Yaakov on Podcast: Isaiah 1:1-9 LarryB on Anachronisms – excerpt f… Yaakov on Anachronisms – excerpt f… Jim on Anachronisms – excerpt f… Dina on Anachronisms – excerpt f…
- March 2023
- February 2023
- December 2022
- April 2022
- March 2022
- February 2022
- January 2022
- December 2021
- October 2021
- August 2021
- July 2021
- June 2021
- April 2021
- March 2021
- February 2021
- January 2021
- December 2020
- November 2020
- October 2020
- September 2020
- August 2020
- July 2020
- June 2020
- May 2020
- April 2020
- March 2020
- February 2020
- January 2020
- December 2019
- November 2019
- October 2019
- September 2019
- August 2019
- July 2019
- June 2019
- May 2019
- April 2019
- March 2019
- February 2019
- January 2019
- December 2018
- November 2018
- October 2018
- September 2018
- August 2018
- July 2018
- June 2018
- May 2018
- April 2018
- March 2018
- February 2018
- January 2018
- December 2017
- November 2017
- October 2017
- September 2017
- August 2017
- July 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- April 2017
- March 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- Addressing Atheism
- Bible Trial
- Debate Forum
- Faith Structure
- Isaiah 53
- Oral Law
- Reflections on the Haftorah
- Response to Dr. Brown Line of Fire
- The Charolite Faith
- The Righteous Gentile
- The Ultimate Truth
- Tzvi Jacobson
The essence of this promise is the love for God’s Law. Do we keep it, do we teach it, do we reprove others for not keeping it (Lev.19.17 for that is true love)? Or do we resent its strict demands and purity, draw back from its calling and justice, flee from its practical ramifications?
The problem remains our sinful bondage to self and Satan, only powerful redemption can free us to this liberty. Ex.6.9.
I have visited your website and listened to your sermons. You are a very charismatic speaker.
Exodus 6:9 describes the Israelites not listening to Moses when he first announced that God’s plan to deliver them from their slavery in Egypt , because of their discouragement and harsh labor as slaves there.
It seems from your comment that you see the Israelites as resenting the law based on this verse , obviously you are quoting it out of context.
In fact the very people that you see as “resent its strict demands and purity, draw back from its calling and justice, flee from its practical ramifications” of the law are the same people who are living it , teaching it and are actively encouraging those less observant to gradually start observing these laws . Think of the Shabbat project – a noble effort to get Jews all over the world to observe the Sabbath.
I would highly recommend that you learn about these laws and how Jewish communities interpret and practice these laws -from their perspective. There are organizations offering classes that can be easily followed by anyone who is sincerely wants to learn. Though I am not able to practice most of these laws as a non Jew , learning about these laws increase my appreciation of God’s Holy law and the effort made by His people to obey and teach it throughout the generations.
You write that the essence of the circumcision of the heart is the love of God’s Law. I am not certain I understand fully your brief comments, but I think that I can agree with you that love of God’s Law entails the keeping and teaching of that Law. However—I hope you can forgive my directness here—when you write this, I cannot help but think that you are only delivering to us platitudes. After all, innumerable times in the past, you have told us that the observance of the law is equivalent to filthy rags—you use a much less delicate term, of course. And I cannot think that one who loves the Law of God should see the performance of it in such miserable terms. When you write of the love of God’s Law, then, it seems to me that you are writing empty pieties, expressing attitudes you know one should have but which do not reflect Christianity’s message in any way. Let me ask then: Does Christianity produce a love of the Law?
Immediately upon examining Christianity, we are struck by its violations of fundamental laws. For example, the Church ignores the laws in Deuteronomy 13 and 18 in relation to the establishment of a prophet. Indeed, it valorizes belief without evidence: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29). In establishing its prophets, among whom I include Jesus, it discards the Divine Law regulating the acceptance of a prophet, substituting subjective feelings for objective tests. Similarly, it rewrites the laws of idolatry to suit its own theology. The Torah commands: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” (Deuteronomy 6:4). This statement is not merely a piece of information, though if it were the Church would be in violation of the principle established here. This is a commandment that one should attend to the truth of God’s Oneness. But the Church imagines that God is not one, or that He is One and three at the same time. These are fundamental commandments that Christianity ignores or alters to suit its purposes, leading us to question its devotion to God’s Law. It appears that the Church is more enamored with its own inventions than the precept of God.
We note similarly in the Church what we might call legal supersessionism. Christianity proclaims obsolete certain commandments of the Torah and replaces them with their own laws. (Let us note also that this violates the commandment to neither add to nor subtract from the Law as in Deuteronomy 4:2.) So, God’s Sabbath is replaced the by Church’s Sunday worship. Indeed, the Church proclaims the work of its god Jesus to be superior to the work of HaShem through the alteration of this day. (I hate that I even have to write something so terrible.). Similarly, Christianity rejects Passover for Easter, again degrading the work of HaShem and declaring the superiority of their man-god. Christianity treats certain elements of the Law of God as obsolete, a relic to be studied with interest but no longer to be practiced as a new and better law has replaced it. If this is love…
One can see in the letters of Paul from where this degradation of God’s Law comes. The topic of his letter to the Galatians could be described as “the obsolescence of the law now that faith is come.” It is difficult to imagine that anyone could read that document and find himself inspired to keep the Law of God. Consider Galatians 3:2: “Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard?” Here Paul argues for the inferiority of the law. That gift of which one must be desirous, the Spirit, is not given through the close observance of the law. Not only does the Law not deliver the Spirit unto one who assiduously keeps it, it does not even grant him life: “For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law…” (Galatians 3:21).
It is not just that the Law in Christian thought is unable to produce any good for those who keep it. Worse, it is a thing from which one seeks deliverance. It’s demands are too strict for any human to observe them, so that the law only brings him condemnation: “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse… Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…” (Galatians 3:10, 13). I submit to you that no one loves a curse. No one loves the thing that tends toward his destruction. He loves only that which delivers him from that curse.
Again: “Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (Galatians 3:23-26).
Does one love the thing under which he was imprisoned? No. Of course, I understand that a Christian might feel he should not say that he does not love the Law, because it is divinely authored. Yet, one cannot muster up a strong love for the thing that spells his destruction, the thing from which he hopes deliverance will come. If a Christian believes that the Law provides only the means for his judgment and destruction, he must experience existential dread of the Law, not love. As Paul goes on in Galatians, you know that he links the Law to slavery. This is not the language of one who loves the Law.
Let us contrast his language with that of someone who does: “Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong but walk in his ways” (Psalm 119:1-3).
And: “Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.” (Psalm 119:111-112).
Though the Christian puts this Psalm in its Bible, it clearly has no place in a book with Paul’s writings. David sees the Law as a source of joy, not oppression; a blessing, not a curse. Before it, he is not in existential dread, its gavel poised to condemn him to eternal suffering.
We are left only with the conclusion that Christianity does not produce a love of the Law. On the contrary, it denigrates it both in theory and in practice.
Charles, you wrote: “The problem remains our sinful bondage to self and Satan, only powerful redemption can free us to this liberty.” In reading your rhapsodic rhetoric, I am sometimes unclear of your meaning. If I understand you correctly, you mean to say that only through the redeeming work of Jesus will one be truly free to keep the law (inasmuch as he has been freed from his bondage to self and Satan). If such freedom existed in the Church, this would be a powerful proof of its claims. If the Church kept the Law perfectly, a feat that could only be achieved by those who received the spirit through faith in Jesus, this would be remarkable and speak well of the faith. But, of course, this is not the case. Paul has articulated a freedom from the Law, not a freedom that enables one to keep the Law. Indeed, Christian bumper stickers used to read: “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” And Paul famously wrote that the good that he wished to do, he found himself not doing and the bad that he wished not to do, he did. (See Romans 7.) This powerful redemption has not made people who are capable of meeting the strict requirements of the Law, then; it has only delivered them from its strict judgment.
This is reflected, too, in the letter to the Galatians. Some numbers of Galatians clearly wished to take the whole Law upon themselves, which outrages Paul to the point that he wishes those who urge circumcision should castrate themselves (Galatians 5:12). But, if the work of Jesus had freed Christians to keep the Law, then they should have been able to adopt these laws in demonstration of his redemptive work. The Church contrasts itself to the legalism of the Jewish people. Accepting and perfectly observing the laws that were by Christian doctrine too difficult for the Jewish people to keep would have been strong evidence of Jesus’ work. But, of course, no such evidence was forthcoming, and Paul castigated those who wished to adopt the whole Law. They would be placing themselves under the curse, submitting themselves to imprisonment and slavery. Christian redemption does not offer freedom from self and Satan after all.
Its redemption would have to be presumed. Like all those “fulfilled prophecies” that the Church claims, its fulfillment would have to be taken on faith. Its fulfillment was unobservable, unknowable—untenable.
The noises that Christianity makes about loving the Law are hollow. The Church has denigrated the Law, itself, and those who devoted themselves to it. They rewrote and replaced its demands where it suited the Church to do so. The Church adopted the view that the Law made impossible demands of the human and served only to damn him. And they adopted the view that one needed deliverance not just from his own selfishness and pettiness but from the Law. This is not the teaching of someone who loves the Law. The Church may feel compelled to say that it loves the Law, but this clearly is not so. Such a statement by the Church is nothing more than religious sentimentality, false piety.
Could you please explain why you are not able to practice the laws as a non-Jew?
There are laws of the Torah that are relevant for the non Jew such as the Ten commandments /statements .
However , I am not be able to practice most of these laws as a non Jew due to the following:
1.The observance of Sabbath & circumcision is a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham/ Israelites throughout the generations (Genesis 17:11-12, Exodus 31:13,Ezekiel 20:20 )
2.I was informed that non Jews are not obligated to follow these laws .
3.There are categories of laws that may not be applicable to everyone , such as laws of purity which is only applicable to the Jewish woman. There are sacrificial laws which could not be practiced today , such making the paschal offering during Passover as there is no temple standing today. However I learn from a Talmud teacher that one should still learn these laws, or rather learn Torah for its own sake .
4.I have been informed that the Jews have 613 commandments and the non Jew have 7 commandments called the Noahide laws. The 613 commandments are clearly spelt out in the Written Torah . The teaching on the 7 laws is not spelt out clearly in the Written Torah , but rather from a teaching in the Jewish tradition .The 7 laws were further defined by the Jewish sages.
This seems funny to me as the 7 Noahide laws seem to be quite similar to the 10 commandments/statements. I would assume that the teaching of the 7 laws would be based on the 10 statements , rather than from proof texts that the Sages derive these laws from such as Genesis 2:16 . After all the same God that gave the 10 commandments also gave the 7.
It seems to me that the Sages regard the 7 Noahide laws as a separate body of law (or classes of laws) from the God’s Laws as spelt out in the Torah. As such I come to a conclusion that the non Jew is not able to practice the laws of the Torah.
