Monday, September 15, 2014

DNA Tests: Poll Questions

Just curious what are everyone's thoughts about DNA tests for ascertaining Jewish ancestry.  Are there situations where it should be done?  If so, why?  Or is it just a distraction?  Any thoughts?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Ethnicity Changed Yesterday

Given the identity issues that most Messianics experience, most people are not going to believe this...but I'm going to talk about it anyway especially as I learn more information this week.  Frankly, I need to talk about it.

My ethnicity changed yesterday (somewhat).

The man I thought was my grandfather, I was informed by my parents, was not really my grandfather.  So there's that issue to deal with--it's kind of like going through the mourning process.  

But there's another issue to deal with...

My real grandfather was from a foreign country--actually he was a diplomat who worked in D.C. at his country's embassy.  I'm not ready to disclose this man's ethnicity but I can tell you that it came as quite a shock to me.  It may seem insignificant to everyone else, the idea of learning that you are 1/4th a different ethnicity.  But it is very strange to me.  You might think it absurd, the idea of mourning a lost portion of ethnic makeup, but it really is like I lost something and it made me kind of sad last night as I was going to bed.  

But I also gained something.  I have a new people that I never had before.  It's entirely possible that I have family in this other country!  Even more strange--my real grandfather might still be alive...that's a long shot though.

Thank you, Dear Reader, for listening.  I'll probably need to talk a lot more about this throughout the week.



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Paul's Fault? A Complete Breakdown of Paul's Seemingly Contradictory Views on Israel, Judaism, and Judaization

Was Paul:

  • Anti-Israel?
  • Pro-Israel?
  • Anti-Judaic?
  • Pro-Judaic?
  • Ambivalently-Judaic?
  • Pro-Judaization? (i.e. in favor of Gentiles adopting Jewish practices?)
  • Anti-Judization? (i.e. against Gentiles adopting Jewish practices?)
  • Supersessionist? (i.e. Did he think Gentiles replaced the Israelites?)
  • Inclusionist (i.e. Did he think the New Covenant included Gentiles into Israel?)
  • Exclusionist (i.e. Did he think that Gentiles were excluded from Israel?)

So we'll examine the evidence and then anyone can feel free to discuss whether this ambiguity was Paul's fault.

Pro Israel or Anti Israel:


"What is the advantage of the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?  Much in every way" (Rom. 3.1).

"To the Israelites belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the Temple, and the promises.  To them belong the patriarchs and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ" (Rom. 9.4).

"Has [God] rejected [His] people?  By no means" (Rom. 11.1).

"All Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11.26).

"Is the law then against the promises of God.  Certainly not!" (Gal. 3.21).


"For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse" (Gal. 3.10).

"Israel who pursued righteousness which is based on the law did not succeed in fulfilling that law" (Rom. 9.31).

"But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.  Yes, to this day, whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their mind; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed" (2 Cor. 3.14f).

"As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God, for your sake" (Rom. 11.28).

Pro Judaic, Anti Judaic, or Ambivalently Judaic


"Do we overthrow the law through faith?  By no means.  On the contrary, we uphold the law" (Rom. 3.31).

"What shall we say?  That the law is sin?  By no means" (Rom. 7.7).

"Thus the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good" (Rom. 7.12).


"For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse" (Gal. 3.10).

"Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law" (Gal. 3.11).

"For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" (Gal. 6.15).

"For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3.20).

Ambivalently Judaic:

"For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God," 1 Cor. 7:19

Pro Judaization (Maximally, Minimally, Moderately) or Anti Judaization:


"17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them," (1 Cor. 7:17-19)


Paul taught that Gentile converts forfeited their Gentile-ness and accepted a new "righteous" lifestyle:

"Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led ," (1 Cor. 12:2)

"17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness," (Eph. 4:17-24).

Paul believed that New Covenant members, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, were both required to follow Sinaitic Torah:

"1 Cor. 7:19 "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts" (1 Cor. 7:19).

