Tag Archives: discipleship

Book Review: The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple

The Four ResponsibilitiesThis book addresses the question, “What will it take to change the world for our Master?” After many years of searching, my answer is that it has to start with a Personal Revelation. Here’s what I mean…

There’s a story told of a rabbi from the late nineteenth century who set out to change the world, but very soon realized that he could not. So, he decided to focus on changing the Jewish community of his country but he failed there as well. He then decided to focus on changing the people of his hometown but didn’t get any further. Finally, in a last effort, he believed he could change his family and sought to do so. Failure was the result there as well. In the end, he realized that the only person he could really change was himself. Therefore, he began to do so. And today, long after his death, his teachings are the cornerstone of Jewish life, particularly in proper speech and ethical conduct.

This is our path.

-Darren Huckey
“Introduction: Why Discipleship,” pg 5
The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple

This is how Darren begins his small (85 pages) booklet and primer on promoting authentic discipleship under our Master, Jesus.

When Darren contacted me and asked me to review this book, I wasn’t sure what to think. I am aware of Darren in various social media venues but can’t say I actually “know” him as well as I know other people I regularly communicate with over the web but have never met. But I was curious and agreed to do the review and subsequently, Darren’s book arrived in the mail.

I must say that I’m impressed. I was barely aware of Emet HaTorah so I wasn’t sure of the quality of the materials they (he?) produce. Both the “look and feel” and quality of content are high and represent a professional job of writing and publishing. I’ll cut to the chase and say right now that I’d recommend this book for anyone who is really interested in what being a disciple of the Jewish Messiah is like as a lived experience.

The booklet is laid out along the pattern of steps Darren establishes for discipleship:

  • Devotion
  • Memorization
  • Imitation
  • Replication

Except for the Introduction, each chapter has a series of study questions at the end as well as the endnotes for references used in the chapter. The book then is suitable for either group study or for the individual reader/student.

Actually, Chapter One is “What is a Disciple?”, which is a critical question to answer. If you don’t know the answer, you certainly can’t make a disciple or even be one.

The Master of whom Darren refers and who leads us in discipleship is Jesus, and the pattern of how to make/be a disciple comes from very Jewish sources. In terms of “the Church,” Darren called discipleship a “lost art.” If a church has any sort of “discipleship program” at all, it’s based on “intangibles” such as defining the disciple as one who “will love Jesus more than anything,” “will carry his cross,” “will count the cost,” and “will surrender everything to Christ.”

The ancient and modern Jewish discipleship is based on “doing” or direct imitation of the Rabbi or teacher, not just being devoted to an abstract set of principles. If you had to live your life based on the “intangibles” I listed above, what exactly would that look like? What would you do? How would someone who knows next to nothing about a “Christian lifestyle” of holiness implement those principles in day-to-day living? Would you recommend that he or she fashion a large, wooden cross and then shlep it on their backs from morning to evening to “carry his cross?”

Darren makes a good point when he calls a disciple a “lifestudent,” but that only helps the reader realize how challenging being a true disciple of Christ is. Discipleship isn’t a six, twelve, or eighteen-week program you run a new member of your church through and at the end, they are a “full-fledged Christian.” Discipleship takes a lifetime of continual studying and mentoring.

Devotion

In one sense, how the church defines a disciple, “love Jesus more than anything,” is the center of devotion to one’s “Rebbe.” But the concept of devotion has to be actualized. That is, you have to understand how devotion is acted out and then do it.

jewish-czech-boys-studying-talmudIn Chapter Two, devotion is a matter of commitment. Think of it like a marriage. Being married is more than just a ceremony and signing a license, it’s a life-long (ideally) commitment of two people to each other to meet not only a set of wants and needs recognized at the beginning of the relationship, but to adapt over time and meet commitments that were never even imagined at the beginning. If you can grasp that concept and better yet, if you’ve actually done it (been married for years or decades), you have a pretty good idea of what living a life of discipleship is all about.

The analogy falls apart when you realize that a marriage is a commitment between two equals and discipleship is being devoted to someone who will always be greater than you.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”

John 13:16 (NASB)

Memorization

This is actually something some Christians do pretty well. A lot of churches encourage their members to judiciously read the Bible and to memorize verses, but in the Jewish model of discipleship, students memorize all of the teachings of their Master. That’s a tall order, even if you just interpret this as memorizing everything Jesus said in the Gospels. However, since our Master’s “source material” was the Torah and the Prophets, we’re talking about a much larger body of text being involved.

But Peter told Jesus that Messiah had “words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Writing those words on our minds and hearts leads to such a life, both in the now and in the World to Come.

However, rote memorization isn’t all there is to it. Correct interpretation and then living out these teachings is part and parcel of the task. If we don’t understand the original meaning of the Master’s teachings, they will either seem like nonsense, or we’ll end up completely missing the mark of what he was trying to say. Darren references First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) author and teacher D. Thomas Lancaster and his “Macaroni Principle.” As children, we all probably heard and sung this little tune once or twice:

Yankee Doodle went to town,
riding on a pony;
He stuck a feather in his hat,
and called it macaroni

I won’t reveal the definitions here, but if you don’t know the meaning of “yankee,” “doodle,” “macaroni,” and why someone would put a feather in their hat, you won’t have the faintest idea what this really means (and it really means something quite specific).

Our Rebbe Yeshua may be the wisest and greatest prophet and teacher who ever lived, but if we don’t understand what his original students would have understood when they listened to him, we will proceed to understand, teach, and live lives of folly and error. One of the reasons I have written about the Didache is to illuminate some of the probable details of a life of discipleship and training of the very early Gentile believers. The Didache gets disciples out of their heads and actually “doing” Christianity. That’s what Darren is trying to do with his book, too.

Imitation

I know some people reading this will take the suggestion quite literally and say this is proof that Gentile Christians are commanded to wear tzitzit, lay tefillin, eat Biblically (as opposed to Rabbinically, for some reason) kosher, pray in Hebrew, and try to live as how they imagine observant Jews live without actually converting.

studying_tanakh_messiahThat’s not how I see imitation and such superficial behavior misses the point of this principle. What do we do to imitate our Master, which is the application of his teachings in our lives?

Darren produced a short bullet list (I won’t replicate the whole thing here) that includes showing compassion to others, leading through serving, loving children, having a passion for justice, and loving the Torah and the Temple. I note that I can love the Torah without believing I am commanded to live as a Jewish person. I can believe that the Torah applies to me differently than to the descendants of the ancient Israelites and, as the Didache states:

6:2 For, on the one hand, if you are able to bear
the whole yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect;
but if, on the other hand, you are not able,
that which you are able, do this.

