Jews, Gentiles, and MJ: Whaddya Think?

I find myself repeatedly in conversation with non-Jews about Messianic Judaism. Many in particular want to ask my opinion because they know I am not Jewish, but that I am converting.

In this post, I will simply raise a few issues and then ask you to chime in. All viewpoints are welcome if stated with grace and not vitriol. You are allowed to challenge what I say . . . just be polite, is all I ask.
…………………………….

There are so many people drawn to the Jewish mission of Yeshua, which is a good name for what Messianic Judaism really is. You see, Messianic Judaism finds its origin in some ways in the book of Acts, where Peter in many ways heads up the Jewish mission and Paul the Gentile mission of the early movement.

There are a variety of positions on non-Jews and Torah in MJ circles:
(a) The Torah is for everyone and the church is in terrible error.
(b) The Torah is for everyone but this is something Christians must learn with grace as they grow in discipleship.
(c) The Torah is for Jews and also for the Ten Lost Tribes (of which many Christians believe they are members).
(d) The Torah is made up of moral, civil, and ceremonial laws with the moral laws still being in effect for all people, Jew and Gentile.
(e) The whole Torah is an obsolete covenant, remaining in the Bible for its historical value, and replaced by a new Law of Messiah consisting of a collection of laws from the New Testament.
(f) The Torah is God’s covenant with Israel, not with the nations, and it has application in many parts to the whole world, but it also has identifying marks of covenant relationship that are just for Israel (e.g., Sabbath, dietary law, circumcision, fringes, etc.).

I’m not sure I have captured all the major views. Can anyone send me a new category to add to the list?

Anyway, my view is the last one, “The Torah is God’s covenant with Israel, not with the nations, and it has application in many parts to the whole world, but it also has identifying marks of covenant relationship that are just for Israel (e.g., Sabbath, dietary law, circumcision, fringes, etc.).”

And here is a short list of practical points I wrote out in an email just this morning to a new friend:

–I do not believe that non-Jews must start living as Jews.

–I believe that God gave Israel some identity badges in Torah that are only required of Israel (Sabbath, circumcision, kosher, fringes, etc.).

–I do not agree that Acts 15:21 is saying, “Start these Gentiles with the basics and later, while attending synagogue, they will learn the rest.” (My Paul book goes over Acts 15 in some detail).

–I do believe that some non-Jews will have a calling to be involved in the Jewish mission of Yeshua in a major way.

–I do believe that God calls some people to convert and join their destiny with Israel (but this happens over time, with confirmation, and is not a hasty decision).

–I do believe God calls many non-Jews to be involved in the Jewish mission without converting.

–I believe that all Christians would benefit from learning Jewish roots and from some reclaiming of Jewish culture, especially of Passover.

So, whaddya think? Please make brief points. Excessively long comments will be deleted. It is better to make three short comments than one long one. But let’s discuss this.

About Derek Leman

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

13 Responses to Jews, Gentiles, and MJ: Whaddya Think?

  1. Christian for Moses says:

    Hi Derek,

    I have struggled for quite some time with this issue, I started out as most people with a Torah for all, or as some call it a one law perspective but after studying more of the historical background found myself not being able to embrace this position any longer.

    The view that I personally sympathize with is the one as put forth by Huub van de Sandt in cooperation with David Flusser in their work The Didache.
    It basically comes down to this; the 3 or 4 laws of the Apostolic council were functioning as a sort of pre-Noachide laws and these were absolute requirements by Judaism for non-Jews. Additional commandments were not required but neither forbidden.
    Some excerpts from their work:

    In addition to the basic moral code, gentile Christians are recommended to fully observe the Tora. The fragmentory evidence in the sources seems to indicate that this was the predominant attitude in the early church. p265
    Yet it is obvious that this prohibition represented the minimal standard. The real way to “perfection” is to submit to the whole Law, including the specifically Jewish precept such as the observance of food laws, Sabbaths, and festivals. p.269
    Both taken from Sandt, H.W.M. van de, & Flusser, D. The Didache (Assen: Royal Van Gorcum, 2002)

    I have corresponded with Huub vd Sandt about this perspective and think that this is quite representative of the view of the Apostolic council. But Im sure this can be challenged as the sources are quite fragmentory.

