Last night was a full evening of ministry at first Fridays. Beyond having the usual Isaiah 53 table I got to do some street preaching. It was my pleasure to be joined by Rachel Zaferatos who has a music ministry and is an incredible young woman. She not only sings about Jesus but proclaims him.For more info about her you can visit http://rachelzaferatosevangelisticmusic.com/
I had the recent opportunity of going to see the movie Infinity War, the newest release by Marvel Studios. I must admit that, as a young Jewish kid on the bookish side, and not that athletic, I collected Marvel comics. Stan Lee and his career has not been unknown to me. Seeing some of the comic book heroes that I read as young boy coming to the film screen, and having my children come to know them, has been quite the experience. The purpose of this blog is not to comment on the entire movie, but rather to deal with a curious question that is brought out in the film.
Infinity War raises the problem of pain and suffering, or as theologians, apologists, and philosophers would name it - “the problem of evil.” The main antagonist carries as his name the Greek word for death: Thanos. He seeks to implement a certain solution to pain and suffering in the universe - to kill half the population throughout the universe so that more resources may be available to the survivors. This, in his mind, will provide a better level of living, and diminish pain and suffering. He states very clearly that it is a simple issue of mathematics. Thanos originally proposed this idea for his home planet, but was rejected. Let’s briefly examine the nature of Thanos’ solution, the distinction between God’s character and that of Thanos in consideration of his solution, and the inherent wrong in the solution proposed by this antagonist.
This particular villain’s solution is based on Darwinistic and naturalistic premises - not in the sense of “survival of the fittest,” but in the assumption of a closed material universe being all that is available. Thanos assumes that there are a limited number of resource. Thus, decreasing the surplus population (one way of phrasing it) is the only viable solution for a higher standard of living. He does not consider a benevolent creator who can intervene or provide other solutions. In fact, the movie gives the back-story of the Infinity Stones (which Thanos needs in order to implement his solution) in terms of a naturalistic, Big Bang model of how the universe began. If it were true that the universe was finite, with limited resources and no means by which the present, or even a growing population could enjoy a life without pain and suffering, it does follow that the villain’s assumption almost makes sense. However, Hollywood has not reckoned on the fact that we have a Creator God who intervenes in His universe and, either through showing us better ways to handle resources or through direct intervention, can change the situation. In other words, if one buys into the false assumptions of a materialistic, Darwinistic universe, one could very well get to the solution at which Thanos arrives.
Is his solution at all representative of the fact that God allows pain and suffering in the universe for a higher end? Someone might argue that, if I say that God allows pain and suffering for the greater good, it is the exact same things that Thanos does. Such a comparison is a faulty comparison and must be debunked. First, Thanos is not permitting destruction and death - he is directly creating it. Additionally, he is visiting it upon individuals who do not demonstrate an immediate warrant for judgment. In other words, he is visiting death upon innocent individuals, not simply permitting death to occur. God is never the author of evil. When He does indeed permit evil to happen, the deed is carried out by agents other than Himself. Second, when God permits evil, He is permitting that which is contrary to His desire and will. He is not Himself instigating the evil for a higher good - He is simply permitting evil, which would already occur in a fallen universe, to work towards a positive end.
More importantly, there is something deeply neglected in any analogy between the behavior of Thanos and the behavior of God, which is two-fold. Let me introduce the first part with the following idea: do not break that which you cannot make. Thanos is taking lives that he did not create. Therefore it is not a matter of him sovereignly controlling that which is rightly his, but of him taking the life from beings whom he has no right to at all. The second part to the reason that no analogy can be drawn between the behavior of Thanos and that of God is that, as rightly pointed out and wrongly disputed in the film, Thanos loves nobody. He does not personally suffer in any way to bring about the solution for the pain and suffering that he sees. God, on the other hand, came and died to deal with the pain and suffering of our world. He is deeply touched by our pain and infirmities, to the point that He took personal action to deal with them,a costly action which required great sacrifice. Thus we have a contrast between Thanos and God: Thanos takes a life and sacrifices nothing; God allows pain and suffering in the universe and sacrificed everything.
Thanos’ solution is wrong on many levels. It assumes a closed universe, which is not the case, and if it were, his solution would offer no hope ultimately in avoiding the problem of pain. It ignores the fact that pain is the result of rebellion on the part of creatures who been given the beautiful gift of freedom and have misused it, which hypothetically would include Thanos himself. Thanos is part of the reason that there is pain and suffering in the universe, even as he is enacting his solution to remove it. This is a clear contradiction. Finally, it offers no redemption, only extermination. What we find in a Biblical worldview is a God who deeply feels our pain, suffers along with us, and made us. The naturalistic worldview which Hollywood offers provides no lasting solutions because in a universe that is closed, in which no rescue is possible, no solution is possible.
Anyone who has been doing outreach in Arizona sooner or later figures out that you never know who you are going to meet. In fact, while seeking to target one group, you may be surprised at the other individuals with whom you end up speaking. Such was the case of the weekend of April 21st and 22nd. I was doing outreach from roughly two in the afternoon to six in the evening at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix, Arizona, which had provided the venue for a very large event, the annual Arab American Festival. You would be amazed at how diverse types of people from Phoenix go to the event.
