastising me because I’d stopped eating things ‘unclean’, and began taking steps to honor the Sabbath. They warned, “If you keep one law, you’ll have to keep all 613!” Rabbi Matthew quoted one of the sages (whose name I cannot remember) saying that even if a person can only keep one mitzvah, and do it well, they are honoring God.
When I took FFOZ’s Hayesod course, I loved how they pointed out that not all people can keep all the laws. For instance, not all are the High Priest, not all the Levites, and I don’t think even Yeshua needed to keep the laws of nilda. So I am with you on this.
And I am definitely with you in the matter of Israel still being the called out and chosen status among the nations.
So there’s my situation: I feel compelled to keep Torah, love God’s chosen people, and look up to them as an older sibling. And I know that they have a special place in our Father’s heart and in His plans – and always will.
Again, this is why I am looking forward to the discussion on McKee’s book.
I truly appreciate seeing things from your perspective, James. And yes, it did help.
It’s not a matter of making aliyah with my wife should she choose to do so, it’s respecting Jewish identity and distinction because God created that distinction. Both Christianity and much of Hebrew Roots are saying the same thing. In the end, they both preach that God made the Jewish people distinct only temporarily, and He always intended to “fold in” the rest of the world and make everyone homogenous.
I can’t agree with that and I don’t believe that’s the point of the story of the Bible.
I agree. There is something offensive about refusing to respect someone else’s unique identity. Israel is set in tribes; heaven has armies with rank. Homogenuity seems to be a modern idea, perhaps related to socialism and anti-elitism. I have friends of various ethnic groups and it would never occur to me to steal their specialness or make light of it in claiming we should all be the same.
One of the arguments for One Law is that it is “inclusive” and the corresponding argument against what has been referred to as “Bilateral Ecclesiology” is that it is “exclusive,” that is, it excludes everyone not ethnically Jewish (and in Messianic Judaism the matter of conversion can get a little dicey). I agree that the matter of inclusion or exclusion is rendered moot by God’s intent. If, as it seems from the Biblical narrative, God created the nation of Israel as a unique people group in perpetuity, and even distinguishes Israel from the people of the nations who are called by His Name (Amos 9), then it seems a little silly to try to anachronistically impose modern western values of “equality” because it fulfills an emotional and/or philosophical need. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but in this case I don’t see anything in the Bible that reverses God’s exclusive covenant relationship with Israel.
That is common that we infuse ancient documents and an ancient culture with modern sensibilities. I still don’t see that religious businesses and leaders of letter organizations have any authority over those not within their community. Halacha is local.
I would say my viewpoint is one law with caveats. You can’t fit the ways of heaven into man’s systems.
@Chaya — Sorry, dear, but I must ask you to stop repeating the error that halakhah is local. Halakhah is universal; only minhag is potentially localized. Local adjustments in the application of halakhah are minhag (customs) or horaot sha’ah (temporary injunctions). They do not in themselves change halakhah, even locally. Even the adjustments developed by the Conservative and MJ movements can only be considered temporary injunctions. Such injunctions are, nonetheless, limited in their communal jurisdiction, as you suggest.
Regarding your other pseudo-proverb that one cannot fit the ways of heaven into human systems — that is a flat-out denial of the authority of HaShem’s Torah. Torah is not far off, and it is not something that resides in the heavens — per Deut.30 — but rather it is now a human (specifically Jewish) responsibility to administer, interpret, and apply. It is precisely an example of the ways of heaven being incorporated into a human system. It can be administered in better or worse ways, or more or less consistently with its heavenly principles; but it is now a human system. It absolutely demands of us that we incorporate heaven’s ways into our human systems. It also includes distinctions between Jews and non-Jews regarding what is required or not required of each; so while there truly is only one Torah (comprising both written and oral components), each of its elements does not apply to everyone in identical fashion as if it were a uniform blanket of coverage. Moreover, it comprises multiple levels of concrete and metaphorical and symbolic applications by which it may be differentiated in its application to any given subset of people in any given set of circumstances. Hence a concrete requirement for Jews may have only symbolic value for non-Jews, if it applies at all or in any degree. This is a great deal more complex and nuanced than any description such as “one law with caveats”.
