Saturday, May 18, 2013

Is Yahnatan a Supersessionist?

In a recent post, Yahnatan said:
"Also, I believe Ben Witherington argues for a Jewish Christian (again, hist term) audience for 1 Peter in his commentary Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians. If I recall correctly, Witherington thought this bolstered his case for authentic Petrine authorship."

I went ahead and glanced at that book since Yahnatan mentioned it and discovered that Witherington believes the following three points:

(1) You have to be a supersessionist to think 1 Peter 1:18 is written to a Jewish audience.  

(2) 1 Peter 1:18 is, "to be sure", evidence that Peter was writing to a Gentile audience.

(3) Most scholars believe that 1 Peter is written to a Gentile audience (pg. 28 of Letters and Homilies)


So let's look at 1 Peter 1:18 and then we'll look at what Witherington has to say:
"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors" (1 Peter 1:18)
Is the above passage written to Jews or Gentiles?  Here's Witherington's take:
"But what about the statement about being 'ransomed from the futile ways of your ancestors'?  This, to be sure, could be a reference to the audience having a Gentile background" (pg. 31of Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians by Ben Witherington III)
"Thus the question becomes whether our author [Peter] has something of a...supersessionist reading of the earlier history of Israel or not...I do not think that such a [supersessionist] view can be lightly dismissed....Whether we call this completionist or supersessionist rhetoric, clearly enough our author [Peter] feels that he can make such a hermeneutical leap..." (ibid) [emphasis added].

So I guess the question then for Yahnatan is whether he is a supersessionist or not.  : )

It's funny because Gene is currently backed into a similar corner as per our most recent conversation:

Peter:  I'd like for you to answer my question: is keeping enough Judaism--enough Jewish lifestyle--so that subsequent generations consider themselves Jewish, is that what Peter meant by "empty way of life"?  
Gene:  I know of plenty of secular Jews today who have inherited from their parents an "empty way of life", one that had little to do with whatever little Judaism they were exposed to and one that had little use for G-d. Yet, they are still Jews and for those of them who cared about being Jewish enough to in-marry, so are their children. It's not that hard to imagine the same being true in the first century. 
Peter:  Saying that Jewish identity has little to do with Judaism is like saying sunlight has little to do with the sun. 






20 comments:

  1. "Saying that Jewish identity has little to do with Judaism is like saying sunlight has little to do with the sun."

    Excuse me, Peter, where and when did I ever say anything remotely close to that?

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    1. Gene,

      You said the parents had an "empty way of life" and you said that the addressees of 1 Peter IDENTIFIED as Jews. Thus, you'd have us believe that an empty way of life causes someone to identify as Jewish. That's absurd! It's Judaism (and not an empty way of life) that causes Jewish identity!

      Why is it that I should have to point out such an obvious causal connection??? Could it be that you are suffering from a profound bias?

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    2. "Thus, you'd have us believe that an empty way of life causes someone to identify as Jewish. That's absurd! It's Judaism (and not an empty way of life) that causes Jewish identity! "

      Peter, you seem to be confused about what it means to be Jewish. Those Jews who, for reasons which were either of no fault of their own (e.g. Jews who were born in countries which persecuted the practice of Judaism) or by choice (Jews who chose to abandon Judaism for some other ideology), failed to observe Judaism, do nevertheless have children who are Jews. Not only that, the children of those Jewish children will themselves also be Jews, unless they assimilate (by adopting another religion, through intermarriage, by denying their identity as Jews). Yes, that's how it works for Jews/Israel.

      G-d, of course, as a faithful and long-suffering husband to Israel, will not abandon the wayward wife (i.e. those Jews who strayed) and those Jews who are the "lost sheep of Israel" will once again come back to Judaism and Torah, as we saw in the Bible and as we are seeing today.

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    3. Gene,

      We're not talking about WHETHER someone is Jewish; we're talking about HOW SOMEONE LEARNS about their Jewishness. Nice red herring though.

      Let me break down for everyone since Gene seems bent on avoiding reality:

      If Judaism is fulfilling or produces some type of good and Judaism was part of someone's life then you wouldn't say that person's life was completely empty; it may not have been completely full but it certainly wasn't empty (or else Judaism means nothing).