One of the strangest encounters that I had over the weekend was a group of young Arab boys who were enthralled with evolution, which they were being taught in school. One of the boys, who is of high school age, has not told his parents that he considers himself an agnostic. You must understand that in an observant Muslim family, such a position is unacceptable. Certainly, not believing in God, or rather Allah, is contrary to the Shahadah. This Shahadah reads, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” In fact, one might say that the Shahadah is to the Muslim what the Shema is to the Jew - and this is not just true of the observant rabbinical Jew. My children heard the Shema from the cradle. Hence, you could understand my shock to hear this statement from a Muslim boy. I thought about how our secular school system had caused these boys to exchange one error for another. Although they were not following the dictates of Islam closely, they were no closer to the truth. In fact, since those who come to God must believe that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), they had in a sense put themselves into a worse position, for instead of having the wrong God they now were not seeking any God.
An argument often used against the deity of Jesus is that God does not have any lack within Himself. Therefore, it follows that if Jesus had needs which He addressed to God, He could not be God. This line of reasoning is found in both Muslim and rabbinical Jewish arguments against Jesus.
On the side of Jewish argumentation, the following objection has been put forth in relation to Jesus’ prayer to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane: “If Jesus was really willing to meet such a fate, what cause was there for complaint and affliction? And why did he pray in the manner related in [Matthew 26:39]? On the other hand, if it is assumed that the crucifixion was against his will, how then can he be regarded as God…?”1
This argument also appears in Islamic polemics against Christianity. Some years back in a famous debate with William Lane Craig, a Muslim apologist used this sort of tactic. Although phrased in a separate way, a Muslim apologist would likewise point out that if Jesus indeed prayed to the Father for help, and God is totally sufficient within Himself (having everything that He needs and being self-sufficient), then clearly Jesus could not be God.
The first problem with this argument is that it does not address the effects of the incarnation. If God took on the form of a man, to have the attributes of a man He, logically, would then allow Himself the limitations of a man while He maintained that form. It is an essential attribute of human beings that they are finite and limited; therefore, Jesus could not truly be “God in the flesh, as a man” while maintaining full use of His unlimited nature. This is what Paul is getting at in Philippians 2:6-7a when he says, “...who being in the very nature of God did not consider that something to be grasped but took on the form of a servant.”
Second, the argument fails to consider that God’s self-sufficiency and aseity (existing in, of, and from itself) do not mean that He cannot limit himself - it means that in His being He is not limited nor dependent on any other thing. God voluntarily limits Himself to dwell between the cherubim in the tabernacle, but this in no way affects His aseity. God’s self-sufficiency and non-concurrence (non-reliance on anything else to maintain His nature and existence) are part of His nature - that nature is not changed if He voluntarily chooses to limit Himself.
Such arguments used in Jewish and Islamic polemics against Jesus’ deity, and against the messianic faith, which are based on God’s self-sufficiency or nonconcurrence, fail - both in view of God limiting Himself in the Tanakh (Old Testament), and in view of the incarnation. For arguments related to the incarnation, one can go to our website at www.Zionsbanner.org.
1Isidore Singer, ed., The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1901–1906), 265–266.
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” John 12:32
Zion’s Banner exists to make much of Messiah through God’s big story, but how this works in individual situations may indeed vary. A recent encounter at a First Friday Event showed just how important the ability to be versatile in presenting is. During our “Isaiah 53” outreach near the end of the evening, a Muslim man approached me to ask my opinion of the situation related to Palestine. Clearly, I have a strong belief in a future for the Jewish people given that Israel is certainly integral to God’s big story. However, if I were to focus on that part of my mission statement and ignore the first part, the vital conversation which followed never would have happened. I explained to him that, yes, I indeed do have a personal position on Palestine, but I believe that when Jesus the Messiah returns he will settle all these issues. I was then able to turn the discussion to the issues of atonement and Jesus’ virgin birth. Beyond changing the conversation, we made a connection - the gentleman took my personal information and promised to get back to me to further our discussion.
Making much of being Messianic without making much of Jesus is neither honoring Jesus nor being very Messianic. Our primary commitments, whether as Jewish or Gentile believers, must be to our Lord and King Jesus. I think there is a danger sometimes in letting secondary loyalties cloud our primary loyalty to Him. No, I would never separate the gospel from the kingdom. However, sometimes it is the gospel and the greatness of the person of Jesus which must precede other details related to the teaching of the kingdom of God as a future physical kingdom upon this earth. Often in the Messianic movement, there is a terrible temptation to place our Jewish identities above our Lord and Savior Jesus/Yeshua. We become so anxious to prove our Jewishness that we can place our messianic faith on a much lower priority that is not God-honoring. Our primary commitment must always be making much of Yeshua/Jesus; in doing so we further His kingdom and honor His name. After all, what could be more Jewish than honoring the true King and Messiah of Israel?
Handling Islamic Objection to the Gospels
1. The argument that forms the objection
The objection sets forth that because there is a clear contradiction in the accounts of Matthew and Mark concerning Jesus' directions as to the proclamation of his message, there is clearly an error in the Gospels. In Matthew 10:5-6, we read that Jesus told his apostles to go only to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus also says in Matthew 15:24 that He “was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” However, Mark 16:15 seems to contradict those verses as Jesus says, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every living creature."
