Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Formal End to Judeo-Christian America by Dennis Prager

CLICK HERE FOR LINK

UMJC Leader, Dr. Schiffman, Says He'd Attend Gay Weddings to be Supportive of His Friends

This is ridiculous (LINK).  Like Schiffman, I have gay friends.  But if they decided to get "married" and invite our family to attend the wedding ceremony, I would say, "Thank you for the invitation.  I love you as my sister but my religious beliefs prevent me from attending."  

Further proof that the UMJC is irredeemably liberal.  Schiffman, by the way, used to be UMJC Theology Chair and now he serves on the humanitarian arm of the UMJC.  




Presybterian Church & United Church of Christ Already Boycotting Israel, Episcopal & Mennonite Churches May Follow In Coming Days

What's with this new wave of Christian hostility being directed at Israel?

CLICK HERE FOR LINK

And then the Satanic Vatican just recognized the Palestinian "State" according to pre-1967 borders:

CLICK HERE FOR LINK


Monday, June 29, 2015

"Why I'm Grateful to Justice Kennedy" by Dr. Michael Brown

Here's one positive way to look at it...

CLICK HERE FOR LINK

The Rise of Babylon? The Link Between Idolatry and Homosexuality in Paul's Writings

"The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent. The majority expressly disclaims judicial “caution” and omits even a pretense of humility, openly relying on its desire to remake society according to its own “new insight” into the “nature of injustice.” Ante, at 11, 23. As a result, the Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?" Justice Roberts' Dissenting Opinion, Obergefell v. Hodges (Emphasis Added)

What does idolatry look like?  Is it merely the worship of an image of a miniature deity?  Or is more encompassing than that?

This past Friday we witnessed the final nail in the coffin for America.  Most States had already "legalized" gay marriage (according to man's law).  But then the Supreme Court decided to round things out and make it the official "law of the land."

According to the Apostle Paul, sexual perversion is a symptom of a much deeper problem.  It's not sexual perversion that causes idolatry.  Rather, it's the other way around.  Once mankind forsakes his Creator, G-d forsakes him, leaving him to burn with vile passions:
 "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened...For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet," Romans 1:21,26-27 
So what we witnessed this past Friday was G-d turning His back on a sinful nation.

And where is the alarm in the Messianic blogosphere?

As for me and my family, I'll publicly declare this:  I reject the civil government's self-proclaimed authority to regulate marriage as though it is a god!

Furthermore, I call on all Messianics going forward to reject the government's intrusion into the realm of marriage.  We do not need marriage licenses because we recognize that only G-d "licenses" our marriages.  And those of us who have in times past registered for licenses can now disavow the governments purported control of marriage.  We will no longer worship at the altar of government, treating it as god on earth with the power define, redefine, and regulate the institution of marriage.

In Acts 15, Peter declared that Gentiles had been called by G-d's Name.  But to belong to Israel, the People Called by His Name, we must reject idolatry!  His Name is not an entitlement.  Scripture makes says that G-d does not put His name on the nations who have rejected the Torah of Moses but rather only on those who belong to or have joined Israel:

"We are Thy people that were of old:  not unto the Gentiles hast Thou given the doctrine of Thy law, neither is Thy name invoked upon them; not unto them hast Thou inclined the heavens and revealed Thyself; the mountains quaked before Thee," Targum Isaiah 63:19

We used to be the idolatrous nations but now we are the nations joined to Israel:

"Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you," Zechariah 2:11

Which leaves only 2 segments of humanity:  Israel and the idolatrous nations.

Choose today which segment you will belong to.





Friday, June 26, 2015

The Supreme Court v. HaShem: What the Same Sex Marriage Decision Has Now Done to America

Shabbat is almost here and my heart is too heavy to write much about what happened today.

In summary, though, the Supreme Court committed an act of tyranny today against all American citizens.  While our system of government provides a way for us to nullify this act of tyranny, it provides no protection from a despotic, over-reaching Supreme Court that shows no regard for our Federal Constitution.  Make no mistake:  today we witnessed the complete destruction of our political system.  And that's not even the worst of it.

What we saw today was nothing less than America's open act of defiance aimed directly at HaShem.

Pray for the country and its leaders.




If Yeshua Isn't G-d, Why Does the Bible Say the Angels Will Worship Him?

Derech Adonai or Derechim Adonai?



One of the reasons I love to hear other points of view is that they force you to re-assess various passages of Scripture---and the more time you spend with Scripture, the more HaShem will reveal to you.  This learning process occurred this morning while I was drinking my coffee and reading James Pyles' newest blog post.  

