Tag Archives: jacob fronczak

Old Wine Made New

He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”

Luke 5:36:39 (NIV)

I normally don’t use the NIV translation, but it more accurately translates Yeshua’s (Jesus’) last word as “better” rather than “good” or “fine”.

Let me explain.

I wasn’t going to write another blog post so soon, but two things happened. The first is that I saw yet another photo posted on Facebook of a presentation, in this case, by Jacob Fronczak, at the First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) 2014 Shavuot Conference at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, WI (the photo is posted below), and the second was a comment made by Steve Petersen on a prior blog post:

New wine = new teachings
Old wineskins = disciples who can’t embrace new teaching.

He also provided a link to an article written by D. Thomas Lancaster called New Wine and Old Wineskins: The Parable of Luke 5:36-39 Re-examined.

According to Lancaster, the “wineskin” parable is typically interpreted by the Church as old wine/wineskin being the old, outmoded Law, and new wine/wineskin being the new teaching of salvation by the grace of Christ.

Just as the new wine would burst the old skins and be spilled, so too the New Covenant Gospel of the Church Kingdom would be wasted if it was poured into the Old Covenant, Mosaic, legalistic religion of Judaism. In almost unanimous consent interpreters and commentators have agreed that the old wine, old wineskins and the old coat are all symbols of Judaism and Law whereas the new wine and the new coat are symbols of Christianity and Grace.

The problem, and maybe you spotted it, comes in with the last sentence: “The old is better.” If the Old is the Law and Jesus was teaching that the New, that is grace replacing the Law, is better, how can he possibly say that the old is better?

That is, unless the traditional Christian interpretation has problems.

The answer lies in interpreting Yeshua’s words through the lens of other, similar Rabbinic teachings of that era rather than filtering them through modern Christian doctrine. I won’t go into all the details. I’ve provided the link to Lancaster’s original article. It’s not long and you can read it for yourself.

I want to point out something else, something that’s directly related to my experience at church last Sunday.

Jacob Fronczak, a church Pastor and contributor to First Fruits of Zion, particularly in recent issues of Messiah Journal, is one of the presenters at this year’s Shavuot Conference. I saw his photo next to a projection of a PowerPoint slide. The slide displayed numbered list:

  1. All theological systems are based on premises that cannot be proved, but must be accepted on faith.
  2. The premises we choose will determine the shape of our theology.
  3. If Israel is not present in our premises, Israel will not be present in our fully formed theological system.

Beyond what I can read on the screen, I have no idea what Jacob is teaching, nor will I until FFOZ publishes his presentation in a text or audio format. However, I’d like to take his list and add a little something to it. Especially relative to point three, I’d like to say that it is how Israel is presented in our premises, assuming it’s present at all, that will shape our theological system.

ffoz1Many churches, including the one I attend, believe that Israel and the Jewish people have eschatological significance, that is, they have an existence and purpose in the end times. On the other hand, it is “the Church” as a unique and even supernatural entity that has primacy and is ultimately ascendant (as Israel is presumed to be based on the Hebrew Scriptures and New Covenant language contained therein). So Israel can be present in our premises but cast in a role that renders it secondary to the Church and ultimately, totally subjugated by said-Church (which includes Jews who have converted to Christianity).

Lancaster’s article speaks also to my experience in class last Sunday at church. Here’s his interpretation of the Luke 5:36:39 parable:

No one takes a lesson meant for a new student and tries to teach it to an old (already educated) student. If he does, he will fail to teach the new student, and the lesson meant for the new student will be rejected by the old student.

No one teaches new Torah-teaching to old (previously educated) students. If he does, the new teaching will be rejected, the student will be lost. No. Instead new Torah-teaching must be taught to new students. And no one after receiving old teaching (previous education) wants the new, for he says, “The old teaching is better.”

I’m not sure what to do with this. People, once educated in a particular system, rarely step outside that system or accept new information that apparently contradicts that system, even if the new interpretation objectively makes more sense and is more consistent with the source document (in this case, the Bible) than their current system.