2. What is a contradiction?
It is vital that we define a contradiction: a contradiction is when two statements assert things to be true in the same way and at the same time, though they are in opposition to each other. For example, it would be a contradiction to state that today is Monday while also stating that today is Friday if both statements are refering to the exact same moment in time. If a pertinent reason or rationale can be given which demonstrates that the statements are not saying opposing things at the same time or in the same way, then no contradiction exists. A statement may add to or modify another statement if there is a legitimate rationale.
3.A legitimate answer
An excerpt from The True Guidance gives a brief demonstration of such legitimate rationales: “The reason the apostles begin with the house of Israel is that they were sent first on a training mission. It was appropriate they should first be sent to those who spoke the same language and had the same customs and Scriptures (3:76-77).”1 The reason is a good one, but it does not cover the ultimate rationale behind the two sets of instructions in Matthew and Mark related to the proclamation of Jesus's message. We will get a clearer picture by looking at the Old Testament.
1The True Guidance. 3rd ed., Villach, Austria, Light of Life, 1992.
4.Israel had a function
“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you…Therefore you are My witnesses,’ says the LORD, ‘that I am God’ (Isaiah 43:1,12).” Israel’s function was to reveal God as the one true God to the nations; this included receiving the revelation of God to give to the nations. This function required that an initial presentation of the Gospel be made to them (as had also been done with the Law). Paul had this in mind when he wrote Romans 11:12: “Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!”
5. The Qur’an does not dispute this function
It is important to note that the Qur’an does not dispute Israel’s role to the nations but affirms it in the following two Suras: “So when he withdrew from them and what they worshipped besides Allah, We gave to him Ishaq and Yaqoub, and each one of them We made a prophet. And We granted to them of Our mercy, and We left (behind them) a truthful mention of eminence for them (19:49-50).” “And We granted him Ishaq and Yaqoub, and caused the prophethood and the book to remain in his seed, and We gave him his reward in this world, and in the hereafter he will most surely be among the good (29:27).”2
2The Quran. M. H. Shakir Edition, Medford, MA, Perseus Digital Library, n.d.
In conclusion, Israel had a distinct function to be a witness for the one true God. Paul indicates that Israel’s rejection of Messiah was riches for the world since it allowed the Gospel to go out into the world directly. This function of Israel to be God’s witness provides a rationale on God’s part for Jesus’s first set of instructions, given that Israel was to have the message first proclaimed to them. Jesus gives another set of directions as an expansion of the first set, given Israel’s rejection of the message. An expansion of these directions means that the second set of instructions is not in direct conflict with the first set at the same way, nor at the same time. Different conditions exist for the two sets of instructions based on God’s purposes. Therefore, the claim that there is a contradiction in the Gospels due to the difference in the directions Jesus gave is a faulty argument.
While we enjoyed recently visiting the Ark Experience, a part of the Answers in Genesis ministry of Ken Ham, I was disappointed by the recent article in their Answers magazine March-April 2018 page 51. It is not so much I disagree with the conclusion of the article but rather with the uninformed and “soundbite” quality of it. The article at least provided me an opportunity to discuss what happens when Christians do superficial apologetics. The article appeared under the title “Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims Worship the Same God. The author Todd Friel was correct in pointing out some distinctions between Allah and the God of Abraham. However, the author incorrectly makes the statement that Jesus slammed door on the question of whether Jews Christians and Muslims worship the same God from John 8:19.
First, John 8:19 is being misused here. Mr. Friel uses this verse out of its context. If one examines the verse carefully it is not difficult to see, nowhere is Jesus in that verse accusing the Pharisees of worshiping an entirely different deity rather he is stating that they are not honoring the deity that they are seeking to worship. Scripturally as far as the Pharisees are concerned, The God of their forefathers is the one true God. Let us examine whether the New Testament indicates that the Pharisees do indeed worship the same God that Christians worship Paul clearly states in Acts 23:6, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” The Greek phrase “I am a Pharisee” ἐγὼ Φαρισαῖός εἰμι uses the present indicative form of the verb, this clearly indicates that Paul continues to regard himself a Pharisee even after he was saved. If the author of the article in the Answers magazine truly believes that the Pharisees worship a different God and Paul calls himself a Pharisee after believing we must then assume that Paul indeed worshiped a different deity after his conversion when Acts is being written. Paul is very clear in Romans 10:2 when he states that the Jews have a zeal for God yet without knowledge. Therefore, he indicates, that the Jews and Judaism do indeed acknowledge the same God. It is clear in the verse, Paul is not stating that they are worshiping a different deity. To the author's credit, he does point out, “things get a bit trickier with Judaism because the Old Testament God is “the Father” of the Christian Trinity… (The author adds the statement that Jesus made it clear Jews who worship one-third of the Trinity) do not rightly worship the true living God. It is interesting the author calls it the “Christian Trinity”, so seemingly Trinity belongs to the Christians, not to the Scriptures. This statement leads to all sorts of problems Abraham was not a Christian and he worships the God of the Old Testament. He clearly was not a classical Trinitarian. While he may have known there was some mysterious plurality in the Godhead he did not know the number of persons or the relationship between them, this is acknowledged by sound theologians and indicated by the principle of progressive revelation. Must we therefore conclude he worship the different deity? One can see how the authors lack of knowledge and inability to make certain distinctions and definitions clear in his article lead to a host of problems. Furthermore, as an important part of the historical background of the Scriptures, a true apologist would be more likely to understand that there were different Judaism’s and that the rabbinical Judaism of today is not the Judaism of Abraham’s day or even the Judaism of Jesus’ day.
