Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Torah Resource Needs Your Help

So I saw this in my email inbox just now (if you can help, CLICK HERE):

 

TorahResource has always taken the stance that "God's work, done God's way, will never lack God's support." From the beginning, we have made it our practice to never ask for money. We don't send out requests for donations, and we don't put envelopes in our packages intended for your donation. 
We have taken this model from Hudson Taylor, and although Taylor didn't ask for money, he had no problem making his needs known. In the past few month's our staff has been discussing and praying about how to make our needs known, without people feeling like we are soliciting donations. We do have needs and we hope brother's and sisters will be praying for us, and will be aware of our needs.
We have decided to make a page on our site that will highlight some of our needs as well as praise reports. We will be keeping this page very up to date, and hope this will give people the ability to keep us in their prayers by being aware of our needs and matters of praise. We are truly grateful for all the financial and prayer support we receive.



Sample Partial Outline Section of Upcoming Acts 15 Paper


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Oy, the Paradoxes!!!

Do you accept the legitimacy of modern, halachically-recognized Jews?

Of course you do (unless you are some kind of anti-Semitic weirdo in which case you need to move along).

But, then, doesn't that mean that you are retrospectively conferring law-making power to the Rabbis in that you have accepted the legal status of modern Jewry which is the product of the Rabbinic legal system?

In other words, wouldn't it be a contradiction to accept the legitimacy of halachic Jewishness while rejecting the legitimacy of the halachah that defined that Jewishness?  If you reject the latter then logic requires you to reject the former.

Certainly none of us in the Messianic movement would ever reject the legitimacy of modern Jewry.  Yet this is an interesting dilemma for Messianics who, understandably, must reject Rabbinic authority over Messianic communities since that would pose an existential dilemma for the Messianic communities.

It also poses an existential dilemma for halachic Jews because if their continuity is only assured through the Rabbinic halachic system but Messianic communities, for existential reasons, reject the Rabbinic halachic system, then a halachic Jew who assimilates into a Messianic community will inevitably forfeit generational continuity.

If the above reasoning is accurate, that halachic Jewry needs Rabbinic halacha to maintain continuity...and Messianic communities similarly need Messianic halacha if they are to retain continuity...

...wouldn't that imply the need for 2 different realms of mutually exclusive halacha?

FURTHERMORE...

...since there are Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic movement whose status has been retrospectively affected by Rabbinic halacha (e.g. folks who converted under Rabbinic halachic auspices prior to coming to the Messiah, etc), doesn't that mean that these 2 realms of halacha have areas of overlap?

Oy vey!  Mutually exclusive and yet overlapping halachic systems!  That's quite a paradox!  

So it seems to me (at 1:27AM) that the only way that Messianics can help preserve the continuity of the Jewish People (and the continuity of the Messianic communities) is to assist Messianic Jews in making aliyah, helping them to return to the Land of Israel, a nation where Rabbinic halachah is the "law of the land" and, therefore, generational continuity is assured.

Ah, well, bedtime...

How is it possible for 2 systems of halacha to be mutually exclusive and still overlap???

Such paradoxes!






Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Faith All Around: Is Tim Hegg Correct That No One In Acts 15 Was Advocating Works-Based Salvation?


So as I was compiling notes for the Acts 15 paper/post, I came across this statement from Tim Hegg:
“…the Council was not debating whether or not salvation was gained by works. No one, including the “men from Judea” who were insisting that the Gentiles become proselytes, believed that anyone gained a place in the world to come by a complete keeping of Torah. As I have already noted, the prevailing view was that a place in the world to come was the gracious gift of God to every Israelite," Hegg, Acts 15 and the Jerusalem Council
Oh, really?

Aside from the fact that it was not a foregone conclusion that Gentiles had been accepted into Israel, we see in Paul's writings that, contra Hegg, there were actually folks in that time who pursued a works-based salvation:
“You who would be justified by the law, you have fallen away from grace” (Gal. 5:4) 
and:
“but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal.  Why?  Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works,” (Rom. 9:31-32).   


So the reality, according to Paul, was that there was a prevailing soteriology amongst first-century Jews that advocated works-based salvation.  McKee astutely picks up on the fact that the language in Acts 15:1 reveals that the Pharisee antagonists believed that there was salvific power in the act of circumcision:
"A possible translation of the clause ou dunasthe sothenai...is 'you are powerless to be saved [16]," (McKee, Acts 15 for the Practical Messianic)
And in the footnote 16:
"The verb dunamai...is related to the noun dunamis...meaning 'power, might, strength' (H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994], 213).
The implication from the language in 15:1 was that the Pharisee antagonists taught (quite forcefully) that circumcision carried power ("dunamis") for salvation.