Paul gave the unqualified instruction for Gentile Believers to put into practice all of Paul's religious practices:

"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice" (Phillipians 4:9)

Paul told Timothy without qualification to use the Hebrew Scripture as a way of instructing righteousness to the Gentiles:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness," (2 Tim. 3:16)

Paul encouraged the Gentile Believers at Colossae to continue practicing Judaism.  He told the Gentile Believers in that congregation to keep Shabbat, festivals, and food laws even despite the harsh judgment they were receiving from ascetic and gnostic Gentiles at Colossae:

"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day" (Colossians 2:16).

Paul assumed that the Gentiles were well-acquainted with observances such as Passover and assumed that they would keep such Jewish Festivals:

"7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth," (1 Cor. 5:7-8).

Paul taught that Gentiles were covenantal members of Israel:

"11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ," (Eph 2:11-13, NIV version)

Ecclesiology:  (1) Supersessionist, (2) Inclusionist, (3) Exclusionist

(1) Supersessionist:

"It is not as though the word of God had failed.  For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham's children are his true descendants," (Romans 9:6-7)

"For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh," Philippians 3:3

(2) Inclusionist (i.e. Gentiles are included in Israel):

"15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God," (Gal. 6:15-16)

"11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ," (Eph. 2:11-13)

(3) Exclusionist (i.e. Gentiles are excluded from Israel):


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sen. Ted Cruz to Angry Crowd: "If You Won't Stand With Israel...I Won't Stand With You"

Sen. Ted Cruz did a good job responding to an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel crowd:  

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Grumpy Messianic in Church

I didn't want to go to church yesterday.

I probably complained the whole way there.  I even took a book to read during the service (Between G-d and Man by Heschel).

And even during the service when they read off the following events, I was still feeling a little grumpy:

  • Islam, Israel, and the West--a day-long seminar on 9/8/14
  • Current Crisis in the Middle East with Dr. Sussana Kokkonen, executive director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem--a message about the growing persecution of Christians in the Middle East and growing anti-Semitism in Western Europe on 9/13/14
  • International Day of Prayer on 10/5/14--praying for Jerusalem in many different languages
  • Paul Wilbur on 10/4/14 through 10/5/14
I was feeling, "Yeah, I'll go to those event--they sound pretty cool--but why does it have to be at church?" 

So then we went to the Sunday School class.

Right off the bat, someone from a foreign country was telling me how he and his wife had been thinking about me and my wife and wanted to meet up this week--they're really interested in Messianic Judaism.  

As I walked out of church later that morning, holding my beautiful daughter, I wasn't quite as grumpy.  In fact, I think I probably managed a little smile.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pyles is a Gift to the One-Law Movement

It's encouraging to see Pyles and various commenters (e.g. "Proclaim Liberty"), against all evidence, try to argue that the book of 1 Peter was written to a Jewish audience and not a Gentile audience (LINK).  Such desperation!  They hate the fact that Peter applies exclusive titles of Israel to non-Jews.  So I couldn't resist leaving the following comment:

1 Peter was written to a non-Jewish audience.  Here's some evidence: 
Ephesians 4:17-18
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the FUTILITY of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the IGNORANCE  that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  
1 Peter 1:14, 18
14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in IGNORANCE. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the FUTILE way of life handed down to you from your ancestors,  
Notice that Paul and Peter link two key aspects of paganism associated with Gentiles: ignorance and futility.  The Greek terms are "agnoia" and "mataios".   
The other alternative is that this correlation is just a bizarre coincidence and in reality Peter believed that Judaism was a futile and ignorant way of life. 
But I don't think you want to argue that!  : ) 

"They Will Put You Out of the [Jewish Community]": Shaye Cohen on Why "Sunagoge" in John 16:2 Should Not be Translated as the English Term "Synagogue" But Rather as "Jewish Community" Generally

