How much Torah for Christians?

When the apostles gathered in Jerusalem for the first-ever church council, recorded in Acts 15, the debate centered around one issue: Should Gentile converts to faith in Jesus be required to be circumcised in order to be full members of God’s People? After all, they reasoned, circumcision was an eternal commandment from the days of Abraham on. At the time Gentiles who half-converted to Judaism were called “Godfearers” (Yireh Elohim). Those who moved beyond the Godfearers were called “Converts” (Gerim), and to be a convert one had to experience the covenant blade. (An early modern circumcision knife is seen to the left.)

What does the view proposed below say about Gentile Christians and the Torah today?

One apostle after another had his say about what should happen, but it was settled by Jesus’ brother, James, who restricted Gentile obligations to the Torah to four items, and the big conclusion was that they could be full converts without circumcision, nothing less than a breathtaking, radical, equalizing conclusion… but they did stipulate four obligations for Gentile converts:

You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality (Acts 15:29).

There’s some debate about these, whether they are just concessions expected from Gentiles or actual Torah stipulations for Gentiles who dwell in the Land, which means they would classify the Gentile converts as “resident aliens” (Torah category) instead of the more recent Jewish category of “Convert.”  That, at least, is one reading. I’m inclined to think this is not on the best reading but the only reading that makes good sense. Acts 15:29 is connected to resident alien laws in Leviticus 17 and 18, and here are the texts:

Lev. 17:8    “Say to them: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice 9 and does not bring it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to sacrifice it to the LORD must be cut off from the people of Israel.

Lev. 17:10    “ ‘I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people.

Lev. 17:12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.”

Lev. 17:13    “ ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth,

Lev. 18:26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things,

If this is the best interpretation, then Gentile converts — I would be in this class of people — are to follow these items not because they are concessions to Jewish scruples but because they are Torah for Gentiles. This is a huge conclusion, and it has been argued in brief by Richard Bauckham in his chp 16 in D. Rudolph, J. Willitts, Introduction to Messianic Judaism.

I have myself wondered aloud and in print if Paul ignored Acts 15 when he got into the Diaspora (after all, Acts 15: 29 is about Gentiles in the Land), but at least for this post we’ve got something to discuss: What would this view say for Gentiles and their relationship to the Torah? Was the apostolic decree for Gentile converts in the Land or for Gentile converts even in the Diaspora?

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  • Fascinating. It sounds like I should read Bauckham’s essay!

  • Don

    I’d be interested, Scot, in your take on Sabbath for Gentiles (my sabbatical topic). Did Gentiles keep Saturday Sabbath (per Ex & Dt) and then celebrate eucharist on Sunday (1st day) in anamnesis of both Lord’s Supper & resurrection? Or did the Gentile community compress Sabbath and 1st Day into one?

  • Mark Edward

    That I recall off the top of my head, Paul didn’t talk about eating blood or strangled animals. But he certainly prohibits all forms of sexual immorality. The big one, then, is if he prohibited eating food sacrifices to idols. The major opinion that I’ve seen is ‘no’, Paul didn’t prohibit this.

    But 1 Corinthians 8 is not really a concession, as I often see it claimed, because Paul criticizes the so-called ‘right’ to eat idol-offered food on the ‘knowledge’ that idols aren’t real gods. He specifically says that eating such food doesn’t make us better off, and not eating it doesn’t make us worse off (verse 8.8), he specifically advocates giving up such ‘rights’ if it helps his ministry (end of chapter 8, and chapter 9), and then in chapter 10.19-22 he DOES prohibit (at least by his own opinion, if not as a moral absolute) eating food sacrificed to idols by calling it food of demons that Christians cannot eat while also ‘partaking’ of God’s ‘table’.

    I think, based on what we find Paul saying, he affirmed that Apostolic Decree.

    Also, the Decree does not seen to have been limited to just Gentiles in the Land (Judea). Acts 15 says it was sent to Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. It seems they had it in mind for all Gentile converts.

  • Steve

    Don, your question is answered by Colossians 2:16.

    Further info on the meat sacrificed to idols can be found in Rev 2:14,20

  • norman

    I believe we are falling back into the Jewish legalist trap when we go down the path of adhering to food instructions as understood by the first century Jews. I think it is clear that Paul declares those who are still beholden to restraints as the weaker position even though he says God will uphold both the weak and the stronger. The weak being those given to not eating and the strong those who are free. Paul in 1 Cor 9 and Rom 14 makes it clear that he is going along to get along while being free in Christ.

    Rom 14:3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.

    We are still simply arguing over the cultural wars of the Jews that Paul recognized was passing with the Old Covenant methodology. I’ll repeat a point I made before that in Hebrews 11 that saving faith was established long before the circumcision, Moses and the Law. We see Abel, Enoch and Noah as examples of saving Godly faith that had no relationship with Levitical Judaism. Paul drives this point home in no uncertain terms in his Romans 3-4 section dealing with Law, Circumcision and the faith of Abraham.

    Rom 4:13-15 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

  • A couple of points:

    There is a growing sub-culture of Christians who have appropriated many things from Judaism and their big distinction is that everyone both Jew and Gentile should be adhering to all aspects of the Torah. They associate themselves with different names: one-law, two-house, hebrew roots. It’s kind of a reverse supersessionism. But I’ve not seen an honest/ treatment from any of those groups to the events in Acts 15 where Gentiles were explicitly let “off the hook” except for a few stipulations.

    And my next point: I see Christians overwhelmingly defensive when it comes to the conclusion that there maybe a few aspects of the Torah that they are beholden to. There’s a knee jerk reaction that it’s legalism, etc.

    Scot, you bring up a very interesting point as to whether Paul himself ignored the ruling while he was in the Diaspora. And yes, I think that’s another aspect that we have to contend with as well: the authority of the Apostles to make a ruling such as this as well as it’s implications.

  • EricW

    I didn’t realize the problems with the text (e.g., the original wording of Acts 15:20 versus its “evolution” from purity to ethics) as well as the debate on what part(s) of the Torah it may be based on until I decided to look at some commentaries based on your post here. It appears the answer that many of us have heard that these reflect the Noachide laws that the Torah makes incumbent on all humans is a simplistic or likely incorrect one.

  • Steven

    As you suggest in Blue Parakeet, perhaps Paul practiced his own version of picking and choosing as we moderns do with the Scriptures. As a Pentecostal I want to move towards a more integrated work between the Spirit and the Scriptures that is less rule making/keeping and more in line with the integrity and nature of the Triune God of the Scriptures. The challenge is that so many today are dropping all restraints of the commands of Scripture with a more personal interpretation and practice of what they find in the Bible. Torah? Fulfilled by Jesus and carried out by believers as we walking in the Spirit who gave Torah.

  • Daniel

    David Garland argues pretty convincingly in his 1 Cor. commentary (BECNT) that Paul supported the Jerusalem Council’s prohibition of idol-food.

  • Joe Canner

    Mark Edward #3: I, too, was wondering whether I Cor. 8-10 was a departure from the Acts 15 decree, and you raise a good point about 10:19-22, but….Paul then returns to a more conciliatory posture in 23ff. He is suggesting, rather than dogmatic proclamations in either direction, that we use common sense and be mindful of the sensibilities of others.

    I also wonder whether verse 25 regarding meat purchased in the market is making a distinction between eating meat *known* to be sacrificed to idols and eating meat of unknown origins. The former would suggest some involvement in the sacrifice and would clearly run afoul of verses 19-22; the latter is something the believer should not obsess about and instead the believer should appreciate and enjoy what God has created.

  • Does “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” Express a less dogmatic interpretation?

  • Daniel

    Paul’s use of the OT in 1 Cor. 10:6-10 is key. He quotes Exodus 32:6 and alludes to Numbers 25:1-2. In both OT texts, the Israelites ate idol-food and God destroyed them.

  • norman

    I think we have much more leeway in our cultural responses than to lock ourselves into first or 2nd Century Jewish cultral practices. I believe we can look at their examples and filter out the issues that we deem cultural appropriatins and then go about teaching and exhorting the faithful found today in an abunduance of various cultures to exhibit those high ideas of Christ in our lives.

