But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”
–Acts 5:33-39 (NASB)
James, I think…the ironic part of those words is that the plan and action of these men was indeed overthrown. The early Jewish Jesus-followers ceased to exist in a short order. Their sect was replaced by a religion quite foreign to them in deed and thought, one in total opposition to Judaism and one that worshiped a man as a deity. This is definitely not something that Gamaliel would have approved as mainstream Judaism nor would he have taken a wait and see approach, that is had he actually known that to be the case with the members of the Jesus sect standing in front of him. That’s something to consider.
from his comment on my recent blog post
That is very interesting and it’s something I never thought of before. Of course most Christians would disagree that the ancient Jewish movement of “the Way” was overthrown and thus proven to not be of God. Or maybe they would agree since it was the Jewish expression of faith in Yeshua (Jesus) that was overthrown. But the flip side of the coin is that Christians would say the rise of the (Gentile) Church was always God’s plan and that anyone who is against the Church is “found fighting against God.”
But of course as a Messianic Gentile, I’m all for the Messianic movement being a Jewish religious stream rather than a faith co-opted and significantly redesigned by and for Gentiles. Not that Gentiles don’t have a place in that Messianic Jewish stream, but we’re just not the ones sitting in the catbird seat, so to speak.
So, was the early Messianic movement overthrown by the invalid religion of Gentile Christianity? I can almost feel some Christians out there bristling at the suggestion.
Or was the “time of the Gentiles” all part of the plan?
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved… (emph. mine)
–Romans 11:25-26 (NASB)
Paul appears to link “fullness of the Gentiles” with “all Israel will be saved,” as if the former were necessary so that the latter could be fulfilled. Perhaps, in all its imperfection and even its historical cruelty to the Jewish people, the Gentile Church was somehow a requirement in God’s plan to ultimately redeem all of Israel, making her a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6) and sending the Torah to all of the earth (Isaiah 2:3).
But how are we to understand this?
The Torah is not in heaven. The voice of God is unambiguous; it is the confusion of man, of the best of us, that creates the ambiguity.
-Abraham Joshua Heschel
from “The Primacy of Literal Meaning,” p.133
Man’s Quest for God
However, a few pages later (p.142) Heschel also states:
The soul of the religious man lives in the depth of certainty…
A Jewish person such as Gene would say that the efforts of the young Messianic Jewish movement in the late-Second Temple period and thereafter was not of God since it was overthrown by the new Gentile religion Christianity. A Christian might say that the Jewish movement of “the Way” was always meant to be transformed by God from one based on Law to a better one based on Grace.
I can’t accept either explanation because I think we’re looking at the idea of being “overthrown” in rather limited terms.
The Jewish people have been exiled on numerous occasions over the course of history by the will of God, though I’m convinced not by any desire of Hashem to do harm to His people Israel. This most recent exile has been nearly two-thousand years long and it is said the exile will not end until every Jew is returned to the Land and national Israel is totally sovereign and at the head of all the other nations in the world.
According to Paul’s criteria, Israel hasn’t been saved yet. According to most modern religious Jews, Israel will not have been redeemed until Messiah comes and accomplishes it.
So was “the Way” was overthrown or is its Jewish core merely waiting for the proper time for the healing of calloused hands (Romans 11:25, see Nanos)?
Yes, I realize that I’ve probably written things here that will make both Jews and Christians unhappy with me. That was not my intent, but I don’t doubt it will be the result. I’m not writing this to be deliberately insulting but as an attempt to address Gene’s observation and how I see the consequences of historic actions in the long haul.