Responding to a Response: The Internet, Messianic Judaism, and the Myth of Biblical Judaism

Theology has implications. Part of the task of talking about God’s ways to concrete communities of faith is considering those implications.

In a post earlier this week I took issue with a blog by Nate Long because the implications of his thought, in my opinion, are harmful and destructive. Nate has responded by suggesting that I am misinterpreting him and attacking a straw man.

I wish that were true. I wish we could all just agree with everything and decide our differences are of small consequence. They are not. They affect real people and real communities. What I wish to accomplish here is to demonstrate to Nate and those who think as he does that the One Law position he espouses harms the cause of God in this world. That is not to say there is nothing good about One Law communities. There is plenty that is good. I am trying to call out the harmful elements and I hope the helpful elements will be retained.

Does the One Law Position Respect Judaism’s Interpretation of Its Own Torah?
I asserted that Nate’s article failed to respect Judaism’s own views of its own Torah. Before I begin, I hope I don’t need to convince anyone that the Torah is from God to Israel. Christianity also has a claim on the Torah, but it should be a claim that comes respectfully from the original audience to the expanded audience and not attempt to go around historical Jewish insight.

Nate says, regarding my critique,

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28 Responses to Responding to a Response: The Internet, Messianic Judaism, and the Myth of Biblical Judaism

  1. Graspingmashiach (Paula):

    You do make some good points.

    I hope you don’t feel too much heat radiating from your LED screen. I do value people like Nate and others who believe in Gentile Torah-obligation. I value their position as one very close to my own in many matters dear to my heart such as love for Israel.

    I think you make a good counter-argument to me that I will reword and simplify: Derek, you shoot yourself in the foot when you criticize Nate for disrespecting Jewish tradition while you yourself depart from Judaism on the important matter of faith in Yeshua and in his divinity.

    I think there are two issues here: (1) Have I spoken incorrectly about Nate’s alleged disrespect for Jewish interpretation? (2) Am I wrong to accept Jewish interpretation of Torah (in general) and yet reject Judaism’s decision that Yeshua-faith is apostasy?

    As to the first point, I would say, “You got me,” except for the fact that Nate does not merely disagree with Jewish interpretation regarding Torah, Israel, and the nations. Nate also makes statements about Judaism’s spiritual ignorance contrasted by him with Christianity’s spiritual enlightenment. Nonetheless, your point has merit and I will do a bit of editing in my response to Nate’s response because of it.

    As to the second point, I do not believe I am guilty of disrespecting Jewish interpretation of Torah because I accept Yeshua and the doctrine of his divinity. I believe, rather, that Judaism’s stance on Yeshua has nothing to do with Torah. It has to do with a reaction to supersessionist and oppressive Christianity. The church presented a false dichotomy–accept Jesus and reject Torah–as the gospel to Israel, and Jewish reaction to Yeshua has been based on those faulty assumptions bolstered by Crusades, Inquisitions, Pogroms, and anti-Semitism.

    In other words, I believe Torah is consistent with faith in Yeshua and with the doctrine of his divinity (I do not claim that Torah teaches faith in Yeshua or his divinity).

    Thanks for your challenging response.

    Derek

  2. James Prather says:

    Derek, well said. Respectful but with passion. “And I hope a day will come when One Law and Hebraic Roots groups will respect both Christianity as Torah-free and Judaism as communally Torah-bound.” I too pray for this day. Keep it up.

    Peace to you,

    James

  3. Christian for Moses says:

    Hi Derek,

    I think Paula has made a very good observation. Although you and I are somewhat on the same line when it comes to Torah observance for Gentiles and most certainly when it comes to the idea of One-Law, I do think you are not very consistent in your approach.

    I mean how careful are you in studying this whole issue, do you settle with a plain reading of the Gospels and the letters of Paul? Probably not or else you wouldnt have gotten to the whole idea of Yeshua and (!) Paul being Torah observant. I think this is the case for many people in MJ (or whatever label you would like to give it), when it comes to Torah observance they/you go out of your way to make the NT present a picture that does not abrogate the Torah but when it comes to Christology you are content with what the same Church Fathers taught you and simply dont question it, or at least not to the degree you question their stance on Torah observance [for Jewish believers].

    Im well aware that theres a certain fear, or at least can say that I had a certain fear of examining it but to simply accept it without thorough examination did not sit well with my attitude/approach to the NT that had led me to see the Torah in an ongoing positive way.

    Plz understand that I respect people’s understanding in the area of Christology and dont claim to have full truth, I just have doubts on the consistency in people’s approaches to these themes.

