Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

My Thoughts on the Conversion Issue

Some musings from today...

What is Conversion?

Conversion in a Messianic context theoretically involves the following three things:

(1) Joining a religious group;
(2) Being initiated into a covenant;
(3) Receiving the right/duty to keep the Torah of Moses.

Why Convert?

In theory, one would convert in order to do the three things listed above.

What are the Issues with Messianic Conversion?

One of the central tenets of Inclusionist (i.e. One Law) Messianic Judaism, is that the Apostolic Writings teach that non-Jews join Israel when they come to believe in Yeshua.  In other words, we believe that faith (not circumcision) initiates someone into Israel, the covenants, and the Torah.

But, unless I'm mistaken (which I readily concede is a possibility) there is no precedent for a non-Jew joining a specific tribe (e.g. Judah) within Israel.  You can only join a specific tribe if your father belongs to that tribe.  For example, the only thing that can make you a Levite is having a father who belongs to the tribe of Levi--and if he doesn't belong to that tribe then there's no way you can join that tribe.

The only thing a non-Jew can hope for is to join Israel--not a specific tribe within Israel.

So, speaking as a proponent of One-Law, it seems to me that for a Messianic non-Jew to undergo some sort of conversion (e.g. MJRC-style) is misguided.  A Messianic non-Jew is already a member of Israel via Yeshua's blood, already initiated into the covenants, already obligated to keep the Law.  


For all the reasons stated above, I see no reason why any Messianic should "convert" within Messianic Judaism.  But if anyone disagrees then I encourage you to share your position with us.  



Sunday, December 29, 2013


So I've blogged before about strange coincidences that happen when I get mail from Outreach Israel Ministries. I just wanted to briefly relate something else that happened earlier today.

Earlier today I was driving in my car and thought about all the men in prison who need to hear about Yeshua and the Way.  I thought about the ones who would be receptive...and the ones who might get angry.  And in the middle of traffic, without any warning, tears started streaming down my face.

Flash forward a couple of hours...

I open a piece of mail from OIM and, lo and behold, on the first page there's a request that people support the OIM prison ministry!

Naturally, I don't think of it as a coincidence.  For those who feel led, please visit the following link:


On a related note, pray for Israel as there have been some rocket attacks today and things have the potential to escalate.



Saturday, December 28, 2013

Very Interesting Comments Section on James' Penultimate Blog Post

A bunch of people recently emailed me asking questions about conversion within Messianic Judaism.  So then I wondered what prompted all of these questions and did a quick search of the blogosphere.  I found that James has quit blogging over a recent post which you can find here:

I think the comments are very interesting and, given the number of questions I've received recently, we should definitely address this in more depth.  

I have to go to Washington D.C. but I'll write about this upon my return.  But, in the meantime, I'll pose  some discussion questions for everyone to begin considering:


The term "Jew" encapsulates possibly all the tribes of Israel--at the very least it encapsulates Levi, Benjamin, and Judah.  We know from Ezekiel that non-Jews (at least some of them) will eventually be absorbed into various tribes of Israel in the eschaton.  Is it possible that the Apostolic Writers did not see intermarriage between Believing Jews and Believing non-Jews to be a problem--anymore than they considered intermarriage between Benjamites and Judahites to be a problem?

I'm only asking...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Why Didn't the Ancient Israelites Care About Preserving Tribal Identity?

Musings from today:

In the pre-monarchic ancient Israel, the tribes were, for a time, endogamous--the tribes did not intermarry with other tribes.  And why?  Two things:  a strong tribal culture and also the "descent and distribution" laws that tied a tribe to a geographical allotment of land within Israel.  Back then, if you were an Israelite, you knew that your father was from Tribe X and so you identified with that tribe.

But then something happened to destroy that system…

In the post-monarchic period, it became less important to remember one's tribal affiliation.  And the Levites were an exception to this.  To this day, a Levite identifies as a Levite because of his or her father.


But my question is why didn't the other tribes consider this patrilinear tribal identification important?  If the Levites considered/consider tribal identification important enough to remember, why didn't the other tribes?


Why did the Benjamites allow themselves to be fully absorbed into Judah?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Nothing Like a Room Full of One-Law Messianics

Went to a One-Law Messianic fellowship this past Shabbat.

We arrived at the fellowship around 2PM (and didn't leave until I'm guessing 7PM).  The meeting place was out in the country in a modern-styled library.  The building was compartmentalized so that people could reserve the meeting room and have access to restrooms even after the library was closed.

The meeting room looked a bit like a university classroom with rows of tables, people seated with their laptops like students taking lecture notes, and a big projection screen at the front of the room.  But along the back wall there was a row of tables loaded with simmering crock-pots.  Along another wall was a kitchenette separated from the main room by a counter.  In another section of the room was an activity space for children.

To my surprise, I later learned that they were able to use this facility completely free!


The chronology of the service looked like this (approximately):

2PM to 4PM:  Group Torah-Study

4PM to 4:15PM:  Snack Break

4:15PM to 5:00PM:  Praise and Worship

5:15PM to 6:15PM:  Sermon

6:15PM:  Dinner


They identify variously as Messianics or followers of the Way or One-Law, etc.  The men (mostly non-Jews) tend to wear tzitzit.  The entire group shared a passion for Biblical languages and engaging with the various source texts (LXX, MT, etc).

As I met people, one question I  asked was "How did you come to get involved in Messianic Judaism?".  Here's the story I got from one lady named "Kate" (the names/details have been changed):


Kate was concerned for her best friend Lucy who lived back in Spain and was into all sorts of bad things.  But Kate prayed for her and shared the gospel and eventually the L-rd worked in Lucy's heart.

In a short span of time, Lucy was transformed into a new person.  She was "on fire" for the L-rd.  So she did what any new Christian would do, she started going to church.

But church was a disappointment.  She quickly realized she wasn't being fed at church.  So she kept searching and eventually came across Messianic literature.  She suddenly felt a strong desire to keep the Torah (Shabbat, kashrut, etc).  She learned the truth about Christmas and Easter and immediately stopped celebrating them.

When Kate first heard that Lucy was celebrating Jewish observances, she was appalled.  Over time, however, curiosity got the better of Kate.  And she thought to herself, "Lucy's faith is real...is it possible that there might be something to the Torah after all?"

So she visited a Messianic synagogue and immediately her world changed.  There were signs from G-d, there was a palpable feeling of having come home.  There was also one small problem...

