lion hunting

Review of Loving God When You Don’t Love the Church, Part Five

“They didn’t want to talk about it.”

“They said there’s really no point in meeting to discuss it.”

“I guess it’s best if we just move on.”

-Pastor Chris Jackson
from Chapter 9: Your Pastor
Loving God When You Don’t Love the Church: Opening the Door to Healing (Kindle Edition)

Continued from Part Four of this review.

Pastor Jackson attributes the above quoted statements to “hurting church members who failed in their attempts to discuss their grievances with the church’s leadership.” Jackson further states that people typically don’t experience conflict with other church members but “with the leadership of the church.”

I suppose that’s what happened to me. My relationship with the church’s head Pastor reached a tipping point when, in a sermon, he discounted the foundations of my understanding of the Bible, calling it a “misuse of the Law.” He also laid that at the feet of more normative Judaism as well as Seventh Day Adventists, so it wasn’t solely aimed at me.

As far as airing my grievances, I did that. I made the mistake of doing so on my blog instead of phoning or meeting with the Pastor, and that just made a difficult situation even worse. I left the church not because I had been kicked out, and not because I was so offended, I left in a huff, but because I was incompatible with church and particularly with the church leadership. I don’t think anyone was sorry to see me go.

The next highlight I have in this chapter is Jackson citing the film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in which the fox says of Aslan:

“He’s everything we hoped he would be.”

Jackson continues:

Unfortunately, the opposite of this sentiment is sometimes true in church.

We all have expectations of those around us. If people were truly unpredictable, our lives would be chaos. We couldn’t make plans with anyone. We have to have some sort of grasp of how our families and friends and the leaders and people in our houses of worship will react under certain circumstances.

I think a Pastor and church leadership have a certain expectation of what a person believes and stands for if they voluntarily attend their church week after week. If we choose a church or other sort of congregation, we probably do so because we expect that the leaders and members of the church think, believe, teach, and act in a certain way. It would be tough to drop a Messianic Gentile like me in the midst of a Fundamentalist Baptist church in Southwestern Idaho.

Oops.

But since this is a chapter on Pastors, let me be quick to say that none of my leaving church was the leadership’s fault. They were behaving and teaching as was expected by the vast majority of the people attending that church. I was the square peg vainly attempting to fit into a round hole, or conversely, trying to convince the round pegs to at least consider the benefits of thinking and studying like square pegs.

Ah, this next point is important:

What do good spiritual leaders look like? Spiritual leaders are very important for our spiritual growth and maturity so it’s important for us to know what to look for in one. I’m very selective and protective about the people I let speak to my wife…

wolf in sheep's clothingWhat I’m about to say wasn’t exactly Jackson’s point, but it relates. One of a Pastor’s jobs is to protect the flock from wolves. In spite of the fact that Randy spent nearly two years meeting with me individually and attempting to convince me of the correctness of his “sound doctrine,” in the end, I was a rogue wolf in the fold.

After a number of discussions with a young man in the Sunday school class we attended, I suggested he borrow my audio CDs of D. Thomas Lancaster’s sermon series What About the New Covenant. He did. He listened to them. He seemed at least confused if not shocked. He asked to keep them a while longer so he could listen to the lessons again.

And when the Pastor found out about it, he was pretty unhappy with me. Based on our reading and discussing Lancaster’s book The Holy Epistle to the Galatians together, Pastor came to the realization that he disagreed with Lancaster on just about everything. So my lending one of his flock CDs containing Lancaster’s teachings (even though Pastor had never listened to those sermons) exposed that particular “sheep” to “danger.”

As much as I disagree with his opinions on Lancaster, Pastor’s doing his job. He’s protecting the flock.

Jackson, in describing the ideal Pastor says, “First of all, he loves you.” Yes, the Pastor loves his flock and out of that love (just as Jackson loves his wife), he’s protective and will defend them.

Jackson’s point in mentioning this love is that it’s healing. A hurting believer having the Pastor notice and love them will help heal that hurt. But going back to what I said earlier, the basic theology and doctrine of Pastor and church goer must be what the other expects and desires.

Jackson also describes the ideal Pastor as transparent. He must be approachable and human rather than someone who dwells on high in an ivory tower dispensing holy decrees. Yes, Pastor was approachable and probably as transparent as a human being can be and still have healthy boundaries. I wouldn’t say he was nonjudgmental, as Jackson would have us believe of ideal Pastors. Not that he beat people over the head with his Bible, but he definitely had a firm sense of right and wrong doctrine, and he stuck to his guns.

An ideal Pastor, according to Jackson, “sees the greatness in you.” I think Pastor saw potential in me, but doing anything about it was contingent upon being convinced of his “sound doctrine” so that I’d be safe within the fold. So although Jackson says the ideal Pastor is not controlling, it’s tough to exercise your role as protective shepherd without maintaining control of who has access to them and under what conditions.

This next statement I thought was a bit over the top:

When he speaks, it is as if God Himself was speaking to you.

I think Jackson means the ideal Pastor is “Christ-like” in his love, compassion, and understanding of the people in his flock, not that he’s all-seeing, all-knowing, and commands one hundred percent of everyone’s respect and obedience.

That said:

…there is no human leader who can fully provide all that we need as growing disciples of Jesus. We need Him.

“Him,” in this context, is God.

John MacArthur
Rev. John MacArthur

And so Jackson urges his readers to realize that Pastors are also human, what he calls “tools of destiny,” and he wants us to know that someday, some of us may be in church leadership, which will further help us understand the responsibilities faced by our Pastors. Jackson also said that, given this, he urges reconciliation with church leaders when there’s a problem, and outlines the steps for his readers. Ultimately, it’s a call to forgive leaders who may have hurt us. Just for giggles, I included a photo of John MacArthur because to me, he exemplifies the sort of Pastor who generates a lot of “hurt” among people. But that’s just my opinion. What do you do when a well-known and influential Pastor has the ability to potentially hurt thousands?

The only end of chapter question I have highlighted is:

Are you looking for them (church leaders) to provide something that can only come from Jesus?

At this stage in the game, I don’t think I’m looking for a church Pastor to provide anything at all. How can they when my presence in almost any church (at least if I opened my mouth) would be a monkey wrench in the machinery?

In Chapter 11: The Cup of Misunderstanding (sounds like a little-known additional cup at a Passover seder), Jackson speaks of this metaphorical cup containing something that tastes bitter, tastes like injustice, and “those who drink it must do so alone.” He also says that this cup is usually received by “innocent people,” and is particularly harsh when “delivered to you by a brother or sister in Christ.”

Jackson compares being misunderstood and judged by someone in the church to the pain of betrayal suffered by Christ at the crucifixion.

I felt the comparison was a bit much. After all, human misunderstandings aren’t confined to the church, they happen in every human corporate venue, from the family to the workplace.

Jackson says this pain is intensified if the person you are trying to reconcile with makes it abundantly clear they have no intention of mending fences.

Someone once said, “You must embrace the cross if you would carry it with dignity.” The same is true of this cup.

I think what Jackson is saying is that being misunderstood, judged, and cut loose requires the Christian to be “Christ-like,” to bear the burden and the pain as Jesus did on the cross. Sounds pretty dramatic, but then, human conflict can elicit a lot of drama.

One of the end of chapter questions is:

Do you have a friend who can stand with you in your struggle?

In spite of my friend’s concerns about me and the issues Jackson addresses in his book, I don’t know that I’m really struggling, at least in relation to community or my lack thereof.

Jackson asks: “Are you passing the test? As you do, you’ll begin to look more like Him.” If the test is forgiving the Pastor, first of all, I doubt he thinks he needs my forgiveness. Nevertheless, I have forgiven him. After all, he’s only doing what he believes is right, and within his church’s context, it is the right thing to do.

In Chapter 12: Death by Religion, Jackson discusses watching an infomercial for Chuck Norris’s Total Gym product. The bottom line is that in spite of the seemingly fantastic claims made in the marketing of this all-in-one piece of exercise equipment, Jackson says if used as indicated, and if you eat a proper diet, the claims are all true.

Please forgive this sacrilegious comment, but I’ve noticed that in some ways, the Church is a lot like that infomercial–we’re touting a product that really works.

