Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Postmortem: My Initial Impression of the Brown-Hegg Debate

First, I'll say that I'm sure Tim Hegg is a nice guy.  So I hope he won't be offended by the following:

I listened to a little bit of the radio debate between Dr. Michael Brown and Tim Hegg (LINK).  I was extremely disappointed at the following interchange (to give one example):

Dr. Michael Brown:  "Is it possible to live a life fully pleasing to G-d as a Believer and NOT keep the dietary laws?" 
Tim Hegg:  "Yes."

Here's how I would've responded to that question:
And then I might've explained by citing to the Book of Baruch which puts it rather nicely:

"4 Wisdom is the book of God's commandments, the Law that will last forever. All who hold onto her will live, but those who abandon her will die. Turn to Wisdom, people of Israel, and take hold of her. Make your way toward the splendor of her light. Do not surrender our glorious privileges to any other people. How happy we are, people of Israel; we have the advantage of knowing what is pleasing to God!" (Baruch 4:1-4) 
 The commandments are pleasing to G-d!  So if we don't keep the commandments then we are less pleasing to G-d--i.e. we are not FULLY pleasing to G-d.

And, thankfully, Yeshua abounds with grace toward us sinners and so we are forgiven our offenses.  But eventually when the New Covenant is consummated we will be able to keep all the commandments and be FULLY pleasing to G-d.

Does anyone have a different opinion?

My Challenge to Dr. Michael Brown

So I just read Pyles' review of the radio debate between Dr. Michael Brown and Tim Hegg (Link).

That's very sad.  I'll listen to it later.

But if Dr. Michael Brown is interested in a fair fight, he should debate me.  Tim Hegg is a scholar but he isn't trained in debate.  I have doctoral-level training in debate.  And I have resolved all of the weaknesses in Hegg's arguments.  I've also studied Brown's rhetorical tactics for years, scrutinizing every televised debate he's ever been in.  So no surprises there.

I'm probably not high-profile enough (yet) for Michael Brown.  But I know that his listeners/readers visit this blog so if you're out there you can pass the message along.  My question for Dr. Michael Brown is simply this:
Are you interested in a fair fight?  



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Shmuley Boteach Calls Paul a Liar (and a Gentile)

"...Paul, a probable convert to Judaism ignorant of the Torah, who even preaches the Torah's abolishment and does not preach the teachings of Jesus..." pg. 125 of Kosher Jesus by Shmuley Boteach

If that's true, then Paul, a man who claimed to be a "Hebrew of Hebrews" (Philippians 3:5), would have to be a liar.

So is there any basis for Boteach's assertion?

Boteach relies heavily on Hyam Maccoby in his research:

"My opinions on Jesus have been profoundly shaped by the writings of Hyam Maccoby..."(xi of Introduction)
"At face value, Paul's account is troublesome.  First, it's unlikely Paul was a Pharisee or that he studied with Gamliel, the most advanced Pharisaic teacher of the time....Yet, as Hyam Maccoby points out, Paul is not only not a great scholar, he seems incapable of even reading Hebrew.  When Paul quotes from the Hebrew Bible in his epistles, he uses the Greek Septuagint translation rather than the Hebrew.  There are many situations in which the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint translation differ considerably.  Whenever they do, Paul follows the faulty Greek translation rather than the original Hebrew.  No disciple of Gamliel would have thought to read the Bible in translation; there would have been no need," pg. 112

Yet actual scholars have called Maccoby's conclusions "wildly fanciful":

"Paul shows that he is as firmly located within Judaism as anyone can be; he is no first- or even tenth-generation proselyte.  Maccoby's counter suggestion (Mythmaker, 95-96), that Paul was a a wildly fanciful and shows no sensitivity to Paul's whole argument in Romans," (James D. G. Dunn, Romans 9-16, World Biblical Commentary).

So Boteach appears to have a bias.  But where might this bias originate?

"Paul's mistakes make parts of the Christian doctrine he devised problematic.  For example, one of Paul's most monumental claims is that Jewish law is no longer applicable after Jesus....To prove his case, Paul quotes from a law in Deuteronomy...However, Paul misrepresents the verse utterly.  He says, 'Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written:  'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.'  Paul misquotes the Bible and gives it a fraudulent meaning.  He explains that the pole refers to the Torah, the Law of Moses.  If you hang on this pole--that is, if you are dependent on the law for salvation rather than the blood of Christ--you are cursed," pg. 112, Kosher Jesus.

