What is at Stake in the FFOZ / Tim Hegg Debate?

thumbnail_2405The people at First Fruits of Zion are friends of mine, so as I write this, I make no pretense to objectivity. I do think, however, that the arguments I will briefly lay out speak for themselves. I believe it is possible, if you know nothing of FFOZ or of Tim Hegg for a reader to see what is at stake and to fairly judge from this article. I invite Tim Hegg or any of his supporters to politely respond here.

There is a debate going on right now. It began when an individual, Tim Hegg at torahresource.com decided to publish a sharply critical letter warning the world of the dangers of FFOZ. What is at stake in the FFOZ/Tim Hegg debate? The answer is the legacy of pre-Messianic Jewish pioneers such as Paul Philip Levertoff is at stake.

In short, First Fruits of Zion, at great expense, and I know since I was consulted about the matter, at a great financial loss, has with integrity purchased rights to and begin to publish works from the great pioneers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries under the imprint Vine of David (vineofdavid.org). The first two volumes to be produced include an updated version of Paul Philip Levertoff’s Love and the Messianic Age and a commentary and study guide on the same work.

On June 26, Tim Hegg of Torah Resource issued a letter and an 11-page paper stating his reasons for distancing himself from FFOZ and inviting others to share his stance toward them. He listed as his reasons: (1) that FFOZ no longer teaches the One-Law doctrine, (2) that FFOZ values the tradition of normative Judaism, and (3) that FFOZ (allegedly) wishes to promote kabbalah, (4) and that FFOZ (allegedly) advocates a mystical hermeneutic for interpreting scripture.

As to the first two points I can say: hallelujah. As to the second two points, Mr. Hegg, solitary prophet that he presents himself to be, is guilty of two insidious and simplistic tricks of rhetoric:

(1) Using “guilt by association” to denounce his enemies.

(2) Using alarmism to promote himself.

The Guilt-by-Association Rhetorical Move
Levertoff was deeply moved by, though not without limits and caveats, the beauty of the Chasidic thought which was the background of his family. He sought to integrate some, mind you some, Chasidic concepts with the New Testament theology he taught and learned as an Anglican divine of Jewish descent.

He clearly did not bathe uncritically in the waters of kabbalah. He did not, for example, accept the ideas of Lurianic kabbalah about God requiring the help of Jews to restore the cracked vessels of creation by keeping mitzvot. He did not accept the idea that Gentiles have an animal-like soul and are incapable of true spiritual reflection. There is much evidence to the unbiased observer that Levertoff’s love for Chasidic thought had limits and balance.

From reading Tim Hegg’s letter, you would think that Levertoff and FFOZ are ready to join Madonna and Yehuda Berg in bringing New Age philosophy to the unsuspecting minds of the Messianic Jewish movement. Hegg writes eleven pages warning us about how dangerous Chasidic thought and kabbalah can be, especially in the way scripture is subject to esoteric means of interpretation.

Is FFOZ in fact guilty of mystical redefinition of terms and an undisciplined hermeneutic of scripture which rejects the plain meaning? Of course not. Note for example the caveat in the introduction by Daniel Lancaster to Love and the Messianic Age, a caveat which I believe FFOZ has followed heartily in their presentation of Levertoff’s thought:

During the course of those six chapters, the reader will be exposed to a variety of mystical constructs, some of which are inspiring and insightful and some of which may seem dubious. It is not necessary to agree with or endorse the mystical concepts Levertoff advances in these chapters. . . . Levertoff’s method invites the reader to withhold judgment until the epilogue, when he takes us into the book of John.

Guilt by association is a simple but detestable practice of rhetoric. It consists of insinuating that someone you wish to denounce is guilty of the worst errors of any tradition or person from whom they have some association. For example, someone might say, Joe Messianic drives a Ford, and we all know that Henry Ford was a damnable anti-Semite. Is Joe Messianic turning against his own people?

PARODY: The Dangers of Calvinism and Does Tim Hegg Wish to Burn Hebraists at the Stake?
Let me apply a bit of Hegg’s own technique on him as nothing more than a parody.

Tim Hegg is an admitted Calvinist, a form of theology which we all know is insidious and which undermines the very authority of the Bible (see my accompanying twelve page monograph, “Are Calvinists Responsible for Some of the Missing and Murdered Children in America?”).

