Tag Archives: replacement theology

Why the Torah is the Tree of Life

I also raised My hand [in oath] against them in the Wilderness to scatter them among the nations and to disperse them among the lands, because they did not fulfill my laws, they spurned My decrees, desecrated My Sabbaths, and their eyes went after the idols of their fathers. So I too gave them decrees that were not good and laws by which they could not live.

Ezekiel 20:23-25 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

In a moment of great pique, God has the prophet Ezekiel tell his exiled brethren of the relentless misdeeds of their fathers, which brought about their loss of the land. God insists at one point: “Moreover, I have them laws that were not good and rules they could not live by.” The import of these harsh words is that God might just be the author of inadequate or even malevolent law, a proposition that flies in the face of God’s goodness, love, and perfection.

-Ismar Schorsch
“Divine Music in a Human Key,” pg 468 (May 14, 1994
Commentary on Torah Portion Bamidbar (Numbers)
Canon Without Closure: Torah Commentaries

The twenty-fifth verse in Ezekiel 20 relates a startling admission on the part of God through the prophet, that God gave Israel “decrees that were not good and laws by which they could not live.”

When reading those words, I was immediately reminded of the traditional Evangelical Christian reasoning about why God gave the Torah to Israel at Sinai in the first place. I mean, if God was going to cancel the Law with the death and resurrection of Jesus, or at least have it pass into obsolescence to be replaced by the much more “livable” grace of Christ, by what rationale did God require and demand that the Israelites keep the Torah mitzvot?

The answer, and I was also startled when I first heard the Pastor at the church I attend present it to me, is that God wanted to illustrate that no one could possibly keep the law and that we all need God’s grace to save us from sin.

So God sets forth a lengthy set of conditions associated with the Sinai covenant between Hashem and Israel, with a generous collection of blessings for obedience to God’s Torah (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) and an abundant list of curses for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).

God, being faithful to His Word, has indeed blessed Israel when they cleaved to His Torah and cursed them when they strayed from obedience.

The haftarah reading for Bamidbar, Hosea 2:1-22, chronicles the course of God’s response to His covenant people, from wrath in response to Israel’s faithlessness when she “played the harlot” (v 7) by abandoning her “husband” (God) and chasing after foreign lovers (idols), to the promise of renewing the intimate relationship between Hashem and Israel when they returned to Him in obedience:

And I will espouse you forever: I will espouse you with righteousness and justice, and with goodness and mercy, and I will espouse you with faithfulness; then you shall be devoted to the Lord.

Hosea 2:21-22 (JPS Tanakh)

Laying TefillinAfter all of that, with generation after generation of Jews all striving, sometimes succeeding and often failing to willfully keep the commandments, yet in their heart, always loving and revering the Torah, they never suspected that God was just setting them up for a huge fall. And then, during the Roman occupation, just a few decades before the destruction of Herod’s Temple, God was going to yank it all away from them and abruptly declare that He had planned to have Israel fail and fail miserably all along, in some sort of demented preparation for the coming the Messiah and “the law of grace.”

I enjoy reading mystery books that have a creative and unanticipated plot twist to keep things interesting, but God, according to Evangelicals, is the undisputed master if “I didn’t see that one coming,” the ultimate jumping of the tracks where the train carrying all the exiled Jews back to Jerusalem becomes the carriages transporting endless hoards of formerly pagan Gentiles to Rome.

Ezekiel 20:25, especially when read out of its immediate context and outside the overarching plan of God for Israel, could be interpreted as supporting this “double-dealing” motivation of God except for this:

But note what has been accomplished by this exegetical twist: The holiness of the text has been preserved. Whatever blemish we may detect has nothing to do with the original power and beauty of the Torah, but derives solely from inferior mediation. Not the author, but the interpreter is at fault.

-Schorsch, pg 469

It is said that Biblical interpretation starts with translation but it obviously doesn’t end their. The value of our Holy Scriptures rises and falls with the correct understanding of what we’re reading. Putting on the supersessionism-colored glasses forged by the Gentile “Church Fathers” and polished by the men of the Reformation, we indeed do read the Bible “through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12) rather than accessing the plain sight of God.

But how can man see with God’s vision? We probably can’t, though we are experts at saying we really can, and in saying that, we reveal ourselves to be deluded or liars.

This thing you call language though, most remarkable. You depend on it for so very much. But is any one of you really its master?

-Spock/Kollos (Leonard Nimoy)
Is There in Truth No Beauty? (1968)
Star Trek: The Original Series

Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Nimoy

The above quote references a “mind-meld” between Mr. Spock and a non-humanoid being named Kollos, an ambassador for his planet who is non-verbal and who can only communicate with people through telepathy. He experiences “humanity” for the first time seeing the world (or the bridge of the Enterprise) through Mr. Spock’s senses and communicating through spoken language which he never had done before. You and I like to think we are familiar and even (as I said above) “experts” on understanding the Bible, but an outside observer, if they could access our point of view, might accuse us of what Kollos accused the people on the Enterprise, depending on language for so very much without truly being its master.

We depend on the Bible for so very much, but who can say if anyone can be the master of a document that, while scripted in this world by human beings, was inspired by the mind and spirit of God?

