Tag Archives: Torah

Starting to Explore the Divine Code

divine code
Cover for the Divine Code found at Amazon.com

I belong to a private Facebook group for “Messianic Gentiles.” Sometime ago, I was invited to join by a friend of mine but I don’t participate often; hardly ever in fact. However, I do read their content with interest.

Over the past year or more, a number of members  have been exploring the role of the Noahide as a model for developing the relationship a “Messianic Gentile” should have with Messianic Judaism and Judaism in general. It’s an interesting effort though I am cautious about applying that role across the board to those like me. After all, by necessity, it requires the Noahide to have no affiliation with or worship of Yeshua as Israel’s Messianic King. Besides, I don’t know if the Noahide Laws and their subsets compare favorably with the Acts 15 instructions for Gentiles who have come alongside Israel through faith in our Rav.

That said, I occasionally get promotional and informational emails from AskNoah.org which is a Noahide site administered by Orthodox Jews. Today, I got one mentioning a brand new eBook, The Divine Code, Parts I-iV: The Guide to Observing the Noahide Code, Revealed from Mount Sinai in the Torah of Moses.

It’s certainly intriguing, since it’s an Orthodox Jewish perspective on how (or if) the Torah can be applied to righteous Gentiles. I’m not overly enthusiastic about it explaining who I am in terms of Judaism as a disciple of Rav Yeshua, but it was priced reasonably, so I downloaded it to my Kindle Fire.

I’ve been pretty busy lately, so aside from my daily reading of the Bible, I haven’t had a lot of time for consuming books. However this one might be interesting, at least as far as my reviewing it for this blog.

Who knows what may come of it? I’ll let you know.

Advertisements

What Does “Torah” Mean To You?

For clarification, by the word “Torah,” I do not just mean the Torah, as in the Five Books of Moses, but to all Jewish religious texts such the Hebrew Bible, rabbinic and halakhic texts, and kabbalistic and hasidic texts.

-Rabbi Joel E. Hoffman
“Why I Learn Torah Daily”
Aish.com

This somewhat dovetails with what I wrote in The Torah Without Judaism, and particularly the brief exchange I had in the comments section of that blog post with reader ProclaimLiberty.

The question for the Messianic and particularly the “Messianic Gentile” or “Talmid Yeshua” is what the word “Torah” means to us.

There’s probably no one answer, since depending on the given disciple, Jewish or Gentile, the perspective is going to vary.

What do I mean by “Torah?”

This is just my personal opinion. I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do. But I think it’s a helpful question we should all ask ourselves periodically, rather than just assume that our answer is “the answer.”

From my point of view, “Torah” includes the whole Bible, and by that I mean the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets, the Writings, and the Apostolic Scriptures. However, I also habitually read articles and commentaries found at Aish.com and Chabad.org, mainly to get a Jewish viewpoint on what I’m studying.

Granted, I am doing a lot of mental editing when I read content from those resources, since those sites and their information are written by and for Jews, not Gentiles, particularly not for Christians, and absolutely not for anyone with my unique conceptualization of scripture, Messiah, and Hashem.

christian books
Photo: sharonglasgow.com

I don’t typically read traditional Christian resources, even though they are far more Yeshua (Jesus) focused, because, frankly, I just don’t relate to them. I’ve always had a problem with “Christianese,” even when I first became a believer about twenty years ago.

I do read the occasional Christian-oriented book here and there, but either I don’t get very much out of them, or I actively criticize their content.

There have been other resources I have heavily consumed in the past, and they still guide the majority of my thinking and beliefs, but for a variety of reasons, I’ve chosen not to pursue them further, at least to any significant degree.

I have become aware that a debate somewhat like the one I previously mentioned is occurring at a Hebrew Roots blogspot, and the discussion there is very contentious.

However, the blog owner did provide a link to a brief review of a book by Rabbi Chaim Clorfene called The World of the Ger. You can learn more about it at the blog Soul Mazal.

I know that there are some “Messianic Gentiles” who at least suggest the path of the Noahide is an appropriate journey for them/us as well, and I’ve written on this before.

I think there are some things we might take from that example, but it’s also filled with trap doors and land mines. It’s far too easy for some of us to confuse our faith in Hashem and devotion to our Rav with the practice of Judaism or Noahidism. Hence the fact that we see some non-Jews in our communities as well as in churches leave Yeshua-faith and either join the ranks of the Noahide or convert to (Orthodox) Judaism.

It would almost be better for believing Gentiles to stay in their churches rather than take such a risk.

But then, in my opinion, their perspectives regarding what the Bible really says about Israel, the Jewish people, the redemption of the world, and yes, about Judaism, would remain limited if not misguided.

studyAs with many other questions I bring up, I don’t have a hard and fast answer for you. Interestingly enough, this brings us back to Rabbi Hoffman’s brief essay:

I learn Torah every day because it gives me a cohesive set of answers to all of the ultimate questions.

I suppose, from Rabbi Hoffman’s perspective, it does, but it doesn’t work that way for me. I still have far more questions than I do “ultimate” answers.

But here’s another wrinkle R. Hoffman introduces:

I learn Torah every day because it connects me with the millions of other Jews worldwide who also learn Torah every day.

That works if you are a religious Jew, but not so much for we non-Jews, even Noahides, I suspect. After all, how Torah applies to the Ger is remarkably different from how it applies to the Jew, at least in the details, although keep in mind that I also previously mentioned a private Jewish school in Utah that teaches Jewish values to a student body made up of 75% non-Jews.