Calvinism, as is well-known, foists onto the Bible certain unscriptural and harmful ideas. God does not love you in any sense in which you would use the word love, according to Calvinists. He chose you randomly to be saved and also randomly chose others to be damned. Calvinists say if God found anything lovable about you, this would be a “good work” and render you unfit for salvation.

Calvin, as is well-known, called for the death of Michael Servetus, who perhaps represents an early attempt to bring Jewish thought into Christian doctrine. In other words, Calvin was in favor of burning Hebraists and Messianic Jews.

Is Tim Hegg planning to burn Messianic Jews as his mentor John Calvin taught as the true path to Jesus Christ? We would not want to see Torah Resource grow in power or strength lest this hidden agenda become a reality. The only course for us in the Messianic movement is to avoid purchasing Torah Resource materials and warn all our friends about this coming persecution.

Let’s work together to protect Messianic Judaism and the world from the dangers of Calvinist biblical interpretation and pursue instead the plain meaning of the text. Let’s work against the persecution of Messianics by the Geneva Illuminati and Tim Hegg.

**Note: I say again, the preceding words are a parody only.

Alarmism versus Balance
Tim Hegg warns all his readers about FFOZ, explains that he no longer associates with FFOZ, and urges readers not to be fooled by the writings of Levertoff.

Alarmism serves the interests of solitary prophets in need of attention and an audience. It is a shameful technique for self-promotion.

There is no crisis of hermeneutics or theology in the publishing work of FFOZ through Vine of David (vineofdavid.org). No nefarious theologies are being promoted. There is nothing more extra-biblical about Levertoff’s synthesis of Chasidic and New Testament theology than there is about the works of John Calvin.

But I can say that the tragedy is if people who trust Tim Hegg and do not investigate for themselves miss out on the blessing of reading Love and the Messianic Age and other great works in the history of Messianic Judaism.

Far from being literature to be banned or shunned, which if you read the book Hegg’s alarmism will likely make you laugh, this material is part of the heritage of modern Messianic Judaism. There have been many missteps in developing Messianic Jewish thought. Pioneers like Alfred Edersheim made a real contribution while, unfortunately, feeling that devotion to Messiah required them to criticize Judaism. Early leaders in Messianic Judaism too closely followed patterns in Charismatic Christianity which led to embarrassment and avoidance of Messianic Judaism by Jewish believers for years.

Is Levertoff’s work the be-all, end-all of theology? No one claimed it to be that. Yet it is a perspective to learn from and to understand. What Tim Hegg does not seem to understand is that mystical reading of scripture, properly done, is not about interpretation at all. It is about application. The heart of Love and the Messianic Age is a practical theology of loving God. It is not about doctrine or historical research, but about how to love God. Everyone in the Messianic Jewish movement should remember and practice what Messiah taught: there is no greater commandment. And to disparage a beautiful work of meditation on love for God does not serve God or the movement.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Book Reviews, FFOZ, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to What is at Stake in the FFOZ / Tim Hegg Debate?

  1. boazm says:

    Derek,

    Shalom. When I first started to read this a sense of panic over came me, I thought, “Oh, no Derek is going to go to bat for me…” and while you did on some level speak up for our motives at FFOZ I was pleased to see that your defense for more for Levertoff than for us. We’ll be fine. It is all in the hands of HaShem.

    We want to move forward with our mission. We have done our best to address Tim’s concerns and now we will move on to fulfilling our mission at First Fruits of Zion. Your readers can find our public response at http://www.ffoz.org.

    You know, we appreciate Tim very much. We respect him and his scholarship. While we have some disagreements. I consider him a brother and friend.

    I have wrestled with this whole situation greatly. I respect Levertoff greatly and have felt a need to defend him. Yet, I know that my defense could be misconstrued. What I appreciate about Tim’s publicly aired concerns is that it will cause those that read the works by Levertoff more carefully and critically. That is good. Levertoff has much to offer. We can look at what Tim has done from many different angles. I have chosen a positive one.

    We have received many excited and passionate comments about Love and the Messianic Age. Here is one that came in yesterday.

    “It feels as if reading this book is validating my passion, my excitement and my yearning to really know HaShem. I also am not content to wait until the Messianic Age when I know I will see Him just as He is…I want to know Him and see Him in the here and now. I have never felt so validated in who I am. I loved the similie Levertoff wrote about the father and son climbing the mountain (page 35 & 36). When the Father reaches the summit before the son, and looks down upon the son who is intensely struggling to reach the father, the father is moved because of the son’s intense desire, and he is compelled to go down and meet him. This resonates in my heart. I am so convinced that when we seek Him and yearn for Him with all our passion and desire, He is so drawn to us like a magnet. He is compelled to reveal Himself because He is moved by our intense desire to be with Him.”