Thank you for the explanation. Here are some thoughts to consider:
1. If the Shabbat is not supposed to be observed by non-Israelites, then same goes for the 10 commandments, since Shabbat observance is one of them? The non-Israelites who want to worship Hashem are not excused from observing Shabbat (Isaiah 56, Isaiah 66). Same goes for circumcision (Ezekiel 44).
2. It is true that non-Israelites are not part of the Sinay Covenant, however, those non-Israelites who want to worship Hashem surely are (see above). Why would pagans be instructed to observe Torah?
3. It is said multiple times in the Torah itself and later on in Tanakh that one should read the complete Torah regularly and diligently. Of course, for the purposes of your daily life you will discern laws that apply to you. I see no problem here, same has to be done by any Jew.
4. The notion of “Noahide laws” is non-Biblical, as you yourself noticed. It is your choice if you want to trust non-Biblical teachings. Same goes for any other rabbinic teachings, and also any teachings of the so-called “new testament”. God revealed his laws to Israelites, but ALL of the laws are through Israel demonstrated to other nations (Deuteronomy 4:5-6).
Torah and Tanakh are complete and self-sufficient, there is no need to add or subtract anything. That is explicitly written in Torah, to prevent any future fraudulent claims.
And in the end, how do you know that you are not an Israelite? Maybe you are not a Jew, but are you sure that you are not an Israelite? Even if you are not genetically Israelite, you can be one by giving your vow to Hashem. Bible does not prescribe any conversion procedure, you just need to accept Hashem as your God and start living by His laws and statutes (just like Ruth).
Thank you for sharing your thoughts .
1.I do agree with you that observance of the Sabbath is one of the 10 commandments. It is also stated very clearly in a few verses of the Torah that the observance of the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between God and the Israelites throughout the generations.
According to the Torah , foreigner (I assume foreigner=non Israelite) residing in Israelite towns must not do any work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10). To me this verse refers to foreigners residing within Israelite controlled towns only. This verse does not state that non Jew everywhere should not do any work on the Sabbath.
As for Isaiah 56 , I understand that the foreigners who “bind themselves to the Lord..to love the Name of the Lord, to be His servants” are converts to Judaism . Converts to Judaism are included in the covenant and they have to observe the Sabbath as those who are born into it. This is consistent with the understanding that the observance of the Sabbath is within the context of the covenant as per the Torah.
According to Ezekiel 44, God rebukes the Israelites for bringing “foreigners uncircumcised in heart and flesh” into His sanctuary and desecrating His temple .
Isaiah 66 speaks about God gather the people of all nations and languages and that they will see His glory . It also speaks of all mankind coming to bow before God “from one New moon to another and from one Sabbath to another”. It does not state that mankind should observe the Sabbath.
Despite the above , I find that the 10 commandments are relevant to anyone . It is not right for me , a non Jew to observe the Sabbath , a command that God has clearly designated in the Torah to be a sign of the covenant between Him and Israel alone. However I can learn about the Sabbath and its observance from observant Jews in order to appreciate this command.
2.I have not come across any verse in the Torah which shows clearly that pagans are instructed to obey it. You have quoted Deuteronomy 4 :5-6 which stated that the Israelites’ observance of God’s decrees and laws demonstrates their wisdom and understanding to the nations. The person who obeys these laws will live by them (Leviticus 18:5). Both these verses are addressed to Israel.
3.I fully agree with you . The non Jew should discern which laws are applicable and which is not.
4.I do not subscribe to the Noahide laws as it is not clearly spelt out in the Written Torah. However that does not mean that I reject the Oral tradition altogether. I was born into a religious tradition that sees both the written text and the tradition of how it is interpreted as equally important . As such I do appreciate the oral tradition within Judaism.
I have learnt from this blog that the Written Torah is like a set of lecture notes . It is through following classes on the Talmud (Jewish tradition) that I learn how Israel understand and applies these laws in their daily lives and community worship.
There are no lecture notes on the Noahide laws . The Sages differ between themselves as to which lecture notes these laws are derived from . I also do not understand why the Sages did not consider the 10 commandments as part of their lecture notes in order to derive these laws.
Final thoughts -According to the Psalms and Prophets , the nations will eventually come to know God at the time when Israel is finally redeemed. The prophets (Amos 4:2, Isaiah 2:1-4) prophesized that the peoples will go up to the mountain of the Lord , and that He will teach them His ways, so that they will walk in His paths. The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham (Psalm 47:9). God will purify the lips of the peoples and all of them will worship him shoulder to shoulder (Zephaniah 3:9). God will prepare a feast for all peoples on His holy mountain and swallow the covering cast over them (Isaiah 25:6-8).
I can understand from these verses that all of mankind will learn of God’s laws and statutes when His Glory and that of Israel is revealed . I can imagine on that day that all peoples , in their national dresses and unique offerings from their lands (provided it is Kosher) will worship God on His holy mountain .God’s House i.e His Temple will be a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7)
you gave the answer yourself by citing Isaiah (actually, citing the Hashem). If you want to bind yourself to Hashem..to love His name, and be His servant – you will consecrate Shabbat and obey all his laws. If you don’t want to bind yourself to Hashem, are not interested in loving His name and don’t want to serve Him, then you can do whatever you want. It really is that simple.
Bible does not define or recognize the process of “converting” to “Judaism”. Otherwise Isaiah would instruct you to go find your local rabbi and listen to him instead.
Don’t take this as criticism, it’s meant to let you know that your relationship with Hashem does not require a mediator, let alone a hundred of them (rabbis, sages, priests, etc.)
Thank you for your sincere comment. I understand through your comments your sincerity to serve Hashem . It is just that we see the way to serve Him differently.
I hope you don’t mind with what I am about to share.
You mentioned about biblical character Ruth in your reply to my earlier comment. Ruth was a Moabite who married into a Jewish family that migrated to Moab to avoid a famine during the era of the Judges. I used to love reading this book -at the surface level it tells the story of a gentile come to join the nation of Israel and by extension embrace the Torah. Ruth , the Gentile convert is the ancestor of King David.
If you look into the narratives more closely , in particular Ruth 1:16 , you will see the story quite differently . Ruth pleaded with Naomi “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.”. We can see from this verse that Ruth places her allegiance -Firstly to her Naomi , her mother in law; Secondly to Naomi’s people-Israel ; Finally -to Naomi’s God , the God of Israel.
This story is normally read during the Jewish Holiday of Shavuos-the giving of the Torah. I once watched a video presentation on this book by a Jewish organization . This story was recounted as more of one woman’s love and effort to provide her mother in law a heir for the continuation of the family line. Since this effort comes from a Moabite , with Moab being one of the nations surrounding and quite hostile to Israel , is even more remarkable.
What I am trying to point out is that the Torah was given within the context of God’s covenant with Israel , a nation , not with individuals . The most noble way to to bind ourselves to Hashem..to love His name, and be His servant is to join and support the nation of Israel. That is what the book of Ruth to me is all about.
Imagine a person who has the desire to become a citizen of another country. Perhaps this person wants to have a better education , better life or to have freedom not enjoyed in his/her native country . This person sees the other country as espousing the ideals which this person seeks and is the land of opportunity to achieve one’s dreams. The person who has such intentions must physically migrate to the country of his/her choice. This person has to live and work in that country. This person must learn the history , laws ,languages and customs of that country. Most importantly , this person has to make a formal application of citizenship with the relevant authorities after a certain period of time. The candidate for citizenship must demonstrate to the relevant authority that he/she is familiar with the laws of the country , of good standing and most importantly has what it takes to contribute to the good of the country and will uphold its laws.
Similarly , a person who wants to join the nation of Israel must do all these things. This person must demonstrate to the religious authority that he/she has what it takes to be a good standing member of Israel. Isaiah 56 speaks of foreigners who “bind themselves to the Lord..to love the Name of the Lord, to be His servants” , and also foreigners who “all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant”. The foreigner in Isaiah 56 referred to here is a formal convert to Judaism.
However , it is not true that I love God less if I don’t do these things. God splits mankind into 70 nations or more for a reason . It is true that Israel is His firstborn son , but that does not mean that Israel is His only son. God has other children too and He has a certain expectation from His other children as well. However God has established a certain order or hierarchy and we should not overstep our boundaries. It is not less noble if we chose to be close to God by doing the best that we can where we are.
I think that you are steering from the important things into unimportant details and are missing the forest for the trees. Ruth’s intention was not what’s important, but the way that she became part of Hashem’s people, without any kind of artificial “conversion”.
My only intention is to point out that Bible itself is sufficient, and any adding or subtracting will lead you in the wrong direction.
The comments are here also for other people who stumble upon this blog and have similar doubts.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is worth strong consideration and I appreciate them.
I understand the need to see the forest i.e the big picture over the trees i.e the details. However I can see from our discussion that we are looking at two different big pictures . You see God’s laws as applicable to all. I see the Jewish Scriptures as primarily a national love story of God and Israel. I see God’s laws primarily within the context of the Covenant between God and Israel. I have shown you how this national story is being played out in plain reading- without any adding or subtracting.
I believe our discussion is fruitful and it is worth considering by those stumbling upon this discussion.
Thank you once again and all the best.
hi sharon, what do you think islams role plays in clarifying about who God is? many christians such as this one say that it is islam which won arguments against trinity and incarnation
what do you think about the tweet?
I am responding to your comment here https://judaismresources.net/2020/11/29/the-new-covenant-of-jeremiah/#comment-143231
To be honest ,I am quite surprised that you asked this question. It was out of the blue. I do not intend to reply to your comment initially as this question is not relevant to the discussion at hand. In addition , I also do not want to get into a discussion on Muslim-Christian polemics in a Jewish counter missionary blog.
However, upon further thought , your question may be quite relevant to those who may find their faith being challenged by arguments made by both Muslims and Jews against the Trinity and Incarnation. My response is with them in mind.
My faith on the incarnation and the Trinity was challenged when I come across arguments against it by Muslims a long time back . There are quite a number of verses in the Quran which challenged these doctrines. I do not know who are ‘’the classical Muslim mutakallimun’’ , but I am very familiar with the arguments made by Muslim apologists like Ahmad Deedat ,Shabir Ally & Zakir Naik . I followed debates between these apologists and Christian pastors . These apologists win every argument about the logic of incarnation and the Trinity.
I find that the concept of absolute monotheism (the Oneness of God) is appealing not only because of its logic , but also because it advocates a direct relationship with God without any intermediaries.
However one thing that is not clearly addressed in Muslim-Christian polemics is the status of the Quran itself. Muslims spent a lot of time explaining about the Quran and its origins , how it was divinely revealed etc. However is the Quran divine? It seems the answer is yes.
According to Islam , every human being is being born in the state of “fitrah”. We all know instinctively who God is . It is the religious traditions that we are born into that cause us to not connect with this knowledge. A person is on a state of fitrah if he/she realize and holds on to this instinctive knowledge. However a person has to take one step further by believing that Muhammad is the Seal of the Prophets and that the Quran is a revelation from God i.e by becoming a Muslim.