And that’s one of the reasons, maybe one of my top reasons, for studying the Torah as I understand it. To seek a common ground where I as a non-Jew can stand and learn who God is and who I am to Him through a Jewish lens.

But I craft that “lens” to fit more my particular “eyesight” requirements, since I’m not a Jew and I consider myself more than a Noahide.

The one advantage I have is that I stand outside of actual, face-to-face Jewish or Christian community. Neither one can have too strong a pull on me, although the Pastor at the church I attended for two years certainly tried as hard as he could to turn me into a good Baptist.

But since, as I’ve admitted, I find Jewish thought more appealing, I suppose if I were constantly exposed to Jewish community of the non-Messianic variety, I’d be putting myself at risk of being influenced to the point of challenging my faith. I don’t know if it would go that far, but why take the chance?

That may be why so many of us are unaffiliated, although there are plenty of other reasons.

Laying TefillinIf I study Torah as I understand it and don’t adopt the praxis of Judaism, I can’t be as strongly influenced to confuse Judaism with my identity and role as God created them for me. I also can’t be accused (as sometimes occurs) of misappropriating the things unique to the covenant relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people, such as Shabbat, Kosher, the prayers, donning a tallit gadol, or laying tefillin.

If you’re Jewish, then I say what’s yours is yours.

If I’m not Jewish and I don’t identify as a traditional Christian, all that’s left, assuming I retain my Yeshua-faith, is a journey to discover who I am uniquely in my relationship with my Rav.

If you confuse that with either Judaism or Christianity, you might already have lost your way.

The Torah Without Judaism?

The article got me thinking; why don’t we create a 30-Day Challenge for Jewish things like mitzvot to help Jewish people undertake a new level of commitment? After all, Judaism is not an all or nothing religion. Whatever steps a person takes to follow the mitzvot, no matter what level or station of life they are at, that is always a plus and to be applauded and celebrated. If you don’t observe Shabbat but decide to light candles, then good for you! That’s a great positive step. Doing that one thing is better than doing nothing. Judaism is a journey that is taken one step at a time.

-Rabbi Tzvi Nightingale
“The 30-Day Jewish Challenge”
Aish.com

It’s Friday afternoon at the McGillis School in Salt Lake City, and students from the third through fifth grades are gathered for the weekly Shabbat celebration.

They read and discuss a passage about humility by former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Then a blond girl with braided hair prepares to light the candles. A hush falls over the room as the flames are kindled, and the students recite the practiced benediction in unison:

“As we bless this source of light, the warmth these candles bring reminds us of times we gave light and received light,” they sing, followed by a recitation of the traditional Shabbat candle-lighting blessing in Hebrew.

The ceremony is not dissimilar from weekly Shabbat celebrations held in Jewish schools across America.

Except for one thing: The student lighting the candles isn’t Jewish. Nor is the one who follows her to recite the kiddush blessing over grape juice. Nor the one after that who recites Hamotzi over the challah bread.

-Uriel Heilman
“With 75% non-Jewish students, Utah’s Jewish school seeks to universalize Judaism”
Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)

I had a good conversation with a friend of mine over coffee last Sunday. However, things became a bit “pointed” when the discussion turned to “Judaism vs. Torah.” I know that’s a strange thing to say, but bear with me.

I actually haven’t talked with anyone on this topic in quite some time…maybe for years. It’s the same old saw I used to see wheeled out when I was active in the Hebrew Roots movement; the idea that one can be obedient, or subservient, or compliant to the written Torah without having any sort of involvement with the Talmud or otherwise, the “oral Law”.

My friend referenced two groups of Jews in Israel he has some familiarity with…well, he’s familiar with one group more than the other.

synagogueHe says one group is active in encouraging Messianic Jews in the Land to start attending synagogue services within normative (probably Orthodox) Judaism as opposed to meeting with Messianic Jewish congregations. I don’t know how true this is since I’m getting it third hand, but it’s something to consider.

The other group (I’m purposely not naming names), the one my friend is more familiar with, are Messianic Jews who live their lives observing the written Torah and only the written Torah as they understand it.

Granted, from an outsider’s point of view, many of the customs of say, the Breslovers may seem archaic and odd, but I just don’t see how one can observe the mitzvot without consulting the Rabbis, at least to some degree. This is because the written portion of the Torah doesn’t always describe how to perform the mitzvot. Apart from the Karaites, all religious Jews rely on Rabbinic rulings and traditions to help them navigate the Torah, although according to the Wikipedia page I just referenced:

Karaite Jews do not object to the idea of a body of interpretation of the Torah, along with extensions and development of non-Rabbinic Halakha (Jewish law) that strives to adhere to the Tanakh’s straightforward meaning. Several hundred such books have been written by various Karaite Ḥakhamim (sages) throughout the movement’s history, although most are lost today.

This begs the question of whether or not modern Rabbinic Judaism is an absolute requirement for Jewish (or non-Jewish) Torah observance. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

My friend has certain problems with modern Judaism, such as why the majority of religious Jews aren’t trying to be a light to the nations.

He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Isaiah 49:6 (NASB)

I did mention that The Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, actively promoted Noahidism among the Gentiles. Granted, this probably isn’t what my friend meant when he said Israel is commanded to be a light to the nations, but from the Rebbe’s point of view, that’s exactly what he was doing.

The RebbeOn the other hand, the article published by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency shows at least one Jewish school being that light:

“We have Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and LDS students,” said head of school Matt Culberson, using the acronym for Latter-day Saints, or Mormons. “But this school takes Jewish culture as its foundational point. We start with Judaism first.”

