Jews in Tunisia

Acting Jewishly But Not Jewish, Part 1

Paul’s “Jewish Assemblies” rather than “Paul’s Gentile Churches”? “Paul’s Jewish non-Jews” instead of “Paul’s Christian Gentiles?”? Paul bringing Non-Jews into “Judaism” rather than into “Christianity”? Am I really going to argue that these are more accurate labels for discussing the non-Jews who Paul brought to faith in Jesus Christ and the gatherings of them with Jews sharing that conviction, as well as the communal ways of life into which Paul sought to enculturate them? “Yes” — and “No.”

Dr. Mark D. Nanos
‘Paul’s Non-Jews Do Not Become “Jews,” But Do They Become “Jewish”?: Reading Romans 2:25-29 Within Judaism, Alongside Josephus,’ p.1
forthcoming in The Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting (2014)
and presented as a paper at the SBL Annual Meeting in 2013, Baltimore, MD.

Since this cites a portion of Romans 2, it would be prudent to review that part of scripture before proceeding:

For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

Romans 2:25-29 (NASB)

How did the Apostle Paul see the distinction between Jesus-believing Jews and Gentiles in Jewish worship and community space? I’ve written on this topic numerous times, often utilizing the research and publications of both Mark Nanos and Magnus Zetterholm in such “meditations” as Nanos, Paul, and the Consequences of Jewish Identity in Messiah, Nanos, Ancient Antioch, and the Problem with Peter, and Zetterholm, Nanos, Ancient Antioch, and Some Implications. In this more recent paper by Nanos, one that should be published later this year, we see an interesting development in how Nanos presents Paul relative to Romans. Did Paul see the non-Jewish disciples of the Jewish Messiah as practicing Judaism or behaving “jewishly” without converting to Judaism or taking on identical obligations and roles with the Jews?

Being identified as a Jew and behaving like a Jew are readily recognized to represent two related yet not identical matters (p.2).

This behavior can be referred to by the adverb “jewishly,” and as the expression “jewishness.” In colloquial terms, one who practices a Jewish way of life according to the ancestral customs of the Jews, which is also referred to as practicing “Judaism”… (p.3).

Mark Nanos
Mark Nanos

Nanos distinguishes between being born ethnically Jewish and (as a male) being circumcised on the eighth day and acting “jewishly” (the lower-case “j” is used deliberately by Nanos), as having significant overlap, but not precisely being same. Even a Jewish person born of two Jewish parents and circumcised may choose not to observe any of the mitzvot and nevertheless will be considered Jewish, albeit apostate.

A Gentile who chooses to observe some or even all of the Jewish behaviors associated with the mitzvot can be said to be acting “jewishly” or practicing “Judaism,” but that does not mean the person is actually considered Jewish.

But where is the dividing line? How far could a Gentile Jesus-believer go in Paul’s time, and how far can a Gentile Jesus-believer go in our time in “acting Jewishly” without actually being Jewish? Can we use Paul to establish any rules or guidelines for Gentile Christians today who are attracted to Jewish practices or learning and yet do not desire to convert to Judaism because of their Christian faith?

Because ethnic identity (Jew/s) and ethnic thinking and behavior (Jewish / jewishly / jewishness / Judaism) are clearly related, but not synonymous, interchangeable terms, an interesting phenomenon arises when seeking to describe groups as Jewish. Although “Jewish” can be and is most often used to refer to Jews specifically, and thus gatherings of Jews: they are Jewish, the Jewish people, a Jewish service, and so on, as we will see, “Jewish” can also refer to groups or activities that include non-Jews: that group is Jewish, although it includes non-Jews who appear to think and behave like Jews (p. 6).

Nanos could easily be describing almost any synagogue I’ve ever been in. I’m a Christian married to a Jew. It’s very common to find a mixed Jewish/Gentile group in our local Reform/Conservative synagogue and of course at the Chabad, a number of intermarried couples attend, and yet both venues are undeniably Jewish. The same may be said for some Messianic Jewish synagogues that have at least a core population and leadership of Jews but that also houses a large number of Gentiles who are involved in Jewish practices, such as listening to the Torah readings, davening from a siddur, praying in Hebrew, and so forth.

In all of the contexts listed in the above paragraph, the participating Gentiles can be considered as acting “jewishly” within a Jewish community while remaining fully Gentile. But as I said before, how far can we take the concept of “Gentile jewishness” and consider it a valid method of “practicing Judaism?”

orthodox-talmud-studyAlmost two years ago, I stopped searching for an identity and declared myself a Gentile who studies Messianic Judaism. While my practice isn’t all too “Jewish” (or “jewish”), my thought processes, study materials, and some of my study methods borrow heavily from traditional Judaism.

Of course, I can be a Gentile studying Judaism in the same sense as a 21st century American studying 16th century Greek cuisine. I don’t have to be the thing that I’m studying. Learning the typical dishes of Greece of the 1700s doesn’t require that I be Greek.

But it’s a little different in the world of religion and religious lifestyle. I could study Torah as an abstract collection of knowledge the way some people study the Bible as literature or as history, but the Bible is unique and the Torah is designed to change lives. To be a Gentile student of Messianic Judaism involves not only specific study methods and materials but the required context in which to live it all out.

To continue from Nanos:

What if a group mostly made up of non-Jews with some Jews in leadership behaves jewishly? What if it is made up exclusively of non-Jews yet founded or advised by Jews? What if it consists of only non-Jews and functions independent of any Jews and yet bases its thinking and behavior on Jewish Scriptures, traditions and ways of life? (pp. 6-7)

As I read these passages from the Nanos paper, I can’t help but see a progression from Messianic Judaism (MJ) into Hebrew Roots (HR). The closer the Gentile is to the MJ side of the scale, in a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles to a group of Gentiles with a core leadership of Jews or even arguably, a group of only Gentiles that is advised and guided by Jewish mentors, that group is or could be considered “Jewish” or at least perceived correctly as acting “jewishly”.

However, once to you approach the opposite side of the scale, which would be defined by a group made up exclusively of Gentiles with only Gentiles in leadership, even if they are using Jewish educational materials and religious artifacts (siddurs, kippahs, Tallits, the Chumash, and so on), that group may still appear to be acting “jewishly,” but they are not a Jewish group. They can study Judaism, but they aren’t a Judaism, thus a group made up exclusively of Gentiles with no ties to Jewish oversight cannot, in this paradigm, call itself “Messianic Judaism” and is better defined as “Hebrew Roots” or by some other label.

This directly reflects back to the communities Paul established or in which he was involved such as the “synagogue of the Way” in Syrian Antioch (see Zetterholm’s The Formation of Christianity in Antioch as well as Nanos’ The Mystery of Romans).

The level of “jewishness” practiced by Gentile disciples of the Master may have been in direct proportion to the involvement and influence of Jesus-believing Jews operating in the same religious and social community. The less influence exerted by Jewish mentors on the Gentiles, the less “jewish” were the behaviors and lifestyles of the Gentiles.

The Jewish PaulWe see something of this in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Historically, we know that for a time, Jews were banned from Rome. Prior to that event, there were both Gentiles and Jews who co-mingled as disciples of Jesus. Once the Jews were banned and (presumably) Rome was without a Jewish population, the Gentiles became solely in charge of their own social and religious dynamic, including how “jewishly” they chose to behave. When the Jews were allowed to return and attempted to resume their prior relationship with the Gentiles in Messiah, they discovered the Gentiles were riding on their “high horses,” so to speak, pushing back against Jewish synagogue authority and even criticizing the Jews for lack of strict adherence to Jewish Torah practice.