I can take my observance of the Torah of Moses to the extent I am able, as I understand this, but my imitation of the Master does not include a commandment to act as “Jewish” as the Master.

Actually, at the end of Chapter Four, Darren uses “praying like Jesus” as an excellent example of how we can imitate our Master. I think it would be a good place for anyone to start on the path of being a disciple in imitation of his Rebbe.

Replication

Implementing Chapter Five is a bit tricky, because we don’t really have a system in the Church that functions like the Jewish model of multi-generational discipleship. The idea is that a group of disciples study under a Master Teacher for many years, holding him as more dear than even their own parents, being totally devoted to him, spending long hours and days literally following him wherever he went, listening to him, imitating his dress, his patterns of speech, memorizing his every word and deed.

Eventually, one by one, each disciple would be elevated to the point to where he could begin to take on his own disciples and to be a Master to them. He would then pass on everything he learned from his Master (which would include the teachings of his Master’s Master, and so on, preserving all of those teachings in the next generation).

And so it would go, at least ideally, generation after generation.

In Christianity, the original apostles are long dead and the discipleship model died with them. What we have to learn from are the written teachings of the Master and the first apostles and disciples. Only the Bible is our guide to becoming disciples of Jesus and somehow replicating what we learn to a next generation.

The Church doesn’t even come close to doing this in terms of discipleship, although to their credit, they have preserved (though in many cases, the interpretations have been skewed) the teachings of Jesus for nearly two-thousand years.

As I was reading this chapter, I thought about my every other week Sunday afternoon coffee conversations with a good friend of mine. Although we don’t exactly have a mentor/student relationship, he has been a Christian for forty years and I learn a great deal from him, including how to clarify my confusion on a good many things. I suppose you could also include my weekly conversations with my Pastor in this category, since I do have a one on one relationship with someone who is far better educated in the teachings of our Master than I am.

But both of those situations fall short of actual discipleship. A true disciple will study under his Master for years or decades. How can the church even begin to do this, especially in a highly mobile western society where people move from city to city and state to state every few years?

Remember, in order to engage in this process of Replication, we first have to be in the process of becoming a disciple ourselves. Brad Young tells us, “For disciples to be made, there is first a need for master teachers.”

-Huckey, pg 74

Where do we start? Who are the Master Teachers in the Church who will commit to a multi-year, multi-decade process of raising up disciples in our Master Yeshua and then in turn, having those disciples raise up their own disciples? How can this even be possible in our modern Christian culture?

What I Learned

Jesus followed the traditional pattern of the Jewish discipleship model of his day. He raised hundreds to thousands of disciples, including a core group of apostles who would go on to become Master Teachers in their own right. His disciples followed Jesus around everywhere he went, listened to his teachings, memorized his words, conformed every action of their lives to his example, and later, they recorded his teachings from memory and raise up disciples in his sacred name.

walking_discipleThe process fell apart pretty quickly, especially once Paul started taking the teachings of the Master to the Jewish and Gentile disciples of the Master in the Diaspora. You see, in most cases, Paul couldn’t stay in one place for the years or decades it would take to follow the discipleship model that would allow the new believers to assimilate the teachings of Jesus into their lives. In many cases, Paul would have to leave a Gentile leader in charge of a “church” who barely grasped the basics of “Judaism 101,” and didn’t even come close to being a competent disciple, let alone a “Master Teacher” for his local group.

I wonder if that’s why most of Paul’s letters take the tone of “course corrections,” defining where the various churches have gone wrong and, at a distance, trying to provide the teachings necessary to get them back on track.

All of the other “Judaisms” going forward in history (actually, only the stream of the Pharisees survived beyond the destruction of the Temple) managed to preserve the discipleship model much better. In our modern era, this only exists in certain segments of religious Judaism, but the model still exists. In the Church, it disintegrated early on and except in fairly rare cases, was never resurrected.

Conclusion

Darren Huckey’s book will give you a starting point. It’s well written and well researched, and I think it’s a valuable resource for people who want to become and/or to raise up serious and correctly oriented disciples of our Master, but there’s a limit to what you can do with such a small booklet. This work won’t turn you into a disciple. Actually, no book, including the Bible, will change anything there is about you unless you dedicate your life to the teachings therein and walk the walk from the moment you wake up until you drift to sleep at night, day after day after day…for all of your life.

Huckey’s book is best done by doing or rather, using it as a template to discover how to “do” discipleship under Jesus. You’ll need more resources to fully explore a life of discipleship, which is what I suspect Darren plans to do with his ministry. It’s what First Fruits of Zion has been doing with their ministry for over twenty years (and especially after experiencing significant “course corrections” of their own).

The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple is a tool in your collection of resources that will guide you to a life of Jesus discipleship, but it’s only one tool. I must emphasize that this one book will not be sufficient to make you into a disciple. It will however, point you in the right direction.

Pray, love, serve, and study, but most of all, do discipleship, and you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Didache in Retrospect, Part 2

SpeakThe fifth sequence might appear as puzzling since it associates grumbling as “leading to blasphemy” (3:6). The Greek term “blasphemia” derives from “blapto” + “theme” (“to injure” + “speech”) and so could be rendered as “slander.” In the Septuagint, however, this term is almost entirely used to denote injurious speech against the Lord, hence what is communal called “blasphemy.” Since the verb “gonguzein” (“to murmur”) is used repeatedly to describe the grumbling of the Israelite people in the desert (Exod. 16:2, 7(2x), 8(2x), 9, 12), some scholars believe this is the implied case history that stands behind the warning against murmuring (Ross 218).

-Aaron Milavec
“A Brief Commentary,” pp 58-9
The Didache: Text, Translation, Analysis, and Commentary

I’m picking things up pretty much where I left off in yesterday’s morning meditation. You may wonder about the above-quoted text, but while Milavec associates it with “grumbling” or blaspheming against the Lord, the phrases “to injure” and “speech” remind me of something else.

Leviticus 25:17 says, “You shall not wrong one another.” This has traditionally been interpreted as wronging a person with speech. It includes any statement that will embarrass, insult or deceive a person, or cause a person emotional pain or distress.

-from the article “Speech and Lashon Ha-Ra”
Judaism 101

I don’t question Milavec’s interpretation of this portion of the Didache, the document apparently used to train newly minted Gentile disciples in “the Way,” possibly in the late first century to late second century in the common era, but it also seems reasonable that if the novice Gentile disciples were warned against “injuring” God in speech, they would also be warned against injuring other people in speech.

This is training that many believers in the various religious streams that claim Jesus as Lord and Messiah would benefit from today.