I am not sure whether Ken Ham will ever see this blog even though we do share a mutual acquaintance in Dr. John C Whitcomb. But I would encourage my brother to make use of budding apologists and allow them to exercise their gifts and calling. This will produce better articles while avoiding unnecessary and harmful theological errors and questions.
2017 was a wild and woolly year for us as far as the ministry. But interestingly enough as many challenges were thrown our way the Lord opened unique doors. One of the big questions on our mind's was, "What do we do now Lord?". This raises two issues discerning God's will and dealing with disappointment. Both of these issues have represented struggles for the follower of Messiah and led to the writing of many books. I thought I would weigh in with a basic model by which to examine the will of God in the basic decisions of daily life. Determining God's will in the details of life is a complicated process and probably best looked at as a grid as opposed to a simple question corresponding answer format. After doing this I like to apply this to some of what we have been through and hopefully it will edify you as you face issues pertaining to the will of God in 2018 for your life. I will probably end with a little shameless advertisement for what God does have us doing given the way he is leading .
"Being in the way he led me" is a phrase that occurs as Eliezer's being led by God to what is to be Isaac's wife and it represents a principle of the way God leads his people. It is found in Genesis 24:27. One of the principles of God's guidance is that he opens doors and creates opportunities in directions that he wants us to go. We need to be willing and ready to respond to these opportunities. In fact when the Lord sets up such opportunities they often are opportunities that we could not have imagined ourselves. One might call this the principle of providence in God's leading. For me he opened up doors into addressing apologetics issues, that meant a lot to me as a teacher and apologist to the Jewish people, in the area of apologetics to Muslims. As I began to follow through on these open doors the Lord demonstrated to me that some of the same objections Jewish people have to the gospel are found also among Muslims. In fact is I heard a polemicist for Islam argue against faith in Jesus borrowed arguments that I had heard when I was on the street in Brooklyn and inferred previously from Jewish people. God created new doors and new opportunities to develop wonderful apologetics material even introducing me to individuals who might never have been in my circle. However providence alone is not sufficient since it is often difficult to tell which things are directly divine providence.
So one question which must be asked.Is this biblical, does it correspond to the purposes that God has for his world and the development of Christ in you. It seems to be that our journeys with God are as much about the people we take along and what he makes us as they are about the individual tasks that we end up doing. Now before you think I have become somewhat brilliant this point is something that has began to really penetrate my heart as a complete. I am incredibly task oriented and rarely think about the importance of the process as it relates to my personal life. However, it seems that God is not simply interested in getting something done but actually creating something from the way he created us and even structured our lives.
So let us just take these together and summarize them if it is biblical and furthers the kingdom of God both in his world and in your life and God is providentially opening up doors in ways that you could not imagine your strong reason to consider the possibility of his leading. Is it possible to fool oneself, yes.
This brings me to another principles seek the counsel of those who have your best interest at heart. These are individuals that want to see you succeed regardless of their own personal or organizational success. These individuals are hard to find but when you find one or more these are the ones you should consult. To rule out individuals that might always as true friends you only need to ask yourself if you seen a consistent pattern of them acting on your behalf when he gained them nothing. Those who act on your behalf only to gain something they want are those with an agenda. Their advice may be useful in the secondary sense but they are not the ones to share your heart.
Does Providence seems to indicate that this is a good path to follow through unique open doors, this is biblical in terms of God's character and purposes, and you have the Council of true friends bearing witness than the third principle comes into play.
When you start moving in this direction does God seem to blessed. By that are other individuals being blessed and is God showing effective results from the enterprise. Beware the blessing may not always come in a tangible form for you but you will see it being effective in the lives of others in some way.
Well there you have some basic principles. And now it is time to see how they have applied in our crazy and woolly 2017. Now we do not know how everything's going to sugar off and are trusting God as we move forward in light of these principles. First, I was able to find the Council of true friends who encouraged me on the present path. I saw Scripture that indicated that the venture that we are on is in line with his word and workings in my life. And God has seemed to bless with effectiveness and opening unique doors the venture in which we are now involved.
No we do not have all the answers but at least we have some direction as the year moves forward. We have been able to broadcast to both radio and television and revamp the website. We have seen God open doors to be able to actually broadcast into the Mideast on radio and TV into the Mideast. I have had the opportunity to do conferences that I never thought I would be able to do. So we find ourselves walking along in this interesting yet frightening venture. May you find your own God sized adventures as you enter 2018
While some of the objections which Jewish people have to the gospel are the same as Muslims some are not. However, the objections related to the incarnation in Trinity are the same for both Jewish people who do not follow Jesus and Muslims. The Lord provided an incredible platform for me to speak on satellite television and a program which is both Bible teaching and in the field of apologetics. This particular satellite program is being throughout the Mideast and allowed me to fulfill the Second of the purposes of my ministry calling. That purpose is stated below.