No one likes change. I know I don’t. I’m a real creature of habit. I love my routine. It bugs me when my schedule is thrown off, even a little.

On the other hand, I love learning new things. And over time, I’ve learned many new things and have slowly allowed my perspective on theology and doctrine to change as new information became available and, after I thoroughly assessed it, determined that this “new wine” did indeed belong in my “old wineskin” (go figure). I guess to a limited degree, this old leopard can take on a few new spots.

walking-into-churchBut that means certain things relative to being at church and being in Sunday school. It means that I was right (or rather, my wife was) in saying that I have nothing to offer anyone at church. This assumes that everyone is there at church because they want to be there and that they agree with everything (or most everything) being taught. Even if there are minor disagreements with particular points, there is still more agreement between all the people within that system than there would be with just about anything I had to say from my “alien” viewpoint.

So, for them, “the old is better.” Who wants the new wine I’ve tried to peddle in their midst? I was right to keep quiet in Sunday school, even when I heard Jewish people and Israel being momentarily “dissed”.

On the other hand (like Tevye, I find there’s almost always an “other hand”), people have periodically approached me and said that they liked some point I made or found something I said interesting or enlightening. I assume that everyone in Sunday school and in church all universally agree with each other and unless they say otherwise, there’s no way to know for sure. I can speak up from time to time and hope I get lucky (or perhaps hope that the Holy Spirit will render someone’s heart a little more open to my opinions), or keep quiet, respecting the majority (including the church leadership since several members of the Board of Elders go to the same class) and withhold anything that might be elucidating to the possible minority who could be open to hearing it.

On that day, when two, poorly educated fishermen stood before the Sanhedrin, they demonstrated the full caliber of their education under Yeshua and vindicated his choice of disciples. New garments, new wineskins and new students.

Lancaster’s interpretation of Yeshua’s parable has limits. It assumes that only new (uneducated) students would accept the Master’s teachings, but we know he attracted the attention of “old wineskins” such as Nicodemus (John 3:1-21) and Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38). Who knows how many other “old” and well-educated disciples Yeshua attracted, either during his “earthly ministry” or later, during the time of the apostles?

I think an old dog can learn new tricks, it’s just not as easy as when you were (I was) a new dog.

Everyone listening to Jacob Fronczak and the other presenters at the Shavuot conference wants to be there. They bought tickets to attend the event, arranged to travel there, arranged for lodgings, and so on. They went through no small effort to make their way to Hudson and to find themselves sitting in the pews of this beautiful synagogue setting. So each and every person there is open to what is being taught.

And like I said, although it’s not quite the same effort to attend my local church, all of the people present are there willingly, and they all are open to learning what is being taught, even if they don’t agree one-hundred percent of the time.

But they didn’t sign up to listen to me spout off about new wine. That’s not my job and no one asked me to take it onboard. Maybe there are some old wineskins that might want a little new wine, but I can hardly tell who they are and what they might be open to.

On the other hand, my blog is open to the world or at least anyone with Internet access. I can only assume that each person who visits, if they stay long enough to read, is doing so willingly, even if they disagree with some of the things I say. My “wine” is welcome for the most part within their “wineskins.” At least I don’t have worry that there’ll be some outcry to ban me from the web.

wineThe Internet isn’t “community” though sometimes we fall into the illusion that it is. Facebook, twitter, and blogging aside, you don’t really form a community in virtual reality. I know the difference between Facebook “friends” and face-to-face friends.

But sometimes the Internet is all you’ve got, especially if “face-to-face” are old wineskins and all you’ve got to offer is new wine.

But my new wine has the flavor of the centrality of Israel, the primacy of the Jewish people in past and future prophesy, with the capstone being Messiah, Son of David, Son of God. My wine doesn’t spill all over the pages of the Torah, blotting out major sections, shuffling about the letters and words, and making them appear as if God said one thing but really meant another.