    I think also we have to teach that we can’t go back to legalism in it’s manifestations as a methodology. If we drift back into that methodology then we have as Paul says in Gal 3:26 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

    If anything Paul was admant that “legalism” has no place in saving faith “Grace”. I think what we are seeing in the NT and the early church writings is those legalistic fingers being pried loose from what they were wanting to continue to hold onto. According to Paul, “legalism” was the curse that people have been lifted out of and to ignore that realization is to essentially say Paul doesn’t get it right.

    This cultural understanding in tension with the “freedom” is not ever going away as long as there are faithful people seeking God through Christ. However I think if we keep in focus the calling of what Christ called the 2 Great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves we have a firm foundation upon which to buld. When we start adding to many do’s and don’ts is when we fall back into Adam’s temptations failure that manifested itself profusely under Levitial methods.

  • norman

    I really don’t think Paul is in full agreement with the food restrictions that were being applied by Judaizing Hebrew Christians. He plainly states in too many places his problems with holding on to such ideas and says in 1 Cor 9 that he is accomadating those various groups when he has to.
    Paul walked a delicate balance between the Jews and the Gentiles but it seems clear to me that his heart of understanding was with the freedom that he was presenting to the Gentiles.
    The Jews in Jeruseleum (Acts 21) knew that he didn’t preach circumcision as they wanted so when he came in visiting them he accomadated them again. “when with the Jews” I do as the Jews. I realize this tightrope walk ofPaul’s causes confusion in interpreting his position but those were difficult times in practice for all involed and we need to recognize that environment IMHO.

  • Jeff

    I don’t agree that the background is Lev 17,18. The background seems to be Genesis 9:4 – “Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (NRSV) and the idea prevalent everywhere in Scripture to only worship one God. Paul uses the analogy of the Lord’s table to argue against eating food offered to idols. He does allow for eating food at an unbeliever’s house as long as no one informs them that it was sacrificed to an idol. I guess that would give them the impression when you found out that worshipping God and other gods would be okay. Confusing for an unbeliever.

    Paul does say the reason is primarily to give no offense, with regard to eating food.

    THe sexual immorality prohibition was necessary because many Gentiles though nothing of it. Again this goes back to creation standards.

    The only interesting one to me is the “no blood” prohibition. One could argue that we should never eat raw meat as Christians.

  • Jeff

    I also wanted to say Acts 15 assumes that wherever the Gospel is preached that they would assume a mixture of Jews and Gentiles would always be there.

  • Joe Canner

    Jeff #13: Slight quibble with your last sentence…Raw meat generally does not have blood in it. The red is a protein called myoglobin which gives it the red color and distinguishes white meats from dark meats. Most modern slaughtering practices (Kosher or not) involve draining the blood. So, in the West, this is not much of an issue. There are, of course, some cultures (e.g., Masai) that do eat blood, and “blood sausage” (or blood pudding or black pudding) is eaten in some Western cultures, particulary of German origin, although probably less commonly now.

  • Steven

    How would one eat any red meat w/o blood in it? What is actually being asked in these passages anyway? How is/could the Spirit use these passages today to help the church be a better witness of the plans and purposes of God?

  • norman

    Genesis was likely written from the period between 600 to 400BC (2nd Temple Exilic background) and the restrictions on blood found in Gen 9 reflects that levitical mindset. More importantly though when it speaks of not eating the flesh that contains blood the language is possibly and likely IMO reflecting the concept of accepting various “fleshly” Gentiles. We see this in Acts 10 where Peter’s interactions with the vision of the animals that are now clean reflect the new acceptance of Gentiles (eating their flesh metaphor). Christ uses himself in John’s Gospel to speak of eating his flesh which is not to be taken literarlly. Gen 9 is laced with Jewish metaphor thus the reason Acts 10 essentially reflects Gen 9.

    Gen 9: But you shall not eat flesh WITH ITS LIFE, THAT IS, ITS BLOOD. AND FOR YOUR LIFEBLOOD I WILL REQUIRE A RECKONING: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
    6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

    Another thing to recognize is that this metaphor in Gen 9 is also tied to the idea of shedding of innocent blood whether by Jews (adam/man) or by Gentiles (beast). This follows the pattern of apocalyptic type language which I believe Genesis reflects as demonstrating how the 2nd temple Jews ran with it in Enoch and Jubilees.

    An early Christian letter; the Barnabas Epistle provides us with a view of how the food laws were interpreted by early Christians. They essentially read them metaphorically and complained that the Jews held to them too literally. Barnabas is very likely reflecting 2nd half of the first century views of hermeneutics. We ignore it at our loss of context and how early Christians differed in scriptural approaches.

  • LT

    This misses on a number of fronts:

    1. It disregards the NT that the Torah was for a particular period of time which ended with the coming of Christ (Gal 3).
    2. It disregards the teaching of Jesus that all foods were clean (Mark 7).
    3. It doesn’t reconcile with Paul in 1 Cor 8 who gives an entirely different instruction on eating food sacrificed to idols.

    Anyone of these three would be enough to reject it out of hand. All three together should be inescapable.

    The question in Acts 15 is how much a Gentile needs to be like a Jew to be a Christian. And the answer is “very little.” These four things are most likely out of deference. The sticking point is sexual immorality, which is likely included because of its prevalence in the Gentile world. James includes that precisely because the Law is no longer in effect. It is a reminder that even though the Law is not in effect, there is not a license to everything that the Law forbade. There are still things that are accepted in society that are not acceptable for Christians, even though we are not under Law.

  • To the post’s questions:

    (1) Torah was not given to the Gentiles, and thus Gentiles were never expected to “own” it.
    (2) The apostolic decree was Noachic, not tied to Torah as such, and was definitely mandated for Gentiles living within the borders of the Promised Land (i.e., resident aliens). If it were truly intended for Gentile converts outside of the Land, then it seems that St. Paul ignored it.

    Except for that last bit (I think), I’m following Bockmuehl’s Jewish Law in Gentile Churches on this.

  • Another excellent resource on this topic is The God-Fearers by Toby Janicki.

  • Peter Bylen

    “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” is anything but less dogmatic but an authority that transcends text and personality.

    Saturday Sabbath versus Sunday – why the assumption that our Saturday corresponds with Sabbath day prescribed in Exodous or Deuteronomy? Since they observed lunar rather than solar cycles, it seems to me that the Sabbath would correspond with full moon, new moon and the period in between each rather than our solar based calendar.

  • Stephen Hesed

    For me Romans 7:1-6 clearly lays down the relationship between Christians and the Law: we are no longer under it in any way, shape, or form. In light of this text (and the rest of Paul’s epistles), I interpret the Acts 15 stipulations as concessions, though it’s entirely possible that the specific rules chosen are based on the resident alien provisions in Leviticus.

  • Adam A

    Reply #20 (LT’s), is right on.
    For an imminently sane treatment of this read “Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus” by Allan Thompson (NSBT). Excellent treatment

  • Sue

    Norman # 5

    I don’t understand following God’s directives as “legalism”, I think it’s more correctly labeled “obedience.” They (Jews) were commanded in all parts of their lives as the covenant people and Acts 15 enlarges it to include Gentiles, as Gentiles, and with Torah instruction that is pertinent to these Gentiles.
    I’m not sure if you’re implying that the directives God placed on Israel was a trick He was playing on them?

  • Sue

    LT #20:
    1: Matthew 5: 17-19. Heaven and earth are still here.
    2: Mark 7 wasn’t about saying that forbidden, unclean things that Gentiles ate (pork etc.) was now to be considered “food” for an Israelite. It was’nt about the classifications of what “food” is at all.
    3: Be careful how you use Paul because to my knowledge, he cannot overturn God, the Tanakh, and Jesus himself. (Nor do I believe he tries to)

  • Jeff

    Joe #17 – I am not sure if my comment went through, but there still are slight amounts of blood in some red meat but I was coming at it from the wrong angle. The idea is butchered vs. strangled.

