Wednesday, April 24, 2013

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.

25 comments:

  1. "You'd better stick to congregations that recognize this."

    Know of any MJ congregations that require circumcision before the New Covenant immersion? When you say "make you feel", that sounds very subjective, doesn't it? What one person may feel, the other may not. I know many Gentiles who do not "feel" like they need to convert to be included among G-d's people or feel bitter about Jewish believers having a few communities of their own in the vast sea of churches.

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  2. Know of any MJ congregations that require circumcision before the New Covenant immersion?

    I know of a MJ congregation who does not want Gentiles around, do you know of any churches who do this towards Jews today(besides 1000's of years of murders)?

    I know many Gentiles who do not "feel" like they need to convert to be included among G-d's people

    I don't think any gentiles here believe that either... but, if we are not allowed to enjoy all that God has to offer in the Torah because of the way we are born, finish the equation.

    or feel bitter about Jewish believers having a few communities of their own in the vast sea of churches.

    I wish all communities were in some way Jewish, many gentiles just want to be included, and not told to sit in the back or not participate because we are not Jewish... I would rather have an educated Jewish man running the show any day, than a random gentile. I am not racist towards myself... But I would not want to sit under a community that would exclude me or my children because of being gentile, remember, we are talking about a Syangogue here, not the Temple in Jerusalem... :P

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    1. "But I would not want to sit under a community that would exclude me or my children because of being gentile"

      I am pretty sure that if you showed up in any MJ community today and conducted yourself not only respectfully but also with appreciation for the community and its goals (and I have no doubts you would) neither you nor your children would be excluded. I think the same goes for every community out there.

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    2. Preempting Dan Benzvi: "But you wouldn't call them to aliyah, would you?"

      Should we as disciples seek out honor from others and be bitter and complain when it's not given? Is this a healthy attitude with which a Gentile believer should approach an existing Jewish community or a Jew a Gentile one? There are many other ways to participate in and contribute to a community.

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    3. Being that we are brothers in the Body of Messiah, I would not tell you that you could not participate in something because you are Jewish, I would welcome it even more.

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    4. "I would not tell you that you could not participate in something because you are Jewish, I would welcome it even more."

      If a Christian were to tell me, knowing that I am an observant Jew, that he will not give me a piece of a roast pork to try because Jews shouldn't have it and he didn't want to be complicit in violating the Law, I would understand, appreciate and agree.

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    5. Gene,

      So I guess you don't believe that little bit in Torah that says the chukim and mishpatim will be "wisdom" in the eyes of non-Jews. You'd just let that non-Jew eat pork because, after all, there's no rational benefit for the commandments, right? Give me a break. If you tell that non-Jew to eat pork then shame on you.


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    6. "Give me a break. If you tell that non-Jew to eat pork then shame on you."

      There's a world of difference between forcing someone to do something and permitting them to do it. G-d has permitted the nations to eat "anything that moves".

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    7. There's a world of difference between forcing someone to do something and permitting them to do it. G-d has permitted the nations to eat "anything that moves".

      Gene, I agree, but were not just nations, we are followers of the Messiah. We believe we are responsible to the covenant... so even though we are gentiles, we are different than the average non-believing gentile.

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    8. "even though we are gentiles, we are different than the average non-believing gentile."

      Practically speaking how would a believing Gentile be differently liable to Torah than an unbelieving one? Sin is a sin.

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    9. Practically speaking how would a believing Gentile be differently liable to Torah than an unbelieving one? Sin is a sin.

      Gene, you already know this one.

      Covenant relationship, a non-believing gentile cannot be held to the responsibility of that of a believing gentile, as the non-believing gentile is not party to the covenant.

      Simply, one cannot be held to a covenant they are not party too.

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    10. "Simply, one cannot be held to a covenant they are not party too. "

      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.

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    11. 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.

      I don't disagree with this, but the outcome is different in the my understanding, this was only the starting ground for these new converts, not an end all. As stated these were 4 essentials, the bear necessities (cue jungle book music). And what was the purpose? For their acceptance inside the Jewish community, not a life of holiness, that was only the beginning.

      Doesn't appear that the requirements were all that different from the other "non-Yeshua" G-d-fearers of the time.

      As long as we do not say this is all that is required, no problems, those turning to God should not be troubled, they should be given an open invitation, ritual conversion was not an open invitation and it was a very difficult process, clearly was not what God had in mind, it was what the pharisees had in mind though.

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  3. // 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. //

    I think that's key. What was it about immersion that would have kept a first century Jewish audience from letting uncircumcised believers immerse, if not the fact that they viewed immersion as a "sign" of becoming a part of the community?

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    1. The only problem is that Jews themselves were being immersed, even Yeshua. What was he converting into and what community was he joining?

      "What was it about immersion that would have kept a first century Jewish audience from letting uncircumcised believers immerse, if not the fact that they viewed immersion as a "sign" of becoming a part of the community?"

      They mistakenly thought that it was the same sort of immersion as when converting to Judaism and joining Israel.

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    2. I think that's key. What was it about immersion that would have kept a first century Jewish audience from letting uncircumcised believers immerse, if not the fact that they viewed immersion as a "sign" of becoming a part of the community?

      Agreed.

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    3. Gene,

      RE: "They mistakenly thought that it was the same sort of immersion as when converting to Judaism and joining Israel."

      But I thought the Rabbinic Authority was infallible? : )

      In reality, they were correct about immersion of non-Jews being an initiatory rite into Israel; but they were wrong to think it was "the same sort of immersion." The New Covenant immersion is different in one sense: the ratification of the New Covenant must involve the Ruach giving each Believer a heart desire to keep the Sinaitic Torah. This is according to the Prophets.

      This is why a group of Pharisaic Believers thought that the non-Jews had to be circumcised (Acts 15:1); they couldn't accept that immersion should be given to uncircumcised non-Jews. And so what did Peter do? He gently reminded them that THEY KNEW about what had happened through Peter with Cornelius. And so they all fell silent. The PROOF of the Ruach convinced the Pharisees of Acts 15 just as it had convinced Peter earlier (Acts 10).

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    4. I think a lot of people miss that ritual immersion is part of the context of Acts 15. But it's right there in Peter's arguments.

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    5. C'mon Gene, join us already! : )

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    6. Rob Roy,

      This post was for you. Ever since you made the comment about immersion a while back, how the movement needs to write more about it, I've been thinking about this. It's a good topic to explore.

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    7. "But I thought the Rabbinic Authority was infallible? : )"

      Peter, we are not Catholics and we are not talking about the Pope. Rabbinic Authority is not infallible, but it is an authority and as such is to be respected. In fact, I read recently that a wrong Sanhedrin decision can cause others to sin. A respected rabbi wrote this.

      "C'mon Gene, join us already!"

      I will send Dan Benzvi as the Jewish ambassador to the One-Law nation.

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    8. Gene,

      Re: "Rabbinic Authority is not infallible"

      Better explain that to your pal, Boaz Michael.

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    9. "Better explain that to your pal, Boaz Michael."

      Why would he needs an explanation? Does Boaz believe in human infallibility?

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  4. "I will send Dan Benzvi as the Jewish ambassador to the One-Law nation."

    LOL!...I love you too brother....

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