Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Invitation to Fellowship

So some folks contacted me about a Messianic fellowship (this was done through the fellowship finder app over at Psalm 119 ministries).  That's quite a blessing!

I mean, I love Christians and all but, let's face it, it is nice to fellowship with other believers who share a love for Torah.

Yay!  We're back in!  : )    

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Responding to a Friend's Questions About the UMJC and Ephesians 2

A friend of mine asked a great question about how the UMJC interprets Ephesians 2.  Thought I'd paste my response below in case it helps someone else who has the same question:

Hey, brother!  Been thinking about you.  Regarding the questions, I'll just jump in and if I miss something then feel free to ask a follow-up question.

The UMJC believes that non-Jews are not part of Israel.  So with that hermeneutic, they interpret Ephesians 2 as talking about a "commonwealth" of Israel in which there is a state of Israel (for Jews) and multiple, satellite states for non-Jews.  However, the word mistranslated into English as "commonwealth" is politeia and specifically refers to "rights of a citizen".  We see this in other places in the NT (e.g. where Paul refers to his Roman citizenship).  

I've actually had a former president of the UMJC tell me that "brought near" in Eph. 2 doesn't mean "the same as."  The problem with his analysis?  He's overlooking the covenantal context.

Check this out.  What does "brought near" really mean?  Let's look at Acts 2:39 

"The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

So note that he's talking about ALL who are far off, not just Jews.  And if there's any doubt about that then check out Acts 2:17 and 21 which is a quote from Joel 2:

"I will pour out my Spirit on all people
"And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved"

The other thing to note about Acts 2 is that it is Shavuot, the day commemorating the giving of the Law on Sinai.  That particular Shavuot inaugurated the New Covenant.  The New Covenant is (1) a national covenant of Israel and (2) involves the Ruach writing Sinaitic Torah onto the heart.

So "brought near" is really a covenantal concept.  And, if there's any doubt about that, note that the mechanism for being brought near is Yeshua's blood.  His blood just happens to be that of the Passover Lamb, the blood of the New Covenant (Matt. 26:28; 1 Cor. 11:25).

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Should You Change Your Name to Reflect Your New Messianic Identity?

So I read something from a Messianic scholar today (and to that scholar who will probably recognize that I'm talking about him, please understand that I still love your work and I'm not mad), that said that a non-Jew who changes his name is dishonoring his ancestors.

I respectfully disagree (and this doesn't change that I love your work and agree with you 99.99999% of the time).

So here's a bit of personal info on me...  Are you ready for this?

The main reason I don't use my last name is for security and privacy reasons.  But I suppose a vague concern would be that it's probably a pagan name (one can never know for certain).  As I understand it, it most likely refers to an ancient pagan god.

[Pause for the shocked gasps from the audience]

So why haven't I legally changed my name?  I didn't really see the need.  I do have a Hebrew name which I haven't really told anyone other than my wife.  I don't feel the need to use it.  I know who I am and my identity is strong enough that I'm not threatened by my inherited name.  My wife also has a Hebrew name that is quite lovely...  Come to think of it, just about every Messianic I've ever encountered as adopted a Hebrew name for certain occasions or to be used when socializing with other Messianics.

But should non-Jews change their names?

That's the discussion question.  Perhaps some of you who have actually changed your names will want to chime in with your reasons.  Let's not be afraid to discuss anything on this blog.  We're all brothers and sisters in Yeshua--that's all that really matters.  To quote the Bard, "What's in a name?"  Okay, so the Bard never had to deal with the social issues that we in the Messianic movement have to do deal with.  : )

Actually, my ancestors wouldn't be offended by my Hebrew last name "ben Avraham" given that they were literally sons of Abraham (though not sons of Yitzhak).  : )

Thursday, April 25, 2013

This Blog Traffic is Insane!

So at the end of today, there will have been about 400 visitors to this blog in a single day.  That's mishegas!  : )

Or maybe Dan set a sandwich down on his keyboard and it's pressing the refresh button?  : )

Syria Danced Right Over the Red-Line Drawn by Obama


Did the "G-d-Fearer" Practice the Fourfold Decree (Acts 15)?

So I took a nap today and when I woke up there were about a million comments.  Guess I won't be getting to all of them but I do want to address a comment that Gene made:

"OK, Acts 15 gives an nice clue about what fact of Gentiles coming to Messiah meant for the apostles and the Holy Spirit when it came to obligations vs those of Jewish believers. Doesn't appear that the requirements were all that different from the other "non-Yeshua" G-d-fearers of the time."  --Gene
In the Talmud (tractate Avodah Zarah) we see that the real concern behind prohibitions of socializing with non-Jews was preventing idolatry (Geneba says "With all the things against which they decreed the purpose was to safeguard against idolatry", Avodah Zarah 36b).  And what was the mechanism for idolatry?  Deuteronomy 7 indicates that if the Israelites got too friendly with non-Israelites that they would make friendships and eventually intermarry and then the CHILDREN would be led astray in idolatry.