In a very real way, my “new wine” is actually old, really old. In fact, I’m banking that it’s at least as old as what the apostles, and even the Master taught. That means the old really is better, for the old is God who makes a covenant and never breaks it, who embraces Israel and never releases her, who presents the Torah through Moses and never changes a word or a letter as long as Heaven and Earth continue to exist.

In my bottle of old wine, Messiah brings a Gospel message that really is good news to the Jewish people and that supports and upholds the dignity and preservation of national Israel. It’s also good news for the Gentiles as long as we realize that salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22).

It’s amazing what a single photograph and a few sentences of text will inspire. A toast to old wine made new again.

Chag Shavuot Sameach!

Is Sola Scriptura Enough to Understand Paul?

Apostle-PaulIs the Torah to be considered as a dead husband that nobody liked anyway? This is the way many Christians interpret Romans 7:1-6: “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies she is released from the law of her husband” (verse 2 of Romans 7:1-6). Paul refers to an ancient halachah (principle of the law) to illustrate his new relationship to the Torah because of his faith in Jesus. But one question is never asked when studying Romans 7:1-6. And it is only when the full impact of Paul’s Jewish heritage is understood in light of his entire teaching concerning the believer’s response to the Torah that this question can be carefully considered. Nonetheless, we must ask: Was Paul speaking about the death of the Torah or was he referring to the death of the flesh? Is the Torah, for Paul, a dead husband?

Brad H. Young
“Is Paul Against the Law?”
Biblescholars.org

Dr. Roy Blizzard promoted this article on his Facebook page, and since I’ve read both Blizzard and Young in the past, I was interested in seeing how their perspectives have developed.

What I read made me think of how I recently brought up the issue of sola scriptura in relation to a presentation given by Pastor Steve Lawson at John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference last October.

I found myself wondering if sola scriptura as offered by Lawson would match up with how Young is interpreting Paul in Romans 7.

To interpret Paul correctly on this passage, it is first imperative to recognize that the saying, “when a person dies he is free from the law and the commandments” (kivan shemet adam naaseh chofshi men hatorah vehamitzvot), was a well-known concept in halachah, which probably was almost proverbial in ancient Jewish thought (b. Nidah 61b and parallels). When Paul says that he is writing to those who know the law (Romans 7:1), it is clear that he speaks concerning a practice of halachah with which the Jews in the congregation of Rome would be quite familiar. The marriage laws concerning a woman and her husband would also be fairly well known. Of interest to the issue is the fact that Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, who according to Luke was the teacher of Paul in his early days as a student in Jerusalem, addressed questions relating to these laws in the Mishnah. Gamaliel the Elder taught that a woman is free to remarry even if only one witness gives testimony that her husband had died (m.Yeb. 16:7). Scholars have noted that the passage in Romans 7:1-6 might well betray the influence of Paul’s teacher Gamaliel. While the similarity between Paul and Gamaliel on this point of halachah should not be denied, it is also true that such teachings were probably common knowledge to Jewish men and women who lived pious lives according to their devout faith. Paul could have been acquainted with this principle from many sources, including Gamaliel the Elder.

-Young, ibid

sola scripturaI tried to choose the most representative paragraph in Young’s brief article to illustrate that a thorough understanding of not only scripture but of Judaism (or the various Judaisms) as it (they) existed during Paul’s lifetime is absolutely essential to correctly understanding Paul. Without addressing the complete social, religious, historical, national context in which Paul was writing, plus his education and as much of his “psychology” as we can apprehend after all this time, we are quite likely to get Paul wrong and, as a result, construct completely erroneous theologies, doctrines, and dogmas based on our misunderstanding, all the while believing we are standing on the rock-solid foundation of “sola scriptura.”

But am I being unfair? After all, I do believe the Bible (correctly understood) is the basis for a life of faith. I just think it’s more complicated than reading the Bible and taking the text (especially in English) at face value.

I recalled that a gentleman named Tim Hegg, who is well-known in Hebrew Roots circles, took exception to another criticism of sola scriptura, written by First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) author, Pastor Jacob Fronczak for Messiah Journal issue 111 (Fall 2012).

