Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thoughts on Messiah Journal #109

Below are some thoughts on the most recent issue of Messiah Journal.

(Full disclosure:my own book review of the Jewish Annotated New Testament is published at the end of this issue.  I did receive a free copy of the journal.)
  • Tzvi Sadan's article ("Halachic Authority in the Life of the Messianic Community"): I was glad to get to read this and glad that it's been put into print, since it articulates a number of important arguments in a succinct and eloquent way.  That said, in his treatment of Matthew 16, I was a little surprised that he failed to directly address verse 12 (unless I missed it)--in which it says that Yeshua "was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees."  I take it that Sadan reads this verse through the lens of Matt 23:1-2 and Luke 12:1, but I think it only weakens his argument for him not to state this explicitly.  (And even stated clearly, I think this is the one of the weak points in his argument...and this is coming from someone who shares Sadan's convictions in this area.)
  • James Pyle's article ("Origins of Supercessionism in the Church") provides a helpful overview of supersessionism in Christian history.  I'm looking forward to his followup article on supersessionism today.
  • Update (forgot to include this in my initial post): I enjoyed Rabbi Russ Resnik's initial article in a series he will be doing on "Living the Greatest Commandment" (the Shema) and very much look forward to further entries.  I'm particularly interested in seeing what Rabbi Russ brings out get integrated into our communal understanding, practice, and articulation of the Shema, including in public worship.
  • Toby Janicki's article ("A Gentile Believer's Obligation to the Torah") has been a long time coming.  I've thought a number of times that the current discussion about Acts 15 is too reductionistic on the Gentile side of the equation--the "four prohibitions" of the Apostles aren't just four singular practices.  Rarely does anyone actually map the prohibitions onto the teachings of Paul or the other apostles, and I've longed for an ordered exploration of this topic.  Not only is Toby's article a great contribution towards that effort, but he also includes helpful forways into later Jewish and Christian interpretation on the issues.  A couple observations:
    • I had never heard anyone propose the interpretation Toby proposes for Paul's perplexing reference to "baptisms for the dead" in 1 Cor 15:29.
    • I also appreciated his take on Paul's reference to "the cup of blessing" in 1 Cor 10:16.   
    • Another great scholarly take on the ritual demands of Paul's gospel to the Gentiles with respect to the Temple is Paula Frederksen's article Paula Frederiksen "Judaizing the Nations: the Ritual Demands of Paul's Gospel". 
    • I also am intrigued by his proposal that Gentiles are enjoined to keep the "remember" portion of the Shabbat commandment (with respect to creation) but not the "guard" portion which relates to the exodus from Egypt.
    • I do wonder about some of Toby's "these would only make sense if..." arguments, where he suggests that early Messianics must have been familiar with certain practices (such as benching), otherwise Paul's statement would make no sense.   Clearly, the Lord's Supper (even at it is practiced today) has its roots in mealtime blessings, but does the fact that few Christians today bench after meals prevent them from understanding Paul's reference to "the cup of blessing that we bless"?  So even though I wonder about the degree of adaptation that had already happened, I'm not at all threatened by the idea or by Gentiles recontextualizing the "cup of blessing" to reclaim .
  • Aaron Eby's article ("The Writing on the Wall") is the second in a series on the destruction of the Temple; this time he surveys rabbinic responses to the Temple's descruction.  This series has been helpful for me in relation to discussions I've been having about the NT's theological evaluation of the Temple.
  • The Levertoff excerpts are really great.  Keep 'em coming, FFOZ!
  • The book reviews section includes two great book reviews from Jacob Fronczak (Scot McKnight's The King Jesus Gospel and David Rudolph's A Jew to the Jews).  The latter is rather expensive ($88.15 on Amazon.com), so Fronczak's review gives readers with a more limited budget an idea of what Rudolph covers in exquisite detail.  Also, Jacob's voice is relatively new to me (I discovered his blog, Hope Abbey, last summer), but I immediately welcomed his insightful contributions to the Messianic conversation.
  • Last and least, my first contribution to Messiah Journal, a review of the Jewish Annotated New Testament.  I'll leave it to others to comment.  :-)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jewish-Christian relations, 1800's style

Over at the On the Main Line blog, Mississippi Fred MacDowell has an fascinating post on relationships between religious Jewish scholars and philo-Semitic Christian scholars in the mid-1800's, including excerpts from correspondence between Franz Delitzsch and Jewish scholar Samuel David Luzzatto.