So then wasn't Peter justified in not wanting to socialize with Cornelius, a man who would've been forced to engage in idolatry as part of his occupation?

"The centurion Cornelius, for example, described as a 'fearer of [G-d] who prays constantly and supports the poor, whether fictive or not, would have been understood by Luke's ancient audience to be a public pagan too, since as an officer he would have participated in his unit's military cultus," pg. 6 of Judaism, The Circumcision of Gentiles, and Apocalyptic Hope:  Another Look at Galatians 1 and 2  by Paula Fredriksen

But how then did first-century Jews allow non-Jews, who were widely known to be continuing in pagan practices, to visit synagogue?  Fredriksen says the following:

"Despite the Jewish horror of idolatry, Jews evidently made room in the synagogue for those Gentiles who, like Naaman, worshipped [Adonai] as a god among gods," (ibid) [emphasis added].
This is interesting because, on the one hand, Jews were prohibited by law from socializing with non-Jews:
"He said to them:  'You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile.  But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean," (Acts 10:28).
But, on the other hand, if a non-Jew wished to visit synagogue--even though he was a practicing pagan!--this was allowed.  And such non-Proselytes who continued in paganism yet loved the G-d of Israel (like Naaman), were deemed to fit into the anomalous category of "G-d-Fearer."

So did Peter experience this tension between wanting to include the non-Jewish Believers and also wanting to exclude them?  YES!  We see this when Peter got rebuked in Galatians 2 by Paul.  Peter was refusing to sit with the non-Jews and got soundly rebuked.  It appears that Peter's previous progress toward Inclusionism (e.g. allowing the non-Jews to be immersed, a practice which was prohibited by the non-Messianic Judaisms of first-century) had been totally reversed.  After certain men came without authorization from Ya'akov (in Jerusalem), Peter began to treat the non-Jewish Believers just like mere G-d-Fearers:  he included them in synagogue but excluded them from social events such as table-fellowship.

But, later at the Jerusalem Council, Peter makes up for his previous lapse.  He once again preaches the story of Cornelius, how the non-Jewish Believers have been purified (and in the process reached a status that the ancient G-d-Fearers couldn't attain).  To Peter, this meant that non-Jews should be fully included socially and that the Messianic Community had an OBLIGATION to immerse the non-Jews (something which was never done for G-d-Fearers).


And so we see that all the non-Jews were required to sever their socio-religious connections with home and family, become traitors to their pagan people and ancestral gods by following the fourfold decree.  They had to completely abstain from "pollutions" of idolatry connected with the pagan cultus.

NOTE:  the G-d-Fearers were defiled if we are to believe the Book of Daniel.  In the Septuagint it says, "And Daniel purposed in his heart, that he would not defile [alisgeo] himself with the king's table..." And this term for defilement, alisgeo, is found in noun form in James' phrase "ton alisgematon ton eidolon" (pollutions of idols).  Jews didn't care if G-d-Fearers defiled themselves.  They didn't command G-d-Fearers to abstain from idolatry.  But the Messianic Jews in Acts 15 were now commanding the non-Jews to maintain a level of purity that was much higher than that of a G-d-Fearer!  Why???  [see McKee's "Acts 15 For the Practical Messianic" for more about this]

James said it was because of what the Prophets had said, that the non-Jews were going to voluntarily be joining to Israel and learning the Torah of Moses.  Note that James makes a gezerah shavah and references the "prophets" plural.  We see that he references many Prophetic passages including Micah 4:2, Isaiah 2, etc, etc.

But how do we know that James felt that the non-Jews were coming to learn the Torah of Moses?

BECAUSE THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT JAMES SAYS IN ACTS 15:21.   Read it for yourself and see that the context here is not so-called Noahide Laws or so-called rules for G-d-Fearers.  James felt that these newcomers were being included so that they could immediately begin a process of sanctification, a process that according to the Prophets would involve learning Sinaitic Torah.

So is Gene correct in his comment at the top?  Well, I love Gene as a dear brother but I have to disagree with him.  The New Covenant elevates the status of non-Jews.  Does Ephesians 2 read as though Paul thinks that the New Covenant does nothing new for non-Jews?  Or does it read as though Paul believes the New Covenant has profoundly affected the status of non-Jews?  So let's close with that:

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Possible Hezbollah Drone Attack Thwarted by Israel


Is Ritual Impurity Less Real?

