Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Who Places Higher Value on Human Rights?: Israel vs. Shari'ah States

In this corner we have...


Israel's body of constitutional law has a Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty.  Israel has Freedom of Speech, Press, and...RELIGION.

And in this corner we have...

Shari'ah States:

"For the sake of honesty, it must be stated that not only Islamist shari'a, but also traditional shari'a does not approve the basic individual right of religious belief," (The Shari'a State:  Arab Spring and Democritization by Bassam Tibi).
Shari'ah Law prohibits apostasy and allows for the death penalty for convicted apostates.


I'll leave that for you to decide.

Legitimate Criticism or Anti-Semitism?: The Sharansky Test (A Response to "Steven")

"Nathan Sharanksky, when he was the Israeli minister of Jerusalem and diaspora affairs, developed a simple formula, which he called the "3D" test to help distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from antisemitism--demonization, double standards, and delegitimization.
      He wrote:  'The first 'D' is the test of demonization.  When the Jewish state is being demonized; when Israel's actions are blown out of all sensible proportion; when comparisons are made between Israelis and Nazis and between Palestinian refugee camps and Auschwitz--this is antisemitism, not legitimate criticism of Israel.
      'The Second 'D' is the test of double standards.  When criticism of Israel is applied selectively; when Israel is singled out by the United Nations for human rights abuses while the behavior of known and major abusers, such as China, Iran, Cuba, and Syria, is ignored; when Israel's Magen David Adom, alone among the world's ambulance services, is denied admission to the International Red Cross--this is antisemitism.
      'The Third 'D' is the test of delegitimization.  When Israel's fundamental right to exist is denied--alone among all peoples in the world--this too is antisemitism.'" pg. 336 of Not Your Father's Antisemitism:  Hatred of the Jews in the 21st Century, Edited by Berenbaum

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Diatheke in Hebrews 9:15-22: Should it be Taken as "Testamentary Will" or "Covenant"?

The follow excerpt comes from "Kinship by Covenant:  A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God's Saving Promises" by Scott W. Hahn:

Beginning at pg. 307:

"Hebrews 9:15-22 and the Meaning of Diatheke...unfortunately the passage has remained obscure and highly debated in the history of scholarship.  The issues are quite complex, requiring analysis of these verses in much greater detail than that required for the tex of Hebrews to this point.
     The dispute in Hebrews 9:15-22 is whether to take the word  [diatheke] in vv. 16-17 according to its secular Hellenistic meaning 'testament,' or its Septuagintal meaning 'covenant' (berit).  Most modern translation and commentators take [diatheke] in the sense of 'will' or 'testament' in vv. 16-17, and as 'covenant' in vv. 15 and 18.  For example, the RSV reads:
'(9:15) Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant (diatheke), so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant (diatheke).  (16) For where a will (diatheke) is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established.  (17) For a will (diatheke) takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.  (18) Hence even the first covenant (diatheke) was not ratified without blood.'

It is not difficult to see why this approach enjoys majority support.  In v. 15, the context seems to demand the sense of 'covenant,' since only covenants have mediators (mesites) and reference is made to the first diatheke, which the author clearly regards as a covenant.  However, in v. 16, the requirement for the 'death of the one who made it' would seem to suggest the translation 'will' for diatheke, since covenants did not seem to require the death of their makers.  Likewise, in v. 17, the statement that a diatheke takes effect only at death and is not in force while the maker is alive seems to apply only to a will.  However, in v. 18, the topic returns again to 'the first diatheke,' that is, the Sinai event, which can scarcely by anything but a covenant.
     While the basic case for the diatheke as 'will' or 'testament' in Hebrews 9:16-17 can be seen readily, the reading labors under a number of difficulties...We may summarize these difficulties as follows:  First, the use of the term diatheke to mean 'testament' is not in keeping with the author's usual practice.  Second, the actual diction and grammar of vv. 16-17 do not describe any known form of first-century testamentary practice.  Third, the concept of a 'testament' is incongruous within the author's larger theological matrix.  Fourth, the equivocation in meaning of the key word diatheke renders the author's argument logically invalid.

[Difficulty 1:  Diatheke in Hebrews]

It is all but incontestable that aside from 9:16-17 the author of Hebrews uses diatheke only in its Septuagintal sense of 'covenant.'....

