Monday, November 26, 2012

Was Paul a Maximal Judaizer? Or Was He Anti-Judaization? I Want To Hear Your Thoughts!

So if you haven't seen Rudolph's article on Paul's "rule" in 1 Cor. 7:18, check it out here.  Rudolph contends that Paul was anti-Judaization.  Here's the main verse in question:


"Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised." (1 Cor. 7:18)

It occurred to me the other night that you can either view Paul as maximally, minimally, or moderately in terms of Judaizing (or you could see him as being anti-Judaization).  I think of Paul as being pro-Judaization of Gentiles.  And I think of him of encouraging a maximal level of Judaization (i.e. I think he encourages Gentiles to follow Jewish practices).  The only caveat is that he seems to take into account certain first-century exigencies such as the anti-grace circumcision doctrines of certain Yeshua-believing Pharisees (see Acts 15:1; Gal. 5) when he says thinks like he does in 1 Cor. 7:18.

But let's get back to Rudolph.  By the way, I love Rudolph even if I disagree with him on some things. Okay, let's begin.

Rudolph starts off by saying that Paul in 1 Cor. 7:20 links "klesis" (situation) and "kaleo" (called).  In linking these concepts, Rudolph argues that Paul believes that circumcision (Jewishness) and foreskin (Gentileness) are callings.

What does this mean practically?  Well, Rudolph says that Gentiles should identify as being excluded from Torah:

"Paul describes circumcision as integrally related to Torah observance (Jewish identity), and lack of Torah observance is indicative of foreskin (Gentile identity).  Circumcision is incomplete without the circumcised life."

Furthermore, Rudolph makes the claim that Paul differentiated between Jewish commandments and Gentile commandments:

"If the [calling to a particular way of life] differed between Jew and Gentile (1 Cor. 7:18-20), it is plausible that Paul, a first century Jew from a Pharisaic background, held that [G-d's] commandments for Jews and Gentiles differed as well."

The problem with Rudolph's assertion that Paul differentiates between Jewish commandments and Gentiles commandments is not in the text.  On the contrary, Paul seems to eradicate such a distinction:

"Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing:  Keeping God's commands is what counts."

There is no place in Paul's writings where he says "Gentiles must live a non-Jewish lifestyle."  Quite the opposite.  Paul commands Gentiles to reject Gentilism (paganism) and adopt the beliefs and practices of Judaism (e.g. the belief in the Jewish Messiah as Savior, the keeping of Jewish customs like ritual immersion and the keeping moedim and kashrut).

Here's the other thing:  in the same chapter (1 Cor. 7), Paul says to virgins "Do not look for a wife."

So does Paul really think that men shouldn't look for a spouse?  If Paul was remotely Torah-observant then, knowing that the mitzva to procreate is mentioned first in the Tanak, it's impossible that Paul could be discouraging virgins from getting married.  Paul wouldn't preach against the Torah.  It's more likely that Paul understood that marriage is inevitable and natural for most people.

What's my point?

My point is that if Paul says that virgins shouldn't seek to get married (but actually believes that they should get married and that marriage is good) then it follows that when Paul says in the same chapter that Gentiles shouldn't seek to become circumcised that he might actually believe that Gentiles should get circumcised and that circumcision is a good.

So why did he say the opposite of what he really felt?  Well, enough of my opinions!  I want to hear from you, dear readers.  What do you think Paul meant?  Do you agree with Rudolph's interpretation of Paul's "rule"?  Or is the "rule" against circumcision like the "rule" against marriage?  (i.e. not really a rule at all).


25 comments:

  1. I think it is clear, not just here in 1 Cor 7, but in also Galatians 5 and the examples in Acts 15, that Paul was not opposed to circumcision as a simple biblical command, instead he was opposed to the idea of having to become a "proselyte" in order to serve God. We as gentiles are full covenant members without the need to become Jewish, or that would make God the God of Jews only, instead He is also the God of gentiles. We can serve God as gentiles.

    What Rudolph sadly is advocating is exactly what Paul was opposing. We can see that, in the fact that Paul deems this "circumcision" and "uncircumcised" identities as being "nothing", and counters it with saying, "what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God."

    If I as a gentile, can't keep God's commandments unless I become a "Jew" or a "proselyte", then God is only the God of the Jews. Yet this is exactly what people like Rudolph advocate and those of the UMJC and other organizations which hold this fallacy.

    Circumcision is a commandment, so we know when Paul mentions circumcision, he is not referring to the simple command, but instead an identity issue at the time. Can gentiles be full members of the covenant without becoming a Jew or a Proselyte, can Gentiles be sons of Abraham without becoming a Jew or a Proselyte, and Paul answers YES, in fact, it is the fulfillment of prophecy to Abraham to have the gentiles as gentiles becoming full covenant members alongside Jews. To have Gentiles becoming Proselytes destroys the prophecy and again renders God only the God of Jews.

    As you can see, anyone who teaches that gentiles do not have a right to God's commandments unless they become a "Jew" are teaching contrary to God's word.

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    1. Zion,

      I like very much how you say "To have Gentiles becoming Proselytes destroys the prophecy and again renders God only the God of Jews."