The chapter (Romans 2) within which this text appears begins with a challenge to anyone judging others, based on the argument that the very act of knowing there is a standard to which the other is held logically involves knowing that one has also failed to achieve it. Realizing that God is the judge who is fully aware of both one’s own intentions and actions as well as that of one’s neighbors, the message Paul drives home is to focus on one’s own responsibilities to do what is required of one, to judge oneself and leave the judging of others to the Judge… (p.19)

And again, Nanos states:

Paul’s argument is constructed to encourage non-Jews to avoid making the same mistake they are quick to recognize in this diatribal caricature. Paul calls them to concentrate on being faithful to what they are responsible to do in service instead of judgment toward the other, including the one who may be judging them… (p. 31)

Nanos is specifically referencing Romans 2:25-29 which I quoted at the top of this blog post, and is saying that those Gentiles who were choosing to judge their Jewish counterparts for any errors or lapses in Torah observance would be better advised to pay attention to their own responsibilities and let the Righteous Judge of Israel judge Israel.

Which, given the current conversation, begs the question of what behaviors of theirs should the Gentiles in Rome have been attending to? Put another way, should the Roman Gentile disciples have been paying attention to the proper execution of their “jewish” behaviors? What does it mean to “concentrate on being faithful to what they are responsible to do?”

Paul argued that these uncircumcised non-Jews were full and equal members of the family of God alongside of the Jewish members, indeed, equally children of Abraham and co-heirs of the promises made to him and his seed, not simply welcome guests (p. 7).

That sounds good but it doesn’t complete the picture.

In the next argument, vv. 12-16, Paul makes it plain that God judges according to the faithful behavior, which is not expected to represent precisely the same standards for Jews and non-Jews; indeed, each is held to the standard of what they know to be proper behavior (p. 19). (emph. mine)

studying_tanakh_messiahSeveral chapters in Romans seem to toggle back and forth between the responsibilities of Jews and Gentiles relative to God and the potential for hypocrisy among the Jews who claim the advantages of being Jewish but who, while teaching the Gentiles what is proper for God (for Gentiles), fail themselves to perform what is proper before God (for Jews). It should have been fairly clear to the Jewish people involved what their roles and responsibilities were, but were the Gentiles just supposed to “wing it,” hoping to know what is right and wrong?

We know that Paul had certain expectations of the Gentiles. Although he opposed Gentiles in Christ from undergoing the proselyte rite, he also discouraged them from continuing any idolatrous practices (Rom 3:29–4:25; 6; 1 Cor 7:17-22; Gal 4:8-10; 1 Thess 1:9-10).

Of the Gentiles taught by Paul, Nanos says:

Paul was exhorting non-Jews turning to God in Christ to seek to discover within themselves the noble values of jewishness, what being a Jew ideally signifies. They should learn to internalize jewishness as the highest value for themselves, albeit remaining non-Jews… (p. 32). (emph. mine)

But here’s a strong caveat:

His letters consist precisely of instruction in the Jewish way of life for non-Jews who turn to Israel’s God as the One God of all the nations; he enculturates them into God’s Guidance (Torah) without bringing them under Torah technically, since they do not become Jews/Israel. They are non-Jews who are learning, by way of Paul’s instructions, to practice Judaism! (p. 33) (emph. mine)

I can see where you might think all this is as clear as mud.

How can Gentiles learn to draw their values from Judaism and even practice Judaism to the degree that outside observers would say the Gentiles are acting “jewishly” and yet still operate under an overlapping but distinct set of standards from the Jews, not be considered under the Torah, and not be considered either Jews or Israel?

From the Didache (6:2), it is said:

For, on the one hand, if you are able to bear
the whole yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect;
but if, on the other hand, you are not able,
that which you are able, do this.

quoted from The Didache: Text, Translation, Analysis, and Commentary, pg 19
by Aaron Milavec

The Didache is considered a set of formalized instructions for Gentile initiates who were seeking to become disciples of Jesus. The document is traced to the second century C.E. and probably represents an earlier form of oral instructions and traditions, possibly originating with the Apostles or their immediate disciples. These standards would have been the basis Jewish mentors used to train the Gentile initiates in preparing them to become baptized and enter into their role as disciples.

beth immanuelFrom here we see that it is likely the Gentiles were encouraged to bear “the whole yoke of the Lord” Torah, in order to be “perfect,” but if they were not able, it was allowable that they should perform whatever was within their capacity. Again, please keep in mind, that a Gentile acting “jewishly” was both voluntary and was designed to occur within a Jewish communal context.

Given space limitations and the patience of those of you reading this, I’m going to stop here and pick it up in a subsequent blog post. There’s still much to explore about a Gentile acting “jewishly” in ancient times and what happens when he or she is outside a Jewish space. Also, what are the implications for those of us today who are Gentiles who study Messianic Judaism, both inside a Jewish context and outside?

Addendum: I’ve published the second part of this two-part series including a correction to some mistakes I’ve made in part one. I want to thank Dr. Mark Nanos for bringing what I’ve misunderstood about his paper to my attention and allowing me the opportunity to fix my mistakes.

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53 thoughts on “Acting Jewishly But Not Jewish, Part 1”

  1. Very interesting reading. I have always been under the impression, however, that Jesus taught, almost exclusively, to messianic Jews while Paul’s ministry was focused upon the Gentiles. I have recently become aware, as well, of several disconnects between both men’s teachings. Jesus, on one hand, taught that he came to fulfill the law, rather than abolish it whereas Paul seemed to claim that the crucifixion represented a serious change in divine legislation, ultimately negating Old Testament law.

    I’m not sure how it relates, but I recently read (maybe on the site Jews for Judaism) that the Gentiles, according to Jewish thought, are not responsible to follow the Mosaic law, but actually the Noahic laws (eight commandments as opposed to ten). This is a good deal when you consider the 200+ that the Jews are supposed to follow. And, wouldn’t that make the most Jewish gentile only about 5% Jewish?

  2. Greetings, Jason. I think you (and Jews for Judaism…and most of Christianity) seriously misread Paul. My understanding of Paul is that he did not teach against Jews continuing to observe the Torah mitzvot, only that Gentiles had no such obligation, nor did Gentiles have to undergo the proselyte rite in order to benefit from the blessings of the New Covenant through faith. Yes, Jesus did come for the “lost sheep of Israel,” but he also commanded his Jewish disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) to make disciples of the peoples of the nations. Further, Jesus commissioned Paul (Acts 9) specifically to be his emissary to the Gentiles, bringing them the good news of the coming Messianic Kingdom, when Messiah would return and establish a reign of peace for Israel and the entire world.

    As far as the Noahide laws are concerned (see Genesis 9), there are seven of them, although they can be “unpackaged” to yield many more “sub-commandments” contained within each main theme. All of humanity is obligated to these commandments and will ultimately be judged by God, but numerous prophesies in the Tanakh (Old Testament) speak of the people of the nations coming alongside Israel to worship the God of Jacob and offer sacrifices and prayers at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Coupled with what I know of the New Covenant (see Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36), I believe that those Gentiles who choose to come to faith in God through Messiah will reap the benefits of the New Covenant blessings which include a physical resurrection and being subjects of the Kingdom.

    I agree that although there are 613 commandments for the Jews that can be derived from the Torah, only come 200+ can be observed in the modern age, particularly if you live outside of Israel. It is true that Gentiles have a lighter set of behavioral obligations to God, but Israel has always been God’s chosen nation since Sinai, and they serve him in ways that are only for them and not for the rest of us.

    All that said, and returning to Nanos’ paper (by the way, Nanos’ online CV says he’s a Reform Jew), I don’t think you can factor in percentages as far as how “jewish” a Gentile believer may be. Nano never said the first century Jesus-believers were Jewish, just that, in his opinion, Paul encouraged them to take onboard the ethics and values taught in Judaism and if they so chose, to emulate their Jewish mentors to whatever degree they felt able. While Gentile believers are not, for example, obligated to observe the Shabbat, they can do so voluntarily in solidarity with the Jewish people and to bring honor to God.