[Difficulty 2:  Diction, Grammar, and First-Century Testamentary Law]

....Another grammatical strain occurs at v. 17a:  diatheke gar epi nekrois bebaia, which the NRSV renders:  'A will takes effect only at death.'  Literally, however, the phrase reads:  'For a diatheke is confirmed upon dead [bodies].'  There is no justification for taking the phrase epi nekrois as 'at death'....The phrase is awkward, especially the use of the plural (nekroi, 'dead [bodies]'), if indeed the author was intending to speak of the death of the testator.'

[Difficulty 3:  Incongruity Within the Author's Theological Framework.  Example 1:  Covenant and Inheritance in Hebrews]

....the Greco-Roman concept of 'testament' is in strong tension with the way inheritance is consistently presented throughout Hebrews, and runs counter to the strategic deployment of the term 'firstborn' in 1:6 and 12:23.

[Difficulty 3 Continued:  Example 2:  Covenant and Cultus in Hebrews]

The concept of the Hellenistic testament is also at odds with the author's deep concern for cult and liturgy.  In Greco-Roman society, a 'testament' was a purely secular and legal instrument.  The author of Hebrews, however, treats 'covenant' not only in legal...but also cultic and liturgical terms.  Nowhere is this more true than in Hebrews 8-9....In contrast to this, a secular 'testament' involves neither cult nor liturgy, mediator nor priesthood, sacrifice nor sanctuary, cultic law nor transgression thereof...

[Difficulty 4:  The Logic of Hebrews 9:11-22]

The logical flow of the syntax of 9:11-22 strongly militates against taking diatheke in vv. 16-17 in a sense different from that which it bears in the rest of the passage.  Verse 15 opens with the phrase kai dia touto ('Therefore...'), signaling 'a strong inferential/causal relationship between vv. 15-22 and 11-14.'  It is because Christ has entered into the heavenly Holy Place by his own blood (vv. 11-14) that he has become the mediator of a new covenant (diatheke, v. 15).  Thus, the meaning of diatheke in v. 15 is qualified by the covenantal concepts present in vv. 11-14.  The second clause of v. 15, introduced by the word hopos, is a final clause indicating the purpose or result of Christ's mediatorship of the New Covenant, namely, that the 'elect' may obtain the eternal inheritance.  Within this final clause there is a gentive absolute construction:  thanatou genomenou...parabaseon ('a death having taken place'), explaining the circumstances attendant on the acquisition of this inheritance:   a death has taken place.  The hopou gar ('For since...') of v. 16 introduces a parenthetical explanation of this genitive absolute phrase, explicating why it was that a death had to take place.  Verse 17 provides further explication (gar, 'for') of v. 16.  The first word of v. 18, hothen ('Hence,') implies that the following unit (vv. 18-22) follow logically from the statements of the previous one, vv. 16-17.  Therefore, vv. 18-22 are syntactically linked to vv. 16-17, which are in turn linked (as an explanation) to a clause of v. 15, 'which itself is the climax of vv. 11-14.'  The subunits vv. 11-14, v. 15, vv. 16-17, and vv. 18-22 flow (at least syntactically) from one to another as stages in a logically progressing argument.  It would be, a priori, unlikely for the author of Hebrews, in the midst of this tightly knit argument, to use diatheke in vv. 16-17 in a sense entirely different from that used in the rest of the passage; and unlikely or not, it would seriously damage the logical coherence of the whole argument.  If diatheke means 'testament' in vv. 16-17, one must endorse Kilpatrick's assessment that 'basically the idea of testament fits into the passage very clumsily,' and Behm's that '[the author] jumps from the religious to the current legal sense of diatheke...involving himself in contradictions which show that there is no real parallel.'


Exegesis of Hebrews 9:15-18

...It is not covenants in general, but this broken, lethal Sinai covenant that forms the context within which the statements of vv. 16-17 should be understood.
     Assuming a context in which 'transgressions have taken place' from v. 15, the author's meaning can be clarified as follows:
[v. 16]
Since there is a [broken] covenant,
it is necessary for the death of the
covenant-maker to be borne,
For a [broken] covenant is enforced
upon dead bodies;
for it is certainly not in force while the
[offending] covenant-maker lives.
Hence, not even the first [covenant]
was ratified without blood.

