Saturday, January 25, 2014

Messianic Gentile Manifesto

A new friend of mine recently asked me to provide the basis for One Law.  So without further ado...

THE ONE-LAW PROPOSITION

All covenantal members of Israel are bound by "One Law" (Exodus 12:48,49;  Lev. 24:22; Numbers 9:14; Numbers 15:15-16).  This is binding precedent.  Since the Apostolic Writings confirm that non-Jewish Believers are covenantal members of Israel, precedent dictates that non-Jewish are bound to this One-Law.  Furthermore, the Apostolic Writings, in agreement with the Prophets, hold that non-Jews are covenantal members of Israel compelled by the Ruach haKodesh to keep the "One-Law".

OVERVIEW OF EVIDENCE FOR THE ONE-LAW PROPOSITION

(1) Yeshua's community is called the "Ekklesia" in the Greek source text of Matthew 16:18-19.  Although Christianity has mistakenly translated this term as "Church", Ekklesia, in its Hebraic context, refers specifically to Israel (Acts 7:38, also see LXX of Dt 9:10; 10:4; 18:16; 5:22).  This means that all Believers, whether Jewish or non-Jewish, belong to Israel.

(2) Ezekiel 36 explains that the New Covenant involves a washing with water, a cleansing by the Spirit, a compulsion to keep Torah (both chukim and mishpatim), and offers permanent forgiveness of transgressions.  In Acts 2, on the day of Shavuot, the day commemorating the giving of the Torah at Sinai (known in the Torah as "the day of the Kahal"), Peter explained that the gift of the New Covenant was being offered not only to the Jews who were present but also to the non-Jews who were "far off" (Acts 2:39 and Ephesians 2:13).  In Acts 11:15, Peter recalls his amazement that the Ruach had been given to non-Jews just as it had been given to Jewish Believers on Shavuot/Pentecost ("...the Holy Spirit fell on them as it had fallen on us at the beginning").  That the Apostles Peter and Paul considered this to be proof that the non-Jews were covenantal members of Israel is further evidenced by passages such as Ephesians 2:12 and 1 Peter 2:9-10.

NOTE:  The term in Ephesians 2:12 mistranslated as "commonwealth" is "politeia" which is a term that Luke himself uses in Acts 22:28 to refer to citizenship.  Shaye Cohen explains further, "The Greek word politeia means in the first instance 'citizenship,' the quality of being a citizen," (Cohen, The Beginnings of Jewishness).

(3) In Acts 15, there is a debate over covenantal initiation:  was it circumcision or faith that was initiatory?  Peter argued that it was faith (Acts 15:9) and grace (Acts 15:11).  He also argued that these Gentiles had become "a People for God's Name", an expression that refers specifically to Israel.  It is evident in the Tanak that only Israel is called by G-d's Name (see Deut. 14:2 and Isaiah 63:19) and Peter himself makes this explicit in 1 Peter 2:9-10 by applying exclusive titles of Israel to Gentiles.

Also important to note is that James' Speech which appears to misquote the LXX version of Amos 9:11-12 is in fact a reference to many Prophetic passages (note James' plural use of "prophets" in Acts 15:15), each alteration to the LXX text forming a linguistic connector to many related Prophetic passages (see my previous blog post here).  Here is one of these many references which communicates that the non-Jews are grafted into Israel as covenantal members:


"And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee," (Zechariah 2:11)


For more on the significance of the Fourfold Decree, see here and here.








Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Constructive Critique of Tim Hegg's Argument

Some musings from today...

I think Tim Hegg damages the effectiveness of his argument quite severely when he uses his analysis of the "ger" in ancient Israel to make a point about the covenantal/legal status of non-Jewish Believers under the New Covenant.  The ger is only relevant for our purposes if it can be shown that the ger was initiated into the Sinaitic Covenant by faith as opposed to circumcision.  But Hegg's analysis is unable to do this as it contains several contradictions.