    In my opinion the view youre proposing (7 laws of Noah as a maximum), if I understand it correctly, brings about a great divider in ‘the church’ that seems a bit foreign to the NT. But Im open to your thoughts,

    Blessings,

    Daniel
    christian4moses.wordpress.com

  2. judahgabriel says:

    Derek,

    Interesting post.

    You and I disagree on the application of Torah, as we both know.

    The matter is clear to me.

    -1 John and Paul both tell us that breaking the Torah is sin.

    -Yeshua said anyone who breaks even the least Torah mitvah is least in God’s kingdom.

    -Revelation state the one who overcomes in the end will be those who hold fast to Yeshua and keep the commandments.

    This aligns with the Tenakh: the Psalms speak of all nations keeping his commandments, Isaiah tells gentiles how blessed they will be for keeping God’s Shabbat, Zechariah foretells all nations coming to celebrate the Feasts with the Lord in Jerusalem.

    When it comes to keeping the Torah, I concur with First Fruits of Zion organization’s statement on the matter, “We’d rather err on the side of obedience! You can never be too obedient to God.”

    Derek, you know I love you. I tell you with all respect that when you urge Christians to keep God’s Feasts, you’re doing a great service for the Lord; when you turn around and say Christians have no need to do so, your righteous words about the Feasts are rendered powerless.

    I’ve had some Christians come to me and say, “I saw your interview with Derek. I guess I don’t have to keep the Feasts after all!”

    You can’t blame them; a number of Christians perceive your theology as, “Us gentiles can keep doing own own thing. This “Torah” is just optional Jewish stuff.”

  3. Connie says:

    I agree with you (f). What I call the cultural markers are what sets Israel apart from the nations for a holy purpose – to bring light to the world, Yeshua. I would add that for this incredible honor, they have paid a great price and Gentiles are to bless them as a people set apart. (Genesis 12:3)

    I spent more than a year on this issue, after my family began studying the roots of Christianity and had our eyes opened in so many ways. I found your website near the end of that process. Your 6-part series “Torah, Israel and the Nations” summarizes my own conclusions well, with scriptural support. I’ve been a regular reader ever since finding that series and I recommend it to anyone who is struggling with this issue.

  4. dorla says:

    Derek,
    In my mind this is the way I understand it and have yet found a good explanation of why the following no longer stands.

    The first Sabbath was celebrated at the end of Creation and there were no Jews or Gentiles. So why would it not be required of all of us?

    Cain and Abel brought offerings to the Lord – Abel even knew to bring the fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. This seems to say that there were laws for offerings after the Fall before there were any Jews or Gentiles. So why does my Church say that the Festivals are a Jewish thing?

    Melchizedek and Abraham – bread, wine, ten percent. Apparently these things were not a new thing for godly people before there were Jews or Gentiles. I am not surprised that my Church can trace tithe giving all the way to Abraham but preach that everything else has changed.

    It does not make sense that God would have a chosen people to show us the Light and then ask us to continue in our own ways of worship. It seems there has been a plan from the beginning. And the Jews were chosen to show us the plan, The Way. It is quite simple. We just like our own ways too much. And it is difficult to let go of what we have always known. It is easier to make up something new.

    Dorla

  5. geoffrobinson says:

    I don’t think “non-Jewish views” is quite accurate since there are a variety of positions on Torah observance within the Messianic community.

    That said, I would probably fall more along the lines of d with qualifications.

    Torah has been nailed to the cross, its requirements having been fulfilled in the Messiah. As Hebrews relates, there has been a change of priesthood. And a change of priesthood, by necessity, means that the Torah at the very least has been changed and does not remain the same. A change in priesthood implies a new paradigm.