It appears that Boteach reacts so strongly against Paul because Boteach thinks Paul was against Jewish Law.  So this is a very understandable bias.  If I thought Paul was against Jewish Law then I would probably join with Boteach in calling Paul a liar.

Except that Paul wasn't against Jewish Law.  And I know this because I, unlike Shmuley Boteach, have studied the Apostolic Writings for many years.  Shmuely Boteach is simply taking Paul out of context.  Acts 21, for example, proves that Paul was for Jewish Law and Tradition.  That was the entire point of that chapter!

And it's quite bizarre that Boteach would call out Paul, an apostle to the Gentiles, for quoting from the Greek Septuagint, a translation of Jewish Scripture which the Gentiles would be more likely to understand.  But even if Paul hadn't been an apostle to the Gentiles, quoting from the Septuagint was quite normal for that time as we see from the works of Philo, Josephus, etc.  

Ah, well.  I guess all we can do is pray for Shmuley Boteach, that he will have a road to Damascus experience regarding Pauline interpretation.



Sunday, August 17, 2014

How to Defend and Attack One Law: A Quick Look at the Legal Analysis Involved in Precedential Arguments (WARNING: NERDIEST POST OF ALL TIME)

Some musings from earlier...

Doctrine of Judicial Precedent:  

When an authoritative judgment has been made in case with a specific set of material facts then all future cases involving those same material facts must be decided in the same manner as the precedent case.  What this means in a Messianic context is that if G-d says something even way back in the "Old" Testament then it must be considered to be binding law unless it is specifically overruled.

Justifications for the Doctrine of Judicial Precedent:  

(1) Logical Consistency:  to decide two cases differently when the material facts are the same would be logically inconsistent (i.e. illogical); 

(2) Societal Disintegration:  if prior authoritative judgments may be disregarded then the result is a lawless society.

Analysis for Precedential Argument:  

(1) AUTHORITY:  Is a judgment being offered as law?  If so, it will only be considered binding law if it was issued by a mandatory authority (as opposed to a merely persuasive authority) and it has not been overruled and does not consist of obiter dicta; 

(2) APPLICABILITY:  Does the binding judgment apply to the case at hand?  The precedent judgment must apply when the material facts of the present case are the same as the material facts of the precedent case.

The Precedential Argument for One Law:  

(1) AUTHORITY:  Scripture says that there is one law for both the native Israelite and the convert (Heb. "Ger").

NOTE 1:  In a One-Law Context Ger Means "Convert":  In Deuteronomy 14:21 in the LXX, paroikos is used to translate "ger" because the LXX translators wished to make explicit that there are two types of "gerim", the gerim who are covenanted (proselutos) and the gerim who are not covenanted (paroikos).  The "Ger" in the "One Law" passages is therefore interpreted as referring to a convert and translated accordingly in the LXX.  These terms literally give the sense of a non-covenant paroikos being outside of the "house" of Israel (par meaning beside and oikos meaning house), whereas the proselutos is one who "approaches" and thus enters the "house."  

NOTE 2:  Teshuvah is the Initiatory Step in the Process of Conversion:  In the Bible, conversion is a process that begins with teshuvah, a turning from idolatry to faith in the G-d of Israel.  However, the conversion process for males is ratified by circumcision and finally consummated by participation in the Passover.  Thus, one crucial exegetical issue is whether One Law passages may be interpreting as referring to an uncircumcised "Ger."  If these passages can be read as applying One Law to an uncircumcised male who has been initiated into the covenant by faith then these passages become directly applicable to Gentile converts in the New Covenant.  And, in fact, there is a very sound exegetical case to be made that the "ger" in One Law passages includes uncircumcised males who have been initiated into the covenant by faith much like the very first convert in Jewish history, Avraham himself.  A key piece of exegetical evidence in this regard is the Hebrew term "asah" used in Exodus 12:48.  This term connotes obedience to a Divine Command.  Since, in 12:48, the "ger" who wants to "obey" (asah) the Passover has, in this passage, not yet been circumcised, this passages conveys that a "Ger" could become covenantally obligated (i.e. covenantally initiated) even prior to circumcision.