  3. I’m looking forward to the rest of your blog/s on this subject. It seems to be one that a lot of people, myself included, have/are wrestling with. I’m sure you have seen Rabbi Stuart Dauermann’s post relating to this: http://www.interfaithfulness.org/2014/07/30/the-problem-with-jewish-roots-or-its-good-to-be-a-goy. I have great respect for him and found his comments interesting and thought-provoking but I’m not sure I totally agree. Maybe I just don’t completely understand where he is coming from as a Messianic Jew. Hopefully you will help sort some of this out.

  4. Hi Mel,

    Actually, I seriously considered adding a link to Rabbi Dr. Dauermann’s article in today’s “meditation” but decided that I had to cut my write-up short and set that thought aside. R. Dauermann’s point of view is pretty much the opposite of Nanos’ in that Dauermann sees a complete and total differentiation of (Gentile) Christian and Messianic Jewish worship and community life to be natural, normal, and completely appropriate. From what I gather in reading Dauermann’s commentary, there is not “jewishness” to be found in Christian community nor should there be. It’s what I would a very “solid” representation of Bilateral Ecclesiology.

    I’ve said before that I recognize a scale of opinions ranging from One Law/One Torah at one extreme and Bilateral Ecclesiology at the other. I lean toward the BE end of the scale but not to the point represented by Dauermann. In the Messianic Age, I read the Bible as predicting that Jews and Gentiles will come alongside each other to worship the God of Jacob and offer prayers and sacrifices at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Whatever state of enmity that has existed between Jews and the rest of the world (and particularly Christians) will be extinguished, and we will each ”sit under his vine and under his fig tree” (Micah 4:4) unafraid and in peace with each other. But in the meantime, a lot of Gentile Christians are incredibly interested in how the world will be when Messiah returns, and very passionate about trying to summon some of those days in the present world. That’s where you find Gentiles observing some sort of Shabbat, adjusting their eating habits to avoid certain foods, studying Jewish educational material, and even reciting some of the prayers.

    I don’t think that the Messiah will return and then flip some sort of switch abruptly activating Gentile interest in and support of Jewish people, I think that’s already happened and is continuing to happen, building momentum until we will only have Gentiles who are for Israel or against her. While there are some Messianic Jews who understandably want to keep Gentiles at arm’s length, there are others who welcome us into their assemblies, much as Paul welcomed the first Gentile disciples of the Master into synagogues like the one in Syrian Antioch. I won’t enter into someone’s community and religious space unless invited, but once invited, I intend to strive for an encounter with God and to learn what I’m able by those willing to teach. That includes Jewish community and religious space, which, as anyone can tell who’s been reading my blog posts for more than five minutes, is how I’m oriented.

    Even if every (Messianic) Jewish person who I’ve counted as a friend should reject me tomorrow, I still can’t deny how I think and how I feel and if I should find myself alone and without Jewish (or other human) companionship on this journey, I still depend on the God who made me to be who I am.

  5. Hi James. I’m kind of lost here. In the following text of your blog:

    And again, Nanos states:

    Paul’s argument is constructed to encourage non-Jews to avoid making the same mistake they are quick to recognize in this diatribal caricature. Paul calls them to concentrate on being faithful to what they are responsible to do in service instead of judgment toward the other, including the one who may be judging them… (p. 31)

    Nanos is specifically referencing Romans 2:25-29 which I quoted at the top of this blog post, and is saying that those Gentiles who were choosing to judge their Jewish counterparts for any errors or lapses in Torah observance would be better advised to pay attention to their own responsibilities and let the Righteous Judge of Israel judge Israel.

    To whom is Paul writing specifically in Romans 2:25-29 ? Is he writing to a Jew or is he writing to a Non-Jew?

  6. The primary audience (according to Nanos) is the Jesus-believing Gentile population in the synagogues in Rome, but Paul is also talking about the non-believing Jews in the synagogue. Paul understands that some of these Jews are being hypocritical, claiming privilege by being ethnically Jewish but not “walking the walk,” so to speak, in their observance of the mitzvot or in their responsibility to respect those in their midst, including Gentiles. Paul is urging his Gentile readers not to duplicate that level of hypocrisy and to display proper behavior and deference to their Jewish hosts because they know the right thing to do.

  7. As I recall from the paper, Nanos believes Paul is writing to a “fictive Jew,” that is, he’s really writing to the Gentiles but he’s writing as if he’s writing to a Jew, basically to show the Gentiles what he’d say to the Jews who were giving them a hard time. This is a way for Paul to explain to the Gentiles is that yes, some of the Jews with whom they are associating are acting hypocritically, but that doesn’t mean the Gentiles should return same for same. They shouldn’t return a wrong behavior just because they haven’t been treated well.

  8. Well, I personally don’t agree with Nanos in this point. I think the letter to the Romans is addressed to both Jews and Gentiles… each one should get his message accordingly.

  9. In my application, the referenced blog misunderstands HR. It is the purpose of understanding G-d’s revealed truth/scriptures. Without the Jewish/Hebrew roots you will not get a proper understanding of scripture. Without the Hebrew roots you do get PAGAN Christianity that will usurp Israel’s role and replace it with them. As an ambassador for His Kingdom I want to correctly represent His truth within the correct context. If as a gentile I choose to observe Shavuot it is for instruction, not to be more spiritually superior. I resent that implication a great deal.
    I agree mostly with you, James. As you can see, not with Rabbi Stuart Dauermann.

  10. @Alfredo and Cynthia: One of the purposes of this blog (and most blogs in this space) is to present ideas and interpretations and discuss them. It wouldn’t be much of a discussion if we all agreed. 😉

    @Alfredo: NT scholars don’t all agree with each other, but each perspective stimulates thought and gives us fresh ways of looking at scripture. As far as Paul’s letter goes, once it left his hands and was delivered to the primary audience, it could have been read by anyone, so the believing and non-believing Jews in the Roman synagogues cold have been a secondary audience. Certainly a letter from a leader of the community like Paul would have been the subject of a great deal of discussion among the believing Roman community, so I’m sure word got around.

    @Cynthia: Hebrew Roots is something of a double-edged sword. I know well-balanced, reasonable, and Godly Hebrew Roots people, but I also know people in HR that are little different in terms of supersessionism than their more typically Christian counterparts.

    And while I’ve frequently been critical of the Church, I’ve also come to her defense and learned many good things within her walls including fellowship. I think the role of pagan as applied to Christianity is overextended and largely unfair. One of the sad things about some Hebrew Roots groups is their authentic dislike and in some cases even hatred of anything Christian. That’s not the best platform from which to help others see a more positive role of Torah observant Judaism within the ancient and modern Messianic community.

  11. It seems to me that what Rabbi Dauermann was emphasizing in his article (referenced above) is that it is the apostolic writings, and the perspective and attitudes that they express, that are “rooted” in Jewish culture and are thereby “Jewish”, while non-Jews themselves do not and cannot have any sort of “Jewish Roots”. However, I believe his focus was on cultural identity and the behaviors that characterize it, rather than on behaviors which happen to be characteristic of godly human interactions that have been promoted by Jewish culture as informed by the Torah covenant.