    Levertoff was a good man. He is a unique gift we have in our Messianic world. He is bringing the concept of love and relationship back into a messianic arena that has established itself on knowledge. Thank you for defending him. Knowing him as I do, I am sure he would appreciate it.

    Levertoff was undeniably drawn by the Father to see the Messiah of Israel. God had a plan for this man and I pray that Vine of David (www.vineofdavid.org) will have a small part in that plan.

    Boaz

    Hey, I just got another comment on my Facebook page, I thought it was helpful, “The message of “Love and the Messianic Age” is not a how-to manual for understanding the formula for love, anticipating the Messianic era, as we fundamentalists will be disappointed to try and distill out of it. It is not about reaching into ancient Jewish insights to achieve a greater understanding of God. It is an invitation to not miss the person of the Messiah in our pursuit of the principle of the Messiah. It is about learning to walk in love.”

  2. judahgabriel says:

    “FFOZ no longer teaches the One-Law doctrine”

    Derek, this isn’t helpful. It feels like you — and the MJTI folks — continually gloat that FFOZ has changed and become more like you in regards to gentiles and Torah.

    “Ah, the fine and respected FFOZ organization has succumbed to my beliefs at last! Halleluyah!” <– That's what it feels like you're saying.

    You read Nate’s post on FFOZ’s change; FFOZ believes — and rightly so! — that gentiles are called to holiness in Torah. They don’t use “obligation” because it’s a word that sets off theological bombs in people’s minds.

    It is frustrating and discouraging, yet ultimately misleading, when you say such things.

    I wish to take issue with some other points in your post. But I will try to hold my tongue, as we have enough division in this movement, and the FFOZ guys are dwelling in quite enough tension already. :-)

    I hope Tim Hegg and J.K. McKee comment on this post. I would like to hear their thoughts.

  3. DysfunctionalParrot says:

    I appreciate your view on the matter. I suppose these sorts of things are inevitable in any movement.

    To be fair to Tim, and being of Messianic faith myself, I don’t think your view of Calvinism is entirely accurate…BUT you make a good point about comparing Calvin’s interpretation to Levertoff. Perhaps neither are entirely correct, yet both offer a view that should not be ignored.

    Maybe Tim is shooting from the hip. But in all fairness, FFOZ should have handled this better too. When I went to their site and saw this book they were promoting, I immediately thought, “what the…?”.

    True, they have explained much since, but the rollout of this book lacked proper context, leaving many such as myself to wonder if they’d gone “kabbalah-loco”. FFOZ should have considered the optics more carefully.

    But what’s done is done, and hopefully time will heal the wounds.

    • “kabbalah-loco” LOL. Can I borrow that?

      But seriously, with respect to your point that the rollout was mismanaged, I think that depends on your perspective prior to its publication.

    • boazm says:

      Rollout?

      I felt this was our best rollout to date. Did you not see the video documentary we did on the life and teachings of Mr. Levertoff. These were posted weekly starting eight weeks out of publication. You can view them here: http://vineofdavid.org/blog/levertoff_documentary/

      These were also posted on YouTube, Facebook and other bloggers picked them up on their sites. Additionally, we had over 30 people from across the messianic spectrum participate in a focus group on the books and they were well received from each segment. There were a few objections, but we felt they had more to do with a general anti-Jewish bias than anything specific with the Levertoff material.

      There are additional things we could have done–I am sure of that. We could have solicited reviews, etc. I am sure that those would not have eased the concerns or objections that some have.

      Our discussions with those that have harshly reacted have been interesting. Most of them have and and will not read the book. They are criticizing something they will not read.

      Levertoff is one of our Messianic sages and teacher we all can learn from his wisdom.

      FFOZ intention is and has been to be honorable to an elder, to make his teaching known, and to share his teachings. I realize that there will be some that do not desire to study from his perspective–to those, we wish well. To those that engage these works, I am sure will be a more devoted disciple of the Master.

  4. We’re watching with great interest as FFOZ switches gears. It takes great courage and integrity to be willing to make an honest assessment of one’s own prior work.

    I haven’t yet read Levertoff … my husband’s been hogging it!

