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TABLE OF CONTENTS

table-of-contents1

Note: this Table of Contents list contains a description of our most recent articles.  Please see to the right for a list of all posts.

  1. Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah — Jews and Gentiles in Land — the first article in the series, shedding light on Jewish understanding of the Land and the fundamental differences between the Galilean Jews of the North and the Judean Jews of the South http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/sketches-of-jewish-social-life-at-the-time-of-messiah-jews-and-gentiles-in-the-land/
  2. Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah – Introduction – an intro to a new, extended series of articles that places Jesus and His teachings within their Jewish context and sheds invaluable light on passages that could not be fully understood otherwise. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/sketches-of-jewish-social-life-at-the-time-of-messiah-introduction/
  3. The Company Dinner – another modern parable http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/company-dinner-another-modern-parable/
  4. The Talmud – now available in English, free and online – Now available to anyone for free and online, tools include the ability to click on a verse of Scripture, see where it’s quoted in the Talmud, and read it in full in with explanatory notes written in plain language. Most surprisingly, the very passages that today’s rabbis deny as being about Messiah, were understood by the Jewish sages to be about Messiah. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/talmud-now-available-english-free-online/
  5. New Years and the Parable of the Ten Virgins – The lighting of the oil lamps for the 8th day of Chanukah on New Years Eve brought to mind the Parable of the Ten Virgins and some thoughts for the Church. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/new-years-and-the-parable-of-the-ten-virgins/
  6. Boundaries of the Land of Israel – as set by God: Christians need to understand that the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2334 which was just passed declares that where David was first crowned king is not Israel, nor is Bethlehem of Judea, where Jesus was born (Matthew 2:1). Yes, the “little town of Bethlehem” that you sing about in Christmas carols as being the birth place of the King of the Jews is not in the land of the Jews. This is a battle for truth.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/boundaries-of-the-land-of-israel-as-set-by-god/
  7. Questions and Answers about Jews and Christmas: People often want to know what Jews do at Christmas time and some Christians want to know what Messianic Jews do. This article provides some background on “Jews” and some answers to the questions. Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/questions-and-answers-about-jews-and-christmas/
  8. Gehenna – Jewish Origins of Hell: Some think of “hell” as the one place God is not and to others, it is the place where God pours out His judgment on “those who do not believe”. Is this what the Scriptures teach? Where does this concept of Hell come from? That is the subject of this article. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jesus-teaching-on-hell/
  9. The New Perspective – second phase of the Reformation? The Reformation restored the Word of God to the ordinary people and called them out of an obligation of submission to the papacy to one of submission to Scripture.  But Was the Reformation all that was required to restore the Scriptures to their first century understanding?  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-new-perspective-a-second-phase-of-the-reformation/
  10. The Last Day of the Great Feast –  Sukkot has two  ” last days” — Hoshanah Rabbah and Shiminei Atsaret. The “last day and greatest day of the Feast” mentioned in John 7:37 is Hashanah Rabbah. This article helps explain why Jesus said what He did that day. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/last-day-great-feast/
  11. Who is Abraham’s Seed – Understanding who “Abraham’s seed” is, is to understand God’s plan of redemption to ‘all nations of the earth’ since the book of Genesis! This article follows the previous 3 which covered the promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant, the promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant, as well as Paul’s use of the term “Israel” in Romans. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/who-is-abrahams-seed/
  12. God’s Promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant  – What were God’s promises to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and do they still apply?http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-jews-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/

  13. God’s Promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant; 

    There are those that say that Gentile Christians, along with Jewish believers in Messiah form what is now termed “true Israel” and replace the Jewish people (physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God’s covenant people. In this article is part of a series of articles, taking a deeper look at God’s promises to the Jewish people and God’s promises to the Gentiles, through Messiah. This article focuses on God’s promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-gentiles-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/


  14. Paul’s Use of the term “Israel” in the Book of Romans –   Some say that Jews who do not accept Jesus as Messiah are not “true Israel” — but rather Gentile Christians and Jewish believers in Messiah form what is termed “true Israel“.  Does the Scripture teach that “Israel” is part Jewish by descent and part Gentile by descent — and if not, what do the passages in question really mean? In this article, we will explore how Paul uses the term “Israel” everywhere else in Romans and then look at what he is saying in Romans 9:6-8. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/pauls-use-of-the-term-israel-in-the-book-of-romans/