    Norman #19 – Paul used Genesis many times to argue things that happened before the cult started, so regardless of when it was written that is how they viewed it

  • norman

    Sue #26,

    It’s probably a good idea to define “legalism” or the “Law” as Paul presents his polemic against it. However we simply can’t ignore such a major piece of theology especially since Paul defines its implications as what Christ redeemed His people/Israel and thus God fearing Gentiles out of. I personally think Paul viewed Torah as part of the problem with Judaism but likely it meant the misapplication and hang-ups that developed around it. However he even goes so far as to say it goes all the way back to Adam and the beginning of men calling on Jehovah.

    I think the difficulty we have is a thin dividing line that we cross over in setting what we consider worthy ideas and goals as directives that we then impose on others which leads to judgmentalism. It’s alright to abstain from watching TV out of conscience for oneself but it crosses the line to impose it on others. I realize that is a simplistic example but it illustrates the legalist slippery slope that devout people of faith slip into. They then end up depending upon their constructs carved in Stone if you will instead of having the purity of the spirit written upon hearts of flesh.

    I think also we have to be careful in refuting Paul’s teaching because he said he taught nothing but the Law and the prophets. I feel very comfortable with Paul’s analysis of the OT and application of Christ but I do understand that some find his ideas sometimes unwelcome.


    Paul IMO was applying what the OT prophets were projecting but we need to understand that Moses didn’t write Genesis and Paul treats Genesis through metaphorical glasses. Just look at Eph 5:30-31 and how he applies Christ and the church as the revealed mystery of Gen 2:24. The writers of Genesis it strongly appears had an agenda against Law themselves because they used the Adamic fall to illustrate its inherent problems that Paul picks upon in Rom 5-8 extensively. The tower of Babel story IMO is written from the perspective of Exilic Jews who didn’t like the Temple/Tower and it is a veiled commentary against it. We see that theme strongly argued in the Enoch writings around 200 BC or so. The Noah flood judgment is used extensively by those Jews that were anti Temple and Law throughout 2nd temple Judaism. These infights within Judaism were ongoing for centuries regarding the purity of Godly worship. The Jews went their way and the messianic group coalesced around Messiah and went their way. The Christians pointed to the 1st and 2nd Temple destruction as the sign that reaffirmed their confidence in their approach against Mosaic Judaism. Jews simply were not singularly monolithic in their ideas leading up to the time of Messiah which brought things to a head.

  • Jeff Martin

    Norman #29

    Any numerous suggestions have been made as to why parts of the Bible were written. We do know that a almost mirror image story of the flood was written in Babylon around 2000 BC, so it is very likely that particular story could have been written or told orally from way back then.

    The tower of Babel view that you portray makes little sense. The Jewish Temple was God dwelling in it, but the ziggurats acted more like portals, with the outside levels being steps.

    And finally Ephesians 5 is not revealing what Gen 2:24 means it is an analogy, the passage even says so.

  • norman

    Jeff #30,

    I understand fully the concepts and history of Genesis evaluations over time but data increases and knowledge allows for better examinations. Yes historically those various stories go back for eons but that doesn’t preclude them being part of the fabric of ANE lore that can’t be worked into Hebrew literature of their own devices. People think the Hebrews had the same or similar intent with these archaic stories but deeper investigations IMO show that the Hebrews were much more sophisticated in their purpose than we give them credit.

    Just about any scholar worth his salt realizes that Revelation chapter 12 plays off Genesis 3 and it was written at least 500 years after Genesis. It was used to tell or continue a similar type of story line that begin in the Garden using the tried and true method of apocalyptic. You see they followed literary patterns of construction which tied these themes together over the 2nd Temple period. I don’t expect most to see nor grasp these issues unless they are deeply invested in 2nd Temple literature beyond the curiosity stage as its simply not discernible to the typical lay student who don’t read 2nd Temple literature extensively.

    We have a lot of old bad scholarship to rid ourselves of and one of them is our ideas that ancient stories have to mean the Hebrews were archaic and ancient too. No one who studies Genesis construction would classify the Genesis authors as archaic. They were brilliant creators of colorful and imaginative literature that served a polemic purpose that we simply have not been trained to recognize. If you don’t know to look for it your not going to see it. Genesis has an agenda and it’s not what most people think it is because they don’t read between the lines which is what various forms of apocalyptic literature allows for.

    By the way I really appreciate the spell checker and active verse links now embedded into this comment section. Finally this site is catching up to other forums. 🙂

  • norman


    The Temple was despised by 2nd Temple Messianic forward looking Jews. That’s a little secret that Paul lays out on the table that people just shove aside. The Enoch literature calls the Temple the Jews “Tower”; wonder why? It was a building made with human hands where God could not be contained. No he lived in a temple not made with Human hands.

    I don’t think you grasp the meaning of what Paul was doing with Gen 2:24; he was declaring that it was “prophetic” of Christ and the church. In other words he is saying that it along with Genesis was pointing to the Messiah all along. In other words it was Spirit inspired scripture, in which it was not just talking about a man and a woman getting married. That Messianic view therefore was the original intent and meaning as Paul saw it. Contrary to those scholars who say that Paul just reshaped it’s original meaning. He didn’t have to because he understood the construction of Genesis in ways that we simply have not learned yet. He was trained in Hebrew apocalyptic. That’s why he calls it a mystery because most Jews would not grasp it without being instructed.

  • Sue

    Norman # 29

    “Christ redeemed His people/Israel and thus God fearing Gentiles out of”

    No, I don’t believe Messiah redeemed his people, or Gentiles, *from* the Torah. The Torah is the Word of God and as such is perfect and authoritative. Jesus is the Word made flesh and he too is perfect.

    When you separate Jesus from God’s Word, i.e., Torah, then you turn the whole Bible on its head. If Paul advocates for the abrogation of God’s Torah then it’s incombant upon us to get rid of Paul, not God or His Word (neither His written Word, or the Fleshly Word who is Messiah)

    However, Paul didn’t do any such thing in my opinion and I thank God for all the recent scholarship that understands Paul in a post Supersessionism POV.

  • Sue

    Norman #29

    “It’s alright to abstain from watching TV out of conscience for oneself but it crosses the line to impose it on others. I realize that is a simplistic example but it illustrates the legalist slippery slope that devout people of faith slip into”

    I agree with this example, but God didn’t direct His Jewish people about TV, so you’re actually talking about interpretation of God’s Word and applying it, which is a different thing.

    He did, however, direct them to keep the Shabbat holy, to properly slaughter the “fit” i.e., Kosher animals, to refrain from blood and many, many other laws. Additionally, He said to do many of these for “all time” and “in all your generations” and many are to continue even when outside of the land.

    FYI, the word Torah doesn’t have an equal term in Greek. “Law” isn’t completely accurate as Torah actually means “teaching” therefore the Torah is God’s instruction to His Jewish people. It applies differently to different Jews (women, men, priests, Levites, and non-Jewish sojourners).

    The last thing I’d like to point out is that Jesus himself said that all of the Torah is about either loving God, or loving one’s fellow.

  • Jeff

    Norman #31 – You said “but deeper investigations IMO show that the Hebrews were much more sophisticated in their purpose than we give them credit”

    That is true in a general sense, but it is a red herring. It seems more probable that it is a direct reaction to the Babylonian and Egyptian creation accounts. I would argue it is even more of a slam on Egyptian than Babylonian.

    And about Revelation 12, no scholar I know of would talk about it reflecting Genesis 3. Daniel 7,8,10 , check; Psalm 74, check; Gen 21:14-21, I Kings 17:1,2, check; Psalm 2, check; Exodus 15:12, check; the birth narrative of Matthew, double check. Sorry no reference to Gen 3.

    And again, no the forward looking Jews did not despise the temple. Guess where Simeon and Anna were? In the temple!

  • LT

    @Sue #27

    1. Heaven and earth are still there, and the Law didn’t go away. Jesus fulfilled it.
    2. Mark 7 saying exactly that: “By this he declared all foods clean.”
    3. Paul cannot overturn God, the Tanaach, or Jesus himself, and you are correct: he doesn’t try to. That’s my point. Paul says these things that we must believe. The Law was for a period of time. We are not under it.