    • DysfunctionalParrot says:

      If indeed they are switching gears towards Kabbalah, then they can kiss my support goodbye.

      • DP…

        Before getting into Kabbalah, how do you feel about FFOZ abandoning their long-held One Law position?

      • boazm says:

        We’re not. You should read the book.

      • rebyosh says:

        DysfunctionalParrot-

        FFOZ is NOT switching gears towards Kabbalah. Neither is Levertoff necessarily a “Kabbalist.” Levertoff’s work, which FFOZ published, “Love and the Messianic Age” is a work in which Levertoff (who grew up within the Chasidic background and studied at one of the most prestigious yeshivot) analyzed concepts within Chasidus compared with similar concepts in the New Testament – specifically the book of John (which is very mystical).

        Much of this has to do with our concepts of what it “mystical” means. Kabbalah is a form of Jewish Mysticism, but hardly represents all of Jewish mysiticism. According to the defenition of mystical literature, this includes portions of the Torah, the Biblical prophets, and portions of the NT – especially the works of John and Revelation.

        From what I understand, FFOZ is not going “Kabbalah-loco.” As they grow spiritually, and in dialogue with both Jewish and Christian leaders and scholars, they are applying sound counsel and wisdom and coming more in-line with mainstream Messianic Judaism in certain areas of thought.

      • DysfunctionalParrot says:

        reboysh- At this point I am going to give FFOZ the benefit of the doubt and assume they are not going Kabbalah. If they say they’re not, then I’m going to assume they are honest, as they have shown to be so in the past.

        My only problem is the optics. As you said:

        “Much of this has to do with our concepts of what it “mystical” means.”

        Exactly. You don’t throw that word out there and think everyone will understand you. When you’re as big as FFOZ, you have to watch your every word lest it be used against you. This just seemed like a no-brainer.

        FFOZ has built up much respect in many years and I feel this may cost them some of that respect. Whether true or not, this will be used as easy ammunition against the Hebraic roots movement.

  5. tnnonline says:

    From what I have read, the main issues surrounding Paul Philip Levertoff’s Love and the Messianic Age pertains more to the commentary FFOZ has produced along with it, than with a desire to preserve this book for the historical record. Whether we agree with him or not, Levertoff’s work should be preserved as a testimony to the diversity of early Messianic Judaism.

    For those who are questioning things and may be a little disturbed, you need to get a copy of the commentary on Levertoff (which I am about 2/3 finished reading). You need to take a specific look at the five pages of references in the bibliography, and compare it to some of the other publications FFOZ has recently produced. Which has more detailed engagement? You then need to see how liberally quotations have been made from various strands of Jewish literature, and some of the conclusions that have also been drawn about the nature of Yeshua, and passages such as Philippians 2:5-11 and Colossians 2:15-20.

    Get all of the revelant data, and then decide for yourself.

  6. tnnonline says:

    …I meant to say Colossians 1:15-20…

  7. Dysfunctional Parrot:

    Monique did not mean to imply that FFOZ is adopting a kabbalistic worldview.

    Judah:

    No offense was intended, but to me One-Law means no distinction between Jews and non-Jews with regard to Torah obligation. Also, I don’t feel it is wrong for me to be happy if influential teachers and leaders make practical and theological moves in a direction I consider to be right. It’s not about points and keeping score, but what I think is healthy and Torah-faithful. I do not think One-Law is Torah-faithful and have always said so.

    Derek

  8. yochanan says:

    good post derek.

    i think your approach to defending levertoff was important, ffoz can speak for themselves, but levertoff is the one without voice in this debate. though i am still looking with a bit of cautiousness over ffoz’s current moves away from “one law” teaching and valuing of normative judaism, for which i will look to join you in a “hallelujah”.

    What Mr. Hegg does not seem to acknowledge in his criticism of valuing the traditions of normative judaism is that with the Bible alone tell me where do we get Shabbat candles, havdalah, the siddur, etc. Without the traditions passed on throughout the past we really can’t do Judaism today.

    I do like your analogy of driving a Ford, I used to drive a Mustang and people did say to me “How can you drive a Ford, he was an anti-semite!” I retorted that Lee Iacocca designed the Mustang for Ford and as far as I knew he wasn’t an anti-semite.

    Keep up the defense of those who can’t speak for themselves and the blessed memory of the pioneers of our movement, flaws and all.

    • tnnonline says:

      I am quite consciously aware of the fact that if we are not careful, a blog like this can devolve into spreading malicious gossip.