"The one translation here avoided is 'ritual purity' and 'ritual impurity', for attaching the adjective 'ritual' raises two problems.  It first requires the definition of 'irtual' and implies a distinction between 'ritual' and something-other-than-ritual - 'substantive', 'real', or 'moral, for example.  So that the distinction in our culture will carry in its wake the assertion that 'ritual' stands against 'real' or 'substantive', 'meaningful' or 'actual' as though for the ancient Israelite 'ritual impurity' were somehow not real or substantive or actual, as if it bore no material meaning.  But if impurity has concrete and important effects in practical, everyday affairs, and if a concrete act ('ritual') of purification has to be undertaken to remove those effects, then it hardly constitutes something not real, substantive or actual." [from the foreword of "Ideas of Purity in Ancient Judaism" by Neusner]

Immersion vs. Ritual Circumcision: A Look at the Talmudic Debate Over Which Ritual Was More Fundamental For Conversion

So this is actually an old point of debate in Judaism, whether immersion marked the point of the conversion or whether circumcision marked the point of conversion:

"One passage in the Talmud presents different opinions over what act constitutes the basic ritual of conversion:  circumcision or immersion (in a miqveh or an appropriate natural body of water).  Another view is that both are necessary," (pg. 268 of Jewish Passages:  Cycles of Life by Harvey E. Goldberg)
Here's the passage to which Goldberg refers (if I'm not mistaken):

"If [a proselyte] immersed but did not circumcise...R. Joshua says 'Lo, this one is a proper proselyte, for so we find in the case of our mothers that they immersed but did not circumcise'....Said to him R. Aqiba, 'But is it right to derive the rule governing what is possible from a case involving what is not possible...He said to him, 'Even though it was not possible, it does represent probative evidence, so that we should derive the rule from that case.'" [The Babylonian Talmud:  A Translation and Commentary, Yebamot, pgs. 236-37]

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Quote of the Day

"There is one ekklesia, but it contains within it two distinct communal entities:  a Jewish ekklesia (representing and serving as a bridge to Israel as a whole) and a Gentile ekklesia,"  --Mark Kinzer

(pg. 160, Postmissionary Messianic Judaism by Mark Kinzer)

Rudolph didn't like me using the term "segregation" (which he said was "charged")...  So what's a better term for separating people based on race?  Hmm...  

Portal to Sinai: A Look at How Ritual Immersion is Connected with Shavuot and the New Covenant

So today at work I was thinking about immersion (a.k.a. baptism) and what it has to do with conversion.  I remember reading several books (Edersheim and the other escapes me) that said that the House debate (Mishna Eduyot...5?) was proof that at least the house of Shammai viewed immersion as the completion of conversion.  I've read that section and it doesn't necessarily indicate that at all.  The only thing that passage shows is that the house of Shammai felt that the blood from circumcision is a minor impurity whereas the Hillelites saw it as major--equivalent to touching a corpse.

Be that as it may, immersion was still an integral part of ancient conversion and this is attested in Rabbinic literature.  But if we look at the Apostolic Writings we see this as well, Paul describing the immersion as symbolic of death and life, becoming a new creation... 

But first-century Judaisms didn't allow non-Jewish, non-Proselytes to ritually immerse.  And you'll note that Peter, in Acts 10, even says "Surely no one can prevent them from being immersed" which corroborates this idea.  It was all regulated.  But, post-Cornelius, no one could deny that G-d had accepted non-Jews into the Ekklesia, that they were included in Peter's Shavuot statement about those that G-d would call. 

Remember that the kahal/ekklesia at Sinai had to undergo ritual immersion because it says they washed their clothes and there was also a foreshadowing of the baptism of fire which was realized at the New Covenant Shavuot (Acts 2; Matthew 3:11).  The Prophets also connect New Covenant water immersion with Israel and Sinaitic Torah (Ezekiel 36:25).  So it really was a big deal that non-Jews are allowed to immerse in the New Covenant.  This was something new and profound.  And it still is! 

So to the non-Jews out there, don't feel bad that non-Messianic Judaism doesn't accept you (and even Exclusionist groups with Messianic Judaism itself).  And don't you dare get circumcised just so you can complete a non-Messianic conversion ritual!  Yeshua has allowed you to immerse even in an uncircumcised state.  You have been accepted by the Ruach so that no man can prevent you from immersion (Acts 10).  This is a right that comes from G-d.  You'd better stick to congregations that recognize this.  The congregations that make you feel like you need to convert AGAIN and get circumcised and immersed just to be included all the way--those are harmful.  Stay away from those or attend them with extreme caution.

Sorry for the random musings today.  This was on my mind and I just wanted to let it out.  Perhaps later I will re-write this to be more coherent.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Currently reading...

...McKee's book about Acts 15.  I've read virtually everything written about Acts 15 and this book ranks right up there with the best.  I'll hopefully finish it later today.

I wish I didn't have to work, that I could just read all day!  : /

Monday, April 22, 2013

Quote of the Day

"Pork is not more dangerous to your health than beef,"  --Derek Leman

--From Leman's Blog

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Tipping Point: How Ideas Spread in Social Networks

So I read an interesting book today that my sister-in-law recommended.  It's called "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference" by Malcom Gladwell.  Here's the wikipedia link on it:


This book tries to answer the question:  what makes ideas spread more successfully in some situations and less successfully in others?  Gladwell offers some intriguing suggestions.