And by that he means:

A life devoted to His service is the only way to ensure our eternal salvation and to experience the life we were created to live.

norris and brinkleyBut while a very fit Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley sell their product on TV, Jackson says, by comparison, those Christians promoting a better life through Jesus are more like “a flabby, middle-aged guy who thinks he looks good in spandex.”

In other words, many believers promoting a better life through Christ don’t look or act like they’re participating in that life. They look like they’re participating in a marathon dining session at McDonald’s.

We’re selling relationship, but what they see is religion…and religion is killing our sales pitch.

I’ve mentioned this artificial split between these concepts in a previous blog post. It’s really the traditional Christian rant against their misconception of Judaism:

Religion breeds death because it is limited to man’s ability to comply with its codes and regulations.

If Jackson had my understanding of the New Covenant, he’d (hopefully) understand why his opinion is completely out of the ball park.

But I don’t have time or space to go into all that again in this rather lengthy series of book reviews.

Religion is easier to control than a relationship.

You may have noticed that Jackson has shifted his emphasis from the individual’s relationship with other Christians in church or their relationship with the Pastor and church leadership, and is now focusing on the person’s relationship with Christ.

…after all, we’re all under grace and God doesn’t get ticked if we skip a day of devotions.

I’m not sure what God does or doesn’t think about an individual being hit and miss on living a life of holiness, not that any one of us is perfect at it.

Jackson then proceeds to bash the Pharisees, even though (he probably doesn’t see this) Jesus lived a life consistent with the basic tenets of Pharisaism, and as a matter of fact, so did Paul.

In describing “religious systems,” he says they operate like “spiritual frat houses”. They have their secret handshakes, inside jokes, matching jackets, and the like. Yes, I’ve experienced cliques in church. People who were ‘in’ and people who were ‘out’, though to be fair, I didn’t experience them at the last church I attended (at least for the most part).

However, Jackson could have been describing how some people experience certain individuals and congregations involved in the Hebrew Roots and the Messianic Jewish movements.

I’ve mentioned before Derek Leman’s blog post Gentiles Who Feel Left Out which addresses this matter. If you feel you are “in”, then being in contributes to your sense of identity, according to Jackson. You may, again, as Jackson says, experience a sense of being among the elite by being in.

This next point is important:

Spiritual fraternities do not welcome different opinions or viewpoints.

I’ve experienced that in spades, but I think that a lot of religious communities are like this, based on a mutually accepted sense of “rightness” of their doctrine. Anything that contradicts their doctrine is automatically wrong. These congregations state, using Jackson’s words:

We want your input and opinions–as long as they agree with ours.

This goes back to what I said before about expectations within the group. Jackson also says such “frat houses” are full of cliques, difficult to fit into (again, I know what that’s like), and Jackson says the only way to combat this is to “make sure that our hearts are free from religion.”

And yet, I could probably speak to Jackson for less than an hour and elicit a very protective and “religious” (as he defines it) response from him, just by disagreeing with how he interprets the Bible’s message of the good news. Actually, all he’d have to do is read my reviews of his book.

Only two of the end of chapter questions seemed relevant:

Are you managing a religion or living in a relationship?

Has your religious experience become a duty or a delight?

passover-artConvincing Jackson of the beauty of the mitzvot, particularly with Passover and the family seder coming up in a few days, all the preparations, all of the ceremony, and the retelling of the Exodus, would be a lost cause if I were to make the attempt. I suspect all he’d see is “religion,” missing how the seder brings a Jewish family closer to God.

Of course, I wonder how he’s managing the “relationship” of the upcoming Easter Sunday service at his church, which usually involves a multi-media presentation and tons and tons of preparation and ceremony?

So far, having reviewed about half of Jackson’s book in a fair amount detail, I have two preliminary conclusions. The first is that I don’t think he’s speaking to my situation. The second is that my opinion of my being incompatible with “church” is being re-enforced. I find it impossible to review his book as related to my current status of being apart from “community” without being critical of his theology and doctrine.

I just can’t seem to put our obvious differences aside and simply listen to what he has to say on a human level. This is my fault. I have a friend who tells me I need to be more patient and to speak out less.

Probably true.

One last story.

I had coffee with my friend last Sunday. On the drive home, he mentioned that his congregation had a guest speaker from Africa on the previous Shabbat. Among other things, this speaker talked about lions and how they hunt only the sick, the weak, the old, and those who wander off and are alone.

Not-so-subtle point received, my friend. *grin*

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58 thoughts on “Review of Loving God When You Don’t Love the Church, Part Five”

  1. Apparently, Pastor Jackson’s sense of an “ideal pastor” is quite different from mine. I think you may have touched on a significant problem inherent in a common definition of the role of “Pastor”. It is a failure to recognize that the men carrying such a title are in reality nothing more than older sheep. {I’m minded of a parody on an old Gershwin song lyric: “I’ve got plenty of mutton — mutton is all that I’ve got.” [:)]} They do not have any actual authority, morally, to exercise control over their congregants to “protect” them. The only protection a congregational leader properly may offer is the intellectual and spiritual protection of teaching congregants how they may strengthen their own moral fiber and character, and to strengthen their ability to study and discern what is true and right in accord with the scriptures. It would be overstepping the authority of the true “shepherd of our souls” to try to do it for them by telling them what to do or to whom they may or may not listen. That would be abuse and infantilization. We may need to turn to HaShem with the innocence and openness of little children, but anyone who insists on continuing to treat their congregants thus for any significant period is abusing them. We are required also to become as “wise as serpents” as well as “innocent as doves” (cif:Mt.10:16). Hence a proper view of the pastoral role is as one that is exemplary and advisory, rather than controlling.

    There is a similar problem in mis-applying the “wolf” analogy, even to the degree of false demonization of divergent opinions or those who hold them. [And I believe it is jackals and hyenas, not lions, that hunt only the old, the sick, the weak, and those who foolishly wander off alone. I *have* heard it said, though, that very old, toothless lions are reduced to frightening their prey into immobility, by roaring loudly, because this and their claws are the only means left to them to devour prey (ref:1Pet.5:8).]

  2. We are called to be of one mind. Christ commanded us to be one. There is absolute truth. No one is going to agree on every single point but if someone’s doctrine is keeping them from obeying Christ’s commandments then it would seem the doctrine should be called into question. I think sometimes people worship and cling to their own doctrines and religious ideologies as a form of idolatry. It could be a family curse that needs to be broken. If satan can’t keep someone from believing in God and the Bible, he is perfectly happy to allow them to fixate on some false doctrines that keep them from being part of the body of Christ and useful for His purposes.

  3. @PL: We see shepherd/sheep stories all over the Bible and I think at least many Fundamentalist Pastors take the Master’s “Good Shepherd” commentary (John 10:11-16) and apply it to themselves. Also, to be fair, most Christians are just as satisfied to let a Pastor take on the responsibility of “watching over” the sheep. The Pastor has graduated from seminary and becomes the theological and doctrinal authority in their church and over their congregation. We live in a world of bosses and experts, we don’t expect church to be different. I think, to a certain degree, many people want to be “controlled” (though they don’t think of it as such) to avoid the responsibility for their own spiritual development.

    I don’t see Pastor Jackson as the controlling type, at least as far as the tone of his writing is concerned. On the other hand, saying that he doesn’t allow just anyone to talk to his wife is certainly interesting. My own spouse is very self-assured and certainly would balk if I said I wasn’t going to allow this or that event to occur in her life. We discuss things related to our family, but neither one of us has to give the other permission to do something. I wonder if Jackson’s ideal Pastor is one who relates as a father toward children?

    @Emily Rose: According to Christianity Today, there are currently 41,000 Christian denominations worldwide. Granted, there’s a terrific amount of overlap, but that’s still a lot of denominations.

    While I can agree that there is absolute truth, the Christian church as a universal body seems to have some difficulty arriving at what that truth is, at least in the details. This results in a wide variance of doctrines across these different denominations. Ultimately, each of us is responsible for reading and studying the Bible and determining what seems to truly be “sound doctrine” to us, not because a Pastor preached it from the pulpit, but because our doctrine maps to the Bible in a way that all scripture is understood as a consistent and cohesive redemptive plan of God for Israel and the nations.

    I think you’re right though, that once a denomination arrives at what they consider “sound doctrine,” that doctrine becomes a tradition and that tradition becomes absolute truth which subsequently can never be challenged without risking accusations of heresy.

