Tag Archives: Moshiach

After the Meal of the Messiah has Ended

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the ekklesia, in filling up what is lacking in Messiah’s afflictions. Of this ekklesia I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Messiah in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Messiah. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Messiah Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Messiah.

Therefore as you have received Messiah Yeshua the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Colossians 1:24-2:7 (NASB – adj)

I’m temporarily interrupting my reviews of the Nanos and Zetterholm volume Paul within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle in order to address a conversation I had with my friend over coffee last Sunday. Yes, this is the same friend who previously issued the pesky challenge (I say that tongue-in-cheek) of considering a return to church or some such congregation for the sake of fellowship.

Last Sunday, the challenge was to consider all that Messiah has done for me.

No, it’s not like I don’t have a sense of gratitude, but the way he put it, it’s like I am to consider only two beings in existence: Messiah and me.

The Death of the MasterSo often in the Church, over and over again, I’d hear “It’s just me and Jesus” like the rest of the human population of this planet didn’t matter. It also sounds like God’s overarching redemptive plan for Israel, and through Israel, the world, wasn’t important. All that’s important is the individual Christian and Jesus.

I look at Messiah through the lens of the entire Biblical narrative and what his death and resurrection means in terms of that narrative. I think of Messiah less as dying for me the individual, and more as dying and being resurrected as a definitive confirmation of God’s New Covenant promise to Israel; His promise of Israel’s personal and national resurrection and the life in the world to come. Messiah’s resurrection is definite proof of the resurrection for the rest of us. It certainly was to the direct witnesses of “the risen Christ,” and by their testimony, was accepted as evidence by many other Jews and Gentiles who through faith, became disciples of the Master.

I have a problem pulling Messiah out of that context, isolating his death and resurrection from God’s global redemptive plan, and making it all about “saving” me. When Paul wrote about “salvation,” he was talking about reconciling humanity with the God of Israel, not saving my one little soul so I could go to Heaven and live with Jesus when I die. Paul was “preaching” the New Covenant promises and their blessings to the Gentiles, who needed to do considerable catch-up work not having the benefit of even a basic Jewish education.

I think that’s what he’s saying in the above-quoted block of scripture. He’s writing to Gentiles. They/we who were once far off (Ephesians 2:13) and who had/have been brought near to the promises of God through the faithfulness of Messiah.

There’s no denying that without Messiah, the Gentiles are totally cut off from the God of Israel. The Jews were already near based on being born into the Sinai covenant. Yes, even they could be cut off (Romans 11:20) due to unbelief, but since they are natural branches, think of how much more easily can they be reattached to the root.

My friend said that those who deny Messiah, Jew and Gentile alike, are cut off from God. This at least suggests if not outright demands that God’s presence be manifest only with those Jews and Gentiles who have become disciples of Yeshua and He is apart from everyone else.

working handsI don’t believe that. For the Jews, I believe there’s close and closer. No, it’s not like there is no benefit for Jewish faith in Messiah. I outlined how unbelieving Jews can still be close to God and how believing Jews have a great benefit in being disciples of the Master in my review of D. Thomas Lancaster’s sermon The Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Faith Toward God. Mark D. Nanos characterizes the text of Romans 11:25 as unbelieving Jews being temporarily “callused” against Messiah. But the text continues:

For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
“This is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Romans 11:25-29

Paul, in part, is referring to this irrevocable promise of God to Israel:

They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Jeremiah 31:34

So how do I understand my friend’s statement that all people, Jews and Gentiles, are alienated from God if they do not have faith in Messiah? Am I to believe that God abandoned the Jewish people at the cross?

I can’t do that.

I can believe, based on God’s faithful promises to His people Israel, that although many Jews temporarily do not see Yeshua for who he truly is as Messiah, one day everything will be revealed, and then they will all receive the promise of forgiveness of sins and thus “all of Israel will be saved.”

I have no problem believing that all means ALL! In fact, I’m counting on it.

However, God made no such promise to the Gentile nations of the world. We don’t directly benefit from those promises, though as Paul tells us, we do benefit from their blessings through faithfulness. In His mercy, God allows not just Israel, but also the Gentiles to receive the blessings of the resurrection, the indwelling of the Spirit of God, and the promise of life in the Messianic Age and beyond as members of the Master’s ekklesia and vassal subjects of the King.

But in my struggle to reframe the traditional Christian narrative into one that takes into greater account the first century Jewish context of Paul’s letters as they relate back to the promises God, I’ve gotten “stuck” with my panoramic view of the Messiah’s role in Biblical and human history.