You've probably heard the phrase "six degrees of separation", the idea that everyone is connected by a few number of social links.  But there's an interesting nuance to that:  the idea that the networking is actually accomplished by a select few:  the Connector, the Maven, and the Salesman.

A Connector is someone like say my dad who remembers ever name and every fact about people (e.g. he can tell you the names of every person in his third grade class and where they were sitting).  He is a kind of social network hub.  ILLUSTRATION:  Everyone has heard about Paul Revere.  But have you heard about William Dawes?  Dawes did the exact same thing as Revere--he apparently spread the word about the British invasion on the same night as Revere.  But Dawes was unsuccessful.  The difference?  Revere knew EVERYONE.  He was a social networker.  So when he set out he was very strategic, knew precisely where to go in each town and city, etc.

Then there's Mavens (a Yiddishism referring to someone who collects information) and Salesmen (the charismatic types).

So if you have a "sticky" message (a message that is impactful and memorable) and it comes into the hands of personality types such as Connectors, etc, then what tends to happen is...A SOCIAL EPIDEMIC.  Which can be a good thing or a bad thing.

So naturally I'm thinking about how this applies to Scripture.  I was thinking about the spread of the Gospel message...  But I'm also thinking about how this applies to the Messianic movement.  And I can tell you that I've met all three types (sometimes overlapping in the same individual).  We've got Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen.

Anyway, this was just a bit of interesting sociology.  I don't know if it will help anyone or not.

Update to Previous Post Per Rudolph's Request

I thought the previous post was fair given that I asked the readers to listen to Rudolph's message.  But he felt I should've added the following bit of context from his sermon:

On one occasion, a Gentile woman appealed to Yeshua for help. The Messiah’s reply tells us much about the commitment he had to his mission....Yeshua answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:21-24).
The text goes on to tell us that the Gentile woman didn’t accept No for an answer, and in holy chutzpah she pleaded to Yeshua for help. Yeshua eventually acknowledged her impressive faith and granted her request. May all of us learn to persevere in our coming before the Lord as she did! Though Yeshua granted her request, the fact remains that he reluctantly did so. Why was this?  As Yeshua said to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This was his mission.But did that mean Yeshua did not care about the woman? That he lacked compassion for the Gentile world? Far from it! Yeshua had a plan to reach the hundreds of people groups around the world, but only later, after he had gone to his own people. Yeshua’s plan was that, after his death and resurrection, some of his shlichim would continue his mission to fellow Jews while others, like Paul and Barnabas, would go to the Gentiles.Paul describes the dual mission that existed in his own day. He writes in Galatians 2:8-9:For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. So, is it okay to have a Chinese church? Absolutely. This is the way Hashem works. He calls different people and different communities to bring his besorah (his good news) to different ethnic groups, beginning with his people Israel.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Listen to Rudolph's Sermon: Do You Agree or Disagree that Yeshua Promoted Ethnically Segregated Congregations?

I'll post a link to the message at the end of this.  It's an audio message of a sermon delivered by Rudolph (author of "Introduction to Messianic Judaism") the other week.  In the message, Rudolph quotes from Matthew 10 and then says:

"Yeshua only sends his shlichim to a particular ethnic group--fellow Jews-- and he specifically says not to go to other ethnic groups.  Why was this?  Why was Yeshua so exclusive? …It's because that was his mission."

And then he answers a question from earlier in the sermon about whether it's okay to have separate congregations based on ethnic mission:

"So is it okay to have a Chinese church?  Absolutely."

I think Rudolph might've skipped the following passage:

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

At any rate, listen to the following sermon and let me know if you agree or disagree with Rudolph.  Is it good to have congregations segregated based on ethnicity?  Did Yeshua really say to do that?  Here's the link:


Here's a bit that Rudolph asked me to include for contextual purposes:

On one occasion, a Gentile woman appealed to Yeshua for help. The Messiah’s reply tells us much about the commitment he had to his mission....Yeshua answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:21-24).
The text goes on to tell us that the Gentile woman didn’t accept No for an answer, and in holy chutzpah she pleaded to Yeshua for help. Yeshua eventually acknowledged her impressive faith and granted her request. May all of us learn to persevere in our coming before the Lord as she did! Though Yeshua granted her request, the fact remains that he reluctantly did so. Why was this?  As Yeshua said to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This was his mission.But did that mean Yeshua did not care about the woman? That he lacked compassion for the Gentile world? Far from it! Yeshua had a plan to reach the hundreds of people groups around the world, but only later, after he had gone to his own people. Yeshua’s plan was that, after his death and resurrection, some of his shlichim would continue his mission to fellow Jews while others, like Paul and Barnabas, would go to the Gentiles.Paul describes the dual mission that existed in his own day. He writes in Galatians 2:8-9:For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. So, is it okay to have a Chinese church? Absolutely. This is the way Hashem works. He calls different people and different communities to bring his besorah (his good news) to different ethnic groups, beginning with his people Israel.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Big Shock: The Boston Bombers Who Targeted Children Were/Are Islamist

Why I Haven't Wanted to Review Rudolph's Book "Introduction to Messianic Judaism"

All the Exclusionist blogs are talking about this book.  Even Inclusionist groups such as Torah Resource have reviewed it.  So why not me?  