  4. “Jesus lived a life consistent with the basic tenets of Pharisaism”

    Really, I would say Jesus’ words directly contradict such an idea. One statement that would disprove this idea is that Jesus said he only does what he sees the Father doing. “Therefore, Yeshua said this to them: “Yes, indeed! I tell you that the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; whatever the Father does, the Son does too.” Did Yeshua see the Father living a life consistent with “the basic tenets of Pharisaism?”

    If the Son lived Pharisaism, would he have said ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. Their worship of me is useless, because they teach man-made rules as if they were doctrines.’”

    Another statement that would disprove this idea is that Yeshua said the Pharisees are “blind” and that their teachings lead them and their followers into the ditch. “The talmidim came to him and said, “Do you know that the P’rushim were offended by what you said?” He replied, “Every plant that my Father in heaven has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Let them be. They are blind guides. When a blind man guides another blind man, both will fall in a pit.”

    Can a person follow the Pharasees and then say “let them be?” Could you say “I am a Messianic Gentile and you should be too” and then say, but Mesianic Gentiles teach false doctrine so leaave them alone?

  5. Sorry, Steven, but you are apparently too distant from the matter to see it clearly. Pharisees were not a monolithic entity, and many of Rav Yeshua’s criticisms — such as you cited — were directed to various subsets or groups of Pharisees who did not all agree entirely with each other. If Rav Yeshua really meant that he did only what the Father showed him, then certainly the Father showed him what he said in Mt.23:2-3 — that the scribes and Pharisees sit in Moshe’s seat of authority to teach, interpret, and apply Torah, and that Rav Yeshua’s own disciples should obey what they were told by them. The caveat was to not emulate their mistakes — which caveat was effectively re-iterated later in Talmudic discussion under the Pharisees’ rabbinic inheritors who also decried the earlier Pharisaic errors of attitude. Therefore one cannot rightly dismiss all Pharisaic and later rabbinic perspective on Torah, as you attempted to do. Rav Yeshua’s own interpretive style was nothing other than Pharisaic in character, and Rav Shaul explicitly identified himself as a Pharisee (not as a former Pharisee). Pharisaic interpretive methodology, as contrasted with the literalism of Sadducean interpretation, was absolutely necessary to the identification of the characteristics of the Messiah to be found in the Tenakh, and, indeed, to the development of the very notion of a Messiah at all.

  6. James,

    I found the story you told about Lancaster’s teachings to be heartbreaking. I know that his opinion on Galatians and the book of Hebrews are probably hard for many people to accept as a whole, but you’d hope that all of us would have the openness to accept that our beliefs are supposed to change going forward. Not always on the central things, but at least somewhat as truth is revealed (which, ironically, Christ directly said would happen as committed disciples practiced mitzvahs). It’s a hard thing to change, but I’ve found the last couple of years of adjustment to be the most rewarding of my life.

    Steven,

    I think you’re confusing the things Jesus said about some Pharisees with what James asserted, which was “tenets of Pharisaism”. Nothing you’ve quoted contradicts this. The only thing close to doing so is the blind guides comment (which was made about specific pharisees, note that Jesus directly addresses those who are present, not Pharisees as a whole), which was a halachic idea still being argued at the time. A couple of decades later tradition formally adopted the opinion of Yeshua (most likely due to the influence of his disciples since the teacher who made the ruling was recorded in the Talmud as having interactions with them), that any vow that caused one to dishonor their parents was annulled. Jesus lived in a way that was consistent with their traditions, only disagreeing about continuing to practice those traditions when they ignored human need.

  7. @James — The entire notion of congregational shepherding has been exaggerated to resemble the sin of the Nicolaitans (Rev.2:6). This Greek term represents the hegemony of the “nicaos” (“victors”; conquerors) over the “laios” (“laity”; common folk). In a congregational context, it represents control by an elite, such as a priesthood, over everyone else. Rav Yeshua, as a “good shepherd”, laid down his life for his “lost sheep of the household of Israel”. The same cannot be said of a so-called “pastor” who seeks to control the lives or even the thoughts of his congregation rather than to raise them up to spiritual maturity and self-control.

    As for the notion of “protecting” congregants: another song lyric comes to my mind, from Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical “The King and I”. In it, the Siamese king is musing over the double edged sword of forming alliances. He observed that if allies are weak, perhaps he is best to be alone. On the other hand, if allies are strong with the power to protect him, might they not “protect” him out of all he owns? Such a problem may arise also if one views a congregational leader as a “father” rather than as a “brother”.

  8. Examples to support your theories to show how Yeshua followed the Pharisees?

    The “Moses Seat” argument is a miss. Saying Yeshua didn’t “really mean” what he said is a miss.

    As for Paul, another miss. Yes, he was a Pharisee, but he said: ” in regard to the Torah, a Parush, in regard to the righteousness demanded by legalism, blameless.” These are just a few of the things he says he “left behind” to follow Christ.

  9. William, ” “tenets of Pharisaism”. Nothing you’ve quoted contradicts this.”

    “Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”

    How can Yeshua honestly claim he is a Pharisee but beware their doctrine?

  10. Steven, as I recall, both Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were Pharisees and yet both disciples of the Master. I think you’re painting all Pharisees with a rather broad and unjust brush. Yeshua also sometimes had uncomplimentary things to say about some of the Scribes, and yet as we find in Mark 12:28-34, he actually commended a scribe and described him as “not far from the Kingdom of Heaven.”

  11. Steven,

    Would you beware the “teaching” (as over half of the translations render doctrine in this verse) of an errant pastor of group of pastors even if he/they was/were a part of a church movement whose doctrinal tenants were correct in your view?

    Conversely would advising friends to beware the teaching within that church movement because of that group of pastors be the same as condemning the movement?

  12. James, as I recall, “Not far” was not close enough. Also, I’m not the one who “painted the Pharisees and Scribes” my comments are about what Yeshua and his followers said about them.

    Yeshua did not follow Nicodemus or Joseph or teach anyone to follow THEM. Here is an example, (not of how I paint them) of how Yeshua taught about Pharisees.

    “Therefore, I tell you that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to the kind of people that will produce its fruit!” As the head cohanim and the P’rushim listened to his stories, they saw that he was speaking about them.”

    Do you take the Kingdom away from one kind of people and give it to another if they are approved of by the King?

  13. Steven, we’ve had these debates in the past. I understand you hold to a very traditionally evangelical interpretation of the Bible, which has a low view of Jews and Judaism. The Master’s relationship with the various Judaisms of his day was quite a bit more nuanced than we get from Christian interpretative tradition. We have very different understandings of what “not far from the Kingdom of Heaven” means.

  14. Ah, the ad hominem attack of last resort.

    No proof that Yeshua was a Pharisee!

    The Master was not muanced about his relationship with Judaisms of his day. He was very clear and his death speaks all.

  15. William,

    “would advising friends to beware the teaching within that church movement because of that group of pastors be the same as condemning the movement?”

    What did Yeshua say about his generation? The Movement? This is a Jewish response, not an evangelical one, and not subtle or nuanced:

    “You snakes! Sons of snakes! How can you escape being condemned to Gei-Hinnom? Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and Torah-teachers — some of them you will kill, indeed, you will have them executed on stakes as criminals; some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so, on you will fall the guilt for all the innocent blood that has ever been shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Hevel to the blood of Z’kharyah Ben-Berekhyah, whom you murdered between the Temple and the altar. Yes! I tell you that all this will fall on this generation!

    “Yerushalayim! Yerushalayim! You kill the prophets! You stone those who are sent to you! How often I wanted to gather your children, just as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you refused! Look! God is abandoning your house to you, leaving it desolate.For I tell you, from now on, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of Adonai.’”

  16. @Steven — I never said that Rav Yeshua “didn’t really mean” what he said. Quite the contrary! I said that *you* didn’t understand what he meant, nor what were the actual characteristics and diversities of “the Pharisees” that he both criticized for their errors and acknowledged for their proper authority. You cannot rightly dismiss what he said directly to his own disciples about “Moses’ seat” and obeying everything the Pharisees taught them about Torah. Nor can you dismiss the fact that Rav Shaul never “left behind” his identity as a Pharisee, nor his blameless Torah observance, which were acknowledged by the apostolic leaders in Jerusalem in Acts 21:24 (i.e., still maintained at a point pretty late in his apostolic career). He did compare them with the surpassing richness of knowing the Messiah — using the term “dung” as a hyperbolic reference to the social status that these things had brought him previously. If there was anything that he actually “left behind”, it was the social status, not the Torah observance nor the Pharisaic identity.