      Tim Hegg does not approve of the Jewish mystical tradition. But to be fair to him, you do need to read through more of his materials, where he does extensively refer to Jewish writings like the Mishnah, Talmud, Midrashim, DSS, etc. He values the Jewish traditions you have listed, but he would be considered like one of the “opponents” to the Chassidic movement in Eastern Europe. He would have attended the Mitnagim synagogue in Orsha, opposite that of Paul Philip Levertoff (Love and the Messianic Age Commentary, p 14).

      Simply because one opposes the mystical Jewish tradition–and there are many Messianics who do so, myself included–does not at all mean a broad denial of mainline Jewish traditions.

      • Tnnonline:

        I spoke of Tim Hegg’s distancing himself from normative Judaism because this is his 2nd of four points in his paper about why he is distancing himself from FFOZ. He says, “their intention to lead messianic communities to define themselves within ‘normative Judaism.'”

        Since I think normative Judaism is a good thing, this is clearly an area where Tim and I don’t agree. My point, and Yochanan’s, is that Torah practice not in relation to normative Judaism is impossible.

        Derek

  9. DysfunctionalParrot says:

    boazm- I get the same FFOZ e-mails anyone else would. I saw the advertisements ( the video too ) for the book and I fail to see how they thought it WOULDN’T be misinterpreted. If you even mention the very word “mysticism”, then you better have at least twice as many disclaimers. It was leaving itself wide open to critics, as is obvious by the situation with Hegg.

    monique- “kabbalah-loco” is all yours…once we work out the royalty fee!

    Gene- One law position…hmmm. I haven’t even had my coffee yet!! There seems to be differing definitions on what it even means. Hard to comment. Seems like Judah and Derek are essentially saying the same thing in different ways. Personally, I wouldn’t use the word “obligated”.

    • judahgabriel says:

      One Law – the Torah is applicable to Israel, and gentiles are grafted into Israel.

      Two Law: gentiles should not keep the Torah. Only racially-descending Jews ought to keep the Torah (and proselytes). Gentiles aren’t part of Israel. They are grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel, which is different than racial Israel. Thus, there are 2 laws: the Torah for Jews, and the moral law for gentiles.

      I’m one law.

      Derek and his MJTI employer are two law.

      • judahgabriel says:

        I see Boaz has asked us all not to bring one-law into this discussion. I will honor his request.

      • DysfunctionalParrot says:

        Catch ya next time!

      • LOL, the Torah is two-law then. I am surprised so many make the case that the one-law statements in Torah beyond the context and fail to take seriously the statements distinguishing, such as the one right in Exodus 12 which forbids eating the sacred meat from the Pesakh unless one is circumcised (a la, joined with Israel like Caleb and others). That’s rather two-law, don’t you think? And the mixed multitude gets brought up quite often. Where did they go? Oh, do you suppose they joined with Israel and that their children were considered Israelites?

        I wish people would give the longstanding interpretations of Judaism more consideration before launching into theologies that ignore tradition. Many times, not always, tradition is smarter than we are. Shouldn’t we be suspicious that a small group of people, of low familiarity with Hebrew, history, tradition, and the whole text of Torah, will be right and the generations of sages who looked earnestly into these things would be wrong? It would be an interesting debate to see the sages, medieval commentators and other giants of Jewish history lined up on one side and the internet-self-made experts on the other. When disagreeing with the sages, it is good to have foundational reasons for doing so, and only to do so after understanding why such brilliant interpreters felt the way they did.

        Derek

      • judahgabriel says:

        Derek, I would like to respond. Since Boaz has asked us not to bring one law into this debate, I will honor his request. Perhaps we can talk offline.

  10. boazm says:

    True. In today’s world mysticism is a bad word and scary concept. Not is Levertoff’s. I suppose we could have used, “charismatic” and then everyone would be some-what comfortable, but it would have mis-characterized Levertoff.

    I do wish would would have done a little more advance work in that area. Lesson learned.

    Please for the sake of Levertoff. Let’s not bring the One-Law discussion into this thread. I am sure Derek will be bloging in the near future about what he likes and dislikes about our shift.

    That is a discussion for the month of August. Man, August is going to be hot!

  11. tbyjanicki says:

    tnnonline

    Thanks for encouraging people to read the book and commentary.

    The reason the bibliography is so long is because this was about three years in the makings on and off with several different contributors involved. Also we have only recently begun to really fully document our material and make use of our new library. Combine all those things and you get a longer bibliography.