    Blessings,

    Daniel

  4. boazm says:

    Nate and Derek,

    Gosh guys, I cannot get this discussion out of my mind. I feel that I need to chime in, but I really have no energy for this. These are very difficult issues; I am sure the truth is somewhere in the middle

  5. Connie says:

    “I believe, rather, that Judaism

  6. louismmvii says:

    Great point Boazm! This is the very reason why I would like to butt in here for a minute. BTW Paula, great observation. Conflicting perspective of heart always generates interesting waves. So, I would like to pose a reconciling question that would help me with a current endeavor.

    -Derek, Nate, and other readers of this blog I would very much appreciate your thoughts.

    I am an artist working on a literary/musical masterpiece (to me). Now don’t take me wrong here, as an artist we know the impact of each work/project and consider the importance of each based on our very own enthralled affinity. And by this, careful research is of transcendent significance. Hence my interest in your discussions, that,perhaps could find their way into this project.

    Anyway, the book is rather large in page number and covers even ages through the here and now. Amongst many important figures the story focuses on three individuals. Basically a modern day fairy-tale set out to prove kismet.

    What I am asking for here are your actual thoughts or ruminations on the personality of the real life Yeshua. This requires you to think for yourself, not just go and cite some scripture, because scripture and its transcending commentary only depict so much and are indicative of your personal beliefs anyway. And Derek, I mean even Rambam commentary, which undoubtedly has influenced your thoughts on HaMashiach. Nate, your thoughts, which are as important, although I don’t know if your literary/scholarly influences are of Maimonides as I suppose with Derek(and I may be wrong), which is even better, because the contrast in disagreement yields more succulent fruit. So, if you truly believe in Yeshua then your commentary albeit contrasting would be most interesting.

    So, for example, what is your thoughts on the modern, this day and age Yeshua? He promised to return, but how would that happen? Didn’t Y’shua cleverly open all doors on this thought? “In the clouds of glory” and “Like a thief at night” Would he re enter the world through the womb? What land, what city? How would G-d have kept him hidden from modern day Herod’s? Would G-d alert the wise star/time watchers and direct their attention to his secret surprise? What kind of personality would he have?Would he really be a glory seeker, or would he do his thing covertly? And of course, what about Mary? If Yeshua left the earth wanting to marry Mary, would his search for her be first on the to-do list ? What do you think Mary would be like as a person? Would it be the same thing all over again? She the youngest of 3 from affluence, he not so affluent…….

    Once again I would appreciate all your scholarly input.

  7. louismmvii says:

    Wow Connie! Strong words. Are you saying that Yeshua is the best choice of the long list of promised messiahs to come back? To apologize to Israel for all the trouble his followers caused….1,500 years worth. What the heck, let’s just make it 2,000 years. Great point!

    Interesting! I’m going to put this twist in my novel.

    Thanks;)

  8. mchuey says:

    Looking at all of the opinions present on this, and its previous post, I would first like to concur on how the independent One Law Messianics generally take a view of the Torah that is a-traditional, if not sometimes anti-traditional. If such people ever hope to make an impact on the greater Jewish community–and even have internal stability among themselves–this approach will need to change and the halachah of the Synagogue will need to be integrated to a greater extent.

    Yet at the same time, our identity as Messianics–even Messianic Jews–is predicated on the assumption that we do not adhere to all strains of Jewish theology. We believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, after all! It is not at all surprising that we might have some other major differences with the Synagogue, such as Torah applicability for the nations and Christology. These would be areas where some of us might feel that the message and trajectory of Scripture has been missed by Jewish theology, and the Christian theological tradition is, in fact, a bit closer.

    I would respectfully submit that some of the sentiments and responses that I have seen to these posts are a bit na

  9. MCHuey:

    I don’t think continual fracturing is the future of MJ. I think the future of MJ is the part of the movement that takes Judaism seriously (mjti.com, umjc.net, hashivenu.org, etc.).

    I think MJ is a term that should be reserved for the Judaism that is centered in Messiah Yeshua. The many fine groups who are Christians practicing Torah are increasingly being seen as outsiders to MJ. Hebraic Christianity is really something different and over time more and more people are seeing that.

    Louismmvii:

    Wow, man, you and I are not on the same page at all. I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I can’t help you with something I don’t agree with at all.

    Connie:

    Spot on, as usual.

    Derek

  10. mchuey says:

    The big debate that will emerge in the years to come is whether the current approach of Messianic Jewish Believers to non-Jewish Believers embracing a life of Torah obedience is something warranted from an honest assessment of Biblical missiology. Does “Commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:11-12) mean some kind of a British Commonwealth of Nations, where non-Jewish Believers are like Canadians or Australians–whose monarch sits far across the seas–or will it be like the Commonwealth of Virginia or the Commonwealth of Kentucky, where all who reside in the domain are required to observe the same set of laws and statutes? Which view actually does justice to the proper ancient defintion of [I]politeia[/I]?