Second, To demonstrate and defend:
The Trinity, the deity of Christ and other critical doctrines using the Old Testament as well as the New Testament for proofs
This can be accomplished by teaching Believer sound arguments for defending these doctrines through training them in apologetics and the use of hermeneutics that takes into account the Jewishness of the Scriptures and the Jewishness of Messiah arguing against contrary positions among believers.
Today was an awesome day of training at the evening session, I was able to present my message on contextualization demonstrating that contextualization itself is biblical from Acts chapter 17 verses 16 through 31. I learned a great deal also in terms of sharpening my ability in areas related to outreach in apologetics. I learned some of the same issues and approaches related to Jews are also extremely important in reaching Muslims. I was so excited to see that the type of outreach which I have often done making use of the Akediah, the Passover are perfectly useful in more than just Jewish outreach. This was terribly exciting to me. Beyond this I was terribly excited to learn that the issue of blood atonement which is so much an issue for Jewish people in terms of the gospel is also an issue for Muslims. How interesting to see connections to the gospel in these two areas converging.
I thought it would be good to give you a brief look at one of the outlines of the power points that I will be doing at the upcoming Muslim outreach. It must be noted that this particular presentation is set up to deal with Islam. However, the points about metanarrative, and fulfilled prophecy have broader applications then just to a Muslim audience. Showing the connections between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament can act as a powerful apologetic in showing the Jewishness of the New Testament.
The Evidence for the Scriptures Can we trust the Bible
The Testimony of Jesus
Jesus verifies the Tanakh(Old Testament)
Jesus verifies the O.T
Jesus knew of the Translations of O.T namely LXX
Jesus is considered a prophet by Islam, and therefore would know is the text was preserved, even in its translations
Jesus verifieds The O.T by various statement
LXX is completed in 250 B.Csome 250 years before Jesus’ birth
Jesus lived in Galilee of the Gentiles
He would have been aware of the LXX
Jesus considered a prophet by Islam
Then We caused Our messengers to follow in their footsteps; and We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow, and gave him the Gospel, and placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him. Surah 57:27
Muhammad M. Pickthall, ed., The Quran (Medford, MA: Perseus Digital Library, n.d.).
Therefore he would have known if there were any textural corruptions to the Scripture which made them less than the perfect word of God
Jesus verifies the OT
““Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17–18, NKJV)
“that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” (Matthew 23:35, NKJV)
The division of the Scripture in Jesus The Law, Prophets, and The Writings.
Abel (Genesis The Law)
Zechariah (The last book of the Writings 2 Chronicles 24:20-21)
Peter verifies Paul’s writings as Scriptures
“and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:15–16, NKJV)
Cross verification between the Testaments
Birth of Messiah
Of a Virgin Isaiah 7:14
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14, NKJV)
Of a Virgin
“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:” (Matthew 1:20–22, NKJV)
Death of Messiah
“For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:16–18, NKJV)
“Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”” (Matthew 27:35, NKJV)
The Big Story
I had the wonderful opportunity to do a worldview analysis of the movie wonder woman with my friend and fellow Christian thinker Vocab Malone. Listen and enjoy, warning there are a few spoilers in this so if you have not seen the movie just be aware
Stalking the Torah of Jesus Part Two
The possibility of a Torah of Jesus is sometimes denied because of two errors which are made. The first of these errors is not recognizing that the immutability of Torah is more of a rabbinical doctrine that a biblical one. It is true, that modern Judaism in its most Orthodox form regards the Torah as eternal and immutable but this thinking only became set in stone later. The second error is to not rightly regard the authority and person of Messiah Jesus. This particular blog will examine these errors briefly to both create awareness and hopefully create a new appreciation of Jesus’ person in relation to the issue of the Law or Torah
There is an assumption that the Torah of Moses will be the Torah of the kingdom with no substantial changes, but this assumption is more a result of rabbinical Jewish thought then of the Scriptures. As stated earlier, it is the Rambam or Moses Maimonides that solidifies and codifies the idea that the Torah is inviolable or totally immutable, “The Torah is unchangeable (nothing can be added or subtracted from it, “nor will there be another Torah from the Creator”)”.1 in other words there cannot be a new Torah or changes in Torah during the kingdom. When one takes into account the contradiction is predicated on Maimonides’ 13 Principals of Faith this is understandable. Jewish and Christian scholarship is indebted to Marc Schapiro who points out that the idea of the complete immutability and eternality of the Torah is added by Moses Maimonides or the Rambam, even if the idea previously appeared in some strains of Jewish thought. It is not biblical to bring de facto an unchallenged assumption a creed which later is to become a part of standard rabbinical Jewish thought, “a number of rabbinical sources speak of future changes to the Torah.”2. If this is true that this becomes fixed in Jewish thought later that it is possible that the Torah will be God standard not as the Torah of Moses but possibly the Torah of Messiah during the kingdom and thus no contradiction exists. That God’s law which is reflected in Torah takes a different form in the kingdom and the Law as God’s ethical standard is not being applied in the same way at the same time.
W. D. Davies notes that there are references to Messiah changing Torah and even hints that he will introduce his own Torah. He even goes so far as to group these changes, making note of Yalqut on Proverbs 9:2 he notes “here Purim and the Day of Atonement alone are among the festivals to survive into the Messianic Age.”