The full text of Hegg’s rebuttal can be found at TorahTalkOnline.com (PDF) but I’ll take the liberty of inserting the relevant quotes here.

According to Hegg, Fronczak asserted “it (the Bible) needs no outside help to be correctly interpreted”as a tenet of sola scriptura. Hegg responded:

Wrong!

Sola Scriptura holds that the Bible must be interpreted according to its historical, grammatical sense. This means that knowing the history, culture, and language in which the inspired word is given is necessary for receiving its divinely intended message. But Sola Scriptura also states that the Bible is self-interpreting, meaning that since it is God’s inspired word as a whole, it is never self-contradictory. Therefore, the truth of the Scriptures is found in the whole of the Bible’s message, allowing the whole to interpret the parts

The first part of Hegg’s response sounds good, but it is dependent upon how well the interpreter knows the “historical grammatical sense” and how much they’re willing to take into account the “history, culture, and language in which the inspired word” was given. In other words, would the interpreter who is an adherent of sola scriptura take into consideration ancient Jewish thought and Paul’s relationship with Rabban Gamaliel the Elder when attempting to understand Paul’s relationship with and description of the function of Torah in the community of first century Jewish believers?

Also, when Hegg says that “the Bible is self-interpreting, meaning that since it is God’s inspired word as a whole, it is never self-contradictory. Therefore, the truth of the Scriptures is found in the whole of the Bible’s message, allowing the whole to interpret the parts,” he seems to be leaving out the necessity of understanding the context to its fullest degree.

By that, I mean in order to resolve those areas of the Bible that seem internally inconsistent (how Paul in some parts of the Bible seems pro-Torah and in other parts seems anti-Torah), we have to employ a much wider net of information gathering than I think Christian interpretive tradition is willing to allow.

Here’s more about what I mean:

If Paul employs a known analogy from halachah in Romans 7:1-6, perhaps the Jewish tradition can throw light upon Paul’s message and the conclusion he desires to draw from the evidence he cites. The sage, R. Simeon ben Pazzi, taught “…and the servant is free from his master”(Job 3:19). A person, as long as he lives is a servant to two masters: the servant of his Creator and of his [evil] inclination. When he does the will of his Creator, he angers his inclination, and when he does the will of his inclination, he angers his Creator. When he dies, he is freed, ‘the servant is free from his master!’ (Ruth Rabbah 4:14, M. Lerner pp.78-80). Rabbi Simeon ben Pazzi’s saying, “When he dies, he is freed…” not only recalls Paul’s words in Romans 7:1-6, but also provides a clear parallel in thought to his discussion of the servant who either is enslaved to his evil inclination or to his Creator in the preceding chapter of Romans. In Romans chapter 6, Paul teaches that an individual is either a servant of sin to obey the flesh or a servant of righteousness to obey God.

-Young

In order to grasp the meaning of how Young is understanding Paul, not only is understanding other areas of scripture necessary, but understanding ancient, and to a certain degree, modern Judaism is required as well. If you had no idea Paul was employing “a known analogy from halachah in Romans 7:1-6,” you might not consider investigating Jewish tradition in order to “throw light upon Paul’s message.”

Rabban GamalielThe conclusion you draw about what Paul is saying can be dramatically altered by inserting or omitting the Jewishness of Paul’s thinking, education, life experience, personal history, and teachings. If Paul was a disciple of Rabban Gamaliel, we know, as a disciple, he would have memorized his Master’s teachings to the degree that he could teach from the same perspective and understanding. To the degree that Paul became a disciple of Jesus (although not in a traditional sense), Paul would also have studied and memorized all of the teachings of this Master. If we don’t understand the full impact of what that means in terms of the late Second Temple model of Jewish discipleship and look to the relevant sources that would support authentic comprehension of Paul’s letters, we’re going to miss the point of everything Paul wrote, and as a result, misunderstand the very fabric of what it means to be a Christian.

