Posted by: healthzombie | January 26, 2012

A Rational Approach to the Divine Origin of the Torah

The following excerpt was written by rabbi Lawrence Keleman of Simple To and is a highly informative and entertaining approach to understanding that the religions of the nations, including Pauline Christianity, lack verifiable credibility.  The Revelation at Sinai is demonstrated to be an event of supernatural origins that has never been duplicated.  The link at the bottom is a video version of his renowned lecture, “A Rational Approach to the Divine Origin of the Torah.”

The beginnings of all ancient and modern religions have a common thread: one or two people have a revelation and persuade others to follow. Thus, for example, Buddhist writings tell us that Prince Siddhartha Gautama launched Buddhism after his solitary ascendance through the eight stages of Transic insight; Islamic texts tell us that Muhammad founded Islam following the first of many personal, prophetic experiences; Christian writings reveal that Paul first met Jesus, converted to Christianity, and spread the faith more than three decades after Jesus’ death; Joseph Smith, Jr., and his partner, Oliver Cowdery, launched the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints (the Mormon church) after the two men were visited by angels and long-dead disciples of Jesus; and Sun Myung Moon launched the Unification Church after privately receiving direct orders to do so from Jesus himself. The beginnings of Children of God, Christian Science, Eckankar, Elan Vital, I AM, and Theosophy — in fact, the beginnings of all world religions — are equally unverifiable. Never does a large, clearly identifiable group of people experience prophecy and live to tell others about it. Moreover, in a handful of cases wherein large groups of people supposedly witnessed miracles, rarely are these witnesses named or identified in any way that would allow for verification; and in the very exceptional cases involving clearly identified groups of witnesses, never more than one or two of the religion’s current adherents claim to have met or descended directly from the named witnesses. In all these cases, the religion’s credibility rests on the credibility of its one or two founders. While it is certainly possible that the beginnings claimed by any of the thousands of sects and cults included in the world’s more than three hundred major religious traditions could be true, it is easy to imagine how charismatic charlatans could have launched any of these movements.

The one known exception to this rule is Judaism. The Torah claims that every Jewish man, woman, and child alive in 1312 B.C.E. — about three million people, according to the Torah — heard God speak at Mount Sinai and survived to teach their descendants about the event. Here we have an easily identifiable group — all of Jewry — who could have verified or denied the story any time during the first two or three generations after the alleged mass prophecy transpired. While it is easy to imagine how most religious mythologies could have been fabricated and spread, understanding how Judaism could be a lie requires more extensive analysis.

A Rational approach to the Divine Origins of the Torah

Posted by: healthzombie | January 22, 2012

Paul – A Fraud and Enemy of the Jewish People

Recently I was sent an invitation to come hear a popular messianic teacher in the Hebrew Roots movement address the idea that Paul is a false apostle.  This teachers stance is that Paul is falsely accused.  I sometimes receive these invites because my name is still on people s email lists from years ago and have not deleted it.  As a result I have to write them and tell them all over again that I have rejected this religion, no matter what form it comes in. No matter.

The reader must realize that the New Testament as we have come to know it is a Christian document based on Jewish sources and has been extensively edited over the centuries.  It however cannot be said or demonstrated that the New Testament is a Jewish document.  Too many pagan and Hellenized idea’s have been introduced into it to make it palatable to a wider Gentile audience.  For instance, the editors have taken a Jewish idea  such as “Son of God”, which within ancient Judaism made reference to the children of Israel as a whole (sons of God) and as messianic title of the Davidic king, and re-interpreted it according to pagan idea’s and legends.

In respect to Paul we have come to understand that he was a Herodian and was not an apostle of Jesus.  Paul was always in conflict with the teachings of Jesus (Yeshua) and his Essenian sect.  It is quite evident that the Community of Qumran (called Essene by scholars) was either the followers of James the Just or the group from which the Nasaarenes emerged.   The Dead Sea Scrolls, writings which have been identified by leading unbiased scholars as having been written in the 1st century by the group at Qumran, identify the Qumran Essenes as, “the poor” from the Hebrew word ebion (and therefore Ebionites), the followers of the Way, and men of the New Covenant.  These designations in which the Qumran community identified themselves are also names in which the followers of Jesus, led by his brother James, also identified themselves within the New Testament.  The organization of the two groups are also exactly alike.  Both had a 12 man council with an inner 3 man group of overseers – referred to by Paul as the Pillars in Galatians – Yaakov, Cepha and Yochanon (James, Peter and John).

But the paralels do not stop there.  In the DSS,  conflicts between a “Teacher of Righteousness”, a “Wicked Priest” and someone called the” Liar or Spouter of Lies” bear marks which identify them as James the Just, the High Priest Ananus( long-time persecutor of the Nazarenes and Zealots), and Paul the False Apostle.  One such conflict is almost a mirror image of the theological positions of James the Just who is noted for his stance on ‘maaseh Torah’ the works of the torah, i’e works of righteousness, and Paul’s opposing stance of faith alone without works of the Torah.

Within the New Testament Paul is consistently pounding away at the idea that righteousness comes through faith alone, a clear contradiction of the Torah which assigns righteousness  to carrying out the commands of HaShem (Deut. 6:25).  Paul position is based upon a ambiguous text out of Genesis in which Paul interprets the Torah as saying God calls Abraham righteous simply because he believed what HaShem had said regarding his seed.  Many scholars have noted that that particular passage is ambiguous and at least two Torah luminaries – the Rambam and the Malbim –  say that it is Abraham who credits HaShem with righteousness as we have noted in other articles on this blog.  This understanding of course is contrary to normal Christian views but does a lot for the illumination of the text. Paul then takes his twisted interpretation and couples it with the Habakuk 2:4 text to establish his prime doctrine of ‘Righteousness by Faith Alone’ the fundamental building block of his well known Gospel of Grace whereas Torah observance is tossed out the window and the Torah is relegated to a historical relic.

This of course is exactly the opposite of what James the Just has to say regarding the topic.   In James view, who was the undisputed leader of the Nazarenes from the time of his brothers death til his own in 62 CE, faith is something that is visible through ones actions, a very distinct Jewish idea.  This conflict is played out in the DSS (Habakuk Pesher on verse 2:4 and Psalm 37 Pesher) with the Teacher of Righteousness espousing James’ interpretation (and the Torah’s) while the Spouter of Lies is arguing the position of Paul’s Hellenized interpretation.  It should be noted that Paul is continually defending himself in the New Testament against the Nazarenes -” I am not lying….I am not a liar” another connection with the DSS Spouter of Lies.

As for Paul’s official status among the Poor, The Way, the Men of the New Covenant, the New Testament book of Acts clearly tells us that Paul does not qualify.  Acts determines that the status of Apostle of Jesus was to be conveyed on one who personally knew Jesus and was part of his larger group of disciples dating from the time of when John the Baptist was baptizing until the death of Jesus.  Paul was clearly not qualified to be a Apostle since he neither was ever one of his disciples during his lifetime nor would Paul have been baptised by John or seen Jesus baptised.

Paul’s continual conflict is noted within the NT writings as he writes of certain men of James, the pillars – James, Cepha (Simon Peter) and John, the Circumcision, dogs, the Mutilated, super-apostles and many other less than favorable terms.  The noted Vatican insider Father Malachi Martin wrote in his best seller ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church” that a split occurred between Paul (and supposedly Peter) and the nationalistic Nazarenes in 49 CE which would have of corresponded with the Nazarene Council in Acts 15 where James puts the kabash on Paul’s gospel and gives Gentiles a Noahide status with the sect.  This seems the best understanding of the course of events given that all of Paul’s writing are dated from the mid 50’s to mid 60’s and positively demonstrate an anti-James direction not to mention a anti-Torah bias to boot.

Posted by: healthzombie | January 17, 2012

The Outlaw Simon Peter

As one begins to really dig into a in-depth investigation of the New Testament, your confronted by the reality that contrary to what Christianity proclaims, the New Testament is not the Word of God but the product of man.  There are numerous mistakes within it’s writings with errors in numbers, persons and places and places.

The New Testament book of Acts states that 75 souls went up to Egypt in the time of Joseph, whereas the Torah tells us that 70 persons came to Egypt.  It also states that when the children of Israel came out of Egypt that Joseph’s bones were laid to rest in in a tomb in Shechem bought by Abraham from the sons of Hamor.  However the Torah tells us that Abraham purchased the tomb of Machpelah in Hebron from the sons of Heth to bury Sarah, Abraham’s wife.  The site in Shechem was purchased by Jacob, not Abraham.

These sites were as well known in the 1st century as they are today.  The fact that the writer/editor of Acts got this wrong is a strong indication that he was probably not a Jew and unfamiliar with Jewish history.  As we get more and more familiar with the real history prior to the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) we become aware that the viewpoint of the NT often contradicts the events of the time.  History tells us that there was a huge national struggle against Rome, led primarily by groups such as the Zealots, Sicarii, the Naasarenes and the Essenes.

A person of interest in this struggle is the New Testament’s Apostle Peter.   In the Gospels it appears that jesus calls him by his full name, Simon-bar-Jonas,  which is a very strangle and clumsy construction in the Greek NT.  The three parts of his name are from three different languages – Shimon (Simon) is Hebrew, bar is Aramaic for son, and Jonas or Jona is a Greek form of the Hebrew Name Yonah. However in the Greek text, the name reads as bariona – without the hyphen.  And while this word has no resonance in Greek, it has a precise meaning in Aramaic – fugitive or outlaw. In the Talmud bariona and it’s plural – biryonim – are used to describe the zealots who fought against Rome.  The Biryonim are hated to this day by Judaism for many of the atrocious acts they committed in their revolt against Rome.

There is an notice in Josephus to someone called Simon who carried out the functions that Jesus bestowed on Simon Peter the rock (Cepha in Aramaic, petros in Greek) giving him the keys to the kingdom and power to bind and loose (legal authority).  Since James the Just (also called the lessor) brother of Jesus was the spiritual leader of the Naasarenes/Essenes/Ebionites, Simon Peters role was most likely one of a military nature.  The nickname Cepha meaning rock is symbolic for strength and could suggest a stronghold.  Peter is remembered in the Gospels for brandishing a sword when an attempt was made to arrest Jesus and skillfully cutting off the ear of the High Priest’s servant.  Josephus tells us that a certain Simon with a reputation for religious scrupulousness and able to gather a religious meeting (i.e a church as in My Church in Matthew 16).  This Simon had the audacity to denounce Herod Agrippa as unclean and was therefore to be excluded from the Temple.  Josephus also records that Simon confronted Herod in Caesarea and Herod presents Simon with a gift (bribe).

Previously (37 CE) Herod (Agrippa) has replaced the High Priest Theophilus, who was hostile to the Nazoreans and put in his place Shimon Cantheras.  Herod, in attempt to placate the nationalists, began funding certain ritual observances of Nazarites (read Nazarenes/Nazoreans – Zealots) but this did not placate the fundamentalism of the nationalists leadership who had broad support with the masses.  James the Just and his followers objected to any temple offerings made on behalf of the Roman Emperor and to the presence of any foreigners in the temple itself.

Herod’s response was to remove the current High Priest and install one from the House of Ananus which has a history of persecuting the Nazorean zealots.


The Noachide Laws and the Jerusalem Conference

Conversion to Judaism is referred to as being reborn.  Through a process of education, the Gentile is taken from being a ‘sinner’ to being born again as a Jew, a son of God.  After a period of time Acts 15 Councilwhere the convert is schooled and trained on what it means to be a Jew and his obligations as a Jew, the convert is then circumcised, goes thru immersion and then presents a sacrifice at the Temple as a Jew.  Acts 15 links circumcision with salvation of the non-Jew.  The prophet Amoz tells us that, “You [Israel] only have I chosen among all the families of the earth…” and Isaiah, “…all your people will be righteous.” For Gentiles to obtain righteousness, they must in some way be included as part of HaShem’s people.  The conversion process, called circumcision in the NT texts, affords the convert the status as a Jew, one who is in covenant with God.  It is this status that sparks the controversy that triggers the Jerusalem Conference and the age old debate on Who is a Jew?

Paul tells us in the Galatians account that he and Barnabus went up to Jerusalem to submit to those of reputation, his gospel which he had been preaching for at least 14 years, in case he run in vain. It seems to me that it was late in the game to be having second thoughts or doubts about his revelatory Gospel of Grace.  He should have conferred with the Nazarene leadership much earlier in his career.  From this we deduce that Paul’s gospel revelation he fondly spoke of was lacking in some of it’s details.

It is commonly taught that the four requirements of the Apostolic Decree establishes table fellowship between Jew and non-Jew.  This is a common mistake and one that also clouds the relevant issues at hand.  When we speak of table fellowship we are speaking of table fellowship before HaShem.  It is not simply a meal between friends, but one in which HaShem partakes of as well.  First and foremost the food on the table must be kosher because Jews may not eat anything unclean or slaughtered in correctly.   Paul correctly states that the things that Gentiles sacrifice are offerings to demons and that the table of the Lord and the table of demons must remain separate or God will be provoked to jealousy. In the first century, the Pharisees held that meals eaten outside the temple were to be eaten in a state of ritual purity.  Even before eating the meal the hands were washed in the same fashion that the priests were commanded to wash their hands.  This ruling was enacted by the Sanhedrin and Jesus as a good Jew would have done it as well.

Therefore Jews who partook of a meal were seen as priests and the meal seen as holy.  The principle in Haggai 2:11-13 instructs us that if anything unclean touches that which is holy, the holy thing is rendered unclean.  Therefore Jews did not eat with Gentiles.  What is at issue is the manner of table fellowship being practiced at Antioch in light of the ruling from James to refrain from the pollution of idols and blood, which seemed good to the Holy Spirit, which Paul says leads those who who are not ‘under the Law.”  Clearly Paul and James had differing views on the Spirit, James saying that Gentiles observing some Torah commands seemed good to the Holy Spirit, whereas Paul believed by not following the Torah one was lead by the Spirit.  These viewpoints are Night and Day from one another.

Before we outline the exact problem which creates the Incident at Antioch, lets look at the underpinnings that provide the nessasary context for understanding the situation.  The issue debated at the Jerusalem Conference is not that Gentiles need to be circumcised to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, because they were free to believe in him without getting circumcised, just as anyone may believe without being circumcised.  The issue is one of community relationship and status.  One may believe what one wishes, but becoming part of a Jewish community requires certain steps by the non-Jew in order for them to be considered part of Israel.  Genesis 34 outline the fact that from ancient times foreigners were not allowed to become part of Jacob’s family unless they were circumcised.  Only then as verse 16 states, do they become one people with Israel.  Faith alone is not substantual enough to elevate the non-Jew to even minimal covenant status, let alone to table fellowship with HaShem. Luqas from Antioch refers to it as being ‘saved.’    This salvation or deliverance is predicated on having covenant status.  HaShem has no covenant relationship with pagans.  Covenant status is attained one of two ways; either through conversion to Judaism or through the Noachide Covenant.  There is no covenant relationship outside of these two forms.  And as much as it pains me to say this, Pauline Christianity of today has no real covenant status.  Faith alone apart from the works of the Torah simply does not suffice.  The Apostolic Decree requires certain works for those professing faith.

