Why I no longer fear the word ‘Easter’


Why I no longer fear the word “Easter”:

  • The feast day is only called that in two languages, English and German. In all other languages, it’s a variant of Pascha, which is a Latin variant of the Hebrew Pesach, which is … Passover. Just go to Google Translate and type in “Easter” and translate it into the language of a culture with a Christian heritage.
  • “Easter” is called that not because of its actual association to a pagan god, but because of the month in which the celebration usually falls, which we call April. Ostern or Eostre MAY have been named for a pagan goddess in the German language. But the festival was most likely given the name in German and then English because of its proximity to the month, not because of any pagan connections.

I regret my years of criticizing fellow believers for celebrating Easter and accusing them of pagan worship. While I may still disagree with Easter eggs and bunnies, etc., I also know that I have more to worry about with living a life pleasing to the Lord than with how other people are living their faith.

For more clarity on alleged pagan connections to Christian holidays, refer to Toby Janicki’s “What About Paganism?” http://ffoz.com/what-about-paganism-audio.html


Replacement theology replaced by destructionism



Replacement theology has been around since the early church, claiming that the church has replaced Israel in God’s eyes. I thought that at least the more progressive evangelical theologians (sometimes tagged as “emergent theologians”) would veer away from it, keeping open the possibility that God still deals with the Jewish people–both those who believe in Yeshua and those who don’t–in a special way.

I was awakened to the harsh reality that, no, many of those theologians are not veering away from it. They’re reiterating it in strange new ways. Except it’s not replacement theology per se, but destruction theology. Or maybe I should call it judaeo-nihilism theology. Their theologies just basically remove the acknowledgment that Israel or the Jewish people exist.

The two theologians I’m mainly thinking of are Scot McKnight and Peter Enns.

I came across McKnight’s views in his book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. I enjoyed McKnight’s chief point, which was that the gospel message is much more than “you’re saved.” The gospel, he says, is the whole story of Jesus and what that means for His followers. It reminded me a lot of John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus, which set off the “Lordship salvation” controversy of the 1980s and ‘90s.

What brought me up short, though, was McKnight’s repeated assertion that Jesus’ life “completes” the story of Israel. He also calls Jesus the “second Israel,” an entirely new twist on replacement theology–having Jesus replace Israel rather than the Church.

For instance, he writes early in the book:

The Story of Jesus brings the Story of Israel to its telos point, to its fulfillment, to its completion, or to its resolution. I will sometimes use the word completes in what follows, but that word means “brings to resolution” or the Story of Israel comes to its telos point. I do not mean to suggest the story if officially over — the church goes on and the consummation is yet to come.

He also talks about how Israel has found “its final chapter.”

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Finishing Pirke Avot

Our little fellowship finally finished our study of Pirke Avot yesterday (Saying of the Fathers).

We didn’t do it in the most traditional manner, studying as many sayings as we could on a Shabbat afternoon instead of going through a full chapter each Shabbat. And we probably won’t start it up again to run the study through Rosh Hashanah. But we did it and are glad we did. I think it has set the standard for future summer Shabbat afternoon studies.

We used the Artscroll interlinear as our base text, with the other leader using the Pirke Avos Treasury for a source of commentary and me using the Yad Avraham Mishnah Series commentary.

We found several of the sayings dovetailing with many of Yeshua’s sayings and teachings, and some that contradicted what He taught.

Our next goal is to study individual sayings in depth of our own Master, the Messiah. I am trying to decide whether to produce a separate document of them or just go through the Bible and find them as we study. The latter would be a lot easier!

Perhaps the biggest takeaway for me is the dominance that Torah and the rest of Scripture, especially the Gospels, should have in the lives of believers. Saying after saying, especially in the final chapter, emphasized the need to study Torah, sit under good teachers, and value the Word of God more highly than anything else–except living it out.

Have you studied Pirke Avot in a group setting? What were your experiences?

If you want to be free of paganism, you’d better start with your watch

Railroad watch


The base 60 system of measurement, which we use to measure time and angles, was refined and inherited from … Babylon.

So, if you really want to be pure of paganism, you’d best quit using our time system and anything that utilizes the 360-degree system of measurement.




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Who are the ‘doers of the Law’?


