Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Embracing with the Right Hand, Pushing Away with the Left Hand: How Can Messianics Get Along with Proto-Messianic Christians?

In Tim Hegg's "A Community or a Congregation?  For What are We Striving?" (thanks Dan for the recommendation), Tim Hegg points out an interesting issue:

What are the differences between Christian and Messianic approaches to community?

He explains the differences in political structure (how Messianics are anti-hierarchy, electing to adopt the plural elder system used in ancient Judaisms and especially in the Apostolic writings) and why this is important for the generational aspect of community-building.

But the thing that poses the greatest potential social barrier between Messianics and proto-Messianic Christians (i.e. those Christians who are pro-Judaic but still identify as Christians), as I see it, is Hegg's point that the mitzvot are communal:

"...as one studies the Torah, it becomes evident that certain of the mitzvot cannot be obeyed apart from community involvement.  The very fact that the Shabbat as well as the Mo'edim (Appointed Times) require a 'sacred assembly'...points conclusively to this fact.  Or consider the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit.  This command involves not only wearing tzitzit but also looking upon them:  'It shall be tzitzit for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them...(Numbers 15:39).  The 'you' in this sentence is plural in the Hebrew as are the following verbs...In other words, a person cannot fulfill the commandment of tzitzit by himself or herself..."

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

(1)  How does a proto-Messianic congregation transition to becoming a Torah-True Messianic community?

(2)  How can we all get along without offending one another?




My Current Reading

Shalom, reader.  I'm really excited about the books I'm reading.  So much to do and so little time:

(1) almost done with the review of Hegg's "Introduction to Torah Living".  I absolutely love this primer!  

(2) I'm so blessed to be attending a Colossians class at church and also to have a copy of McKee's Colossians commentary!  

(3) but I wish I could read faster...because after those I have McKee's Philippians commentary and his ambitious "One Law For All".  

I'm so blessed.  My whole life I've waited to have such teachers in my life!  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Jenny Maher: A Truly Inspirational Person

"It was July 21, 2006, when I woke up in the emergency room, unable to sit up on my own or move my arms or legs."

That's the opening line in Jenny Maher's autobiography entitled "Never Give Up" (available at amazon.com).

My wife and I recently had the great pleasure to meet this courageous woman.  She's actually in our Sunday school class.  We just ordered her book from Amazon so I haven't read it yet.  But I read some of the preview.  It's astounding how many obstacles this woman has faced:


  • her father died at an early age;
  • her mother battled mental illness;
  • she was sexually abused in foster homes;
  • kicked out of the house;
  • woke up one day to find that she was paralyzed.


And I thought I had it bad.

Anyway, I've ordered this book and, judging from the preview I've already read, I recommend that everyone do the same.

Review forthcoming...

Shalom,

Peter


Global One-Law Initiative


Derek Leman Calls Bible a Fraud, Gets Promoted Within UMJC to Chair the Education Committee


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review of McKee's "Confronting Yeshua's Divinity and Messiahship" [REVISED AND COMPLETE]


Several years ago I tried to catch up with a Messianic friend of mine on facebook.  Seeing that he'd integrated into a Hasidic community, I asked him if He still believed in Yeshua.  His response:  I should visit an anti-missionary website to learn why Yeshua should be rejected as a false teacher.

Why was my friend taken in by the arguments against Yeshua's Divinity and Messiahship?  

I believe that (1) as a non-Jew he had a great need to feel included in the Jewish community and (2) the anti-missionaries found ways to exploit this as well as my friend's ignorance of Scripture.

If only I had seen the warning signs.  If only I had known how to respond to the systematic attacks on Yeshua's Divinity and Messiahship.

McKee addresses this sort of problem specifically in his book, "Confronting Yeshua's Divinity and Messiahship."  His solution is to review all the attacks against Yeshua and respond to each with Biblically-based answers.  Because, as McKee writes, the answer to the question "Is Yeshua G-d or just a man?" is really a salvation issue:

"Most critical to recognize is that Yeshua the Messiah is specifically referred to as 'Lord,' and that 'if you confess with your mouth Yeshua as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved,' (Romans 10:9).  This is not just some recognition of Yeshua as 'Master' or 'Leader,' for as C.E.B. Cranfield concludes, 'The usage of [Kurios] more than six thousand times in the LXX to represent the Tegragrammaton [i.e. the Divine Name of G-d]...must surely be regarded of decisive importance here.' This indeed indicates that acknowledging Yeshua the Messiah as God Incarnate...is required for salvation," (pg. 21)

Whilst McKee methodologically divides the book into point-by-point responses to false claims, this review, for practical reasons, will survey three of the primary Christological topics covered in the book:

(1) Evidence for a Plural G-dhead in the Shema;

(2) First-Century Jewish Reactions to Yeshua's Assertions of His Own Divinity.

(3) Yeshua's Pre-Existence as Evidence of Divinity

EVIDENCE FOR A PLURAL G-DHEAD IN THE SHEMA

"...there can be a wide difference of approach between how the Shema is viewed in Jewish theology and Christian theology--particularly when it comes to the statement 'the LORD is one.'  In historical Judaism, the Lord being 'one' means that God is a single entity.  In historical Christianity, being 'one' means that God is surely a prime entity, but that He may be composed of multiple elements like Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," pg. 60.

So does the Shema allow for a plural G-dhead?  To answer this question, McKee reviews the terms "Elohim" and "Echad" as well as the "Messianic Shema" of 1 Corinthians.

Elohim:

"From the Creation account, it is often debated whether or not Elohim or God is an absolute one or a composite one.  We read in narrative, 'Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image....' (Genesis 1:26).  Christians have widely viewed this as a conversation that God is having with Himself, indicative of a plural Godhead.  Jewish readers, in contrast, have largely interpreted the 'Us' as a Heavenly court or celestial host, representing the Supreme Being and His angels.  This second interpretation can run into a potential problem, as Genesis 1:27 further says, 'God created man in His own image [...]'  The subject of this sentence is clearly Elohim or God, with human beings created b'tzelem Elohim...or in the image of God.  Human beings were not made in the image of the angels, requiring that the 'Us' of Genesis 1:26 to be God,"  pg. 69.

Echad:

"...Biblical Hebrew has several terms for 'one.'  The Hebrew word used in the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4 is echad [...]; it is to be differentiated from the word yachid....A notable usage of echad appears in Genesis 2:24: 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.'  This speaks of a husband and wife becoming basar echad...This is two people, or two distinct entities, becoming one," pg. 70.

"The Hebrew term yachid...in contrast to echad...is something that...concerns...'only one'....In Genesis 22:2, God tells Abraham to take his only son to be sacrificed...[et-binekha et-yechidekha...]..." pg. 71  McKee concludes:  "The statement [in the Shema] that Elohim is echad, does very much seem to allow for a plural Godhead..." pg. 72

The Messianic Shema:

"In various theological circles, it has been witnessed that 1 Corinthians 8:6 has been known as a kind of 'Christian Shema,'  in that the One God of Israel and the One Lord Yeshua the Messiah are identified side by side with one another....[Yeshua] is identified in 1 Corinthians 8:6 as the One Lord, heis Kurios...What makes this important, of course, is how the title Kurios was employed in the Greek Septuagint for rendering the Divine Name..." pg. 80.  This idea is then corroborated with quotations from Gordon D. Fee and Bauckham. 

FIRST-CENTURY JEWISH REACTIONS TO YESHUA'S ASSERTIONS OF HIS OWN DIVINITY:

Yeshua Incorporating Himself into the Shema:

"In John 10:30, Yeshua told those assembled at the portico of Solomon, celebrating Chanukah, that 'I and the Father are on.'  In oral Hebrew dialogue, He would have said something like ani v'avi echad anachnu...or v'ani v'ha'av echad...there is a correlation made with the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4...[Yeshua] did not just claim that He and the Father were of one accord.  Surely, many of the Jewish religious leaders of the day thought that they and God were of one heart and mind, in agreement and in one accord, in terms of how people were to live and conduct themselves.  The reaction seen to Yeshua's claim that 'I and the Father are one' (John 10:30) is, 'The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him' (John 10:31)," pg. 20.

Yeshua Accused of Blasphemy By the Entire Sanhedrin:

"But He kept silent and did not answer.  Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, 'Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?' And Yeshua said 'I am [ego eimi]; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER [Psalm 110:1], and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN [Daniel 7:23].  Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, 'What further need do we have of witnesses?  You have heard the blasphemy;  how does it seem to you?'  And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death' (Mark 14:61-64).

