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.

1 comment:

  1. If "Godfearer's", were all these gentile believers in Messiah were, then there should have never been any conflicts, Godfearer's were nothing new, and in fact, most Godfearer's also feared other gods, they were not solely dedicated to the God of Israel... Much of the conflict arose because of gentile inclusion, in a way that was different than the status quo at the time. Paul was excited about this, as it provoked his fellow Jews to jealousy, hoping to win some over. We see this in Romans 11 and Acts 13:45.