First, Hegg says throughout his writings that the term "ger" is not a religious term but rather a sociological term:

"…originally the word [ger] was a sociological term [and only] in the rabbinic literature it has become…religious…" (Fellow Heirs) 
"While the word ger always bears a sociological meaning in the Tanakh, there came a time when the sages began to understand it in a religious sense," (It Has Been Said, Vol. 4)
"Kuhn has shown that the meaning of ger and its Greek equivalent, proselutes, moved from its original sociological meaning to a purely religious, technical term in the late Second Temple period.  Whereas originally the terms simply identified a foreigner who had taken up residence in Israel (without being specific about his relationship to Israel's God and Torah), by the 2nd Century BCE the words were being used more and more to denote a convert to Judaism," (Is the Torah Only for Jews?)
But then Hegg contradicts this when he argues that the term can indeed convey a covenantal (and therefore religious) meaning in the Torah:
"When the context makes it clear that the ger has indeed attached himself to the God of Israel, it is often plainly stated that the ger and the native-born have the same privileges and responsibilities as covenant members," (It Has Been Said, Vol 4)
He even acknowledges that the term ger has two completely different usages in the Torah, one religious and the other sociological:
"Leviticus 17:15 begins with 'any person' (v'kol nefesh) and further adds 'whether native or alien' (ba'ezrach uvager), showing that in this text the Torah was considered universal for all within the community of Israel.  In contrast, the Deuteronomy passage allows the torn meat to be given to the 'alien who is in your town (literally, 'gates')' (lager asher bish'arecha), presumably because the alien (in this case) is allowed to eat what is unclean."
To make his point, Hegg would have to reconcile the non-covenantal meaning of "ger" in Deuteronomy 14:21 with passages such as Exodus 12:49 which says that there is one law for both the native and the "ger".  In particular, given the dichotomous meanings of "ger" in Torah, Hegg would have to show that the ger in Exodus 12:49 includes the uncircumcised ger.  

Now, I should mention at this point, that Hegg completely rehabilitates his arguments in all his writings by providing evidence from the Apostolic Writings.  So all I'm really saying with this is that Hegg should emphasize the evidence from the Apostolic Writings more and place less (if any) emphasis on the "ger".  

















Monday, January 20, 2014

Personal Update

The teacher and his wife at church now want to meet up for a meal and discuss Messianism more in depth with me and my wife.  They're now expressing the desire to visit a Messianic congregation.  Baruch HaShem!

Also, I visited a One-Law congregation again this past weekend---how I love them!  The only issue is that the congregation is so far away...

Prayer request:  I'm going to ask some people at the church this week for permission to use one of the classrooms for a Messianic fellowship.  Pray that, if it is HaShem's will, they will be open to this.

Blessings in Yeshua,

Peter

The Mitzvah of Shabbos Sensuality: Why Paul Commanded the Gentiles at Colossae to Indulge on Shabbat

Yes, Paul not only commanded Gentiles to keep Shabbat but, in line with Jewish tradition, he commanded them to delight in the sensual aspects of Shabbat.

But before I prove that, let's look at what the Torah says about Shabbat:
"...call the sabbath a delight (oneg)..." (Isaiah 58:13)
"Oneg" or "delight" is related to the word "anag" which refers to the soft, alluring and sensual movements of a woman (see Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon).   

And then there's this:
"Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed," (Deut. 23:12
That word for refreshed, naphash, is related to nephesh (soul).  In Genesis 2:7 we read that G-d breathed nephesh into man (Adam).  We also read that He called their name Adam (Gen. 5:2).  This means that since man and his wife are one that the soul is only truly happy when it is joined with its mate.  Thus, it is refreshing for man and woman have marital relations on Shabbat on a very, deep and mystical level.

Now back to Colossians 2...

The false teachers who had infiltrated Colossae were preaching against Torah, encouraging the worship of angels, asceticism, extreme fasting.  Their motto was:
"Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" (Colossians 2:21)
Naturally this angered Paul who kept Torah and Tradition (Acts 21) and taught Gentiles to put into practice all of Paul's own practices (Phil. 4).  These heretical teachers were undermining all of the work Paul had invested into his non-Jewish disciples.  And so Paul instructed the gentiles to continue to delight in Shabbat and not let these false teachers judge them for this:
"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day," (Col. 2:16)
Today in our movement, as you are all aware, there are false groups who teach that Gentiles are excluded from the covenants and from the duty/right to keep Sinaitic Torah (may HaShem heal their minds).  But the truth is that Shabbat was created for man:
"Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, (Mark 2:27)
Blessings to the True Brothers and Sisters,

Peter

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Holy Seed: What Makes It Holy?