NOTE 3:  Does the "one law" in a One Law passage refer to all the mitzvot or merely the mitzvot involved in the immediate context?  For example, Derek Leman (UMJC), says that these passages only refer to the mitzvot of the immediate context (see:  However, Rashi, a greater authority than Leman, says:  
"49.  One Law:  Not only with respect to the eating of the paschal lamb is the stranger equal to the native Israelite, but also in the duty to observe all other commandments [Rashi]."  pg. 399 of Soncino Chumash (edited by A. Cohen).

(2) APPLICABILITY:  Do the One Law passages in the Tanak apply to converted Gentiles who belong to the New Covenant?  

The formula for the precedent of One Law is as follows:

If A (material fact) then X (judgment).
If a Gentile is a covenantal member of Israel (A) then he or she is obligated to keep all the same mitzvot as a native Israelite (X).

Rather, than restate the overview of evidence that shows that (A) is satisfied for Gentile Believers in the New Covenant, I'll just refer you to a previous post:

And so this is how a One Law proponent should reach the conclusion that Gentile Believers are obligated to keep all the same mitzvot as a native member of Israel.

How to Attack the Precedential Argument for One Law:

There are 2 ways to attack a precedential argument:  (1) attack the authority of the judgment being offered as law; (2) attack the applicability of the judgment being offered as law.

  • An example of tactic #1 is Derek Leman saying that One Law passages do not refer to all the mitzvot.  
  • Another example of tactic #1 is the assertion that "ger" in a One Law passage such as Exodus 12 can only be interpreted as referring to a circumcised convert (and thus cannot be used as precedent for the conclusion that uncircumcised male Believers are obligated to all the same mitzvot as a native member of Israel)
  • An example of tactic #2 is to cite to Scriptural passages as evidence that Gentile Believers remain excluded from Israel.



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Quote of the Day

"One of the ways that some non-Jews express their love for the Jewish people and Israel is to become Noahides, or people of the nations who observe the Seven Noahide Laws. This is about the best way to express such a love and attraction from a Jewish point of view, since it has the full support of Orthodox Judaism and allows Gentiles to enter into Jewish worship and community space, albeit with a radically different status than the Jewish leaders, mentors, and participants," (James Pyles, from:
That's brilliant.  

I left the following comment at his blog which I expect he'll delete:
"Please explain to me how refraining from murdering people conveys a special affection for the Jewish people.  Is that the way to show someone that you really love them?  By not stealing or being sexually promiscuous? 
The Rabbis say that to observe the Noahide "laws" is to  "sit and do nothing" (sheb ve'al ta'aseh). 
You're seriously saying that Jews feel loved when a Gentile just takes a seat and does absolutely nothing?"

1500 Visitors a Day!

Either my blogger stats tool has malfunctioned or there are a lot of people visiting this blog every day.  But hopefully it means that there are a lot of Messianics out there interested in Messianic scholarship!



How J.K. McKee Utterly DEMOLISHED David Rudolph's and Boaz Michael's Bilateralist Interpretation of Politeia in Eph. 2:12

In "Mashiach" (Verge, Vol. 2, Iss. 2, February 2010), David Rudolph contended that "politeia" in Ephesians 2:12 could not be interpreted to mean that Gentiles have citizenship in Israel but rather must mean that Gentiles have been excluded from citizenship in Israel since "politeia", in its Greco-Roman context, refers to a citizenship preclusion system that effectively partitions citizenship according to ethnicity or nation of origin:
"[Politeia] in the first-century Greco-Roman context could mean a community of nations or ethnic groups sharing a common allegiance to a monarch."
Then in 2012, in the book Twelve Gates, Boaz Michael also started promoting this same Bilateralist interpretation of "politeia" in Eph. 2:12.  However, not content to rely solely upon Rudolph, Boaz Michael employed some inventive exegesis of his own based upon his (quite mistaken) understanding that the term "Israel" exists in the Greek source text of Eph. 3:6:
"...Paul is not necessarily arguing that Gentile converts are citizens of Israel; rather, taken together, these Gentile converts and Jewish people constitute the 'commonwealth of Israel,' which David Rudolph describes as 'a multinational expansion of Israel proper that has emerged in the form of the Church.'  It must be further noted that these Gentile converts are called 'heirs together with Israel' in Ephesians 3:6 [italics added]....had Paul desired to make his readers believe they were a part of Israel, or Israelites, he would have surely made it clear.  However, the one time he comes close to teaching this in Ephesians 2-3, he uses distancing language--'commonwealth of Israel' rather than 'Israel'; 'together with Israel' rather than 'as a part of Israel,' [italics added]" (Twelve Gates by Boaz Michael).
Given the prestige of these two men (Rudolph, rabbi of the flagship congregation of the UMJC, illustriously published author, and Boaz Michael, Messianic media magnate and published author), the average lay person in the Messianic movement back in 2012 would have had no reason to think that Rudolph's and Michael's interpretation was anything but the most reliable way to interpret one of the most pivotal passages in Paul's writings.

