Quote of the Day

“I have identified [Paul’s] basic convictions that concerning membership requirements (membership is granted through faith in Christ, and therefore not through Torah observance), status (Jew and Gentile are on equal terms in Christ; there is no distinction), and identity (all those in Christ are members of Abraham’s family). How can we add to these the additional conviction [also held by Paul] that ethnically identified Israel, differentiated from the Gentiles in traditional Torah-determined ways, continues to have significance within the new sphere of reality determined by Christ?

With the benefit of hindsight, we can easily discern a certain instability in such a set of convictions. They could not be held together in any consistent way for very long. If the community is defined solely on the basis of faith in Christ; if Torah observance is not to be imposed on Gentile converts; if indeed the Torah-observant need to give way when such observance interferes with community life; if this community, precisely on the basis of Christ-identity, is the real family of Abraham; if there is no distinction in terms of entrance requirements and membership privileges between Jew and Gentile; then inevitably as time goes on and one generation succeeds another, any distinction between Jew and Gentile would inevitably fall away, identifiably Jewish portions of the community would inevitably become assimilated, and ‘Israel’ would inevitably become (as it did by the time of Justin Martyr) a purely allegorical or nonliteral designation for a decidedly non-Jewish entity.”

-Professor Terence L. Donaldson (Mathean Scholar and Professor of New Testament at University of Toronto) from his book, Paul and the Gentiles, p. 185-186.

About Rabbi Joshua

I'm a Rabbi, writer, thinker, mountain biker, father and husband ... not necessarily in that order. According to my wife, however, I'm just a big nerd. I have degrees in dead languages and ancient stuff. I have studied in various Jewish institutions, including an Orthodox yeshiva in Europe. I get in trouble for making friends with perfect strangers, and for standing on chairs to sing during Shabbos dinner. In addition to being the Senior Rabbi of Beth Emunah Messianic Synagogue in Agoura Hills, CA, I write regularly for several publications and speak widely in congregations and conferences. My wife is a Southern-fried Jewish Beltway bandit and a smokin' hot human rights attorney... and please don’t take offense if I dump Tabasco sauce on your cooking.
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18 Responses to Quote of the Day

  1. Rabbi Joshua says:

    "Identifiably Jewish portions of the community would inevitably become assimilated, and 'Israel' would inevitably become (as it did by the time of Justin Martyr) a purely allegorical or nonliteral designation for a decidedly non-Jewish entity." IMHO … this is a very real danger the Messianic Movement is/will certainly face.

  2. Carl says:

    I agree. There is a tension between community and covenantal identity that we have yet to work out.

  3. derek4messiah.wordpress.com says:

    I think the fatal assumption in his quote is that the Torah-observant need to give way when such observance threatens community life. Torah living need not threaten community life (unless you assume that Yeshua-communities must be one-size fits all). The man/woman, Jew/Gentile distinctions do not demand uniformity, just unity. I recommend Markus Barth's Ephesians commentary for this thinking about this issues (and, of course, Kinzer's Postmissionary Messianic Judaism).Derek Leman

  4. VirginiaMary says:

    I agree this is happening already.We have those who believe the term grafted in is full citizenship.As I have traveled the east coast & attended different congragations; it hurts me to see those who are miss interpreting & even more those who are members excluding believing members using doctrinal concepts brought with them from previous denominations.

  5. Wade Rupp says:

    Agreeing with Derek, as I read, for example, Galatians 3:28, it is saying that the birthright of being fully accepted by God through Messiah is given to all believers regardless of ethnicity, sex, position. It certainly doesn’t mean that I, as a man, suddenly become neuter when included in the family of God, or that my identity as a Jew is no longer significant. It would be futile for Paul to say in I Cor. 7: 17-24 that Messianic Jews should remain Jewish (which I take to mean should not assimilate)if he also thought that being Jewish was no longer significant. I see the only pressure toward assimilation coming from our culture where the idea of equality has become sacrosanct. It certainly does not come from the Bible. Wade Rupp

  6. Anonymous says:

    I continue to be amazed at the attempt so many people make, to draw a clear demarcation line between 'Torah observance' and 'non Torah observance'. Yes, there are laws which are only for Israel, but no 'Christian' has ever suggested that they be unfaithful to their spouse, or cheat or lie – is that not also being Torah observant? When Christians say 'we don't keep Torah', what do they mean?