"...before Abraham was born, I am":

"The dialogue between Yeshua and these Jews [in John 8] reveals something quite startling:
'So the Jews said to Him, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?' Yeshua said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.'  Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Yeshua hid Himself and went out of the temple'.... Yeshua did not say, 'Before Abraham was born, I was' in the past tense," pg. 51

YESHUA'S PRE-EXISTENCE AS EVIDENCE OF HIS DIVINITY:

Here's a sampling of an extensive survey of such passages:

"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.  His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity..." [Micah 5:2]
"Just as Genesis 1:1 says, 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,' John 1:1-3 says, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him...'  Further in John 1:14 we see that 'the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.'....John 1:1-3 certainly testifies that Yeshua pre-existed the creation of the universe as God..." pg. 31
"In the hymn of Colossians 1:15-20, the testimony given about Yeshua also affirms His pre-existence of the universe.  '[F]or in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth....(Colossians 1:16-17, RSV)," pg. 32

After citing numerous such evidences, McKee concludes, "Yeshua the Messiah did not have to be born to exist, because there is ample testimony in the Apostolic Scriptures that He not only pre-existed the Creation of the universe--but that He indeed created the universe!" pg. 34

CONCLUSION

If you're Messianic then you'll eventually be confronted with questions about Yeshua's Divinity and Messiahship.  The question is:  will you (or your friends and family) be blindsided?  or will you know how to respond?

My vote:  this book is a must-read for Yeshua-followers (whether Messianic or Christian)!

Shalom,

Peter  

PURCHASE THIS BOOK ON AMAZON.COM FOR $7.99

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Thinking of Creating a Public Facebook Profile That Links to This Blog

So some of the One-Law leadership has recommended I create a facebook profile for networking purposes.  I won't have a chance to do this today but will try to create one tomorrow.

Derek's New Post Against One-Law Messianics: A Place For You to Respond (If He Censors Your Comments)

So in Derek's most recent post entitled "Torah and Non-Jews:  A Practical Primer", Derek is at it once again, saying that non-Jews are excluded from the People of Israel:  CLICK HERE FOR LINK.

So here's a place where you can respond without fear of being censored:  all viewpoints are welcome on this blog.

Also, for those non-Jews who have come to the truth and realize that they are Kingdom Israelites (i.e. members of Am Yisrael, the People of Israel), remember to pray for people like Derek.  Derek has set himself up to be a Jewish rabbi (though he is neither Jewish nor an expert on Jewish law) and he is leading many people astray with his non-Biblical teachings.
"Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”" (Isaiah 56:3)
Shalom,

Peter

Responding to Messianic613: The Issue: Were First-Century Elders (Zekenim) Congregationally-Elected or Apostolically-Elected?

So I've been enjoying the on-going discussion with Messianic613.  I'll try to separate posts for the different issues being discussed in order to make it easier for anyone to comment.

MESSIANIC 613 WROTE:

Election of Elders and Overseers is a process not known in the NT. In all the instances where Elders and Overseers to be appointed in the NT, they were either appointed directly by the Apostles, or by apostolic delegates who could act in their name and with their authority, like Timothy and Titus. The only election we have is the election of deacons, in Acts ch. VI. But deacons were not in a position of ruling. Authority in the Assembly of Messiah according to the data of the NT is never established by a bottom-up process. It is derived from Messiah in a top-down manner.

Nobody in today's Assembly can claim that he has authority from Messiah in a historical chain of ordination. Today's messianic leaders claim of authority can only be legitimate insofar as it is a claim of biblical and theological scholarship, which, just as any scholarship, is always subject to ongoing debate.

MY REPONSE

Geert, you need to read a book by Elazar and Cohen entitled "The Jewish Polity."  In the chapter covering first-century Judaism, and specifically pg. 130, Elazar describes the political structure of Jewish kehillot (communities).  There were three realms of authority:

(1) the council of zekenim elected from among the ba'alei batim, led by an Archon, and appointing gabbaim (functionaries) such as the gabbayei tzedakah and the soferim;

(2) the bet din appointed by the Nasi or Exilarch.  Also the Talmidei chachamim, the local scholars serving as teachers of Torah and heads of court;

(3) the kohanim, if available, were given honorific status.  The chazzan was usually a kohen.

Also, you should see the extensive bibliography for that chapter to see the authoritative sources from which Elazar and Cohen derive this information.  

Now, if we accept this as true--that the congregational election of elders was customary in first-century Judaism, then we need to examine the Apostolic Writings to see whether Paul diverged from this custom.  And, as a preliminary matter, we should also note that Paul was "zealous for the traditions" and that, in Acts 21, he demonstrated his devotion to the "customs" of Judaism.  

But indeed we read the following:

"Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust," (Acts 14:23) 
"The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you," Titus 1:5

Our first impression of these passages might be that Paul was in favor of Apostolic appointment of elders rather than congregational appointment of elders.  However, there are two reasons that this is not the case.

First, as mentioned, the historical custom was for congregational-appointment of elders and we know that Paul was zealous for these customs.

Second, and more importantly, we should assume that the Apostles were not stupid, that they wanted to create a workable, self-sustaining system of elder succession.  So why not use the system that was already a universal custom in Judaism?

In conclusion, I agree with Elazar and Cohen that the principal householders were responsible for electing a council of elders for their congregation.









Monday, July 22, 2013

Is Paroikos Synonymous with Proselutos?


Moffit and Butera explain the overview of the debate:

pg. 166 "Second, in most of its occurrences, the translators of the LXX rendered [ger] with one of two words:  [proselutos] or [paroikos].  Of these, they preferred [proselutos] in the vast majority of cases.  While Geiger took this to imply that the Greek terms were synonymous, Allen claimed, '[T]he [LXX] version itself, when carefully examined, tells a very different tale.'  As noted above, passages such as...Deut 14:21 use [paroikos] to render [ger].  According to Allen, [ger] in such passages 'cannot mean a proselyte, but must denote members of a tribe or nation sojourning in a strange land.'" (pg. 166 of "New Evidence for the Meaning and Provenance of the Word [Proselutos]" by Moffit and Butera.

pg. 174  "Allen's appeal to Exod 12:48-49 appears, therefore, to have begged the question.  The claim that the translators took the [ger] to be a convert and used [proselutos] to indicate that interpretation is not proven by pointing to a passage such as Exod 12:48-49 unless one presupposes that [proselutos] means proselyte.  As it stands, the Greek text, and particularly the conditional construction, effectively captures the biblical meaning of [ger]--the resident alien must be circumcised if he wants to keep Passover.  Thus, these verses actually refute Allen's thesis and confirm Geiger's position--[paroikos] and [proselutos] appear to be roughly synonymous for the translators of the LXX."  pg. 174 of "New Evidence for the Meaning and Provenance of the Word [Proselutos]" by Moffit and Butera.

Torrey Seland in "[Paroikos Kai Parepidemos]: Proselyte Characterizations in 1 Peter?", disagrees with Allen as well and states, '[paroikos]...[is a] proseltye-related [term]," pg. 252.

Hegg seems opposed to the idea of paroikos and proselutos being synonymous:

"The LXX translators apparently recognized this distinction, for in Deuteronomy 14:21 they translate 'alien who is in your town' [to 'paroikos']...while Leviticus 17:15 employs [proselutos] to translate ger.  I might suggest that in this case [paroikos] is a more general term, and that [proselutos] a more specific term, denoting one who had become a part of the clan."

I'd like to provide a little more ammunition to Hegg's assertion.

Novak examines De Vaux who explains, in light of the paroikoi of the Ptolemaic empire or the perioikoi of Sparta, the term paroikos denotes those aliens who have no political rights:

"De Vaux later compares the gerim with the perioikoi of ancient Sparta, the original inhabitants of the Peloponnese who retained their freedom but had no political rights....Throughout the ancient world, where full citizenship was determined by patrimony, provision had to be made for resident aliens, for it was neither possible nor practical to enslave them all.  In Athens such resident aliens were called metoikoi;  in Sparta, as we have seen, perioikoi.  In the Ptolemaic empire they were designated paroikoi or katoikoi.  All of these terms derive from the Greek oikiein, 'to dwell,' just as the term ger comes from the Hebrew gur, having the same meaning...This parallelism was clearly recognized by the ancient translations of the Bible, most notably the Septuagint and the Vulgate...the term proselyte is a neologism of the Septuagint based on proselthein, 'to come to.'  It suggests a religious newcomer as opposed to the older epelytos, which had a more secular meaning," pg. 22 of Novak's "The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism"

We also see this understanding of paroikos as being "an alien without political rights" in the Apostolic writings.  In Ephesians 2, Paul contrasts the Gentile's former status as "paroikos" with his new status as "politeia", a term that Paul used elsewhere to refer to his own Roman citizenship. 