An important yet overlooked point is that Jesus instituting ordinances proves The New Covenant is not just a series of rulings on the Torah or restatement of the Torah. Jesus/Yeshua institutes a new sign of entrance, Baptism. One cannot find Baptism in the name of the trinity as a sign of entrance in Torah community but Jesus commands this as a sign of entrance in Matthew 28:19-20. Surly this is new instruction or Torah. Surely this represents a change in form.
Of course Jesus also introduces the Lord’s Supper or what some call communion. This is another ordinance. The Passover Seder while it pointed to Messiah did not commemorate his work. Yet a new form is added by Messiah,
"He tells his disciples, by his words and prophetic symbolism, that the original meaning of the paschal rite has now been transcended, inasmuch as he is the paschal Lamb fulfilling the OT prefigurement (1 Cor. 5:7). His words and action in taking the bread and the cup are parables which announce a new significance. The bread becomes under his sovereign word the parable of his body yielded up in the service of God’s redeeming purpose (cf. Heb. 10:5–10); and his blood outpoured in death, recalling the sacrificial rites of the OT, is represented in the cup of blessing on the table. That cup is invested henceforward with a fresh significance as the memorial of the new Exodus, accomplished at Jerusalem (Lk. 9:31)." 3
Since a new form is added for Jesus’ community and the Passover of Moses’ Torah was for all Israel then it logically follows new torah is being given. The ordinances represent a change connected to the New Covenant. Remember Jesus inaugurates the New Covenant with the word “this is the New Covenant in my Blood in Matthew 26:28. The law of logic called the identity states, “The law of identity: something is what it is and not anything else”.5 If key differences are added it is not the exact same covenant.
There are some good reasons to postulate a Torah of Messiah. The Rabbis acknowledged the possibility of changes in Torah, even an additional Torah. The New forms and instruction of Yeshua to his community indicate New “Torah”. What about His authority over Torah, and direct statements of new “Torah”, this awaits the next blog
1 Ronald L. Eisenberg, The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions, 1st ed. (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2004), 511.
3. Martin, R. P. “Lord’s Supper, The.” Edited by D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, and D. J. Wiseman. New Bible Dictionary. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.698
4 Donald A. Hagner, “Balancing the Old and the New,” Interpretation 51, no. 1 (January 1997): 1, accessed July 21, 2016, http://search.proquest.com/docview/202697576?accountid=8624
5. Garrett J. DeWeese and James Porter Moreland, Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult: A Beginner's Guide to Life's Big Questions (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, ©2005), 13.
By way of reminder, the book of Haggai consists of four basic messages. Haggai’s ministry overlaps with the ministry of Zechariah and both of these two prophets preached contemporary with each other in Jerusalem. This second message is delivered approximately one month later in the 21st day of the seventh month.
The people noticed as they been working on the temple for a period of time that it is far less ornate and does not contain the glory of the original Solomonic temple, to make things worse there are at least five items missing from this Temple that were part of Solomon’s Temple.
1. The ark of the covenant
2. the Shekinah glory
3. the Holy Spirit in reference to prophecy or Revelation
4. the sacred fire
the absence of the Shekinah glory was extremely discouraging. One can only understand what this particular absence meant when one understands the unique role of the Shekinah glory and its definition. Here one can look at Jewish sources and find out what was basically understood by the Shekinah glory in general within Jewish thought. The following quotes should suffice to create a general understanding, ““Divine Presence, the “immanent” or “indwelling” aspect of God.” “Shekhinah n. Hebrew (sheh-khee-NAH) Literally, “dwelling.” “The ancient talmudic name for God’s presence, which is commonly described as a light or radiance that illuminates the world.” In order to better understand the importance of the presence of God manifested in the Shekinah it is important to remember that both the tabernacle and the temple were designed so that God could dwell among his people, His presence among them acted as a sign of His continuing covenant with them. The absence of this particular manifestation of God made this temple seem empty in comparison to the glory of the previous temple. It seemed as though God was not a part of this Temple.
God’s message to this group of returned Jewish exiles is to be strong and finish the work that he had given them. In fact he promises them that the temple which they are building will end up being more glorious and not less glorious than Solomon’s Temple. This begs the question, in what way more glorious? Dr. Michael Brown gives a concise answer to this particular dilemma,
“New Jewish Publication Society Version, Malachi 3:1–5 states: Behold, I am sending My messenger to clear the way before Me, and the Lord whom you seek shall come to His Temple suddenly. As for the angel of the covenant that you desire, he is already coming… According to the famous medieval Jewish commentaries of Radak (David Kimchi) and Metsudat David, “the Lord” refers to none other than “King Messiah.” However, neither of these commentators took sufficient note of the fact that the Messiah was to come to the Temple that stood in Malachi’s day (and note also that it is called “his Temple”—pointing clearly to the divine nature of the “Lord” spoken of here). I ask you, did this happen? If it did, then the Messiah must have come before the Temple was destroyed in 70 c.e.; if not, God’s Word has failed. After reviewing the prophecy, we just read from Haggai 2, we can now put two big pieces of the puzzle together: The glory of the Second Temple would be greater than the glory of the First Temple because the Lord himself—in the person of the Messiah —would visit the Second Temple! And in this place he would grant peace because the Messiah, called “the Prince of Peace,” would come there in person and open the way for peace and reconciliation between God and man.” 17
Now for those who measured worth in terms of results or outward glory the second temple would hardly seem more glorious than the first Temple, missing those five items and the manifest presence of God in the Shekinah. However, that second Temple would carry a weight of glory that the first Temple would never see!
