Tag Archives: Ephesians 2

Abraham, Ephesians 2, and the Unique Jewish Mission, Part 2

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.

Ephesians 2:14-16 (NASB)

This text indicates that the two identified in Ephesians 2:11 as Gentiles and Jews, have become one in Christ. Jesus broke down the barrier dividing the two in order to create “one new man” in which there is peace and reconciliation. “One new man” is a metaphor for the church but, in spite of its apparent simplicity, two diametrically opposing views of its nature appear in the literature. Each of these views is underpinned by antithetical perspectives on Israel in the present era inaugurated by the Christ-event.

-David B. Woods
“One New Man, Part 1 of 2” p.51
from Issue 119/Spring 2015 of Messiah Journal

Continued from Part 1.

The above-quoted scripture is the foundation for both Woods’ commentary in the current issue of Messiah Journal and Derek Leman’s commentary on his blog. Leman addresses “the wall” and what it might actually be from a Judaically-oriented interpretive perspective, and Woods takes on who this “one new man” might be.

Woods quoted Martyn Lloyd-Jones (“God’s Way of Reconciliation” [vol. 2. of “An Exposition on Ephesians”; Edinburgh, Scotland: Baker Book House, 1972], 275) to exemplify the currently held viewpoint of the “one new man” within Evangelical Christianity:

The Jew has been done away with as such, even as the Gentile has been done away with, in Christ…nothing that belonged to the old state is of any value or has any relevance in the new state.

-ibid, p.52

If you’re familiar with my views on supersessionism, otherwise known as replacement theology or fulfillment theology, then you know from my perspective, those are “fighting words.

Conversely, Woods quoted the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) (“Introducing Messianic Judaism and the UMJC” [Albuquerque, NM: Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, 2010], 24) to illustrate the “flip side” of the coin:

One new man does not mean that the distinction and mutuality between Jews and Gentiles are obliterated. Instead, it means that Jews as Jews and Gentiles as Gentiles, with their differences and distinctions, live in unity and mutual blessing in Yeshua…they do not become a new generic, uniform humanity.

-ibid

AbrahamThis harkens back to certain passages of Carl Kinbar’s article from the same issue of Messiah Journal: “The Promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Part 1” which I mentioned in my previous blog post. God endowed the Jews, through the patriarchs, with certain blessings and responsibilities, and one of those responsibilities is, through Abraham, being a blessing to the Gentiles. This operates through the faithfulness of Messiah and Gentile faith in the God of Israel through Messiah Yeshua, and it only works if Israel, that is, the Jewish people, remain distinct from the Gentile disciples in the Ekklesia of Messiah.

Distinction theory is my term for the theological framework which understands Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus as distinct in certain significant theological senses, including identity and function (role, service) in the economy of God’s kingdom. That is, a biblical differentiation exists between Israel and the nations within the church similar to that which existed before Christ. This distinction results in a twofold structure within the church that I label “intra-ecclesial Jew-Gentile distinction.” In this framework, the “one new man” or “humanity” as I shall explain, comprises Jews and Gentiles who together are devoted to Jesus.

-ibid, p.53

I know that statement won’t sit well with some people reading this, namely more traditional, mainstream Christians, and certainly many Hebrew Roots proponents. Woods intends on showing from his analysis of scripture, how his view is more Biblically sustainable than those views that insist on the obliteration of Jewish uniqueness of identity and corporate covenant responsibility, either by, in essence, “Gentile-izing” them (and recall that Kinbar says you can’t “unJew” a Jew) or erasing Jewish distinction by assigning Jewish roles and responsibilities to both Jews and Gentiles equally.

To do this, Woods proposes to take the phrase “one new man” and analyze the Greek (and Hebrew) one word at a time. Unfortunately, by the time he ended part 1 of his article, he had addressed only the first word.

His explanation is complex, but in short:

Hena assuredly means one, but Jewish and Christian scholars alike are aware that the word is laden with theological import. God, says Deuteronomy 6:4, is one (…echad–or heis in the Septuagint, where heis and hena are inflections of the same word).

-ibid, p.54

Relative to the Shema and “the LORD is One”, it is just as accurate to translate echad as “unique” or “alone”. Applied to the “one” in “one new man,” this changes the meaning somewhat, from a single fused entity, to a grouping that has the potential to contain other groupings. Certainly “alone” could be compared to “called out”.

Also echad might not imply so much that God is “one and indivisible,” but…

…rather that God alone is to be worshiped to the exclusion of all other gods.

-ibid

Woods also considers basar echad or “one flesh” (Genesis 2:4) and states:

The marriage relationship is dependent on the distinction between husband and wife; thus “unity implies distinctiveness and yet is complementary.”

-ibid

beth immanuel
Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship

Looking back upon the “one new man” as the Messiah’s Ekklesia, we can see that it’s possible to have a group of called out ones that are echad and yet not only can contain sub-groups that are distinct, but that the Ekklesia’s very existence is dependent upon the Jewish and Gentile sub-groups within the larger “one” group remaining distinct and also complementary.

Woods cites Ephesians 2:11-22 in that it notes:

…that the principle distinction between members of the body is their status in Israel: They are either members of Israel (Jews), or they are drawn from among the nations (Gentiles/non-Jews) into fellowship with Israel–yet without becoming Jews.

-ibid, p.55 (emph. mine)

I might change that last part to say that we Gentiles in the Ekklesia are drawn “into fellowship with Israel without becoming Israel.” We have fellowship with Israel without replacing or usurping Israel’s unique covenant relationship with and responsibility to God.

Woods continues building his case for several more pages, but I believe I’ve presented sufficient examples to illustrate where he’s going. However, he won’t begin discussing his understanding of the word “new” until the next issue of Messiah Journal which will be published this coming summer.

Turning now to Derek Leman’s blog post on the Dividing Wall:

I attended a paper in 2013 on the meaning of the dividing wall passage of Ephesians 2. A year and a half later, the interpretation put forward by Jesper Svartvik still looks good to me. I include here a postlude concerning the meaning of “abolishing the law of commandments in decrees.”

