Rich Robinson on PMJ, Pt 2

I am letting some scholars who disagree with Mark Kinzer’s Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism write a few articles on the blog. Rich Robinson here offers a respectful view of the role of Torah that differs with mine. I do think Rich is wrong, but I am pleased with a bit of a higher view than is sometimes held. I do hope Rich doesn’t imagine for a second I couldn’t write a paper challenging some of his points here. Maybe that would be a fruitful debate for a future week on the blog — to Torah or not to Torah, that is the question . . .

The Torah and the New Covenant
by Rich Robinson

I am grateful to Derek Leman for allowing me space on this blog.

Today I want to put forward some thoughts on one theological issue concerning the Scriptures, namely the place of the Old Testament and of the Law of Moses in Christian theologies and teaching.

I appreciate Derek’s honesty in sharing his own spiritual journey both here and in his books, because he has put his finger on one problem that is endemic in the American evangelical church, and that is the comparative neglect and de-valuation of the Old Testament in favor of the New. I’m reminded of Walter Kaiser, in the days when he taught Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He had his finger on the very same problem, and insisted that the OT not be neglected nor devalued. He even gave it hermeneutical priority over the NT. “Antecedent theology” was his name for this approach. Though he always had a twinkle in his eye as he said it, he had strong words for those who spoke of the “Ooooooold Testament” as though it were a relic of a bygone era.

So I can sympathize with Derek’s reaction to a very real problem. However, I fear that he has greatly misunderstood evangelical theology of the Old Testament; whereas my concern with Mark Kinzer’s book is that he has neglected to interact with these same evangelical theology(ies) of the Old Testament.

As to misunderstandings, and this is not to single out Derek, because I think many, many people in the messianic movement share a similar view

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10 Responses to Rich Robinson on PMJ, Pt 2

  1. Robert Efurd says:

    Rich,
    Thank you for your post on The Torah and the New Covenant. I have to agree that “[t}here is often a major disconnect between what theologians say and what ends up in the pew.” I have a good friend of mine who is finishing her Master of Divinity degree at a major Ivy league seminary. She was quite shocked that the mandatory Hebrew classes were seen as “burden.” She felt that approximately 60% of the students felt it was unnecessary especially when they broke down into study groups. Can you imagine (insert your favorite biblical figure here) seeing Hebrew as a burden? The language of G-d.
    “Why aren

  2. Derek,

    Your comments about the new covenant in Jeremiah are relevant, for sure, especially the “now, not yet” remark. Yet I believe that the NT adaptation of this text (Jer 31:31-34) points us towards a different conclusion.

    If you will look in vol. 4 of my Jewish Objections series, dealing with the new covenant, I excerpt some sections of an excursus on this from my forthcoming commentary on Jeremiah.

    When you get a chance, read through the section. I trust you will find it relevant as well.

    And Rich, excellent points.

    Dr. Brown

  3. Rich says:

    Robert,

    I appreciated your reply. To answer your question as to why Christians keep “pagan” holidays, I have mentioned this in another post, but the reason is that (1) they were likely trying to supplant, not give into, paganism by co-opting the same days for Christians festivals; and (2) there is ample justification for this in the fact the we can take what is unholy and sanctify it to God’s service: (a) as God Himself did in taking previously pagan systems of sacrifice, priesthood, Temple service, and asking Israel to do the same, but now in the worship of the true God; (b) as Jesus and the apostles did when they used post-biblical i.e. non- but not anti-biblical customs in their own lives and preaching, e.g. the cups at Passover, the legends of Shavuot as background to Peter’s sermon in Acts, etc.); (c) as has been done by others since, e.g. JS Bach taking pub songs and transforming them into hymns. Much rabbinic culture of the first few centuries probably came by influence of Greek (pagan) culture but no one chastises *them* for doing so (e.g. influence of Greek symposia on the Passover seder, according to some scholars).

    You say that the traditions are deeply felt and hard to discard, which is true, but we need to answer why the traditions developed in the first place. I believe much of it was a re-sanctifying process.

    BTW I have attended several messianic congregations regularly over the years, depending on where I’ve lived, as well as evangelical churches.

  4. Robert Efurd says:

    Rich,

    Thanks again for your comments.

    As for the drinking songs- I had heard that comment before. My old boss was a music major and organist for a local church and had a wide variety of classical music on phonograph records. He once played a supposedly pious musical piece from his Mozart collection which used horns. Then he asked me what I thought of it and I said it was charming. My boss let me know that the use of horns was a symbol of laughter and that laughter was directed at G-d. He told me to the untrained ear something might seem innocent but a closer listen would reveal the subtleties missed by the layman.