"But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we [be,] that every male of you be circumcised; Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people," (Gen 34:15-16)  
"For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass, (Ezra 9:2)

Here's Barclay discussing some ancient sources on the subject of "alien seed" vs. "holy seed":

"We should note in this context the importance of circumcision, though its connection to this topic is rarely noticed.  One of the most important functions of circumcision was in identifying with whom a Jewess may have sexual intercourse.  A foundational text here was the story of Dinah and the Shechemites (Gen 34):  that makes clear that Dinah could not be married to a man with a foreskin (Gen 34.14), while if the Shechemites were to institute circumcision they could freely intermarry, and could count as members of the same race (34.15-16).  In line with this tradition, Josephus records examples of Gentile men who were required to get circumcised and adopt Jewish ways before marrying members of the Herodian family (Ant 20.139, 145-46).  The social function of circumcision is made explicit in Josephus' remark that it was instituted to prevent Abraham's offspring from mixing with others (Ant 1.192).  It fulfilled this function by making it taboo for Jewish women to receive from an uncircumcised man what Philo called 'alien seed' (Quaest Gen 3.61)....In any case, the issue of exogamy was more critical in the case of Jewish girls since in pre-Mishnaic Judaism (as Cohen 1986 has argued) the offspring followed the ethnic status of the father rather than the mother.  Thus the greatest responsibility for the ethnic continuity of Judaism lay with Jewish girls (or rather, their fathers, who preserved their virginity and arranged their marriages)," pg. 411 of Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora by Barclay



Monday, January 13, 2014

Great Conversation at Church Last Night

Last night was very interesting.  I went to a class at the church we visit.  The teacher has been talking about the purpose of the Sinaitic Law and how Paul treats it in his writings.  But last night we spent most of the time examining some passages from Deuteronomy and the Prophets.  

The teacher has apparently been trying to make the case that the Law was never meant to be permanent.  But things kept coming up that appeared to make the teacher rethink his position.

For example, the idea that the Law did not pre-date Sinai.  Last week I'd pointed out that there was evidence that Cain and Abel were following sacrificial law.  At the time, the teacher ignored this.  But last night another gentlemen happened to be attending the class who is very well regarded (and for good reason).  And he made the same point.  Suddenly the teacher was forced to rethink his earlier position.

Additionally, the teacher planned on examining the New Covenant prophecies to evidence the Dispensationalist position that the New Covenant is a total break with the Law.  But late last night, after everyone else had left, I asked the teacher and his wife about Jeremiah 31:31-33 and Ezekiel 36, what they thought about the fact that these passages say that the New Covenant enables New Covenant Believers to understand and keep the Law.  

At first, the teacher attempted to resist this position.  But then something seemed to happen...

He seemed to be considering a new possibility.

And so we were wrapping things up and I said something about being stressed out.  And so he prayed for me.  And as he was praying he asked for the L-rd to open his eyes to the words of Prophets.  

Now, maybe I'm just an overly hopeful Messianic, but I can't help but take this as a positive sign. Please pray for this man and his family that they will be blessed as they explore this further, that this may be a time of great healing and understanding.

Shalom,

Peter

2 Questions (for anyone)

So I deleted the last post because I addressed it to two individuals specifically which may have been putting them in an uncomfortable position.  But I think these are important questions and so I'll put them to whomever wishes to answer them:

(1) Is marital assimilation (i.e. intermarriage of Jewish Believers and non-Jewish Believers resulting in loss of ethnic Jewish identity and the ethnic homogenization of the Kahal of Believers) a problem?  

(2)  If marital assimilation is a problem, what is the best solution to this problem?  Phrased differently, how should ethnic status (e.g. Kohanic, Levitical, Jewish) be safeguarded? 


