Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Weekly Analysis of David Rudolph's Sermon at Tikvat Israel ("Gentiles Who Love Torah", 9-21-14)

Below I've offered my analysis of Rudolph's sermon.  I've also painstakingly transcribed the majority of the sermon and highlighted in yellow the parts that my analysis addresses (see bottom of page).


      In this sermon, Rudolph seeks to prove that Gentiles are not obligated to observe the Torah because they are excluded from Israel.  His textual evidence group is Galatians 5, 1 Corinthians 7, and Acts 15.  However, in this sermon, he focuses on Galatians 5.

     Rudolph says that Paul, in Galatians 5, is trying to "[discourage] Gentiles from seeking to become Jews."  The reality is that Paul is addressing the dangerous false doctrine (referred to in Acts 15:1) that said "unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved."  Indeed, Paul's argument in Galatians 5 mirrors Peter's argument in Acts 15:

(1) The harmful teaching at issue is burdensome yoke:

  • Paul says:  "do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke" (Gal. 5:1)
  • Peter says:  "why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?" (Acts 15:10)

(2) The harmful teaching at issue is anti-Grace:

  • Paul says:  "You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace," (Gal. 5:4)
  • Peter says:  "No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are," (Acts 15:11)
     Rudolph interprets "circumcision" in Galatians 5 as "conversion" but that interpretation runs counter to the context of Galatians 5.  For Paul, conversion is accomplished by faith just as it was in the case of Abraham, the original convert (see Romans 4).  In Galatians 5, Paul is addressing something completely different.  He's saying that for a man to receive anti-Grace circumcision is to negate his original conversion by faith, thus rendering Messiah as no value.

    Lastly, when Rudolph states that Torah for Gentiles is simply being ethical--or, as he puts it, keeping "Torah ethics", Rudolph is asserting that Torah can be divided into "moral" and "non-moral" mitzvot.  This is ludicrous when one considers that morality is the pursuit of "good."  One cannot divide mitzvot into "good" and "non-good"!!!

Now, in fairness, here's a lengthy transcript.  