  • LT

    @Sue #33

    If Paul advocates for the abrogation of God’s Torah then it’s incombant upon us to get rid of Paul, not God or His Word (neither His written Word, or the Fleshly Word who is Messiah)

    You can’t get rid of Paul without getting rid of God and his Word. You can’t simply pick and choose which parts of God’s revelation you like, and then dispose with the rest of it.

  • Glenn

    Sue makes a valid point. We reject books like the Koran, Book of Mormon, etc. on the basis that one can not accept that which goes against God’s revelation. The Old Testament claims the Torah is eternal and Jews understand Deut. 13 as a statement that one must reject any prophet who would teach Jews to reject Torah. If Paul teaches Jews to reject Torah then one must reject Paul it would seem. But many read Paul as someone who upholds Torah for Jewish believers while allowing Gentiles to be grafted in to Israel without taking upon themselves a Jewish identity. So Paul in fact upholds Torah.

  • norman

    Jeff and Sue,

    If Rev 12 isn’t understood to be reflecting Genesis 3 then we have some really poor scholars out there who just don’t pay attention to details of ongoing messianic biblical themes. I guess it depends upon what scholars you are reading doesn’t it?

    I’ll list some key verses by Paul taken from Rom 5 -8 to illustrate his extensive teaching on the end of Law that was coming to a close. Even Hebrews 8 reflects the expectation that with the expected end of old covenant Temple worship we would have God’s judgment upon the Law reflecting the understanding of the First Temple Judgment.

    I realize that those who want to embrace Moses and the Law want to keep and retain that heritage but those wars were fought throughout 2nd Temple Judaism and the 2 Groups split and parted company with the coming of Messiah.

    Essentially if we revert back to methodologies of the Law we are in jeopardy of being cast out of the Garden life that Christ has reinstated for us. Again Paul makes it plain and clear that the faith of Abraham is the model and not Moses and the Law which is equated to slavery.

    Gal 3: 10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse;… 19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, UNTIL THE OFFSPRING SHOULD COME TO WHOM THE PROMISE HAD BEEN MADE, … 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 BUT NOW THAT FAITH HAS COME, WE ARE NO LONGER UNDER A GUARDIAN
    5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.

    Rom 5: 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but SIN IS NOT COUNTED WHERE THERE IS NO LAW.
    Rom 6: 15 What then? Are we to sin BECAUSE WE ARE NOT UNDER LAW BUT UNDER GRACE? By no means!
    Rom 7: 6 But now WE ARE RELEASED FROM THE LAW, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and NOT IN THE OLD WAY OF THE WRITTEN CODE.
    5 For THOSE WHO LIVE ACCORDING TO THE FLESH SET THEIR MINDS ON THE THINGS OF THE FLESH, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For THE MIND THAT IS SET ON THE FLESH IS HOSTILE TO GOD, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

    Those who want to reclaim Moses and the Law really need to be careful and study what Paul is teaching about the early Christians reasons for leaving it.

  • Sue

    LT # 36

    You aren’t reading it, it says not a jot or title will pass from the law until all is complete and heaven and earth pass away.
    Mark 7 doesn’t reclassify what food is for a Jew. It isn’t what the passage is about either, and your translation is not the best.
    When you say “we” are not “under the law” you are correct, if you mean “we” gentiles. In fact “we never were. However, thats not the same thing as saying the law is abolished, it isn’t. A deeper understanding of Torah reveals that it applies differently to different people. Within that framework, it applies to gentiles to a limited degree.

  • Sue

    LT #36

    Oops, sorry I forgot to add:

    The English “fulfill” and the Hebrew “fulfill” aren’t the same. Before you say that the NT was written in Greek, I’ll remind you that the teachings weren’t.

  • Sue

    LT #37: “You can’t get rid of Paul without getting rid of God and his Word. You can’t simply pick and choose which parts of God’s revelation you like, and then dispose with the rest of it.”

    Oh my, I’m not sure what to say except God did just fine before Paul showed up. Personally I follow God and His Messiah Yeshua and am influenced by Paul.

    As for your second sentence, that is exactly what I believe you are doing, not taking a fuller picture of the entire scripture, which is evidenced by your first remark.

  • Sue

    Norman #39: “we revert back to methodologies of the Law we are in jeopardy of being cast out of the Garden life that Christ has reinstated for us”

    “WE” can’t “REVERT” to something that wasn’t ever given to “US” in the first place. It was pagan Gentiles who were grafted into an already cultivated olive tree and they hadn’t been given Torah, nor were they practicing it! You’re looking through a Replacement Theology lens, which I reject.
    Heres a few reasons why, in no particular order:

    1) God, who self identifies as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” and as the “God of Israel” didn’t make a “mistake” with the Torah or the Jews and then had to go to plan B with Jesus and the NT.
    2) He didn’t play a giant trick on those He calls His “Firstborn son”, and who He has “engraved on His palms” and the “Apple of His eye.” If He did, then us non-Jews are in big trouble.
    2) The New Covenant is not fully actualized yet. And when it is, it is with Jews, not Gentiles. Read Jer. 31 (I hate cherry picking verses, the whole chapter makes it plain)
    3) Jesus is the WORD OF GOD, hence, he is the Torah made flesh.
    4) If He intended for Jews to NOT believe and follow His Word, then He’s a liar.
    5) If His Word and self revelation is flawed, then He isn’t God, and again, is a liar.
    6) If the “Law” was “nailed to the cross” or abrogated in any other fashion, then I had/have NOTHING to repent from.
    Is it reasonable to view the plan of salvation as “repent for breaking My (abolished) Law, and now that you’ve repented for breaking it, you are required to continue breaking it, or you will deny the work my Son did on behalf of “nailing it to the tree.” ??

    Instead of using Paul to over turn the entire Bible, including all of the “Thus Sayeth The Lord’s”, he must be approached as the Jew he was and understand the audience he was addressing along with the issues they were dealing with. Context is key. The Jewish believers were “jealous for the Torah” Acts 21:20 points out, and Paul had Timothy (whose mother was a Jew) circumcised to follow Torah, he himself (and the other Apostles) deny that he is teaching AGAINST the Torah and to prove it he takes the Nazarite Vow, which requires many animal sacrifices, as well as paid for the sacrifices of 4 other Nazerites.

    My point is that the Torah is the covenant between God and Israel, not us Gentiles. However, as the Torah itself states, it applies differently to different Jews, in or out of the land etc. and those sojourning with them. I believe the only harmonious way to reconcile all of scripture, and thereby demonstrate that we Christians actually do believe it all to be the infallible or inspired, authoritative, Word of God is to understand it on it’s own terms, not use one Apostle to overturn the very oracles of God, and the very commandments that He himself spoke, instructed, and wrote.

    Acts 15 being a way to classify the elevated status of Gentiles who were drawing near to the God of Israel is the most consistent, reasonable, and profound way to understand. The believing Gentiles were becoming the ger toshav, or resident alien, or sojourner with Israel as Lev 17-18 points out.
    On that topic, the letter that was written in Acts has the issues listed in the exact same order as they come in Lv 17-18. Just FYI

  • norman


    I appreciate your detailed response as it demonstrates your deep investigation. IMHO I believe biblical hermeneutics is at the root of our difference in interpreting the first century Christian application. I also understand the difficulty in extrapolating from the OT what Paul appears to be applying from a Midrash exploration. I think this tension could be at the root of what Scot is seeking discussion upon so hopefully this post and others he presents will bring some illumination to this difficult evaluation.

    I stand by my comfort in my acceptance of Paul’s interpretation of the Law’s passing, but I also think this issue resonates deeper than what we are touching the surface upon here. Some of your points definitely have merit for investigation but I will leave it for another day but I leave this question with you to contemplate.

    Would you be comfortable with Messianic Jews eventually having a part in rebuilding the Temple in Present day Jerusalem? And if so why and if not why?

    Thanks for your passionate responses.


  • Sue

    Norman #44:
    thank you for your kind response.
    I am not surprised at your “comfort” because lets face it, you enjoy very good company, and a very long tradition that undoubtedly provides you with much of the assuredness of your position. I grew up in that same paradigm of Replacement Theology and if it weren’t fer being married to a Jewish person, I might still be in that place of comfort too. 🙂 However, I’ve had to wrestle with many issues that most Christians do not, and I came to realize that RT is not sustainable at best, and has been the cause of countless Jewish lives at worst. I understand I have a different paradigm and it isn’t one as well known or accepted. But *I’m* quite comfortable that RT is vile and should be rooted out and ended. It has no place in the Church, it says horrible things about God.