Also, Hegg is write to say that the proselyte is one who has become family.  This is evident from the cognate of proselutos, "proserchomai" which means one who is brought near.  The rabbis and also Paul talk about the Gentiles being brought near via blood--with Paul citing to Yeshua's blood.  And blood is family.

Now the translators of the LXX were scribes and were thus authoritative interpreters of the meaning behind the MT.  They also were familiar with the etymology and sociological history of terms such as paroikos.  So I agree with Hegg that the terms are not synonymous.  

Gotta run.

Shalom,

Peter





Saturday, July 20, 2013

Why the Scribes and Pharisees Were Important to Judaism and Why Yeshua Endorsed Their Authority

[WARNING:  EXTREMELY NERDY POST]

So you probably know that the Pharisees were transmitters of "the traditions of the elders."  For example, Irving Zeitlin says:

"The so called 'Pharisees', then, were already in Maccabean ties the religious and intellectual leaders of the community, enjoying the support of the people.  The Mishnah, I Maccabees and Josephus all presuppose this 'Pharisaic revolution', for all three sources take for granted the twofold Law--that the oral Law was no less revealed to Moses on Sinai than the written Law.  All three sources likewise share the view that the scribes, scholars and Torah teachers were the 'carriers' of what the New Testament calls the 'tradition of the elders.'" (pg. 18 of Judaism in the Time of Jesus)

And:

 "The New Testament is in full accord with Josephus' view that the hallmark of the Pharisees was the twofold Law, the 'tradition of the elders' (Matt. 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13; Phil. 3:5-6; Gal. 1:13-14),"(pg. 20, ibid.

But did you know that the "scribes" mentioned in Matthew 23 were transmitters of the Written Torah? 

What follows is an extended excerpt of "Scribal Culture" by Van Der Toorn in which the author lays down a cumulative case of evidence that very persuasively argues that "the scribes are descendants and successors of the Levites from the days of Ezra":

pg. 79  "...the fourth meaning of the term [sopher].  The scribes who were scholars of scripture belonged to the group of the Levites (2 Chronicles 34:13).  According to Nehemiah 8, several Levites assisted Ezra during his Torah reading in the temple:
'The Levites explained the Torah to the people, while the people remained in their places.  And they read from the scroll, from the Torah of God, interpreting it and clarifying its meaning; so they understood the reading. [Neh. 8:7-8] 
The fact that the Levitical scribes operated as a group is significant.  This does not mean that they took turns in reading and explaining.  It is far more plausible that they gave instruction simultaneously but at different points and to different audiences.  The Levitical scribes were teachers of Torah. 
'They offered instruction throughout Judah, and they had with them the Scroll of theTorah of [HaShem].  They made the rounds of all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.' [2 Chron. 17:9] 
Having the written Torah 'with them'...the Levites were 'teaching' [2 Chron 17:9], 'interpreting [Neh. 8:7], 'explaining' [Neh. 8:8], and 'clarifying the meaning' [Neh. 8:8] of the Torah.  As scholars of scripture, the Levites acted as the successors of Moses who had been the first to 'explicate'...the Torah (Deut 1:5; compare Deut 30:1-13)," pgs. 79-80
pg. 89-92  "The Levitical Scribes...If the scribes behind the Bible were indeed temple scribes, they were the forerunners of, and partly identical with, the Levitical scribes from the days of Ezra and later.  These Levites were scribes in the fourth meaning of the term:  scholars of scripture.  They are referred to in this capacity in post-exilic sources....An important source of information on the Levites is Chronicles....the Levites were involved in activities that required high literacy.  There are four roles that the Levites are said to perform.  First, the Levites offer Torah instruction:  they explain, interpret, and teach.  People come to seek Torah from their mouth.  As guardians of the Torah, the Levites are the only ones allowed to carry the ark, the shrine of the Scroll of the Torah.  Second, the Levites are liturgists:  they lead in prayer, confession, praise, and blessings; conduct musical performances in a cultic context; and address the homily to the congregation.  Third, the Levites act as civil servants, both in Jerusalem and throughout Judah:  they distribute justice; collect tithes and taxes; and keep the records of the civil state.  Fourth, the Levites maintain order in the temple:  they protect the gates and supervise construction activities. 
Though Chronicles rarely designates Levites as scribes (1 Chron 24:6; 2 Chron 34:13), there is no doubt that responsibilities for Torah instruction and jurisdiction could be held only by people who had had the proper scribal training.  For those Levites who worked as liturgists, magistrates, tax collectors, or clerks, literacy was also a basic requirement.  It can be concluded, in view of their various responsibilities, that the Levites were part of the literate elite of the Second Temple period. 
Extrabiblical texts from the Hellenistic period confirm the impression that the Levites were the scribal experts of Jewish society.  In the Aramaic Levi Document, an important source of the Greek Testament of Levi, Levi enjoins his children to perpetuate their scribal knowledge....The majority of scholars date the Levi Document to the middle of the third century B.C.E.  It seems warranted, then, to conclude that the role of the Levites as experts of the scribal craft continued in the Hellenistic period. 
Further evidence on the Levites as scholars of scripture is found in the Book of Jubilees (ca. 150 B.C.E.). 
'And he [i.e, Jacob] gave all of his books and his fathers' books to Levi, his son, so that he might preserve them and renew them for his sons until this day.' [Jubilees 45:15] 
This passage bears a close resemblance to the transmission of sacred writings by Levi and his lineage mentioned in the Testament of Qahat and reflected in the Visions of Amram, both known from the Qumran scrolls. 
'And they gave to Levi, my father, and my father Levi [gave] to me All my writings [...] in testimony, so that you might be forewarned by them.' [4 Q542, fragment I, ii, 11-12 (compare 4Q543, fragment 1, 1-2). 
The significance of these references does not reside in the implications about the writing proficiencies of the Levites but rather in the emphasis on the Levites as the transmitters of the sacred literature of the Jews. 
But what does it mean if we say that the scribes of the Second Temple were Levites?  Who are the Levites?  The question is legitimate and to the point; if it does not receive an answer, the statement that the Levites were the temple scribes of the Persian period adds little to our knowledge." 
pg. 92  "The position of the Levites is a classic problem in biblical scholarship and the subject of numerous studies.  By way of a succinct statement of the problem, it suffices to compare the terminology of Deuteronomy with Chronicles.  Deuteronomy speaks about 'the Levitical priests'...whereas Chronicles distinguishes between 'the priests and the Levites'....in the post-exilic view of Chronicles, Levites are by definition nonpriests.  How are we to explain the difference?" 
pg. 93 "As a spokesman of the priestly elite from Jerusalem....Ezekiel distinguishes between 'the Levitical priests descended from Zadok' (Ezek 44:15) and the other Levites.  In the view of Ezekiel, the Zadokite priests were the ones who maintained the service of the temple at the time Israel went astray from [HaShem] (Ezek 44:15).  They had thereby earned the right to act as sole priests. 
'They shall declare to My People what is sacred and what is profane, and inform them what is clean and what is unclean.  In lawsuits, too, it is they who shall act as judges; they shall decide them in accordance with my rules.  They shall preserve My teachings and My laws regarding all My fixed occasions; and they shall maintain the sanctity of My Sabbaths.' [Ezek 44:23-24 (NJPS)] 
Ezekiel blamed the Levites for the cultic aberrations in the pre-exilic period (Ezek 44:10).  As their punishment, the Levites were to be demoted from the priesthood and made responsible for all the menial chores in the temple.  They could remain temple servants, but they forfeited their priestly prerogatives." 
pg. 94  "According to the synoptic Gospels, the temple clergy consists of 'the priests' (archiereis) and 'the scribes' (grammateis) instead of 'the priests and the Levites' as in Chronicles.  The terminological development underscores that the division between 'priests' and 'Levites' came to be perceived as one of labor rather than ancestry."
pg. 94  "Two further arguments support the view that the 'scribes' of the Gosples are the descendants and successors of the Levites form the days of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles.  One is the associate of the scribes with the study and teaching of Torah.  According to the Gospel of Luke, the 'scribes' are coterminous with 'the teachers of the law' (nomodisdaskaloi, Luke 5:17) or 'lawyers' (nomikoi, Luke 7:30).  The other argument is based on a comparison of lists of temple staff as found in Nehemiah (ca. 350 B.C.E.); the Seleucid Charter of Antiochus III (222-187); and the synoptic Gospels (ca. 70 C.E.).  Nehemiah enumerates Levites, singers, gatekeepers, and priests (Neh 13:5).  The Seleucid Charter grants tax exemption to 'the council of elders, and the priests, and the scribes of the temple, and the temple musicians.'  In the Gospels, the list consists of elders, priests, and scribes.  Apparently the 'scribes [of the temple]' in the later lists (Antiochus III charter, Gospels) have taken the place of the Levites in the earlier one (Nehemiah)."
pg. 95  "Another piece of evidence on the temple scribes is the Book of Deuteronomy.  As witnessed in their preoccupation with 'the Levitical priests,' the scribes who wrote Deuteronomy had affinities with, and may have belonged to, the Levitical priesthood.  A telltale occurrence of the 'Levitical priests' is found in connection with a ruling concerning the king.   
'And when [the king] accedes to the royal throne, he shall have a copy of this Torah written for him on a scroll from before the Levitical priests.  And it shall be with him and he shall read from it all his life.' [Deut 17:18-19] 
Several modern Bible translations (e.g., NJPS) render the expression 'from before'...as 'by,' implying that the Levitical priests were to provide the king with a copy of the Torah.  Literally, however, the preposition implies that the copying takes place 'in the presence of' the Levitical priests, because they are the guardians of the original Torah.  The latter interpretation is entirely in keeping with the role of the Levites as guardians of the ark (Deut 31:24-26)" pg. 96