PL: I am not a theologian; it is not my strong suit. Do you believe multi-million dollar businesses and career builders have authority over people they have no relationship with, and who they, “make merchandise of?” I’m sure you don’t walk into a nearby church and tell them they can’t have their Sunday ham dinner.
No matter what viewpoint you take, there are always problems; just different ones. Just a couple: One law ignores the, “sojourn among us,” issue, as well as the implications of verses that allowed an animal that died of itself to be given to strangers or resident aliens, but disallowed to Israel. Bilateral ecclesiology creates a situation where a gentile would need to convert to Judaism, which may require them to disavow Yeshua. I don’t have a good answer and perhaps there isn’t one at this time.
What is most disturbing to me is the extent of Hebrew Roots antisemitism, at least what I’ve seen online. There is more by far in this demographic than I have ever seen in churches today, and they seem either unaware of in complete denial about it. I don’t even know any Christian replacement theologists who believe they have a claim in the land, even the liberals who want to give it to the Muslims.
@Chaya — It seems to me to be quite often true that “multi-million dollar businesses and career builders have authority over people they have no relationship with, and who they ‘make merchandise of’ “. Or, at least, they have power if not true authority. However, that has no bearing on halakhah, or the proper processes by which it is made or adjudicated. It seems to me that the example of the ancient Prophets often addresses the misuse of power even when cloaked in hypocritical pseudo-righteousness, and Rav Yeshua also offered some criticisms of this sort.
The notion of Bilateral Ecclesiology yields precisely the opposite of what you suggest, in that it would discourage conversion to Judaism just as Rav Shaul did in his Galatian letter and as the characteristic decision in Acts 15 emphasized the distinction so that non-Jews would NOT feel compelled to convert in order to be accepted or “saved”. Hence, nothing about the notion that Jews and non-Jews among the disciples of Rav Yeshua are distinct in their legal responsibilities vis-à-vis Torah presents any impetus toward converting non-Jews into Jews. The identification of a distinction does not suggest that anyone should try to switch sides.
In the rare circumstances where conversion may become appropriate, such as to resolve a family or historical anomaly, it does not require denial of Rav Yeshua’s actual teachings. One cannot decry it on the possibility of misapplication or misdirection; just as one may not dismiss halakhah or Torah merely because some human at some time may misapply it or err in some other manner.
As for the notion of “totality and completeness”: are you complaining that humans are finite, hence their grasp and application of Torah and the “ways of heaven” must also be finite or limited? If you’re looking for perfection, I think you may need to keep looking for quite some time yet to come. The art of Torah living also includes the recognition of human failing and the need to help one another to compensate for it. Believe it or not, this also is among the “ways of heaven” incorporated into the Torah’s very human system. [;^)]
Not that everything produced by hirelings is useless, but it certainly is suspect. Perhaps it is for ethical reasons that I shun their products.
There are many gentiles that aren’t satisfied with perhaps what they perceive as second-class status, and want a way to rectify that.
The issue I have is not that various persons of various levels of wisdom and understanding offer their interpretations of torah; its that they bring the evangelical concept of doctrinal certainty into the mix, as well as authoritarian, top-down male control. The religious system is just as problematic as the secular one; a ditch on the other side of the road. Yes, there is the idea that one should become a part of the system in order to effect change from within, but that demands compromise and silence and usually the person is worn down to either alter their commission or leave.
Maybe I wasn’t clear here: The totality and completeness of the ways of heaven cannot be contained in man made systems. I would add that especially those who believe they can teach torah when they don’t live it, at least in its foundational issues.
Perhaps this provides some insight into the jealousy that has been the historical root of antisemitism: If I discover that an old friend from high school has become wildly successful and achieved the things I had always dreamed of, it might evoke a few moments or inner discord, but I would get over it quickly. Compare that to your older brother who never accepted you or thought highly of you achieves those things. Proximity is the catalyst.