....[since the Sinaitic covenant was] ratified by a bloody sacrifice (vv. 18-22, cf. Exod 24:5-8), which entails a curse of death for unfaithfulness--'the death of the covenant-maker must be borne.'  The author does not says:  'The covenant-maker must die,' but uses the circumlocution:  'The death of the covenant-maker must be borne,' in order to leave open the possibility that a suitable representative may bear the punishment of death on behalf of the covenant-maker, as Jesus does for Israel and all mankind (Adam).
     The concept of someone 'bearing' (phero) the death of the covenant-maker in 9:16, like the 'bearing (anaphero) the sins of many' in 9:28, may be shaped by the use of phero in Isaiah 53 LXX, where (ana) phero is consistently used in the sense 'bear something for another.'....the clear reference to Isaiah 53:12 in Hebrews 9:28 makes it plausible that the use of phero in the sense of 'bear on another's behalf' in Isaiah 53:3-4 lies behind the use of phero in Hebrews 9:16.
     The sense of the following phrase (v. 17a), 'a covenant is confirmed upon dead [bodies],' (diatheke gar epi nekrois bebaia) is that, after a covenant has been broken (i.e., the situation under the first covenant), the only means of upholding the covenant is to actualize the covenant curses, which ultimately--if not immediately--result in the death of the covenant-maker-turned-covenant-breaker.
     The principle underlying the bold statement of v. 17b, 'since it certainly is not in force while the covenant-maker lives' (epei mepote ischyei hote ze ho diathemenos), is this:  for the covenant-maker(s) to remain alive after breaking the covenant indicates that the covenant has no teeth, no binding force (mepote ischyei)....
     The following verses (9:18-22) explicitly concern the first Sinaitic covenant.  The sense of v. 18, ["Hence, neither was the first covenant inaugurated without blood,'] the emphasis being on the fact that, at its very inception, the first covenant already symbolized and predicted the necessity of the death of the covenant-maker in the case of transgressions.  Therefore the reader should have no doubt that the Sinaitic covenant was one that entailed the curse of death.
     The net effect may be summarized in the following way:  With the breaking of the ('first') covenant, Israel's death becomes legally necessary because of the curses signified by the sacrifice.  Once Israel breaks the covenant, it is divinely renewed--but only symbolically--through Moses and the apparatus of the Levitical priesthood....the divine court was temporarily adjourned so that the execution of the covenant curses could be delayed and deferred until someone could bear the curses--vicariously and redemptively--and so release the covenant blessings.
     Christ thus fulfills the Old Covenant by bearing the curse of death as a faithful son of God an royal high priest, thereby performing the vocation that Israel first accepted (Exod 19-24) and then spurned with the golden calf (Exod 32)...The death of Christ...simultaneously [expiates the curse of death of the Old Covenant and provides the inaugural sacrifice that ratifies the New Covenant]."
Hebrews 9:15 and the Old and New Covenants

Hebrews 9:15 succinctly states the author's foundational understanding of how Christ inaugurates a new covenant:

'Therefore He is the mediator of a new covenant,
so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance,
Since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.'"

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gazing Into the Urim and Thummim

"Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron's heart whenever he enters the presence of the LORD. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD," Exodus 28:30
"The Law of the Lord is perfect [temimah], converting the soul," Psalm 19:7
"You shall offer, that you may accepted, a male without blemish [tamim zakhar]...You shall not offer to the Lord that which has its testicles bruised or crushed, or broken, or cut," (Lev. 22:19-24)
"When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be complete [tamim]. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers," (Gen. 17:1-2)

Some musings from today...

Cutting the genitalia of a male sacrificial animal renders it blemished.  So why does Abraham's circumcision render him unblemished [tamim]?  

Something else interesting... 

The Urim v'Thummim, the breastplate depicted above, was an object worn by the priest that helped Aaron make decisions.  The Urim (related the Hebrew word for "light") would glow and thereby instruct (Thummim is related to the Hebrew words "tom" which means integrity and "tam" which means perfect or "full of indivisible truth").  

Just as the Thummim offered perfect instructions that were entire, undivided, reliable, so too is the Torah!  It is temimah (without blemish, entire, completely truthful).  The Torah is also light as it is related to the Hebrew word for light.