Friday, July 19, 2013

Responding to Messianic613

Messianic613, let's continue our discussion here.  Below are excerpts from your latest comments in quotations highlighted in blue followed by my responses in italics:




"In ancient Israel, for example, the proper authorities were the levitical priesthood, and individuals were bound by their decisions, whether they were right or wrong."

In reality, the Levites belonged to both the Sadducees and the Pharisees [Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, pg. 223 and footnotes].  Thus, multiple authorities existed within the Levitical priesthood.  

As a related aside, it should be noted that Yeshua, in Matthew 23, recognized the authority not only of the Pharisees but also of the scribes and that the scribes had begun with Ezra, a Zadokite priest, who ensured that the office of scribe was a priestly office--and possibly a Zadokite office at that (see Noth's "The History of Israel" pg. 374 and footnote 2 regarding A. Geiger).  

"Halachah can only be established in the context of a proper chain of tradition and by the authorities who are the legitimate bearers of that tradition."

This statement presupposes that there is only one proper chain of tradition and only one proper set of legitimate "bearers" of tradition.  But, as previously indicated, the Judaisms of Yeshua's day were pluriform in terms of religious authority and, furthermore, Yeshua didn't seem to have a problem with such plurality.

"...there is the problem that at present no one can claim proper authority in the Body of Messiah. All so-called messianic "Rabbis" and teachers are self-proclaimed."

Not so.  First, there are different realms of authority.  A father is an authority within his house (whether or not he is recognized as such is another matter);  a group of such fathers may elect to create a communal authority (such as a council or court); a group of communal authorities may elect to create a regional authority, etc.  My point is that there are many examples of "proper" authority in the Body of Messiah.  So I must disagree with your assertion that no one can claim proper authority in the Body of Messiah.

On the issue of Messianic rabbis, the type of authority associated with rabbi can be institutional or expert.  Now regarding Messianic institutions, they will obviously not be accepted within non-Messianic Judaisms.  And this is irrelevant.  What should concern us is whether Messianic rabbis have authority within their own community as experts on Torah observance and whether appropriate standards for such authority have been established.

"We thus face two problems here: The problem of the authority of the Oral Torah and its historical origins; and the problem of how to establish proper seats of authority in the Assembly of Messiah."

First we should ask if the Mishnah is even "Oral Torah" to begin with.  And it should be obvious that it cannot be "Oral" since it is in written form.  Let's not kid ourselves.  

Rabbinic Halacha (which is not "Oral Torah"), as put forth in the Mishnah, etc, should hold a presumptive authority so long as it comports with the spirit of Torah and the teachings of the Apostolic Writings (i.e. New Testament).

So on the matter of source of law, we have our answer:  Halacha has presumptive authority but not final authority.  And on the matter of Messianic communal authority we have our answer:  the Messianic Assembly is not subject to non-Messianic religious authorities/communities.  How can we be?  We are subject to the one whom they have rejected, the L-rd Yeshua.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

REVIEW of McKee's "Confronting Yeshua's Divinity and Messiahship" [NOTE: INCOMPLETE DRAFT]


Why should it matter whether we believe Yeshua is God or just a man?  

McKee's belief is that this is in fact a salvation issue:

"Most critical to recognize is that Yeshua the Messiah is specifically referred to as 'Lord,' and that 'if you confess with your mouth Yeshua as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved,' (Romans 10:9).  This is not just some recognition of Yeshua as 'Master' or 'Leader,' for as C.E.B. Cranfield concludes, 'The usage of [Kurios] more than six thousands times in the LXX to represent the Tegragrammaton [i.e. the Divine Name of G-d]...must surely be regarded of decisive importance here.' This indeed indicates that acknowledging Yeshua the Messiah as God Incarnate...is required for salvation," (pg. 21)

With the rise of false teachers in the Messianic movement who deny Yeshua's Divinity and lead weaker Messianics into apostasy, McKee has responded with a book that seeks to accomplish two things:

(1) systematically examine the arguments made against Yeshua's Divinity and Messiahship;

(2) provide Biblically-rooted responses to such arguments.

The ultimate goal of the book then is to equip Messianics so that they can remain strong in the faith.

Whilst McKee methodologically divides the book into point-by-point responses to false claims, this review, for practical reasons, will only survey only three of the Christological topics covered in the book:

(1) Evidence for a Plural G-dhead in the Shema;

(2) First-Century Jewish Reactions to Yeshua's Assertions of His Own Divinity.

(3) Yeshua's Pre-Existence as Evidence of Divinity

EVIDENCE FOR A PLURAL G-DHEAD IN THE SHEMA

"...there can be a wide difference of approach between how the Shema is viewed in Jewish theology and Christian theology--particularly when it comes to the statement 'the LORD is one.'  In historical Judaism, the Lord being 'one' means that God is a single entity.  In historical Christianity, being 'one' means that God is surely a prime entity, but that He may be composed of multiple elements like Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," pg. 60.

So does the Shema allow for a plural G-dhead?  To answer this question, McKee reviews the terms "Elohim" and "Echad" as well as the "Messianic Shema" of 1 Corinthians.

Elohim:

"From the Creation account, it is often debated whether or not Elohim or God is an absolute one or a composite one.  We read in narrative, 'Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image....' (Genesis 1:26).  Christians have widely viewed this as a conversation that God is having with Himself, indicative of a plural Godhead.  Jewish readers, in contrast, have largely interpreted the 'Us' as a Heavenly court or celestial host, representing the Supreme Being and His angels.  This second interpretation can run into a potential problem, as Genesis 1:27 further says, 'God created man in His own image [...]'  The subject of this sentence is clearly Elohim or God, with human beings created b'tzelem Elohim...or in the image of God.  Human beings were not made in the image of the angels, requiring that the 'Us' of Genesis 1:26 to be God,"  pg. 69.

Echad vs. Yachid

"...Biblical Hebrew has several terms for 'one.'  The Hebrew word used in the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4 is echad [...]; it is to be differentiated from the word yachid....A notable usage of echad appears in Genesis 2:24: 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.'  This speaks of a husband and wife becoming basar echad...This is two people, or two distinct entities, becoming one," pg. 70.
"The Hebrew term yachid...in contrast to echad...is something that...concerns...'only one'....In Genesis 22:2, God tells Abraham to take his only son to be sacrificed...[et-binekha et-yechidekha...]..." pg. 71  McKee concludes:  "The statement [in the Shema] that Elohim is echad, does very much seem to allow for a plural Godhead..." pg. 72

The Messianic Shema:

"In various theological circles, it has been witnessed that 1 Corinthians 8:6 has been known as a kind of 'Christian Shema,'  in that the One God of Israel and the One Lord Yeshua the Messiah are identified side by side with one another....[Yeshua] is identified in 1 Corinthians 8:6 as the One Lord, heis Kurios...What makes this important, of course, is how the title Kurios was employed in the Greek Septuagint for rendering the Divine Name..." pg. 80.  This idea is then corroborated with quotations from Gordon D. Fee and Bauckham. 