    Shalom,
    Toby

    • tnnonline says:

      I believe it is fair, as the Torah requires, for people to see the different points of view before they make a decision. Encouraging people to read the materials does not mean that I would necessarily endorse them.

      Our ministry has taken a very hardline stance against the influence of the Jewish mystical tradition for over four years. But being pragmatic about this debate, I would like to see more volumes of Levertoff produced should we choose to say anything–as currently out-of-print materials are referred to in the commentary.

      • tbyjanicki says:

        I understand, I meant that I was happy you were encouraging people to read the material before passing judgment.

    • judahgabriel says:

      Wow, 3 years in the making. I begin to appreciate even more the work you guys pour into these projects.

      Thanks, Toby, for all the work you and FFOZ are doing. BTW, I really love Mishlei Musings!

  12. warland52 says:

    Derek I generally agree with the following point you made:

    “I wish people would give the longstanding interpretations of Judaism more consideration before launching into theologies that ignore tradition. Many times, not always, tradition is smarter than we are. Shouldn’t we be suspicious that a small group of people, of low familiarity with Hebrew, history, tradition, and the whole text of Torah, will be right and the generations of sages who looked earnestly into these things would be wrong? It would be an interesting debate to see the sages, medieval commentators and other giants of Jewish history lined up on one side and the internet-self-made experts on the other. When disagreeing with the sages, it is good to have foundational reasons for doing so, and only to do so after understanding why such brilliant interpreters felt the way they did.”

    But be careful…. because taken to its logical conclusion this would also apply to the theology known as Christianity or Messianic Judaism. To me it’s the strongest argument of normative Judaism against Christianity or MJ. And a fair one.

    Todd

    • warland52:

      When the opinions of the sages and medieval commentators go against the idea of Yeshua as Messiah and other doctrines that are vital to our faith, there is what I referred to as a foundational reason. Great scholars tend to get details and observations right, but are as prone as anyone else to myths of metanarrative and to be caught up in schools of thought which distort their conclusions. The sages were caught up in various subtle distortions of metanarrative at different points: Judaism must survive the Temple destruction by bringing holiness into the home, Messiah cannot have come because we are in exile, the nations cannot be right about Yeshua since we, Israel, will reveal Messiah to the world, physical redemption is the sign we look for, etc.

      Derek

  13. Christian for Moses says:

    Todd:

    Excellent observation!

  14. exconcept says:

    I don’t understand how FFOZ can 1) release materials like Hey! That’s not in the Bible 2) have written several blog articles 3) have disclaimers before 2 volumes of Torah Clubs 4) make videos and post them on their site and on top of all that 5) have a disclaimer before the book itself stating that they do no embrace Kabbalah… and yet people still make the accusation that they do.

    I give much credit to FFOZ for their patience in dealing with all these accusations. I have sat back and watched this completely perplexed. Honestly, what more could they have done? I am taking my time reading the book and have not found anything offensive.

    Also, much credit to Derek for speaking up on the debate tactics of Hegg. I like Hegg a lot but I was disappointed in reading his article. It was a straw-man … no one is arguing that for a “kabbalistic hermeneutic.”

  15. tandi119 says:

    I commend Tim Hegg for writing the article and found much to agree with. Wish this and other controversial topics could be candidly discussed on a forum somewhere. Why can’t we disagree with one another and discuss all sides of these issues so readers can become informed and decide for themselves? So what if there is no unity at present? We will never get to that place if we cannot have honest, even sharp, discourse back and forth. As long as censorship reigns on blogs, and forums remain closed or exclusive, with bannings rather than reprimands for infractions, the fog and smug smog will continue to hinder this movement.

    I’m looking for some fresh air…..and usually that comes after a good thunderstorm.

    • Tandi:

      The main point is not whether Hegg’s paper has some truisms in it. The point is whether the publishing and commenting by FFOZ writers on the work of Levertoff constitutes, as Hegg claims, a crisis in hermeneutics. Similarly, does the careful cherry-picking of some mystical ways of thinking constitute abandoning the plain meaning of scripture. The point in my rebuttal to Hegg is that his paper is needless alarmism and, by my estimation, is self-serving. Knocking everyone else leaves you the only one standing.

      Derek

  16. ezaire33 says:

    Well said and couldn’t agree more, tandi119.

