Sunday, November 22, 2015

Did the Messiah Have to Die for the Sins of Israel?

"The answer to your question is simple. Jesus could not die for anyone’s sins, whether they were committed intentionally or accidentally. To begin with, the Jewish people were strictly prohibited from offering human sacrifices under any circumstances. There is not one place throughout the entire corpus of the Jewish Scriptures where human sacrifices are condoned. In fact, over and over again, the Bible warns the Jewish people that it is a grave sin to bring a human being as a sacrifice. In the Book of Leviticus, only distinct species of animals are permitted for use in blood sacrifices," Rabbi Tovia Singer, responding to the question "Could Jesus' Death Atone for Any Kind of Sin?", from:
 In the excerpt above, Singer is making the argument that the Messiah did not need to die for the sins of Israel...which is odd given that both Scripture and, more interestingly, writings of Rabbinic Judaism attest that the Messiah had to die and be a sacrifice for the sins of Israel.

First, let's look at Scripture.  We see in Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 12:10 that the Messiah had to be like a lamb sacrifice:

"1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and theLord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors," Isaiah 53 
"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn," Zechariah 12:10

Next, let's look at what the writings of Rabbinic Judaism have to say about the Messiah in the above passages.  
"The fifth house [in the heavenly Paradise] is built of onyx and jasper stones, and inlaid stones, and silver and gold, and good pure gold.  And round it are rivers of balsam, and before its door flows the River Gihon.  And [it has] a canopy of all trees of incense and good scent.  And [in it are] beds of gold and silver, and embroidered garments.  And there sit Messiah ben David and Elijah and Messiah ben Ephraim.  And there is a canopy of incense trees as in the Sanctuary which Moses made in the desert.  And all its vessels and pillars are of silver, its covering is gold, its seat is purple.  And in it is Messiah ben David who loves Jerusalem.  Elijah of blessed memory takes hold of his head, places it in his lap and holds it, and says to him:  'Endure the sufferings and the sentence of your Master who makes you suffer because of the sin of Israel.'  And thus it is written:  He was wounded because of our transgressions, he was crushed because of our iniquities (Isa. 53:5)--until the time when the end comes.
     And every Monday and Thursday, and every Sabbath and holiday, the Fathers of the World [i.e. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] and Moses and Aaron, David and Solomon, and the prophets, and the pious come and visit him, and weep with him.  And he weeps with them.  And they give him thanks and say to him:  'Endure the sentence of your Master, for the end is near to come, and the chains which are on your neck will be broken, and you will go out into freedom,'
     And even Korah and all his company entreat him every Wednesday and say to him:  'How long until the miraculous end?  When will you bring us back to life and bring us up again from the depths of the earth (Ps. 71:20)?
     And he says to them:  'Go and ask the Fathers of the World.'  And they are ashamed and return to their place.' (Mid. Konen, BhM 2:29-30)" Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts, pgs 114-115
The passage reiterates a common theme in Rabbinic writings, the belief that Messiah ben Yoseph had to die and "[e]ndure the sufferings...because of the sin of Israel."  And note that in this particular passage, the Rabbis identify Messiah ben Yoseph as the Messiah in the Isaiah 53 passage.