So based on Leman’s presentation of the conclusions of Svartvik’s 2013 paper, how are we to understand the “dividing wall” that Yeshua was to have “broken down in his own flesh?”

From Leman’s perspective (taking from Svartvik), the Christian misunderstanding of this “wall” is based on the Christian misunderstanding of the Temple’s sacrificial system:

First, Svartvik said we need to keep in mind a Jewish understanding of sacrifice and the Temple worship, as opposed to same later Christian re-interpretations. Sacrifice at the Temple was about staying in the covenant and not getting in. People were not trying to “get saved” or “be born again” in offering a lamb. They already were in and sacrifices were part of keeping right relation with God.

Second, sacrifice in the Bible is about nearness, the spatial metaphor of “drawing near” to God. The verb most used for offering a sacrifice means literally “bring near.” (As a Hebrew Bible devotee, I can tell you, this is not only true, it is one of the most profound things I wish people knew about the sacrifices and it is one of the major issues I discuss in my book, Yeshua Our Atonement). We might notice that in Ephesians 2 the same nearness issue is being discussed: those who were far off are now brought near.

The Jewish people were near to God and the Gentiles were far off. So how could those who were far off be brought near to those who were already near (the Jews)? How was the enmity between Jews and Gentiles to be resolved? By doing away with Jewish obligation to Torah? By mandating that Jewish obligation to Torah also be assigned equally to the Gentile?

As we see from Woods, forming an “echad” Ekklesia of Jews and Gentiles doesn’t require that both groups be eliminated to form a new, homogenous entity with no distinctiveness contained within it.

As I quoted Leman in my previous blog post, the dividing wall can be understood differently than the four prevailing theories, the “soreg” or literal fence forming the “Court of the Gentiles” in the Temple, the Talmudic “fence” around the Torah commandments, a theological dividing wall between heaven and earth, or, most commonly, the Torah itself. The dividing wall can be understood as a metaphor for the “mistrust and enmity between Jews and Gentiles in the Greco-Roman world in which the apostles founded a movement of faith.”

intermarriageLet’s go back to Woods’ comparison of “one” as the “echad” of a marriage. A man and a woman meet and fall in love. They desire to marry, but there are “issues” that stand between them that must be resolved before they can enter into a life-long commitment to one another. You might say that they have to overcome any “mistrust and enmity” between them before they can be joined as “one flesh” and become something new, not two individuals, male and female, living apart, but “one flesh”, male and female, living in a single family and yet requiring they maintain their distinctiveness.

You can go to Leman’s blog to read the entire text of his essay as well as view the ongoing discussion, but hopefully, I’ve adequately summarized his main point regarding the nature of the “dividing wall” that was torn down through the Messiah. The dividing wall is just a metaphor for the mistrust and enmity that previously existed between Jew and Gentile. In Messiah, those barriers are gone and Jewish and Gentile disciples of the Master can co-exist within the Ekklesia while remaining Jewish and Gentile. This is the same thing as a man and woman getting married and remaining male and female within the family.

Now before someone asks, Leman ends his blog post…

By the way, I should say the theory I just put out there concerning the meaning of “law of commandments in decrees” could never be fully verified as it is an example of trying to fill in a gap left by the writer. We can only guess what fills in the gap. The guess that “law of commandments in decrees” means the whole Torah has huge problems, not least of which is that is a strange way of describing Torah as a whole.

My take away from reviewing Kinbar’s, Woods’ and Leman’s work is that the concept of two unique and complementary groups, one made up of Jews and the other of Gentiles, operating within a single Ekklesia, and indeed, providing mutual blessings to one another, is certainly supportable from a Biblical viewpoint that is Israel-focused and Judaically-oriented, and may well represent the Apostle Paul’s original viewpoint.

Adopting that viewpoint requires divorcing ourselves from the more traditional Christian exegetical perspective on Paul in particular and the Bible in general, so that we may attempt to recapture the actual context and meaning of Paul and the other Bible writers, who were attempting to communicate how God’s vast, sweeping redemptive plan for Israel and the nations was to unfold, first through the Torah, then the Prophets, and finally the revelation of Messiah.

Reviews, by their nature, can only capture a snapshot of the works being reviewed. Again, I encourage you to go to Leman’s blog, and to read the articles written by Kinbar and Woods in the current issue of Messiah Journal to get the full message of what they are presenting. While not everyone who reads my blog may agree with what they have to say, you will see that there are compelling counterarguments to the traditions that have been handed down in the Church for so many centuries. I believe those counter-perspectives must be considered and ultimately accepted by believers in order for Jews and Gentiles in the Body of Messiah to apprehend the true meaning of “one new man.”

JerusalemIn Part 1, I said that in order to understand the role and purpose of the Messianic Gentile, we needed to understand the role of the Messianic Jew in the Ekklesia. So what did we Gentiles learn about ourselves? Hopefully, I illustrated that our role is to be joined with Israel, not to become or replace Israel. And as I’ve stated before, our purpose in the Ekklesia, in response to being blessed by the Jewish people and the promises God made to Abraham, is to support and encourage Jewish Torah observance and covenant obedience, for without an Israel oriented toward God, there is no redemption for the world.

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Abraham, Ephesians 2, and the Unique Jewish Mission, Part 1

I am writing this article to a specific segment of this generation of Jews: those who follow Messiah Yeshua, whether we are in Messianic congregations, synagogues, churches, groups of various kinds that meet in homes, or not actively part of a group. I call us all “Messianic Jews,” but the name is not important; what counts is our connection with Messiah.

We are members of both the body of Messiah and what Michael Wyschogrod calls “the body of Israel.” It is essential that we fulfill our calling and destiny in both communities.

To be frank, many Messianic Jews, myself included, have avoided speaking openly and in depth about the meaning and significance of Jewish existence because we do not want to inadvertently offend others. For now I want to say that the “tasks begun by the patriarchs” that are now entrusted to this generation of Jews have positive and profound implications for the nations. Therefore, if you are not Jewish, I invite you to pull up a chair and listen in. You are welcome here.