    The open question is: “What happens when non-Jews reject the idolatrous elements of their culture which influenced its development?” Clearly, they must develop an adjusted or alternative culture, presumably by adopting godly perspectives and behaviors that have been derived from HaShem’s Torah instructions and incorporated into and demonstrated by Jewish culture. These might be likened to the nourishing sap of the olive tree used by Rav Shaul as an analogy of how non-Jews may be viewed as participating with Jews in the community of faith that trusts and obeys HaShem. Rav Shaul also viewed Rav Yeshua as representing the root of this tree, in that the meaning of his name Yeshua, “salvation”, points to the fundamental goal of this trust — which is the redemption of all human behavior. If we avoid the mistake of thinking that the tree represents the Jewish Torah covenant or any covenant as such, then we will avoid also the notion that grafted-in non-Jewish wild branches have been incorporated into the cultivated Jewish covenant or given their own claim to having become rooted in the Jewish covenant. Instead, they may be viewed as having become rooted in faith (just like their Jewish counterparts have done because of the covenant (or even multiple covenants) that HaShem made with their ancestors).

    Now other cultural questions arise: “How may non-Jews celebrate or express this faith which they have adopted?” “What sorts of adjustments may be expected to appear in their culture as they pursue affinity with the Jewish literature and cultural expressions that reflect the history and development of the Jewish faith community?” “If Jews represent HaShem’s “pilot program” for redeeming human behavior by means of faith, how may lessons learned from that program be incorporated into other non-Jewish cultures?” “If a given non-Jewish culture is so thoroughly riddled with inherent elements derived from prior idolatries that eliminating them would leave nothing but shreds, is it necessary or simply easier to jettison that culture altogether in favor of adopting Jewish culture?” It is hard to envision a non-Jewish culture that remains characteristically different from Jewish culture while at the same time diligently pursuing the same values and cleansing itself from prior false values and historical cultural artifacts of Jew-hatred and idolatry.

  12. PL said: “Rav Shaul also viewed Rav Yeshua as representing the root of this tree…

    This anticipates a future “reflection” on Romans I’m going to write. Reading the epistle “cover to cover,” so to speak, when I came across the “grafted” and “root” passages, it became apparent (to me at least) that the root isn’t Israel, it’s Messiah. That puts a really different spin on things.

    PL said: “If a given non-Jewish culture is so thoroughly riddled with inherent elements derived from prior idolatries that eliminating them would leave nothing but shreds, is it necessary or simply easier to jettison that culture altogether in favor of adopting Jewish culture?”

    When any of us at Gentiles comes to faith, we already have a culture in which we operate. How do we had “Torah values” to that culture without necessarily dumping our culture of origin and adopting Jewish culture?

    Church is a culture. The Hebrew Roots argument is that Church culture is tainted or corrupt and implies that Jewish culture (up to a point) is better, but is it really? That’s the $64,000 question since both Christianity and Judaism as cultures have undergone tremendous changes over the last two-thousand years.

    Having said that, there are plenty of Gentiles who attend Messianic Jewish synagogues who partake of various elements of Jewish culture and practice without necessarily crossing a line. I don’t think that has to take anything away from the Jewish people. Of course, being married to a Jewish wife, my interactions with her necessitate partaking in some of her “cultural practices” from time to time.

    But that’s different than a group of Gentiles deciding to remake their cultural context based on some sort of Jewish template. Gentiles practicing “Torah values” may make them/us appear “jewishly” but does not make us “Jewish”.

  13. Wow! PL and James… so much… almost brings tears to my eyes.

    James said, “When any of us at Gentiles comes to faith, we already have a culture in which we operate. How do we had “Torah values” to that culture without necessarily dumping our culture of origin and adopting Jewish culture?

    Church is a culture. The Hebrew Roots argument is that Church culture is tainted or corrupt and implies that Jewish culture (up to a point) is better, but is it really? That’s the $64,000 question since both Christianity and Judaism as cultures have undergone tremendous changes over the last two-thousand years.”

    I would alter your ‘Hebrew roots argument is that Church culture is tainted …impl[ying] that Jewish culture…is better’ and state that I agree there is much in Church culture that needs to be addressed, but many many Hebrew roots also believe there is much in Jewish culture that is just that: culture and not directly Torah.

    For me, if I look ‘Jewishly,’ it is not because I want to take on Jewish culture, but because I want to walk Torah in its most basic form. Because Torah informs Judaism and by extension, Jewish culture, pursuing simple things as prescribed by the command of the Creator, I naturally will look Jewish(ly). I.e, I rest and worship on the Sabbath, according to the commandment. I celebrate the feasts of YHVH, I eat clean. I don’t do them to look Jewish, I do them because they are the commands of my King.

    Do they make me look ‘Jewishly’? Sure, precisely because the same commandments are foundational to Judaism.

    Now, can I be informed by the good/solid/defensible aspects of Christendom? Sure. The same can be said for Rabbinics and Judaism. Both have ‘undergone tremendous changes over the last two-thousand years.’

    Honestly!! Most Hebrew roots are not looking to be Jews, they are looking to find the path of righteousness as walked by the Messiah and articulated in Torah. If that looks Jewish, so be it… it is because the root of Judaism is the Word of G-d.

    In that vein, though, who has been keeping Torah better? If we are to learn Torah, where is the best example, even if flawed by 2000 years of its own exile?

    In the end, the answer isn’t Judaism, nor is it Christendom. The answer lies between the two and the parties from each side that have both (keep the commandments AND the testimony of Yeshua) need to come together in peace and grace to be the One New Man. Each must love and cherish the strengths that the other brings, while being willing to learn and acknowledge the weaknesses we ourselves bring. I.e., Both parties have to acknowledge, evaluate and jettison the errors embraced by their respective backgrounds, and both need to respect and value the contributions of the other. Judaism has protected Torah, Christendom has carried Messiah to the ends of the earth!! It is time to come together as one without erasing distinctives and cultural identifiers, but understanding, ‘The Way’ involves Torah & Yeshua. /soapbox

  14. The question is, can Torah be separated from culture and isolated as its own “thing?” I don’t think so. I think how “Torah” is applied depends on the cultural context, which shifts from one community to the next and has developed across history. How Paul and the other apostles observed Torah as Jews in the first century CE probably looked different than how different observant Jewish communities perform the mitzvoth today.

    To a large degree, how Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles observe Torah is a matter of cultural context, since Jews within an observant Judaism will have some distinctive behaviors that can’t be applied within Gentile culture. I think some Jewish people in Messianic Judaism are concerned that their culture and their unique identity as Jews is sometimes “highjacked” by Gentiles who are eager to learn the values and ethics of Torah, even without meaning to. It’s difficult, as I mentioned above, to isolate Torah from cultural context. How Messianic Gentiles “do Torah” is something of a challenge to define. I think Aaron Eby in this brief Vine of David video touches on that distinction (the video is part of a larger series on FFOZ’s/VOD’s new Shabbat Siddur project).

    Gotta run. Off to church.

  15. James said, “The question is, can Torah be separated from culture and isolated as its own “thing?””

    ABSOLUTELY!! The culture springs from the Torah, NOT the Torah from the culture. You have your definitions backwards!

    The reason the halachah can change from place to place and time to time is precisely because the culture springs from Torah, not the other way around!

  16. From reading the comments, it seems one of the questions is who or what is the root of the olive tree in Romans 11? In the book I just finished reading “Copernicus and the Jews” by Daniel Gruber, he addresses the interpretation that Jesus/Yeshua/Messiah is the olive tree of Romans 11. Please forgive the lengthy quote but I don’t want to misrepresent what the author says by trying to paraphrase his thoughts.

    ” Jesus is not even mentioned in Romans 11. That is because there is no need to mention him. The chapter is about Israel, both the faithful remnant and the unfaithful majority. The chapter is an exhortation to Gentile believers not to think that God has cast off Israel, who Paul explicitly identifies as the physical descendants of the 12 sons of Israel. (cf. Rom. 11:1-5).

    Paul writes about the faithful remnant in Israel. He quotes God’s rebuke of Elijah for thinking that he was the only one left. Paul categorically rejects the claim that God has cast off Israel, by pointing to himself and his own physical lineage in the tribe of Benjamin. For Paul, that physical descent, united with the faith of Abraham, is proof of God’s faithfulness to Israel.

