Arch of Titus

Saving Israel After the Fullness of the Gentiles Has Come (and Gone)

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.

-Gene Shlomovich
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.

calloused handsFrom both a Jew’s and a Christian’s point of view, that event has yet to take place.

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.

18 thoughts on “Saving Israel After the Fullness of the Gentiles Has Come (and Gone)”

  1. James,

    Keep in mind that this was the same Gamaliel who was the nasi of the Sanhedrin (or at least very influential, see Mishnah Sotah 9:15). And the Sanhedrin ordered the killings of the early Believers (see Acts 7, 26, etc). So here he’s saying “let’s not bother them” but earlier he didn’t use his substantial influence to stop the Sanhedrin from murdering them. And keep in mind that Gamaliel was Paul’s master and Paul voted for the killing of the early Believers. Would Paul have contradicted his master Gamaliel? No, it seems they were both in on the killings.

    So Gamaliel’s statements in Acts 5 seem disingenuous. Maybe he had other designs?

  2. Here’s some fun facts for anyone interested:

    “The House of the Patriarchs…Hillel the Elder, born in Babylonia, was, on his arrival in Palestine, recognised to be the most outstanding scholar of his time in the oral tradition, and was soon appointed as the Patriarch, or the President (Nasi) of the Sanhedrin. For seven successive generations the position of President of the Sanhedrin was occupied by Hillel’s descendants. His son, Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, beame the Nasi after Hillel. His son, Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel the First followed him. Rabban Gamaliel the Second, Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel the Second, Rabbi Judah the Patriarch (the compiler of the Mishnah), Rabban Gamaliel the Third and Rabbi Yehudah Nesiah, were, son after son, the successive heads of the Sanhedrin,” Halachic Sources, Jacob Newman, pg. 21

    Maimonides says:

    “Rabban Gamliel the elder received the tradition from Rabban Shimon, his father – the son of Hillel the elder. Rabban Shimon, his son, received the tradition from him. Rabban Gamliel, his son, received the tradition from him and Rabban Shimon, his son, received the tradition from him.

    Rabbi Yehudah, the son of Rabban Shimon and referred to as Rabbenu Hakadosh (“our saintly teacher”),17 received the tradition from his father, from Rabbi Elazar ben Shamu’a, and from Rabban Shimon and his colleagues.

    Rabbenu Hakadosh composed the Mishnah.”

  3. @James: The first [to present his case] seems righteous in his grievance; then his fellow arrives and he is interrogated. Proverbs 18:17

    The entire concept of the “2nd Coming” of jesus is an entirely christian (messianic too) concept. It’s lies and deceit. Examine there claim.

    The Tanach shows no evidence to such a claim.

    The Romans 11:25-26 passage quoted by paul, is one of the many examples how either paul or his editor has completely lied about the Jewish scriptures, taking them out of context. It’s very sad, deceptive, and disingenuous.

    Paul’s passages there [In Romans 11:25-26] is a twisting of Micah 4:2, Jeremiah 31:34, Isaiah 2:3, 27:9; 59:20. If you or anyone reads those Tanach passages in there entirety, you’ll see how paul writings are a slap in the face to the Torah, Prophets and Writings.

    Look at the passage in Galatians 2:17-21 (especially 21) and then read Deuteronomy 30:11-20.

    Proverbs 18:17 my friend.

  4. “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.”

    I think that between Paul’s criteria of “saved” and the biblical view of salvation and redemption (found in the Hebrew Bible) lies an uncrossable gulf, the difference in essence between Christianity and Judaism. Paul (and Christianity since Paul) speaks of eternal damnation that results from not having one’s sins forgiven for failing to believe in the claims about an exalted human being (and idea not found anywhere in the Bible) and for failure to worship that exalted man as god, while the other (the Jewish scriptures) always speaks of salvation from persecution, physical annihilation, redemption from exile and national restoration (which includes repentance from sins and full return to Torah as part of the process).

    “I can’t accept either explanation because I think we’re looking at the idea of being “overthrown” in rather limited terms.”

