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 – there is a great difference between saying that the Mosaic Law does not apply as a body of law today, and saying that such a view is anti-Torah or relegates the Old Testament to a lesser position.

There is no doubt that evangelical theology as a theology (communicating it to the person in the pew is another matter) takes a high view of the Old Testament as well as the Law of Moses within the Old Testament. Books have been written addressing the question of how we know the Old Testament is inspired, and much of the answer comes from the way Jesus, the apostles, and the entire New Testament treats the OT. In fact, it may be easier to demonstrate the inspiration of the OT than of the NT! But let there be no doubt, the OT and NT are both the Word of God. Both are relevant to us today, both find application into our lives now, and both are equally the inspired Word of God. There is no division of inspiration as in rabbinic theology whereby the Torah is more inspired than the Prophets. No, Genesis, Leviticus, Obadiah, Mark, Philemon, Revelation – all are equally inspired and given by God for our instruction and guidance.

The problem comes with the Law of Moses in particular. Here again, it is crucial to see that all evangelical theology upholds the Law of Moses as inspired Scripture. Yes, there is much popular theology that dismisses the Law as a burden, something we are now free from, and good riddance at that. However, that is not evangelical theology. There is often a major disconnect between what theologians say and what ends up in the pew. That is a problem of pastoral training and education, but it is not a problem of theology itself. The Reformed wing of the Church in particular, has always taken a very high view of the Law, enumerating its various uses even in the life of a Christian today.

If that is the case, why aren’t Christians keeping kosher or observing the festivals?

It is not due to an anti-Torah bias. Rather, it comes from the understanding that the Law of Moses was part of a particular covenant that was made with Israel, a covenant that was good because each law reflects something of the goodness of God. However, it is also understood that that particular covenant was only intended to be temporary, and that at this time in redemptive history, it is no longer binding; instead we are under a New Covenant. This understanding does not arise out an assumption of supersessionism or anti-Semitism; it arises from an examination of the texts, from exegesis. There are many, many non-supersessionists and pro-Jewish theologians who would nevertheless agree with this redemptive-historical approach to the Law of Moses.

Therefore is it not a question of being anti-Torah, but of our place in the history of redemption. An analogy may help. In the Law of Moses, sacrifices were meant to be done at “the place the LORD your God will choose,” meaning the Tabernacle or later, the Temple. Prior to that, sacrifices could apparently be offered anywhere. Suppose after the Law had been given, someone complained that the Law was “anti-anywhere,” restrictive, denigrating to the freedom that we had to sacrifice at any place prior to that time. The answer would simply have to be, we are in a different time in redemptive history, God has now given a Law, now we are to follow it. It does not follow that the Law is anti-pre-Law or somehow devalued the experience of the patriarchs before then.

So our time in redemptive history is one factor. Someone may disagree with this understanding of the text, but let us not imagine that this is “anti-Torah” or devaluing to the Law.

A second consideration that also upholds the value of the Law is that the specifics of the Law of Moses reflected a more general “law of God” behind those particular enactments. This is what Reformed theology seems to be getting at when it speaks of the high value of the law for the Christian. For example, the specific commandment in Deuteronomy that we put a parapet around our roofs (for the safety of guests, as entertaining was rooftop in those days), is a specific expression of larger principles that comprise “God’s law”, i.e. his character: concern for safety in general, which is an expression of God’s love. If anything, in the NT we are to apply “God’s law” in this sense, in ways that go beyond the specifics enumerated in the Law of Moses.

A third consideration is that it is very likely that some laws, such as those of kashrut, were intended as a symbol system to indicate that Israel was set apart from the nations. Under the new covenant, while Israel continues to play a role in God’s plan, the nations and Israel are not separate in the same way. It follows then, that the system of kashrut would not be obligatory. This is an anthropological approach to OT law, and while not everyone will agree, there is much to think about here. Gordon Wenham in particular has unpacked this in his commentaries on Leviticus (series New International Commentary on the OT) and Numbers (series Tyndale OT Commentaries). (This is substantially different from Derek’s remark that some say kashrut was a “primitive earlier” stage of revelation repealed as “unworthy.”)

In short, there is a complete difference between what I have outlined as (just a few) aspects of evangelical theology of the OT/Torah, and a devaluing of the OT. Many more points could be brought forward, but those are enough for now. As Walter Kaiser might have said about devaluing the OT and the Law of Moses, “Me genoito! (Paul’s words in Greek for ‘May it never be!’)

