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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

What's Wrong With This Picture?

My M.A. and PhD are in Intercultural Studies, which takes us into the realm of missiology--dealing with all things related to how one best deposits the leaven of the Kingdom of God as confirmed in Yeshua the Messiah into the dough of various cultures without abusing those cultures in any manner. Since I am currently writing a Messianic Jewish missiology text, it is probably important to demonstrate why we need one of our own, rather than the many that have already been written.

The reasons as very numerous indeed, and many of the postings on this blog touch upon some of the issues involved.

While browsing in a bookstore the other day, I came across a new missiology text by a prominent figure, who, for reasons soon to become obvious, shall remain nameless. Opening to the index, I looked for "Jews" and "Judaism" as is my wont. Finding a reference in the index, I opened to the corresponding pages in the book.

What I found was so appalling I have not let myself process the emotions that were kindled within me. I'll give you a hint: one of those emotions is rage.

Below is the entirety of the text on the Jews taken from this book. As when you were children, play this game: What is wrong with this picture? Find as many errors in fact about the Jews as you can , as many appalling statements about the Jews as you can, as many misinterpretatins of Scripture as you can. Detect an innuendo or two while you are at it. Then, if you care to, write a comment on this blog about what you found, indicating what you found to be wrong and why.

I will chime in with my own perceptions on Sunday, or later, depending on our traffic level.

Have at it!

Judaism as a term dates to Hellenistic times. It is used in only one passage in Scripture. In Galatians 1:14, Paul says that he was so zealous for the “traditions of his fathers” that he was advancing in Judaism above others of a similar age. The word Judaism (Ioudaismos) was comparatively new, but its “traditions” were old and its “faith” even older.

As Christians we owe so much to our Jewish forbears that it is hard to contemplate the idea that the Jewish faith constitutes enemy territory. Such an idea smacks of anti-Semitism, and there is not the slightest bit of room for that in biblical Christianity. As a follower of Christ, Paul says that to his Israelite kinsmen belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs. From their race, according to the flesh, came the Christ (Rom. 9:4-5).

But it is at the person of Christ that we part company. Later in the same chapter (Rom. 9:32-33) Paul quotes Isaiah and says that they "stumbled over the stumbling stone" (i.e., Christ). Judaism clung tenaciously to the law and summarily rejected Jesus as either Christ or Lord.

Judaism has changed markedly throughout the past two centuries. Today’s Jews are divided into groupings ranging from the outspoken atheists of Reform Judaism and uncommitted agnostics of Conservative Judaism to Orthodox Jews who are faithful to Jewish rites and rituals. Within this wide-ranging set of belief opinions, all are recognized as Jews. The only belief that brings exclusion from the Jewish community is that Jesus is the Messiah and Lord.

There are historical reasons for this insistence that Messianic believers must be pushed from the family but the chief reason is that the religious establishment has from the start been implacably at enmity with Jesus as the promised Christ or Messiah. The rejection of that identification is what motivated the Jewish leaders to seek Jesus’ death in the first place. Paul faced enmity because his gospel did not make room for the "traditions" (Gal. 1:14). By "traditions" he probably meant the additions to and interpretations of the law that would be collected and edited as the Mishna in about the year 200.

After the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, opposition to Christians became intense due to the teachings of Yochanan ben Zakkai, a disciple of Rabbi Hillel. Gamaliel, who taught Paul, would have studied under Hillel at about the same time as Zakkai, who by all accounts lived to an extraordinarily old age of well over a hundred years and therefore exerted a long-lasting influence. Zakkai was leader of the first Jewish revelot and helped save Judaism from disintegrating by his efforts and the influence of his school in Jamnia.

Zakkai’s hatred for Jesus remains, reinforced by many centuries of mutual hostility and violence committed in the name of Christ. There is today a concerted effort to dispel the claims of Christ from serious consideration among the Jewish people [and here, parenthetically the author references Aryeh Kaplan, et al, “The Real Messiah,” and the pop-theology, Late Great Planet Earth type book by Philip N, Moore, “The End of History: The Messiah Conspiracy, Volume 1]. Never will I forget the response of an otherwise affable Jewish rabbi from New York as we conversed at the Western Wall in 1968. When the conversation turned to a consideration of the messiahship of Jesus, he suddenly became irritated. As he walked away angry he muttered, “We Jews will never considser that man!”