-Carl Kinbar
“The Promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Part 1 of 3” p.34
from Issue 119/Spring 2015 of Messiah Journal

At two separate seminars I attended in 2009, two speakers presented a different interpretation of Ephesians 2:15; they both claimed that the unity of the “one new man” does not imply, let alone require, a flattening of its Jewish and Gentile members into homogeneity. Instead, the unity spoken of in Ephesians 2:14-16 strengthens the case that Jewish identity of Jews who believe in Jesus is fundamental.

-David B. Woods
“One New Man, Part 1 of 2” p.52
from Issue 119/Spring 2015 of Messiah Journal

Regarding the fourth and most common Christian interpretation, Svartvik said something profound: how would that view fit with “peace to those near” in Ephesians 2? In other words, Yeshua came to bring peace to those near (Jewish people) and far (Gentiles). If he came to nullify God’s covenant with Israel, how is this peace with Israel?

Thus, Svartvik offers a fifth and new suggestion: the dividing wall is not physical or tangible, but is exactly what the text says it is, the mistrust and enmity between Jews and Gentiles in the Greco-Roman world in which the apostles founded a movement of faith.

He offers a comparison with another first century text in which a wall is used as a metaphor for something abstract. In 2 Baruch 54:3-5 the image of a wall refers to a block in understanding or perception: “You pull down the enclosure for those who have no experience and enlighten the darkness.”

-Derek Leman
“The Dividing Wall in Ephesians 2”
Published April 9, 2015 at the
Messianic Jewish Musings blog

You may notice that the common thread running through all three of the above-quoted paragraphs (besides Messianic Judaism in general) is the special status and mission of the Jewish people, particularly those who are disciples of Messiah Yeshua, as distinct and separate from the body of believing Gentiles, whether they are affiliated with Christianity, Hebrew/Jewish Roots, or the Messianic Jewish movement.

Derek Leman
Derek Leman

Each article provides an excellent springboard by which to launch ourselves into further investigation of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles who are attached to Yeshua, and to define the unique roles and purposes of each population as we exist within the Ekklesia of Messiah.

When I first started reading Kinbar’s article and saw that he had specifically written it to a Jewish audience, I felt as if I’d opened and was reading someone else’s letter, at least until he invited non-Jews to “pull up a chair” and become part of the audience. For it is in the definition of the special tasks that the current generation of Jews, both in Messiah and otherwise, have inherited from the patriarchs, that we find a contrasting role for “Messianic Gentiles”.

Both Woods and Leman tackle this topic through the lens of Ephesians 2, with Woods addressing the so-called “One New Man” (Ephesians 2:15) made out of two peoples, Jews and Gentiles, and Leman focusing on the breaking down of the “barrier of the dividing wall” (Ephesians 2:14 NASB) that previously separated those two groups but, “by the blood of Christ” (v.13) have been made one.

They both, as you might imagine, disagree with the traditional Christian interpretation of what “one new man” is supposed to mean, or what the result of tearing down the “dividing wall” was supposed to bring about. Christianity believes that annihilating that wall and creating one new man eliminated distinctions between Jews and Gentiles by obliterating Jewish and Gentile identity. The “one new man” was “neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28) but an entirely new creation in Jesus Christ.

Except that’s not how these gentlemen interpret these scriptures.

I should also say it is a shame that Paul’s letters can only be read in their Jewish context via a “radical” and “new” perspective. That is, of course, how they should have been read all along. But a few issues have understandably blocked Christian readers from seeing the Jewishness of Pauline letters and Ephesians in particular. To make a complex issue simple let me just list a few things. Paul’s letters do not address Jewish believers and their concerns, but rather his burgeoning Gentile mission of the earliest Yeshua-movement. Paul does not give us a theology of Jewish identity in relation to Messiah Yeshua because that identity was already well-known and assumed in the background. Jewish identity in Messiah remained rooted in the covenants with Abraham and at Sinai and through David, but the coming of Yeshua marked a new stage in God’s revealing his plan to Israel. It was only later, when the church interpreted Paul as saying there was a break away from Sinai and God’s covenant with Israel, that Jews must now become Christians, that the idea occurred that it would become “radical” and “new” to read Paul as a Jewish writer who had not abandoned his prior beliefs and practices.

-Leman (emph. mine)

Carl Kinbar
Rabbi Carl Kinbar

It is difficult to distill an analysis of all three articles into a blog post or two, so I’ll just hit the highlights, so to speak. Also, since both Kinbar and Woods are writing multi-part missives, and the latter submissions are not yet publicly available, the picture you are going to receive here will be, by necessity, incomplete. I encourage you to read Leman’s blog post and acquire copies of Messiah Journal, issue 119 and the subsequent two issues, to read their complete messages.

In order to “flesh out” the role of the “Messianic Gentile” related to Messianic Judaism and the Jewish people (in and out of the movement), it is necessary to understand to some degree, the role and mission of Jewish people as a covenant people within Judaism and as devoted disciples to Messiah.

Our loyalty to Messiah must be so powerfully integrated into our lives that we are simply unable to conceive of life without him. He must be part and parcel of our lives.

At the same time, being Jewish is a fact of our existence: whether we were born Jewish or converted, it is not even possible to “un-Jew” ourselves. To minimize, ignore, or deny this fact is to minimize, ignore, or deny the meaning and significance of our existence. That said, the fullness of our Jewish identity needs to be internalized just as our loyalty to Yeshua does. Our identity as Jews must be part and parcel of our lives.

Our identity as Jews and our loyalty to Messiah must be internalized and brought into harmony.

-Kinbar, p.35

That harmony is not easy to achieve, and I know of at least three Jewish people, one of whom I am very close to, who fully integrated and internalized their Jewish identities by way of entirely dispensing with their devotion to Yeshua.

What Kinbar said reminds me of an article Stuart Dauermann wrote for issue 114 of Messiah Journal called “The Jewish People are Us – Not Them,” which I reviewed nearly eighteen months ago.