He said:

"I know that the phrase from Genesis 18:19 where God references Abraham saying “so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice,” has been taken by some to mean that, as spiritual children of Abraham, we should be obligated to the Torah mitzvot in the same manner as the descendants of Abraham’s offspring Isaac and Jacob, that is, the Jewish people.
     This would make things deceptively easy (not that they’d actually be easy) in terms of defining the role of the non-Jew within Messianic Jewish space. We’d just have the same role as the Jewish participants and thus we’d all be one big, happy family (not really, but that’s wish, anyway).
     But the commentary about the aforementioned portion of scripture is very interesting. It states “…he will command (yetzaveh) his children and his household,” as meaning he [Abraham] will “bring [his children and his household] into a communion (with G-d).”
     Except, because of our Abraham-like faith in Hashem through Yeshua, we can and are brought into communion with God. Having a halachic path identical to the Jewish people is completely unnecessary. How complicated does coming into communion with God have to be?" James Pyles, from:  http://mymorningmeditations.com/2015/06/26/we-are-students-of-abraham-communing-with-god/#comment-53116

I responded:

James,

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Genesis 18:19 say that Abraham would teach his household the singular "way" of the L-rd ("derech Adonai")?  If Jews and Gentiles who believe in Yeshua both belong to the household of Abraham and are meant to follow DIFFERENT ways of life then shouldn't the Torah have said that Abraham would teach his household the PLURAL "ways" of the L-rd ("derechim Adonai")?


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Blood Moons: Is Something Big Going to Happen in September 2015?



Recently, someone asked me to read Hagee's book about the Blood Moon tetrads.  So, last night before bed, I finally glanced through it.  My impression was that Mr. Hagee is very pro-Israel and well meaning.  And may G-d bless him and anyone who actively blesses Israel.

But what of these "blood moons"?

So, to summarize, since 1492, there has only been 3 tetrads of blood moons (groups of four), each instance coinciding with a major event for the Jewish People (e.g. the Spanish Inquisition, Modern Rebirth of Israel, and the Six Day War which resulted in the reunification of Jerusalem).

And the next blood moon, the last in the tetrad, is apparently coming up on...

September 28, 2015.  

That's this upcoming Sukkot (aka "Feast of Tabernacles").

So here's the thing.  I don't put a lot of stock in these types of things.  I mean, one could find something horrible occurring in just about any date--or something really good occurring in just about any date.  In other words, I'm a skeptic.

That said...

We're already commanded to be vigilant, awaiting the Day of L-rd.  We're already commanded to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  So let's continue doing what we're supposed to be doing.  And that way, if something does occur this September, and that's a big "if", then we will not be caught off guard.

That's my take anyway.  Does anyone have any thoughts about these blood moons?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

UPDATE: TNN Online is Now "Messianicapologetics.net"

Everyone should note that McKee's materials can now be found at the following address:



Identifying the Alpha and Omega in Revelation 22:13



"This is what the LORD says-- Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God," Isaiah 44:6
" 'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty,'" Rev. 1:8 
"And he said to me, 'It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment,'" Rev. 21:6 
" 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end,'" Rev. 22:13

Some musings from this morning:

Recently I became interested in the book of Revelation (earlier post).  So yesterday I was examining how there are 3 times where G-d says in it "I am the Alpha and Omega."  And I noticed that the Christian scholars tend to say that Jesus is speaking in Revelation 22:13.

But it's very tricky determining the speaker in Revelation 22:13.  

At one point, there's an angel interjecting because he had to inform John that he was just an angel and only G-d should receive worship.  But then suddenly the speaker changes and it's G-d talking and making the self proclamation "I am the Alpha and Omega."  Up until that point in Revelation, only the G-d the Father appears to have used this expression "Alpha and Omega" as a self-referent.

And so, to my consternation, I learned that the scholars are divided on who exactly is talking in 22:13--is it Jesus or G-d the Father?

But I think I figured out though how we can attribute 22:13 to Yeshua.

Note that in 22:13 we are given the clarifying name "the first and the last."  But in chapter 1 and chapter 2 of Revelation we learn that the "first and the last" is the one who "died and came back to life", the one who is the "Son of Man."

This indicates that the speaker in 22:13 is Yeshua, the Son of Man, the Resurrected One.  Also, that fits with the rest of the passage in 22.



MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:

I came across a good quote that provides an exegetical rule of thumb for how to interpret the predicative vs. absolute forms of "I am" in the book of John:

"In its predicative form...'I am' is a grammatically normal enough statement...When 'I am' lacks even an implied predicate, however, it becomes unintelligible except as an allusion to God's name..." Keener, The Gospel of John, pgs. 769-770


Friday, June 19, 2015

Trinity Question: Reflecting on the Works of the Late Bryan Huie (Author of "Here a Little, There a Little" Site)



Not too long ago I visited a Messianic congregation and felt the strangest feeling.  There was a public discussion on a certain matter--I don't recall the topic--and I made reference to the concept of the Trinity (the concept that Yeshua is co-equal with G-d the Father, sharing those exclusive divine traits of eternality, omnipotence, etc).

Oops.

There was immediate resistance which I hadn't anticipated.

I was caught off guard that I would be the sole defender of the Divinity of Yeshua in a roomful of Messianics--at least that's what it felt like.

So I immediately consulted semi-privately with one of the elders there.  And I quickly discovered that my views upset him greatly.  I felt the urge to flee, glancing toward the door.  But I stayed for praise and worship, tears streaming down my face the whole time--which is natural for me whenever I praise and worship.  Afterward, the elder apologized.  And let me say there is no ill will whatsoever on my end.  That said, I feel the need to explore the underlying theological divide that causes such strong emotions.