      On the other hand, if someone was a pagan (like the addressees of 1 Peter), practicing a life full of idolatrous ways then you WOULD NECESSARILY say that such a person lived an empty way of life.

      In conclusion, we know that Peter was addressing former pagan Gentiles because he says that they learned nothing but an empty way of life from their ancestors.

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    4. "...you wouldn't say that person's life was completely empty; it may not have been completely full..."

      Well, nowhere does Peter say COMPLETELY empty - that's your addition.

      The point Peter was making to his Hellenized Jewish audience is that they (and their parents) at one time drifted from their Judaism and joined into revelry and idolatry along-side their Gentile neighbors (later many biased translations chose to translate ethnos appearing here as "pagan", while keeping "Gentile" in other verses):

      "For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry." 1 Peter 4:3

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    5. Gene,

      That word for "empty" is mataios and it's used elsewhere to refer to paganism associated with GENTILES:

      Acts 14:11-15

      11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

      14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.

      NOTE: the word mataios is translated here as "worthless"

      So Gene would you care to admit you are wrong now?

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    6. Here's a little more on mataios for those interested in Greek:

      http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3152&t=KJV

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    7. Peter, the book of James is widely acknowledged to be written to Jewish believers. Well, guess what, James also uses "mataios" in association with religion, and not of pagans, but of his Jewish audience:

      "Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless (mataios)." (James 1:26)

      So, James is telling religious Jews (who go to synagogue, see James 2:2), not Pagans or even Gentile believers, that their religion is "worthless" or "mataios" because of the sinful way they behave.

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    8. Gene,

      After the Galatians 2 incident, Peter had to redeem himself and show that he was committed to spreading the gospel to Gentiles. That's why he was the first to stand up at the Jerusalem Council. And do you know what his argument was? He layed out how grace had come to the Gentiles in a way that was in perfect harmony with the Prophets (Acts 15:15). So let's look at 1 Peter again:

      "10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours"

      And Peter notes that these Gentiles had no way of appreciating Yeshua because they, unlike Jews, were "ignorant" of such things:

      "14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance"

      The case for the non-Jewish audience of 1 Peter is cumulative and contextual.

      Let's get back to Acts 14. What happened after Paul was done telling the Gentiles they practiced an empty way of life? Jews from ANTIOCH stoned Paul. Guess what happens in the next chapter? Peter has to save the day, so to speak, and defend Paul's assertions from MEN WHO CAME FROM ANTIOCH (PHARISEES). Peter has to come completely in line with the truth given to Paul regarding the Gentiles and repudiate his former stance.

      It makes perfect sense that Peter would continue to redeem himself from the Galatians 2 incident, that he would continue to preach that the words of the Prophets were being realized in the Believing Gentiles.

      But the main point is that you can't say that Judaism is mataios because mataios denotes being unable to produce a good result. And we all know that Judaism produces at least one good result: subsequent generations who identify as Jews.

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    9. If I had to rank the indicators of 1 Peter that evidence a non-Jewish audience, I'd say that 1 Peter 4:4 is right up there which talks about how the pagans are surprised that the addressees of 1 Peter refuse to join in the pagan revelries. Hellenistic Jews would be disappointed if fellow Hellenistic Jews refused to participate BUT THEY WOULDN'T BE SURPRISED! Because it was well known that Jews WERE SUPPOSED TO FOLLOW THE G-D OF ISRAEL! There's nothing surprising about that...unless the convert in question isn't Jewish at all but rather a fellow pagan Gentile.

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    10. Now, talk about surprising. You are a first-century pagan and you know Cornelius your whole life and suddenly Cornelius stops going to the orgies and feasts. Why that would be an outrage! A betrayal! That's the kind of surprise Peter is talking about:

      3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.

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    11. Sorry, my friend, too much conjecture in your argument (e.g. "Peter had to redeem himself"). Peter's primary audience, as an Apostle to Jews (as Paul himself called him), were Jews and not Gentiles living in churches which Paul founded and oversaw. Hellenized, backslid Jews living among the Greeks was the perfect outreach target for Peter.