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Coalition of Torah Observant Messianic Congregations

A reader was kind enough to send me the link to this interesting organization:  CLICK HERE FOR LINK


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Teshuvah the Same for Jews and Non-Jews: Examining the Parallel Usage of Epistrepho in Acts 3 and Acts 15

"For as long as life is in me, And the breath of God is in my nostrils" (Job 27:3)

In Hebrew, teshuvah can be read as "return to the letter hey" (see Tanya, Igeret Hateshuvah, ch. 4).  Since the letter hey is part of the Tetragrammaton (the four letters comprising the Divine Name), we can read teshuvah (conversion) as returning to HaShem.  It's a great mystery but there you have it.

The genius of the Jerusalem Council was that they recognized that the non-Jews "returning" to G-d could not be excluded on the basis of physical conversion standards--that conversion was a spiritual dynamic occurring between a soul and its Source.  C.K. Barrett observes something interesting about the language of conversion in the Apostolic Writings:

" [tois apo ton ethnon epistrephousin epi ton theon] [those among the Gentiles who are turning to God--Acts 15:19] could be said by a Jew of Gentile converts to Judaism; to a Jewish Christian the Christian conversion of Gentiles must have had to a considerable extent the same appearance.  Gentiles were turning from whatever heathen gods they had previously worshipped to the God of the OT, the God of the Jews.  It was this fact that gave strength to the requirement that they should behave like converts to Judaism, that is, should be circumcised and thereafter keep the Law.  [epistrephousin--which is teshuvah or turning] could be used to describe what was required of Jews (3.19). [Acts 3:19 says "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord"]" pg. 728 of A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles by C.K. Barrett
This whole business of judging a convert based on his conversion papers is ridiculous.  The thing that makes a convert is the pull of the Ruach.  This is why the Council required only that the non-Jewish converts demonstrate their conversion by abstaining from "pollutions" of idols.

Teshuvah is simply turning from idolatry towards the One True G-d.

 

Does G-d Listen to the Prayers of Sinners?

This past Sunday I was walking through the halls in the local Baptist church we visit and I saw someone I knew.  We started talking about how the church was going to be doing a prayer study for the next few weeks and somewhere in this conversation the gentleman made the following comment:

"G-d doesn't listen to the prayers of someone who has sin in their life"

Discussion Question:  Do you agree or disagree with the gentleman?


What a Blessing!

I just wanted to thank all the readers who have emailed me with questions and comments.  It is such a tremendous encouragement to hear from all of you!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

UMJC to Non-Jews: "First Reject Yeshua THEN We'll Accept You as a Fellow Jew"



The other day, a reader asked me a question about the UMJC.  He asked why the UMJC seemed to have so many problems.

I struggled to think of a short answer.  But I have it now!

UMJC rabbis (e.g. David Rudolph of Tikvat Israel) openly teach that non-Jews do not belong at Messianic Synagogue.  BUT...if a non-Jew goes through any non-Messianic conversion process (which involves rejecting Yeshua through communal and/or halachic norms) then that non-Jew may return to the UMJC and be accepted---as a Jew!

Here's Tim Hegg describing this same phenomenon (though he doesn't reference a specific organization):

"[The desire to be accepted by the unbelieving Jewish community] causes a subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) rejection of Gentiles within some Messianic congregations.  While most would never speak it directly, many leaders openly discourage Gentiles from joining the Messianic Synagogue, voicing their opinion that Gentiles should find other communities of worship and leave Messianic Judaism to the Jews.
     On the other hand, those who come into the Messianic Synagogue as 'converts' to Judaism (whether in Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform settings) are welcomed and accepted.  The logic in this is astounding!  Theoretically, if a Gentile believer desired to be fully accepted in this form of Messianic Judaism, he could go to the non-believing Synagogue, convert, and then return to the Messianic congregation with paper in hand and be accepted as a Jew.  This gives him the right to a 'unique relationship to the Torah' which he did not have before.  Where is the Scriptural basis for that?" pgs 137-138 of Hegg's "Fellow Heirs"