Walking to the Temple

The Hope of Healing in the Bilateral Ekklesia

I am getting interested in Judaism – reading the Bible, and trying to practice its many laws. But I am having a hard time accepting the Talmud and all its laws. Isn’t it enough just to do what’s written in the Bible?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Thank you for writing. This issue has bothered people throughout the ages, and in fact many break-away Jewish groups (Karaites, Sadducees, and even the Christians) did so over this very point.

But it is a huge mistake.

-from the “Ask the Rabbi” column
“Validity of Oral Law: Tefillin Example”
Aish.com

I know I’ve been spending a lot of time writing about how (or sometimes “if”) non-Jews can have a place within social and communal Messianic Judaism, but I think it’s time to return to the Jewish perspective (as best I can perceive it, my not being Jewish) for a bit. Maybe it’s there that we non-Jews can find some illumination if not orientation.

I know a lot of non-Jews (and some Jews) within both Hebrew Roots and Messianic Judaism have issues with the Oral Law and the wisdom and rulings of the Rabbinic Sages. The argument seems to center around sola scriptura and the sufficiency of scripture vs. recognizing the authority of the Sages to make halachic rulings for their various branches within Judaism, which apparently even Yeshua (Jesus) did.

The Aish Rabbi I quoted above undoubtedly agrees that the Oral Law is “a thing” and that the Jewish Sages were well within their God-given rights to set standards of observance and behavior for the various Jewish communities historically, and said-rulings are still considered authoritative among certain streams of Judaism today (it’s actually a lot more complicated than that, but a full examination of the Talmud and its influence on observant Judaism is well beyond the scope of this blog post).

But how does all that work in Messianic Judaism which, as Derek Leman says, is “a Judaism committed to Yeshua” and “…a Judaism [with the] core purpose…[of] provid[ing] a home for Jewish followers of Yeshua where we may live out our covenantal relationship with God based on the Abrahamic promise, the teaching from Sinai, and the revelation of God which is in Messiah Yeshua”?

Jewish movements such as the ancient Sadducees and the modern Karaites reject Rabbinic authority, so Jewish recognition of such authority isn’t universal. Given that Messianic Judaism is a Judaism that embraces Messiah Yeshua (whose multitude of Gentile members have historically rejected not only Rabbinic authority but Judaism as a valid religious and faith expression), what can we believe about the relationship between Messianic Judaism and Rabbinic halachah?

RabbisI know what you’re thinking. No, I don’t really, but it’s my favorite line of dialog from the old, 1980s TV show Magnum, P.I.. That said, I suspect some of you may be thinking that since historically the Sages have rejected any and all claims of Jesus possibly being the Messiah, and have treated any Jew who came to faith in Christ as an apostate, how could Messianic Judaism embrace, in any sense at all, what the Jewish Rabbis have to say, let alone consider the Talmudic rulings as having authority over the lives of Jewish disciples of Yeshua?

Let’s start with this:

Though the Sages of the rabbinic tradition are legitimate bearers of halakhic authority, they are not the only leaders with such competence. As the embodiment of heavenly Wisdom and the living Torah, Yeshua himself is the ultimate earthly source of halakhic authority. While he acknowledged the authority of some leaders in the wider Jewish community, he also formed his own messianic subcommunity and bestowed upon its designated leaders – the Apostles – the authority to bind and loose (Matthew 16:16–19; 18:18). In doing so, Yeshua was authorizing the Apostles to regulate the life of the messianic community according to their Master’s interpretation of the Torah and according to the guidance of his Spirit who writes the Torah on the hearts of his disciples (Matthew 28:18–20; John 14:26; Jeremiah 31:33; 2 Corinthians 3:2–3).

-from “Halakhic Authority: Halakhic Authority, the Bilateral Ekklesia, and the Wounded Two-Fold Tradition”
Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council

So we know that not only did Yeshua affirm that the Pharisees of his day were the proper heirs, in some sense, of Moses and thus had valid authority to make halachah for their communities, but that he also conferred halachic authority to James and the Jerusalem Council, making their legal decisions binding on the Jewish and Gentile disciples of the Master. We see a clear example of the Council issuing a binding legal decision in the form of Gentile status within the ancient Jewish religious stream of “the Way” (Acts 15), which they only could have done through the authority of their Master, their “Rebbe” Yeshua.

Apostle Paul preachingUnfortunately, that chain of Messianic Rabbinic authority was broken early on as ancient Messianic Judaism went underground and finally disappeared for nearly two-thousand years.

The same web article goes on to say:

The disappearance of a messianic ekklesia within the Jewish people also damaged the halakhic and prophetic capacity of “catholic Israel” – which remains incomplete without the presence of Jewish disciples of Yeshua at its very heart, and without a living connection to the multinational ekklesia which has been joined by the Messiah to Israel as its extension among the Gentiles. Nevertheless, in their many diverse historical expressions and traditions, the Jewish people and their recognized leaders have retained their legitimate halakhic authority, and God continues to operate among them and through them in order to shape their life in accordance with the Torah.

This seems to imply that the MJRC, representing a Judaism devoted to Messiah, also recognizes the historic Jewish leaders and their halachic authority as legitimate, at least in certain areas.

But in the next section of the article, “Halakhic Authority and the MJRC”, we find:

Within the context of the Messianic Jewish movement and its prophetic role, the MJRC sees itself as called to serve a particular halakhic function. The MJRC does not view itself as the only halakhic authority in the Messianic Jewish movement, nor does it claim to be the movement’s highest halakhic authority. It does, however, believe that it has halakhic authority for its own immediate sphere and for those beyond that sphere who look to it for guidance. The MJRC believes that its role is to be a pioneer in the development of a halakhic way of life among Messianic Jews, and thereby to stimulate serious halakhic thinking and practice within the movement as a whole.

Tikvat IsraelSo “yes” to Messianic Jewish halachah, at least for those synagogues and even individuals within the direct sphere of influence and authority of MJRC. I agree that there is no one central authority for all Jews in Messiah, but then again, there’s no one central authority for any of the other Judaisms as well. As one of my readers sometimes says, “Judaism has no Pope.”

Now here’s something interesting:

As is the case for the authority of our movement as a whole, the legitimacy of our claims cannot be determined unequivocally in the present but awaits a divine judgment to be rendered in the course of future events. If our claims are justified over time, then we are an integral part of a process in which the bilateral halakhic authority of the apostolic tradition is being restored, the bilateral ekklesia is being healed, and a corporate Torah-faithful witness to Yeshua is restored to the Jewish people.

This is a very wise statement. There’s no absolute claim of authority but rather a provisional one. While it seems the Rabbis involved in the MJRC are acting in good faith, only Yeshua, upon his return, can lend full legitimacy to MJRC halachic authority and the decisions they make for their communities.

But then again, I suspect that will be true of all the different streams of Judaism, both ancient and modern, as one of the things Messiah is supposed to do is to teach Torah correctly. Since, for most observant Jews, “Torah” includes both the Written and Oral Law as well as the entire compilation of Talmudic literature, Yeshua will likely make many rulings on the decisions arrived at by the legitimate Rabbinic authorities across the ages and what those rulings mean for Jews and even non-Jews in the Kingdom of Heaven.

two pathsHowever, that last quote also spoke of healing the “bilateral ekklesia,” that is, healing the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in Messiah, presumably clarifying our relationship and roles regarding one another.

