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).


ANALYSIS:

      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.  


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/

6 comments:

  1. I need to finish reading the entire manuscript, but based on what you said, I think you did a good job of showing why Rudolph's interpretation is not correct.


    I would add, that is ridiculous to say, that gentiles are not required to keep the Torah, and yet at the same time have some form of Torah obligations... that is terribly illogical and erroneous.


    The Law of Moses is contained within the Mosaic and the New Covenant. Thus unless a gentile is a covenant member of either of those covenants, then a gentile has ZERO, responsibility to the Law of Moses. Why? Because they cannot be held responsible to a covenant and its stipulations, when they are not part of that covenant. James makes this same error as Rudolph does, they claim that while gentiles are not required to keep the Torah "as a Jew", they are responsible to parts of it... This rudimentary interpretation and understanding of covenants, is mind boggling to me. They are literally saying, that a believing gentile, has one foot in the covenant and one foot outside of the covenant, not really in or out, and that is not how covenants work. The only way a gentile has any responsibility to the Torah, outside of covenant, is in relationship to the laws of the land. In this regard, the gentile is required to obey the Law of Moses to the extant as required of by the gentile traveling through or visiting the land, outside of that, the argument simply does not work.


    Now I will go back and finish reading the transcript and point out anything else I see.

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  2. It is true that many commandments of the Torah are not applicable to Gentile followers of Yeshua.


    Rudolph has yet to prove any commandments apply to gentiles, outside of what I described earlier (the land and jurisdiction of Israel). So to say "many laws do not apply", is illogical, as the Law of Moses is contained within a covenant, that according to Rudolph gentiles are not part of. Thus none apply, outside of jurisdiction... This is simply bad teaching and interpretation.


    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:



    The commandment of circumcision on the eighth day would apply to a gentile who is in covenant. The problem I see, is Rudolph does not believe a gentile can be in covenant, at least, not in the way the Law of Moses describes, he instead adopts a later proselyte ritual, which states a gentile becomes a "Jew" and is thus no longer a gentile, which means Rudolph is applying 1st century tradition to Biblical Judaism, a major anachronism and another bad interpretation of scripture. We can't approach understanding the Law of Moses, in the context it was given with applying Modern or 1st Century Judaism to the context, it will be full of error and that is exactly what Rudolph is doing. Further, the Law of Moses, does not support the 1st century proselyte ritual, it simply cannot be sustained by scripture, those who say it is supported, point to Deut 17, which they interpret to mean that the judges of Israel, have the right to add or take away from the words of the Law. In the context of the Law of Moses, the ger even after circumcision, remained a ger, who was likened to a native born. Which is further proven in the fact, that a ger could not own land. Meaning, he never became a native born, an impossibility in the very fabric of reality.


    Its simple, anyone can become an American, but no one can become a native born, unless they were a native born. An immigrant who becomes an American, will be treated as if they are a native born, but they are not native of America, and not only that, they have certain things they do not have access to, like a native born does, such as certain areas of office and government. Israel is much in the same way, anyone could join, but those that joined, did not become native borns, and those that joined, could not hold certain positions and lacked certain privileges to that of the native born, such as owning land, but there are others as well.


    I find too many assumptions in his arguments, and not enough support.

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  3. 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."


    Right there, he says, gentiles have no covenantal responsibility, then he can't claim gentiles must keep certain parts of the Torah, that is not how it works, with the exception of jurisdiction.


    He then says, gentiles are not required, then says, gentiles should not. So which is it, not required or should not. Too many contradictions. If these are only for Jews to keep, then the wording is wrong, when he says, "are not required", instead it should read, "should not keep", as this would be a form of violating the Torah...


    But then their is Isaiah 56, which throws a wrench into his conclusion, and it crumbles...

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  4. Hope you didn't mind me using this many comments, some have a repetitive tone to them, because most of this comes back to fundamentals...

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  5. Great points, Zion. And, no I'm not upset by the five comments. I'm just happy that there are other Gentiles out there with enough hutzpah to stand up to the "expert" leaders of the UMJC.


    You're absolutely right about the anachronisms. No matter how many times people say that a Gentile can become a Jew this is completely anti-Scriptural. A Gentile may join Israel but may not change his parentage so that suddenly he has the same right to a tribal allotment as a native-born.

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  6. Pretty close to the root problem, right here.

    Currently, I am reading J K McKee's 'Acts 15 for the Practical Messianic.' He does a terrific job establishing that Galatians was written before the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 and demonstrating Paul's position on 'circumcision,' a shorthand word for the Second Temple period system of proselyte conversion with all of its encumbrances and oral traditions.

    Last Parsha, 'all Israel' is clearly defined: Deu. 31:11-12. Men, women, children, aliens. Period!

    Previous parsha, similar, but more specific listing of who are 'His people.' See Deuteronomy 29:10-15. 'All of you' again includes the alien (v.11) who enters into covenant (v.12) and they are then referred to as 'His people' (v. 13) from whom come the future descendants who are 'not with us here today.' (v.15)

    But, maybe Rudolph didn't read the portion since he was studying Romans...

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