      "But the main point is that you can't say that Judaism is mataios because mataios denotes being unable to produce a good result."

      You are absolutely correct, Judaism is not "mataios". However, according to James the brother of Jesus one can indeed practice Judaism (or anything faith for that matter) in a way that would make it mataios" (worthless). It was unfortunately a way of life for many born Jews living in Greek Diaspora, to assimilate and not live as Jews at all or even live like "pagans" (again, in a mataios/worthless way of life, per 1st Peter). Peter is reminding them that as Jews they are chosen, part of a holy and priestly nation and should live as such.

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    12. Gene,

      Mataios is specifically identified with Gentile living:

      Ephesians 4:17 17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.

      Acts 14:15 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.

      What more proof do you need? I gave it to you: one wouldn't be surprised that a Jew decided to follow Judaism but one would be surprised for a gentile descended from pagan ancestors and legally and socially obligated to paganism suddenly stopped. This explains 1 Peter 4.

      What else do you need?

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    13. How about the fact that along with with "mataios", Paul and Peter join the concept of agnoia (ignorance) which is associated with Gentiles. See Ephesians 4:18 and 1 Peter 1:14. Gentiles were known for practicing something completely empty and unproductive (mataios) and living in ignorance (agnoia).And we see it in Ephesians 4:17-18 and 1 Peter 14.

      Come on. Now that should really convince you, yes?

      [Still hopeful over here...]

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    14. "Mataios is specifically identified with Gentile living"

      Peter, we keep going round in circles. That's exactly the point I am making - the Jews addressed in 1st Peter sinned in the manner of Gentiles around them, doing things that their Greek neighbors and friends did (in fact joining in WITH Gentiles - not "pagans" as some translations have it - to do those things, according to the Apostle).

      I also showed you James applying "mataios" to Jews who hypocritically practiced their Judaism in James 1:26.

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    15. Gene,

      Peter says his audience used to be "ignorant" (agnoia); and we've seen from Ephesians 4:17-18 that the Apostles associated Gentiles with BOTH mataios and AGNOIA. But no one ever said that Judaism could be agnoia. That only leaves paganism.

      But you're going to believe what you want apparently.

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  2. Gene, what you are forgetting is that the Gospel was not aimed at Jews. Peter was "Chosen" as an apostle to the Jews in order to tell them about Yeshua and the Besorah. All Jews in the diaspora are Hellenized, and that includes you and me. For you to somehow to file a special group of Jews that needed to hear the Gospel as "Hellenized" shows that you have nowhere to go.

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    1. "Gene, what you are forgetting is that the Gospel was not aimed at Jews."

      Dan, if you mean to say that the message proclaimed by the apostles to Jews and Gentiles was somewhat different because of the inherent differences between these two groups, I absolutely agree with you. These two groups are still different.

      "For you to somehow to file a special group of Jews that needed to hear the Gospel as "Hellenized" shows that you have nowhere to go."

      Peter was not writing to these Hellenized Jews about the Gospel for them to hear it for the first time - they already believed and accept it. He was exhorting them to live a godly life.

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  3. "Dan, if you mean to say that the message proclaimed by the apostles to Jews and Gentiles was somewhat different because of the inherent differences between these two groups, I absolutely agree with you. These two groups are still different."

    Well, Gene, Yeshua would have differed with you...On the Shabbat for instance. He said that the Shabbat was made for Mankind, not Jewkind....

    "Peter was not writing to these Hellenized Jews about the Gospel for them to hear it for the first time - they already believed and accept it. He was exhorting them to live a godly life."

    So, Peter's mission had nothing to do with unbelieving Hellenized Jews...I get it now....

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    1. "He said that the Shabbat was made for Mankind, not Jewkind...."

      And I thought it was made for animals too - "so that your ox and your donkey may rest" (Exodus 23:12). But then again, Yeshua wasn't making a halachic pronouncement here of who may or may not observe the Sabbath (though he was only teaching Jews during his time on earth), but merely making a point of priority - a human being is more important than the Sabbath (except for that guy who got stoned for collecting firewood).

      "So, Peter's mission had nothing to do with unbelieving Hellenized Jews...I get it now...."

      Misplaced sarcasm, Dan, once again.

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