And this is what I’ve been attempting to write about over the past several blog posts.

The MJRC article on halachah concludes:

We cannot know how the bilateral ekklesia would have developed had its Jewish corporate expression survived and thrived. Similarly, we cannot know how Jewish tradition would have developed had the Jewish disciples of Yeshua been accepted and respected by our entire people at an early stage of the development of Halakhah. We do not strive to articulate or re-create what might have been.

However, we cannot avoid engaging in the task of shaping today’s Messianic Jewish practice from the textual sources and other resources available to us today. This task places enormous demands on Messianic Jewish leaders, requiring of us a serious devotion to study, prayer, discussion, and corporate decision-making in a spirit of humility and charity. At the same time, we believe that the resurrected Messiah dwells among us and within us, and we rely upon his ongoing guidance as we seek to carry on his work of raising up the fallen tent of David within the people of Israel (Acts 15:14–18; Amos 9:11–12).

That conclusion isn’t particularly satisfying in terms of mapping out how this healing of the Jewish and Gentile bilateral ekklesia is to come about, but then again, it’s very likely that they just don’t know.

And so it comes back to that same troubling question, what does this all mean for us, the Gentiles in or near Messianic community (I say “in” or “near” even for those of us who do not directly have “Messianic community” but who nevertheless choose to study from that perspective)?

Our Master Yeshua took the loaves and fish. He told the twelve, “Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each” (Luke 9:14). “The Gospel of Mark reports that the people “sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties” on “the green grass” (Mark 6:39-40). “There was much grass in the place” (John 6:10). The green grass confirms that the story occurred in the spring when the slopes of the hills around Lake Galilee are still green. The scene invokes the Psalm of the Good Shepherd: “I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:1-2).

The Master had the people recline as they might do at a formal banquet or Passover Seder meal: “He commanded them all to recline (anaklino, ἀνακλίνω).” The reclining posture suggests the messianic banquet when the righteous will “recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11). For those with eyes to see, the miraculous feeding of the multitude was a foretaste of the messianic banquet. Not unlike the miracle of transforming the water to wine, Yeshua offered a preview of the kingdom and God’s miraculous provision.

-from “A Prophetic Picnic”
First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)

fish and breadI certainly hope the folks at FFOZ don’t mind my lifting this quote from their newsletter, but I find it quite valuable in illustrating that both Jews and Gentiles are invited to the formal banquet in the Messianic Kingdom.

On another one of my blog posts someone commented that he’d like an invitation to join that banquet, to which I replied that we have such an invitation. It was quoted above but I’ll repeat it here for emphasis:

I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven…

Matthew 8:11 (NASB)

Of course, the Master was looking at the endgame, so to speak, when all has been accomplished according to prophesy, but what about in the meantime?

That’s the tough part. Like the MJRC article said, if Messianic Rabbinic authority had continued unbroken throughout history, and it stood with the same God-given authority as the other Rabbinic sages and their rulings, things would look very much clearer.

But while the MJRC Rabbis and other organizations within larger Messianic Judaism recognize the need for healing between Jewish and Gentile disciples of the Master within (and beyond) Messianic Jewish space, we really are stuck in figuring out what that should look like in the here and now.

But, as ProclaimLiberty related:

I can’t give you a recipe for inviting a personal revelation. The emissary Yacov wrote (Jam.4:8): “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you doubtfully-minded.” However, the most famous revelations depicted in the scriptures were instigated by HaShem. Moshe wasn’t looking for a revelation, as far as we know, when he noticed an odd phenomenon on a desert mountainside, that turned out to be a bush that burned but did not burn up, whence the voice of HaShem began speaking to him. Rav Shaul had other things on his mind until a bright light spooked his horse to throw him before reaching Damascus, whence another revelation ensued. You can find other such examples for yourself. Regrettably, my own example will not likely help either, because I wasn’t looking for revelation when HaShem confronted me one night; and if someone could have warned me in advance what it would entail, I might just have tried very hard to be someplace else rather than to go through that experience. But subsequent experience lets me suspect that those who seek diligently and honestly to enter into the kingdom-of-heaven mindset, meditating on the teachings of Tenakh and on apostolic reflections of them, may just begin to experience similar insight. Who can tell what visions or dreams might ensue.

Sometimes God finds us when we’re not looking for Him. However, it is more likely we’ll recognize that encounter if we invite Him, rather than sit around waiting for His invitation to arrive in our mailbox, so to speak.

Formal halachah for the Gentiles will just have to wait. However, if we turn to Him, He will turn to us.

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78 thoughts on “The Hope of Healing in the Bilateral Ekklesia”

  1. “This issue has bothered people throughout the ages, and in fact many break-away Jewish groups (Karaites, Sadducees, and even the Christians) did so over this very point.”

    So, this makes my head hurt. 🙂 The correlation made between the Karaites and Sadducees is contested, but either way, the ancient paradigm that believed Christianity descended from Judaism, aka the “Mother-daughter” paradigm, has been abandoned by many (most?) scholars of early Christianity and post-biblical Judiasm.

    According to both Jewish and Christian scholars, It is more accurate to say rabbinic Judaism and Christianity are siblings, since both descended from the “ancient faith” of Israel (for lack of better term) that was quite varied and not monolithic. Rabbinic Judaism did not exist in Jesus’ era any more than Christianity did (so neither Sadducees nor Christianity could have departed from it) and according to many, the Pharisees were far less powerful than most of us have been led to imagine. (An excellent article by Hayim Lapin: “The Origins and Development of the Rabbinic Movement in the Land of Israel” can be found online). Additionally, Christianity’s founding documents significantly predate the Mishnah, the foundational document of rabbinic Judaism.

    Whether or not Jesus gave as much deference to the Pharisees as is sometimes claimed, I appreciate the MJRC’s humility and respect for the Sages and the later rabbis, and agree they have a firm footing to establish Halacha for Jewish believers in Yeshua.

  2. Questions:
    Whose responsibility do you see it being to answer questions of Gentile role, responsibility and particularly praxis? Who (if anyone other than Messiah) do you believe has the authority to do that?

    What would your mental end game be? In other words, at what point would you say “Yes. This is what we’ve been needing, and now we have it.”

    Do you want that to be done in the context of Messianic Judaism or in some other sphere?

    Genuine questions as I try to understand more the experiences of marginalized Gentiles within MJ.

  3. PL: The comparison of Judaism and Christianity as mother-daughter faiths comes straight from the Aish Rabbi, not me, but thanks for clarifying those relationships. sister-sister faiths makes a lot more sense given how Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism has evolved over the centuries.

    While Rabbinic Judaism didn’t exist in Yeshua’s day, he nevertheless appeared to grant at least a nod to the authority of the Pharisees to establish binding halachah, as well as grant that ability to his own apostles, so I think it’s a fair assumption that upon his return, he will evaluate what has been established within the various Judaism and make perhaps some “corrective” interpretations. That’s a guess on my part, but I don’t think I’m too far afield.

    @Kari: Beats me. As I said above, I don’t believe anyone in the Messianic movement, either Jew or Gentile, has a solid answer for how to accomplish this. I think this is why Hebrew Roots took the easy way out, so to speak, and just borrowed much of what we find today in terms of Jewish praxis, minus much of the Talmudic interpretation of the Torah. Of course, they substitute their own, local interpretation to fill in the gaps.