    Wow, maybe I should have stopped reading after the “no pretense of objectivity” warning…indeed. Charging Hegg with being a “solitary prophet in need of attention and an audience” and “shameful…self-promotion” would seem to reveal a lack of discretion and self-control or of knowledge by our author. I don’t think anyone who has been blessed by Torah Resource’s ministry through the years, including FFOZ, would use any of those words in the same sentence with “Tim Hegg.”

    As others have touched on, Hegg seems to be responsding to what is hopefully just FFOZ’s imprecise usage of language, using words as “mysticism” and “apostolic theosophy.” As “parrot” mentioned, hopefully Tim just shot from the hip and missed the mark on this one, not fully following FFOZ’s usage of these words. I think such a strong reaction WOULD BE appropriate if someone WERE trying to import kabbalistic hermeneutics and theosophy into interpretations of the Gospels, however I’m not convinced yet that was ever FFOZ’s intent. I continue to be concerned that their face-to-face discussion couldn’t solve something as simple as a misunderstanding over vocabulary. Ultimately, until I’ve read the 1923 version and the 2009 version with commentary, I’ll keep trying to give them the benefit of the doubt that they were just attempting to make us aware of a heritage of which we were largely unaware before, and that they could have simply used some better editing in the selection of some of their terms.

    Anyway, agreed – much more discussion needed…

    • Ezaire33:

      I make no excuses for not liking people who unjustly denounce others. As I argued here, that is what I think Hegg has done. I am also angered by the “normative Judaism is bad but let’s all keep Torah” approach.

      If there is a crisis in hermeneutics, it is that many do not accept the voice of Torah at face value in distinguishing between Israel and the nations. It is that many arrogate to their own little circles the right to go around Jewish tradition and self-define Torah. Do not mistake me as one who believes that Jewish tradition speaks with one voice only or as advocating a Messianic Orthodox approach. I believe the tradition has flexibility. But Torah separated from the life and tradition of Israel is not Torah.

      Derek

      • ezaire33 says:

        hmmm, in response to your second paragraph, though probably getting too far off the OP, “normative Judaism” rejects Yeshua by definition…we still think that IS bad, right? Torah IS good. i don’t really see the reason to feel obligated to accommodate the former in order to get their blurred vision of the latter.

        in light of John 15 (if one hates Yeshua, one hates God) and 2 Cor 3 (trying to understand the Torah without the Spirit is a ministry of death), what would your take be on why born-from-above-believers SHOULDN’T be taking a crack at figuring out how to walk in Torah with perhaps only minimal regard for what in a worse-case scenario, Yeshua and paul would call a God-hating and death-bringing faith?

        honestly not trying to be inflammatory, but it seems like many “messianics” (or whatever moniker one attaches) forget that we’re the ones who are supposed to be filled with the Spirit of God (and using your words, do not mistake me for one who feels “the Spirit led me” to put tzitzit on the four corners of my hat). i understand that simply from an historical perspective, we have to use “normative” judaism as a jumping-off point, but it seems really limiting to let them continue setting the standard when they are so clearly wrong and blind about the central focus/aim/end of the Torah (i.e, Messiah). it would seem more kosher for us to be setting the standard for Torah practice that is Messiah-exalting, and once their eyes are opened, they can join US.

        again, this is probably way too far off topic, and may be more suited for “august’s heat” per boaz (the one-law issue) or some other previous thread here, and i’d welcome direction there if indicated, and would invite any constructive feedback you could offer, on- or off-line, because i’ve not seen this question handled in a way with which i’m comfortable to date.

        thanks.

  17. tandi119 says:

    Excellent post, Ezaire33. I can’t wait for “August’s heat.” Looking forward to the discussion. Do you have a blog? There is some discussion of this controversy on the CARM forum. Wish I could hear more points of view.

    Not sure if I am allowed to post a link to a forum but will try:

    http://www.christiandiscussionforums.org/v/index.php

    Messianic Judaism group

    More participation welcome!

    Shalom,

    Tandi

  18. ezaire33:

    Your take on normative Judaism has major holes.

    In the first place, I think you are missing the difference between rhetorical language and more precise description. Paul in Corinthians was addressing a controversy and used the language of controversy. His statements in 2 Corinthians 3 are not all he has to say on the subject. Check Romans 11 and 14 for the positive side.

    Your view of normative Judaism betrays a serious flaw in your thinking about humanity: only Christians have truth, only Christians count, only by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit does anyone have any contact with or truth from God. Again, I think you misunderstand.

