When I write a book review, I normally start at the beginning of the book and move through to the end. I don’t know why. I guess I’m just kind of linear that way. But J.K. McKee’s book One Law for All: From the Mosaic Texts to the Work of the Holy Spirit was organized in such a way that I decided to start in the middle and work my way out from there.
A little background. McKee in the center of his work, is comparing what has been called “Divine Invitation” (which is an unfortunate label for reasons I’ll address later in this review) with “Covenant Obligation”. These are difficult issues to discuss with a general audience since they require a great deal of specialized knowledge and tend to apply to only very small subgroups within both Christianity and Judaism, specifically movements called Hebrew Roots and Messianic Judaism.
The question, within those particular contexts, is whether non-Jewish believers in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, are allowed to observe some, most, or even all of the commandments in the Five Books of Moses, also known as the Pentateuch in Christianity and the Torah in Judaism, or if Christians are actually under a covenant obligation to observe all of these commandments exactly or at least more or less like religious Jewish people?
I should say that even addressing what this sort of observance looks like, regardless of it being voluntary or mandatory, is highly variable. How the mitzvot (commandments) are to be observed aren’t always agreed upon even between different branches of Judaism. And particularly in Hebrew Roots, there’s a tendency to believe one can disregard any Jewish authority or opinion regarding how one is to perform a mitzvah and choose your own method based on whatever reason you want as long as you deem it “Biblical.”
In the introduction to the book (p. x), McKee states:
It can be definitely said that a ministry like Outreach Israel and TNN Online adheres to a One Law position, after a fashion.
Here’s where things start to get interesting. Unless otherwise stated, all emphasis in a quote from the “One Law” book belong to McKee.
A question that I have been asked by more than a few people is which option they are to choose: Is the Torah a Divine Invitation to non-Jewish Believers, or is it a Covenant Obligation upon non-Jewish believers? Is the Torah mandatory for Jews to follow, and an option for non-Jews to follow? Or is the Torah something mandatory for all of God’s people to follow?
-McKee, p. 83
First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) Founder and President Boaz Michael coined the phrase “Divine Invitation” some years ago in explaining how FFOZ had shifted its theological stance from supporting a single standard of observance for both Jewish and Gentile Messianic believers to a viewpoint that advocated Jewish distinctiveness and the understanding that certain of the mitzvot are exclusively reserved for the Jewish people. He never intended it to become a theology all its own but unfortunately, the label stuck. The idea is better expressed as Gentiles in Messiah indeed being obligated, but to a certain subset of the Torah commandments (see Toby Janicki’s article “The Gentile Believer’s Obligation to the Torah of Moses” in the Winter 2012 issue of Messiah Journal for a detailed discussion on this matter) as opposed to a single, uniform application of the mitzvot for all human beings.
McKee’s commentary seems to assume that a Gentile is obligated to exactly zero Torah commandments or all of them, with no variability based on covenant role, identity, nationality, gender, geolocation, and so on.
McKee opposes the position of “divine invitation” which I expected, stating that it is bound to be confusing to non-Jewish Messianics relative to which parts of the invitation to accept, which parts to turn down, and just how one accepts the various invitations (do Gentiles have to perform an accepted mitzvah in exactly the same way as a Jewish person?). At one point in his criticism of this “theology,” he seems to attack Jewish Torah observance as well, replacing it with a more “Christian” concept of “Jewish identity”:
More importantly, though, if there is anything seriously being overlooked about the unique distinctiveness of Jewish people, it is that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22), with Yeshua the Messiah Himself being the quintessential Jew. This is far more significant than Torah-keeping being what apparently makes the Jewish people distinct.
Just a few paragraphs later however, he surprises me by saying something I more or less agree with.
For Messianic Believers today, our family has always emphasized the need to love people into this — rather than issue condemning and mean-spirited words. Much of the “pagan” rhetoric that one sees in fringe parts of the Messianic world has significantly impeded progress for the Kingdom of God, and is a major blight that is not spoken against enough. Yet at the same time, if Divine Invitation presents Shabbat, the appointed times, or kosher eating as entirely optional, what is keeping someone from turning it down?
The only parts I didn’t agree with were McKee’s identifying the “pagan rhetoric” against the Christian Church as originating in the “Messianic world”. I organize Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots (One Law is a subset group within larger Hebrew Roots) as two separate movements with only a superficial overlap, usually at the level of the non-Jewish believer who is attracted to Judaism to some degree. I don’t typically hear Messianic Jews or Gentiles denigrate Christianity and find the “pagan rhetoric” confined to certain circles within Hebrew Roots (although, to be fair, as McKee said, they are “fringe parts” of the movement or even “fringe individuals”).
The other part I question is if something is considered an option, then there’s nothing preventing a person from saying, “No, I don’t feel led to do that.” That’s what optional means. You don’t have to. McKee’s commentary about Christians and Torah observance becomes confusing and even mysterious just a few pages later.
But before that, in addressing Covenant Obligation, McKee says:
If Believers are “obligated” to “keep Torah,” then this can quite easily lead to a few people thinking that their Torah-keeping will earn them their salvation, and can manifest itself in rather rigid and legalistic assemblies forming.
Born again Believers are not required to keep God’s Torah as though it were some kind of debt or obligation (cf. Galatians 5:3); on the contrary, we are told, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8).