I mentioned some things about Gentiles and food issues in my original pass through on the Didache, but Milavec speaks further on this topic on pages 61-2 of his commentary:

The absolute prohibition against eating “the food sacrificed to idols” (6:3) occurs after the conclusion of the training program and just prior to baptism.

Milavec debates whether this prohibition was placed outside the “Way of Life” instruction as an awkward addition or the injunction was developed and added to a later iteration of the oral instructions/written Didache as a necessity to cement this restriction as an absolute “no-no.” This was probably easier said than done for Gentiles just coming out of paganism and with family and friends still involved in the Roman/Greek worship framework:

Of necessity, therefore, most candidates would have been constrained to take part in family meals wherein, either regularly or periodically, some offering was made to the household gods as part of the meal or some portion of the meats served had been previously offered at a public altar.

-Milavec, pg 62

kosher eatingWhile the prohibition against eating meat sacrificed to idols was one of the absolute commandments in the Didache, reflecting a portion of the Jerusalem letter (Acts 15:28-29), Neither the text of the Didache nor Milavec’s commentary mention applying kosher food restrictions to Gentile disciples in any sense. It also doesn’t mention how Jewish and Gentile table fellowship was to be managed, but then, the perspective of Jews who would be eating with Gentiles was outside the scope of the Didache’s mission, which was as a training manual for a specifically Gentile audience.

In speaking to Baptism (pp 62-4), Milavec cautions against turning “Immerse in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (7:1) into a “baptismal formula”:

Furthermore, the Hebraic expression of acting “in the name of X” has to do with the way a disciple or servant was authorized to act because of the training or mandate received from the master.

-ibid pp 62-3

This is a reflection of how a Rabbi would teach in the name of or in the merit of his master. We find this in the apostolic scriptures:

According to the Christian Scriptures, for example, the Twelve heralded the reign of God and apprenticed disciples “in the name of “Jesus” (Acts 4:18; 5:28; 9:27, 29).

-ibid, pg 63

Milavec’s commentary continues to reveal that this document, though a set of instructions for Gentiles, has a very Jewish source.

The closing line, “This is the Way of Life!” (4:14b), probably served as a liturgical refrain and, quite possibly, following Jewish parallels, was sung (#5a).

-ibid

It is also apparent that the character of the Didache recognized no separation between the “Jewishness” of its sources and the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, declaring that Jesus and the apostles were completely representative of the normative Judaisms of that day:

The Didache declares that members should pray “as the Lord commanded” (8:2). The “Lord,” in this case, is not Jesus, for he is regarded as “the servant” who reveals “the life and understanding” of the Father (9:3). For early Christians, Jesus proclaimed “the good news of God” (Mark 1:14; Rom 1:1, 15:16; 2 Cor 2:7; 1 Thess 2:2, 9; 1 Pet 4:17) — never the good news of Jesus.

-ibid, pg 65

This is bound to make many modern Christian readers a little nervous or concerned, because the Didache is elevating God the Father higher than Jesus the Son. At the risk of offending almost everyone, it also potentially raises questions about the modern conceptualization of the trinity, since trinitarian theology considers the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit co-equals in the Godhead or the “Echad” of God. Of course, Jesus considered himself a servant in his early incarnation, but post-ascension, we cannot say that continued to be so, at least in standard Christian thought.

Part of the reason I bring this up is because I recently quoted John MacArthur on the topic of being “obsessed” with Jesus:

The charismatic movement fails this test of exalting Christ above all. MacArthur said, Show me a person obsessed with the Holy Spirit and I’ll show you a person not filled by the Spirit. Show me a person obsessed with Jesus Christ and I’ll show you a Spirit-filled person.

The Didache seems to take another viewpoint on this matter, at least relative to God the Father.

PaulOne of the values of examining ancient Christian texts such as the Didache, are that they are closer to their Jewish source and pre-date the overwhelming majority of Gentile Christian teachings. The Didache may give us a snapshot of how the Jewish and Gentile believers viewed certain concepts that we take for granted in the Church today. I don’t say this to upset anyone, but to bring into focus that what we understand about being a Christian now could be seen as entirely foreign by the very first Christians in the ekklesia communities established by Paul.

What would the apostle Paul say if he were to walk into a 21st century church and listen to what was being taught?

Milavec confirms that the Didache fully anticipated Gentile believers encountering prophets and seems to cast such occurrences in “charismatic” terms:

When the Spirit was active each inspired prophet gave thanks “as much as” he or she wished — a hint that when the prophets got rolling their combined ecstatic prayers might well run on over an hour. Lest this be considered preposterous, consider the case of the second-century “Martyrium Polycarpi,” where one discovers that Polycarp “stood up and prayed, being so full of the grace of God, that for two hours he could not hold his peace.”

-ibid, pg 70

Polycarp is considered the last disciple of John, the last apostle, and when Polycarp died, the direct line of discipleship leading back to the original apostolic tradition was destroyed. I mourn Polycarp as the last link to a body of wisdom and experience we understand only incompletely today.

I find it a little anachronistic for Milavec to insert “charismatic” concepts into ancient times, since the modern Charismatic movement is extremely young. This could represent a bias on Milavec’s part which may include his belief (I’m guessing here) that the “gifts of the Spirit” extended beyond the closure of Biblical canon. But how would the actual, lived experience of a man like Polycarp testify in relation to modern Christian doctrine?

When discussing “First Fruits Offered to the Prophets,” Milavec says something unanticipated, at least by me:

The anti-temple stance of the Didache (#10q, 14b) and the decided preference for the Spirit-led prayers of the prophets helps explain why the first fruits were to be given to “the prophets,” who were regarded as the most fitting substitutes for the priests of the Temple.

-ibid, pg 75

My interpretation of the so-called “anti-temple stance” of the Didache is different. It is likely that the Didache was an oral tradition in the last days of the Temple and for most of the “lifetime” of this document’s utility, the Temple probably no longer existed. Judaism underwent a remarkable and traumatic transition with the destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile of the majority of the Jewish people from their beloved Israel. That transition ultimately evolved into the Jewish tradition that considers prayers and good deeds (mitzvot) taking the place of the sacrifices. The tithe once offered at the Temple for a firstborn is still, in some corners of Judaism, given to one known to be a Cohen in modern Israel and in some Jewish communities in today’s diaspora.

Solomons-TempleIt is possible the sections of the Didache that address giving first fruits to prophets mirror this practice of substitution, so, in effect, the new Gentile disciples were being encouraged to follow Jewish practices mapping to Temple sacrifices that were no longer possible.

It has been said that in the future Kingdom of Israel, when Messiah reigns on the Throne of David, the sacrifices of Gentiles will once again be accepted in the Temple in Jerusalem as they were in the days of the First and Second Temples.