So why does Tim Hegg say that works-based salvation vs. grace-based salvation was not at issue?

I think it's because Tim Hegg, somewhat understandably, harbors an anti-rabbinic bias.  He says that the oppositional "yoke" to which Peter the Apostle refers in his speech before the Jerusalem Council is the burdensome "Oral Torah" of the Rabbis:
"Rather, the yoke [the Council is] unwilling to place upon the backs of the Gentile believers is the yoke of man-made rules and laws. Indeed, the layer upon layer of rabbinic additions to the Torah had made the whole matter a burden, and had even at times clouded the very purpose of the Torah. It was this burden the Apostles were unwilling to place upon the shoulders of the Gentiles, a burden every proselyte would have been expected to bear.”
He makes a good point when says the following:
"Yeshua refers to the man-made laws of the Sages via the metaphor of a ‘burden’…[W]hen the rulings of men became so intertwined with the written Torah that for all practical purposes the two were one, to neglect the traditions of the Sages was viewed as a neglect of Torah…The implication is obvious:  to throw off the traditions was to cast away the ‘yoke of the commandments’ and to mark oneself as a heretic….As far as the rabbis were concerned, one was not keeping the commandments as they should unless they kept them as prescribed by the ruling authorities—according to the accepted halakah…[T]he ‘yoke of the commandments’ had effectively become the ‘yoke of the rabbis’ interpretations of the commandments,’ and this yoke was often a burden.”   
However, this interpretation not only destroys the symmetry of Peter's argument, the antithetical juxtaposition of "yoke" (v. 10) with "grace" (v. 11), but it ignores the fact that Paul employed the same rhetorical device of antithesis with the same language in Galatians 5 when he juxtaposes "yoke" (Gal. 5:1) with "grace" (Gal. 5:4).  That Paul equates "yoke" with works-based justification is evidenced by Paul's explanatory statement in the same passage, "...you who would be justified by the law" (5:4).

In conclusion, Tim Hegg's assertion that “…the Council was not debating whether or not salvation was gained by works" should be evaluated in light of the language employed in Acts 15:1 and in light of the structure of Peter's argument in 15:10-11 and Paul's argument in Gal. 5:1-4.

Those Troubling Baptism Passages: Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?


"And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name," Acts 22:16 
“And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,'" Acts 2:38 
"Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ," 1 Peter 3:21

Each of these passages, upon a superficial reading, appear to promote the idea that a mere ritual provides salvation (much like "certain" Pharisees promoted the idea that ritual circumcision provides salvation by initiating Gentiles into the "saved community"in Acts 15).

But is it permissible to read these passages as promoting baptism as necessary (or even integral) to salvation from sins?

The scholars among us would provide an exegesis employing a knowledge of the Greek source text in order to refute such a reading.  And that's certainly important to do....

But there's a simpler way!

IN RE CORNELIUS:

It turns out that we have clear proof that Gentiles (and Jews for that matter) are saved NOT by baptism (which comes later as a testimony and petition) but rather by the faith of a repentant heart which has received the free gift of grace as evidenced by the cleansing of the Ruach HaKodesh.  Where is this proof?  It's found in Acts 10 (pay close attention to the sequence of events):

"While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.  And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.  For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days," Acts 10:44-48
Here's the sequence:

(1) they listened to the besorah (Gospel);

(2) their hearts were open to receive this good news that Yeshua had ransomed them from a life of idolatry in order to serve the G-d of Israel and have life eternally;

(3) the Ruach HaKodesh POURED out, immersing them in the true water that washes away sins;

(4) then they immersed in physical water that symbolized the new change that had just occurred.

Notice that these Believers were saved PRIOR to baptism (tevilah) in physical water.

In conclusion, the story of Cornelius provides solid evidence that not only is baptism not necessary for salvation (since salvation occurs prior to baptism) but that Apostles (such as Peter), having witnessed this sequence of events, understood baptism (of the ritual variety) to be a ratificatory act.