But it’s just about all we’ve got, just like language is just about all we’ve got to communicate with one another, to learn about one another. We only have the Bible to teach us about God.

But no one of us being its master, how dare we say that any part of the Bible, down to even the tiniest jot or tittle, in any way has been cancelled, annulled, eliminated, replaced, folded, spindled, or mutilated?

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:17-19 (NASB)

It is a Tree of Life for those who cling to it, and happy are those who support it.”

Proverbs 3:18

It’s not just a matter of poorly interpreting the Bible but in selectively reading it. Christians can “cherry pick” those scriptures that seem to support a classic supersessionist view of an expired Torah, but they can’t explain those portions that support a high view of Torah, a continued zealous observance of Torah by multitudes of believing Jews in New Testament times (when Acts 21:20 speaks of “how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law,” the Greek word we translate into English as “thousands” is literally “tens of thousands,” and that Greek word is the basis for the English word “myriads,” telling us that vast numbers of Jesus-believing Jews were completely over-the-top zealous for the Torah), and since the Bible (in my opinion…and the Epistle to the Hebrews notwithstanding) doesn’t speak of the Torah expiring like an aging carton of milk in the back of the fridge, then I have no reason to believe that God intended to annul the Sinai Covenant and its conditions for the sake of the inaugurated but not yet arrived New Covenant…not until after Heaven and Earth pass away.

Tree of LifeUntil then, the Torah is a Tree of Life, first to the Jew and also to the Gentile, defining, among other things, who we are in relation to God and who we are to each other, Jewish believers remaining wholly and completely Jewish in identity, role, and responsibility, and grafted in Gentile believers taking on, not a Jewish role, but one that uniquely defines us as the people of the nations who are called by His Name, who have a calling that is not Israel but that supports Israel, for our salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22).

The one mystery I have struggled with up until recently was why, after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, is worshiping God “not enough” anymore?

Many, many years ago, long before my wife and I became religious, we attended a Passover Seder at a friend’s home. At one point during the reciting of the Haggadah, he stood up and joyously cried out, “No one comes between a Jew and his God!” Even as a non-believer, it was quite obvious to me that he was referring to Jesus and Christianity, perhaps viewing Jesus as a layer of abstraction that was thrust between people (or Jews) and God when no such separation existed before.

We can debate whether or not the Temple and sacrifices separated Jewish people from God or actually brought them closer and say that Jesus draws Jews (and everyone else who will believe) closer still rather than further away, but from a Jewish point of view (I can only assume, not being Jewish), being told you now can only come to God through Jesus rather than praying to Him directly with no intermediary, makes it seem as if the rules have changed and a brand new player was added to the game, one that the Jewish people never needed before.

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.”

Deuteronomy 30:11-16 (NASB)

The Torah is the Tree of Life, the source of everything that is good and is from God for a Jew. It was never too far away and it was never intended to be impossible to observe. God did intend for the Jewish people to observe the mitzvot and by obedience, they would draw closer to God and receive good life and prosperity in the Land. Why would that ever change? Not through Jewish disobedience, because God always provided Israel a way back through repentance. Not because of the coming of Messiah, but I’ll get into that at a later time (see below).

the-joy-of-torahSo far we’ve seen that Judaism is a religion of joy, and hopefully, I’ve shown that this joy emanates from observance of the mitzvot and study of the Torah, and that the Tree of Life brings a Jew (and realistically, all of us who embrace the Word of God) nearer to God. But where does Jesus fit in?

I know that’s an odd question and I know many of you think you know the answer. In my next meditation, I’ll see if I can show you a new answer (new to me, anyway) and why God didn’t change the rules, just as the New Covenant was never intended to replace the Sinai Covenant. God doesn’t destroy anything He has created, but He does continually reveal Himself to us across the history of the Bible.

It’s revelation I’ll speak of next time.

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No “Christian Seders,” Please!

I don’t think I’ve ever reblogged another’s material before, but after seeing this reblogged at the Rosh Pina Project, I was compelled to read the original. Having read the original, I found myself greatly impressed by this thoughtful woman’s insights and sensitivity and thought it important to share.

Addendum: I think this news story is the flip side to the plea for “no Christian seders:” Passover: The Jewish Holiday for Gentiles.

Sicut Locutus Est

155 NOTE: In March 2013, I posted a series of Facebook Notes about so-called “Christian Seders” and the special obligation Christians have in Lent and Holy Week especially to be vigilant about the way our observances may have an impact on Jews, Christian understandings of Judaism, and related matters. I have been asked by several colleagues to re-post these reflections this year. I am happy to do so. I need to make it clear, however, that I am not an expert on these matters. What I say below is my take on controverted questions, born mostly of my own reading and of my interfaith relationships. Please take them as such.

No “Christian Seders,” Please!

With Holy Week on the horizon,  many Christian congregations have started announcing Seder dinners to observe Maundy Thursday. People of good will recognize this as a devout and well-intentioned attempt to honor the Jewishness of Jesus, and…

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Review of “What About the New Covenant,” Part 4

Session Four: Better Promises

But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises.