The Greek term sunagoge is very different from the English term synagogue.  Shaye Cohen explains:
The English 'synagogue' is narrower than Greek sunagoge in three respects:  the English word does not mean 'community,' while the Greek often does; the English word implies the existence of a building, while the Greek does not; the English word designates a gathering of Jews or a place where Jews gather for the sake of communal prayer and/or Torah study, while the Greek can refer to a gathering of various sorts,"  Evolution of the Synagogue, Edited by Kee and Cohick.  From the Essay Entitled "Were the Pharisees and Rabbis the Leaders of Communal Prayer and Torah Study in Antiquity?  by Shaye J. D. Cohen
This ambiguity has implications for how we translate passages like John 16:2.  Here's a typical translation:
"They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God,"  John 16:2, NIV.
This would certainly be a frightening prospect for a Messianic Jew, being kicked out of a local synagogue for believing in Yeshua as Messiah.  But the Greek term sunagoge, as Shaye Cohen explains, conveys an entirely different sense than the English term "synagogue" used in most English translations:
"6. John 12:42, 'Nevertheless many even of the authorities believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the sunagoge' (literally, lest they should become out-of-the-sunagoge).  As many commentators have noted, the term aposunagogoi is unique to John in the New Testament.  It recurs in 9:22, in the story of the healing of the blind man, in a very similar passage:  'His parents [i.e., the parents of the blind man healed by Jesus]...feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the sunagoge (literally, he was to become out-of-the-sunagoge).  In 16:2 Jesus tells his disciples,...they shall make you out-of-the-sunagoge.'....What is the meaning of 'out-of-the-sunagoge'?...[S]unagoge should in this case simply be understood as 'community.'  Those who confess Christ will be excluded from the Jewish community."  pg. 99, ibid.
That seems like a fate worse than death in a way--for a Messianic Jew to be excluded from the global Jewish community!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Postmortem: My Initial Impression of the Brown-Hegg Debate

First, I'll say that I'm sure Tim Hegg is a nice guy.  So I hope he won't be offended by the following:

I listened to a little bit of the radio debate between Dr. Michael Brown and Tim Hegg (LINK).  I was extremely disappointed at the following interchange (to give one example):

Dr. Michael Brown:  "Is it possible to live a life fully pleasing to G-d as a Believer and NOT keep the dietary laws?" 
Tim Hegg:  "Yes."

Here's how I would've responded to that question:
And then I might've explained by citing to the Book of Baruch which puts it rather nicely:

"4 Wisdom is the book of God's commandments, the Law that will last forever. All who hold onto her will live, but those who abandon her will die. Turn to Wisdom, people of Israel, and take hold of her. Make your way toward the splendor of her light. Do not surrender our glorious privileges to any other people. How happy we are, people of Israel; we have the advantage of knowing what is pleasing to God!" (Baruch 4:1-4) 
 The commandments are pleasing to G-d!  So if we don't keep the commandments then we are less pleasing to G-d--i.e. we are not FULLY pleasing to G-d.

And, thankfully, Yeshua abounds with grace toward us sinners and so we are forgiven our offenses.  But eventually when the New Covenant is consummated we will be able to keep all the commandments and be FULLY pleasing to G-d.

Does anyone have a different opinion?

My Challenge to Dr. Michael Brown

So I just read Pyles' review of the radio debate between Dr. Michael Brown and Tim Hegg (Link).

That's very sad.  I'll listen to it later.

But if Dr. Michael Brown is interested in a fair fight, he should debate me.  Tim Hegg is a scholar but he isn't trained in debate.  I have doctoral-level training in debate.  And I have resolved all of the weaknesses in Hegg's arguments.  I've also studied Brown's rhetorical tactics for years, scrutinizing every televised debate he's ever been in.  So no surprises there.

I'm probably not high-profile enough (yet) for Michael Brown.  But I know that his listeners/readers visit this blog so if you're out there you can pass the message along.  My question for Dr. Michael Brown is simply this:
Are you interested in a fair fight?  



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Shmuley Boteach Calls Paul a Liar (and a Gentile)

"...Paul, a probable convert to Judaism ignorant of the Torah, who even preaches the Torah's abolishment and does not preach the teachings of Jesus..." pg. 125 of Kosher Jesus by Shmuley Boteach

If that's true, then Paul, a man who claimed to be a "Hebrew of Hebrews" (Philippians 3:5), would have to be a liar.

So is there any basis for Boteach's assertion?