    Your question regarding the 3rdTemple is very interesting indeed. I’m not completly sure what I think about it, that’s why I’m excited to see great Christian minds repent of their (or our forebearers) arrogance and vitriol against God’s Chosen (basically all of the Church Fathers) and humble themselves before The Lord and begin to see the Jews as He does and the Bible for ehat it is, Israels story of redemption, restoration, etc. When that happens I think there will be more honest exegesis of those issues about the 3rd Temple that will give guidance on these vital matters.

    But I wouldn’t mind hearing your thoughts.

  • Norman


    I really do appreciate your heart for the Jewish/Gentile question at hand. I think the language the OT and NT uses are unfortunate at times and often creates an atmosphere of conflict and reprisals. Then those who are followers often emulate those passions far more aggressively than we should.

    I have made this point before but in my studies of OT, NT and 2nd Temple literature we are seeing an ongoing divide within Judaism arise around the concept of how to facilitate right worshiping to God. The positions become passionate and the ancients are not prone to approaching the subject in a kinder gentler dialogue because it often came down to life and death. The persecution is always from the side who exercised power and that has changed over the centuries with the growth of Christianity eventually developing the upper hand. In turn Christians have forsaken their call from Christ to walk in humility and meekness and to love those who disagree with them. Christ would hardly condone the confrontational attitude and flat out condemned those who wanted to bring death to any. But the fruit of what we are seeing in the first century is led by Jews and not Gentiles and it continues on into the 2nd century AD where there were still pockets of Jewish Christians who continued to wrestle with the issues we are discussing today.

    Second Temple literature is part of the key to understanding what was going on for hundreds of years before Christ came on the scene. It is much more direct and robust and was often very antiestablishment and the Enoch writings especially influenced this attitude against the established Jewish leadership. However it is rooted in and found within the OT literature as well especially Ezekiel chapter 34, Daniel 7 & 9 and Deut 32 to mention just a few. Need I mention so many other Prophets who constantly derided the Jewish leadership and people who paid no attention to God and His highest calling of reverence and compassion? So Judaism was always a turbulent group and the call to purity was always laid before them. This schism was highlighted between the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes and other offshoots. After the 2nd Temple was destroyed in AD70 you essentially were left with the Pharisaical Jewish camp and the Essenes (Messiah/Christian) camps left standing is how I essentially see it.

    The Jewish leadership of the 1st Century actively persecuted the Jewish Christians who were growing in number but that persecution was less sever after AD70 when the Jewish leadership had their hands full with the Romans for the next 60 years. So after that the Christians were persecuted by the Roman leadership off and on for 2 or more centuries and the Gentile influence in the church had become firmly established.

    One of the ways the Jewish Christians fought back against the established Jewish leadership was the use of pejorative literature stating that those who killed them would be excommunicated from God’s covenant people because they had broken the Noahic covenant stipulations of killing (shedding blood) of their faithful brothers. They often referred to the example of Cain and Able and how one should not to be like Cain who was “driven from the Land” and no longer before God’s face because of his murdering his covenant brother. So the “shedding of innocent Blood” was the primary impetus for covenant expulsion as I see it.

    I consider that literature to be applicable to the context of the first century growth of Christianity and its context is to be found within that time frame essentially. However the bottom line is that the early Christians believed they were living recipients of the long awaited Messiah that had been prophesied throughout OT and 2Temple literature. Therefore I’m more open to a discussion of who constitutes God’s covenant people after those times because I understand Christ as having come to redeem and set things in order of priority for all of God’s faithful. Since we know that those Jews and even before there were Jews all the way back to Adam were often considered righteous by these early Christians then the question is open to consider How God appraises His faithful now. In fact I would say that the OT leaves the door open to Ishmael’s descendants as well who call on Jehovah God. However these questions can get to be quite complex and difficult to say the least and although I am open, I’m not settled as I attempt to grasp the big picture.

    Also concerning the rebuilding of a third Temple? I simply see that as another expression of the “tower of Babel” mentality that was associated with the first and second temple and rejected by the earliest Christians. Christ lives in our hearts where the Temple of God now resides so I see no need to revert back to the “old tower” made with human hands. I think the Jews expressed that the destruction of the first 2 Temples exercised God’s Judgment against that approach so 2 witnesses is enough for me.

    Again this subject is deep and we are just scratching the surface here and likely are creating more questions than answers.

    Blessings to you and your desire to know the heart of God, which I hope we all, are after.


  • CGC

    Hi Norman,
    I agree that Christ now lives in our hearts but there are two issues on the other side that we must not forget:

    1. The actual temple stood for several decades despite the fact of Christ living in people’s hearts since Pentecost. If it was not a contradiction then, I am not sure it will be a contradiction later?

    2. I am not sure I can get around the prophecies of let’s say Zechariah that there will be another temple built?


  • Norman


    Let me respond a little to your ideas.

    First I would recommend a book to you by G. K. Beale called “The Temple and the Church’s Mission” and one that N. T. Wright highly recommends. By the way I have my differences with Beale on some issues so I’m not saying I agree with him categorically but this book is excellent background IMO.

    You said … 1. The actual temple stood for several decades despite the fact of Christ living in people’s hearts since Pentecost. If it was not a contradiction then, I am not sure it will be a contradiction later?

    My thoughts are that it stood during this 40 year period but was prophesied by Christ to be destroyed (Matt 24) in Righteous Judgment. Its destruction was to be a sign to all that Christ spoke with authority as God had handed over to Him (1 Cor 15:27). It’s continuation during this period is equated to the New Exodus period of transition in which the faithful would be expected to endure just as they were expected to do in the first exodus but most did not. See Heb 3 & 4.

    you said … 2. I am not sure I can get around the prophecies of let’s say Zechariah that there will be another temple built?

    Zec 6 in Beale’s opinion and mine as well is prophetic toward the coming of the Messiah/Branch to build the temple and it is not going to be a physical construction. I think we can see this at the end of Zechariah 14 where the Nations are to come yearly to keep the Feast of Booths. Zechariah is full of messianic allusions embedded within it and we could have a good debate amongst highly intelligent scholars today over the literalness of that language. You will have the literal readers contrasted with the figurative readers. I come down on the side of the figurative readers because I see that as the applied hermeneutic of Jesus, the Apostles and Paul in their establishment of Christ through OT and 2T applications. Their Midrash was built upon that approach IMHO.

    The understanding of applied Hermeneutics is at the heart of how to read the NT writers and how they arrived at their conclusions. Where we often go wrong IMO is a tendency to read scripture literally as the default method when we don’t grasp its nuance. There are plenty of places where that seems best to be conservative but through my experience it becomes a shortcut that gets us off track of what the intent really implied. There is an art to understanding scripture but it’s based upon some solid interpretive principles. But each must discover these for themselves and we all know the danger of reading our presuppositions into our interpretive method. However the Literal approach was the typical approach to scripture by and large as seen through Christ interfacing using parable language with Nicodemus, Pharisees and Jews at large. Christ said they just don’t grasp His intent because they had physical expectations for a coming Kingdom and Messiah. I think we need to keep that in context when we are still prone to reading the Kingdom as not yet what we think it should be. We may be reverting back to the wrong expectations that proved wrong once before.


  • CGC

    Hey Norman,
    It is not clear to me one way or the other whether there will be another actual physical temple built. It seems the growing consensus of Christian scholarship more often suggests there can not be another temple built. There may not be another temple built but it is not a given to me that this absolutely can not happen? I also know you don’t believe there is going to be an actual return of Christ since you believe this has already happened in 70AD with the destruction of the temple.

  • Norman


    Of course a Temple can be built where the Dome of the Rock stands now but I would see it as no different than the Dome of the Rock in significance. Let me illustrate my reason.