  7. Gene Shlomovich says:

    "When Christians say 'we don't keep Torah', what do they mean?"Anonymous, I think they mean that they are just practicing the "do unto others as you would have them done unto you" and following the basic moral guidelines found in the scriptures (many of which are common sense and precede the Mosaic covenant), without taking on the various specific requirements and observances of Israel's Mosaic "constitution" (a.k.a. "Torah").

  8. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Anonymous-Along with Gene's comment, I think what some Christians mean by saying they are not "Torah Observant" is akin to even other movement within Judaism.It has to do with the level of obligation. For example, Reform Judaism does not consider itself "Torah Observant," as they do not beleive Reform Jews are bound to the "ceremonial laws," only the ethical laws.This is the argument of many Christians. That non-Jewish followers of Jesus are only bound to the ethical laws (10 Commandments, etc).

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your feedback. Did Yeshua not say that Torah and the Prophets hang on those two mitzvot ('to love HaShem… and to do unto others etc.')?My point is this: I struggle to find the 'black and white' demarcation line that so many Christians and Jews seem to believe in. To not steal is to keep Torah… to not cheat on your spouse is to keep Torah. Of course these are ethical laws, but then Torah has a lot to do with ethics. For sure there are laws that only Jews are expected to keep (the Festivals for instance). Then there are other laws which can only be kept in Eretz Israel. I can not for one minute believe that Acts 15 was only about 'ethics'. By the way, I do not believe that Christians should keep the whole Torah (as some Christian groups seem to believe… e.g. various 'Churches of G-d for instance'). But when Christians claim not to keep the law, it does make me chuckle a bit, because I know that they don't mean what they say. Of course I am well aware that this is more an emotional issue and has more to do with 2,000 years of Christian anti-Torah theology – another subtle form of anti-semitism.And just one more thought on that subject: One day Torah will go out to the Nations from Yerushalayim. What Torah if it was 'abolished'? And to top it all – one day the Nations will celebrate Sukkoth. It's a complicated subject for sure.

  10. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Anonymous,I don't disagree with you. It just seems that in all of these communities, "Keeping Torah" is a theological position of obligation and "how much." For those who do not believe their community is obligated to keep the whole thing (or as much as possible), than they shy away from using phrases such as "keeping Torah."Afterall, you cannot use language apart from its sociological implications.So although I agree with your point, I still do not think anytime soon you're going to get groups like Reform Judaism or mainstream Christianity to claim they are now observing Torah just becuase they keep a hand-selected few mitzvot.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your feedback Joshua. I guess my question originated from an observation in my company. You see, I have my own business (Accounting and Tax Consulting) and a couple of my staff are Evangelical Christians. The debate comes up every winter during Friday sunset where I am (gently) being accused of 'keeping the law'. And I (gently) reply that they also keep the law but are probably not aware of it…Your comment makes sense to me. Don't you think that's the church's historic 'anti-torah' stance is a result of a fundamental misunderstanding of Rav Shaul?I enjoy your blog by the way. Oh… and my name is Amiel – I just couldn't remember my Google password, so I joined as anonymous 🙂

  12. Rabbi Joshua says:

    "Don't you think that's the church's historic 'anti-torah' stance is a result of a fundamental misunderstanding of Rav Shaul?"Amiel,Yes, I agree that much of the Church's position toward Torah is based on misunderstandings and misreadings of Paul. In recent years there has been a tremendous transition in Pauline studies in regards to the Jewish context of Paul and his message. However, that is only fairly recently and it takes time for that message to trickle down from scholars to pastors, and then on to laypersons in the pew. Understanding a proper context for Paul can help disperse most of the anti-Torah positions.Thanks for reading the blog and for your comments!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Yes Joshua, I agree with you. We live in amazing and wonderful times – B'ruch HaShem! A new day is dawning and I believe the time of the Gentiles is drawing to a close and we can be what we were always meant to be: A light unto the Nations.Shabbat Shalom to you and Monique 🙂