The rabbi taught that non-Jews didn't need to follow the Torah.

Despite this, she still loyally attends the Messianic synagogue though she harbors a secret hope that the rabbi will one day have a change of heart.  And, in the meantime, she has the One-Law fellowship so that she can be around like-minded Messianics.


We were very blessed to meet some wonderful people at that fellowship.  It was a great time.  It's nice to see that G-d is drawing many of the peoples to keep Torah.  All these people from different countries/backgrounds reaching the same conclusion:  there are wonderful things in His Law!

I would say more but I've got to run.

Shalom and Blessings,



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Daughter as Pocahontas

WARNING:  This doesn't have anything to do with religion. 

Okay, are you ready for something wonderful?  

My daughter as Pocahontas...

I'm just so proud of this girl!  And to my angel, in case you ever come across this blog one day, let me just say that daddy loves you very much ("and I'll never stop loving you").  

Rejoicing in Suffering

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance" Romans 5:3 
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7

I have to admit that I never rejoiced in suffering until this past week.  Passages like the ones above just never made sense to me.  How can you rejoice when everything is going wrong?  

But I'm starting to realize that to not praise G-d even during suffering is a kind of idolatry.  If I focus on my suffering then I take my focus off of G-d, I forget that He is "Eloheinu Melech ha-Olam", that He is in control of EVERYTHING.

What a wonderful peace it is to begin to see this!  


Take some time today (or tonight) to think about how much G-d loves you.  Satan loves to whisper in your ear, "G-d could never love someone like you".  But the truth is that G-d really does love you.  He is your Father and, like a father, He thinks about you all day long and waits to hear from you.


The next time you experience suffering try to react by praising G-d.  And really mean it!  Keep your focus on Him even when you feel like curling up into a ball and crying.  

P.S.  If anyone has had experiences where you've rejoiced even in suffering, please share them with us!



Dauermann is Dead Wrong About Christmas

So I just read Judah's post about Dauermann's post about Christmas... But before I give you my thoughts I think I should tell you that at this moment I'm sitting outside of a Starbucks and the speakers are playing Neil Diamond's cover of the Hallelujah Chorus--HA!

But back to the issue at hand...

Dauermann is dead wrong about Christmas.  

And why does it even matter?  It matters because Dauerman's brand of Liberal Messianic Judaism leads Jews (and non-Jews) away from Torah.  

But here's why he's wrong.  He writes:
“This whole preoccupation with avoiding “the pagan roots of Christmas” is based on what is termed the genetic fallacy–that something should and may be fairly evaluated on the basis of its origin.”
It's actually not based on the genetic fallacy at all (nice Straw Man there).  A Genetic Fallacy against Christmas would go like this:

(1) Christmas has pagan origins;
(2) Therefore we should avoid Christmas.

That's a logical non-sequittur because the conclusion does not follow the premise.  Italians, for example, have pagan origins but this doesn't mean you should avoid Italians.  And if you do avoid Italians then you'll miss out on some lovely food and music.  

Here's the real argument against Christmas:

(1) Christmas supplants Torah practice;
(2)  [Implicit Warrant] Anything that supplants orthopraxy should be avoided—even when it arguably produces some measure of good or contains some measure of truth
(3) Therefore, Christmas should be avoided

Now I'm not telling anyone to be a jerk to those who observe Christmas (can you "observe" Christmas?).  On the contrary, I have relatives who observe (?) Christmas and I'm very nice to them and say "Merry Christmas", etc.  Lastly, let me just say that Judah is quite right to encourage Messianics to focus on being charitable rather than attacking the merits of Christmas.

Now, on a more serious note...

Anyone interested in forming a Neil Diamond tribute band?  

Shalom and Blessings to the Israel of G-d,


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Great Article About Koinos in Acts 10 and 11


Here's the part I especially like:

"The LXX never uses [koinos] as expressed her in Acts 10:15 and 11:9…The single usage of [koinos] in Jewish religious/historical literature of pre-NT times occurs in the apocryphal 4 Macc 7:6, where it conveys the meaning of cultic profanation."….It is recognition of the fact that the NT incorporates and reflects this exclusive Jewish sense of [koinos] that illuminates why Peter should argue with his Lord over whether he should eat the 'clean' creature.  In his mind, the 'clean' creatures in the sheet of the vision had now been rendered 'common' through being defiled by the presence of the 'unclean.'  As F.F. Bruce points out, in a statement noted earlier, Peter 'was scandalized by the unholy mixture of clean animals with unclean.'…Furthermore…the voice itself never mentioned 'unclean.'  It [reprimanded] Peter for declaring creatures to be 'common.'  He was never directed to consume the 'unclean' creature, but rather immediately to desist from describing as 'common' the creatures that God had declared 'cleansed.'"

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Personal Update

I'm really looking forward to visiting House of David Fellowship later this month!  : )

Playing it Safe vs. Playing the Numbers Game: Messianic Tip-of-the-Day

Trying to find a compatible religious group is a lot like dating--it's a numbers game.  The more people you get to know, the better your chances of finding a good match.  The opposite of this is to, out of fear of rejection, pursue the first person you meet as though they are the only fish in the sea.  

As Messianics, we are familiar with rejections, incompatibilities, comprise.  But we should always strive to play the numbers game, to go out there and meet as many women congregations as possible.  

The more leads you pursue, the better your chances of finding a good match.

Gene Has a New Message for Messianics Everywhere


Monday, December 9, 2013

Clarifying the One-Law Argument

Here are some musings for today:

As I go through Hegg's "Fellow Heirs", I've found myself asking, "Why even bring up the 'ger' in the various One-Law passages in the Tanak?"  After all, the main issue we're faced with isn't from the Tanka but is rather contextualized to the New Covenant and could be phrased as follows:  "Are non-Jewish Believers initiated into Israel by faith or by circumcision?"  This means that the One-Law proposition looks something like this:  "The Bible teaches that non-Jewish, male Believers are initiated into Israel by faith alone, not by circumcision."  As someone who is legally trained, my immediate thought is this:  what evidence is relevant to the One-Law proposition--that is, what would make this proposition more probable?

I think the answer to this question is as follows:  the only evidence that directly relates to the One-Law proposition (as stated above) is evidence from the Apostolic Writings.  However, we cite to the Torah and the Prophets to establish precedent, to establish that G-d can accept even uncircumcised males into the family of Israel.  But this is an extremely difficult thing to establish given that the evidence relates to a completely different period of time and a different covenant (though the argument can certainly be made).