In their separate articles, both Kinbar and Dauermann emphasize the vital importance in Messianic Jewish loyalty and affiliation to the Jewish people and national Israel, but while Kinbar makes his points very well regarding Jewish covenant responsibilities to the Torah mitzvot, to their fellow Jews, and to Hashem, what does this say about we Gentiles?

It all seems to come down to Abraham:

Shaul of Tarsus explains how we receive the blessings in Romans 4, where he writes that when Abraham believed God’s promise that he would have a son, God counted his faith as righteousness. Since this took place before Abraham was circumcised, the blessing is not reserved for the circumcised — that is, for Jews. It is available to anyone who follows in Abraham’s footsteps by relying on God, “who raised Yeshua our Lord form the dead, he who was delivered up for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.” Thus, God’s promise statement that he has made Abraham “the father to many nations” is being fulfilled in the body of Messiah…

-ibid, p.40

Kinbar made what I thought was a very interesting point on the same page:

This changed dramatically when Abraham’s name became more broadly known through the distribution of the Apostolic Writings among the nations of the world. In my opinion, it is not an accident that Abraham’s name appears proportionately more often in the Apostolic Writings than in the Tanach.

And again he says:

Were it not for the Apostolic Writings and the body of Messiah, “the families of the earth” would not have known that they may be blessed in Abraham.

But blessed with what? The evidence is in scripture itself as previously quoted above:

“who raised Yeshua our Lord form the dead, he who was delivered up for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.”

MessiahOur faith and the faithfulness of Messiah results in we Gentiles receiving the promise of the resurrection, the forgiveness of sins, and justification before the Almighty. But remember, these promises are universal because they were given to Abraham before the circumcision. There are responsibilities incumbent only upon the Jewish people based on what was promised to Abraham after circumcision and subsequently promised to Isaac and Jacob:

Everyone who is devoted to Messiah should fear God, but Jews and Jewish communities are uniquely entrusted with the tasks begun by the fathers so that we can confirm the promises that God made to them. Engaging in these tasks is part and parcel of the meaning of Jewish existence: to be a source of blessing to the rest of humanity.

-ibid, p.49

So how are we to understand Woods, Leman, and Ephesians 2 in terms of what I’ve written above? For the sake of keeping this “morning meditation” reasonably short and thus of readable length, I’ll save the answer to that question for Part 2.

The Broken Soreg

0 RBut now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Ephesians 2:13-16

Paul states that the Messiah abolished the “enmity” between Jew and Gentile. This is not the same as saying he abolished the Torah. Instead, the Messiah abolishes the requirement for Gentile believers to undertake circumcision and the covenant signs of Israel (the Law of commandments contained in ordinances) before they may be regarded as one body with the Jewish people.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Commentary on Acts 21:15-22:30 (pg 689)
First Fruits of Zion’s Torah Club
Volume 6: Chronicles of the Apostles
Reading for Torah Portion Shemini (“Eighth”)

I’m sure most Christians will find Lancaster’s interpretation of Ephesians 2 to be very creative but not very convincing. The traditional Christian interpretation is that Jesus took down the wall by abolishing the Torah. Jews and Gentiles are identical in Christ and there are no distinctions based on Jewish observance of the Torah of Moses.

I’ve looked into Ephesians 2 before, but at the behest of someone who had the exact opposite opinion of this scripture. He said:

Ephesians 2 establishes gentiles as now part of the covenants, which I wonder how you deal with such, as I have never seen you address Ephesians.

This interpretation is probably just as startling to most Christians as Lancaster’s, since it declares that all believers, Jewish and Gentile alike, are obligated to the full observance of the Torah. In discussing the Hebrew Roots interpretation of Acts 15, Lancaster has this to say:

Hebrew Roots teachers often claim that the apostles only gave the four essentials to Gentile believers as a starting point. After that, the Gentiles were expected to learn the rest of the Torah in the synagogue every week. Eventually, they would be responsible for keeping all the laws of the Torah in the same manner as their Jewish brothers and sisters.

Acts 21:25 indicates that the apostles understood their ruling differently…Instead, the apostles viewed the four essentials as a standard for the God-fearing Gentile believers. They did not require a gradual process by which the Gentiles adopted the rest of the commandments.

-Lancaster, pg 686

I covered Acts 15 and its implications in much more detail in my multi-part Return to Jerusalem series so I’m not going to revisit that material here. I just wanted to briefly provide the different interpretations that could be applied to Ephesians 2 and where Lancaster stands on the matter of Jews vs. Gentiles and Torah observance.

But what about this “dividing wall of hostility” Paul mentions? I’m about to suggest something a little radical.

In the course of his massive remodeling of the Jerusalem Temple, Herod the Great extended the Temple Mount platform significantly by constructing a retaining wall and adding fill. A balustrade made of stone lattice work (soreg) marked off the original holy precinct. The balustrade functioned as a perimeter fence that kept Gentiles from straying into the sanctified area. The Mishnah reports the lattice work wall stood ten handbreadths (three feet) high. Josephus recalled it as slightly taller at three cubits (five feet) height. The people referred to the courtyard outside of the barrier as the Court of the Gentiles because Gentiles were allowed to congregate and worship in that courtyard, but they could not draw nearer than the balustrade. The Levitical guard posted plaques on the balustrade forbidding Gentiles from trespassing beyond that point.

-Lancaster, pg 688

middle-wall-partitionTo the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in the written Torah that mandates such a wall or a “Court of the Gentiles” on the Temple grounds, however especially during the days of Jesus and afterward, until the destruction of the Temple, there was much existing halachah that kept Jews and Gentiles apart. We see evidence of such in the vision Peter had in Acts 10 when Jesus makes clear to Peter that the halachah requiring that a Jew never enter a Gentile’s home was incorrect. God did not make the Gentiles an “unclean” people.

But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction.

Acts 11:9-12

Could Paul be using the idea of the soreg metaphorically in Ephesians 2?

