Has the Pendulum Swung Too Far?

05 January 2013

Otherwise entitled, "Why Do We Seem to Exchange One Idol for Another?"

Update:The weekend of Jan 10-13, Tim Hegg visited our group in San Antonio. While he was here, he addressed some of the concerns we initially aired in this article. We revised the article and reposted after some clarifications were made.

 

In the Fall 2012 issue of Messiah Journal from First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ), Boaz Michael makes an impassioned plea to his readers that they reconsider and reject One-Law and Two-House teachings as particularly insidious forms of anti-Semitic replacement theology.

He is right.

Some "One-Law" groups disregard the fact that the Torah itself makes distinctions between different groups.  This is a form of idolatry in which Torah observance becomes the object of desire regardless of what the Torah and the apostles actually say.

"Two-House" theology ignores the fact that that the apostles rejoice at Gentiles (rather than "lost tribe members") coming to salvation.  This is a form of idolatry in which biological heritage in Israel becomes the object of desire regardless of what the Apostolic Writings actually say.

BUT... 

Mr. Michael unfortunately seems to attempt to replace these two idols with a third one: "authentic Judaism".

Anytime we set our focus is on a "what" rather than a "who" we are at risk of committing idolatry.  In addition, our focus must be the right Who... Yeshua the Messiah, our Creator, and Redeemer.

I recognize that I could be entirely wrong about this and welcome any correction or admonition from other believers.  Having made the caveat and opened the door for correction, let's carry on...

 

Judaism is not the point

If I had to summarize my objections to Mr. Michael's article it would be that "Judaism is not the point"... even for Jews.

Abraham did not rejoice to see the day of Judaism.
He rejoiced to see the day of Messiah.  (John 8:56)

Peter did not command others to be baptized in the name of Judaism.
They were to be baptized in the name of Messiah Yeshua. (Acts 2:38)

Paul did not write that the goal of the Law was Judaism.
The goal of the Law is Messiah. (Romans 10:4)

The enemy is not opposed to Judaism.
He is opposed to those who keep the commandments of G-d and hold to the testimony of Yeshua.  (Revelation 12:17)

 

Before anybody opens Gmail to fire off a nasty-gram, let me be clear: I am not opposed to Jews doing Judaism.  It's just that Judaism is not the point. 

Yeshua is! 

Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).  Like Paul in Philippians 3:8, we should consider all things to be loss in view of the surpassing greatness of knowing Messiah Yeshua.

 

G-d's Law is not the Mosaic covenant

G-d took His good Laws and made them covenantal requirements for Israel at Sinai.

The Jewish people have every right to interpret and follow the Mosaic covenant in whatever manner they see fit but that does not mean they are the arbiters of G-d's commandments for all humanity.

 

I am not saying that people who are not Jews (and not participants in the Mosaic covenant) are exempt from G-d's Laws.

Consider these commandments found in the Mosaic covenant:

"Do not murder." Does this mean "do not murder" is a commandment only for Jews after Sinai?  Of course not.  Cain sinned when he murdered Abel.

"Celebrate Sukkot." Although this is required for Jews, it is not forbidden to Gentiles.  It is a celebration of the coming reign of Messiah.

"Do not eat pork." Although forbidden for Jews, pork is not required for Gentiles (and they would do well to also abstain).

"The high priest must marry a virgin." Although required for the high priest, marriage to virgins is not forbidden to Gentiles.

 

Judaism attempts to limit the commandments that apply to Gentiles to only the seven "Noachide Laws" and (when challenged) adherents will stretch the seven to fit a myriad of other circumstances.  Here's the challenge: if the Most High did not forbid Gentiles from a specific behavior, by what authority can Judaism attempt to do so?

Paul makes this observation:

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.  (Romans 2:14-16)

 

To those who suggest that Judaism has the commandments all figured out and we should just follow their lead, I offer this: Judaism (please note... not "Jews" but "Judaism"!) rejects Yeshua as the Messiah.  If Judaism made the mistake of getting the Author of the Torah wrong, it is entirely possible it got something else wrong, too.

I'm just sayin'... 

 

Mr. Michael once supported a One-Law ideology for believers that, in the end, erases Jewish identity.
He has abandoned One-Law in favor of "authentic" (i.e. rabbinic Orthodox) Judaism.

Has the pendulum swung too far?  Perhaps it has.

 

The following section contains some observations or concerns that align directly to Mr. Michael's article.  It is rather lengthy and serves primarily to document my thoughts on his article. 