Now, I don't know how widespread the teachings of Brian Huie became.  Perhaps he's not the source of these ideas.  But I sense that Huie's teachings describe those held by a lot of Messianics--the view that Yeshua is merely the head of the divine council, one of the many bnei elohim.  You can see Bryan's position here: LINK.

I'd like for folks to share their thoughts.  Does Huie's position have any merit?  Are there any flaws in his reasoning?  He teaches that Yeshua is NOT co-equal with the Father.  But are there verses which contradict this assertion?

Discussion time for the brave.  : )

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

First Orthodox Female Rabbis?


Just came across this on the internets:  LINK

Was the Original "Shield of David" a Hexagram or a Menorah?

Of course we all know that the hexagram "Star of David" only recently became a widespread symbol for the Jewish People (19th century).  According to Gerben Oegema, the first intermittent examples of the hexagram in Judaism come from the seventh century--but it wasn't widespread at that time.  The hexagram was originally a symbol associated with non-Jewish magic and mysticism and was only slowly adopted by the Jewish People as a Jewish symbol.

But not many folks know that there is an old Jewish tradition that holds that David's shield was actually the Menorah:
"According to a strong Jewish tradition, the image displayed on King David's shield was not, as many have assumed, a six-pointed star (the so-called Magen David) but a menorah inscribed with these words:  'May God be gracious to us, and bless us and make his face to shine upon us.'  The menorah was likely the shield of David as well as the seal of Solomon.  The Golden Menorah, published in Prague in the sixth century, declared, 'This psalm, together with the menorah, is an allusion to great things...King David used to bear this psalm inscribed, pictured, and engraved on his shield, on a sheet of gold, in the shape of the menorah, when he went forth to battle, and he would meditate on its mystery, and conquer," John D. Garr, God's Lamp, Man's Light:  Mysteries of the Menorah, pg. 174
 So was the real shield of David a hexagram or a Menorah?  Guess we may never know.

But, for our purposes, there's no reason to search for anything other than the Menorah.  After all, the Menorah symbolizes Yeshua, the Light of the World.  So why look for a better symbol?

Only the Torah-Observant May Enter "New Jerusalem": A Look at Revelation 22:14


"Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.  For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie," Revelation 22:14 (KJV)
In the primary texts of Rabbinic Judaism, the consensus of the Sages was that there are 2 segments of humanity:  Israel and the Idolaters (see Neusner's "Restoring Judaism" for an analysis of the Rabbinic texts).  Recently, I began to re-examine the Book of Revelation which also reflects this dichotomy as you can see from the above passage.  So the Biblical idea is very simple:  there are those who realize their calling as restored Humanity (via Yeshua, the "Last Adam") and those who reject this calling (i.e. the idolaters).  The restored Humanity gets to return to "Eden" and partake of the Tree of Life.  And so, in this paradigm, the Bible becomes a love letter written to all of humanity explaining how we can be restored to the Garden of Eden and once again have a face-to-face relationship with our loving Creator.



May everyone reading this make the decision--TODAY--to enter into His light and take hold of the Tree of Life.
"She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed," Proverbs 3:18


NOTES:

The above reading of Revelation 22:14 is found in the King James and Aramaic Bible but is also found in texts from circa 2nd century C.E. such as the following:

"Thus, too, again: Blessed they who act according to the precepts, that they may have power over the tree of life and over the gates, for entering into the holy city. Dogs, sorcerers, fornicators, murderers, out!" Tertullian, On Modesty (208 C.E.), quoting Revelation 22:14

"In the Apocalypse...'Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have power over the tree of life'," Cyprian (251 C.E.), quoting Revelation 22:14

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Babies in the Womb Can Feel Pain at 20 Weeks--According to Doctors



Most days I have to drive past a Planned Parenthood Clinic.   My heart sinks every time.  G-d loves each baby--no matter what side of the womb it's on.

Here's an interesting article to remind us of the humanity of those unborn children:

LINK

Responding to James Pyles "Are Messianic Gentiles Korach?" Post


"So if any Gentile were to claim equal rights to the Sinai and New Covenants as members and citizens of Israel, it would be the height of hubris, and indeed, pride and arrogance are things that Korach has been accused of throughout the ages. If any of we Messianic Gentiles made such a demand, we’d be on par with Korach, cut from the same cloth," James Pyles, retrieved from: http://mymorningmeditations.com/2015/06/16/are-messianic-gentiles-korach/
I just have 2 quick points on this.  

First, if it's the sin of Korach to say that Gentile Believers are citizens in Israel then Paul would be guilty for writing Ephesians 2 which literally says Gentiles are politeia (citizens) in Israel (for more on this see LINK 1 and LINK 2).  

Second, if it's the sin of Korach to say that Gentile Believers should be circumcised and keep the Torah of Moses then Isaiah would be guilty because he wrote that the uncircumcised shouldn't enter into Zion (Isaiah 52) but rather all the Gentiles should keep the Torah of Moses (e.g. Shabbat) and hold fast to the covenant in order that the Temple becomes a house of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56).  