Hebrews 8:6 (NRSV)

I have a feeling I’m going to encounter this material again when I listen to and review the relevant presentations in D. Thomas Lancaster’s Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series. However, the Hebrews material has been folded into a different context, one contrasting and comparing the Old and New Covenants in First Fruits of Zion’s (FFOZ) latest teaching lectures What’s New About the New Covenant.

On disc four, Lancaster starts with a brief summary of the previous lectures. We learned that Old Covenant doesn’t mean Old Testament, and it doesn’t even mean the Torah. It is an agreement God made with Israel (and only Israel) at Sinai stating that He would be Israel’s God and they would be His people as long as they obeyed His commandments (the conditions recorded in the Torah), and should Israel disobey, God would punish them and exile them (but not forever reject them).

We also learned that the New Covenant doesn’t mean the New Testament and it doesn’t mean the Church. It also doesn’t mean “renewed” Covenant because it indeed is something new. The New Covenant is also an agreement made between God and the Houses of Judah and Israel (and only the Houses of Judah and Israel) and that, according to the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the New Covenant is made of “better promises” and Jesus is the mediator of that New Covenant.

But what are the better promises and how can they be better if between the Old and New Covenants, God does not change even a single condition or requirement for Israel (the Torah mitzvot) but does change the hearts of all Jewish people, making it possible for them to correctly perform all of the mitzvot?

To answer that question, Lancaster takes us through a study of a few of the chapters in the book of Jeremiah. This is why I like reading large portions of the Bible in one setting. I can get the full message of God to Israel in its complete context rather than parsing bits and pieces and verses together artificially to form a picture that might not be correct.

Better Promises in the Messianic Future

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

Jeremiah 31:31

“The days are surely coming” indicates the end of days, the final redemption, the future Messianic Era. For those Christians who believe that the New Covenant has already replaced the Old Covenant, this statement makes that particular doctrine impossible because the New Covenant hasn’t been enacted or completed yet. The death and resurrection of Jesus only got the ball rolling, so to speak. We’re still in the Old Covenant age. The Torah is still in effect as it always has been since Sinai.

Good News for Israel and Judah

Simchat TorahNotice (and I’ve mentioned this before) that the addressees of the New Covenant are “the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” This is only with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Period. It’s an exclusive relationship between God and the Jewish people, just as the Old Covenant defined an exclusive relationship between God and the Jewish people. The New Covenant (pay attention please, this is important) has nothing to do with the nations, with Gentiles, or with anything called “Christianity” or “the Church.” The New Covenant does not create a stand-alone covenant relationship between the Church and God. The only covenant that all the people of the earth can claim for their (our) very own is the Noahide Covenant (Genesis 9:1-17).

The Transformation of the Jewish Heart

It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jeremiah 32-33

The next “better promise” is that God will make it possible for the Jewish people to obey His righteous standards and not sin by writing those standards on the Jewish heart.

Husband and Wife

Lancaster says an oath the groom would recite at the wedding ceremony in the ancient near east was to declare, “I will be your husband and you will be my wife.” God declared “I will be a God to you and you will be a people to me,” but that was contingent upon Israel not disobeying God and worshiping idols. Idol worship was considered as adultery by God, a wife going astray with other lovers (gods). Under the Old Covenant, Israel went astray, but under the better promises of the New Covenant, since the Torah will be written on their hearts and not just on tablets and scrolls, Israel will never again “cheat” on God, so to speak, and will always remain faithful.

Intimate Knowledge of God

No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:34

Master and disciplesUnder the Old Covenant, many times the people of Israel, including the Priests and Prophets knew about God, but they didn’t know Him in the sense of an intimate knowledge that led to obedience. This is often true of Jews and Christians today. It’s easy to study the Bible and learn about God but not so easy to live a life that is consistently, day-by-day, hour-by-hour pleasing to God. Under the New Covenant, there will be a universal revelation of God to the whole world. It will be natural for everyone to obey God.

I know I said the New Covenant is an agreement just between God and the Jewish people, and I, or rather Lancaster, will get to the issue of Gentiles by the by.

Forgiving All of Israel’s Sins Forever

So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,

“Out of Zion will come the Deliverer; he will banish ungodliness from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”

Romans 11:25-27

Lancaster didn’t cite Paul or Romans 11 but I felt it an appropriate addition. Lately, I’ve been hearing some bad opinions about Paul and his so-called anti-Torah, anti-Judaism, and anti-Jewish people letters, and I thought this would be a good time to clear some of that up, since Paul is preaching to the Romans New Covenant doctrine that is highly favorable to the Jewish people and to Israel.

Jeremiah, according to Lancaster, is saying one of the “better promises” of the New Covenant mediated by Messiah, is that God will forget all of Israel’s sins which is what makes it possible for Paul to literally mean that “all Israel will be saved” rather than some tiny remnant who, according to the Church, must leave Judaism and convert and assimilate into (Gentile) Christianity. God doesn’t change the Torah. The Torah is unchangeable at its core. God does change the Jewish people so that they naturally will be faithful to God and God, for His part, will forgive all of Israel’s sins, from the Golden Calf forward throughout all of history and into the Messianic Age.