    We can look in very wide terms, but that would not help. How different can something become for the term “overthrown” to lose its meaning? If all “traditional” Christianity ceased to exists and only Mormonism survived, can one still speak of Christianity continuing or has it morphed into something else?

  5. @Peter: It isn’t always easy (maybe it’s never easy) to get a good read on many of the people mentioned in the Bible because, for the most part, we’re getting a summary rather than an ongoing narrative. Particularly with the Book of Acts, Luke compressed forty years into a written record you could read in an hour or so. Obviously, a lot of details are missing, so I think we’d be hard pressed to draw definite conclusions regarding Gamaliel’s motivations. And some people commenting here don’t even believe any of the Apostolic Scriptures are valid historical and theological records.

    @Gene and ברוס (it would be nice to have something in English to call you): It’s obvious our perspectives are far apart, particularly if you don’t believe in the validity of the Apostolic Scriptures as historical and theological records. One of my tasks as a “Messianic Gentile” is to read the Gospels and Epistles outside of long-standing Christian tradition and to attempt to put the Judaism back into those Jewish texts. I think we can read Paul very differently than how the Church has traditionally interpreted him.

    New Testament scholar Mark Nanos (who is Jewish and not Messianic according to his online CV) has written a great deal about Paul (some of which I’ve reviewed) and sees the Apostile in a rather different light. I’ve struggled with Paul myself in blog posts such as Questioning Paul, Should We Get Rid of Paul, and Did Paul Know Jesus Was The Second Person in the Trinity.

    Needless to say, my perspectives aren’t popular with a lot of Christians since I pretty much have to bulldoze Christianity’s traditional narrative on Paul in order to gain a more Israel-friendly understanding of him. I don’t think that Yeshua or Paul invented the Church nor do I think there will be such a thing as a Church in Messianic Days.

    We could go around and around disagreeing with each other and get exactly nowhere, so I’m not going to enter into a long, drawn-out dialog in some sort of attempt to change your minds. I know I can’t do that, not does it seem likely that you will be able to convince me to abandon my faith.

    You are free to present your arguments here as long as everybody talks (writes) respectfully, but I just want you to know that I’m not going to enter a debate that no one can “win”.

  6. “The Torah is not in heaven.”

    James, I was reading last night in my new “Return of the Kosher Pig” book by Rabbi Izthak Shapira, which I would like to recommend to you if you haven’t already read. In section one he gets into the very statement you quoted above from Abraham Heschel and explains why the rabbis use this phrase. It would be a great book for you to review on your blog. I will refrain from saying more but would love to hear your thoughts on his book in the future.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Linda.

      Actually, I’ve not read the book. My friend Dr. Carl Kinbar reviewed it in Messiah Journal issue 115 and actually didn’t find it to be very good, so I passed on reading it (my reading “wish list” is vast). I trust Carl’s scholarship and judgment, and while he may represent a minority opinion (the majority of the reviews on Amazon are positive), I would tend to accept his perspective based on my experience with him.

      If I ever chose to read and review Shapira’s book, I know I’d try to be objective, but I’m concerned that I might not be entirely successful.

  7. “does it seem likely that you will be able to convince me to abandon my faith”

    “convince me to abandon my faith”, may be not – after all, it’s “faith”. However, at very least I think that you are a person that I can reason with and present with information to consider.

    “New Testament scholar Mark Nanos…who is Jewish”

    As I already noted before, Nanos was born to a Catholic mother and a Reform father. I suspect that this may have something to do with his focus on New Testament studies and attempts to redeem Paul.

    1. Actually Gene, in the introduction of his Mystery of Romans book, Nanos says his motivation is to battle the anti-semitism in Christianity that has resulted from the Church’s traditional (and erroneous) interpretation of Paul. Because his mother is Catholic and his father is Jewish but not Orthodox doesn’t mean his motives are bad or that he’s not a good Biblical scholar. I choose to take his research at face value until I have a reason not to.