This brings us back to our central truth the weight of value in our work is not measured by the outward things that are so often used in both spiritual and secular spheres. But now this truth can be understood under the backdrop of what the people and Haggai’s day were struggling with and the reasons they felt this great discouragement. And in this way, their admonition becomes an admonition to us. We are to faithfully continue the work that God is given us despite the appearance that sometimes the work of others has a greater glory.
1 Menachem Elon, Jewish Law: History, Sources, Principles = Ha-Mishpat Ha-Ivri, A Philip and Muriel Berman ed. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1994), 1572.
2 Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic, Jewish Publication Society, The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2001), 150.
3 Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: General and Historical Objections., vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 77–78.
I’ve been busily working on my dissertation for my Doctor of Ministry degree. One of the questions that I discovered needed answering is whether there was a Torah of Jesus or Yeshua. I thought a three-part examination of this particular question properly nuanced by some of the very caveats that I will be using in my dissertation would be worth sharing with you my faithful readers.
It is important, I feel, to define what Torah is and is not, without being as lengthy as I will need to be in my dissertation. I will begin by dealing with what the Torah is not. Once the definition of Torah has been established we will begin to collect clues like in every good detective show that I enjoy watching. We will start by dusting for fingerprints. That is usually the first thing the detectives on the scene do. So we will ask whether there any fingerprints that demonstrate that there could be a Torah of Jesus.
To quote an old song let’s begin at the beginning because it’s a very good place to start — What is Torah? To use one of my favorite quotes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “when you eliminate the impossible whatever remains no matter how improbable must be the truth”. We will define Torah first by eliminating what Torah is not. The church has made a tremendous mistake in defining Torah as merely a legal code. However, there are sound evangelical scholars that have woken up to this error “However, Torah is more than mere law. Even the word itself does not indicate static requirements which govern the whole of human existence.” In fact Walter Kaiser is noting something very important that the very meaning of the word Torah in its original language and is not that of law. It clearly carries the idea of instruction or direction, “תּוֹרָה (tôrâ). Law, teaching. ASV always “law,” RSV sometimes “teaching,” “instruction” and “decisions.” The word is used some 221 times.”
Neither Jesus nor Paul regarded the Torah as merely the legal code that some in the evangelical community has painted it to be. Neither Jesus nor the disciples understood Torah as mere law code “In the 32 verses in the Gospels where νομος occurs, it refers to both the law and the Pentateuch. The use of the Greek νομος to translate the Hebrew word תוֹרה expands the use of the Greek word νομος to embrace those of the Hebrew word תוֹרה.” The Gospel writers, being Jewish themselves’ understanding of Torah would have been in line with the understanding of Torah that existed in the Judaism of that time. If the inspired writers of the Gospel didn’t use nomos to refer to Torah us mere legalistic evangelicals should also avoid this practice. The gospel of Luke chapter 24 verse 17 it is made clear that Jesus regards the Torah as being more than law code as it states, “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” There is good reason to suspect that the phrase “beginning at Moses” is a clear reference to Torah.
The apostle Paul even teaches that the Torah is not a law code.
Paul uses the term “Torah” to refer to more than just the legal code material in the five books of Moses. We see this in Galatians, an epistle where he is dealing with issues pertaining to the dangers of potential legalism. Paul states clearly in 4:21 that those who would be under the law need to listen to the law and then reiterates the story of Sarah and Hagar. But the story of Sarah and Hagar or Isaac and Ishmael is not a part of the Mosaic legal stipulations at all but rather narrative out of the book of Genesis. Paul calls this narrative out of Genesis by the term “Law”. The force of Paul’s argument is entirely lost if Paul is not speaking of the Torah, and yet he is not referring to the Mosaic legal code.
Now to examine for fingerprints, are there any fingerprints at the very beginning that we can see at the scene that indicate that there is a Torah of Jesus/Yeshua? It is important to note that a Torah of Jesus/Yeshua does not necessarily mean a complete discontinuity with the Torah of Moses, but could be viewed as an additional Torah which realizes the Torah of Moses. It is possible when this caveat is taken into account to examine the idea of a Torah of Yeshua/Jesus without antinomies.
There is clear evidence to suggest just such a Torah of Messiah existed. Markus Bockmeuhl points out that although Jesus affirmed Torah, his halakha (practice) becomes the authoritative instruction for the community and so literally functions as an additional Torah. “In the end, Jesus’ teaching and interpretation of the Law is the highest authority and this alone is what the apostles are to teach the new, Gentile community of his disciples”. Graham Stanton points out Jesus is pictured by Matthew as the new Moses who gives law (Torah) to his people, “Matthew's Gospel was probably an even more direct influence on Justin, even though it too is not named in Justin's writings. Today’s evangelist intends to portray Jesus as the "new Moses" who gives the "new law" to his "new people.” Dr. Louis Goldberg says it best, “it can certainly be agreed that the New Covenant can be regarded as “Torah,” provided there is no suggestion of legalism and no suggestion that the oral laws are to be followed. Both of these would undermine the major thrust of the New Covenant message.”