The historical reality in the Biblical period, particularly in the Diaspora of the Second Temple period, reveals that there were different classes of people within the Jewish community.  There were of course Jews themselves, but also two classes of proselytes: the Ger Tzedek (the righteous gentile) who converted to Judaism and who has made certain legal statements in a bet din (Jewish rabbinical court). The Ger Tzedek is bound to all the doctrines and precepts of the Jewish culture, and was considered a full member of the Jewish people. They were to be circumcised and immersed in a mikvah and could eat of the Passover sacrifice. The Ger Toshav, or stanger at the gates, was a resident alien who lived in the Land of Israel and followed some of the customs of Israel. They were not required to be circumcised nor to comply with the whole of the Torah. They were bound only to conform to the seven classes of precepts of Noah, the Noahide Laws:

do not worship idols,

do not blaspheme God’s name,

do not murder,

do not commit immoral sexual acts,

do not steal,

do not tear the limb from a living animal,

and do not fail to establish courts of justice.

Righteous GentileDuring the Hellenistic period there were many Gentiles who became disillusioned with paganism and were attracted by the faith and lifestyle of the Jews.  These Gentiles, renounced the gentile gods and adopted some rudiments of Jewish observance. While in no sense regarded as Jews or proselytes, they were considered to be a  second class of Ger Toshav. Such persons were esteemed as those who fear God (yireh shamayim).  They represented a group of gentiles who shared basic religious ideas with Jews, to one degree or another, but were a separate gentile community, engaged in Judaic religious ideas and practices and had not made any formal declarations of status to the Jewish Community.

While the name yireh shamayim is correctly ascribed to Abraham, the God Fearer concept is more a developement of diaspora Judaism than any connection to Abraham.  Abraham as noted in the Torah followed up his belief with action.  Two notices in Joshephus speak of the God-fearer within the Jewish diaspora communities, one specifically at Antioch:

[the Antiochian Jews] were constantly attracting to their religious ceremonies multitudes of Greeks, and these they had in some measure incorporated with themselves.

This quotation, which follows Josephus’ mention of a synagogue in Antioch, relates that Gentiles who were not full converts frequently attended the religious ceremonies of the Jews in Antioch and had in some unofficial way become part of their community.  In the quote below, Josephus  states that God-fearers from around the world contributed to the wealth of the Jerusalem temple. Such contributions were commonly made within the diaspora synagogues.

But no one need wonder that there was so much wealth in our temple, for all the Jews throughout the habitable world, and fearers of God, even those from Asia and Europe, had been contributing to it for a very long time.

The book of  Acts also points out the God fearers from among the Gentiles.  The God-fearers is the group which is being addressed in the Acts 15 conference.  The Ger Tzedek, the gentile convert is already in covenant status and has already under gone the conversion process and for all intents and purposes is a Jew.  The Ger Toshav is the gentile status that James’ ruling places the God-fearers.  The  Ger Toshav has already made a formal committment to follow various commandments which were listed above.  The Ger Toshav has a limited covenant status.  [At that time however the House of Shammai held that a righteous gentile did not merit a place in the World to Come (Olam Haba), whereas the House of Hillel did].  It is the status of the God Fearer that is the subject of the hotly debated conference.  The God Fearer really has no covenant standing and any claimed status was unofficial at best.  They were to be found in substantial numbers in the Diaspora.  They were basically non-Jewish worshippers of the Jewish God, but had no formal connection to Israel other than their love for Israel or Judaism.  They attended many of the functions of the Jewish communities and synagogues, as Josephus points out, but did not live within the Jewish community.  The God-fearer also did not subject themselves to the kosher food requirements that the Torah spells out for all Jews and Ger Tzaddikim.  This food issue is the hingepin for the entire episode at Antioch.

To Eat or Not to Eat?

Non-Kosher FoodUnfortunately today many Messianic Jews confuse the issue of food because of Paul’s writings.  What many have forgotten is that Paul was the apostle to the Gentile not the Jew.  Jewish believers in Jesus should not get take direction from Paul on food issues, ever.  A Jew may not eat non-kosher food except under threat of death.  Even outside the Land, a Jew may not relax his kosher standard.  We note that Josephus, who had enlisted himself to aid certain priests who were being held in Rome, tells us that these imprisioned priests supported themselves with figs and nuts.  This, of course, reminds us of Daniel and his companions in the court of Nebuchadnezzer who did not eat the king’s choice food or wine, but only vegtables which are kosher.

The Apostolic Decree that James issues, is one that has a two fold function.  First it requires from the God Fearer for them to make a break with idolatry and secondly, it required from the God Fearer a committment to live as a Ger Toshav.  These four requirements that James institutes has long been seen as part of the Seven Laws of the Noachide Covenant.   Those four requirements are:

Abstaining from things sacrificed from idols.  This would include (but is not limited to) any meat that was offered to an idol and sold to the local butcher.

From blood

From things strangled

From fornication

The requirement on food for the Ger Toshav is that the food would have to be free from all traces of blood.  This would require the meat to be slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law.  This does not mean, however, the Ger Toshav was bound under the food restrictions of the Torah, such as swine.  As long as they were slaughtered correctly, swine and other ritually unclean meats were acceptable for the Ger Toshav.  And therein lies the problems that are encountered at Antioch.

It is unlikely that Cephas was eating with God-Fearers who were eating swine, even if Cephas did’nt partake.  Just having forbidden meat on the table would be enough for any Jew to remove himself.  But it is far more likely that Cephas sat eating with God-fearers who had brought food from the local meat market.  Cephas may have assumed it was kosher, when it really was defiled by idols.  Another observation to note is that Cephas, in his Acts 10 vision, was told that no man is considered to be unclean.  He may have concluded that eating with them did not constitute defilement, even though Jewish custom forbid it.  We must remember that Judaism does not derive doctrine from visions [as it should be].  A vision of Cephas does not make it halacha (lit. the way to walk, referring to practice) for the Nazarenes.  In fact Jesus told his disciples that what ever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, meaning what ever lawful rulings you make as a community will be honored by Heaven.

Paul is noted in 1 Corinthians 10:25 as advising the Corinthian Christians that it would be okay to eat anything sold at the local meat market, without asking questions for conscience sake, a statement that identifies that they were patrons of the local pagan meat market.  This of course is a violation of the Apostolic Decree, which states that this type of food is forbidden to the Ger Toshav.  Paul’s stance on food is very liberal and he often bends and breaks the rules to accomodate his Gospel of Grace.  Paul seeks to counter James’ ruling by developing a food doctrine that accomodates his easy gospel.  Unfortunely it is also offensive towards Torah faithful Jews like James.

Further Evidence of the Schism

As I mentioned before, all of Paul’s writtings were written after the Jerusalem Conference.  This fact affords us the oportunity to see what Paul’s attitude toward the Nazarene leadership in Jerusalem after the conference and Incident at Antioch.  As we shall see the rhetoric towards the original disciples of Yeshua is ever increasing and vitrolic.  And thats not to say that the conflict was one sided either.  The Second Letter to the Corinthians is dated by most scholars to be written between 55-58 CE.  There is a strong undercurrent of defensiveness on Paul’s part.  This is no doubt a continuation of Paul’s defense of his apostleship noted in 1 Corinthians:

“…Am I not an apostle?  Have I not seen Yeshua our Lord?  Are you not my work in the Lord?  If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.”

Paul admits that there were those who challenged his claim of being an apostle.  We should also take note of a few items.  Paul’s claim to have seen Jesus is contrived.  The standard for apostleship was to have been a disciple during Yeshua’s work among the people.  Merely having a vision of him does not qualify him to be one of the Twelve, who actually saw him in the flesh.  Second, the seal of apostleship is the approval of the other apostles, not the people.  Being popular is not the same as being ordained and authorized.  In Paul’s writtings, there seems a sense that Paul was followed around by Nazarenes who sought to correct Paul’s faulty gospel.  There was also a feeling of inferior status – “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles, the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?”  This grouping refers to the Twelve, and Jesus’ brothers, who were the recognized leaders of the Nazarenes and were always appointed as the heads of any Nazarene congregation or district.

In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul is again defending his apostleship and gospel.  He speaks of those who preached another gospel with a different spirit immediatly prior to exalting himself as equal to the Apostles, “For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles.”  These most eminent apostles are the Pillars of the Nazarene community, James [Yaakov], John [Yochanon] and Peter [Cephas].  Verse 10 exposes Paul’s arrogant attitude where he proclaims that he will continue this boast in the regions of Achaia and even beyond were he desires to cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded as Paul is.  Paul was telling those communities that he came in contact with, that he was equal to the Twelve and that he would continue planting that false idea where ever he went to destroy any opportunity that the Circumcision would have.  What’s even more poinant is Paul actually calls them false apostles of Messiah, servants of Satan.  We know he is speaking of the party of the Circumcision because in verses 22-23 he calls these the servants of Messiah:

“Are they Hebrews?  So am I.  Are they Israelites?  So am I.  Are they descendants of Abraham?  So am I.  Are they servants of Messiah?…I more so…”

Paul’s basis for his apostleship, he states, are his labors and persecutions, what he endured and the miracles he performed.  In fact he states that the signs of a true apostle were performed among them thru signs, wonders and miracles, all things the Torah warns us that can be reproduced by false religion.  Those signs he speaks of must be accompanied by the truth of the Torah.  Paul’s Faith Apart from Works of the Torah theology does not line up with the Torah and therefore he is a false prophet by the standard of the Torah.

As noted early on, Paul refers to the Party of the Circumcision as dogs in Phillipians chapter three.  Phillipians is believed to be written about 61-63 CE from Pauls imprisonment in Rome.  As we note, his virulence towards the Nazarenes had not abated and in fact is now more pronounced.  To use the derogatory characterization ‘dogs’ to refer to the party of the Circumcision is a new height for Paul.  This is a term that Jews use to refer to unclean Gentiles and even Jesus referred to Gentiles in this manner.  He also calls them evil workers and the False Circumcision.  Circumcision in the Greek language is peritome.  Paul uses a play on words to show his distaste for the Nazarene predilection toward circumcision for Gentile converts.  In the Phillipian 3:2 translation, Paul’s tergiversation is noted in his reference to the“False circumcision”  from katatome (Gk) is to be literally translated as mutilation, which is the Greek view of circumcision.  The greek word katatome sounds close to peritome and Paul uses it to make his point with his Gentile audience.  Adding insult to injury in verse 3:3, Paul then tells his Gentile audience, that we (meaning the Pauline mission) are the true peritome (circumcision) who worship in the spirit.  It was Paul view that those who worship in the Spirit are those who set aside ‘works of the law.’  One of the causualties of this battle between Pauline faith alone and James’ works based faith, is that the Pauline concept taken to it’s ultimate conclusion lobbies for faith alone ouside of works of the Law for not just the Gentile Mission but for Jews as well.  James knew this and that is why he fought so long and hard to bring the Gentile Mission into compliance with the Apostolic Decree.


We have written a considerable amount of negative commentary on Paul and his Gospel of Grace that was rejected by the Jewish Nazarene Community.  It is without a doubt that Paul’s Gospel is very much at odd’s with the principles and language of the Torah.  And now as we peer back through the history of the early believers in Jesus, we now know that Paul’s Christianity won the day and that the true Torah based Nazarene movement was persecuted out of existence.  This is a historical fact.  To the casual observer, that could be interpreted to mean that Paul was right and James was wrong.  In fact Christian Messianism as a whole still holds to this axiom.  Many Christian ministers, Hebrew Roots pastors and so called Messianic rabbi’s still expound the virtues of Paul as the misunderstood apostle, that his interpretations of the Torah were far beyond our understanding.  I disagree with that characterization with extreme predjudice.

In Acts 9:16 Luqas records that Lord tells Ananias that Paul was to “…suffer for my name’s sake.”  The Nazarene leadership very well could have been the instrument that causes Paul the most suffering.  Paul throughout his epistles is continually defending his apostleship and gospel.  Paul is called a liar to which he often retorts back, ” I am not lying” language similiar to the ‘Spouter of Lies’ in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Paul  is hated and dispised by the Jewish community [and the Nazarenes] and is given 39 lashes five separate times.  This is the common synagogue punishment reflecting the rabbinic tempering of the punishment in the Torah: “He may beat him forty times but no more, so that he does not beat him with many more stripes than these and your brother is not degraded in your eyes.”  The sages instituted a count of 39 lashes to prevent breaking the commandment in the case of a miscount which resulted in more than 40 lashes.  This punishment is carried out as a result of a court decision:

“If there is a dispute between men and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. He may beat him forty times but no more, so that he does not beat him with many more stripes than these and your brother is not degraded in your eyes.”

Paul’s misfortunes often are misunderstood.  It is certainly within the realm of possibility that those five lashings were delivered by representitives of the Nazarene community after adjudicating a charge concerning his faith alone activities.  In 2 Timothy 4:16, Paul states, “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me…” This has been traditionally interpreted as referring to his trial at Rome.   But given Paul’s previous statements – all who are in Asia turned away from me, and his compliant against Alexander the coppersmith who vigorously opposed Paul’s teaching, the context may suggest a religious court rather than a secular Roman court.  So in the Corinthians passage, Paul may have been referring to the first of these five bet din (house of judgement) that he was part of, most likely under the direction of Jerusalem and James.

Most when reading of these accounts look negatively upon Paul’s persecutors, and are sympathetically in favor of Paul especially when Jews are the one’s persecuting him.  Most Christians see these persecutions as proof of Paul’s righteousness and the vindication of his gospel.  But if Acts 9:16 can be accepted, then all of Paul’s difficulties are by Divine decree, sanctioned by Heaven.

Importance of the DSS

Eminent Dead Sea Scroll scholar Robert Eisenman [author – James the Brother of Jesus and The New Testament Code] has made very compelling arguments that the community represented within the Dead Sea Scrolls is none other than the Community of James the Just.  This recognition by a scholar of Eisenman’s standing is setting the Christian scholars on their head.

  Eisenman was responsible for ending the stranglehold on the Dead Sea Scrolls that the Church had over the collection and supression of certain key documents that would call into question the Christian version of Nazarene history.  When one examines the Dead Sea Scrolls in this light, one is overwhelmed by the vast differences between the historical Torah observant WAY represented in the Scrolls and the anti-nomian Pauline Christianity that is painted in the so-called New Testament. The difference is as night and day.


As a response to those who would come to Paul’s defense concerning certain passages which appear to be indicating Paul was Torah observant such as Roman;s 3:31, and 7:12-14, we will note the following.