    I’m going to reference Rev 21 which I believe is reflecting the full establishment of Christ Kingdom after the Judgment upon the Harlot City Jerusalem. Of course I’m implying a fulfilled Preterist 101 understanding of Rev circa AD60’s 

    Rev 21:3 … “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. HE WILL DWELL WITH THEM, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
    Rev 21:26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.

    If the author of Revelation was reflecting messianic fulfilled eschatology then the application is reasonable to understand that the Temple is represented as God dwelling with His people in which I believe is consistent with NT Kingdom teaching. I threw verse 26 in to illustrate the Zec 14 fulfillment of the Nations coming to the City. Realize that I’m reading it from an apocalyptic language understanding.

  • Sue

    Norman #46
    Thank you Norman, you seem like a very sweet man and I appreciate your response. However, I’d like to point out a few places I think your argument fails.
    1) the fact that there was sinful “established Jewish leadership” neither surprised God nor ends His covenant. The covenant that He reiterates over and over again. Of course, one must read the words Israel, Jacob, etc as for what they literally say, and not replace another people in place of the actual text.
    2) regarding the shedding of innocent blood comment. You most likely know that when all the dust settled, Rabbinic Judaism had to ask itself the hard question as to why. Why did they lose the Temple and get scattered from the land again. This is important because there was actually a very high level of Torah observance at the time. What did they determine was the reason? Baseless hatred of fellow Jews. This fits perfectly with what we know of the times. However, I’d also like to remind you that the “established Jewish leadership” of the 1st century was illegitimate and placed by Rome.
    3) you say the early Christians believed they were recipients of long awaited Messiah. Well, that’s true if you mean Jews who believed in Yeshua, but it isn’t true for Gentiles. It’s important to differentiate here because the only ones waiting for Messiah, or knew anything about the promises, were Jews. And, no matter what type of accusations hurled at Jews by other Jews, that’s essentially a in house matter and isn’t binding on God to therefore transfer His promises to His “firstborn son” who will pay “double for all their sins” to non covenant Gentiles. It makes Him a liar.
    4) who constitutes Gods people are any who turn to and embrace Him. That doesn’t make believing Gentiles Jews, or the new covenant people. Regarding the Covenant People, that is specifically Jews. However, Gentiles are also mentioned in that “the coastlands wait for my Torah” and that it isn’t enough that He saves Jacob, but aHe will ALSO call a people who weren’t a people, and didn’t know about Him, and weren’t given the covenants etc. guess who that is? But again, it doesn’t obliterate His promises to His covenant people. Consider this: God is either faithful, or He is not. It cannot be both ways.
    5) regarding the 3rd Temple: Jesus said it was his Fathers house. He went there over and over, and his disciples went daily, even after the assention. They continued to offer sacrifices too.

  • Sue

    Norman, sorry, I’m tired and it shows in the above typos. I mean to say Jewus said referred to the 2nd Temple as his Father’s house. And to clarify #3 I’m saying He made promises to the people He called His “firstborn son” and the Apple of His eye, and I reject the idea that they have been transferred to Gentiles. That is, in a nutshell, Replacement Theology. I seek to see the Bible in a coherent fashion that doesn’t do damage to His declarations and promises. Therefore, my understanding is that His covenant stands with the Jewish people, and the New Covenant is with the Jewish people (Jer 31, Ez 36) and it was expanded to allow Gentiles, by believing in Jesus as the Messiah, yet remaining Gentiles, to come near and benefit from His promises to Israel. As soon as we kick them out of the expressly spoken and written, binding covenants and promises, we have no ground to stand upon for He never made those with us.

  • norman


    It won’t be the first time I’ve failed. 🙂

    Yes you are correct the “shepherds of Israel” were corrupt but it goes back much further than the Romans to the Greeks buying their influence and to Ezekiel’s recognition and also Isaiah’s. I’ll stop there listing the lacking in the Priesthood.

    Eze 34:9-10 Therefore, O shepherds, hear a word of Jehovah: Thus said the Lord Jehovah: Lo, I am against the shepherds, And have required My flock from their hand, And caused them to cease from feeding the flock, And no more do the shepherds feed themselves, And I have delivered My flock from their mouth, And they are not to them for food. … 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country.

    And yes if every man is a liar God is still true. Israel was not replaced, but Israel was redeemed. As Paul says in Rom 9 not all Israel is Israel. But the same holds true for the Gentiles because many are called but few will follow.

    Rom 11:2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. … 7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened,

    The First Adam however was indeed replaced; with the Last Adam. The covenant of Death has been supplanted with the covenant of life.

    1Co 15:45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

    I agree with you that there was a very high level of Torah observance by the Jews and that is reflected in their embracing of Ezra seemingly as a second Moses figure if you will. However the Early Christians took the Ezra Character and redacted 4 Ezra to reflect again their perception of the problem with Law following Judaism. Paul simply wasn’t the only one who had problems with the Law seeking Jews as the Essenes faction had been rejecting the Ezra faction for decades if not centuries. As I have stated before this infighting among the Jews was not a new kid on the scene in the first Century but it did come to a boil with Christ the Messiah coming on stage as Predicted. The Essenes were big on the Messiah and very likely many became Christians. Paul attempts to identify true Jews as people of faith identified with Abraham’s faith. He goes to the Abraham card time after time in his writings.

    Yes Jesus came to the Jews first to fulfill the promises yet the Gentile inclusion is found prophetically folded into the story line as early as Adam tending the Garden which represents Israel’s call to the Priesthood (see the ancient Jewish writing of Jubilees cira 150BC) also in Gen 9:27 we see the prophecy of Japheth (Gentile) dwelling under the “seed” lineage of Shem.

    We see that Tent metaphor expanded by Isaiah.

    Isa 54:2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities

    Act 15:16-18 “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’

    Paul quotes verse 1of Isa 54 in Galatians 4.

    Gal 4:27 For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.”

    I therefore stand by my understanding that Paul analyzed the intent of the coming of Messiah correctly in his vast writings and letters. He says he taught nothing but the Law and the Prophets and it’s pointing to Messiah as he understood the OT. Yes Paul could have gotten it wrong and that is why I study for myself because I’m not an evangelical card toting worshiper of Catholic and Protestant canon pronouncements. Nor am I an adherent of the Jewish canon consolidation of their councils around 90AD in which they consolidated and excluded highly messianic literature like Enoch and Jubilees that Essenes and Christians were invested in. They essentially neutered the Christian Bible of the day and eventually the Christians gave into them after decades if not centuries of disputing. Thus the reason you find Enoch still in Eastern and Ethiopic Bibles but not the Western Canon.

    Question: Were the lineages we find in Genesis 5 listing Adam progeny through Gen 11 listing Noah’s offspring considered Gentiles or Jews? What makes them Jews or not? It seems that Luke considers them precursors of Abraham bearing the “seed” lineage.

    Concerning number 4 of yours? What makes a Jew? Is it circumcision? Is it being of biological birth? Is it Marriage into Judaism? Better question is what makes a son of Abraham? Better question yet is what makes one a son of God?

    Rom 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

    Luk 3:38 … Adam, the son of God.

    God’s Promises began with Adam and Eve when they were expelled from Garden life.

    Gen 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

    The Last Adam fulfilled this promise.

    Concerning #5 yet he foretold its judgment of destruction just as happened to the first Temple.

    Sue, the Jews were always a mixed race from the get go. They left Egypt with many Egyptians in their fold. Gentiles were always being folded into their covenant. Joseph is a prime example with his 2 sons. Paul says there is no difference between Jew and Gentile in the new covenant. If one puts on circumcision as a Gentile believer then are they now a Jewish Believer?

    Rom 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

    Finally I must say I am still very impressed with your comprehensive grasp of total theology concerning the Bible. It’s a rare bird that I find here in these forums that can enunciate biblical themes as well as you are doing. Although I have some disagreements on some conclusions I would bet that we agree on a lot of the fundamentals. In fact I agree with a lot of what you stated but am only highlighting some different conclusions that I perceived or draw.

    It’s a shame this thread is getting so old because there is a lot of food for thought for readers going on here that is likely being missed.