Well, it's a little personal.  

He, Rudolph, refuses to acknowledge that his predecessor, a former president of the UMJC, wrongly prevented my wedding from taking place.  He actually found out what city we were in, found out who was going to perform the ceremony, found out his phone number, and proceeded to sabotage it.  

So I can't review his book because I'm clearly biased against him.  I couldn't hope to give a proper review of that book.  It may even have some good points in it, who knows?  I haven't read it.  Don't plan on reading it.  Perhaps some others will review it more in depth for me.

And to Rudolph I can only say:  repudiate the evil that was done to me and my family.  Even if it harms your job, you need to repudiate it.

I'm a good man.  A hard-worker (which everyone I work with can tell you).  Honest.  I love Yeshua with all of my heart (which both my Believing and even Atheist friends can tell you).  The fire of Torah burns in my heart all the time and even wakes me up nights.  I'm a child of G-d.  And I didn't deserve what was done to me.  

Issue-Sharpening and Other Benefits of Discussing Torah with Gene

So in our last discussion we talked about the intermarriage crisis of Ezra.  The comments also got into elements of bilateral ecclesiology.  Note that there are two pillars of exclusionist (bilateralist) Messianic teaching (to which our friend Gene also adheres):

(1) the Church is a separate group of elect composed solely of non-Jews; 
(2) Israel is composed only of ethnic Jews and those who have converted under Jewish auspices.

Naturally, Gene is not open to the truth that the Ekklesia is not a separate group of elect but rather refers to Israel.  He doesn't want to hear that.  He wants non-Jews to stay in church and learn Christian traditions (e.g. pork is tasty on Easter and fondling pigskinned footballs can be a religious experience).

Naturally, Gene disagrees with Paul's assessment in Ephesians 2 that the physical Jews have failed to recognize the covenantal status of non-Jewish Believers.  Gene sees such talk as de-legitimizing the Jewish race (which, of course, it does not).

So the lines are becoming sharper with each passing day.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Did Moses and Ezra Really Have Different Views Regarding Intermarriage?

So Moses clearly wasn't opposed to marrying foreign women.  Yet Ezra seemed to view intermarriage as a profanation of the holy seed:

Ezra 9:1-2 "After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. 2 They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”

And Ezra 10:11 seems to be particularly strict:

"Now honor the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.”

So what's the deal?  Was Moses wrong to intermarry?  Was Ezra too strict?

Here's what I think:  Ezra doesn't talk about conversion issues at all:

"Ezra-Nehemiah grapples with the marriage of Jews with unconverted people; conversion is not remotely hinted at," (pg. 84 of The Anchor Bible [Ezra]).

The rationale for the exclusion of foreign wives in Ezra is the same as in the Torah.  The Torah says that if Israelites intermarry with certain ethnic groups that they would turn the children from following HaShem to serve other gods.  The land gets polluted with idolatry, etc.  

So I'm speculating but I think it's a very real possibility that Moses' wife was a convert.

We see the same thing with Ruth.  Ruth, as a Moabite, wasn't supposed to intermarry with Israel.  However, she converted and, while maintaining her ethnicity, she was grafted into Israel:

"It should be observed that the question of intermarriage does not exist in Ruth, because she had already become a convert, that is, first she turns to the faith of Naomi and becomes an Israelite, and then she marries," (ibid).

It doesn't profane the holy seed when a non-Jew joins Israel.  It doesn't harm "Jewish distinctiveness."  Here's what it does:  it enlarges Israel.  

But please feel free to disagree with me.  This is an open format.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Upcoming Review...

Going to be reviewing Katherine Southwood's "Ethnicity and the Mixed Marriage Crisis in Ezra 9-10" sometime this week.  It's particularly relevant to our current Messianic ecclesiological crisis and I think it will generate some healthy discussion.

Questions About the "Prince" in Ezekiel 45-46

Pray for the Victim's of the Boston Bombing

I didn't find out about this until late last night at work:


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Message to the New Visitors From Around the World

Review of McKee's "Are Non-Jewish Believers Really a Part of Israel?"

In the opening of McKee's book, he identifies a viewpoint regarding G-d's elect that has been causing severe problems in the Messianic movement, a viewpoint that sends the following message to Non-Jewish Believers:

"...just stay put inside [church] and [don't] make any significant lifestyle changes," (pg. 47).