In another passage associating the Messiah ben Yoseph with Isaiah 53, the following passage from the Zohar explains that the Messiah died for the sins of Israel ("...because they neglected the Torah..") but also further explains that the Messiah takes over the role of the Temple sacrifices:
"The souls which are in the Garden of Eden of Below roam about on every New Moon and Sabbath, and go to that place which is called Walls of Jerusalem, where there are many officers and detachments which watch-over those walls....And they go to that place, but do not enter it until they are purified.  And there they prostrate themselves, and enjoy that radiance, and then return to the Garden.  [And again] they go forth from there and roam about in the world, and they see the bodies of the sinful suffering their punishment....And then they [continue to] roam and view those afflicted with sufferings and disease, and those who suffer for the Oneness of their Master, and then they return and tell [all this] to the Messiah.  In the hour in which they tell the Messiah about the sufferings of Israel in exile, and [about] the sinful among them who seek not the knowledge of their Master, the Messiah lifts up his voice and weeps over those sinful among them.  This is what is written:  He was wounded because of our transgressions, he was crushed because of our iniquities (Isa. 53:5).  Those souls then return to their places.  In the Garden of Eden there is a hall which is called the Hall of the Sons of Illness.  The Messiah enters that hall and summons all the diseases and all the pains and all the sufferings of Israel that they should come upon him, and all of them come upon him.  And would he not thus bring ease to Israel and take their sufferings upon himself, no man could endure the sufferings Israel has to undergo because they neglected the Tora...As long as Israel dwelt in the Holy Land, the rituals and the sacrifices they performed [in the Temple] removed all those diseases from the world, now the Messiah removes them from the children of the world....' (Zohar 2:212a)" Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts, pgs 115-116
Again and again in Midrash we read that Messiah ben Yoseph died for the sins of Israel ("...their sins will in the future force you into an iron yoke..." Pes. Rab. & "...'Ephraim, our True Messiah!...Do you want that our children should enjoy the happiness that this happiness the Holy One, blessed be He, allotted to Israel, or perhaps, because of the great sufferings that have come upon you on their account, and because they imprisoned you in the jailhouse, your mind is not reconciled with them?'" Pes. Rab. ch 36).

And, lastly, we should note that the Rabbis believed that this Messiah ben Joseph, the Messiah who had to die for the sins of Israel, is the same Messiah depicted in Zechariah 12:10, the Messiah of whom G-d says, "they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son..." (see note below).

In conclusion, it seems that Singer is wrong to argue that the Messiah did not need to die for the sins of Israel.  Scripture tells us that the Messiah did indeed have to die for the sins of Israel.  Furthermore, we can see from the writings of Rabbinic Judaism that the Rabbis understood this as well.




"Talmud - Mas. Sukkah 52a And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart.1 Is it not, they said, an a fortiori argument? If in the future2 when they will be engaged in mourning and the Evil Inclination will have no power over them,3 the Torah4 nevertheless says, men separately and women separately, how much more so now5 when they are engaged in rejoicing and the Evil Inclination has sway over them.6 What is the cause of the mourning [mentioned in the last cited verse]?1 — R. Dosa and the Rabbis differ on the point. One explained, The cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph,7 and the other explained, The cause is the slaying of the Evil Inclination. It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son;8 but according to him who explains the cause to be the slaying of the Evil Inclination, is this [it may be objected] an occasion for mourning? Is it not rather an occasion for rejoicing? Why then should they weep? — [The explanation is] as R. Judah expounded: In the time to come9 the Holy One, blessed be He, will bring the Evil Inclination and slay it in the presence of the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous it will have the appearance of a towering hill, and to the wicked it will have the appearance of a hair thread. Both the former and the latter will weep; the righteous will weep saying, ‘How were we able to overcome such a towering hill!’ The wicked also will weep saying, ‘How is it that we were unable to conquer this hair thread!’ And the Holy One, blessed be He, will also marvel together with them, as it is said, Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in those days, it shall10 also be marvellous in My eyes.11 R. Assi stated, The Evil Inclination is at first like the thread of a spider, but ultimately12 becomes like cart ropes, as it is said, Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart-rope.13 Our Rabbis taught, The Holy One, blessed be He, will say to the Messiah, the son of David (May he reveal himself speedily in our days!), ‘Ask of me anything, and I will give it to thee’, as it is said, I will tell of the decree etc. this day have I begotten thee, ask of me and I will give the nations for thy inheritance.14 But when he will see that the Messiah the son of Joseph is slain, he will say to Him, ‘Lord of the Universe, I ask of Thee only the gift of life’.’As to life’, He would answer him, ‘Your father David has already prophesied this concerning you’, as it is said, He asked life of thee, thou gavest it him, [even length of days for ever and ever].15" from:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Iran Preps to Retake the Temple Mount: Is Satan Getting Nervous?

So the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been running a war game to simulate how they might recapture the Temple Mount from the Israelis:

You can read about it HERE.