On the one hand, I was pleasantly surprised to see a supposed One Law proponent recognize some difficult truths about the movement, but on the other hand, he had to denigrate all Torah observance, even for Jewish believers, by saying loving one’s neighbor fulfills (abrogates, demolishes, deletes) the law. McKee seems to miss the nuances Paul is injecting into Romans 13 and how they connect back to what Jesus calls “the Two Greatest Commandments” (Matt. 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28 citing Deut. 6:4-5 and Lev. 19:18).
But that can’t possibly be what McKee’s saying because of the major theme of the book, which is to advocate for Torah observance for Gentiles. I find this author to be a sometimes confusing blend of One Law and Wesleyan perspectives (McKee states that he had a Wesleyan upbringing to which he apparently still adheres) and as I was reading through the rest of this section, I started to think of him as a “One Law Wesleyan.”
McKee continued to defend the Church and to criticize One Law adherents for throwing Christianity under the bus, so to speak:
I have constantly asked various individuals who are “One Law” why they criticize elements of today’s Church who follow well over ninety-percent of the Torah that can be followed today, and why they treat our Christian brothers and sisters as some kind of perpetual “enemy.”
This is one of McKee’s confusing messages. He defends the Church as it is and states they are already observing most of the mitzvot, and yet he is pushing (apparently) for greater “jewishly” Torah observance by (One Law) Christians.
Our ministry has never advocated that today’s evangelical Christianity is some kind of illegitimate impostor religion, more in touch with accomplishing the objectives of the Adversary than in achieving the mission of God. We have advocated that the Church has flaws to be certain, but that it is the responsibility of Messianic Believers to build on a positive legacy of faithful Christian men and women who have preceded us in the faith…
The last paragraph I quoted was startling to me because it reminded me of what Boaz Michael wrote in his book Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile:
The church is good but the church needs to change.
I’ve written a number of different commentaries on his book including this one, and acknowledge that what Boaz produced challenged me personally to set aside my discomfort about going back to church and to “take the plunge,” which was nearly two years ago. Boaz was instrumental in getting me to see what is good in the Church, which is the same message McKee is delivering.
I applaud McKee for maintaining a high view of Christianity and the faithful men and women in the Church, which he acknowledges is practically unknown within One Law communities, but if he does not advocate for One Law anymore than “divine invitation,” and he apparently does not identify with mainstream Christian assembly (although he protects and defends Christians), what else is there that could be considered “One Law”?
As it turns out, McKee’s third viable option is:
Obeying the Lord is neither an optional invitation nor a mandated obligation, it is a supernatural compulsion enacted by the perfecting activity of the Holy Spirit on the human soul.
I’m disappointed. I expected a much stronger approach to his application of One Law. But this is like just redressing the One Law argument in spiritual rather than covenantal language. The Holy Spirit (supposedly) compels the individual to desire to observe the 613 commandments or something like them, give or take your opinion on the halachah established by the various Rabbinic sages in the numerous streams of Judaism across thousands of years of history.
Actually, I know where he’s getting this:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
–Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NASB)
Unfortunately, McKee has a couple of problems. The first is that the New Covenant was made exclusively with the House of Judah and the House of Israel and does not presuppose any other nations or people groups at all (least of all he and me). Yes, there is a New Covenant application for Gentiles which I summarized here, but up to this point in the book, while McKee mentions various aspects of the New Covenant, he jumps from Jeremiah 31 straight to the Last Supper (Matt. 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-39; and John 13:1-17:26) without making the connection explicit. I know how it works (and it took me months of study to figure it out) but chances are many of McKee’s readers don’t (or they don’t understand it correctly).
The other major problem is that the New Covenant hasn’t been fully enacted yet. It’s not here. Jesus inaugurated it with his life, death, and resurrection, but until his return, we are only living in what you might consider the leading edge of the Messianic Age. What that means is until the resurrection and until Messiah returns to us here on Earth and ascends the Throne of David in Holy Jerusalem, we are still living in Old (Sinai) Covenant times!
So we don’t have the Torah supernaturally written on our hearts yet and thus, neither Jews and certainly not Gentiles have the Holy Spirit granted ability to naturally obey God and never sin, which is what the New Covenant is all about…the forgiveness of all sins and the ability to never sin again and obey God’s law (as it applies to each individual and each people group).
And yet he says:
A position of Supernatural Compulsion does advocate that a Torah obedient walk of faith is expected of all God’s people but it is to be found as an individual grows in holiness and spiritual maturity…
While “expected” and “obligated” sound really similar to me, I like that, at least, McKee is acknowledging not everyone is going to adopt the various mitzvot at the same rate or to the same degree. It’s a matter of spiritual growth and maturity. Interestingly enough, I’ve heard many stories of secular Jews who became “religious” and this is more or less how they approach the vast body of mitzvot, taking a mitzvah at a time and growing into it.
But for a Christian, there are additional roadblocks, such as a lifetime of being taught that the law is dead.
McKee said in his book that he advocates for a gentle, educational approach rather than going into a church and beating Christians over the head with a Torah scroll. In some sense, this is reminiscent of my own Tent of David experience. It’s sort of like evangelizing the church by encouraging them to consider a more Messianic perspective on the Bible, but where I desire to educate about how the New Covenant works and thus alter Christian perceptions on the primacy of national Israel and the Jewish people in the age to come, McKee is hoping to encourage more “Torah observant” behavior in normalized Christianity.
This is still refreshing because a lot of One Law people I’ve encountered in person and online hate the Church, call it “Babylon,” “pagan,” and “apostate,” and encourage Christians to abandon the Church. His attitudes about the Church are very similar to mine.
