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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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Monday, June 12, 2006

Different Folks, Different Strokes, One New Man

The following is a study I did by invitation for a group of Gentile Christians in the Los Angeles area. It questions certain commonly held presuppositions which distort people's perspectives on the Jewish people and the nature of the people of God whom God is forming out of Israel and the Nations.

A. Paul and the Jew/Gentile Distinctive

Many people imagine that in Christ distinctions between Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles) disappear, and are no longer in effect. Notice the following four quotations from the Apostle Paul, written to Gentile Christians in his congregations. Do these support the idea that for him there is no longer any such thing as Jew or Gentile in Christ?

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles (Ro 1:13)

I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry (Rom 11:13)

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men) (Eph 2:11)

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles – (Eph 3:1)

From the above passages alone, it is clear that Paul did not adhere to the "third race" perspective that has prevailed in the Church since the late second century Epistle to Diognetus, whereby Yeshua believers are neither Jew nor Gentile, but rather, "a third race." Although Paul does say that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, he is speaking about matters of status with God, and comparative dignity in the Body of believers. In these cases, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, bond nor free. But it should be clear that he continued to recognize that Jews were Jews and Gentiles, Gentiles. Indeed, his teachings as the Apostle to the Gentiles are indecipherable and open to grievous misinterpretation when this distinction is ignored.

How would you resolve the following “contradiction” in the writings of Paul?

Romans 3:1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way!

Gal 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

The answer of course is different communities of reference. For Jews, ritual circumcision is an initiation into a Divinely given covenant of responsibility and favor. For Gentiles, Paul's chief audience, circumcision is a non-issue, because the God of Israel has, in Christ, established a way that Gentiles can become part of the people of God apart from the Jewish covenantal sign, circumcision and the obligations entailed.

"Obligations"? Consider the following.

Gal 5:3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.

What did Paul say was expected of persons who were sealed with the covenant sign of circumcision? And how about this next passage from 1 Corinthians 7?

1 Cor 7:17Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts. 20Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him.

In accordance with the earlier quotation from Galatians 5:3, what did Paul expect the lifestyle would be of people who were marked with the Jewish covenant sign?

Since Paul is writing to Yeshua believers here in 1 Corinthians, what did he expect would be the lifestyle of Jewish Yeshua believers?

What assumptions do you usually encounter about Jews and Gentiles who believe in Yeshua as far as “keeping the law” is concerned?

Were you taught that Jews and Gentiles in Christ should have exactly the same life-style, or different lifestyles? In other words, was the assumption that Jews who believe in Yeshua had one relationship with the Law and Gentiles another? Or was the assumption that the expected lifestyle was the same for everyone?

Paul is saying here that each group, Jews and Gentiles, should keep the Law of God that is appropriate to their station in life, but that, in Christ, covenant partnership is open to Gentiles, apart from becoming Jews.

B. The early Church and the Jew/Gentile distinctive in the Body of Christ [different folks].

Read Acts 15:1-21 and then answer the questions following:

1Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." 2This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad. 4When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

5Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."

6The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

12The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13When they finished, James spoke up: "Brothers, listen to me. 14Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

16" 'After this I will return
and rebuild David's fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
17that the remnant of men may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things'
18that have been known for ages.

19"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."

What was the matter under dispute in this early Church Council? (Whether Gentiles would be required to ___________________________}

Here is the big question: What must we assume was true for these Jewish believers in Jesus for this discussion to make any sense at all? The answer is, they must have themselves continued to be Torah true Jews [and indeed we explictly find this to be true in Acts 21]. If the Jewish believers in the Jerusalem congregation had not been observant Jews, then the issue of whether Gentiles needed to become such never would have been seriously entertained nor vigorously debated, as was the case here.
C. Different strokes for different folks

We saw in the previous passage from Acts 15 that among the early Yeshua believers, Gentiles were NOT required to adhere to the same standards of Torah observance as were Jewish believers in Yeshua.

Acts 21:17-26 reinforces both the fact that the Apostle Paul believed that Jewish Yeshua believers should keep Torah, and that the early Church taught that Gentiles ought not to keep the Law. These events took place about 22 years after Pentecost—the Yeshua-believing congregation in Jerusalem is over 20 years old. Paul and his entourage are making a trip to Jerusalem to meet with the leaders of the Yeshua congregation there, especially Ya'akov (James) who is the most authoritative leader of that generation.