    JKM

  11. MCHuey… your issue is really with the Apostles, and not with Messianic Judaism (which, for whatever strange reason and as a “Two House” advocate you seek to redefine in your own image shaped by your personal experiences as a non-Jewish person outside of the mainstream MJ.)

    Your so called “Messianic Chapter 2” is not based on the reality on the ground nor scripture – it’s just your personal theory – nothing is coming “in the years to come” to bring your “egalitarian” vision about within the mainstream MJ. It will have to stay within the pages of your website.

    The Apostles’ ruling is clear on whether Jews and Gentiles in the Body are subject to exactly the same “set of laws and statutes?” (is ANYONE subject to the SAME rules?):

  12. mchuey says:

    Gene, I and my family were involved in a UMJC congregation for a number of years in the late 1990s–Marty Waldman’s congregation Baruch HaShem in Dallas, TX in fact–so please do not treat me as being someone entirely outside of Messianic Judaism.

    I pray that the Lord may bless you abundantly today!

    JKM

  13. mchuey says:

    Oh and Gene, next time please quote from more reliable and older Bible manuscripts, and not the unreliable Textus Receptus:

    “But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication” (Acts 21:25, NASU).

    “THEY SHOULD OBSERVE NO SUCH THING” does not appear in the oldest texts. I wonder why later copyists thought it necessary to add this? Please see Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, pp 484-485.

  14. MCHuey…

    Sorry for being a bit brash with you.

    I can deduce from what you said that you’ve been out of the mainstream MJ for the last decade or so. If that’s the case, you’re still outside of the movement commenting on what’s going on on the inside. Being not Jewish, you feel that Jews discriminate against Gentiles in the MJ by not giving them equal say – is that the reason you left? At what time did you pick up the Two House/One Law theology – did you become open to it as the result of being “spurned” in the MJ by Jews? Curious… you can post the reply on your own blog.

    As far as the reliability of Textus Receptus goes, we can debate that until blue in the face. My Russian version of the Bible also includes “no such thing”. Whatever the case, even without those words, the meaning of that statement remains the same.

    Shalom. Gene

  15. mchuey says:

    Gene, our two ministry websites explain our experience in the broad Messianic movement. Our family has always had to make its own way, even among the independents with whom we have likewise had our (major) differences. This is undoubtedly why we promote a third way that has largely yet to be seen.

    Let’s do Derek a favor, and if you wish to discuss what we have in common/or and what we see differently, let’s do it civily and privately. If not, this will be my last post.

    JKM

  16. judahgabriel says:

    J.K.,

    God bless you for the long-suffering and patience I’ve seen you demonstrate in these posts and in the other blogs, time and again.

    You suffer insults and belittlement and being painted as an outcast, yet you respond with blessings? Man. Praise God.

    Thanks, man. Your attitude is such a refreshing drink. I praise the Lord for it.

  17. Judah… don’t make a martyr out of MCHuey (or yourself), PLEASE. Being long suffering doesn’t make up for the promotion of destructive teaching – and I have little patience for false teaching you promote. Even the long-suffering Shaul wasn’t very gracious or patient with those who he saw as seeking to enslave those who are free, namely teaching Gentile believers that they are equally obligated to follow Mosaic Law – which is what both of your actively advocate. (Galatians 5:12)

    Shaul didn’t extend his blessings, but I will: may G-d bless you both richly with wisdom to discern truth.

    Gene

  18. judahgabriel says:

    Hahah.

    Dear blog readers, I’m going to restate that last post by Gene as I read it:

    “Shame on you, Judah, for praising God for J.K.’s patience. I don’t like his views. I don’t like your views. I hate both of your views, and I will say nasty things about your views. May God bless you both with the ability to see things my way.”

    What a joke, man.

    —–

    J.K., thank you for your righteous example. God continue to bless you as He has.

  19. mchuey says:

    FYI for all…McHuey is the name of the blog where I am one of multiple posters. My surname is actually McKee, and the other posters’ surname is Huey, members of my extended family.

    This is why I sign all posts with my initials JKM.

  20. That’s was really funny Judah (I really laughed, seriously!) – you should be a comedian, but probably not a translator.

    Please contribute to the discussion on the topic, next time. And, feel free to attack me on my theology – I don’t mind and I don’t take it personally – if my views are wrong, they would be exposed (and so will be yours, if you they are not rooted in truth). I welcome a little sharpening.

