Monday, December 30, 2013

My Thoughts on the Conversion Issue

Some musings from today...

What is Conversion?

Conversion in a Messianic context theoretically involves the following three things:

(1) Joining a religious group;
(2) Being initiated into a covenant;
(3) Receiving the right/duty to keep the Torah of Moses.

Why Convert?

In theory, one would convert in order to do the three things listed above.

What are the Issues with Messianic Conversion?

One of the central tenets of Inclusionist (i.e. One Law) Messianic Judaism, is that the Apostolic Writings teach that non-Jews join Israel when they come to believe in Yeshua.  In other words, we believe that faith (not circumcision) initiates someone into Israel, the covenants, and the Torah.

But, unless I'm mistaken (which I readily concede is a possibility) there is no precedent for a non-Jew joining a specific tribe (e.g. Judah) within Israel.  You can only join a specific tribe if your father belongs to that tribe.  For example, the only thing that can make you a Levite is having a father who belongs to the tribe of Levi--and if he doesn't belong to that tribe then there's no way you can join that tribe.

The only thing a non-Jew can hope for is to join Israel--not a specific tribe within Israel.

So, speaking as a proponent of One-Law, it seems to me that for a Messianic non-Jew to undergo some sort of conversion (e.g. MJRC-style) is misguided.  A Messianic non-Jew is already a member of Israel via Yeshua's blood, already initiated into the covenants, already obligated to keep the Law.  

CONCLUSION

For all the reasons stated above, I see no reason why any Messianic should "convert" within Messianic Judaism.  But if anyone disagrees then I encourage you to share your position with us.  

Shalom,

Peter


22 comments:

  1. Conversion is never to a tribe nor to Isreal. Conversion is always to G-d. Those who have converted, (become as little children and turned back to the Father) are by definition Israel. That which is Israel is MADE ALIVE (he is not the G-d of the dead). That which is NOT made alive in Christ is not Israel.

    Gentiles do not need to JOIN Judaism to be made alive in Christ. Jews do not need to join Judaism to be made alive in Christ.

    Jesus said "I am the life." Convert to life!

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  2. Following the exodus from Egypt, the foreigners joined the tribe and had an inheritance in the tribe where they sojourned. Also, each individual received a revelation of what tribe they belonged to.


    I am not sure what to think of this conversion thing, as I don't really understand the purpose. I have already seen one very bad example. If someone undergoes this conversion, and then uses this status to believe they have the right to dictate to others, or uses it for financial gain, I have a problem here. As Messianic Jews are not accepted as Jews by the leadership in the various Jewish communities, so these converts would all the more not be accepted, and perhaps different Messy groups would not accept the conversion of competing groups.


    If you have been called to serve among the Jewish people, then go ahead and serve. Why do you need anyone to validate you? For his own good purpose, the Holy One put you where he did and didn't make a mistake.

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  3. Princess,

    Re: "Following the exodus from Egypt, the foreigners joined the tribe and had an inheritance in the tribe where they sojourned. Also, each individual received a revelation of what tribe they belonged to."

    I haven't heard of that. What source teaches this?

    Re: "If you have been called to serve among the Jewish people, then go ahead and serve. Why do you need anyone to validate you? For his own good purpose, the Holy One put you where he did and didn't make a mistake."

    Amein!

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  4. Ez. 47:21-22; Numbers 26:55-56; and I believe there are other verses. I learned much of this from the parsha study by Bill Bullock of The Rabbi's Son. http://www.regionschristiancenter.org/the-rabbis-son/

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  5. I would also add that those who identify with the Jewish people, whether through torah or via support and empathy will also suffer persecution from those who hate the Jews. I am not sure all those who love Judaica are up for that.

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  6. We know that gerim couldn't inherit land as part of the tribe because it says:

    "The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me." (Leviticus 25:23)

    Since HaShem owns the Land, Torah compares the Israelites to gerim---those who could not own land.

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  7. See Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15

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  8. I'll miss James' blog. I did not always agree with him, but he was great fodder for thought!