That’s very good news, a wonderful gospel for the Jews.

Israel Will Always Be a Nation Before God

Thus says the Lord,
who gives the sun for light by day
and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the Lord of hosts is his name:
If this fixed order were ever to cease
from my presence, says the Lord,
then also the offspring of Israel would cease
to be a nation before me forever.
Thus says the Lord:
If the heavens above can be measured,
and the foundations of the earth below can be explored,
then I will reject all the offspring of Israel
because of all they have done,
says the Lord.

Jeremiah 31:35-37

Moon and StarsI suppose this could be two “better promises.” Israel will be a distinct nation and the Jewish people will be a distinct and identifiable people as long as there is a sun, a moon, stars, and a sea, which is to say, as long as the earth, our solar system, and the universe exists. It is also a promise that God will never reject Israel and the Jewish people and they will remain a people and a nation until the heavens can be measured and the foundations of the earth can be explored. These conditions, by the way, are rhetorical language meaning “always.” Israel will always be a nation before God and God will never reject the Jewish people. Ever.

This flies in the face of the various churches who still adhere to some form of Replacement Theology because for them, the New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant, and they interpret that to mean that God rejected Israel permanently because Israel rejected Jesus as Messiah. God then replaced Israel with the (Gentile) Church which accepted Jesus. Now, the only way God will accept a Jew is for the Jew to reject Judaism and convert to (Gentile) Christianity. However, examining the New Covenant language reveals that Replacement Theology is hopelessly unBiblical.

Jerusalem the Eternal City

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when the city shall be rebuilt for the Lord from the tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. And the measuring line shall go out farther, straight to the hill Gareb, and shall then turn to Goah. The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the Wadi Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the Lord. It shall never again be uprooted or overthrown.

Jeremiah 31:38-39

Who can count the number of times Jerusalem has been conquered and destroyed? OK, probably someone has, but the point is that historically, whenever Israel sins, the Temple is destroyed and Jerusalem is left in ruins. This “better promise” for the Jewish people states that Jerusalem will be rebuilt and expanded and it will never again be destroyed because the Jewish people will never again sin against God or other people.

Some of the really exciting “better promises.”

Jeremiah 32:1-15 tells of God commanding Jeremiah to buy a field in Judah during Nebuchadrezzar’s siege against Jerusalem, a command Jeremiah couldn’t understand. It would have been crazy to do so, but God had something in mind: more “better promises.”

MessiahI don’t really want to reveal all of the better promises since if I do, you might not be as inclined to listen to the full lecture. In brief, the other promises include the regathering of the Jewish people to their Land, giving the Jewish people all one heart, and one way (in my opinion, “the Way”) so that there will be no division among Jews, that the New Covenant will be everlasting, that God will rejoice over doing good for Israel, that a “righteous branch” meaning the Messiah, will rise from the line of David. In addition to a return of the Davidic dynasty on the throne of Israel, the line of Aaron and the Levitical priests will return, which means there must be a Temple for them to offer sacrifices in.

God even says that He will only break His covenant with David and with Aaron if someone can break God’s covenant with day and night. More rhetorical language meaning “never.”

But there is something more about Lancaster’s sermon I do want to reveal since it contains a dire warning.

Those Who Say God Rejected Israel

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: Have you not observed how these people say, “The two families that the Lord chose have been rejected by him,” and how they hold my people in such contempt that they no longer regard them as a nation? Thus says the Lord: Only if I had not established my covenant with day and night and the ordinances of heaven and earth, would I reject the offspring of Jacob and of my servant David and not choose any of his descendants as rulers over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes, and will have mercy upon them.

Jeremiah 33:23-26

ChurchHistorically, who has held Israel in contempt and said that God no longer regards the Jewish people as a nation? OK, just about everybody, but that “everybody” includes the Christian church. Even today, many churches continue to adhere to some form of Replacement or Fulfillment Theology, and any Christian who does espouse such a theology is who God, through Jeremiah, said “hold my people in such contempt” (emph. mine). Really, do you want to be on God’s “wrong side” by holding Israel in contempt, or even in the slightest degree, believe that God has rejected Israel and replaced her with the Church?

In addition to their being more “better promises” and “good news” for the Jewish people in these chapters of Jeremiah, Lancaster mentioned that there are still more better promises littered about the various books of the Prophets including Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos, and Joel. That’s really a lot of better promises and good news for Jewish people.

But What About the Gentiles?

Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”

Acts 15:1, 5

Remember what I (citing Lancaster) said above about the New Covenant being made only with the House of Israel and the House of Judah? No mention of Gentiles at all. So do we even figure in? There’s a lot of language in the Apostolic Scriptures that says “yes” but we have to dig for it.

However, from the point of view of the various Jewish sects in the late second temple period, including believing Jews in “the Way,” recalling the New Covenant language, the only way they could see how Gentiles could be included in these “better promises” was to convert to Judaism.