The forces of evil are sure getting worked up.  I wonder what has them so riled up?  Could it be that Satan is getting nervous about something?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Responding to David Negley

When it comes to the Divinity of Yeshua, the stakes are really high.  The Scriptures affirm that not only was a perfect sacrifice needed to take away sin but also that this perfect Sacrifice had to be G-d Himself, the One who is able to withstand the power of death (otherwise the covenant with Israel would've been a failure, resulting in the destruction of one of the parties and the dissolution of the familial bond).  So if you deny the Divinity of Yeshua then you deny the power of His forgiveness and you deny HaShem Himself.  Furthermore, if you affirm Jewish Law (which rightly prohibits worship of created beings) and you affirm that Yeshua is not HaShem but merely a created being then this is what happens:  worship of Yeshua is outlawed!

So the stakes couldn't be higher for our existence as Messianics.

And yesterday David Negley attacked Messianic Judaism on an existential level--attacked the very heart of our faith--by claiming that believing in Yeshua as HaShem is a lie of Christianity.  So the following contains both David's assertion and my response.

David Negley to me:

It seems to me that deifying the Messiah is only a priority if one carries such a doctrine over from church theosophy. Judaism has always had room for a variety of expression regarding the nature and character of Mashiach. Christianity, on the other hand, has made trinitarian doctrine a watershed, a definition for whether one is inside or outside of "the camp".

I believe Tehillim/Psalms 89 contains the key to understanding the nature of Mashiach. Everything in that psalm applies equally to David, to Solomon, and also to Yeshua. Once we wrap our heads around that idea, we are on our way to a Biblical perspective.


Me to David Negley:


First, you'll notice by surveying all the 1st Century Jewish literature that one thing was universal: Jews believed, based on Torah, that Creatorship was unique to HaShem (see notes below). Second, the Apostolic writers not only attributed Creatorship to Yeshua (see notes below) but they believed salvation was impossible unless G-d Himself was providing the atonement. Third, the Torah itself says that the Messiah is Divine and therefore to reject the nature of the Messiah is to reject HaShem (see notes below).


G-d says He made all things in the universe alone–by Himself (“I am the Lord maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself” Isaiah 44:24).

The Apostolic Writings affirm that Yeshua made all things (“…there is one Lord, Yeshua HaMoshiach, through whom all things were created” 1 Corinthians 8:6 and “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made,” John 1:3. Moreover, the text says that Yeshua is G-d ("...the Word was God," John 1:1).

Here's Bauckham on how strict monotheism of 1st Century Judaism was identifiable based on the criteria that HaShem was the sole Creator of all things:

"In my view high Christology was possible within a Jewish monotheistic context, not by applying to Jesus a Jewish category of semi-divine intermediary status, but by identifying Jesus directly with the one God of Israel, including Jesus in the unique identity of this one God. I use the term 'unique identity' as the best way of speaking of the uniqueness of God as generally conceived in early Judaism."

"The one God of Second Temple Jewish belief was identifiable as unique by two kinds of identifying features. The first concerns his covenant relationship with Israel. He is the God of Israel, known from the recital of his acts in Israel's history and from the revelation of his character to Israel (Exod 34:6). He has revealed to Israel his name [Adonai], which was of great importance to Jews of the Second Temple period because it names precisely the unique identity of their God."

"...this God was also characterized as unique by his relationships to the whole of reality: especially that he is the only Creator of all things and that he is the sole sovereign Ruler of all things. Such identifications of [Adonai] are extremely common in Second Temple Jewish literature. Such identifications of [Adonai] are extremely common in Second Temple Jewish literature. They were the simplest and clearest way of answering the question: What distinguishes [Adonai], the only true God, from all other reality? In what does his uniqueness consist? These characteristics make a clear and absolute distinction between the true God and all other reality. God alone created all things; all other things, including beings worshipped as gods by Gentiles, are created by him....However diverse Judaism may have been in many other respects, this was common: only the God of Israel is worthy of worship because he is the sole Creator of all things and sole Ruler of all things. Other beings who might otherwise be thought divine are by these criteria God's creatures and subjects. (Thus so-called intermediary figures either belong to the unique identity of God or else were created by and remain subject to the one God, as his worshippers and servants, however exalted.)"