So I have a question for the Bilateralists out there, the Exclusionists who say Gentile Believers are not obligated to keep the Torah of Moses:


If Yeshua is the Messiah and future King of the world, why would He impose less perfect laws on the goyim?  Does He wish them to stumble around in darkness, never understanding His perfect Ways?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Torah Commands the "Church" to Eat Lamb During Passover (A Response to James Pyles)

First, some background...

Torah says:
"Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please.  Offer them only at the place the Lord will choose," (Deut. 12:13)
In other words, consecrated meat must be sacrificed only at the Temple.  Only then can you take it back to your house to eat (and only then if you happen to be circumcised).

Fun fact:  So why do Ashkenazic Jews have a roasted shank-bone (from lamb) on their Seder plate during Passover?  Aren't they violating the prohibition stated in Deuteronomy 12?  The Askenazic view is that the shank-bone is not a Passover sacrifice because it is specifically not cooked on Passover.  Furthermore, they don't eat it but rather just use it for symbolic purposes.  

Okay, so that's cool but what in the world does this have to do with the Church?  I'm glad you asked...

It turns out that in Exodus 12 there is a very unusual Hebrew phrase:
"...and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel [kol kahal adat Yisrael] shall kill it in the evening," Exodus 12:6 
The term "church" is used to translate the term "Ekklesia" in the Greek source text of the New Testament.  Greek-speaking Jews of the first-century would've instantly associated the term "ekklesia" with "kahal" (since the Septuagint translated "kahal" as "ekklesia").  More importantly, they understood "kahal" in its primary sense as referring to Israel (see Acts 7:38 for a perfect example of this).  That's why I say that the "Church" is required to eat the Paschal meal.

But only the circumcised may eat the Passover meal!  

Yes, that's true.  One day Yeshua will return, the Temple will be present in Jerusalem, and everyone who is not circumcised will have to be circumcised.  This might even occur on the tenth day of the first month as it happened at Gilgal (Book of Joshua):

{4:19} And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth [day] of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho. {5:2} At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. {5:3} And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. {5:4} And this [is] the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, [that were] males, [even] all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. {5:5} Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people [that were] born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, [them] they had not circumcised. {5:6} For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people [that were] men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not shew them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey. {5:7} And their children, [whom] he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way. {5:8} And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. {5:9} And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day.
{5:10} And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho. 
Fun fact:  the tenth day of the first month is, incidentally, the day that Torah commands the head of the family to consecrate a lamb for the paschal sacrifice.  This appears to be a rich area for studying numerical significance...

Yes, I realize the idea of circumcising gentiles sounds controversial to Christianized ears but keep in mind that I'm making the following distinctions when it comes to conversion:

(1) covenantal initiation:  faith is initiatory
(2) covenantal ratification:  circumcision is ratificatory
(3) covenantal consummation:  Passover is consummatory (and required of the entire Church Kahal)

In other words, don't think that I'm saying that one must be circumcised in order to be saved.  On the contrary, I believe that faith in Yeshua is what saves us (and also initiates us into His "Kahal", or you might say "the Messianic Kingdom Realm of Israel).


Until Yeshua returns, avoid eating actual lamb on Passover.  But, when He returns and orders everyone to be circumcised, then everyone will be able to eat the lamb!  


(1) Roasted Lamb is a royal dish:  

"Hinnukh:  The Paschal lamb had to be eaten roasted because a roast lamb was a royal dish of which slaves were not permitted to partake.  Now that the Jews were free, they were, in fact, commanded to partake of this dish to mark their new freedom,"  pg. 15 of the Mitzvot by Abraham Chill 
So it is fitting that all of G-d's children, both Jew and non-Jew, should be able to eat this royal meal of Passover!

(2) The lamb meal represents G-d's arms stretched out in love for us (which also reminds us of the crucifixion):

"The shankbone (zeroa) and the egg (bea) are commemorative dishes that were introduced after the destruction of the Temple (Pesachim 114a).  The original source of these items mentions 'two dishes' without specifying their identity.  The information was provide by the Jerusalem Talmud (quoted by Kol Bo but missing in our texts).  According to this quotation, the choice of these dishes was motivated by the significance of their names.  Zeroa ('arm') commemorates God's 'outstretched arm.' Bea ('desires,' in Aramaic) commemorates God's desire to redeem his people," pg. 227, The Biblical and Historical Background of Jewish Customs and Ceremonies by Bloch
The gift of love symbolized by the lamb of the Passover seder is meant for all of humanity--because G-d loves the entire world!  He will find a way to allow all peoples to partake in this celebration!