For a good look at evangelical interaction with the Law of Moses, I suggest not only Walter Kaiser’s books but also the Zondervan volume, “Five Views on Law and Gospel.”

I’m afraid that by confusing popular neglect of the OT with evangelical theology, we are not only throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but the entire tub and the plumbing as well!

May God be glorified by his entire Word.

ONE MORE POST TO COME…

Me (Derek) again. Good paper, Rich. I do not think your view of Torah and the New Covenant is truly doing justice to all the texts. There are points and counterpoints to consider, but the system that is persuasive makes all of them fit. Your system does not, for example, do justice the Jeremiah 31, the New Covenant passage, which states (a) that the New Covenant is for Israel and Judah and (b) that when the New Covenant arrives, no one will need to teach his neighbor about God (sounds like we’re not fully there yet, now but not yet) and (c) the Torah (scripture uses this term for the Torah of Moses) will be written on hearts. Torah is not obsolete in the New Covenant, but written on hearts instead of etched in stones. I do not believe our present experience of the Holy Spirit is yet the fulfillment. We have yet to see Torah written on hearts, a day when all will love God heart and soul and be glorified and sinless. Anyway, the conversation continues . . .

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About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Mark Kinzer, Messianic Jewish, Theology, Torah. Bookmark the permalink.

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’t Christians keeping kosher or observing the festivals?” Good question. How about this one- Why do Christians follow pagan holidays? Why worship on sol-day? Why is there a move to post the 10 Commandments on the courthouse if the rest of the Torah is not followed?
    A lot of theses issues boil down to traditions in the church that are deeply felt and hard to discard. For many people, they are happy to go to church on Sunday, read a commentary in Sunday school and finish it off with a big ham sandwich. They do not think about these issues as no one else talks about them. Can you imagine a new pastor comes to his congregation, pulls out a siddur, a tallit and begins to recite the Shema. How dare he! What would Jesus do(no copyright infringement intended). Worship, fellowship and community. It is a great ideal. However, many people are not satisfied with that and are yearning for greater spiritual meaning. If they do not get it in the church- where do they go? The same place their ancestors went in the past. They search for meaning in new age ideas, Gnostic thought or other paths. We see this in Rabbi Saul’s letters.
    I know people who have lost their way searching for Jesus in India. One of my friend’s father believes Jesus was a spaceman as outlined in The Urantia Book. Both of these people went to traditional mainline churches. But the guidance they received from the Church was not enough for them. So they looked else ware. Are they lukewarm? Will Yeshua vomit them out of His mouth?
    In contrast, when I met Yeshua, He showed me that there are answers. They are in the Torah. Sometimes you have to work hard for them. But I believe with all my heart that this is the Way and He led me to Tikvat David for that purpose.
    I have read on this blog that there are more effective ways to save souls. That we are deceiving ourselves with our prayers, our Torah lifestyles and that we wish to be integrated into traditional Judaism. Who needs recognition when we have Yeshua!
    If you want to be popular join a mega-church or your local shul. If you would like to be a “Jew by choice” there are many Reform Congregations that would welcome you. For those interfaith couples out there reading this blog. Come on in to a Messianic congregation and see what Yeshua is all about.

  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. “Who are the Heirs of the New Age in the Epistle to the Hebrews?” in Marcus, J., and M.L. Soards, eds., Apocalyptic and the New Testament (Essays in Honor of J. Louis Martyn), JSNTS 24. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1989: 255-277].

    Anderson amazes and excites me with his willingness to see the Letter to the Hebrews solidly within the context of Jewish communal and theological concerns. And he does so in an unforced manner. Indeed, I would suggest that it is the general Christian tradition which has wrested the text from its context, missed its meaning, and used the text as a pretext for statements which go beyond and away from the intended meaning of the author.

