Friday, March 8, 2013

Ecclesiological Composition of the "Israel of God" in Galatians 6:15-16

TEXT:  {6:15} For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. {6:16} And as many as walk according to this rule, peace [be] on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

I'm very slow to add evidences to the on-going list of One-Law evidences.  But this one is a candidate because it seems to group both the circumcised and uncircumcised in the "Israel of God."

Does anyone have any thoughts?  Agree?  Disagree?


  1. This verse really does put a spotlight on the debate between the "One-Law" and "Bilateral-Ecclesiology" groups, doesn't it?

    If we contextualize "circumcision" in v.15, and see it as a halachic boundary that a particular sect of the Pharisees had created and sought to force upon non-Jews -- not just *a* boundary, but *the* boundary between Israel and the Nations, in their eyes -- then Paul's correction of this halachic rule here really seems to break down a lot of the dividing walls that have been erected today between Jewish and non-Jewish believers.

    If by "circumcision" Paul was indeed referring to the proselyte ritual, and that therefore no proselyte ritual (or lack thereof) "availeth any thing" (that is, gain one certain rights/privileges/responsibilities/etc.) then what does this say to Messianic Jewish groups today that seek to draw hard lines between Jewish believers (who should supposedly be following one set of commandments), and non-Jewish believers (who supposedly should be following a different set)?

    I also note Paul's use of the Greek word κανών here: literally, a rule, or a measuring stick, or a rod (the same one we get the English word "canon" as in "canon of Scripture"). I haven't looked too deeply into this yet, but one wonders if this was a synonym for "halacha" in the first century, and whether Paul is in fact saying here that Apostolic halacha rejects the notion that circumcision or any other proselyte ritual, should be used as a basis of putting up walls/divisions between the people of God.

  2. ". . . then are ye Abraam's seed, and heirs according to the promise", which in Hebrew would be: "zera Av'raham, v'noch'alim k'phi ha Hav'tachah".

    A Gentile asked, Does this mean I become a Jew? No. even Av'raham was not a Jew, he was first called an Iv'ri (an Hebrew) when he was called Av'ram, as it is written (B'reshith 14.13): "And there came one that had escaped, and told Av'ram ha Iv'ri (העברי)", that is, "the Hebrew." . . . Nowhere in Scripture may it be found that he was ever called a Jew (Y'hudi). If Av'raham's seed you are through Mashiach, then you have become B'ney Yis'rael – the Children of Yis'rael.

    We are not called to be Jews of Judaism, but we are children of Yis'rael, whether Jew or Gentile – and even children of Av'raham – for with God there is no difference, as it is also said (Galatas 3.27-29): "For as many of you as have been immersed into Christos have put on Christos. There is neither Ioudaios (Ιουδαιος, Judean) nor Ellen (Ελλην, Grecian), there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christos Iesous. And if ye be of Christos, then are ye Abraam's seed, and heirs according to the promise." And also (Kolosseis 3.9-11): "Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: where there is neither Ellen (Y'vani, Greek/Gentile) nor Ioudaios (Y'hudi, Judean), circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christos is all, and in all."

    The prophecy concerning the New Covenant speaks in this manner (Yir'm'yahu 31.31-33): "Behold, the days come, saith YHVH, that I will make a B'rith Chadashah (ברית חדשה)" – a New Covenant – "with Beyth Yis'rael, and with Beyth Y'hudah . . ." speaking of the two separate kingdoms, northern and southern, Yis'rael (also called Eph'rayim), and Y'hudah ". . . But this shall be the B'rith that I will make with Beyth Yis'rael after those days . . ." speaking of the Beyth Yis'rael actual, not the northern kingdom mentioned previously, but of the the final house of all the descendants of Av'raham our father, whether of the northern house or southern, including the strangers who will dwell in their midst – all are the Israel tou Theou (Ισραηλ του Θεου) – that is, the Israel of God, as is spoken of (Galatas 6.15, 16): "For in Christos Iesous neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature" – a kaine ktisis (καινη κτισις), which is a b'ritha chadata (a new creation בריתא חדתא). "And as many as walk according to this kanoni (κανονι), this rule – a shurah (שורה), in Hebrew, which is a principal - peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel tou Theou – the Israel of God."

    Thus it should be remembered (Ephesious 2.11-13): "Wherefore remember, that ye in time past were Ethne en sarki (εθνη εν σαρκι) – Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; remember I say, that at that time ye were without Christos, being aliens from the Politeias tou Israel (Πολιτειας του Ισραηλ) – the Administrative Commonwealth for the rights of a citizen of Israel (Adath Yis'rael), and strangers from the Diathekon tes Epangelias (Διαθηκων της Επαγγελιας) – the Covenants of Promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christos Iesous ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of the Christos."

