Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why I Have an Ax to Grind With First Fruits of Zion and the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, a Response to Gene and Anonymous


The Torah commands that we teach Torah to our children, a command which includes teaching Torah to the gentile proselyte because the proselyte is like a new-born child:

Yevamot 48a "R. Jose said: One who has become a proselyte is like a child newly born.  Why then are proselytes oppressed? — Because they are not so well acquainted with the details of the commandments as the Israelites.

More than this, the proselyte is an orphan:

"The reason for the prohibition 'You shall not wrong a stranger' (Exodus 22:20)...is that he has no family roots" (Ibn Ezra's short commentary to Exodus 22:20)

Therefore, one distorts Torah to the proselyte is susceptible to the following curse:

“Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’"(Deut 27:19).

Therefore, the teachers who distort Torah for proselytes must be rebuked because we are commanded:

"You shall not hate your brother in your heart: you shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him." (Lev 19:17)

But are the gentiles in the New Covenant to be equated with proselytes?  See the following posts:  

http://orthodoxmessianic.blogspot.com/2012/08/what-law-school-taught-me-about-acts-15.html

http://orthodoxmessianic.blogspot.com/2012/08/ffoz-and-divine-invitation-part-ii.html

In conclusion, to not rebuke FFOZ and UMJC would be to violate multiple commands:  (1) failing to rebuke a brother; (2) failing to instruct a "child" in the ways of Torah; (3) failing to protect the rights of the sojourner.  And probably other mitzvot as well.

-Roland

33 comments:

  1. Peter, talk about putting things on their heads. Are not the Jewish believers far more qualified to be "orphans"? Most of us do not live in the Land of our fathers and are not welcomed there. Many of us have been rejected by our families for the sake of Messiah. Many of us have no place to go - we are rejected by synagogues as apostates and churches have long replaced us. There are many more Gentile Messianic congregations that the Jewish ones. Even the few Messianic Jewish congregations we have have very few Jews in them. We are small and powerless among the far larger believing body, with no rich and influential mega churches or large base of donors to support our agenda or lobbyists in congress to hold up our cause.

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    1. I could try to make you sympathize for their plight but that is just foolish of me. I'm not the one who can persuade you.

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    2. Peter, their plight is not accepting what G-d has created them to be and wanting to be something they are not. I can sympathize with the fact that it can be an uncomfortable existence to not be comfortable in one's own skin. However, for this they have their own teachers to blame, folks who tickled their ears with fantasizes of supposed future glories and puffed them up with make-belief genealogies. Not the Messianic Jews. Why do people always blame the Jews for all their problems?

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  2. Well keep sharpening and polishing that ax. Some day you might be able to tell who you really are when you can see your reflection in it.

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    1. Anonymous,

      It's easy to make witty-sounding quips. It's more difficult to respond to the Scripture I've quoted. We are called to protect the proselytes. We are called to speak out on their behalf:

      Proverbs 31:8-9
      "Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy."

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    2. Jews do not oppress Gentiles, Peter. Messianic Jews do not oppress Messianic Gentiles, Peter.

      OK, now for the facts: Gentile believers are not proselytes to Judaism or an oppressed minority. They are the majority of participants in all things Messianic. Most Messianic Gentiles do not live near any Jewish community but have their own. Messianic Jews constitute but a fraction of the total people involved in the Movement. The Messianic Gentiles do not live among the Jews - the Jews live among the Messianic Gentiles in the Gentile-founded, Gentile-majority country. There are [former] Messianic Gentiles who have converted and are today proselytes to Judaism. They too are neither poor, needy or oppressed by the Messianic Jews.

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  3. Let me get this straight, you are saying that a gentile believer in Jesus is a convert and is held to the same standard as a Jew?
    If a Gentile that comes to faith in Jesus is a convert , does that mean the next generation is considered Jewish?
    And if that is true, would not much of Christianity be considered Jewish?
    To me, it looks as if your party is more along the lines of the Judaizers that were saying to the gentiles that they need to be circumcised and live like a Jew, and FFOZ and people like them are saying that the gentiles do not need to be circumcised or keep the law like a Jew. Are you really wanting to put upon the necks of the gentile disciples the yoke that neither the Jews nor their fathers were able to handle? But as for the gentile believers the Jerusalem counsel told them to abstain from these four things… So it begs me to ask, who is being more oppressive?



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    1. Anonymous,

      You're distorting Acts 15 in several ways:

      The "unbearable yoke" Peter referred to could not have been the Torah. You would have Peter arguing that it's stupid to follow Torah because Torah is an exercise in futility. Peter never would've argued that. Rather, read his argument: "we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they." This shows he was directing attacking the opposite of grace (i.e. works-based salvation). We also hear James say that Peter argued that G-d had brought the gentiles, a non-people, into people status because He made of them "a people for His name." In Judaism, this is a reference to covenantal status (e.g. when a wife takes on the name of the husband). So Peter's argument was about the fact that the gentiles had been brought into the covenant.