  15. It’s Time We Had a Talk – another modern parable – It came to pass one day, that the older brother felt that it was a fitting time to share matters of the family with his younger brother. This is that story. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/time-talk-another-modern-parable/

  16. Shavuot – Counting of the Omer from Passover to Pentecost -Today, June 12, 2016 is Pentecost Sunday! Yes, we know that the Church celebrated it on May 15th this year but according to how God commanded the Jews to determine the date of Shavuot (Pentecost). it is today. The Church’s Pentecost falls on a different date than Biblical Pentecost. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/shavuot-counting-of-the-omer-from-passover-to-pentecost/

  17. Miquedem – Songs from Scripture; Listen free to a brand new album of Jewish music, with songs taken directly from Scripture. Complete lyrics posted in Hebrew, Hebrew-English transliterated phonetics & English. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/miqedem-songs-scripture/

  18. He Who Believes – Mi Shemaamim; This is a song written by Israeli Eyal Golan which you will probably catch yourself humming later.  It is very catchy!  The lyrics are beautiful, and appear in Hebrew, transliterated Hebrew-English phonetics and English;
    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/he-who-believes-mi-shemaamin-song/


  19. What did Paul Mean by “May it never be!” ? – When Paul said in Scripture ‘may it never be” (me genoito / μένα genoito is the Greek equivalent) he was using a very common Hebrew expression as many other Jews of his day would have — not surprising considering Paul was Jew. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/paul-mean-may-never/

  20. Biblical Pentecost and the Church’s Pentecost – few Christians realize that the date that the Church celebrates as “Pentecost Sunday” is different than the day that God established in Scripture. This blog explains how the date of Pentecost (Shavuot) is determined from the date of Passover and how the giving of the Holy Spirit is tied to the day Jesus rose from the dead! http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/biblical-pentecost-and-the-churchs-pentecost/

  21. A Jewish Perspective on Counting Days of Lent and Easter Egg Hunts – As we’ve been working on the 3 upcoming posts (Part 2, 3 and 4) that follow Part 1: The Significance of Passover to the Church, we thought we’d take a bit of a divergence and look at two Gentile Christian customs related to the Church’s celebration of “Easter” that we thought our readers might find it interesting to look at through Jewish eyes. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-jewish-perspective-on-counting-days-lent-and-easter-egg-hunts/

  22. A Jewish Roots Update – More than 11,000 visitors from 212 countries or territories in just 10 months.  Who would have thought.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-jewish-roots-update/

  23. UNESCO Resolution Erases Jews Connection to Temple Mount – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has passed a resolution erasing the Jews connection to the Temple Mount. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/unesco-resolution-erases-jews-connection-to-temple-mount/

  24. Passover – Significance to the Church – Most people know “the Last Supper” occurred during Passover, but have never had just two of the Passover elements — the “bread” and the “cup”, explained in that context.  When Jesus took “the bread”, what did the disciples understand it to signify before He spoke? What prior meaning did the cup(s) of wine have to them?  Given it was Passover, what might the Disciples have understood Jesus to be saying? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/passovers-significance-to-the-church/

  25. INTRO: Passover, Pentecost and Booths – significance to the Church : God set apart 3 specific times of commemoration for the Jewish people where they were required to appear before Him in Jerusalem.  These 3 days also coincide to significant days to the Church — namely (1) the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant, (2) the day the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost and (3) the date that many Biblical scholars believe to be the date of Jesus’ birth. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/intro-passover-pentecost-and-booths-significance-to-the-church/

  26. Canadian Prime Minister Ignores Mention of Jews in Holocaust Statement – on January 27 2016,  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Most notable was the Canadian Prime Minister’s blatant omission of any reference to the Jewish people or to the anti-Jewish ideology which fueled the Nazi’s systematic extermination of 6 million Jews.
    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/canadian-prime-minister-ignores-mention-of-jews-in-holocaust-statement/