Additional Thoughts

From page 56:

Consider this comment I received on my recent book, Twelve Gates, which addresses the claims of the Two-House movement:

Boaz Michael... might have titled his book [Twelve Gates]: VALIDATION OF THE JEWS.
From his treatise, I can imagine a little Jewish boy on one side of his fence telling his little
"Gentile" neighbor, "You can't come over into my yard."  The change I sensed in FFOZ for
the past few years is now confirmed.  The organization has turned into an entity that has
labeled itself Messianic Jewish, so those you label "Gentiles" are placed outside your walls. 
I ordered the Haggadah a couple years ago and found that it had changed into an almost
entirely Jewish reading... I had to look elsewhere for a user-friendly one this year.

Consider the conflicting ideas present in that paragraph.  First, such persons are angry because they feel like they are being excluded from participation in something Jewish.  However, when presented with our Vine of David Haggadah, an authentic representation of a very ancient Jewish liturgy for Passover, they recoil—it's too Jewish and they don't know what to do with it.

 

G-d's righteous ways are not "Jewish".  They don't belong to the Jews: they belong to G-d (see Genesis 26:4-5, Exodus 16:28, etc).  As stewards of G-d's oracles that contain His commandments and instructions, Israel has a special role to play, however, that role does not include withholding the commandments from Gentiles.  Judaism, however, does withhold the commandments from Gentiles and that perceived "exclusion from G-d's ways" seems to be the commenter's concern.

I have not seen the Vine of David Haggadah; however, if it is anything like FFOZ's previous "Passover Encounter" Haggadah, I understand the commenter's concern.  The focus seems to be on the "traditions of Judaism" rather than the "Redeemer of the Jews".  Authentic or not, ancient Jewish liturgy is not the point.  Yeshua is!

 

Also on page 56:

The Bible doesn't support replacement theology. 

True!

From Genesis 12 to Revelation 22, Israel and the Jewish people are central.

False!

 

From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, Yeshua is central.  This is an instance where the focus is on the wrong "who".  Yes, Israel is present but its significance is only in relationship to Yeshua.  There is nothing inherently good or righteous about Israel.  Moses makes that plain in Deuteronomy 9:1-6.

Rather than focusing on the instrument the Master Craftsman uses to accomplish His work, we should focus on the Master and the work He is accomplishing.

  • Catholicism has focused on the instrument of Yeshua's birth (Mary) to the point where she has become an idol.
  • Judaism has focused on the instrument by which G-d has revealed His holiness (the Torah) to the point where it has become an idol.
  • It *appears* (please note the caveat!) FFOZ has focused on the instrument through which G-d fulfilled His promise of a Redeemer (the Jews) to the point where Jewish ideology (Judaism) has become an idol.

 

From page 57:

People are starting to understand that when modern-day Reformed theologians pay lip service to Israel's unique status, in reality they are only cloaking the supersessionist message in new terms—because in that paradigm, Jews don't have any covenantal rights until they become Christians.


"Jews don't have any covenantal rights until they become Christians"?  In regards to the New Covenant, this is entirely true.  Jews only enter into the New Covenant when they come to Messiah in faith... it's part of the definition of the new covenant.  In regards to the Mosaic Covenant, this is clearly false but I don't believe anybody is claiming that is the case.  If they were, they would be wrong.  Completely wrong.

Perhaps Mr Michael is suggesting that Reformed theologians are taking the approach that the Mosaic Covenant has been annulled/fulfilled/abolished/ended and therefore there is no active covenant in which Israel can participate except the new covenant.  Until they come to faith in Messiah, they are unable to participate in that new covenant.

 

The only difference between Jews and Gentiles is that Jews are promised that someday, they will become Christians and be saved.

In regards to salvation (which is, unfortunately, the primary and often exclusive focus of Christianity) this is true.  The Jews (Israel) are the only group that has a national promise of salvation.  Gentiles have no such promise.

If we broaden our view beyond salvation, however, we can see this is false.  Jews (Israelites) in general have a unique calling to a specific purpose and some of them (e.g. the Levites and Aaronic priests) have an exceptionally unique calling to an even more specific purpose.  Gentiles clearly do not share in these.

 

Also on page 57:

But there is a movement that embraces supersessionism, embraces replacement theology in a far more subtle and dangerous way.  This replacement theology comes wearing a tallit, waving the Israeli flag, and proclaiming that the Jews are God's uniquely chosen people.
Yet in reality, this movement strips Jewishness of every single one of its unique and defining attributes.  It rips the Torah out of the hands of the Jewish people.  In many cases, it even denies them their unique right to the land of Israel.  Just like Christian supersessionism, this movement replaces Israel with a multinational body of believers.  The difference is the resulting body is not called "the Church."  Instead, it takes the name of "Israel," and proclaims to be functionally identical with the historical Jewish people.
This theology has come to be called "One-Law" theology, and I am deeply familiar with this theology because I helped create, nurture, and teach it for several years.