The Rabbis say (Hullin 13b): ‘Sacrifices are to be accepted from Gentiles as they are from Jews’ …

-from My Jewish Learning

Gentiles were welcomed to the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, and they will participate even more at the Third Temple – especially during the festival of Sukkot (Zech. 14:16).

When the First Temple was inaugurated by King Solomon, he beseeched G-d with an eloquent prayer that included the following words (Kings I, 8:41-43)…

Torah Law holds that Gentiles are allowed to bring burnt offerings to G-d in the Temple when it is standing in Jerusalem. There is a specific commandment to let us know that an animal (sheep, goat or bullock) offered in the Temple by a Gentile must be unblemished, to the same degree as the offering of a Jew. (Leviticus 22:25)

The Prophet Isaiah foretold us about the even greater participation of Gentiles that will take place at the Third Temple (Isaiah 2:2-3):

“And it will come to pass at the end of days that the mountain of G-d’s House will be firmly established, even higher than the peaks, and all the peoples will flow toward it as a river. And many nations will go and will cry, ‘Let us go up toward the mountain of G-d’s House, to the House of the L-rd of Jacob, and we will learn from His ways and walk in His paths, for out of Zion goes forth Torah and the word of G-d from Jerusalem.’ “

-from “Will Gentiles worship at the Third Temple during Sukkot?”
AskNoah.org

With all that said, I must disagree with Milavec that the Didache is “anti-Temple,” but rather, it was encouraging Gentile disciples to offer “first fruits” in a manner acceptable within the early post-Temple era in Judaism, and perhaps with an eye on the future Kingdom of Messiah, when the sacrifices of Gentiles would be as acceptable as those of a Jewish person.

The last significant section in Milavec’s commentary on the Didache references the End Times, but I think I’ll save that for my third and final blog post in this series.

The Didache in Retrospect, Part 1

Milavec's DidacheAny community that cannot artfully and effectively pass on its cherished way of life as a program for divine wisdom and graced existence cannot long endure. Any way of life that cannot be clearly specified, exhibited, and differentiated from the alternative modes operative within the surrounding culture is doomed to growing insignificance and gradual assimilation.

-Aaron Milavec
“A Brief Commentary,” pg 39
The Didache: Text, Translation, Analysis, and Commentary

I think it’s safe to say that this comes from the “Commentary” part of the book alluded to in Milavec’s title. This is also my second and last commentary on Milavec’s rendition of the Didache. My first impressions were published a little over a week ago.

I’ve suggested that the Didache represents the codification of an oral tradition that comes from the original apostles or those close to them, perhaps even as a verbal expansion on the Acts 15 letter and instructions to the new Gentile disciples in the Jewish religion of “the Way.” This is only supposition of course, but the known history of this document and opinions of various scholars makes it worthy of investigation. After all, relative to Acts 15 the so-called “four essentials” are hardly sufficient to describe the length and breadth of education non-Jewish Messianic disciples would require to adequately approach a life of holiness.

As the above-quoted statement of Milavec attests, any culture or community must sufficiently communicate the requirements of its way of life to the next generation in order to sustain said-way of life. How many cultures have assimilated into the larger societal milieu because either the values of the culture were not sufficiently passed along or the subsequent generation chose to ignore them?

And so it is with very early Christianity, dating from the late first century to the late second century of the common era. If the Didache is the instruction guide for early Gentile believers in Jesus, then maybe we should be paying attention to it, for it represents something we don’t often consider: a Christian life outlined by those who were closest to the apostles and possibly by the apostles themselves, those who were closest to Christ.

So much has happened across Christian history in the last nearly two-thousand years. Much of it is nothing to be proud of. The Church expended considerable resources in persecuting Jews and other “infidels,” feeling self-justified that each drop of blood spilled was for the greater glory of the Lord.

There are those in the Hebrew Roots movement who reject Christian history entirely and strive to achieve the original Biblical template of worship, reasoning that the only valid template is a complete imitation of our Jewish fore bearers in Messiah. But if that desire is to be realized, then maybe the Didache can serve as a roadmap. The caveat for many Hebrew/Jewish roots people is that the roadmap doesn’t seem to lead to a place where there are no behavioral distinctions between Jewish and Gentile Jesus-worshiper.

But how reliable is this roadmap?

The sole complete manuscript of the Didache that has come down to us was discovered in 1873 by Archbishop Bryennios in the library of the Jerusalem Monastery of the Most Holy Sepulchre in Istanbul…

…Therefore, the Didache needs to be regarded as an anonymous document. As with so many books in the Christian Scriptures, one must allow for the probability that it did not originate with a single individual. Furthermore, given the manifest clues of orality within the Didache itself, one can be quite certain that it was originally composed orally and that it belonged to an extended network of persons who cherished and preserved it because it served to specify the standards of excellence guiding their Way of Life.

-Milavec, pp 41-2

Didache CodexThere’s quite a bit of zeal in Milavec’s words but the oldest copy of this document we have, was discovered a mere 140 years ago. I’d like to believe that it is a very ancient text and that it was from a time when Paul was either still alive or had not long been deceased.

I’m going to go through my notes on Milavec’s commentary in linear fashion and see what nuggets we can uncover in this treasure.

Milavec’s analysis includes a description of the division of topics in the Didache:

  1. Training program in the Way of Life (Did. 1:1-6:2).
  2. Regulations for eating, baptizing, fasting, and praying (Did. 6:3-11:2).
  3. Regulations for hospitality / testing various classes of visitors (Did. 11:3-13:2).
  4. Regulations for first fruits and for offering a pure sacrifice (Did. 13:3-15:4).
  5. Closing apocalyptic forewarnings and hope (Did. 16:1-8).

The Didache, according to Milavec, describes two “ways,” the Way of Life, and the Way of Death.

The notion that there are two well-defined paths would have been familiar to a Jewish audience (#1b, #1h). Psalm 1, for instance, contrasts “the way of righteousness” with “the way of the wicked.” The first-named are defined as those who “delight…in the law [Torah] of the Lord” (Ps. 1:2). Standing in this tradition, it is no surprise that the Jesus movement was known in some circles as “the Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). This was undoubtedly due to the fact that its members were trained in “the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17), “the way of the Lord” (Acts 18:25), or “the way of God” (Acts 18:26)…

-ibid, pg 45

So we see a very close association with the wording in the Didache and the underlying concepts of “Ways” and Jewish history mapping to, though not completely mirroring, the Torah. Yet there’s no completely separating the Torah from the Didache’s training of Gentile disciples, although a difference of application is evidenced in its pages.