As such , it seems that it is not enough for a person to believe that there is One God in order to have a relationship with Him. This person have to believe in the Prophet that brought this message and in a Book that was revealed by God to that Prophet.
Thereafter I come across Jewish-Christian polemics , quite a number of years after my encounter with Muslim-Christian polemics. I followed videos/writings of Jewish counter missionaries and their arguments against these doctrines. These apologists win every argument about the logic of incarnation and the Trinity like their Muslim counterparts. I thought there was no difference between the message of the Jewish counter missionary and the Muslim apologist at first , so I paid no further attention. However I was surprised to learn that the message of the Jewish Scriptures itself challenged the doctrine of the Incarnation and the Trinity. These arguments really hit my faith hard as the Jewish Scriptures are a part of the canon of Scriptures in Christianity .
However one thing that is not clearly addressed in Jewish-Christian polemics is the status of the Torah itself. I have watched/read a lot about the Torah and its revelation . However is the Torah divine? It seems the answer is yes.
I learnt that is not enough that a person live by the Torah in order to have a relationship with Him. The Torah , as I have stated in my comments here is given within the context of God’s covenant with Israel. It is not enough for a person to live by or take on the commandments of the Torah. One have to either join or support the nation that was given the Torah to have closeness with the God of the Torah.
It seems that to me that the message of absolute monotheism by both Muslims and Jews are similar on the surface level- There is One God .There are no intermediaries between Man and God. However I find that this message is not as straightforward when I learn about Islam and Judaism in greater detail.
I learnt from my religious tradition that God is a Triune being . Jesus is the word of God made flesh. I can only have a relationship with God through Jesus .Then come the muslim apologist and the Jewish counter missionary challenging my beliefs. However, I am surprised to learn about the concept of a Divine word in both Islam (Quran) & Judaism(Torah) . It is only Christianity that teaches that this divine word became flesh and dwelt among us. In addition , it seems that I must have belief in God PLUS something else as advocated in these religions in order to have a relationship with Him.
I have learnt that Muslim-Christian polemics is mainly about the clarifying who God is. However Jewish-Christian polemics goes beyond merely clarifying the nature of God -there are just so much more issues between Jews and Christians as compared to Muslims and Christians. However if we strictly focus on the nature of God in these polemics, then I don’t understand the big fuss over the Christian understanding on the nature of God and man’s relationship with Him .Both Islam and Judaism have similar elements as well.
I think the citizenship imagery you used is very helpful (and naturally relevant) in answering the question of how the existence of a chosen nation could elevate Jews’ relationship with God, without diminishing that of non-Jews.
The metaphor of marriage between God and Israel is one that, in general, portrays many biblical concepts very clearly. But like all metaphors, especially regarding God, it has its limits. Taken too literally, it could imply that God’s faithfulness to Israel limits his relationship with others, in the same way as a husband should limit his friendship with other women, more than a man who is single should. I don’t think God’s love for individual people from other nations is limited in quite that way.
With citizenship, the people of a nation have a unique bond with their head of state, because of their shared purposes and the promises between them. Permanent residents also share in some, but not all, of these benefits, and they must keep the laws of the land. But the governor of one country could maintain complete loyalty to their people, even while having a close friendship with a person from another country. That person wouldn’t have the particular covenant closeness or protection that exists on a national level, and the benefits of nationality wouldn’t be in place, but on a personal level their friendship with the governor of another land would be unlimited; they could still share the closeness of working towards common goals. The fact that a leader is loyal to their citizens and that they are working together for their national purposes doesn’t limit the *personal* nature of their friendships with anyone else… although one may find that citizenship deepens their relationship on those other levels.
If I were clearly sure that Judaism is true, I’d definitely want to become a citizen, but I still don’t see the difference in intimacy with God as if it were precisely the same as being excluded from a marriage. The reason is that I think, according to the the biblical description of God, his love isn’t seen to be limited in the same way that human monogamy needs to be.
PS That’s not to reduce the marriage metaphor, because it’s clearly about a two-way unique intimacy, and that extends to the personal level as well as the national one. But what I mean is that God’s faithfulness to Israelites wouldn’t reduce his capacity to love and relate to others, so in that way it is quite different from a human marriage.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the above comment.
I brought up the citizenship imagery in my discussion with Daniel about the 613 laws and if one is required to take on these laws even without a formal conversion to Judaism i.e becoming a Jew.
God’s covenant with Israel is described as a marriage relationship in the Jewish scriptures (Ezekiel 16:8-14, Jeremiah 31:32,Isaiah 54:5,Hosea 2:7). The Torah was given within the context of God’s covenant with Israel , a nation . As His “spouse” , the Jewish nation are called to embody God’s values i.e to be like Him. For example , God rested on the 7th day after Creation , likewise the Jewish people are commanded not to do any work on Sabbath, the 7th day (Exodus 20:8-11). God is Holy ,likewise commands Israel to by Holy like Him (Leviticus 11:45).
You shared that the citizens of a nation have a unique bond with their head of state , which I wholeheartedly agree .There is a difference in closeness between God and the Jewish nation as compared with those not within the covenant. For example , I am not a US citizen , but I have learnt a lot about American democracy from afar .However my knowledge and experience may not be comparable to a US citizen living within that democracy.
I do agree with you this does not limit God’s capacity to love and relate to all of His creation . However , it seems to me that the most noble way to bind ourselves to Hashem..to love His name, and be His servant (Isaiah 56) is to join and support the nation of Israel through becoming a formal citizen i.e conversion to Judaism.
However despite all this , the non Jew should learn Torah through observant Jews even if he/she does not intend to join the nation formally. We (the non Jew) can learn about God’s Laws and Values indirectly through teachings of observant Jews. For example I learnt through observant Jews that obedience and observance /performance of God’s commands is necessary to achieve closeness with God.
I also shared about the foreigner described Isaiah 56 and why the foreigner described here is a formal convert to Judaism in my comment above. Recently I come to learn about a convert to Orthodox Judaism by the name of Nissim Black. He was an African American rapper prior to his conversion . Nissim Black and his whole family migrated to Israel. He left rap music upon conversion but eventually went back it, incorporating Jewish values into his music.
There is one music video by Nissim Black that I find inspiring and embody the foreigner described in Isaiah 56. I have attached the link to the video here https://youtu.be/b9c2ofjaLwQ
I agree that joining the covenant would be biblically the logical step of drawing closest to God, for anyone in a position to do so. But for those who can’t, I don’t think that not being able to convert would take them a millimetre away from God’s path for them, which I understand to be the path of closeness to him.
I guess the imagery of citizenship isn’t exactly central to what I was trying to describe. The idea is simply that the marriage metaphor in scripture isn’t so literal as to imply that God has to give less of his love and closeness to those outside of Israel. On a national level, yes, but on a personal level, I don’t think his interactions with gentiles are biblically limited by anything like monogamy concerns.
Thanks for sharing the song. I’m internally divided in my mind, with things like this. The rational part of my mind tells me that what draws us to this kind of emotional expression of clinging to God might be the pain of attachment wounds and insecurity: longing for connection, belonging, affirmation, and stability. Many deeper parts of my mind protest against this decision and see beauty, goodness, and resonance in seeking Hashem. I’ve reached an internal truce of simply trying to be open to whatever becomes clear over time; resting in the gravity of respectful kindness, wisdom, and hope, without understanding their cause.
It’s good for me to see expressions like this of what my less analytical mind feels so deeply, because I feel that this part of me (which wants to pray and be part of the communities I’ve been part of before) sometimes feels unheard. I can’t say for sure whether this continued yearning means anything true, but I think it’s a very deep thing for so many of us. I truly appreciate the handles that Judaism has given me for holding, and sifting, this uncertainty with an open heart.
Thank you for your honest sharing. I understand through your comments the questions you wrestle with in own journey to be close to God. I can identify with these questions in my own journey too.
I can also see that you and I have our own unique experiences in our journey of coming out from Christianity and exploring Judaism . As non Jews we have come to different opinion as to whether a non Jew can have a close and meaningful relationship with the God of Israel ,formed largely by our own background/temperament, experience with Judaism and interaction with the Jewish people/teachings we come into contact with in this journey.
Despite all this , letting go of one’s cherished beliefs about God ,which involves certain separation from one’s community of faith -and learning about God through the lens of another belief system & religious community -without a formal conversion can be challenging .
If there is one thing I can encourage you (and I) , is that it takes a lot of courage for us to embark on this journey in the first place. It is easier to ignore or play down the questions surrounding the religious traditions we are born into or grew up with because we fear separation from our religious communities .Perhaps we have achieve a certain satisfaction in our relationship with God within our own religious traditions .There is fear of losing this satisfaction and that we may not be able to have a close , let alone a relationship with God at all . Nevertheless , we took on this journey because we want to be close to the God of truth .I believe that our lives take on more meaning because of that. You are also making a difference in your family and community.
I find the music video –‘’A Million Years’’ by Nissim Black featuring Yisroel Laub inspiring. Initially I saw this video as embodying the foreigner of Isaiah 56 -with Nissim , the convert carrying the Torah scroll and inspiring the native born Jews around him in his journey from a cave to the synagogue. Eventually the message of this video becomes more clear – it is a commitment to not let go of God and His Torah , not in a million years. This song is certainly an inspiration for the Jewish community .It is also an inspiration to non Jews who seek closeness with the God of the Torah.
I pray and hope that you will be strengthened in this journey.
Sharon S and Annelise Thank you so much for sharing – both of you are a true inspiration.
1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >
Thanks for the encouragements… I believe it’s true that our lives are more meaningful, and our connections to our communities are too, in light of trying to be honest with ourselves. I hope the world is able to continue growing in it.
Your comments have indicated that you reject that portion of the Torah that has been transmitted orally. If you do not mind, I would like to ask you a question:
Let us imagine that you live in the time of the judges in Israel. A family from abroad wishes to settle in Israel and serve HaShem through the observance of his holy Torah. They settle in, and they come to that part of the Torah that tells them that on Yom Kippur they must afflict their souls. They do not know what this means. They ask you.
What do you tell them that they are to do? And, how do you know that this is the thing that they are to do in order to afflict their souls? Or, do you leave it up to the individual? Is one supposed to beat himself with a whip and another to walk over hot coals, while yet a third reads Nietzsche?
I thank you in advance for your response,
I would advise beating oneself and whipping, as long as it’s done at the only appropriate and holy place – the grave of the dead rebbe.
As for the Nietzsche, it would’ve been hard to recommend his writings centuries before he was born (assuming you are talking about the period of Biblical judges, since those are the only ones that are mentioned in the whole Tanakh).
Daniel How were those Judges appointed? And the Torah presumes that there will always be judges – how are they to be appointed? 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >
The first judge in the Torah is Moses. He is appointed by Hashem, as we all know. That Moshe is the first judge we see in Exodus 18:13. The judges that were appointed after him are appointed by him. The judges and officers after that time are to be appointed by people of each city/dwelling place (Deuteronomy 16:18). After the Messiah comes, he will be the chief judge on earth, appointed by Hashem.