I told you it was a radical idea. I’m not saying that this is even a valid interpretation of the text, but it is an interesting idea. In order for Paul’s mission to the Gentiles to be successful, one of the things that had to be broken down was Jewish hostility toward Gentiles. In the diaspora, by necessity, Jews had to interact, at least to a degree, with Gentiles, but in Israel and especially in Jerusalem, this was not the case (with the exception of forcibly having to “interact” with the Roman military occupation).

We see recorded in Acts 21:37-22:21, Paul apparently successfully defending himself against his Jewish accusers after the near riot he endured at the Temple when he was falsely accused of speaking against the Jewish people, the Torah, the Temple, and bringing a non-Jew past the Court of the Gentiles and into the Temple (Acts 21:28-29). It’s only when he mentioned the Gentiles, did his Jewish listeners go quite berserk:

And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this.

Acts 22:21-24

I’d certainly call that a “wall of hostility.”

So one interpretation of having “broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances” is doing away with all Jewish Torah observance, which was apparently what was causing the separation and bad feelings between Jewish and Gentile believers. Except the Torah doesn’t say that. First century Jewish halachah said that and the lesson Peter learned was that such separation was incorrect halachah.

Another interpretation is that the wall being broken down was the wall that kept Gentiles out of membership in national Israel, and once broken down by their being “grafted in” (Romans 11:11-24), Gentiles gained full covenant relationship with God and Israel by essentially becoming Israel and thus, required to observe all of the Torah mitzvot. The only thing they didn’t have to do was convert to Judaism, but otherwise, they certainly looked like converts. That makes even less sense if the wall was broken down by “abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.” Nothing is abolished, the Gentiles are just added into the “law of commandments expressed in ordinances.”

Lancaster suggests that what Jesus broke down in his flesh when he was executed was how Gentiles were prevented from covenant relationship with God and the Jewish people without converting to Judaism. The legal requirement for conversion was the law that was abolished. This makes a bit more sense because it is through Messiah that we among the nations can become disciples and we are not required to convert to Judaism. But then, where does all the hostility come from that was preventing Gentiles from entering into covenant?

If what went away was a faulty interpretation and application of Torah that promoted an extreme hostility of Jews against Gentiles (which is not too hard to understand given that the Jewish nation was at that time being occupied by a harsh and cruel Gentile imperial army), Ephesians 2, especially when compared to Acts 10, begins to make more sense.

I’m sure my amateur interpretation can be criticized on a number of levels and again, I’m not saying that my little theory has much, if any, weight of evidence to support it, but I want you to think about it. I want you to consider the possibilities, especially in light of how Jewish audiences took less exception to the message of Jesus as the Messiah, and much more exception to the idea that such a message required doing away with the Torah, the Temple, and including unconverted Gentiles as equal covenant members.

infinite_pathsPaul was fighting an uphill battle and he was never entirely successful during his lifetime. In fact, after his death, the hostility between Jews and Gentiles continued to grow until Christianity was no longer a branch of religious Judaism, but instead, represented an entirely new theological discipline…one that was actually opposed to Judaism.

To the degree that Judaism and Christianity are still separate religions, with neither one wanting to have anything to do with the other for the most part (there are noteworthy exceptions), that wall of hostility still exists today. Part of why I write this blog is to offer avenues at, if not deconstructing the wall, punching a few holes in the “soreg” so we can see each other more clearly and even have a bit of a conversation.

When the Messiah returns, I believe he will finish what Paul started. I believe he will finish removing the wall we continually rebuild. I believe he will show us how to live with each other in peace. And Jews will remain a distinct people and nation as Jews. And Gentile believers will remain distinct from the rest of the world as non-Jewish disciples of the Master. And the different parts will truly act as one within a single body.

Return to Jerusalem, Part 6

strangers-in-israelThis is the sixth and final part of the Return to Jerusalem series where I’ve been examining the Torah Club, Vol. 6 commentary on Acts 15. I trust you’ve been following along since Part 1, but if not, please go back and read the previous submissions including Part 5 before continuing here.

Last time I asked, so what are the four prohibitions for Gentiles in the apostolic decree and what are their implications for the Christians in ancient times and today? To try to render a complete and detailed answer would invite simply copying and pasting everything in Lancaster’s lesson into this blog which, as I’ve said before, I’m not prepared to do. However, and this is particularly interesting to me, Lancaster borrows the status of the “resident alien” (“Ger” in Hebrew) from various portions of the Torah and applies it to the “resident alien” Gentile disciples worshiping the Messiah and the God of Israel in the midst of the Jewish community.

If indeed it is the case that in Christ these Gentiles have a portion in [Israel’s covenant membership and national eschatology], i.e. that they are saved as Gentiles, then it suffices to apply to them the same ethical principles that would in any case apply to righteous Gentiles living with the people of Israel, i.e. resident aliens.

-Markus Bockmuehl
“Jewish Law in Gentile Churches:
Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Public Ethics”
(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2000), 165

But in citing Bockmuehl, Lancaster reintroduces a problem that flies in the face of his and FFOZ‘s official theological stance on Gentiles and the Torah. While the gerim in the days of Moses were not Israelites as such and did not obtain full membership status in the nation due to lack of tribal affiliation, they did observe a large number (majority? nearly-full obligation?) of the Torah mitzvot in the days of Moses and beyond. The argument of some branches of the Hebrew Roots movement is that the gerim status can be wholly transferred to the Gentile disciples of Jesus and be used to justify Gentile Christian obligation to the full yoke of Torah. Lancaster has spent considerable effort in his commentary to illustrate how James and the Council exempted the Gentiles from the full yoke of Torah because they were not born Jews or converts. Now, he apparently brings in an element in explaining the four prohibitions that could reverse his argument.

It doesn’t help that he explains the four prohibitions, which go well beyond the confines of the Noahide laws, as derived from Leviticus 17-18.