Restoration
Photo: First Fruits of Zion

My fight has always been to communicate this Judaic view of ALL scripture, including the Apostolic Writings, as Jewish and centered on national redemption of Israel, and then through Israel, the nations.

Admittedly, I’m having a tough time changing my focus and allowing myself the “conceit” of realizing that there is (or could be) a personal relationship between me and the Master. Frankly, I don’t see why that shouldn’t intimidate the living daylights out of anyone, especially me. How can the King of the future Messianic Era also be, as many Christians might say, my “best friend?”

The presence of Mashiach is revealed on Acharon Shel Pesach, and this revelation has relevance to all Israel: Pesach is medaleg,1 “skipping over” (rather than orderly progress), and leil shimurim,2 the “protected night.” In general the mood of Pesach is one of liberty. Then Pesach ends, and we find ourselves tumbling headlong into the outside world. This is where Mashiach’s revealed presence comes into play – imbuing us with a powerful resoluteness that enables us to maintain ourselves in the world.

-Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

I too find myself “tumbling headlong” into unprotected territory. It’s become very easy for me to relate to Yeshua as a lowly subject relates to a King. But how can (or should) this “Messianic Gentile” gain an apprehension of a one-on-one relationship with my Master Yeshua?


1. Shir HaShirim 2:8. Midrash Raba on that verse describes the Exodus as medaleg, “skipping over” calculations and rationales for redemption, bringing Israel out of exile regardless of their merit, regardless of the length of the exile. Later in that section the Midrash applies the verse to Mashiach.

2. Sh’mot 12:42, as Rashi notes, the night destined for redemption.

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Pondering the Birth Pangs of Mashiach

Update: I was going to publish this last Friday morning but as you all know by now, certain events have resulted in me making a rather drastic change in my comments policy as well as my writing schedule. I decided to go ahead and let this blog post publish since I already had it ready to go. What happens after this, I really don’t know.

I’ve received a lot of emails that were very encouraging and I want to thank everyone who took the time to reach out to me with such kind remarks. I have other projects that I can pursue and who knows what the future may bring. Blessings.

In these days especially, when by G-d’s kindness we stand at the threshold of redemption, we must make every conceivable effort to strengthen every facet of our religion. Mitzvot must be observed b’hidur, with “beauty,” beyond minimal requirements. Customs must be kept scrupulously, nothing compromised. It is a Mitzva and duty of every Rabbi in Israel to inform his congregation that the current tribulations and agonies are the “birth-pangs of Mashiach.” G-d is demanding that we return to Torah and mitzvot, that we not hinder the imminent coming of our righteous Mashiach.

“Today’s Day”
for Tuesday, Sh’vat 8, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

This is exactly what I was trying to say yesterday. This is the idea communicated in Ezekiel 36:27:

I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

This is a direct link between the New Covenant promises God made “to the house of Judah and the House of Israel” (Jeremiah 31:31), Israel’s observance of Torah, and Israel’s apprehension of the Divine Spirit.

And as we see, this also illustrates a link to the “current tribulations and agonies” of our times, which are defined as the “birth-pangs of Mashiach.”

But those words should also be familiar to most Christians:

And Yeshua (Jesus) answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Mashiach,’ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”

Matthew 24:4-8 (NASB -adapted)

Seems to be a close parallel to what you read in the quote at the top of this blog post. Here’s something more:

Rab said: The son of David will not come until the [Roman] power enfolds Israel [2] for nine months, as it is written, Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. [3]

‘Ulla said; Let him [The Messiah] come, but let me not see him. [4]

Rabbah said likewise: Let him come, but let me not see him. R. Joseph said: Let him come, and may I be worthy of sitting in the shadow of his ass’s saddle. [5] Abaye enquired of Rabbah: ‘What is your reason [for not wishing to see him]? Shall we say, because of the birth pangs [preceding the advent] of the Messiah? [6] But it has been taught, R. Eleazar’s disciples asked him: ‘What must a man do to be spared the pangs of the Messiah?’ [He answered,] ‘Let him engage in study and benevolence; and you Master do both.’

Sanhedrin 98b (emph. mine)

Talmud Study by LamplightI’m periodically accused of misusing Jewish writings and I can see how some folks may see me playing fast and loose with ancient and modern Rabbinic commentary. On the other hand, I don’t see any other valid lens by which to view and comprehend my faith. Chances are I’m getting at least something wrong, and perhaps a good many things in the details. But it’s the only way for me to read the Bible and understand the plan of God as a single unit rather than a “Plan A” shifting to “Plan B” some time around Acts 2, or worse, as the Almighty pulling the world’s biggest “bait and switch” with His people Israel.

