Meditations on Future Hope

Let’s consider two ways of looking at the meaning of time and events: naturalism and messianism. There are certainly other ideas about history, the present, and the future, but for simplicity’s sake, I’m only interested in these two. By naturalism I mean that the natural which we observe is all there is, so that we must accept the meaninglessness and entropy of all that is. By messianism I mean the Jewish and Christian hope of a hidden tendency of time to run from death to life, from decay to renewal, from divine silence to divine Presence.

What will happen to us? What will come of this decaying world? How do we explain the current meaninglessness of our existence? What could a messiah or a messianic age or some arc toward a messianic age have to do with anything?

This is all very much on my mind as I am engaged in a year-long close reading of Isaiah and also teaching a series on Future Hope at our congregation. It’s tempting to pull a Pacal’s wager here:

  • Either naturalism is true or messianism (though admittedly there are more options that two).
  • If naturalism, then there is no inherent meaning or hope for ultimate goodness and beauty but only the dread reality of increasing decay.
  • If messianism, then present meaninglessness and decay will be reversed.
  • People with hope live better than people without and messianism should cause us to work in the present for the values of the messianic future.
  • We may as well believe in messianism since there is no cost to being wrong but there is present value if we are right.

What more can we say about naturalism vs. messianism? Continue reading

Posted in Abraham Joshua Heschel, Bible, C.S. Lewis, Faith, Life to Come, Loving Deeds, Messiah, Messianic Prophecy | 16 Comments

Rabbis Who’ve Believed, at Yinon Blog

Rabbi Joshua Brumbach is doing us all a great service. He is cataloguing rabbis who believe in Yeshua as Messiah (so far 19th and 20th century figures on his list). I hope he will make a book with these vignettes (if nobody else is interested, I’ll publish it). It would also be great if he shared his sources and used some footnotes. But his list already is more detailed and extensive than I would have imagined. The rabbi pictured here is Israel Zolli, who was chief rabbi in Rome when the Nazis came in. He saved about 4,000 Jews. And he said of Yeshua:

Yes, positively. I have believed it many years. And now I am so firmly convinced of the truth of it that I can face the whole world and defend my faith with the certainty and solidity of the mountains.

See Rabbi Joshua’s list and the stories he shares: “Rabbis Who Thought for Themselves.”

Posted in messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism | 5 Comments

New Blog (another Leman blog!)

Okay, I’m starting a micro-blog. That is, the daily posts there will have only about 50 words. It’s called “In the Days of Torah.” If you look got here and read the few brief posts and also the “About This Blog” page, you’ll see what I’m up to.

“In the Days of Torah,” another blog by Derek Leman.

Posted in Derek's Writings | 3 Comments

The Jesus-Tomb Hype and a New Revelation

Charles Pellegrino, a principle person involved in the Jesus Tomb pseudo-scholarship

They are making another Jesus-tomb movie. You may remember the fiasco that was produced a few years ago with the help of James Cameron and hosted by the “naked archaeologist” Simcha Jacobovici called “The Lost Tomb of Jesus.” James Tabor was also involved. It is junk. It was always junk. Note that Jacobovici is not an archaeologist or scholar and while Tabor is, his work receives almost no credibility. Junk.

I waste little time reading about the plans of these people, but I know some people are prone to be fooled by such garbage. Here is a new piece of information on one of the principle people involved, Charles Pellegrino, who has a history of false claims and some could actually be considered intentionally fraudulent, including a false claim to a PhD:

Posted in Jesus-Tomb | 1 Comment

Why Read the Bible Realistically?

In a comment today someone, who I know to have meant it in a friendly way, characterized the way I explain and interpret biblical passages as “a dose of Biblical criticism, history, and archeology that may get you uncomfortable.” The comment was made to someone who wrote in with questions, who is experiencing a very new and very rapid increase in Biblical learning. Having been challenged to read the entire Bible in 90 days, this person suddenly discovered that the attitude of the Bible toward commandments and customs was at odds with the understanding they had developed in church life. They found a positive way of life in ancient Israel and wondered how a modern Christian should apply this wonderful insight.

But what I want to comment on this morning is reading the Bible realistically (a term I prefer to “critically”). Quick note: the term “criticism” when applied to a certain approach in reading the Bible goes back to a previous era in which people were literary “critics,” evaluating and explaining the meaning of various writings. It is an unfortunate word for Biblical research since it can mean one of two things: (1) reading with a critical mind as in one that thinks and uses reason to try and understand or (2) one who finds the Bible deficient and criticizes it.

For the record, I do think (1) is important. Some will say, “We should not use reason at all to understand the Bible.” They fail to grasp that they already have used reason in making that very statement and that “understanding” by definition involves “reason.” You use human reason to comprehend the Bible even if you claim you do not.

But the person who said my explanations of biblical passages involve “Biblical criticism” was trying to prepare this new student of the whole Bible for a bracing reality check: if she read my material she might be in for a different way of looking at the Bible than she was used to in typical preaching and teaching in her religious experience. And that leads me to what I want to discuss: why read the Bible realistically? Continue reading

Posted in Bible | 17 Comments

Not Excited About the People of Zion?

Source: A great place to see Jerusalem in photography.

Why do we argue? Why do we care so much? It is, no doubt, because questions of identity, the role each one of us plays in God’s plan, is fundamental to who we are.

Out here in Internet-Land we have a diversity of people. The many groups who share in a “Messianic” faith come from different places and struggle with identity from different ends of the spectrum. I am a convert to Judaism and my journey to Judaism started as a journey to Jesus in college. It was through Jesus that I fell in love with Jewish history, the meaning of Jewish life in the Western world, and the past, present, and future of the people of Israel. I joined this great nation because I have been caught up in the vision ever since. And after a decade and a half of confusion stemming from Dispensationalist Christian teaching (I was a Baptist and thorough-going Dispensationalist), I converted along with my wife and children.