    As for examples of Rav Yeshua’s Pharisaic interpretive matrix, look no farther than his “good news” about the immediate accessibility of the “kingdom of heaven” and the notion of “entering” into it. These are both entirely Pharisaic notions, as is also the notion that the practice of “mikveh” (perhaps better recognized by its Greek translation: “baptism”) is an indicator or declaration of repentance and spiritual cleansing, rather than merely a physical purification ritual required prior to entering the Temple precincts. His use of parables was also a characteristic Pharisaic trait.

  17. Steven,

    Once again, this is a criticism of people of the movement, not the tenets that the movement proscribed. Judaism itself criticizes the baseless hatred of that era, but neither they nor the apostles departed from the basic tenants or traditions as long as those tenets and traditions made room for the alleviation of human suffering.

    William

  18. PL, its easy to say “you don’t understand”, but you really have no evidence that Yeshua was a Pharisee. I have given you examples of Yeshua specifically saying not to follow the Pharisees. Do you have a scripture that says “follow the doctrine of the Pharisees?”

    You point to one reference of “Moses Seat” of judgement, but that is not the doctrine of Pharisees, but of Moses. I think you know that the Pharisees were hypocrites.

    Sitting is Moses seat is for judgment in the “law of Moses”. In today’s situation, a Judge would uphold the law, not legislate from the bench. If the law says speed limit 55 and someone gets a ticket for exceeding the limit, the Judge would not change the law, but uphold it.

    You saying that Yeshua commanded people to obey legislation from the bench is false (that is what you essintially are saying). He was saying and I paraphrase “obey the Judge who is upholding the law of Moses but does not obey the law of Moses himself.”

    He was not teaching men to “obey the judge who says disobey the law of Moses.”

    We know for sure that the Pharisees did not keep the law of Moses. Yeshua said so: “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?”

  19. William,
    “but neither they nor the apostles departed from the basic tenants or traditions as long as those tenets and traditions made room for the alleviation of human suffering.”

    So, why were there questions about hand-washings, and picking grain on the sabbath, and fastings.

    Clearly, the apostles departed from the basic tenants and traditions and were instructed to do so by Yeshua, and they did so when there was no excuse of human suffering.

    If you know the teachings of the Pharisees, and the teachings of Yeshua, you will find they are not the same. Yeshua always taught against the Pharisees and the Pharisees always taught against Yeshua. Why?

  20. James, it is telling that you teach Yeshua was a Pharisee, but don’t use his words to prove it. Where are the scriptures where Yeshua says he is a Pharisee or identifies himself with them.

    Why are there so many scriptures where Yeshua condemns the Pharisee and there doctrines, their lawlessness, and their hypocracy.

    Yeshua taught “Everything they do is done to be seen by others…” and “you appear to people from the outside to be good and honest, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and far from Torah.”

    For Messianics, I think that part about “FAR from Torah” would be important. I don’t think I’m misunderstanding here.

    Pharisees are “Far from Torah”, that is why the pronouncments of “woe” were placed upon them.

  21. Just a couple of things, Steven. I don’t think you got around to answering my previous question: “Are you saying Jesus died to kill Judaism, Steven?”

    Also consider the following:

    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

    Matthew 23:23 (NASB)

    Besides the obvious criticism of the Pharisees he was addressing at that moment, Jesus appears to be accepting that both the weightier provisions of the Torah, justice, mercy, and faithfulness, should be performed along with tithing mint, dill, and cummin. To the best of my knowledge, there’s no direct commandment in Torah to tithe mint, dill, and cummin. If it was a later custom of the Pharisees, Jesus doesn’t seem to mind it.

    Now let’s look at what Jesus taught and what the Pharisees taught. Both taught the resurrection, a life after death, the existence of angels, all which the Sadducees denied. Their viewpoints were substantially similar if not virtually identical.

    Flash forward to Acts 9 and we see how the resurrected Messiah specifically selected Saul, a Pharisee, to be his emissary to the Gentiles. Saul/Paul continued to identify himself as a Pharisee throughout the narrative of Acts and his epistles. This even worked to Paul’s advantage on occasion:

    6 But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!” As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. And there occurred a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly, saying, “We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”

    Acts 23:6-9

    As you can see, the Pharisees found nothing wrong with Paul’s statements because they shared a Pharisaic belief system. Since Jesus also taught these things, his teachings seem more compatible with the Pharisees than with other first century streams of Judaism. No where in the Gospels do we find Jesus point blank stating “I am a Pharisee,” but I believe what he was communicating was most in line with Pharisaic thought:

    Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.”

    Matthew 23:1-3

    Yeshua’s problem wasn’t what the Pharisees taught but how they didn’t follow through with their actions. Also, I’m not convinced, for reasons I’ve already stated that each and every single Pharisee was a hypocrite. If Jesus hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, and other sinners, he certainly would have reached out to Pharisees and Scribes since he came for the lost sheep of Israel, not (at that moment in time) for the Gentiles.

  22. James, “tithe mint, dill, and cummin” no direct commandment? A tradition of Pharisees?

    What about this one? “‘All the tenth given from the land, whether from planted seed or fruit from trees, belongs to Adonai; it is holy to Adonai.”

    Didn’t answer your question? “Are you saying Jesus died to kill Judaism, Steven?”

    Now, if you mean do I think that? No, I think Judaism was already dead and Yeshua came so we could have life. If we already had life, he would not have had to die. He did not say Pharisees have the truth, he said the opposite, they did not have the truth. He said “I am the Truth”.

    I think your confusing two groups as sharing some belief as they are the same group. For example, the Pharisees and the Sadducees both believe in the Sabbath, but are not the same group.

    Yeshua picked the 11 to be the Apostles to the Gentiles. Later, he chose Saul also, but not only was he a Pharisee, he was a murderer, he shed innocent blood in the land of Israel. So I don’t think his being chosen shows how good the Pharisees were, your “approval by association” idea.

    Paul was a Pharisee when it suited him, and a Roman when it suited him, he also says he was a pagan when it suited him, being “all things to all people” believing it a good ploy to win converts.

    You said ” I believe what he was communicating was most in line with Pharisaic thought:” so you must have some scripture that says so. Unfortunately, everything Yeshua actually says about Pharisaic thought is in condemnation.

  23. Steven,

    Fasting ostentatiously wasn’t a tenant or tradition of Pharisaism, it was simply something that some of them did in order to gain position in their society.

    I think where a lot of this is falling apart in our discussion is that you’re primarily focusing the words that Yeshua (and to some extent Paul) spoke and not with the historical problems with an anti-tradition narrative that we find from a plain reading of the text. Again, Jesus was never accused of eating grain on Sabbath or of maintaining ritual hand-washing. Only some of his disciples, not all, and not necessarily the twelve.

    So did he speak against the tradition? In the case of hand-washing he simply contested the idea that eating regular meals without hand-washing could impart uncleanness. Yet, from all indications, he did it (or his disciples wouldn’t have been the target).

    In regard to grain on the Sabbath, I would argue that Yeshua’s defense gives us the key to the human suffering aspect. Just as David was suffering from intense hunger and ate the showbread, the disciples harvested grain because of their intense need. These were likely from the corners of the field or dropped gleanings left for the poor and hungry since walking through someone’s field doing this would have raised more that Sabbath objections.

    The question I have is why did Yeshua keep the traditions? If he didn’t, where are the accusations? People accused Paul of abandoning the traditions, why not Yeshua? Maybe because Paul was away. Yeshua, on the other hand, was surrounded by too many people for any accusation to be substantiated. Was Yeshua a hypocrite? Was Paul? Do we disbelieve James and the rest when they vouch for Paul? Do we disbelieve Paul when he states (before his long imprisonment) that he was guiltless in regard to the traditional of the fathers? Do we say that, according to popular christian interpretation, that he planned to trample the Son of God when he paid the vow offerings of several others and himself (which included a sin offering)? Was he confused? Was he just acting that way to satisfy the Jerusalem Council? Was he deceptive?

    These are things in the historical record of the Gospels and Acts that have to be reconciled. In particular, with Yeshua, these actions throw doubt on any wholesale rejection of the traditions that Christianity disdains.