So, in conclusion, for any Messianics interested in persuading someone about the merits of the One-Law position, focus on the case from the Apostolic Writings.  That's really the core of the One-Law case.



Monday, December 2, 2013

Upcoming Post: REVIEW of Tim Hegg's "Fellow Heirs"

A commenter just recently asked what is the best book to go through with a group who is familiar with Messianic Judaism but not quite ready to make the jump.  I immediately thought of Tim Hegg's book "Fellow Heirs".  And just now a friend sent an email to me asking that I review this very book!

So, needless to say, I now feel led to complete a review of "Fellow Heirs" as soon as possible.  I'll try to get it done within the next few days.  It really is one of the best introductions to Messianic Judaism that has ever been written.

If you want to get your hands on a copy, you can purchase the book HERE.



Sunday, December 1, 2013

REVIEW: Philippians For the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee



Why is the Letter to the Philippians so special?  One reason is that it's about a Jew named Paul taking a very Jewish message for the first time into 'the continent of Europe' (Phil., pg. 1).  When Paul arrived at Philippi, he could not just stop by the local synagogue:

'And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.' [Acts 16:13]

[Commentary for Acts 16:13] Throughout the Book of Acts, we see that Paul's usual missionary pattern was to go to the Jewish local synagogue and proclaim the good news to those assembled on Shabbat, and he would often remain there until he would be thrown out or those attending lost interest.  Philippi is a major exception to this pattern..." (Phil., pg. 126)

How strange this must have been for Paul!  To find a compatible audience for this new Jewish Gospel, Paul was forced to go to a Sabbath-gathering of women.  His first contact there was a non-Jewish woman named Lydia:

"The first person from Phillipi who is named is a woman, Lydia....[who] being only described as a 'God-fearer,' was not a Jewess," (Phil., pgs. 126-127)

And so we have the setting for the Book of Philippians.  For some unknown reason, it was a small group of non-Jewish who started what became the future congregation at Philippi.

McKee's commentary then begins to paint a picture that would make most Christians very uncomfortable:


Not only did the core group of Philippian Believers initially meet on Shabbat but Paul made no attempts to alter this meeting time.  Commenting on Acts 16:16, McKee writes, "As the scene in Philippi shifts, v. 16 records that Paul and his company, 'we,' 'were going to the place of prayer.'  While not stated explicitly in the text, it is likely that Paul had stayed in Philippi for at least a week, and he was going with his associates to the riverside for a Shabbat gathering."


And in the Letter to the Philippians, Paul essentially tells the non-Jews to start following Jewish halachah:


'Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.  For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Messiah, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.'

[Commentary on Philippians 3:17] In v. 17, Paul admonishes the Philippians, 'Join with others in following my example' (NIV).  This parallels his words in 1 Corinthians 11:1, 'Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Messiah.'  If we can rightfully assert that Yeshua Himself followed the Torah or Law of Moses, then Paul himself likewise certainly followed it as His Lord demonstrated it (cf. Galatians 6:2).  Martin actually asserts that what Paul talks about here 'is the New Testament counterpart to the Hebrew term halakhah...i.e., practical conduct (lit. 'walking') as distinct from mental activity,'"(Phil., pg. 88)

And this wasn't the first time Paul had taught a non-Jewish audience to keep Jewish traditions:

"Paul himself commend the Corinthians, 'Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you' (1 Corinthians 11:2), indicating that there were probably some First Century Jewish traditions that he passed on to them that he considered of great value," (Phil., pg. 99)


Another great thing that McKee accomplishes in this wonderful commentary is to show that Paul's Pro-Torah example applies even to circumcision.  Many people are unaware that there was a difference of opinion in First-Century Judaism as to what initiated a convert into the covenant.  One group said that circumcision is initiatory; other groups maintained that faith alone was initiatory and that circumcision is but a ratificatory sign.  McKee picks up on this in his commentary on Philippians 3:2-4:

'Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Messiah Yeshua and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence in the flesh.  If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more'

[COMMENTARY] "...We need to [remember] how in various places in the Apostolic Scriptures, 'circumcision' (Grk. peritome...) includes more than just the removal of the foreskin...'Circumcision' in the Apostolic Scriptures is a frequent reference to not only a physical operation, but more especially to the act of conversion to Judaism.  In this framework, what can appear to be Paul speaking against a physical act is more a statement of him speaking against ritual proselyte conversion to Judaism being required for inclusion in the community of God....It is right to say that Paul was infuriated by those who insisted that those uncircumcised were not full Believers or even true Believers, members of the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), as reconciliation with God is accomplished through His Son Yeshua--and not a physical or proselytic act," (Phil., pgs. 73-74).


As always, when reviewing a commentary by McKee, I must state the following disclaimer:  it is impossible to perform an adequate review since such a variety of points are necessarily raised in a commentary of this type.  What I can say though, with great confidence, is that this commentary is a must-have for every Messianic library!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

I'm Embarrassed to be an American


The Menorah: Symbol of Israel, Symbol of Yeshua, Symbol of One-Law

In 1949 the Knesset made the Menorah the official emblem of the State of Israel.  This was not the first time the Menorah had been a political symbol for Israel (CLICK HERE FOR LINK).  But what did the symbol of the Menorah mean before it ever became a political symbol?

Let's examine some of the clues:

  • The Menorah has seven lamps (Zech. 4:2)
  • Shabbat represents Messianic Redemption for all mankind (Hebrews 4:9)
  • The six remaining lamps represent mankind (since man was created on the sixth day).
  • The Torah is a fire ("from his right hand went a fiery law", Deut. 33:2.  Also see Jer. 23:29) 
  • The Torah is a lamp (Psalm 119:105)
  • Yeshua is the "light" and the "banner" of Israel that summons the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6,22; Luke 2:32).

Yeshua is the middle lamp of the Menorah, the Shamash who, being G-d humbled Himself to serve mankind, to allow mankind (the six off-shoot lamps) to enter into His Sabbath Rest, to see by the Light of His Torah and to be illumined, that we should not perish in spiritual darkness.

And isn't it fascinating that the Modern State of Israel carries this banner!

Praise G-d!