And here Bauckham provides references from 1st Century Jewish literature that show this strict monotheism based on HaShem's unique Creatorship was the predominant belief:

“However diverse Judaism may have been in many other respects, this was common: only the God of Israel is worthy of worship because he is sole Creator of all things and sole Ruler of all things. Other beings who might otherwise be thought divine are by these criteria God’s creatures and subjects,” Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, pg. 9. And he writes, “…again and again, in a wide variety of Second Temple Jewish literature, [it is written that Adonai] is sole Creator of all things…”

He’s talking not just about numerous passages in Torah but also extra-biblical Jewish sources such as 2 Macc. 1:24; Sir. 43:33; Bel 5; Jub. 12:3-5; sib. Or. 3:20-35; 8:375-76; Sib. Or. frg. 1:5-6; Sib. Or. frg. 3; Sib. Or. frg. 5; 2 En. 47:3-4; 66:4 Apoc. Ab. 7:10; Ps-Sophocles; Jos. Asen. 12:1-2; T. Job 2:4.


Here are some places where Paul applies HaShem passages to Yeshua:

"(1) [Adonai] texts with Jesus Christ as referent:

(1a) Five quotations including kurio
Rom 10:13-----Joel 2:32
1 Cor 1:31------Jer 9:24
1 Cor 2:16------Isa 40:13
1 Cor 10:26----Ps 23(24):1
2 Cor 10:17----Jer 9:24

(1b) One quotation to which Paul adds legei kurio
Rom 14:11----Isa 45:23

(1c) One quotation not including kurio
Rom 9:33----Isa 8:14

(1d) Nine allusions including kurio
1 Cor 8:6----Deut 6:4
1 Cor 10:22----Deut 32:21
2 Cor 8:21----Prov 3:4
Phil 2:10-11----Isa 45:23
1 Thes 3:13----Zech 14:5
2 Thes 1:7----Isa 66:15
2 Thes 1:9----Isa 2:10, 19, 21
2 Thes 1:12----Isa 66:5
2 Thes 3:16----Num 6:26

(1e) Six stereotyped OT phrases including kurio

'to call on the name of the Lord'

1 Cor 1:2 (cf. Rom 10:13)----Joel 2:23; Zeph 3:9; Zech 13:9; Jer 10:25 etc.

'the day of the Lord'

1 Cor 1:8; 5:5; 2 Cor 1:14; 1 Thes 5:2; 2 Thes 2:2 Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; Amos 5:18; Isa 13:6, 9 etc.

'to serve the Lord' Rom 12:11; 16:18 1 Kdms 12:20; Pss 2:11; 99(100):2; 101(102):22 etc.

'the word of the Lord' 1 Thes 1:8; 2 Thes 3:1 Isa 2:3 etc.

'the Lord be with you' 2 Thes 3:16 Ruth 2:4; 1 Kdms 17:37; 20:13 etc.

'the fear of the Lord' 2 Cor 5:11 Isa 2:10, 19, 21 etc.

(2) YHWH texts with God as referent:

(2a) Nine quotations including kurio"
Rom 4:7-8----Ps 31(32):1-2
Rom 9:27-28----Hos 2:1 + Isa 10:22-2316
Rom 9:29----Isa 1:9 (kuvrio" sabawvq)
Rom 10:16----Isa 53:1 (kuvrio" in LXX, no equivalent in MT)17 Rom 11:3 3----Kdms 19:10 (kuvrio" not in LXX, no equivalent in MT)
Rom 11:34----Isa 40:13
Rom 15:11----Ps 116(117):1
1 Cor 3:20----Ps 93(94):11
2 Cor 6:18 2----Kdms 7:14, 8 (kuvrio" pantokravtwr)

(2b) Three quotations to which Paul adds legei kurio"
Rom 12:1919----Deut 32:35
1 Cor 14:21----Isa 28:11-12
2 Cor 6:17----Isa 52:11 + Ezek 20:34

(2c) Twelve quotations in which the speaker ('I') is identified as YHWH in the OT context

Rom 4:17----Gen 17:5
Rom 9:9----Gen 18:14
Rom 9:13----Mal 1:2-3
Rom 9:14----Exod 33:19
Rom 9:17-----Exod 9:16
Rom 9:25----Hos 2:25
Rom 9:33-----Isa 28:16
Rom 10:19-----Deut 32:2120
Rom 10:20-----Isa 65:1
Rom 10:21-----Isa 65:2
Rom 11:26-27----Isa 59:20-21
2 Cor 6:2----- Isa 49:8"


"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn," Zechariah 12:10

Non-Messianic Jews, when they read Zechariah 12:10, are faced with a problem: here is a passage where G-d is the speaker and He seems to be saying that He was rejected and pierced by His own People.