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Finger pointing

Some messages posted by someone who is a friend of mine on Facebook have stirred up quite a ruckus over the past few days, mainly because they question or challenge what the writer sees as widely held Christian beliefs about the Torah.

The tone of the posts is negative toward those Bible-believing Christians who don’t believe that the Sabbath, dietary laws, or other “ceremonial” laws are binding anymore for any believers in the Messiah.

I understand the feeling that the message of the continuing validity of Torah needs to be out there, and that Christians’ lives will be richer if they understand the Jewish context of their faith.

But I disagree with the approach.

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Hayesod: A baker’s dozen of disciples


After 10 weeks of HaYesod sessions, a baker’s dozen of students appear to have a better appreciation of the Jewish context of the Gospel.

I hosted the sessions, which were actually held over a span of 12 weeks. But even though I was the host, that doesn’t mean I was the teacher. I learned plenty from the sessions, which were created by First Fruits of Zion and featured teachings by Boaz Michael, Daniel Lancaster and Toby Janicki.

We had a good mix of students: young, middle-aged, and older; men and women; families and singles; charismatics, evangelicals, Reformed, and Sabbatarians. The discussions, which were scheduled to follow the video presentations but sometimes ended up taking over the breaks as well, were always lively. There was not 100 percent agreement with the material; neaither was there 100 percent agreement among the students. But there was 100 percent willingness to hear each other and to hash out the implications of what was being taught. And that may have been the most encouraging aspect of the program (besides the incredible snacks).

The disagreements with the material simply meant that students were taking the teachings seriously enough to wrestle with them and voice their concerns or objections.

One question was: If God’s covenant from Sinai with the Jewish believers in Messiah is still in force, what does this mean for Gentile followers of Messiah? (FFOZ’s response to that in the final episode, “Our Walk–His Path,” was that Gentiles are invited to engage in the observance of that covenant through Shabbat, dietary practices, and in other ways, but that they shouldn’t assume they are “replacing” Jews.) Other concerns were with the teachings on covenants and how that should be understood.

But the basic goal of the HaYesod program–to help believers in Messiah come to a fuller understanding of Him and the Apostles in their Jewish contexts–was, I believe, achieved. I think there are now 14 (I’m including myself) disciples of the Master who will be better disciples because of HaYesod.

Lutheran pastor creates new category: ‘New Testament Jew’


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How’s this for replacement theology?

God gave the 10 Commandments to His people about 3500 years ago. These commands were given specifically to Israel….and not to the other nations in the Old Testament. When we move into New Testament times, “Israel” takes on a new flavor. All of a sudden we are told that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” (Romans 9:6) What? Really?

That’s right. God makes all things new. There is a new covenant for the people of God beginning with Jesus Christ. God redefines what it means to be a “Jew.” Starting in New Testament times 2000 years ago, “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly.” (Romans 2:28) Just let that sink in for a moment. It’s no small transition from the way it had been for the first 4000 years of human history. Beginning in the New Testament era, there has to be an “internal adoption,” and not just a biological pedigree. There has to be “new birth.” (1 Peter 1:3) And there has to be sanctification. A person literally becomes a new creation the moment the living God comes to dwell inside his body when he is converted through faith in Christ. (see 2 Cor. 5:17 & 1 Cor. 6:19)

You’ve heard of “Judaizers”? This guy is a “de-Judaizer.” Or maybe a “re-Judaizer.”

My question would be whether all of the curses also accrue to these new Jews. He doesn’t say. But he does say this:

In the New Testament, you can’t just embrace the commands of God as your own until you first enter a relationship with God. You have to become a “New Testament Jew” so to speak.

A “New Testament Jew.” First I’ve heard of one of those. So to speak.


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Potok’s Jewish novels: ‘The Chosen,’ ‘The Promise’

Here are thoughts from my re-reading of Chaim Potok’s Jewish novels. First: The Chosen and The Promise.