"This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples" (Isaiah 49:22)
"I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)

Why Does Torah Equate Shabbat Desecration with Avoda Zara (Idolatry)? [A Response to Derek Leman]

You shall make no idols for yourselves, nor shall you raise for yourselves a graven image or a pillar; nor shall you place any figured stone in your land to bow down unto it; for I am the Lord your God. You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the Lord” (Lev 26:1-2)
Why does G-d prohibit idolatry in one sentence and then in the very next sentence reaffirm the command about Sabbath-keeping?  

It's almost as if G-d is saying that we must keep Shabbat in order to show that we worship G-d and not idols.

This idea becomes more clear in the Prophets:

"And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord," (Isa. 66:23).
In these two passages we see the following concepts:

(1) we keep Shabbat in order to turn away from idols (Lev. 26:1-2);

(2) we keep Shabbat in order to turn toward HaShem in worship  (Isa. 66:23).

[This is a response to Derek Leman's recent post:  CLICK HERE FOR LINK]

Monday, November 25, 2013

Christians: The Perfect Poison for Isolated Messianics

For the record, I never expected the Christian teacher with whom I've been conversing to read my arguments and immediately exclaim, "Wow!  I really am part of Israel through the blood of Yeshua!  And the Torah really is valid for non-Jewish Believers!"  It was probably an exercise in futility trying to convince him of the truth.  But I tried because A) I'd want someone to do the same for me and B) I can't help myself.  

So, without further ado, here's my final update on this apparently fruitless discussion. Here's his response:

Hello Peter.  I hope you had a blessed weekend.

I just want to make a couple of brief comments to your reply.

 Let me be clear; I never stated that the festivals were abolished.  What I said was that these were mandated by God to ISRAEL (Jews) as a way to remember the great and mighty acts of mercy and deliverance.  My point is that although they are permissible, they are not mandated for theGentile believers.   As for the ceremonial practices, I was thinking of the procedures of washing, cooking, dressing, etc. and things that pertain to the Leviticus order of worship related to the sacrifices.  The fact that Levites as a clan do not exist is evident that these things cannot be practiced.  As a matter of fact, no modern Jew can determine from which tribe they descend since the census records have long since been destroyed.

The key to understanding the issue of observance of Jewish Law is context.  When rightly applied, the rules of hermeneutics (context, rules of language, exegesis, etc.) makes this issue quite clear as was explained in Acts 15.  Nevertheless, there were those who insisted that Jewish converts adopt and maintain the same regulations as Jews.  This created much confusion for the Gentile believers in Antioch as well as the Galatians and Colossians.  This is also why Paul stressed the application of moral precepts and a life transformed by the "renewing of the mind (Ro 12:1-2).

The personal example that Paul cites in Philippians 3:17 when examined in context has nothing to do with following Jewish regulations, but rather a lifestyle of sacrifice and love.  All of the instructions provided in each of his letters pertain to a lifestyle that results from a transformation of the heart by a personal encounter with the living Savior and explicitly charges people to NOT become entangled in legalism as a means of righteousness.

I am not sure where you see a reference in 1 Cor. 5 pertaining to the Passover.  The entire chapter is dedicated as a rebuke to immorality (another emphasis on moral precepts).   In verse 7 there is a mention of Christ being our Passover as THE sacrifice.  This is in context of not allowing sin a foothold in our lives as a means of leaven.  As for the feast in verse 8; we always remember the Passover as it proceeds Easter; however, here he appears to be speaking figuratively regarding the attitudes of our heart regarding the Lord's Supper which we should be practicing each time we meet as they did at that time.   Again, the emphasis here is repentance "from morality and wickedness" to a heart of "sincerity and truth."

As for the prophesies of Zechariah: the 14th chapter appears to pertain to the millennial reign of Christ and those who rise up against Israel during the rule of the anti-Christ.  These will be those have "rejected the truth so as to be saved."  In other words, they are unbelievers; rejecter's of Divine Truth.  How the Lord chooses to deal with them at that time should not be construed as a patter for our lives now.

As for Isaiah 66:23; yes every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  This is a certainty.

It appears that we are not going to find much common ground on this issue Peter.  Nevertheless, I look forward to having fellowship with you as we walk together.

Blessings to you Peter


If you're a Messianic and your primary congregation is a Messianic congregation then visiting a church won't hurt you.  The Messianic sphere of influence will neutralize the poisonous teachings you hear at church and inoculate you to the subtle social rejection you'll receive from Christians (no matter what they say, they won't really accept someone that they think is a legalistic Pharisee).

But if you're Messianic and you only go to a church...be prepared for a slow, tortuous spiritual death.  One cannot live without true fellowship.  And a Messianic can't live without hearing the Teaching.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Now It Really Begins: Your Opinion Will Determine the Next Step

So I've now reached the stage in the discussion with the Christian teacher where we get to the heart of the doctrinal divide.  Below you'll see his most recent statements and my response--except that I haven't responded yet!  And that's where you come in.  Do you recommend I respond as set forth below?  Or should the response be more measured?  Let me know what you think.  NOTE:  the Christian teacher's words are in italics.

RE:  "Consequently, the ceremonial regulations pertaining to the Temple, it's worship and those who maintained it are all obsolete."

      Ezekiel says otherwise.  In fact, Ezekiel says that not only will the Temple regulations continue but those who maintained the Temple regulations will continue:
" 'But the priests, who are Levites and descendants of Zadok and who faithfully carried out the duties of my sanctuary when the Israelites went astray from me, are to come near to minister before me; they are to stand before me to offer sacrifices of fat and blood, declares the Sovereign LORD." (Eze. 44:15).
RE:  "It should be noted that nowhere in the NT do we see any of the Apostles advocate or instruct Gentile believers to follow the old Levitical and Rabbinical codes....Nevertheless there were many that were still fixated on the old code and they insisted that these new believers follow such practices in order to be considered 'Messianic' followers.  This led them down a path of following a set of external precepts (mechanics) which included being circumcised, keeping the Sabbath, maintaining the festivals, dietary practices, etc. as though these practices were required for Gentile believers.  While practicing these things may be permissible, especially Jewish believers, they are by no means obligatory, but have a tendency to become baggage.  Paul was very explicit regarding this matter.  'But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter."