Zech. 12:10 says that they will look unto "me"---the one who was [previously, at some other time] slain. The passage literally says they will accept the Messiah that they had previously rejected! It's talking not about 2 different Messiahs but about a single Messiah!

By the way, the grammar in this passage is not contested by the Talmudic Rabbis nor is it contested by Jewish scholars:

"...the translation 'look to Me whom they have pierced' is correct. The relative clause 'whom they have pierced' in in apposition to 'Me,' the spokesman of the passage. 'Et, the Hebrew word introducing the clause marks it as the object of the verb 'look to'; the Hebrew word 'asher is always a relative pronoun in that context, and never the conjunction 'because.' It should also be noted that in the Hebrew clause 'they have pierced' lacks the pronominal suffix 'him,'" Gerald Sigal, Trinity Doctrine Error: A Jewish Analysis.


"56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”[d] 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple," John 8:56-59

Here we see Yeshua referring to Himself as HaShem in such a way that leaves no doubt. Even the Jews listening to Him say it perfectly understood that He was identifying as HaShem. And, not believing that He was HaShem, they picked up stones to stone Him for what they believed to be blasphemy. Here's a note about the unmistakable way Yeshua identified Himself:

"Jesus uses the ego eimi formula in three different ways in the Fourth Gospel: (1) With a predicate....(2) With an implied predicate....(3) As an absolute...certainly in 8:58: 'before Abraham was born, I am!' The last of these uses needs furhter comment, for in this case ego eimi represents the divine name. In Exodus 3:14 God says to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' The 'I AM WHO I AM' is translated as ego eimi ho on in the LXX. In Isaiah 43:25; 51:12 ego eimi on its own functions as the divine name. Thus when Jesus said to 'the Jews', 'before Abraham was born, I am', he was identifying himself with God. He was not only pronouncing the name of God...he was claiming to be God," Colin Kruse, The Gospel According to John, pg. 138

Meeting with My Brother (Part 2)

What a wonderful brother I have.  I really don't deserve him.  So I had emailed him my difficulties creating the multiple accounts with which to familiarize myself with how Facebook groups work.  He said to come over to his place after work.

So I showed up and he handed me about 10 sheets of paper:   he'd created accounts and written a neat set of instructions for how I could log in and experiment with the settings.

What a guy!

Yeshua blessed me with a friend who is willing to explain these things to me, who desires to see me succeed in establishing a local Messianic fellowship---and he made this friend my flesh-and-blood brother.  Baruch HaShem!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Links to Additional Torah Observant Organizations

Does anyone know anything about these organizations?  

I'm going to research them as I have time this week.  If anyone would like to provide a comparative analysis of these organizations (as they compare with other major Messianic organizations) it would certainly be appreciated.

Also, I desperately need to update my links section and also provide a new introduction section with a glossary.  If anyone has recommendations for links or terms/definitions or introductory items, please share in the comments section of this post.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Friday, November 6, 2015

Question for the Experienced Messianics Out There: What's Your Best Advice for New Messianics?

In Return of the Jedi, the bad guy, Darth Vader, thought it'd be a good idea to threaten Luke's sister: "If you will not turn to the dark side...then perhaps she will."

And then Luke did what any of us would do in that situation. 

Luke put Vader on the ground like so:

In Messianic Judaism (yes, I'm now going to segue from Star Wars to Messianic Judaism), we Messianics feel protective of our brethren.  That's why we see so many Messianic ministries (e.g. and Torah Resource) whose mission is to empower their Messianic brothers and sisters.  