After defining the Way of Life using the dual definitions the Didache turns its attention to “the training [required for the assimilation] of these words” (1:3). As explained above, the definitions of the Way of Life and the Way of Death served to frame the main attraction, that is the training program…of the Didache…devoted to this “training,” it is not surprising that the entire manuscript was, at some point in time, given the title “didache” …the Greek word…makes reference to the training that a master trainer (didaskalos) imports to apprentices or disciples.

-ibid, pg 47

I suppose this is stating the obvious, but consider. The Didache is known to be a training manual for the Gentile disciples in “the Way,” a Jewish religious movement organized around the knowledge of Yeshua as the Messiah and his teachings of righteousness. In the Didache’s case, this training in righteousness is specifically crafted for Gentile audiences. If the Gentiles were supposed to merely mimic Jewish Torah observance, this document would hardly be necessary. The training for a Gentile in Messiah would have been the same as for any “righteous convert” to Judaism.

ancient-rabbi-teachingAnd yet, the Didache not only was written exclusively for Gentiles who were not converting to Judaism, but who were considered Gentile co-participants (with the Jewish disciples) in the Way, and these Gentiles required a somewhat Torah-based but nevertheless separate set of training instructions from those given to Jewish disciples.

On page 48, Milavec outlines the likely format for such training, which would match one teacher or trainer with one disciple. This is atypical of ancient and modern discipleship models in Judaism, which would have one Master or Rabbi who trained multiple disciples in their teachings and methods.

However, on page 49, a very Jewish discipleship concept is presented:

Those who trained novices were not transmitting something of their own creation. Rather, such masters were “speaking to you the word of the Lord” (4:1), hence something they themselves received.

Traditionally, a disciple memorized the teachings of his Master so that when the disciple was sufficiently trained, he would become a Master, attract his own disciples, and pass on what he had previously learned. This pattern was repeated generation by generation, and so the pattern is repeated here. This also suggests that Gentiles were passing on what they had previously learned to new Gentile disciples (hence “something they themselves received”).

As one would expect, the training included heavy references to the teachings of Jesus:

In terms of an orderly progression of topics, however, the initial section dealing with praying for enemies and turning the other cheek would appear to be placed at the head of the training program…(but) when examined in detail…the “enemies” in this case were not highway robbers or Roman soldiers, but relatives and friends who had become “enemies” due to the candidates new religious convictions.

-ibid pp 49-50

For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.

Matthew 10:35-36 (NASB)

Milavec states (pp 51-2) that the Decalogue or the Ten Commandments was adapted for a Gentile audience. This again supports the idea that portions of the Torah were adapted for or applied differently to the Gentile disciples rather than there being a single, identical application of Torah to both Jewish and Gentile members in the body of Messiah.

The framers of the decalogue (2:2) retained the linguistic structure in which the Lord delivered the Torah to his people on Mount Sinai (Ex. 20:1-17, Deut. 5:6-21)…

Since the novice could not have known what the Lord wanted him/her to be and do before this moment, the decalogue would not have been presented to the novice as a rebuke…no Gentile can be blamed for not having been raised as a Jew…On the other hand it can be presumed that the novice asked questions relative to the scope of each of the terms of the decalogue and reflected on his/her own life in contrast to the Way of Life.

JudaismSo how did the decalogue apply to the life of the Gentile novice? It’s outlined in the Didache’s “Way of Life” which interestingly enough, according to Milavec, omits the first Five of the Ten Commandments (pg 52). However, their omission wasn’t indicative of lack of application, but a difference in application based on status. For instance, the fourth commandment, the omission of Shabbat observance, is described this way:

For gentiles, the Sabbath rest (Ex. 20:8-9) would have imposed an unworkable expectation since the Roman lunar calendar governing public life made absolutely no provision for a cessation of work on the seventh day (#4a). The “days of rest” named in the Roman calendar only occasionally coincided with the Jewish Sabbath…Since members of the Didache community depended on the work of their hands, the fourth commandment would have imposed severe economic hardships.

-ibid pp 52-3

Although Judaism was a legally recognized religion in the Roman empire and thus any Jew was entitled by law to observe the Shabbat in accordance with their faith, Gentiles who had not converted to Judaism could not observe the Jewish religious rest days or festivals. The Gentiles in the Way would not be allowed to claim a legal right to the Shabbat as non-Jews, and thus it would be a crime for them to abstain from the work required of them on the Saturday Sabbath.

This is not to say that the Shabbat was and is not a valid expression of devotion to God for Gentiles, but the status assigned to Gentiles in the Way established in Acts 15 afforded them a less stringent set of obligations to God, so that Shabbat could be observed if possible, but if not (which was in most cases), it was not treated as a violation of a commandment.

On the other hand, Milavec notes six “new” commandments applied to the Gentiles such as prohibitions against child cruelty and child sexual molestation. These were necessary since, although child mistreatment was unheard of in ancient Judaism, it was terribly common in Greek and Roman culture in the first and second centuries. So these prohibitions had to be explicitly spelled out. Other prohibitions were commandments against drug use and magic as well as abortion and infanticide. Again, these were practices common in the ancient Roman world but would not have to be articulated in Jewish legal code.

Didache 3:1 serves as a fitting opening to the five illustrations of how to avoid major infractions by keeping guard against minor infractions that might not be serious in themselves, but that form a slippery slope toward great infractions. In Jewish circles this would be recognized as erecting a “fence” (#1v).

-ibid, pg 58

fence_around_torahAgain, erecting a “fence” around the Torah by constructing more stringent restrictions than the written Biblical text records is a Rabbinic practice that is apparently reflected in the Didache, further attesting to its Jewish origins. I find this certainly interesting given how modern Christianity actually criticizes the Jewish Rabbinic system for it’s “man-made laws” and yet the very earliest Gentile Christians were taught using identical principles, perhaps even at the behest of the original apostles of Christ.

As Milavec’s commentary goes on for a bit more, I’m going to split my response in two and present the second part in tomorrow’s morning meditation.

Christianity Today and Why Paul is Not Anti-Judaism

paul-on-the-road-to-damascusThe misconception about Paul with the longest historical pedigree is that he was anti-Jewish. Many imagine that after his Damascus Road experience, Paul immediately rejected Judaism and embraced Christianity. They assume that in the first century these were two clearly distinguishable religions. Before his encounter with Christ, the thinking goes, Paul was wrapped up in a legalistic pursuit of salvation and was teaching others a similar philosophy. So great was his passion that he persecuted the Christians who taught salvation by grace through faith. After his conversion, everything changed. He embraced God’s gracious salvation by faith in Christ and rejected the system of dead rituals bound up in Judaism. Paul left Judaism, therefore, and turned to Christianity.

-Timothy Gombis
“The Paul We Think We Know” (originally published 7-22-2011)
Christianity Today

Someone posted this on Facebook today and as I was reading it, I wanted to jump up out of my chair and scream YES! YES! Someone finally GETS IT!