    Since the prophets predict Gentiles coming as Gentiles, this would require a change in Torah as well.

    Again I have to mention Shapiro’s excellent work “the Limits of Orthodox Theology” on this point. Torah not being eternal has support within Orthodox Jewish sources.

  6. jonboze says:

    Derek-

    I agree entirely with your view on the Torah (at least I think I do).

    judahgabriel- After reading some of your comments on this blog, and have begun reading your own. I enjoy the thought you put into things and the difference in perspective.

    I am curious how you would read what Paul says in Galatians. The first two chapters seem to deal chiefly with the requirements of Gentiles.

    Well, those are my “brief” comments.

    -Jonboze

  7. janross says:

    I don’t even want to touch the other statements you made since I’m still learning, seeking, and yet unsure of so much of it. However, let me comment on the last two:

    –I do believe God calls many non-Jews to be involved in the Jewish mission without converting.

    –I believe that all Christians would benefit from learning Jewish roots and from some reclaiming of Jewish culture, especially of Passover.

    This is where I fit in and I beleive this with all my heart. It has been a long season of thirsting that has yet to be quenched through my pursuit of learning … I can’t get enough. The Spirit continues to lead me down the same path: to learn Jewish roots and, at least partially, reclaim Jewish culture. If it had been a passing fling, surely my hunger and thirst would have died many years ago.

    I don’t know that you can be a true seeker of Yeshua without having a passion to be involved in what you term “the Jewish mission”. To understand the culture and times of Yeshua’s life leads one to demand more knowledge; to demand more knowledge ignites a passion that never seems to be satisfied.

    My responses aren’t as theological as others, but my personal experience seems to bear out at least your last two observations. Let it be said, though, that experience is my basis for my passion. I believe the whole scriptures lead us to observe and seek to understand the Jewish roots and culture to enhance our relationship with the Lord.

    ~Jan

  8. parkerfly38 says:

    I’d just like to know how you plan on converting to Judaism from within a Messianic Jewish fold.

    Honest Disclosure: I’m an active anti-missionary, committed to Jews for Judaism.

    But I honestly am curious…what steps are there to converting to Messianic Judaism if you are a Gentile believer, and what doctrinal support exists for those steps? How much, if any, of the process can be traced to rabbinical traditions that exist outside of Christianity/Messianic Judaism?

  9. Parkerfly38:

    Thanks for your question and your honest disclosure.

    Our method in Messianic Judaism is similar to other streams of Judaism. First, we formed a rabbinate. Second, we formed a set of halakhic standards. Once these were done, the possibility of conversion exists.

    The rabbinate I am in submission to can be found at ourrabbis.org

    It is important to note that the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council does not convert strangers. Conversion is available only to people personally known to the rabbis of the council and a member of a council synagogue or similar synagogue but with sponsorship by a member synagogue.

    At the ourrabbis.org site there is some information about standards under the On Conversion tab. The actual standards are not on the web page, but the article by Rabbi Dr. Rich Nichol should give you some idea of our stance.

    Thanks again for the civility of your question and I hope we interact again.

    Derek
    derekblogger@gmail.com

  10. Pingback: Interesting Discussion in the Comments « Messianic Jewish Musings

  11. janross says:

    In rereading my post, I made what I consider to be a gross error. I said, “Let it be said, though, that experience is my basis for my passion.”

    This should have read, “Let is be said, though, that experience is NOT my basis for my passion.”

    I don’t believe anyone can use experience as a basis for any pursuit of God. We see such teachings as highly problematic in the modern charismatic culture where people are willing to swallow anything because they “experience” things without having a solid knolwedge of the Scriptures on which to judge their experience.

    My point is that my personal pursuit of deeper understanding of the Jewish roots and culture is based on the fact that the entire Scripture is replete with references that make no real sense without an understanding of the Jewish life and God’s relationship with the Hebrew people.

    Sorry for misleading anyone with my comment. Sometimes my fingers, as hard as they try, just cannot keep up with my thoughts.