In those chapters, the Torah describes the sins of the Canaanites, warns the people of Israel against imitating their ways, and prescribes four prohibitions which both the Israelite and the stranger who dwells among the nation much keep. “These correspond to the four prohibitions of the apostolic decree, in the order in which they occur in the apostolic letter.” [Richard Bauckham, “James and the Jerusalem Church,” in “The Book of Acts In Its Palestinian Setting, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 459]

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Torah Club, Volume 6: Chronicles of the Apostles
from First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)
Torah Portion Mishpatim (“Judgments”) (pg 461)
Commentary on Acts 15:20-31

How was this all supposed to be lived out by the Gentile disciples of that day and what are the implications for modern Christians? As I’ve said in previous parts of this series, you’ll have to access the Torah Club (Vol. 6) studies relevant to Acts 15 for the full details, but it seems as if the four prohibitions were a significant subset of the Torah that was to be applied to Gentile believers above and beyond the Noahide laws of their day. That said, there is another source besides Lancaster who also discusses the same material and provides further illumination.

Toby Janicki wrote an article called The Gentile Believer’s Obligation to the Torah of Moses for issue 109 of Messiah Journal (Winter 2012), pp 45-62, and it provides a great amount of detail on the application of the four prohibitions.

I reviewed Toby’s article over a year ago and at the time, I recall being quite surprised when he suggested that our (i.e. Christians) obligation to the Torah of Moses went much further than I imagined, based on his analysis of the aforementioned prohibitions of the apostolic decree.

Toby’s article is still available in full in either print or PDF versions of Messiah Journal, 109 and I consider it required reading when attempting to delve into an understanding of the message of the Council to the Gentiles among the disciples of Messiah, both in the days of the Council and now.

As I’ve said, this message and how it was arrived at, remains very controversial in Christian/Hebrew Roots circles, but before attempting any sort of conclusion to today’s “meditation” and to this series, I want to remind you of how the Gentiles of that day received the “Jerusalem Letter” (Acts 15:22-29).

So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words.

Acts 15:30-32 (ESV)

the-joy-of-torahIn other words, it was really good news from the point of view of the Gentile God-fearing disciples. After what some of the Gentile believers may have experienced as “mixed messages” from different factions within “the Way” and/or between “the Way” and other sects of Judaism, it must have been a relief to have a final, definitive decision rendered by the Apostolic authority. Further, assuming we can accept Lancaster’s interpretation, it must also have been a relief to the Gentiles that they were not automatically required to convert to Judaism (some may have done so but many or most obviously did not) and thus come under the full weight of Jewish Torah observance and halachah. James had established a halachah for the Gentiles that “raised the bar” as far as behavioral expectations and observances of the Gentile believers, and was well above what was expected of the God-fearers who were not disciples of Messiah or members of universal humanity, but that bar was still not as high as the one God had set for the Jews that, according to Peter’s testimony, “neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear.”

One of the functions of the four prohibitions acted to allow Jewish/Gentile fellowship and interaction within the Messianic community of believers “by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.” (Ephesians 2:15) Jewish believer Gene Shlomovich puts it this way:

“Where in the written Torah does it prohibit Jews from eating with Gentiles?”

Nowhere! However, many of the Torah laws, including kashrut, were designed, in part, to make Israelites “kadosh”, “separated” or “set aside” from the nations. Since nations all around them ate “treif” or idol-sacrificed food, no devout Israelite would sit down with idol worshippers at the same table, if only because of the appearance of sin. Not only that, eating with idolaters implied fellowship with them, and perhaps taking on their customs and even religions.

However, with the coming of Messiah, G-d reached out to the Gentiles without requiring them to take on the full Yoke of Torah and live in the manner of Jews. Jews, for their part, had to overcome their Torah and culture ingrained aversion to sharing (no doubt still kosher) food with former idolaters-turned followers of the Jewish Messiah. It is said that the leader of the Jerusalem community and brother of Jesus, Yaakov (James) never drank wine or ate meat, but only ate vegetables. This may be because he wanted to fellowship with Gentile disciples of Jesus around their tables without violating the laws of kashrut, to which Gentiles were not obligated nor were expected to be versed in.

I can’t say that Gene has “solved” the conundrum of Ephesians 2 and how the Messiah created “one new man” out of two (without obliterating the Torah and Jewish identity), but it is a nice summary that seems to lead in an interesting direction. We are “one in Christ,” just as men and women, and just as slaves and freemen are “one in Christ,” though obviously still possessing many differences.

If Jesus did reconcile the Jewish and Gentile believers “to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility,” (Ephesians 2:16) then the apostolic decree of James delivered to the body of faithful disciples of Messiah from among the Gentiles by letter and by emissaries, may have been the means to bring down “the dividing wall.”

The net result of my study of Acts 15 using the Torah Club, Vol 6 materials seems to be that we Gentile Christians owe a great debt to our Jewish “forefathers” and share a great heritage with our believing Jewish brothers and sisters. The most exciting part though, is that we are walking side-by-side together toward a future where we are united by a resurrected and returned Messiah King who will finish what we have been commanded to start: rebuilding the fallen tent of David, and restoring the glory of God on earth among both the Jews and the nations.

white-pigeon-kotelHow do we resolve the matter of the ancient Ger as applied to the late Second Temple Gentile God-fearing disciple? Lancaster doesn’t make that clear, but based on my own reading, particularly of Cohen, the full role of a Ger as it existed in the days of Moses was to allow a non-Israelite to live among the people of God as permanent resident aliens without being able to formally become national citizens due to lack of tribal affiliation. After the Babylonian exile, a tribal basis for Israelite society was lost and affiliation by clan was emphasized. By the time of Jesus, this clan affiliation basis was too lost, and thus the rationale for the status of Ger as it was originally applied no longer was valid. A Gentile in the days of Jesus or later, who wanted to join the community of Israel, in most cases, would convert to Judaism, since becoming a Ger was not an option.

I can only conclude that James (and this is speculation), in establishing halachah for Gentile entry into the Way as Gentiles and equals to the Jewish disciples, was taking some aspect of the Ger status as the best method available to forge an identity of “alien” Gentile disciples living and worshiping among the Jews in their religious sect. I realize your opinion (and for all I know, Lancaster’s) may vary.