OK, I’m not really that emphatic in my behavior but it does excite me that someone writing for a traditional Christian publication understands what I understand and what I’ve been trying to communicate in the church I attend for nearly a year.

Let’s cut to the chase. What does Gombis really think about Paul and more importantly, Paul’s struggle to integrate non-Jewish disciples into a Jewish religious stream?

The problem in the early church, therefore, was not the temptation toward legalistic works righteousness. They faced the communal challenge of incorporating non-Jewish converts into the historically Jewish people of God. First-century Judaism didn’t have a legalism problem; it had an ethnocentrism problem. The first followers of Jesus were all Jewish, and had difficulty imagining that the God of Israel who sent Jesus Christ as their Savior could possibly save non-Jews without requiring them to convert to Judaism. This is the issue in Acts 15, when Christian Jews from Judea urged the Gentiles in Antioch, “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1).

While the early church leaders decided in theory that non-Jewish believers in Jesus were not required to become Jews (Acts 15:13-21), many churches struggled with the practical challenges of becoming healthy multiethnic communities. Paul, as pastor and theologian, addresses these challenges by claiming that “no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law” (Rom. 3:20). This is not a condemnation of Judaism as inherently legalistic, but an affirmation that God does not justify a person merely because he is ethnically Jewish. Jews and non-Jews approach God on equal terms when it comes to salvation (emph. mine). All have sinned and all stand in need of God’s redeeming grace in Christ (Rom. 3:23-24). Therefore all who are in Christ are equal siblings in God’s new family (Gal. 3:26-28).

The “in theory” comment seems to relate to the ongoing struggle to integrate, with anything approaching seamlessness, Jewish and Gentile disciples within a single religious and social framework, but I’ll return to that issue in a moment. The main point here is that Paul did not reject Judaism for Christianity, supported continued Judaism and Torah observance for Jews, and identified the primary problem among Jewish believers and their difficulty in accepting Gentle disciples not as legalism but ethnocentrism. Many of the believing and non-believing Jews could not accept Gentiles as equal participants of a Jewish religious branch without requiring that they convert to Judaism. After all, whoever heard of Jews and Goyim being equal in the sight of God? Gombis already quoted this verse, but it should be repeated.

Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Acts 15:1 (NASB)

PaulThis was the core problem Paul faced in his mission to the Gentiles and it would always haunt him. It was the cause of most of his major problems with the various Jewish communities in Israel and the diaspora. He would never see a day when this conflict was ultimately resolved and the echo of his struggle still rings in our ears. That is, if we’ll actually let ourselves listen.

But what about Paul, Judaism, and his relationship with Jewish disciples?

A second reason why we cannot envision Paul as anti-Jewish is that even after his conversion, Paul remained a Jew. He did not imagine that he was inventing a new religion, nor did he leave Judaism to join the Christian church. At the end of his third missionary journey, Paul arrived in Jerusalem and, at the suggestion of James, went through purification rituals at the temple (Acts 21:23-26). Paul saw no contradiction at all between his commitment to Christ and his faithful participation in Jewish practices. Explaining his ministry before a variety of audiences, Paul emphasized his Jewish identity and claimed to be acting in faithfulness to the God of Israel. Before the Jewish Council in Jerusalem, he declared, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead!” (Acts 23:6, emphasis added). And to King Agrippa, he again claims to be a Pharisee whose hope is in the promises of God to Israel (Acts 26:4-6).

Third, Paul never calls upon Jews to reject Judaism. Instead, he exhorts them to recognize Jesus as their Messiah and welcome his non-Jewish followers as siblings in God’s new family. We get a glimpse of his preaching to Jews in Acts 17:1-3: “When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said.”

The Paul of the New Testament, therefore, is not anti-Jewish. He was faithful both to the Scriptures and to his Jewish heritage. He preached Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel, but was insistent that salvation in Christ was not limited to ethnic Jews. According to his gospel, all Jews needed to receive Jesus as Messiah, and all followers of Jesus—Jewish and non-Jewish—needed to embrace one another as siblings in God’s global family in Christ.

I’m stunned that this is being published in an online Christian venue. I’m absolutely shocked. I’m pleased beyond wonder. Paul never stopped being a Jew, never stopped Jewish observances, and absolutely never, ever encouraged any Jew to abandon Jewish practice, lifestyle, and faith. Turning to Messiah is a completely Jewish act and does not require the slightest deviation from Jewish Torah observance.

But what about “in theory?”

Gombis isn’t suggesting that in theory, the Gentiles became Jews either by formal conversation (which Paul opposed) or in action but not name by observing the mitzvot in a manner identical to the Jewish disciples. The author is only acknowledging what I have been saying all along: that in principle, the requirement was to unite Jewish and Gentile disciples of the Master within a multiethnic, multinational framework where all could share in the grace and salvation of God without anyone being compelled to surrender their unique and individual national and ethnic identity.  In practice, this was never accomplished and ultimately, both populations pursued wildly different trajectories. Their struggles are what we see in the Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots movements today.

walking_discipleEarlier, I posted my review of the First Fruits of Zion television series episode Raising Disciples. This is particularly relevant to today’s “extra meditation” because we encounter the topic of disciples as imitators. What did Paul say to the Gentile disciples he was raising up about imitating their Master?

In 1 Corinthians 11:1, he told them to “be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” but we don’t know what they are supposed to imitate. My suggestion is that the manner of Jewish and Gentile imitation is not identical across the board, since it would obliterate Jewish and Gentile distinction in the body of disciples and thus eliminate the problem of Gentile integration. If Jewish and Gentile disciples were identical and homogenous, the basis for schism would have been severely blunted if not done away with entirely.

However, it was a given that Jewish disciples were intended to continue Jewish practice according to Gombis and the legal decision rendered by James and the Council was that the Gentiles had no identical obligation. By common association, the Gentile disciples might have acted very similarly to their Jewish counterparts, at least to an outside observer, but there remained a difference in obligation between the Jewish and non-Jewish disciples within the body of Messiah.

That probably isn’t a very satisfying answer, but I’m still thrilled that a Christian online magazine is promoting a view of Paul that is so close to my own. Now if I could just send this link to every church Pastor in the country with a note saying “READ THIS!” and if they’d keep an open mind while doing so, I’d consider it a step forward.

Interestingly enough, today is Hoshana Rabbah, the traditional day of judgment for the nations of the world. How will God and Israel judge us if we do not learn to see Paul and the Messiah in the manner Timothy Gombis suggests?