    I understand that we are all a product of the culture we were brought up in and there is a “give and take” with some traditions on the surface.

    For example, I was brought up in the South and all the men in my family wear hats. You were looked down upon if you did not have your head in a fedora or other headcovering. I still keep the tradition even though I always seem to stand out. In fact, I feel quite naked without a hat on.

    I’m not ready to give up that tradition but I look forward to your future posts.

  5. Stuart says:

    On the subject of the Law of Moses and the New Covenant, few have gotten things as right as has Charles P. Anderson [Anderson, Charles P.

  6. Stuart says:

    And one more point. Even if Dr. Kinzer had failed to consult evangelical suthorities you favor, Rich, this in itself does nothing to vitiate his argument, any more than your faliure to consult post-Holocaust theologians vitiates yours. It seems to me to be red herring. I am sure you agree that it is better to evaluate someone’s argument on its own merits, rather than dismissing the person for the sources used. If the latter were valid, then Paul the Apostle’s sermon in Acts 17 (at Athens) should be discredited due to his quoting form not one, but two pagan poets.

  7. Stuart,

    I appreciate your highly literate post, and although I have read similar arguments to Anderson’s, I had not read his actual article. Thanks for the reference and the important points you raise, which certainly give us food for thought.

    That being said, to me, the very point you are raising proves the one that Rich (and I) would make: The Newer Testament speaks clearly of major changes in the Torah because of the inbreaking of the new age. You quote Anderson who says, “No break with Jewish tradition apart from priesthood, sacrifice, and temple is assumed in Hebrews.” What a statement! It is similar to saying, “No break with Christian tradition apart from prayer, life in the Spirit, and blood atonement is assumed in our new religious expression.” (The analogy is not meant to be exact but general.)

    In vol. 4 of my Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus series, I review all of the Torah commands that are either “eternal” (using `olam) or “for all generations,” etc., and the great majority of them (roughly 75%), along with the great majority of all chapters in the Torah and the majority of the so-called 613 commandments cannot be practiced without a functioning Temple and priesthood, and without our people in the Land. This is quite major. For the last 2,000 years, we have not been able to fulfill what is written in the great bulk of Torah legislation, including the great majority of “forever” commandments — or Yeshua has brought all this to fulfillment, and through Him, we find the full meaning of Torah. This is certainly the teaching of the NT.

    So then, if something so major and foundational is taught in Hebrews — and I would argue that Hebrews goes beyond what Anderson holds — then it is “anti-Torah” or “supersessionist” (or, “anti-Semitic!”) to prayerfully ask how, e.g., we should relate to commands like celebrating the feasts (since we cannot fulfill the cultic elements of them) or, less importanly, how we should relate to the command not to trim the corners of our beards, etc.

    I must also say that all of my interaction with the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox community has challenged me to look at Torah issues holistically, and if Hebrews can suggest some aspect of “change” in Torah legislation or application, and if it can negatively contrast the sacrifices commanded by the Torah with the glorious sacrifice of the Son of God, then it is saying something radically different than Talmudic Judaism would say, and we must work through the implications of that radicality.

    Does this make sense to you?

    Michael

  8. Stuart says:

    Whoops! I want to retract my evocation of the term “red herring.” It was both inappropriate and inaccurate: inappropriate because Rich is not the kind of man to ever want to deflect people from the scent of truth (the meaning of “red herring”) and inaccurate because a better term would have been “the genetic fallacy,” which one authority describes thus:

    “The genetic fallacy is committed when an idea is either accepted or rejected because of its source, rather than its merit. Even from bad things, good may come; we therefore ought not to reject an idea just because of where it comes from, as ad hominem arguments do. Equally, even good sources may sometimes produce bad results; accepting an idea because of the goodness of its source, as in appeals to authority, is therefore no better than rejecting an idea because of the badness of its source. Both types of argument are fallacious” (see http://www.logicalfallacies.info/geneticfallacy.html).

    That is what I was groping for, and what I should have said. My apologies to all of you, and especially to my old friend, Rich Robinson.

  9. Stuart says:

    Dr. Brown,

    What you say *always* makes sense to me, even when I disagree!

    You say, “The Newer Testament speaks clearly of major changes in the Torah because of the inbreaking of the new age. You quote Anderson who says,

  10. Dr. Dauerman,

    Thanks for the further interaction, which is certainly appreciated.

    You feel that my first paragraph is

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