Monday, October 1, 2012

Covenantal Formulary

So I was reading James' blog today and I think I finally figured out why he can't see in Ephesians 2 that Paul says the gentiles belong to the plural covenants.  James has had to invent a brand new covenantal context/hermeneutic in order to hold to his view that gentiles are not obligated to follow the Mosaic Torah.  So I introduced him to the covenantal context.  Here's my comment from just a few minutes ago:

Where in Ephesians 2 does Paul qualify to which covenants the gentiles belong? Does he not refer to plural covenants? Which plural covenants do YOU think he’s referring to? And you can’t say “Jesus covenant” singular. Where does the PLURAL come from?
Have you ever studied covenant formulary? You need to read about this to understand the structure of political covenants. I believe Mendenhall speaks to this. The idea is that the covenants mirrored the covenants of other nations in their basic form. The basic outline looks like this: (1) identification of the parties; (2) historical prologue recounting the events leading up to this binding agreement; (3) deposition of the text that records the terms of the agreement. It was typically deposited in the temple of a certain deity; (4) witnessing; (5) enforcement: blessings for the keeper of the terms and curses for the violator of the terms; (6) oath-making.
So, in the Bible, whenever you see a covenant that establishes a people, you’ll see this formulary. The people are defined by the terms of the covenant (step 3 in the formulary).
In the New Covenant, this text of covenant law is deposited in the “Temple” of the heart. Romans 2:15 “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”
The oath-making is seen in Shavuot (which literally means “oaths”) and in Acts 2. Notice that Peter mentions how that day of the New Covenant Shavuot in which the Holy Spirit was poured on all people, how this was foreseen by the prophet Joel? This “immersion” in the Holy Spirit was the process by which the Torah would be inscribed on the heart.
Ezekiel captures this when he says: “24 For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
This explains why Peter (Acts 10) and the other Jews (Acts 11) were SHOCKED to find out that uncircumcised men could be allowed to undergo immersion in a mikveh (something only a member of Israel was allowed to do). This symbolized repentance and a willingness to abide by the Torah.
Now, if you ignore covenantal formulary (context) then you’ll end up taking everything that happened to the gentiles out of context—you’ll have to invent some other type of covenant, something artificial like “The Jesus Covenant.” But there’s no such thing in Scripture. The people covenants of Scripture were written down (Written Torah) and deposited in the temple (e.g. the Ten Commandments were deposited in the Ark of the Covenant, the New Covenant deposits the Torah into one’s heart).
In short, there is no other covenant than the covenants (plural) to which Paul refers in Ephesians 2. I’d like to see you address THIS.


  1. UPDATE: My comments are now banned on James' blog. He thinks One Law is an insult to his wife. Apparently everyone who believes One Law is somehow participating in insulting his wife.

    And this is why I've created this blog: where no one will be censored or banned. We respect each other's viewpoints here and don't take them personally like they do in most churches.

    James is a victim of the Supersessionoia rhetoric out there. Just having our beliefs that gentiles are citizens in Israel (Eph 2) is an offense to them. But you know what? It's Paul's teaching. We're just the messengers.

    Torah is your heritage through Yeshua, your birthright. Don't let any of the James of the world take it from you. Stand up to them!

  2. The entire ramifications of being in the new covenant, a follower of Jesus Christ, while in marriage to an unbelieving Jew or having unbelieving family, Jew or Gentile (cut off and under the curse) is very disturbing and confusing on multiple levels.

    In my opinion, some men are trying to "make it all OK" but know deep down inside it is not OK and there will be weeping and nashing of teeth for those who reject the son of G-d. To some people, this knowledge would be "throwing under the bus" anyone who refuses salvation in Christ alone. They resort to some form of "coexist" to explain it all away, or hope in the possibility that the believer will "cover" the unbeliever.

    This is why Yeshua was a man of many sorrows and Paul said he wished if it were possible he could "become accursed" for their sake. I think some today would also be willing to "become accursed" if it were possible. But, it is not possible.

    Still, we all hope for the best for the door is not yet shut. I know many of Yeshua's words sound harsh, but G-d has not rejected us....we reject him.

    This is where people start to tell me I'm not being helpful or constructive. Sorry about that, I love you my brothers!

  3. Anonymous,

    Yes, exactly! The political ordering of the family illustrates the necessity of adhering to a single set of laws. Imagine a man who is non-observant and the wife is observant. How is he going to feel when his wife and children are practicing Judaism? Or imagine a man who practices Messianic Judaism but his wife is a devout Protestant? How is she going to feel when her children are going to shul, going to Hebrew school, etc? How is she going to feel when her husband refuses to eat the Christmas ham?

    The disparity in practice would drive a wedge between the members of a household. In the same way, Believers belong to a common household. In One Law communities you have common practice and therefore cohesion. In class-based Messianic communities, you have differentiated practice and therefore a great deal of confusion.

    A Rabbi who used to be the president of one of the largest Messianic organizations once told me that he had a lot of people, something like five people in a span of months, coming up to him and asking about conversion. How sad is that? They didn't feel comfortable being gentiles. They felt like they needed to circumcise in order to feel like they belonged. But if Yeshua doesn't make you feel like family how is a little snip going to do the job?

    I've had famous Messianic scholars tell me in person that it's important to build bridges to the Christian community. But I don't think they know what that really implies! If you build a bridge, you've just blurred the boundaries! For example, I'm going to a church function on Friday that features a Shabbat meal. I didn't get to go last time--I can't remember why. I think we weren't signed up last time. Anyway, as these Christians get a taste of Shabbat, what do you think will happen? They'll want less of it? : )

    The more they taste, the more they'll want. Torah is beautiful and joyous! I think the segregationist Messianics are going to be alarmed and the events that will be unfolding in the next few years. The Christians will experience an Awakening. They'll WANT Torah. Not to take it away from the Jews. But to serve the G-d of Israel along with the Jews.

  4. Great points Peter, I see an identity crisis as a result of these views that is much larger than I had originally thought. This identity crisis permeates groups like UMJC and FFOZ, it is a dead end, and as a result, some have converted to Judaism leaving the Messiah behind, and we also have as a result, fake converts and fake Jews, gentiles with an identity crisis that is so bad, they forsook their own identity for a lie.