The outgrowth of a JCC early childhood program that morphed into an independent K-8 school about 15 years ago, McGillis may be the only American Jewish school of its kind. The vast majority of its students – 75 percent – are not Jewish, by the administration’s reckoning. And though McGillis teaches Jewish values, Jewish holidays and Hebrew, it does not teach Judaism as a religion.

And what are Jewish values without the Jewish religion as such?

Practically everywhere you turn, identical blue posters advertise the school’s guiding Jewish values: tzedakah (translated as “giving to others”); tikkun olam (“repairing the world”); gemilut hasadim (“doing good and kind deeds”); derech eretz (“having respect for all”); limud l’shma (“learning for the sake of learning”), and kehillah (“our community”). Students, teachers and administrators constantly reference these values, albeit sometimes straining to pronounce the Hebrew.

Yes, I can certainly see those values being universal in scope and not restricted to the Torah, the Jewish people, and Judaism, although these values are exemplified in Judaism.

They probably are in Christianity as well, at least most of them, but I’m sure Christians would have different names for those values and activities.

And I did tell my friend that if he believes Judaism is a poor reflection of the Torah as it was originally understood and lived out by the ancient Israelites, then Christianity is just as poor a reflection of the teachings of Rav Yeshua (Jesus) and his emissary to the people of the nations, Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul).

So should we attempt to reconstruct the Torah observance of the ancient Israelites and the devotion to Rav Yeshua of the very early non-Jewish disciples? I’m not sure how we could do it with any hope of accuracy. Too many Hebrew Roots people who think they have done so marshal a whole lot of chutzpah and much too little respect, and occasionally march into synagogues to tell the Rabbi that he is doing it all wrong.

I have a rather unique view of my local Jewish community through the eyes of my wife, so I’m quite aware of how Jewish people take to such bold intrusions into their space.

PogromI tried to explain to my friend that after nearly two-thousand years of persecution, pogroms, maimings, and murder committed upon the Jewish people by their non-Jewish neighbors (most often Christians), I can see why Jews aren’t falling all over themselves to share their version of the “good news” of the Torah with the rest of the world. Jewish insularity and Talmud have gone a long way to preserve the Jewish people and Judaism, when the rest of us were trying to wipe both from the face of the Earth.

He reminded me that there have been groups of Christian missionaries who have been wiped out by indigenous people in far off corners of the world, at least historically, who have then been followed by more missionaries, risking their own lives, who eventually did share the salvation of Christ with the folks who had butchered their predecessors.

And while I admire the courage of these missionaries, and do not in the slightest demean their accomplishments, it’s one thing for a single, isolated people group to kill one party of missionaries, and another thing entirely for the vast majority of this planet’s population to continually attempt genocide against the Jewish people as a religion and a race.

And if God intends on judging the Jewish people along with the rest of us, that’s God’s privilege, not mine.

Apart from small groups of Messianic Jews (or non-Jews) who believe they can disregard Rabbinic Judaism out of hand and practice a greater fidelity to the Torah and to God by doing so, the majority of religious Jews, Messianic and otherwise, observe the mitzvot and serve Hashem within the religious, cultural, social, and historical context of Judaism.

As we saw in the JTA article, Judaism can successfully transmit universal moral values to non-Jews without necessarily transmitting Judaism as a religious construct.

When brings me back to Rabbi Nightingale’s 30-Day Jewish Challenge, as well as to the idea of a Torah observance without Judaism.

Whether you care to admit it or not, your worship of God operates within a specific religious, social, cultural, and community context. Even if you are alone in your faith as I am, you get your understanding and interpretation of the Bible from somewhere, and your praxis was probably not invented just by you.

Some sort of organized body or bodies imparted all that upon you, and you continue with it because it makes sense to you, even if your religion and practices don’t always make sense to others.

Within the various streams of mainstream Judaism, Judaism makes sense to religious Jews. The same can be said for the numerous denominations of Christianity. That an outside observer can criticize and point to portions of the Bible that seem to contradict the activities within those branches and denominations, doesn’t mean it’s seen the same way from the inside.

McGillis School
Head of School Matt Culberson says the McGillis School tries to inculcate the school’s guiding Jewish principles across the curriculum. (Uriel Heilman)

No system is perfect, and a lot of systems are dysfunctional, but when you say that Judaism is broken because it treats the Talmud as more authoritative than the Torah, you are making that statement from inside some system, not from a 100% objective understanding of the Torah.

If you say that Judaism is biased in a particular way, so are you. We all are. No one exists without bias, without a perspective, without an interpretation.

I’m not in any shape to be tilting at windmills. I’ve got enough to deal with in my own life. Sure, sometimes I take a stab at religious criticism, but I don’t like to make a habit of it.

If I have to judge, I guess I’ll start with myself. If, in any sense, I can be successful in practicing charity, repairing the world, doing good and kind deeds, having respect for all, and learning for the sake of learning (I don’t have a kehillah or community, so that one’s out), then maybe I’m not doing so bad (although a 30-day challenge or some other form of “upping my game” wouldn’t hurt).

If I look at other communities and they’re doing the same thing, maybe they’re not doing so bad either.

Final word. In case you’re wondering, I’m not trying to bang away at my friend. We don’t always agree on everything, but we do get along, and I cherish our relationship. He’s a kind, intelligent person who I believe is close to the Spirit of God and who walks in the footsteps of our Rav.

May it be that way for all of us.