Boteach relies heavily on Hyam Maccoby in his research:

"My opinions on Jesus have been profoundly shaped by the writings of Hyam Maccoby..."(xi of Introduction)
"At face value, Paul's account is troublesome.  First, it's unlikely Paul was a Pharisee or that he studied with Gamliel, the most advanced Pharisaic teacher of the time....Yet, as Hyam Maccoby points out, Paul is not only not a great scholar, he seems incapable of even reading Hebrew.  When Paul quotes from the Hebrew Bible in his epistles, he uses the Greek Septuagint translation rather than the Hebrew.  There are many situations in which the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint translation differ considerably.  Whenever they do, Paul follows the faulty Greek translation rather than the original Hebrew.  No disciple of Gamliel would have thought to read the Bible in translation; there would have been no need," pg. 112

Yet actual scholars have called Maccoby's conclusions "wildly fanciful":

"Paul shows that he is as firmly located within Judaism as anyone can be; he is no first- or even tenth-generation proselyte.  Maccoby's counter suggestion (Mythmaker, 95-96), that Paul was a a wildly fanciful and shows no sensitivity to Paul's whole argument in Romans," (James D. G. Dunn, Romans 9-16, World Biblical Commentary).

So Boteach appears to have a bias.  But where might this bias originate?

"Paul's mistakes make parts of the Christian doctrine he devised problematic.  For example, one of Paul's most monumental claims is that Jewish law is no longer applicable after Jesus....To prove his case, Paul quotes from a law in Deuteronomy...However, Paul misrepresents the verse utterly.  He says, 'Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written:  'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.'  Paul misquotes the Bible and gives it a fraudulent meaning.  He explains that the pole refers to the Torah, the Law of Moses.  If you hang on this pole--that is, if you are dependent on the law for salvation rather than the blood of Christ--you are cursed," pg. 112, Kosher Jesus.

It appears that Boteach reacts so strongly against Paul because Boteach thinks Paul was against Jewish Law.  So this is a very understandable bias.  If I thought Paul was against Jewish Law then I would probably join with Boteach in calling Paul a liar.

Except that Paul wasn't against Jewish Law.  And I know this because I, unlike Shmuley Boteach, have studied the Apostolic Writings for many years.  Shmuely Boteach is simply taking Paul out of context.  Acts 21, for example, proves that Paul was for Jewish Law and Tradition.  That was the entire point of that chapter!

And it's quite bizarre that Boteach would call out Paul, an apostle to the Gentiles, for quoting from the Greek Septuagint, a translation of Jewish Scripture which the Gentiles would be more likely to understand.  But even if Paul hadn't been an apostle to the Gentiles, quoting from the Septuagint was quite normal for that time as we see from the works of Philo, Josephus, etc.  

Ah, well.  I guess all we can do is pray for Shmuley Boteach, that he will have a road to Damascus experience regarding Pauline interpretation.



Sunday, August 17, 2014

How to Defend and Attack One Law: A Quick Look at the Legal Analysis Involved in Precedential Arguments (WARNING: NERDIEST POST OF ALL TIME)

Some musings from earlier...

Doctrine of Judicial Precedent:  

When an authoritative judgment has been made in case with a specific set of material facts then all future cases involving those same material facts must be decided in the same manner as the precedent case.  What this means in a Messianic context is that if G-d says something even way back in the "Old" Testament then it must be considered to be binding law unless it is specifically overruled.

Justifications for the Doctrine of Judicial Precedent:  

(1) Logical Consistency:  to decide two cases differently when the material facts are the same would be logically inconsistent (i.e. illogical); 

(2) Societal Disintegration:  if prior authoritative judgments may be disregarded then the result is a lawless society.

Analysis for Precedential Argument:  

(1) AUTHORITY:  Is a judgment being offered as law?  If so, it will only be considered binding law if it was issued by a mandatory authority (as opposed to a merely persuasive authority) and it has not been overruled and does not consist of obiter dicta; 

(2) APPLICABILITY:  Does the binding judgment apply to the case at hand?  The precedent judgment must apply when the material facts of the present case are the same as the material facts of the precedent case.

The Precedential Argument for One Law:  

(1) AUTHORITY:  Scripture says that there is one law for both the native Israelite and the convert (Heb. "Ger").