But here’s one more surprise I didn’t see coming:
Does a ministry like Outreach Israel and TNN Online think the Torah is for everyone? Yes. Does this include things like Shabbat, the appointed times, and kosher? Yes. But such an affirmative also needs to be tempered with another question: Are these aspects of God’s Torah for everyone right now in the 2010s? This is something that only God, in His plans for an individual’s or a family’s life, especially evangelical Christians, knows for sure — and I cannot fully answer.
As I am reading McKee, I think he’s saying that believing non-Jews can and should observe the mitzvot in a more or less “Jewish” manner and to the same degree as Jewish believers (and Jewish unbelievers), but that such standards cannot be imposed from the outside by human agency. Even if one worships with other One Law advocates, that community has no right to direct a person or a family to observe this or that mitzvah. Such a directive will only come from the Holy Spirit and only in the way God’s plan is designed for the individual or family and through the process of spiritual growth and maturity.
I’m a little uncomfortable saying that Christians who don’t have a One Law or even a Messianic Gentile perspective are spiritually immature. I happen to know some people at the church I attend who are models of spiritual maturity and who I admire greatly. Just associating with such people is an honor. From a Jewish perspective, they could be referred to as tzaddikim (“righteous ones”). A Christian would say “saints”.
In the first century C.E. before the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the Jewish people from Israel, Paul’s Gentile disciples in Syrian Antioch and the various communities he established in the diaspora probably behaved in a distinctively Jewish manner, much more so than Christians would consider “normal” today, even acknowledging the “Jewish roots of the faith.” In those days there was no such thing as “the Church” or “Christianity,” there was only the Jewish movement of “the Way,” the “Ekklesia of Messiah” which included Jewish and Gentile members.
I suspect that after the resurrection and in the reign of King Messiah, we will have something similar, not a Church and then a Judaism but rather an Ekklesia with two distinct populations: Israel or the Jewish people, and the people of the nations who are called by His Name. This isn’t exactly what McKee is advocating because he believes Jesus-worshiping Jews and Gentiles are all citizens of Israel, but it’s kind of similar.
What McKee may be shooting all around but not quite hitting is the fact that the New Covenant age has yet to arrive (although we’re currently experiencing a foretaste of the promises yet to come) and that the Torah will only be written on our hearts in the future. While some non-Jews will acquire an apprehension of the centrality of the Jewish people in God’s redemptive plan prior to that time, many others, and probably most Christians, won’t.
I think the reason McKee can’t answer the question about when or how Gentile Christians will be drawn to naturally obey God is because it’s not going to happen until after we are resurrected and perfected in Messiah by the power of the Holy Spirit and in accordance to God’s New Covenant promises.
With the center of McKee’s book laid as a foundation, I’ll use it to build my review of the first and last parts of his text in part 2 of my “meditation” on One Law for All.
Addendum: My partner in this endeavor, Pete Rambo, just published Part 1 of his own review of McKee’s book.
37 thoughts on “Book Review of J.K McKee’s “One Law for All,” Part 1”
Read his book ‘Are non Jewish believers part of Israel’. I like his perspective in the book.
Pete reviewed that book on his own blog and also sent me a copy. I’ll probably review “Are Non-Jewish believers” at some point, but I’ve got a few books ahead of it in my queue (my wife recommended Telushin’s book on the Rebbe).
Thanks for this James.
“Born again Believers are not required to keep God’s Torah as though it were some kind of debt or obligation (cf. Galatians 5:3); on the contrary, we are told, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). -p 87.”
Wow. He uses the commandment to “love one another” to ‘prove’ “born again believers” are not obligated to keep the commandments?
Or is he saying Rom 13:8 is Paul’s ‘disconnected from the Torah directive’ to all believers (both Jews and non-Jews?) If so, where does Paul get this idea, and this authority? My head is spinning on this one…
“As it turns out, McKee’s third viable option is:
Obeying the Lord is neither an optional invitation nor a mandated obligation, it is a supernatural compulsion enacted by the perfecting activity of the Holy Spirit on the human soul.”
That’s a big ol’ can of worms. 🙂
I can see his point from a gentile Christian perspective (more on that in a moment) but obeying the Lord is nothing if not a “mandated obligation” for Jews. I can’t tell if he makes this distinction, as I haven’t read the book.
Many years ago, before I understood even one thing about Shabbat, I was convicted (Christian lingo for a strong sense of being persuaded by the Holy Spirit) to stop working on Saturdays. It had zero to do with the Torah because I still called it “the Old Testament” and knew the gravest sin of all was to fall into “legalism” and try to “earn my salvation”. In other words, I was fully emerged in Christian culture and understanding and the only thing “religious” about it was that God wouldn’t leave me alone until I acquiesced; against my natural instincts and other’s incredulity (Saturdays are mandatory in my business) I obeyed.
Of course, after my education and experiences caught up to the action, I saw this in a different light. However, I have Jews in my house and I was the “spiritual force” in my home, so I don’t know if this would have happened to me otherwise.
Meanwhile, I’m interested in how Pete will handle McKees’ perspectives on the “pagan rhetoric”, the Church being “apostate” and such.
“…but I’ve got a few books ahead of it in my queue (my wife recommended Telushin’s book on the Rebbe).”
Wondering if you’ve read Heilman’s “The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson” ?
Nice review James. I was pleased to see you weren’t using the book as a platform to promote the BE/Divine Invitation side, since its obvious a considerable amount of material you pull from for your blog is from FFOZ [which is a BE/Divine Invitation Advocate] so to me your like a FFOZ sub blog. But it was nice to see you try to remain balance despite your allegiances [To the readers Im not bashing FFOZ so whoever tries to “come at me” don’t waste your time].