I encourage you to read the full content of Young’s commentary on Paul and Romans 7. It only takes a few minutes, but it may also open your eyes, not only to Paul as you’ve never seen him before, but to the level of complexity involved in approaching and interpreting the scriptures. Sola scriptura is a good, basic place upon which to stand, but if you aren’t employing the proper interpretive tools to correctly understand “scripture alone,” you aren’t going to have a very accurate view.

The Church created a basic set of interpretations early on in order to foster separation between Gentile Christianity and Judaism, with Judaism and the Jewish people cast in the role of the villain. We like to think we’ve come a long way in revising our understanding of the Bible, but the deep core of those original interpretations lives on, underground, unseen, and most Christians are unconscious of how much they permeate their (our) Biblical thinking. We have it within ourselves to dismantle those ancient assumptions and to take a fresh look at Paul. Interestingly enough, we’ll have to go back even before the so-called “Church fathers” to our “Jewish fathers” and their fathers, to the Jewish Paul and the Jewish Gamaliel, to see a vision of Jesus and of Paul that has been lost since the time of the apostles.

Only with such a lens can we see not only what Paul wrote, but the intent, the thought, the heart he used to pen his letters and what he wanted his original audience and us to understand.

Learning the Traditions of Our Fathers

Talmudic Rabbis“We keep the customs of our forefathers.”

Shabbos 35b

The Gemara here notes that we keep the customs of our forefathers, even when the rationale behind the custom no longer applies. One such custom is the recitation of Kedushah in U’va LeTzion. Why do we repeat Kedushah if it has already been recited during Birkas Kri’as Shema and Chazaras HaShatz?

The origin of this recitation is recorded in Shibolei HaLeket (ch. 44). There was a time when the gentiles banned the Jews from reciting Kedushah and would send a representative to sit in shul through Chazaras HaShatz to guarantee that it was not recited. Once Chazaras HaShatz was completed, the representative felt confident that his job was finished and he would leave. Only later, when the gentiles left, were the Jews able to say Kedushah. They therefore inserted Kedushah into U’va Letzion, in Hebrew and Aramiac, to replace the two times they were not able to say Kedushah, in Birkas Kri’as Shema and Chazaras HaShatz. Although we are now able to say Kedushah without fear of being harmed by gentiles, we continue to recite Kedushah in U’va Letzion based upon the principle of “Minhag Avoseinu Biyadeinu” — “The custom of our forefathers remains in our hands.”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Keeping the customs of our fathers”
Commentary on Shabbos 35b

All denominations or sects of Christianity of which I’m aware have a problem with the relationship between religious Judaism and its traditions and customs. As we see from a Christian point of view, the function of traditions in Judaism seems to exceed what we would consider practical utility and common sense. Certainly all cultures and groups engage in various traditions and as such, there’s no problem in this, but why participate in a custom or tradition that has outlived its usefulness and may well (though not in this case) contradict the Word of God?

Christianity, and particularly the Protestant church, sees itself as relying solely on the Word of God as we have it in the Bible without the “traditions of men” getting in the way (Sola scriptura), while we tend to see Judaism as relying primarily on their traditions (which we see growing and growing, even when some of them have outlived their original purpose) as equal or even superior in authority to what God has said to Israel. But does that really reflect the reality of what we do (and you probably know where I’m going with this)?

To define sola scriptura without academic terminology might sound something like this: The Bible is the only authority in the believer’s life; it is never wrong about anything; it touches on every aspect of life; it needs no outside help to be correctly interpreted; it never disagrees with itself; it can be understood by anyone of average intelligence; and it applies to everyone in every situation.

I only use the example of translations to illustrate the fact that in a very practical sense, the Scriptures in their original languages are, for most Christians, not enough – tools such as translations, concordances, the Masoretic vowel points, and commentaries are required in order to understand the text. Of course, the goal is to understand the original text, which in itself is not an objection to the doctrine of sola scriptura – until one realizes that every translation, every commentary, and even the textual tradition itself are all based on traditions along with the divine written revelation. It is simply impossible to get away from these traditions and study the Bible in isolation.