Check out Why did Seligmann Baer prepare an edition of the Bible with Franz Delitzsch?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Learning from "The Law and Love"

Check out Gathering Sparks' very own Yahnatan Lasko in this clip from Vine of David!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Joint Statement on "Christ at the Checkpoint"

If you are not already familiar with the upcoming "Christ at the Checkpoint" conference that is scheduled for the beginning of March I would encourage you to go and read about it.

Once you've done that please read the following joint statement from the Messianic Community found here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Delitzsch on Matthew 5:28

How much help can a translation of a translation be in studying the gospels?  Answer: plenty!  Here's the first of what could become a running series of examples.

Last week in a weekly Torah study I'm a part of, I mused (on the tenth commandment):
Is coveting your neighbor's wife necessarily the prelude to committing adultery? Is coveting your neighbor's donkey the prelude to stealing? If so, then is this last mitzvah a sort of "fence" around the previous mitzvot? If it is a fence, then why did Yeshua teach that 'anyone who looks on a woman lustfully commits adultery with her in his heart'--why didn't he simply refer to this as coveting? (Possible answer: adultery has a penalty of death, so it's considered a more severe transgression...thus he heightened his point by focusing on the mitzvah with the greater penalty.)
These thoughts were rather stream of consciousness, and afterwards I delved into a more detailed word study in both the Tanakh and the Apostolic Writings.  So imagine my surprise (and joy) when I discovered that I was wrong, and Yeshua actually DID use the word for coveting. Here's what I wrote back:
I was incorrect; Yeshua DOES use the word for coveting in relation to his statement about not lusting: "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to COVET AFTER HER [my literal translation] has already committed adultery with her in his heart." [Compare the Greek text with Paul's lists of the commandments in Romans or Galatians.]  This verse seems to be universally translated as "to lust after" [See http://bible.cc/matthew/5-28.htm], with Young's literal translation being one notable exception.  By contrast, the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels explicitly highlight the presence of the word covet in the text: "whoever gazes at a woman to covet [footnote: desire] her..."
I am curious about the near-universal choice of "lust" here over "covet" in English translations: is there a strong linguistic basis for it or does it have more to do with the meanings of the English words "lust" and "covet" in our modern day? Or is it simply the profound literary influence of the masterful KJV translation?

In any case, I think this is one great example of how the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels can be highly effective in helping us to get to know the canonical Greek texts better, while simultaneously highlighting for us the fact that our English translations are just that: translations.

(Update: Rabbi Russ Resnik also draws this connection in his book Divine Reversal--see my comment below.)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Introducing Paul Philip Levertoff

Thursday, February 2, 2012

No messing around with Jewish sancta!

As a Messianic Jew, I am appalled by the recent video depicting the abuse of a Torah scroll by a man named Ralph Messer at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.  While this Huffington Post article rebuts and refutes the various actions taken in the video, I am saddened that already some in the media are mistakenly associating Mr. Messer with Messianic Judaism.

Fortunately, a diligent reporter for the Associated Press spoke to Rabbi David Shiff of Congregation Beth Hallel, a Messianic Jewish synagogue in Roswell, Georgia, who said. 
“Ralph Messer in no way represents Messianic Judaism,” Shiff said. “He is not affiliated with any legitimate branch of Messianic Judaism. His actions in no way reflect the position of Messianic Judaism. I found the presentation to be repulsive and inappropriate.”
Rabbi Shiff speaks for all of us.  Nevertheless, it is incumbent on us to raise our voices, not only for the sake of our community's reputation, but for the reputation of Messiah himself.

I want to call my fellow Messianic Jews to take a stand with me (and others listed below) in repudiating Messer's actions.  Consider pasting the following to your Facebook or twitter:
#MessianicJews #horrified by the actions of Ralph #Messer in desecrating a Torah scroll at #NewBirth church. http://bit.ly/wv6hF0

More links:

Joint statement from UMJC/MJAA: Response to Messer Video
Rosh Pina Project: Messer Crowns Eddie Long as King
Rabbi Derek Leman: Ralph Messer is not a Messianic Jewish Rabbi
Rabbi Joshua Brumbach: A King, a Torah, and ... Ralph Messer
Rabbi Dr. Michael Schiffman: A shonda
Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann: The Messer Mess: Repudiating a Disgraceful Act
Ron Cantor: Rabbi Messer Crowns Eddie Long a King: A Messianic Response 
FFOZ: Messer and the Messianic Mess