If you are asking me about the mechanics and details of the election process for judges and officers that is not stated anywhere in the Tanakh, nor is it important – the function of the judges is defined though, and that is to judge righteously, according to Torah. And as anyone else they are not to add or subtract from it.
I am sorry that you did not care for the joke about Nietzsche. Inasmuch as you have added your comment about the dead rebbe, I take your answer to be sarcastic. But, it would be helpful for this discussion to have clarity on this point. Ignoring my joke about Nietzsche, how would you advise these people to afflict their souls on Yom Kippur? Is it up to the individual to decide for himself what constitutes affliction of the soul?
I thank you for your patience.
I would advise people to afflict their souls by whipping themselves and walking on the hot coals. If they run out of coals, they should find a nearby foreigner and send him to the store owned by a Noachide to buy more coals and bring them and set them on fire.
Do you mean, then, that it is up to the individual, that the community had no standard for what it meant to afflict one’s soul?
(I am sorry, but I do not understand if your answer is sincere or not. It appears to me to be hostile and sarcastic, but perhaps I am just misunderstanding you. If you are hostile, may I ask why?)
comments were not hostile at all, they were sarcastic, since you started in that vein.
As for the affliction, it is clearly stated that afflicting soul means fasting (Isaiah 58:3, Ezra 8:21, Psalms 35:13).
God actually spells out what he expects from you on that day in Isaiah 58:6-7.
Now, since presumably there were judges in the time of Isaiah, it is very indicative that God criticizes people for the ways that they behave on that day. Can you tell me who taught them to behave in a way that is despicable to God?
I am sorry that I gave you the impression that I was sarcastic. I was not excepting my comment on Nietzsche. But, I find thought experiments to be useful, and I am not quite done with this one.
You have written that later books in Tanach make clear what afflicting one’s soul mean, i.e. fasting. You will recall that my question related to the time of the Judges. At that time, these other works did not exist. So, despite my anachronistic reference to Nietzsche, these books could not be sources for determining what is meant by afflicting one’s soul. The Jewish people must have had some means whereby they knew they were to fast on Yom Kippur before they had those texts available to them.
The Torah was not given solely in writing. It was not even given primarily in writing. The Torah was transmitted orally first and in writing second as in Exodus 24. Indeed, that which was transmitted in writing relies upon the oral transmission for its authentication. The written word cannot testify to itself. It needs a tradition of people with knowledge of how the book came to be written. It requires the oral transmission of people to attest to its credentials.
A further thought experiment:
Let us imagine that this family from Moab found themselves in conflict with the Israelites among whom they have settled over an issue of Torah practice. They believe that when the Torah commands them to afflict their souls, they are to wear a hair shirt and whip themselves. The Israelites tell them that they are mistaken in this notion; in reality they are to fast. (Remembering that none of those books you mentioned have yet been given) are the Moabite family in any position to argue?
They might respond that the text does not say anything about fasting, and that the Israelites have misinterpreted the text. But, this argument will not stand. The Moabite family only knows that this Torah was given by God by the testimony of the Israelites, and it is those same Israelites who are telling them what the text means. The Moabite family does not have any leg to stand on.
This is the case even if the Moabite family does not present its own interpretation. Being puzzled by the text, they might not put forward any practice. So, what should they do in this instance? If they do not understand the text, how will they find an answer to the question? It would be rather bizarre if we said that they should not ask their new neighbors what the text means. Of course they should ask! And they will have to rely upon the oral transmission to understand what it is the Torah requires them to do.
Those later authors you reference did not add definition to the Torah, adding to the commandment. Rather, they wrote from the perspective of those who took the oral transmission of Torah for granted, referencing what was well known to all and had been since the giving of the Torah.
P.S. I am not ignoring your comments on Isaiah 58. I thought I should leave them for a separate comment, and I shall come back to them later as time permits.
I don’t think there’s a need to go much further into this discussion. I just stopped by to address the point that “non-Israelite is not able to follow all of Torah”. I did not even go into discussing if non-Israelites are supposed to follow Torah, just their ability to do so.
The issue of written and oral laws is discussed and debated ad nauseam over the past centuries. Still today there are Jews who believe that there’s both written and oral law, the Jews who believe there’s only written law and even the ones who don’t believe in either one.
The fact is that there’s no written account of the oral law in the Torah or Tanakh. You need to employ exegesis to arrive at that conclusion. And that is perfectly fine. Christians for example employ exegesis to infer things about Jesus, for the simple reason that there is no textual support for any of their claims.
In conclusion, I did not come here to disprove existence of oral law, nor of Christian tradition. I was merely addressing the point that there is nothing in the Torah itself or for that matter in Tanakh that states that non-Jews are not able to follow the laws.
Your argument regarding the non-Jewish observance of Jewish laws rests on your understanding that the Torah is comprised only of written instructions. You argue that the Seven Noahide Laws are without authority being “unbiblical.” If you are wrong, if the Torah has elements that were conveyed and preserved orally, then the argument based on this bad assumption carries no weight.
The sola scriptura position that you have adopted is in fact what is unbiblical. As I have demonstrated, only through reading Isaiah, the Psalms, and Ezra anachronistically are you able to determine how one is to afflict his soul. The generation that originally received the Torah did not have those writings at their disposal. They must have been given an explanation of the commandment.
Without multiplying arguments out of respect for your desire to drop the discussion, it is clear that an oral transmission was necessary and occurred. Because you are mistaken on this point, the claim that God did not give Seven Noahide Laws fails.
My apologies for jumping in.
I once had a conversation with you on the 7 Noahide laws. I pointed out that the Sages relied on different lecture notes i.e proof texts from the Torah to derive these laws. As a result they came up with different numbers and compositions of these laws.
Unfortunately you have not addressed this specific concern. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
I will search for that comment and put the link in this thread once I found it.
Appreciate if you can address this concern for the benefit of the audience.
I am sorry to reiterate that which you disliked to hear so much the first time—I believe you wrote that I “condemned” you. I have no intention of answering your questions, because you do not seek the truth. You have certain desired conclusions that lead you to ignore those facts that are disagreeable to you. This gives us no common ground upon which we can hold a discussion. Without that common ground, discussion is fruitless, an exercise in vanity.
I apologize for any bad feelings this gives you,
I know that we have no common ground anyway . You once called me “fiddlesticks” and someone who ” muddies the waters” in one of your lengthy comment about me. Forgive me if I got the impression that you are condemning me from those words.
In essence, the discussion is on whether the non Jew is able to observe Jewish law. Daniel argues yes, I argue no for the most part. In your lengthy comment to Charles, you argued that the Church has turned its gentile believers against God’s law. You questioned Daniel’s position that the Oral Law and the 7 Noahide laws are not biblical.
I brought out my discussion with you on the 7 laws as well as the link for those following this conversation to consider the source of these laws.
You argued that the Church and Paul have denigrated God’s Law in the eyes of the Gentile believers i.e most Christians today. You have made similar arguments in the past as well.
However there is an important question to consider. Are non Jews able to develop a better appreciation of the Torah if the Church /Christianity did not exist?
I have shown that the Torah is given within the context of God’s covenant with Israel, a nation. Certain laws such as the Sabbath and circumcision are sign of the covenant between God and the Israelites throughout the generations. Most of these laws are not applicable to non Jews.
On the Noahide laws, I have shown that the Sages derive the 7 laws from different set of lecture notes .As a result they came up with different numbers and compositions of these laws. Are these laws divinely revealed or was it teased out by the Sages?
The Sages are able to agree on the 39 categories of prohibited labor on the Sabbath from the activities of building the Tabernacle. It seems there is no argument between them on the composition and number of the categories of prohibited labor on the Sabbath. Why are the Sages able to come to an agreement on the 39 perfectly but not the 7?
Since you do not address these concerns, I can only conclude that these laws are regarded more as Rabbinical decrees rather than biblical law. Perhaps there has been a total break in the transmission of these laws.
It seems from the above facts that the non Jew does not have a preserved set of Divinely revealed laws to follow . The Torah for the most part is seen as not applicable for the non Jew. This is despite the teaching in Jewish tradition that when God spoke at Mount Sinai each of the commandments split into seven parts and then again split into 70 parts corresponding to the 70 languages of the 70 nations.
Moses was commanded to write out a copy of the Torah on the stones of the altar to be built on Mount Ebal after they cross the Jordan River and enter the Land of Israel in 70 languages.
Why did God revealed the 10 commandments in 70 languages when the audience who were listening were only a nation out of the 70 ?Why was Moses commanded to write the Torah in 70 languages?
Why most Jews tell non Jews about the 7 Noahide laws, which is based on a Baraita ( Jewish tradition) and can only be derived from proof texts and not about the 10 commandments which was revealed in 70 languages as per the same tradition ?
Yes, the Church has denigrated God’s law in the eyes of its Gentile believers. However the more important question to ask-Are non Jews able to develop a better appreciation of the Torah if the Church /Christianity did not exist?
No worries if you do not intend to answer.
Kindly find the link to my comment on the 7 Noahide Laws.
Please advise if you had responded to this particular comment.
” Are non Jews able to develop a better appreciation of the Torah if the Church /Christianity did not exist?”
I wish I had been raised non christian & have found the teachings of christianity to be a big problem because of the false beliefs, when learning torah. There is much to Un Learn. Since I never studied the torah as a christian, I only paid attention to the New Testment teachings, the church gets no credit of bringing me to torah. It was my search of truth that did. It is the reason I did not bring my two boys up as christian. Yes we took them to church a few times and talked alot about there being a god but I didnt want to teach them christianity for some reason. Things would have been so different if I knew at the time what I know now. It has also been a problem with my family, mother, brothers and sister since leaving christianity. I cannot tell them my beliefs they would dis-own me. Since it would cause more harm than good I don’t tell them.
Thank you for sharing . Sorry to hear about the challenges you face with your family upon leaving Christianity.
A question to consider. Imagine there was no Christianity, no Church. Your ancestors were never Christian and so are you. Would you come to know of and have access to the Bible and to the Torah ( translation of the 5 books of Moses) today?
You don’t have to answer if you , like Jim, have the same concerns about me. I will understand.
Of course. there is nothing today that i can compare, to tell me anything different. If I can believe God took his people out of Egypt why not. Numerous other miracles.
Thank you for your reply.
How will you know that God intervened in human affairs and took a people out of Egypt i.e out of slavery with miracles and wonders, if you have not heard or have access to the Bible? Care to explain?
This question assumes that no one would hear or have access to the Torah. Like I said there is nothing to compare anything to. No one can predict what the world would be like or what would have happened. I assume that like today, all over the internet, the Torah is freely available. On this web site information is freely given and answers to most any question.
I understand that perhaps it is hard for you to visualize a scenario where no one hear and have access the Torah.You live in a country which is established based on Judeo-Christian values. The Torah narratives will be quite familiar by most people there.