Well... this is true for any "One-Law" group that would not recognize or honor the distinctions made within the Law itself.  This form of One-Law = bad mojo.  (I almost wrote "One-Law = bad juju" but then thought, "somebody is going to interpret that as "bad Jew-Jew" and send me a nasty-gram). ;)

 

From page 58:

But in reality, the idea that Gentiles are equally obligated to all of the same commandments in the Mosaic Law in exactly the same way that Jews are is a total and complete denial of the unique identity, role, and calling of the Jewish people.

Agreed!

This form of supersessionism reaches its absolute apex in the Two-House movement, which claims that Gentiles who believe in Yeshua are actually Jews, entitled to the Torah, the land, the covenants, by virtue of their supposed ancestry.

One passage of Scripture comes to mind:

I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.  (Revelation 2:9)

 

Also on page 58:

Another commenter wrote that "God's intention was to make one homogenous [sic] people."

Oh, my gosh!  <facepalm>  Really!?

The G-d of the universe who chose to glorify Himself in the enormously abundant diversity of creation intends to make one homogeneous people?

The same G-d who made 400,000+ species of beetles, 32,000+ species of fish, and 10,000+ species of birds is going to make His chosen people homogeneous?

Just how far does this person expect homogeneity to go?  After all, it could be argued, "there is neither male nor female", right?  Are they planning on ordering up double mastectomies for believing women and emasculations for believing men?

Craziness!

 

Towards the end of page 58:

Popular terms used for this [homogeneity] concept in One-Law circles are "One New Man," "Fellow Heirs," "Commonwealth of Israel," "Grafted-In," and "In Messiah."  These terms are taken from the New Testament (Romans 11, Galatians 3, Ephesians 2) and in the context of Paul's epistles, they teach about the spiritual unity of all believers.  They are part of Paul's ongoing argument that Gentiles can be saved and become part of the body of Messiah without first becoming Jewish.  Outside that context, however, these passages are egregiously misapplied to the point that they essentially convey the message: "In our movement, no one would ever know you're Jewish.  In a few generations, there won't even be Jews here any more."

I believe Mr. Michael is painting several groups with an exceedingly large brush.  While these labels seem to be springing up all over the place, not everyone who uses them does so with the same message or intent.  Several books I have read recently use these labels in exactly the sense Mr Michael intends and all of them espouse a strong degree of homogeneity among Jewish and Gentile believers: either adoption of Orthodox Jewish standards by Gentiles or abandonment of Orthodox standards by Jews.

 

At the top of page 59:

As Lancaster puts it, "oneness is not sameness."  Like a married couple, Jews and Gentiles are indeed "one in Messiah."  However, like a married couple, each part retains its unique identity, calling, function, and purpose.

Great analogy!  Although our sex (male or female) has no bearing on our entry into relationship with G-d, we keep that identity and the functions and purposes that come with it. 

 

Also on page 59:

When Jewish customs and Jewish apparel are taken on outside the context of a Jewish community and authentic Jewish identity, it diminishes real Judaism and real Jewish life.  It sends a message to the Jewish people: "All of the things that make you unique and identifiably Jewish are mine too."

"Jewish customs", "Jewish apparel", "... diminishes real Judaism..."  Hmmm.

For everything that is actually "Jewish"... I agree.

  • Kippah?  Jewish
  • Shtreimel?  Jewish
  • Tallit?  Jewish
  • Kittel?  Jewish
  • Sheitel?  Jewish
  • Peyos?  Jewish

 

Tzitzit are a prime example. 

Tzitzit are a horrible example! 

  1. The concept and use of tzitzit predates G-d's command to Israel at Sinai (see Arthur Peake's "A Commentary on the Bible" for Numbers 15).
     
  2. Unlike the Levitical and Aaronic service in the Temple (which are forbidden to Gentiles), tzitzit are not restricted to Jews. 
    They fall into the category of "permitted but not required" for Gentiles.
     
  3. The Scriptural meaning and purpose of tzizit is fairly obvious: they are a reminder to keep G-d's commandments.
    What?  Gentiles don't need reminders to keep G-d's commandments?

 

In a traditional Jewish context, tzitzit have real meaning.  They send a specific message: "The person wearing these is shomer Shabbos.  They keep a high standard of kashrut.  They are serious about traditional Judaism."

Yes, in a traditional Jewish setting, Gentiles would do well to be sensitive to the meaning tzitzit carry in that context.

In a gang-infested urban neighborhood, a Redskins baseball cap on backwards might be a gang sign but in a welding class, it just means you can put on your welding helmet. 