    Conversion... Haven't thought much about that, but have always seen myself as having been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel by the blood of Messiah Yeshua. As one who understands the new covenant as being with the 'house of Israel' and the 'house of Judah,' it always bothered me on James' blog, and elsewhere when the assumption is made or flat out stated that the Jews ARE Israel. Yes, I understand that some of the northern tribes were represented in Judea (Judah), but prophecy seems to demand a separation until a yet future fulfillment.

    So, I believe I am part of Israel, but don't care what tribe, nor care to look like a Jew halachachly. I observe Torah, trust Messiah and fully expect HE will tell me where I belong when we come into HIS kingdom.

    So, I would agree with points 2 & 3, but have a big question mark next to point #1.

    Thoughts?

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  9. es, that's how "conversion" is to be understood. "I came forth from the Father and have come into the world."


    This is what is meant by "Israel is my firstborn son.", and "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."


    Those who are not "IN CHRIST" are dead and not alive, and they are not Israel.


    "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him."


    If you are "IN CHRIST" you are converted unto G-d and alive forever more.

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  10. James isn't giving up the blog. He is just balancing his life a bit more. I believe he wrote that post late at night when he was tired, and you know how when you are tired problems seem magnified.


    Yes, James makes me think, even though I do not always agree with him. I also am not shy about conflict, but would rather hash things out than stifle debate for the kingdom of heaven, as Hillel said.

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  11. If you read it in the Hebrew (or look up the words and roots) you will understand. Although the word, "nachalah," is translated, "inheritance;" that is not exactly accurate. Here is an example of the difference between a nachalah and an inheritance: If I inherit a house from my dad, I can live in it, rent it out, sell it or allow it to get repossessed if I fail to pay the taxes or neglect maintenance and allow it to crumble. A nachalah is more like a situation where some friends inherited their dad's house with the stipulation that they not sell it so any family member could live there or vacation there and no one would ever want for a place to live.


    So, yes God gave the land of Israel to the people of Israel, but not in the way we think of land ownership. They were spewed out of the land for defiling the land.


    So, that analogy doesn't exactly fit. Often, we interpret scripture through our modern, Western understanding.


    The Gerim were allowed to share in the nachalah, but only as they sojourned among the people of Israel, learning their ways, worshipping their Elohim and serving them. The Gerim do not have a nachalah outside of relationship to Israel, and the one law was to those who draw our water and cut our wood - those who seek to be servants, not high-minded, "lording it over like the gentiles."

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  12. Well said Peter...


    I think conversion is misunderstood on many levels. If you consider historically, gentiles have converted or attached themselves to the God of Israel, by the millions throughout history. Documented, we have the Exodus experience which involved a massive amount of gentiles, we also have during Solomons day a census of 150,000 gentiles, which after counting women and children is much higher. And even other times where we have no census or numbering, there have been gentiles all throughout time coming to the God of Israel and attaching themselves in massive numbers to Israel. So..., was it not until Yeshua, that God decided He wanted to save the nations? Or was He saving the nations all throughout history, by allowing all these gentiles to join Israel? Is it any different now, if so, how so? Some would say it is different in this regard, some anachronistically would say, that God required a gentile to become a 'Jew', while after Yeshua, a gentile can remain a gentile and still be part of God's kingdom. But Biblically speaking, a gentile never became a Jew upon conversion, and still does not today. Others argue, that so called 'Noahide Laws' are all that was needed of gentiles, so the massive historical conversions to joining Israel were pointless and thus gentiles did not need to convert then and do not need to convert today.