      Yes, you can reason with me, but if reason was all it took, then I supposed we’d all belong to the most “reasonable” religion by now.

  8. “Because his mother is Catholic and his father is Jewish but not Orthodox doesn’t mean his motives are bad or that he’s not a good Biblical scholar.”

    We all have biases, and I would say that scholars of religions especially. Knowing Nano’s background is important, and it makes me question his ability to see the “Jewishness” of Paul’s teachings where many traditional Jews who also looked into Paul saw quite the opposite, that is when they compared Paul’s teachings with that of Torah-observant Judaism that they know firsthand (unlike Nanos).

    “Yes, you can reason with me, but if reason was all it took, then I supposed we’d all belong to the most “reasonable” religion by now.”

    While there’s certainly some mysticism (especially post-biblical) or unexplained things, I think that Judaism is the most “reasonable”, logical, consistent, non-self-contradictory religion, unlike its daughter faiths. And one day we will all be part of Judaism, one way or another. I know you believe that yourself.

  9. If I can bring to your attention Malachi 3:23 in the Jewish Scriptures (4:5-6 in the christian bible). Malachi says that before the Messiah comes there will be the arrival of Elijah the Prophet.

    Now in examining the books of the gospels only Matthew decides to address this. And it’s found only in Matthew 11 & 17, in which Matthew claims that John the Baptizer was Elijah the prophet.

    Matthew Now deals head on with BIG problem because if jesus was the Messiah then Elijah needs to arrive before hand he says that John the baptizer is actually Elijah.

    What would a good Jew do upon reading this, they’ll analyze it, because are you really going to believe it because Matthew said so? That’s not the position of a Jew. Again Proverbs 18:17.

    Now you have to ask yourself, is there any reason to believe that John the baptizer was actually Elijah the prophet? Lets look at the evidence.

    Exhibit A.) So lets navigate the maze of the NT and jump to the gospel of John, and an interesting thing happens in John 1:19-21 the following is said: “And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” **Let me interject and say many people during that time thought John the Baptist was the Messiah con’t…….20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” “- ESV

    So was he or wasn’t he Elijah? Matthew says he was…. But John when asked to his face, is testifying (not under duress btw) that He’s neither the Messiah or Elijah.

    So what do the christian writers of the NT do now? Well here’s what they do, allow me to turn your attention to…

    Exhibit B.) Which is Luke 1:17 which states the following: “and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”- ESV

    So they now resort to fudging the passage in Malachi 3:23-24 (4:5-6 in christian bibles), and they’ll say things like “well it’s not exactly Elijah the prophet himself who was going to come back but someone who will have Elijahs spirit” or something close to what I’ve just said. Okay Mazel Tov!

    BUT….. There is still a problem and now its 3 Problems…

    Problem #1: – When they asked John the baptizer to His face he’s quoted as to saying he’s neither the Messiah or Elijah, and he NEVER says “Well guys I’m John, but my spirit is that of Elijah” (See Above Exhibit A). He [John] denies ANY association with Elijah.

    Problem #2[Which is very important I might add]: – In the hebrew of Malachi 3:23 it says: Hi-Neh / A’-No-Chi / Sho-Le-Ach / La-chem / et / E’-Li-Yah / Ha-Na-Vi [ Hebrew Source: ] … Now if you or anyone around you knows a little bit of hebrew from the grammatical side, the part I bolded “et” comes before a direct object in a sentence. So the sentence is essentially telling us that “Who is going to come back?” Elijah himself (physical) and we know Elijah didn’t die, he went straight to Heaven (1st Kings 2:11). To re-iterate the passage in Malachi mentions no Spirit of Elijah returning but that Actual Elijah will return.

    Problem #3: – Is that it says when Elijah comes “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the land with utter destruction.” – [Source ]…. I will be the first to admit I’m not entirely sure about what verse 24 here is referring to nor have I examined the Sages thoughts on this, but I will say with surety that John the baptizer did NONE of this, based upon the evidence presented.

    To conclude…. All the reader is left with in the NT passages of Matthew and Luke is a claim, which is not supportive nor verifiable.