      The other distortion is to say that the fourfold decree is all the gentiles were expected to do. You're proposing a position that you yourself cannot logically accept.

      The truth is that gentiles are called "converts" twice in Acts 15, they're told that they are part of the covenanted people (i.e. a people for His name), they're commanded to sever all ties with their pagan past, and the reason for the short list of instructions in v. 20 is explained in v. 21 by James stating that the rest of Torah is taught in synagogue each Shabbat: "For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day."

      Note that James doesn't cite to Noah but rather to Moses. Thus, in context, he's not saying the gentiles are to follow a limited set of commandments; he's saying that the new converts (15:3, 19) are part of the covenanted people and the terms of the covenant have already been spelled out in Mosaic Torah (15:21).

      Shalom,

      Peter



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    2. "The "unbearable yoke" Peter referred to could not have been the Torah. "

      You are absolutely correct, it was not. Instead, it was the covenant that G-d has made with Israel via Moses to obey the whole Torah or suffer the consequences of disobedience. Israel failed over and over, and was punished SEVERELY for not living up to its end of the covenant. This is what Peter was talking about when he was referring to the "unbearable yoke", to place Gentiles under the terms of the Mosaic covenant.

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    3. Gene,

      Re: "You are absolutely correct, [Mosaic Torah] was not [an unbearable burden]...the 'unbearable yoke' [is placing] Gentiles under the terms of the Mosaic covenant."

      Mosaic Torah and "terms of the Mosaic covenant" are the same thing. Therefore, you have contradicted yourself in saying one was the unbearable yoke and one was not an unbearable yoke.

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  4. Different Anonymous here...

    Gene, if the unbearable yoke was not the Torah but the Sinai Covenant, then the Torah of Moses is separate from the Covenant in that the Covenant is based on the law, but not the law itself. Is this correct?




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    1. Thank you, "Different Anonymous." : )

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    2. Torah = G-d's instructions on how to live. Torah as given to Israel through Moses is "custom-taylored" for the people of Israel and the Land of Israel. Many if not all of the elements of Torah, however, are universal.

      Mosaic Covenant = a pact between G-d and the people of Israel, with promises and punishments for the nation of Israel if she obeys the Torah as given through Moses.

      No, the two are not separate, but are connected. No, the two are not one and the same thing.

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    3. Gene,

      So you're proposing that Peter was attacking the covenantal agreement as being an unbearable burden? But what was that agreement? Wasn't the agreement to follow Torah? So, either way, you're saying that Peter argued that the Torah was the unbearable burden.

      You have contradicted yourself Gene.




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    4. Peter, I will tell you more about this when I get home. I hope you are able to receive, my friend.

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    5. I'll be available until 7:00 P.M. (EST).

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  5. Quoting the verse that the gentiles would go to synagogue and hear the law as a proof text that they are to observe the whole law seems a bit iffy.

    I still think that the yoke that the Jews and their fathers could not handle was the law of Moses. Proof of this is the exiles the Jewish people have had to endure and are still enduring. If they did keep the law they would be in their land, the temple would be rebuilt and we would be more or less in the messianic era.

    I think there is a difference between “unbearable” and “haven’t been able to bear.”
    For the first infers that it always has been and always will be unbearable. The second, says that it has not been upheld and that there is still a possibility to bear it. The hope for the Jewish people to end this exile is to be faithful to the covenant that God made with them. This is what Deut. Predicts.
    Shalom.





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    1. "If they did keep the law they would be in their land, the temple would be rebuilt and we would be more or less in the messianic era. "

      That's the stipulation of the Mosaic Covenant. The Mosaic Covenant was entered on a condition that Israel would keep the Torah. Israel entered in the Covenant willingly, but could not keep their end of the bargain. The Covenant is what bound Israel to Torah. The nations are not bound by the Covenant, therefore their sins are not punished as severely and certain things forbidden to Jews are not sins for Gentiles. That is why, not being bound by the Covenant, even a Gentile living among Israelites could violate certain non-universal/Israel-specific aspects of the Torah (e.g.by eating non-kosher meat, see Deuteronomy 14:21) and not be guilty or be punished.

      There were other covenants that G-d has made with various individuals, but those were not conditioned on any specific Torah obligation. The apostles refused to bind the Gentiles to the Mosaic covenant and have them too endure all the punishments they and their fathers had to endure for violating it.

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    2. Anonymous,

      Proof-texting is quoting a verse to use it as evidence but without regard for the context. So for you to prove your point that I used 15:21 as a proof text, you would have to show that I quoted 15:21 in isolation without regard to the context of Acts 15. However, as anyone can see, my argument quoted throughout the chapter. This demonstrates that I did have regard for the context. Therefore, your assertion must be false.