    For example, Anderson affirms that Hebrews 7:11-12 refers only to a change in legislation as it regards the cult (Temple service), sacrifice and priesthood, not to a wholesale jettisoning of the Law of Moses. Discussing the use of the passive verb of nomotetheo as used in this context, Anderson states “7.11 refers to specific commandments concerning the Levitical priesthood and their sacrificial service to the people, nothing more. . . . The meaning is not that the Torah was given on the basis of or under the Levitical priesthood, but rather that the people received commandments regarding the priesthood. Those commandments were of course part of the Torah, but not its totality. The author is simply stating an obvious fact as a basis for the next stage in his argument legitimating the priesthood of Jesus. Having demonstrated the superiority of Melchizedek to Abraham and therefore to Levi and his descendants (7.1-10), the author now deals with the questions of priestly laws. The Torah as such never enters the picture

    The ‘change in the Law’ in 7.12, therefore, refers to priestly law. The argument is that a change in priesthood, from the order of Aaron to the order of Melchizedek (7.11), is paralleled by and requires a change in the laws governing the priestly order as such. Priesthood itself is not in question. Indeed, it is essential to the teaching that leads to maturity. What has been changed is the order or type and therefore the effectiveness of priesthood and the priestly act. Since Torah contains specific commandments and regulations regarding sacrifice, including priests, materials and site, it is obvious to the author that those parts of Torah have been changed by God. What is referred to in 7.12 is the one elemental discontinuity permeating the epistle, the cultic life of Israel. If Jesus is the one true, effective sacrifice for the cleansing of the conscience, opening the way to God, then other sacrifices are no longer valid. It is ‘liturgical law ‘(8.2,6), and only liturgical law, that is changed in Hebrews. Inferences concerning other aspects of Torah or the Torah as such are unwarranted.”

    Even were one to grant that Rich is right that supersessionism and anti-Semitism (actually, anti-Judaism) are not in part behind Christendom’s redrawing of Torah’s role and boundaries (which I deny), the fact remains that the Christian tradition operates on an erroneous assumption: that all who believe in Yeshua, Jews and Gentiles alike, are called to the same lifestyle and guidelines. The Newer Testament demonstrates this not the be the case, as Kinzer outlines so well (see Acts 21:17ff). But this universalizing of the gospel, this homogeonizing of the people of God (which the Epistle to Diognetus called “a third race”–in the third century) results in a homogeonizing of the Torah and, influenced by the entrenched traditions of supersessionism and anti-Judaism, in a theology which no longer has distinct place for Jews who believe in Yeshua keeping Torah like their ancestors did, and like observant Jews still do.

    Finally, as there being ” many, many non-supersessionists and pro-Jewish theologians who would nevertheless agree with this redemptive-historical approach to the Law of Moses,” this is far from convincing. This is because of what I term “crypto-supersessionism,” by which I mean supersessionist presuppositions functioning at a subconscious world-view level which, while unacknowledged, become evident in their effects. Such crypto-supersessionism is evident even in dispensationalist circles where supersessionism per se is flatly rejected and a high view of Israel is trumpeted abroad. Even in these circles, crypto-supersessionism is known by its fruits: anti-rabbinism, anti-nomianism, and anti-Judaism.

    That this is so in such circles is evident in what I term “the flaw of the excluded present.” For such circles, too often, and perhaps generally, the view of Israel’s past is rosy (Moses, Abraham, Daniel, Jesus, Paul, the Apostles, etc.), the Jewish future is radiant (the Millennium, Israel regathered repentant to the Land, etc.), but the Jewish present is wretched (they’re all going to hell, their religion is futile, their rabbis deceptive, and their Torah way of life expired). Is it not true that under such crypto-superessionism, the Jewish people are the Chosen people of the past, and the Chosen people of the future, but presently, “without hope and without God in the world,” as Paul says of pagans? I would submit that each and all of the negatives I outline here are evidence that supersessionistic and anti-Judaic assumptions continue to assert their influence, even where supersessionism per-se is denounced and the Jewish people, lauded.

    Finally returning to Anderson, he summarizes some of his thought on the argument of the Letter to the Hebrews in ways useful to our discussion. Here it is. Notice especially what he says about the relationship between covenant and Torah, and how the two are not synonymous. Therefore a change in covenant does not necessarily or wholesale equal a change in Torah or an abrogation of Torah observance. Enjoy!

    “With the one fundamental exception relating to the cult (the Temple worship), the Torah is still valid for those to whom it was given by Moses. No break with Jewish tradition apart from priesthood, sacrifice, and temple is assumed in Hebrews. Discontinuity centers upon cult, not Torah. Of course, cult implicates Torah. But Torah is a larger category, and apart from priesthood and other cultic aspects, is left untouched by the critique of Hebrews. The new covenant does not imply a new Torah, but a ‘changed’ Torah in which earlier cultic legislation is replaced. What distinguishes the two covenants is their relative efficacy to purify the conscience from sin. Thus there is a close relationship between the ‘change in the law’ and the transition to the new covenant. Jesus is the mediator of both.

  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, “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.)