The New Covenant promises and prophesies (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36) God made with Israel must come true, otherwise, not only does Israel have no hope but the rest of the nations of the world (i.e, Gentiles and particularly Christians) are hopeless as well.

You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

John 4:22 (NASB)

That’s the Master speaking to a Samaritan woman and he might as well have been speaking to all the Gentile nations, that is, to us.

For nearly two-thousand years, Gentile Christianity and devout Judaism have charted divergent paths through history, pulling apart starting in the late first century and extending into the second, and traveling many light years away from each other ever since.

But I think that’s changing, at least a little. One of the “birth pangs” I see happening (and this is just my personal opinion), is the dialog and debate occurring between Judaism and Christianity or more specifically between mainstream/normative Judaism and Messianic Judaism, including with those of us who identify as “Messianic Gentiles.”

It almost seems like a (well-mannered) battle at times.

But at least we’re talking.

I mentioned before that Jewish Torah observance is a requirement for the return of the Messiah and particularly for Jewish disciples of Yeshua. We have historical records of individuals and small communities of Jews who were Yeshua disciples and who lived wholly religious and observant Jewish lives. This is also beginning to happen today, although such communities are small and far apart.

There are accusations that the number of Jews in the Messianic movement is actually decreasing. I can’t speak to that except to say if true, this is also part of the birth pangs as I understand them. It’s supposed to get darker, more bleak, and look more hopeless as the “birth pangs” continue. The gate is supposed to be narrow.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Matthew 7:13-14

Of course that’s less than an opinion. It’s just a belief that God will call as many as who will listen to Him. I’ve been reminded recently that how God calls people, particularly Jewish people to Him, can be seen in at least a couple of different ways. I think I know just a tiny bit how a Jew might feel being proselytized by a Christian when just about everything I write is challenged from an Orthodox Jewish point of view (Hi, Gene).

pregnantBut I truly believe what I’ve written. I believe that supporting Jewish Torah observance is part of the requirement for the return of Messiah and the establishment of the Messianic age. I just don’t know how to get that point across without both Christians and Jews more or less quarreling with me, forging an unwilling partnership for the sake of my personal growth (as Rabbi Zelig Pliskin would put it).

I guess you could say this is part of the personal “birth pangs” we go through when different individuals and factions are involved and presenting their particular theologies and doctrines. Somehow, I think it’s important to survive with my relationship with God intact, for in the end, I won’t be judged in the religious blogosphere, but in the court of the God of Heaven, in spite of (or maybe because of) the “current tribulations and agonies.” So will we all.

There are questions to which G-d says to be quiet, to be still, to cease to ask.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Be Quiet”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Sounds like good advice and maybe I’ll take it for awhile. We’ll see.

Oh, if you are looking for me, I’ll be over here. No “religious” comments allowed.

Footnotes

2. I.e., the whole world in which Israel is scattered.
3. Micah V, 2: ‘therefore will he give them up’ is interpreted as meaning to a foreign — viz., the Roman — power, and the duration of their servitude is fixed by ‘until the time etc.’ i.e., nine months, the period of pregnancy.
4. V. n. 7.
5. [Following the reading in Yalkut (v. Levy,) [H]. Our texts read: [H], ‘dung’.]
6. These troubles are generally referred to as birth pangs, being the travail which precedes the birth of a new era.

A Quick View of the Coming of Messiah Through a Jewish Lens

cloaked-in-light-tallitBelief in the eventual coming of the mashiach is a basic and fundamental part of traditional Judaism. It is part of Rambam’s 13 Principles of Faith, the minimum requirements of Jewish belief. In the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, recited three times daily, we pray for all of the elements of the coming of the mashiach: ingathering of the exiles; restoration of the religious courts of justice; an end of wickedness, sin and heresy; reward to the righteous; rebuilding of Jerusalem; restoration of the line of King David; and restoration of Temple service.

Modern scholars suggest that the messianic concept was introduced later in the history of Judaism, during the age of the prophets. They note that the messianic concept is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible).