    The various Christianities are content within their own praxis but that requires the deletion of anything from ancient Judaism and certainly a denial of the validity of any modern Jewish practice.

    We Messianic Gentiles are still trying to figure it all out. I don’t doubt that, for the sake of practicality, each local Messianic synagogue has a set of standards or options available for the Gentiles who attend, but since even Messianic Judaism has no “pope,” there’s no one overarching set of standards we can look to.

    As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts and their comments, we individual non-Jews in Messiah may just have to define ourselves, at least in terms of private worship, and then go along with the customs of whatever congregation we find ourselves worshiping in, if any.

  4. @James — It wasn’t me, it was SWJ who claimed the sibling relationship in place of the Aish rabbi’s mother-daughter model. (So there!) [:P] Are we there, yet? Tell her she’s sitting too close to my side of the seat! I wanna go home! Somebody’s throwing stuff at me! Can we get some ice cream?

    Yeah, I guess the squabbling does make it seem more like a sibling relationship. [:)]

    However, Rav Yeshua said nothing about evaluating the relative political power or popular influence of the various factions present in his era. He simply instructed his disciples that they should obey the scribes and Pharisees who were properly exercising Moshe’s Torah-interpretive authority, except for some priority issues and some failure to meet their own standards.

    It seems to be largely Rambam’s perception that lumped the Sadducees and Karaites together conceptually or religiously, even though they never existed at the same time. I don’t know who SWJ read contesting that relationship, but one Karaite website I accessed suggested that too little was known of the Sadducean viewpoints to make the comparison. I suspect that to be a bit disingenuous, and erroneously dismissive of the Rambam — however this blog is probably an insufficient forum to attempt a comparison of doctrines by which to claim greater or lesser similarities between them.

  5. “I think this is why Hebrew Roots took the easy way out, so to speak, and just borrowed much of what we find today in terms of Jewish praxis, minus much of the Talmudic interpretation of the Torah”

    I actually think what you call their “easy way out” directly traces to the error of the Mother-daughter paradigm. This leads to all kinds of erroneous assumptions including Gentiles thinking “Judaism” predates Christianity and therefore is a purer form of worshiping God. Obviously it’s far more complicated than that.

    And, umm…”PL”?

    Whatever James, I don’t have a beard, and I think my hair is even a different color, sheesh. You always take his side, and besides he’s chewing with his mouth open!
    🙂

  6. Although my son and daughter are six years apart, they were reading Hamlet around the same time; he was in high school and she’d been reading Shakespeare since age seven. One day while schlepping them to after school activities, they began insulting each other in Olde English and for once, it didn’t bother me. Indeed, ’twas rather lovely! Hark, I did then beseech my lord and lady that henceforth if they found need to partake in verbal rousting, they were free to do so in Shakespearian English only!

  7. Kari wrote:

    Questions:

    “Whose responsibility do you see it being to answer questions of Gentile role, responsibility and particularly praxis? Who (if anyone other than Messiah) do you believe has the authority to do that?”

    G-d. Messiah. I tend to view the relationship that G-d has with existence as one of creative decree. While I can easily get behind the notion that the majority of Judaism is human-adapted custom, the praxis, halacha, precedents and so forth are wrapped around explicitly given roles that do not come from a Sanhedrin, but are established by G-d though decrees. Their source is in the divine, as G-d defines Man.

    Sabbath observance might be fleshed out by the rabbis, but the charge and responsibility to observe it comes from G-d. The role comes from G-d. There might be layers of tradition, but at the center is an eternal and mystic link from heaven that defines the doer.

    I think most people in a religion can observe the customs set forth by sages and wise men. But they want to know that behind that custom is a decree that defines them, that is not derived but eternal. People who know that their entire religious life is optional tend not to pass it on. That’s why missing mass and confession became a sin; Catholicism had to make it a decree to justify it.

    If nothing is required of Gentiles but “believe in G-d, love man,” one’s life in the eyes of onlookers is identical to a secular humanist who embraces good morals. So how is that a religious life? And of what value is any religious life if at the end of all one’s practices and customs, they are complete fabrications that never came from G-d?

    “What would your mental end game be? In other words, at what point would you say “Yes. This is what we’ve been needing, and now we have it.”

    Through the entire bible, the word Gentile is used. It’s a definition by negation. It means “not-Jewish.” Sadly, it even used this term in the New Testament. I think Paul might have felt that the Messianic Age was at hand and never sought to answer our questions. Like me, he felt that it is the job of G-d and Messiah to fill in the gaps, and they would be showing up any minute. Heh. “Oops!” as James puts it.

    I suppose when G-d actually begins to define the peoples of the world positively as opposed through negation, through commands in time and space and not only prohibitions, then yes. That is probably what we need (in my humble human opinion of what we need).

    PL actually pointed out that you can see whispers of this in Joshua 9. Gibeon is cursed (though PL sees it as a blessing to have service near the Temple). G-d though His prophet gave a binding decree that defines Gibeon (gentiles) forever as a people. How they choose to observe this command might vary. Perhaps they will mikveh before chopping. Perhaps this labor would be coordinated in rotation to be done only by the men, each of whom might have to serve one week out of the year. Perhaps they would store extra so they don’t have to chop on Shabbat. Perhaps different types of wood would be provided for different feast days. Perhaps they would etch sacred psalms and prayers into the wood to be burned. Gibeon would have a lower court that divvies up water and wood usage rights among their people. Perhaps all the men could wear bronze axes on feast days in the way a Sikh wears his dagger on special occasions.

    One single divine decree (a supposed curse even) differentiates Gibeon from being defined purely in the negative (gentile), they could develop a praxis around something that G-d eternally regards about them. What they have between their people and their G-d is something real that came from somewhere real, and it differentiates them from the fungible blob of being defined by negation like the rest of the world.

    My hope for the Messianic Era is this:

    When G-d stops defining Gentiles purely by negation. Perhaps he will one day say cease saying “you are not…” and instead starts proclaiming “you are…”

    When universal principals like “belief in Messiah” that blob billions of distinct peoples together become accompanied by decrees that actually define who they are in Messiah.

    It will be more meaningful to say “Greek” or “Scythian” in the Messianic Age than it will be to just say “gentile.” Gibeonite had more meaning than just “Gentile.”

    “Messianic Gentile” is not a real Biblical category, anymore than are any Christian denominations. Oddly enough, Gibeonite is more of a Biblical category; it’s definition comes through divine decree. “Messianic Gentiles” have no covenants and no more commandments than the baptized bushman, and no more relationship to G-d beyond generic head-belief in Jesus. I don’t see what grounding they have to make anything up or how long it would last.

  8. @drake — curious: I know Paul referred to Greeks and barbarians (in translation), so, not only Jews and Greeks. Are you using “Scythian” in place of barbarian? Or are you saying it because you simply like something about the word or some history or something like that?

  9. Also, drake, I wonder your take on the fact only men were told to go up to the mountain at Sanai. Women can be seen as tag-alongs.

  10. I always find it interesting to compare the choices made.

    ….

    New Living Translation
    In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

    ….

    Aramaic Bible in Plain English
    Where there is neither Jew nor Aramaean, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, neither Greeks nor Barbarians, neither Servant nor Freeman, but The Messiah is all and in every person.

    GOD’S WORD® Translation
    Where this happens, there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, uncivilized person, slave, or free person. Instead, Christ is everything and in everything.