    “If you know the teachings of the Pharisees, and the teachings of Yeshua, you will find they are not the same. Yeshua always taught against the Pharisees and the Pharisees always taught against Yeshua. Why?”

    Always is a big word and they are not a hive mind. Yeshua supports many of the teachings of Hillel, and at least one of the teachings of Shammai. The teachings of Yeshua fit Josephus’ basic description of the Pharisees.

    William

  24. OK, Steven. You’ve made your point. It’s the same point you make every time you comment on my blog. It’s interesting because this extended book review is about my incompatibility with church fellowship based on doctrinal dissonance. It’s essentially the same dissonance we experience between each other. Although we read the same Bible, we have two different perspectives on how to interpret scripture. Since, just as in all our previous conversations, we are unlikely to convince one another to shift our perspectives, the conversation becomes a dead end.

    You say that Judaism was already dead when Jesus came the first time, which is ironic because he observed all the mitzvot just like his Jewish contemporaries. For a Jew to become his disciple, he or she didn’t leave Judaism, they joined a particular Jewish religious stream known as “the Way”. The big problem Paul, James the head of the Jerusalem Council, and the other leaders of the Way faced, was how to integrate large numbers of Gentile disciples into a Jewish religious stream without them having to convert to Judaism. There was no such thing as “Christianity” in those days, and it wouldn’t exist in any form until Gentiles began to split off from their Jewish mentors in the second-century CE and “invent” a completely different religious group oriented specifically to non-Jews. That is, the creation of Christianity.

    I really think that the Church when Jesus returns won’t be “the Church,” at all, but the ekklesia of disciples of Yeshua, and the subjects of the King, both in Israel among the Jewish people, and also the non-Jewish people living in the nations of the world.

    Yes, I realize you disagree with all that, but there’s no way to reconcile the Torah and the Prophets with what we read in the Apostolic Scriptures without taking God’s ancient promises to Israel (Jer 31, Ezek 36) into account.

  25. James, you think you know me but you don’t. First, I’m not evangelical. I keep the commandments.

    You mistake “Judaism” with “keeping the commandments”, if Judaism is keeping the commandments then Phariseeism is NOT Judaism.

    I can see you don’t know that “my church” and “the ekklesia” are the same thing. so how can the church not be the church, or the ekklesia not be the ekklesia?

    I agree with the “ancient promises to Israel” but those promises were “Life and Death” and they chose death. Yeshua said they could come to him for life, but “you refuse”.

    Our problem is not that we interpret the bible differently, our problem is that you don’t agree with the bible,or only those parts that support your adjenda. As a technical writer, how well would the performance be if half of what you wrote was ignored?

    You say I have a low view of Israel. What you don’t see is that everything I have stated came from a Jew. Not one idea was from a gentile. That would mean that Jews who wrote the bible have a low view of themselves. Am I forbidden to believe what God, Yeshua, John the Baptist, the Apostles, all said? If I believe it, does that make me a hater? Or, should I believe you who has no supporting evidence that Yeshua was a Pharisee, contrary to many scriptures that say the opposite?

    Anyway, I don’t think any serious bible studier will ever believe that Yeshua was a Pharisee. They did not even know who he was and never claimed him.

  26. William, your argument is backwards, Yeshua got his teaching from the Father, he saw him and revealed him to us. He did not “support” any teachings from men, only teaching from the Father.

    “Someone who doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words — and the word you are hearing is not my own but that of the Father who sent me.”

    Are you an anti-missionary?

  27. “Josephus’ basic description of the Pharisees”

    What about Yeshua’s description of the Pharisees?

    Did the Pharisees believe that Yeshua came down from heaven? Was born of a Virgin? Was the “son of god”? Did they believe that he died for the sins of mankind? That he was perfect and without sin? That he fulfilled the commandments. That he was the lamb of God, that he sent the Holy Spirit?

    Did Josephus say Yeshua was a Pharisee?

  28. One last story.

    I had coffee with my friend last Sunday. On the drive home, he mentioned that his congregation had a guest speaker from Africa on the previous Shabbat. Among other things, this speaker talked about lions and how they hunt only the sick, the weak, the old, and those who wander off and are alone.

    So, go take up residence in a lions’ den.

  29. [And I believe it is jackals and hyenas, not lions, that hunt only the old, the sick, the weak, and those who foolishly wander off alone. I *have* heard it said, though, that very old, toothless lions are reduced to frightening their prey into immobility, by roaring loudly, because this and their claws are the only means left to them to devour prey (ref:1Pet.5:8).]

    Now there’s a powerful, bracketed note, @PL. Thank YOU for that.

  30. I find it interesting that all of our religion defiant minds, despite being supposedly separate from both Orthodox Jewish, and Orthodox Christian praxis, find so much to argue about…except that the arguments, if not pounded to death by any one speaker, open up light to onlookers like myself.

    The contrasting views in this set of comments is meat that I would love to get into in depth…not because I disagree specifically with what has been said, but because I do not know enough about the arguments mentioned above, and want to know more. Yet if I had a Pastor or Rabbi, no doubt I would be carefully shepherded away from these comments, lest my fragile mind be overcome by the arguments that are in opposition to each other, but especially in opposition to my shepherd’s view, if I had a Shepherd other than the Ruach haKodesh.

    Those of us that venture out from a secluded community, or as in my case, never found one to fit into, need these views discussed, but need not to overwhelm the idea of the Original Post while discussing them. It would be a fascinating study just to look through the years of comments made to James’ Blog, and see the progression for each commentator. I know that my ideas have changed just in the year or so I have been amongst the commentators…both from the blog posts, the comments, and the study I do in reaction to both. It’s uncomfortable to take steps away from what I thought was settled in my heart because of what contrary notions I have deemed it proper to investigate. What is worst of all, though, is having no one to discuss the journey one is taking with one’s friends, simply because you know they will not look in the dark nooks and crannies you are looking into.

    As for me, I have to return to the Scriptures with every question, and not just take what is said by others simply because it is said well, or even because the person speaking believes passionately what he says. I am even now recovering from a shattering onslaught from a counter-missionary…not because what he said altered my views, but simply because I stood up to the onslaught. It is nerve wracking to wait for a tsunami to overwhelm you deliberately, defy the wave, and then wait for the waters to recede, the ground to dry out, and for new ideas to spring up from the wreckage.

    James allows a lot of pounding from our minds, since he reads and filters everything that we say before allowing it the light of day on his blog. Never the less, he is not attempting to shepherd any of us, but rather strives for relative discussion to his writing. Consequently, I am attempting not to be too confrontative about my ideas for just this reason, unless it is directly connected to his post. However, one wishes there was a way to comment directly to each commentator, if only to explore things said by the commentator, but James is not running a forum, and I accept that, and so should we all. If I have a question that I want to find out more on, I will post my eMail address in the question to the commentator, and let James get some much needed rest. Any of us can set up a blind eMail address at no cost for such a discussion, and terminate it at will.

    As for finding a Pastor or Rabbi flexible enough to argue all ideas without losing his own correct position…I am afraid we will have to wait for the Master to find that, and then we should have to accept the answer. Even then, with the rampant individualism apparent just in this post and following comments, we might find ourselves arguing with the only one who actually knows the answers.

  31. @Steven “Therefore, I tell you that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to the kind of people that will produce its fruit!” As the head cohanim and the P’rushim listened to his stories, they saw that he was speaking about them.”

    @ProclaimLiberty social status

    @Steven …Yeshua …. was saying and I paraphrase “obey the Judge who is upholding the law of Moses but does not obey the law of Moses himself.”

    He was not teaching men to “obey the judge who says disobey the law of Moses.”

    We know for sure that the [most powerful or positioned in Roman esteem] Pharisees [et al.] did not keep the law of Moses. Yeshua said so: “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?”

    I added the bracketed parts.