FIRST-CENTURY JEWISH REACTIONS TO YESHUA'S ASSERTIONS OF HIS OWN DIVINITY:

Yeshua Incorporating Himself into the Shema:

"In John 10:30, Yeshua told those assembled at the portico of Solomon, celebrating Chanukah, that 'I and the Father are on.'  In oral Hebrew dialogue, He would have said something like ani v'avi echad anachnu...or v'ani v'ha'av echad...there is a correlation made with the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4...[Yeshua] did not just claim that He and the Father were of one accord.  Surely, many of the Jewish religious leaders of the day thought that they and God were of one heart and mind, in agreement and in one accord, in terms of how people were to live and conduct themselves.  The reaction seen to Yeshua's claim that 'I and the Father are one' (John 10:30) is, 'The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him' (John 10:31)," pg. 20.

Yeshua Accused of Blasphemy By the Entire Sanhedrin:

"But He kept silent and did not answer.  Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, 'Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?' And Yeshua said 'I am [ego eimi]; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER [Psalm 110:1], and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN [Daniel 7:23].  Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, 'What further need do we have of witnesses?  You have heard the blasphemy;  how does it seem to you?'  And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death' (Mark 14:61-64).

"...before Abraham was born, I am":

"The dialogue between Yeshua and these Jews [in John 8] reveals something quite startling:
'So the Jews said to Him, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?' Yeshua said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.'  Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Yeshua hid Himself and went out of the temple'.... Yeshua did not say, 'Before Abraham was born, I was' in the past tense," pg. 51

YESHUA'S PRE-EXISTENCE AS EVIDENCE OF HIS DIVINITY:

Here's a sampling of an extensive survey of such passages:

"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.  His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity..." [Micah 5:2]

"Just as Genesis 1:1 says, 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,' John 1:1-3 says, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him...'  Further in John 1:14 we see that 'the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.'....John 1:1-3 certainly testifies that Yeshua pre-existed the creation of the universe as God..." pg. 31

"In the hymn of Colossians 1:15-20, the testimony given about Yeshua also affirms His pre-existence of the universe.  '[F]or in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth....(Colossians 1:16-17, RSV)," pg. 32

After citing numerous such evidences, McKee concludes, "Yeshua the Messiah did not have to be born to exist, because there is ample testimony in the Apostolic Scriptures that He not only pre-existed the Creation of the universe--but that He indeed created the universe!" pg. 34

CONCLUSION

To be continued... this is all I had time to write tonight.  And sorry for publishing such a rough draft...but I thought it might help people even in its current state.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Song I Wrote on Tisha B'av...

A sad song for a sad day...  My amazing and wonderful wife recommended the instruments:  flute, harp, cello.  This is an original arrangement of mine based on a variation of an old children's melody.  I heard it in my head the other day when I was feeling really depressed.

CLICK HERE FOR LINK





Sunday, July 14, 2013

How Not to Make Bad Decisions

Have you ever made an educated guess?  [heuristics]

Do you think women are bad drivers?  [confirmation bias]

Have you ever looked at a cloud and seen an animal or a person's face?  [pareidolia]



These are all examples of cognitive biases.  Having a bias means that you will be somewhat irrational when evaluating evidence.  In other words, you might end up making a bad decision, which can be relatively harmless (e.g. believing in a 9/11 conspiracy theory) or it could be very harmful indeed (e.g. marrying the wrong person, joining a cult, etc).

This is relevant for Messianic Judaism as well because there's a lot of crackpot sub-movements out there that base their beliefs on pseudo-scholarship.  And what is pseudo-scholarship?  Bad decision-making.  So how does one go about making a bad decision?  And how might one avoid making a bad decision?  Let's examine:

THE PROBLEM

A bad decision is made by either (1) overlooking (2) evading or (3) distorting evidence.

Why do we overlook, evade, and distort evidence?  There's roughly three possible reasons:

(1) information-processing shortcuts (i.e. heuristics or "common sense");

(2) emotional biases;

(3) unscientific methodology.

THE SOLUTION

If the problem is irrational thinking then the solution is critical thinking.  Critical thinking involves using reliable methodology (e.g. the scientific method, logical rules of inquiry, etc).  And the methodology will depend on the subject matter.  So, for example, Biblical scholarship requires a firm grounding in the rules of hermeneutics.  I'm sure there are reliable, logical rules for inquiry in just about every field.

It might also help to consider some of the different types of evidence and the strengths/weaknesses of each (paraphrased from "Writing Arguments" by Ramage, Bean, Johnson):

Anecdotal Evidence:  Strength:  it's evocative;  Weakness:  could lead to a hasty generalization.

Experimental Evidence:  Strength:  it's scientific;  Weakness:  flaws in methodology or using insufficient, inaccurate, or nontypical evidence.

Testimonial Evidence:  Strength:  depends on the source;  Weakness:  it's susceptible to attack (credentials, bias, countersource).

If anyone has anything else that might be helpful, please feel free to add.

Shalom,

Peter













Review Update

Just to let you know, I've received some Torah Resource material that I'll be reviewing shortly.  This week, in addition to two McKee books I mentioned recently, I hope to be reviewing Hegg's "Introduction to Torah Living":

You can check it out on Amazon.com:

CLICK HERE FOR LINK


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Any Recommendations for Colossians Articles From a Messianic Perspective?

I'm going to be attending a church class on Colossians later this month...

What Law School Taught Me About Rabbinic Authority

In a post yesterday, I quoted Hagner's exegesis of Matthew 23, in which Hagner explained that Yeshua seemed to fluctuate between attacking rabbinic teachings and honoring the teaching authority of the rabbis.  Hagner reconciled the apparent discrepancy by concluding:

"[Jesus taught that the rabbis] are to be obeyed...to the extent that what they teach is not inconsistent with the true meaning of righteousness...[and]...to the extent that their teaching is in accord with the true intention of the Mosaic Law," [from the Jewish Reclamation of Jesus by Hagner]

When a teacher's teachings are challengeable then it is correct to identify the teacher's level of authority as "epistemic" or "expert":

"Epistemic authority [i.e. expert authority], however, involves the constant possibility of revision of conclusions, which does not accord well with the [idea] of Rabbinic authority as essentially unchallengeable," pg. 81 of Rabbinic Authority by Berger.

So what else may we deduce from Yeshua's assertion that the rabbis possessed expert authority?  Well, as it happens, I took Evidence, Basic Trial Advocacy, and Advanced Trial Advocacy in Law School.  So I'd like to now talk about what Law School has taught me regarding the expert authority of the rabbis.  While a lot of this deals specifically with American law, it's all based in logic and so it's easily applicable to an examination of rabbinic authority.

WHO IS AN EXPERT?

Under American law, we tend to define "expert" liberally (for the most part):

"Under Rule 702, the expert can acquire the [expert] knowledge or skill by education, experience, or a combination...The expert's background usually includes theoretical education and practical experience.
In the past, the courts have been fairly liberal in assessing the qualifications of proposed experts.  That liberality is understandable, since the test stated in Rule 702 is whether the witness possesses more knowledge or skill than the trier of fact, not whether the witness is a full-fledged specialist on the issue before the court," pg. 383 of Evidentiary Foundations by Imwinkelried.

WHEN MAY AN EXPERT TESTIFY?

The federal rules of evidence answer this question as follows:

"[The expert may testify if] (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case," (FRE 702).

HOW DOES ONE DETERMINE THE RELIABILITY OF THE EXPERT'S METHODS AND PRINCIPLES?

"...[Experts] must do more than simply tell the jury, in essence, 'trust me,'" pg. 375 of The Art & Science of Trial Advocacy by Perrin, Caldwell, and Chase.

Thus, we must use the following factors to determine whether the principles and methods are reliable:

(1) Can it be reliably tested?

(2) Has it been subjected to peer review and/or publication?

(3) Does it have a reasonably low error rate?

(4) Is it subject to professional standards?

(5) Is it generally accepted in the field?

HOW MAY ONE UNDERMINE THE AUTHORITY OF THE EXPERT TESTIMONY?

There are three primary ways:  (1) attacking the expert's qualifications; (2) attacking his motivation (i.e. uncovering biases or prejudices); (3) attacking the expert's basis (The Art & Science of Trial Advocacy).

I'd like to focus on the third aspect:  the basis of the expert's opinion:

"Once advocates demonstrate that experts have inadequate or unreliable bases for their opinions, the jurors are almost certain to discount the opinions as well.  Potential attacks on the basis include unsupported assumptions, inadequate or faulty preparation or investigation, lack of personal knowledge, and errors made by the expert in preparing his opinions," (ibid).