    In Romans 11, Paul presents the most explicit teaching in the Bible on the faithful remnant in Israel. He does not equate Jesus with Israel. Obviously, there could be no faithful remnant of Jesus himself.

    Paul calls the physical descendants of the patriarchs “Israel,” whether they believe or not. He says that for these physical descendants of the tribes of Israel, whether they are cut off or not, the olive tree is “their own olive tree.” (v.24). He says that partial hardening has come to Israel. (v.25). He says that all Israel, as opposed to the current faithful remnant, will be saved. (v.26). None of this makes any sense at all if Jesus is Israel.

    Nowhere in Scripture does anyone say that Jesus is the olive tree. But to all Israel, God said: “The LORD called you a thriving olive tree with fruit beautiful in form…” (Jer. 11:16) Of Israel, He said, “His young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.” (Hos. 14:6)

    For Jews, whether they believe in Yeshua or not, Israel is “their own olive tree.” Israel is an olive tree which God cultivated for thousands of years. Because there is no alternative tree, no alternative covenant, and no alternative people of God, Gentiles must enter in Israel’s polity in order to enter in Israel’s New Covenant with God. The covenant is not made with any other people. Nor is there any other covenant that will bring salvation.

    That is why Paul writes about the grafting of the Gentiles as wild branches into Israel’s cultivated olive tree. Gentiles who repent and believe in Messiah receive their life through an olive tree that is not naturally their own. The root is not theirs; the tree is not theirs.

    Gentiles who enter into Israel’s polity through the New Covenant become part of the community of nations which God promised to make from Jacob. (cf. Gen. 35:11) This is the greater kahal/ekklesia of Israel. It is the kahal/ekklesia of Messiah, who will rule from David’s throne over both Israel and the nations.

    Gentiles who enter into Israel’s commonwealth through the New Covenant do not become Jews. They remain Gentile, wild branches who have also received the amazing grace of the God of Israel. Otherwise there would be no fulfillment of these promises of God to Jacob and to Messiah. Nor would there be any fulfillment of God’s promise to make Abraham the father of many nations.”
    — from “Copernicus and the Jews”, Daniel Gruber, pp. 314-315.

  17. James, you wrote: “The level of “jewishness” practiced by Gentile disciples of the Master may have been in direct proportion to the involvement and influence of Jesus-believing Jews operating in the same religious and social community. The less influence exerted by Jewish mentors on the Gentiles, the less “jewish” were the behaviors and lifestyles of the Gentiles.”

    I think this characterizes the flux of the situation on the ground then. As I see it, if I remain who I am, sure in my self-identity as a non-Jewish believer, of a messianic orientation, from good Irish-Italian stock, I add a dimension to the commonwealth that gets lost if I “become more Jewish.” I see this phenomenon of “becoming more Jewish” outwardly as a form of assimilation without confirmation. Non-verified assimilation if you will. If I convert, fine. That is confirmed assimilation. Then I am the Jew that I intended and set-out to be. But if I just casually begin to put on Jewishness without confirmation, that’s a form of “imitation” that is generally seen as unhealthy, not edifying to anyone. Looked upon as more of a statement of dissatisfaction with self than an affirmation of “the other.” As a non-Jew who is strong in his Gentile identity willingly and gratefully and wholeheartedly bonded to Israel, I add a friend of the Jewish people who can help and defend and serve from a point outside of the circle, so to speak, which is always an advantage as it brings help from yet another angle, from a kindred source without rather than from a known asset within.

    I think in this case what works “strategically” in terms of tactics in a battle plan also makes sense theologically.

  18. @Pete: I have to disagree with you here. The Torah was given within a specific cultural and historical context, sort of like the U.S. Constitution. If we couldn’t ratify the Constitution and didn’t have the Supreme Court to interpret it for our times, it would be a completely anachronistic documment totally unsuited to fulfill our national needs. We’d have to scrap it and start from scratch.

    So too is the Torah. It has provisions for slavery, some pretty unusual ways of dealing with rape and delinquent teenagers, all of which can’t possibly fit into modern Jewish culture today. If there weren’t later adaptations relative to the passage of time and culture, the Torah would be as archaic as the UNIVAC. That’s part of the problem with McKee’s commentary on One Law from the book we’re both reading now (or one of the problems, anyway). The laws pertaining to the Gerim listed in certain parts of the Torah presuppose a tribal nation, which doesn’t describe Israel anymore. In fact, those laws weren’t even applicable in the days of Paul, which is evidenced by the existence of the proselyte rite to allow Gentiles to join Israel.

    There may be a Heavenly Torah that is isolated from human cultural and other contexts, but the minute Hashem had to “clothe” the Torah to make it accessible to human beings, that “clothing” added many layers of “skin,” so to speak, so that people could make use of it.

    @Mel: It seems that Gruber and I agree. The root isn’t Israel, it’s the Master, the Messiah, it is him we must attach ourselves to.

    That makes so much sense in terms of being grafted in and temporarily detached (the natural branches).

    “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

    John 15:5

  19. @Dan: I was talking to a young guy at Sunday school after class ended today and we were discussing the Bible and culture. I brought up how historically, American missionaries weren’t taking the Gospel to people in other cultures, they were taking American Christianity and teaching their ‘flock’ how to be American Christians.

    Just think of the difficulty we have in understanding not only the ancient languages of the Bible, but the cultures, customs, mores, and such of the people who wrote the Bible and their immediate audiences. It’s not enough to read the Bible in its original languages. If we can’t grasp the nature and character of the environment in which the different portions of the Bible were written, we won’t know for sure the intent of the writers and what the initial audiences would have understood.

    Thus we’ll make errors in how we’re supposed to apply those messages to our lives today. Now take all of those difficulties and then try to teach the Gospel message and the Bible’s whole ‘backstory’ to people who live halfway around the world from you and operate in a culture you don’t completely understand. How are you going to give those people the ability to understand the Bible directly from their cultural context without overlaying the American Christian cultural context completely muddying up what the Bible is really trying to say?

    It’s a heck of a problem and we almost always ignore it.

  20. @James, my understanding of what Gruber is saying is that he is refuting the idea that Yeshua/Jesus is the olive tree in Romans 11 and is instead actually Israel. The quote I posted is in a section where he is listing several things that are misunderstood in “covenant theology” which is part of their attempt to, as he says “to dispossess the Jewish people of what God has given them, and to relocate these things in the church.” This is from page 305 in his book. I think a close reading of the lengthy quote I posted earlier indicates he is saying Gentiles enter into the kahal or congregation of Messiah, but they do so through the olive tree/root of Israel, as he says is indicated by “their own olive tree” in v.24. I know it’s difficult to pull a section out of a book and make it easily understandable, but that is my understanding of what he is saying.

  21. @James: Seems we differ on terms, so let me be clear. When I say/hear ‘Torah’ I understand ‘the Five Books of Moses and nothing else.’ Therefore, when I say the ‘Torah does not change’ I mean that ‘the Word of our God does not change.’ Its application and interpretation may differ from time and place and culture, but the Word, the Torah, does not change.

    What I hear you saying is that ‘Torah’ is ‘the Five Books of Moses according to the way post Second Temple Judaism interprets them.’

    To use your US Constitution example, I would ask, ‘Have there been decisions handed down that altered or countered the framer’s original intent?’ I think we have to honestly state that YES, there have been bad precedents set and built on… but when/how do we return to the base/unchanging document?

    You confirm what I say in your comments to Dan because you speak of American missionaries teaching ‘American Christianity’ in other cultures. How is that different than non-Jews being taught or being expected to walk a halachah rooted in twentieth century (and post Second Temple) Judaism?