As a consequence, the Non-Jewish Believers who have been trying to respond to G-d's calling for them to join His People and live a sanctified lifestyle, are instead becoming very confused regarding how they should identify and what they should practice (pg. 22). Some of them, struggling to find a place of solace and comfort, have even resorted to attending non-Messianic synagogues which, in certain cases, has led to an outright rejection of Yeshua.

Challenging the notion that the Body is composed of two sub-communities known as "Israel and the Church", McKee contends that the Body is really an enlarged realm of Israel in which both Jews and Non-Jews are equal citizens:

"...the ekklesia...[is] an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel, which welcomes in the redeemed from the nations as equals," (pg. 48).

McKee proposes that this view, which can be termed "Grafted-In Ecclesiology", will ultimately result in, "...a better understanding of and commitment to...the commandments of God via His Holy Spirit...and participation in the restoration of His Kingdom on Earth, which is to culminate in the Messiah's return," (pg. 301).

Methodologically, McKee divides the book into two sections:

(1) a study of Scripture (and classic literature) to demonstrate that the Apostolic writers specifically chose the term "Ekklesia" to describe the Assembly of Believers because it directly corresponds to the Hebrew term "Kahal", a term used in Hebrew Scripture to refer to the Assembly of Israel at Sinai; 
(2) a study of Scripture relevant to answering the Book's title question: "Are Non-Jewish Believers Really a Part of Israel?"

Some of the more advanced readers may be initially confused by McKee's use of the term "Commonwealth of Israel" which is discussed in the section on Ephesians 2. However, McKee gradually unpacks the idea that there are two different models for understanding "Commonwealth of Israel."

The two models seem to break down as follows:

(1) The Bilateral Model of Commonwealth: consisting of multiple states, one central state for Jews and various satellite states for the "Church" of Non-Jews. In this model, there are different levels of citizenship and therefore different levels of Torah obligation; 
(2) The Grafted-In Model of Commonwealth: consisting of a single-state Kingdom realm of Israel. In this model, "...[non-Jews]...have citizenship in the Kingdom of Israel the same as any Jew," (pg. 234).

For reasons of practicality, this review will not cover all of the Scripture portions covered in the book. Rather, this reviewer will provide an example of one such Scripture portion: the section of Scripture known as "Paul's Rule" given in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24.

"Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the [assemblies]. Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called. Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Messiah's slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called," (1 Corinthians 7:17-24, NASU).

Quoting from authors such as Thiselton, F.F. Bruce, Sampley, and Gordon D. Fee, McKee ultimately concludes that, "...Paul's rule...is not that people are to remain stagnant and unchanged in a particular station in life that they perpetually occupy; Paul's rule is that people are to be abiding in the calling of God to salvation and holiness, who will then direct any changes to one's status as appropriate..." (pg. 296).

At the risk of over-simplifying McKee's Scriptural exegesis, he seems to offer the following interpretation of Paul's message regarding circumcision:

One should not de-value circumcision ("...he is not to become uncircumcised..." and "...circumcision has value...") and one should not over-value circumcision ("...you have been alienated from Christ you who attempt to be justified by the law...") but focus on living a sanctified lifestyle ("...what matters is keeping the commandments...") befitting of one who has been made into a new creation ("Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation").

McKee notes that since modern Messianics understand that circumcision is not how one receives salvation, "...[circumcision]...is something that can be practiced by today's non-Jewish Messianic men..." (pg. 284).

In conclusion, the timing for this book could not be better. McKee has carefully, thoroughly, and diplomatically engaged some of the most heated issues in contemporary Messianic Judaism. Are Non-Jewish Believers Really a Part of Israel? is a book that will help Jews and Non-Jews be more respectful of each other and, if nothing else, clarify the issues that have recently caused so much hostility and division within Messianic Judaism. However, it is the opinion of this review that this book will ultimate contribute to a grand reconciliation in the Messianic movement. Many thanks to McKee for his painstaking work!


Friday, April 12, 2013

New Question Posed on Post Entitled "The Conversion Issue in Messianic Judaism"

Please comment on the new question posed on "The Conversion Issue" post.  CLICK HERE FOR LINK

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Word of Encouragement to the Commenters Being Censored at Leman's and Boaz's Blog

Is Christianity Edom? An Interesting Bit of Rabbinic Tradition

The Purpose of Non-Jewish Olive Branches

Please Pray for Rick Warren

For those who haven't heard, Rick Warren lost his son and needs our prayers.  May the source of Shalom be with his family!

The Conversion Issue in Messianic Judaism [UPDATE]

I want to know your thoughts!

There are two primary views on conversion in Messianic Judaism:

(1) Exclusionist View (e.g. MJRC):  Jewish distinctiveness must be maintained and the way to preserve this distinction is to require non-Jews who wish to practice Sinaitic Torah to formally convert under Messianic auspices;

(2) Inclusionist View:  The unifying theme of the Inclusionist view is that non-Jews shouldn't seek to become circumcised under non-Messianic auspices.  We also tend to see circumcision (whether formal or informal) as an eschatological necessity given that the Prophets say only men who are circumcised in heart and flesh may enter the Temple.