  • Sue

    Norman, you are very kind indeed and thank you for your challenging questions! I don’t think I have nearly all the answers, however I want to mention a few things.
    1) The concept of Jewishness belongs to God since He created and defined it. I do think it is a race, and if you’d married a Jew you would most likely agree, because they are different. This I say in love, and also from experience. I won’t get into it here though. I say it’s a race because it is a specific physical lineage from certain folks and not others. Abraham, Isaac –but not Ishmael– Jacob– but not Esau. Specific people, and their descendants, were physically called and this is not a negative as Christianity usually defines it as “carnal” to be a bad thing.

    No, there were no Jews until after Abraham was circumcised. But that covenant with Abraham that created the Jewish people (and therefore the distinction of Jew and Gentile) was predicated upon Abrahams trust alone, prior to circumcision. (Notice I didn’t say “faith” as in simply what he believed, but also what he DID) his trust changed everything! And as he was called, and trusted, as a non-Jew first, so we too can follow him in trust and he is our father. But again, that in no way disqualifies the Jewish people! I believe God to be faithful to His written Word.

    Gentiles have always been able to join the Jewish people, usually through marriage, and the act of marriage was, in effect, the “conversion.” However, those folks were never called Jews, as you can see throughout the scriptures. Ruth is always the Moabitess, never the Jewess and so on. But the children of this mixed marriage WERE Jews. The problem is that people who are gers, proselytes, converts etc, are now called “Jews” and this isn’t Biblical and creates more confusion (as does the unBiblical matrilineal descent ruling.) A gentile can convert to Judaism, but they remain a Gentile legally practicing Judaism. That is all, they do not become “Jews.”

    You misunderstand Paul’s remark that there’s no difference between Jew and Gentile etc and Rom 10:12. He says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    First: according to God there is a difference between all 3 classifications he lists, so Paul as a pious Jew cannot be saying what you represent. Second: if you don’t believe me, use your same line of reasoning but insert it into the gender issue. Is there no difference between male and female either? After all, Paul clearly says that too. If this (errant) teaching, so dear to the Church all these 2k years, that no distinction remains between Jew and Gentile was applied equally to the gender issue, women wouldn’t have been subjugated by men up until very recent history. The church, by no means, taught consistently on this issue. But let’s face it, there IS a difference between male and female isn’t there? Aren’t women still the carriers of life? Paul is saying there is no difference in value, or access, to God not that it wipes out all (God given) distinction. Yes, there is a difference, Jews are under an obligation to God via Torah observance, that Gentiles are not obligated to in the same way or degree. We Gentiles now have access to God, as Gentiles, where we once did not, only Jews did.

    Finally, I don’t think Paul got it wrong at all, I think the Church has gotten Paul wrong and has ignored his own defense that he pleaded towards the end of Acts, and has instead sided with his accusers that he taught against the Torah and Moses etc, which he DENIED. the Church has interpreted him as a “converted” Christian instead of his own testimony that he was and remaind a Jew, a Pharisee, and a Law Keeper, not Law breaker! He was a Jew who came to believe in the Jewish Messiah, promised as “good news” for his people, and followed Gods will to expand the good news to the Nations.

    Consider, since God expressly told the Jews that they were not to listen to *anyone* if they tried to lead them away from Torah or worshiping Him alone, then what does that make Paul, according to your understanding of him? Additionally, if Paul says the Torah is pure and holy, how can you ignore that and represent him saying otherwise? I know if you haven’t read R Kendal Soulen’s book “The God Of Israel and Christian Theology” or other such works from non supersessionist Christians or Messianic Jews, you won’t see the problem because its a paradigm shift to be sure. But your understanding of Paul makes him to be a liar too.
    Enough for now, blessings!

  • norman


    Thanks again for the insight that you are presenting. One of the important things for growth is to continually expose ourselves to others perspectives. It doesn’t mean that we have to agree but it does help in learning not to debase people who have different perspectives. Also it might just add to one’s understanding about God’s people.

    I’m going to take a different tangent and let’s see how that plays out. I’m going to extrapolate how I perceive Jews, Paul and other early NT writers including Jesus understood and applied the terms “Heaven and Earth? Actually the better term might be “Heavens and Land” with land denoting Israel as the Land being raised up out of the Sea as God’s called people. I believe it starts with Adam.

    I’ll start with the prophecy of a New Heaven and Earth that is projected toward the time of Messiah found in Isaiah 65 and 66. Contrary to popular Christian and likely Jewish belief I do not see the terms Heaven and Earth portraying a physical material discussion. The ANE idea of the creation of the Heavens and earth is understood best IMO as the assignment of God to His Covenant people illustrated first with the Adam character. If you are familiar with John Walton’s examination of Genesis One you will pick up where I’m coming from when I say created “bara” means Godly assignment. The Heavens IMO indicate the ruling authority as established with God’s people and is often illustrated through the design of the Temple designations which I’m sure you are very familiar with. This includes even the Priestly garments that act as typology of their assignment in the Heavenly Order of things.

    The Land indicates God’s called covenant people who have been called out of the “sea” representing the Gentile pagan world (Rev 17:15). But the writer of Isaiah 65 & 66 says this order that governs God’s people will be changed and those 2 chapters project IMO the time of the Messiah and not a physical material change to planet earth as many Christians incorrectly believe. Instead it is a new ordering or governing of the Heavens and Earth with the coming of Messiah.

    Isaiah 65: 17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.

    We see this in the Hebrew 1 where the Heavens and Earth are expected to be changed but again the author is not talking about a physical material change to planet earth but to the order of how God interacts with His covenant people. We only have to skip over to Heb 12 to see how this plays out in the writers Jewish understanding of changes that are going to occur to the Heavens and Earth.

    Heb 1:10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed.

    Later on in Heb 12 the writer is discussing how the Heavenly Jerusalem (Kingdom of Christ) is contrasted to the one that came from Moses and that Jesus is “the mediator of a new covenant”. This discussion is Jewish in scope and not Gentile. Notice below how he describes what happened to the Heavens and Earth at Mt. Sinai. He says that with Moses at Mt. Sinai the “earth/land” WAS SHAKEN which infers the change brought about through Moses in the manner in which people sought right standing with God. There was not a physical distortion of planet earth but there was a change made at Mt. Sinai in which the Law code was instituted robustly is the “shaking” that was taking place. This shaking and Judgment that is about to take place also is found in Isaiah 24 where Judgment upon the Heavens and Earth is prophesied whether one takes it to mean the First Temple or the Second is open to debate. But since it says in verse 20 that it “falls and will not rise again” I believe it is prophetic of the time of Messiah.

    Heb 12:26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken

    Isa 24: 19 The earth is utterly broken, the earth is split apart, THE EARTH IS VIOLENTLY SHAKEN. The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again. On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth.

    Heb 12 IMO is saying that the time of the Heavens and Earth shaking for the last time is right around the corner. If it’s talking about judgment upon the Priesthood, Jerusalem, the Temple and animal sacrifices then the time is near at hand which corresponds to AD70. Otherwise there is a future shaking that is going to take place where the Kingdom of Christ is overhauled again which I would reject. People thought think literally and don’t see how the language is used in the OT and don’t recognize its covenant implications as fully as they should and get off track looking for the physical end of the world all the time. It’s the “left behind crowd” made famous by Tim Lahaye.

    Finally we get to Rev 21 where the writer sees the fulfillment of Isa 65 and 66 IMO. What is dramatic is I believe the author is seeing the dissolutions of the old covenant headed by the first Adam superseded by the New Covenant headed by the Last Adam. In this “shaking” that has taken place the renewed “Heavens and Earth” no longer are governed by the stipulations that call for the separation of the “Land/Israel” from the “Sea/Gentiles” as the sea is no more. The implications are clear just as Ephesians 2 calls for no more dividing wall of separation for Jews and Gentiles as the two humanities have been formed through Christ into one redeemed Man. So too is there no separation of Israel denoting the Land separate from the Sea.

    Rev 21: 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.

    However there is more de-creation (reassignments of the First Heaven and Earth) seen later where the New Heavens and Earth also does not require the usage anymore of the Sun or Moon for the assignment of seasons and days for Temple worship. There is no more Temple worship required either.