  22. @Mel: Oops, my mistake. Then maybe Gruber and I don’t agree after all. I can see, based on what you said, where he is going, but as I tried to explain in this blog post, Messiah isn’t replacing Israel, he is the next “evolutionary” step in God’s plan for the redemption of Israel.

    @Pete: I see what you’re saying. Yes, God’s word is eternal, but like an infinite onion, we can peel off layer after layer to find something new that we’ve never seen before. It’s still the same onion of course, and the layers were always there. God’s original intent never changed and the Bible represents God’s overarching plan of redemption for Israel and through Israel, the rest of the world.

    I’m not necessarily advocating for Gentiles immersing themselves in modern Jewish halachah, although I can see the attraction myself. I’m advocating for grasping the values we normally associate with the Torah and Judaism or what some people might call “being a good Christian”. I was discussing these things with a young man in Sunday school class today. Tikkun Olam is a perfectly acceptable principle for us to emulate as disciples of the Master and I believe being good to other people and making the world a little nicer place to live is one of those Torah values that crosses cultural boundaries and is appropriate for all of us.

  23. Pete, I think it’s absolutely essential to read the five books of Torah to actually know what’s in there (and to know this was to affirm as well as move a civilisation in proper direction). At the same time, cultural context and change does matter (partly for reason of specific examples like James listed, like the fact most of us — maybe all here — would be appalled if a father didn’t object to his daughter being required to marry a rapist, or really if anyone even considered it, more than appalled).

    Now, back to the main topic of the heading (and possibly touching on subsequent comments)… I would say I have children who have Jewish roots even though they’re not Jews. All of my sons are not circumcised, like their dad. But growing up in a Messianic synagogue with traditional services and the Torah scrolls, a Jewish congregational leader and so on, we were steeped in it [if we were paying attention, which their dad wasn’t]. I had to tell them they weren’t Jews at some point.

    That was a little difficult to get across (even though they’d never been told they were Jews). I’d say being a Jew and being Jewish aren’t the same thing all the time. I recently read an article in an Israeli newspaper (haven’t been able to find it again to link to it) concerning a woman who had a Jewish dad who raised her in a Reform congregation. Many Jews don’t consider her Jewish even though her dad’s a Jew and she always knew she was. Obviously, these two examples aren’t the same.

  24. Here is another story [I hadn’t realized this person had a segment called stories, but appreciated what he did here]. This is a video:

    http://www.nbc.com/late-night-with-seth-meyers/video/seths-story-seths-jewish-enough/2776163

    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/the-israeli-reformation/1.561731
    Now, this article has to do with types of Judaism and Israel, while the story in my first post in this topic had to do with types too but was probably more because she didn’t have a Jewish mother (which would be a problem even if her dad wanted to raise her Orthodox). It came up when she wanted to attend a Jewish music school (in America, I think). It wasn’t a matter of theory [music theory notwithstanding] or of being nice to the person in the next isle; it was a practical matter of whether she could get in even if she otherwise could qualify.

  25. @wcmotalmid,

    I think the most evident argument is in the fact that Paul refers to Jews as the natural branches… what do Jews naturally belong to, that gentiles do not naturally belong to, Messiah? no, instead Israel, the covenants, the promises. To say that Jews are naturally part of Messiah, then they should have never been broken off.

  26. I’ll revisit the idea of Yeshua as the root when I get around to writing my “reflections” on that part of Romans, Zion.

  27. @Marleen,

    Pete, I think it’s absolutely essential to read the five books of Torah to actually know what’s in there (and to know this was to affirm as well as move a civilisation in proper direction). At the same time, cultural context and change does matter (partly for reason of specific examples like James listed, like the fact most of us — maybe all here — would be appalled if a father didn’t object to his daughter being required to marry a rapist, or really if anyone even considered it, more than appalled).

    A father could reject the marriage from happening and the rapist would have to pay a penalty. I am not understand you point here… are you saying that this directive is absurd?

  28. Are you saying that today it would be acceptable for a father not to reject a rapist to be his daughter’s husband?

  29. @Marleen — You are misrepresenting the social situation addressed by the Torah passage to which you are referring, by trying to apply modern social and emotional constructs attached to the word “rapist”. You are neglecting the range of penalties in Torah relative to sexual misconduct or to violent interpersonal misconduct, which include everything from severe fines to execution of the death penalty by public stoning. You are likewise ignoring the decision-making process exercised by the deliberations of a court in such criminal cases, in which the issues of social and fiscal responsibilities are weighed along with the wishes and well-being of families and victims in order to determine a just response to the precise circumstances of each individual case. Your question paints a false and superficial caricature of Torah legislation, without any of the context of how it was to be interpreted and applied.

  30. I specifically said culture and change matter. You are wrong to say I’m misrepresenting the social situation or neglecting other outcomes. It seems the person I was addressing knew what I was talking about (the father can make a decision). Why did you intervene?

    I’m finding it odd that you rationalize bad behavior on opposite ends of the argument (one day to explain that things would have been different way back then when virgins were offered to a crowd, and this day to defend basically what looks like current Pakistani mores).

    You even complain I used the word rapist? A rapist is someone who rapes a person. Does it have to be a serial rapist (and with proof of at least some of the rapes) or a gang raper before it’s real?

    I do understand that people can have very different definitions of things that seem obvious. I’ve seen a Muslim woman argue forcefully that prostitution has to be legal so that such women are available to men. Otherwise, she argued (in all her modest covering), the men would commit adultery. Yeah… some mindsets aren’t on the same page.

    Another change is that Jews have formally decided (accepted a decision by a respected leader in history who was not Jesus) a Jewish man is to have only one wife, no more multiple wives. But I suppose someone might like to go with straight one law from the mountain top for all (to get himself in the loop) for this very reason. No modern law for him.

    I’m also not ignoring that the most famous punishment for rape only occurred when it had to do with adultery. And guess what; if the girl’s father didn’t object to the “marriage” (obviously, when she doesn’t already have a husband and couldn’t then be put to death herself) she couldn’t even hope that someday the rapist would divorce her (he wasn’t allowed to do so unlike in a normal marriage). Now, here I AM mixing time frames. It was probably preferable then for survival that a petulant man not be allowed to abandon the results of what he’d done.

    By the way, you want “social situation” following shortly upon receiving the Torah? Look at what was devised after a concubine/wife was raped to death [not the only kind of rape that counts incidentally], when the decree of punishment had to do with wives.

    And why didn’t you call James out for misrepresenting and neglecting reality for mentioning slavery, rape, and delinquent teenagers?

  31. My dear Marlene, I am not rationalizing (and certainly I am not justifying) anyone’s bad behavior (nor have I done so previously); and my prior reply contains the explanation of why I “intervened”. Not every incident reported in Tenakh represents a precedent for how cases are to be adjudicated. Sometimes they serve as examples of what not to do or what to avoid. Perhaps I did not react to James’ citation of examples because he did not emphasize emotionally-loaded prejudicial terms like “rape”. This term is sometimes misused even today, despite the fact that it has a very clearly defined technical legal definition. Perhaps I didn’t respond immediately because his was the first mention and it only became important after someone else (you, in this instance) added emphasis to the issue. My point, however, was that Torah is not to be read and judged superficially; and that there is more in it than meets the eye in determining matters of applying justice to criminal or other anti-social behavior.

  32. Concerning previously, you didn’t rationalize what the rapists wanted to do, but you rationalized the offering of virgins as a solution to raping men or preference or mental prod and blamed Lots daughters for being like the world around them instead of like their dad (who’d been part of that mess even if not one who would have been raping). I thought we had that rather resolved, but now I’m wondering because I’m here basically standing for a position I thought was also yours as to culture and change over time and what kind of situation the Torah was speaking into, etc. I’m not claiming the way of getting wives at the end of that story was, is, or should be precedent or illustrative of what the Torah was aiming for; that would be idiocy. But that wasn’t in any way even alluded to as part of the post to which you responded. And I have repeatedly stood FOR Torah. Did you not want to hear Pete’s answer on whether or not he thinks it would be acceptable for the father TODAY to make the choice that it’ll be fine that they shall marry? How about multiple wives?