    From Wikipedia, as of today: According to the canonical gospels, after the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples went out to Gethsemane, a garden located at the edge of the Kidron Valley, thought by scholars to probably have been an olive grove. Once there, he is described as leaving the group so that he can pray privately.[2][3]

    The synoptics state that Jesus asked God that his burden[*] be taken from him, and requested not to need to undergo the events that he was due to, though giving the final choice to God. Luke states that an angel appeared and strengthened Jesus, who then returned to his disciples. The synoptics state that the three disciples that were with Jesus had fallen asleep, and that Jesus criticized them for failing to stay awake even for an hour, suggesting that they pray so that they could avoid temptation.[3]

    At that point, Judas gave Jesus a kiss, as a pre-arranged sign to those that had accompanied Judas as to who Jesus was.[3][4] Having been identified, the officers arrested Jesus, although one of Jesus’ disciples thought to stop them with a sword, but cut off the ear of one of the arresting officers.[3][4] The Gospel of John specifies that it had been Simon Peter who had cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of Caiaphas, the high priest.[3][4] Luke adds that Jesus healed the wound. John, Matthew, and Luke state that Jesus criticized the violent act, insisting that they do not resist Jesus’ arrest. [….]

    [….] Roman soldiers help to carry out the arrest. Judas leads the arresting party to Jesus[….] Jesus himself, “knowing all that was to happen to him”, ask them whom they are looking for; when they say “Jesus of Nazareth”, he replies “I am he”[….]

    I added [….] those and [*] that.

    * [or “cup”]

    Note that
    they went
    by night to
    hide, as they
    we’re afraid of
    the people seeing.

    The people were also Jews.

  32. If I remember the opening (review) post correctly, the pastor-author (of the book) wants misunderstood followers to drink their ostensible cup while seeing the person doing the misunderstanding as good shepherd (somehow like Christ himself speaking to them). Wrong.

  33. “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me [in secret]? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

    […..]

    28 Then the … leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness [these Jews] did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

    30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

    31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

    “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

    33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

    34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

    35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people[*] and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

    36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the … leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

    37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

    Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

    38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

    40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

    Is Pilate a good ruler/judge here to offer to accusers who said they wouldn’t bring someone not guilty to him when he himself seems that there is no basis for a charge?

  34. Steven,

    No, if I was an anti-missionary I would find a single thing in every post that I felt I could most strongly argue and ignore every other point, thus keeping people jumping to defend their posts while exerting very little effort.

    William

  35. 14Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.

    @Steven … “obey the Judge who is upholding the law of Moses but does not obey the law of Moses himself.”

    He was not teaching men to “obey the judge who says disobey the law of Moses.”

    We know for sure that the Pharisees [*] did not keep the law of Moses. Yeshua said so: “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?”

    {I added the [*] — * Caiaphas wasn’t a Pharisee.}

    “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

    When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha).

  36. 7:24Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

    25At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26Here he is, speaking publicly….

    Weren’t “the Jews” people and “the people” Jews? Yes.

  37. Steven said:

    James, you think you know me but you don’t. First, I’m not evangelical. I keep the commandments.

    I won’t debate you about “keeping the commandments” because it would just be fruitless, but in spite of how you see your “Torah observance,” your theology as you state it in your comments is pretty much a copy and paste from the Christian Evangelical supersessionist playbook.

    As far as why “ekklesia” cannot be reasonably translated as “church,” please read Notes on the Church from an Insomniac and When is Church not Church. Frankly, the tradition of translating the Greek “ekklesia” into the English word “Church” is not only inaccurate, but dishonest. It’s like translating the Greek word for “Passover” as “Easter.”

    God promised Israel permanent forgiveness from sin, to write the Torah on Israel’s collective heart so all Jews would naturally obey the mitzvot without sin, that they would have peace in their Land, that God would destroy all Israel’s enemies, that Israel would be the head of the nations, and the rest of the nations of the world would be the “tail,” and many more things, all part of the New Covenant (that goes to part 1 in a 5-part series) when Messiah inaugurated during his first coming and which he will complete upon his return.

    Yes, we do interpret things differently. It’s not that I’m ignoring information, I simply view the Apostolic Scriptures through the lens of the Torah and Prophets, not the other way around.

    If you’ll read what I said above, I acknowledged that Jesus never directly identified himself as a Pharisee (you’re putting words in my mouth) but that he had the most in common with the Pharisees, more so than the other first century branches of Judaism.

    @Marleen: The lion’s den. Where would that be?

    As for the Last Supper, you might want to read Derek Leman’s latest blog post.

    @Questor: Religious people always seem to find a lot to argue about. As far as Messianic Judaism being separate from Orthodox Jewish praxis, since there’s no one unified expression of Messianic Judaism, different streams can be associated with different expressions of Judaism and Christianity. There’s a lot of variety out there.

    I think the comments are why a lot of people read my blog, to see ideas being compared and contrasted rather than just accept everything I happen to write about. Discussion is a great learning tool when not abused.

    Returning to scripture is always a good move but keep in mind, each person and their accompanying interpretation of scripture always think they’re the one who’s right and they (we) will all say that we get our views from scripture…no matter how radically different they are from one another.

  38. We’re you directing to me that I should read what Derek Lemen has to say about the last supper, James? Why would that be?

    As for a lions’ den, my point was people have church and a (presumed) command to go to one so mixed up with faith that we are pushed and told to do what would actually be DIScouraging.

  39. I would recommend to L, Emily Rose — check out Constantine’s letter to the churches where he draws, like a snake, on the concept of unity or all being one, even while he is establishing the Church in his image and expelling Jews, under threat of violence. You can find the letter in THE PASSOVER CONTROVERSY under the section on anti-Semitism (top left) at elijahnet.net — I recommend that whole section (multiple headings that come up after one clicks on the anti-Semitism Christian category, historical context that makes the letter sickening).

  40. Comparatively, I don’t think he has anything to say I haven’t seen before. This is what I don’t understand. When I’m used to reading more in-depth writing, why act like I’m clueless? And I wasn’t sure if you understood the point of what I’ve posted in this thread. Half the time I get corrected for who knows what. Don’t bother you with Constantine (when I probably mentioned his name something like three times in half a year by then, so, I’d guess you were lumping me in with other people who don’t represent me), don’t point out that church doctrine is different from Messianic doctrine (while you were still trying to go to church). It’s kinda unpredictable at times, so I had to ask.

    Yes, I read it. I stand by what I said, but it’s not a bad article.

  41. Two things in this particular post: first, I read the article (by Leman) that has to do with Passover and Constantine (not the one linked to above in your opening post). I’m not feeling very energetic about finding it for a link here today. And I apologize because I think I’m grumpy for being sick. My youngest son and I have been sick for about a month (very low grade, at least for me, but it’s wearing on me).

    Second, I want to quote one of the parts of your opening post I really liked: Jackson also says such “frat houses” are full of cliques, difficult to fit into (again, I know what that’s like), and Jackson says the only way to combat this is to “make sure that our hearts are free from religion.”

    And yet, I could probably speak to Jackson for less than an hour and elicit a very protective and “religious” (as he defines it) response from him, just by disagreeing with how he interprets the Bible’s message of the good news. Actually, all he’d have to do is read my reviews of his book.

    Only two of the end of chapter questions seemed relevant:

    Are you managing a religion or living in a relationship?

    Has your religious experience become a duty or a delight?

    Convincing Jackson of the beauty of the mitzvot, particularly with Passover and the family seder coming up in a few days, all the preparations, all of the ceremony, and the retelling of the Exodus, would be a lost cause if I were to make the attempt. I suspect all he’d see is “religion,” missing how the seder brings a Jewish family closer to God.

    Of course, I wonder how he’s managing the “relationship” of the upcoming Easter Sunday service at his church, which usually involves a multi-media presentation and tons and tons of preparation and ceremony?

  42. For those who don’t know, what I gave the site address for was to writing by Dan/Daniel Gruber.

  43. I have realized I should state — because I quoted Wikipedia for common understanding that isn’t too off — that not freaking out over the term the last supper (and realizing there was, fundamentally, a last time eating together before the crucifixion) doesn’t mean I believe the betrayal was on Thursday. I don’t “believe in” so-called Good Friday. [By all appearances, what most people remember on a Friday every year (obviously different from what people do each year based on Passover rather than a Christian calender) happened on more like a Wednesday (while these aren’t Hebrew terms… Monday, etc.).]

    As I’m not in a local congregation right now, I remember the things Yeshua said at that time on the Tuesday before Passover each year (and I don’t personally make a point of calling it the Last Supper). It didn’t take reading anything from Leman to change my outlook on such a thing. I’ve seen it that way for a long, long time.