While there is the appearance of Torah observation, we believe Paul’s viewpoint is one which is traditionally Christian and is as follows:  Paul believes there is value in the Tanakh but only as a history and foundation for that which would come later, his Christianity.  The Torah, in his eyes,  was honored as good, holy and spiritual in the primitive Pauline mission because of the lessons of the faithful which permeate it’s pages and are valuable in teaching about belief in HaShem, but not nessasarily about keeping commandments that are pertinent to the nation of Israel.  From that perspective Paul ‘establishes the Law.’


Posted by: healthzombie | August 9, 2011

Seeds of Schism – Part 2. the Incident at Antioch

The Incident at Antioch

Fourth century Church historian Eusebius was eager to impress upon his readers that the early Church was a bastion of purity, whole and uncompromised until all the apostles died off.  He states that the Church had remained a virgin, pure and uncorrupted.  But based on internal evidence within the NT, the early Nazarene movement was beset by a split early in it’s history.  Retired Jesuit Ancient Antiochpriest, Malachi Martin, a Vatican insider and Papal emissary, tells us that in 49 CE, a split occurred in the Nazarenes, whereas Peter and Paul split from the ‘Jewish Christians.’  Though the Catholic Church tries to present Peter as a bridge between Paul and the Nazarenes, it is unlikely that the Galilean fisherman would have taken the side of Paul over his fellow nationalist Galileans, especially where the Torah is concerned.  His rabbi, Jesus, was very pro-Torah and pro-Israel. The core group of disciples that made up the early believers were also pro-Torah.   Paul on the other hand is quite a different story.

The book of Galatians is an important text to helps us unravel the strained relationship between Paul and his mission and Jerusalem, Nazarene HQ.  The book is highly instructive not only into Paul’s theology but especially into important Nazarene history that many modern Christians have no inkling to or have forgotten.  One of the noticeable undercurrents that Galatians reveals is Paul’s determination to assert his independence from Jerusalem.  Paul’s retelling of events in Galatians 2:9 certainly makes it appear as if  the Pillars (James, John and Cephas) were giving Paul some degree of independence, all the while stressing the importance of remembering the Poor in verse 10, a reference to the Ebionites, the earliest group of Nazarenes, which James is the leader of.  This ‘rememberance’ is monetary, meaning Paul was instructed to help support the “mother-church” something he acknowledges in Romans 15:25-27.

The chapters we are most interested in are chapters 1 and 2 which recount some of the early history about Paul and then turns to the infamous event known as the Incident at Antioch which occurs about 49 CE and would affect the history of the Middle East and even the world.  The Incident at Antioch marks a crucial stage in the development of Paul’s Gospel of Grace and the beginning of separation between Gentile Christianity and Nazarene Judaism.

Galatians tells us that when Paul received his revelation of Jesus, he did not immediately avail himself to learn from the Apostles in Jerusalem but went into Arabia.  This destination ‘Arabia’ is imprecise and is not to be confused with the borders of Saudi Arabia today.  In Paul’s day, Arabia extended from the Wilderness of Damascus to the Arabian peninsula, a vast area.  Based on Paul’s use of revelation language of chapter one and his allegory of 4:24, it’s possible that Paul travelled to Mount Sinai where the Revelation at Sinai occurred 1500 years prior, and where zealous Eliyahu sought refuge from Queen Jezebel.  However, we cannot state that as a fact and note that there may have been several enclaves of Nazarenes within Arabia.

It was after his return from Arabia that Paul sought an audience with Jesus’ Apostles, notably Cephas and James, Jesus’ brother and head of the entire Nazarene movement. This may have been a ‘fact finding’ mission and Paul needed more information about Jesus’ life and work and sought out those who knew him best.  Paul’s next visit to Jerusalem would not be for another 14 years by his reckoning.  The incident between Paul and Cephas is noted as occurring after Paul’s meeting with the Pillars.

Dating the Incident at Antioch

There is no lack of scholarly disagreement about when the Incident occurred.  There are some who date it prior to the Jerusalem Conference of Acts 15 and there are others who date it afterwards.  Those who date it prior to the conference, no doubt see the incident as the catalyst for the conference, to decide once and for all, if Gentiles need to convert to Judaism to become full members of the The Incident at antiochNazarene community.  Others hold that the incident occurs after the conference and becomes the zero-point for the split between James’ community and Paul’s Gentile Mission.  Given the lack of agreement between Acts and Galatians, and the lack of early datable material in Acts, there really is no way to be definitive about the date.

Acts 11:19-30 tells us of the establishment of the Mission at Antioch, headed up by Barnabas, an emissary from Nazarene HQ.  Barnabas recruits Paul’s help. Verse 26 tells us that it was here, at Antioch, that the disciples were called Christian, which was the way Gentile believers were referred to in the Nazarene oversea’s missions.  This does not mean that all the disciples were called this.  The disciples within Judea were called Nazarenes or Ebionites.  In fact there was no Christianity inside of 1st century Judea.  Any reference to Christianity prior to 135 CE, referred only to the area of the Greek Diaspora, outside of Judea, an essential  point we should not forget.  Nor was Antioch the first mission outside of Judea.  Church records indicate that Edessa received the Apostle Thaddaeus by an agreement worked out between Jesus and King Agbar Uchama, the Toparch of Syria, prior to Jesus’ death.

Acts 11:28 indicates that the establishment of the Antioch mission occurs around the time of of a great famine during the reign of Claudius, the Roman emperor.  This famine occurred in 46 CE.  Acts 11:28-30 tells us that the Antioch Mission sent famine relief to the elders, meaning to Jerusalem in the charge of Paul and Barnabus. During this same time period Herod Agrippa dies (44-45 CE) and the sons of Judas the Galilean were slain by Tiberius Julius Alexander.  Emperor Claudius issues an edict banning all Jews from Rome (49 CE).  When Cumanus, a corrupt Roman, became procurator (48-52 CE) the political situation went from bad to worse with an ever-growing series of skirmishes involving the Zealots in the Shomron (Samaria) and other parts of Judea on the increase.

Chapter 12 of Acts tells us that, about that time (meaning after the establishment of the Antioch mission – 46 CE), Herod laid hands on some who belonged to the Nazarene community.  James the brother of John, son of Zebedee, was put to death and even Simon Peter was arrested and jailed.  We have no idea how long Peter was imprisoned for but it appears that after his amazing prison break that he went to Caesarea for some time.  Acts 15 has Peter back in Jerusalem for the big conference, which is highly unlikely given the fact that he was a wanted man.

Acts 13-14 recounts Paul’s first missionary journey which is thought to have occurred during 47-49 CE.  Peter is not found near Antioch during the time frame between the establishment of the Antioch Mission and when Paul begins his first missionary journey.  Paul does return to Antioch at the end of his travels, and there may be some time for Peter to travel to Antioch during this period, however unlikely.  The events of Acts 15 is understood by most scholars to occurred in 49 CE,  including myself.

The WE Document of Acts

Acts 11 is often held up as the time frame when Peter goes up to Antioch.  This however breaks up the natural flow of events that Paul lays out in his short history in Galatian chapters 1 and 2.  Acts 11:27 tells us that at the time of the establishment of the Antioch Mission, some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch, namely Agabus.  It is possible that Peter was one of the ones who came up from Jerusalem with Agabus.  But again this seems to contradict Paul’s own flow of events, and one would think that Peter, as one of the leading figures within the movement, would most definitely be mentioned.

The Pauline Epistles are considered by scholars as the most historically reliable, not likely to have undergone too much editing.  The book of the Acts of the Apostles, however, has significant editing and textual problems, and many scholars believe it does not always accurately reflect the history of the Apostles and has obvious tampering.  Foremost when scrutinizing the Acts of the Apostles we notice that it is not a very good history of the Nazarene movement or it’s chief personalities.  Key events which are far more important in 1st century Judea are completely left out.  There is no mention of James’ ascension as leader of the movement, nor of his death, which was deemed by the people as so grievous a crime that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple was the cause noted by early sources.

Also, the book of Acts purports to be a history of Jesus’ Apostles, but two-thirds of the book is about Paul who was not one of the Twelve.  Paul  calls himself an apostle but is actually a lower ranking emissary under the supervision of Jerusalem and James and does not qualify as a first rank apostle, a point I will develop in the future.  As I have reported elsewhere, all three of Paul’s conversion experiences, recorded in Acts, contradict one another.  This would not normally be a problem if the three different versions were from three different witnesses, but Acts is purported to be written by Luqas of Antioch, Paul’s scribe, so there might be variations between the three accounts as Luqas retells them, but they should not be contradictory.

  Also recorded are statements supposedly by Paul, which tell the story that Paul lived according to the strictest sect of our religion, but in another place says he was educated at the feet of Gamaliel.  The problem being that Gamaliel was from the Pharasaic House of Hillel, which was a very liberal or lenient type of Judaism, unlike the conservative Pharasaic House of Shammai, noted for it’s stricter adherence.  With that noted, we should also realize that the Essenes rules of ritual purity were far more strict than the Pharisee’s.  The Essenes had to pass through several stages of purification before partaking of the common food.  The Establishment Sadducee’s (as opposed to the more purist Sadducees separatists of the  Essenes/Nazarenes) themselves were hyper-literalists whose judgements were often very harsh, also were much more strict than the house of Hillel.  Paul’s statements in Acts regarding his religious affiliations have probably been edited, since Paul’s early history is known to be Sadducean and Herodian.  Also consider the statement at the end of Acts.  Paul was headed to Rome to go on trial before Ceasar but Acts 28:31 tells us that Paul continued, ‘…teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all freedom without hinderance’ which seems highly unlikely unless Paul calls in some favors from his highly placed Heriodian friends, something a zealous Nazarene Jew would recoil from.

I also must mention the infamous “we” document of Acts, noted by scholars.  Acts is predominately written in the 3rd person narrative of Luqas.  But in various parts of Acts, the text switches to the 1st person plural narrative – Acts 16:10-17, Acts 20:5-15, Acts 21:1-18, and Acts 27:1-28:16.  This of course supports the idea that Acts of the Apostles has undergone extensive editing, with the we document as a second source used in constructing the book of Acts.  Some believe the we statements are places were Paul was doing the writing and not Luqas.  This idea is even more problematic and gives rise to questions about how much more of Acts was written by Paul and is that why Acts of the Apostles is so obviously slanted toward Paul.  Given all these questions concerning Acts, most scholars hold the Pauline epistles up as more historically accurate than Acts.  But that is not to say that Acts lacks historical accuracy.  Luqas’ use of political titles has been validated by archeology.  Acts specifically mentions individuals by name and is accurate in describing their positions in society as well as their surrounding circumstances.  Archaeology has shown the book of Acts to be accurate in its references to commerce as well.

But there is also a problematic datable reference which throws the main dating theories theories awry.  Acts chapter 8 mentions the Queen of Eithiopia, Candace, who’s royal treasurer came up to The Eithiopian eunuchJerusalem to worship, indicating that he was most likely of Jewish extraction, coming up for one of the three pilgrimage festivals. Kandake or Kendeke (Candace) is not a name but a title of the Queen of Ethiopia [or the Queen’s mother].  In addition to Ethiopia being one of the oldest civilizations in the world, Ethiopia is also one of the oldest Christian nations in the world. The Ethiopian court (governing officials) were first introduced to Christianity (Nazarene Judaism at the time) in approximately the year 42 CE.  The Ethiopian Church , one of the oldest in Christianity, attributes the foundation of their religious community to Phillip who baptised the Eithiopian eunuch.  In the Eithiopian Book of Acts, verse 8:27 has Hendeke in place of Candace.  Hendeke refers to Queen Hersamot Hendeke VII who replaced Kandake Amanitere (22-41 CE) and ruled Ethiopia from 42-52 CE.

This obscure history, if reliable, places Paul’s conversion experience post 42 CE which is not the traditional accepted time frame for his conversion.  But this dating may help ease some of the perceived problems between Acts and Galatians chapter two but also has it’s own problems.  Paul states in Galatians that three years after his conversion and trip to Arabia, he went up to Jerusalem for two weeks.   This would match his trip with Barnabus to Jerusalem to deliver famine relief in 46 CE (Acts 11:28-30).  Paul then tells us in Galatians 2:1 that after an interval of 14 years he goes up to Jerusalem with Barnabus and Titus.  The 14 years from 46 CE brings us to 60 CE which fits the time frame of Acts 21.  This of course creates a problem in the traditional dating of the Book of Galatians thought to have been written before 60 CE. But there is no consensus among scholars as to when and from where this epistle was written. It is evident, from the letter itself, that the book of Galatians was written after one of Paul’s visits to this area, but which visit? He went through the cities of Lystra, Derbe, and Iconium on all three of his missionary journeys.  Two traditional theories have been proposed which date the epistle to two time frames;

The South Galatian

This view holds that Paul wrote Galatians before or shortly after the First Jerusalem Council, or during his first missionary journey, when he traveled throughout southern Galatia. If it was written to the believers in South Galatia, it would likely have been written in 49.

The North Galatian View

This view holds that the epistle was written very soon after Paul’s second visit to Galatia.  The epistle is dated from between 54 CE to as late as 60 CE.

Our own view is that Galatians was written at a late date (60 CE or possibly later).  We believe that Paul wrote Galatians in defence of his apostleship which has always been called into question.  Prior to his death, Paul admits that many had turned against him – Demas, Phygelus, Hermogenes and all who are in Asia.  During his attempt to prove his Torah observance Acts 21:27-8 notes that the Jews from Asia upon seeing him stir up the people stating that Paul is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people, and the Torah, and this place [the Temple] and besides he has even brought Greeks into the Temple and defiled this holy place.  A charge I believe to be accurate.  This time frame would also require the events of Galatians 2:11ff to be placed out of the flow of events, which others have done as well.  At any rate, all the dating theories are problematic and one cannot afford to be dogmatic concerning them.

Galatians 2 mentions that Paul brought Titus along to Jerusalem and that Paul would not allow him to be circumcised.  Most believe that this refers to the problem that Acts 15 addresses.  However Titus is never mentioned by name in Acts and does not show up by name until the writing of 2 Corinthians which is dated to about 56-57 CE, long after the Jerusalem conference.  Paul also states that he came up to Jerusalem because of a revelation (Gal.2:2) and that it was a private meeting, both which do not match the Acts 15 conference.

The idea that the New Testament is 100% accurate is one only promoted by fundamentalists.  While this is all probably a hard pill to swallow for dyed in the wool Christians and Messianic believers, the evidence speaks for itself. Most reasonable people acknowledge that over the course of two millenia, a good amount of changes and editing has occurred.  In the case of Acts, those changes, I believe, were put into place to hide certain evidences of the schism and other related histories which are unpalatable to Christianity and a threat to their self described primacy.

What Issue Caused Cephas to Separate from the Gentile Christians?

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

The incident at Antioch is without a doubt the most important event that is recorded in the NT writings.  This event and the fallout from it caused an irreparable schism in the Nazarene movement.  Prior to this the movement, tenuous as it was, the Nazarene leadership had managed to keep the peace between the two main parties.  But, the Apostolic Decree from the Jerusalem Conference had made Paul’s gospel unworkable.  Paul’s gospel had to be adjusted and brought into compliance with the Nazarene community’s halachic requirements and the expectations of the Torah.  From his writings, we can now deduce that Paul, was not prepared to make that concession and believed it would threaten his mission to the Gentiles with it’s faith alone foundation that Paul had so carefully crafted.