      But you're entitled to your opinion and I'm glad that you were willing to engage in the discussion. It is always a blessing when people participate in the dialogue.

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  6. Peter,
    This blog post hits the nail on the head, GREAT JOB!

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement, brother.

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  7. Everyone is entitled. :)

    I am not sure if you answered my initial questions, so I thought I would ask them again.
    When a gentile comes to faith in Jesus, is he or she obligated to keep the whole law of Moses?
    If a gentile has the status of a convert as a believer in Jesus, will his or her next generation be considered Jewish?
    And if the previous two answers are yes, wouldn't most of Christianity be considered Jewish?

    I am having a hard time following you. When is this moment that a gentile is obligated to the law of Moses?

    Is it at the moment he has a revelation that Jesus is the Messiah?
    Is it at the moment he confesses Jesus as the Messiah and does he have to have witnesses and how many witnesses?
    Is it when he is baptized and does he need witnesses and how many witnesses?
    Is it every time he hears a new commandment being read in the synagogue?
    What if he doesn’t have a synagogue?
    Some more questions…
    At what point could Paul start bringing his gentile believers past the court of the gentiles?
    Would this new gentile believer receive the death penalty for breaking the Sabbath or would they say you are a gentile, you have not gone through the proper conversion process, why is your case even being heard?

    Since you have studied law, you should realize that there needs to be a formal point at which a person is held to the stipulations of the contract and there has to be a point at which that person signs the dotted line. Or do you see everything as kind of loosy goosy?
    I think there needs to be a point at which the person says, everything you have said I will do. If the person has to learn the stipulations of the contract after he has already signed up. I can just imagine the person sitting in the synagogue hearing a new commandment or over ten commandments(depending on that week’s reading) saying, “Wait a minute, I didn’t sign up for this.” Or I can picture the new believer overhearing some Jewish person talking about details of eating a biblical diet, circumcision, family purity rules, what is actually considered work on Sabbath or other commandments and thinking, “What was all that about?” Then the person who is assisting him in his conversion process puts his arm around him and guides him away and says, “Don’t worry about that… We’ll get to that later. All we need for you to do is “fill in the blank” and you’ll be on your way.”


    So you are telling me that the reason why the Jerusalem counsel didn’t want the new believers to get circumcised and keep the law of Moses, is because they didn’t want them to feel that their salvation was based on it, but later they would learn that they actually have to do that stuff anyways. In the law of Moses it says that if you do not keep these commandments you will receive great curses, trials and exile. Coming under the law of Moses is a serious thing that should not be taken lightly. It’s not like signing up for a 2 year plan with your cell phone provider. Paul understood this well, this is why he warns the gentiles not to become circumcised because then they will be obligated to the whole law. It is my opinion the message of Acts 15 is that a gentile does not have to be circumcised and keep the whole law of Moses to be saved, but rather they are saved without having to become a convert to Judaism and without having to act like a Jew.

    I know you will disagree with me and that’s fine. You know what, we are both entitled to our opinions and we are not going to get to the end of this. I mostly wanted to say I don’t think it is appropriate to be throwing FFOZ and the UMJC under the bus. Also if your party is going to disagree with someone’s views and it’s not to their faces, at least the people involved could do it a little bit more tasteful and without assassinating their character. But maybe that is the etiquette of the blog world.

    All the best,
    Shalom.


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    1. Wow, you asked a lot of great questions. I'm not going to be flippant with you and just give an off the cuff response. I'm going to spend some time thinking about your questions and then I'll do a blog post about it. I might not get to it until Sunday but I'm gonna make a note right now...okay, just made the note. I promise to answer your question, brother.

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    2. "I am having a hard time following you. When is this moment that a gentile is obligated to the law of Moses?"

      When the gentile joins covenant, if you never join covenant with God, you cannot be responsible for the rules.

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  8. Roland, thank you for that most excellent treatment of a very difficult subject. Though I think it difficult, more for the political realities of Messianic Judaism and the personal biases that are brought to bear rather than the plain meaning of the actual instructions of Yah.

    To the first Anonymous poster:
    There are a couple of distinctions that the 'church' failed to make available to you. Because of this, you wouldn't know how those distinctions impact this discussion. Through no fault of your own, I believe you misunderstand the issues. The following is a very simplified attempt to point out some necessary distinctions.

    First, there are different bodies of law being discussed. Because of that, there are multiple interpretations of what constitutes a circumcision and what constitutes a conversion.

    The written law (Torah) as given by Moses is only one of them. There is also the interpretations of Torah made by the rulers of Israel and the resultant precedents set in their judicial decisions. This process produced rulings that carried the force of law in ancient Judea.