    Gene

  21. judahgabriel says:

    Oh, Gene, what are we to do with your silly maneuvers? I won’t be drawn into another fruitless, negative debate with you, as you’ve proven to be the condescending teacher, and never the student. This servant of Messiah has enough scars from your bruising attacks.

    Signing off, and with apologies to Derek for hijacking this thread,
    -Judah

  22. Gene:

    You and I are on the same page and I hope you will keep reading and commenting. I have to say, though, today you went a bit into the negative range, it seems to me. We all have bad days. But I value Judah and JKM (and Nate and Daniel and Graspingmashiach) and others who come here. I find them to be respectful and the dialogue to be fruitful. I know I get a little mean myself sometimes too (Nate might think I have been a bit harsh on him, for example).

    Anyway, peace and love.

    Judah and JKM (MCHuey):

    Hope you guys keep coming back. Sorry for the nastiness. While we have our disagreements, I have not written you guys off by any means. Judah, in fact, has become a friend and I know we will hang together either when he is in Atlanta or I am in Minnesota.

    Derek

  23. mchuey says:

    Thank you, Derek. I have enjoyed our conversations and I have found you to be a gentleman. It has always been my hope that brothers and sisters can first focus on Yeshua (1 Corinthians 2:2), and work through their differences in a manner that brings glory to Him. We actually have more that binds us together than separates us. I would say that we only have *respectful* disagreements, rather than contentious ones.

    You are actually much closer to me than Judah!

    JKM

  24. Derek… will try to keep things a little more civil, but can’t promise no future theological skirmishes (or rather, defenses), some may be intense. After all, it’s half the fun around here, as most would agree. And, mo name calling, as usual.

    JKM & Judah… I’d have a beer with both of you if I were in your neck of the woods. Nothing personal.

    Gene

  25. peterygwendyta says:

    As a Christian who has been very interested in the hebraic roots of my faith and have many contacts within the messianic movement there are a few things which trouble me. There seems to be a lot of anger, with papers and counter papers over issues such as the Two House theology. I am not taking sides on this as I have read both arguments and both are equally persuasive. While there has been so much heat generated from this and other topics, on other topic which are more serious in my opinion there has been virtrual silence. Last summer there was the teaching of polygamy but I have not heard very much responce from anyone in the mainline messianic movement. There was also the teaching of the Whole wheat leavened bread teaching and the teaching stateing that Jesus was actually a leaper. While I may disagree with someone position on the Two house issue, there is nothing in this issue which would stop me fellowshipping with others of different opinions. But when someone teaches polygamy or that Jesus was a leaper then I am sorry but I cannot fellowship with them anymore. I know hundreds who up until last summer where learning a lot about hebraic roots and some where even on the verge of joinging Messianic congregations but when these issues started being taught they left. It wasn’t so much because of the groups that where teaching this but rather because many within mainstream Messianic Judaism not only did they not speak out against it, most did not even ackowledge it as an issue. I am still reading and learning about hebraic roots but it will take me years before I ever considered leaving Christianity to the Messianic Movement. If something similar to this had happened within Christianity you would have heard shouts, books, radio and Tv Programs against it or in favour of it, but the one thing you would not have had was people sticking their head in the sand and hoping the issues would go away. I am not saying this to attack Messianic Movement, but rather to help them understand how many people view what has happened in the last year. Up until last year this movement was growing rapidly but now they have lost 1000’s of people because of this. I am sorry for rambling. Just my thoughts,

    Peter

  26. Peter:

    I wouldn’t want anyone to get the idea that these arguments you are talking about have anything to do with Messianic Judaism. I considered deleting your comment because people might think from reading it that Messianic Jews have been arguing about the permissibility of polygamy or if Yeshua was a leper. But I decided instead to answer your email so people can get a clear message.

    Those debates did not happen in the Messianic Jewish movement. Fringe groups use the label Messianic Judaism to give themselves credibility. Messianic Judaism does not exhibit the kind of freakish theological insanity you are describing.

    These debates happened in various fringe groups. These are the kind of groups where you would not be too surprised to find someone offering goats in their backyard. These are groups who live in silly, self-made Torah observance and not in the traditions of Judaism.

    The debate Nate and I are having here is not about getting a third wife (big love) or the alleged leprosy of Jesus. Nate is a sound theologian with whom I have a quibble about Gentile roles in Torah.

    Messianic Judaism as it should properly be known is rooted in the tradition and teaching of Torah from the rabbis and sages of Judaism. Regarding Jesus, Messianic Judaism believes as historic Christian orthodoxy about his person and work. Messianic Judaism is not liable to weird theological and practical issues such as polygamy because both Jewish and Christian traditions answered these questions long ago.

    Derek

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