However, traditional Judaism maintains that the messianic idea has always been a part of Judaism. The mashiach is not mentioned explicitly in the Torah, because the Torah was written in terms that all people could understand, and the abstract concept of a distant, spiritual, future reward was beyond the comprehension of some people. However, the Torah contains several references to “the End of Days” (acharit ha-yamim), which is the time of the mashiach; thus, the concept of mashiach was known in the most ancient times.

from “Mashiach: The Messiah”
Judaism 101

The Jewish people are compared to the stars twinkling in the high heavens. By their light, even he who walks in the darkness of night shall not blunder. Every Jew, man or woman, possesses enough moral and spiritual strength to influence friends and acquaintances, and bring them into the light.

-from “Today’s Day”
Wednesday – Cheshvan 5 – 5704
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

Tales of the Messianic Era series

A few days ago, I wrote a blog post called A Quick View of Revelation Through a Christian Lens, which presented what I thought was a traditional fundamentalist Christian viewpoint of the Book of Revelation and the “end times.” It turned out to be one of my more popular blog posts and I hope laid the groundwork for further investigations into this area of study.

I want to be fair, and since I’m searching for a more Jewish understanding of this topic, I thought the next step should be for me to offer the opposite side of the coin: to show a portrait of a wholly and non-Messianic Jewish perspective on the coming of Moshiach. What would a distillation of the Jewish prophesies about Messiah taken just from the Tanakh (Old Testament) look like? Fortunately a few days ago, one fell quite conveniently in my lap.

The real Jewish messiah appears on the scene. He’s not Jesus, but a virtuous and devout Jewish man who is able to unite all Jews, a scholar and wise military leader. The nations of the world hate and oppose him and work against him, as they’ve done to every Jewish leader in Israel’s history. He’s nothing like what they expected to see – not the glorious all-powerful heavenly Jesus. He regathers the rest of the Jews from all around the world. Many wars against Israel break out, but the Messiah leads Israel in defeating their many enemies and in rebuilding the Third and final Temple.

True prophets once again appear in Israel and they are able to recognize the lineage of all Jews, including of priests, Levites and especially that of the Messiah himself, with many Jews recognizing their leader as the awaited Messiah. Christians, however, almost unanimously speak against him, brand him the “antichrist” of their bible, preaching fiery sermons in their churches against the “antichrist” and against the Jews who fell “under his spell just as Jesus, Paul and John predicted”. No Christian may believe in him, or they risk losing their salvation. Jews are ridiculed and the New Testament is held up as having predicted everything the Jews will do. Muslims, who along with Christians likewise believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that no one else fits the bill, also reject the kingship of the Jewish Messiah and join with the Western world in their opposition to him and the nation of Israel.

Finally, all nations gather against Israel for the ultimate conflagration, attacking Jerusalem and causing much damage. The war against Israel appears to be won and situation is hopeless. However, G-d himself intervenes, and sends his fire on earth and destroys the armies of “G-g and Magog and all the cohorts.” The weakest in Israel chases away thousands. The nations of the world are humbled, they are in awe of what G-d has done for Israel, of His salvation. The idols of the nations which do not save (including Jesus) are destroyed, are put away for good and are remembered no more. All false prophets and idol worshipers will be ashamed, they will realize that they inherited nothing but lies from their forefathers. The earth will be finally at peace. G-d raises all the righteous dead and all peoples of the earth are required to come to Jerusalem to worship Hashem in his Temple. The true Messiah of Israel (which could be the resurrected king David himself) will fear G-d, rule justly and will forever reign as prince/king over the Jewish people.

Jewish in Jerusalem(I just want to mention that although Islam considers Jesus a prophet, they do not see him as their “Messiah.” Rather, the Mahdi is the redeemer of Islam).

Just about all Christians and not a few Hebrew Roots and Messianic Jewish adherents are bound to find the above rendition of the coming of Messiah disturbing. The Jewish Messiah is treated by Christians as the “antichrist” because he’s “too Jewish” and fits the description of Moshiach in Jewish understanding too closely. The Church is waiting for someone who never comes, waiting for a rapture up to Heaven that never occurs. In the end, Christianity becomes just another enemy of Judaism and Israel that God defeats. Humiliated, Christians all over the world discover that they’ve been following a false god all along, and either they surrender their “faith” and pay homage the true King of Israel and worship Israel’s God, or they remain defiant, and continue to pray for a Jesus who never existed and who will never answer.

That’s a horrible thought. Here’s a worse one.

The above summary, at least on the surface, seems to fit quite well with what we understand of the Messianic prophesies in the Tanakh. That is, if we don’t factor in the New Testament, this summary seems to connect almost seamlessly with the words of the ancient Jewish prophets about the coming Moshiach.

You don’t have to worry about the distinctions between the raptured Church and resurrected Israelites because no such dissonance exists. It’s all about Israel. Period.