Of these potential weaknesses, I'd like to focus your attention on "unsupported assumptions":

"All experts make assumptions when they form opinions....But they are assumptions nonetheless, unproven facts, and they are critical to the validity of the opinions of most experts...In preparing to cross-examine an expert, the advocate should identify the assumptions that the expert has relied on in forming her opinion....Retain a consultant with a similar expertise who can help identify the assumptions relied upon by the opposing expert.  Then test the assumptions....Do they make unsupported leaps of logic?" (ibid).

APPLICATIONS

I think Yeshua wants us to both (1) challenge and (2) respect the teachings of the rabbis.

How do we challenge?  One such way is to examine the basis for the rabbinic opinion.  Does it conflict with the intention of Scripture?  Does it make any unwarranted assumptions?

How do we respect?  We treat the rabbis as presumptive authorities within their area of expertise;  We do not give them final authority--we do not say their decisions are unchallengeable.





Blessing the Jews...at Walmart (a Story)

So last night a man told me this story:

While waiting in a check out line at Walmart, a little lady accidentally cut in front of him and quickly apologized.  "That lane over there will actually be quicker," he told her.  She thanked him and left.

And that's when the Holy Spirit told him to pay for her groceries.

So he left his lane, and proceeded down the long row of Walmart check out lanes in search of the little lady.  When he located her, he offered to assist with the bagging of the groceries and explained that he'd be paying for them.  She politely declined, he insisted.  "At least let me pay you fifty dollars," she said.  He refused, smiling.

So she thanked him for the kind gift and left.  Then, as he returned to get his groceries, he thought, "Well, I really messed that up!  I should've explained to her why I was doing that!  Now, I'm the one getting the glory instead of Jesus..." and so he prayed, "L-rd, please let me run into her again so I can explain to her!"

But he didn't really expect to see her again.

So he pushed his cart outside to the parking lot.  Lo and behold, who should he run into?  

"I'm so glad to run into you again!" he said to her.  "I wanted to tell you the reason why I bought your groceries.  I felt like Jesus wanted me to do this for you so that you'd know that he loves you!"

And that's when things got interesting...

"I should probably tell you that my husband and I are Jewish..." she began.  "But it's funny you should mention Jesus.  As it happens, our son became a Christian just this past month.  I can't wait to tell him about you!"

And so they parted ways again for the last time (or so they thought).

My friend returned to his car and began to load the groceries into his trunk when the little lady approached...

Now, if you haven't seen a Walmart parking lot before--THEY'RE ENORMOUS!  Yet, out of that vast sea of parking spaces, guess where the little lady had parked?

Right next to my friend!

Glory to G-d who gives signs to His People!

Anyway, thought I'd share this story to encourage you, dear reader, to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  I say this to myself as well!  

May G-d give us the ability to hear Him and to be obedient!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hagner's Masterful Exegesis of Matthew 23


"MATTHEW 23...Another favorite passage among Jewish scholars in their reclamation of Jesus is Matthew 23:1-3, 23 (cf. Luke 11:42).  Here Jesus says to the crowds and his disciples that the scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses' seat and that therefore it is right to 'practice and observe whatever they tell you.'  Moreover, when Jesus faults the Pharisees for neglecting the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy, and faith (Luke 11:42, 'justice and the love of God'), he says, 'These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others' (i.e., the tithing of dill, mint, and cumin--matters involving the Pharisaic extension of the Mosaic commandment concerning tithing).
How are we to reconcile these statements with the fact that, as we have seen, both Jesus and his disciples transgressed the teaching of the Pharisees (cf. Matt. 9:11, 14; 12:2)?  How can Jesus say, 'Practice and observe whatever they tell you' (23:3), when in the following sentence he indicates that the teachings of the Pharisees (especially in contrast of his, cf. 11:29-30) constituted heavy burdens and seems to rebuke the Pharisees for not making their demands lighter (23:4).  Furthermore, in the criticism of the Pharisees that follows, it must be noted that Jesus criticizes not only their conduct but also their teaching (e.g., 23:16, 18).  Indeed, earlier in the Gospel he has warned the disciples about 'the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,' which is explicitly identified as their teachings (16:11-12).  How are these apparently contradictory utterances to be reconciled?
The answer can only be that the Pharisees are to be honored simply because they concern themselves with the interpretation of the Law (they 'sit in Moses' seat').  They are to be obeyed, but only to the extent that what they teach is not inconsistent with the true meaning of righteousness, which the disciples learned from Jesus, or--put positively--to the extent that their teaching is in accord with the true intention of the Mosaic Law.  In principle, the Pharisees are correct;  in actuality, they are often wrong (cf. Luke 11:52:  'You have taken away the key of knowledge').  The issue is again the real meaning of the Law and the nature of true righteousness....There is, then, first and foremost a strong continuity between the Law and the teaching of Jesus:  Jesus brings the Law to its definitive interpretation.  His fulfillment of the Law by bringing it to its intended meaning depends directly on his messianic office and mission," pgs. 126-127 of The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus by Hagner

Messianic Wish-List for Church

You couldn't really ask for a better window in which to share Messianic theology than an actual hermeneutics class at church.  Well, that's not true.  A Messianic wish-list for a church might look something like this:

(1) the pastoral team has had "road to Damascus" experiences regarding Messianic Judaism;

(2) there is a noticeable Messianic Jewish and Messianic Non-Jewish presence in the congregation;

(3) the church actively promotes Messianic teachings and hosts Messianic events;

(4) the church takes a strong pro-Israel stance;

(5) the pastoral staff is directly involved with independent Messianic ministries.

One should be so lucky to find such a proto-Messianic congregation as that.

...and that's precisely the situation in which I find myself.

Except it's actually a little better than that.

The teacher of the hermeneutics class not only knows about our Messianic background but he's happy about it, says it'll bring a fresh perspective to the class.  He even invited me to share some research with the upcoming class!



"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged," (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Sphinx Found...in Israel

Wild, weird stuff:

CLICK HERE FOR LINK

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why is Jacob Fronzcak (a Teacher at First Fruits of Zion) So Arrogantly Condescending Toward Messianics?

One of the core teachers over at First Fruits of Zion is a man named Jacob Fronzcak.  He currently holds the record (in my opinion) for one of the most arrogant, condescending, and misleading blog comments ever directed against "One Law" Messianics.  I'm going to quote his comment.  But first to provide a little context, let me say that you should also read the blog post by Derek Leman in which this awful comment occurs.  The post "We're Not All the Same" is a big straw-man attack on "One Law" Theology in which Derek, defending FFOZ's "Divine Invitation" says that it's good for Gentiles to eat pig and violate Shabbat.  Also, to keep in mind the scope of this false teaching, note that Derek Leman is the disciple of Carl Kinbar, one of the top-ranking leaders of the UMJC.

So, here's the link to the original post (note the promotions of FFOZ throughout) in which Derek Leman says that it's good for Gentiles to eat pig and violate Shabbat:

CLICK HERE FOR LINK

Now, let's examine Fronzcak's comment (remember he is one of the core teachers at FFOZ) in which he supports Derek's false teaching by attacking Messianics:

"Someone will be by to recapitulate McKee’s arguments without citing him in 3… 2… 1… 
Anyway, I think the answer to “Why do you want to say, ‘There is nothing special about God’s relationship with Israel and we are all the same’?” is deeply rooted in Christian theology, particularly in older denominations (Reformed, and I’m pretty sure Catholicism has a similar view), which hold that there is and has ever been only one people of God. These denominations see one hundred percent continuity between the OT “Israel” and NT “church.” Ethnic Jewishness doesn’t matter one bit; all believers, OT, NT, regardless of Jewishness, are exactly the same (Reformed theologians use the term “elect”). 
Of course, the Bible doesn’t teach this, but it’s easy to get that impression unless you’ve really studied. A lot of commentators point to Gal. 6:16 or 1 Peter 1-2 and assume “case closed” on this issue. People take it for granted that Jewishness doesn’t matter.
The Hebrew Roots
“spin” on this idea is that OT “Israel” was not a nation descended from the man Israel, but was an incorporated political entity of some kind that people automatically join when they attach themselves to Messiah. Again, you can only believe this if you ignore or reinterpret large sections of the Torah, the prophetic literature, the NT, etc. 
I think at its root this idea is just a manifestation of the desire to be special, to be as chosen as someone can be, to be unique. The “scandal of particularity” is that God chose an ethnic group to be His unique people and if you want to be part of that group, you have to join them on their terms and keep their laws as they have interpreted them (whether we are talking about structured Messianic Judaism or Rabbinic Judaism). Post-civil-rights generations think that if this were true it would make God a racist. And this is the term they use to beat anyone who disagrees with them, which is why I don’t respond to them anymore. 
I’m not convinced that Christian anti-semitism can’t be traced to this same attitude."