  44. The Wikipedia page was “Arrest of Jesus” —
    when I did a search of taking him by night.

  45. Well, getting back to a few things, I think this has been/is (depending on whether anyone wants to address, and interact with, what I do now) an interesting conversation. To carry on, something rather obvious has just dawned on me to ask, generally speaking, as an important issue in my understanding of life that I will have to take seriously going forward –and I think it is highly relevant for others who would like to hear. So, hear.

    Sometimes in religious thinking, we don’t (aren’t taught to) sort everything out so that “it goes together” (in a kind of logical consistency rather than a mushiness, no matter how firmly or zealously stated or fought for, and rather than even an unintended hypocrisy). I have had to face this as a life-long “conservative” in dedicated form (not only in “word” or political partisanship or judgment of others but personal actual deed). Part of the sorting has been to differentiate between an American conservatism, which is in fact historically liberal, and being something like a European or world conservative, which is colonial, imperial, dictatorial, plutocratic, reactionary (compared to [that is instead of or contrasted and shown up by] enlightened, or oft-called western, tendencies) and so on. And then I had to reconcile (unlike the previous or familiar merge) that [spoiler alert, my now conscious American conservatism] over again in a different manner with my faith, which is not and has never been libertine so to speak.

    Here is the “question” as an example of clarifying thought (and possible marching orders) — and I think this thread, among threads, is a good place for bringing it to begin: Are we to believe that Jesus came to teach us to hate all other nations but Israel? And shortly after this querry in need of a solution came to mind, a reference about “the world” (in the gospel called John) came to mind as well. I really do hope to take this on together. But I will have it as a top priority regardless.

    Additionally, as I came and read some comments here again today, another thought came to me. I think it’s true that Yeshua was adept at communicating like a Pharisee (on top of the fact that he believed in resurrection, like the Pharisees did too), while he was much better though — and even if he wasn’t a Pharisee (they wondered where he got so smart without having been taught). This would be similar to how Paul [“became”] communicated like a Greek, Roman, barbarian, Jew, and so on, while he was actually and continued consistently to behave as a Pharisee in terms of keeping Torah (and even some tradition I would guess), while better. (The difference being that I don’t think Jesus, that is unlike Paul, ever took on non-Jewish [or, broader, non-Israeli] rhetorical effort, although I could be shown an example of it.)

  46. My goodness, Marleen, you’ve strung together so many nested clauses — how are we ever to untangle them?! I’m not sure what you mean by the phrase “historically liberal”, nor why you associate that notion with “American conservatism”, but I would suggest that any difference between American or European or international definitions of conservatism must depend on what fundamental values are expected to be “conserved”. Some Europeans might expect to conserve monarchial rule and aristocratic privilege, even if they wish also to conserve the patronizing notion of “noblesse oblige”, while others might wish to conserve “liberte, egalite, fraternite” and a Hobbesian social contract. Alternatively, Americans have a number of Enlightenment and Biblical values that are cited in the nation’s foundational documents, and it is these that they would conserve. Obviously these different foundations would affect the definition of conservatism.

    So how does the above tie together with your boldfaced question — which could be viewed as being actually two different questions depending on whether it is read with the name “Jesus”, as you’ve presented it, or whether it is interpreted as asking what the first-century Israeli Rav Yeshua intended to teach? The “Jesus” of Christian tradition is presented as pretty universalistic, except for his apparent denigration of Jews, Torah-keeping, and, of course, Jewish traditions (as viewed through a Nicene-Council lens). One of his sayings, read superficially, seems to suggest that his disciples must hate their own extended families and even their own lives (cif:Lk.14:26). That doesn’t seem to bode well for folks outside of the family circle, either. A Pharisaic Israeli rabbi, on the other hand, such as Rav Yeshua, would obviously have had a more nuanced, non-literal interpretation in mind; and he certainly would never have countenanced hatred of Jews or the nation of Israel. Would he have taught hatred of non-Jews? He would have taught the Torah value that hates sin. Matthew reports him as teaching: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you … (ref:Mt.5:43-44). To me, that does not sound like a recommendation “to hate all other nations but Israel”. On the other hand, he did state a definition of his own priorities and focus when he said: “… I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (cif:Mt.15:24). Since this was a response to a non-Jewish woman’s request to perform a miraculous healing upon her daughter, we might mistakenly infer a negative view of gentile sinners (similar to Rav Shaul’s comment in Gal.2:15). But we see the positive outcome of this exchange in vs.28, where her faith is valued as a justification to grant her request. Nonetheless, it is this focus that prevents any occurrence of Rav Yeshua catering to or rhetorically addressing a wide variety of non-Jews in addition to Jews, as did Rav Shaul who was commissioned to be specifically the “apostolon” sent to the widely-varied gentiles.

    Let me then ask, further, how did you come to formulate your question as you did? It seems to me rather disconnected from the topic of the above essay.

  47. My goodness, Marleen, you’ve strung together so many nested clauses — how are we ever to untangle them?!

    I understand, yes, I’ve probably made it especially hard this time. Partly, I left a thing or two unclear to see what the response would be (and I’m still not spelling everything out in this post). But I was going to clarify that I specifically by “nations” mean nations (or possibly the governments of nations) — not gentiles as individuals, each “savable.” I decided to check and see if anyone had responded; thanks for the response. I wasn’t fast enough to get that one bit of definition in before you grappled with it, but now I’ve gotten to it. You did bring up one story that I think will fit in the discussion in some way, the one where Yeshua responded to the gentile woman (but as someone he was communicating with, not as an example of what I meant by nations). There are a number of things that can be taken more than one way. Let’s start with this one:

    So how does the above [pondering about being conservative] tie together with your boldfaced question — which could be viewed as being actually two different questions depending on whether it is read with the name “Jesus”, as you’ve presented it, or whether it is interpreted as asking what the first-century Israeli Rav Yeshua intended to teach? The “Jesus” of Christian tradition is presented as pretty universalistic, except for his apparent denigration of Jews, Torah-keeping, and, of course, Jewish traditions (as viewed through a Nicene-Council lens). One of his sayings, read superficially, seems to suggest that his disciples must hate their own extended families and even their own lives (cif:Lk.14:26).

    Yes — I absolutely would not conclude that Yeshua is telling his disciples to hate their extended families or mothers or larger family of Jews, or anything like that. And I’m not “on board” with denigration of Jews, Torah keeping, or tradition (of course with some exceptions whether considering Jewish or not Jewish, any people group). Christian tradition that does so (and indeed it DOES so) is old world conservative. It’s based on someone being the boss or conqueror and rejecting anything that is too hard to think about or have patience with, because what matters is that the temporal king or emperor or pope — or whatever strong man or hero — should win. This can involve literal fighting power and riches or at least sufficient resources to have more agency than someone else. It includes some kind of focus. He only has so much time to work with, and he wants to stoke his ego or legacy (depending on how short or long term is his thinking) and gratify his wants now as soon as practicable. A minority, or any weakness (whether because of being a minority or simply physically weak or anomalous or because of being more subtle in thinking rather than brutish, any of which then can lead to being a minority in fact or in terms of being heard) is a waste of time and energy. Or easily beaten. What’s easiest is to impose some uniformity… or, as for the Christian Father [i.e. “Papa” or infantilizer and threatener], the universalistic. Certainly, some things should be uniform, like prohibition of murder (but then there can be the blindness of the ruler not thinking it’s wrong when he does it — and everyone playing along). So, Christian tendencies in modern America (especially the U.S.) have been to see these alarming characteristics in certain places — like communism (oversimplified) or Nazi Germany or this or that badness, but not as a grasped understanding (so that Christianity’s historic strength isn’t seen for what it is, how that happened). And Christians can go on arguing stupidly that whoever wins is the winner.

    However, there IS a Christian genre (for lack of a better word) that now has taken on board the idea that we should bless Israel. This often doesn’t go very deep in the sense of thinking through Bible meaning and implications, but is another line in a political platform. [In some venues, any deeper thinking is actually quite scary, because if you ask enough questions you find that they are looking forward to Jews eventually getting their comeuppance after Christians everywhere have been nice (enough) to them and their country. And, like many Christian platitudes, you aren’t supposed to think about it too much but take it on “faith” and be enthusiastic.] There are various combinations of Bible verses and other reasons to be on Israel’s side (let’s not be too naive and not know that some politicians and preachers aren’t really as into Bible reasons).