     You say that only moral laws continue and that all the ceremonial laws are abolished.  So let's ignore, for the moment, that Yeshua said He would not abolish a jot or tittle of the law and that those who teach the law will be considered greatest in the kingdom.  And let's ignore the fact that Paul says for Gentiles to imitate the "way of walking" of Jewish Believers such as Paul (Phil.3:17) and commands Gentiles to keep Passover (1 Cor. 5).  Let's set all of that evidence aside for the moment.  Your assertion that the ceremonial laws such as "keeping the Sabbath" and "maintaining the festivals" is not Biblical because it is again flatly contradicted by the Prophets.  I'll give two examples.

Zechariah says that festivals have NOT been abolished.  Here he says that Sukkot will be mandatory for Gentiles:

"And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.  And it shall be, that whoso of the families of the earth goeth not up unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, upon them there shall be no rain.  And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, they shall have no overflow; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the nations that go not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.  This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations that go not up to keep the feast of tabernacles."  Zechariah 14.16-19.

And what is the purpose of Sukkot (i.e. Feast of Tabernacles)?  The Torah explains that the ultimate purpose is to hear and learn Torah:

"Moses wrote down this Teaching and gave it to the priests, sons of Levi, who carried the Ark of the Lord's Covenant, and to the elders of Israel. And Moses instructed them as follows:  Every seventh year, the year set for remission, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place which He will choose, you shall read this Teaching aloud in the presence of all Israel.  Gather the people--men, women, children, and the strangers in your communities--that they may hear and so learn to revere the Lord your God and to observe faithfully every word of the Teaching.  Their children, too, who have not had the experience, shall hear and learn to revere the Lord your God as long as they live in the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to occupy."  Deuteronomy 31.9-13.

You also assert that Shabbat is abolished.  The Prophets contradict this by saying that Shabbat will be for everyone:

"And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord," (Isa. 66:23).

And note that the Temple only becomes a "House of Prayer for all people" when a Gentile properly keeps Shabbat in the eschaton:

"6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant-- 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." (Isa. 56:6-7)

RE:  "Paul recognized that the moral precepts reflect the nature and character of God Almighty and transcend time and culture.  Therefore they are universal and normative for all peoples for all time.  That is why he translated this into principles of practical theology for the Gentile believers which was affirmed by the Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15)."

You assert that the Jersualem Council abolished Torah for Gentiles (in blatant contradiction of the Prophets) and you base this, apparently, on the fourfold decree.   

First, the fourfold decree can only be read as a prohibition against participating in cultic pagan rites.  I'll now present the evidence for this position.  First, here is the subject verse:
"But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols [alisgematon ton eidolon] and from fornication [porneias] and from things strangled [pniktou] and from blood [haimatos]," (Acts 15:20)
In 15:20, the first thing prohibited is "alisgemata ton eidolon" which translates as "pollutions of idols".  And the parallel of this provision in 15:29 rephrases it as "eidolothuton" which translates quite clearly as "idol sacrifice" (also see LXX of Daniel 1:8 for corroboration).  This sets up the cultic context for the remaining three provisions which we will now look at in turn.

We know that "porneias" is connected to "eidoluthutai" elsewhere in Scripture:

"Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality [eidolothuta kai porneusai]," (Rev. 2:14) 
"Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols [porneusai kai eidolothuta]" (Rev. 2:20)

This establishes that porneias in Acts 15:20 concerns cultic idolatry.

Now we turn to "pniktou", a term so rare that it is not found elsewhere in Scripture (outside of Acts).  In fact, the only we know about it comes from Philo:

"The Jewish philosopher Philo described the revolting practice of how pagans would often strangle or choke their sacrifices, not letting the blood out, in opposition to God's law: 'But some men, with open mouths, carry even the excessive luxury and boundless intemperance of Sardanapalus to such an indefinite and unlimited extent, being wholly absorbed in the invention of senseless pleasures, that they prepare sacrifices which ought never be offered, strangling their victims, and stifling the essence of life [Leviticus 17:11], which they ought to let depart free and unrestrained, burying the blood, as it were, in the body.  For it ought to have been sufficient for them to enjoy the flesh by itself, without touching any of those parts which have a connection with the soul or life' (Special Laws 4.122)," (from McKee's Acts 15 For the Practical Messianic).

 So we see that the fourth prohibition of "blood" is connected to "pniktou".  When one strangles the animal one automatically traps the blood for the purpose of pagan rites.

 Therefore, the fourfold decree can not be taken to be some new form of Torah for Gentiles.  Taken in context,  it is simply a prohibition of core pagan rites in a cultic context.  And why were these prohibited?  Because Gentiles were EXPECTED to be in synagogue to learn the Torah of Moses:
"For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." (Acts 15:21).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Mitzvot Series: #2


Ex. 20:2-3

Ex 20:4,5; 23:13; Lev. 19:4

"Ye shall not make with Me gods of silver and gods of gold" (Ex. 20:23

Ex. 20:7; Lev.19:12
NOTE:  Scripture doesn't really explain this.  In Rabbinic literature, this mitzvah is taken to refer to oaths.  However, I believe it should be construed in broad terms as follows:  we are a People chosen for His Name and thus we must conduct ourselves accordingly.  If we give G-d a bad name as it were then we've taken His Name in vain.

Ex. 20:8,10; 23:12; Deut.5:12
NOTE:  We are required to sanctify Shabbat in several ways.  One of the primary ways that Shabbat is sanctified is by our refraining from doing work associated with the common workday.  However,the concept of "work" is not intended by Scripture to be a purely subjective idea.  Rather, Scripture provides many examples of activities that are objectively prohibited as melakha--on such Scripturally defined matters there should be no debate.  However, one issue for Messianics is whether to accept the rabbinically defined categories of work--the 39 categories of melakha.

"Let no man go out of his place on the seventh day" (Ex. 16:29)
NOTE:  Clearly by the time of the Prophets this concept of "place" had been precisely defined (e.g. Jer. 17:21-22).  This definition of "place" is also alluded to in the Apostolic Writings (Acts 1:12).  For there to be a "sabbath day's walk" implies that the permissible distance was precise, well-known, and agreed upon in the system of first-century Judaisms.  However, it may have been a matter of halachic debate as to what could be carried on Shabbat.  For example, in John 5, Yeshua and a man are in a public domain and Yeshua tells him to pick up his bed and walk.  The Jewish leaders then said that the law prohibits carrying a mat.  Modern halacha (Shulchan Aruch) states "In the public domain and in a semi-public domain it's forbidden to carry (on Shabbat) any object four cubits. Whether one carries it, or throws it or passes it. To carry it, in several stages, each one less than four cubits, is also forbidden."