ANALYSIS:

Apparently, Fronzcak and his cohorts are the only ones who have "really studied" and therefore arrived at the true interpretation of the Scripture as opposed to any sort of "reinterpretation".  Apparently, the leaders of "One Law" are just "ignorant."

But what really makes this comment the record-breaker for FFOZ arrogance is Fronzcak's sarcastic statement in the beginning, "Someone will be by to recapitulate McKee’s arguments without citing him in 3… 2… 1… "

Do you know that I had no idea who McKee was until I read this comment by Fronzcak?  So I guess something good did come from it!

MY MESSAGE FOR FRONZCAK:

If you are so learned and I, being a "One Law" adherent, am so "ignorant" and "unstudied" then perhaps you'd enjoy a public debate?  Let's have a public debate between two panels:  your people and my people.  It should be a walk in the park for you, yes?

I look forward to hearing from you.  : )

Cheers,

Peter


Arabs and Jews Worshipping Yeshua Together in Israel

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO LINK


Upcoming Reviews


Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Review of "Hebrews for the Practical Messianic" by J.K. McKee

[PURCHASE THIS BOOK HERE:  LINK]


HEBREWS FOR THE PRACTICAL MESSIANIC:  A REVIEW




Is the Book of Hebrews anti-Torah and anti-Judaism?  In "Hebrews for the Practical Messianic", J.K. McKee observes that this tends to be the standard approach to Hebrews:

"Hebrews is frequently read as...opposing the commandments of the Torah of Moses…[and] the argumentation style of the Epistle to the Hebrews has sometimes been taken as being anti-Judaism…" pg. 264

In particular:

"Christians have difficulty understanding Hebrews with its emphasis on the Law of Moses and animal sacrifices, because of their large disconnection to the Torah," pg. 261

But is the author of Hebrew really anti-Torah?

"[T]he author of Hebrews is quite insistent that the Law has not been abolished, twice quoting the critical New Covenant promise of Jeremiah 31:31-34 that Moses' Teaching is to be written on the hearts and minds of God's people (8:8-12; 10:16-17)," pg. 264

Does the style of the book of Hebrews really show disrespect for Judaism?

"[I]n actuality [the author of Hebrews] employs a common Rabbinic qal v'chomer or classical a fortiori approach, demonstrating great respect for the institutions and historical figures of Ancient Israel in order to precisely show how much greater and grander the Messiah actually is."  

Throughout the commentary, McKee tackles three forms of this anti-Judaic bias:

1.  biased mistranslations

2.  biased additions of words that do not appear in the Greek source text

3.  passages in which the English translation contains both types of translational problems simultaneously: extra words and mistranslated words:

Here are a few examples:

(1) "…biased translations into English…" pg. 263.

The example of 8:7:

pg. 267 "A translation challenge is present in 8:7, though, because as the NIV renders it, 'For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.'  The Greek [Ei gar he port en amemptos] actually reads 'for if that first were faultless' (YLT) with no associated noun.  …While 'first' [could refer to "covenant"]…[it] could also speak of the [tabernacle/priesthood/ministry].  It is far better, given the limitations of the human priests who occupied the Levitical service (7:28), for ["first"] in 8:7 to be associated with the Earthly Tabernacle, priesthood, or ministry of the Levitical service--not the covenant made by God."

(2) "…words added to an English translation that do not appear in the source text ((i.e., 8:7, 13; 9:1, 17, 24; 10:1)," pg. 263.

The example of 8:13:

pg. 267 "8:13 especially has some transmission issues into English.  Its opening clause [en to legion kainen] is simply 'in the saying 'new'' (YLT), with no noun provided.  [Kainen] should be understood as applying to the tabernacle/priesthood/ministry of the Levitical service, given what 8:13b says:  [to de palaioumenon kai geraskon engus aphanismou].  While often rendered with 'what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear,' the verbs [palaioo] and [gerasko] both mean 'to age.'  To regard the Levitical service as 'obsolete' is too strong, whereas the NEB offers the much better rendering, 'growing old and aging.'  The Levitical service would have been older in its time of service than Yeshua's priestly service in Heaven (although it has been based on Melchizedek's priesthood), and it would disappear at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., a timestamp on when Hebrews was composed in the late 60s C.E."

(3)  passages in which the English translation contains both types of translational problems simultaneously: extra words and mistranslated words:

The example of 9:16-17:

Is "will" or "testament" a viable translation of [diatheke] ("covenant")?  While such an interpretation seems valid when the sentence passage includes the phrase "when people die", the reality is that the phrase "when people die" does not appear in the source text (pg. 154).  Furthermore, as Lane notes, "There is no evidence in classical or papyriological sources to substantiate that a will or testament was legally valid only when its testator died.  A will became operative as soon as it was properly drafted, witnessed, and notarized."  

McKee suggests smoother translations such as Lane's, "For a covenant is made legally secure on the basis of sacrificial victims' (WBC)" on the basis that it more accurately fits with the Ancient Near Eastern covenantal context:

"The translation of…'sacrificial victims' (WBC), may be regarded as something definitely rooted within Ancient Near Eastern covenanting procedures, where there would be animals slaughtered to give some kind of surety to the covenant.  This frequently involved those making the agreement saying that they would become as such dead animals if they did not live up to it.  A covenant, when violated, does often seek the death of the violator."  

On a side note, McKee persuasively argues on the basis of Isaiah 24:5 that all of mankind is guilty of violating G-d's covenant:  "The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant," (Isaiah 24:5).  This helps explain the scope behind Hebrews 9:28 "So Messiah also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many…"

CONCLUSION

The value of this commentary cannot be overstated.  McKee has brought out all of the nuances of the Greek source text, the fascinating rationales behind the author's use of Septuagint passages--many of which deviate substantially from the Masoretic Text, and most especially, the complex Hebraic context of the Ancient Near East in general and first-century Judaism(s) in particular.

In short, it's a must read!

"New Covenant" or "Renewed Covenant"? [McKee]

There's a lot of confusion about what the "New" in "New Covenant" really means.  Some mistakenly think it's a superior set of Scripture (i.e. the New Testament);  Some mistakenly think it's a new set of laws.

Before looking at "new" let's define covenant.  A covenant, in a Hebraic context, is an agreement to have a special relationship.  And so there are many types of covenants just as there are many types of relationships (e.g. marital, communal, political, etc).

While the Tanak does at times use berit (covenant) synonymously with Torah (Law), it is important to understand that the two terms have different meanings.  This helps us understand passages like Jeremiah 31:31-34.  The New Covenant is not a New Torah;  rather, it is a completely new agreement in which the already special relationship between G-d and Israel becomes more intimate than ever before.  The Law, meanwhile, remains virtually the same (except for authorized improvements to the priestly system).

Okay, now for something a little more advanced.  This is McKee explaining that "b'rit chadashah" (Hb., "New Covenant") and diatheken dainen (Gk., "New Covenant") do not mean "Renewed Covenant":

"The most common Hebrew term used in the Tanach for 'new' is the verb chadash... In the Piel stem (intensive action, active voice) it can mean 'to make anew, restore' (HALOT).  It is employed in 2 Chronicles 15:8 as such when King Asa 'renewed [chadash] the Altar of HASHEM that was before the Hall of HASHEM' (ATS).  However, the adjective chadash...does not have the same variance that its verb equivalent has.  It is used to indicate things that are 'new, fresh...not yet existing,' 'new things' (HALOT).  In this way the b'rit chadashah of Jeremiah 31:31-33 is to truly be a New Covenant that is unparalleled by what has come before it..." pg. 138 of Hebrews For the Practical Messianic.





Question From a Reader (Feel Free to Jump In)

Just received a question from a reader:

"Should believers in Messiah be concerned with what fellow believers choose to call themselves such as, 'Messianic' or, 'Nazarene'?"

Yes.

It's important for a group to come up with its own name (endonym) rather than allow an outsider to apply a name to them (exonym) because the latter name tends to be misleading.  People tend to use exonyms to make their opponents look bad and use endonyms to make themselves look good.

For example, the label "One Law" is an exonym;  the UMJC created this label to make Torah-observant Gentiles look like idiots, taking a "One Law" passage from the Tanak out of context and constructing an entire theology out of it.

For another example, consider Pro-Life or Pro-Choice.  These are endonyms.  I personally prefer to call "Pro-Choice" what it really is:  murder.  "Pro-Murdering Babies" would be an exonym for example.