"Today we are continuing our series on Paul's letter to the Romans.  Last Shabbat we focused on Romans chapter 2 verse 25 where Paul highlights the value of circumcision.  This Shabbat we're going to discuss the next two verses, 26 and 27, where Paul takes up the subject of Gentiles and Torah.  Paul writes in Romans 2, verses 26-27, "If those who are not circumcised" (the gentiles) "keep the Torah's requirements, will not their uncircumcision be regarding as circumcision?  The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the Torah will condemn you who even though you have the written code and circumcision break the Torah."
      Drawing from this text, which seems to reflect a positive view of Gentiles keeping Torah, I would like to talk with you this morning about Gentiles who love Torah.  And I have three questions.  Number one:  Should Gentiles love the Torah?  Second:  What about Galatians?  And third:  how do we maintain a solid Theology?
      Let's begin with number one.  Should Gentiles love Torah?  In the longest chapter of the Scriptures, David sings in Psalm 119, verse 18, he says, "Open my eyes that I may see wonder things in your Torah"  Let's all say this together...Is this a prayer that a Gentile can pray?  Or can only a Jew pray these words?  I would like to suggest that a Gentile can and should pray this prayer with all of their heart.  And this is because the Torah is relevant to Gentile Believers in Yeshua.
      It is true that many commandments of the Torah are not applicable to Gentile followers of Yeshua.  For example, the commandment to be circumcised on the eighth day.  Or commandments concerning priests or the Land.  But there are hundreds of other sections that are directly applicable to Gentiles.  As I shared in a sermon about a year and a half ago, there are at least twenty purposes of the Torah.  They include:
  • Number one:  to serve as the foundational revelation of G-d
  • Number two:  to remind us of G-d's love, grace, and power exhibited in acts of creation and redemption
  • Third:  to teach us how to love G-d and our neighbor
  • Fourth:  to teach us how to praise and worship G-d accordingly a heavenly pattern
  • Fifth:  to establish the oneness and the sovereignty of G-d
  • Sixth:  to teach us to be holy as G-d is holy
  • Seventh:  to minister a consciousness of sin so that we might make teshuvah and turn and repent before G-d
  • Eighth:  to train us to exercise faith in G-d
  • Ninth:  to train us to be obedient sons and daughters
  • Tenth:  to reveal the heart and the priorities of G-d
  • Eleven:  to reveal the wisdom and the knowledge of G-d
  • Twelfth:  to train us to meditate on the word of G-d day and night
  • Thirteenth:  to establish the order and design of G-d's creation
  • Fourteenth:  to uphold standards of justice and compassion for society that reflect G-d's character
  • Fifteenth:  to preserve Israel as a separate and distinct nation among the nations
  • Sixteenth:  to prepare Israel to fulfill its calling
  • Seventeenth:  to provoke the nations to envy Israel
  • Eighteenth:  to contribute to unity
  • Nineteenth:  to serve as a heritage of the L-rd to teach our children
  • Twentieth:  the climactic purpose, to point us to Yeshua the Messiah through whom the story of Israel finds its climactic fulfillment through His death, His resurrection, and His return.
      The Torah serves all of these purposes, all twenty of these purposes, and more.  And most of them are applicable to Gentile Believers in Yeshua.  And this brings us to my second point.
      What about Galatians?  In Paul's letter to the Galatians, when he discusses the issue of Gentiles keeping the Torah, he cuts to the chase (no pun intended) and makes it clear that Gentile followers of Yeshua are to remain Gentiles.  For example, Paul writes in Galatians chapter 5, verses 2 through 4, he says, "Mark my words, I Paul tell you, that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Messiah will be of no value to you at all.  Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole Torah.  You who are trying to be justified by Torah have been alienated from Messiah.  You have fallen away from grace."      Let's keep this Scripture up on the screen.  And I'd like to make several observations about what was bothering the Shaliach, Paul, when he wrote this passage.
      First, at the beginning, at the beginning of verse 2, Paul says in Greek "Ide" which is the equivalent of the Hebrew word "hine".  "Ide" means "look, pay attention" and is sometimes translated "mark my words" or "listen".  Paul's point is that he is about to say something very important that we need to hear.
      Second, Paul is speaking to Gentile Believers in Yeshua, not Messianic Jews.  He says in verse 2, "I Paul tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised" the words "if you let yourselves be circumcised" suggest that Paul's audience is not circumcised already.  In other words, they are Gentiles.
      Third, Paul is discouraging these Gentiles from seeking to become Jews.  He says that if you convert and become a Jew, Messiah will be of no value to you at all.  Why does he say this?  It is because the reason for conversion is off base.  The reason is not because they are marrying Jews and they want to clarify the Jewish identity of their children for the sake of l'dor v'dor.  Rather, these Gentile Believers are seriously considering conversion because some meshugganah Messianic Jews told them that if they do not convert and become members of the tribe they will not experience the fulness of G-d's forgiveness and eschatological blessing in their lives and this was simply not the case.