That's my take.  Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Monday, June 15, 2015

The "Profane" Book: Why the Fathers of Protestantism Wanted to Get Rid of the Book of Revelation

 "In the Reformation period, a determined theological criticism was raised for the first time.  In the preface to his September Testament of 1522, Luther bluntly denied that Revelation had the character of an apostolic witness, for two reasons.  First, in his view it lacked the clarity of didactic statements.  Revelation is neither apostolic nor prophetic because 'the apostles do not deal with visions, but prophesy in clear and plain words, as do Peter and Paul, and Christ in the Gospel' (Works 35:398).  Second, Luther contended that Revelation's witness to Christ lagged behind that of Paul and the Gospels.  He concluded that Christ 'is neither taught nor known in it.  But to teach Christ, this is the thing which an apostle is bound above all else to do' (p. 399).  Zwingli is no less clear in the Bern disputation:  'I do not accept the witness of Revelation because it is not a biblical book.'  Finally, Calvin passed over it in silence in his Bible commentary," Jurgen Roloff, Revelation, pg. 2


Speaking as an ex-Protestant Christian, I can sympathize with Luther, Swingli, and Calvin.  It seems ironic that such a mysterious book would be titled "Revelation."  The only thing that seems to be revealed in it is a series of impossible riddles.  Murphy writes:
"When texts do not conform to what we expect of them, we are surprised and often frustrated.  For most modern readers, reading Revelation is a unique experience.  They have never read a book like this before, foreign to their world in both form and content.  Since they cannot fit it into any familiar category, they may dismiss it as cryptic, disturbing, or irrelevant,"Frederick J. Murphy, Fallen is Babylon:  The Revelation to John
And our frustration is compounded by the apparent intentionality behind the strangeness:
"Apocalyptic language is not simple and straightforward.  The strangeness of apocalyptic discourse makes it hard to determine exactly what some apocalypses mean.  Apocalypses use complicated codes in which referents are masked rather than specified.  That has suggested to some that apocalypses are meant to convey information to those who understand the codes, while hiding the message from others.  The message would be clear to those holding the key to its imagery, but gibberish to others," Frederick J. Murphy, The Religious World of Jesus, pg. 167 
 I'll be honest with you, until this past weekend I had little interest in the Book of Revelation.  I simply had no idea how to approach it.  But then I came across a book by Brian Metzger titled "Breaking the Code:  Understanding the Book of Revelation" in which he writes:
"...it is important to recognize that the descriptions are descriptions of symbols, not of the reality conveyed by the symbols," pg. 14
"We must remember that the objects and events seen in a vision are not physically real.  As was mentioned earlier (pp. 12-13), Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37) and Peter's vision of a great sheet let down from heaven and filled with all kinds of unclean creatures (Acts 10) were perceived in a trance.  Such things seen in a vision are not physically present.  So too, in the book of Revelation the descriptions are not descriptions of real occurrences, but of symbols of the real occurrences.  The intention is to fix the reader's thought, not upon the symbol, but upon the idea that the symbolic language is designed to convey," pg. 66
So the Book of Revelation is encoded in several ways.  One, the author, John, was probably not wanted to say anything explicitly anti-Rome and so he had to encode it:
"The beast on which the woman is seated is Rome, as in 13:1-8.  Its seven heads represent both the 'seven hills' that had been for generations the trademark of Rome and the 'seven kings,' the full line of Roman emperors (17:9-10).  As another parody of the name God's people wear on their foreheads, harlot Rome has a name of mystery emblazoned on her forehead:  'Babylon the Great' (17:5)...In Jewish tradition, 'Babylon' came to mean 'Rome' after Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 66-70 C.E., as Babylon had done in 586 B.C.E. (cf. II Esdr. 3:1-3; 1 Peter 5:13)," M. Eugene Boring, Revelation, pg. 180
But the primary way that Revelation is encoded is in the very nature of the genre.  It's a very specific type of Jewish literature:
Apocalyptic developed out of Old Testament prophecy and wisdom literature in the postexilic period.  Apocalyptic sections containing visions regarding the end time can be found in Isaiah (24-27), Zechariah (12-14), and Joel.  However, the great mass of apocalyptic literature arose between 150 B.C. and A.D. 100.  To a certain degree it may be seen as resulting from the experience of the Jewish people, who in the period following the loss of an independent nationhood were at the mercy of the great world powers.  The larger question to which an answer is sought in apocalyptic literature is that of the goal that God has established for world history and the place that the endangered presence of Israel will occupy in the framework of God's plan of history.  Thus the first great apocalypse, the Book of Daniel, which was written at the time of oppression by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.), portrays a large-scale view of history.  The end of the Seleucid dynasty, the last of the four great world powers, is imminent; in the near future God will bring about the end time and rescue Israel, the people of the 'saints of the most high' (Dan. 7:2-27), from all oppression.  Similarly, later apocalypses, such as Baruch and 4 Ezra attempted to counter the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 by sketching God's hidden plan for history, according to which the end of the hostile world power was to be awaited in the immediate future.  The essential function of Jewish apocalypses, therefore, is to serve as books of comfort:  they offer hope for the approaching era of salvation and thereby make perseverance possible in the perilous present.  Their secondary function is that of reminder (parenesis) and warning.  The intention is to show the pious that in their present critical situation everything depends on their steadfastness," Jurgen Roloff, Revelation
To conclude, the Book of Revelation can be misused given that folks want to get overly speculative with their interpretations.  But we should use the book as it was intended--as a source of comfort, knowing that no matter how bad things get, there will be a better future, that G-d will bring an end to the suffering and usher in an era of peace and joy:
"Eschatological thought goes beyond the general affirmation of the doctrine of providence, 'God is guiding history,' to a more specific statement:  'God is guiding history to a final goal.'  The doctrine of providence, as such, affirms that history has a Lord, but not that history has an end.  Providential thinking has no necessary place for thought about the 'end of the world.'  It is concerned with the process, not the goal, of history.  Eschatological thought, on the other hand, is the counterpart to the doctrine of creation:  Just as the world history have not always existed, but came into being by the act of the Creator, so this world and its history are not eternal, but will be brought to their goal by the God who declares not only that he is the Alpha but also the Omega of all that is (Rev. 1:8; these are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet).  Although 'end of the world' thinking is often thought of as gloomy and pessimistic, we shall see that in the Bible generally and in Revelation in particular the doctrine of the end of this world is a joyous hope to be celebrated--and that not because of any negative view of this world and its values...In a vast variety of imagery and forms of thought, many passages in the Old Testament indicate that the present state of the world is not God's final will for it.  Rather he will bring the world into a fulfilled state which does represent his own will for his creation," M. Eugene Boring, Revelation