Also, another concern with labels is that they are accurate.  If they are accurate then they can be helpful for defining the group's identity and communicating that identity to others.  If not, they can be harmful.

I hope that answers the question!  : )

If anyone has anything else to add then please feel free.

Shalom,

Peter

Friday, July 5, 2013

Issues with Hebrews 7

"For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also," (Hebrews 7:12) 
"For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness," (Hebrews 7:18) 
"Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you," (Deut. 4:2)
"For the Law made nothing perfect..." (Hebrews 7:19) 
"The Law of the Lord is perfect..." (Psalm 19:7) 



Houston, we have a problem...

So how do we reconcile these passages?  Torah says not to add or take away.  And yet the author of Hebrews APPEARS to be saying that the priesthood is changed and that the Torah has changed also!

Luckily, this week I've been reading a lovely commentary by my friend John McKee:  "Hebrews: For the Practical Messianic" (available on Amazon.com).  Let's take a look at what McKee says about this passage.

Regarding the "change of law" in Hebrews 7:12,

"The 'change' or 'transformation' that the Torah has experienced in the arrival of the Messiah primarily regards permanent atonement for sins and Yeshua serving in the office of the Melchizedekian priest," pg. 111 of Hebrews: For the Practical Messianic.
Regarding the "setting aside of a former commandment" in Hebrews 7:18,

"Vs. 18-19 do not say that God's Torah was set aside; what is said is that 'a former commandment is set aside'," pg. 113, ibid. 
"As far as looking to the Levitical priesthood and its animal sacrifices as being the source of perfection and reconciliation with the Creator, Believers in Yeshua should effectively consider such a system nullified," pg. 113, ibid.
"The fact that the Messiah's Melchizedian priesthood causes 'a setting aside of a former commandment' (v. 18a), of the Levitical priesthood, has to be balanced with various prophecies within the Tanach (Old Testament) which speak of the reinstatement of the Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices in the future.  In Jeremiah 33:20-22, the Lord says that His covenant with David and with the Levites cannot be broken....Ezekiel 44:10-11 describes the Levites in the Millenial Temple performing animal sacrifices...." pg. 114, ibid. 
"We instead have to conclude the athetesis or setting aside of the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices (Hebrews 7:18) to either concern eternal perfection being now offered in Yeshua with such a previous system effectively nullified, and/or a temporary setting aside of this system with the priesthood once again operative at a future point for God's end-time purposes," pg. 114, ibid.
Regarding the "weakness" and "uselessness"of "the former commandment",

"Lane is keen to note for us, 'Its 'weakness'...inheres not in the law or its purpose, but in the people upon whom it depends for its accomplishment...Its 'uselessness'...derives from the fact that the law regulated the approach of God in a cultic sense and was able to cleanse only externally (9:9-10, 13, 23; 10:14),'" pgs 114-115, ibid. 
"...Guthrie astutely concludes, 'There is no doubt that the writer [of Hebrews] does not here mean that the law itself is annulled, but that it can be discounted as a means of gaining perfection...It is characteristic of law--not merely the Mosaic law, but all law--that it has made nothing perfect.  All it could do was focus on imperfection.  Indeed the Mosaic law went further and demonstrated in its application that perfection was impossible,'" pg. 115.
SUMMARY

So it looks like "do not add" really means "make no unauthorized changes."  Because we have it on the authority of the Tanak that there is another priesthood, that of the order of Melchizedek.  And a "setting aside of the former commandment" cannot be interpreted to mean that the Levitical priesthood is abolished but rather that the aspect of the former commandment as a source of perfection and reconciliation--that aspect has been set aside.  And the "weakness" and "uselessness" of the "former commandment" cannot be interpreted to mean that the Law itself is weak or useless (which would contradict the Tanak) but rather that the incompleteness of the former commandment regarding the Levitical priesthood--that incompleteness is hereby nullified by Yeshua, our perfect sacrifice and mediation.



Reasons for the Customs of Tzitzit and Tefillin (Excerpts from Bloch and Chill)



We Are Kingdom Israelites!


There is a false dilemma confusing much of the Messianic world.

A Messianic who is immature (we've all been there), mistakenly believes that there are only two options regarding his identity:

"Either I am a Jew or a Gentile."

Now, to a Messianic, that latter option of Gentile-ness is completely unappealing in that Judaism (and the Apostolic Scripture) considers Gentile-ness to be something undesirable, something associated with idolatrous practices.  In fact, as Ephesians 2 indicates, the prevailing position in Judaism up until the first-century C.E. was that gentiles were excluded from the covenants of promise.  And in our time, with certain organizations treating Gentile Believers like second-class citizens, a Messianic has even more reason to be embarrassed about his ethnicity.

"Yes, I'll take the Jewish option, please."

Ah, how quickly the Messianic is then able to locate signs of Jewishness in his family tree!  I'm not making fun here--don't feel bad if you have done this!  

But as the Messianic matures, he realizes that the choice between Gentile-ness and Jewishness is a false dilemma.  In reality, there is yet another option:

A Gentile Believer is a non-Jewish member of Kingdom Israel....a Kingdom Israelite.

And this startling realization is an immediate source of comfort and clarity for the Messianic....at least until he figures out that certain large organizations within the Messianic movement do not share this perception.  The uncomfortable truth slowly dawns that groups like the UMJC consider him and his Gentile brood to be the ignorant Gentiles of Rabbinic Midrash who, being innately inferior to Jews, ungratefully rejected G-d's offer of the Torah.

Yes, the same Exclusionism that plagued pre-Acts 15 congregations in the first century C.E. still plagues many congregations today.

Fortunately, the Messianics have rallied.  The Inclusionist movement is alive and well in Messianic Judaism.  And, as many Christians doff their anti-Judaic identities and don pro-Judaic, Messianic identities, it has become apparent that this Inclusionist movement has the potential for growth on a truly global scale.  

May G-d bless all the Kingdom Israelites!!!  May G-d give you all courage and wisdom and peace!!!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

McKee's "Hebrews for the Practical Messianic"

I'm loving this book!  It's so refreshing to read a Hebrews commentary by one of our own who has specifically geared the commentary to a Messianic audience!

Stay tuned later this week for a review...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Monte Judah

"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them," Romans 16:17
Make sure to avoid the so-called teacher Monte Judah.  I've heard several commenters refer to him.  But he is deceived and cannot even discern what is actual Scripture.  He doesn't believe that the book of Hebrews is Scripture (LINK) for example.

We need to be vigilant against such men!

Messianic Takkanot? Messianic Synods?

In Jewish law, there's something called takkanah, which is analogous to a Constitutional amendment.  There are different theories on where such authority may be derived from.  Sometimes it comes from the consent of the kahal, sometimes from the institutional authority of the men composing the synod which makes the takkanah, or you could say it comes from the "chain of authority" going back to Sinai.

To help you understand takkanot, take a look at these excerpts:


“One must sparingly use takkanah as one must sparingly use the constitutional amendment process in United States law.  There is a danger of abuse.  There is a danger of social whim becoming standardized through legislation, making enforcement and repeal difficult…One must decide whether the particular social trend is worthy of being translated into law…one ought to be convinced that the social situation occasioning the takkanah will be of some considerable duration,” pg. 41 of “In Partnership With God” by Byron Sherwin.

“One other important aspect of this period [of the Acharonim, those who wrote after the Shulchan Aruch] is the synods or councils that took place and the takkanot (revisions; literally, ‘fixings’ of the law) that they produced….These synods probably based their authority on the acceptance of their respective communities.  The members of the communities took a vow that they and their descendants would accept the synod’s decisions.  In that way, Jewish law was changed considerably,” pg. 67 of “Conservative Judaish:  Our Ancestors to Our Descendants” by Elliot Dorff

“The takkanot may represent a change in the content of the law, as their name implies, but they nevertheless are part of Jewish law because they were enacted by its duly authorized representatives,” pg. 87, ibid.


“During the Talmudic and medieval ages authorities enacted many new ordinances that were not found previously in the Bible and yet were legally binding on the Jewish community.
            Examples of takkanot enacted in the days of the Mishnah are: (1) a man must support his children while they are minors; (2) a gift of more than one-fifth of one’s property for charity is forbidden….
            The rabbis never enacted takkanot arbitrarily.  Every enactment was seriously regarded, since it represented change, and occasionally a break with older practices.  But they recognized the growing needs of the Jewish community in a more complex society…Every takkanah was to be an improvement over the existing practice and yet could not move away from the intent or spirit of the biblical law,” pg. 405 of “The Language of Judaism” by Simon Glustrom