Cover of "Chosen, The"

The Chosen: This was a great read when I was young, but felt stiff and wooden on the re-read. You know that writer’s cliche about “Show, don’t tell”? Potok (or his editor) just tells … and tells and tells and tells. What he tells is extremely interesting, though. It’s mostly about two things: Chasidism and modern Orthodoxy, and what happens when they clash. The family of Danny Saunders and Reb Saunders’ congregation are trying to hold on to the values of the Old World. Reuven Malter and his father, David, are trying to adapt to modernity while holding on to their Orthodox Jewish identity. In the middle of all of that comes young Chasid Danny, who wants to escape his fate as an heir to the family dynasty and become a psychologist (Abraham Twerski, anyone?). Reb Saunders, who has not spoken to his son outside of study for more than a decade as a way of teaching him to understand pain, uses Reuven, part of that threatening modernity, to reach out to his son.

This was my first exposure to anything Jewish, so it holds a special place for me, even if I didn’t like it as much on the recent re-read. The narrative is interrupted too much for history lessons. The relationship between Reuven and his father isn’t developed as much as that of Danny and Reb Saunders is, which is funny, considering that for most of the book, Danny and his father don’t really have a relationship.

Next: In the BeginningMy Name Is Asher Lev, and The Gift of Asher Lev.

The Chosen received rave reviews when it was published, and established Potok as a novelist, though. That was a good thing, because he went on to write many more and much better novels, starting with …

The Promise, the sequel to The Chosen: Something happened between Potok’s first two novels, because The Promise reads like it’s written by a totally different writer. The characters are fully developed, the plot lines smooth, the message not so much in-your-face.

The story is again told from Reuven’s viewpoint, and this time, much of the story is about him. Psychologist-in-training Danny Saunders still has the plot spotlight, though, as he tries to help a schizophrenic boy named Michael.

Potok beautifully unveils the demons haunting Michael and handles Danny’s treatment of him well, but the more fascinating plotline is Reuven’s relationship with Reb Kalman, an old-school Talmudist who doesn’t like Reuven’s scientific method of explaining Talmud, which Reuven had learned from his father. Like The Chosen, we have a clash between tradition and modernity. In this case, it’s a draw. But the character of Reb Kalman is intensely drawn and, despite his arrogance, sympathetic, and I found on my re-read most enjoying the classroom scenes featuring the interplay between him and Reuven.

Danny? He saves the day with Michael and gets engaged to a non-Chasidic girl who is the daughter of another modern Jew considered an apostate. Oh, well, as Isaac found out, boys will be boys.

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Can you be two-house & one-law at the same time?


It’s not unusual to find a messianic believer (usually a Gentile) who holds to both two-house (a/k/a messianic Israel/Ephraimite) theology and what is known in most places as “one-law” theology.

Two-house theology basically teaches that when a Gentile becomes a believer in Yeshua, he/she becomes an Israelite. Thus, as Israelites, the former Gentiles (or discovered Israelites) are now required to obey the Torah in all its aspects, including the Sabbath, dietary laws, etc.

“One-law” theology holds that the Torah is applicable and binding on all believers because:

  1. Of several verses in Torah, such as Numbers 15:16, which state that there shall be “one law … for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you.”
  2. Of the belief that the difference between Jews and Gentiles has been obliterated in Messiah (Ephesians 2:15) in such a way that Gentile believers must be like Jews and keep laws formerly kept only by Jews..

What I have come to find interesting is that both of these theologies (two-house/messianic Israel and one-law) can be held by the same person or even congregation. Or, rather, that one person would want to hold and push both of them.

Especially since they each render the other unnecessary.

Sure, they both come to the same conclusion, that all believers in Messiah should keep the Torah, no matter who they are. But to hold both viewpoints, what I’ll call a 2/1 (two-house, one-law) viewpoint, appears to be inconsistent, or contradictory.

If you believe that all believers in Messiah are automatically Israelite, then there is no question that they must keep all of the laws in the Torah addressed to Israel, such as the dietary laws, the Sabbath laws, the festival laws, and on and on, even the purity laws and sacrificial laws in the presence of a Temple.

So why do some of these people who hold to a two-house theology also stress the verses that command that “there shall be one law for you and the sojourner”? If they’re already Israel, then claiming a one-law position is beside the point. The one-law theology stresses that the Torah is fully applicable both to those who were born Jews (native members of the House of Israel) and to Gentiles. If you hold to a two-house theology, then the “Gentiles” in your frame of reference are unbelieving Gentiles, and you don’t need to prove your point regarding the need for believers to be Torah-observant in all aspects from the “one-law” verses.

If you can clear this up for me, I’d appreciate it.