  27. Understanding Matthew’s Genealogy – an Old Testament Overview – The genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew starts with Abraham and culminates with the birth of Jesus; which is a uniquely Jewish perspective.  To understand who some of the individuals are that are named in this genealogy requires some understanding of the Old Testament and so in this article, we provide an overview of the Old Testament to lay the framework for our next study. This article is a summary of the first study in a series called the “Gospels from a First Century Jewish Perspective” from our Jewish Roots of Christianity LifeGroup. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/understanding-matthews-genealogy-old-testament-overview/

  28. Jewish Sects of the Second Temple Period – introduction to the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots and Nazarenes during the Second Temple Period (introduction to Christianity and Judaism – siblings, not parent and child); http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jewish-sects-second-temple-period/

  29. Christianity and Judaism – siblings, not parent and child – We’ve often heard it said that Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism; as if Judaism is the parent and Christianity, the child. A more accurate analogy is to see Judaism and Christianity as siblings, twins in fact, born out of the same event. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/christianity-and-judaism-as-siblings-not-parent-and-child/

  30. Christmas and the Coming of the Messiah – Growing up in the Jewish areas we lived in, the expectation of Messiah was all around us. Christmas, however was a “Gentile holiday” which we had no connection to. Jesus, as portrayed by most Christians has no connection to most Jews, as the Jewish Messiah either. The Jesus of Scripture tells a very different story.  Jesus of the Gospels is Jewish. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/christmas-and-the-coming-of-messiah/

  31. Holy Days of Israel – with Scriptural References: Jewish Holy Days are observances set out by God in Scripture — more than celebrations. This article describes our main Holy Days and what they commemorate.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jewish-holy-days-with-scriptural-references/

  32. Holiday Observance from a Jewish Perspective: The Jewish concept of ‘observance’ of a holiday is quite different than the idea of ‘celebrating’ one and this difference becomes quite apparent to us at Christmas.  It is not as though there is a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way, but we thought it might be helpful for our readers to understand how we as Jewish believers regard holidays, in particular Christmas. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/holiday-observance-from-a-jewish-perspective/

  33. The Abrahamic Covenant and the 12 Tribes of Israel – In this article, we outline from Scripture who are the people and where is the land belonging to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and whether the covenant God made with Abraham also applies to the descendants of Ishmael. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-abrahamic-covenant-and-the-12-tribes-of-israel/

  34. The 12 Tribes Ishmael and Their Land – We’ve heard people say that since the land of Israel belongs to both the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael and that the solution to the tension in the region is to divide the land between them.  But few people realize that the land of the 12 Tribes of Ishmael is northern Saudi Arabia and the south-eastern part of Assyria (Iraq) — far from the 12 Tribes of Israel! In this article we outline from Scripture who are the people and where is the land belonging to the descendants of Ishmael (with maps). http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-12-tribes-of-ishmael-and-their-land/

  35. Objections to a Religious Ideology or Doctrine is not Xenophobia – We hear a lot these days about xenophobia — with people being accused of being xenophobic or being a xenophobe when they object to a religious ideology or to the doctrine of another’s religion or belief system. That is not Xenophobia.  Xenophobia is to show fear or contempt towards a person because they hold to a specific ideology or holds to a given religious doctrine. There is a difference.  http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/objection-to-a-religious-ideology-or-doctrine-is-not-xenophobia/

  36. How Israel Came to Possess the Land it Currently Occupies – Israel is often portrayed in the media as ‘land-grabbing’, so we want to clear up where the land that Israel currently occupies came from. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/how-israel-came-to-possess-the-land-it-currently-occupies/

  37. Where is Ancient Palestine and Who are the Palestinian People? Does the idea of an ancient Palestinian homeland belonging to the Palestinian people have any basis in history? There were 3 such places with that name, none of them belonging to Arabs; one belonging to the Romans, one a province of the Byzantine Empire and one under British administration.  So what is “Palestine” and who are the “Palestinian” people? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/where-is-ancient-palestine-who-are-the-palestinians/

  38.  1948 – The Fullfillment of the Second Gathering of the Jews to the Land of Israel – When God promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people, was it conditional on their obedience? If so, how would we explain that the Jews have been returned to the land not once, but twice — and the most recent time was in 1948? What do the Scriptures have to say about God’s covenant with the Jewish people with regard to obedience to His commands and how that related specifically to the Land? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/fullfullment-of-the-second-gathering-of-the-jews-to-the-land-of-israel/