And so my question today is for the folks who have been in the Messianic movement for a while:

What advice do you have for brothers and sisters in the Messianic movement?  Or, to borrow the Star Wars metaphor again, what do you see as the path to the dark side?  What do you see as the path to the light side? 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Mathematical Torah vs. the Familial Torah: Or Why You Shouldn’t Punish an Electron

As a devout nerd, I used to wear a shirt that said, "GRAVITY:  It's Not Just a Good Idea, It's the Law."  Of course everyone realizes that there's a big difference between the laws of physics and the laws of mankind.

All things in nature must obey the laws of physics.  We don't have a choice.  The fabric of space-time, the elementary particles like electrons, they all have mathematical properties and are governed by mathematical laws--all of those fancy equations for the laws of motion, the laws of thermodynamics, etc.

Indeed, we see beautiful, reoccurring patterns in nature that showcase how these mathematical laws are influencing everything from a spiral galaxy...

down to a relatively tiny nautilus shell...

And we know that these laws governing the heavens were put in place by the Word of G-d:

"By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host," Psalms 33:6

Yet we see that His Word (Law) goes out to not only nature but also to us humans:

“He sends forth his commandment upon the earth: his word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool: he scatters the hoarfrost like ashes. He casts forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold?  He sends out his word, and melts them: he causes his wind to blow, and the waters flow.  He shows his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel.  He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord,” Psalm 147:15-20

And, while nature is very obedient, G-d's own family is not always obedient:

“Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD,” Jeremiah 8:7

You could say that all laws are about governing relationships.  The laws of mathematics (physics) govern the relationships between various entities.  But the relationships between man and man and man and G-d are a very different type of relationship necessitating a very different type of law--the Revealed Law of Scripture.

But what's different about it?

The difference is this:  an intimate relationship requires a will.  So G-d gave a will to each human being.  You have this will because G-d wants an intimate relationship with you.  

And this intimate relationship is a family relationship.  

And so there are really 2 types of laws:  laws governing the mathematical, physical universe and laws governing the family of G-d.

The laws of G-d's family are only found in one place (or, rather, they're only found with one family):

"He shows his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel.  He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord,” Psalm 147:15-20

He doesn't give His familial laws to anyone other than Israel because He doesn't want a relationship with anyone other than Israel.  And what is Israel?  Israel is the segment of humanity that desires to follow the will of G-d, the segment that hears His voice, hearkens to it, and returns to Him at the appointed times and observes His laws.  If you hear this voice then G-d has drawn you into His family--into Israel.

Thus, Jews and Gentiles form one single family--the Israel of G-d.  And there is one familial Law--the Torah of Moses.



Friday, October 30, 2015

Why Did the Pharisees Try to Save Yeshua's Life? A Question on Luke 13:31

"But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him," Matthew," 12:14
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you," Luke 13:31

 I was wondering about Luke 13:31 this morning...  Why did the Pharisees, a group that previously had sought to destroy Yeshua (Matt. 12:14), try to save His life by warning Him that Herod was trying to kill Him?

Is it possible then that some Pharisees in Luke 13 were actually trying to save His life?  We know that some of them, after witnessing the signs He performed, were drawn to Him and acknowledged Him as a great teacher (John 3).

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?


Here's another passage indicating that there were divisions within the Pharisees regarding Yeshua:

"So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them," John 9:15-16 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Paul's Identity Construction Project for Gentiles

"[Y]ou are...built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Yeshua haMoshiach Himself as the chief cornerstone.  In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord," Ephesians 2:19-21

Did Paul want Gentiles to radically change their identities--to think of themselves as non-Jewish members of Israel? 

I'm going to discuss 2 ways in which Paul advocates for just such a change:


"If any of them should wish to pass over into the Jewish citizenship [politeian], [the Egyptians] must not be spurned with an unconditional refusal as children of enemies, but be so favoured that the third generation is invited to the congregation [ekklesian] and made partakers in the divine revelations..."  Philo, On Virtue 108, (note 1)
In a classical Greek context, "politeia" would refer to secular citizenship (note 2) and "ekklesia" would refer to a secular convocation of citizens political purposes.  However, we see in Philo's writings (and other ancient Jewish sources) that there is also a Jewish context for these terms--that first-century Jews appropriated politeia as referring to religious membership in Israel and ekklesia as referring to religious convocations of members of Israel. 