  14. Wade says:

    Most of my congregational life has been spent in the Evangelical church, so I speak from that point of view, rather than from Messianic Judiasm. I'd like to refer to an article "What's Wrong With The Gospel" by the late Keith Green concerning the church's dead traditions. Here is a list. Accepting Jesus as a personal savior. The church has taken this concept and elevated it to the status of scripture. The alter call. Jesus never had alter calls. There were never any alter calls until Charles Finney used it. That was about 150 years ago. The church, in general thinks it is sacreligious if this is left out of a service. I suspect it's been 150 years since the Holy Spirit wanted to use it! The sinner's prayer. The idea that you say some words and you are saved is pretty weak. No doubt people get "saved", but in America it results in a weak salvation; a weak commitment to God. (Not in Mr. Green's article, but I would add that repentance is no longer a part of accepting God into your life. This relults in no discipleship, and people who never change, a church that looks like the rest of the world.) Salvation booklets like The Four Spiritual Laws" make for quick salvations, and just as quickly people leave the faith. The Follow up program: Jesus didn't hand his recent disciples a booklet, a list of local congregations, but said "follow Me." I won't elaborate on the Poor Jesus Syndrome, and cheap cliche Christian slogans, bumper stickers, etc. Now, I recognize it's a little unfair to compare our society and culture to that of Jesus' time, by saying He didn't do such and such, and so it's wrong for the church to use techniques which have now become tantamount to scripture. That said, the point is that the church does have its own set of laws. You can test this by finding some evangelical believer (someone you don't have to live or associate with!)and telling them the sinner's prayer is dead works, or that the alter call is evil. They will become apoplectic, and may confront you physically. So, keep this in mind. Pray for the church. I pray I would leave my own ways and follow God.Wade

  15. Anonymous says:

    Dear Wade. Your comment resonates with me strongly and I can see where you are coming from. I guess much of Evangelical theology is based on the assumption that, unless everyone accepts 'Jesus as their Saviour' now (in whatever feeble format it may be, e.g. the 'sinner's prayer' for instance), then they'll fry forever. I find that concept so incredibly 'un-Jewish'. Israel was elected long before Sinai.I once had a fascinating conversation with a couple from an evangelical church on a cruise, in the middle of the ocean. There we were, enjoying a fine meal on board and we were discussing salvation (they believed passionately, that most people on board would probably perish as they did not know Jesus as their saviour). My question to them was this: If they really believed this theology to be true, then why were they enjoying fine wine, instead of going up to anyone who would care to listen, to 'preach the gospel'. I wasn't quite a blunt as that, but a lifely debate ensued about G-d's role in our salvation. Thank G-d my faith is a gift and not a choice – B'ruch HaShem!

  16. Wade says:

    Amiel:There is a pastor, Robert Morris, of Gateway Church in Dallas. (An amazing very large church, they apparently have a service, or synagogue—I don’t know all the details—that meets regularly in their church so their Jewish believers can maintain their Jewish identity.) Anyway, this pastor will do exactly what you would think the couple on the cruise would’ve done considering their beliefs. Robert Morris regularly will be eating dinner in a restaurant with his wife or friends. And much to his friends chagrin will stand up and get the attention of the people at tables around him. He will make a short statement of his faith. Then He invites anyone who wants to know more to come and talk to him at his table. This guy lives what he believes!! Plus he’s not didactic, is funny, seems like a good guy, good at his job, etc. I think that is funny. Wade

  17. Gene Shlomovich says:

    "And much to his friends chagrin will stand up and get the attention of the people at tables around him. He will make a short statement of his faith."I would hate if someone did that if I was having a romantic dinner with my spouse – how obnoxiously inconsiderate. Does he do the same when he visits a men's restroom in the restaurant while standing at the urinal?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Gene… I guess he is simply being consistent in applying his theology. Most evangelical Christians believe what he believes, but do not follow through out of apathy or indifference (or embarrassment?). Of course, the concept that the G-d of Avraham, Yitzak and Yaakov is desperately trying to save the whole world now and seems utterly powerless in His pursuits is ridiculous. The further away theology moves from its Jewish roots, the more fiendish G-d seems to become. I often hear people speak of 'saving faith'. What is it? It seems that the quality of 'our' faith determines our salvation. But how can that be? We are saved by grace through faith, which is NOT our own. Goodness, if I look at my faith at times, it's pathetic and yet, thank G-d I am saved by His faith, which will uphold me when I'm weak.Israel was saved long before Sinai and if faithfulness was the hallmark of G-d's committment to us, we would have perished long ago.I find the concept of everlasting punishment repugnant and incompatible with much of what I read in the Tanakh and Messianic Scriptures. Punishment yes, for sure… but without end? What purpose does it serve? The trouble with many Bible translations (NIV or KJ are the prime culprits) is that their 'customers' would not tolerate translations which threatened their theological world view (and of course, many Jewish translations follow the same principle… just read Isaiah 53 in the JPS version).Thank G-d, one day, all Israel shall be saved. Sorry for being a bit emotional on this subject, I do not mean to offend. I have many friends who believe in everlasting punishment and we remain friends, though disagree passionately.

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