NOTE 1:  In a One-Law Context Ger Means "Convert":  In Deuteronomy 14:21 in the LXX, paroikos is used to translate "ger" because the LXX translators wished to make explicit that there are two types of "gerim", the gerim who are covenanted (proselutos) and the gerim who are not covenanted (paroikos).  The "Ger" in the "One Law" passages is therefore interpreted as referring to a convert and translated accordingly in the LXX.  These terms literally give the sense of a non-covenant paroikos being outside of the "house" of Israel (par meaning beside and oikos meaning house), whereas the proselutos is one who "approaches" and thus enters the "house."  

NOTE 2:  Teshuvah is the Initiatory Step in the Process of Conversion:  In the Bible, conversion is a process that begins with teshuvah, a turning from idolatry to faith in the G-d of Israel.  However, the conversion process for males is ratified by circumcision and finally consummated by participation in the Passover.  Thus, one crucial exegetical issue is whether One Law passages may be interpreting as referring to an uncircumcised "Ger."  If these passages can be read as applying One Law to an uncircumcised male who has been initiated into the covenant by faith then these passages become directly applicable to Gentile converts in the New Covenant.  And, in fact, there is a very sound exegetical case to be made that the "ger" in One Law passages includes uncircumcised males who have been initiated into the covenant by faith much like the very first convert in Jewish history, Avraham himself.  A key piece of exegetical evidence in this regard is the Hebrew term "asah" used in Exodus 12:48.  This term connotes obedience to a Divine Command.  Since, in 12:48, the "ger" who wants to "obey" (asah) the Passover has, in this passage, not yet been circumcised, this passages conveys that a "Ger" could become covenantally obligated (i.e. covenantally initiated) even prior to circumcision.

NOTE 3:  Does the "one law" in a One Law passage refer to all the mitzvot or merely the mitzvot involved in the immediate context?  For example, Derek Leman (UMJC), says that these passages only refer to the mitzvot of the immediate context (see:  However, Rashi, a greater authority than Leman, says:  
"49.  One Law:  Not only with respect to the eating of the paschal lamb is the stranger equal to the native Israelite, but also in the duty to observe all other commandments [Rashi]."  pg. 399 of Soncino Chumash (edited by A. Cohen).

(2) APPLICABILITY:  Do the One Law passages in the Tanak apply to converted Gentiles who belong to the New Covenant?  

The formula for the precedent of One Law is as follows:

If A (material fact) then X (judgment).
If a Gentile is a covenantal member of Israel (A) then he or she is obligated to keep all the same mitzvot as a native Israelite (X).

Rather, than restate the overview of evidence that shows that (A) is satisfied for Gentile Believers in the New Covenant, I'll just refer you to a previous post:

And so this is how a One Law proponent should reach the conclusion that Gentile Believers are obligated to keep all the same mitzvot as a native member of Israel.

How to Attack the Precedential Argument for One Law:

There are 2 ways to attack a precedential argument:  (1) attack the authority of the judgment being offered as law; (2) attack the applicability of the judgment being offered as law.

  • An example of tactic #1 is Derek Leman saying that One Law passages do not refer to all the mitzvot.  
  • Another example of tactic #1 is the assertion that "ger" in a One Law passage such as Exodus 12 can only be interpreted as referring to a circumcised convert (and thus cannot be used as precedent for the conclusion that uncircumcised male Believers are obligated to all the same mitzvot as a native member of Israel)
  • An example of tactic #2 is to cite to Scriptural passages as evidence that Gentile Believers remain excluded from Israel.



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Quote of the Day

"One of the ways that some non-Jews express their love for the Jewish people and Israel is to become Noahides, or people of the nations who observe the Seven Noahide Laws. This is about the best way to express such a love and attraction from a Jewish point of view, since it has the full support of Orthodox Judaism and allows Gentiles to enter into Jewish worship and community space, albeit with a radically different status than the Jewish leaders, mentors, and participants," (James Pyles, from:
That's brilliant.  

I left the following comment at his blog which I expect he'll delete:
"Please explain to me how refraining from murdering people conveys a special affection for the Jewish people.  Is that the way to show someone that you really love them?  By not stealing or being sexually promiscuous? 
The Rabbis say that to observe the Noahide "laws" is to  "sit and do nothing" (sheb ve'al ta'aseh). 
You're seriously saying that Jews feel loved when a Gentile just takes a seat and does absolutely nothing?"