In Acts 15:1-2 and 15:24, Now with what Satanically-inspired and dogmatic false teaching did these “certain men from Judaea” try to infect the church at Antioch, and why according to Galatians 2:4-5? (emph. mine)

That quote is from the study notes for the Sunday school class I attend when they were teaching on Acts 15 last September (here’s the link to the relevant blog post). What they couldn’t see was that the Jewish people asking these questions were not “Satanically-inspired” but rather, asking a legitimate question based on the Jeremiah 31 text.

Paul knew that the Gentiles didn’t have to convert to Judaism in order to be included in better promises (hence his letter to the Galatians), and Peter witnessed this first hand as recorded in Acts 10:44-48, but no formal decision had been rendered by the Council of Apostles and Elders defining Gentile legal identity within the Jewish community. Acts 15:6-29 records a summary of the legal hearing, including the testimony of various witnesses, and the conclusion and ruling of the Council that Gentiles could be granted honorary status within the commonwealth of Israel, grafted into the nation (see Romans 11:11-24), but only because of their association with Israel through faith in King Messiah.

Apostle Paul preachingThat’s an incredibly vital point to get, because without the New Covenant “better promises” being applied exclusively to the House of Israel and the House of Judah, if God really did reject Israel and the Jewish people in perpetuity, then we Gentiles would have absolutely, positively no hope of salvation at all! Israel is central in God’s plan to redeem the people of all the nations of the earth.

When King Messiah returns, he will be King of Israel, King of the Jews, and he will conquer all of the other nations and be their King. He will annex all of the other countries and Israel will be at the head of the nations, and all of the other nations will be vassal servants to Israel. As citizens of these vassal nations, we too will be annexed subjects of Israel and her King. The good news for the Gentiles is if we swear allegiance to King Messiah now, even before his return, we become his subjects and the New Covenant blessings become ours.

No, we don’t become Jews because we are citizens of a nation annexed by Israel and not citizens of Israel itself. We are granted an honorary status in the commonwealth of Israel. We’re grafted in.

As I’ve mentioned about a million times elsewhere, we don’t come under “One Law” in terms of being commanded to wear tzitzit, lay tefillin, and such, but we do become people who are called by His Name, and partisans or freedom fighters, so to speak, who are defending our King and his people until he returns and ascends his throne in Jerusalem, much as Robin Hood and his Merry Men of legend fought against the tyranny of Prince John and protected the innocent until King Richard’s return.

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.

Isaiah 2:3

New CovenantIf you are not a Jew and if you call yourself a Christian or any other name that indicates an allegiance to the King of the Jews, to Jesus Christ, then this is your hope in the New Covenant through national Israel, the Messianic Kingdom, and through the Messianic King. The Master said, Salvation comes from the Jews,” (John 4:22) and according to Lancaster, he was talking about the New Covenant and everything that was presented in this lecture ”Better Promises.”

If you want to be part of those “better promises” then please carefully consider everything you’ve read here today. It really wouldn’t hurt and might do a great deal of good if you got a hold of the five-disc set of What’s New About the New Covenant and listened to all of the content, since it really applies to who we are as Christians and what God expects of us and of how we treat His people Israel. Our salvation comes from Israel and her firstborn son Yeshua of Nazareth, the Messiah, the King…not the other way around.

Shopping for a Christian Church

Likewise, Gentile Christians are in brotherhood with Jewish Christians, reckoned as spiritually circumcised in heart (Rom 2:26) and thus joined to Abraham through faith (Gal 3:29). Here then is racial diversity within spiritual unity, in the same way as a Christian man and wife are diverse in their spiritual unity (Gal 3:28). This same diversity in unity is strongly intimated in Rom 15:8-9 since “Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God, to confirm the promises to the fathers, and so that Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy” because of their inclusion as Gentiles with the fathers.

-Pastor Barry E. Horner
“Chapter 10: Israel and a Romans 11 Synthesis” (pg 278)
Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged

Hoch also quoted A.T. Hanson on this issue. While explaining that the prevailing interpretation of Phil 3:3 identifies the “we” as all true Christians, Hanson nevertheless declared that this understanding…

…seems quite foreign to Paul’s thought and means actually reading into Philippians ideas which seem to have originated at the time of the Reformation…The Philippians, being Gentiles, would have no reason to boast in the flesh anyway. Paul goes on to describe what he means by this phrase in the ensuing verses: it is plain that he means boasting of the national and spiritual privileges peculiar to the Jews. This the Philippians could not do…It is simpler to take “we” here as “we believing Jews”, or even “we, Paul and Timothy”, in whose name the letter is written. We know that Timothy was circumcised. So there is no good reason for maintaining that the use of “the circumcision” here suggests that Paul could apply the name Israel to Gentiles.

-A.T. Hanson, The Pioneer Ministry (London: SCM, 1961), 35
as quoted in Horner, pg 277

There’s really a lot going on in this chapter of Horner’s book, but space won’t allow me to insert all of the relevant quotes. If I tried, I might as well just copy and paste the chapter in verbatim. Actually, I’m not just writing another anti-supersessionism rant. I have a different, but related purpose for this “extra meditation” today.

