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.


Shalom,

Peter

12 comments:

  1. I agree, One Law, from the perspective of the Torah, should only be referenced for the perspective of what it meant for a gentile to be in covenant with God, what were the requirements, and how that helps us better understand Gentiles relationship today, with regards to now being in covenant through the work of Messiah, the Ger proves that gentiles covenant relationship to God required Torah obedience. But we also have to understand that the Messiah has brought us further in, than the Ger who came in. So it should be used as examples, for learning the place of a gentile among Israel and his responsibilities to the Torah, but we have to consider that Yeshua has brought forth more than what was offered then and it is not exactly the same, but more.

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  2. What you say sounds interesting at a first read, but my problem is that I have read this post twice now and am no longer sure that I understand what you're saying — nor do I remember anymore what I found so interesting the first time I read it. I mean, how should I interpret your statement that G-d can now accept uncircumcised males into the family of Israel? Is the new thing introduced by the Gospel about how Gentile males are accepted? And since you are defending this as a One Law position, is the Law of Circumcision abolished for Gentiles males who are added to Israel? How can that be One Law? I simply don't get your point. Perhaps you can explain this a bit more.


    I didn't know that the Gospel is only relevant for males of Gentile ethnicity. I always thought that it was relevant for females as well, not only for female Gentiles but for Jews as well, even for male Jews. But I may be mistaken.

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  3. Aliquantillus,


    He is stating that the very basis of One Law cannot be limited to the definition of the 'stranger' in the Torah, as that would be ignoring what has come after, that specifically being found in Yeshua, and the door he has opened for gentiles/strangers. So a large part of the One Law argument is found in the Apostolic Writings. Circumcision still matters from a One Law perspective and it should be taught and practiced as it is a commandment. He also makes point that circumcision is not an entrance into the covenant, instead faith is, this does not mean circumcision is irrelevant, only it finds its proper place.

    I didn't know that the Gospel is only relevant for males of Gentile ethnicity. I always thought that it was relevant for females as well, not only for female Gentiles but for Jews as well, even for male Jews. But I may be mistaken.

    How did you come to this bizarre conclusion? He simply made an example of the relevance for a male-gentile in relation to circumcision and covenant entrance. Women obviously do not participate in circumcision, so the point is moot concerning a woman, but he points out that gentile men and women enter the covenant the same way, by faith, and not by circumcision. As for the Jews, the message is clear, they also do not enter covenant by circumcision, both Jew-male and Jew-female are born into covenant, they do however have to accept Yeshua despite being born into covenant, a faith act as well...

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  4. If you say that faith, not circumcision, is the entrance to the covenant, then what do you understand by faith? Is it a purely interior assensus of the mind, or is it practical faithfulness? The first would in my opinion imply a platonic separation between the mind and outward behavior which is foreign to the Torah. From a Torah perspective having faith (or being faithful) is a practical matter. It is doing the commandments. So the concept that a person first enters the covenant by pure faith (before doing any commandments) doesn't seem to be a Torah teaching.

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  5. Aliquantillus,

    You are making a large assumption, it is clear that Faith and works go hand in hand, however if we take Paul's example of Abraham's covenant relationship with God (in Romans 4), both in righteous standing and the actual covenant we see in Genesis 12, all happened before Abraham was circumcised, thus we can see that Abraham was not in covenant with God because of circumcision, circumcision came later as a seal of the covenant already made. However Abraham's faith was reflected and seen in his works, he obeyed God. Thus, faith must have some form of trusting in God despite your works, as our works cannot attain right standing with God, simply those works are our effort to obey God and show that we truly 'do', showing our faith to be real.


    If circumcision is the entrance, then we are putting the cart before the horse, it falls on its face. Since circumcision is a seal of the covenant made with Abraham, and this covenant existed before the sign of circumcision.


    All that said, circumcision should be obeyed per the commandment...

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  6. I find it difficult to follow your line of argumentation. For, in the first place, for all persons who grow up in the context of congregational life, works come first. Boys are circumcised on the eight day, when they are thirteen years old they do their Bar Mitzvah, and take responsibility for the commandments. Generally spoken it is at a later stage in their life that children come to conscious faith. So the default case is here that works come first, for Gentiles as well as for Jews. It is only newcomers who begin with faith. But even their case is not identical to that of Abraham, which is quite a singular historical case. When Abraham believed HaShem, the commandment of circumcision was not part of the revealed deposit of the faith. Nobody knwe about circumcision. However, when HaShem revealed this commandment, Abraham circumcised himself and all his male household on that same day when he received the revelation. So nowadays there is no reason for a gap between accepting the faith and accepting circumcision for newcomers of the community.


    In the second place, your argument concerning works and faith doesn't seem to work. For it seems to me that your opposition between these things is not adequate. An act of faith is an inward activity and circumcision is an outward activity. Both are activities, and thus both are works. Why should the interior work (faith) have the precedence? The "faith only" argument is always used by those who want to emphasize that we are justified by faith only, without any work. But an act of faith is itself a work, since it is a activity, a doing, the making of a decision. So what's the problem with an outward work like circumcision?

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  7. For starters, Jews are born into covenant, so your argument of 'works come first' is bogus, instead they are born because of God's choice of Abraham and his descendants and the only works involved after that are by the parents and not the baby, at least not until the time of age that the child is responsible, thus a baby does not produce works or faith, but you are only speaking of a child and this child at some point will be responsible to both faith and works...