FFOZ TV Review: Raising Disciples

ffoz_tv12_startEpisode 12: Everyone knows that Jesus had twelve disciples but many would be surprised to find out that the institution of discipleship existed centuries before the time of the apostles. In episode twelve viewers will gain a better understanding of what it means to be a disciple from the understanding of Judaism in the days of Messiah. Jesus tells us that “Every disciple fully trained will become like his teacher.” Indeed, to be a Christian means to be a disciple of Jesus, a student responsible for learning and becoming like one’s rabbi.

-from the Introduction to FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come
Episode 12: Raising Disciples

The Lesson: The Mystery of the Meaning of Discipleship

Whenever we consider being disciples of Christ, most of us in the church probably think that means being believers in Jesus. However, according to First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) teacher and author Toby Janicki, it’s really much more. But how much more? What does it really mean to be a disciple of Jesus?

Toby first spends a lot of time in this episode showing the audience what discipleship meant in Judaism in the late Second Temple period; during the earthly lifetime of Jesus:

The disciples of Yochanan and the disciples of the Prushim would often fast, and they came and said to him, “Why do the disciples of Yochanan and the disciples of the Prushim fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

Mark 2:18 (DHE Gospels)

Here we see that not only did Jesus have disciples but that John the Baptist and the Pharisees had disciples. In fact, all of the teachers or Rabbis in all of the streams of Judaism in that day had disciples. But we still need to understand what it is to be a disciple in general and a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth in particular.

To me, a lot of the information presented about discipleship wasn’t a great revelation since I’ve been exposed to it before, but it may be that some Christians believe only Jesus had disciples and that he only had twelve of them. This, of course, is not correct:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.

Luke 1:10 (ESV)

While some translations say that seventy were sent out and others say seventy-two, Toby says that from the context in the rest of this chapter, those sent out were also disciples of Jesus. This illustrates how common disciples were in that day and age. He also cites Acts 9:36 to illustrate that women were disciples, Acts 6:1 and 6:7 to illustrate how there were many, many disciples, and Acts 11:26 to show that there were both Jewish and Gentile disciples of Jesus.

ffoz_tv12_tobyAccording to Toby, the word “Christian” is used only three times in the Bible, but the words “disciple” and “disciples” relating to followers and students of Jesus were used many times. Perhaps it’s more accurate to call ourselves disciples of Christ rather than Christians. But then again, that would depend on the meaning of disciples and discipleship. Which brings us to our first clue:

Clue 1: All early believers of Jesus were called disciples.

But going back to the question I just asked and the question Toby repeatedly asks, we need to understand how Christ’s original Jewish audience and the first Jewish readers of the Gospels would have understood discipleship. To get the answer, we turn to FFOZ teacher and translator Aaron Eby in Israel.

Aaron provides a great deal of background information on early Jewish discipleship including the fact that discipleship predates Jesus by quite a bit. Discipleship was considered the primary method of higher Jewish education, but it wasn’t just a matter of going to school and studying different subjects. A disciple was a student but specifically, a student of a Torah teacher. In the days of Jesus and before, when a young man thought he wanted a life of Torah learning, he would apprentice himself to a Torah master, however, this apprenticeship might not be what you imagine.

A disciple was to be a learner/imitator. He would memorize all of his Master’s teachings, learn to imitate his Master’s style of dress, mannerisms, inflections of speech. The disciple in some ways considered himself a servant or even a slave to his Rabbi, his “great one.” In some ways, he thought of himself as a son to a Father, but the Rabbi was considered greater than the disciple’s biological Father. Disciples were tremendously devoted to their Masters, more so than to their own families or even their own lives. And so it was with the disciples of Jesus, their Master and ours.

Back in the studio, Toby describes the concept of discipleship as a job description.

A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.

Luke 6:40 (NASB)

That the disciples of Jesus were imitators of their Master and memorized his teachings is the reason why we have the Gospels today.

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1 (NASB)

Here we see that Paul considered himself a disciple of Christ as his imitator, and he suggests to the readers of his letter that they should imitate Paul. Were they then Paul’s disciples? I’ll answer that in a bit, but we have arrived at our second clue:

Clue 2: The primary job of a disciple was to be like his teacher.

Even the Pirkei Avot or “Ethics of our Fathers,” a set of Jewish teachings that predated Jesus says, “Raise many disciples.”

ffoz_tv12_aaronA Rabbi’s job was to create a new generation of disciples who would learn everything from the Rabbi and about the Rabbi and then, when they were fully trained, the disciples would become Rabbi’s themselves, raising up their own generation of disciples in order to preserve the Torah teaching and wisdom of their own Master. This process would be repeated from one generation to the next with the goal of creating an unbroken line of discipleship, generation by generation, that would preserve the teachings of Torah for each Teacher, often by establishing great schools such as the Houses of Study of Shammai and Hillel. This maps well to Matthew 28:19-20 where Rabbi Yeshua instructed his Jewish disciples to raise up a generation of disciples from the people of the nations, which the Church often refers to as “the great commission.” However, as we’ve seen, the idea of “the great commission” hardly does justice to what Jesus was actually commanding.

Now we have arrived at the third and final clue:

Clue 3: The job of a disciple was to raise up more disciples.

But here Toby introduces a strong caveat:

But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Matthew 23:8-12 (NASB)

This set of verses has often been misunderstood or just not understood at all. Does this mean we shouldn’t have respect for our Bible teachers and Pastors? Here’s where having a Jewish perspective on the New Testament comes in especially handy. According to Toby, this is Jesus defining the difference between the relationship of Jewish disciples to the Sages and disciples of Jesus, our Master, to himself.

Remember, the purpose of discipleship was to learn all there was to learn from your Master and then to establish your own House of Study in your name passing on what you originally learned. Your disciples would be taught in your name, not in the name of your own Master, and your disciples would teach in their own names, not in yours (actually it was more like, “I teach you in the name of my Master, who taught in the name of his Master,” and so on).

Jesus said his disciples would be different. Each Torah Master would eventually age and die, but his teachings would be preserved in his disciples and in each generation of disciples that followed. Jesus is alive! We hear this enthusiastically declared every Easter or Resurrection Day in Church. James, Peter, and Paul were not to set up their own houses of study and teach in their own names by making their own disciples (in spite of what we saw relative to Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1). They were not to raise up disciples for themselves but instead, they were and we are to raise up disciples for our Master, our one and only Master, Jesus the Messiah, Yeshua HaMashiach.

What Did I Learn?