  39. Montreal Bagel and Smoked Meat – [a break from our usual articles]. Sometimes, the world is all too serious and what we need is a little distraction — such as food or music.  For Jews, both food and music are integral to who we are.  There is the food and music of home; not our ancestral home, but the Jewish community in which we grew up and for us, as Montreal Jews that food is epitomized by bagel and smoked meat. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/montreal-bagel-and-smoked-meat-the-real-deal/

  40. Jesus born at Sukkot / Festival of Booths / Feast of Tabernacles – People have asked us why we believe that Jesus was born at Sukkot (the Festival of Booths / the Feast of Tabernacles) and this article is about how theologians have arrived at this conclusion.  It is also about how Sukkot has already been set apart by God to be the only Feast of Israel that all the nations of the world will one day celebrate. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jesus-born-at-sukkot-festival-of-booths/

  41. Remembering and Preparing to Remember – Jews are a people called to remember and with that remembering comes preparation. This article elaborates on the the Jewish concept of preparing to remember which has been passed down to the Church in the observance of The Lord’s Table. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/remembering-and-preparing-to-remember/

  42. The High Holy Days and the Ten Days of Awe – The ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and ending with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are commonly known as the Days of Awe or the Days of Repentance. These are the holiest days on the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur, and the requirements of God in observing this day have important significance to New Testament believers today, both Jews and Gentiles. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-high-holy-days-and-the-ten-days-of-awe/

  43. God’s Calling on Gentiles, His Calling on Jews – We have pondered writing this article for a while and the reason is simple. How can the (predominantly Gentile) Church fulfill God’s specific calling on them mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament if they don’t know and understand what it is? http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/God’s_calling_on_Gentiles/

  44. ‘The Parable of the Vineyard Workers’ in Matthew 20 is part of Jesus’ reply to Peter’s question given Matthew 19:27 but without understanding the reference Jesus is making to Old Testament concepts that would have been very well known to the disciples, one can easily miss what Jesus is saying.  This article elaborates on those concepts so that the meaning of the parable becomes clear. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-parable-of-the-vineyard-workers/

  45. New Testament Dietary Laws – Different for Jews and Gentiles’ – Most have heard of Jewish dietary laws but not what made foods ‘unclean’ or what role these laws served but few are aware of the dietary laws set out for Gentile Christians in the New Testament. How did these differing food laws impact social interaction between Jewish believers and Gentile Christians in the first century? What about today?http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/new-testament-dietary-laws-different-for-jews-and-gentiles/

  46. ‘A Visit from the Mormons’ – It’s not every day that the Mormons come knocking and find a mother and son engaged in Scripture study in their living room; with a four volume Hebrew-English Interlinear and Strong’s Concordance at the ready. Talk about catching a couple of Mormon missionaries off guard! Daniel answered the door and invited our visitors in.http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-visit-from-the-mormons/

  47. What does Paul mean that he became “as a Jew to the Jews and to the Gentiles, a Gentile”: In this article we look at what Paul meant by being “under” the Law, “outside” the Law and “within” the Law and what that meant in terms of the call to be “all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9). http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/as-a-jew-to-the-jews-and-to-the-gentiles-a-gentile/

  48. Status quo  in the First Century Church vs Today – There was no need for the Gospel writers or Paul to explain Jewish practice because the vast majority of believers at the time were Jews and Jewish practice was understood.  But two thousand years later, most Gentile readers of the New Testament have little understanding of these Jewish practices. In this article we discuss the implications of this. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/status-quo-in-the-first-century-church-vs-today/

  49. Historic Perspective Affects New Testament Interpretation – This article looks at how the historical perspective of the Church after the death of the Apostles has shaped understanding of Israel and the Jewish people. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/historical-perspective-affects-new-testament-interpretation/

  50. Jesus – a Prophet like Moses – what does it mean for Jesus to be ‘a prophet like Moses’? What would the implications be for Jesus to have taught something different than what the Law of Moses taught?    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jesus-a-prophet-like-moses/