    I am glad for your last disclaimer sentence, because I find your paragraph as a whole quite an overstatement. For example, I think you would agree that your own practice and opinion involves much more drastic a jettisoning of Torah than your quote outlines.

    As for the Torah being holistic, and many commandments no longer possible due to the destruction of the Temple, etc., surely, you who are so very knowledgeable in Jewish life, can affirm that halacha has long taken this into account, and that even simple texts like the Chofetz Chaim’s small book on the 613 mitzvot includes, without embarrassment, an entire section of mitzvot not possible if one is either not living in the Land, or due to the the destruction of the Temple. My point is, the vicissitudes of Jewish history, and the destruction of the Temple (either the first OR the second) have never been looked upon as negating the fact that Jews *as a people* should honor Hashem through a life of Torah obedience under the prevailing circumstances. And of course, the texture of this life of Torah obedience has always been a matter for communal discussion and determination, since the Torah was not given to individual Jews but to the community of Israel. (Which thoght Yeshua echoes in Matthew 23:3 when he reminds us that despite their bad example in a number of areas, “The Pharisees sit in Moses seat, therefore do whatever they tell you to do.” This indicates that they, as community leaders of the people of Israel as a people, have the right to decide what Judaism should look like. Again, the Torah was not given to individuals but to a community, therefore it seems to me out of place and decidedly post-Enlightenment when this is ignored, and individuals assume they can just opt out and blithely jettison the community’s consensus.

    Davie Weiss-Halivni speaks of public truth and private truth. Privately Jews are not only allowed, but encouraged to differ–it is part of creative halachic thinking. But publicly, observant Jews do not presume to depart from group standards. As a case in point, Weiss-Halivni points out how the Rashbam writes that he thinks the communal understanding of what it means to “bind them as a sign upon the hand and as frontlets between the eyes,” that this communal understanding of this passage as the mandate to make tefillin, is wrong, but that rather the text was speaking of guiding thoughts and actions by Torah. Still, in one of his halachic texts, he spends pages speaking of the right way to make tefillin. Yes you may differ, but “al tifrosh min ha-tziboor”–you should not depart from the (consensus and observance of) the community.

    And again, we have the matter of eschatology. To me at least, it is clear from Deut 30, Jer 31:31ff., and especially Ezek 36-37, among others, that the life of Torah obedience is the destiny of the people of Israel. The question I find facing us is this: if the life of Torah obedience is the legacy of the Jewish people from the past, and the destiny of Jewish people in the future (according to Scripture), how can it not be our responsibilty in the present?

    Onward, upward, forward, Godward.

  10. Dr. Dauerman,

    Thanks for the further interaction, which is certainly appreciated.

    You feel that my first paragraph is “as a whole quite an overstatement.” Obviously, for me it is not, since: 1) as noted in my earlier post, for almost 2,000 years now, we have not been able to follow roughly 75% of the “forever” or “for all generations” commandments as given in the Torah, along with roughly 75% of the actual chapter content (in terms of laws) in the Torah; 2) the Messiah has come, the Messianic kingdom has broken in, the Holy Spirit has been poured out, and we now “serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom 7:6b), which certainly means something; 3) it was Yeshua who said that He came to fulfill the Torah and Prophets; it was He who predicted the destruction of the Temple; it was He opened up “a new and living way” into the Most Holy Place (Heb 10:20), and it was He who is now preeminent in all things. The new covenant system that comes out of this – and I could multiply relevant biblical statements scores of times over – looks very different from what came in the past. It must!

    It is because of this that the writer of Hebrews could speak of a specific Torah command in a way that no traditional Jew could imagine, such as, “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God” (Heb 7:18-19). This is a radical statement, and I imagine that if the writer of Hebrews were alive today to post on this blog, he would at some point be branded anti-Semitic, anti-Judaic, anti-Torah, supersessionist, or, to use your new term, crypto-supersessionist. (Inspired by your new concept, I’m toying with the term crypto-antichrist, for those who unconsciously oppose the supremacy of Yeshua in all things, or perhaps crypto-Judaizer, for those who unknowingly call people to violate Paul’s exhortations in Gal 3:1-5. OK. At this point, I’m just joking – maybe. )

    You write, “you who are so very knowledgeable in Jewish life, can affirm that halacha has long taken this into account, and that even simple texts like the Chofetz Chaim’s small book on the 613 mitzvot includes, without embarrassment, an entire section of mitzvot not possible if one is either not living in the Land, or due to the destruction of the Temple.”