The Jewish role in serving God as we see it in the Bible seems all too clear, but we in the church must always remember that our blessings only come by fulfilling our own unique role as “Gentiles called by His Name.” We are not Jews and we are not expected to “act Jewish,” at least to the degree that we appear to be what we’re not. In fact, we rob ourselves of the path God has laid before us by adopting an identity that is not our own. Acts 15 was the starting point on that path and the beginning of that journey for the early Gentile disciples. It is also where we begin today to understand who we are as Christians and what we must do if we are to be considered faithful disciples of our Master and worthy sons and daughters of God.

I know this series has been challenging for some, largely because going against established doctrine (regardless of the doctrine to which you’re adhered) suggests change and nobody likes change. Maybe none of this will result in anyone thinking any differently, but I hope I at least got some people to think about what they believe and consider that there may yet be something new we can discover about ourselves in the Bible.

“If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”

-Woodrow Wilson, 28th U.S. president

So concludes the series Return to Jerusalem. I hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to (politely) tell me what you think.

Blessings.

Stealing a Conversation About Ephesians, Jesus, and Being a Christian

The big problem in christianity and also messianic judaism is that there seems to be little knowledge on why Yeshua came an what His proclaimed Kingdom of Heaven / Kingdom of G-d meant and what the goal of entity for the Jews really was.

If everyone would see that, than there was not so much competition on to be or to be not Yisrael (though important still) and urge to take the law upon him or herself because of thinking that is the goal.

Did Yeshua come to bring the law? He certainly didn’t come to take it away! But why did he come and what was His message?

-Shmuel haLevi
October 15, 2012 11:52 am
Daily Minyan

This probably won’t be as organized or concise as I’d like it to be, but there was a terrific conversation on Gene Shlomovich’s blog post One-Law Gentile has a change of heart and I wanted to try and preserve some of the more helpful contributions. Most information about the New Testament and the purpose of Jesus in coming “first the Jew and then the Gentile” is interpreted by traditional Christian doctrine, with some “fringy” commentary by “edge case scholars,” so it’s difficult to get a more balanced perspective. I’ve recently been accessing Volume 6 of the Torah Club, which is a study on the book of Acts produced by First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ), to round out my education somewhat, but additional sources are most helpful.

I am attempting to put together the information I’ve gathered from the discussion at Gene’s blog in a way that not only presents it to readers visiting my blog in a meaningful way, but also to help clarify my understanding of some of the New Testament writings from a more Jewish perspective.

Above, Shmuel haLevi brings up an important issue. If the Torah was supposed to be generalized to the entire world as a “universal law” for everyone, and not exclusively to the Jewish nation in all its aspects, why couldn’t Israel have “evangelized” the nations at any time it wanted? Why was Jesus necessary to “spread the Torah” to his non-Jewish disciples, and yet not require that they convert to Judaism?

Unless, of course, the Jewish Messiah commanded his Jewish disciples to bring the nations into discipleship not specifically to turn them into “Jews without a circumcision,” so to speak.

The following is a collection of selected quotes from Gene’s blog post comments section. I’ve provided the links to the original source above so you can see all of the material in context.

That’s an excellent point, Shmuel. If people think that the goal of Yeshua’s coming was to give the Torah to the Gentles, so to speak, then the entire goal of their (our/my) faith will be in “keeping the (mechanics of the) Law” … Alternately, if he came to bring the nations into reconciliation to God and to allow us to become members of the Kingdom as the goal, then our entire focus changes. Love, grace, compassion, mercy all become our focus and the mitzvot of feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and granting mercy and grace as it has been granted to us becomes the fabric woven into our lives as believers.

-me
October 15, 12:08 pm

…like many others you discovered there were geirim in TaNaCH. And there was the same law for them and for the inborn Yisraelites. But that was not the reason why Yeshua came. The Hebrews had already received the Torath Mosheh and Gentiles were welcome to join, becoming Jews in nationality. So, that could not have been the reason for the coming of the Mashiach. Gentiles already could be righteous, adhering to the Torath for Adam weNoach. That was enough. But if one insisted, felt drawn to join Yisrael and wanting to serve HASHEM in the same way, that was possible but certainly not obliged. Nor is it in the New Covenant.

-Shmuel haLevi
October 15, 5:05 pm

So if a Gentile could convert to Judaism to take on the Torah mitzvot, and if a Gentile could be considered righteous under the covenant God made with Noah, why indeed did Jesus come? Could the secret be somehow concealed with Cornelius the Roman (see Acts 10) as well as Nebuchadnezzer, King of Babylon and the King of the city of Ninevah?

“Every convert in history became part of Israel.” ???

But not every true servant of the Most High became part of Israel.

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”

Nebuchadnezzar remained King of Babylon.

The city of Nineveh sincerely repented in sackcloth, and remained Assyrian.

The Roman Centurian, who loved Israel, remained Roman.

The uncircumcised listed above were true servants of G-d and did not become part of Israel.

-benkeshet
October 15, 6:31 pm

This may seem kind of disjointed and please remember, I’m “cherry picking” the content to try and “copy and paste” the most relevant pieces of the conversation together, so there are obvious sections of the conversation that have not been included.

Except for Cornelius and his acceptance of discipleship under Jesus that we find at the end of Acts 10, we don’t see an apparent role for Jesus in the above examples. The Kings of Babylon and Ninevah (and in fact, the entire population of Ninevah) were considered “righteous Gentiles” and did not have to join the nation of Israel in any sense in order to be considered righteous. In fact, as we recall from Paul’s letter to the Romans, Abraham was considered righteous by faith before taking on the covenant sign of circumcision. (see Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3)

But while this is a good argument that a non-Jew doesn’t have to become a Jew or a member of the nation of Israel to attain righteousness, where does Jesus come in?

Paulos said the be the Jews as a Jew, Greeks as a Greek. You cannot come in the same way with the Good Message to the Jews as to the Gentiles. So the way he spoke and the focus in the words of Yeshua before His last instructions where Yisraelite centered.