1500 Visitors a Day!

Either my blogger stats tool has malfunctioned or there are a lot of people visiting this blog every day.  But hopefully it means that there are a lot of Messianics out there interested in Messianic scholarship!



How J.K. McKee Utterly DEMOLISHED David Rudolph's and Boaz Michael's Bilateralist Interpretation of Politeia in Eph. 2:12

In "Mashiach" (Verge, Vol. 2, Iss. 2, February 2010), David Rudolph contended that "politeia" in Ephesians 2:12 could not be interpreted to mean that Gentiles have citizenship in Israel but rather must mean that Gentiles have been excluded from citizenship in Israel since "politeia", in its Greco-Roman context, refers to a citizenship preclusion system that effectively partitions citizenship according to ethnicity or nation of origin:
"[Politeia] in the first-century Greco-Roman context could mean a community of nations or ethnic groups sharing a common allegiance to a monarch."
Then in 2012, in the book Twelve Gates, Boaz Michael also started promoting this same Bilateralist interpretation of "politeia" in Eph. 2:12.  However, not content to rely solely upon Rudolph, Boaz Michael employed some inventive exegesis of his own based upon his (quite mistaken) understanding that the term "Israel" exists in the Greek source text of Eph. 3:6:
"...Paul is not necessarily arguing that Gentile converts are citizens of Israel; rather, taken together, these Gentile converts and Jewish people constitute the 'commonwealth of Israel,' which David Rudolph describes as 'a multinational expansion of Israel proper that has emerged in the form of the Church.'  It must be further noted that these Gentile converts are called 'heirs together with Israel' in Ephesians 3:6 [italics added]....had Paul desired to make his readers believe they were a part of Israel, or Israelites, he would have surely made it clear.  However, the one time he comes close to teaching this in Ephesians 2-3, he uses distancing language--'commonwealth of Israel' rather than 'Israel'; 'together with Israel' rather than 'as a part of Israel,' [italics added]" (Twelve Gates by Boaz Michael).
Given the prestige of these two men (Rudolph, rabbi of the flagship congregation of the UMJC, illustriously published author, and Boaz Michael, Messianic media magnate and published author), the average lay person in the Messianic movement back in 2012 would have had no reason to think that Rudolph's and Michael's interpretation was anything but the most reliable way to interpret one of the most pivotal passages in Paul's writings.

And then, in 2013, J.K. McKee's "Are Non-Jewish Believers Really a Part of Israel?" was published.

One section of the book reclaims Eph. 2 from the Bilateralist interpreters.  In this section, McKee eviscerates the Bilateralist argument by making the following two points:

(1) In an examination of the most authoritative classical references, one does not see "politeia" denoting a regime in which a single monarch rules over a "community of nations or ethnic groups" (to use Rudolph's description).  Rather, the term consistently refers to citizenship and its cognate concepts.  He provides the following arsenal:  Plato's Republic; Aristotle's Politics; 2 Maccabees 8:17; 3 Maccabees 3:21,23; Antiquities of the Jews;

(2) More importantly, when one examines how "politeia" and its cognate "politeuma" are used in the Apostolic Writings, one sees that, in each case, there is the unmistakeable denotation of citizenship:

  • "The commander answered, 'I acquired this citizenship [politeia] with a large sum of money.'  And Paul said, 'But I was actually born a citizen,'" (Acts 22:28). 
  • "For our citizenship [politeuma; 'commonwealth,' RSV] is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Yeshua the Messiah" (Philippians 3:20).

Given that these two points alone eviscerate the Bilateralist view, McKee addresses Boaz's contention of so-called "distancing language" (e.g. "together with Israel" in Eph. 3:6) only briefly,  gently pointing out that the term "Israel" does not occur in the Greek source text of that passage.  

In conclusion, McKee sums it up best:  
"Anyone who would try to equate the Greek term politeia with a kind of multiple nation-state commonwealth in mind, does not have strong support either from classical usage or Biblical usage of the term."



[Here's the link to Rudolph's article:  CLICK HERE FOR LINK]

Friday, August 8, 2014