"As ancient and modern writers have noted, a meal provides a context for close personal contact, creating and reinforcing the bonds of friendship.  The meal may have special uses as well.  Mary Douglas suggests a connection between a dining table and a cultic altar:  'the meal and sacrificial victim, the table and the altar...[may] stand for one another.'...Members of an intimate group often find the meal a natural setting in which to share religious activities.  While bonds of friendship are strengthened by common experiences at a central temple or local shrine, they will be more personal in small groups," pg. 10, The Origins of the Seder by Bokser.

"Nor was the custom [of a common meal] unknown in Biblical times; it is not infrequently mentioned in Scripture.  Thus, when Melchizedek, King of Salem, made a treaty with Abraham, he did so by proffering bread and wine (Genesis 14:18-24); and when Abimelech concluded an alliance with Isaac, he followed the same procedure (Genesis 26:30).  Similarly, we are told expressly in the Book of Joshua (9:14) that the princes of Israel entered into a covenant with the Gibeonites by partaking of their victuals; and the prophet Obadiah (verse 7) uses the words 'men of thy bread' and 'men of thy confederacy' as parallel expressions for the same thing.
     We may take it, then, that the original purpose of the paschal meal was to recement ties of kinship, infuse new life into the family, and renew the bonds of mutual protection at the beginning of each year," pgs. 17-18 of Passover: Its History and Traditions by Gaster

“The process is a preliminary form of the blood covenant which the people as such was to conclude with [Adonai] on Sinai. What is now being prepared in the form of diversity will be completed there in that of unity. ‘It is a passover for [Adonai]‘ which, though called an ‘offering’, does not resemble anything referred to in the Bible as sacrifice; it is a sacramental meal…The essential thing to realize is that here a natural and customary human activity, that of eating, is elevated by the participation of the whole community to the level of an act of communion; and as such is consecrated to the God. It is eaten ‘for him’.” pg. 71 Moses: the revelation and the covenant by Martin Buber

“The clans slaughter the preordained animals at the same time. Each family eats of its own, each in its own house, which nobody may leave; but they all eat at the same time, a single meal unites them into a community. Blood is smeared on the portals and lintels of the houses; …all the tribes jointly devote themselves in blood, and thereby simultaneously redeem the debt of the human first-born, which they owe him.” pg. 70-71.Moses: the revelation and the covenant by Martin Buber

"The covenant is ratified by a meal (Josh. 9:14; cf. Gen. 31:46, 54; 26:30) and has after-effects for centuries (2 Sam. 21:1ff.)," pg. 106 of The Faith of the Old Testament by Werner

"A covenant, called in Hebrew a berit (or brit), is a general obligation between two parties confirmed either by an oath, a solemn meal, a sacrifice, or by some other dramatic act such as dividing an animal and having the parties to the covenant pass between the portions.  In the bible covenants are established between individuals, between states or their representatives, between kings and their subjects, and also between husbands and wives.  We also have instances in which the term is used figuratively for a relation between men and animals and men and death.  The variety of obligations covered by the term indicate that a covenant can be entered into either by equal partners sharing mutual obligations and mutual benefits, or by unequal partners in which the power and authority of the covenantal partners is asymmetrical as are the responsibilities, obligations, and rewards..." pg. 156, Jewish Ideas and Concepts by Steven T. Katz