      Fourth, notably, Paul is discouraging the Gentile Believers from seeking to keep what he refers to as the whole Torah.  This is the point of his statement in verse 3 where he says "Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole Torah."  ...The implication is that the circumcised, that is, the Jewish people should live out the whole Torah because they're called to keep the covenant that G-d made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with its particular Land and Seed promises as we discussed last week.  And, by the way, that applies to Jews in churches as well.  Whether they realize it or not, they are called to live as Jews because they're part of Kol Yisrael, the People of Israel, through the covenant that G-d made with the Jewish Patriarchs.  By contrast, Gentile followers of Yeshua become part of G-d's Olive Tree through the New Covenant, through Yeshua the Messiah.  And from Paul's perspective the covenant responsibilities of the grafted-in branches differs from the covenantal responsibilities of the natural branches.  Therefore, Gentile followers of Yeshua should not seek to keep the whole Torah as Torah.  We will discuss this further in the last part of this sermon.
      The bottom line is that in Galatians, Paul is addressing a situation where Gentile Believers in Yeshua were being noodged and pressured.  They were having their arms twisted to become Jews by choice and to keep the whole Torah, including those commandments that only applied to Jews in order to be in right relationship with G-d.  And Paul was adamant that this is not what G-d wanted.
      Returning to Romans chapter 2, here we see that Paul is not so negative about the idea of Gentiles embracing Torah life on some level.  Let's take a look again at what Paul writes in Romans chapter 2 verses 25 through 27.  He says, "Circumcision has value if you observe the Torah.  But if break the Torah your circumcision" here he's referring to Messianic Jews or Jews "has become uncircumcision.  If those who are not circumcised keep the Torah's requirements" referring to Gentiles "will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?  The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the Torah will condemn you who even though you have the written code and circumcision break the Torah."  Paul is not saying here that Jews who break the Torah really do become Gentiles and Gentiles who keep the Torah really do become Jews.  The whole testimony of the Scriptures is that when Jews sin by breaking the Torah, they remain Jews because G-d is faithful to Israel.  Rather, here Paul is making a rhetorical statement that Jews are by definition supposed to be Torah-observant Jews.  And Gentiles are supposed to keep the requirements of the Torah for Gentiles respectively.
      This is consistent with Paul's teaching in Galatians 5, 1 Corinthians 7, and Acts 15, that Jews are to remain practicing Jews and Gentiles, as a rule, are not supposed to become Jews or seek to live out the whole quote unquote the whole Torah.  But what exactly then is Paul referring to when he speaks in verse 26 of Gentiles keeping the Torah's requirements?
      The immediate context of this passage would seem to suggest that Paul has certain ethical aspects of the Torah in mind.  He writes in Romans chapter 2, verses 21 through 24, he says "You who preach against stealing, do you steal?  You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?  You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?  You who brag about the Torah, do you dishonor God by breaking the Torah?  As it is written, God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."  Here Paul appears to be reflecting on some of the aserot ha-dibrot, the Ten Commandments, including not stealing, not committing adultery, not committing idolatry, not dishonoring father, and not misusing the name of the L-rd our G-d.  His point would seem to be that it is good and right for Gentiles to keep these kinds of Torah commandments or, to put it another way, Gentiles should embrace Torah ethics.  And when they do this, HaShem regards these Gentiles as having circumcised hearts.  While they have not become Jews, HaShem considers them as circumcised in the sense that their circumcised hearts mark them as full members of the people of G-d."
      Gentiles do not have a covenantal responsibility to keep distinctively Jewish commandments that are boundary markers of Jewish identity.  While Scripture is not clear about exactly where this line is drawn, it is the common view of the wider Jewish community and the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations that Gentiles are not required to be circumcised, to keep the Sabbath and Festivals, to observe the kosher laws, or where Tzitzit.  This has been the majority view within Judaism for thousands of years.  In this sense, Gentiles are not supposed to keep the whole Torah, quote unquote, the whole Torah as Torah."  FROM:  http://www.tikvatisrael.com/library/sermon/romans_226-27_gentiles_who_love_torah/