    This is a good example of applying Proverbs 18:17 🙂

  10. ” Nanos says his motivation is to battle the anti-semitism in Christianity that has resulted from the Church’s traditional (and erroneous) interpretation of Paul”

    OK, this is exactly what I mean by bias and not true scholarship – he’s explicitly says that he is trying to redeem Paul to show that Christianity read him wrong. “To battle”. Many Jews who know their Judaism and who have read Paul found it hard to come away with Nano’s conclusions, because it’s precisely BECAUSE of Paul and the ideas he promoted to his Gentile churches that Christianity developed the way it did. Scholars even call it “Pauline Christianity”, to differentiate it from the movement that was led by James.

  11. Gene said:

    And one day we will all be part of Judaism, one way or another. I know you believe that yourself.

    Yes, I do. It’s just a matter of how we understand the specifics.

    Gene also said:

    OK, this is exactly what I mean by bias and not true scholarship…

    I don’t think anyone, scholar or not, is without bias (*cough* climate change science *cough*), so I can accept Nanos has a bias in a particular direction, but unless we can read his mind, we can’t say his bias is any more or less than any other Jewish or Christian Bible scholar. Also, I don’t rely only on Nanos for my opinions. I only brought him up as an example.

    @ברוס: Egad! That’s a lot to go through. My wife says men (including me) can’t multitask but I’m trying to do that with reading and approving comments alongside other tasks. I’ll have to take some time when I get the bandwidth, and read through your arguments. Like I said though, I don’t have to come charging out as the defender for Christianity, Messianic Judaism or anything else, so I make no promises about how or if I’ll respond, at least in any detail.

  12. James… religion or affiliations aside, all I’m doing is present evidence. To prove or dis-prove claims. I presented my evidence, I look forward to hearing your cross examination, of the evidence provided (take as much time as you need).

    ttys 🙂

  13. According to a Rabbi not all of Israel came out of Egypt, or Babylon. As the saying goes, ‘They came out of Egypt/Babylon but it didn’t come out of them.’ The Tanak honestly records the divisions and in fighting. Nothing has changed. Do not think there is a unity of belief among Judaism. Faith in Yeshua has not been overthrown, no matter how you slice it. Under persecution, it still flourished. They asked Yeshua for a sign and He gave them the sign of Jonah. I do not, given human nature, believe eleven men concocted a plan to lie to ‘save face’ and start a following to enrich themselves, and stuck with it when it wasn’t working. Oh, wait, they were excommunicated and martyred! If it was a hoax, somebody would have said, “Forget it, I won’t die for a lie.” What was it they would not deny? The resurrection. By the way, another human trait, out of reaction to the faith in Yeshua as the promised Messiah, they (Rabbis) have reinterpreted some of the prophecies to discredit the fulfillment of those prophecies. Can I site source for this? No, because I have learned these things over many years of searching and I didn’t take notes. Another thing to consider, they say (rabbis)baseless hatred was the reason for the destruction of the second Temple. In your effort to discourage faith in Yeshua as the Messiah, do not fall into that baseless hatred. Hebrews 10:31, ” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living G-d.” I realize some of these things will not be understood or worked out until His Kingdom comes. (May it be in our day) James, these comments were not directed at you, just adding my two cents to the comments.

  14. “I don’t have to come charging out as the defender for Christianity, Messianic Judaism or anything else, so I make no promises about how or if I’ll respond, at least in any detail.”

    Ah, the old “get out of jail free” card. 😉

    I was really looking forward to your response, James.

  15. I would like to suggest that people also take into consideration that in the stories of the actual Elijah, and then Elisha, it is said that Elisha (II Kings) had an extra portion of Elijah’s spirit. So, even though Elijah was a real person who was taken into heaven and who is said in Malachi will be coming again, there can be a spiritual aspect to the thought. That is not to say I have sorted out what the meanings in Luke and Matthew are; it’s something, though, that shouldn’t be skipped in the thought process when the dear reader embarks.

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