    For one thing, the presence of the Spirit does not help Christians understand the Bible. As evidence, I point out that no two denominations and pretty much no two teachers in Christianity agree. I’d be interested to know why the Spirit is failing to do his job if, in fact, that is his job.

    For another thing, the knowledge that Paul speaks of in Corinthians is knowledge of the paradox of Messiah, that his crucifixion is strength, not weakness. Apart from special revelation (the Bible) and divinely provided insight, philosophy and observation of the world will not convince anyone that the crucifixion is God’s power conquering thrones and powers. The point of 1 Corinthians 2, again, is rhetorical. It is to turn the Corinthians away from philosophy as their answer to Yeshua as their answer. It does not mean that philosophy, history, science, and human inquiry all have no value.

    Overall, what I am saying is that the Bible often gives a subtle and very contextual message. There is a great error in absolutizing these texts and making a black and white theology out of a more complex reality.

    I will close with an example. You said those who hate Yeshua hate God and used John 15 as your example. Here is you thought spelled out logically:

    -Those who hate Yeshua hate God.
    -The Jews hate Yeshua.
    -The Jews hate God.

    This is an extremely simplistic and distorted reading of John 15. If we read the Bible this way, we will find thousands of contradictions in the Bible. For example, what about Romans 10:2? What about Romans 14:4 which assumes that Jews regard themselves as God’s servants and God as the master?

    Derek

  19. yerubilee says:

    Derek:

    I too was concerned by Tim Hegg’s statements, but checking out FFOZ’s responses to his allegations have shed some light.

    Regarding his first assessment, that FFOZ was “that FFOZ no longer teaches the One-Law doctrine,”
    It seems your “hallelujah” indeed was a bit premature.

    You took Hegg’s assumption without checking it out. Wishful thinking on your part? :-) Ok, but as of now, FFOZ’s site addresses this with phrases such as:

    “If Gentiles were not to observe Torah, except to abide by some ethical principles, then what would the spiritual life of a Gentile look like?”

    […]

    “Gentiles should not be ashamed of the fact that they are not Jewish. When Gentiles turn to the God of Israel and his laws, it is amazing and brings him glory. They also, however, should not minimize the uniqueness that belongs to the Jewish people by virtue of their special calling.”

    http://ffoz.org/blogs/2009/01/gentiles_and_torah.html

    Looks like things got a little hot in this room… as leader of a Messianic praise band (Yerubilee), I suggest everyone worship the LORD awhile ;-)

    http://yerubilee.com

  20. tripwire45 says:

    I have a deep admiration for both the fine folks at FFOZ and for Tim Hegg. I generally consider the materials produced by both to be of high quality and reliable. When I heard of the separation between Hegg and FFOZ, my first response was one of dismay.

    There’s a tendency to want to “take sides” in any such separation, but is that necessary? Taking a somewhat dispassionate view of the matter, I tend to look at the resources produced by any source (including Hegg or FFOZ) as related to the Bible. The Bible, as the Word of God, is the litmus test by which I evaluate every theological resource I read, hear, or view. If I have to decide if any resource is a valid source of information, my first question has to be “How does it line up with the Bible?”

    In any disagreement between two parties, each party presents the situation from their own view point. I can either believe that one side is being truthful and the other is not, or I can believe that one side has a mistaken perspective of the other, resulting in the conflict. But standing on the outside of the conflict, how can I tell what is actually happening?

    I can’t. What I can do is let each parties “fruits” (produced materials) speak for themselves. I have met Boaz and Tim but only on a few occasions, thus I don’t have the friendship with any one person as you have Derek. I can only continue to review educational materials as they come my way, apply my litmus test, and see what results. I will continue to value what both FFOZ and Hegg write within a Biblical context. My prayers and best wishes for Boaz, Tim, and everyone engaged in our particular walk.

    -James

  21. Amen and amen. I am Jewish and a disciple of the King of the Jews. I am ever so thankful for the work of FFOZ of conncting the dots between the writing of the Jewish sages and Messianic theology. I found the Levertoff book beautiful.

    I fear that our brethren of non-Jewsh descent again do not understand what’s going on. Is history repeating itself? There is sharp different between the Christian who discovers the Hebraic roots of his faith, and the Jew who discovers the Jewishness of Messiah. This diference should not separate us but bring us together, and this can only happen through a mature understanding of the Torah, ofteh through those who have handled it for millenias before us.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s