I don’t agree with everything each of these gentlemen says in their respective books, but they are still refreshing to me. I tend to read mostly Jewish commentaries, but I’ve been reading Horner as part of my research into superessionism relative to my ongoing series on that topic in FFOZ’s Messiah Journal. What’s really exciting is that I’m reading the works of Christian authors and Pastors who actually agree that the church has not replaced the Jews in the covenant promises. I know they’re out there somewhere. Now if only I could find them.

Let me explain.

Not long ago, I discovered that “plan A” wasn’t going to work. Plan A was my separating from active participation in Messianic Jewish worship (One Law, anyway) for the purpose (well, it’s one of the reasons) of joining my wife in classes and services at our local Reform and Chabad synagogues. It took awhile, but I eventually discovered that it wasn’t just my former association with Messianic Judaism that made my wife hesitant to include me in that part of her life. It is my active and continuing faith as a Christian.

That’s not something I’m going to walk away from, even for the slim chance that my wife would feel more comfortable including me in her Jewish communities (and I don’t think it would do any good anyway). So plan A is shot to heck. Now I can either exist in isolation as a person of faith, or I can attempt to find some sort of community in which to participate as a Christian. But that presents a problem.

I previously wrote at length regarding all the roadblocks that stand in the way of my attending a church. On the other hand, there must be some churches that aren’t dripping with supersessionist rhetoric, aren’t there? I decided to look for one by querying a Christian Discussion Group several days ago. As the saying goes, except for one person trying to convince me that the church has replaced the Jews, the silence has been deafening (a second, more helpful person, responded while I was composing this blog).

But then, you have these Christian authors that make such encouraging statements. I mean, do these guys worship in heavily anti-Jewish churches and just keep their mouths shut, or are there actual havens of sanity and brotherhood under the sign of the cross? You couldn’t prove the latter by me, but since I’m facing a move to “plan B” now, I need to start somewhere.

I haven’t the faintest idea how to “shop” for a church.

I’ve occasionally talked to people who have been around churches for decades and can go into a church and assess its theology and how it operates almost immediately. They tell me what they see and hear that convinces them that the church is this and that, but I haven’t the faintest idea what they’re talking about. I went to a Lutheran church as a kid and then, decades later, I “came to the Lord” (I hate to say it, but “Christianese” still makes me crazy) in a Nazarene church (which ultimately turned out to be a bad experience, with a few bright spots mixed in), but that’s it. I don’t know from larger “organized Christianity”. The church, as in “all churches everywhere,” is a mystery to me. Actually, given my general outlook, the idea of “church shopping” makes me nervous.

But I’m getting a little tired of only being able to talk about what I think, feel, and believe in a virtual environment. It would be nice to occasionally address human beings face to face. However, I don’t want to get into a verbal “knock down-drag out” in a church because I don’t comfortably blend in to the homogenous Christian scenery, relative to Judaism. If I encounter a supersessionist attitude or worse, an anti-Semitic one, I’m liable to take it personally since my wife and kids are Jewish.

Does anyone have any ideas as to how to proceed? I’m not necessarily in a rush, and in fact, I’d like to plot, plan, and scheme, so to speak, about my next move. I have to admit, the thought of walking into a church again is intimidating. I call myself a Christian but socially, (which is a lot of what going to church is about) I’m anything but.

If you aren’t a regular visitor on this blog, you’ll need to get some idea of who I am and where I’m coming from. Since I more or less wear my heart on my sleeve when I write, just read four or five of my blog posts (the most recent, or pick some at random), and you’ll get a pretty good idea about how I see things.

Oh, I live near Boise, Idaho if that helps any.

Thanks.

Debating Fulfillment Theology

This “logic” is plainly presented in Galatians 3. God had a very good reason to institute the Law of Moses and it has nothing to with “bait and switch.” It had to do with point and lead until the fulfillment of its goal. The emphasis of the salvation that was to come for all of mankind goes back to the promise made to Abraham.

-Eugene Adkins
in his January 27 comment on my blog post
The Lord’s Sabbath

This understanding of the function of a paidagogos clears up Galatians 3:23, where Paul says, “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed” (Galatians 3:23). The paidagogos was the child’s guardian, not his jailer. When we understand that the paidagogos was responsible for protecting, supervising, and directing a child, then we have a better understanding of how the Greek text of Galatians 3:23 should be rendered in English. The Greek word which the English Standard Version translates as “held captive” has a different connotation. It can also be rendered as “protected,” “kept safe,” or “guarded.” The word should be understood as speaking about how a pedagogue kept a child safe and out of trouble. Similarly, the Greek word which the ESV translates as “imprisoned” (the same word appears in 3:22) can be rendered as “kept in” or “enclosed” in a positive sense. The word should be understood as speaking about how a pedagogue kept a child inside for his school lessons. He did not allow the child to run off and follow his friends into trouble. He kept him shut up inside for the purpose of education and protection.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
“Sermon Eighteen: The Pedagogue (Galatians 3:19-26), pg 182
The Holy Epistle to the Galatians
First Fruits of Zion
August 2011

Ziesler, “Role of the Tenth Commandment,” p. 50, makes the important observation in Rom. 8:4 of the use of the singular…(“requirement”) in Paul’s conclusion: “having talked in 7.1-6 about dying to the Law, Paul now in a notably bald statement appears to bring us back to life again in relation to the Law, if not under it. We died to the Law in order to keep it better.” He further suggests that this singular reference keeps the singular sin of covetousness in perspective (pp.50-51).