However , please consider the following -If Christianity did not exist , there will not be any effort to translate the Torah into the many languages that we see today . No effort will be made to produce and distribute the Torah to all nations. People like you and me will never come to know that God intervened in human affairs and took a people out of Egypt i.e out of slavery with miracles and wonders because we don’t know and have no access to the translated Torah . We will not know that the descendants of the same people , the Jewish people still exist today . We will assume that the Jewish people are the same as any other people , with their own unique sets of religious traditions and customs and there is nothing special about them. We will not have the inclination to seek them learn the Torah and Jewish wisdom -through their blogs and websites .
There are people around me, bosses , friends and colleagues whose ancestors are not Christian or Muslim . These people are mostly labelled “pagan” , however I find their character much better than some monotheists. My ancestors too were once pagan. These people are raised steeped in the religious customs and traditions of their ancestors. They do not know of the Torah or its narratives at all , unless if a Christian/Muslim who comes their way decide to tell them about it , or if I tell them about it , or they watched a blockbuster movie based on these narratives in the local cinema. My questions are formed with them in mind.
“please consider the following -If Christianity did not exist , there will not be any effort to translate the Torah into the many languages that we see today.”
This is not hard to visulize and instead is Pure speculation and assumptions, as is the rest of your comment. This sounds like someone who thinks they know what god would do. Without a man god things just wouldnt get done? I dont think its fruitful to speculate about what if and Instead focus on what is.
Thank you for your comment. Much appreciated.
I will let the audience decide if my comment is pure speculation and assumptions or otherwise.
Anyway , I will end the conversation here. Nice talking to you.
By the way, congratulations on the election of the new US president.
Sharon S If Christianity would not exist there would be that much more Jews around. People hear about the Jewish Bible and the foundational stories of our faith from direct interaction with Jews. Christianity killed a great number of Jews and limited the few Jews that survived from interacting with the people around them in a healthy natural way.
1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >
Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,
Good day. Thank you for your input in this discussion.
Let us focus on the present. We are at a time in history where it is safe for Jews to teach Torah and Jewish wisdom to the world. There are many websites on Judaism and the Torah learning including your blog for one to learn about Judaism.
Many people have come to know the falsehoods of the religious traditions they are born into and are more receptive to Jews and Judaism.
I am grateful that I am able to follow an online class on the Talmud attended by Jews and non Jews . I have learnt a lot from the class. However our teacher , a Jew does on occasion inform the class that non Jews are not obligated in the laws we were studying under the daily daf .
Most observant Jews will tell non Jews that they have to observe the 7 laws. I don’t understand why most Jews tell non Jews about the 7 Noahide laws, which is based on a Baraita – a teaching in Jewish tradition and can only be derived from proof texts and not about the 10 commandments which was revealed in 70 languages as per the same tradition ?
I understand that the Jews I learn from/interacted with mean well , but hearing these sort of comments can be off putting after a while.
I come to realize two things:
1.The Torah is given within the context of God’s covenant with Israel. Most of its laws/commands are only applicable to Jews.
2.There might be a break in the transmission of the 7 laws , which I have pointed out with facts. The non Jew does not have a preserved set of Divinely revealed laws to follow.
So my question is , are non Jews able to develop a better appreciation of the Torah even if Christianity had not exist?
“So my question is , are non Jews able to develop a better appreciation of the Torah even if Christianity had not exist?”
When I was a christian the church never taught me about the torah. Oh we did readings from it but some how Jesus was involved and truly he was the the center of attention. So one cannot appreciate Torah until they leave christianity. They don’t even call it Torah instead christians call it Old Testment. To me its strange you even ask the question their teachings are so different. We cannot learn Torah from a christian just like we cannot learn christianity from a Rabbi.
“We are at a time in history where it is safe for Jews to teach Torah and Jewish wisdom to the world”
says who? i thought it was being done in the past too
Jews, Idumaeans, and Ancient Arabs by Aryeh Kasher, “Conversion to Judaism in Classical Antiquity” by Louis Feldman in Hebrew Union College Annual
The Place of Judaism in Philo’s Thought: Israel, Jews, and Proselytes and J.C. Paget’s study “Jewish Proselytism at the Time of Christian Origins” in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament. Simply as Josephus put it, anyone who converts to Judaism, “they are thereafter no other than Jews” (Antiquities 13.258)
“1.The Torah is given within the context of God’s covenant with Israel. Most of its laws/commands are only applicable to Jews.”
thats not what the early church thought.
do you have access to this journal
J.C. Paget’s study “Jewish Proselytism at the Time of Christian Origins” in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament.
“1.The Torah is given within the context of God’s covenant with Israel. Most of its laws/commands are only applicable to Jews.”
glenna jackson , ‘ have mercy on me’ the story of the canaanite woman in matthew
it seems that the only way this lady got a cure for her daughter was because she became jewish.
@LarryB, surely even when the Nazarene is the center of attention to the Christian believer, all the Christians are taught from the cradle to live according to his example? As Paul would say, to wear the armor of God that is Christ Jesus to demonstrate the grace?
Its why Christians are mired by sectarian squabble so often. They are innately aware that theology alone is not alone.
Even when Jesus is seen as the center of attention, he is the only religious figure I am aware of who actually is purported to have said John 10:37 “Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father.”
He even says the lukewarm follower of his will be spewed out of his mouth, be they not hot or cold.
I am not actually aware of New Testament texts that do not see the relationship of genuine faith to actions as an organic necessary relationship. Its one reason why its easy for former Christians to see the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible when exposed to it.
“Oh we did readings from it but some how Jesus was involved and truly he was the the center of attention.”
I’m not aware of any Jewish teaching that is not also related to a given sage who exemplified said teaching, and i think its one reason that the Talmud says “so and so said in the name of so and so.”
Rambam even takes the Torah’s command to love God as a directive to get yourself a teacher and to heed their lessons.
You cant teach a teaching that cannot be made accessible to people by a clear example.
I think you guys are missing part of Sharon’s point.
How could the non Jews have learned to appreciate the Torah at a deep level without Christianity when the Torah itself, even in a translated form, makes it clear that it is not a document meant for the non Jewish world, but only for Israel and for converts?
If you read it straight through it barely mentions the non Jew in a positive light when a non Jew is just existing naturally within his own culture.
We know there are Noachide movements today, gentiles striving to have this natural organic connection to Tanakh that Jews have, but they struggle, because its an uphill struggle, and to be blunt, the reason this struggle exists is that Tanakh aint their book. It was not written for them.
Its why you have guys like Rabbi Meza who are trying to bring gentiles to Judaism directly from where they are at, even if they are messianic.
When I first came to the blog, I was completely comfortable with my understanding of Jesus, but I also did not need to attack Judaism or belittle it. I was comfortable with my knowledge of my faith.
I’m no longer a Christian, but even I recognize that When we speak of Christianity we are talking both about an official theocratic governmental, formerly imperial authority, but we are also talking about the random individuals who cleave to the Jesus ethic and figure.
I do not think anyone who considers themselves Christian sees the officialdom of Christendom as in any sense a net positive thing any more than Jews do.
In fact, in the U.S. as a country, we explicitly wanted the Church out of government because of the danger the many Christian ancestors knew was inherent in the various official ecclesiastical structures of “The Church.”
That knowledge of the dangers of official Christian religion did not stop guys like Thomas Jefferson who were deists from looking up to the ethics, sayings, or parables that Jesus is purported to have uttered, and seeing them as a positive.
We have to remember that the Protestant reformation was Christians killing Christians over doctrinal arguments. Surely a Christian can like Jesus, even if he hates Christianity and Church culture?
Sharon S and Concerned Reader The most natural (and healthiest) place for a non-Jew to learn about Torah is when they interact with observant Jews on a communal level – even today, with all the misinformation and stereotypes that the Church and its daughter; Western Culture have put in the way – still and all – when Jews and non-Jews interact communally – barriers of misunderstanding are broken and the non-Jew gets to experience observance on some level. Take the Church out of world history and there would have been so much more of that – just look at what was going on before the Church came on the scene
1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >
“We know there are Noachide movements today, gentiles striving to have this natural organic connection to Tanakh that Jews have, but they struggle, because its an uphill struggle, and to be blunt, the reason this struggle exists is that Tanakh aint their book.
It was not written for them.”
I think I understand what is meant by “it is not written for them” somewhat and am still trying to understand it fully, there is a part of the Torah that is for everyone. If the seven noahide laws are for non jewish pepoles, then we have to read “ourselves” even with guidence we have to read it and if the 7 laws are really 33 or 66 which i have read we have to find that in torah also, even with guidense we have to find it. I havent heard anyone suggest gentiles have to take the word of anyone as that would go against the torah itself.
The Jewish idea is that the Torah of Moses is a truth for all humanity, whether Jewish or not. The Torah (as explained in the Talmud – Sanhedrin 58b) presents seven mitzvot for non-Jews to observe. These seven laws are the pillars of human civilization, and are named the “Seven Laws of Noah,” since all humans are descended from Noah. They are:
Do not murder.
Do not steal.
Do not worship false gods.
Do not be sexually immoral.
Do not eat a limb removed from a live animal.
Do not curse God.
Set up courts and bring offenders to justice.
Maimonides explains that any human being who faithfully observes these laws earns a proper place in heaven. So you see, the Torah is for all humanity, no conversion necessary.
Larry, I know what the Noachide laws are. My point is, those are rules of basic human decency, not a communal marriage union with Hashem. Its not a heritage or saga replete with heroes and meaning that apply uniquely to you, or your descendants upon which you can build a community.
If you are a Noachide, who do you marry? where do you get buried? what is your goal to pull your community forward into history, where is your history, your story? That is what I mean when I say With those rules there is no community.
Most Noachides I am aware of are either not that religious (because they have not converted, and struggle to find a community where they feel accepted,) or they are still waiting on their conversion, and once that happens, they wont really be Noachides anymore, then the Torah will be their history, their culture.
When I say “the book is not for them” I do not mean there are no universal lessons for them, I mean there is not a cohesive unit with stories, heroes, national goals or aspirations, or a sense of cultural identity that belongs to them, the way the Torah belongs to Jews.
We can say that Islam and Christianity are theologically wrong, but these movements have a cultural life of their own that developed over time. I cant speak for Islam, only for what I experienced as a Christian, but I as a non Jew raised Christian was able to get those universal Torah ethical values, but also a living culture with an organic history of its own to go with it.
There was a sense if I had doubt or questions where I could go “Ah! Why do we believe in this book’s stories again? Oh, yeah, my ancestors used to worship rocks and be pagans, but we don’t anymore because of the Church’s role in history (good and bad) and that story, or that collective experience belongs to us.”
Christianity has a story that speaks to the people who join it, and its even a story connected to the gentiles who don’t join.
Its a cultural life which evolved out of their own past pagan history to which they are connected organically. Again, I am not saying it is true, but replacing it with the Noachide laws, upon which all Christian ethics are already based, you are not giving them a backdrop of identity like they had previously.