Anyone have a different take?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Outline for Acts 15 Paper

I think I now have a good outline for my upcoming Acts 15 post.  It divides Acts 15 into 3 topics (Issue/Rule Analysis, Peter's Argument, and James' Speech) and provides some Messianic perspectives on each topic.  I think it will be a handy template for anyone to use in that additional viewpoints can easily be added to this existing template.  I also provide an explanation of issue-rule analysis which, to my knowledge, has never been done in the history of Acts 15 scholarship (you're welcome).

OUTLINE:

TOPIC 1:  Issue/Rule Analysis.  Primary Issue [PI] & Corollary Sub-Issues [CSI(s)] and Primary Rule [PR] & Corollary Sub-Rules [CSR(s)]


INTRODUCTORY NOTE:  There are roughly 3 steps to issue analysis:  (1) recognizing that an issue is created by 2 (or more) opposing propositions and identifying those propositions.  For example, strictly speaking, 15:1 is not an issue statement but rather a proposition statement that represents one component of the issue before the court; (2) understanding that the issue and the resolution of that issue (i.e. the "rule" that one may extract from the case record) are logical corollaries.  In other words, the rule is merely a restatement of the issue question but in answer form; (3) ascertaining whether resolution of the primary issue will affect corollary rights/duties of the parties.  For example, in Acts 15, if the primary issue is formulated as soteriological, a corollary sub-issue might be whether Gentiles are included in Israel or whether Gentiles must abide by the "One Law" precedent set forth in Torah for members of the covenanted People of Israel.  In other words, the presence of corollary issues affects not only the scope of the primary issue, broadening the primary issue with all corollary sub-issues, but it also, based on point #2 listed above, affects the scope of the rule, broadening the primary rule with all corollary sub-rules.  


Tim Hegg:

  • PI:
  • CSI(s):
  • PR:
  • CSR(s):


J.K. McKee:

  • PI:
  • CSI(s):
  • PR:
  • CSR(s):


Peter Vest:

PI:
CSI(s):
PR:
CSR(s):

First Fruits of Zion:

  •  PI: 
  •  CSI(s):
  •  PR:
  •  CSR(s):


Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC: Dan Juster, Russ Resnik, Derek Leman, David Rudolph, etc):

  •  PI: 
  •  CSI(s):
  •  PR:
  •  CSR(s):


TOPIC 2:  Peter’s Argument Before the Council


Tim Hegg

  • Relevance of Peter’s Argument to the Issue(s) and Rule(s):
  • Relevance of “Yoke” to the Issue(s) and Rule(s):


J.K. McKee

  • Relevance of Peter’s Argument to the Issue(s) and Rule(s):
  • Relevance of “Yoke” to the Issue(s) and Rule(s):


Peter Vest

  • Relevance of Peter’s Argument to the Issue(s) and Rule(s):
  • Relevance of “Yoke” to the Issue(s) and Rule(s):


First Fruits of Zion

  • Relevance of Peter’s Argument to the Issue(s) and Rule(s):
  • Relevance of “Yoke” to the Issue(s) and Rule(s):


Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations

  • Relevance of Peter’s Argument to the Issue(s) and Rule(s):
  • Relevance of “Yoke” to the Issue(s) and Rule(s):


TOPIC 3:  James’ Speech


Tim Hegg

  • Relevance of Inclusionary Prophetic References to Issue(s) and Rule(s) (e.g. Gezerah Shavah of Inclusionary Prophetic Passages; “People for His Name”; “Tent of David”):
  • Relevance of Fourfold Decree to Issue(s) and Rule(s)
  • Relevance of Dicta in 15:21 to Issue(s) and Rule(s)


J.K. McKee

  • Relevance of Inclusionary Prophetic References to Issue(s) and Rule(s) (e.g. Gezerah Shavah of         Inclusionary Prophetic Passages; “People for His Name”; “Tent of David”):
  • Relevance of Fourfold Decree to Issue(s) and Rule(s)
  • Relevance of Dicta in 15:21 to Issue(s) and Rule(s)


Peter Vest

  • Relevance of Inclusionary Prophetic References to Issue(s) and Rule(s) (e.g. Gezerah Shavah of Inclusionary Prophetic Passages; “People for His Name”; “Tent of David”):
  • Relevance of Fourfold Decree to Issue(s) and Rule(s)
  • Relevance of Dicta in 15:21 to Issue(s) and Rule(s)


First Fruits of Zion

  • Relevance of Inclusionary Prophetic References to Issue(s) and Rule(s) (e.g. Gezerah Shavah of Inclusionary Prophetic Passages; “People for His Name”; “Tent of David”):
  • Relevance of Fourfold Decree to Issue(s) and Rule(s)
  • Relevance of Dicta in 15:21 to Issue(s) and Rule(s)