R.C. Sproul, Jesus, and the Doctrine of Active Obedience

I don’t think there’s any more important text in all the New Testament that defines the work of Jesus than this one. That Jesus was sent to fulfill all righteousness. And what that meant to the Jew was to obey every jot and tittle of the Law. Because now Jesus is not acting in His baptism for Himself, but for His people. And if His people are required to keep the Ten Commandments, He keeps the Ten Commandments. If His people are now required to submit to this baptismal ritual, He submits to it in their behalf. Because the redemption that is brought by Christ is not restricted to His death on the cross.

-R.C. Sproul
“Jesus and His Active Obedience”
from an excerpt of his teaching series, “What Did Jesus Do?”
Ligonier.org

The video and transcript (you can access both by clicking the link above) were posted online on February 16th, and a Facebook friend (amazingly, someone I’ve actually met once face-to-face) posted the video and some commentary on his own Facebook page (I’m sorry I can’t actually embed the video into this blog post, since I can only find code to do that compatible with YouTube).

I don’t normally weigh in on this sort of thing, and I’ve been trying to distance myself from constantly reviewing and criticizing Christian sermons and teachings, but I’ve heard of Dr. Sproul before in relation to John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” conference of a few years back, and I even reviewed Sproul’s Strange Fire sermon, so naturally, I was curious.

r.c sproul
Image: Ligonier.org

The video is less than four-and-a-half minutes long, so I figured it wouldn’t take up too much of my time to hear what he had to say. Besides, the people commenting on this snippet seemed mostly favorable of it.

Sproul offered two competing doctrinal positions as the core of his sermon: Passive Obedience and Active Obedience.

In Passive Obedience, all Jesus had to do was obey God by suffering the pain and curse of dying on the cross so that we would all be absolved of our sins. Our sins are transferred to Jesus, he takes on the penalty of death for all our sins so that we don’t have to die, and we become innocent before God.

Sproul says we would be innocent but not righteous, sinless but with no track record of obedience, and thus not able to become righteous.

So what has to happen to make us innocent and righteous?

Sproul doesn’t think Jesus had a three-year ministry for nothing. In those three years, post his baptism by water and the Holy Spirit, Jesus lived a life consistent with Jewish religious and lifestyle praxis, but doing so perfectly, observing all of the mitzvot that applied to him as a Jewish male living in Israel during the late Second Temple period with an active Levitical priesthood and Sanhedrin court system (a lot of the mitzvot can’t be obeyed by a Jew living outside of Israel or in the absence of the Temple, the priesthood, and the Sanhedrin).

Active Obedience, according to Sproul, is Jesus deliberately observing all of the relevant mitzvot perfectly and without fault, failure, or even an occasional omission. He did so because his Jewish people were unable to be perfectly obedient. Thus Jesus was obedient for his people. His righteousness transferred to the Jewish people making it as if they had been perfectly obedient.

sefer torahSo what’s all that got to do with the rest of us, that is, we non-Jewish believers?

Sproul skips over the impact to Jewish Israel and goes into what this does for the modern Christian:

What does Jesus do? He obeys the Law perfectly, receives the blessing, and not the curse. But there’s a double imputation that we will look at later at the cross, where my sin is transferred to His account, my sin is carried over and laid upon Him in the cross. But in our redemption, His righteousness is imputed to us—which righteousness He wouldn’t have if He didn’t live this life of perfect obedience. So what I’m saying to you is that His life of perfect obedience is just as necessary for our salvation as His perfect atonement on the cross. Because there’s double imputation. My sin to Him, His righteousness to me. So that, that is what the Scripture is getting at when it says Jesus is our righteousness.

So somehow, Christ’s perfect obedience of the mitzvot, which made him perfectly righteous, transfers to us, we non-Jewish believers in Jesus, while his death on the cross allows our sins to be transferred to him, and thus Jesus died in our sins so we wouldn’t have to pay the penalty ourselves.

A nice, neatly wrapped little package. However, the package has a few holes in it.

Sproul didn’t tie any of this back to the New Covenant, particularly the New Covenant language we find in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36, nor did he account for the fact that Jeremiah 31:31-34 states that the only two named participants of the New Covenant are the House of Judah and the House of Israel. The non-Jewish nations are not included (it takes a lot of study to actually find the connection, so you might want to review this summary for some of the details).

So how can Christ’s righteousness because of his Torah obedience have anything to do with us? At best, it would transfer to the Jewish people across all time because he perfectly obeyed the mitzvot when Jewish people aren’t always perfect (who is?).

Sproul also missed this definition of righteousness:

Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Genesis 15:6 (NASB)

AbrahamGranted, the issue of righteousness is more complex than this, but it would seem that at its core, having full trust in God is the very essence of righteousness. Everything else flows from that trust.

Beyond all this, Sproul doesn’t say what happens to Torah obedience post-crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. If Sproul is a traditional fundamentalist Christian Pastor, he most likely believes that once Jesus “fulfilled” (annulled) the Sinai covenant God made with Israel, it ceased to have any continued function for the Jewish people. Since no one but Jesus could keep the commandments perfectly, no one could earn perfect righteousness on his or her own.

Nor did they need to. All they had to do was come to faith in Jesus Christ, his obedience to God through the Torah, and his atoning death on the cross, and he or she would merit full righteousness and total forgiveness of sins (In other words, Jewish people would have to give up Jewish religious practice, stop being Jews, and convert to Christianity, all in order to worship their own Jewish King).

Sproul does weave a tale that has Jesus living the life of a totally obedient and observant Jew, but only for the purpose of attaining perfect righteousness that could then be transferred to his believers.