Any evangelism among Jews means an invasion of alien territory. Jesus said so when he faced Jewish leaders who laid claim to being Abraham’s children while rejecting Jesus himself. In one of his “hard sayings,” he said, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (John 8:44). Paul said something similar when writing to the Romans. He wrote, "As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake” (Rom. 11:28).

That’s bad news. But there is good news too. The unbelief of the Jews resulted in the gospel being preached to the Gentiles. And the acceptance of the gospel by Gentiles will someday eventuate in the salvation of all the Jews (Rom.11:11-12).

At 4/07/2006 4:38 PM, Blogger Israel Benjamin said...

Dr. Dauermann,

Perhaps you would have been better advised not to characterize your reaction to this portion of the book in question. Why did you choose to do so rather than introduce the excerpt with, "I found this in a new textbook and would be interested in your responses..."

Nevertheless I don't know what you expect. Aren't you involved in a new paradigm? If this author presented anything other than this classical view, there would be no need for a book of your own, would there?

As an aside, your book must needs be quite sketchy since you are involved in an emerging paradigm. You will no doubt be leaving many questions unanswered, perhaps describing the possible directions your paradigm might take.

As to the excerpt in question, there are a variety of bases upon which a challenge can be mounted.

1) Challenges to the author's sources for history and the author's interpretation of that history.

2) Challenges to the author's theology and selectivity in choosing authoritative representatives.

3) Challenges to the author's use of Christian quotations.

4) Challenges to the author's characterizations of extant Judaisms.

At a very fundamental basis, I can't think of a better example to make your points in contradistinction to the predominant prevailing sentiment among much of the church at large. IB

 
At 4/07/2006 5:27 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

As I said, the excerpt in question helps to demonstrate the imperative need for a new paradigm.

Shabbat approaches. As promised, I will reserve my substantial comments for Sunday, or later, waiting for more comments before I write.

 
At 4/09/2006 9:59 AM, Blogger Teknigram said...

There is a Chabad Rabbi and professor on Jewish thought, ethics and social issues in Ontario Canada named Immanuel Schochet. He said once (actually more than once, but this is the time I was able to spend the night in his company): "Christian Missionaries finish what Hitler was not able to do, namely the continuing annilation of Jewish souls."

These are harsh words, both for those who consider themselves believers and are trying to be thoughtful in the face of dreadful histories; they are harsh words because I fear the reality many times has been true.

Many have wondered if the first integral response for those who are Yeshua believers (to use that term) is to...

repent.

 
At 4/09/2006 2:08 PM, Blogger Joshua Tallent said...

As I read this excerpt I found myself speaking back to the author in my head, at times quite loudly, so here are a few of the thoughts that came to my mind:

The author puts "faith" in the first paragraph in quotation marks, showing his opinion clearly from the get-go. According to him, there is no faith in Judaism, only "traditions".

"the Jewish faith constitutes enemy territory" -- Herein lies the thesis of the author's approach to Jews and Judaism. However, this thesis is critically flawed. The passage he quotes later in the excerpt shows an important difference between the author's approach and G-d's approach: "As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake" (Rom. 11:28). The first problem is that the author places Jews and Judaism as his own enemies, not as enemies of G-d (as far as the Besorah is concerned), as Paul is clearly saying. The second problem is that the author ignores the extremely important point that Paul goes on to make in the second part of verse 28 and in verse 29: "but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." Jews may arouse G-d's wrath (just as Gentiles may do the same, see verse 30), but regarding election they are still beloved by G-d because of the Patriarchs, and He will never revoke their calling as His people. The author's thesis is thus irreparably damaged. He (the author) has no enemies, and G-d has determined that His people will be His people for eternity. Thus, speaking to Jewish people about Messiah is not "an invasion of alien territory". G-d fights a battle in the hearts of all people, and He does not need us to fight this battle for Him. As he said to Shmuel, "the L-rd does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the L-rd looks on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)

"Today’s Jews are divided into groupings ranging from the outspoken atheists of Reform Judaism and uncommitted agnostics of Conservative Judaism to Orthodox Jews who are faithful to Jewish rites and rituals." -- Obviously the author has never met the Jews that I know. The vast majority of Jews that I have met from all backgrounds are committed, spiritual people with real faith in G-d. The author is entirely too quick to relegate them to the trash bin and cast aspersions on their faith based on his assumptions about their beliefs and their hearts.