    We have a few simple problems when we anachronistically apply 'Conversion' as defined in Modern Judaism or even in the 1st century, to that of Biblical Judaism. There is no way, they took those millions of gentiles and sat them through a conversion program as known in the 1st Century or even today. In fact, a conversion program itself limits gentiles from coming to the God of Israel and we have seen this in Judaism, unless I am mistaken, I have never heard or read of any massive conversions happening, in the likes of what we have read in the days of 'Biblical Judaism' for the past 2000 years. No instead, for the past 2000 years, it has been Christianity that has brought the gentiles to the God of Israel. Judaism is isolated to itself, however the Hasidic Movement seems to be more open to outreach and bringing the Torah to the nations, but they are a small group. There are also small groups in Judaism who promote Noahide Laws, which is simply a dead end, for those who want to serve the God of Israel, it basically promotes more of the same isolation. Today and even in the 1st Century, conversion was a limited thing, and today, conversion is almost pointless from the perspective of Noahide, if simply keeping the so called Noahide Laws is enough to take part in the world to come or to serve God as a gentile, then Judaism is a pointless endeavor, further promoting isolation and further distancing itself from that of Biblical Judaism. This is not to bash Judaism, because without Judaism, the Torah more or less would have been destroyed or lost with Christianity... Judaism has held the Torah of God in high regard despite the pressures and persecutions of the world and I think we can all agree that God has had His hand in all of this.


    I think this gets my point across, the Proselyte ritual of conversion known today or even in the 1st century, is not Biblical... we must look elsewhere. :D

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  13. "the Proselyte ritual of conversion known today or even in the 1st century, is not Biblical..",

    True, and when one studies it out, he or she begins to realize that Israel (the unbelieving nation without faith) is prevented from conversion. That is the biblical aspect of conversion. This is clearly seen in the etymology of verses that use the English word for convert, (Hebrew Greek, etc.)

    "Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed" Isaiah 6:10

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  14. Pete,


    I agree completely. We belong to Israel and that should be enough for anyone.


    By the way, I'm hoping that James will continue blogging. His is one of the only blogs I have bookmarked.

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  15. Zion,


    I agree. What's your position on "the need for Jewish distinctiveness" and intermarriage between Believing Jews and non-Jews?

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  16. Thank you. Very concisely and succinctly written..
    There certainly is a lot of confusion out there with this ONE house TWO house business!!
    I am engrafted into the ONE Tree, via the Blood of Yeshua HaMashiach. For that I am grateful!
    And If I be Yeshua's, then am I Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal.3:29
    Shalom aleichem.

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  17. Amein! : )

    G-d bless you!

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  18. Correct me if I am mistaken, but in ancient times all it took was a simple declaration by the head of the clan to adopt someone. In the second Temple period, the person was simply added by the priests to the genealogy of that family. So tell me; who does Y'shua say His family is? He is obviously the head of the clan having been anointed King. Does that solve the question of tribal affiliation?


    Don't worry about it though. I'll ask Him when I see Him again. :D

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  19. I agree with Jewish distinction but let me explain with a real life story. Take my friend John who isn't Jewish at our congregation. He knows he's not Jewish and so does everyone else in the congregation and he's not second class. He knows that although he worships with us on Shabbat he's not Jewish. He knows he can't run around and try to make Aliyah or become a member of a non believing Jewish synagogue. If I go to his house he doesn't have a mezzuzah hanging on his door and doesn't have Judaica. John is pretty comfortable in his ethnic and cultural background even in partaking Messianic Jewish worship and values the Jewish heritage of Shabbat and congregational commemorations of modeim.

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  20. Ok the issue shouldn't be whether conversion is valid. Judaism has been practicing it for 1000's of years.

    Certain Messianic circles have adopted conversion but we should look at in a way that it's considered valid within the scope of the particular Messianic Jewish circle and the one that has gone through conversion should be honest as it pertains within the circle and not the entire scope of Judaism. The honest way is not to say you're a Jew but you're a convert to messianic Judaism. I wouldn't have a problem with that because it's being honest within the scope of the particular Messianic Jewish circle that considers the conversion valid within their scope. I would hope that the circle that supports and performs this would be honest with the individual about the conversion in light of within the circle and/or organization. It wouldn't be honest that the person is considered a Jew but would be honest that the person is considered a Messianic Jew WITHIN the scope of the messianic Jewish circle. The person can't run around and start making Aliyah or try to join a non believing Jewish synagogue.

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  21. "Ok the issue shouldn't be whether conversion is valid. Judaism has been practicing it for 1000's of years."


    So is Islam...Your point is?

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