Con’t……. the BE/Divine Invitation side of Messianic Judaism should have been much more clear on their interpretation of the text when they announced that “new paradigm”.
I say that because there are gentiles who want to apply Torah in their life and when they attempt to do so get a message from those groups saying “The Jews are obligated to Torah but you gentiles don’t have to keep it/aren’t obligated”, which opens the question of “Then what are they obligated to?” and the those groups remain silent. Say a Gentile wants to keep kosher to draw closer to G-d, BE says that nice but you don’t have to and shouldn’t do it the way Jews do [umm okay so how] again silence… A Gentile wants to keep Shabbat or Festivals [they don’t want to wait for Messiah to arrive to begin doing that] BE group says “You don’t have to do that but if you do, don’t do it like the jewish people”, which would open up the question of “Who do gentiles do shabbat like/festivals like then?” BE [crickets are chirping].
I say the above to say that NO BE group gives a definitive guide on what “don’t do it like the Jews looks like” only recently to my relief that the organization that kicked this whole BE/Divine Invitation thing off recently released a Sabbath Siddur, showing a clear example of what “that distinction” they’ve been advocating about, looks like.
The prayers for gentiles in that siddur do a great job of unifying both Jew and Gentile on Shabbat with recognition of the G-d of Israel and Yeshua.
Besides that very good example of distinction these BE/Divine Invitation groups do nothing else to show “distinction” amongst the body of Messiah. They bark it but no bite. [And if everyone is supposed to buy a book or video or audio to know this then, thats a whole other topic lol]
Is there another example besides the above that you’ve seen these BE/Divine Invitation groups provide a guide for this distinction that want everyone to adhere to?
Now One Law groups at times come off as hostile to ANYTHING Jewish, not seeing or realizing that some of the things they do (building a Succah for example) came from the Jewish people they want so badly to dis-associate with. Not to mention as McKee said, going around saying EVERYTHING in christianity is pagan. And again coming off hostile.
Not to mention sometimes lying saying well “I’m not born jewish but I’m a spiritual jew so thats why I wear Tizitziyot” and then going off on this whole “proper name/sacred name” nonsense and presenting it in such a way that if you say a biblical name wrong your calling on another god.
Where’s the tenants of grace, love, mercy, patients within these movements? not to mention where is the scholarship without the agenda laden BE or One Law extremism?
Mean while Jewish and probably some christian groups outside the microcosm of Messianic Judaism look at the movement and say “look at these wannabe’s” or “look at these gentiles saying there ‘spiritual jews’ ” smh.
I will add that if The Sabbath Table siddur by FFOZ is what the overall movement means by distinction then by all means thats something to look forward to, but all this “not obligated talk” etc is immature for the movement. And if not careful will cause division.
**** P.S. I failed to mention how when people refer to keeping commandments there are only so many that are applicable today in the land of Israel and only so many applicable out side the land, I’m writing under the assumption people know this “basic” knowledge already.
The Holy Spirit has indeed, at least for me, invited/suggested that I begin to keep Shabbat, the feasts and Kashrut. It wasn’t all suggested to me at one time…it was more as if the Ruach said, “Why not keep Passover this year?” And then the next year, “You might consider keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and then “Have you thought about keeping Shabbat?” “What about Kashrut?”
In my case, I simply read the Scriptures, read about how Jews and Messianic Jews keep these commandments, and performed the simplest of observance. But as I repeat the observances, I find I adapt more of the Jewish details found within the Scriptures into my observance, while yet refraining from the rules and regulations adopted by the Rabbinical Jews. I read about them, but at most they temper my Scriptural basis of observance a small amount.
I neither feel impelled to be Torah Observant, nor to do so in a Jewish manner…but learning and keeping the Torah, adding it on bit by bit has seemed to me to be a demonstration of love to Abba…no more, no less.
In this, I think I am no different that gentile Believers in the 1st century, except that they lived more closely to the Jews, and probably imitated their ways of doing things, particularly since the Scriptures were not disseminated widely at that point.
Questor Said I neither feel impelled to be Torah Observant, nor to do so in a Jewish manner…but learning and keeping the Torah, adding it on bit by bit has seemed to me to be a demonstration of love to Abba…no more, no less.
This is what Acts 15:21 is saying …. Adding on bit by bit for Gentiles (a process of patients) some Gentiles take more chunks then others but ultimately it’s a bit by bit process.
Bruce, you keep malforming the closing bold and italics tags for your HTML. I fixed this one. Here’s a wee tutorial: http://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_b.asp 😉
Lol I know and thanks for the link again, I will bookmark it now.
And thanks for correcting “my boldness” lol
Ruth said: “Meanwhile, I’m interested in how Pete will handle McKees’ perspectives on the “pagan rhetoric”, the Church being “apostate” and such. “
I posted a link to Part 1 of Pete’s review as an addendum at the end of the blog post. He was far more gentle and didn’t mention “pagan rhetoric.”
@Bruce: I’ve been accused of being an FFOZ “shill” before. The fact is, I like their general philosophy and approach and tend to rely on their material. That said, I’m not a “mouthpiece” and in those area where I don’t agree, I say so.
You said, “I will add that if The Sabbath Table siddur by FFOZ is what the overall movement means by distinction then by all means thats something to look forward to, but all this “not obligated talk” etc is immature for the movement. And if not careful will cause division.”