So if we see Paul referring to Gentiles as members in the Ekklesia (which is translated as "Church") and emphatically declaring that Gentiles are citizens in Israel ("Remember that [formerly] you were...excluded from citizenship (politeia) in Israel..." Eph 2:12), then based on first-century Jewish usage of these terms in a religious context, it must follow that Paul wanted to Gentiles to think of themselves as members of Israel and qualified to participate in the assembly of Israel.

Now let's look at another piece of evidence.


"But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree," Romans 11:17

To understand what Paul is getting at here, we first need to review some Scripture:

"The LORD called you a thriving olive tree..." Jeremiah 11:16 (also see Hosea 14)
In Jeremiah 11:16 (and other passages), G-d is clearly referring to Israel as an olive tree.  So this at least allows for the possibility that in Romans 11 Paul is borrowing the metaphor in order to convey that Gentile Believers are grafted into Israel.  We can also see from later rabbinic writings that this language of "grafting" to the "root" refers to conversion that bestows membership in Israel:
"In truth, the converts could not decide to come to Israel if Israel had not already been first chosen by God.  Israel's election, to use a rabbinic term, is 'the root' (iqqar); the converts' conversion is 'grafted' (tafel) onto it," Novak, The Election of Israel, pg. 188

We're left with the very distinct impression that Paul wants Gentiles to think of themselves as members of Israel (politeia) who may participate in the assembly of Israel (ekklesia) based on the fact that they have been in-grafted (tafel) to the root (iqqar) of the Olive Tree (Israel).


Note 1:  The reference to the "third generation" comes from the prohibition in Deuteronomy 23:8 on allowing an Egyptian to enter the assembly (kahal) until the third generation. 

Note 2:  Politeia is a term that refers to citizenship in writings such as Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Politics, 2 Maccabees 8:17; 3 Maccabees 3:21,23, and Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews.  "The Greek word politeia means in the first instance 'citizenship,' the quality of being a citizen," (Cohen, The Beginnings of Jewishness).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Instructions Not Included: Why Many Gentiles Leave Messianic Judaism for Non-Messianic, Halachic Judaism [UPDATED]

[Please see "UPDATE" below]

"Res est misera ubi jus est vagam et invertum" ("It is a miserable state of things where the law is vague and uncertain")

Some of you probably remember the following lines from "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" by Beatrix Potter:
"'Now my dears,' said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, 'you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don't go into Mr. McGregor's garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor."
This is what parents are constantly doing:  issuing specific instructions so that our children don't get hurt and/or die.

Don't play in the road.

Don't run with scissors.

And we also have to give specific instructions if we want our children to do something good for themselves and do it correctly.  Whether it's for the purpose of avoiding something harmful or directing towards something good, we try to give specific instructions because....why?

What happens when vague instructions are given?

Answer:  bad things will happen.

And a loving father doesn't want bad things to happen to his child.  He shows his love then through specificity.

But according to the UMJC, G-d doesn't have specific instructions for the Gentiles.  

A Gentile wonders "which commandments do I have to perform?" David Rudolph says "Well, you're exempt from the most distinctively Jewish requirements of the Torah" (note 1).  So which ones are those?  That's rather vague...  Mark Kinzer says "Well, you're only obligated to keep a limited number of commandments from the Torah" (note 2).  So which are those exactly?  That's extremely vague.  Dan Juster says "Well, you're just supposed to keep the morally good commandments" (note 3).  But if morality refers to G-d's value system then aren't all of the commandments moral?  So that hermeneutic isn't even workable.  Michael Rudolph says, "Well, you're only obligated to keep the commandments that apply to Gentiles as opposed to the commandments that apply to Israelites," (note 4).  Right...which ones are those again?

It's little wonder that I've seen so many Gentiles leave the UMJC for non-Messianic synagogues (which, sooner or later, also involves rejecting Yeshua).  But I can sympathize with them.  They want a Heavenly Father who loves them--loves them with specificity.  But all they're offered is a Heavenly Father who doesn't care what they do. 