Interestingly enough, this isn’t tremendously far from what I’ve been trying to find in Messianic Judaism, a completely Jewish Messiah King whose focus is first and foremost on national Israel and the Jewish people. From this focus, the people of the rest of the world receive blessings, but ultimately it’s all about Israel. Period.

If there isn’t a “happy meeting place” between the ancient portrait of the Jewish Messiah King who has yet to come and the promise of a resurrected Yeshua who will come again, then either New Testament Christians must be ready to admit that there is a very fuzzy connection between the Old Testament prophesies of Messiah and how the New Testament describes Jesus, or we have to take a whole new look at the Messianic prophesies in the Tanakh and see who we are really supposed to be waiting for.

This isn’t going to be easy, especially when I’m tossing aside the Church’s assumptions and traditions that make it possible to reconcile what doesn’t seem to fit very well, and re-examine the identity of Messiah and his redemptive mission at its core.

I know in my previous blog post, I received a large number of responses explaining the problems with some of the Christian assumptions about the return of Jesus. I’m hoping a similar reaction will be forthcoming, discussing the Jewish viewpoint of Moshiach and how (or if) a Jewish perspective can factor in and make it understandable that Jesus is the same Messiah we find in the Old and New Testaments.

Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
And many peoples will come and 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 concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
never again will they learn war.

Isaiah 2:2-4 (NASB)

tallit-prayerWho is the Messiah who will redeem Israel, gather in her exiles, restore tranquility within her borders, vanquish her enemies, rebuild the Temple, and establish a rule of peace and justice over the entire world? Is it the man we see described by such prophets as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Micah? Or is it the Son of God who we encounter in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the one spoken of by the apostle Paul as he established the churches of the Gentiles, and the one who we find in all majesty and glory within the pages of Revelation?

Or somehow, is it both?

The Fragmented Body

fragmented-bodyPaul’s two epistles to the Corinthians grant us an up-close and personal portrait of the Corinthian community he was leaving behind. They were a diverse community of Jewish believers, God-fearing Gentiles, and recently converted pagans. They were not perfect people.

They struggled to maintain cohesion after Paul left. They often differed in their opinions and practices regarding such matters as gender roles, sexuality, use of spiritual gifts, and the doctrine of the resurrection. Some found it difficult to adapt to Judaism’s strict standards of modesty in dress and conduct. Sexual immorality was a problem. The Corinthian leadership struggled with censuring members who were engaged in immorality. A lack of qualified leaders to serve as judges in civil suits encouraged the community to use secular courts. The Corinthian believers misused ecstatic utterances and allowed charismatic antics to disrupt worship services. Philosophical monotheists among the Corinthians chafed at the prohibition on things sacrificed to idols and struggled with the concept of a literal resurrection of the dead. Visits from other apostles led to factionalism. Some among the Corinthians began to question Paul’s authority and apostleship. In his letters, Paul addresses these issues and several other problems with genuine pastoral concern.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Ki Tisa (“When you take”)
Commentary on Acts 18:11-23, pg 538
Torah Club Volume 6
First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)

Sound familiar? No? Consider a recent discussion in the comments section of Derek Leman’s blog. Although the topics and themes aren’t really the same (no apparent problem of sexual immorality, for example) the dynamics and the diversity of populations and opinions on all things spiritual and philosophical is very much in evidence. You have the same mix of Jewish and non-Jewish believers with a few converts tossed into the mix. That brings in a diversity of background, education, perspective, and identity into a single container which, in both ancient and modern examples, is the community of the Messiah; the body of Christ.

And after 2,000 years, we still are having a tough time getting along.

Not that the Corinthian “church” was completely representative of all believing first century communities, but whenever you involve dissimilar populations in a common group, especially a religious group, you are asking for a few “strongly worded” debates. And that’s what we experience today on the blogosphere when we come together (virtually) to have some of the same interactions that the ancient Corinthians did in the days of Paul.

Actually, there’s quite a time gap between the ancient mixed Jewish/Gentile “church” and the modern one. After the schism between Judaism and Christianity, each religion, for they became separate religions, went their own way, only getting together for a pogrom or an inquisition every now and again. The problems of the Corinthian religious congregation faded away into history…until quite recently.

Now that we’re trying to put our theological humpty dumpty back together again, we’re finding out that it would be easier to take an omelet and put it back into the broken egg-shell than it is getting different factions of Messianic Judaism, Hebrew Roots Christianity (and it’s variants), and more traditional Christianity (or Christianities) to come to any sort of agreement.