17 In Yerushalayim, the brothers received us warmly. 18 The next day Sha'ul and the rest of us went in to Ya'akov, and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, Sha'ul described in detail each of the things God had done among the Gentiles through his efforts.

20 On hearing it, they praised God; but they also said to him, "You see, brother, how many tens of thousands of believers there are among the Judeans, and they are all zealots for the Torah. 21 Now what they have been told about you is that you are teaching all the Jews living among the Goyim to apostatize from Moshe, telling them not to have a b'rit-milah for their sons and not to follow the traditions. 22 "What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow. 24 Take them with you, be purified with them, and pay the expenses connected with having their heads shaved. Then everyone will know that there is nothing to these rumors which they have heard about you; but that, on the contrary, you yourself stay in line and keep the Torah. 25 "However, in regard to the Goyim who have come to trust in Yeshua, we all joined in writing them a letter with our decision that they should abstain from what had been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled and from fornication." 26 The next day Sha'ul took the men, purified himself along with them and entered the Temple to give notice of when the period of purification would be finished and the offering would have to be made for each of them.

What do we learn from this passage about the relationship of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem toward the Jewish law, 20 years after Pentecost?

What do we learn here about the Apostle’s own level of Jewish observance?

What is explicitly said here about an apostolic policy dictating different lifestyles for Jewish believers and Gentile believers? Read carefully and you will see that in each of these cases, the presuppositions of the earliest layer of Yeshua-believing tradition differ markedly from those most prevalent today.

D. One New Man

Read the following passage, Ephesians 2:11-3:6. Notice the oneness language and the two-ness language, both of which are important to the argument.

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men) - 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles - 2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

In the passage, is Israel described as replaced by the Church as the New Israel?

Who are the two partners in the One New Man?

Is everyone the same in the One New Man or is everyone equal? What is the difference?

What is the difference between unanimity, uniformity, and unity? Which is presented here?

At 6/15/2006 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them."

That would seem to put the question to bed. So we can go to the temple and give notice of the date of the purification as Paul did. If not, then the implications of not being able to has to be part of the equation. One can't say that we are practicing like they did in Jerusalem and then not practice as they did in Jerusalem. How do I overcome this inequality?

At 6/15/2006 8:51 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

The lesson for us is first about Paul and the early Jewish Yeshua believers--they did not abandon nor replace the received patterns of Jewish piety. After all, here is a community of Jewish Yeshua believers more than tweny years after Pentecost, still routinely and unself-consciously participating in normative Jewish life. Secondly, for us as well, we ought not to succumb to the assumptions of supersessionism which foster the assumption that the Jewish way of life is defunct now that Christ has come, and that the unity of the Body of Believers requires of Jews who believe in Jesus to "not go overboard" in Jewish observance, and to treat the same (1) purely voluntary and individual and (2) restricted to "biblical" feasts and ceremonies. This was NOT the case with the kind of ceremony Paul was participating in, and Ya'akov/James was seeking to validate that Paul led a halachic life recognizable to Second Temple Jews as not only "biblical" but also Jewish by the norms of their time.

We too ought to live normative Jewish lives. Indeed, the New Testament indicates that such a life is not only permitted, but expected of Jews.

Why have so many among us stopped expecting this, supporting this, or even allowing this? Something is wrong.

At 6/15/2006 9:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why did the temple become obsolete immediately after its destruction but there was no indication of this twenty years after Pentecost?

At 6/15/2006 10:31 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Pentecost was approximately in the year 30 CE, and the events in Acts 21 approximately 52 CE. Yet eighteen years remained until the destruction of the Temple! And I would not use the word "obsolete," because of its negative connotations. Yeshua's sacrifice and death validated the sacrificial system, and yes, fulfilled them, but not in a condemnatory, negative fashion. And by the way, in Hebrews, the only portion of the Law that is replaced is that pertaining to sacrifices. The rest of Torah remains in place. Reread the book from that perspective and you should see that this is so. Canadian Scholar Charles P. Anderson is the only person I know of who has pointed this out, and I am just echoing him.


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