"This tractate is the most difficult in the Jerusalem Talmud, both from the viewpoint of its contents and from the viewpoint of the numerous errors which have affected it,' so states Saul Lieberman (p. 217) at the beginning of his great commentary to Yerushalmi Erubin.  I hardly need repeat that this translation is preliminary and provisional, even though it will probably serve for some time to come.  I can only claim to do my best, knowing that, in more than a few places, it is not good enough.
A review of the contents of the tractate stands at the beginning of the work.  Mishnah-tractate Erubin takes as its theme the scripture on the Sabbath requirement to refrain from leaving one's abode.  There are several stages of reasoning which have to have been passed long before the theme--let alone the problematic--of our tractate comes into view.  Not surprisingly, Scripture lays the foundations.  Exodus 16:29-30 requires each person to stay where he is on the seventh day (in what looks like a play on words of SBT and SB): "'See!  The Lord has given you the Sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days; remain every man of you in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.'  So the people rested on the seventh day."  Now, in the dim past of Mishnah-tractate Erubin are the following settled notions:  (1) remaining in one's place does not mean that one may not leave his house, but (2) it does mean that one should remain in his own village, which (3) consists of the settled area of a village as well as its natural environs.  But (4) one may establish residence, for purposes of the Sabbath, in some place other than his normal abode, by (5) making provision for eating a meal at that other place.  Doing so allows the person to measure his allotted area for travel from that other place.  Said measure (6) is two thousand cubits.  In order to establish a symbolic place of residence, one must set out, prior to sundown at the beginning of the Sabbath (or festival) (7) a symbolic meal, or, (8) through a verbal declaration, accomplish that same end, making provision for a temporary Sabbath-abode.  These eight presuppositions which lie deep in the substructure of the tractate are not the only ones we have to contend with.
There is yet another set, predictable on the basis of Mishnah-tractate Shabbat.  These principles have to do with transportation of objects from one domain to another on the Sabbath.  We recall from tractate Shabbat that (1) one may not move something from private domain to public domain.  Now there are areas the status of which is ambiguous, being neither wholly private nor completely public domain.  Chief among these is (2) the courtyard, onto which a number of private dwellings open up, or (3) an alleyway, onto which a number of courtyards debouch.  Now the symbolic meal involved in establishing one's residence at a place other than his normal abode may serve yet (4) a second purpose, which is to join all of the dwellers of the several households of a courtyard, or of the several courtyards of an alleyway, into a single unit for treating said courtyard of alleyway as the common possession of the participants of the meal and hence as a single domain, in which carrying will be permissible.  To list the suppositions before us therefore requires attention to the notion (1) of public and private domain, (2) or a prohibition of transporting objects from one to another, (3) of a recognition of an area of ambiguous status, (4) of the possibility of commingling the individual rights to a given shared area into a single domain for the purpose of the Sabbath, (5) and of doing so, in particular, through the provision of a common symbolic meal.  An outline of the treatment of the subject, which follows, shows us that there are three units on the tractate's topic, and a fourth which draws to a close the entire enterprise constituted by Shabbat Erubin.
The first unit treats special problems of a limited domain other than an ordinary courtyard.  It asks about forming into a single domain for purposes of carrying on the Sabbath some anomalous properties, for example, an alleyway; an area temporarily occupied by a caravan; the area, in the public domain, around a well, which is private domain; and a large, enclosed field which, though fenced in, is not a human habitation.  This discussion serves as a prologue to the second topic, one of the two significant essays of the tractate, on the Sabbath limit of a town and how it is defined. 
Here, second, we begin with the effect of setting out an erub--a symbolic meal--upon the right of an individual to travel beyond the established Sabbath limit of a town, for example, for visiting someone in a neighboring village on that day.  We proceed to treat the effects of violating that Sabbath limit or of not properly setting out the erub to begin with.  The next major initiative turns to defining the Sabbath limit of a town--that is, the limit affecting all the residents, not the limit laid out by an individual for his own purpose.
The third unit of the tractate, which is the other central one, moves from the Sabbath limit affecting a town as a whole to that complementary matter, the commingling of ownership of courtyards and alleyways, once more starting with the clear conception that the erub-meal is how one establishes such a commingled ownership.  There are then areas--that is, gray areas--that may be treated either as distinct from one another or as commingled.  The next major initiative turns from the courtyard to the alleyway and goes on to repeat pretty much the same exercises as are performed for the courtyard.  There then follows three appendixes:  first, neglecting the erub for a courtyard and its consequences; second, preparing an erub for more than one courtyard; and, a genuine appendix, the status of the area of the roofs of the houses.
The fourth unit, like the first, is essentially indifferent to the tractate's paramount concerns, since it speaks of carrying in the public domain in general, and some rather special problems in that connection--that is to say, the tractate closes, as many do, by ignoring its critical points of interest.  What the final unit does do is to call to mind the opening unit of Mishnah-tractate Shabbat, on the one side, and those recurrent concerns about carrying from one domain to another which preoccupy the framers of the tractate at other critical point--Mishnah-tractate Shabbat chapters 7-12, on the other.  We proceed to review the topical program of the tractate, beginning to end.  Afterward I return to raise organizing and encompassing questions about the tractate as a whole," pg. 1, The Talmud of the Land of Israel, Vol 12: Eruvin