And yet even McKee says he doesn’t believe Gentile believers are obligated to perform the mitzvot (I mention this in my review). He believes we are supernatually driven to observe the mitzvot, independent of any human agency. This begs the question of why then do we not see a vast revolution in the church of “Torah observance.” Of course elsewhere in his book, McKee says that the church already keeps over ninety percent of the Torah that can be observed today. If that’s true, that’s pretty good…and Christians don’t even seem to notice. 😉
The bottom line in terms of Gentile Torah observance by Christians is that it’s dependent upon God’s plan for each individual as McKee puts it, so I can only conclude that if Torah observance is really for all, God’s timetable and planning are significantly different than most One Law advocates desire.
@Questor: The issue, at least for me, isn’t whether a non-Jew should observe some form of Sabbath or the moadim in some fashion. Plenty of churches hold some sort of Passover seder and I build a sukkah in my backyard every year (of course, my wife and kids are Jewish). The issue is the reasoning or the motivation behind it. Most One Law practitioners I’ve spoken with believe it’s a covenant obligation to be observant as a Gentiles, no ifs, ands, or buts. McKee, on the other hand, while he doesn’t say it’s optional, does say that the decision, timing, and degree are up to God, which accounts for the wide variability in “observance”, with the vast majority of Christianity not seeming to be overtly performing the mitzvot (as McKee says, we really do, we just don’t call it “Torah”…we call it visiting the sick and feeding the hungry).
So in that sense, every time you perform an act of kindness toward another human being, you are, in effect, performing a mitzvah, although from a Jewish perspective, Gentiles can’t really be merited with performing mitzvot as Jews can. That said, I still think God wants us to do good things for other people and to love Him with all of our resources.
@Bruce again: No worries.
I see your point and Mckee’s, but how can Mckee put a “percentage” on if someone is keeping G-ds commandments? And then what 10% are christians missing? McKee can’t seriously think he has narrowed down observances to actual percentages, NO individual can claim such except for G-d Himself.
Also HaShem’s Spirit moves in those who accept His son and those who don’t. The fact that a secular Jew wants to stop being secular and return or join a Conservative, Reform, or Orthodox synagogue and begin living a life for G-d, in my eyes is an act of HaShem’s Spirit.
No different then a secular non-jew joining some christian branch wanting to live a life according to the NT. The Spirit of HaShem is involved in both actions of the individual.
He’ll iron out the details (truth) as long as that individual continues to follow that spark of desire for understanding the G-d of Israel.
Just like Troy Mitchell’s song the Oil Remains, some have oil but need a spark to get the flame going HaShem provides that spark through any vessel or situation He chooses.
So a gentile or jew wanting to conform their life to His (G-d) standard is ultimately an act of HaShem! Bless it be the Holy One.
Bruce, this is my FAVORITE part of what you wrote, and I LOVE it! This very kind of JUNK turned me away from deeper Messianic/Hebraic Roots studies a decade ago. I could’ve been a whole further along in my studies and understanding had it not been this, and I have a VERY strong distaste for it. In fact, I just taught my study class last Shabbat about the sacred name of God and the Messiah so they would AVOID detrimental pitfalls like this.
James, I don’t know why the excerpt I posted from Bruce’s post didn’t show up… Any tips?
McKee’s commentary seems to assume that a Gentile is obligated to exactly zero Torah commandments or all of them, with no variability based on covenant role, identity, nationality, gender, geolocation, and so on.
James, I agree with McKee on this point, this is how covenants work. The only way a gentile has any obligation to the Law of Moses, starting with the first being the highest obligation: a convert (covenant obligation), a temporary resident within the land of Israel (abiding by the rules of the Land), and a traveler passing through Israel (also abiding by the rules of the land). Unless one of those three are met, there is absolutely not obligation for a gentile to keep the Law of Moses.
I would like to see your argument to the contrary… I have always argued this point, and have yet to see anyone satisfy it from your perspective. You say gentiles are obligated to the Law of Moses, yet you never show how it is possible. Just saying it, does not make it true, I would love to see the evidence. 😀
@Zion — I’m pretty sure James has never argued in favor of any legal covenantal obligation for non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua to Torah obedience, except for the four principles summarized in Acts 15 and their implications. However, even granting only a very limited set of obligatory requirements for those who are not members of any of the covenants, there is a valid question to consider about whether there is a moral obligation or an affinity obligation for those who love HaShem and His anointed king to align themselves with a greater set of principles derived from His Torah instruction to His chosen covenantally-bound Jewish people. These non-Jews do not need a covenant to do that; and I don’t think they need an impetus as strong as what McKee’s purported “supernatural compulsion” sounds like; but I do think that love of G-d and His king and His teachings and His chosen people is a perfectly sufficient motivation.
@Bruce — You complained of crickets chirping to describe metaphorically the silence from MJs with regard to what gentiles disciples should do after having stated only a sketchy outline of what they should NOT do. To which I must reply: hey, cut us some slack — we’re still trying to clean up our own house (you remember, the house of Israel and Judah?) and eliminate some of the mess left behind by previous gentile usurpers. We have barely managed to define what WE ought to do — and believe me there are still major arguments going on about this — and we’re still trying to convince many of our own to live and worship like Jews and not like gentiles (didn’t Rav Shaul’s complaint about Shimon Kefa at Antioch involve similar issues?). So pardon us if we haven’t quite had sufficient time and energy to re-invent an appropriate set of gentile practices as well. You might think about it a little yourselves after starting from the same Acts 15 basis as we Jews must do. This is, I believe, the nature of what James has been trying to do and what FFOZ has been trying to do, and for which the messianicgentiles.com website also is trying to provide resources.