I know I’ve written about this before and used Lancaster’s Torah Club commentaries to do it, but in reading this past week’s Torah club chapter right on the heels of Derek’s blog post, the similarities jumped out at me again.

Doesn’t anyone else out there see it?

Was there ever a peace between the Jewish and the Gentile believers? We see strife looming largely in the Messianic world right there around 50-53 CE when Paul was the most active in his “missionary travels.” In Acts 18:1-17, Paul experiences a “split” in the synagogue at Corinth and half the Jewish membership follows Messiah right out of the synagogue and into a building next door. There were actually two competing synagogues, one Messianic and the other not, strongly contending with each other. There wasn’t unity over the Messiah in the local Jewish community let alone between Jews and Gentiles.

But then again, not all Jewish communities experienced the message of Messiah the same way.

And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.

Acts 18:19-21 (ESV)

FallingApartIt seems the synagogue in Ephesus was much more unified in its reception of Paul’s teaching on the Messiah and I’m sure he would have rather spent more time in this particular setting, but he wanted to get to Jerusalem in time for Sukkot.

I won’t pull any quotes from Derek’s blog (you can click the link and read through the comments yourself) but it seems as if the same old debates are being continually recycled. Things haven’t changed a whole lot in twenty centuries. Human nature after all, is human nature. I guess that’s why the Bible is still relevant after the passage of so much time. We’re still the same old creatures we’ve always been, stirring up the pot and making a mess out of the message of the good news.

The Messiah came and then he left. And after he left, his apostles and disciples struggled to keep the new Jewish sect of “the Way” afloat while integrating a large Gentile population in the diaspora along with whoever among the Jews would accept that Yeshua (Jesus) was Moshiach. In the end, it fell apart and all of the broken pieces have been shattered and scattered across the landscape for almost 2,000 years. Recently, we’ve been trying to put them back together again with limited success. We’re encountering pretty much the same barriers that Paul did in his “mixed population churches.” Maybe the “bilateral ecclesiology” people are on to something after all. No mix, no mixed up community.

But I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to work out, at least not in an extreme and absolute segregationist sense. Paul didn’t seem to demand that the Gentiles form their own churches, although that’s how things ended up. Here we are, trying to forge new or renewed relationships to pave the way for Messiah’s return. But it seems that it will take the Messiah to teach us to get along, share our toys, and play well together.

We live in a broken world. There are religious Jews who cry out, “Moshiach now!” Given the sorry state of affairs in his “Messianic community,” maybe we should be shouting the same thing. Nothing else we are doing seems to be working out.

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.

Praying As One on Sunday

T.G.

Dear Friends,

There will be a world-wide simultaneous event on Sunday, September 23 (11:00 AM New York time), for all Jews to say the following prayer for G-d to send Mashiach (the true Messiah) – see http://www.facebook.com/AllJewsAsOne.

“Master of the Universe, we, the children of Israel, ask You for Mashiach to redeem us, now and with mercy, from exile and all suffering, to reveal Your Name in the world and to bring peace.”

Rabbi Moshe Weiner of Jerusalem (author of Sheva Mitzvot HaShem and The Divine Code) has approved a separate version for ALL GENTILES world-wide, to say as one at that same designated time:

“Master of the Universe, we, the children of Noah, ask You for Mashiach, now and with mercy, to end all suffering, to reveal Your Name in the world and to bring peace.”

We are looking forward to your participation!

Best regards,

-Dr. Michael Schulman
Director
Ask Noah International

I received this as an email this morning and felt I should pass it along, not only to my Jewish readers but to everyone else. Most Christians don’t typically identify themselves as Noahides based on their (our) understanding of a Christian’s covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ, but I would certainly encourage everyone reading this message to find the time to pray one of the above prayers (Christians will probably want to adapt the “Noahide” prayer) so that we all can be united in speaking to God at one time, with one voice, and one purpose; the purpose of bringing the Messiah.

The time of prayer is based on Israel time (winter time DST) and will begin there at 5 p.m. That will be 5 p.m. Paris time, 11 a.m. New York time, 9 a.m. Boise time (for my local readers), 8 a.m. Los Angeles time, and 1 a.m. (September 24th) Sydney time.

May we, the people of God, all of us, from our many backgrounds, faith traditions, and all peoples of every nation, tongue, and heritage, gather together from around the world and turn our hearts and our voices to God, begging Him to end the exile of the Jewish people and all of humanity’s suffering by bringing Messiah, Son of David, back to us.

May he come soon and in our day.