But what are your thoughts?  Are Messianic institutions wrong to offer channels of formal conversion for non-Jews?  Does this pose problems?  Let's discuss.  : )

UPDATE:  Lower down on the comment thread I have posed a new question for everyone to consider:

New question, gentlemen: Can we all agree that "Israel" refers to two different realms, the realm of Kingdom Israel (i.e. Yeshua's kahal/ekklesia) and the realm of physical, man-governed Israel (e.g. the modern state of Israel or any of the various Jewish sects)?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Jewish Approach to Dating (Shomer Negiah) [NOW COMPLETE]

Secular society encourages men and women who are not married to each other to go ahead and enjoy physical intimacy, promising that this is the path to wisdom and happiness.

But is that really true?

Reality seems to paint a different picture:  

  • the growing epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases;
  • the sky-rocketing divorce rate, the number of women who have been emotionally blinded to the fact that they are in abusive relationships;
  • the number of people who remain married but carry so many emotional scars that they no longer experience the full specialness of physical intimacy;
  • and the many women who have resorted to antidepressants as they struggle with deep insecurities brought on by an unending parade of failed relationships.

In short, it looks like the secular approach, rather than offering wisdom and happiness, has brought nothing but confusion and misery.

So for those of you who have been disappointed by the secular approach, take a few moments to at least consider the Jewish approach to dating.  What have you got to lose?


You've probably heard of the beauty bias.  When we see someone beautiful we tend to think that they not only possess beauty but also a host of other desirable traits (e.g. honesty, intelligence, compassion, kindness, etc).  But there is also a touch bias.  All things being equal, you tend to feel closer to the person who has just touched your hand or patted you on the back.  And if it happens to be a member of the opposite gender who is doing the touching, well, then you can kiss all objectivity goodbye.

But when you're dating you need to have a clear head.  You need to find out whether the prospect mate has bad values or irreparable bad habits.  I don't know how it is for women but when a guy gets physical with a girl the last thing he cares about is whether she has good values and good habits.  When things get physical, male instinct kicks into overdrive.  

Of course, women are susceptible to the emotional bonding of touch just as much (if not more so) than men.  I've already mentioned the example of the girl in an abusive relationship.  We've all seen this:  such a girl overlooks her boyfriend's (or husband's) faults and is completely blind to reality.  Everyone tells her "Hey, you've got to get out of that relationship!" But does she listen?

So the best approach is to delay bonding until it's safe to do so.  And that's precisely what shomer negiah is about.  Literally, the phrase is about being a "guardian of touch" or "one who respects and is sensitive to the power of touch".  In Jewish practice, shomer negiah refers to the belief that men and women who are not married to each other and who are not close relatives should not touch (if at all possible).  


Human beings are emotionally fragile.  We need constant love and encouragement from the moment we're born.  And so when we are physically intimate with someone and the relationship doesn't work out, we feel completed rejected and miserable.  

Secular society downplays this sort of psychological damage.  Emotional pain from broken relationships is treated in the same way as a headache:  pop a pill and you'll feel better in the morning.  This "solution" may ease the pain of a broken heart but it does nothing to alleviate the problem of increased feelings of worthlessness and insecurity.

One of the most important character traits is perseverance, the ability to confidently pursue a goal even when faced with extreme difficulties.  In the area of relationships, perseverance means that you are confident in your ability to differentiate between helpful situations and harmful situations and that you will persevere to make sure you wait for a person with whom you are truly compatible.  But people who experience a series of relational failures lose confidence in their ability to make good choices.  Without this confidence, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to persevere and make the tough choices that need to be made in order to be happy. 


There's a difference between something actually being special and feeling special.  For example, marital intimacy is inherently special…but for many people it may not feel as special as it should.  Why is that?

One of the reasons is that we take our memories with us wherever we go and these memories affect our perceptions, expectations, and ultimately happiness.  We are sensitive to new-ness.  But if we are overexposed to something then we are less sensitive to it.


When a shomer neigh couple are alone together for the first time on their wedding day they often just sit and hold hands, relishing the specialness of a simple touch.  This is what Judaism is all about:  making the seemingly mundane experiences into something special…and making special experiences reach their full potential.

And even into the marriage relationship, Judaism tries to constantly renew the marital relationship by requiring monthly times of separation.  There are times for embracing and times for refraining from embracing.  And in those spaces of time in which touching is forbidden, there is room for a spiritual relationship to grow.  A man is forced to get to know his wife, to talk to her.  And there may be frustrations at times but ultimately it's more romantic.  In fact, the very essence of romance is forbidden-ness (is that a word?).  

Okay, so that's the overview of shomer negiah.  Now to address the objections to it.