      That's a concise way of putting it. He accepts Gentiles as Gentiles, including them in the covenants of Israel. It is very strange... I would imagine most Gentiles reading this to be confused. How can a Gentile be an Israelite? Don't you have to be a Jew to be an Israelite? And the answer is that if circumcision is metonymy for Jew then, under the Old Covenant, one had to be a Jew to be an Israelite (or an Israelite by birth); however, under the New Covenant, one needn't be a Jew to be an Israelite--one can be an uncircumcised Gentile AND an Israelite simultaneously (provided that one believes in Yeshua).

      The question I foresee Gentiles asking is this: where should I go to get ritually circumcised?

      The answer is that it may not be available to you from a source that wouldn't require you to reject Yeshua. But don't worry about such things. It's better to be uncircumcised and have Yeshua than to circumcise and lose Him.

      I can only hope that everyone reading will understand this most important point...

      Do you have any advice for Gentile Believers contemplating circumcision, Zion?

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  2. Thanks...

    And the answer is that if circumcision is metonymy for Jew then, under the Old Covenant, one had to be a Jew to be an Israelite (or an Israelite by birth); however, under the New Covenant, one needn't be a Jew to be an Israelite--one can be an uncircumcised Gentile AND an Israelite simultaneously (provided that one believes in Yeshua).

    Actually, even in the Mosaic Covenant, a gentile did not become a Jew. This is proven in the fact that the Ger, the covenant gentile, who took on circumcision, still had a few different commands than the native born, proving that the gentiles who were Gerim, did not become Native(Jews), yet they were Israelites(nationality) and thus counted among the Israelites.

    Per the new covenant, though, it seems to go a little further, Paul iterates we are no longer strangers or aliens(Eph 2), this seems to take the status of a Ger to a higher level or a equal playing field, than that of the Mosaic Covenant. We won't see this status until the Messianic Kingdom, which we actually see Ger inheriting land in Israel(Ezek 47) among the native born in the Millennium, as a result.

    The question I foresee Gentiles asking is this: where should I go to get ritually circumcised?

    The answer is that it may not be available to you from a source that wouldn't require you to reject Yeshua. But don't worry about such things. It's better to be uncircumcised and have Yeshua than to circumcise and lose Him.


    Well, one doesn't need a religious ritual in order to keep that command, the Torah never states such, Abraham did not go to his local rabbi to fulfill the command of circumcision. But you are also correct, the ritual of circumcision is not the answer, becoming a proselyte is like slapping yourself in the face and God, because it devalues the acceptance of gentiles and gives the impression that if you want the full package, you must become a Jew, nonsense.

    Do you have any advice for Gentile Believers contemplating circumcision, Zion?

    I met a gentile in his 50's who got circumcised, I thought it was great. I was circumcised the 8th day, and I circumcised my son the 8th day, and I will teach him to do the same to his son's.

    Now some might not like this, but this is purely my opinion. For those who are of older age, I do not see a need or a rush for it right now, if you want to or feel convicted, do it. But remember the Passover cannot be kept, there is no Temple to enter, and 99.9% of gentiles cannot live in the land of Israel for any long periods of time, thus are considered more or less in diaspora, just as Israel in the wilderness were not circumcised... up until coming into the Land, so I think this applies here as well, and even if you are circumcised, Judaism will not accept you, because they do not accept what Yeshua has done, and they do not accept your belief in Yeshua. When Judaism finds Yeshua, there will be transitioning that will happen, but until then, we can only continue to live a life of obedience to the Torah the best we can.

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    1. Zion,

      You said a lot of interesting things. I'm going to engage you a little on several things. I'm not disagreeing per se…I just need to further evaluate some of your assertions.

      I'm open to the following assertion: "This is proven in the fact that the Ger, the covenant gentile, who took on circumcision, still had a few different commands than the native born"

      But I would have to know which commands you think were different for ger vs. native born.

      Re: "Well, one doesn't need a religious ritual in order to keep that command, the Torah never states such, Abraham did not go to his local rabbi to fulfill the command of circumcision."

      I'm open to this as well… except that there are many things the Torah never states which were, nevertheless, considered to be part of a binding Oral Tradition. At times, the exigencies of life demanded that the Torah be upgraded. For example, Zelophehad's case led to women being able to inherit land. In the case of circumcision, the Torah required Jews to police the Peschal meal, forbidding uncircumcised men to partake of it. This legal exigency demanded legal procedures for ritual circumcision (e.g. witnesses, evidence, a legal proceeding). It's not in the text but then again neither is how to make a mezuzah or what what legal language is meant to go into a ketubah.

      However, it's possible that New Covenant Gentiles who have no communities that accept them as Israelites, that these Gentiles are starting from square one like Abraham, and thus they must perform the circumcision as Abraham did--independently and with little or no ritual.

      So those were very interesting comments and I'll have to think more about some of the other ones. Good stuff, brother!

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    2. But I would have to know which commands you think were different for ger vs. native born.