I learned the meaning behind Matthew 23:8-12 which I tended to ignore in the past because I couldn’t figure it out. It makes a lot of sense now. I used to think that we inherited a broken system of discipleship since the teachings of Jesus were never transmitted generation to generation in the manner we have seen described in this FFOZ TV episode. Now I realize that it was by design, since we were never intended to be the students of any Master except Jesus. He is our only teacher, our only Torah Master. This does not mean we shouldn’t respect any Bible teacher or Pastor in our Church, but we must always remember that none of them take the place of Jesus. If we see a group of believers who esteem their Pastor or spiritual leader as anything approaching our true Master, then there is something wrong (and sadly, such situations make an appearance the news media from time to time, usually as scandals involving some highly public and popular religious leader).

ffoz_tv12_extra2I also thought of some questions as I was watching this episode and in fact, I was reminded of some of the narratives of Toby from other episodes that involve how he commonly introduces himself. He says that he isn’t Jewish but rather a Gentile who practices Messianic Judaism. It isn’t always apparent, but he usually wears a kippah while on camera (A kippah is a head covering typically worn by religious Jews either just in synagogue or during their waking hours, depending on their level of observance).

What is the difference between being a Gentile who practices Messianic Judaism and a Gentile who practices Christianity? More importantly, how do these two “states” relate to being a disciple of Christ, our Master? Since this television show was created to present the Gospels and Jesus Christ to a more traditional Christian audience by introducing a more Jewish perspective and interpretation, what does that say about the level of discipleship and imitation of our Master relative to “Messianic Gentiles” and Christians?

This question is especially important to me, since it factors into how I think of myself as a disciple of the Master by calling myself a Christian and attending Church. One of the motivations for me to return to Church after an absence of many years was the book Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile written by FFOZ president and founder Boaz Michael. Have I become a better imitator of my Master by following this template of church attendance and Christian affiliation or a worse one? At some point in the near future, as the one year anniversary of my returning to Church comes near, I plan to write one or more “meditations” on the application of Boaz’s Tent of David in my life and the results I see so far.

Closely related to this situation, Toby also didn’t drill down into something that I think it’s vital to know. When we say that a disciple of Christ is an imitator or Christ, just exactly what are we imitating? This isn’t an idle question. Many in the Hebrew Roots movement insist that discipleship means imitating the Jewish Jesus in every aspect of his Judaism, including wearing kippot (plural of kippah) and tallitot (plural of tallit) and to otherwise look and act in a manner identical to modern religious Jews (in spite of the fact that Jesus isn’t a “modern religious Jew,” but rather, he was an ancient Jewish Rabbi and he is the Jewish Messiah King).

The clue that may lead to an answer was provided at the end of this episode by Boaz Michael who appeared on camera and said that next week (episode 13), the topic would be how the Torah is the foundation of Messiah Yeshua’s instructions to his disciples. How can the Torah be applied to both the Jewish and Gentile disciples of our Master?

I’m hoping my review next week will help answer these questions.

Today is Hoshana Raba, the last day of Sukkot. Lord, please abundantly save us. Candle lighting for Shmini Atzeret is tonight at sundown. God, continue to be with us.

Day Zero.

 

 

The Evidence of Love

love-in-lightsThe Alter Rebbe repeated what the Mezritcher Maggid said quoting the Baal Shem Tov: “Love your fellow like yourself” is an interpretation of and commentary on “Love Hashem your G-d.” He who loves his fellow-Jew loves G-d, because the Jew has with in himself a “part of G-d Above.” Therefore, when one loves the Jew – i.e. his inner essence – one loves G-d.

“Today’s Day”
Friday, Menachem Av 12, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31 (NASB)

I would hardly suggest that the commentary I found in an email I received from Chabad.org was intended to map back to the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus), but the comparison really stands out. Perhaps it is one of those lessons that is equally apparent from a Jewish and Christian point of view, except that Jesus was a Jewish teacher talking to a Jewish scribe within a wholly Jewish context. We non-Jews get that point (or should get it) somewhat after the fact, so it would be wise of us not to do away with the Jewish framework in which the Master was teaching. That’s what gives his lessons their full meaning.

The “Today’s Day” commentary is specifically addressing a Jewish audience as well, which is obvious since it discusses one Jew loving another Jew as being equal to loving God, rather than one human being loving another. The interesting question is, when Jesus was teaching the two greatest commandments, did he mean that loving your neighbor is loving your Jewish neighbor?

That could very well have been the case, if you look at who Jesus was addressing and where this conversation was taking place. I don’t mean that Jesus was unconscious of the larger application of his teaching, but it hadn’t gotten that far yet. He came for the lost sheep of Israel not the lost sheep of planet Earth…well, not at that time. He assigned that job (gathering the lost sheep from the nations) to Paul on the road to Damascus some time later.

As impossible as it sounds, as absurd as it may seem: The mandate of darkness is to become light; the mandate of a busy, messy world is to find oneness.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“The Mandate of Darkness”
Chabad.org

It’s important to remember that Rabbi Freeman is also addressing a Jewish audience, so don’t go crazy and assume he believes that Jews and Gentiles (particularly Christians) should all be “one.” Except that in Judaism, it is believed that Messiah will unite humanity in peace, not as a homogeneous body of human beings, but as Jews and Gentiles who are all subject to the King, who will come (return) and rule with a rod of iron. We will all be “one” in the sense that we will all be subjects of the King.

Even in the Messianic age though, as I understand it, people will still have the choice as to whether or not to acknowledge and obey the King. On the other hand, it does say that every knee shall bow. But there will still be Israel that is blessed by God and the people of the nations who are blessed through Israel; the people of the nations who are called by His Name.

But what is to be learned from this? Not that those of us who put ourselves under the authority of the King will all be cookie-cutter, carbon copies of one another. What is to be learned is that we will love one another and in fact, all disciples of the Master are commanded to love one another right now.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

John 13:34 (NASB)

arguing-with-godWithin the context of being disciples of Jesus, both Jewish and non-Jewish followers are commanded to love each other, regardless of our differences. That’s a rather tall order. I once heard a retired Pastor say that he’s seen churches split over what color to paint the walls of the Fellowship Hall. We don’t get along easily, let alone love one another. But if the Baal Shem Tov is correct and loving your fellow human being (I’ll adapt his teaching to be more generalized) is equivalent to our inner essence loving God, then the reverse must be true. Hostility, envy, anger, and hatred toward our “neighbor” must also be the expression of those emotions toward God.

That’s a horrible thought.

I don’t know if it’s true or not but if we were to even pretend it is, our motivation to love should become a great deal more plain. If we say we love God with all our heart and with every fiber of our being (most people tend to exaggerate the extent of their ability to love, but let’s say we are capable of this), then the evidence of our statement is how we treat other people, particularly within the community of faith.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:35 (NASB)

See? Love (or lack thereof) of our fellow believer is evidence of whether or not we actually do love God. People will know us as disciples of the Master by how we love each other. God, of course, already knows.