And then, in 2013, J.K. McKee's "Are Non-Jewish Believers Really a Part of Israel?" was published.

One section of the book reclaims Eph. 2 from the Bilateralist interpreters.  In this section, McKee eviscerates the Bilateralist argument by making the following two points:

(1) In an examination of the most authoritative classical references, one does not see "politeia" denoting a regime in which a single monarch rules over a "community of nations or ethnic groups" (to use Rudolph's description).  Rather, the term consistently refers to citizenship and its cognate concepts.  He provides the following arsenal:  Plato's Republic; Aristotle's Politics; 2 Maccabees 8:17; 3 Maccabees 3:21,23; Antiquities of the Jews;

(2) More importantly, when one examines how "politeia" and its cognate "politeuma" are used in the Apostolic Writings, one sees that, in each case, there is the unmistakeable denotation of citizenship:

  • "The commander answered, 'I acquired this citizenship [politeia] with a large sum of money.'  And Paul said, 'But I was actually born a citizen,'" (Acts 22:28). 
  • "For our citizenship [politeuma; 'commonwealth,' RSV] is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Yeshua the Messiah" (Philippians 3:20).

Given that these two points alone eviscerate the Bilateralist view, McKee addresses Boaz's contention of so-called "distancing language" (e.g. "together with Israel" in Eph. 3:6) only briefly,  gently pointing out that the term "Israel" does not occur in the Greek source text of that passage.  

In conclusion, McKee sums it up best:  
"Anyone who would try to equate the Greek term politeia with a kind of multiple nation-state commonwealth in mind, does not have strong support either from classical usage or Biblical usage of the term."



[Here's the link to Rudolph's article:  CLICK HERE FOR LINK]

Friday, August 8, 2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Gospel of Light vs. The Gospel of Darkness

Earlier today I came across this in Nanos' "The Irony of Galatians":

"The receipt of the Holy Spirit of God and miracles wrought among themselves bear witness that they are righteous ones--while yet remaining non-Jews-for they are children of Abraham, indeed children of God, and thus full heirs.
     These Gentiles, in Paul's view...are now equal in status with the historical righteous ones of God....These Gentiles have not become Jewish proselytes but fellow heirs of Abraham while remaining members of the nations....They have become the equivalents of proselytes--righteous ones of God though not of Israel, of a new community creation consisting of Israel and the nations worshipping together..." pg. 99
Footnote pg. 99:  "...I believe [Gentiles] are rather equal with [Israelites], though actually remaining righteous Gentiles, so that both Israel and the nations are represented as one...though different relative to membership in Israel."
This is Bilateralism in a nutshell, the idea that Gentiles are excluded from citizenship/membership in Israel (contra Eph. 2).  And if excluded from citizenship in the Kingdom of Israel then Gentiles have no rights--and they are left in limbo--neither proselyte (covenant member) nor "guest" (non-covenant member):
"But for these Gentiles, according to Paul's response in this letter, that will no longer do:  Gentiles in Christ are not to regard themselves as liminals on the way to becoming proselytes and certainly not as mere guests needing to now commence this process," pg. 96.
Well, that clears it up:  Gentiles are not proselytes (family of Israel) nor are they "guests" (non-family members).  What schizophrenic nonsense!

Did Yeshua come to bestow "liminal"(i.e. ambiguous) status on Gentiles?  Did He come only to offer confusion and insecurity?