As far as my perspectives on the New Covenant and how it affects the status of Gentile believers relative to God, either click through my Jesus Covenant series or go through my reviews of Lancaster’s “What About the New Covenant” lectures. What I believe is pretty much in there. There’s too much information to compress into a single blog comment.
@James, you asked why we don’t see a vast revolution in the church of Torah observance? I believe we are seeing the beginnings.
Like Ruth (SWJ) and Questor, I was pulled toward first keeping the Passover, then refraining from errands on Sabbath, then to keeping the festivals, then to “cleaning up” my eating habits.
It all started over 20 years ago in an Episcopal church where I was Sunday School Director and acting Verger in charge of the Acolytes (altar ‘kids’). Jews for Jesus had come in the previous year and something was stirred in me – a longing to know more and do more.
Well, hurricane Andrew blew through Homestead, leaving me with a very small RV kitchen, but I cooked for about 20 kids. I got some grief from the parents who didn’t understand why I would want to do a “Jewish thing”. But I explained to them that every Sunday we do a “Jewish thing” (though I worded it much nicer!)
Fast forward 15 years to my second attempt to celebrate Passover, this time with 24 friends and family. It was a success and is now an annual event many of us look forward to.
But in the last 8 years, the celebration has grown to more than one meal with 60 friends and family. As I’ve learned more about Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, more has been incorporated into my life.
As happened with the Sabbath – t started with lighting candles and has blossomed into a joyous occasion. As Bruce, I am thrilled with FFOZ’s ‘The Sabbath Table’.
All this was not prompted by anything I was learning from someone. It was all based on reading the Tanakh. After I was on this road, I prayed for a way to learn more and found FFOZ’s Hayesod and Torah Club and several sites from Judaism – Orthodox and not. As I learned, I passed it onto others. And I’ve seen a steady trickle of people who are not only interested in learning about the roots of our faith, but living it out!
I truly believe we are going to see this happening more and more. The steady trickle will turn into a stream. So, as ProclaimLiberty pointed out, we need our Jewish brothers to figure this out because there are a bunch of us looking to them and the sages for how to walk this out without dishonoring God or His Chosen People.
Ro, I guess I’d have to understand just how widespread such experiences are relative to all Christian churches all over the world. Even given FFOZ’s efforts, what percentage of all Christians everywhere are even aware of this perspective let alone incorporating it in their daily lives?
@Linda thanks for the kind words.
@PL I understand what your saying and I think I’am giving those “vocal leaders” in the MJ Movement some slack [I’m just one person and I highly doubt Organizations or Groups are losing sleep over my opinion/thoughts] lol.
The Soup acronym organizations influencers [UMJC MMAJ IIAJ Yada Yada Yada and those sub groups that speak for certain groups] Should have been more tactful and gracious to how to deal with the gentiles who started “over-whelming” them, as they began to find themselves. And are still “finding themselves I think some 40-50yrs later as you mentioned.
I mentioned how FFOZ’s Sabbath Siddur is a great start for the distinction era to began within the MJ movement but not even FFOZ knows how to approach this. They give great resources on showing Yeshua in a proper way in things like His sayings, or Festivals etc…but as I mentioned Groups like them should be more careful with there language in trying to not offend gentiles who are genuinely draw to Torah in a respectful way to the Jewish people [Some people actually hang on every word of groups like FFOZ, G-d has given those groups the ears of many people] so with much power much care much care should be taken [meaning if you don’t have it figured out yet say so and then be quiet until you do]. But saying “gentile your not obliged to the commandments, but if you do them don’t do it jewishly” and then they can’t give “alternatives” It can comes off as deception or sneaky.
Even we see it here how when reviews of the Tent of David book came out people were saying “there telling us to go back to the church, we don’t want you in a jewish synagogue but will be glad if you give us your money though, please gentile don’t stop funding us” and then people are saying “no no that’s not whats being said, there saying SOME who feel draw should go back and spread the message of the Jewishness of Yeshua to the church” then “we have One Law-ians reviewing the book and blogging and the BE/Divine Invitation-ians reviewing and obviously coming to a different conclusion then the counter group.
And the “argument” is over gentiles who already have a base in the bible but not from a jewish perspective. Not Pagans who are leaving blood sacrifices and strangled animal meals and multiple wives or husband or girlfriends or boyfriends in one night. We are talking about gentiles who already somewhat understand Yeshua and love the Man whether or not they fully understand Him.
I speak with and have a few friends who are Jews [non disciples of Yeshua] and they see stuff like this and say “immature” “movement won’t be around long” “they say there “jews” but act like christians” I even had one ask me “If jew and gentile are ONE in Messiah why are they [Messianic Jews] trying to keep gentiles at bay or distance themselves from letting gentiles embrace the richness of jewish observance?”
Discipleship is Imitation, and if Yeshua is a Torah observant Jew why can’t a gentile want to imitate His Rabbi?
Would you disagree or agree PL with anything I mentioned? I love your input and years of wisdom on situations btw.
Now if these alphabet soup acronym groups influencers and leaders are doing the things they do or making stances the way they are because of “political” reasons that a a guy like myself is oblivious to then thats an entirely different matter.
The movement needs Un-biased Scholarship that adheres to the Jewishness of the text (Not subtle BE or One law agendas). Ego’s need to go cause the only ego that matters is G-d’s.
** Note: I’m not talking about gentiles who disrespect and lie claiming to be jews or writing there own rules over jewish practice and traditions again I’m not referring to those gentiles.
