Many thanks to those who took time to give thoughtful replies to my August 29 post, “Jews, Gentiles, and MJ: Whaddya Think?”
Let me start with Dorla. I want to start with her because she eloquently summarized some common points we often hear from the One-Law point of view (all Jews and Gentiles today should believe in Yeshua and keep Torah). Dorla said:
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?
I would like to answer this commonly raised evidence for the One-Law way of thinking. I am not picking on Dorla or anyone else. I think the logic of this argument is somewhat compelling and I can see why numerous people believe it. But it is false logic, as I intend to show. Dorla’s argument couild be put into a proposition like this:
1. God rested in the seventh day in Genesis.
2. In so doing he was instituting the Sabbath.
3. Thus, the Sabbath was instituted before Mt. Sinai and is not limited as a command to Israel.
What is the problem with this thinking? The problem is that line #2 is a false assumption. God did not institute the Sabbath in Genesis (at least the text says nothing about it). The Hebrew word for Sabbath simply means to cease or rest. God rested, but he did not institute anything. He did not utter a command about it.
Still, this raises the question: why did Genesis tell us about God resting?
Well, one possibility would be to agree that God was instituting a commandment of Sabbath. We’d have to admit this is possible. But it faces the problem of not being stated. If God expected humankind to follow the Sabbath, why didn’t he tell them?
Are there other possible reasons for God’s action and the inclusion of this story in Genesis? Yes, I would like to suggest one (and I am not breaking new ground here). God already had Israel in mind when he created the world. God built into the creation of the world allusions to his coming covenant with Israel. God set the pattern for Israel in his own work of creating. That is why God can tell Israel in Exodus 20:11 that he had rested himself on the seventh day. God did it for Israel as a sign and a pattern. In creation, God foreshadowed his love for and election of Israel. Yet he did not then make the Sabbath a commandment for Adam, Noah, or even Abraham.
We also heard from my blogger friend Judah Gabriel. His argument was something like this:
1. The New Testament tells us that breaking Torah is sin.
2. Saying that Gentiles don’t have to keep all of Torah is telling Gentiles to sin.
3. Thus, the Torah is required for Gentiles according to the New Testament.
I have a very simple answer to Judah. I hope he will hear it and think about it. My answer is: It is a sin to break a commandment that is intended for you, but it is not a sin to do something another person is commanded not to do. I will use an example that even Judah would agree with. The High Priest is not allowed to marry a divorcee. Yet it is not a sin for another Israelite to marry a divorcee. In the same way, if God did not command Gentiles to abstain from pork, then they are not breaking a command to eat it (note that pork is included in the things God called “good” in Genesis 1).
We heard from Geoff Robinson, who argues that all Torah is obsolete, nailed to the cross of Jesus. One of his arguments goes like this:
1. Hebrews says there is a change in the laws of priesthood.
2. If any part of the law changes it all changes.
3. Therefore, the law is completely changed.
The problem with this argument, again, is the middle proposition. If you change any part of the law, is the whole thing changed? That does not follow. In fact, the law changed within the period of Torah and there was no such annulment of the whole Torah. In Leviticus 7, when Israel is in the wilderness camped around the Tabernacle, the law is that all meat must be slaughtered at the Tabernacle. Yet in Deuteronomy 14 when Israel is about to move into the land and this will no longer be practical, the law changes and meat may be slaughtered anywhere. Change in Torah does not annul Torah.
Finally, we heard from Christian for Moses who suggested some research by Flusser and Van de Sandt indicates a very pro-Torah stance in the early church, particularly the Didache. From this, he infers that Acts 15 meant to impose the Noahide laws first on Gentiles and allow them to learn the rest of Torah later. I haven’t read the research he refers to, but I have read the Didache. FFOZ (ffoz.org) has a new product out on the Grace After Meals (We Thank You is the title) and they have proposed that the Didache has in it a Messianic grace after meals prayer (fascinating!). The problem with what Christian for Moses is saying is that the evidence is miniscule and to read back from the Didache into Acts 15 is completely without foundation. Early Christianity had a diversity of views and we should not assume uniformity. Also, Christian for Moses misunderstood me: I do not subscribe the the concept of the Noahide laws as an existing concept in the first century. I believe it came much later. I do not think Acts 15 had anything to do with Noahide laws.