  51. Creation of a Palestinian State – the “Two State” Solution – the idea of a “two state” solution is often proposed as a means to resolve the ongoing tensions between Israel and the ‘Palestinians’, but few realize there have already been two “two state” solutions. This article documents those. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/creation-of-a-palestinian-state-the-two-state-solution/

  52. Different Sects of Jews – from the Pharisees and Sadducees to the Sects of Today – to understand what Jesus was saying to the Jewish leadership and why, one needs to understand who the Jewish leadership was and what they believed. What are the Jewish sects of today and how are they related to those of the first century?    http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/different-sects-of-jews-from-the-pharisees-and-sadducees-to-the-sects-of-today/

  53. The Keymaker’s Sons – A Modern Parable – This story was written with the desire to help Gentile Christians understand how Jewish believers perceive our relationship with Gentile Christians within the Church. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-key-makers-sons-a-modern-parable/

  54. Is there a Difference between Jewish Believers and Gentile Christians – and if so, what is it?  This article seeks explores the ways in which Jewish believers look at their faith and the Scriptures from a slightly different perspective than Gentile Christians. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jewish_believers_and_gentile_christian_is_there_a_difference/

  55. Shavuot (Pentecost) and Jesus being the “firstfruits from the dead” – this article explains from Scripture the timing of the events related to the crucifixion of Jesus and the Jewish holiday of Passover and how the timing of the Feast of Pentecost (Shavuot) is tied to the timing of Passover. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/shavuot-pentecost-and-jesus-being-the-firstfruits-from-the-dead/


  56. “A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in” – the Apostle Paul has much to say about whether God has rejected the Jews and in Romans 11:14–25 he speaks directly to Gentiles about the unbelief of much of physical Israel. Paul exhorts the Gentiles not to brag (:18), not to be arrogant (:20), not to be conceited (:25) and not to be unaware (:25) of God’s plans of redemption of physical Israel. Why Paul said this and what the Scriptures say with regards to the future salvation of the Jews is elaborated on in this article. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-partial-hardening-has-come-to-israel-until-the-full-number-of-the-gentiles-has-come-in/

  57. The Early Church [including Polycarp] continued to celebrate Passover – few Gentile Christians realize that both Jewish believers and Gentile Christians in the early Church at Jerusalem and Antioch including Polycarp, a Church Father (80-167 CE) continued to celebrate the Passover according to the Biblical requirement (on the 14th of Nisan) and did so for the first two centuries, possibly until the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.  This article is fully referenced for the more scholarly and skeptical reader. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/early-church-including-polycarp-continued-to-celebrate-passover/

  58. The Temple and Synagogue in the Early Church – is an article about the role of the Temple and the synagogue in the life of Jesus and the early Jewish believers at the beginning of the Church as we know it. http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-temple-synagogue-in-the-early-church/

The Talmud – now available in English, free and online

For centuries, studying Talmud first-hand was virtually impossible for most people, due to multiple barriers. Written mostly in Aramaic, with unpunctuated text, without vowels, in a column in the middle of the page, with its commentaries wrapping around it, accessibility was further complicated by the fact that its foremost commentary by Rashi was printed in an obscure Hebrew typeface read almost exclusively by religious, learned Jews. Add to that the Talmud’s size and cost — 37 full volumes (called “tractates”) that would take up an entire shelf in a library.  While digital versions do exist, such as the one published for decades by Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, it lacks English translation and a digital version of an English Talmud translation which is available, costs $600.

For the first time ever, the Talmud is available to anyone in English for free — and it’s online.

This past Tuesday, February 7, 2017, Sefaria released 22 of the 37 tractates (volumes) online, with the remaining to be released in 2017.  Sefaria’s format links between the Talmud’s text and the myriad of Jewish sources it references, from the Bible to rabbinic literature. Click on a verse in the Bible and you will see where it’s quoted in the Talmud and be able to read it in full, with explanatory notes in relatively plain language.

Of interest to both the Jewish believers and Gentile Christian students of Scripture is what the Rabbis of old had to say about passages we understand to be Messianic prophecy. Most surprisingly, the very passages that today’s Orthodox rabbis deny as being about Messiah, were understood by the Jewish sages to be about Messiah!