    Rev 21: 22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

    WE have the removal of the Sea, the Sun and the Moon which were constituent needs of Old Covenant methodologies. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away in His ordering of the Heavens and Earth governance.

    But last and not least we can now visit the meaning of Jesus discussion of the end of the Law as found in Matthew 5. Jesus is fulfilling all the promises found from Genesis onward through what was considered the scriptures at that time. He then says something remarkable for those who think materially concerning the Heavens and Earth. He says all must be accomplished before an iota of the Law would pass away. He’s not saying that the Law endures forever but he says complete prophecy must be fulfilled before the Law will be set aside. Complete prophecy included Judgment that is pronounced by Christ on apostate Jerusalem, the Temple and also very important the vindication of the martyrs as described by Jesus in Matt 23.

    Matt 5: 17 `Do not suppose that I came to throw down the law or the prophets — I did not come to throw down, but to fulfill; for, verily I say to you, till that the heaven and the earth may pass away, one iota or one tittle may not pass away from the law, till that all may come to pass.

    Matt 23: 34 `Because of this, lo, I send to you prophets, and wise men, and scribes, and of them ye will kill and crucify, and of them ye will scourge in your synagogues, and will pursue from city to city; 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood being poured out on the earth from the blood of Abel the righteous, unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar: 36 verily I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.

    These fulfilled prophecies were expected to be fulfilled in the coming generation of those standing whom Christ said some would still be alive when these came to be. The 40 years until the Judgment that is highlighted extensively in Enoch came at the end of that period of time. It was understood and called the end of Days in which then God entered his Sabbath rest with Christ and His work fully accomplished for the redemption of covenant man from the “covenant of Death” that surrounded Adam onward.

    Isaiah 25: On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.

    1 Cor 15:55 “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and THE POWER OF SIN IS THE LAW. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    I don’t expect you to accept what I have laid out for you but I believe it represents the messianic first century Jewish thinking that was going on at the time of Christ. Much has been misunderstood and I’m not going to stand here and say I have it down completely right either as these subjects are deep and beyond the scope of most. I do appreciate the discussion that you have provided.

    Thank You


  • Sue

    Whew! You have done a great job at arguing your position, but you’ve also greatly expanded our “conversation” and didn’t address my points from the last post at all. For me, you get into a lot interpretation of scripture, but if your assumptions are wrong, so are your conclusions.
    The paradigm I operate from is that God did not go to the trouble of creating this distinction of Jew and Gentile, male or female, and give His Torah, allowing the Israelites to all hear His voice audibly, demand submission to it (Torah), only to reject and punish them for doing so. Or, to change the rules mid stream without notice. That goes against His own revelation.
    The new covenant is also made with Jews and although it changes how the Torah is transmitted, it nevertheless is still the Torah that is written on the heart instead of a scroll. It also reaffirms and builds upon the other previous covenants. Covenants are for keeps.
    “the mediator of a new covenant” again, this is with Jews.
    We Christian’s have no covenants with God, but He expands Israel’s covenant blessings to include those who willingly come alongside Israel and become grafted into the cultivated tree. If you find yourself kicking the Jews out of their own story, you have a problem.

  • Sue

    Oh Norman, I should have said more clearly, that covenants don’t get nullified when a new one is made, rather they are built upon.

    Also, “fulfill” is an English word used to capture a Hebrew idiom. Jesus and disciples were Jews and taught in Hebrew or Aramaic and their foundation was Hebraic thought i.e., Judaism. In Judaism to fulfill the Torah is to uphold it in one’s teaching, to abolish Torah is to wrongly interpret it. Christianity misunderstands this “fulfill” concept.

  • norman


    Yes, it could be that if one’s assumptions are wrong then their conclusions are wrong. But then that is why we investigate as best we can and also it doesn’t preclude that all of ones conclusions are wrong but only some aspects. And of course it goes both directions.

    Again I’m not projecting that God has forsaken his covenant people but covenants have stipulations on the part of the people that God enters into those bindings with God. If those stipulations are broken then they nullify the covenant agreement. That is exactly what much of the OT literature is projecting and inferring constantly which is that Physical Israel has not lived up to their Covenant stipulations and thus they have broken Covenant with God. That is a theme that is hard to miss in the OT, therefore Judah and Israel are thus called Harlots at times because they have left the Path God set forth for them. That is also the purpose of messiah to come and set things right and He did so by removing the Governance from the land and establishing the Government in the Heavenlies where it cannot be corrupted and includes a High Priest that is beyond reproach eternally forever.

    I’m really not projecting any new radical idea except what the OT and the NT confirm within their own literature. I have to let people draw their own conclusions from the data and I’m ok with that.

    Therefore I’m not projecting that rules have been changed midstream because I see this tension between the various Jewish camps all through the OT and 2T literature. Messiah did not fulfill some of the expectations of the Jews because they were looking for a physical descendant of David to rule their world. Christ explained to them that they over literalized the meaning of “son of David” in Matt 22.

    Matt 22: 41-45 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them,
    “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
    “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’?
    If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

    I submit that their interpretive hermeneutic was not the same that Jesus used in confirming His authority and thus the reason we have untold problems with reconciling various interpretations. Under their interpretive methodology they were right to Kill Him. But I submit that the resurrection validated Christ method of prophecy as the right approach.

    Sue, I’m not trying to kick anyone out of the story, I’m a big tent kind of fellow. What I’m projecting is how redemption is played out over the course of History. I don’t begin to attempt to judge God’s servants except I do believe I see evidence that the Governance of His People Israel has been modified to bring them back into the purity of Godly Wisdom and I believe both Jew and Gentile reside under the new governance of Grace thru Faith in the God of Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David and you and me. But that is my understanding and I expect people to come at things differently as they always have.

    Yes God is faithful and patient.

    Rom 11: 33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
    “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”
    For from him and through him and to him are all things.
    To him be glory forever. Amen.


  • Sue

    The Jews did break the covenants, but God does not break His. He is always more faithful than His people. The book of Hosea paints this quite vividly. But let’s not stop there, the Torah itself states that they will. Moses says that these commandments spoken by The Lord are not too difficult for Israel, but that they would break them and turn away and WHEN THEY DO, they will be scattered and suffer. And then, He would restore them, forgive them, etc. Also, messiah “removed” the governance from Israel, but that is temporary, during “the times of the Gentiles.” It isn’t permanent because as Ez 36 (and so many other books) so beautifull points out, God will restore His name by restoring these people because, them being out of their land brings scorn and reproach upon God.

    You say: “Messiah did not fulfill some of the expectations of “the Jews” because they were looking for a physical descendant of David to rule their world.”

    Norman, this is called prophecy. Am I to believe that the Suffering Servant prophecies are literal but the reigning King (Davidic) prophecies are to be “spiritualized.” This is really problematic on so many levels. The point is that the Jews expected a Davidic, Kingly ruler because God’s Word promises it, and Christianity preaches that he will indeed return to fulfill those too. Your understanding of Matt 22 is really not even close. Not trying to be rude Norman, but he was establishing his Pre existence, not that Messiah wasn’t to be a literal, physical descendant of David. Also, when his disciples ask him if he would then return self rule to Israel, what was his response? It was not a rebuke for wrong thinking, he said it isn’t for them “to know when.”

    Your explanations, while you are of course free to hold them, are precisely the reason Judaism has rejected Messiah for the past 19 hundred years. 1) “they” didn’t kill Jesus. I can’t even believe you said that. It was Romans who killed him, and it was an illegitimate leadership, placed and animated by Rome, that broke all kinds of Torah in offering him over to those Gentiles to be murdered. Moral of the story? Jew and Gentile are both guilty.
    2) If Messiah broke the Torah, or “abolished” ANY OF IT, then he cannot be Messiah. period. According to the Torah itself. Also, according to the Torah, the Jews are to reject ANYONE who tries to lead them away from Torah. Hence, according to your definition of Messiah, the Jews have RIGHTLY rejected the “false” Messiah you proclaim. Of course, you’ve had lots of company.

    It is my great thrill that much of Christianity is waking up to the errant and unsustainable positions they have vigorously held to for so long.