Thanks for responding. I started this thread with Sharons questions:
1. ” Are non Jews able to develop a better appreciation of the Torah if the Church /Christianity did not exist?”
It quickly went to
2. “A question to consider. Imagine there was no Christianity, no Church. Your ancestors were never Christian and so are you. Would you come to know of and have access to the Bible and to the Torah ( translation of the 5 books of Moses) today?”
The second question was what I thought she was talking about in the first one, so I stuck with it. Again I agree with your point “there is no community, etc.” especially at this point in time. Things would have gone differently with no Christian church but who can guess how, better or worse. What would the culture be like and grown into for Noachides if as many people believed in the Torah teachings for non jews for the last 2000 years absent christianitys influence? How many more converts would there be? I don’t want to speculate. For now Noachides can work with Jewish organizations and in time things will get sorted out. That’s where we are. This is short but hopefully it addresses your last post.
Sorry to jump in this conversation.
I refer to your comments below:
“I dont think its fruitful to speculate about what if and Instead focus on what is.”
“If the seven noahide laws are for non jewish pepoles, then we have to read “ourselves” even with guidence we have to read it and if the 7 laws are really 33 or 66 which i have read we have to find that in torah also, even with guidense we have to find it.”
Let us focus on what is .God revealed His Divine presence and spoke the 10 commandments/ statement to around 2 million people at Sinai.
Dennis Prager ,an American conservative radio talk show host , writer and a Jew, in his book ” The Rational Bible: Exodus” gave a few reasons why the 10 commandments were deliberately not given in the land of Israel . One of the reasons , he wrote was ” First, the Ten Commandments are not just a one-nation guide to behavior, but applicable to all people. From their revelation until today, the Ten Commandments are the best guide to human behavior for Jews and non-Jews alike”. ( page 377)
If God had clearly stated these 10 statements in the Torah , which Aish claimed to be the truth for humanity, then why do we need to find if the 7 at all, let alone if the 7 is really 33 or 66 in the Torah? Why not stick to the 10 that he had clearly revealed in 70 languages ( as per the Jewish tradition)?
LarryB, no offense , but I dont think its fruitful to speculate about what if and instead focus on what is. This is a principle that you taught me.
I hope the rabbi will answer that question for you. I am also hoping to find out if he agrees with Aish and what I posted there.
For two reasons, I do not like to write what I am about to write:
First, because it seems to me that this thread has long ago left any discussion about the topic, which was the new covenant, and I do not like to contribute to the topic going further astray.
Second, because it is sure to offend you, though that is not my purpose.
However, in your responses, you have written several distortions, and it did not seem to me that we should just let them pass. As I address a few of these distortions, I ask you to understand that I do not intend to attack your character. I do not know if these distortions are intentional or unintentional. But they are distortions.
For now, I am only addressing three of the distortions that appear in your comments to Larry here: https://judaismresources.net/2020/11/29/the-new-covenant-of-jeremiah/#comment-143540 .
Larry wrote that in his experience, the Church did not focus on teaching the commandments of God, that when they taught the “Old Testament,” it was mainly to find Jesus hidden in its pages, lurking between the lines. (Larry, please correct me if I misunderstand the tenor of your comment.) Larry’s comment can be found here: https://judaismresources.net/2020/11/29/the-new-covenant-of-jeremiah/#comment-143540 .
Concerned Reader, you have not treated Larry’s comments charitably. Larry never wrote that the Church did not teach that Jesus serves as a moral example. In treating his comments as if he did, you have implied that he wrote something that he did not and then argued against that point rather than Larry’s. Larry wrote that the Church did not spend much time teaching the Torah, except to find in it Jesus. This practice is, as you know, quite common.
I am sure that you know that many modern Christians spend a great deal of time trying to explain the Jewish festivals in a Jesus-centered way, for example. Nor is the practice of finding Jesus in the Jewish scriptures a new practice. As a scholar of religions, you are aware that Augustine spends some time in The City of God arguing that Jesus is the main topic of the “Old Testament” and that he can be found in virtually every passage if only one will look for him carefully enough. And, of course, you know that the Christian scriptures look for ways to read Jesus into the scriptures, so much so that Paul deceptively makes Deuteronomy 30:11-14 out to be about Jesus when it is clearly about the Torah. And, Jesus himself is supposed to have said in John 5:39: “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.” We cannot pretend that this has not long been the Christian pastime, searching the Torah, not to know how one ought to behave but to see where Jesus might be found.
Nevertheless, of course they claim that he is a moral exemplar. Whether or not this is true, I shall leave aside for the moment. But it is not, strictly speaking, because he keeps Torah that he is considered a moral exemplar. The Church considers his ethic to be higher than the ethic of the Torah. As I wrote to Charles above, Paul considered the Torah a thing which belonged to an enslaved people, a thing from which one could be freed by Jesus. This does not mean, of course, that he did not believe in certain moral values. If you treat Larry as if he has said otherwise, you misrepresent him. You make of him a strawman which would appear to be easily knocked down.
Yet, you have failed to knock it down.
You wrote: “[It’s why Christians are mired by sectarian squabble so often. They are innately aware that theology alone is not [enough].” You implied here that Christian disagreements revolved around moral issues. This is a distortion of gigantic proportions. A great number of Christian “sectarian squabbles”—I would guess the great majority of them—revolve around theological questions. They have had to contend with the nature of Jesus, the nature of the trinity once they invented it, and a host of questions that are of a theological nature. And, over these theological questions many divisions have taken place and continue to take place. Anathemas are issued precisely over these theological questions.
You wrote also that Jesus made a moral claim about himself that no other religious leader of which you aware has made on his own behalf, referencing John 10:37: “Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father.” Again, this is a distortion on your part. Jesus is not speaking about his fine moral qualities, assuming he had any. He is speaking about his miracles. Virtually every time that Jesus speaks about doing the works of his father in John’s gospel, he is referencing his miracles not adherence to the law.
In John 5, for example, he speaks about doing the works of his father after the controversy surrounding his healing a lame man and telling him to carry his mat on the Sabbath. First, we see that Jesus does not uphold the Sabbath. John is attempting to establish Jesus’ authority according to his miracles, not according to his faithfulness to the Torah. In verse 19, he claims that he cannot work miracles except by the power of God, which implies that his actions must be correct, an argument that contradicts Deuteronomy 13. In verse 20, he speaks about doing more works, which will astonish his interlocutors, which is clearly a reference to his miracles and not his moral goodness. In verse 36, he claims that he has a testimony greater than that of John the Baptist because the works that his father has given him (i.e. miracles) offer a greater testimony.
In John 6:28, people ask Jesus how they can do the works of God. Again, it appears that they are asking how to work miracles as Jesus does, having recently been impressed by his feeding of five thousand people. In this instance, Jesus does refer to a kind of work that is not miraculous, but he is not referring to himself. Here is referring to the kind of work they can do, but that is also not moral work. He does not impress upon them the need to keep the Torah. Rather, he impresses upon them the need to believe in him. They ought not be seeking to perform miracles: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (v. 29).
Similarly, in the beginning of John 7, Jesus’ brothers express doubts about Jesus’ claims regarding himself. In verse 3, they urge Jesus to openly do miracles, in order to prove himself correct. Here again, they use the word “works.” (This passage is rather bizarre, since Jesus has supposedly been working miracles publicly, including the feeding of the five thousand from the previous chapter.) As in the other instances, “works” does not refer to moral activity but miracles. It is true that in verse 7, the word “works” does appear to speak about moral activity, but in this instance, Jesus is talking about the works of the world, which are evil. This is not a reference to Jesus’ works.
In John 8:39, the word “works” may be associated with moral activity. But, Jesus here talks about the works of Abraham, which he claims his interlocutors do not do. He may also only be saying that Abraham believed the word of God, and that is what they would do if they were his children. This appears to me to the best reading, that he is claiming that their works, if they were Abraham’s children, would be to believe in Jesus, echoing 6:29 as mentioned above. This is contrasted to them being children of the devil, the father of lies. This makes them unable to recognize or accept the truth.
With those references preceding John 10, now let us consider whether or not Jesus is claiming moral authority from his moral activity or from his miracles. Jesus speaks what the Jews in the passage take to be blasphemy, claiming that he and the father are one. They wish to stone him, and he asks for which of his good works they wish to stone him. With all that was said before, this refers to miracles. After referencing Psalm 82:6 (questionably), he refers them again the the works: “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (vv.37-38). Especially in light of John 5, we must take this to refer to the miracles he performs, which he claims to come from his father and testify on his behalf. This is why they should believe the works; they are supposed to substantiate his claims.
In treating this passage as if it was about Jesus’ moral qualities, you have misrepresented the passage—I do purport to know if it was purposefully or accidentally. However, if he claims to be attested to by miracles, not only is this insufficient ground to believe his claims—again I refer you to Deuteronomy 13 (and for that matter Matthew 24)—it is not the outstanding claim that you make it out to be. Many a guru and false prophet has claimed authority from miracles they claim to have performed or their followers have claimed on their behalf. Nor is it rare for such people to claim a moral superiority unknown in the rest of the population.
You go on to equate the teachings on Jesus’ morality with those of certain Sages of Israel who exemplified a particular moral quality: “I’m not aware of any Jewish teaching that is not also related to a given sage who exemplified said teaching.” This is a great distortion on your part. The two practices are nothing like each other. The Church claims that Jesus is the exemplar of all the moral qualities: it is a form of worship. Not that some moment of Jesus’ life is never used to illustrate a particular moral quality, but the Church goes way beyond that. And certainly, Larry never claimed that the Church did not use homilies on Jesus’ life to exemplify some moral action or quality. But, you are not arguing anything in relation to what Larry wrote. Moreover, the Church treats the Torah as subordinate to Jesus, so that he does not exemplify the Torah teachings but exceeds them.
Perhaps the greatest distortion in your writing, however, is that you have written as if Jesus really does exemplify a moral life. This is clearly not the case. He certainly could not have exemplified it to the non-Jewish world. While he is purported to have a few interactions with non-Jews, he is not supposed to have spent much time teaching them. His interactions with non-Jews revolve around miracles, not his morally superior life. We might note also that he often remarks upon their great faith—their belief in his miracles—rather than their kindness, justice, or purity.
Moreover, how can we say that he resolves a problem for the non-Jews that they might find when they read the Torah? I am sorry to hear that you are troubled by what you perceive as a dearth of non-Jews in the Torah. However, attachment to Jesus will hardly give the non-Jew any representation, unless you know something about his genealogy of which I am unaware. If the non-Jew seeks a non-Jewish role model, he does not find it in Jesus. Similarly, if Jesus were an exemplar of the Torah, this should have been an evident to the Jewish people, those who knew the Torah. It is they, not the non-Jewish world—the Torah ignorant—who should have been impressed by his morally superior life.