  33. Interesting it’s not “emotionally charged” when James notes slavery, rape, and handling delinquent adolescents (killing them).

  34. @Marlene — My response doesn’t prevent either Pete or Zion from posting his own opinion, but it did seem to me that you placed a very different slant and emphasis on these potentially controversial issues than James did. While certainly we’re agreed that culture develops over time and that the application of Torah must be adjusted accordingly, I think you are a bit over-quick to condemn the Torah’s prescription for some of these ancient cases without sufficiently considering their background.

    Even in modern literature, it is not unheard of for someone to suggest that the best solution to certain forms of teenage incorrigibility would be to just wipe ’em out. That does not mean that anyone is suggesting seriously that such an approach should actually be employed literally. Why should we not consider that the Torah literature might have been presenting a similarly theoretical solution, in order to stimulate thinking about alternative practical ones? Perhaps some of the other cases are raising similarly exaggerated theoretical solutions to illustrate certain values and challenges. There exists Jewish commentary within the later codification of Oral Torah suggesting exactly such explanations and explicitly stating that some of these cases never actually occurred and that such judgments were never actually carried out. Thus I offer cautions against superficial readings or interpretations of Torah passages.

    You seem also rather antagonistic to interpret the background explanations I offered for some of the likely motivations of characters in the episode describing the escape from Sodom as “rationalization” and “blame”. Neither of those terms is appropriate to describe my motivations or purposes.

    You tossed off an additional question about the case of multiple wives. The Torah’s legislation on the subject is nuanced to subtly discourage the practice, by demanding that each additional wife receive the same quality of treatment as a single wife would receive. That already presented, even in the most ancient period of Torah application, a significant challenge for any man who might think to attempt it. In the apostolic writings, particularly in Rav Shaul’s advice to Timothy, this notion is limited further by stating that someone who wishes to be responsible for the welfare of the community must not have more than one wife; and implies that more responsibility than this is too much for anyone to handle. Later, c.1000 CE, a Rabbi Gershon declared the Jewish equivalent of excommunication against any Ashenazic Jew taking more than one wife. None of these declarations were invalidations of the Torah rulings about the treatment of multiple wives — they simply set up conditions that limited it to the degree of impossibility. Under other circumstances, among Mizrachi Jews living in Muslim environments, ensuring the welfare of Jewish women sometimes required that one man take responsibility for multiple wives and to validate that responsibility via their childbearing; and when these families received the opportunity to emigrate to modern Israel, their multi-wife structure had to be respected and accepted as such. Of course, in the modern Israeli environment, their children were under no impetus to continue such practice. Though legally they might have been able to justify doing so to preserve long-standing family tradition, the new cultural environment exerted social pressure to conform with the monogamous norm.

    I hope you can see from this that the Torah has always been sufficiently flexible to address a variety of circumstances compassionately, and that its application was always intended to be both just and compassionate. It is regrettable that moderns often fail to see that, and thus they proceed to criticize something that they didn’t understand in the first place.

  35. PL, I’ve only begun to evaluate and have partly scanned your new post. Seems pointless. Theoretically, anyone can say anything. But you’ve put it into a different mode that tends toward warning people off and mischaracterizes over and over what I’m saying. Your interaction with a female is definitely emotionally tinted rather than reasonable. I haven’t condemned anything in scripture any more than James did. And it’s probably true the adolescents thing (etc.) made sense to people in a broad sense back then and even now would to some cultures.

    I am aware of quite a variety of congregations. Some of the leaders are pretty slippery and wouldn’t admit things they believe even if they believe them. Some of those things are arguable but unusual, so they wimp out. They tend to have problems with women too. Sacred name groups are often like this (yet decide to call themselves Messianic). Now, PL, if someone is arguing that they can go just them and the Torah (no Jews needed)… and someone points out that Jews don’t actually still do exactly what’s written there, what’ s the problem?

  36. I do believe, Marlene, that if you will re-examine my last several replies, not merely scanning them, you will find them quite dispassionate and without any justification for a charge of gender bias or misogyny. Instead you may find a defense of ancient Jews against unjustified charges that they were uncompassionate ignorant cretins whose applications of HaShem’s Torah principles were entirely inferior to modern sensibilities. Similar charges are sometimes levied against even modern Jews who rely upon Torah as the foundation of their sense of jurisprudence. However, then, as now, their guiding principle is the commandment of HaShem stated in Deut.16:20 – “Justice and only justice, you shall pursue …”.

    As for the rest of this post (12Aug, 8pm), which in my email was almost lost in a sea of subsequent ones on related topics, I’m afraid I’ve missed what was the intended point of your question about “… if someone is arguing that they can go just them and the Torah (no Jews needed)… and someone points out that Jews don’t actually still do exactly what’s written there, what’ s the problem?”

    Maybe part of the problem has to do with understanding “exactly what’s written there”, or in what degree Jews do still apply it?

  37. PL, I only responded after “scanning” in my last reply (not prior), although I hadn’t only scanned the beginning part of that post I was responding to even that time. You and I both think the other is misrepresenting our own views and intent (as I still think after reading your most recent post here). I’m not sure why this is happening. I like most of what you post otherwise. I agree that ancient Jews weren’t “uncompassionate ignorant” Cretins…

    I also don’t think their applications of Torah were not “entirely inferior to modern sensibilities.” What I do think [and I’ll forgive, wink, you for apparently categorizing me as a ” modern” — although I also find dissonance when a few of my son’s quip me calling me a hippie, and I’ve had to acknowledge they have a little bit of a point at least from the point of view of people who don’t really know what a hippie was when hippies were a thing] is that a current non-Jew who picks up a Bible and starts saying he’s applying it will basically be making things up. So, for instance, you’ll get some guy who thinks a complaining wife should shut up because she has something to put on and hasn’t starved to death and has a roof over her head (even if she has dirt floors under her feet — yes, I’ve seen this in today’s U.S. — and he can have as many “wives” as he wants). [Go out in the sticks for organic comfrey or something like that. I haven’t actually met anyone outspoken about having multiple wives, though I have met people who had religious reasons for depriving daughters of comparable education as son’s beginning in middle school.] If she doesn’t like it, she can “g-e-e-t out” (never mind she’s bourne his children and is trying to raise them well).

    I also do think that God meant for understanding to progress and culture to improve, and do think Jewish culture has progressed (not that Jews have ever been behind the curve). I additionally agree with J’shua that divorce was allowed for hardness of heart (but that he didn’t outlaw it). And, as you have previously pointed out that the same standards of today wouldn’t be applied to someone way back in time [while I would nevertheless counter that some matters are basic to being human at least when stated clearly], it does make sense to hold people to better standards now and even to be stunned by earlier behavior.

    Now, the red neck behavior I’ve mentioned is not what I’d attribute to you. I was only revisiting the fact that there is no evidence I downgrade Jews or Torah or ancients applying Torah as opposed to moderns any more than James (our cite owner/moderator). I am concerned that currents who think they want to reject modernism can tarnish the connotation of Torah when they don’t know things changed long before the modern era (while things do continue to change).

  38. More dissonance: I don’t like country music. But my favorite Pandora station is that of Nancy Griffith.

  39. Okay, that starts to go south once you get to the Dixie Chicks (more than an hour in, and I can still stand it even if it isn’t sounding favorite).

    Later in second paragraph: sons’ (don’t know why that would be “corrected” by the automatic checker).