    In some cases, as pointed out by Jesus (Y'shua) the Messiah, these rulings actually contradicted the Law of Moses, making them 'of none effect'. Throw in the further influences of the governments and cultures that have affected the evolution of legal observance (be it Torah or tradition) and we end up far from what is being represented in these scriptures, linguistically, culturally and philosophically. The issues of the day were the same to which Y'shua pointed: What did God say to do versus what did the traditions of man say to do? His teachings, and those of His disciples, produced some very stark contrasts.

    Second, there is a world of difference between 'Jewish' and 'a citizen of Israel under Torah'. This is probably something that the more gifted teachers here should handle. Suffice to say there are genetic, cultural and legal issues at play here that are not easilly explained to the uninitiated or even resolved among those that are. Suffice to say that if you observe the Ten Commandments, you are much closer to being Torah observant citizen of Israel than you evidently realize.

    Just like the laws of the country where you live, most of the laws on the books do not apply to every individual. Trust me when I say that the issues of Torah observance are the same. Perhaps not as 'oppressive' as you think.

    What you consider observing Torah is indeed a burden when compared to not following anything but your own impulses. But that isn't the case, is it? Messiah made no secret of the fact that following Him would include a burden. For some of us it is simply a matter of picking up our cross and following the Master. For others, it is a matter of remaining behind the wall of separation, even after it has been torn down.

    To the last Anonymous poster:

    It is as though you didn't even read the article. If you cannot agree with what Y'shua, Peter and Paul all agreed upon, you may as well throw away all of scripture and go your own way. I'm just saying, decide for yourself if its better to listen to the instructions of Yah or to follow the obviously biased interpretations of ABC affiliated groups that would keep Israel divided for the sake of the missionizing Jews to the Hebrew Christian myth.

    All scripture is to be measured against Torah. Anything that contradicts Torah is false. There is no place in scripture I can turn, that depicts any outcome of His plan that does not depict a united Israel, with Jew and Gentile alike, as citizens under one King (Y'shua) and one Law (Torah). Anyone teaching otherwise should be tossed under the bus; or at the very least made to ride in the back of it - as being least in the kingdom.

    Shalom,

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    1. Amein. That was a nice response, Phillip.

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  9. Peter,
    I did appreciate your post about visiting Derek’s blog and play nicely. 
    I saw all of the comments there and I was impressed thus far.

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  10. Phillip,
    I am done and/or burned out on this. We are coming from different religious paradigms and I am O.K. with that. If you think you are obligated to the law of Moses like a Jew, go for it. As for myself, I prefer not to be someone I am not. I guess I will ride in the back of the bus over the wheel wells and enjoy the ride. 
    All the best to you on your journey.
    Shalom.

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    1. Thank you for your candid response. Sorry if I offend. I tend to speak my mind.

      As to being obligated 'like a Jew', it is more accurate to say, 'like a disciple'. Y'shua never taught anything but Torah. He never even referenced anything save Tanakh. He admonished His disciples to follow His commands. If He and the Father are one, who do you think wrote all those instructions that you choose to ignore? My friend, if you are operating from a different paradigm, it is indeed religious in nature. It certainly isn't a covenant relationship.

      Blessings,

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  11. As a homosexual, I often get told 2 things 1) You DO NOT have to keep the Law of Moses 2) you DO have to keep the Law of Moses.

    Why can't a man be homosexual? Only because it is forbidden in the Law of Moses.

    If I repent and keep the Law of Moses concerning homosexuality...then I agree the Law is good. If I agree the law is good..."he who knows to do good and does it not, to him it is sin".

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    1. Anonymous,

      I sympathize with you my friend. My friend who works in television told me that his sister in New York went to visit a church one time (she's Jewish by the way) and there was new construction being done outside which made it very muddy. Without realizing it, she walked inside and accidentally tracked some of the mud in. Mind you, this is her first time in a church. This lady then approaches her and says, "Look what you did! You just tracked mud all over the new carpet!" Needless to say, the Jewish woman never returned to church ever again. And who would expect her to?

      But the truth is that there are a lot of Christians who live out their faith by showing love to people. There are Christian ministries that provide free health care, dental care, food, shelter--this is the love of Yeshua showing through. This is Torah.

      Thank you for visiting and for sharing with us today. I welcome you to return whenever you feel so inclined.

      Shalom,

      Peter






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  12. There's not that many commandments to obey anyhow. I think my Rabbi said that there was 180 commandments that are reverent for people outside of the land today. As a single woman, there isn't that many commandments for me to follow..

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    1. There may not be that many but they will take all of your time. The command to raise children of your own or to adopt, to teach the mitzvot to the children, to help build a community that will slaughter meat according to the traditional manner, to help build a community that will construct mikvaot, etc. It will take every second of your time and require complete devotion.

      It's the same for both men and women: G-d demands all of us, all the time.

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