Furthermore, Jesus can hardly be a moral exemplar. As I have written to you in prior exchanges, little is known about Jesus’ life. How he conducted his business, how charitable he was, how careful he was to protect himself from lustful thoughts, these things cannot be known. Even if we took the gospels as truth, which we cannot do, these and many other aspects of Jesus’ life are not related in them. Mostly we are treated to his teachings and his miracles. If we ignored any morally unsound actions in his life, we would still be unable to use Jesus as much of a moral exemplar. Indeed, in my view Jesus’ moral goodness is asserted due to the love that people bear him.
But, we cannot ignore the many questionable actions of Jesus’ life. Many times has it been pointed out that Jesus did not honor his parents. His own teaching regarding turning the other cheek is something to which he certainly did not live up, as he constantly harangued—sometimes in the most hateful and vitriolic language imaginable—those who challenged him. (Indeed, this has served as quite an example for a good portion of the Church throughout history.) Such language appears in John 10, a chapter you implied was remarkable for its claim regarding Jesus moral superiority. In that same chapter, he exhibits rank cowardice inasmuch as he plays off his blasphemous claims by claiming that the psalmist writes that people are called gods. (I think we must call this cowardice in light of the opening of John, which clearly sets Jesus apart from the rest of humanity, so that he is clearly being disingenuous here.) Perhaps one of the most bizarre claims of the Church is that Jesus was humble, considering the grandiose claims he makes about himself and the intolerance he shows to any who do not believe him.
In summation, your argument is full of distortions. Your comments do not answer Larry’s point at all but treat his comment as a strawman that you might blow down. However, if you had a wolf beside you, huffing and puffing, I think you would still fail in your task. Your answer to him not only misrepresents what he wrote, it misrepresents the practices of the Church, historically and until this day. You misrepresent what Jesus means by appealing to the works of his father that he supposedly wrought. You have misrepresented the practice of the Church, as if it were nothing different than what the Jewish people do when they exemplify a moral quality by relating it to a Torah sage. And you have misrepresented the qualities of Jesus that would make him a moral exemplar, omitting details that would speak against his being such an exemplar. Such distortions confuse the conversation.
P.S. It is late as I am finishing this. Please forgive me if on some point or another I have not been so clear or if grammatical and spelling errors have crept in.
“You implied here that Christian disagreements revolved around moral issues.”
No not at all, Jim I think you fundamentally misunderstood what I meant in my comment to Larry by referencing Christians being mired by squabbles yet still believing/finding Jesus a worthy example.
I know that sectarian issues between Christians are profoundly theological, and oriented in that direction. I am not saying they are not. I know that for them, interacting with Jesus is a theological exercise, and not often oriented to practical matters.
My point was what I see when looking at the issue deeper specifically in the context of Sharon and Larry’s initial discussions about the noachide laws, and what “might have been” had Christianity not existed at all.
Their initial discussion revolved around the question of whether gentiles would have come to the Bible without Christianity, whether the noachide laws are sufficient for gentiles, etc.
I was saying to Larry, that even with so many profound and mutually exclusive theological claims setting Christian sects and Christian individuals at odds with one another over time, I was asking, why is it that so many of them still continue to believe, and they believe even when they know how fruitless and violent those theological squabbles were, are, or can become? Its because they still find value in of the moral example or story of Jesus.
IE when Christians, and even unaffiliated Europeans, Americans, and others see the clear issues with the Churches, with how history went down, you very seldom see them shit on Jesus when they leave, or even when they leave that cultural identity completely.
Many Christians know full well how violent the Churches have been, they know their own history, and have seen how horrible a large number of Churches are when it comes to the numerous scandals, they even see lies in the NT and yet they still feel that Jesus himself was worth keeping, an example worth following in some respect as part of their culture.
For example (the one I gave to Larry for a specific reason)
Thomas Jefferson ditched almost the entirety of the New Testament, especially its theology and Pauline doctrines. He ditched it all except for its ethical precepts, and the core story element of a semi righteous guy dying for his friends because he could see that much of it was total bunk.
A person can see holes ethically and otherwise in their culture, they can have criticisms, and still not abandon it. If you are born in a society influenced by the Church, its still your history whether you are actually a member.
I am therefore agreeing totally with Larry.
My point was, even with that horrible negative historical baggage that Christianity has, culturally people in the west still held on to Jesus. Because Christianity/the Jesus movement is by sheer accident of history a cultural identity for Europe and America at this point, even if only as a footnote.
Like any culture people can profoundly disagree with a religion’s dogmas, historical problems, its leaders, its story, its own understanding of itself etc. and still find meaning in it, and still hold it as their cultural identity/backdrop.
That was my entire point to Larry, and I think you missed it.
His initial discussion was about what might have been, and about Noachide laws.
My point was, those are ethics, not an identity with a story for gentiles to springboard off of, as part of their own story received in their own history.
I was not dismissing what Larry was saying, not in the least. I absolutely hear him in his negative experience with the Churches. My experiences were similar.
Look at what I wrote, but look at it within the context of that discussion between he and Sharon S.
The question I initially commented on between their discussion was whether the laws of Noah were sufficient for gentiles to build community, culture, or identity on, not whether Christianity was good, or true.
Christianity is imperfect, it has a metric shit ton of flaws, including its founder, but it is nonetheless a culture that developed that has had numerous impacts, positive and negative.
Remember when George W Bush got together with a ton of religious leaders years ago to endorse the Noachide laws and a ton of people signed it?
That happened because our distinct collective cultures in spite of differences have a cultural reason to hold those ethics as valuable based on our own direct experiences in history.
An ethic alone does not make an identity.
What you seem to be saying essentially is that people should drop the culture like a bag of hot rocks because it is dubious at best whether Jesus was actually a good person.
You are of the view that the whole Christian experiment was crap it seems. Ok.
That said, its a culture. it is a springboard for gentiles to hear you talk about your Bible and still regard it as relevant for their own distinct reasons.
Talking to a Christian about why Torah is relevant is a lot easier than talking to someone who has no reason whatsoever to regard your book as relevant to their culture’s story.
Would you throw away Jewish cultural identity because of the examples provided by guys like Ahab or Menashe?
Do you see Samson breaking every part of his vow in the Tanakh as the reason to throw your whole culture away? No.
Do you throw Judaism out because of the civil war during Hanukah where observant Jews faced off with hellenistic Jews?
People are capable of reading the Torah, seeing what is good and what you will believe, and what is bad so that you can throw it out.
Every culture can do this, even the Christian culture.
Rabbi the thing about arguing what might have been, is that it makes no effort to deal with what is, or to deal with people’s real lived experiences.
As I said in my comment above, there are plenty of Christians who do not love the officialdom of the churches, their power structures, how they operated when they had Theocratic Authority over people’s lives, Etc.
But none of that has anything to do with why Gentiles today, or even in the past, looked up to Jesus of Nazareth.
The Muslims look up to Jesus of Nazareth oh, and they have none of the Christian theological baggage.
It’s true that there were a lot of God-fearing gentiles around before the Advent of Christianity.
These people had interaction with observant culture as you would put it.
We do know from studying the history of that time however that God-fearing gentiles still had to take part in state activities, otherwise it would be the ancient equivalent of not paying your taxes or resisting the government, which would carry punishment.
Only Jews were exempt from certain State activities because they had an ancient belief that such rites were idolatrous. The Romans could only tolerate cultural differences if they were deemed an ancient aspect of ancestral heritage.
So a God-fearing Gentile living in the Roman world would still have to swear by the emperor, still shop in the Agora where all the food was sanctified to the idols, still take part in their family ritual, Etc.
As you say, for Gentiles to get a real feel for the Torah, it needs to be of the context Within an observant community.
That’s why it’s still an issue, a big one, for noahide communities today to find a place.
Those are people searching for a biblical identity without converting to Judaism. It’s an identity the Torah doesn’t clearly Define. I think that’s why this question is being asked.
I believe it wouldn’t have mattered which group was on the scene, the tension between cultures that led to conflict would have still been there.
When the church was small and insignificant, around the time of the second Jewish revolt and for 200 years after that, we know what the Romans did to members of both communities, and how they felt about biblical matters.
If it hadn’t been the Christians, it would have been another group being persecuted by Rome, even being persecuted by members of their own family for abandoning ancestral Pagan traditions.
Romans murdered thousands of Jews and Christians, and they didn’t think twice about any of it. By their own confession in their own historical sources, they admit that they could scarcely tell Jews and Christians apart.
I think in the modern period we like to forget that the Romans really didn’t make the distinctions that our communities do today, distinctions that have been carefully crafted by both of our communities over centuries for us to differentiate ourselves.
I remember in one of my classes in college, learning about how the date for Easter was changed. The Christians didn’t like having to go ask a bunch of rabbis to help them calculate the dates, so they moved the holiday to differentiate themselves.
The point is we know that If anyone Jewish or Christian proved to give problems to the Roman state, we know what the penalty was.
You say things like who knows what might have been without the church.
I think I have an idea. Before Jesus even showed up, you had the maccabean revolt, which was both a civil war, and a war against pagan culture. A veritable middle finger to Hellenism as it were.
You had folks who had the traditional interpretation, against folks who tried to live Judaism in lockstep with Hellenism. All of those trends pre-existed the church, it stands to reason those Trends would have continued if it had been another group.
In Jesus’s own day you had numerous sects who were all observing Torah in accord with their conscience, and yet were still killing each other and fighting over the proper way to practice religion, or over what the proper way to resist the Romans was.
In light of that, I’m honestly not sure that history would have been that much different.
You even had gnostics prior to the Christians who were trying to say that there was an evil God, and a good one who was higher. IE the seeds of doubting the plain sense of The Commandments before Christianity.
It seems it would have just been another group who had the Zeal to successfully proselytize the Pagan world, and if it had been someone else, they may be calling that guy a messiah instead.
After all both of our communities did emerge out of the same historical soup.
It’s not as though the Jewish and Christian Community had no common experience prior to the recognizing of Christianity as a state religion.
There’s a solid 300 years of History before that happened, and those years weren’t pretty for Jews or Christians.
I think it’s a bit naive to Wonder what may have happened if Christianity didn’t exist.
Regardless of which group carried out the proselytizing of the world, I have no reason in real-world thinking to expect that it would have been nonviolent, because it wasn’t non-violent before Jesus came on the scene with any Messianic claimant.
Heck you wouldn’t have had Herod the Great if his ancestors hadn’t been converted by Force Under The Maccabees, would you?
I say this because the Roman Empire didn’t just simply acquiesce to Christianity. It didn’t simply acquiesce to Jews trying to maintain their independence over two very large revolts.
Erasing polytheism from Western Europe, and later the Americas was a slow and violent task, and I really don’t think it would have been any other way if it was another group. There are only so many ways we’ve seen any ideology spread.
Judaism recognizes internally in its own Messianic beliefs that there is possibly the need of a warrior Messiah.
Why? Because changing people’s culture if it isn’t done by them from within, usually isn’t a peaceful process.
I think what Sharon is getting at is that the Christian story became a part of the culture where these pagans could come to the Bible as though it was speaking to them directly.
Would monotheism have had the success that it did among Gentile cultures if there had not been movements that spoke directly to their culture?