 

To see a person with tzitzit, for example, eating a cheeseburger or driving on the Sabbath actually diminishes the Torah and casts Messiah (and Messianics) in a negative light.  It is application without understanding.  It strips tzitzit of their meaning and significance.

A point of clarification: "For an Orthodox Jew to see a person with tzitzit..." would be more accurate.  Nobody else would even have a clue!

One of my coworkers thought I had some loose strings on my shirt and was about ready to take some scissors to them.  Another person thought I was wearing a belt with tassels from the 70s.  I won't elaborate further on that conversation.  :)

 

"...diminishes the Torah..."?  For an Orthodox Jew, it diminishes the person wearing the tzitzit (not the Torah) and would only cast Yeshua in a negative light from their "I don't believe in Yeshua anyway" perspective.

 

Consider this analogy: 

Stop signs are placed on roads to cause vehicle operators to stop, check for and yield to other traffic, and then proceed on their way.

What if, at every stop sign, I was to:

  • pull to the side of the road
  • open the hood
  • check the fluids
  • clean the windshield
  • and check the tires

in addition to checking for and yielding to other traffic?

If others failed to follow my practice, should I be upset or offended that someone is "diminishing authentic stopping"?

The stop sign (and the requirements for it) are governed by a higher authority.  My additions are not binding for anyone else but me and those who choose to follow my standards.

 

On page 60:

In rejecting the right and responsibility of the Jewish people to define what it means to be Jewish and to practice Judaism, One-Law theology strikes directly at the core of authentic Judaism.  One-Law replaces the Jewish rabbis and sages with self-appointed Gentiles who believe that they are divinely sanctioned to interpret the Torah outside of a Jewish context: whatever conclusions they come to are given greater weight than those of Jewish halachic authorities.

At this point, I have to pause and define some terms to avoid confusion.  I'm not saying these are the right definitions... they are just the definitions I will be using.

1) Jews = biological descendants of Jacob.

2) Jewish = anything pertaining to the Jews.

3) Judaism = the Jewish form of worship in relation to the commandments of the Sinai covenant (including all case-law and rabbinic halachic rulings).

 

Using these definitions, I would completely agree with Mr. Michael's statement above.

However, I don't believe that Gentile believers in Messiah are called to be Jewish.  Paul repeatedly makes the argument that Gentiles do not have to become Jews in order to be saved.  He also makes the argument that Gentiles (i.e. the "uncircumcised" in 1 Cor 7:18) should remain as they are... Gentiles.

 

Also on page 60:

When God entrusted Israel with the Torah, he commanded her to appoint leaders to interpret the Torah and to judge whether or not people had broken the Torah.  Inherent in this process is the development of "case law"—established precedent that fleshes out the full meaning and implication of each commandment.  This body of tradition was created by the Jewish people at the command of God.

I disagree BUT... I entirely respect the right of the Jews to define, interpret, and implement the Torah for themselves as they see fit.

 

The flaw (as I see it) in Mr. Michael's and traditional Judaism's argument is that "case law" is an inherent part of the process.

The passage that is usually referenced to support the idea of "case law" is in Deuteronomy 17:

If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the LORD your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, by transgressing His covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded, and if it is told you and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire thoroughly. Behold, if it is true and the thing certain that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death. On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

If any case is too difficult for you to decide, between one kind of homicide or another, between one kind of lawsuit or another, and between one kind of assault or another, being cases of dispute in your courts, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the LORD your God chooses. So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall inquire of them and they will declare to you the verdict in the case. You shall do according to the terms of the verdict which they declare to you from that place which the LORD chooses; and you shall be careful to observe according to all that they teach you. According to the terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left. The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the LORD your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel. Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again. (Deuteronomy 17:1-13)

 

  1. The context of this passage is idolatry ("and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them") which merits the death penalty ("and you shall stone them to death").
  2. The commandment is only for these death-penalty cases that are too difficult to decide at the local level ("If any case is too difficult for you to decide...").
  3. The commandment says to seek the decision of those "in office in those days"... not those who decided on a similar case 1,200 years ago.
  4. The commandment places the decision authority in the hands of the "Levitical priest or the judge"... not anyone else.
  5. That Levitical priest or judge should be in Jerusalem (i.e. "the place which the LORD you G-d chooses").

This commandment must be stretched (and violated!) in five different directions in order to make case-law work.

 

Further along on page 60:

By divorcing the Torah and its interpretation from the Jewish people and their cultural and religious heritage, One-Law theology assumes a role that G-d gave specifically to the Jewish people.

Agreed!

The denigration of Judaism almost always masks a form of anti-Semitism.

Given the "almost" caveat... agreed.

 

I'll stop there for now.  Let me know if you have any additional thoughts or observations!

 

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