When we look closely at the incident itself we must take note and realize that Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a written response to the events that lead up to the incident.  It is written from Paul’s perspective alone and therefore one-sided.  But from his telling of the incident we can re-create what probably occurred.

The Incident revolves around Paul’s accusation against Cephas (Peter) of hypocrisy which remains to this day unproven.  Though Paul records his accusation, we are not given Cephas’ response.  It seems unlikely that Cephas accepted Paul’s characterization of the situation.  Christianity always places Paul on a pedestal higher than the Twelve when he should be placed below them as he was in the 1st century.  Cephas was personally trained by Jesus as one of his inner circle disciples.  In the Acts 10 vision narrative, Peter states that that he never has eaten anything unholy or unclean (meaning non-kosher).  From this we can conclude that Paul’s accusation that Cephas ate with Gentiles cannot be construed to mean eating forbidden food (non-kosher) but concerns itself with more of the technical side of the dispute.

The history Paul lays out in chapter two begins with his journey to Jerusalem for the Acts 15 conference on gentile conversions (vs 2:1ff).  In verse four Paul refers to false brothers who spied out their liberty in Messiah.  While we cannot be dogmatic on this, these so-called false brethren were probably sent to Antioch by James upon hearing reports of the mixed table fellowship of Gentiles and Jews of Antioch.  Peter (Cephas) tells us in Acts 10 that common table fellowship with gentiles was against Jewish law.  The gentiles that Cephas is eating with cannot be pagans but those gentiles that have abandoned their idolatry and have some connection to the Jewish Community at Antioch.  These gentiles we shall discuss shortly.

Paul writing the Letter to the GalatiansThe appearance of The Men From James is not casual and should be interpreted as an official envoy from Jerusalem which probably originated from a report from Barnabas or some other Jewish leader in Antioch. These men from James, were probably sent by James to investigate the manner of table fellowship that existed, assert the authority of the Nazarenes over this fledgling community of believers and to report back to James what is happening.  In verses 4-10 we note some animosity in Paul’s language towards the Nazarene leadership:

The spies of verse 4 are probably envoys from James who were trying to put them in bondage, meaning into compliance of the Apostolic Decree [now officially Nazarene halacha].  Also see 2:12

Those of high reputation  (2:6).  Paul notes that, “What they were makes no difference to me – God shows no partiality.”  Paul’s penchant for misapplying scripture shows.  God’s lack of partiality is confined to the application of  justice .  Hashem is most definitely partial when it comes to the leadership of His communities.  We are admonished to listen to and obey the lawful authorities, including congregational leaders. These reputed leaders are called pillars by Paul himself in verse 9, a Jewish idiom which refers to the tzaddakim (righteous ones) of the generation.  In Judaism there are tzaddakim who are pillars which uphold the world in every generation.  HaShem is very partial to His tzaddakim.

Those who were of reputation added nothing to me (2:6b).  If Galatians 2 is speaking of the Jerusalem conference, then this statement is absolutely false.  James added four requirements to his gospel as noted in Acts 15.  Those congregations that had been under Paul’s tutelage for all these years would now need to be corrected in the gospel that Paul had taught them regarding the place of the Gentiles.

Paul’s accusation to Cephas, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? is ultimately connected to eating which will help us unravel the issue at hand.  Even if Cephas was doing as Paul described, the arrival of the envoys from James tells us that Cephas was obviously presented with a argument backed up by James’ ruling which convinces Cephas to retreat from eating with the gentiles of the Antioch community.  And not only Cephas, but Barnabas and all the rest of the Jewish Nazarenes as well (verse 13).  This is an important watershed moment that attests to the authority James held in the Nazarene Movement.  Cephas is probably reminded of the ruling of the Jerusalem Conference as are the other Jews.  They submit to correction by James and his representatives.

Another point needs to be addressed in order to clarify the charge.  Paul’s rebuke of Cephas points out that Cephas was part of those who were trying to compel the Gentiles to be Jews (becoming circumcised), “…how is it you compel the gentiles to live like Jews.” Paul in his retelling of the chain of events confirms that Cephas, who is one of the Pillars, is part of the group that insists that Gentiles need to keep some degree of Torah to be part of Israel.  Paul then launches into his faith alone dogma which he is renouned for, “…justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law, since by the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified.”  By following Paul’s lead, we now can see that the eating issue in Antioch is connected to works of the Law which was the hot topic of the Jerusalem Conference.


The Seeds of Schism

The Jerusalem Conference and the Incident at Antioch

One of the most problematic area’s in NT studies revolves around the Gospel of Paul.  For as many years that I was part of the Messianic Movement or Messianic Judaism, I tried continually to Paul of Tarsusreconcile the teaching of Paul with the teaching of Jesus and his brother James.  I studied the texts, trying to see if there were translation problems. I entertained various theories proposing that we have misunderstood the subject matter of certain phrases that are used in the NT, phrases such as works of the Law.   I often heard, and still do hear those who state that Paul’s writings are not at odds with the other writings of the NT.  Many of these teachers do all kinds of literary and language gymnastics to demonstrate that Paul is not teaching against the Torah.  Messianic Jews go so far as to interpret the phrase works of the Law as ‘legalistic observance of Torah commands’ which sounds very theological but is without legitimate scholarly support.  The phrase in Hebrew is ma’aseh ha Torah and quite literally means doing the commandments of the Torah.  Paul’s gospel is one that proclaims that one can obtain justification or righteousness by faith alone outside the works of the Torah which is at odds with the message of the Torah

After almost 20 years of struggling with this, I have come to the conclusion that Paul’s teachings on faith vs. works cannot line up with the rest of the NT because they are at odds with Judaism. I discovered that within the narrative of the NT, is the story of two parallel movements, one in opposition with the other, vying for primacy as the single spokesman for what eventually became known as Christianity.  The story is the struggle of two men Saul of Tarsus (Paul) and Ya’akov ha Tzaddik (James the Just), Jesus’ brother.  One of the important understanding’s I had to come to terms with is that the man from Tarsus is ultimately responsible for the creation of catholic (universal) gentile centered and directed Christianity.  The second thing I came to terms with is that Paul himself is a bit of an enigma, and the picture that is painted by the NT is missing many important details that are actually hinted at in the NT itself.  This history is key when trying to interpret the NT, because without it the reader of the NT is continually trying to make sense of opposing principles and ideas and never coming to a full understanding of the NT writings or the reasons for them.

Paul and His Gospel

Paul’s theology is formulated upon two primary scriptures – the righteous man shall live by faith from Habbakuk 2:4 and – he [Abraham] believed God and he reckoned it as righteousness taken from Genesis 15:6.  Paul believed that righteousness could be attained by belief or faith alone without regard to keeping any commandments. These become the foundational principles of Paul’s Gospel of Grace.  He states this clearly in Romans 3:28,  “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”  Some modern teachers interpret the phrase works of the Law as referring to the Oral Law only.  This is not a valid interpretation.  Historically, Judaism (including extinct Nazarene Judaism) does not normally delineate between the two.  The reason for this is that normally the Torah command does not instruct the worshipper on how to keep the specific command.  The oral tradition helps clarify how to observe the commands of God.  So Torah can refer to not only the five books of Moshe, but also to the Tanakh, and to Jewish Law. Works of the Law means the doing of Torah mitzvot (commandments) according to Jewish practice.

Paul’s particular stance on the practice of Torah [works of the Law] for gentile converts is at odds with the Jewish mindset and culture.  The Hebrew language is verb (action) based.  Intellectual ascent is foreign to normal Hebrew culture.  One cannot be righteous unless his faith in HaShem is followed up with obedience to his commandments, i.e.’works of the Law’.

  In Romans chapter four Paul develops his faith alone theology by using Genesis 15:6 as his proof, “..and he believed in the Lord and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”  But Paul’s faith alone stance is at odds with  James’ teaching.

Ya’akov ha Tzaddik

(James the Just) is the undisputed leader of the entire Nazarene movement.  His rulings are reckoned as halachic law and even the Twelve bow to his leadership and rulings.  James’ teaching is that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.  He tells the Nazarene Community that faith without works is dead.  If you believe or have faith, that faith will manifest itself thru actions. The Torah supports this stance – “It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us.”

But how do we reconcile the two differing affirmations? How can Genesis 15:6 be reconciled with Deuteronomy 6:25?  Our problem [as in most cases] is correctly interpreting the passage.  Paul has misinterpreted the Genesis 15:6 passage and then developed an entire theological construct based on this misunderstanding.  Many of use have studied this passage and it seemed to be straight forward enough – Abraham trusted in God and he, God, reckoned it as righteousness. But it is that which is plainly obvious that escapes our notice.

Abraham, is noted throughout Genesis chapters 12-14 as being obedient to God’s instructions.  Abraham heard God’s words to leave his own country and go to an unfamiliar land that God was going to give him as an inheritance.  By the time we come to chapter 15, this unswerving faith and obedience has been part of Abraham’s character for a number of years.  His faith had been clearly established so often that his faith in HaShem’s re-stated promise of offspring in verses 4-5 could hardly be considered as being out of the ordinary. Meaning that Abrahams belief in HaShem promises, was normally what Abraham would do.

Genesis 15:6 is actually stating something entirely opposite than what we have been taught to believe. Abraham trusted in the Lord, and he, meaning Abraham not God, reckoned it as righteousness to HaShem.  The subject of the phrase is ambiguous.  Rashi interprets the subject as HaShem and the Rambam interprets it as referring to Abraham, which truly makes the most sense.  The issue at hand in Genesis 15 is who would inherit Abrahams estate.  Abraham, who at this point is childless, believed that he would have to pass his legacy on through his servant Eliezer.  But HaShem declares that this would not be the case and his heir would be his own flesh and blood.  Abraham trusts HaShem and Abraham reckons it as righteousness on the part of HaShem.  The Rambam says it was Abraham who reckoned God’s promise of children as a manifestation of righteous kindness, for God made the promise unconditionally, without regard to Abraham’s future meritThe Malbim also see’s the subject as being Abraham:

“Avram accepted this promise, “he believed in God,” but he considered this exemption itself to be a special favor from God not in line with what he deserved – he considered it as a kindness.”

The following chapters, 16-18, then deal with the promised offspring of this kindness,  Issac.  In Genesis 26:3-5 HaShem affirms the covenant he had with Abraham with his son Issac.  God tells him that the three prime elements of the Abrahamic covenant, Land, Seed, and Blessing, would be established with Issac, “because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.” not because Abraham had a intellectual belief in God.  Abrahams faith always was reflected through obedience toward God.  Faith can never be proven through inaction, but only through what others can see as a demonstration of inner conviction.

Therefore Paul’s Gospel of Grace is developed upon a misinterpretation of one of the key scriptures used to validate his Faith Alone Doctrine that now permeates Christianity and has for almost 2000 years.  This false teaching was developed early on by Paul and became the locus standi for his entire work with the Gentiles.  This would eventually bring him into conflict with the Nazarene leadership who would call for a Nazarene conference to deal with this issue.

Paul’s Negative View of James

The New Testament book of Galatians records for us some very illuminating Nazarene history which is more often than not overlooked or ignored.  The Epistle to the Galatians is a letter from Paul to the early Christian (meaning gentile believers) communities of of Galatia in central Anatolia. Paul is principally concerned with the controversy surrounding gentile Christians and their relationship to the Torah, which he calls ‘the works of the Law’ a term that was in use during the 2nd Temple period.  The term is employed not only in the New Testament literature but also in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It would appear that the community of Galatia had turned away from Paul’s faith alone teachings and had embraced the teachings of the Torah, or at the minimum, embraced the requirements of the Apostolic Decree.

Acts 15 ddebateThe debate in Acts 15 forms around two primary parties within the Nazarene movement.  On one side is the Party of the Circumcision, which appears to refer to the conservative community of James the Just [Jesus’ brother and heir].  This community also included Ebionites, Essenes and Nazarenes. They also were known as the Way in both the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament.  The Party of the Circumcision appear to be the majority party at the time, or at least the one which held the reins of power and was directly under the control of Yaakov ha Tzaddik (James the Just), Jesus’ brother. This party is referred to as James’ party in Galatians:

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.”

There are other references to James’ party in Paul’s writings. Some positive but others quite negative:

“Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands.”

(Ephesians 2:11)

“…and also Y’shua who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.”

(Colossians 4:11)

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,  (Philippians 3:1-3)

For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, (Titus 1:10)

We must remember that there was no monolithic Judaism in the Second Temple period.  There were many Judaisms, plural.  This is also true of the Nazarene movement.  In the early years when it was just a small sect and there was probably not much difference in practice among those early disciples.  But as the movement grew, more Judaisms came under the banner of the Nazarene Movement.  There were PhariseesHellenist Jews, Priests  and various other groups, including nationalists [Zealots and even Sicarii].  Those who were kohanim or priests would also include Sadducees and possibly their Herodian counterparts.  The Essenes are strangely absent from mention in the NT until you realize that the New Testament writings are written by the Essenes (from Ossim, meaning doers of the Law a clear connection to the Letter of James and the DSS).  To think that there was a monolithic Nazarene movement is not consistent with the known facts.

It seem’s that Paul’s way of  referring to James and the Ebionites community as the Party of the Circumcision or The Circumcision, is intended to highlight the difference of interpretation between the two parties in regards to gentiles, represented  by Paul and James.   The Acts 15 council was assembled to try to bridge the ever widening gap between The Circumcision, the party of James, and the Pauline Hellenists who were aligned with Paul.  The issue on the floor at the conference was how do Gentile believers become saved, meaning how do they enter into covenant relationship with God and the Jewish people. All sides were given a voice and the issue was hotly debated.  James’ ruling allowed the Gentiles (or 10 Tribers) covenant status as sojourners but not as Jews.  James requires a bare minimum of Torah observance.  He places upon them four things that would implement a break with paganism and allow a certain amount of contact with Judaism.  The four prohibitions, part of the Noachide Covenant, allowed the new sojourners a place in the Nazarene Community:

For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell

James’ instructions, called the Apostolic Decree, were sent out to the communities in Antioch, Cilicia and Syria, which were the initial missions of the early Nazarene Community.  We do not know how each community reacted to the letter, but based on internal evidence in the NT we feel that many of the Greek communities under Paul’s tutelage did not embrace it.  None of Paul’s letters pre-date the Acts 15 council and there are noted derogatory remarks made by Paul towards James’ party within those post Apostolic Decree epistles. Because of this, we feel that Paul did not support James’ ruling because a certain level of Torah observance, though minimal, was still required by any Gentile believer,  The ruling is couched in terms that require regular synagogue attendance for continued growth in the Jewish faith, “For Moshe from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Shabbat.”  Neither was circumcision entirely off the table for these Gentile believers, but only postponed until a later date.  Circumcision is still a requirement for non-Jews to to become part of Israel as it is today.  Paul may very well have voiced his opposition to James’ ruling which is why we also note from the Acts 15 text that James sends his own emissaries [which represent the view of the Nazarene leaderships halachic position], with Paul and Barnabbas, and does not entrust Paul with the letter to the Gentile Christians:

“Then it seems good to the apostles and elders, along with the whole community, to chose men from among them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas – Judas called Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.”