      The biggest as you know, is a Ger could not own land, a ger could rent and is likened to the Levite and to the poor, thus they were able to receive in the tithes of the third year and glean from the fields, basically they could receive a portion of the Lord's, like the Levites, because they did not have ownership. There are a few others, concerning labor, but they are minute. The point is, the covenant gentile, remained distinct from the native born.

      I'm open to this as well… except that there are many things the Torah never states which were, nevertheless, considered to be part of a binding Oral Tradition.

      Correct, however we know for a fact that has been changed and interpreted differently throughout history. The ritual of the proselyte did not come on the scene until around or after the Maccabees. Thus if it was ok to practice it before, it still should be now. But there is also the point of verification, how did you know if you were letting a circumcised man into the Temple? Well someone might need to check for that, but the ritual proselyte went beyond the command of the Ger, the ritual proselyte destroyed the command of the Ger, and instead made a Ger into a Native born, which defies the commandments and renders God the God of the Jews only, "want to be part of God's Household, then you need to become a Jew, because gentiles are not allowed in" and that is a fraud.

      However, it's possible that New Covenant Gentiles who have no communities that accept them as Israelites, that these Gentiles are starting from square one like Abraham, and thus they must perform the circumcision as Abraham did--independently and with little or no ritual.

      Exactly, the commands validity is in regard to God, we are not circumcised for Israel, however, for communal accountability, they(Israel) needs to know. For example: you do not need someone else in order to keep the Sabbath, instead you need to simply obey God, but within a community there has to be some form of accountability, and that is where the Sabbath takes on a few more responsibilities. Our faith and covenant relationship is both individual and communal. It is not simply one or the other. Though there are many people who do not have a Torah based community, so they are more of an individual in a far land, one day...:P

      So those were very interesting comments and I'll have to think more about some of the other ones. Good stuff, brother!

      Thanks, I enjoy a good discussion.

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  3. Need help, I want to buy Messianic Mezuzah in a website, can anyone help me

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    1. Not sure. But this spam--if it is spam--appears to be kosher....? : )

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. I also heard of a "Messianic Shofar." What makes a shofar messianic?

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    1. It has been observed and blessed by Gene...

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    2. "It has been observed and blessed by Gene... "

      Wrong. "Messianic Shofar" is the kind you may carry and blow on Shabbat or any day of the year, day or night, and in any way, even in the middle of a preacher's sermon (as the "spirit leads").

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    3. Wrong. "Messianic Shofar" is the kind you may carry and blow on Shabbat or any day of the year, day or night, and in any way, even in the middle of a preacher's sermon (as the "spirit leads").

      I thought that was only true, if you kissed the Shofar for an extra blessing, did I misunderstand?

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    4. even in the middle of a preacher's sermon (as the "spirit leads")

      LOL, putting this to an image in my mind is fantastic...

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  7. "Wrong. "Messianic Shofar" is the kind you may carry and blow on Shabbat or any day of the year, day or night, and in any way, even in the middle of a preacher's sermon (as the "spirit leads")."

    Now, you are blurring the lines, Gene. You are describing a "Christian Gentile shofar" and you know it is forbidden to mix them according to Kinzer....

    Repent, and stand with your face to the wall.....LOL!

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    1. "You are describing a "Christian Gentile shofar" and you know it is forbidden to mix them according to Kinzer...."

      No, actually Dan, I've seen a "Charismatic Pentecostal" Jew do it. She called herself an "apostle", as I recall.

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    2. Although you could be right - for all I know she could have been using the "Christian Gentile shofar".

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  8. "No, actually Dan, I've seen a "Charismatic Pentecostal" Jew do it. She called herself an "apostle", as I recall."

    You mean "A potzle?"

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    1. "You mean "A potzle?"

      I remember she told the congregational leader that as an apostle she had greater authority than him and didn't have to submit to his "no shofar" rule. I am not joking.

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    2. I remember she told the congregational leader that as an apostle she had greater authority than him and didn't have to submit to his "no shofar" rule. I am not joking.

      She sounds tough, Gene, this might be a stretch, but it sounds like she could defeat you in an arm wrestling contest.

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    3. "She sounds tough, Gene, this might be a stretch, but it sounds like she could defeat you in an arm wrestling contest."

      That would not be such a huge feat...Even my granddaughter can do that.....LOL!

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    4. "She sounds tough, Gene, this might be a stretch, but it sounds like she could defeat you in an arm wrestling contest."

      Zion, that lady was tough! Wouldn't want to mess with her, being an apostle and all...

      "That would not be such a huge feat...Even my granddaughter can do that.....LOL!"

      Dan, no doubt, if she happens to be 6'4" and on USA Weightlifting Olympic Team:)

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  9. Been there, done that...We all receive a black eye because of people like that. I had a 2 house woman came to me in the congregation telling me "when the Arabs start killing you all, then you will call us...."

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  10. Been there, done that...We all receive a black eye because of people like that. I had a 2 house woman came to me in the congregation telling me "when the Arabs start killing you all, then you will call us...."

    Take her up on the offer and see what she does... :P

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    1. "Take her up on the offer and see what she does... :P"

      She'll say - "Oh, so now you need us, eh? Tough break, Jew. You should have accepted us back then."

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