    The dumping or trading in or accumulation of wives has been articulated online in the name of God.

  40. [Note for readers: I’m not sending a sea of emails, in fact any.]

    It seems to me this following statement has been the case from the very beginning of your supposed defense, PL; unjustified charges toward me about making charges (then leading to you thinking there are unjustified charges toward you for your charges and inclination to charge):

    I’m afraid I’ve missed what was the intended point of your question [or, I’m saying of what I, Marleen, said to Pete in the first place] about
    “… if someone is arguing that they can go just them and the Torah (no Jews needed)… and someone points out…

    Then
    [as to why be against someone who says Jewish context is needed]

    …that Jews don’t actually still do exactly what’s written there, what’ s the problem?”

    Maybe part of the problem has to do with understanding “exactly what’s written there”, or in what degree Jews do still apply it?

    It is not odd or uncommon or disrespectful that Jews (observant Jews and in at least most walks, not restricted to Messianics) will tell people, including within the context of teaching, that “We don’t do THIS [holding up or pointing to the Tanakh]. But we apply it.”

  41. [Note for readers: I’m not sending a sea of emails, in fact any.]

    It seems to me this following statement has been the case from the very beginning of your supposed defense, PL; unjustified charges toward me about making charges (then leading to you thinking there are unjustified charges toward you for your charges and inclination to charge):

    I’m afraid I’ve missed what was the intended point of your question [or, I’m saying of what I, Marleen, said to Pete and asked Zion in the first place] about “… if someone is arguing that they can go just them and the Torah (no Jews needed)… and someone points out…

    Then
    [as to why be against someone who says Jewish context is needed]

    …that Jews don’t actually still do exactly what’s written there, what’ s the problem?”

    Maybe part of the problem has to do with understanding “exactly what’s written there”, or in what degree Jews do still apply it?

    It is not odd or uncommon or disrespectful that Jews (observant Jews and in at least most or multiple walks, not restricted to Messianics) will tell people, including within the setting of teaching, that “We don’t do THIS [holding up or pointing to the Tanakh]. We apply it.”

  42. [Note for readers: I’m not sending a sea of emails, in fact any.]

    It seems to me this following statement has been the case from the very beginning of your supposed defense, PL; unjustified charges toward me about making charges (then leading to you thinking there are unjustified charges toward you for your charges and inclination to charge):

    PL: I’m afraid I’ve missed what was the intended point of your question [or, I’m saying, the point of what I, Marleen, said to Pete and asked Zion in the first place, not only this question appearing later in the exchange] about “… if someone is arguing that they can go just them and the Torah (no Jews needed)… and someone points out…

    Then
    [as to why be against someone who says Jewish context is needed]

    …that Jews don’t actually still do exactly what’s written there, what’ s the problem?”

    Maybe part of the problem has to do with understanding “exactly what’s written there”, or in what degree Jews do still apply it?

    It is not odd or uncommon or disrespectful that Jews (observant Jews and in at least most or multiple walks, not restricted to Messianics) will tell people, including within the setting of teaching, that “We don’t do THIS [holding up or pointing to the Tanakh]. We apply it.”

    WOW, THREE TRIES at GETTING ITALICS RIGHT. I think I had better go back to finding other ways to show I’m quoting someone.

  43. OK, Marlene, maybe you’re not such a “modern” after all [:)] (though don’t we all wrestle unsuccessfully at times with the latest technologies?). All things considered, I suppose we should just drop the present subject and chalk it up to mutual misunderstandings. If there’s any important topic in there somewhere that we should pursue, it’ll probably re-surface in one of James’ future discussions.

    You did seem to be reporting some experience with a (redneck?) culture that seems to me very different from anything addressed within a Torah framework, which may account for some of what I perceived as misunderstanding of ancient Jewish jurisprudence and Torah’s reports of who might have done what to whom and what should be done about it. And, of course, there is certainly a difference to be expected between its impact on an ancient application and on its application 3500 years later.

    Shavua Tov

  44. Having being confronted with the BE vs One Law posts, I have to say I was very troubled. I see both sides, lean toward one more than the other, and keep going to our Father for clarity.

    This past Shabbat, during our Torah study, my rabbi pointed out something that I think we sometimes miss when we get overly concerned about Torah observance/obligation. Before you go throwing things at me (just kidding), I am speaking more to myself than to anyone else.

    He said that we tend to think of God’s covenant as something observable as with two people. But it’s so much more, because it is not about the observance, but the internalization.

    The covenant is part of who He is. He is transforming us into who He is.

    I thought these statements very appropriate for much of the conversation about acting jewishly but not Jewish, not only here, but on several other posts by both James and Pete, both of which I enjoy greatly.

  45. It’s interesting you should say all that, Ro. I was just reading Rabbi Packouz’s commentary on Re’eh which includes preparation advice for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur at Aish.com.

    Rabbi Packouz includes a Torah commentary written by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin who, referencing Deut. 14:1-2, says:

    On top of this, the Sforno, a renowned 15th century Italian commentator, adds “There is no middle way. If a person follows the Torah, his life will be a blessed life. If a person fails to live by the commandments, he will live a cursed life.”

    This seems to be a rather extreme statement. However, if we understand that life is either purposeful and meaningful or not, then we can understand that a life of meaning is a blessed life. And a life without meaning is a life devoid of satisfaction and imbued with a sense that nothing makes a difference when life is over anyway (and what could be a greater curse than that?).

    Understanding that there is a God Who created the world, sustains it and supervises it — gives life intrinsic meaning. One can always create a sense of meaning in a diversion — acquiring wealth, following baseball or even in something as noble as helping others. However, unless there is a God and there are absolute responsibilities and values, then there is no inherent meaning to life. It gnaws at one’s psyche.

    A person needs to have purpose in life, to know that life is meaningful. To be aware of the Creator and to fulfill His will enables a person to experience the greatest of blessings in this world. Each day will be an exciting adventure full of the joy of doing the Almighty’s will. The choice is yours to make. Choose life!

    My understanding of living a life in fidelity to the will of God is about making His purpose our purpose and His will our will. For observant Jews, this is rather well spelled out (as understood through the Rabbinic interpretations of the sages in whatever branch of Judaism one adheres) but we non-Jews are questioning the assumptions made by our various Christian streams and traditions and attempting to gain a clearer picture of what the Bible says about us. What is it to be a Gentile disciple of the Jewish Messiah? Since Judaism has changed over the last 2,000 years and Christianity has as well, what can we accept from the past that applies to our lives now and what other later interpretations should we employ?

    So much of historical Christian tradition has gotten the Biblical picture of the Jewish people and Israel wrong and it’s easy to throw the whole thing out the window and adopt some form of “Judaism for Gentiles,” but while some people may believe the appearance of that sort of observance is a “lock,” I’m not so sure. That’s why I keep studying. One goal I think we all have in common or should, is the striving for a closer encounter with God and out of that intimacy, a revelation of the purpose of each of our individual lives.

  46. My understanding of living a life in fidelity to the will of God is about making His purpose our purpose and His will our will. For observant Jews, this is rather well spelled out (as understood through the Rabbinic interpretations of the sages in whatever branch of Judaism one adheres)

    Is it really well spelled out, James? I often think of a secular Jew who,looking to enter/return to a relationship with his God, must look at all the varying branches of Judaism in as much confusion as a non-believing gentile wanting to discover Jesus with all the varying denominations. As you pointed out, Judaism and Christianity has changed so much in the last 2,000 years.

    Then, there’s all the variety within the denominations (or the various ways of walking out the halacha in the local synagogue).

    Sort of reminds me of what we are all dealing with in Messianic Judaism.

    I’m in total agreement with you, sir, that we should continue to study, striving for a closer intimacy with God.

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