UMJC

  • Relevance of Inclusionary Prophetic References to Issue(s) and Rule(s) (e.g. Gezerah Shavah of Inclusionary Prophetic Passages; “People for His Name”; “Tent of David”):
  • Relevance of Fourfold Decree to Issue(s) and Rule(s)
  • Relevance of Dicta in 15:21 to Issue(s) and Rule(s)



Friday, May 8, 2015

Upcoming Post and Blog Update

This weekend I'm going to try to finish a little paper on Acts 15 that provides a survey of Messianic literature on the subject.  It basically just breaks the chapter down into topics and then provides perspectives from various Messianic ministries and organizations.  I thought it would be a good resource for new-comers to the movement (and for anyone really).

I'm also going to be updating the blog as soon as I have time:  finishing the halacha section, creating a section that lists the posts which I feel are most useful, adding several new resources to the links section (including a transliterated Tanak), and eventually adding the complete Jewish prayers in Hebrew, transliterated, and in English.  Some of these are long term goals.

Your Help Would Be Appreciated

So I'm not up on all the social networking.  But if you think this blog is helpful, that discussing all the viewpoints in the Messianic Movement in a forum where censorship is not allowed is a beneficial thing, then please post a link to this blog on your facebook account or link it to your blog.  I don't ask for money or anything for all of the time I put into this blog.  This is purely an act of service.

Shalom,

Peter

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What FFOZ Really Believes Regarding Jewish and Gentile Believers (Take 2)






So it's actually really difficult to pin down what FFOZ believes about Jewish and Gentile Believers in regarding membership in Israel.  But I think I've finally figured out what they believe.  Phew!  Here you go:


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Superman vs. Bizarro: What Comic Books Teach Us About the Difference Between One Law and Bilateral Ecclesiology


The other day my daughter was battling a cold and brought me some books to read to her.  It was a box of these little superman comics.  One of the stories, shown above, was Superman Versus Bizarro.  In this story...well, I'll just tell you what it says because I have it right here on the couch:

Page 1:

"Bizarro likes to fix things,
but he only causes trouble.
His thinking is all backward."

Page 2:

"Bizarro spies a kitten in a tree.
'Bizarro must save tree!' he says.
He rips it out of the ground.

Page 3:

"A Boat is sinking in the river.
'Bizarro will stop the river,'
says the alien.

Page 4:

"Bizarro hits a bridge hard.
Bits of rock fly down.
The river starts to flood!

Long story short, Bizarro rampages around the city trying to do good but only causing destruction because he's bizarro logic (which worked great on Bizarro World) doesn't work so well in our world.

Last page:

" 'You have a big heart,' Superman
tells Bizarro.
'But you are a better hero on Bizarro
World!'"

So this morning I was transcribing Neusner's One Law Treatise in which he shows from normative Jewish writings that Torah was always intended as a universal religion for all of humanity.  For example:
 "The one and only God has given the Torah to show humanity embodied in Israel the way back to the land that is Eden," pg. 12
And I was also in the process of transcribing David Rudolph's lecture in which he says the exact opposite:
G-d gave the Torah to an Israel composed solely of ethnic Jews.
History shows us that Christian Theology operates like Bizarro.  It tries to do good but, because of its twisted logic, causes a lot of damage.  David Rudolph has a heart for peace even as he preaches doctrine that (literally) tears congregations apart.

The Prophets show us that One Law operates like Superman.  One Law will overcome the twisted logic that wreaks havoc on divided humanity and help all Believers in the G-d of Israel to see themselves as the family of Israel, united around Yeshua and Zion (from whence the Law shall go forth).

To the One Law movement, I say "keep searching for the core values":


  • Learn Hebrew 
  • Walk in tension with the rabbis (rather than simply showing contempt)
  • Promote communal holism (rather than extreme individualism) 
  • Restore representative, plural elders to leadership (rather than a hierarchy where one man rules all)
  • Create gemeinschaft communities where MAXIMAL integration exists (realizing that this is a bit like a marriage and shouldn't be entered into lightly)

And many others.  With Messiah's help, we are going to get there.  We're not going to lose 2000 years of impurities in a single generation.  We are going to build healthy families and put the third and fourth generations in a position to be global representative of Yeshua.

Shalom,

Peter