    Jubilee Bible 2000
    where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian nor Scythian, slave nor free: but Christ is all and in all.

    King James 2000 Bible
    Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

    American King James Version
    Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

    American Standard Version
    where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all.

    Douay-Rheims Bible
    Where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free. But Christ is all, and in all.

    Darby Bible Translation
    wherein there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ [is] everything, and in all.

    English Revised Version
    where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman: but Christ is all, and in all.

    Webster’s Bible Translation
    Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

    Weymouth New Testament
    In that new creation there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free man, but Christ is everything and is in all of us.

    World English Bible
    where there can’t be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondservant, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all.

    Young’s Literal Translation
    where there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, foreigner, Scythian, servant, freeman — but the all and in all — Christ

  11. New International Version
    I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.

    New Living Translation
    For I have a great sense of obligation to people in both the civilized world and the rest of the world, to the educated and uneducated alike.

    English Standard Version
    I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.

    New American Standard Bible
    I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.

    ….

    International Standard Version
    Both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to foolish people, I am a debtor.

    ….

    Aramaic Bible in Plain English
    Greeks and Barbarians, wise and ignorant, for I owe a debt to preach to every person

    …..

  12. Drake – I think I understood more of your perspective from this one comment than from all the previous comments put together.

    Where do you see the writings of Paul fitting into the picture of Divine decree for the people from among the nations who join themselves to Messiah?

  13. Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things—the kings in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites)— 2 they came together to wage war against Joshua and Israel.

    … the people of Gibeon …. went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.” The Israelites said to the Hivites, “But perhaps you live near us, so how can we make a treaty with you?”

    ….

    The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. 15 Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

    ….Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim.
    ….

    The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, but all the leaders …. continued, “Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers in the service of the whole assembly.” So the leaders’ promise to them was kept.

    ….

    26 So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. 27 That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the assembly….

    NIV

  14. http://biblehub.com/kjv/joshua/9.htm

    3And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai, 4They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors…. to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us. 7And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you? ….

    11Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us. 12This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy: 13And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.

    14And the men [of Israel] took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD. 15And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.

    …. And all the congregation murmured against the princes. 19But ….21…. the princes said unto them, Let them live; but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation; as the princes had promised …

    ….Because it was certainly told thy servants, how that the LORD thy God commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you, therefore we were sore afraid of our lives because of you, and have done this thing. 25And now, behold, we are in thine hand: as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do. 26And so did he unto them… 27… even unto this[*] day…

    * the “day” this was told or written or there were such servants

  15. I just read the “Ask the Rabbi” column at Aish.com and in his answer, the Rabbi said something interesting relative to the current conversation:

    Judaism claims no monopoly on God, and a person does not need to become Jewish to reach high spiritual levels. Judaism has no concept of “non-Jews going to hell.” The Talmud (Sanhedrin 58b) presents seven pillars of humanity, and Maimonides explains that any human being who faithfully observes these earns a proper place in heaven. Judaism actually discourages converts, because the Torah is for all humanity, no conversion necessary.

    As well, non-Jews were welcome to bring offerings to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which the prophet Isaiah referred to as a “house for all nations.” And King Solomon specifically asked God to heed the prayer of non-Jews who come to the Temple (1-Kings 8:41-43).

    The Talmud says that humans are all descended from one couple, Adam and Eve, to teach that we are all brothers. In a national sense as well, Judaism says that all of the 70 seminal nations must function together, just as the various organs work together in a body. All are necessary and play an integral part in that “being” called humanity. We are all in it together, and if we can learn to work together and respect each other, it will be a far different world.

    In some ways, more traditional Judaism can afford to be more accepting of non-Jews (at least within certain limits) because of the lack of “stigma” of Jewish involvement with Yeshua (Jesus). Any non-Jew, particularly in the role of Noahide, in Jewish space knows they are in Jewish space and will make no claim on the Torah beyond the intent express by the Aish Rabbi above.

    Because of Biblical statements such as Galatians 3:26-29 stating that on some level, both Jews and non-Jews in Messiah stand on common ground, it increases the difficulty of Messianic Jews creating and maintaining Messianic Jewish space, hence we non-Jews sometimes encounter a certain amount of defensiveness when we inject our presence.

    The Aish Rabbi is correct in saying that the Torah is for everybody, but he hardly means that Gentiles are supposed to keep kosher, observe Shabbos, don tzitzit, and lay tefillin. He does, in my opinion, believe that the Torah is the basic moral foundation for all humanity, and contains the will of God for Jews and non-Jews alike.

    It’s just that the instructions for Jews and the non-Jewish nations are different.

    We who believe Yeshua was and is the Messiah and hold the Apostolic Scriptures as part of the overall Biblical canon, take the next step and trust that not only does God include us as part of the “body parts” that all have to work together for the sake of humanity (including Jewish humanity), but that we have a place in the world to come, will be granted a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Kingdom of Heaven, and have the promise of the resurrection.

    The Aish Rabbi, at least in an ideal sense, proposes a “healing” between Jews and the nations in that we each have a role of working together in repairing the world. There’s no threat because he presumes that Noahide Gentiles will know what is and isn’t Jewish space and respect the boundaries.

    Messianic Judaism is still struggling with understanding, let alone establishing those boundaries, and even when local MJ groups establish a set of limits and borders, Gentiles chaff at being treated unequally and step all over the established limitations or set of distinctions between Jews and Gentiles in Messianic Jewish community.

  16. James wrote:

    “@Drake: Actually, God does define faithful non-Jews as “the nations who are called by My Name” (Amos 9:12).”

    Again, that’s lofty and in that regard we can be grateful we’re not burning in hell, but it’s extraordinarily vague all the same.

  17. What do you make of the fact, drake, that Paul acknowledged Greeks and referred to others as non-Greeks?

  18. Marleen:

    For practical purposes, it does not matter. He never defined their lives as opposed to Scythians. How is it a real category? He just gave them a cursory list of no-nos.

    Let me tell you a Canaanite fable:

    El and Asherah, king and queen of heaven, had 70 sons who were gods. Their sons then seeded the earth, and founded 70 nations and made covenants with them. Those Nefphalim in Genesis are probably a Torah polemic against the 70 sons of Asherah. I don’t believe in this.

    Let me tell you a Sumerian fable:

    Enki, the god of craft, distributed a basket of decrees from heaven over the nations/city states of the world. Each city/people got something different, thereby differentiating each people and actually defining roles for the peoples of the earth. I don’t believe in this either.

    So, an ancient had an idea:

    1. Heaven founded my people.
    2. Heaven told me to do what I am doing.
    3. We did not make it up.
    4. We are all different because of it.
    5. We are all still united.

    Paul came to a world order based on that model we call the Collegium. And instead he gave them universals to make everyone the same. But Jews.

    I get agitated when people say “gentiles have roles!” and such carelessly. It makes no sense in light of what I know about religion. The Gibeonites are the only ones for whom such is true. The rest becomes what Kari described as a “flavor,” which is existentially meaningless.

    People in MJ brag about how G-d never required people to become Jewish or “all the same” to be saved in Acts. Fine. Let’s go with that. Let’s carry that vision out and see what not being the same actually means in historical terms, and if monotheism made everyone the same or made them all different.

    So good luck trying to form an MG halachah around universal precepts. How could gentile monotheism become anything but minimalist protestantism in light of the dearth of national covenant and the dearth of any decree?