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

New Contact Form

I'm seeing that a lot of folks noticed the new contact section on the right side of main screen below the "comments" section.  It's a new blogger application that is apparently working MUCH better than my old contact form (which I had to create by using my limited hacking skills).  So I would like to apologize to anyone who may have been frustrated by the old contact form which routed messages to an email address that I used infrequently.  Things should work smoothly going forward.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Israel and Idolaters, the Two Segments of Humanity: How the World's Most Prestigious Jewish Scholar of Rabbinic Judaism Defines "Israel"


Not too long ago, I talked about how Neusner, a scholar who has written over 950 books, translated the entire rabbinic corpus, given lectures in 6 or 7 different languages, and is quoted in every major work of Christian and Jewish scholarship on the topic of Rabbinic Judaism, how he happens to be...drum roll.......One Law.  His primary work on One Law is entitled Recovering Judaism.  But in reality there's a bit of One Law in all his writings.

Well, just today I was reading another of his books, the Emergence of Judaism, and noted that he provided a similar definition of Israel to the one he offered in Recovering Judaism.  So, for anyone interested in how a well-respected Jewish scholar defines Israel, here ya go:

THE EMERGENCE OF JUDAISM:

"The Definition of Israel

Israel in Judaism, and What about the Gentiles?

Today when people speak of 'Israel,' they refer only to the state of Israel.  But that usage is very recent.  It began in 1948, when the State of Israel was proclaimed.  From that time the meaning of 'Israel' has varied, sometimes referring to a place, sometimes to the community of Judaism as it did until 1948.
      The point is that in Judaism from Scripture forward the word Israel has had a different meaning.  In the Torah and in prayers 'Israel' refers to the holy people of God:  the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who stood at Sinai.  'Israel' refers to those who receive the Torah--God's revealed will-and enter the covenant with God.  'Israel' then encompasses those born into the people and those that join the people by choice.
      What difference does it make to be part of Israel?  When people call themselves 'Israel,' they adopt for themselves and take personally the narrative of the Torah.  They regard themselves as part of that group of which the Torah speaks.  That is an act of religious faith and theological affirmation.  It is not a mere genealogical description, let alone a political platform," Jacob Neusner, The Emergence of Judaism."

RECOVERING JUDAISM:

"Then all things depend upon who and what is 'Israel.'  The universality of Judaic monotheism emerges when we realize that that 'Israel' will encompass all who know the one true God.  The restorationist theology provides for an eternal life matching the promise of Eden at the outset; to be Israel means to live and not die--Adam redivivus.  And every human being has the opportunity of eternal life.  By Israel then is meant those who know God and accept his dominion, and by gentiles or non-Israel, those who worship idols.  There are no other lines of differentiation in common humanity,"

"What about the charge that Judaism is an ethnic, particularistic religion, not a universalistic one?  We now realize full well that, in Judaic monotheism, eschatology forms a category that encompasses al humanity.  The world to come marks the final condition of world order.  It signifies the realization of correct and perfect relationships between God and humanity, God and Israel in particular.  Israel encompasses all those who worship the one God, and the rest are classified as idolaters."


"But because the sages set forth a restorationist Torah, guiding humanity back to Eden, now for eternal life, the sages underscore the universalistic vision of the written Torah.  The one and only God has given the Torah to show humanity embodied in Israel the way back to the land that is Eden"


"God formed creation in accord with a plan, which the Torah reveals.  World order can be shown by the facts of nature and society set forth in that plan to conform to a pattern of reason based upon justice.  Those who possess the Torah--Israel--know God, and those who do not--the gentiles--reject him in favor of idols.  To be Israel then means to know God, and to be gentile means not to know God.  What happens to each of the two sectors of humanity responds to their relationship with God."