    Of course, I know these texts and own the book you mention. I would say, however, that, if Rabbinic Judaism has no embarrassment over this, it certainly has a sense of loss and incompleteness, hence the practice of some traditional Jews through the ages to rise at midnight to lament the destruction of the Temple, and hence the many prayers in the Siddur reflecting this sense of loss (in terms of longing for the rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of the sacrificial system). More importantly, it is because Rabbinic Judaism does not have the Messiah and does not have the new covenant realities that we enjoy that it has constructed a lifestyle of Talmud and Shulchan Aruch and Responsa Literature. As I have emphasized repeatedly, this lifestyle is not what is countenanced for Jewish believers in the New Testament writings.

    Volume 5 of my series, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, spends several hundred pages detailing why traditional Judaism is not the religion of the Scriptures, and so, even if I fully agreed with your Torah emphasis, I could not agree with following rabbinic halakha. As for your reference to Matt 23:3, I deal with this at length in vol. 5 as well, putting forth a number of strong reasons that it cannot possibly be an injunction to Jewish believers today (and through the centuries) to submit to rabbinic halakha. (One quick question: Since you raise questions about my own personal practice, may I ask you: 1) Which living, Orthodox rabbis are you submitted to today? Surely, you cannot claim to submit to and honor the teachings of the rabbis of past generations while seeking to live out your Jewish lifestyle through a Messianic congregation rather than in the midst of a rabbinic community. 2) Can you tell me which sections of the Shulchan Aruch you relate to most closely as a Messianic Jew, and which of the commentaries thereto you find most relevant? Just curious!)

    I am aware, of course, of Rashbam’s comments re: tefillin, as well as of the various arguments of David Weiss-Halivni, but all of that is utterly immaterial to me from a new covenantal, scriptural perspective, where the emphasis is not put on working out specifics of Torah observance in a communal context but on knowing Yeshua and making Him known. (Time does not permit me expanding on this here, but you have surely seen enough of what I have said on this to get my drift and to recognize that I’m aware of counter-arguments against the alleged over-simplicity of my statement, especially in lights of Acts 21.)

    You close by stating, “And again, we have the matter of eschatology. To me at least, it is clear from Deut 30, Jer 31:31ff., and especially Ezek 36-37, among others, that the life of Torah obedience is the destiny of the people of Israel. The question I find facing us is this: if the life of Torah obedience is the legacy of the Jewish people from the past, and the destiny of Jewish people in the future (according to Scripture), how can it not be our responsibility in the present?”

    I addressed this in another post on this blog (perhaps you missed it?), pointing out that the passages in Jeremiah and Ezekiel are quoted or referenced in the New Testament with reference to our present state as believers, meaning that we already are experiencing the firstfruits of the Messianic realities of these passages while our rabbinic friends are not. Therefore, we have no business submitting to their halakhic rulings, most of which are based on the absence of these realities. It is also abundantly clear that torah before Sinai (and, in other, non-legal contexts) has one, generic meaning, and in a new covenantal, post-Sinai context, it can have another meaning. That is to say, the Torah of the Messianic age need not be the same Torah as the Sinai age – and certainly not the Torah of Talmud Torah. In keeping with this, as I point out in vol. 4 of my series, where I deal with many of these new covenantal issues, “the best understanding of Isa 2:3 is that God’s teaching will go forth from Zion, as translated in the New Jewish Version: ‘For instruction shall come forth from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem,’ since the definite article does not appear before the word torah here – again, as if to say, the Torah, as in ‘the Pentateuch.’ In fact, the NJV’s footnote to the words, ‘For instruction shall come forth from Zion’ explains, ‘I.e., oracles will be obtainable,’ while elsewhere in the NJV, the translators regularly render ha-torah (the Torah) with the word ‘Teaching,’ which they did not use here.” So, torah need not always mean Torah in the traditional or Sinaitic sense.

    I would say, then, that while you respectfully question whether I am reading these texts through my own modernized perspective, I question whether you are reading them through a rabbinic, non-new covenantal perspective.

    That being said, I fully agree with your closing statement: “Onward, upward, forward, Godward.” Rabbinic Judaism, however, is none of the above; the lofty Messianic faith decidedly is.

    Time is calling me away from these blogs, but, God willing, I hope to offer some full-length academic statements about these very important issues in the years to come. Thanks for stimulating me to do so.

    Blessings on you, friend!

    Michael

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