Sunday, August 10, 2014

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]

1 comment:

  1. Well done. Been digging into McKee a lot lately and reviewing/discussing on my blog. He charts a very median course for Jew and non-Jew followers of Messiah that is based on honest solid scholarship... and a lot of it!!