Not only that, the Jewish sages understanding of the suffering Messiah (Messiah ben Yosef) and the reigning Messiah (Messiah ben David) is remarkably similar to what we believe. No wonder Sefaria’s release of the Talmud in English and Hebrew (the two languages spoken by most Jews the world over) is so very controversial.

Available at www.sefaria.org and as a free app for iPhone and Android (that can be used offline, too).

New Years and the Parable of the Ten Virgins

For the first time in many, many years, Chanukah fell late enough to coincide with both Christmas and New Years.

oil-chanukiah-bright-sun-angled-24-12-2016
oil burning Chanukiah (Chanukah menorah)

 

This year, we decided to celebrate the holiday commemorating the ‘miracle of the oil’ with an oil lamp Chanukiah…

 

 

 

 

8th night of Chanukah - Dec 23 2014
candle-burning Chanukiah – Chanukah menorah

…instead of the candle-style Chanukiah, typically used by Jews in the Diaspora.

 

 

 

This caused us to learn a thing or two about oil-burning lamps.

A comment of a friend on social media regarding the distinct rise in antisemitism seen around the world this past year, brought to mind a Parable that suddenly took on new meaning — the Parable of the Ten Virgins.

Here is a paraphrase of the comment;

“It seems that there is no limit to the abyss of antisemitism, but there WILL be an end to it when the Jewish Messiah rules the world! And we are a year closer!”

…and the reply went something :

“there is no limit to that abyss – but it gets worse, before it gets better [spoiler alert: a read of Zechariah Ch. 12-14]. The question is, where will the Church be this time, compared to WWII? Hopefully, she is trimming her wicks and making sure to have plenty of oil.”

The Parable of the Ten Virgins goes like this;

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom.  Five of them were foolish and five were sensible.  When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take olive oil with them.  But the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps.  Since the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

 “In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’

 “Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.  But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’

 “The sensible ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell, and buy oil for yourselves.’

 “When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut.

 “Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’

 “But he replied, ‘I assure you: I do not know you!’

 “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.”

Where WILL the Church to be when the coming persecution of the Jews comes at the end of the age? How do we know that there will be this persecution? The beginning of Zechariah 12 (from the “spoiler alert” referred to above) says;

The word of the Lord concerning Israel.
A declaration of the Lord,
who stretched out the heavens,
laid the foundation of the earth,
and formed the spirit of man within him.

 Look, I will make Jerusalem a cup that causes staggering for the peoples who surround the city. The siege against Jerusalem will also involve Judah.  On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who try to lift it will injure themselves severely when all the nations of the earth gather against her.

Zechariah 12:1-3

We don’t have to look far to see Jerusalem becoming that “cup of staggering“.  We don’t have to look far to see the “peoples [synonym for ‘nations’] who surround her. It is certainly not hard to imagine a coming day when Jerusalem will be “a heavy stone for all the nations” — nations who will “gather against her”.

The story begins here, but doesn’t end here.

Read all of Zechariah Chapters 12-14 for the details!

Here is how it ends;

A day of the Lord is coming when your plunder will be divided in your presence.  I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle. The city will be captured, the houses looted, and the women raped. Half the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be removed from the city.

Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations as He fights on a day of battle. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. The Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west, forming a huge valley, so that half the mountain will move to the north and half to the south.

You will flee by My mountain valley, for the valley of the mountains will extend to Azal. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come and all the holy ones with Him.

Zechariah 14:1-5

On that day, the Lord Himself will go out to fight against those nations that come against Jerusalem. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives.

This SHOULD sound very familiar!

Remember Yeshua’s (Jesus’) ascension from the Mount of Olives?

What does the Angel say?

After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took Him out of their sight.  While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a Sabbath day’s journey away.

Acts 1: 9-12

He is returning to the Mount of Olives in the same way that He was seen going into heaven!

Do you remember what they asked Yeshua just before He ascended?

“Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?”

He said to them:

“It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority.”

Zechariah 14:6-7

They asked Him if this was the time that He would be restoring the kingdom to Israel. He didn’t reply “ I’m not going to be restoring the kingdom to Israel.” He said that it was not for the disciples to know the times that the Father has set by His own authority.