-Shmuel haLevi
October 16, 3:02 pm

So is there some sort of dual path to righteousness, one for the Jew and one for the Gentile?

…if Paulos meant here that they now became citizens of Yisrael. Also the Yisraelite had not jet reached their destination. Yeshua said, in the house of my Father are many mansions (John 14:2). The resemblance on earth of the Fathers House was the Temple, which had on each side the mansions of the Cohanim – the Priests. This was the promess that Yeshua disclosed since it was done and proclaimed in Shemoth 19:6. According to Yeshayahu 61:6 it would occur in the Messianic age. Making it possible to come to this status, the heavenly Heichal was disclosed for those, the Heichal (Temple) is were the King resides on His throne, so there is were the Kingdom is. That day that the heavenly Heichal will be joined with Yerushalayim, the Kingdom of HASHEM wil be established to rule over all the aerth. But we can chose to be part of it right know and spread the good message that was spread through our Mashiach to Tzion: That their G-d is King (Yeshayahu 52:7).

So it is my question if the focus was to only being brought near to Yisrael, or even something which was not jet reached by Yisrael itself: The Mamlecheth Cohanim – the Kingdom of Priests. This citizenship might be where Paulos pointed at. The higher plan that was promised! We Jews all know that the land of Yisrael is Holy, but Yerushalayim even more, and The Templecourt even more, and Holy place even more and and the Holy of Holies even more. It is because what they represent and are as, connected with it, as in Heaven also on Earth.

-Shmuel haLevi
October 26, 3:36 pm

Now here’s where the role of Jesus comes in for the Gentile.

The focus of Moshiach has always been the entire world.

“3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

Yeshayahu was speaking of Yeshua Rabbeinu. Yeshua didn’t change plans. His plans are consistent. His plans ALWAYS included the gentiles–even if it appeared as though He didn’t care about the gentiles.”

He came first to the Jews and than the maessage came to the Greeks as prophecied: Yeshayahu 49:3-6.

-Shmuel haLevi
October 16, 3:39 pm

So what we have so far is that Jesus has the focus of the entire world, Jew and Gentile alike, but while (and I’ve alluded to this previously) the Jews were already a covenant people under all of the prior covenants God made with Israel, the rest of the world could not access the same covenant closeness with God except through “Abraham’s seed,” the Messiah. The Messiah, Jesus, is required for the non-Jewish people of the world to come into covenant relationship with God in any way whatsoever!

benkeshet (at October 18, 4:32 pm) delivers an excellent analysis of Ephesians 2 which is too long for me to replicate here in its entirety. However, I’ll quote some of the relevant portions. Here’s a description of the non-Jewish races without Jesus:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—3 among whom we all once lived in othe passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Now here are verses 13-20 with additional emphasis by benkeshet:

13 But now in Messiah Yeshua you who once were far off [as children of wrath] have been brought near by the blood of Messiah. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both [Israel and the Nations] one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man [or one new Humanity] in place of the two [i.e. Israel at enmity with the Nations], so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both [Israel and the Nations] to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off [Nations who had been children of wrath] and peace to those who were near [Israel]. 18 For through him we both [Israel and the Nations] have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you [Nations] are no longer strangers and aliens [or children of wrath], 4 but you are fellow citizens with the saints [Israel] and members of the household of God, [Genesis 22:18 and in your Offspring shall all the Nations of the earth be blessed – i.e. redeeming them from being children of wrath] 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Messiah Yeshua himself being the cornerstone…

What we gather here is that Jews and Gentiles are both reconciled to God through Messiah but both groups retain their identity (i.e. Israel and the Nations). The “belonging” that we Gentiles become inserted in is not Israel; that is, we do not become Israel, rather, we become citizens of the Kingdom of God, but Israel is still Israel and the Christians from the nations are still citizens of their respective nations. The only shared citizenship between a Jew and a Christian under Messiah, is citizenship in God’s Kingdom. What Jews and Christians equally share in is that we have “access in one Spirit to the Father” (verse 18).

benkeshet describes it this way:

Israel and the Nations do not lose their distinctiveness. Rather, what was lost was the enmity between them, which has been destroyed by Messiah’s sacrifice. Both Israel and the Nations have access to the Father via ONE SPIRIT because of faith in Messiah.

This is just the best description of the whole “one man out of two” discussion of Ephesians 2 that I’ve read and I especially wanted to share it here. I’m thankful to Gene, Shmuel haLevi, and benkeshet for their contributions to not only the source discussion, but to my personal education.

There is quite a bit more discussion at Gene’s blog so again, please visit it for the entire content. I know I can be accused of “stacking the deck,” so to speak, by presenting only certain fragments of the conversation, but my goal was to illustrate how we can look at portions of the New Testament, and especially Ephesians 2, in a different and more “Jewish” way, to see a clearer picture of how we non-Jews are brought closer to God by Jesus and what that does to the relationship between Christian and Jew. As you can tell, this perspective is a bit different that what you may have been taught, and it’s different than what some people want to believe, but it’s important to at least consider the possibility that the traditional Christian viewpoint on Ephesians 2 isn’t sustainable, given not only modern Biblical scholarship, but a more authentic Jewish interpretation of (the Jewish) Paul’s understanding of the topic at hand.

Shmuel haLevi (October 18, 1:33 pm) re-enforced the citizenship issue.

Yeshu talks frequently of the Kingdom of G-d. That citizenship is Paulos talking about. Both Jews and gentiles have to go into there for the true government.

I have only covered a portion of the full length of the discussion and I could add more, but then this “meditation” would be ridiculously excessive.

I hope I’ve provided enough information to make some of you curious and perhaps even to inspire a few (friendly, please) comments. I’m not trying to steal Gene’s thunder, so to speak, or to rob from his blog (and I received his permission to copy the above-quoted content prior to publishing it), but a lot of very good information is lost in the comments sections of the endless number of blogs on the web, and I wanted some of the key parts of this conversation to survive Internet oblivion.