I need to stress that the acceptance of the non-Jew without circumcision, at this particular time inside of Israel, was not the accepted practice of Judaism.  Due to the intense mistrust of the gentles, the rite of circumcision was an effective deterrent against those with less than pure motives.  James’ ruling must be understood in light of the precarious political and religious situation that was ever present and changing.  The Sanhedrin had in 20 BCE, under pressure from the House of Shammai, enacted the Eighteen Measures.  This legislation, compelled by an ever increasing climate of Roman oppression, made contact between Jews and Gentiles more difficult.  When we look honestly at the relevent literature including the NT, we must understand that uncircumcised gentiles within the Nazarene Movement was not something James was jumping for joy over.  He own viewpoint was that they should be circumcised.  This is also the biblical viewpoint.

“You shall say to the rebellious ones, to the house of Israel,  Thus says the Lord GOD,  Enough of all your abominations, O house of Israel, when you brought in foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary to profane it, even My house, when you offered My food, the fat and the blood; for they made My covenant void–this in addition to all your abominations. And you have not kept charge of My holy things yourselves, but you have set foreigners to keep charge of My sanctuary. Thus says the Lord GOD, No foreigner [resident alien] uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the sons of Israel, shall enter My sanctuary.”

There  is no doubt that James knew all the implications of the above passage which portrays the halacha of not only First and Second Temple Judaism but also the halacha of the Messianic Kingdom.  The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Temple as a House of Prayer for all nations, and within the environs of the 2nd Temple, the court of Gentiles allowed access for non-Jews.  But HaShem would never allow a uncircumcised gentile into the sacred precincts of the His House.  And this is the reason for the riot in Acts 21.   It is doubtful that Paul would have brought one of his gentile companions into the Azarah or sanctified area due to the penalty of death assigned to such an act.  But since Paul was constantly in the company of gentiles, the myriads of Nazarene Jews, who were all zealous for the Torah, were taking no chances of allowing the Temple to be defiled.

Under James’ ruling, circumcision (meaning conversion) was only off the table temporarily until the Gentiles could educate themselves on the essentials of Jewish halacha (religious practice).  Circumcision is still necessary for anyone desiring to become Jewish or part of Israel.  If one is to eat the Passover sacrifice, the Torah emphatically states that they must be circumcised.  This ‘breaking in’ period that James institutes would allow time for the ‘circumcision of the heart’ to express itself through the act of obedience in eventually becoming circumcised, as Abraham did, for those who were so inclined.

For Paul, this does not sit well with him as it goes against his fundamental [but errant] belief concerning his Gospel of Grace. But the situation is delicate.  Paul may not like the ruling, but his mission to the Gentiles depends on support and acknowledgment from the Jerusalem Community.  He needs James’ authority and permission for legitimacy. But soon this would fall to the way-side, and the Incident at Antioch would be instrumental in breaking the uneasy peace between the two camps.


Posted by: healthzombie | August 1, 2011

Form of God? – Part 2

Evolution of an idolatrous Idea

The Trinity Doctrine came about through an on-going evolution of Greek thought introduced by early Church Fathers beginning in the 2nd century CE.  In the Post-Apostolic Age (90-140 CE) the writings of Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp and Hermas said nothing about a Trinity of three eternal persons. During the first two centuries there are no clear statements about any Trinity,  and that the first two centuries promoted monotheism as the main thought. These post-apostolic writers simply stressed the One God concept as found in the Tanakh and the Nazarene writings.

It was in the age of the Greek Apologists (130-180 CE) when the first clear changeover from a Torah based Oneness towards a nascent trinitarian concept occurred. The main reason that changeover occurred was due to the infiltration of Greek philosophers into the Church.  The Greek philosophers of pre-christian days taught the existence of a Logos. These Apologists entered Christianity in the second century and promoted the Greek version (of the Logos) in the Church. They, the Greek Apologists, claimed that Yochanon (John) meant for his readers to understand that Y’shua (Jesus) was the same Logos that the pre-christian Greeks believed in, although these Greeks really knew nothing about the nature of the true God, nor of the Messiah. Even though they denied the absolute deity of Jesus Christ, they believed the Logos was a second divine person who was subservient to the Father. This, of course is not the case today where many Christians feel that the Son and the Father are equal, even though the origin of the idea of two persons, called binatarianism, comes from these apologists. There was also a definite modification of the baptismal formula. They began baptizing in the titles Father, Son and Holy Spirit whereas previously the name of the Nazarene was used.

Melito of SardisMilito of Sardis (circa 160)  believed that Jesus was God and the Father was God–this is a binitarian view. It should be noted that Melito never referred to the Holy Spirit as God and appears to have thought that the Holy Spirit was simply the power of God and referred to to it as the tongue of the Lord, and the finger of the Lord by whose agency the tablets of the Torah in are said to have been written.  A comparison of Matthew 12:28 with Luke 11:20 reveals that this was the belief of the early Nazarene community.  Milito also appears to believe in the dual nature of Jesus, one of humanity and one eternal, a belief which shall gain more acceptance in the coming centuries.

The next age occurred between 170 and 325 CE, and is called the Old Catholic Age. The evolution of the Trinity Doctrine had already begun a transformation towards a threesome of persons comprising One God starting in the previous age.  Many writers of this age commented about monotheism or the oneness doctrine of Judaism, revealing that oneness was the dominant doctrine held by believers at the beginning of the Old Catholic Age. These writers also gave evidence of a growing popularity of a triune God. The first trinitarian believed that Jesus was a separate person from the Father and a deity who was inferior to the Father. The original founders of the Trinity never departed from that belief. Only until the time of the fourth century did trinitarian begin changing this thinking. At that time they began saying that the three eternal persons were co-eternal, coequal and co-substantial.

Irenaeus wrote in the beginning of the old Catholic age and stated that God is One, and that Jesus is God. He believed that The Word is the mind and expression of the Father and that the Son is the invisible Father’s visible revelation. He said the name of Jesus reveals the Father and belongs to the Father. Although he did not fully teach a trinity of persons, he was partly there in believing a trinity since he looked at the Logos as originally being in God and that it somehow, later, became distinct from the Father.

Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus better known as Tertullian (150-225 CE) was the first who said that God was three persons in one substance around 200 CE. Never before had anyone heard of the word Trinity in referring to God. Tertullian was originally binitarian, having believed in a Dual Godhead. He originally believed that the Holy Ghost was more of a thing and not God,  but the Montanists taught him to believe in the Paraclete as being more personal than what he formerly felt. Thus the Holy Spirit became the third eternal person in his later years.  In his book Against Hermogenes, Tertullian believed God was originally alone and not yet, therefore, a Father. We would like to agree with Tertullian on this one point.  For one to be a Father, one must bear children, so to speak.  Therefore, before any creation, God was not a father, and His unique Son had not yet been begotten or emanated.

Origen (185-254 CE). was the first who clearly taught that there were three persons who were eternal. He taught that the Son eternally was being generated from the Father. It was he that taught that salvation was unavailable to those that rejected a triune God:

Nevertheless it seems right to inquire into the reason why he who is ‘born again through God’ to salvation has need of both Father and Son and Holy Spirit and will not obtain salvation apart from the entire Trinity, and why it is impossible to become partaker of the Father or the Son without the Holy Spirit. In discussing these points it will undoubtedly be necessary to describe the activity which is peculiar to the Holy Spirit and that which is peculiar to the Father and Son.

Origen of AlexandriaOrigen’s contribution to the developing of the pre-Nicene period is considerable and significant and will exercise an influence on the great debate of the next century particularly in regard to the nature of God.  It is after the the controversy between Arius and Athanasius, which which resulted in the ill-considered decision during the Nicene Council (325 CE) to accept Athanasius’ argument for a triune God.   But the idea of a Trinity was not completely established until the Council at Constantinople in 381 where the Catholic leadership declared God to be three eternal persons. At this latter council they declared the Holy Spirit was a third eternal person. The Athanasian Creed is the declaration held by Roman Catholics and most Protestants today. It was created in the fifth century. Modern orthodox Trinitarianism stands on this creed, known to most Christians as the Nicene Creed.

The Arian heresy

Arianism is in opposition to mainstream Christian doctrine, as determined by the first two Ecumenical Councils and currently maintained by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and most Protestant Churches and many within the Messianic Movement today. The Arian Heresy is the teaching that the Son of God did not always exist, but was created by God and is therefore distinct from and inferior to God the Father, attributed to Arius (250–336 CE), a Christian leader from Alexandria, Egypt. The American Academic Encyclopedia states: “Although this was not Constantine’s first attempt to reconcile factions in Christianity, it was the first time he had used the imperial office to IMPOSE a settlement.”  Judged a heretic by the Council of Nicaea (325 CE), Arius was later exonerated at the First Synod of Tyre (335 CE) and then, after his death, pronounced a heretic again at the First Council of Constantinople (381 CE).  While it is taught that the Trinity doctrine was officially adopted at the Nicene Council, the matter was far from settled.  During the years after, the Church wavered between both points of view (Arianism verses the Trinity Doctrine). The following list shows the conflict within the Catholic Church after the Nicene Council:

328 CE Athanasius is given the bishopric of Alexandria.

328 CE Constantine recalls Arius from Illyria.

335 CE Constantine now sides with Arius and exiles Athanasius to Trier ( A Roman city in Germany).

337 CE A new Roman Emperor   Constantius II (337–361) orders the return of Athanasius to Alexandria.

339 CE Athanasius flees Alexandria in anticipation of being expelled.

341 CE Two councils are held in Antioch this year. During this council, the First, Second, and Third Arian Confessions are written, thereby beginning the attempt to produce a formal doctrine of faith to oppose the Nicene Creed.

343 CE At the Council of Sardica, Eastern Bishops demand the removal of Athanasius.

346 CE Athanasius is restored to Alexandria.

351 CE A second anti – Nicene council is held in Sirmium.

353 CE A council is held at Aries during Autumn that is directed against Athanasius.

355 CE A council is held in Milan. Athanasius is again condemned.

356 CE Athanasius is deposed on February 8th, beginning his third exile.

357 CE Third Council of Sirmium is convened and it is agreed that the Father is greater than His subordinate Son.

359 CE The Synod of Seleucia affirms that Christ is “like the Father,” It does not however, specify how the Son is like the Father.

361 CE A council is held in Antioch to reaffirm Arius’ positions.

380 CE Emperor Theodosius the Great declares Christianity the official state religion of the empire.

381 CE The First Council of Constantinople is held to review the controversy since Nicaea.

In 381 AD the struggle was finally ended by the current emperor, Theodosius the Great, who favored the Nicene position. Just as Constantine decided the decision at Nicaea, the Roman Emperor again decides Church theology. Emperor Theodosius the Great establishes the creed of Nicaea as the standard for his realm. The Nicene Creed is re-evaluated and accepted with the addition of clauses on the Holy Spirit and other matters.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The last adjustment of the Trinity doctrine occurs 70 years later at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE, in the form of the Chalcedonian Creed:


We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhood and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial89 [coessential89] with the Father according to the Godhood, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhood, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person (provswpon, prosopon)88 and one Subsistence (uJpostasi”, hypostasis)81, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son and only begotten, God the Word (lovgo”, Logos)82, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.54/62-63

The Church creed above, teaches that Jesus is fully God and fully man that this is his essential nature: one individual person with two distinct individual natures, a Divine nature and a Human nature.  Being both fully human and fully God at the same time is a contradiction that logically is not possible. The problem that we are faced with is that God cannot die, for if he did that would be the end of us all.  The nature of man is contingent upon the effects of time and space (a result of creation), something that God is not subject to.  Saying that both can dwell in together is like saying oil and water can be mixed together.  The Chalcedon Creed strikes a powerful blow to any sensible understanding of the nature of the Son of God.  In it, any real connection to the one who could understand our plight, who was tempted and able to come to our aid, vanishes and is replaced with a god unknown to the early Nazarene community.  Roman Catholic writer Thomas Hart writes:

The Chalcedonian formula [the council’s decision declaring Jesus both God and man] makes genuine humanity impossible. The councilor definition says that Jesus is true man. But if there are two natures in him, it is clear which will dominate. And Jesus becomes immediately very different from us. He is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. He knows the past, present and future…He knows exactly what everyone is thinking and going to do. This is far from ordinary human experience. Jesus is tempted but cannot sin because he is God. What kind of temptation is this? It has little in common with the kinds of struggles we are familiar with.

The Heretics Chime in

Albrecht Ritschl (March 25, 1822 – March 20, 1889) was a German theologian who saw the Trinity doctrine as flagrantly Hellenistic. It had corrupted the Christian message by introducing an alien “layer of metaphysical concepts, derived from the natural philosophy of the Greeks,” and it had nothing to do with early Christianity.  Clearly from the history constructed above, we would certainly agree with him that the Trinity doctrine is fundamentally foreign to Hebraic thought and absent from normative Jewish belief.

Christians tell me that the way Jesus can be fully God and fully man is by emptying himself of his god-powers or god-nature as is stated in Phillipians 2:7, “…he emptied himself taking the form of a bond-servant being made in the likeness of men.”  While this sounds very ‘religious’ and may be satisfying to a Christian, it is unpalatable for Jewish tastes and is not what the passage is saying.  The context is actually suggesting  an emptying  prior to his mission.  Meaning, he (the Word of God), emptied himself prior to in-dwelling or possessing Y’shua.

Can God dwell within a man?  The ancient Israelite knew that this indwelling or possession was possible, based on Exodus 25:8 which says “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me that I may dwell among them.”  The actual understanding of ‘among’ is to mean withinLet them construct a sanctuary for Me that I may dwell in them.  This is the origin of the In-Dwelling of the Holy Spirit and I believe the understanding of the early community of believers which we shall now discuss.

During the 1st century a fervor erupted inside of Judea, particularly in the Galilee region.  From a historical point of view this was the beginning of the Messianic Movement.  Many groups came into existence during this time desiring the Messiah to come and end Imperial Rome’s control over the land and people of God.  It was during this period when what became known as Christianity, had it’s origins.  There were various groups that eventually would come under the banner of Y’shua the Nazarene and become known as Nazarenes long before the were known as Christians.  Many of these groups had opposing ideas on the Torah and on Judaism itself.  Bart Ehrman notes:

“We know of Christian groups taking stands on Judaism that were at polar ends of the spectrum, some groups insisting that the Jewish Law was to be followed for salvation and others insisting that the Jewish Law could not be followed if one wanted salvation. All of these groups claimed to be representing the view of Jesus himself.”