Zechariah 14:7 says that it will be a day known only to God.

We don’t know the day, but in the Parable of the Ten Virgins, He exhorts us to be ready.

Church, are you prepared? Before the Groom comes for His Bride — both Jew and grafted in Gentile, when the nations come against Jerusalem at the end of the age. . .where will you be?

Will you have your wicks trimmed and enough oil for your lamps, or will you be caught unprepared? Will He invite you in, or say “‘I assure you: I do not know you!”?


We’d like to leave you with this;

A young Christian was in Israel and he visited Jerusalem’s Yad V’Shem Holocaust Museum.

“I viewed the exhibits with a young history major from the Institute [of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem]. the history student remarked “no people on earth have been persecuted like the Jewish people”.  I quickly corrected him saying, “Except for the Christians.”  He laughed — a sound not often heard in Yad V’Shem.

27b6f35800000578-3045115-image-a-24_1429390998361

The eyes of the victims stared at me across the photographically reproduced barbed-wire fences.  I suddenly realized that I stood on the wrong side of the fence.  If we Christians were the real people of God, then why did the world still target and hate the Jews? Shouldn’t we be the ones on whom the forces of evil bend their energy? Instead, too often, we were the ones dispensing the evil.”

-D. Thomas Lancaster, Restoration


This brings us full circle to the reply to the comment above on social media;

“there is no limit to that abyss [of antisemitism] – but it gets worse, before it gets better [spoiler alert: a read of Zechariah Ch. 12-14]. The question is, where will the Church be this time, compared to WWII? Hopefully, she is trimming her wicks and making sure to have plenty of oil.

Boundaries of the Land of Israel – as set by God

INTRODUCTION: UN Security Council’s Resolution #2334 which passed Friday, December 23, 2016 separates the God of Israel from the people of Israel and the Land of Israel and Christians need to be clear what the word of God says concerning the land of Israel and the people of Israel. This is not a “some-day” eschatological issue — but a very real for the truth of God that is playing itself out in our day and our time.


UN Security Council’s Resolution #2334 (December 23, 2016) declared, among other things, that the Western Wall of the Jewish Temple (the Kotel) and all of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is “illegally occupied Palestinian territory”. 

This resolution Hebron — where Abraham buried Sarah and where David was first crowned king not Israel.

According to this resolution, Bethlehem of Judea (Matthew 2:1), the place of Jesus’ birth is not Israel. That is, the place of the birth of the King of the Jews is not in the land of the Jews.

This is not a political matter — one that can be determined by the UN. It is a battle for truth for what God has said in Scripture concerning the Land of Israel, and the people of Israel.


The Covenant Ratified by God Alone

 A covenant is an agreement between at least two parties, where the terms of the agreement are set out and both parties accept them. The killing of an animal in making a covenant signified that those that entered into the covenant could expect the same fate if he violated his oath. The slaughtered animal(s) was both a ratifying sacrifice and symbolic of the curse for violating the covenant. This enactment of the oath made any verbal declaration unnecessary.

When God made a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:9-21), God asks Abram to bring Him three specific animals, split them down the middle and lay them opposite one another. He told Abram that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt but would be delivered after 400 years, would leave with many possessions and then return to this land that God had given them. Then God alone ratified the covenant. Abraham did not have to walk through the cut pieces of animals, as is normally the case with “cutting a covenant” — God alone did. God alone ratified the covenant and by doing so, God was saying, that if He broke this covenant with Abraham, He Himself would die!


The Land – eternal possession of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants

This is what God has said concerning the land of Israel and the people of Israel:

At the very beginning of Genesis 17, God appears to Abraham when he was 99 years old and reiterates the everlasting covenant He made with him when He passed through the animal parts including the certainly of the Land as an eternal possession that He was giving to Abraham’s descendants through Isaac (and then through Jacob, Isaac’s son).

“I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.”

Then Abram fell face-down and God spoke with him: “As for Me, My covenant is with you: you will become the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you. I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as an eternal possession, and I will be their God.”