"How does Judaism accomplish its universalistic aspiration?  In its world-encompassing conception, Judaism tells the story of God and humanity, specifically, of God's failure and hopes for ultimate success in making humanity.  The story takes shape in stories of beginnings, specifically accounts of Eden and the fall from grace to death, then Israel and its fall from the land to exile.  But Judaism carries the story forward to Israel's ultimate return, guided by the Torah, to the Eden of the land of Israel.  Then the Torah, within the tale of Judaism, comprises God's self-manifestation to Moses at Mount Sinai, God's will for humanity set forth to Israel in oral and written form.  Adam's fall from Eden, embodied in death that comes to everyone, finds its counterpart in Israel's exile from the land of Israel, but then the counterpart, Israel's return to the land at the end of time, inaugurates the final chapter in resurrection, judgment, and entry into life eternal in 'the world to come.'  Israel then stands for humanity, fallen into death, risen into eternal life.

     Now 'Israel' within the same story encompasses all those who know the one and only God:  the saving remnant of humanity in the aftermath of Adam and Eve, this time destined to life eternal."

Plan B: Abraham as G-d's Contingency Plan for Rebuilding Fallen Humanity

So in the last post I began to address the bilateralist teaching that says:
"Since there are 2 families on earth, the Sons of Adam and the Sons of Abraham, it follows that there are 2 ways of life for humanity, the Jewish way of life and the Gentile way of life."
And I began, in somewhat sloppy fashion, to explore the possibility that in G-d's providential plan for humanity, Abraham serves as Adam's replacement and that this indicates that the Torah given to Abraham's descendants is, logically, a Torah for all mankind.

In this post, I want to have a "do over", building on the insights from the comments in the last post, and share 2 ways in which Torah describes Abraham as the replacement Adam:

(1)  Abraham as Inheritor of the Word:



In the beginning, Adam was given the world:
"And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it..." Gen. 1:28
But then later we read that Abraham was given the world:
"...and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring," Genesis 28:4
Also:
"For not through law is the promise to Abraham, or to his seed, of his being heir of the world [kleronomon auton einai kosmou], but through the righteousness of faith," (Romans 4:13)
The Prophets describe this spreading abroad of Abraham's descendants like a vast tent:
"(1) Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth, and shout, you who are not in labor!  Because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her that has a husband, for the Lord has spoken.  (2) Enlarge the site of your tent, and the coverings of your curtains; make it firm; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. (3) because you must spread out to the right and to the left, and your offspring will inherit the nations and will inhabit the cities that have become desolate," Isaiah 54:1-3
In this way, Abraham has taken over Adam's role of inheriting the entire world.

(2) Abraham as Father of the World:

In the beginning, Adam was the original father of many nations:
"This is the written account of Adam's family line. When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God," Gen. 5:1
But then later we read that Abraham took on the role of being the father of many nations:
"No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations," Gen. 17:5
And it is from this point that we understand everyone should follow in the practices of our father Abraham:
"They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Yeshua said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did," John 8:39
What works exactly?  
"For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him," Genesis 18:19
Later in the Bible we learn that the Way of the L-rd is the Torah:
"O the happiness of those perfect in the way, they are walking in the law of Adonai," Psalm 119:1
In this way, Abraham has taken over Adam's role of teaching the entire world.  We are not told to follow in the way of our ancestor Adam but rather to follow in the way of our ancestor Abraham.


NOTES:

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

"6.[THEN THE LORD GOD FORMED] THE MAN:  for the sake of Abraham.  R. Levi said:  It is written, The greatest man among the Anakim (Josh. XIV, 15): 'man' means Abraham, and why is he called the greatest man?  Because he was worthy of being created before Adam, but the Holy One, blessed be He, reasoned:  'He may sin and there will be none to set it right.  Hence I will create Adam first, so that if he sins, Abraham may come and set things right.'  R. Abba b. Kahana said:  In general practice, when a man joints a pair of beams [so that they meet] at a slope, where does he place them?  Surely in the middle of the chamber, so that they may support th beams in front and behind.  Even so, why did the Lord create Abraham in the middle of generations?  In order that he might bear the generations before and after him.  R. Levi said:  You bring a virtuous woman into the house of a corrupt one [to teach the corrupt one], but you do not bring a corrupt woman into the house of a virtuous one [to teach the virtuous one]," Genesis Rabbah, 14:6


Friday, June 5, 2015

Are the Gentiles Fools for Thinking the Bible is a Love Letter Written to Them?

I understand now why Derek Leman decided to offer himself for adoption into the Jewish people:
"If you are not Jewish, God was not speaking directly to you when he gave Torah. You can see this for yourself by reading Exodus 19, the chapter just before the Ten Commandments," Derek Leman, retrieved from:  http://www.derekleman.com/2015/03/24/how-to-read-the-bible-if-youre-not-jewish/
He wanted G-d's love letter, the Torah, to be written to him.  While I don't agree with his methods, I can completely sympathize with the underlying need to be loved by G-d.

But is it possible that the Torah was a love letter written to all of humanity?

The issue is how to reconcile the apparent discontinuity between the universalistic beginning of the Bible in which the Bible appears to be addressed to all of the descendants of Adam and Eve and the fact that after Abraham the Bible appears to be addressed primarily to the genealogical descendants of Abraham.