Bockmuehl, Markus. Jewish Law in Gentile Churches Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Ethics. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic a Division of Baker Book House Company, 2000.
Goldberg, Louis. God, Torah, Messiah: The Messianic Jewish Theology of Dr. Louis Goldberg, edited by Richard A. Robinson, under “The Relationship of Torah To The New Covenant.” 99-124. San Francisco, CA: Purple Pomegranate Productions, 2009.
Kaiser, Walter Jr. “The Law as God's Guidance for the Promotion of Holiness.” In Five Views On the Law and, 177-99. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.
Liebenburg, W.A .The Rape of the Torah in the New Covenant. Pretoria South Africa: Hebraic Roots Teaching Institute, 2011.
Malin, Barri. “Can 'telos' in Romans 10:4 be correctly understood as 'consummation'?” PhD diss., Trinity Theological Seminary, 2004. Accessed July 26, 2016. proquest.
Stanton, Graham. "What is the Law of Christ?." Ex Auditu 17, no. 01 (2001): 3
This blog focuses on the traditional reading from the five books of Moses called a “parashah” or portion of Scripture read in the Jewish synagogue. This portion is called "Bo" and is found in Exodus 10:1 -13:16. One of the great purposes of the book of Exodus is to demonstrate how Israel goes from being a set of tribes to a worshiping nation. This particular section goes through the plagues God brings upon Egypt. Also within this narrative there is the interchange between God, and Pharaoh with Moses acting as God’s representative and Aaron acting as Moses’ mouthpiece. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them,and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the LORD." It is important to note that both God and Pharaoh participate in the hardening of Pharaoh's heart."When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. 35 So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses.(Exodus 9:34-35) Even more significant is the way God hardens Pharaoh's heart. God continues to command Pharaoh giving him more Revelation of himself. However, this revelation does not come in pleasant means but rather through adversity.
Another example of this type of revelation thru adversity comes from the Celtic Christians of old, while they were not Jewish; they greatly impacted the world for missions and left us with a well-articulated insight. The following dialogue is recorded in a book based on the journals of Patrick of Ireland and is related to Patrick questioning his abduction to and slavery in Ireland as he was taken from his home by Irish raiders. Spoiler alert, Patrick of Ireland was a Celt but he was not Irish neither was he Catholic.
" “Because He loves me? Don’t make me laugh!” Patrick sneered, his blue eyes flashing.
“No, I’m serious,” Cedd persisted, standing up and joining Patrick. “I think that God often uses calamity to bring people to Him.”
“Well, if that’s what He̓ is trying to do, He is using the wrong method. This whole thing has turned me against Him “Sometimes that happens,” Cedd responded, fingering his staff thoughtfully. “You see, calamity is like the heat of the sun. The sun’s warmth hardens moist clay, causing it to become brittle. In fact, it can turn wet clay into bricks. Yet, the very same heat softens a lump of wax. Similarly, when God permits calamity to befall mankind, some hearts will be hardened and others will be softened. The choice lies with the one experiencing the calamity. Patrick, you can choose to be hardened by what has befallen you, or you can choose to be softened by it. The decision is yours."
The application? For those of us who are not the Pharaoh of Egypt, and not necessarily under discipline or judgment from God, It is easy and understandable that at times we feel disappointment with God. King David of old went through this very thing. Disappointment with what God allows is not a lack of faith but an opportunity to draw closer to him
I will be spending the next four weeks doing a series on the prophet Haggai. I would like to take the opportunity to share some of that studying the insights with you through this blog as I teach the study back here in Arizona. All too often what are referred to as “the minor prophets” are treated as truly minor. However, since they are part of the great sacred story and teach vital truth it behooves us to hear their voice.
This first blog will introduce the series. There are at least three vital questions that must be asked whenever Scriptures interpreted, who (who is the writer and who is the audience), when (when is this happening, what is the situation), what (what does God want to say into this particular situation, and what does God want to say in view of the sacred story and the situations application to us).
By way of context
the who of the author: “Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them.” (Ezra 5:1–2, NKJV)
Samuel J. Schultz and Gary V. Smith, Exploring the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 201.
The who of the audience
1. Jews who have returned from the exile in Babylon
2. Zerubbabel the governor of the returned exiles (as a particular part of the audience especially addressed by God
3. Joshua the high priest (as a particular part of the audience especially addressed by God
The When of the Situation:
About sixteen years later (520 b.c.), in the second year of the reign of Persia’s King Darius, God raised up Haggai and Zechariah to challenge the people to start work on the temple again
opposition and frustration by local and Persian authorities interfered with the temple and discourage the people on top of this a famine occurred which limited the funds of the people to rebuild the Temple, instead of spending those funds on rebuilding the temple anyway the people spends the funds on improving their own house and living better.
It is into this situation of frustration, procrastination, and indifference that God is going to speak through the prophet Haggai to the people of Jerusalem in a series of four messages. Since this is an introductory blog we will not deal with great details at this point. But rather end this blog with the simple take home truth.
Take home Truth: we need to be prepared to listen to God’s message to us in times of frustration and not allow frustration, procrastination, and indifference to make us deaf to the message he has for us
 Samuel J. Schultz and Gary V. Smith, Exploring the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 201.