    One Bible concept is that of all nations being against Israel. Are we to behave in a constant manner as if all nations are the enemies of Israel? I don’t think this is realistic. I don’t think it’s true. But even if it is Americans want to still think they are an exception. And we get teachings like this: http://myprivatelibrary.org/#Attention Newest Article (you may already have a clue from this page, but if you keep looking around, it is at some point made explicit that the saved are Israel and the U.S. or maybe America).

    I’m glad you noticed that “Jesus” can be taken two ways, that you noted and said it. Because that’s what I hoped would be seen. I chose “Jesus” because of the simplified way I’m thinking even pro-Israel Christians go forth. But I’m ultimately trying to provoke more clarity on what “first-century Israeli Rav Yeshua” really wanted. Like… what good would it have done to be another nation that in the name of being pro-Israel said, “whatever Caiaphas or Herod say is what is right” (because they are there)? And if Herod had said he hated (or even only had great suspicions of) some nearby place, so what? And for us now, should we think of all nations (but Israel) as evil because they are the world? Should we only have respect for individuals as persons who can be saved into the ranks of those who hate every nation as evil?

  48. {The name of the article I linkied to (or am trying to link to, in case the “newest article” changes) is “The Wife of Jesus is the Ethnee” }

  49. Oy, Marleen, where did you dig up this article? I found it difficult to read the whole thing because of a critical error of conception early on. The writer seems to be so fixated on this one particular Greek word for “people” (i.e., “ethnee”) that he doesn’t see its multiple meanings, particularly as a translation of a Hebrew notion, nor the effect that varying currents in history have had on its usage. I infer that he is trying to build a case for a non-Jewish people of G-d. It wasn’t clear to me from this limited sampling whether he wishes merely to include them along with Jews or if he wishes to consider them a genuine “people of G-d” in place of the Jewish people who scripturally hold that designation. Regardless of his purposes, I don’t understand why you referenced it. What do you believe it illustrates? What are you trying to say in focusing on “nations” as representing entire people groups? Certainly there are many scriptural references to nations that will attack or persecute or war against HaShem and His chosen people and His Torah and His chosen/anointed ultimate king the Messiah. But each of these references has a historical and political context, and even a phrase like “all the nations” must be understood as a somewhat hyperbolic reference to all those surrounding Israel in a particular era. It would be possible for some remote people groups to have no contact with Israel at all, either pro or con, and hence to be outside the purview of one of these “all the nations” prophecies. In all fairness, the Torah demands that each case be considered on its own merits and evidence, whether of an individual or of an entire nation/people.

    And I’m still not tracking your purpose in raising this issue, whatever it is, in the context of the above essay. Can you clarify? How do we get here from there?

  50. @James, since I didn’t read the book, are you saying that this author/pastor supports paternalism, both in his congregation and in his relationship with his wife? He feels the need to protect his wife from a person who will “mislead,” or upset her, without her knowledge or permission? Paternalism is a softer form of patriarchy, strengthening and stroking the leader’s ego and position and treating adults like children. Sure, some are in a situation where they need this temporarily, but we are to strengthen the hands that are weak.

    I also find the borderline antisemitism, or open anti-Judaism in some comments here troubling.

  51. @PL Regardless of his purposes, I don’t understand why you referenced it. What do you believe it illustrates?

    What it illustrates is how silly “Americans” [often used to mean the U.S.] or Christian anywhere can get when they combine Bible with beliefs that are off (and interpretations that don’t reflect understanding). Another manifestation was Sarah Palin referring to Christians and the U.S. and allies “being the head and not the tail” (in a church service “anointing” her to be involved in politics).

    The writer seems to be so fixated on this one particular Greek word for “people” (i.e., “ethnee”) that he doesn’t see its multiple meanings, particularly as a translation of a Hebrew notion, nor the effect that varying currents in history have had on its usage. I infer that he is trying to build a case for a non-Jewish people of G-d. It wasn’t clear to me from this limited sampling whether he wishes merely to include them along with Jews or if he wishes to consider them a genuine “people of G-d” in place of the Jewish people who scripturally hold that designation.

    It was hard to get clarity on what the writer wanted to get across precisely (in fact, I never could grasp any precision he may have been trying to prove), but somehow I got the feeling from this one sampling that it would be something about maybe white people or maybe his favored nations. I kept choosing other articles and, as I said, “if you keep looking around, it is at some point made explicit that the saved are Israel and the U.S.” — to this writer (although I still don’t know if he’s included both Jewish people and whatever it is about Americans he’s so into in “the people” or wife or if he’s put what is usually the replacement people in the people and Jews as something else but saved anyway). This was put in as a link in comments at a blog I was reading about a month ago. I’ve accidentally drawn more attention to it than I intended to by having to add an additional post naming the article because what had looked like all one line of an address changed when it was posted to separate out the words “Newest Article” as if I had chosen to type them myself (and indicating what might be found at the link in the future would be a newer article).

    In this country, we have been getting more and more “conservative” politics in church, like it’s almost the very gospel (I think many people don’t quite realize it really isn’t the gospel or a required part of faith). But the version of “American” conservatism that is pushed is more Austrian, and of the historical world, rather than conserving what the U.S. is supposed to be about (considering the founders and the Constitution, but also progressively such as with the removal of special favors for slave owners, etc.). And of course even that (what the U.S. is about) isn’t the gospel (but is more a fruit of it conceptually, except that it isn’t exactly fruit either in practice — with the removal, and more, of native Americans to pave the economic way).

    What are you trying to say in focusing on “nations” as representing entire people groups? Certainly there are many scriptural references to nations that will attack or persecute or war against HaShem and His chosen people and His Torah and His chosen/anointed ultimate king the Messiah. But each of these references has a historical and political context, and even a phrase like “all the nations” must be understood as a somewhat hyperbolic reference to all those surrounding Israel in a particular era. It would be possible for some remote people groups to have no contact with Israel at all, either pro or con, and hence to be outside the purview of one of these “all the nations” prophecies. In all fairness, the Torah demands that each case be considered on its own merits and evidence, whether of an individual or of an entire nation/people.

    And I’m still not tracking your purpose in raising this issue, whatever it is, in the context of the above essay. Can you clarify? How do we get here from there?

    So, I agree with your statement I have quoted in bold. And I wonder if taking something in Hebrew scripture as a prophecy that could apply to now still allows for “all” to be a particular all and not absolutely every country (that is, in an environment where countries are aware of each other across the entire planet). And, do countries other than Israel get to consider each case and details — or are they (countries other than Israel, like Christians are often taught to on so many subjects) supposed to be infantilized? Are we supposed to abuse our own minds by not allowing ourselves to think and notice what the actual evidence and merits are in a situation; are people to listen preachers and politicians who simply tell us (if we want to think of ourselves or our nations as saved or good examples of Christianity/or even real Messianics) to never question the leader of Israel the U.S. interacts with most?

    And if we are supposed to behave in this way, it follows that we are supposed to hate every nation but Israel (unless we come up with rationalizations for how our own country is safe and good). But while thinking we are doing this (loving Israel), we tend to also do it in a simplistic way.

    I suppose the way I see this line of thinking fitting with this thread is more about the comments section than the opening post/essay. But the way we got into all the comments is that they were inspired by the essay because some people struggle with how we are expected to submit to churches, leaders, dogmas, and politics.

    It was also so as seen in the times of the Messiah walking the earth. His brothers told him he should go to Jerusalem and make a name for himself (among the leaders). Yeshua said the world loved his brothers’ thinking but that the world wouldn’t love him.

    So, he had been staying in Galilee instead of going to interact with the leadership. He ended up going to the feast under discussion (halfway through without telling his brothers). [John 7:1-12]

    [While this passage of accepted scripture talks about Jewish leadership, let’s remember they functioned under Rome. There is no rational reason to conclude the moral of the story is to reject Judaism.]

  52. @Chaya: It seems that way. Frankly, if I ever offered to “protect” my wife from people talking to her, I’d probably end up sleeping on the sofa for the rest of my life.

  53. Consider that there are Jewish people who aren’t citizens of the current nation of Israel, they are part of some other country. And consider that in Israel not every Jew is in favor of whoever is the person elected to be the face we interact with the most. Are we, more than those who live there, supposed to be completely starstruck at all times?

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