To the Gentiles I'd just like to say:  G-d does love you with specificity.  He does want you to have clear and specific instructions for how you should live your life.  And if you want to know more about how Torah applies to you, please check out these ministries:




Shortly after publishing this post, a commenter named Yahnatan said I misrepresented these UMJC leaders and that they're actually providing clear instructions to Gentiles.  He cited vaguely to a book written by Michael Rudolph.

However, this book proves my point.  Compare the following 2 quotes and see for yourself if it sounds like the UMJC is presenting an unambiguous message to Gentiles:

"...Gentiles are not required to keep specific calendar days as Sabbaths (i.e. no work)..." Dan Juster, The Law of Messiah Compiled as Mitzvot, Introduction by Daniel C. Juster
"...we would teach that God wants [Gentiles] to keep the Shabbat (Isaiah 56:3-8)," Michael Rudolph & Ralph Finley, Messianic Judaism:  A Response to Mark Kinzer

Does that sound clear to everyone?  "Don't keep Shabbat....but remember that G-d wants you to keep the Shabbat."  Right...


Note 1:

“[In] the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council decision [James] exempted Jesus-believing Gentiles from most of the distinctively Jewish requirements of the Torah…” David Rudolph, A Jew to the Jews, pg. 56

“The Jerusalem Council decision in Acts 15 centered on the question of whether Jesus-believing Gentiles were exempt from Mosaic law…The apostolic decree was only addressed to ‘Gentile believers’ and clarified the ‘requirements’ (including certain minimal food restrictions) that were incumbent upon the ‘Gentile believers’ (Acts 15:19-20, 23),” David Rudolph, A Jew to the Jews, pg. 49.

Note 2:

“Jervell notices what most commentators miss.  James’s exegesis of Amos 9 leads to the immediate conclusion that ‘two groups exist within the church.’  The first group consists of the Jewish Yeshua-believers, who constitute Israel’s eschatological firstfruits.  As we showed in chapter 2, the controversy in Acts 15 makes sense only if all parties assumed that this Jewish group is obligated to live according to the Torah.  The second group consists of Gentile Yeshua-believers, the ‘people’ whom God took for himself from among the nations.  Amos 9 treats this as a distinct group, related to Israel but also distinct from it.  Therefore it cannot be presumed that the commandments incumbent on Israel are also incumbent on this group.  According to the implicit Torah exegesis of James [in his fourfold decree] based on Leviticus 17-18, this group associated with Israel is obligated to keep only a limited number of commandments from the Torah.  Thus James roots his halakhic decision in the bilateral ecclesiology he derives from Amos 9,” Mark Kinzer, Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism, pgs. 159-160.

Note 3:

“As for gentile believers, they are given the direction to ‘abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood’ (Acts 15:29).  We recognize here one of the historic Jewish positions:  A gentile who is to be accepted as righteous must follow the Noahic Covenant. …[James] affirmed the basic moral dimensions of the Law as universally applicable as well as the sanctity of blood…It is also of note that this is the minimum standard for Jews and gentiles to achieve table fellowship, that great symbol of spiritual unity…,” Dan Juster, Jewish Roots, pg. 83

Note 4:

"In this paper, I posit that the [Fourfold Decree of Acts 15] was intended only as a minimum requirement, and was neither meant to limit Gentiles' adherence to Torah, nor infer that Torah was not applicable to them.  I then proceed to suggest that, not only has Torah always been for Gentiles, but that Gentiles were its first recipients....Since we have shown that Torah predated Israel and the Mosaic Covenant, obedience to Torah cannot possibly be claimed by Judaism as a unique Jewish distinctive.  That notwithstanding, particular requirements of Torah and the manner in which they are obeyed may indeed be identity-dependent....In the same way, certain commandments apply only to Israeltites (Jews), certain ones only to Gentiles, and many to both....In the New Covenant, both Jews and Gentiles need to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit in order to know how to apply commandments that were given under the previous Covenant and many centuries ago...." Michael Rudolph, "Of Course Torah is for Gentiles!", 2005