The Mitzvot Series: #1

So recently a Christian teacher who is a friend of mine asked me to enumerate all the mitzvot that I believe are currently valid.  He wants to be thorough and define everything--a very wise approach, yes?  Oddly enough, I've never really thought through all the mitzvot and considered which are binding for Messianic Jews and non-Jews in the modern day.  So this will be a beneficial exercise.  Without further ado, here's the first in the mitzvot series.  And I'll be borrowing heavily from Abraham Chill's "The Mitzvot" for all of this (one of the chillest rabbis of all time by the way).  Oh, and for the one's that pose issues for Messianics (e.g. rabbinic authority issues or One-Law issues) I'll post a brief note discussing my personal view and if anyone wants to comment then feel free (all perspectives are welcome here).

"Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it" (Gen. 1:28)

"Every male among you shall be circumcised" (Gen. 17:10)

"Therefore the children of Israel are not to eat the thigh muscle on the hip socket" (Gen. 32:33)

"This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be unto you the first month of the year" (Ex 12:2).
NOTE:  How do we get to the mitzvah that each new moon should be sanctified?  It's implied from "beginning of months" that just as Pesach is reckoned from a new moon so too must each subsequent month be reckoned by the new moon.

Ex: 12:6; 23:18
NOTE:  When the Temple is standing, the Israelite householder goes to the Temple, waits his turn to enter the courtyard, has his sacrifice processed, and returns with the paschal lamb to his house where everyone eats it. (See "Those Forbidden to Partake of the Paschal Lamb" for a special note for One-Law Messianics)

"And they shall eat the flesh in that night" (Ex. 12:11)
"Ye may not eat of it raw nor boiled in water" (Ex 12:9)
"With unleavened bread and bitter herbs shall they eat it" (Ex. 12:8)

Ex 12:10; Numbers 9:12; Deut. 16:4

Ex. 12:43,45,48
NOTE:  A convert, after the model of Abraham, is initiated into the covenant via faith.  A male convert thus initiated then ratifies his conversion via circumcision. When the Temple is standing, a circumcised male convert may then consummate his conversion by eating the paschal lamb.  This model of conversion (initiation, ratification, consummation) is obviously not held by "the rabbis".  Yet it is the model which I believe best describes the reality of a convert's journey as demonstrated in the Tanak and the Apostolic Writings.

Ex 12:46; Numbers 9:12

"You may not carry forth any of the flesh away from the house" (Ex 12:46)

Ex 12:15,17,18,19,20;13:3; Deut. 16:3

Ex 13:2; Num 18:15,17; Deut. 12:17;15:19
NOTE:  This was historically interpreted to mean that the father was duty-bound to "redeem" his first-born son thirty days after the birth by presenting the Priest with five pieces of silver or an object of equal value.

"And you shall tell your son on that day" (Ex 13:8)

Ex. 13:13
NOTE:  I'm not going to attempt to explain the rationales behind each mitzvah...


Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend...

Might Israel be teaming up with Saudi Arabia?


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Did the Apostolic Decree Force First-Century Gentiles to Eat Kosher Food?

The Apostolic Decree prohibits a non-Jew from eating food that has been sacrificed to an idol (Acts 15:29).  Yet the first-century reality was that all meat sold in a marketplace was presumptively associated with idol sacrifice.

Here's Bruce Winter on the subject from his book "After Paul Left Corinth" (see especially the portions highlighted in yellow):

pg. 288 "Josephus records an official decree which involved provision of kosher food and which was issued on the resolution of the magistrates from the city of Sardis in Asia Minor and passed by the Council of the People.  It was dated after October, 47 B.C., not long before the founding of the colony of Corinth in 44 B.C. (Ant. 14.259-61).  This was not the first discussion of Jewish rights in Sardis, for Lucius Antonius, the proquaestor who deputised for Minucius Thermus, the Proconsul of Asia on his recall to Rome, wrote an official letter to the magistrates, the council, and the people of Sardis indicating that the ancient customs of the Jews in that city were to be respected.  These included their own 'association', 'a place of their own'---presumably a synagogue--and the right to decide their own 'affairs and controversies with one another' (Ant. 14.235).  This letter, written earlier than the decree of Sardis in 47 B.C., appears to have been the catalyst for securing recognition of their ancient customs.
     The preamble of this decree began with the customary 'whereas'...in order to explain the context of the official resolution of the Council and the People:
     'Whereas the Jewish citizens living in our city have continually received many great privileges from the people and have now come before the Council and the People and have pleaded that as their laws and freedom have been restored to them by the Roman Senate and People, they may, in accordance with their accepted customs, come together and have a communal life and adjudicate suits among themselves, and that a place be given them in which they may gather together with their wives and children and offer their ancestral prayers and sacrifices to God...'
     The official resolution then declared, 'it has therefore been decreed by the Council and the People...that permission shall be given to them to assemble on sacred days, to do things in accordance with their laws, and also that a place shall be set apart by the magistrates for them to build and inhabit'.  The decree concluded, 'so that the market-officials of the city...shall by charged with the duty of having suitable food for them [the Jews] brought in'...for sale in the marketplace, over which they had control.'"
pg. 296  "The Christian Jews, on the basis of Gallio's ruling [Acts 18], were entitled to purchase meat that had not been offered to idols in the marketplace.  Even if the Jews were unhappy with that arrangement, they could not move against the sale of 'suitable meat' to Christians.  Gallio's ruling was that the Jews' case against Paul was about an internal religious dispute, 'questions about words, and names and your own law' and not some criminal offence (18:14-15).  Therefore the officials who governed the meat market might have been involved.  Christians were entitled to purchase kosher meat there, and this may have been the reason that Paul needed to provide no tradition on the purchasing of idol meat for the Christian community in Corinth while he was there.  If this was the case, then Corinthian Christians had been able to follow the Jerusalem Council's decision concerning food offered to idols (Acts 15:23-29)--a decision that could only be implemented in Gentile cities where kosher meat was available in the official market."

Torah Talk with a Christian Teacher

For anyone interested, here's a taste of an on-going discussion I'm having with a Christian teacher whom I greatly admire:

RE:  "I am not sure if this was clearly conveyed in your previous reply.  Which aspects of what was given (Levitical Code) do you see necessary for a Gentile believer to keep? "
Everything that is practicable given one's circumstances, everything which would not conflict with the spirit of the Biblical command and which comports with the letter of the Biblical command.  