Christian-Gnostic sects flourished during the 1st-3rd centuries.  The Pauline Church condemned many of them as heretics.  Gnosticism itself was very interested in Cosmology and various sects proposed many differing cosmological models to try to understand the relationship between the First Cause (God) and the natural world.  Many of them veered off into fantastic fantasies.  But as with all religious systems, there is some truth in their fantastic theologies.  Jewish mysticism, called Kabbalah, basically is asking the same question, How does an infinite God connect with and finite creation, and vise versa?   Kabbalistic ideas actually help us understand monotheism.

The Gnostic-Christian Cerinthus taught that the Christ-Spirit came upon the man Jesus at his baptism, and left him at the crucifixion.  Irenaeus, a 2nd century Church Father says this about his beliefs:

“Cerinthus, again, a man who was educated (8) in the wisdom of the Egyptians, taught that the world was not made by the primary God, but by a certain Power far separated from him, and at a distance from that Principality who is supreme over the universe, and ignorant of him who is above all. He represented Jesus as having not been born of a virgin, but as being the son of Joseph and Mary according to the ordinary course of human generation, while he nevertheless was more righteous, prudent, and wise than other men. Moreover, after his baptism, Christ descended upon him in the form of a dove from the Supreme Ruler, and that then he proclaimed the unknown Father, and performed miracles. But at last Christ departed from Jesus, and that then Jesus suffered and rose again, while Christ remained impassable, inasmuch as he was a spiritual being.”

Cerinthius (mid-1st century) believed that Jesus was a normal human being who at his baptism was overshadowed or possessed by “Christ” a spiritual being. In Cerinthus’ interpretation, the Christ came to Jesus at baptism, guided him in his ministry, but left him at the crucifixion. Cerinthus’s school followed Jewish law, used the Good News according to the Hebrews (a version of the gospel of Matthew), and also refers to the unknown Father who is referred to in Kabbalah as Ayn Sof (meaning without end). He denied that the Supreme God (Ayn Sof or the unknown Father) had made the physical world, and denied the divinity of Jesus. He taught that Jesus would establish a thousand-year reign of wedding festivities after the Second Coming but before the General Resurrection, a view that was declared heretical by the Council of Nicaea.

It is well known that all Gnostic sects baptized. The Marcosians said: “In the name of the unknown Father of all, in the Truth, the Mother of all, in him, who came down on Jesus.”. The Elcesaites said: “In the name of the great and highest God and in the name of his Son, the great King”.  This baptism formula is really no different than the one offered in Matthew 28:19, “…in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  The Messianic Jewish scholar Dr.David Stern in his Jewish New Testament renders this as, “…immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son and the Ruach HaKodesh…”  He states that the normal translation opens it up to questions about what is the proper name and if the right name is not used is it valid?  He also states that immersing into a name describes no literal act and believes his rendering expresses it’s intended meaning.  I agree with his assessment and suggest that once all the pertinent NT passages are examined, this rendering is the best translation.

Irenaeus also speaks of another heretic who believed as Cerinthius did:

Carpocrates, again, and his followers maintain that the world and the things which are therein were created by angels greatly inferior to the unbegotten Father. They also hold that Jesus was the son of Joseph, and was just like other men, with the exception that he differed from them in this respect, that inasmuch as his soul was steadfast and pure, he perfectly remembered those things which he had witnessed(3) within the sphere of the unbegotten God. On this account, a power descended upon him from the Father, that by means of it he might escape from the creators of the world; and they say that it, after passing through them all, and remaining in all points free, ascended again to him, and to the powers,(4) which in the same way embraced like things to itself. They further declare, that the soul of Jesus, although educated in the practices of the Jews, regarded these with contempt, and that for this reason he was endowed with faculties, by means of which he destroyed those passions which dwelt in men as a punishment [for their sins]

The original followers of Jesus were the Ebionites,  ( Poor Ones).  The term Nazarene became the name of the overall movement of those who believed Y’shua was the Messiah. Pauline Christianity and many other watered down Judaism’s came under the banner of the Nazarene movement.  The Ebionites the locus of that movement, was lead by Ya’akov, the brother of Jesus, who is the true heir of Jesus’ Judaism.

It is important to understand that the Qumran Community called themselves Ebionites and more importantly they referred to themselves as the Way, the term used in the NT to identify the earliest group of believers in Jesus.  In fact the book of Acts may very well be telling us that the Nazarenes and the Way were separate sects of the same movement.   The Habbakuk Pesher, found at Qumran, is a commentary on Works versus Faith, a dividing point between Yaakov and Paul.  Professor Robert Eisenman, a notable DSS scholar sees the Qumran Community as the Community of James the Just (Yaakov) a scenario we shall discuss later in upcoming posts.

From the ancient Church writings we discover that the Ebionites observed the Torah, rejected Paul’s teachings, and used only one Gospel, the Gospel of the Ebionites.  The only existing information about the Ebionites comes to us from hostile sources. Epiphanius, whose writing is the source for fragments of the Gospel of the Ebionites, emphasizes that the Nazarenes, a predominant group of Jewish Christians, were considered part of the Christian orthodoxy, whereas the Ebionites were considered heretics.  Based on extensive research, it may be said that the Ebionites represented the truest form of the Judaism of Jesus’ disciples.  The Nazarenes, were a watered version and may have been so early on.  Pauline Christianity was a competing version in opposition to James’ Ebionites.

The Ebionites used only one gospel referred to as Matthaei Authenticum (the Authentic Gospel of Matthew). It was used by the Ebionite community during the time of the early church. It was Irenaeus who contended that these early Ebionite communities used Matthew’s Gospel exclusively.  Eusebius of Caesarea later wrote that they used only the Gospel of the Hebrews. From these we can probably conclude that all these different gospel names are most likely the same gospel.  There is a citation that Cyril of Jerusalem burned a copy of a Hebrew Matthew which he called a heresy.  This was most likely an Ebionite version.

An interesting element of Ebionite theology is the belief that Jesus became begotten of the Father at his tevila (immersion/baptism) or simply put that he became the Son of God at his baptism when the Ruach Elohim, in the form of a dove came upon him.  We have noted, earlier that the Holy Spirit can possess a person, changing him into another person. Melito of Sardis notes that his baptism was a significant event in the revealing his divine nature:

For there is no need, to persons of intelligence, to attempt to prove, from the deeds of Christ subsequent to His baptism, that His soul and His body, His human nature like ours, were real, and no phantom of the imagination. For the deeds done by Christ after His baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise, He gave us sure indications of His two natures: of His Deity, by His miracles during the three years that elapsed after His baptism; of His humanity, during the thirty similar periods which preceded His baptism, in which, by reason of His low estate as regards the flesh, He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages.

Up until this point in his life, Melito feels there was no indication of his divine nature until his baptism.  The NT notes that at that moment, the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove (Marqas 1:10, Luqas 3:22) whereas Matthew says as a dove.  The citation in Luqas notes that the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form.  The Greek word here, somatikos, indicates corporeality.  This seems at odds with the Spirit which one would consider as non-corporeal.  The writings of Philo, however, indicate that the Divine High Priest could take on corporeality one he passed through through veil into the material world.  We know this is possible due to the encounter between Manoah and the Angel of Hashem, and Abrahams encounter with HaShem where food was actually consumed.

The Shma

The ShmaFundamentally the Christian doctrine on the nature of God violates strict monothesism and is in sharp disagreement with the ShmaHear O Israel, HaShem is our God, HaShem is one! (Dueteronomy 6:4). Rambam says that the great goal of Jewish history is Israel’s affirmation of the Unity of God.  The doctrine of the Incorporeality of God finds it’s root in the commandment which establishes His divine unity, namely the Sh’ma.  Chavel remarks that,“…nothing corporeal can be a unity, either because everything corporeal is divisible or because it is a compound, that is to say, it can logically be analyzed into elements…” [Charles B. Chavel, The Commandments, Volume I, Commandment #2]

 Though Christians make a great effort to try to convince Jews that the word ‘echad’ (one) really means united or unity, the Scripture consistently uses echad as meaning one, as in the number one.  Every Jewish child knows that the Hebrew word echad is the number 1 as in 1, 2, 3…In checking the various lexicons I have, the following meanings are noted:

Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew lists three meanings for echad:  1.  To be one, be alone  2. unit; one out of many 3.  several identical items (see Genesis 29:20 in the Hebrew)

The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon:  1. one   2. first.  3.  someone or anyone.   4.  one time, once.

The Brown, Driver and Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon:  one, number one

Where there is dispute over the meaning of certain words or phrases, the best way to determine proper meaning is to look at how the Scripture itself uses the word.  Whether they want to admit it or not, the Christian assertion is that echad, as used in the Shma, is declaring a Godhead, therefore transforming the adjective echad into a noun. But in Numbers 7:12 -78, echad is used as the number one almost 80 times as it relates the offerings brought in the consecration of the Mishkhan.

Joshua 12:9-24 lists all the kings of Canaan that were conquered by the children of Israel.  The list reveals 31 kings that fell to the Israelites.  In the Hebrew text a unique feature is inscribed in the list.  After every king that is mentioned, across from their name is inscribed the word echad, meaning one.  There are 31 echads in this list.

Another important text is out of Ezekiel.  Chapter 48:1-27 lists the 12 tribes of Israel and their territories.  The word one or echad is used at the end of every verse describing the Tribal inheritance, for a total of 12.  In verse 48:30-34 lists the gates of Jerusalem according to the tribes using the same feature.

The word echad as used in the Shma is an adjective.  An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun by describing, identifying, or quantifying words.  Therefore, as a adjective, echad is identifying HaShem as one, identifying Him as a single entity.  However Christian belief and doctrine turn our adjective into a noun – HaShem is One, describing a Godhead, an entity that is a contradiction in terms and one which can find no resting place in the heart of a Jew.


Posted by: healthzombie | July 26, 2011

A Form Of God? – Part 1

  God in the Flesh?

Can a Man be God?In my many years in the Messianic movement, probably the most problematic issue leaders had to continually address is the issue of Jesus’ divinity.  It should be understood that all the years I was involved with the MM, I knew many Jewish believers who struggled continuously with the Christian claim that Jesus was God in the flesh and often returned to Judaism after a few years.  Most of those who became believers in the first place were from either Reform or Conservative traditions or were secular.  During all those years that I was active in the MM, I never found an Orthodox Jew that was a believer in Jesus, except one who returned to Orthodox Judaism after a short period.  Though many christians claim that there are numerous Orthodox Jewish believers, I have found that almost all Christians have no clue of the divisions within Judaism and to them, a practicing religious Jew is an Orthodox Jew regardless of his particular flavor. They are often ignorant of the fact that Jewish denominationalism itself is confined within Ashkenazi circles.  Sephardim have no denominations – it’s all orthodox.

One of the single most detrimental beliefs the Church adheres to that is forbidden to Jews is the belief that God became a man.  Christianity in most of it’s forms, including the Messianic Movement, believes that Jesus was the incarnation of God.  There is enough evidence in the New Testament regarding this belief –  with the Gospel of John being foremost.  And if that wasn’t enough to separate them selves from Judaism, the evolution of the Doctrine of the Trinity was.   Belief in Jesus as God is idolatry, but might be passed off as a errant monotheism, by those desiring to set a more tolerant tone.  But the Trinity doctrine threw off all pretence and embraced polytheism, though the Church claims that it is still monotheism.  But the Trinity, no matter how the term is cloaked in mystery and couched in obtuse language, is for all intents and purposes belief in three gods – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Most Jews are familiar with the idea that the Creator sees Israel as His children.  If fact Exodus 4:22 calls Israel, “My firstborn son.”  Jews are accustomed to referring to HaShem as our Father and in the Shemoneh Esrei call out to Him using that endearing term: “Cause us to return, our Father, to Your Torah (5th benediction)….Pardon us Father for we have sinned (6th)…merciful Father have compassion on us (16th) and the final benediction (Sim Shalom) says, “…Bless us our Father, all of us as one…”

The Creator in no uncertain terms has defined idolatry as the worshipping of a  form of G-d.  Please note Deuteronomy 4:14-19:

“Then the Hashem spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form–only a voice. So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the sky, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water below the earth. “And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.” (Devarim 4:15-19)

HaShem makes it perfectly clear that the reason He did not take on any form when He spoke to us from the mountain was that we might worship that form.  Worshipping a man as God in the flesh contradicts the Bibles clear teaching on God’s essential nature.  In this light,  when we look at the writings of Paul of Tarsus, we note two contradictory statements that are further evidence of the unreliability of the New Testament texts.   Colossians 1:15 proclaims Jesus as the image of the invisible God, an idea that comes about through the melding of Greek philosophy with Judaism.  It is well known that Paul made use of the Logos/Firstborn from the writings of Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary Jewish writer from Egypt.  In Philippians 2:6 Paul (or some other writer/editor) states that Jesus existed in the form of G-d.  But, the Torah is clear that worshipping a form of God is idolatry.

Whose Son is He?

Melech DavidThe term Son of God has been misunderstood and it’s original meaning has been twisted to support an idolatrous notion that God became a man.  The Church takes this term, “Son of God” and teaches that it is to be taken literally, meaning that HaShem ‘begot’ a son.  This was not the understanding of the early disciples of Jesus nor of his brothers James,  the undisputed leader and spiritual guide of the so-called Nazarenes.  The term Son of God  is strictly a term reffering to the Davidic king, the Mashiach.  The language used in Psalm 89, Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7  support this

“…he will cry to Me, you are my Father, my God and the Rock of my salvation. I shall also make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.”                    

  “You are My son, today I have fathered you.”

“…I will be a Father to him, and he will be a son to Me…”

In no way is a notion of  divine lineage  in any of these texts.  Psalm 2 tells us that David became on a certain day  HaShem’s son, implied in His word, Today, I have fathered you.

This understanding is also noted in the Gospels (which the censors appeared to have missed):

Nathanel answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel (John 1:49)

The Tanakh also clearly teaches us that the term mashiach is used primarily to refer to the legitimate King of Israel (or king of Judah).  King Saul is referred to this way and King David and other Davidic kings are as well.  Mashiach is never used in connection to human divinity.

But Jesus kept silent and the High Priest said to him, I abjure you by the Living God, that you tell us whether you are the Mashiach, the Son of God. (Matthew 26:63)

It is quite possible that the High Priest charge of ‘blasphemy’ against Jesus stems from the fact that the High Priest himself is, according to the Torah, is referred to as ha Mashiach (the Messiah) in Leviticus chapter four and also possibly a son of God, though I have not run across any source to verify this. The charge of blasphemy, however, is most likely an overwrite.  Blasphemy according to Jewish law is charged only when the Shem ha Meforesh (the four letter most holy name of God) is used.  Since the term Mashiach is never used in connection to divinity in the Tanakh, and son of God refers to a human king, the blasphemy charge is bogus.  Clearly throughout the NT Jesus and his disciples only referred to HaShem through circumlocutions (replacement names for HaShem to prevent one from speaking the Name).  Jesus, being brought up as a good observant Jew certainly would not have used the Yud Hey Vav Hey.  To Gentiles and ignorant Jews, the blasphemy overwrite  highlights the Church’s divinity claim, but clearly  cannot be connected to the cultural terminology. This idolatrous idea, that Jesus is the literal physical  Son of God would take almost three centuries to evolve to what we have come to know as the Trinity Doctrine.