  19. Oh, yes, halacha. Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen. It’s not even really going to happen with Jews — in diaspora or even IN Israel. I get your point, though, about there being a semblance of God having spoken. I don’t think it’s enough, though. There’s too much that wasn’t said. The people as a whole (especially if women are part of the people) aren’t satisfied with what was said.

  20. Paul said it’s a good thing to grow up and be mature, not only to follow the rules (rules that aren’t bad rules, especially for ancient times when God was trying to clean up a people’s act for survival).

  21. As for Paul referring to Greeks and non-Greeks, or Scythians or the unlearned or ignorant or barbarian or unwise, I wasn’t trying to say he was creating a people. He was recognizing a reality of the times, that in which he and the people he was talking to were living.

  22. Of course the rulers in Canaan and Sumeria wanted the rest of the people to think they “didn’t make it up.”

  23. I think we have a clue in Jesus words that the Jews of his time were very Greek. And the goal was not to be Greek or Roman.

  24. Tell me, Drake — For all your apparent enjoyment of Canaanite and Sumerian fables, how do you feel about the Jewish book of Genesis that puts a rather different and historical spin on the legends of pre-history? You certainly don’t characterize it accurately with your 5-element list that you describe as some ancient’s idea. You falsely reduce the notions of interaction with the Creator of the Cosmos and His revelations of precepts for how humans should live to: “We did not make it up”. Just because you have not experienced a similar theophany does not justify your dismissal of those who did so. Just because there is one special small subset of humanity that was singled out by HaShem with covenantal promises does not mean that every one of the peoples comprising humanity should also have their own “decree” to establish them as different from the others. That notion would seem to represent a very adolescent jealousy. As of the post-flood era, all surviving humans were not merely descendants of the same man Adam, but also of the single family of Noah. There was no need to differentiate them, though you could begin to do so through each of his three sons.

    I’ll take this opportunity also to correct your previous mischaracterization of the term “gentiles” as meaning “non-Jews” or as a solely negative definition. Actually, it means “peoples”, referring to the many families of earth’s population. Now, this includes the Jewish people, even considering Balaam’s prophetic observation of Israel that was rehearsed in this past Shabbat’s haftarah reading for parashat Balak, as “not reckoned among the nations”. If you want a decree that divides the peoples of earth into distinctive subgroups, why not consider the decree at Babel that separated them by language? Now, you might consider that a somewhat negative example, because it represents human hubris and rebellion against HaShem’s rulership of the heavens — not to neglect the urgency to “make a name for themselves” (which seems to me to reflect exactly what you seem to be demanding). The Gibeonite example is not really the best one either, founded as it was on a fraud because they didn’t wish to be counted among the Canaanite peoples who were doomed to utter destruction some four centuries after HaShem had observed to His friend Avraham that their iniquity had not yet reached a sufficient degree. So, their fraud was mercifully overlooked, and they were assigned roles where it would be possible for Jews to keep an eye on them and perhaps even to instruct them to do better. I’d say that beats utter destruction, but I don’t think it makes such a great basis for distinctive national identity, authoritative decree notwithstanding. It does, however, offer an example that opens a door onto the notion of redemption for even condemned peoples.

    But all of these peoples were nonetheless descendants of Noah, and heirs to the post-flood legacy which was much later characterized by the rabbis as the Noahide principles. I don’t think you can properly characterize this as some form of “minimalist protestantism”, though certainly it began with monotheism. One must wonder if the division of language at Babel also made it possible to develop different cultures that all turned idolatrous and polytheistic in a surprisingly short span of time. Apparently the theology corresponding with the monotheistic experience of Noah was preserved only rarely, perhaps only in the family of Shem and by his great-grandson Eber, who apparently taught it to his great-great-great-great-grandson Avraham despite Terah’s and Nahor’s polytheistic idolatry that we see reflected in the teraphim that Rachel carried away from her father Laban’s household. However, Avraham is credited with “making many souls” (i.e., converting them to the Noahide legacy), as well as having many children to whom he also undoubtedly taught the Noahide legacy, even though none of them but Yitzhak’s descendants would inherit the covenant promises that founded the Jewish people.

    Thus, when Rav Shaul taught his gentile disciples the way of Rav Yeshua, he drew on the model of Avraham’s pre-covenantal faith, the Noahide legacy (not yet labeled as such), and Jewish refinements of the corresponding attitudes and behaviors. I still don’t think that constitutes anything that I would call “minimalist protestantism”, though perhaps modern evangelicalism is on a good track toward it. Rav Shaul did not intend or need to emphasize differences among his various disciples — on the contrary, he had enough to do to prevent them from dividing up into factions identifying themselves by teachers such as Shaul, Apollos, Kefa, or “the Messiah”. The point was to emphasize their unity rather than any potential differences. Even the Torah’s continuing differentiation of Jews from all the other nations or peoples was underplayed (though still understood). So I don’t see any apostolic encouragement for the kind of heavenly-sanctioned distinction between other groups of people that you seem to feel such a keen desire to have.

  25. At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.

  26. By the way, I’m less convinced than you are that the Gibeonites have a God-given role for eternity or all time.

  27. Thank you for the Aish.com link to the Religious Intolerance Q & A. A relative of mine could have written that question and the answer may provide a bit of balm to their wounded soul, particularly the part you quoted above.

    I do fear that if Messiah doesn’t come soon, many who were once zealous for Him and for the Word of G-d will continue to walk away *because of* those who are so insecure in their own position that they reject all others, or so puffed up in their calling that they reject any place for another, or those who lord it over the other. *sigh* May this fear be wholly unfounded… May it fall to the ground and die on the spot, soon and in our days.

    BTW – it took me several attempts to load your blog today. I kept being redirected to a WordPress login page. ?? Hopefully that was a unique, glitch just for me. (because I am special, darn it! even if my friends refuse to accept it! 😉 )

  28. PL wrote:

    ” “We did not make it up”. Just because you have not experienced a similar theophany does not justify your dismissal of those who did so. ”

    Actually, I was addressing people who suggest that Gentiles should just make up a praxis and a way of life loosely derived from books that don’t pertain to them. I was not dismissing Judaism. Again, they had theophany. Whether the myth is true or not, a Sumerian rested in the fuzzy assurance that what he did and his religious life came from Heaven because Heaven thought about him enough to actually tell him. A Christian has to quietly concede that even the Cup of the New Covenant at Eucharist doesn’t even belong to him, and his religion is derived whole cloth, by humans, out of someone else’s books and covenants from a Messiah who came for someone else.

    Once gentiles discover this, who would care about religious life at all? Just have head-belief and do nice things. The end.

    “As of the post-flood era, all surviving humans were not merely descendants of the same man Adam, but also of the single family of Noah. There was no need to differentiate them, though you could begin to do so through each of his three sons.”

    Very well. But that differentiation of the nations is not something I just came up with myself; 70 references the nations all throughout the Bible beginning at the Table of Nations in Genesis in Genesis 10, going to Elim, the 70 Bulls sacrificed at Sukkot (the feast of nations in Zechariah), etc.

    So the Bible enumerates the 70 peoples of the earth consistently through the Tanakh, but stops short of actually defining their role or purpose.

    “Just because there is one special small subset of humanity that was singled out by HaShem with covenantal promises does not mean that every one of the peoples comprising humanity should also have their own “decree” to establish them as different from the others. That notion would seem to represent a very adolescent jealousy.”

