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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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Thursday, March 15, 2007

On the New Covenant Not Simply Trumping the Old

I wonder if it is not a bit artificial for us to imagine that we must find New Covenant texts to support practices coming out of an Old Covenant or Jewish communal context. It seems to me that supersessionism is at the root of this habit, which all of us have evidenced in one degree or another. In such a view, the assumption is that the New Covenant trumps the old in all its aspects, and that the New Covenant community trumps the old as well. Therefore, the only way we can justify practices is to find New Covenant evidence for them. This is supersessionism and leads directly into Hebrew Christian DIspensationalism which states that the Mosaic Code is now rendered null and void, and that the only practices we should entertain are those explicitly affirmed in the New Covenant Scriptures.

I don’t think it correct to imagine that the New Covenant Scriptures were given as a manual of practice for Messianic Jews, and certainly not as a replacement manual. Not all matters are taught in the New Testament—many things are either unaddressed or assumed. So it is that we see the Jewish believers in Jerusalem still leading observant Jewish lives decades after Pentecost (Acts 21). Richard Bauckham, consummate British scholar and expert on the family of Jesus, writes in his commentary on James, “As far as we can tell, the vast majority of Jewish Christians in the NT period continued to observe the whole law, taking for granted that they were still obligated to do so.” Notice not only the content of what he is saying, but also that he says “as far as we can tell.” This means that this is an inference drawn from NT practice and historical data, but not something that is specifically and systematically addressed. Therefore, since the New Covenant does not systematically address every matter, is it not artificial to require New Covenant corroboration for our practice in all points?

Perhaps we should rather assume that generally, things are permitted that are not otherwise forbidden.

Finally, we need to realize that ALL of us and everyone constructs their theology out of assumptions, constructs, and theories we bring TO the Scripture, and not simply derived from the Scripture. When I had the privilege of teaching at Indiana Wesleyan University, I was given a booklet written by one of the faculty there, Ken Schenck. On the subject of hermeneutics (the science of interpretation), he says the following:

“James does not tell us how to connect his ‘a person is justified by works and nt by faith alone,’ (Jas. 2:24) to Paul’s ‘a person is justified by faith and not by works of law’ (Rom. 3:28). An important step toward a mature use of Scripture is the acknowledgment that the glue that holds these concepts together in our thinking is not biblical glue—it ultimately cannot come from the Bible itself. Rather, it is glue that we bring from our personalities and backgrounds, not to mention the broader Christian (and Jewish!) traditions of which we are a part. This is nto a bad thing—it becomes bad primarily when we do not recognize it. . . We note that the most important steps in the appropriation of the Bible for today are steps that the Bible itself cannot tell us how to take” (A Brief Guide to Biblical Interpretation. Marion, Indiana:: Triangle Publishing, 2005:18).

Despite proof texts that many, including i myself, could adduce, it remains true that the life of faith inevitably involves human choices and prioritizations.

At 4/09/2007 12:20 PM, Blogger pbandj7 said...

first of all, very good post. second, i have a question that has really been bugging me recently.

i am a gentile believer, but have found a more recent call to connect with our hebrew heritage.

i agree with you about the new not replacing all of the old covenant. certainly, Yeshua replaced the need for sacrificing animals for our atonement. but are there other areas that he also replaced?

the big one that has been bothering me recently is the kosher eating thing. personally, regardless of replacement or not, i believe it is healthier to eat kosher. however, i was just reading again today in mark that Yeshua stated that all food was clean. and of course the vision given to peter in acts about eating unclean food.

so are we bound to eat kosher? or did the new covenant get rid of that aspect of the old?


At 4/09/2007 12:56 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Thank you for your comment, Peter.

As I understand Scripture, it is clear that the Jewish people are given a way of life meant to be unique to themselves. This is clear not simply from the Older Testament ( Ex. 19:5; Deut 14:2; 26:18; Psalm 147:19-20, etc.), but from the Newer as well (Romans 3:1-2; 9:4-5, and especially Acts 1:28-29; 21:15-26). This means there is a mandatory force to Torah for Jews, even Messianic Jews, which it does not have for Gentiles. This is by God's design, so that the Jewish people would be a particular sign of God's dealings with them. Therefore, the kosher laws are not laws for you as a Gentile, although you may wish to adopt Jewish practice as a practice. If you eat ham, you are not disobedient: if I eat ham, I am disobdedient.