"There are historical reasons for this insistence that Messianic believers must be pushed from the family but the chief reason..." -- with these words, the author effectively dismisses the long history of Christian aggression against Jews. If we lived in a world that did not have that history of persecution, I firmly believe that the extreme dissonance between Messianic believers and their non-messianic families would be dramatically different. When Jews look back and see the forced conversions, the millions raped and murdered in the name of "the Gospel", it is no wonder that they are opposed to Christianity and to Messiah. The Church forgot that Yeshua is the stumbling block, and instead became the stumbling block in Yeshua's place.

"Paul faced enmity because his gospel did not make room for the "traditions" (Gal. 1:14)." -- I don't know what Bible the author is reading, but he has missed the entire point of Galatians 1:14 and has read into Paul a distaste for the traditions of his people that Paul did not possess. Paul says nothing disparaging in Galatians 1:14 about the traditions he followed. He merely states a fact: he was more zealous for the traditions than his peers, so he advanced further than they did in his observance. We must remember that Paul considered himself to be Jewish his entire life. He had the same zeal for G-d when he wrote Galatians that he had had before his experience on the Damascus road. He did not consider himself to be a "Christian" because there was no such thing. He approved of Torah and of its observance, and continued to follow it until his death. What changed for him? Messiah. That's all.

 
At 4/10/2006 10:38 AM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

I will not pretend to be comprehensive in my comments, but will restrict myself to those errors of fact, faith, or feeling that especially disturb me. I am sure I will be referencing this offensive quotation in my future career as an horrific example of wrongs that must be addressed. But for now, a more short-hand approach is in order.

One of his earliest glaring statements is his reference to “the Jewish faith” as “enemy territory.” The term “enemy” is commonly used as a euphemism for Satan, and most likely this is behind his terminology. There are those in the Jewish mission culture who have spoken of Judaism as “a false religion,” and there are certainly others who would say so again, and more as well, and since such people view all false religions as doctrines of demons, etc., the result is what you see here. From his comments later on John 8:44, it is a virtual certainty that this author sees Judaism as satanic.

What shall we say to this appalling canard? Suffice it to say at this point, that even Paul the Apostle speaks of those who practice Judaism as “earnestly serving God night and day.” And it is he who represents the *pagan* world as being “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” It is the Jewish people in the context of their spiritual inheritance, the hub of “the commonwealth of Israel” who constitute home base for the people of God. But after 2000 years of anti-Judaism and supersessionism, people such as our author have come to speak of the Jewish people as if they are godless pagans, rather than God’s root people, with all their inheritance as having passed to the Church.

Something else that jumps out at me, alarms me, but does not really surprise me. is his statement, “Judaism clung tenaciously to the law and summarily rejected Jesus as either Christ or Lord.” Notice the assumption that clinging tenaciously to the Law [Torah] is somehow spiritually deleterious, and that, in fact, Jewish people need to choose between Christ and Torah, God forbid. This is the legacy of a misshapen and erroneous supersessionist Christian consensus. Although, in our day, this consensus is by no means universal among Christians, still, the assumption that the Law is a negative and that fealty to it is an obstacle to real spirituality and relationship with God is by no means extinct.

In contrast to the author being critiqued here, proponents of the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm applaud all Jewish efforts to “cling to the Law.” Furthermore, we in no sense see this as antithetical to Yeshua faith, and indeed, see Scripture clearly calling Yeshua believing Jews to lives of Torah obedience. But our author will have none of that. For him the Law is antithetical to the gospel, and loyalty to that law might just lead to rejection of the Messiah.

His mischaracterization of modern Judaism’s Reform, Conservative and Orthodox practitioners is at best hilarious. I dare say there are no readers of this blog unaware that atheism, agnosticism, and faithfulness to the rites and traditions of Judaism may be found in any of the branches he names, and that his mischaracterization of the Jewish community betrays an ignorance that could only have been nurtured in isolation from the very communities he seeks to describe. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they are talking about!”

He is appalling in his explicit and implicit polarized presentation of religious Judaism and its leaders as being “implacably at enmity with Jesus as the promised Christ or Messiah. The rejection of that identification is what motivated the Jewish leaders to seek Jesus’ death in the first place.” So here we have it: the Jews are anti-Christ and in fact Christ killers. It’s as simple as that, isn’t it?

I am sixty-one, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in a mixed neighborhood [Jews and non-Jews]. I dare say there are not many men of my age and background who missed being beaten up and/or insulted as Christ killers. And of course, in the European Jewish experience, the words were soaked in blood and buried in ash. This legacy of contempt, what shall we say about it? We can never say enough.