    Again, I have no issue with Judaism’s legitimacy as leader of the world. I acknowledge that they have the covenants and the Torah. As for the supposed “jealousy” I’ve never impugned your motives. I’m not sure what you are getting at.

    “Now, you might consider that a somewhat negative example, because it represents human hubris and rebellion against HaShem’s rulership of the heavens — not to neglect the urgency to “make a name for themselves” (which seems to me to reflect exactly what you seem to be demanding).”

    Again, with the slights PL.

    The bottom line is that so many on this blog and other places keep saying unaccountably that “gentiles have roles,” and Paul runs around the Old World suggesting being grafted in without bothering to write down any details. What “roles?” Then at the same time, articles abound on this blog dedicated to the hardship of creating a tradition when so few of the books, covenants, and Jesus sermons were even about gentiles. So when you wonder what life is supposed to look like, what is legitimate, what actually is left, you are shoved off and told that you are “jealous” or “want a name.”

    Gentiles for the past 2,000 years have been told they have some sort of role in all this other than just being saved, and that G-d reckons them as 70. And so for that balance of time they have pleaded “then give us your decrees!” How is that wanting a name?

    Statements tossed around loosely like “G-d adores variety” and “gentiles have roles” first makes me search for places that G-d demanded/required such variety of roles. If the search turns up nothing, then I return to question the way people use those claims so liberally. Monotheist gentiles can fabricate whatever culture and tradition they want about the generic head-belief they were given, but I don’t know how it reflects a “role” or niche before G-d if He never actually required it.

    A second kind of claim I have been questioning is the claim that “G-d did not need to make everyone the same by making the entire world Jewish.” In the Collegium, everyone was different. Different history, covenants, founding, culture, holy books, deities, and temples. When monotheism came, it wiped all that out. And whatever remained was “optional” and perhaps a “local flavor” given to Christianity that eventually absorbed into the whole and disappeared. The New Faith said to 70 nations with 70 roles and 70 histories and 70 expressions of 70 religions “You are now all the same. Now form into one post-national blob. Greeks and Scythians are now just Noahides.”

    RESISTANCE IS FUTILE

    Paul might have been hoping to avoid uniformity by demanding gentiles become Jewish. But what resulted instead is billions of gentiles – once seeing themselves distinct in the eyes of heaven – now becoming all the same as each other in the eyes of heaven. If variety and variation are the ideals of the world vision of monotheism, that’s not how it panned out.

    Maybe we should stop saying “All nations have roles!” or “G-d considers variety paramount in his kingdom!” when He never expressly decreed any roles for them.

    Again, I’m all about expectation management, and not getting hopes up falsely.

  29. Drake – In the interest of managing expectations, then, how would you summarize this “good news” to people from among the nations?

  30. Drake said:
    If nothing is required of Gentiles but “believe in G-d, love man,” one’s life in the eyes of onlookers is identical to a secular humanist who embraces good morals. So how is that a religious life?

    As I see it, the secular humanist’s belief that his life is irreligious is the fallacy. He does not recognize the source of his impulse to make the world a better place or to elevate himself; the religious person does. A religious life is essentially awareness of why we do what we do, and Whom we are serving, whether that’s boiled down to two commandments or 613. So what if our lives look the same to onlookers as a good, moral secular humanist’s? Praise G-d the humanist is participating in Tikkun Olam without even realizing why! May we be strengthened all the more in our resolve to marry our deeds to our knowledge of before Whom we stand when we do them! And may the secular humanist come to understand in Whose image she was made. In this way, the knowledge of HaShem spreads farther, and this can only be good for the repair of the world.

    By the way, I am unaware of any commandment to simply mentally accede to G-d’s existence. All of humanity is commanded to LOVE G-d and love others (belief that He exists is the most basic starting point). Those two commandments happen to be the hardest commandments to keep, and each of us will spend an entire and full lifetime just at those two. And we’ll never get there. Again, you blaze by a BIG point as if it’s minor here.

  31. @Drake — You wrote: “Paul might have been hoping to avoid uniformity by demanding gentiles become Jewish.” If anything, Rav Shaul insisted exactly the opposite, by telling gentiles that they should *not* convert to Judaism. You also mentioned an outrageous notion of: “Judaism’s legitimacy as leader of the world”. That is not something that anyone here has ever suggested, nor something that Judaism has ever suggested, and it reflects a calumny that comes directly from the anti-Semitic screed known as the “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”. Just to be clear about this, that is not a proper interpretation of even the future millennial kingdom which will be ruled by a Jewish King Messiah. I’m not impugning your motives or slighting you when I point out that your apparent desire for gentile distinctiveness seems to me like a form of jealousy because Jews have been saddled with a distinctiveness that gentiles lack. You seem to want heavenly decrees and instructions for what to do religiously, just as Jews have.

    I don’t know to whom you are referring when you complain of gentiles having been told falsely that they have “roles”. The notion of One G-d over one redeemed/renewed unified humanity is not a recipe for uniformity nor is it a denial of diversity. Jewish distinctiveness is not contrary to a unified humanity, nor is distinctiveness and diversity among various gentiles, whether of language, custom, culture, history, or any other characteristic. There is no lack of hope for any of the families of Man, even if explicit religious behavior has not been specified for them in detail within the literature that does so in some degree for Jews. Any subset of gentiles may formulate a religious culture, constrained only by principles such as those attributed to Noah and by generalities such as stated in Micah 6:8. These are the “decrees” that provide divine authority for such a culture. The fact that gentiles in general, and gentile would-be disciples of Rav Yeshua, have so far failed to accomplish this very well does not make them hopeless. This has nothing to do with “expectation management”, except perhaps in teaching people not to buy into, or to relinquish, false expectations based on false values.

    Instead, the redeemed gentile disciples of Rav Yeshua have an implicit instruction from the ancient Jerusalem Council of Emissaries to learn Torah. It may be inferred that thus they will acquire insight into the principles that should guide their behavior, not only when they are interacting with Jews as when bringing sacrifices to the Temple or celebrating Sukkot — as they will do in the future — or analogous interactions in the present, but also when they are interacting only with each other.

    I do not see any plea within the course of gentile religious history during the past 20 centuries that would correspond with what you described as: “then give us your decrees!”. If anything, I see a presumption that Christians could take over the ownership of decrees given to Jews, in dismissal of the specific circumstances and purposes for which they actually were given. I recommended an alternative above that identifies suitable “decrees”, but that requires gentile cultural development to implement them insightfully without erasing Jewish distinctiveness by mere copying of Jewish praxis and cultural expression. While I do not unreservedly endorse charismatic or evangelical religious culture, there is much to commend about the historic American implementation of a culture that embeds biblical values. It is a terrible pity to see how that culture has deteriorated within the past half-century or so, under assault from less commendable values; but there yet remains within it a righteous remnant and a hope that its good may one day be restored. There is an interesting development occurring presently in the far east and southeast Asia, attempting to develop what might be described as a neo-Christian religious sub-culture. I see hope rather than the despair that it seems to me Drake is expressing.

  32. PL: The bottom line is this: the OT world order is one hinting at pluralism. When monotheism actually panned out, it kept the sanctity of Jews (and I am glad it did). But it just took Greeks, Scythians, Romans, Persians, and turned them all into interchangeable “Christians.” Fungible before heaven.