Or is it possible that Gentiles have a "right" to the Torah?


"Moses commanded us a Law, even the inheritance (Heb: "Morasha"; LXX: "Kleronomia") of the congregation of Jacob," (Deut. 33:4)
If the Torah is only the inheritance of Israel then the only way Gentiles could have a "right" to this inheritance would be to somehow become part of the family of Israel.  Thankfully, Yeshua is Israel (See Ex. 4:22, Hosea 11:1, and Matt. 2:14-15).  Thus, given that Gentiles have "adoption to sonship through Yeshua the Messiah" (Eph 1:5), they also become adopted into the family of Israel and have a very real status as citizens in the Kingdom of Israel (Eph 2:12).

Still, the following passages seem to beg the question "what is the inheritance?":
"That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs (sunkleronoma), and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Messiah by the gospel" (Eph. 3:6)
 "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance (kleros) of the saints in light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.(Col. 1:12).   
If we consider that the Torah literally means "light" (from Hebrew word for light) then following passages help explain that Yeshua is the real Torah:

'I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'"(John 8:12)

"Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a Light on my path." (Psalm 119:105)

So the Kingdom of Israel is a Kingdom of Light, illuminated by the Torah which is Yeshua.  This helps us then to understand Eph. 3:6 and Col. 1:12--Gentiles may give thanks for being able to enter the Kingdom of Light.

This is the message then of the true Gospel (Good News):  Gentiles do not have to live in a realm of darkness (a Torah-less Kingdom) but through Yeshua have an inheritance in the Realm of Light, the Kingdom of Israel.

The Bilateralist then preaches a different Gospel, that Gentiles are excluded from the Kingdom of Light, doomed to a realm of darkness outside of Israel.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


My daughter was visiting with her grandparents recently and was hanging out at a swimming pool.  So she met this other 5-year-old girl and started chatting with her.

My daughter:  "I like your swimsuit.  Do you like mine?"

The other girl:  "It doesn't show enough skin."

Can you believe that?  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Quick Exegetical Diagram for Ephesians 2 (Response to James)


For the visual learners out there, I created a quick exegetical diagram for Ephesians 2 partly as a response to James (the blogger) and partly because Paul uses a lot of great juxtapositional language that lends itself to nerdy diagrams--bottom line:  I needed an excuse to use some diagramming software. 

Here's a brief explanation of the diagram: 

Paroikos vs. Oikeios:

Paul says the Gentiles were Paroikos before Yeshua--which literally means they are not members of the household ("beside" and "house").  And later in Eph. 2:19 Paul explains that through Yeshua the Gentiles become Oikeios (members of the household).  This is Hebraic covenantal language.  For example, Deuteronomy 14:21 in the LXX, paroikos is used to translate "ger" because the translators wished to make explicit that there are two types of ger (sojourner), those who are covenanted (proselutos) and those who are not covenanted (paroikos).  

NOTE:  Paul also contrasts paroikos with citizenship (politeia/sumpolites--note that there is no scholarly debate about what these terms mean and James the blogger doesn't know what he's talking about).  Paul also uses paroikos to contrast with diatheke (covenant). 

Xenoi vs. Huiothesia

In the Book of Ruth (LXX), xenoi is used to translate the Hebrew word for stranger.  The Hebrew in Ruth 2:10 is wonderful because it's one of the many examples of Hebraic plays on words.  Ruth asks how Boaz can "recognize" her given that she is "unrecognizable."  And this is the concept of Xenoi:  Gentiles without Yeshua were strangers to G-d's family, they were not recognized as family!  But, Baruch HaShem, through Yeshua's blood, we become family and are adopted as sons (and daughters) and become "Huiothesia" (a term that Paul actually employs in Ephesians 1).  This term is loaded with Hebraic covenantal significance.

So much beautiful and rich language in this passage!



Friday, August 1, 2014

Discussion Question: Do Your Prayers Change G-d?

It's interesting that 1 Sam. 15:29 indicates that G-d doesn't change His mind; yet, other passages like Gen. 6:6 indicate that He does change His mind.

Does He change or not?  

A related question could be:

Does He listen to my prayers?

It's a valid question since the act of listening involves changing.

Any thoughts?