Others are coming into Messianic faith a different way. And it is to this group I hope to say a word. Yesterday, inevitably, an argument broke out. There was a rather uncivil one here in the comments and I had two much more civil conversations via email with others. Many come into the Messianic faith excited about Torah, the full context of walking with Messiah that has been unwisely stifled in the life of Christianity, and unfortunately, for these people it is largely true that love for the people of Israel has been a small or non-existent part of the Messianic equation.

Do you recognize yourself in that statement? Do you recognize your teacher, your group, the viewpoint of those from whom you learn on various websites? Are they zealous for Torah and unenthusiastic or even rancorous toward Judaism and Jewish people?

Have you truly come to the Messianic faith if you love Torah but not the Jewish people? Let us discuss this. Continue reading

Posted in Judeo-Christian, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism, Messianic Prophecy, Replacement Theology, Supersessionism, Zion Theology, Zionism | 19 Comments

Torah Fundamentals, #1

The first point worth learning about Torah seems an obvious one, but in fact it escapes quite a few people. Right from the beginning of the actual enactment of Torah (you’ll see what I mean shortly by “enactment”) this point is emphasized. Yet there are many in our time who, knowingly or not, deny it — and for more than one reason coming from more than one point of view.

Before I state the first point in my list of Torah fundamentals, let me ask: where do you actually find Torah in the Bible? Many would answer quickly: from Genesis through Deuteronomy. But Torah means more than one thing. Torah in the most general sense is teaching. Your mother’s words of wisdom to you are Torah. “Do not reject your mother’s Torah,” says Proverbs 1:8. Torah in many Jewish contexts means the whole system of studying and practicing every facet of divine wisdom (Pentateuch, Hebrew Bible, rabbinic literature, teachings in the study halls, daily life lived out). And the way I mean Torah is a relational covenant between God and Israel.

You find Torah in Exodus 19 through all of Deuteronomy. Torah is found in the codes of commandments, in the covenant instructions, in the curses and blessings of the covenant. And the enactment of Torah begins in Exodus 19, not in Genesis 1.

So, what is the first thing that should be realized about Torah, the fundamental that begins our understanding of the Torah given at Sinai? Continue reading

Posted in Gentiles, Judaism, Torah | 60 Comments

James Pyles: How to Hear the Jewish Voice of Jesus

A fantastic meditation and practical example for those Christians who want to hear more, to do more than have “morning devotions” in the NIV Study Bible, who have begun to discover the unity of the Bible and long to find the Jewish voice of Jesus.

Check out the practical and easy way you can read the Jewish voice of Jesus (as James helpfully explains it). Click here to read “In Search of the Jewish Voice of Jesus.”

Posted in Bible, Delitzsch Hebrew-English DHE, Vine of David, Yeshua In Context | 1 Comment

New Testament = Apostolic Writings … Class Coming

I’ll be teaching an online class through MJTI January 8 – February 12. I’d love to have you in the class. As a prelude to that idea, I want to say a few things about the “New Testament,” the lingo we use, what MJTI is all about, and what the class will be about.

When I write, I do not use the traditional Christian phrase “Old Testament” except in some cases. For example, one of my best-selling books is A New Look at the Old Testament (see it here on amazon). The audience I primarily envisioned for the book was Christians (and many have purchased the book, but also many Messianic Jews). If my title was something like The Hebrew Bible for Today I knew most of my potential audience would worry it had too much Hebrew in it! But I generally use the term Hebrew Bible (or Jewish scriptures) as the name of choice for the corpus generally known as the Old Testament in Christian language. Many use the term Tanach (or Tanakh, which stands for Torah (Pentateuch), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Khetuvim (Writings)). But I know many people would have no idea what I was talking about if Tanakh was my primary designation for these writings. So, Hebrew Bible works well.

There is a very unfortunate tradition in Messianic Judaism to call the New Testament the New Covenant or B’rit Chadashah. Why do I say this is unfortunate? Why do we need to move away from that name and find a more accurate one? Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Education | 6 Comments

Jewish Adventures in Church-Land

Many of you will remember Benjamin from Metropolis (not a real name, of course, as Metropolis is the city of Superman). Benjamin is a new follower of Yeshua from a religious Jewish background. He lives in a city that has no real Messianic Jewish synagogue. If you read yesterday’s post, then you’ll understand when I say Metropolis has a large Hebrew Pentecostal congregation and in the surrounding areas there are a number of other congregations that fit into various categories. None are a satisfying home for Benjamin, since he had a good life in Judaism before coming to Yeshua. (See “What a Jew Needs from MJ” and “How to Be a Messianic Congregation #1” for more of Benjamin’s story).

Benjamin and I stay in regular communication and, I hope I can say I am helping him through his early education in Yeshua-faith. He spent Rosh Hashanah here in Atlanta with our congregation. And even though we are, in the terms I shared yesterday, a Blended Messianic Congregation, it was like fresh water to Benjamin to see Yeshua at the center of a true synagogue service.

Now, on my suggestion, Benjamin is trying some churches (and looking to get re-involved in a mainstream synagogue, perhaps, since he can’t get Jewish prayer in a Messianic congregation there). His experience in Church-Land so far has been dreadful. I didn’t think it could be worse than in the so-called Messianic congregations, but at least in a bad Messianic group people are usually sympathetic to Jewish concerns on some level. Yes, you guessed it: Benjamin has already been told that it is wrong to be Jewish! Continue reading

Posted in Christian, Judaism, Replacement Theology, Supersessionism | 54 Comments