Snodgrass, “Spheres of Influence,” p. 107 states: “If the law is not involved in salvation, then sin is a victor because it defeated God’s law which was for life (7.12.10). But now the law is placed within the sphere of the Spirit (cf. 8.4), where it belongs (7.14). The law in the right sphere frees us from the tyranny of the law in the sphere of sin. I do not think we can ignore a reference to the OT law. It is through the law that Paul died to the law.”

Footnotes 55 and 56
from “Summary and Appendix I,” pp 365-66
in the Mark D. Nanos book
The Mystery of the Romans
Fortress Press (1996)

Important Note! Please read the first comment made by Eugene Adkins below, as he corrects some mistakes I made about his background and role. I apologize to Eugene and to everyone reading this for my errors.

I’ve been debating with Pastor Eugene Adkins in the comments section of my blog post The Lord’s Sabbath regarding what he refers to as “fulfillment theology” and what I consider supersessionism or “replacement theology” (see our series of comments on the aforementioned blog post for full details of this discussion and specifically Pastor Adkins’ comments submitted on Jan 27, 2012 @ 17:31 hours).

In response to some of Pastor Atkins’ points, I’ve quoted from both Lancaster’s recent Galatians book and the classic Nanos tome on Romans (or rather, some footnotes contained within the Nanos book). I’m doing this for several reasons. The first is that, unlike Pastor Adkins, I do not have a post-graduate degree in any form of religious studies (I assume as a Pastor that Adkins is so educated) and thus do not have skill sets equal to his own as far as debating the scriptures. In order to support my arguments, I must rely on the scholarship of external sources, namely the previously mentioned Lancaster and Nanos books.

Secondly, I want to introduce valid and scholarly sources that refute or at least bring into question the traditional Christian view that the Torah was only temporary for the Jewish people (and I have never said that the Law was intended to apply equally to the Jewish and Gentile disciples of Jesus in any equal fashion) and that once Christ lived, died, was resurrected, and ascended, that the Law became null and void (or “fulfilled” in the sense that its temporary purpose as completely satisfied and then ended), and wholly replaced by what Pastor Adkins refers to as Christ’s “international covenant” that applies uniformly to Jewish and non-Jewish disciples of Jesus. I’m trying to point out here that perhaps Pastor Adkins’ interpretation of scripture (which seems to be the interpretation of the church in general) is not the only possible way to understand what Paul was saying to the congregations of Rome and Galatia.

Finally, I want to be fair. There is a tremendous tendency for me to simply dig in my heels, say “you’re wrong,” and base my subsequent responses on my emotional states, particularly those that have to do with Christian supersessionism and its terrible (and often fatal) effect upon the Jewish people across 2,000 years of church history. But that’s not the right thing to do. I want to respond based not only on my spiritual “understanding” of God’s relationship with both Jews and Gentiles (which is completely subjective and therefore, unable to be objectively demonstrated) but on Biblical scholarship as well. The problem here is that I’m like Woody Allen trying to go a few rounds in the ring with Mike Tyson as far as our relative educational backgrounds go (well, probably not that bad).

I have two undergraduate degrees and a post-grad degree, but none of them are in subjects relevant to this conversation. Given my job, my book writing, and my family commitments, I don’t have the time or other resources to go back to school and take another degree, or to perform the necessary research to adequately respond to all of the specific points being brought up in this discussion in order to sufficiently represent my point of view. I believe I’m right based on everything I’ve learned thus far, but belief isn’t enough. I must have proof beyond what I have already demonstrated, both online and in print. Also, assuming that I can be wrong (and I know I can be), I need to either confirm or refute my current belief system using concrete evidence (or as “concrete” as anything gets in theological debates).

That’s where you, dear readers, come in. I’m calling for backup. Or I’m willing to be presented with irrefutable proof that the New Testament writings can be interpreted in one and only one, single manner, and that the one and only interpretation is held under lock and key by the 21st century evangelical Christian church. I personally don’t think it is, but like I said, I want to be fair.

I want to say to you personally Eugene, that I’m not writing this to try and be mean or unfeeling or offensive in any way. I know you are sincere and are representing the truth based on everything you’ve been taught and everything you believe, both intellectually and through your faith. I don’t have a problem with any of that. None of this is motivated by any dislike of or anger toward you. I respect your service to God and thank you for continuing to participate in our dialog rather than summarily “writing me off” as some sort of “religious nut.”