I’m pretty sure James has never argued in favor of any legal covenantal obligation for non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua to Torah obedience.
On multiple occasions, James has said that gentiles are required to obey the Torah, he generally will say, the question is not whether gentiles are required to keep the Torah, its what requirements they are required to keep, specifically. But without showing how gentiles are required, there is no evidence for these claims.
These non-Jews do not need a covenant to do that; and I don’t think they need an impetus as strong as what McKee’s purported “supernatural compulsion” sounds like; but I do think that love of G-d and His king and His teachings and His chosen people is a perfectly sufficient motivation.
The issue though, is not whether a gentile is compelled out of his own motivation to keep some commandments that mean nothing one way or the other. Its about whether one is required or not… and I agree with you concerning the basic motivation of love for God…
@PL I just went to the messianicgentiles.com website. And wow!
Have you noticed the homepage of what looks like a man in a kippah wearing a lightning shirt posing as a “superman”, whats the point of that?
The site seems very “in progress” and vague with anything I don’t have to pay for to get. Overall Appears to be another online store for the various BE groups to sell there products, and bash there counterparts (HR-OL-TH).
This website is pretty much the resource for the “practice” section, was that because of some behind the scenes agreement or are there really no other websites on the world wide web that don’t speak about MJ?.
The definitions section is hilarious.
This almost looks like the cycle repeating itself.
BE/Divine Invitation group = Pharisees
Hebrew Roots/One Law/Two House group = Sadducees
??? = Essenes
very interesting “messianic-gentile” website.
Obligations for G-d fearing Gentiles:
Noachide Laws/ the Jerusalem Council (Acts.15)
The Talmud reports the following:
“The children of Noah were commanded with seven commandments: [to establish] laws, and [to prohibit] cursing G-d, idolatry, illicit sexuality, bloodshed, robbery, and eating flesh from a living animal (Sanhedrin 56a; cf. Tosefta Avodah Zarah 8:4 and Genesis Rabbah 34:8).”
1) Don’t worship other gods (Know and Worship only the Creator – i.e., the G-d of Israel)
2) Do not murder (Value life)
3) Don’t steal (Value property)
4) Don’t blaspheme (Honor the Creator/HaShem)
5) Don’t do sexual offences/sexual immorality.
6) Don’t eat meat taken from a living animal.
7) Make courts of Justice to enforce the above commandments. (Be just).
The Seven Noahide Laws actually encompass numerous details and applications within hundreds of laws, each with specific applications. Besides this, every human being should be thoroughly knowledgeable and observant in the ways of Derekh Eretz (the way of the world/land), basically good manners.
So thats it then. Gentiles are to do Noachide? That’s what Act 15:21 is really saying?
All of humanity is responsible to respond to the Noahide covenant but when we became disciples of the Master, the bar was raised for us, so to speak. The Acts 15 commandments seems simple but they “unpackage” into a larger list of directives that has some overlap with many of the Torah mitzvot. Chances are when the Jerusalem letter was sent out, it was accompanied by people who had oral instructions. In my opinion, those instructions were eventually recorded in the Didache and if you read that document, you’ll see the responsibility assigned to the original Gentile disciples was quite a bit more involved. Read this to get an idea of what I’m talking about: https://mymorningmeditations.com/2013/09/05/acts-15-and-the-didache-a-brief-exploration/
In your link you say your “waiting” to read it, who are you waiting on?
The didache is available for Free online or you could buy it, why wait?
It’s an older article. I’ve since read and commented on the Didache. If you use my blog’s Search box and search for the word “didache” (without the quote), it will return a list of related blog posts.
James – I agree with you that the percentages of Christians who seek to incorporate Torah into their daily life is low. But that’s my point. I believe it will grow with time.
Just to take my personal experience: There was 1 in a sea of 1800 people. In three years, there are 8 others seeking to live a life incorporating Torah (out of 15 who studied). Of those, one had a job transfer, so is in another church (with no MJ congregation around) and another recently married a new pastor, who is also interested in furthering his education in this area and incorporating it into his life. (Our group gave them a set up for Sabbath worship, including FFOZ’s book and cd.)
It doesn’t seem like a lot, but one in one church, led to 9 in three churches. I wonder what Adonai will do in the next three years? 🙂
Oh I have no doubt that it’s growing daily, Ro. I think there will be a group of non-Jews who will be prepared by Hashem to be ready when the Messiah returns in clouds of glory. We will be expecting a Jewish King who will establish his throne in Jerusalem, rebuild the Temple, reinstitute the sacrifices, return the Jewish exiles to their nation, and who will raised Israel above all the other nations of the world and make Israel the head.
No that is not all Acts 15 says or implies. As James said ‘all humanity’ must keep the Noachide Laws (unless your Jewish of course 🙂 ), but for Gentile believers in Messiah the bar has been raised a bit. Our observance should go beyond the letter of the Noachide code, something like the observance seen in the Didache.
Also, many are unaware and ignorant of how the Noachide laws actually work, thinking that it is just 7 commandments that one must follow… it actually encompasses numerous other laws to where the rabbonim have different counts to the total number.
The didache and noahide fail because, neither encourage gentile to observe Shabbat, when the scripture says Gentiles will come to the Lord who observe Shabbat (Isaiah 56) Isaiah isn’t referring to Noahide since the talmud in its written form wasn’t in existence in. Not to Mention Isaiah pulls all His material from the Torah & visions from G-d.
if Messianic Judaism and its leaders try to group “Messianic Gentiles” with Noahide or didache observance, so to be in good graces with Orthodox Judaism [to please them] and the alike then they’ll become accused at trying to appease Men instead of HaShem.