The passage in Mark 7 includes a parenthetical remark, "Thus he declared all foods clean." This remark bears interpreting. Mark's gospel was intended especially for a Roman Gentile audience. This parenthetical remark [read the context of Mark 15) can reasonably be interpreted as meaning that there is nothing intrinsic to, say, pork, that makes it clean --it is not the foods themselves that are clean or unclean. Rather, they are unclean to those to whom they are forbidden. This was a pastoral action to indicate to the Roman readers that they, Gentiles, could eat any food whatsoever, because there is nothing intrinsic to various foods that renders them ritually unclean, but rather, only the prohibition of God.

That this is so seems clear by the fact that the early Jewish believers continued to eat like Jews. If Jesus had declared such practices expired they would not have done so.

As for the passage in Acts 10-11 where Peter has the vision of the sheet lowered from heaven, full of unclean animals, with a voice saying, "Arise Peter, Kill and eat," Peter himself tells us that the meaning of the vision was not about animals and diet but about people: this vision was to prepare him to meet with gentiles, whom he formerly viewed as unclean. See Acts 10:28.

So, as a Gentile, you are NOT bound to eat kosher. Jews however should do so, but I would avoid the language "bound," as being too negative.

I hope this helps.


At 11/20/2008 6:10 PM, Blogger Cindy said...

Some issues I have with your response to the poster are:
1) When the paranthetical comment, which many translators believe was not in the original anyway, talks about food, wouldn't it be referring to food as understood to be food by Yeshua's audience? I don't buy that He was speaking to Gentiles in this whole discussion; He was speaking in a Halachic context. Pork wasn't food.He was making the point, not that ritual washings before and after eating as well as other traditions are bad per se, but that one needs to be very careful not to let traditions get in the way of obeying the more important actual commandments written down in scripture. YOu can act all religious and do just the culturally appropriate thing outwardly (in Jewish OR in Christian circles), but really be in grievous sin in the eyes of G-d. He was saying focus on what is important, don't neglect actual real genuine obedience to what G-d wants. And He looks at the heart, at our thoughts, at our attitudes. That is what was being discussed in this passage, NOT that Gentiles can eat pork. To take the parathetical, added later, comment and use it to encourage a practice that is condemned a number of times in scripture for G-d's people, is highly suspect to my mind.
2) When you say that Gentile believers in Yeshua (or anyone else, for that matter) should not be encouraged to follow the biblical commandments, because they are just for "Jews", then you are leaving out a whole lot of very good laws that are recognized as law to some extent or another by a number of governments, not to speak of individuals who follow them, Christian or not.
3) In order to state that "only Jews" should follow them, then you must somehow be able to tell beyond a shadow of doubt who is a "Jew" and who is not. And that is in the eye of the beholder, unless you can determine by scripture who is a "true Jew". That will of course depend on how you interpret scripture as well as which documents you accept as "scripture". This of course gets into the discussion of conversion.
Some questions about sacrifice: if it was sacrifice that took away sin, what sacrifice did David do that covered his sins of adultery and murder? Which specific sacrifice covers murder and adultery? Also how did Daniel sacrifice since there was no temple (he was in exile)?
The idea of one Kingdom, is that all follow the same King, all follow the same Law. Of course we are all at a different stage in learning it and it is a life-long journey.
The commandments given are powerful, meant to effect world-wide change. When Yeshua said "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven", He was talking about obedience to Torah, on earth. By all.

At 11/20/2008 7:48 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Even if you were asking questions rather than case building, I would not have time to respond to your post. However, it seems clear that you are trying to correct me and that you are sure you are right and I am wrong. It also seems that no further efforts on my behalf will shake that conviction loose.

So go in peace.

We definitely do not agree.


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