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Where Does Paul Get the Idea That Abraham Will Inherit the World? (Rom. 4:13)

"For not through law is the promise to Abraham, or to his seed, of his being heir of the world [kleronomon auton einai kosmou], but through the righteousness of faith," (Romans 4:13)

Where does Paul get this idea that Abraham would inherit the world?  Doesn't Scripture merely say that Abraham's descendants will inherit simply the Land of Israel?  

Actually, Scripture says quite a bit more than that.

First, note that in Genesis 28:4 Abraham's blessing goes to Jacob/Israel.  And then in Gen. 28:14 we see a hint that the borders of Israel will encompass the four quarters of the world:

"...and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring."

This is also how Philo interpreted this passage:

"And this, in accordance with the Divine promises, is broadening out to the very bounds of the universe, and renders its possessor inheritor of the four quarters of the world, reaching to them all, to East, and West, and South, and North; for it is said, 'It shall spread abroad to the West and to the South and to the North and to the East."

Isaiah also speaks of Abraham's offspring inheriting the nations:

"(1) Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth, and shout, you who are not in labor!  Because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her that has a husband, for the Lord has spoken.  (2) Enlarge the site of your tent, and the coverings of your curtains; make it firm; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. (3) because you must spread out to the right and to the left, and your offspring will inherit the nations and will inhabit the cities that have become desolate," (Isaiah 54:1-3)

The imagery of the tent expanding to cover the world indicates that the household of Abraham will encompass the world.  This is why all the nations will go up to Jerusalem to learn Torah (Isaiah 2, Micah 4) because, as members of Abraham's household, they must live according to the rules of their father.  In fact, with all the nations going up to Jerusalem and the Temple being a House of Prayer for all peoples, Isaiah indicates that all the peoples obey the Abrahamic covenant of circumcision because it says:

"Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean," Isaiah 52:1

EXCURSUS:  Didn't Paul say that circumcision was "nothing"?  We see the following:

"Circumcision is nothing [ouden], and uncircumcision is nothing [ouden], but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God," 1 Cor. 7:19 
"Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing (ouden)," Gal. 5:2

In reality, Paul was saying that physical circumcision doesn't matter for salvation (see Gal. 6:15 as a parallel for 1 Cor. 7:19).  And in Gal. 5:2, Paul was again addressing a false, anti-grace variety of circumcision doctrine.  To be against circumcision Paul would've had to be against the Torah but we know that this was not the case (Acts 21).  


So this idea of Abraham inheriting the world wasn't just something that Paul made up.  It's an idea buried deep in Torah, later expounded by the Prophets, and described all throughout the Intertestamental literature.  It's the idea that Israel will "enlarge" its tent to encompass the world.  This global Israel will be an Ekklesia/Kahal (a.k.a. "Church"):

"And God almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you that you may be a congregation [kahal] of peoples," (Genesis 28:3)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

This is a Bizarre Coincidence: Rabbi Rudolph's Sermon This Past Shabbat Touched on Everything That Happened to Me This Past Week

So this past week I discovered that one of my grandfathers was actually a Peruvian diplomat.

What a week...

This got me wondering, knowing the history of Peru, how Jews went there during the Inquisition--the Conversos--and how they all eventually assimilated....well, naturally, I began to wonder if I had distant Jewish ancestry.  In fact, several friends told me to get a DNA test.

And then today, for the first time, I listened to Rabbi Rudolph's (of Tikvat Israel, Richmond, VA) sermon from this past Shabbat.  In a bizarre coincidence, his sermon touched on the Inquisition and DNA testing for distant Jewish ancestry! 

But I actually wanted to share the transcription of part of that sermon to hear everyone's reactions to some of Rudolph's assertions about Jewish identity and covenantal affiliation.  Enjoy:

"My overall point here is that Abraham had seven sons through Hagar and Ketorah.  However, the covenant with the land and seed promises was not passed down through the sons but it was passed down from G-d to Abraham through the child of the promise, Isaac.  And from Isaac it was passed down to Jacob.  Isaac's other son Esau was not a recipient of the covenant promises.  He ended up becoming the father of the Edomites.  From Jacob, the covenant was passed down to his twelve sons, who passed it down to the twelve tribes of Israel who became known as the Jewish people.  What are some implications of tracing this early history of the origins of G-d's covenant with the Jewish people?   
     One implication is that being a member of the covenant people is not synonymous with being a physical descendant of Abraham.  There were many physical descendants of Abraham in the family tree including the twelve tribes of Ishmael and the descendants of Ketorah.  However, they were not part of the covenant people.  They were not recipients of the covenant or conveyors of the covenant with the land and seed promises.  This said I think it is reasonable to assume that all of these descendants of Abraham were blessed in other ways like Ishmael was by virtue of their relationship to Abraham.  According to Genesis, the recipients and conveyors of the covenant with its land and seed promises were the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--that is the twelve tribes of Israel later known as the Jewish people.  By the way, every Shabbat when we come together to worship the L-rd you may notice that in our prayers that we put on the screen and that are in our siddurs we often refer to the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and not just the G-d of Abraham.  And I want to--I want that to catch your attention next time because it's actually very significant.  When we refer to the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we're talking about the G-d of the covenant that was passed down through the specific lineage from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to the twelve tribes.   
     A second implication of what we have learned from the Genesis account is that being a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not synonymous with being a member of the covenant people.  We learn that a Jew who does not circumcise his son cuts his son off from G-d's covenant.  As Adonai puts it, in Genesis chapter seventeen verse fourteen, any uncircumicsed male who has not been circumcised in the flesh will be cut off from his people, he has broken my covenant.  Is there a way to be cut off from the Jewish people?  Genesis seventeen makes it clear that not circumicsing one's son cuts him off from the covenant people.  This would explain why HaShem was on the verge of killing Moses on his way from Midian to Egypt.  It is because Moses did not circumicse his sons.  We're told in Exodus chapter four, verses twenty-four through twenty-six, at a lodging place on the way, Adonai met Moses and was about to kill him but Tzipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son's foreskin, and touched Moses' feet with it.  Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me, she said.  So the L-rd let him alone.  At that time she said bridegroom of blood referring to circumcision.  Here the L-rd was about to kill Moses because he was cutting off his children from the covenant by not circumcising them, perhaps because Moses was raised in Pharoah's household he didn't give it much priority.  He probably didn't think it was such a big deal.  But Moses' wife Tzipporah knew exactly what they had neglected.  And how did she know?  Remember!  She was a Midianite!  A descendant of Ketorah.  And so she was probably aware through the tradition of her own people who were descendants of Abraham that G-d commanded Abraham and his descendants to be circumcised and that those who were not circumicsed would be cut off from the covenant…and….their people.  In other words, according to Genesis chapter seventeen, Jewish identity is not simply a matter of physical descent.  It is also a matter of choice, a decision on the part of the Jewish parents, to enter their child into the covenant.  It is the committment to l'dor v'dor, from generation to generation.  In this sense, all Jews are Jews by choice.   
     This is why the Jewish community does not regard DNA testing as a means of determining Jewish identity.  DNA testing only indicates the existence of Jewish ancestry perhaps from centuries or even thousands of years before.  If the person tested was not raised as a Jew it is because their ancestors stopped passing on the covenant to their children.  Sometimes this was even against their own wishes such as in the case of the Inquisition where the Gentile Christian church forcibly converted Jews to Christianity and required baptized Jews to renounce all associations with Jews and Judaism.  The punishment for circumcising their sons was in many cases death.  As we approach the High Holy days and the Kol Nidre service in particular we need to feel the weight of the burden that our people during the Inquisition carried and sympathize with the decisions they were forced to make in order to survive.  Bearing this in mind, I would only say that based on Genesis chapter seventeen, in general when Jewish parents do not pass on the covenant sign, their children and their children's children become cut off from Kol Yisrael and the covenant G-d made with Abraham.   
     When people come to Tikvat Israel with this kind of background where there was a break in the covenant at some point in their family history,  I encourage them not to identify as Jews but to identify as Gentile followers of Yeshua who have Jewish ancestry and who feel a special connection to the Jewish people because of this.  Why do I encourage this particular identification?  It is because we need to be accurate and Biblical and the reality is that the covenant was broken long ago.  In cases of duress like the Inquisition, I see this as a little more of a gray area.  If the family continued to identify in some way secretly as Jews and this can be documented.  This said, in the traditional Jewish community, the only way for a person in this kind of situation to restore their Jewish identity would be to go through a formal process of conversion in order to rejoin the Jewish people." from: http://www.tikvatisrael.com/library/sermon/romans_225_the_value_of_circumcision/

Do you agree or disagree with Rabbi Rudolph?