In our modern era, now centuries removed from the days when the early Nazarene community thrived and grew, most Christians hold a view of God that is out of line with the historical truths which the original movement was based upon.  Even many Messianic Jews and other Hebrew Roots believers still cling to the Trinitarian Doctrine created by the Catholic Fathers near the beginning of the fifth century.  In all probability this is because the Trinity Doctrine is indoctrinated into Christians and those who deny the Triune God and His redemptive work are considered outside the Church and without hope of salvation. While many people are told that the Trinity Doctrine was taught in the early church, this simply does not match up with the historical facts within the Church’s own writings.

Posted by: healthzombie | July 21, 2011

Part 3 – Is the New Testament a New Revelation from God?

The Failure of the New Testament to make it’s Case

In parts one and two of Don’t Confuse Me with the Facts Please, I dealt primarily with the history and beliefs of the Christian Church.  We have discovered that there is compelling proof within the New Testament itself that Pauline Christianity was at odds with the original Apostles and was openly hostile to the Community of James the Just throughout his Christian career.  We will take this issue up in more detail in later articles.  For today,  Part 3 will ask the question, Is the NT a new revelation from God?


Refuting the New Testament as a New Revelation of the God of Israel

It is well known and even openly acknowledged within the Christian Church that the Christianity that we know today is the product of the Epistles of Paul of Tarsus, commonly referred to as Pauline Christianity.  It should be understood that Christianity today bears no resemblance to the original Apostolic Community.   What is incredible, is that Christians no longer follow the teachings of Jesus but those of Paul who never even met Jesus except in some vision Paul claimed to have.  In the book of Galatians, Paul states that after his ‘conversion’ he a special revelation , supposedly from HaShem, about a new understanding of the scriptures which Paul time and again would refer to as ‘my gospel.’   This new revelation, however was not given to Jesus’ Apostles. Galatians states that Paul went up to Jerusalem because of his revelation.  It was James who probably ordered Paul to appear in Jerusalem to explain why he was teaching that circumcision is unnecessary for Gentiles for inclusion  with the People of God.   Which brings me to an important point for all Christians and Messianic believers to mull over.

There is by a conservative estimate approximately 15,000 religions world wide.  Buddhism, shamanism, black magic cults, Wiccans, Taoists,  Sikhism, Hinduism, Ancestor worship, and countless other, including Christianity and Islam all have one thing in common.  With the notable exception of Judaism, all other religions in the world are based upon the revelation of one person.  Every one of those religions, both past and present, began with the revelation that one person received, supposedly from God, and then passed on to their friends, family and disciples.  These religions begin with a small group and then grow over time, often covering centuries.

Judaism, however, is the single exception to this rule.   Judaism is not based on the personal revelation of one person or even a small group of persons.  The Revelation at Sinai (Exodus 19) was a watershed moment in the history of the planet earth and the single most significant event in all of human history.  Here an entire nation heard God’s voice and received the gift of the Torah, a cosmic document that would shape the destiny of the entire planet.   This was no personal revelation, but one which millions heard the Voice of God and received God’s personal instruction.

Christianity as it is practiced today follows the revelation given to Paul.  Islam follows the personal revelation of Muhammad.   The problem with this is verification.  There is absolutely no way to know if Paul had actually spoken with God.  And in fact is highly unlikely.   There is simply no way to verify his story.  The Nazarene Ebionite Community hotly contended with Paul over this blatant rejection of Jewish tradition.  Personal revelation was the way the Gentiles created religion, not Jews.  If God wanted to give them another revelation, He would speak to the entire nation, not to just Paul.  The Ebionites, especially James the Just contended with Paul’s revelation who asserts that one should live by faith alone without doing the ‘Maaseh ha Torah’ – the works of the Law.  This conflict will be developed more later on.

The Revelation at SinaiThe national revelation given to the children of Israel insured that no one could come along and give them a new religion or practices that violated the principles of the Torah.  The Torah explicitly tells them if a prophet comes along and gives a sign or wonder and convinces people to worship another god, even if the sign or wonder comes to past, not to listen to that prophet but to put him to death.  Signs and wonders are by no means any way to verify the authenticity of someones prophetic office or personal revelation.  Those who believe that miracles, signs and wonders are the proof of a prophet, are themselves deceived and ignorant of what true prophecy is and how it functions.  We will give this more explanation in later segments.

We have no idea from whom or where Paul received his supposed revelation.  For all we know, Paul was not listening to God’s spirit but to his own.  Pauls letters in the NT attest to his ego.  He believed himself to be equal to the Apostles of Jesus, which even the Book of Acts determines he’s not.  At times Paul’s  words suggest that he believed his own message was superior to even that of James the Just.  No matter how one views the NT, it is clearly not on the level of Prophecy (as the Jews understand the term) nor any new revelation.  Acts chapter two’s setting is the celebration of Shavuot, when the Revelation at Sinai took place and God delivered the Torah to the entire nation of Israel.  Jewish tradition tells us that 3500 years ago, the Voice of God descended upon the people as ‘tongues or flames of fire.’  The haftarah for the first day of Shavuot is Ezekiel 1:1-28, 3:12, which contains the prophet’s remarkable vision of God. He sees a Divine Throne-Chariot, whose main feature is a group of four-faced living creatures. His appearance of a manifestation of God connects the Haftarah to the Torah reading, where God reveals His will at Mount Sinai.  Verse 13-14 describe the tongues of fire.

Certainly, if the New Testament was a new revelation from God, there would be no need to connect it to the Chag of Shavuot which commemorates the Revelation at Sinai, when God spoke to an entire nation of people, gave them the Torah which in many places is stated as an everlasting covenant between the Creator and Israel, forever.


Posted by: healthzombie | July 17, 2011

Don’t Confuse Me with the Facts, Please – Part 2

Don’t Confuse Me with the Facts, Please – Part 2

My Struggles with the New Testament and with Christian Messianism

In Part 1 of my discussion I basically outlined what I consider a far more accurate view of the 1st century Nazarene movement than you will learn in your church or messianic congregation.  The information contained in it is not contrived or made up but is the result of many years of personal study. As I have mentioned, my rejection of Christianity and it’s offshoot Messianic Judaism was a long arduous process and was not done in the passion of the moment but through carefully weighing textual evidence and the sorting out of legitimate historical data against that which was fabricated or contrived.  Even now, I still am fascinated with the history of this time period and of the enigma of the pre-Christian sect from which the Church emerges from.  It was only within the last few years that I was able to decipher from the New Testament the understanding that it was not the story of a unified movement of those who saw Jesus as a messiah figure, but that the texts that make up the New Testament tell us of two parallel streams within the Nazarene movement that were often hostile to one another – The Ebionite/Essene/the Way stream which is a strict conservative and nationalistic Judaism that was lead by James the Just, brother of Jesus, and, the Pauline Christian stream which was Diaspora centered and driven and often opposed to the Nazarene branch.  As history shows, Pauline Christianity regrettably won the day.

After the Great Revolt, Pauline Christianity began it’s meteoric rise to supremacy over the Nazarenes, so much so that after 135 ce, the community of James the Just was for all intents and purposes extinct, except in small pockets.  Most groups after this time using the name Nazarene were watered down versions of the original or just Christianity in disguise.  As discussed in Part 1, Paul’s aberrant theology is the foundation of Catholicism and it’s doctrines and beliefs.  It is those doctrines and beliefs which has damaged the Jewish people more than any other adversary in history and continues to be Christianity’s war by proxy on the Jewish nation to this day.  While in recent years the Church has apologized for it’s persecution of the Jewish people, the Christian beliefs and doctrines that paved the way for such persecution is still in place.  Which is why we shall turn now from the history lesson to the underpinnings of Christian theology.

I give a great deal of thanks to Rabbi Tovia Singer and the work he does at Outreach Judaism.  His ‘Let’s Get Biblical’ helped me see the Bible with new eyes and I use some of his work in this second part of Don’t Confuse Me with the Facts, Please.

Christian Use of Jewish Literature to Make Their Case

Christian missionaries love to use Jewish literature to point out that the rabbi’s of old were in agreement with the Christian position.   Christian missionaries often use midrashim to prove that Isaiah 53 was about the messiah and not about the Jewish people. In my former days as Christian Messianist, I myself used those very same midrashim to point to belief in a dying messiah.  Even though I was never a missionary and believed the practice to be morally wrong, I often thought that if the Jewish people would understand that Isaiah 53 was about a messiah, they would eventually accept Jesus.  How wrong I was.


As I studied the literature of Judaism I came to understand that midrash is NOT a translation or literal commentary, but a pedagogical style of teaching theological concepts that is not strictly dependant on the text it is using.  It is conveying ideas and theology, not a literal interpretation.  A midrash is simply a teaching allegory used to teach a moral or Jewish theology, nothing more.

In his “Introduction to the Talmud” by Moses Mielziner he states:

“Where the Midrash does not concern legal enactments and provisions, but merely inquires into the meaning and significance of the laws or where it only uses the words of Scripture as a vehicle to convey a moral teaching or a religious instruction and consolation, it is called a ‘Midrash Agadah’ Interpretation of the Agadah, homiletical interpretation.”

By using Jewish literature in this way is misleading and violates the literal interpretation.   There are numerous midrashim on Isaiah 53 (as well as numerous other passages) that allegorize the Servant of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 as Moshe, an angel, the soul as well as the Messiah.  But the peshat or literal meaning of the passage is acknowledged by all the Sages and rabbi’s as referring to Jewish people exclusively.

Isaiah 53

Christianity uses Isaiah 53 as a polemic against Judaism to drive home the following points on their agenda:

That according to Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant died because of the sins of the Jewish people

That the Suffering Servant, identified by them as Jesus, died as guilt offering on their behalf

Only by accepting Jesus can the Jewish people have eternal life

Every Christian and Messianic believer knows the importance of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 to the gospel message.  I myself have spent numerous occasions pouring over the text.  I too became compelled by what seemed to be a airtight textual proof that this passage is talking about Jesus.  But most people, including myself were victims of a clever deception.  Instead of a careful analysis of the passages, the missionaries point to Isaiah 53 and proclaim it is speaking of Jesus.  This is not scholarly exegesis, where one studies the text to pull out the meaning from the text itself, but is agenda driven eisegesis, where one Suffering Servantreads something into the text, which is not there.  As Rabbi Singer points out, this is tantamount to shooting an arrow into the trunk of a tree and then painting a bullseye around the arrow and proclaiming yourself as champion archer.  When one looks honestly at this text and in context with the previous and subsequent chapters, a far different picture emerges.

The second half of the Book of Isaiah (40-66), (often called Duetro-Isaiah and believed by some to be written by a disciple of Isaiah), utilizes three main characters within theses chapters: Israel, the Gentile nations and of course God.  A noticeable phrase occurs throughout many of these chapters that identifies the people of Israel as God’s Servant:

(Is 41:8)”But Israel is my servant”

(Is 41:9) “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you away”

(Is 44:1) “Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen:

(Is 44:2)” Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen

(Is 44:21) “Remember these, O Jacob and Israel, for you are my servant. I have formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you shall not be forgotten by Me

(Is 49:3)”You are My servant, Israel in whom I glory”

(Is. 45:4) “For the sake of My servant Jacob, Israel My chosen one”

To the Christian missionary, God’s Servant is the Messiah whom they identify as being Jesus.  Isaiah 53 is the most effective weapon in the missionary arsenal.  When all else fails, the missionary can always trust in Isaiah 53 to make his case.  And, sadly many Jews succumb to this tactic, being ignorant of what it really says.  Even traditional Jewish translations, such as the JPS, appear to be saying the same thing that the missionary says Isaiah 53 is about.  This is primary because the JPS English Text is based on the translation of Gentile bibles which utilizes the Septuagint (Greek) not the Masoretic Text (Hebrew).  But when closely examined, Isaiah 53 is not supporting the Christian missionary’s theology about Jesus.

Chapter 53 of Isaiah foretells of a speech that will be made by an assembly of people (possibly Gentile kings) in the future about God’s Servant. The vital key to understanding this chapter lies in correctly identifying the speakers. The chapter begins with an expression of total bewilderment in the face of startling developments, “Who would have believed what we are hearing?”

Who is articulating this surprise? In the previous three verses at the end of chapter 52, which is the introduction to Isaiah 53, G-d reveals that in the future His Servant (Israel), despite all contrary expectations, will be vindicated and exalted. G-d says that this vindication will come as a total shock to the nations and kings of the world who will be overwhelmed and astonished. The elevation of the Servant will take them totally by surprise! Chapter 53 contains a speech that will be made by the shocked nations and kings of the world when they discover the truth about G-d’s Servant. Obviously, this scenario can only make sense if the Servant is Israel who will be elevated at the climax of history when the true Messiah comes and the Messiah is not the one that the world had been expecting. If the missionary contention that the Servant is Jesus were true, then only the Jewish nation would be shocked at his revelation. But Isaiah clearly says that it is the world that will be in for a big surprise, not the Jewish people.

How can the ‘Suffering Servant’, who Isaiah describes as an individual, be equated with the nation of Israel?  This is a valid question, but is easily solved when we discover that throughout the Tanakh, the Jewish people are described consistently as a singular entity. (See Exodus 4:22, Hosea 8:3, 14:5-6, Jeremiah 50:19, Deuteronomy 32:8-13, etc.) The prophet Isaiah actually spells out the fact that the Lord’s Servant is not an individual, but a group of people: “You are My witnesses says the Lord, and My Servant whom I have chosen…” (Isaiah 43:10).  This passage is particularly noteworthy in that the nation is spoken of in both singular, My Servant, and in plural, My Witnesses.

The Book of Isaiah contains four passages commonly known as the Four Servant Songs:

Isaiah 42:1-4

Isaiah 49:1-6

Isaiah 50:4-9

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Three of these four Servant Songs (#1, #2, #4) explicitly use the Hebrew term עַבְדִּי(avdi), My Servant,while in #3 such terminology is absent. Isaiah 53 actually begins at 52:13 a fact acknowledged by Christian scholars and religious authorities. The Church adamantly proclaims while the other servant passages in Isaiah have plural subjects, the Suffering Servant of 52:13-53:12 is a individual and does not refer to the nation of Israel (though there are some Christian scholars who disagree).