    ~Jan

  12. sunnyvj65 says:

    Okay, I know I’m late in the game, but I’ve been studying and God has been helping me.
    Question: Jews and Gentiles.
    The Torah is for both. One Law for the Jew and the Gentile (stranger)
    Acts 15 was regarding not the Noachide laws. but rather Idolatry.
    It was the minimal foundation for the new converts to Judaism in the Messiah for table fellowship and worship.
    Paul or Rav Sha’ul was big on teaching this. It’s like he said, circumcision is nothing uncircumcision is nothing, what is important is obeying the commandments of God. There is nothing wrong with circumcision, It is a commandment after all, but during the time of the Master, it was being used as a prerequisite for conversion. Remember, Abraham was not a Jew, he was a gentile, Ur of the Chaldeans’, he was declared righteous based on FAITH in the promises of God, and it wasn’t until 15 years LATER God has him mark his flesh with circumcision, as a sign of his faith. Not the other way around people.
    BTW is any of you were baptized or immersed in the Messiah. or Jesus, you are already a convert in Judaism. Remember, the Just (righteous) live by faith. Not works people. If you convert (which you already have) then you are basing your righteousness and right standing with God based on works not on faith. You are no more righteous or unrighteous before God. If you were unrighteous before converting, you are still unrighteous. Works does not justify the unrighteous before God, faith in the Messiah alone does that. Works shows our faith, it shows what has already been established, not the other way around. That is why Rav Sha’ul wrote of what profit is being a Jew? Much in every way! etc… Has anybody figured that out? Paul was writing in response to someone who asked what good is it being a Jew if being a Jew doesn’t make you righteous, if we’re all sinners and we all have to come before God the same way. Heathens, gentiles, Jews, all the same way! We obey all of God’s commandments, Jew and Gentile. Gentiles have been ADOPTED into the family of God, based on what HE did, not on what we did. If it is based on what WE DO, then what the Messiah did is NOTHING. Paul counted everything he thought at one time
    was so important as nothing but rubbish. Jew? He was a Jew of Jews. Kept the way of the Law blamelessly, could quote his genealogy, who he was related to, blah, blah blah. He said it was rubbish. God is important, what we consider important is nothing but idolatry. Let it go!
    And yes, our families, our heritage is important, but not on the same level as God and the Messiah. I am Jewish, a Levi, from the line of Aaron, but does this make me righteous and guarantees me a place in the world to come? Nope, not at all. If we should boast, let us boast about the Lord and what He has done and still doing.
    Secondly, what was nailed to the cross, was the handwritten ordinances, not Torah. Which would be the Oral Torah, not the word of God. The Torah is God is perfect, holy and good. Only if it is used wisely, not as a means of Salvation. But then again, it never has been taught that you had to keep the Torah perfectly. What was changed was the Priesthood. We have a new High Priest who intercedes for us. If you don’t believe me, look at the book of Hebrews, chapter nine. For it says “For finding fought with THEM..” the priests could not write the Torah of God on the hearts of men, they could teach it but they couldn’t make men obey. That is what the New Covenant is all about. He (Messiah) will write his Torah on our hearts….I could go on and on, but it’s one forty in the morning here and I’m hungry and tired! Also, be careful about the translations of the bible, look up the Greek translation and double check accurcy of the translation . The Literal translation of the New Testament is awesome and I recommend it to anybody! I’ll check back at this site in a couple of days, in the meantime, God bless and I hope everyone had a great Sabbath!
    Viola

  13. tlctugger says:

    >> There is nothing wrong with circumcision, It is a commandment after all <<

    I agree there’s nothing wrong with an adult choosing it, but since it is risky surgery that always takes away about 20,000 pleasure-receptive nerve endings, protection for the glans and mucosa, and the frictionless rolling/gliding natural mode of intimacy, it seems that one could argue there is something inherently wrong with choosing it for someone else who hasn’t elected to be in the covenant.

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