Menasseh ben Israel on Two House (Sort of)

Came across this the other day:

According to Manasseh ben Israel, Antonio Montesinos deposed in 1644 before the bet din of Amsterdam that while traveling in Peru he had met with a number of the natives who recited the "Shema'" in Hebrew, and who informed him through an interpreter that they were Israelites descended from Reuben, and that the tribe of Joseph dwelt in the midst of the sea. He supported their statements by tracing Jewish customs among other inhabitants of Central and South America. The Indians of Yucatan and the Mexicans rent their garments in mourning and kept perpetual fires upon their altars, as did also the Peruvians. The Mexicans kept the jubilee, while the Indians of Peru and Guatemala observed the custom of levirate marriage. Manasseh ben Israel therefore concluded that the aboriginal inhabitants of America were the Lost Ten Tribes, and as he was of the opinion that the Messiah would come when the whole world was inhabited by the descendants of Israel, he directed his efforts to obtaining admission for the Jews to the British Islands, from which they were at that time excluded (see Manasseh ben Israel). The Mexican theory was later taken up by Viscount Kingsborough, who devoted his life and fortune to proving the thesis that the Mexicans were descended from the Lost Ten Tribes, and published a magnificent and expensive work on the subject ("Antiquities of Mexico," 9 vols., 1837-45). Kingsborough's chief arguments are that Mexicans and Israelites believe in both devils and angels, as well as in miracles, and use the blood of the sacrifice in the same way, namely, by pouring it on the ground; also that the high priest of Peru is the only one allowed to enter the inner, most holy part of the temple, and that the Peruvians anointed the Ark, as did the Israelites. He also finds many similarities in the myths and legends. Thus certain Mexican heroes are said to have wrestled with Quetzalcohuatl, like Jacob with the angel ("Antiquities of Mexico," vol. vii.). from http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14506-tribes-lost-ten

Monday, September 15, 2014

DNA Tests: Poll Questions

Just curious what are everyone's thoughts about DNA tests for ascertaining Jewish ancestry.  Are there situations where it should be done?  If so, why?  Or is it just a distraction?  Any thoughts?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Ethnicity Changed Yesterday

Given the identity issues that most Messianics experience, most people are not going to believe this...but I'm going to talk about it anyway especially as I learn more information this week.  Frankly, I need to talk about it.

My ethnicity changed yesterday (somewhat).

The man I thought was my grandfather, I was informed by my parents, was not really my grandfather.  So there's that issue to deal with--it's kind of like going through the mourning process.  

But there's another issue to deal with...

My real grandfather was from a foreign country--actually he was a diplomat who worked in D.C. at his country's embassy.  I'm not ready to disclose this man's ethnicity but I can tell you that it came as quite a shock to me.  It may seem insignificant to everyone else, the idea of learning that you are 1/4th a different ethnicity.  But it is very strange to me.  You might think it absurd, the idea of mourning a lost portion of ethnic makeup, but it really is like I lost something and it made me kind of sad last night as I was going to bed.  

But I also gained something.  I have a new people that I never had before.  It's entirely possible that I have family in this other country!  Even more strange--my real grandfather might still be alive...that's a long shot though.

Thank you, Dear Reader, for listening.  I'll probably need to talk a lot more about this throughout the week.



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Paul's Fault? A Complete Breakdown of Paul's Seemingly Contradictory Views on Israel, Judaism, and Judaization

Was Paul:

  • Anti-Israel?
  • Pro-Israel?
  • Anti-Judaic?
  • Pro-Judaic?
  • Ambivalently-Judaic?
  • Pro-Judaization? (i.e. in favor of Gentiles adopting Jewish practices?)
  • Anti-Judization? (i.e. against Gentiles adopting Jewish practices?)
  • Supersessionist? (i.e. Did he think Gentiles replaced the Israelites?)
  • Inclusionist (i.e. Did he think the New Covenant included Gentiles into Israel?)
  • Exclusionist (i.e. Did he think that Gentiles were excluded from Israel?)