So is the Bible written to Sons of Adam (i.e. humanity) or Sons of Abraham?  But is that question correct?  Or is there another option?

If we look at Abraham as a representative for humanity (Adam), then the possibility emerges that G-d never gave up on Adam, that there is no discontinuity in the Bible--it's all the story of how G-d redeems mankind!  

This idea of representatives for humanity shouldn't seem alien because, after all, Yeshua, a Son of Abraham, was called the second Adam:

"So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit," 1 Cor. 15:45

Interesting that it says "last" Adam referring to Yeshua.  Were there other Adams?  Indeed, we could look at Noah as another Adam.  In a way, each man is an Adam as we are all Sons of Adam.  But only a few such sons were singled out by G-d to represent humanity.

Abraham became Israel.  And Yeshua is known as the man Israel because He represented Israel.  And Yeshua, as stated before, represented humanity.  And Abraham represented Israel.  Therefore, Abraham also represented humanity.  

So if we look at Abraham as a representative for humanity then the Torah given to Abraham's "descendants" is really a love letter written to ALL of humanity!

Anyway, this is just a musing and I'd like to hear some opinions.  Am I wrong?




Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Didache: The Teaching of the 12 Apostles? (Responding to FFOZ and James Pyles)



So there are some in the Messianic movement who cite to the Didache as evidence that the Apostles taught a different way of life for the Gentiles, a way of life distinct from Judaism.  James Pyles', a blogger promoted by the UMJC, says this:

"I’m convinced that the Didache was a guide for Jewish disciples to make Gentile novices into disciples of Yeshua, but obviously, it fell into disuse when Gentiles exited the ancient Messianic Jewish community," from the comments section of his post found here: http://mymorningmeditations.com/2015/06/01/what-am-i-chopped-liver/
But what do the actual scholars say?  Here's the reality about the reliability of the Didache:
"There is only one complete text of the Didache, that manuscript which was discovered by Archbishop Philotheos Bryennios in 1875 in the Patriarchal Library in Constantinople (Hierosolymitanus 54).  This eleventh-century manuscript is the standard text upon which most scholarship on the Didache is based.  In their reliance upon a single manuscript, and such a late one at that, scholars understand themselves to tread upon very thin ice....how certain can we be that the Didache manuscript of Bryennios represents the text as it was known in the first century?"  Jefford, The Didache in Context:  Essays on Its Text, History, and Transmission
Does that sound reliable to any of you?

Here's the real question:  why would FFOZ and James Pyles promote such an unreliable text?

Hmmm....

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Professor Sandel's Tip for Fostering Enjoyable Dialogue


Several summers back (I don't remember when exactly), I watched the videotaped lectures for Professor Sandel's "Justice" class at Harvard.  I remember there was one particular episode where 2 students were debating the merits of gay marriage and one student, a female, in order to make her point, asked the other student, a male, about something very personal, something which is inappropriate to discuss in polite society.

And then Professor Sandel stepped in.

In a very diplomatic way, noting that the students had been doing very well discussing controversial subjects and maintaining civility, Mr. Sandel offered some advice to the young lady.  He said something to the effect of:
"Be sure to make your point in the form of a general argument rather than an interrogative."
It struck me as a very wise bit of advice and so I remembered it.  I like it because the goal of argumentation and dialogue should be a respectful exchange of ideas for the purposes of mutual learning.  No one wants to be interrogated by an adversary--that's miserable.  But to have someone offer a general point for consideration in the spirit of cooperation and respect--that's one of life's greatest pleasures! It's right up there with a chopped-liver-pastrami-corned-beef sandwich...



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Like Father, Like Son: What it Really Means to be Made in the Likeness (Demut) of the Righteous (Tzedek) G-d

"The Lord is righteous [tzadiq Adonai] in all His ways and kind in all His works," (Psalm 145:17)
"Then God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us..." (Genesis 1:26, New Living Translation)
"When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth," (Gen. 5:3)

When Christians use the term "righteous" they assume it means some sort of generic good divorced from any sort of absolute standard (such as Torah).  They read righteousness as "moral" (which can be defined in any way you want except the Law of Moses).

But is that what righteousness really means in the Scripture?

Here's what the Scripture teaches about righteousness:

"{18:5} But if a man be just (tzadik), and do that which is lawful and right, {18:6} [And] hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neighbour’s wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman (niddah), {18:7} And hath not oppressed any, [but] hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; {18:8} He [that] hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, [that] hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, {18:9} Hath walked in my statutes (chukkotai), and hath kept my judgments (mishpatai), to deal truly; he [is] just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD," (Ezekiel 18:5-9)
Well, that's a different sort of righteousness than what we were taught in Sunday school...

Scripture's type of righteousness is about ALL of the Biblical Law--defining righteousness by EVERYTHING G-d says is good to do, all of those commandments for which Israel will be called "wise and understanding."

QUESTION:

Did G-d create some of humanity for whom the law is unrighteousness?  Or is it righteous for all of humanity to follow?

As the verses above indicate, G-d is Himself righteousness, meaning that righteousness (as defined in Torah) defines who He is!  Everything in the Torah, the mitzvot, tells us about who He is!  It holds His essence, His likeness.