My problem with the traditional Christian position on supersessionism is that, even clothed in a pleasing and benign exterior, this “fulfillment theology” is a nearly 2,000 year old artifact that was first created when the schism between Jewish and non-Jewish believers began to develop and then exploded across the early history of the church, in order to artificially justify the ascension of the Gentiles over the Jews in Messiah, and to literally re-write the nature and character of Christian vs. Jewish “Messianism,” as we see in part here:

The destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and the subsequent expulsion of the majority of Jews from what would be called Palestine marked a disastrous shift in the Jewish authority over the Messianic community. Up until that time, the head of the Jerusalem leadership of the Messianic community, otherwise referred to as “the bishop of the church”, had always been Jewish. Once the Jews were expelled from Jerusalem by Hadrian, for the first time a Gentile had to be elected into the role. As events moved forward from that point in time, the Gentile presence in the Messianic community grew dramatically while the Jewish leaders and worshipers of Yeshua struggled under the heartbreak of the loss of the Temple and the ejection from their land. Scant decades later, the failure of the Gentile “church” to support the Jewish revolt of Bar Koshba drove another significant wedge between the Jewish Messianic community and the body of Gentile believers.

With the Jewish population now scattered, humiliated, and fearing destruction at the hands of the Romans, the Gentile Messianics continued to secure their dominance and control of the worship of Yeshua. The self-identity of the Gentile Christians shifted from grafted-in to the root of Judaism through Abrahamic faith to the new inheritors of the Messiah, replacing Israel on a spiritual level. Origin of Alexandria and Justin Martyr were the earliest authors of this tradition and among the first to declare that the church had superseded Israel. Attached to this belief was the rise of Christian blame against the Jews for the murder of Jesus. The Jews became unworthy of their own Messiah and were pushed out of the worship of Yeshua by the Gentile disciples they had once taught and nurtured.

-James Pyles
Excerpt from “Origins of Supersessionism in the Church” (pp. 33-34)
Messiah Journal
Issue 109/Winter 2012

I previously said that I don’t have an advanced degree in religious studies, but as a published author, I do know how to do research, including delving into the history of how “the Way,” which started as a sect of Judaism inclusive of non-Jews but administered and guided by Jewish mentors who understood God and Messiah in a completely Jewish religious framework, into a newly created non-Jewish religion which found it necessary to eliminate any aspects of Judaism from its background.  In my review of the early church, I could see the early “church fathers” virtually reframe the letters of the early Jewish disciples, principally written by Paul, into words that would ultimately be used to discount and eventually all but exterminate the Jewish people.

I’m opening this blog post up for debate on the pros and cons of “fulfillment theology” and asking for those who are far wiser and much better educated and I in religious subjects to enter into the conversation. I do insist however, that this conversation remain polite and respectful. Disagreement is absolutely no excuse for undue emotionalism or any personalizing of conflict. Any apparent “attacks” on someone who differs from your point of view will not be tolerated and I, as the blog owner, reserve the right to edit or delete any offensive comments at my discretion.

This debate is specifically focused on the pros and cons of “supersessionism,” “replacement theology,” “fulfillment theology,” or whatever else you want to call it. It is NOT about One Law or Two House perspectives, so I am not inviting statements on those viewpoints to be presented here. If you find it necessary to disregard my wishes in this, your comments will be removed. Thank you.

With those disclaimers out of the way, please feel free to refer back to the full stream of comments on the “Sabbath” blog post, then return here and discuss how you support or refute my statements and Pastor Adkins’s statements. Please cite specific Biblical or other sources to support your arguments. I am asking for information, not unbridled passion.

One last thing before we begin. Eugene, you previously said:

How is lighting candles a confirmation of Jesus’ grace if that person doesn’t believe in Jesus to begin with?

Shabbat candlesI do have faith in Jesus, as you do Eugene. Watching the lighting the Shabbos candles is a beautiful and unique way of inviting him into my home and to experience something of a preview of his return to us, may it be soon and in our days. If perhaps, your comment were meant as a remark toward my wife who is Jewish but not a believer, I can only ask that you try to consider her with the same compassion and love that God has toward His am segulah; His “wondrous and treasured people” (Exodus 19:5). I can’t tell your attitude toward Jews and thus toward my wife and children through our “text-only” conversation, but if you cannot see them with the same compassion as God does, and believe God has discounted if not completely destroyed them, then I suppose my argument has already been made for me.

With that, I look forward to everyone’s contribution now and in the days ahead. I hope to learn a lot.

Origins of Supersessionism: My Upcoming Article for Messiah Journal

Occasionally I receive a few complements from folks who think well of my blog and who suggest that I should do more formal kinds of writing in religious publications. While it’s very flattering to receive such attention, since I don’t have a formal education in theology, I thought such a contribution to be beyond my current skill sets. However, that has changed.

Several months ago, Boaz Michael, the Founder and President of First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ), asked me to write a four-part series on Replacement Theology or Supersessionism for their quarterly publication Messiah Journal (MJ). The series will touch upon the historic origins of Supersessionism, its placement in Christian doctrines, how Supersessionism affects the Church and Jewish people today, and how the Church can leave Supersessionism behind. One article in the series will be published in each of 2012’s quarterly releases of MJ. According to Toby Janicki at FFOZ, the issue of Messiah Journal containing my article should be available by the end of January. Look for “Origins of Supersessionism in the Church” in the January 2012 (#109) issue of Messiah Journal.

I want to take this opportunity to say that I am deeply honored Boaz and the fine folks at FFOZ considered me for this project and am gratified that I can offer my small talents in the service of their ministry and in service to God.

Blessings.