Objection #1:  "But I don't want to miss out!"

It's not missing out.  If you wait till you're married then that relationship will be new and special.  If you experience all those new and exciting feelings now then you won't have them in the future--at least not to the degree as before.  

Objection #2:   "But then you won't know if you're compatible!"

This is code for the underlying concern:  Doesn't being shomer negiah prevent me from finding out if the person I'm dating will be able to please me?

Answer:  all those things can be learned during marriage by a patient and playful couple.  

Objection #3:  "But how will I ever learn about relationships!"

Both the secular viewpoint and the Jewish viewpoint agree that the secular approach to relationships has the potential to teach something about relationships.  The difference is that Judaism says the secular approach is both harmful and totally unnecessary.  

Objection #4:  "But it's too difficult!"

If the secular approach involves potentially harming someone then it is, by definition, immoral.  And the difficulty of taking the moral path should never be an excuse to take the immoral path.  

Objection #5:  "But we're just friends!"

Answer:  Then you don't understand men.


Real love is not about doing what gratifies your immediate urges;  Real love is about showing the other person that you really care about them.  Real love respects the fact that we have needs for both physical and emotional connection.  

One last thing.  Orthodox couples don't date for years.  You spend a short period of time getting to know the other person, his or her family and friends.  Find out about values and character traits.  Is the person even marriage-oriented?  Do they have a realistic understanding of what marriage is about?  Or are they just being impulsive or immature?

Oh, I just thought of one last objection that guys might have:

Objection #6:  "But she'll lose interest if we don't get physical soon!"

It is certainly true that physical intimacy is a way to build comfort and rapport with a woman.  The down-side with that strategy is that it puts both you and her at risk.  You'll have bonded before you know if you're compatible.  

The truth is that men who try shomer negiah alone are likely to fail.  The real enforcers here should be the fathers of the daughters.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Brink of Nuclear War

For those who don't know, the U.S. and North Korea are on the brink of nuclear war.  Pray for our troops and our defense systems.


The United States has a large enough nuclear arsenal to destroy North Korea many times over.  But there are no real "winners" in a nuclear scenario.  So now is a good time for prayer.

Male Head Coverings: Perhaps Not as Old a Custom as You Might Think

Here's Bloch on the evolution of this custom:

Update on Upcoming Posts

Almost done with the following upcoming posts:  (1) review of McKee's latest book (Are Non-Jewish Believers Really a Part of Israel?); (2) synthesis of many writings concerning the rationales for the mitzvot and minhagim (I'm excited about that); (3) defense of Shomer Negiah (provided one employs the Golden Mean).

Rabbinic "Authority" Says That Shabbat is Meant to Separate Jew from Gentile

Did Leiner Really Find the Lost Hilazon?

Chill says the following:

What Was the Purpose of a First-Century Synagogue?

Bloch offers the following insight from archaeology:

Why Have Jewish Customs?

Kosofsky offers the following reasons why we have Jewish customs:

Is Non-Jewish Wine Unkosher? [An Examination of the Rationale Behind Setam Yenam]

The so-called Rabbinic Authority (to which certain Exclusionist Messianic organizations defer) says that wine produced by non-Jews is not kosher:

 "The biblical prohibition of wine used for idolatrous purposes (yayin nesech) was extended in the second century to all wines produced or handled by non-Jews (setam yenam).  The added restriction was based on the assumption that it is the intent of a heathen to put the wine to pagan uses (Avodah Zarah 29b).  The prohibition was also motivated by a rabbinic policy of preventing convivial interfaith gatherings and social intimacy which may lead to intermarriage (Avodah Zarah 36b)," (pg. 96 of The Biblical and HIstorical Background of Jewish Customs and Ceremonies by Abraham Bloch)

So you see that the underlying rationale is that Jews should be prohibited from having social contact with Gentiles (hmm...sounds a little like the story of Peter and Cornelius).  Here's Abraham Chill on the subject:

'Take heed to yourself, that you do not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land' (Exodus 34:12) 
1.  The scriptural passage above and Deuteronomy 32:38 ('Who did eat the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offering?') teaches us that Jews were forbidden to eat the food or drink the wine that were brought to pagan temples as offerings to the idols of the heathen world. 
2.  Blblical law forbids the drinking of yayin neskh (wine that was used for idol worship) or its use for any other purpose from which Jews might benefit.  Setam yeinam is the ordinary Gentile wine, even when it was not known that it was used for non-Jewish worship.  Under the rabbinic law this wine is subject to the prohibition of yayin nesekh.  Even wine that was prepared by a Jew but had been touched or handled by a non-Jew was forbidden. 
3.  The purpose of these prohibitions was to avoid social contacts that might lead to intermarriage between Jews and pagans.
4.  All who violated these laws were subject to the penalty of lashes,"  (pg. 134 of The Mitzvot by Abraham Chill).