So we'll examine the evidence and then anyone can feel free to discuss whether this ambiguity was Paul's fault.

Pro Israel or Anti Israel:


"What is the advantage of the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?  Much in every way" (Rom. 3.1).

"To the Israelites belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the Temple, and the promises.  To them belong the patriarchs and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ" (Rom. 9.4).

"Has [God] rejected [His] people?  By no means" (Rom. 11.1).

"All Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11.26).

"Is the law then against the promises of God.  Certainly not!" (Gal. 3.21).


"For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse" (Gal. 3.10).

"Israel who pursued righteousness which is based on the law did not succeed in fulfilling that law" (Rom. 9.31).

"But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.  Yes, to this day, whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their mind; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed" (2 Cor. 3.14f).

"As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God, for your sake" (Rom. 11.28).

Pro Judaic, Anti Judaic, or Ambivalently Judaic


"Do we overthrow the law through faith?  By no means.  On the contrary, we uphold the law" (Rom. 3.31).

"What shall we say?  That the law is sin?  By no means" (Rom. 7.7).

"Thus the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good" (Rom. 7.12).


"For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse" (Gal. 3.10).

"Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law" (Gal. 3.11).

"For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" (Gal. 6.15).

"For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3.20).

Ambivalently Judaic:

"For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God," 1 Cor. 7:19

Pro Judaization (Maximally, Minimally, Moderately) or Anti Judaization:


"17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them," (1 Cor. 7:17-19)


Paul taught that Gentile converts forfeited their Gentile-ness and accepted a new "righteous" lifestyle:

"Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led ," (1 Cor. 12:2)

"17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness," (Eph. 4:17-24).

Paul believed that New Covenant members, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, were both required to follow Sinaitic Torah:

"1 Cor. 7:19 "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts" (1 Cor. 7:19).

Paul gave the unqualified instruction for Gentile Believers to put into practice all of Paul's religious practices:

"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice" (Phillipians 4:9)

Paul told Timothy without qualification to use the Hebrew Scripture as a way of instructing righteousness to the Gentiles:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness," (2 Tim. 3:16)

Paul encouraged the Gentile Believers at Colossae to continue practicing Judaism.  He told the Gentile Believers in that congregation to keep Shabbat, festivals, and food laws even despite the harsh judgment they were receiving from ascetic and gnostic Gentiles at Colossae:

"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day" (Colossians 2:16).

Paul assumed that the Gentiles were well-acquainted with observances such as Passover and assumed that they would keep such Jewish Festivals:

"7 Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth," (1 Cor. 5:7-8).

Paul taught that Gentiles were covenantal members of Israel:

"11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ," (Eph 2:11-13, NIV version)

Ecclesiology:  (1) Supersessionist, (2) Inclusionist, (3) Exclusionist

(1) Supersessionist:

"It is not as though the word of God had failed.  For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham's children are his true descendants," (Romans 9:6-7)

"For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh," Philippians 3:3

(2) Inclusionist (i.e. Gentiles are included in Israel):

"15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God," (Gal. 6:15-16)

"11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ," (Eph. 2:11-13)

(3) Exclusionist (i.e. Gentiles are excluded from Israel):


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sen. Ted Cruz to Angry Crowd: "If You Won't Stand With Israel...I Won't Stand With You"

Sen. Ted Cruz did a good job responding to an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel crowd:  

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Grumpy Messianic in Church

I didn't want to go to church yesterday.

I probably complained the whole way there.  I even took a book to read during the service (Between G-d and Man by Heschel).