 "The organization and government of a tribe....The beth ab, the 'house of one's father', was the family, which comprised not only the father, his wife or wives and their unmarried children but also their married sons with their wives and children, and the servants.  Several families composed a clan, the mishpahah.  The latter usually lived in the same place, and its members always met for common religious feasts and sacrificial meals (1 S 20:6,29).  In particular, the clan assumed the responsibility for blood-vengeance.  Each clan was ruled by the heads of its families, the zeqenim or 'elders', and in time of war it furnished a contingent, theoretically a thousand strong, commanded by a chief, sar.  In Jg 8:14 the 'chiefs' of Sukkoth are distinguished from the 'elders'....A group of clans, of mishpahoth, formed a tribe, shebet or matteh, two words with the same meaning, which also denote the commander's staff and the royal sceptre.  The tribe therefore embraced all those who obeyed the same chief.  
The hierarchy of the three terms, beth ab, misphahah and shebet, is clearly expressed in Jos. 7:14-18, but one term may sometimes be used for another, as in Nb 4:18 and Jg 20:12 (Hebrew text)."pg. 7 of Ancient Israel by Roland De Vaux

"Hinnukh:  The Paschal lamb had to be eaten roasted because a roast lamb was a royal dish of which slaves were not permitted to partake.  Now that the Jews were free, they were, in fact, commanded to partake of this dish to mark their new freedom,"  pg. 15 of the Mitzvot by Abraham Chill  NOTE:  reference:  Sefer ha-Hinnukh, Mitzvot 6, 7, 381.

"The shankbone (zeroa) and the egg (bea) are commemorative dishes that were introduced after the destruction of the Temple (Pesachim 114a).  The original source of these items mentions 'two dishes' without specifying their identity.  The information was provide by the Jerusalem Talmud (quoted by Kol Bo but missing in our texts).  According to this quotation, the choice of these dishes was motivated by the significance of their names.  Zeroa ('arm') commemorates God's 'outstretched arm.' Bea ('desires,' in Aramaic) commemorates God's desire to redeem his people," pg. 227, The Biblical and Historical Background of Jewish Customs and Ceremonies by Bloch

Haggadah Little Something For You

Came across this free Passover Haggadah at the Torah Resource Blog:


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Prayer Request

Yesterday, a doctor confirmed that my grandmother's cancer has returned.  She probably has three months to live.

She is a very sweet Italian lady and a Believer...

I would appreciate any prayers.  No one lives forever but my main concern is that she will be comfortable.



Sunday, April 6, 2014

Disunity in Scripture? Responding to Zetterholm's Claim That the Apostles Remained Conflicted About How to Deal with Gentile Believers

So it's little wonder that the UMJC's new "Messianic Gentiles" site promotes articles by Magnus Zetterholm--this heretic promotes the following two related ideas:

(1) Scripture conflicts with Scripture (e.g. James' decision in Acts 15 conflicts with Pauline teachings);

(2) the Apostles remained conflicted about how to deal with Gentiles.

First, he says that Paul, in contradistinction to James, believed that the Gentiles were included in the covenant (although he doesn't exactly say which covenant):

"Above we reached the conclusion that the idea that Gentiles could be included in the covenantal community of Israel was foreign to Jewish theological reflection.  If Gentiles were considered as embraced by eschatological salvation, this was not thought of in covenantal terms.  However, this seems to be exactly the case with Paul.  The inclusion of the Gentiles meant for Paul the inclusion in the covenant, since it was the covenant that provided the ultimate means of salvation," pg. 156, The Formation of Christianity in Antioch.
Second, he says that James, dissenting sharply with Paul, promoted the idea that Gentiles were merely godfearers and not covenantal members of Israel--in other words, that the coming of Yeshua did nothing to affect the status of Gentiles:

"It is likely that James, in accordance with prevalent ideas of how Jews and Gentiles should associate, considered the Jesus-believing Gentiles to be connected to the Jewish community as god-fearers.  It seems as if he did not consider the coming of the Messiah as a point in history when Gentiles, as Gentiles, should be fully incorporated in the covenant, while he still regarded them to be enclosed by the final salvation.  But, from James' point of view, there was no need for a new way of relating to Gentiles, since there was already an established and halakhic-defined way of social intercourse:  Gentiles could become god-fearers and as such be embraced by the final salvation," (pg. 161, ibid).
"James...while having agreed on the principle that Jesus had died also for the Gentiles, found no reason for any soteriological innovation [in the Jerusalem Council Decision], since there was already an established way of relating to Gentiles.  They could be god-fearers and associate with the Jesus-believing Jewish community and through Christ also be saved, since the common Jewish view on the destiny of the Gentile nation assumed the salvation of at least some righteous Gentiles....Paul's soteriological solution threatened basic Jewish identity markers and may have triggered fears of a development as in 1 Macc. 1:11-15, where epispasm and making covenant with Gentiles clearly implied apostasy.
     Using his authority as the brother of Jesus, James demanded a separation of the community into two commensality groups, one for Jews, the other for Gentiles, since too close social intercourse would have confused the boundaries between Jews and Gentiles...In this incident we find the embryo of what later became a virtual separation between Jews and Gentiles, between Judaism and Christianity," (pg. 166).
Interestingly, on the site, right on the HOME page is a video of Toby Janicki from FFOZ plugging his book "Godfearers", a book that promotes the idea that the Apostles saw the Gentile Believers as godfearers, the first-century term for a Gentile who practiced some Judaism but remained outside the covenant of Israel.  The term itself "godfearer" sounds good until you realize what it actually meant back in the first-century.

Panic-Mode: UMJC Increases Mobilization Against the One-Law Movement

In the past few weeks, the UMJC:

  • held an emergency conference in San Diego about One Law Theology
  • created an anti-One-Law site called (it basically encourages Gentiles to learn about the dangers of One-Law by reading the blogs of James Pyles and Drek Lemon and studying the teachings of FFOZ). 
  • leveraged their political clout to obtain some highly sought-after internet domain names in order to increase the UMJC's internet presence
The funny thing is...I don't have a UMJC behind me promoting my blog like those guys.  Yet if you Google "Messianic Judaism blog" this is the first blog that comes up on the search.  Not bad for a free Blogger account, eh?   : )

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Teleological Test: How to Establish the Illegitimacy of Noahide "Laws" and Other Forms of Quasi-Judaism

What is the purpose of Divine Law?  

Scripture teaches that the purpose of the Torah is twofold:  

(1) It is the means by which the Ruach transforms man into a perfect being:
"The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul..." (Psalm 19:7)
(2) It is the means by which man is drawn into contact with G-d:
"Make Thy face to shine upon Thy servant; and teach me Thy statutes," (Psalm 119:35)
So there's the teleological (or "purpose-based") test: 

Is the law or set of laws in question useful as a means by which man can be drawn into contact with G-d and transformed into a perfect being?

Now let's consider the so-called Noahide laws:

 1. Do not murder.
 2. Do not steal.
 3. Do not worship false gods.
 4. Do not be sexually immoral.
 5. Do not eat a limb removed from a live animal.
 6. Do not curse God.
 7. Set up courts 

Not exactly the sort of law that would've inspired Psalm 119!  In fact, the rabbis characterize this law as "sit and do nothing":
"As the Gemara puts it'...concerning the seven commandments they are thought of as 'sit and do nothing' (sheb ve'al ta'aseh),'" pg. 26, Novak, "The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism"
How can a sit-and-do-nothing approach transform man into a perfect being and bring him into contact with G-d?

Bottom line:

There is no intimacy in the so-called Noahide laws, no revelation of G-d's love for His People, no command of love whatsoever, and the most glaring omission of all:  no mention of the law of blood atonement (quite a faulty theological presupposition).

Now, this little test I've made is only useful for establishing the illegitimacy of false systems of law.  But to know what is the legitimate source of law, please read the following post:


And, if you don't have time to read it, let me summarize:  there is One-Law that G-d gave in Scripture for members of the covenant and that is the Sinaitic Torah.  Yeshua did not abolish this Law but commanded that it be observed and that His disciples teach it all over the world.