If you are a regular reader of this blogspot, I’m sure you realize that I disagree with Dr. Sproul about the nature of the covenants and the part the New Covenant plays in the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people and national Israel.

I told one of my sons the other evening (his mother is Jewish, so he’s Jewish) that Jews are the only people who are born into a covenant relationship with God whether they want to be or not.

I realize that, relative to Genesis 9 and the Noahide covenant, the same could be said for all humanity, but most of humanity doesn’t know and doesn’t care about the covenant God made with Noah and its presumed relevance to us today.

On the other hand, even a secular Jew is at least aware of the Mount Sinai event, the covenant made by Hashem, and the stated set of responsibilities and obligations the Jewish people have to God, to the Torah, to the Land of Israel, to humanity, and to the planet. They just choose to disregard those responsibilities (or most of them) for whatever reason.

MessiahRav Yeshua (Jesus) is the mediator of the New Covenant. Yeshua’s coming was indeed a pivotal point in not only the history of the Jewish people, but human history. He came as a messenger to demonstrate that all of the New Covenant promises God made to Israel would indeed come to pass over the course of time. Hashem sent Yeshua to make a partial payment on those promises.

Those down payments are highlighted in a sermon review I wrote a year-and-a-half ago:

He also said that the sign of the New Covenant is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which we see famously in Acts 2 with the Jewish Apostles and Acts 10 with the Gentile Cornelius and his entire household. We also know from 2 Corinthians 3:3, 2 Corinthians 5:5, and Ephesians 1:13-14 that the Holy Spirit given to believers is but a down-payment, a token, a small deposit on the whole sum that will not be delivered in full until the resurrection.

Click the link above to find out more about the purpose of Rav Yeshua’s life in Israel, walking among his people, observing the mitzvot, and developing a following as a Rav.

I don’t mean to bang on Dr. Sproul. He’s probably a very nice man who really believes everything he says, but without the slightest thought to what it does to the Jewish people, the primacy of Israel in God’s redemptive plan, and all of the “Old Testament” prophesies that don’t happen to jibe with what he believes about Jesus.

I can’t allow myself to care about all of the different opinions out there that don’t agree with mine held by hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of Christian Pastors worldwide, whether their influence extends only to the four walls of their local church or, like Sproul, whose influence extends to anyone with Internet access. If I let all that bug me, I’d probably go nuts.

R.C. SproulBut some people who I know or at least am acquainted with, seem to think Sproul has the corner market on the purpose of Jesus relative to the Torah, to the Jewish people, and to the Christian Church. I don’t believe, for the reasons I stated above, that Sproul is teaching a Biblically sustainable doctrine in this short video excerpt (and that statement probably sounds astonishing to some).

I’m writing this to say there’s another way to look at scripture that I think is more sustainable and that takes all of the Bible into account as a single, unified document. No carving up or allegorical interpretations are required.

What Are We Looking For From God?

I recently blogged about a Christian turned Noahide who I accidentally discovered on the blogspot The Torah Way. In describing this person’s “journey” away from faith in Jesus (Rav Yeshua) to a traditional Noahide or “Righteous Gentile” viewpoint and praxis, I neglected to examine what they wrote on their other blog Cozy Kitchen Chats believing it was more or less a collection of recipes and other food related articles.

As it turns out, this is an older blog and contains a lot more detail about this woman’s (one of the things I discovered) spiritual travels.

I’m not trying to pick on her or demean her in any way. I do, however, find that what she’s been through over the past several years is illuminating, because she comes from a place that should be familiar to many of my readers.

Let’s go to the beginning, the very first blog post from July 17, 2014:

To formally introduce you to my Cozy Kitchen, I absolutely need to share with the you the Foundation of my world, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, my soon coming KING. I had always been brought up in the church, although I had bounced around from church to church seeking and hungering for something deeper. I tried small town churches, large Mega churches, Pentecostal churches, Baptist churches, even Catholic churches. Each had amazing truths and amazing people, but nothing felt comfortable to me. My heart was always drawn to the Church described in the Book of Acts.

This is a person devoted to Jesus as Savior and King in search of a church that reflects the Biblical “prototype” church, the ideal church where one can draw close to the Spirit of Jesus. Apparently, she couldn’t find it.

All I know is that I personally needed to walk away from everything I knew about the modern day church. I spent two years aggressively seeking God to show me the Truth, regardless what it may cost me, I wanted to know that I know Him and that I am following Him wholeheartedly. I read everything I could about the religions most commonly found in the United States. I set aside all that I knew, wiped away all the prejudice that I held and explored each asking the Holy Spirit to show me the Truth.

This part is funny in an ironic way, given where she’ll end up.

…at first I honestly didn’t like the Jesus I was learning about. Oh, I loved how others in the Bible would describe Him, but when I read His words, I thought they were harsh, aggressive and difficult to understand. I really liked Paul much more than Jesus, Paul’s teaching were soft and easy, Salvation by Grace alone, no actions or responsibility, once saved, always saved. Paul was much more appealing.

MessiahShe goes on to say that in order to learn more from Jesus, she set aside Paul’s writings so she could sit at the feet of her Master. That’s how she started out her blog.

I am here exclusively to show the Love of God to you and to serve you and others in anyway I can. Opening up my Cozy Kitchen Chats with you, I will share with you the Gospel of Jesus, how to have a thriving Christian home, how to serve your community and how to make YOUR own Cozy Kitchen your personal mission field.