This word "likeness" is interesting and is related to the word for "blood."  What is G-d's likeness?  What is in His "blood"?

Righteousness.

And it is written that just as Adam's son was made in Adam's likeness, having his blood, Adam was made in G-d's likeness, having His "blood", the very essence of Torah.

So in Scripture we see that Torah is meant for all of humanity:
"And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind (Torat ha-Adam), O Lord GOD!" (2 Sam 7:19)
"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind," Ecclesiastes 12:13
And it is for all of humanity because we were created in the likeness of a righteousness G-d.  We were always meant to become like our Father and to walk in His Ways.

Anyone who says differently is committing a desecration of the Name.  Don't listen to such people! But rather fear the One who made you and walk in His Ways!

Monday, June 1, 2015

How Will You Respond to the Call to Torah? (An Examination of Sifre Deuteronomy) [UPDATED]

I was thinking about Shavuot early this morning (there's an upcoming Shavuot celebration at Grove Ave. Baptist Church in Richmond VA on June 5th--it's advertised on their website for anyone who is in the area and interested).  And with a midrash from Sifre Deuteronomy on my mind, I was thinking about how Jews and Gentiles experience Shavuot differently.  For Jews, Shavuot is a triumph--the Jewish People (Israel) responding to the call to Torah.  For Gentiles, it's something of a dilemma.

For Christian Gentiles, Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah at Sinai to Israel, is completely irrelevant.  While Christians have mixed feelings about how they should relate to Israel, they are unanimously against the idea that the Torah of Moses should be binding as a Way of Life and be the only framework for informing our Worldview.

Messianic Gentiles, however, tend to feel conflicted about Shavuot, as they hear conflicting messages within the Messianic Movement about how Gentiles should relate to Torah.  First Fruits of Zion teaches that Gentiles are excluded from the Covenant People of Israel and not required to keep the Torah of Moses and therefore Gentiles have an ambiguous identity:

"[The Acts 15 decision] left open questions about observance and intergenerational continuity.  By not requiring Gentiles to take on the legal status of Jews, the apostles created a new category, so to speak.  Neither Jew nor proselyte, the Gentile believer was left with an ambiguous and tenuous status among the people of God that can best be described as that of a God-fearer:  a monotheist non-Jew worshipping in a Jewish context,” Boaz Michael, D. Thomas Lancaster, “ ‘One Law’ and the Messianic Gentile”, Messiah Journal 101.
Today, I'd like to point to an enlightening Midrash containing in Sifre Deuteronomy.  It offers a story in which G-d offered the Torah to all of mankind before finally deciding to give the Torah just to Israel.  It's enlightening because of the REASONS that Gentile mankind offered for rejecting the Torah.  Each time G-d offered the Torah, Gentiles rejected it because acceptance would've meant forfeiting Gentile-ness (and becoming indistinguishable from Israel):

"1.
A. Another teaching concerning the phrase, 'He said, 'The LORD came from Sinai':
B.  When the Omnipresent appeared to give the Torah to Israel, it was not to Israel alone that he revealed himself but to every nation.
C.  First of all he came to the children of Esau.  He said to them, 'Will you accept the Torah?'
D.  They said to him, 'What is written in it?'
E.  He said to them, 'You shall not murder' (Exod. 20:13)
F.  They said to him, 'The very being of 'those men'...and of their father is to murder, for it is said, 'But the hands are the hands of Esau' (Gen. 27:22).  'By your sword you shall live' (Gen. 27:40).'
G.  So he went to the children of Ammon and Moab and said to them 'Will you accept the Torah?'
H.  They said to him, 'What is written in it?'
I.  He said to them, 'You shall not commit adultery' (Exod. 20:13).'
J.  They said to him, 'The very essence of fornication belongs to them...for it is said, 'Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father' (Gen. 19:36).'
K.  So he went to the children of Ishmael and said to them, 'Will you accept the Torah?'
L.  They said to him, 'What is written in it?'
M.  He said to them, 'You shall not steal' (Exod. 20:13)
N.  They said to him, 'The very essence of their...father is thievery, as it is said, 'And he shall be a wild ass of a man,' (Gen. 16:12).'
O.  And so it went.  He went to every nation, asking them, 'Will you accept the Torah?'
P.  For so it is said, 'All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth' (Ps. 138:4).
Q.  Might one suppose that they listened and accepted the Torah?
R.  Scripture says, 'And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the nations, because they did not listen' (Mic. 5:14).
S.  And it is not enough for them that they did not listen, but even the seven religious duties that the children of Noah indeed accepted upon themselves they could not uphold before breaking them.
T.  When the Holy One, blessed be he, saw that that is how things were, he gave them to Israel."

CONCLUSION:

One day Gentiles will stop being Gentiles as they destroy their "idols" and go to Jerusalem to learn the Torah.  Why?  Because those who G-d calls will make a decision to answer His call rather than making up excuses, "I cannot accept because acceptance would mean that I must change my identity."  But they will say, "I will hear and do everything you say even if it means forfeiting my Gentile identity, my idolatry, my ancestral laws;  I will join your People and follow your Torah."