And even during the service when they read off the following events, I was still feeling a little grumpy:

  • Islam, Israel, and the West--a day-long seminar on 9/8/14
  • Current Crisis in the Middle East with Dr. Sussana Kokkonen, executive director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem--a message about the growing persecution of Christians in the Middle East and growing anti-Semitism in Western Europe on 9/13/14
  • International Day of Prayer on 10/5/14--praying for Jerusalem in many different languages
  • Paul Wilbur on 10/4/14 through 10/5/14
I was feeling, "Yeah, I'll go to those event--they sound pretty cool--but why does it have to be at church?" 

So then we went to the Sunday School class.

Right off the bat, someone from a foreign country was telling me how he and his wife had been thinking about me and my wife and wanted to meet up this week--they're really interested in Messianic Judaism.  

As I walked out of church later that morning, holding my beautiful daughter, I wasn't quite as grumpy.  In fact, I think I probably managed a little smile.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pyles is a Gift to the One-Law Movement

It's encouraging to see Pyles and various commenters (e.g. "Proclaim Liberty"), against all evidence, try to argue that the book of 1 Peter was written to a Jewish audience and not a Gentile audience (LINK).  Such desperation!  They hate the fact that Peter applies exclusive titles of Israel to non-Jews.  So I couldn't resist leaving the following comment:

1 Peter was written to a non-Jewish audience.  Here's some evidence: 
Ephesians 4:17-18
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the FUTILITY of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the IGNORANCE  that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  
1 Peter 1:14, 18
14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in IGNORANCE. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the FUTILE way of life handed down to you from your ancestors,  
Notice that Paul and Peter link two key aspects of paganism associated with Gentiles: ignorance and futility.  The Greek terms are "agnoia" and "mataios".   
The other alternative is that this correlation is just a bizarre coincidence and in reality Peter believed that Judaism was a futile and ignorant way of life. 
But I don't think you want to argue that!  : ) 

"They Will Put You Out of the [Jewish Community]": Shaye Cohen on Why "Sunagoge" in John 16:2 Should Not be Translated as the English Term "Synagogue" But Rather as "Jewish Community" Generally

The Greek term sunagoge is very different from the English term synagogue.  Shaye Cohen explains:
The English 'synagogue' is narrower than Greek sunagoge in three respects:  the English word does not mean 'community,' while the Greek often does; the English word implies the existence of a building, while the Greek does not; the English word designates a gathering of Jews or a place where Jews gather for the sake of communal prayer and/or Torah study, while the Greek can refer to a gathering of various sorts,"  Evolution of the Synagogue, Edited by Kee and Cohick.  From the Essay Entitled "Were the Pharisees and Rabbis the Leaders of Communal Prayer and Torah Study in Antiquity?  by Shaye J. D. Cohen
This ambiguity has implications for how we translate passages like John 16:2.  Here's a typical translation:
"They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God,"  John 16:2, NIV.
This would certainly be a frightening prospect for a Messianic Jew, being kicked out of a local synagogue for believing in Yeshua as Messiah.  But the Greek term sunagoge, as Shaye Cohen explains, conveys an entirely different sense than the English term "synagogue" used in most English translations:
"6. John 12:42, 'Nevertheless many even of the authorities believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the sunagoge' (literally, lest they should become out-of-the-sunagoge).  As many commentators have noted, the term aposunagogoi is unique to John in the New Testament.  It recurs in 9:22, in the story of the healing of the blind man, in a very similar passage:  'His parents [i.e., the parents of the blind man healed by Jesus]...feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the sunagoge (literally, he was to become out-of-the-sunagoge).  In 16:2 Jesus tells his disciples,...they shall make you out-of-the-sunagoge.'....What is the meaning of 'out-of-the-sunagoge'?...[S]unagoge should in this case simply be understood as 'community.'  Those who confess Christ will be excluded from the Jewish community."  pg. 99, ibid.
That seems like a fate worse than death in a way--for a Messianic Jew to be excluded from the global Jewish community!