RE:  "...I would like to understand how you define the Law."

To a non-Messianic Orthodox Jew, the Law includes d'oraita and d'rabanan.  To a Messianic, the Law consists of only d'oraita, those commands given in Scripture (which I believe includes the Apostolic Writings and any instructions issued by the Holy Spirit).  We exclude (or should exclude) d'rabanan--commands issued from rabbis--from carrying the force of law.  That said, where a command d'rabanan is helpful to the spirit of the law and not harmful to the spirit of the law or harmful to the letter then I see no reason why a rabbinic rule cannot be voluntarily obeyed.  

There are two models for rabbinic authority.  The deontic model (duty-based) says that the rabbis must be obeyed implicitly;  The epistemic model (knowledge-based) says that the rabbis must not be obeyed implicitly but only where the rabbinic instruction comports with Truth (knowledge).  The epistemic model gives the rabbis a presumptive but not final authority.  Where the rabbis are wrong, the epistemic model demands that one ignore the rabbinic instruction.  It is this latter model which I don't have a problem with.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why Does Torah Call the Fruit From Young Trees "Uncircumcised"?

"23 And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.24 But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord withal.25 And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the Lordyour God," (Lev. 19:23-25)

The word "uncircumcised" is orlah in Hebrew.  It's the same term as in "On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin (besar ha-orlah) shall be circumcised."

This is interesting, yes?

The flesh represents all of our sinful desires, the disobedience to the Divine Will.  The passage calls to mind the story of the forbidden fruit that appealed to man's yetzer hara.  

The rationale for the command appears to be that the fruit is untouchable because the firstfruits belong to HaShem.  But is there a deeper level of meaning?

Here's some questions to consider (and I don't claim to have the answers):

  • Does HaShem consider orlah (foreskin) to be an impurity? Notice how it is only the circumcised fruit that is called a "praise".  
  • Why does HaShem require the male members of His People to undergo brit milah?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Does a Messianic Need Other Messianics?

We define ourselves by the group with which we associate.  "I am a Buddhist".  "I am a Mormon".  "I am a Messianic", etc.  All these identities are expressions of group affiliation.  

Why do we define our identities this way?

There's really no escaping the fact that we each have social needs, the need to be accepted, the need to belong to a group.  We see the effects of these needs playing out all the time.  A Messianic starts attending a non-Messianic synagogue and eventually rejects Yeshua.  A secular Jew attends a Messianic synagogue and eventually identifies as a Messianic Jew.  A religious Jew joins secular Gentile society and eventually (often through marital assimilation) the Jewish identity is completely lost.

Our group affiliation determines our identity.

Are you a Messianic Jew?  Or a Messianic Non-Jew?  Why?  What caused you to identity that way?  However it happened one thing is certain:  you did NOT develop this identity by going to church and acculturating to Christianity.

Think about that.

In fact, if you are Messianic and you remove all Messianic spheres of influence and replace them with only Christian spheres of influence then what will happen?  

Answer:  social assimilation.

Ah, but you say, "I'll never forget who I am!  I will always be a Messianic!"  And that may be true.  But what about your children?  Or your children's children?  

Consider this:  an Italian immigrant moves to America.  He has a thick accent.  His child born in America doesn't have an Italian accent.  Why?  Answer:  because the child is more influenced by the American culture than by the Italian culture of the father.  

Assimilation is inevitable.  It is a need as real as hunger or procreation.  We must assimilate into a group.  


So now as Messianics if we are really serious about preserving our Messianic identities we must always be striving to find Messianic communities.  Yes, fellowship with Christians for they are our brothers.  Even this morning I visited a church and had many Christians thanking me for my input in the adults class.  It's great to visit Christians and build bridges.  But why are we building bridges with churches?  Is Christian church our destination?  NO.

We build bridges with Christian churches so that they will cross over to us.

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,    to the house of the God of Jacob,that he may teach us his ways    and that we may walk in his paths.”For out of Zion shall go the law,    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Reader Questions: "Do You Do Any Podcasts?"

A reader just asked if I do any podcasts.  No, but I have thought about it.  There's actually a lot of great locations around Richmond, VA and the surrounding area which would make excellent backdrops for a video podcast...  I'll think about it!  : )

2 Models for Rabbinic Authority (Avi Sagi)

A long time ago I did a post about Berger's book "Rabbinic Authority".  He described various models of rabbinic authority.  But I think that Avi Sagi in his book "The Open Cannon" has offered a better and more simplified understanding.  Borrowing terminology from Richard T. De George, Avi Sagi explains that the two approaches to Rabbinic Authority fall into two categories:  deontic and epistemic.  That's a fancy way of saying duty-based (deontic) and knowledge-based (epistemic).  Which basically means that someone is an authority because he's an expert (epistemic/knowledge) or because he belongs to an institution which society has imbued with authority (deontic).

I don't mind the model that gives expert authority to the Rabbis.  But I take exception with latter, deontic model which typically justifies Rabbinic Authority on the basis of either the Divine Command Theory (i.e. that HaShem commands unquestioned obedience to the Rabbis) or social contract theory.  There's a host of problems with the Divine Command Theory of Rabbinic Authority.  First, trying to ground such a view in Torah is like trying to suspend a mountain by a thread.  Second, I believe it violates a number of mitzvot De-Oraita (commands from the Written Torah).  

So now here's Avi Sagi on this subject:

pg. 192 "My contention is that Jewish tradition offers two main models of authority that, relying on the terminology coined by Richard T. De George, will be termed epistemic and deontic." 
pg. 192  "The epistemic model argues that authority derives its legitimation from the possession of knowledge in a specific and defined realm, which ensures the person in authority an advantage over all others who do not know.....Since [epistemic] authority rests on knowledge then, at least in principle, it is temporary and removable.  As soon as someone's attainments are on a par with those of persons in authority, the latter lose their power to teach or command.  De George has even argued that epistemic authority is not really authority in the strict sense of the term, since it cannot command performance.  It can suggest, advise, or recommend, but it cannot impose obligations.
     In the terms of this model then, it would be inaccurate to say that a command issued by an authority creates a duty of obedience.  In and of itself, the authority's command is not a sufficient condition for obedience, particularly when it challenges the knowledge shared by all community members."
pg. 200 "The deontic model adopts a different perception of the meaning of halakhic authority in Jewish tradition....The basic assumptions of this model state that an authority can validly order certain acts to be performed and compel community members to obey.  Rather than knowledge, deontic authority rests on the power invested in the person in authority to determine the binding norms.  Conceptually, deontic authority must always be obeyed, even when apparently wrong.  Whereas the epistemic model stresses that all members of the community are bound by knowledge, the deontic model emphasizes the special status of the authorities.....Support for deonitc authority is quite prevalent in the sources, and three basic justifications are usually adduced in hermeneutical and legislative contexts:  (1) God's command; (2) divine inspiration or charisma; (3) public consent."