-Jacob Fronczak
“The Five Solas: Sola Scriptura”
Messiah Journal, Issue 111 (pp 47, 52)

If you read my recent blog post, Chayei Sarah: Oil for the Lamp, you recognize the quotes from Pastor Fronczak. You also remember the meaning behind those words: that Catholic and Protestant Christianity does not understand what the Bible is saying apart from our own traditions. That is to say, no one of us has raw, unfiltered, unmediated, uncommentaried access to anything the Bible is telling us. We all read the Bible while wearing the moral and intellectual equivalent of “rose-colored glasses.”

Not only do we find that we must accept the wisdom of the “traditions of the Christian elders,” but we must also accept the wisdom of the “traditions of the Jewish elders.” Why?

Consider the Old Testament. About two-thirds of the Christian Bible is made up of the Old Testament. Who wrote the Old Testament? Jews (It’s important to realize that Jews also wrote the New Testament, but that’s a discussion for another time).

The organization of books, chapters, verses, and insertion of vowels and punctuation all come from Jewish sources, and have been altered very little if at all by Christian translators in most cases. Without realizing it, the vast majority of Christians, when reading nearly any part of the Old Testament, are tacitly accepting Jewish tradition in how it is translated and presented to us.

Right now, you might be saying, “So what. I still believe the Bible is the highest written authority and no Rabbi, Pastor, or scholar is going to have an opinion or judgment that overrides scripture.” Well, that’s not exactly true.

Translating dead languages (ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek are all dead languages and only somewhat associated with the modern-day “living” counterparts) into the land of the living so that English speakers (for example) can read the Bible is no small thing and it’s hardly an exact science. The art of Biblical analysis and translation is highly specialized and it’s not a matter of simply saying, Word A in Hebrew means word B in English.

Even with the Masoretic traditions, though, many English readings of the Scripture can be divined from a single Hebrew text. Translation committees have to pick one. Many times readings are chosen to emphasize some Messianic prophecy which appears to point to Jesus Christ, while a Jewish translation committee might choose a different readings for the exact opposite reason. Both readings might be technically correct. However doctrinal presuppositions dictate which reading is chosen. In effect, then, when Christians have only an English Bible and no other tools, they are completely unable to interact with the Scripture – the original Greek and Hebrew texts. They are completely dependent on the work of the translator.

-Fronczak (pg 52)

Let’s go through that again. Two separate translations of the Hebrew (or Greek) text can both be technically correct, but actually render opposite meanings, depending on the doctrinal presuppositions of the translation committees involved.

I’d love to just copy and paste the entire text of Fronczak’s article into this blog post because I think every Christian (and Jew) should read it, but that’s highly impractical. You’ll just have to purchase a copy of Messiah Journal to read all of his write up (and even if you disagree with Fronczak, you’ll still have to read the complete content in order to craft a rebuttal that contains any validity at all).

But beyond apparently trying to shoot down the doctrine of sola scriptura, why am I bothering to write this and why should you care?

The vast majority of Christians do not interact with the rabbinic tradition at all. As a consequence, it is poorly understood and even attacked. Modern Jews have not forgotten the Christians who burned copies of the Talmud in Europe. Even many in the Hebrew roots movement disparage the teachings of the rabbis and ancient sages, without realizing that in many ways, we rely on these very teachings in order to interpret the Bible.

First Fruits of Zion has been vehemently attacked for this very reason – we rely on rabbinic traditions and other extra-biblical literature to illuminate and explain the text of the Scripture. Like any reputable translation committee or research institution would do, we consider a lot of evidence before coming to a conclusion on what a Bible passage means. Unfortunately, people who do not understand the importance and usefulness of this literature continue to disparage the ministry of First Fruits of Zion, even though they, as explained above, are equally reliant on traditions and extra-biblical evidence for their own interpretations of the Scripture. The continuing attacks on traditional Jewish literature such as the Talmud and Zohar betray anti-Judaic and perhaps even an anti-Semitic spirit on the part of many of our detractors.