And Yes I’m aware that the Rabbinic system came up with Noahide and that these Rabbis throughout the generations are still undecided about the full practice of it.. So if those guys are still undecided, what makes you think the people in Messianic Judaism are going to have the valid insight into a doctrine foreign to the tanach and apostolic writings? lol.
Some say the 7 Noahide can be subdivide into 30-60+ actual commandments… but then those Rabbis and the Messianic Jewish/Gentile followers who agree with this, open themselves up to a dual covenant theology but I’m sure if they move forward with actually suggesting this they’ll sell it to the sheep in such a way, they’ll swallow it up and convince them its “biblically based” just like “christmas” “easter” “thanksgiving” “halloween” etc… All btw leaving out the biblically based Sabbath for those groups which Isaiah said Gentiles would be keeping it prior to coming to see the Lord.
The BE/Divine Invitation groups/supporters better charter carefully with this one and better get seriously pumped and convinced to sell this theology to the masses. Not even those One Law guys would propose such a thing from the sounds of it.
Very interesting that such thing would be consider for followers of Messiah Yeshua. 🙂
It’s difficult to see the Didache as a “fail” Bruce, since it’s generally associated with the instructions created by the Apostles or their direct disciples, as a method of training Gentile initiates to the Messianic faith of the Way in ancient times. My personal opinion is that the Didache document is a written form of an earlier oral tradition that may have even accompanied the famous “Jerusalem Letter” (Acts 15) in order to expand the Gentiles’ understanding of the “four essentials” contained therein. As far as Shabbat observance not being included in the Didache, such observance may have been assumed given that the Gentiles would be trained by Jewish mentors within Jewish synagogue space, or it was not a hard and fast requirement of initiates who were in the process of being trained to later become disciples after the last step, which would be immersion into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
****Please Note I don’t consider those holiday I mentioned as Pagan or anything negative, there just traditions that people choose or choose not to observe, and there nothing wrong those traditions because they have nothing to do with the bible.
I was only saying how people trying to convince others sometimes like to use the bible as a crutch to justify holidays.
Its alluded to in the scriptures that Yeshua did Chanukah so I love Chanukah and the History behind it, so traditions aren’t bad or pagan.
The didache is clearly an abridged version of the Torah in SOME aspects. Everything there telling these gentiles goes back to the Torah not Noahide not Acts 15.
Its the Gentiles “Torah for Dummies” or “Torah Simplified” -Gentile v1 guide. And it only decides to cover the Moral aspects or better yet Heart aspects of what The Torah is trying to convey. Also with some “discernment” principles sprinkled in there.
The gentiles were to eventually every week embrace more and more torah as they read it. and what parts of the torah apply to them.
All this read in the greek or hebrew language btw not the biased translations in existence found from english authors. but grace abounds and lexicons to the septuagint get created and lexicons for greek get created to curb the “I don’t know” meter.
There are definitely some assumptions included in that statement, but then again, we’re all making “educated guesses” about the meaning of the Didache. I agree it doesn’t point back to the Noahide laws and disagree that it doesn’t point to Acts 15.
I see the Didache as an instruction manual to help new Gentile initiates who are proceeding through their training to become full-fledged disciples. I know it’s disappointing that it doesn’t say “obey all the rules the Jews obey,” but that’s one thing that tells me that expectations for Gentile disciples of the Master were not identical to expectations for the Jews.
I don’t see, especially in light of the Didache, any expectation to take more and more Torah observance on board until they were identical in fulfilling the mitzvot to their Jewish counterparts. There’s only one quote in the Didache that says if a Gentile can perform all of the mitzvot they would be perfect, and if not, they should do what they can and that is acceptable. It’s not a commandment to eventually “master” Torah observance and it does provide some “wiggle room” as far as how Gentiles chose to behave “jewishly”.
like I said the BE/Divine groups better charter carefully IF they [the leaders] decide to declare this the “Messianic Gentile” way for Messianic Judaism trying to influence it as an official way to observe in the Messianic Judaism religion.
Didache is Not Torah but points Gentiles back to it 🙂
Well, we can debate the Didache all day long and end up “agreeing to disagree” and that’s fine. I don’t see Bilateral Ecclesiology as equivalent to what Boaz Michael once called “Divine Invitation” (that term really needs to die since it isn’t particularly descriptive of FFOZ’s position nor does it communicate much in the way of productive meaning. All it does is provide some people and groups with a stick to beat FFOZ over the head with. As far as Jewish vs Gentile community in Messiah is concerned, you might want to take a look at today’s blog post since it addresses this matter, both as a consequence of my McKee reviews and in response to a comment made on another of my blog posts by Rabbi Carl Kinbar.
James said ” I know it’s disappointing that it doesn’t say “obey all the rules the Jews obey,”
You should do a blog post on what commandments Jews are to Obey and what commandments gentiles are to obey. Cause I said nothing of sort. I said it points back to Torah, and what applies to them.
No one is bashing FFOZ [don’t bite my head off] but they are BE which Divine Invitation is a nice way of saying that.
Again the issue is telling gentiles Torah is for them.
I’m sorry if I came off as “biting your head off,” Bruce. It was not my intent and I apologize if I sounded hostile.
Points back to the Torah. If that’s relevant to how Torah applies to Jews and Gentiles, I’m OK with that. As far as a blog post on exactly how that works, that’s more like a book. 😉