But less than three months later:

I know this is topic that can really set some “believers” off balance, since there has always been a belief that the Torah or the Life Teaching and Instruction of God, given to Moses was done away with at the resurrection of Yeshua (Christ)

Nowhere in the Prophets nor in the instruction that was given to Moses was it ever mentioned that the Law would be done away with. During Yeshua’s time on earth, He never mentioned that the Law or the Word would be dismissed. He actual said the following.

First, she described a general dissatisfaction with all of the churches and Christian denominations she experienced and was determined to study the Bible at the feet of Jesus and gain wisdom from the Holy Spirit alone.

Then she discovered the Torah, started calling Jesus “Yeshua,” and described her understanding in terms more familiar with someone who was just introduced to either the Messianic Jewish or Hebrew Roots movements.

Based on a link she posted, her source material came, at least in part, from 119 Ministries (as of this writing, there’s a JavaScript pop-up that asks if you’re new and you have the option to click “Yes” or “No”. However, the box doesn’t go away when you click either button, so website content is blocked unless you edit the URL to go to the home page — Addendum: This problem has apparently been fixed, although the site still has connection difficulties).

Subsequently, she started writing about kosher foods, her opinion of the Christian Church and of Pastors continued to decline, she became focused on Sacred Name theology, and she decided that Christmas was pagan, thanks to 119 Ministries, and stopped celebrating it.

I don’t know if she actually started donning tzitzit, but it looks like she wanted to. Shabbat became important to her.

The Jewish PaulA really critical point though, is that her attitude about the Apostle Paul (Rav Shaul) changed remarkably. Remember, at the very beginning, she loved Paul’s teachings, but thought Jesus was too harsh and aggressive.

Don’t allow the mindless teaching of man separate you from the TRUTH. The Pharisees over taught the law with man made regulations to overwhelm man so he would not honor it, then the new Pharisees (Paulines, followers of Paul’s teaching rather than Jesus’) discounted the Sabbath with man made doctrines so men would not follow it. Seek God’s instruction to find the Truth.

Here, she’s reversed her original position and now sees the teachings of Paul in opposition to those of Jesus. Ironically (again), she denigrates the “man-made laws “of the “new Pharisees” and believes only in seeking God’s instructions of truth in Jesus. I say ironically because when she became a Noahide, she had to accept the validity of the teachings of the Rabbinic sages and their authoritative interpretations of Torah, which most Christians call “man-made laws”.

And most Christians consider the Sages to be something like “the new Pharisees”.

Here’s a little more:

A husband that truly LOVES his wife will catch on. Believers that are TRULY following, TRULY LOVING Him, TRULY READING Him will catch on. They will start to step away from Paul’s teaching or rather “un-teaching” and will seek to find out what the WILL of the Father is and what is meant by the “Word of God.” it’s an exciting time! An Awakening!

I’m emphasizing this because abandoning Paul is usually a major step in leaving Christianity, Hebrew Roots, and Messianic Judaism for a non-Jewish believer, since so much of our understanding of how to apply Torah to the Gentile and to live a life as devoted disciples of Rav Yeshua, depends on what he wrote.

She found this to be the best teaching on Paul she ever heard. I had a difficult time following the link and managed to navigate to the 119 Ministries video teachings page and found the correct video by searching for the lesson’s title: “The Deuteronomy 13 Test.”

I thought I should investigate what she was listening to in order to discover what was influencing her thinking and beliefs. The textual introduction to the “Deuteronomy 13 Test” states:

Have you ever considered why the Jews reject the Jewish Messiah, our Lord and Savior…What if it was because many today misunderstand Paul…Millions of Jews reject the Christian presentation of Jesus and Paul, alarmingly, because the Word of God says to. Sadly, if the misunderstanding continues, Jews are forever prevented from not only not knowing their Jewish Savior, but also from experiencing the blessings of the New Covenant. This teaching exposes the gap in the misunderstanding, and takes a first step into building a bridge…

119 video
Screen Capture: 119 Ministries

The video (about 41 minutes long) wasn’t exactly what I expected. It seemed, at the beginning, to be both very pro-Jesus and pro-Paul. The video instructor said that although Jesus and Paul didn’t teach against the Torah of Moses, but they did teach against the Oral Traditions, what is known today, according to this “teacher,” as the Talmud.

This instructor’s first mistake was defining the traditions and praxis of the Pharisees in the late second Temple period as the Talmud, which would not actually exist for centuries (Mishnah c. 200 CE, Gemara c. 500 CE)

This is very much an anti-Judaism (including Messianic Judaism) lesson. I needed to understand a little more about 119 Ministries itself. According to their site’s About page:

Our purpose is to seek and bring the truth to all nations, unlearn false doctrines and traditions of men, and to equip the body to live and practice the Word as God originally intended.

We find that continuously examining the Scriptures (in the same Hebraic first century context and perspective in which they were written and understood) reveals to His people much more understanding, as opposed to the more common Greek mindset that is a couple thousand years removed.

Sounds pretty much the same as when a Fundamentalist church says their doctrine is the only “sound doctrine.”

It’s difficult to tell if 119 Ministries is specifically “One Law” or “Two House,” but their Faith Statement says in part:

Another purpose of Yeshua was to begin calling back the scattered 10 tribes of Israel that were divorced, scattered, and became Gentiles.

This at least suggests a Two House theology, although it’s hardly conclusive.

Frankly, in listening to the above-mentioned anti-Judaism video teaching, it’s amazing that this woman finally became a Noahide, since as far as I can tell from her blogspot, 119 Ministries was her primary and possibly her only source of information relative to Hebrew Roots.