-Fronczak (pg 53)

The focus of my point for this blog post and for the existence of my blog in general, overlaps Fronczak’s and First Fruits of Zion’s (FFOZ’s) message, but my overall scope is beyond the confines of Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots (and all of the variants those two groups contain). This is a message that should concern every Christian and every church, regardless of denomination or affiliation. We all share a common Bible (relative to translation), a common Jesus, and a common God. The origin of the core faith in Christ of the church can be traced directly back to ancient Israel and the Second Temple period, and the origin of everything Jesus taught as we have it recorded in the New Testament, every bit of it, travels deeply back into the Old Testament, to David, to Moses, to Jacob, Issac, and Abraham, and indeed, back to before Adam and the creation of the world by God. Not one word of what Jesus said wasn’t Jewish, nor was any of it disconnected from the Jewish reality of the Bible.

Add to that the fact that we in the church rely just as much on our traditions (and some Jewish traditions) to understand all of what God is saying, and we have a very poor case for tearing apart Jewish reliance upon tradition to understand themselves and God.

It is really, really important to view the struggle of Christianity trying to comprehend Judaism as not a specialized or niche perspective or movement. It’s not just for those few people who are affiliated with those entities we call “Messianic Judaism” or “Hebrew Roots.” This is the struggle, the mission, the challenge for everyone who calls themselves a Christian.

If the church has any hope of understanding itself, it (we) must come to terms with not only where we came from, but the people and nation God granted the ability to give us life in Him, the Jews. We cannot afford to keep living in an isolated silo pretending that those connections are forever severed or relating to our “Jewish roots” as if the last 2,000 years of Jewish and Christian history, culture, custom, and tradition simply never happened.

Not long ago, I wrote another blog post called Intersection. There are a small group of Christians and Jews who are approaching a point of intersection where we going to realize we are, in some mysterious or even mystic way, interdependent on one another for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven (which has nothing to do with “going to Heaven” and everything to do with enacting and progressing God’s plan for humanity on Earth). What may now appear as minority religious groups, variant Christian and Jewish sects, and even (Heaven forbid) cults, may well actually be part of the resurgence, the restoration, and the re-establishment of God’s intentions and design for His people Israel and the other nations of the Earth.

I believe when those Jewish and Christian people arrive at the intersection, this will happen.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”

Zechariah 8:20-23

No, I don’t believe Christians will be turned into Jews or Jews will be turned into Christians (and a Jew being Messianic is not the same as being “Christian” as we comprehend the concepts and lifestyles), but we will all flow to “the mountain of the house of the Lord” and the people of many nations will say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” (see Micah 4:1-2)

Many Christians, including those in the Hebrew Roots movement, are fond of quoting from Ephesians 2 (particularly verse 15) and saying that differences and distinctions between Jews and Christians were all obliterated (along with the Torah, Talmud, shabbat, Passover, and anything even remotely referring to a Jewish identity and life) in Christ, “nailed to the cross,” so to speak.

And yet the unity that we see described in Zechariah 8 and Micah 4 requires no melding into uniformity between Gentile and Jew in order to achieve the prophesied unity between Israel and the nations. What is required is a sense of humility and recognition, the humility to “take hold” of the tzitzit on the tallit of a Jew, and to ask him to guide us to the mountain of the house of the Lord, the holy Temple in Jerusalem (which apparently will exist again) so that even we non-Jewish disciples of the Jewish Messiah King may be taught his ways and walk in his paths. (Zechariah 8:23 “says take hold of the robe of a Jew.” Is that any Jew or only one, the firstborn son of Israel…Moshiach?)

We’re all doing our best right now to do that; to walk in his paths. But we can do better. We must do better. Let us hurry to the intersection and meet together, Christian and Jew, we who share the Messiah and honor the One God. Time is short. There’s a lot of work to be done, starting with learning how to listen to one another, and comprehend the wisdom of the customs of our fathers, both the Jewish and Christian fathers.