    Gentile adults on the other hand, must approach the covenant first by faith and then commit the works required of keeping the covenant they join, as gentiles are not the direct descendants of Abraham. And they approach the covenant just like Abraham did, in an uncircumcised state and by faith.


    As to your argument concerning faith, there is a difference between the outward showing of works and the inward actions of the heart, such as repentance and faith, that must result in an outward action/work to be true or validated. James 2 says it best:


    You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;


    We can see that faith and works are not the same thing, because even the demons believe, however they must work together for faith to be perfected.

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  8. I find it confusing when you say that Jews are born into the covenant. I would say that this is only true for the temporal blessings of the covenant. Nobody is born into the covenant's eternal blessings. With respect to these eternal blessings all who are born in the context of the community of Messiah and grow up there — Gentiles as well as Jews — outward works come first. A child learns its duties first outwardly, by simply doing things (saying prayers, doing mitzvoth) and only later on faith comes to the fore. This is the default situation for all persons born in the community and it has nothing to do with the distinction between Jews and Gentiles.


    It is true that James makes a distinction between faith and works, but notice how subtile this distinction is when he says that faith is perfected by works. This means that faith isn't genuine faith without the works and thus isn't true faith (in the Pauline sense) of being salvific. When something needs to be perfected by having something added to it, it lacks its own full being. Faith itself is thus perfected by the works and thus evolves from a bare assent of truth (which even the devils can have) to being informed by the activity of works of love. This accords with the scholastic definition of salvific faith: faith informed by love (meaning faith that has acquired the form of love-in-action)


    Does your quote from James not prove that bare faith, faith without works, cannot attain justification and thus that works of faith are to be required of those that claim to be believers, before they are to be admitted to the community? For if they only have faith, without works, they seemingly cannot be considered true believers (in the Pauline sense), because they are not justified.

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  9. I find it confusing when you say that Jews are born into the covenant. I would say that this is only true for the temporal blessings of the covenant. Nobody is born into the covenant's eternal blessings.

    Agreed, I already stated this in a previous response to you. So I am not sure how this is confusing, this is simply what is taught in the scriptures, Jewish Males and females are born into covenant, and that is without circumcision, which is vital to the discussion. That was the point to be made, the fact that they do not automatically inherit the eternal blessings of the covenant simply being Jews, does not cancel out the fact that they do and are born into the temporal aspects of the covenant. While gentiles are not.

    With respect to these eternal blessings all who are born in the context of the community of Messiah and grow up there — Gentiles as well as Jews

    Agreed.

    Your argument concerning a child misses the argument. For example, a Jewish baby by natural birth is a covenant member, despite learning anything or even being circumcised, that is simply by God's choice. This eliminates any form of works as the initiation factor, instead it is simply chosen this way by God.

    Does your quote from James not prove that bare faith, faith without works, cannot attain justification and thus that works of faith are to be required of those that claim to be believers, before they are to be admitted to the community?



    My quote from James was to prove that faith and works are not synonymous terms, instead they are separate, but also my quote was to prove that they go hand in hand, one without the other is worthless in and of itself, as per the example that demons also believe.


    The question concerning admittance into the community for a gentile, is exampled in the story of Abraham, how was he brought into covenant with God? By circumcision? Nope. Instead as it says by his trust in God, Abraham first had to trust God, in order to obey Him thus carrying out the works. Noah was the same way, if he did not have faith in God and what He said, then Noah would not have built the Ark, which was the works that came after or as a result of his belief.


    Faith has to be the first step, which involves repentance and trust, then comes the rules and laws to follow. You can't expect someone to follow the covenant without first believing in God, it would be ridiculous. Works prove faith to be true, but faith has to be the initial step.


    When the Apostles preached the Gospel to the gentiles, they did not first require tevilah(baptism), no they required repentance and trust, once this was done, they committed them to an act/work, tevilah and they accepted them based on the words of their account (faith). The works will prove whether or not someone's faith is true.


    People have in history taken on other religions, taken on their religious initiations into the communities, falsely. Gentiles have converted to become Jews, only for fear of the Jews, not because they have faith or trust in God. There is no sure proofing admittance into a community. People can lie and act upon those lies. It even takes faith to believe they truly mean what they say, no matter what, Faith is at the heart of it all.

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  10. I can appreciate most of what you say in your last comment, except your distinction between Jews and Gentiles. You hold that Jews are born in the covenant, Gentiles not. But this doesn't seem to be true of Gentiles who are born in the Messianic Assembly. They are born in the covenant too. If it were otherwise, a Gentile boy shouldn't be circumcised on the 8th day. Yet this is required under One Law presuppositions.

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  11. I can appreciate most of what you say in your last comment, except your distinction between Jews and Gentiles. You hold that Jews are born in the covenant, Gentiles not.


    Well, minus the Messianic community Jews are still born into covenant, while gentiles minus the Messianic community are not. This distinction does remain, however what you said below is also true.


    But this doesn't seem to be true of Gentiles who are born in the Messianic Assembly. They are born in the covenant too. If it were otherwise, a Gentile boy shouldn't be circumcised on the 8th day. Yet this is required under One Law presuppositions.


    Agreed. Within the Messianic community I fully agree both Jews and Gentiles of those who follow the Messiah will be born into the covenant or at least under the covering of the parents...

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