The Governance of Cities According to Jewish Tradition

Menachem Elon on the Concept of Halachah

Shifting Rabbinic Opinions on Juridical Autonomy of Diaspora Communities

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament

Has anyone read this book:


I was just wondering if it was any good...

Atonement Series #3: Are There Other Means of Atonement Than Blood Sacrifice?

Everyone can agree (or should anyway) that blood atonement in the Temple system atoned for all manner of sins:

"When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat.  He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites--all their sins--and put them on the goat's head.  He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task.  The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert," (Lev. 16:20-22).

But is it possible that after the Temple was destroyed that G-d allowed alternative means of atonement?

That's the question.

To be fair, there's evidence for and against.

But I believe the greatest argument that there are NOT alternatives to blood sacrifice is found by combining Scripture with common sense:

If all that was needed for forgiveness was merely good works or repentance then...
  • Why did Abel think that a blood sacrifice was necessary?
  • Why did Noah think that a blood sacrifice was necessary?
  • Why did Abraham think that a blood sacrifice was necessary?
  • Why did Moses think that a blood sacrifice was necessary?
And if all these men were wrong then wouldn't G-d have corrected their mistake?  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Atonement Series #2: Did G-d Ever Require Blood Sacrifices?

Anti-Missionary:  The Prophets say that G-d rejected blood sacrifices.  Therefore, G-d does not desire or require blood sacrifices.

Messianic:  The Prophets say that G-d rejected the blood sacrifices of the unrepentant.  But G-d still desired and required blood sacrifices.

Issue #1:  Did G-d ever require blood sacrifices?

So let's examine what several well-respected Jewish scholars have to say (Rainey, Hertz, and Heschel):

Anson Rainey (Tel Aviv University):

"The prophets of the First Temple period often spoke out against sacrificial ritual (Amos 5:21-27; Hos. 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; Isa. 1:11-17; Jer. 6:20; 7:21-22).  Righteous and just behavior along with obedience to the Lord are contrasted with the conduct of rituals unaccompanied by proper ethical and moral attitudes (Amos 5:24; Micah 6:8; Isa. 1:16-17; Jer. 7:23).  It has thus been assumed by many scholars that the prophets condemned all sacrificial rituals.  ...De Vaux has shown the absurdity of such a conclusion since Isaiah 1:15 also condemns prayer.  No one holds that the prophets rejected prayer; it was prayer offered without the proper moral commitment that was being denounced; the same holds true for the oracles against formal rituals.  Similar allusions in the Psalms which might be taken as a complete rejection of sacrifice (e.g., 40:7-8; 50:8-15) actually express the same concern for inner attitude as the prophets.  The wisdom literature sometimes reflects the same concern for moral and ethical values over empty sacerdotal acts (Prov. 15:8; 21:3, 27).
     Certain other statements by Amos (5:25) and Jeremiah (7:22) have been taken to mean that the prophets knew nothing of a ritual practice followed in the wilderness experience of Israel.  De Vaux has noted that Jeremiah clearly knew Deuteronomy 12:6-14 and regarded it as the Law of Moses.  The prophetic oracles against sacrifice in the desert are really saying that the original Israelite sacrificial system was not meant to be the empty, hypocritical formalism practiced by their contemporaries.  The demand by Hosea for 'mercy and not sacrifice...knowledge of God more than burnt offerings' (Hos. 6:6; cf. Matt. 9:13; 12:7) is surely to be taken as relative, a statement of priorities (cf. also I Sam. 15:22).  The inner attitude was prerequisite to any valid ritual expression (Isa. 29:13).  Foreign elements that had penetrated the Israelite sacrificial system were, of course, roundly condemned by the prophets.  Such was especially the case with Israel (Amos 4:5; Hos. 2:13-15; 4:11-13; 13:2) but also in Judah (Jer. 7:17-18; Ezek. 8; et al.)," (pg. 84 of Michael Brown's "Answering Jewish Objections")
Dr. J.H. Hertz:

"The Prophets do not seek to alter or abolish the externals of religion as such.  They are not so unreasonable as to demand that men should worship without aid of any outward symbolism.  What they protested against was the fatal tendency to make these outward symbols the whole of religion; the superstitious over-estimate of sacrifice as compared with justice, pity and purity; and especially the monstrous wickedness with which the offering of sacrifices was accompanied," (ibid, pg. 86).

Abraham Joshua Heschel:

"Sacrifice, the strength and the measure of piety, acts wherein God and man meet--all this should be called obnoxious?
     Of course, the prophets did not condemn the practice of sacrifice in itself; otherwise, we should have to conclude that Isaiah intended to discourage the practice of prayer (Isa. 1:14-15).  They did, however, claim that deeds of injustice vitiate both sacrifice and prayer.  Men may not drown out the cries of the oppressed with the noise of hymns, nor buy off the Lord with increased offerings.  The prophets disparaged the cult when it became a substitute for righteousness....
...The sacrificial act was a form of personal association with God, a way of entering into communion with him.  In offering an animal, a person was offering himself vicariously.  It had the power of atonement....
     It is hard for us to imagine what entering a sanctuary or offering a sacrifice meant to ancient man.  The sanctuary was holiness in perpetuity, a miracle in continuity; the divine was mirrored in the air, sowing blessing, closing gaps between the here and beyond.  In offering a sacrifice, man mingled with mystery, reached the summit of significance:  sin was consumed, self was abandoned, satisfaction was bestowed upon divinity.  Is it possible for us today to conceive of the solemn joy of those whose offering was placed on the altar?
Then will I go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy.
I will praise Thee with the lyre,
O God, my God
(Ps. 43:4; cf. Deut. 12:18-19; 31:11; Exod. 34:23-24; Isa. 1:12)," (ibid, pgs. 86-87). 

In the next post we will look at issue #2 "Does the Torah really offer other means of atonement than blood sacrifice?"