Suffice it to say, that despite his earlier paragraph decrying anti-Semitism, these references to Jewish leaders’ implacable hostility to Christ and their having him killed, this monolithic polarized portrayal of the Jews as hostile to Christ, and enemies of the gospel, is downright medieval. As with Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck and his report of how he would feel bone weary when in the presence of deep evil, I find myself weary as I write this. This position is dark and depressing.

Although I have chosen to not identify the author of these canards, I can tell you that he is highly educated and has held the highest positions in his theological world. For that reason I am especially astounded at his blatant misuse of Scripture.

While it is true that Paul, in describing his own biography, mentions how zealous he had been for the traditions of his fathers, nowhere in his writings or in all of the Newer Testament do find an indication that he had abandoned that way of life. In fact, he takes explicit steps to indicate the contrary when he makes his trip to Jerusalem recorded in Acts 21.

Our author is projecting here. Although Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles included his opposition of their taking on Torah obedience and Jewish piety as a means of communal inclusion in the people of God, arguing that the work of Messiah on their behalf was sufficient in that regard, Paul never hints in teaching or in living that Jews should live anything but Jewish lives. Because the author we are examining considers the Jewish way of life and the traditions of the Jewish people to be valueless and indeed spiritually obstructing, he assumes that the same was for Paul. He is writing about himself, not Paul.

The author continues to project his opinions, assuming and stating that the Yochanan ben Zakkai had “hatred for Jesus,” and that this hatred persists to this day in the Jewish religious establishment. Where shall we begin here? First of all, there is not a scintilla of evidence that ben Zakkai had a personal hatred for Jesus. There is dispute as to whether the birkat ha-minim was aimed explicitly at Messianic Jews or not more widely at all those judged “sectarians” at a time when Judaism was regrouping after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. But even if that were not the case, our author personalizes the matter. Rather than seeing ben Zakkai as operating out of a desire to preserve Jewish communal cohesion in a time of almost unprecedented national crisis, he instead personalizes the matter and makes ben Zakkai and all of religious Jewish leadership to be Jesus haters.

That this is the way he sees all Jewish leaders and religious Jews is clear from his anecdote about his 1968 encounter with a New York rabbi at the Western Wall. When this rabbi walks away and says, “We Jews will never consider that man,” our author takes it as evidence of persisting Jewish antipathy to Christ. He has no sense of context, and finds it noteworthy that the man walked away “irritated.” Well, Mr Author, if the Jews had spent two thousand years claiming that the Christians killed Moses, [!!!], killing, pillaging, persecuting Christians, driving them from place to place, and eventually into the ovens of Auschwitz, Mr Author, is it possible you too might be a trifle “irritated”?

His reference to John 8:44 is a study in superficiality, such as the people who say, “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” I counsel all of us to do a Google search of “John 8:44” “anti-Judaism,” both terms together, to begin to wade through just some of the debate and nuance surrounding this text and its context. For our author to simply take this as prima facie evidence of Jesus’ verdict that the Jews are Satan’s children is chilling in the extreme. No, it is downright scary. I would counsel all of us to immerse ourselves in a protracted study of the polemical contexts from which the Johannine literature emerged.

In talking with a world class Johannine scholar on these matters, she indicated to me that she is still struggling with how to rightly understand these texts in their own context and their application to our own. Too bad our author knows of no such reticence and interpretive struggle.

For those who might think I am too hard on our author, you may be right. I am a very quick on the trigger and reactive person. On the other hand, I find his quotation from Romans 11:28 to be confirmatory of all I have said in this posting. He evokes Paul as agreeing with his portrayal of Jesus’ alleged condemnatory verdict about the Jewish people, God forbid, and in doing so quotes half of a verse, grossly misinterpreting it, and pointedly omitting the second half of the verse which contradicts his misinterpretation!

Romans 11:28, the whole verse, says, “As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake, but as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.” The very next verse gives the true intent of the quote, which he likewise omits: "For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.”

Instead of taking this opportunity to affirm God’s love for and enduring calling upon the Jewish people, our author takes half of a verse and focuses on the Jews being enemies of the gospel. In Paul’s argument, this “enemy” status is mysterious and functional, it is the outworking of God’s overall saving love for Israel and the also for the nations, for God has consigned all to disobedience that He might have mercy on all.

I will close then with this quotation from the end of the eleventh chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, which contradicts and contrasts sharply with the dark picture painted by our miscreant author. May we instead walk in the light of Paul’s words, which begin by chiding his Gentile recipients concerning the anti-Jewish theological assumptions which our author has apparently failed to avoid:

25 Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, 26 and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob"; 27 "and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins." 28 As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all.

 

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