Listening to the 119 teacher was hard for me since his lesson was not only almost totally opposed to my personal beliefs, but it was thinly disguised anti-Jewish rhetoric which not-so-subtly was also a presentation of supersessionism, misappropriating the Torah from the Jewish people and denying observant Jews the right to establish their own interpretation of Torah.

Orthodox JewsAbout halfway through the video, the teacher started hammering away against modern observant Jews. To be fair, he seemed just as prejudiced against normative Christianity.

The 119 Ministries video teacher says he wants to bring Jewish people to faith in Yeshua, but his attitude toward observant Jews is so poor that I can’t imagine any Jewish person wanting to listen to this fellow. In this, his concept of Jewish people who “reject Jesus” is pretty much that of normative Christianity, at least in its worst expression.

This teacher is a great example of how a person who continually quotes from the Bible (and he did so, scripture after scripture) can still grossly misrepresent the intent of Hashem, Rav Yeshua, and Rav Shaul (In doing some subsequent research, I discovered that the people behind 119 Ministries are well-meaning and kind, but I still have to disagree with almost all of their conclusions).

Toward the end of the video, the teacher cited Romans 11, Ephesians 2 and Numbers 15:15-16 as “proof” that the Law of Moses was meant to be observed by, not just the Children of Israel and their descendants, but by all humanity, so he tips his hand, so to speak, and reveals that his ministry supports One Law. He does it however, in a really easily refuted way, so I readily set it aside.

(I found this half-hour long YouTube video of an interview with the two guys who founded and operate 119 Ministries, Steve and John. They seem like really nice guys. If you want to get to know who they are and why they started their organization, click the link).

The bulk of this blog’s content was written between July and December of 2014. The last blog post of 2014 was published on December 15th. The next missive, the last one here, was from January 24, 2016, and is simply a link to her article Leaving Christianity at The Torah Way.

There’s a gap of over a year where something must have happened, where her fascination with 119 Ministries and what they teach must have waned in the extreme. She would never have become a Noahide if she was listening to their anti-Judaism, anti-Jewish people diatribes.

interfaithI wonder if she and her family (she’s married with two children) went through something like this:

Jewish Values vs. Other Faiths

I am struggling with the sense that on one hand I want to instill Jewish beliefs in my children, but on the other hand I feel this would be diminishing the value of other faiths. I feel that love, harmony and happiness are the most important values, and that we need to be accepting of everyone’s beliefs. People are different, so isn’t truth relative for each individual?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

This is an important question, one that I think goes to the heart of today’s society.

If you think about it, you’ll realize that “truth” cannot simply be everything that everyone wants.

from the “Ask the Rabbi” column
Aish.com

I think this blog writer held on to the love and truth of Torah she discovered early on, but for some reason, everything else had to give way. Maybe she finally figured out that the video teachings she was consuming ultimately didn’t hold water and actually disrespected the Jewish people who are the sole human objects of the Sinai Covenant.

I don’t know. She took the path of many Christians who become disillusioned with the Church and find Hebrew Roots as an alternative. Eventually, it becomes too difficult to balance love of Torah but not of Judaism and Jews, as well as seeing Yeshua and Shaul being depicted as somehow against their own people.

Granted, a life either in Hebrew Roots or Messianic Judaism isn’t easy. If you’re a believing Gentile, being a Christian is the path of least resistance, and if you are an observant Jew, then Orthodox Judaism is probably a more understandable option.

But if you’re a Gentile who comes to doubt first Paul and finally Yeshua, and who believes normative, observant Judaism to be true, what do you do?

Jewish ConversionYou either convert to Judaism or become a Noahide.

I don’t know if these individuals finally end their search for truth (or TRUTH as the subject of today’s “meditation” likes to write it). We all want to know who we are from Hashem’s perspective, and what His purpose is for our lives. We all want the easy, pre-programmed answer, where we don’t have to think, we don’t have to doubt, and we don’t have to be anxious.

We all want to settle down and relax, secure in the knowledge that we are finally “right” about everything and we have nothing else left to search out and study, and no other questions to ask that we might not find ready-made answers for.

Good luck with that.

Not to say that there aren’t plenty people in houses of worship all around the world who don’t feel settled and secure and who have stopped asking all but the most elementary of questions. But I think that a sense of insecurity, at least a little bit, is built into our relationship with God.

If we finally come to the point where we have no more questions, then we are saying that there’s a limit to God and His relationship with us.

I can accept a person who goes through a developmental process in their faith, exploring and seeking to understand what the Bible is really saying. I’ve gone through that process and am still progressing along that path. I probably never will arrive at a “settled” place, though there are a few things I accept in my understanding now.

But there’s a difference between that and moving around from one faith discipline to another seeking a “TRUTH” that answers “everything”. A human being’s relationship with Hashem is more “edgy” than that. Just look at anyone in the Bible who was close to God. Abraham wasn’t settled and comfortable, neither was Moses. None of the Prophets had peaceful lives. Paul certainly didn’t. If anything, when Rav Shaul was introduced to Yeshua, his life became remarkably “unpeaceful”.

Why should our lives be any different?

A final word. Paul’s life was unsettled and violent and yet in his relationship with Messiah, he said he found “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension” and that guards “your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” ( Philippians 4:7 NASB).

peaceThere’s a peace that goes beyond our day-to-day lives, and even beyond our occasional crisis of faith as we continue to study the Bible. There’s a peace we only find if we lay aside our doubts and turn to Him in trust, knowing He desires that we draw close to Him. All the religious pundits in the churches, synagogues, on streaming video, and in the blogosphere don’t hold a candle to authentic trust in Hashem and the peace that He brings to our troubled souls.