    If Creation and Babel suggest pluralism and ethnic flourishing, history panned monotheism out as an exertion of mass assimilation with Christianity and Islam, the big-box faiths. This fact of history troubles me.

    RESISTANCE IS FUTILE

    *for Lisa/Kari*

  33. Kari:

    “Drake – In the interest of managing expectations, then, how would you summarize this “good news” to people from among the nations?”

    1. G-d is G-d alone. Pray only to G-d.
    2. Messiah saves you from wrath for incompatibility with the Divine.
    3. Live ethically based on loose derivations in the spirit of Torah. Figure it out yourselves, but know you will be judged for it. 😉
    4. Stick with it and you can be rewarded with peace and life in the distant future, whatever that looks like.
    5. If you invent a religion, you won’t be held to it. It’s totally optional and not demanded by Heaven. But feel free if it helps.
    6. Belief is a process honed over a life, not an event.
    7. Make this world like the World to Come through Tikkun Olam.
    8. Messiah came for you second.
    9. G-d is not your friend, He is your G-d.
    10. Your feelings mean less than nothing.
    11. G-d might send you the Ruach, but don’t hold your ruach.
    13. 2% of the Bible mentions you.
    14. You were born as a gentile completely unrelated to G-d.
    15. Messiah offers the possibility of learning in the next world how you relate to G-d.
    16. Gentiles were made in G-d image, but He has not fully created them yet.
    17. Maybe one day He will if you stick with it.
    18. Hang out in groups or all alone. Totally optional.
    19. Eat whatever.
    20. G-d never made a covenant with your country’s founders.
    21. You inherit what you build.
    22. Confess all your sins.
    23. Do whatever the Jews tell you.
    24. You have no share in holy things in this current life.
    25. You technically don’t drink from the Cup of the New Covenant.
    12. Sit at the far end.

    If I summarized it further, I would say 1-4.

    It’s a sober enumeration. But I think it avoids false hope.

  34. A few thoughts for the moment. I see Christianity (the kind you’re talking about) as having begun under Constantine (that is as an enforced entity). Even Rome’s long term Christianity couldn’t respect diversity within itself (thus there was the schism of the “Catholic” with a pope from orthodoxy with more than one set of leadership). Nevertheless, it is true that God didn’t tell them to set up any of that. Yet, at the same time, there is the trampling on people of faith.

    It is my view that nations should not claim “roles” as if commanded by God — usually based on claiming some bit (or all) of the role of Jews. I think I said that a while back differently.

    Little note to PL: I had a hard time with the way drake worded the statement about everyone becoming Jews. He meant it, if I’m not mistaken, as meaning everyone’s not to do so.

  35. Here’s your book title, Drake:
    The Expectation Management Gospel:
    The Good News for the Rest of Us

    But in keeping with the spirit of the book, I wouldn’t expect to sell many copies. 😉

    I especially enjoyed 3, 5, 11 (nice pun), 23, and the fact that you put 12 after 25 (I see what you did there).

    10 made me think you may need a hug. (Not offering, just a suggestion for you to go find one) 😉

    19 needs revision. You have to at least add the blood prohibition.

    Now go get writing!

  36. I’ve wondered about that, Kari. There are cultures that eat blood like it’s no big deal. There’s blood sausage (European). And there’s blood in some Asian soup. The first time I saw this with European food, I thought it was a euphemism — for the color or something. Nope.

    #7 Dont think that’s possible. Also think a lot of people get in trouble with this, along the line of a role for a nation.

    But be good to people and care.

  37. @Kari — I perceive a certain contradiction (or maybe it’s sarcasm) in the book title you’ve suggested to Drake, relative to its tone and projected content that are indicated in his list. It is not expressed in the form of “good news” (and somehow I’ve missed the pun you perceived in #11). That’s much the same problem that Jews have long faced in traditional Christian expressions or formulations of what they called the Gospel, in which Jews had been invalidated and superseded. So here we have an expression of so-called gospel that is just as invalidating for gentiles — which might seem fair from the perspective that “turnabout is fair play”, except that it is not Jews who are designing or deriving this expression and thus it is not actually “turnabout”. It is merely another gentile failure to appreciate the good news of the kingdom of heaven that was Rav Yeshua’s actual message; which offers hope to gentiles as well as to Jews.

    Lemmas #1 & #3 are essentially correct, but #3 could be phrased better. Lemma #2 mis-describes the human condition as “incompatibility”, rather than a more accurate sense of “contrariness”. Each of the other lemmas seems to represent yet another misapprehension in one degree or another, altogether misrepresenting HaShem’s plans for redeeming humanity in what amounts to an altogether nasty perspective. It seems to me that Drake’s apparent intellectual prowess could be much better employed toward crafting uplifting solutions to perceived problems than what he has been demonstrating here.

  38. @Marleen — Oh, I think I see what you’re getting at as an alternative interpretation of Drake’s comment — as meaning the avoidance of a uniformity that might result from making everyone Jewish. Thank you — that does make sense that seems compatible with Drake’s emphasis on distinctiveness for all of the 70 peoples (or is it 71 in toto?) deemed to constitute the human species.

  39. PL – Yes, I was offering an ironic book title, not really supporting his conclusions. It was clear to me as well that this presentation is not really good news, which is why I made the joke that it won’t sell many copies.

    #11 “He may give you the Ruach (Spirit) but don’t hold your ruach (breath).” The pun is the use of ruach’s multiple meanings, coupled with the common expression “Don’t hold your breath.” I don’t agree with this conclusion, but it’s a humorous play on words.

    I agree that Drake could see a lot more hope than he seems to see, and it would be pretty amazing to see him use his intellectual prowess to that end. But his story isn’t done being written, either. *I* have hope that Drake will find more hope. He sits in a congregation every week with Hope in the title, after all!

  40. Marleen, that’s always puzzled me, too, especially in places that are very “Christian.” The prohibitions in Acts should (at the very least) be seen as binding for Christians. It’s odd.

  41. When I was a kid I had my 7th birthday at Old River Park in Dayton, Ohio. I came home and my golden retriever Brandy was dead on the porch. My dad sat a tearful little Drake down and told him that Brandy was on a lake in Heaven and that Jesus was tossing sticks in the water for her. Being told that is comforting in ways…ways you cannot imagine.

    Jesus on supernal lakes with the dearly departed. Life and death on the same day. Lucky # 7. That’s probably what ignited my fervor.

    ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬ Jesus loves me, this I know…♩ ♪ ♫ ♬ He cares about you personally, he’s your pal, he gave this special book to help you and it’s written for you.

    But you were sent for lost sheep. It’s a dog’s life loving you.

    Yeah, I think warm and fuzzy lies become ticking time-bombs in the curious, and they tend to blast a hole though people later on. Big enough that the wind blows through and fill your head with doubt.

    Christians (and former ones) need a humbler assessment of where they kneel in the order of things. And as with all things it’s best to start early. High-flung hopes of striving for greatness at the Table don’t survive the classic levantine ethos of servants who die in weeping as the ones doing it all right. Only faith survives that.

  42. So yeah. Expectations have a way of filling a blank check without checking the balance.

    Get thee in the dust and hide thee in the cleft of the rocks, for fear of the L-rd and the Glory of His Majesty.