Shalom Rabbi Blumenthal,
I am responding to your comment here https://judaismresources.net/2020/11/29/the-new-covenant-of-jeremiah/#comment-143611
Good day. Thank you for your reply.
I have followed up to 200 hours of classes discussing two tractates of the Talmud-Shabbat & Eruvin. Both these tractates are on the laws of the Sabbath. I personally appreciate the Sabbath a lot more through learning about it from observant Jews as compared to the perception I have of it through the lens of the New Testament. The Sabbath , I learnt from my teacher is a very special time . The Sabbath Bride descended on this time and Jews observing it are given an “‘additional measure of soul”. He speaks of the Sabbath as a special time , a magical moment .
As a non Jew ,I find it interesting and inspiring to hear about the beauty of Shabbat at the beginning of my study. However I come to realize that I can never participate in this beautiful and holy activity. Most of the discourse and teachings on these laws are directed more for the Jew , especially for the non observant Jew who attends this class. Recently my teacher’s wife conducted a class on how to bake Challah -a must for Shabbat as part of their activity for the global Sabbath project- an effort to get Jews all over the world to observe the Sabbath. There are non Jews who were eager to learn and asked for the recipe. Personally I did not watch the video/live show , what is the point when the non Jew is not able to observe Shabbat?
The fact remains that the Torah is given within the context of God’s covenant with Israel. Most of its laws/commands are only applicable to Jews.
I also come to learn of laws involving observance of the Shabbat and other festivals in scenarios involving non Jews. Should a Jew ask a non Jew to switch on the light and to perform other prohibited labor during Shabbat in order to assist the Jew? No. The Jew should not get the non Jew to do activities that the Jew is prohibited to perform on Shabbat .A non Jew living in Jewish neighborhood/courtyard have rights to the particular public space in the neighborhood/courtyard. The Jew should request the non Jew to lease his/her rights to that space in order to be able to carry in that courtyard on Shabbat. However I find it puzzling as to why a Jew can sell the chametz (leaven products) in his/her property to the non Jew in order to fulfill the command to have no chametz during Passover. Isn’t the chametz a forbidden item during Passover? Why is it forbidden for the Jew and not for the non Jew ?
The most touchy situation for me involves the discussion of ritual purity/impurity. There are sources and degrees of ritual impurity. As a non Jew , I am quite sensitive to the situation of ritual impurity , especially when it involves a non Jew. A non Jew is not tamei (ritually impure) , however the Rabbis do enact Rabbinical decrees where it is deemed that the house of the non Jew is ritually impure. It was assumed that the non Jews at the time of the 2nd temple/Talmudic era bury their stillborn babies underneath the dirt floor of their houses . The non Jew is forbidden by Rabbinical decree to visit the houses of non Jews for fear of contracting ritual impurity through stepping over a corpse of a stillborn baby in the house of the non Jew. Through this ,I now understand Peter’s initial reluctance to visit the Cornelius , the first gentile believer of the Jesus movement as described in Acts 10.
I do agree with you that learning Torah/Talmud with observant Jews is a rewarding experience. It breaks the barriers of misunderstanding between Jew and non Jew. The non Jew will see Torah laws and Jewish observance in a much more positive light as compared how we perceive it through the lens of the New Testament.
However the fact remains that this these observances are within the context of God’s covenant with Israel. Most of its laws/commands are only applicable to Jews. As a non Jew , I realize that I may not be able to appreciate these observances in full as I am not able to practice what I learnt . In addition , there are touchy subjects of these laws/observances especially when the scenario of these observances involves non Jews , which a non Jew like me will encounter in my study of the Torah/Talmud. How do I deal with these teachings?
This is just a sharing on my part. Thank you.
“The fact remains that the Torah is given within the context of God’s covenant with Israel. Most of its laws/commands are only applicable to Jews.”
thats not what your nt says. none of the jewish followers from the book of acts were able to quote a single word from jesus that torah laws/commands are “only applicable to jews,” how come ?
if such judaizers existed, then what about centuries before?
why did jewish missionaries exist if “most of its laws/commands areo nly applicable to jews” ?
why did such movements exist if ot laws were “only applicable to jews” ?
Matthew Thiessen’s dissertation makes some important contributions to these questions.
Josephus provides evidence both for Jewish proselytism and that not all Jewish proselytizers required observance of the whole law from their converts. In describing the conversion of King Izates (Ant. Jud. 20.17-91), we meet a Jewish missionary called Ananias who counsels Izates to follow all the traditions of the Jews with full zeal, but not to be circumcised. Andreas Blaschke (in his book Beschneidung, pp. 233-240) argues that Ananias is here describing two different paths of salvation for men: circumcised and not.
why did ananias require that “all the traditions of the jews ” were to be followed “with full zeal” if ot laws were “only applicable to jews” ?
My apologies for not responding to your comments earlier.
You were responding to my comment the Torah is given within the context of God’s covenant with Israel.
In response , I need to clarify here that “Israel” here is a nation. God established a covenant with this nation , not with individuals. One can be born into this nation. One can also choose to be a “citizen” of this nation i.e through formal halachic conversion to Judaism.
To my observation, there is a difference between a convert to Judaism as compared to a convert to Islam or Christianity.
For example , if an ethnic Chinese person converts to Islam/Christianity, he/ she is still an considered an ethnic Chinese . The Chinese convert will be known as a Chinese Muslim/ Christian. A Muslim or Christian convert still retains his/ her ethnic identity. The convert is still able to participate in the rites, rituals and observance of his/ her people as long as it is not idolatrous or go against the teachings of these faiths.
However if an ethnic Chinese person converts to Judaism, he/she is considered as an ethnic Jew and is no longer a Chinese. A convert to Judaism is a “citizen” of Israel. The convert takes on the Jewish ethnicity apart from taking on commandments of the Torah. The convert to Judaism has to give up his/ her native ethnic identity and take on a new ethnic identity.
I do agree with you that there are Judaizers/ Jewish missionaries reaching out to non Jews especially during the era of the 2nd temple period/ new testament. However I understand that the purpose of this proselytization is for the non Jew to take on the full observance of the 613 commandments , including circumcision.
However I do acknowledge that there are God Fearers i.e non Jews who are drawn to the Torah, but they did not see the need to convert to Judaism. In my opinion, this group is still considered Gentile despite them taking on the Torah. According to the New Testament , the first Gentile believer of Jesus is a God Fearer named Cornelius. He is still identified as a Gentile .
I will repeat my comment to Daniel here. The observance of Sabbath & circumcision is a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham/ Israelites throughout the generations (Genesis 17:11-12, Exodus 31:13,Ezekiel 20:20 ). The foreigners who “bind themselves to the Lord..to love the Name of the Lord, to be His servants” (Isaiah 56) are converts to Judaism . Converts to Judaism are included in the covenant and they have to observe the Sabbath as those who are born into it. This is consistent with the understanding that the observance of the Sabbath is within the context of the covenant as per the Torah.
Hence I will still stand by my position that the Torah is given within the context of God’s covenant with Israel.
Mr Heathcliff, correct me if I’m wrong , but I come to the impression that you are a Muslim from your comments here. Islam teaches that the Taurat (Torah) is revealed only to the Children of Israel. In fact , all prophets prior to Muhammad, which includes Jesus were only sent for their own communities. I am quite puzzled as to why you are concerned on my position when it is consistent with Islamic teachings as well. Perhaps you can clarify.
“. However, I am surprised to learn about the concept of a Divine word in both Islam (Quran) & Judaism(Torah) .”
the quran is not “divine word which became paper” .
this is just another embarrassing attempt by jay at strawmanning the muslim position on:
2) kalam of Allah
rather, what shocking is that
actually fell for such a regurgitated rhetoric
here is a previous refutation i made before
1) regarding tawhid, muslims affirm the transcendence of God due to scripture and logical necessity. We, unlike christians, do not deny logical prepositions such as the LNC (law of non-contradiction). its inconceivable for there to be an all powerful weak God.
just as its equally inconceivable for there to be an uncreated created God. the transcendence of God is readily preserved in islam, as logic and scripture dictate. Hence, contrary to what of op said, tawhid is not some “radically unitive type of beyond deity”
rather it is harmonious to logic and preserves the very essence of rationality. we do not, nor will we ever concede, that believing in a squared circle is logical (unlike our Christian brothers).
this brings us to jays second point:
jay seems to believe the divine scripture and text invalidate this stance of tawhid above. According to him, divine scripture is for muslims, “the incarnational principle”. The point being made here is that the Holy Quran somehow becomes a veneration, and thus, contradicts tawhid
except, we do not hold the divine text- as we hold it in our hands today- to be an eternal and everlasting effect. rather, it is the cause of the effect (God himself) which is eternal and everlasting. The text is an expression of that cause, not the cause in of itself
hence, there is no violation in the axiomatic definition of tawhid here. we still afirm devine transcendence without there being any sort of an “incarnation” as jay would put it.
again, i was genuinely surprised that
could truly take this seriously Person facepalming
Hi mr.heathcliff ,
It seems that you are responding to a remark in my comment here https://judaismresources.net/2020/11/29/the-new-covenant-of-jeremiah/#comment-144223 . Please correct me if I am wrong.
Thank you for making clear the Muslim/ Islamic position on Tawhid ( Unification or Oneness of God) and Kalam of Allah ( word of God).
I can understand why Jay , whom I assume might be Christian would question if the concept of Divine word in Islam invalidate Tawhid . A Muslim or a Jew may not see a contradiction between concepts such “kalam”, “word”, “holy spirit” etc in their belief in the absolute, infinite unity of the One God. However a person of Christian background may see “red flags” when coming across these concepts. We can’t help but to see things this way, thanks to our religious upbringing.
Based on experience, the best way to change this mindset is to approach a religious tradition with an open mind and to understand these teachings as how it is understood by its adherents.
I have learnt over time that knowledge of these concepts are indeed part and parcel in the journey to learn about God in both Muslim and Jewish traditions. In addition, I learn through this blog and teachings in Jewish tradition that the concept of God’s Oneness is so central in Jewish tradition ( and by extension Islam as well) and that these concepts are just peripheral- it complements rather than contradict the central teaching of Oneness in both traditions. As such, I have learnt not to be too concerned when I come across a teaching on these concepts.
To illustrate -recently I came across a teaching from the Jerusalem Talmud -that “piety leads to the holy spirit” ( Shekalim 3:3) , through an almost daily online class on the Talmud ( Jewish tradition) .Our Jewish instructor explained that the holy spirit here is defined as a “divine revelation” i.e the ability to perceive the Torah that one would not have seen otherwise. I did not see any “red flags” in these teaching nor did I see this pointing to the holy spirit as how it is understood in Christianity. However I was surprised that a Jewish viewer expressed his concern that this teaching might be misunderstood and requested our instructor to clarify. In my opinion, I don’t see the need as those regularly tuning in to the class , Jew or otherwise does not see this teaching as pointing to that direction .