  3. I love these comments! Very informative, both of you.

  4. I noticed that Joel Willitts closes his conclusion to Introduction to Messianic Judaism with his own translation of the verse, "Peace on them, and mercy also on the Israel of God." While this differs from other popular translations, even the popular translations vary; apparently the syntax is complex enough to allow for disagreement. In PAUL AND “THE ISRAEL OF GOD”: AN EXEGETICAL AND ESCHATOLOGICAL CASE-STUDY, S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. surveys the various translations of this verse and argues that the variation comes from bias on the part of the translators, and that the understanding of "Israel" as ethnic Israel is the most likely construal.

    1. I look forward to reading that! Thanks, brother.

    2. Thanks for the article, he has some great points, especially concerning those who would hold a view that unbelieving Israel is somehow toast or no longer valid (suppersessionaism).

      He makes another point on how bad exegesis is coming to the text with presuppositions, which I agree with, but he then fails this himself, by simply presuming there is such a thing as a "church", when the scriptures give no authority to this concept. Instead if he approached it with there is Israel that consist of believing and non believing Jews, and then the gentiles who have taken part through Yeshua, we see a picture that is painted more in line with scripture.

      Creating an entity called the "church" that is separate of Israel out of thin air, is what creates this mess to begin with and what causes theories of "spiritual Israel" which is another bogus term in itself. Sadly there are even Messianics today who still perpetuate this grave mistake, it is simply bad exegesis and scholarship.

    3. I had asked a question on another thread, which something on this one has brought to mind again:

      ...concerning those who would hold a view that unbelieving Israel is somehow toast or no longer valid (suppersessionaism). <]]]

      Since it wasn't answered there:

      But what do we do with a statement like (Romans 9.1-8, 25-29): "For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:" in connection with what we know concerning Salvation being in no other, that there is no other Name anyone can be saved (Acts 4.12), and that no one calls Messiah accursed by the Holy Spirit, nor can they call him Lord but by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.3)? Which in Judaism, when I had simply mentioned his Name, my cousin stopped his ears and gave out a long howl and chased me out of his girlfriend's apartment. Is that unbeliever not going to be toast when he stands before Messiah?

      I do not hold to any sort of replacement. That would be like replacing myself in some weird paradoxical universe. From what I read, those who are not in Messiah are broken off the main body of the Olive Tree, and are more than able to be put back on, that is if they turn from their unbelief and accept the Messiah (Romans 11.11-24).

      I dunno, it seems that it is being said (in many places I've come across) that all Israel will be saved - including those who do not believe. What am I not understanding?

    4. I thought I should add, I'm not asking to be argumentative. I am wondering about this since it has been something coming to my attention a lot lately. I would be interested in seeing another's understanding.

    5. Hey John,

      We read in Romans 11, that God has not forsaken Israel, even disobedient Israel, in fact, He plans to redeem them even in their disobedience, now this does not mean that every single ethnic Jew will be saved, it is speaking nationally, on a grand scale many will turn away from disobedience, and thus their blindness to Messiah is actually an act and plan of God. We read that in Romans 11, that a partial blindness has been put on Israel, until a certain period of time, its there because God put it there. God is not done with Israel, in fact, the culmination of world redemption is found in Israel turning from their disobedience, something that is prophesied to only happen in the end days, or better stated, once the fullness of the gentiles have come in, and it starts by gentiles provoking Jews to jealousy, something that has not been seen in 2000 years, Paul specifically magnified his ministry to gentiles, in hope of fulfilling the prophecy concerning the jealousy of his people. Deut 32:21, Romans 10, Romans 11.

      Now, what my comment was specifically in regard to, was that much of Christian theology replaces Israel with an allegorized "gentile Israel" who is the "New Israel", it is nonsense and a destruction of scripture. With that said, gentiles are no doubt part of Israel through Messiah as Paul states, but gentiles simply joined a party, they did not replace or take over, gentiles are not the "new Israel or true Israel"... just as gentiles have always been welcome to join God's covenant, they do not replace the already established authority and rules of the covenant. But Christian doctrine is plagued with this, for example the Catholic Church itself replaced all kinds of scriptural authority, the Popes are linked to the Priestly office in the Torah, much of the traditions are remakes of what already exist in scripture, and in this case, the priestly office only belongs to Levites, this is not replaced by some gentiles joining Israel.

      So if we believe in God's promises, devaluing non-believing Israel's role, even in their disobedience, is to devalue God's promises... its huge.

      I crammed this together as it is a rather large topic, but I can break down any of those points if you have more questions. Hope this helps.

    6. Thank you so much for your reply! Your first paragraph has given me food for thought, and I appreciate that.