I hope the anonymous woman whose journey I’ve attempted to chronicle finds peace in God.

But I also hope she never stops asking questions.

Do Christians Really Have 1050 New Testament Commandments?

There are 1,050 commands in the New Testament for Christians to obey. Due to repetitions we can classify them under 69 headings. They cover every phase of man’s life in his relationship to God and his fellowmen, now and hereafter. If obeyed, they will bring rich rewards here and forever; if disobeyed, they will bring condemnation and eternal punishment.

-from the Christian Assemblies International website

Jesus commanded us in the second half of the Great Commission to teach others to observe ALL that He has commanded us. We first need to know the commands ourselves well enough so that we can teach others to observe them.

-from the Biblical Research Reports website

1050Really, is this a thing? I first saw a reference to “1050 New Testament Laws” on Facebook (someone had shared this meme in my timeline) and I was really surprised. So naturally, I “Googled” it so see what else I could find.

Besides the two above-quoted websites, a number of other dodgy online “resources” showed up including discussion groups at City-Data.com, ChristianForums.com, and RedHotPawn.com. I didn’t examine any of these sites in-depth and I haven’t read each and every one of the 1050 “commandments” (if they are commandments), but at first blush, I suspect that the list consists of a combination of teachings found in the Torah (and as such, they aren’t unique to the Apostolic Scriptures) and individual exhortations of Paul’s offered to specific populations concerning unique situations (as opposed of 1050 eternal, universal commandments that are either added on to the Torah mitzvot or that are supposed to replace them).

I did, more or less, accidentally find one flaw at Christian Assemblies International. Under the category “Seven Things to Avoid,” item three says “False Science” and references 1 Timothy 6:20, which they quote as saying:

Oh Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.

“…oppositions of science?” I don’t remember that.

Ah, but that’s the King James Bible translation. My preferred translation, the NASB, states:

O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge” …

Sorry. “knowledge” and “science” aren’t the same thing, so no sale KJV. In fact, the vast majority of other versions of the Bible translate the word referred to by the KJV as “science” as “knowledge”.

I suspect these so-called “New Testament Laws” are all equally bent, twisted, and mutilated to say what the Bible doesn’t really say.

But why? Why go through all the trouble? Isn’t it enough for mainstream Christianity to say that grace replaced the Law and all you have to do is believe in Jesus and you’ll go to Heaven?

under the lawA quick Google search couldn’t tell me who originally compiled this list and why, so I don’t have a definitive answer at my fingertips.

But even a quick scan of some of the other “commandments” tells me they suffer woefully from lack of context issues. For instance, under “Alcohol” on the Bible Research Reports page:

1Thessalonians 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet [sic], the hope of salvation. (emph. mine)

Most Bible translations do say “sober,” but some translate the same word as “clearheaded” or “serious” so it doesn’t automatically have to be sober as opposed to intoxicated. This does reflect a typical Christian bias against the use of alcohol in almost any degree, which again, makes me question the validity of the so-called “New Testament Laws”.

On the same website, under “Church Service,” I loved this one:

John 2:16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.

The Holy Temple in Jerusalem is not “church,” so I don’t find something Yeshua (Jesus) said about a very specific situation he encountered in the Temple to have a universal application to all non-Jewish Jesus worshipers (i.e. Christians) everywhere.

There was a section called “Commands — Old Testament” which listed exactly seven different passages, three from the Gospels and the rest from the Epistles. There’s no explanation accompanying this list, but I have to assume the writer/compiler intends that these are the only commandments from the Torah that survived Jesus “fulfilling the Law”.

Ironically, the list includes Matthew 5:17-19 which is the strongest evidence that Yeshua did not come to abolish (fulfill = abolish) the mitzvot but rather to illustrate living them (as a Jew) to their fullest. However, both Galatians 5:1 and James 2:12, taken out of context, seem to declare that the Torah is extinct post-crucifixion and resurrection, so they fit the traditional Christian doctrinal narrative.

communionThere’s a category for “Communion,” which, when the Gospels and Epistles were being composed, didn’t exist, not to mention one about “Denominational Differences”. I love this:

Mark 9:38-39 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbade him, because he followeth not us. (39) But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

Denominations, as Christianity understands the term, did not exist when the above-mentioned fellow was casting out demons in the name of our Rav, so this certainly illustrates a creative application of these verses.

As one commenter at discussion group quipped, “It is impossible to keep 1,050 commands let alone 613 O.T. ones that you can’t do!”

Of course, he’s wrong that you can’t perform any of the 613 mitzvot. There are a subset of some 200 odd mitzvot that observant Jews perform today. However, I’d tend to agree, if the general Christian position is that God gave the Torah commandments to the Jewish people just to prove no one can be righteous by the performance of good deeds because there are just too many of them (and this is a complete distortion of the focus and purpose of the Torah), then expecting “saved by grace” Christians to perform 1050 commandments is just insane.
Mitzvah
I am truly at loss as to why any corner of the Church would make this stuff up, but if any one out there is frustrated that non-Jewish Yeshua disciples don’t have commandments of their/our own, it looks like you have enough, according to the sources I’ve cited, to stuff a proverbial Christmas goose.

Personally, I’ll stick with the simplicity of a life of holiness. It provides quite enough to keep my hands full, and I’m convinced I’ll never do it very well.