Plainly enough the passage opens up referring to My Servant in the singular sense (verses 13-14).  However, in verse 15 we see, in the Hebrew, the subject –My Servant – referred to in plural fashion.  The English says; “Kings shall be silenced because of him, for they shall see what has not been told them, shall behold what they never heard.”  But it does not say because of him, but because of THEM.  The Hebrew word is

פִיהֱם with is 3rd person plural and should be understood as THEM.  The reason it is not translated as such is because the English language does not normally allow for this contradiction – a singular subject referred to in a plural form.  Now the passage, in light of historical information, makes more sense.  Everyone has been told that Jesus is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, but no king or nation today believes that it is referring to Israel.  No wonder it says, “…who shall believe our report?  At some point in the future the world shall see what HAS NOT BEEN TOLD THEM…and behold that which they never heard.  Needless to say this one Hebrew word shows that the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 is the nation of Israel.

Isaiah 53:5 does not say, “He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities”, which could convey a vicarious suffering. Rather, the text properly translated reads, “He was wounded from our transgressions, crushed from our iniquities.” The Hebrew words

מֵעֲוֹנֹתֵינוּ and מִפְּשָׁעֵנוּ have the מ prefix and means ‘from’ not for.  Second, the assertion that this passage defines the Messiah’s purpose as dying to atone for sins contradicts the clear Biblical teaching that no innocent person can die for our sins; we have to atone for our own sins by repenting. 

Israel as a people has been persecuted, tortured, murdered, exiled and humiliated not because of their sin, but because of the sins of the nations.  Israel was wounded because from our transgressions, from our iniquities.

One of the most problematic verses is verse 8 which appears to be saying that God struck the Servant for the sin of Israel.  If this is true, this could dismantle the rabbinic understanding of this Servant Song in favor of Christianity.   Isaiah 53:8 in the New American Standard Bible is translated as, “…for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due.” and the KJV has, “..for the transgression of My people, He was stricken.”

This phrase in Hebrew is מִפֶּשַׁע עַמִּי נֶגַע לָמוֹ (mepesha ami nega l’mo). The Hebrew word לָמוֹ (l’mo) however is not singular but plural and should not be translated as He but them. And further לָמוֹ l’mo appears 54 times in the KJV and 53 times KJV translates it as them. Such as in:

Isaiah 48:20b-21 “…Utter it to the ends of the earth; Say the Lord has redeemed His Servant Jacob!  And they did not thirst when he led them through the deserts, He caused waters to flow from the rock for them (לָמוֹ l’mo);

The only time that l’mo is translated in the singular is here in Isaiah 53.  The translation would then read correctly as “From the transgression of my people, they were stricken.”  Again the

מ prefix in מִפֶּשַׁע is properly translated as from not for.  Since the ones speaking are Gentile kings the proper understanding of this passage is that:  ‘because of the transgression of my people (the peoples of the Gentile kings) they (meaning Israel the Suffering Servant of HaShem) were stricken.  This idea is reinforced in Ezekiel 36:6 were even the Land of Israel bears the shame of the nations:

Ezekiel 36:6 “Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, and the valleys, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I have spoken in My jealousy and My fury, because you have borne the shame of the nations.”

The next verse, Isaiah 53:9 is often used to prove that this could not possibly be about the nation of Israel.

And they made His grave with the wicked— but with the rich at his death, because he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Missionaries will point out that Israel’s unrighteousness is clearly stated in many passages of the Tanakh and so this passage could not be about the nation but an individual. During my studies I was confronted with the idea that HaShem is not the least bit interested in what the Gentile nations think of His Servant, but wants us to understand how He views Israel.  The prophet Zephaniah also see’s Israel as a humble people, having no unrighteousness or deceit:

Zephaniah 3:12-13: “I will leave in your midst a meek and humble people and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.  The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness and speak no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth…”

Finally Isaiah 53:11 shows us that Israel shall justify many (nations/people) not by some false vicarious blood atonement that Christianity props up, but by knowledge – By his knowledge, My righteous Servant shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities.”  Israel throughout the Tanakh has been called by God to be a witness to the truth of HaShem and His Law.  Part of their mission is to teach the other nations about the ways of God.  During this teaching process, Israel has been called upon by God to bear the iniquity of the nations until such time that they may actually stand before God.

Sin and Atonement

Sacrificial LambTwo days before Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal, was to be executed for his crimes against the Jewish people, he requested a confessor.  A Dutch confessor was flown in and Eichmann accepted Jesus as his Savior.  According to Christian theology, if Eichmann accepted Jesus in his heart, he would be saved and guaranteed a place in Heaven.  This same Christian theology maintains that the 6 million plus of the Jewish people who did not accept Jesus would spend an eternity in hell.   What a travesty!   Could the God truly do this to his chosen people?

Many Christians believe in no uncertain terms that anyone who does not believe in Jesus will go to hell. That includes the Jewish people. This is particularly strong among evangelical denominations such as the Baptists.   This is a powerful incentive that keeps many Christians and Messianic believers from walking away from Christianity.  You can’t get away from the fact that if a Christian believes his/her own bible, meaning the New Testament, they must also believe that those who don’t believe in Jesus are going to hell.  Hard to imagine?  How about these verses, for a start:

John 3:17-18 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

2Thess 1:8-10 …dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed–for our testimony to you was believed.

1John 5:11-12  And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

Christianity believes you must believe that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah who died for his people and his death would atone for the sins of Israel and the world.  Those who do not believe, according to their doctrine, would go to someplace called Hell, a domain separated from the presence of God, managed by a fallen angel called Lucifer.  The ONLY WAY to escape this is to trust in the atonement Jesus offers.  To be honest there are some within both Christianity and the Messianic movement which do not hold to this, believing (rightly) that God himself will save the house of Judah in the last days.  This is known as Two Covenant Theology, something I myself held to for many years.  Some within the Two House movement have embraced this as a way to reconcile the 10 tribes with the house of Judah, without Judah having to recognize Yeshua/Jesus as the messiah.

Christianity places a lot of value on blood atonement.  So did many pagan religions for that matter.  Does God desire the killing of an innocent person for the unrighteous to continue living?  The idea of sacrificing a human being for the sins of others (vicarious atonement) has no place in Judaism or the Tanakh and is fundamentally at odds with Judaism and the Tanakh.  Human sacrifice is roundly condemned by the Word of HaShem, so how could the sacrifice of Jesus be acceptable for atonement?

Deuteronomy 12:30-31  Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Eternal thy God: for every abomination to the Eternal, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.

Jeremiah 19:4-6   Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents; They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind: Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Eternal, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but The Valley of Slaughter.

Jesus’ supposed vicarious sacrifice is at odds with several passages from the Tanakh.  In Deuteronomy 24:16 it specifically says this:

The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the father. Every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

Ezekiel 18:1-4 also says:

The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying, What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?  As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.  Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it only shall die.

I recommend reading the entire chapter of Ezekiel 18.  Ezekiel points out continually that no one can die for the sins of another.  You cannot be the atonement for the sins that your parents committed or even the sins of your children.  Everyone stands on his own and pays for their own sins.

Christianity believes that when Jews reject Jesus, they have no atonement since the Temple is no longer standing and are not able to present blood sacrifices.  They teach that Jesus died for the sins of everybody who would ever exist, and that by believing in him you are given eternal salvation. From the vast 30,000 verses of the Hebrew Bible, which covers the most minute details concerning various areas of life, nowhere does it say that one must believe in the Messiah to obtain eternal salvation, not even once.  You would think that if was such an important tenet of Judaism that it would be spoken of somewhere in the Tanakh.  It’s not spoken of simply because it is not true.  How can Jesus be a sacrifice for sin if Hosea 3:4-5 says that the bnai Israel (literally children of Israel) would be without a sacrifice, ephod (breastplate) until the last days?  How can Jesus be an atonement for anyone, let alone the Jewish people, if the Tanakh says that Israel would be without a sacrifice until the acharit hayamim, the last days?

Hosea 3:4-5  For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.

Though Hosea is predominately addressing the 10 tribes, throughout the book he also addresses the house of Judah as well.  In this passage, the children of Israel would refer to all 12 tribes. One question that always disturbed me was why would I need a Saviour beyond HaShem? Isn’t belief in the Creator of the universe enough?  What does the Bible say about sin and atonement?  Is blood sacrifice the only conduit for salvation?  Actually, no.   There are three forms of atonement in the Scriptures (the Hebrew Bible), repentance, charity and blood sacrifice.

Heartfelt Repentance and Prayers

King David was loved by HaShem and did what was pleasing to God.  Only one incident against him was the matter of Bathsheba (1 Kings 15:5).  If you remember King David sinned a great sin in regards to Urriah Jewish Prayerthe Hittites wife Bathsheba.  When confronted with his sin by Nathan, David repented on the spot and was forgiven by HaShem (2 Samuel 11:1-12:13) without the need for a blood sacrifice.  It should be understood that Hashem’s requirement for the life of David and Bathsheba’s firstborn son was for the allowing the enemies of God to blaspheme His name in the matter of Urriah, not for David’s role in the death of Urriah.

Psalm 51 reflects the ideal of heartfelt repentance over blood sacrifices for sin:

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.  For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.  Behold, I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.  Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.  Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

David’s son, King Solomon also addresses this idea that prayer and repentance atones for sin.  In his famous address to the nation and prayer to HaShem upon the completion of God’s House, Solomon petitioned God that when Israel sinned against Him that if they repented and prayed that their sin would be forgiven:

1 Kings 8:33-36  When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name, and pray, and make supplication unto thee in this house:   Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers.  When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them:  Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance.

King Solomon in his great wisdom knew that Israel would sin greatly and be sent into exile and have no access to His Altar in the Temple.  In verses 46-53 he addresses this in his continuing petition to HaShem, without the need for blood atonement:

1 Kings 8:46-53

If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near;  Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness;  And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name:  Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them:  For they be thy people, and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest forth out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron: That thine eyes may be open unto the supplication of thy servant, and unto the supplication of thy people Israel, to hearken unto them in all that they call for unto thee.  For thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth, to be thine inheritance, as thou spakest by the hand of Moses thy servant, when thou broughtest our fathers out of Egypt, O LORD God.

In Hosea 14:2-3 we find the prophet also petitioning Hashem to regard heartfelt repentance and prayer as atonement:

Return O’Israel to the Lord your God, for you have fallen because of your sin.  Take words with you and return to the Lord.  Say to Him:  Forgive all guilt and accept what is good; instead of bulls we will pay with [the offering of] our lips.

Christianity teaches that Jesus was the one and only atonement necessary for eternal salvation and that they would never again be sacrificial offerings.  This is primarily taken from the Book of Hebrews which we will deal with later on.  This idea however is not a Jewish one and contradicts the Tanakh teaching on the Messianic Kingdom.  The prophet Ezekiel describes for us the future Messianic Temple and Kingdom in chapters 40-48.  Within those pages the Temple is described in detail along with various mentions of Levitical service including a sin sacrifice:

Ezekiel 43:18-27

And he said unto me, Son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD; These are the ordinances of the altar in the day when they shall make it, to offer burnt offerings thereon, and to sprinkle blood thereon. And thou shalt give to the priests the Levites that be of the seed of Zadok, which approach unto me, to minister unto me, saith the Lord GOD, a young bullock for a sin offering. And thou shalt take of the blood thereof, and put it on the four horns of it, and on the four corners of the settle, and upon the border round about: thus shalt thou cleanse and purge it. Thou shalt take the bullock also of the sin offering, and he shall burn it in the appointed place of the house, without the sanctuary. And on the second day thou shalt offer a kid of the goats without blemish for a sin offering; and they shall cleanse the altar, as they did cleanse it with the bullock. When thou hast made an end of cleansing it, thou shalt offer a young bullock without blemish, and a ram out of the flock without blemish. And thou shalt offer them before the LORD, and the priests shall cast salt upon them, and they shall offer them up for a burnt offering unto the LORD. Seven days shalt thou prepare every day a goat for a sin offering: they shall also prepare a young bullock, and a ram out of the flock, without blemish. Seven days shall they purge the altar and purify it; and they shall consecrate themselves. And when these days are expired, it shall be, that upon the eighth day, and so forward, the priests shall make your burnt offerings upon the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you, saith the Lord GOD.

Not only are their sin offerings being sacrificed but even the Messiah of the Messianic Temple is required to offer several during Passover:

Ezekiel 45:21-25

In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, you shall have the Passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten.  And upon that day shall the prince prepare for himself and for all the people of the land a bullock for a sin offering.  And seven days of the feast he shall prepare a burnt offering to the LORD, seven bullocks and seven rams without blemish daily the seven days; and a kid of the goats daily for a sin offering.  And he shall prepare a meat offering of an ephah for a bullock, and an ephah for a ram, and an hin of oil for an ephah.  In the seventh month, in the fifteenth day of the month, shall he do the like in the feast of the seven days, according to the sin offering, according to the burnt offering, and according to the meat offering, and according to the oil.

Clearly, Jesus was not the final sacrifice.  He definitely was not the end of the sacrificial system or to sin offerings.  The fact that the Messiah (called the Prince here) needed a sacrifice for himself goes a long way into dispelling the Christian myth about Jesus being God.  Even more devastating to this is that the Prince (the Messiah) also has flesh and blood sons who inherit their fathers holdings:

Ezekiel 46:18

   Moreover the prince shall not take of the people’s inheritance by oppression, to thrust them out of their possession; but he shall give his sons inheritance out of his own possession: that my people be not scattered every man from his possession.

Conclusion of Part 2

In conclusion of this section, I dealt with the Christian position of vicarious sacrifice, blood atonement and sin.  Unquestionably, sin is a big problem for humanity.  But according to Christianity, sin can not be overcome on your own power and requires a sacrifice of blood offered by God Himself.  Judaism on the other hand teaches that sin can be overcome by our own efforts:

“And HaShem said to Cain, “Why are you annoyed and why has your countenance fallen?  Surely if you improve yourself, you will be forgiven.  But if you do not improve yourself, sin rests at the door.  It’s desire is toward you, yet you can conquer it.”  (Genesis 4:6  Artscroll).

If sin can be overcome by our own efforts (such as repentance, sacrifice, and charity) as the above passage suggests, then the whole theological construct about a dying saviour collapses.

I presented the above information not to twist anyones arm into rejecting Jesus or abandoning Christianity.  Believe what you wish.  It’s your faith and who am I to dictate what you should believe.  But I believe that if someone has knowledge that is essential to the ideal of truth, then that person is compelled by conscience to present that information and allow it to be examined.  That I was once a Christian believer who has rejected the claims of the Church, gives me some limited credentials to my former co-religionists whom I would ask to consider what I have presented here and determine for yourself if the claims of the Church are indeed legitimate.  If I have struck a cord with any of you, all I ask is that you look closely at what I have presented and determine for yourselves if your understanding of these key passages and ideas can hold up under the scrutiny of the Hebrew Tanakh.  I think you yourselves will have to admit that what has been taught to Christians has not always held up against the Tanakh and you have had many experiences of asking pertinent questions of Christian pastors concern essential Christian doctrine, only to have them sidelined, ignored or worse.  Many of the people that form Messianic Judaism or the Hebrew Roots movement are people who have asked these very questions but received the cold shoulder or even asked to leave.  I myself have met many of these people in my travels and can attest to the reality of such goings on. 

Part 3 will be coming in the near future


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