  43. Are you familiar with Barry Manilow’s song “Mandy”? It was originally about his dog Brandy’s death. Maybe he should have added a verse about playing frisbee with Jesus. 😉

    Sorry for such a traumatic loss, though. Finding your dog dead is genuinely horrible.

    There’s a happy medium between cushy lies meant to offer false hope, and underselling people with an equally false sense of very limited hope so their expectations have nowhere to go but up. The redemption of the cosmos, individuals included, is nothing to feel disappointed about. I agree we need a lot of correcting when it comes to what the Good News is and how it fans out to people, but I still think you’ve gone too far in the opposite direction in trying to correct the mistakes. Balance.

  44. It wasn’t the loss that was traumatic. It was the discovery years later that was. That’s my point.

  45. Lisa said:

    I do fear that if Messiah doesn’t come soon, many who were once zealous for Him and for the Word of G-d will continue to walk away *because of* those who are so insecure in their own position that they reject all others, or so puffed up in their calling that they reject any place for another, or those who lord it over the other.

    I think that’s why those who hold on to their faith and trust until the end will be rewarded. The temptation to throw in the towel is very strong for many reasons.

    Drake said:

    Maybe we should stop saying “All nations have roles!” or “G-d considers variety paramount in his kingdom!” when He never expressly decreed any roles for them.

    What does seem clear from the Biblical record, is that the peoples of the world are expected to turn to the God of Israel, bow down to Him, and worship Him. Beyond that, we don’t have a lot of details about how to live our lives (except to do good and help repair the world, but there are many ways to accomplish those tasks), but the consequences of abandoning God because He did not define highly specific goals for the nations comes with dire consequences.

  46. I got your point, Drake.

    But sometimes imagining what might be can help when loss is fresh and the pain is overwhelming. You don’t *know* that your dad’s vision of the animal afterlife is false any more than he knows if it’s true.

    I think a more genuine approach would be “I honestly don’t know, but I’d like to imagine . . . ”

    We’re capable of imagining wonderful and beautiful things that bring much hope and comfort. I’m not suggesting we go around preaching these things as reality, but I think there’s much to recommend CS Lewis’ sentiment:
    “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

    Perhaps those daring dreams are a reflection of realities yet to be seen. I think the important thing is to acknowledge that we don’t *know,* but we dare to hope.

  47. “…but the consequences of abandoning God because He did not define highly specific goals for the nations comes with dire consequences.”

    I never said I abandoned G-d. But I don’t think faith is something you can force. I think you can just choose to go through motions until it comes back. James, you get your sober blog articles, and so do I. 😉

    Kari: Psalm 37:4 is said by some to be ambiguous. Some say that G-d will give you what you want, and others say that G-d will give you the want itself. That in keeping with the cherished hunch that Desire shares co-valence with the trajectory of All Things, and is itself the compass rose of amplified being. But don’t play with Desire; it’s the darker angel of Dayeinu.

    I’m more of a Tolkein man myself. The earth-shattering duel between Fingolfin and Morgoth on page 153 of the Silmarillion erases all doubt.

  48. Drake: again, my response is balance. We can explore desire and practice contentment simultaneously.

    I am not surprised you’re a Tolkien man. Lewis too rosy for you? Lol

  49. Lewis cannot do this:

    Tolkein was the only one of them touched enough to confer his world an Old Testament.

  50. @Kari — Thanks for your interpretation of Drake’s #11 about not holding one’s breath. I love bilingual (and even multilingual) puns, but the idiom escaped me because “ruach” isn’t used in quite that way. I guess that, sometimes, familiarity with actual Hebrew usage can be detrimental to picking up on such attempts. The breath that one may hold is a “neshimah” or a “nafuach”, while a “ruach” is something more inorganic, like a “zephyr” or a “breeze”, and it is not something one may hold onto or capture, but is rather something that flows and passes away.

  51. Interesting, PL! Thanks for explaining.

    So I guess a more technically accurate way to say it would be:
    He might send you the Ruach, but don’t hold your nefuach.

    It kind of loses the Spirit/spirit/breath level in English that way, though. Cross-language puns aren’t so easy, apparently!

  52. …. I was addressing people who suggest that Gentiles should just make up a praxis and a way of life loosely derived from books that don’t pertain to them. I was not dismissing Judaism. Again, they had theophany. ….

    I agree with what I think I can derive as a concern of yours, drake, that people not make up praxis as if it was given by God for gentiles or non-Jews. It’s okay to have traditions or ways of doing things but not really good to act like these things are required.

    [And that was amongst your numbered list for good news.]

  53. I mean, I think that IS good news. And I do think God wants people who start from given (truely revealed) law and people who don’t as well as people who have (for instance) a college education or even high school (I think of people in countries where going to school at all is a luxury, which used to be so in the U.S. too) or private education and people who don’t. The point is that “both” are dependent on God and require Yeshua to come and save them (us) from an unremitting fallen world. [I don’t say that to mean we should be pessimists or callous or recalcitrant and not participate in doing things, even participating in group or government efforts, to improve situations or the world.]

  54. Am I to understand those two pieces of visual art to be the work of J.R.R. Tolkien? (I’m only mildly familiar with his life.)

  55. @Marleen — Since Tolkien was a writer and not an artist I’m reasonably sure those images were produced by a much more recent artist who was inspired by Tolkein’s stories and vivid descriptions. Their styling appears to me to reflect late 20th-century graphic novels, particularly in their exaggerated musculature.

  56. Thanks, Kari — Apparently Tolkien was more of an artist than I gave him credit for, though still not at the level of the images presented above. Interestingly, the images in your link do indicate that his métier was more along the lines of calligraphy and cartography, with only occasional forays into scenery. Most telling, perhaps, is his sketch or study image of Sauron reaching an arm toward some presumed victim. While it shows an appreciation of anatomical detail, it is not graphic-novel material.

  57. I also think the goal of everyone up to that point — when Yeshua walked the earth — was power and perks (which is supported by the blessings Israel was supposed to get for doing what God told the ancestors earlier but which was also supported by the results strategic and subservient warriors and plotters aspiring for position achieved). Wealth is a clear example that the gospel Apostolic writing addresses (if the rich aren’t saved, who can be, they wondered). But the perks aren’t quite the end all. I think that era ended or was suspended or at least that an additional arm (for lack of another term) was revealed. One piece of advice to gentiles I would suggest is to read the Tanakh, every bit of it, with the specific laws left out; so, you read up through the approach to the mountain and other surrounding details. What do you learn this way? After all, you are not addressed, right? How does everything else add up?

    [I’m not saying to never read the Law. Other subjects, such as conversations in the “NT” won’t make sense without it, although church people try to make “sense” out of them without it.]

  58. It seems to me, Marleen, that reading the Tenakh (or the apostolic writings), but omitting portions that apply directly only to Jews, is missing a tremendous opportunity. There is a great deal that can be learned from someone else’s example, especially by observing their mistakes and learning not to do likewise. One may also derive lessons for right behavior and attitudes from observing what they did rightly and seeking applicable analogues. Reading for analogies and metaphors and inferences may have been the forté of the Pharisaic methodology, for the benefit of Jewish interpretation and application, but that does not rule out any use of their techniques by gentiles seeking to derive meaning for the specifics of their own position. Such techniques represent a “meta-text” by which to embrace the text, or portions thereof, which cannot be used at a given time or place, meaningfully or properly, when taken at the level of “pshat”.

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