Genesis 17:1-8

Later, God reaffirms the covenant He made with Abraham to Isaac, himself;

“There was another famine in the land in addition to the one that had occurred in Abraham’s time. And Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines, at Gerar. The Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt. Live in the land that I tell you about; stay in this land as a foreigner, and I will be with you and bless you. For I will give all these lands to you and your offspring, and I will confirm the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky, I will give your offspring all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring, because Abraham listened to My voice and kept My mandate, My commands, My statutes, and My instructions.”

Genesis 26:1-5

God also reconfirmed the covenant He made with Abraham to Jacob, Isaac’s heir;

I am Yahweh, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land that you are now sleeping on. Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Genesis 28 13-15

God also reconfirmed the covenant to Jacob as second time, when He renamed him “Israel“, saying He will give the land to Jacob and his future descendants.

“God appeared to Jacob again after he returned from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. God said to him:

Your name is Jacob;
you will no longer be named Jacob,
but your name will be Israel.
So He named him Israel. God also said to him:

I am God Almighty.
Be fruitful and multiply.
A nation, indeed an assembly of nations,
will come from you,
and kings will descend from you.
I will give to you the land
that I gave to Abraham and Isaac.
And I will give the land
to your future descendants.

Genesis 35:9-12

This is what God has said concerning the land of Israel and the people of Israel.


The Boundaries of the Land of Israel — according to God

To be clear, the Land given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants (the Jews) as an eternal possession and illustrated on the map below includes;
  •  all the land on the west bank of the Jordan River (including Judea and Samaria (what is  referred to as “the West Bank” as it is on the west bank of the Jordan River)
  • an area on the east bank of the Jordan River (where southern Jordan now stands)
  • the southern tip of Lebanon
  • part of Southern Syria

 

  • 12 Tribes with current country names

 

The boundaries of the land of Israel is specified in Numbers 34:1-12;

The Lord spoke to Moses, “Command the Israelites and say to them: When you enter the land of Canaan, it will be allotted to you as an inheritance with these borders:

Your southern side will be from the Wilderness of Zin along the boundary of Edom. Your southern border on the east will begin at the east end of the Dead Sea. Your border will turn south of the Ascent of Akrabbim, proceed to Zin, and end south of Kadesh-barnea. It will go to Hazar-addar and proceed to Azmon. The border will turn from Azmon to the Brook of Egypt, where it will end at the Mediterranean Sea.

Your western border will be the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea; this will be your western border.

This will be your northern border: From the Mediterranean Sea draw a line to Mount Hor; from Mount Hor draw a line to the entrance of Hamath, and the border will reach Zedad.  Then the border will go to Ziphron and end at Hazar-enan. This will be your northern border.

For your eastern border, draw a line from Hazar-enan to Shepham. The border will go down from Shepham to Riblah east of Ain. It will continue down and reach the eastern slope of the Sea of Chinnereth. Then the border will go down to the Jordan and end at the Dead Sea. This will be your land defined by its borders on all sides.”

So Moses commanded the Israelites, “This is the land you are to receive by lot as an inheritance, which the Lord commanded to be given to the nine and a half tribes.  For the tribe of the Reubenites and the tribe of the Gadites have received their inheritance according to their ancestral houses, and half the tribe of Manasseh has received its inheritance. The two and a half tribes have received their inheritance across the Jordan from Jericho, eastward toward the sunrise.”

Numbers 34:1-12

The land on the west side of the Jordan is allocated to nine and half tribes with the other two and a half tribes inheriting land on the east side of the Jordan (half the tribe of Manasseh, Reuben, Gad).

“So Moses commanded the Israelites, “This is the land you are to receive by lot as an inheritance, which the Lord commanded to be given to the nine and a half tribes.  For the tribe of the Reubenites and the tribe of the Gadites have received their inheritance according to their ancestral houses, and half the tribe of Manasseh has received its inheritance. The two and a half tribes have received their inheritance across the Jordan from Jericho, eastward toward the sunrise.”

Numbers 34:13-15

That is, the land God gave to half the tribe of Manasseh (East Manasseh), Gad and Reuben lies where southern Jordan is now.

Future Boundaries

In Ezekiel 47, God reveals the future boundaries of the 12 tribes of Israel — believed this will be the boundaries of the land during the earthly rule of Messiah from Jerusalem.

Current Israel Biblical borders

This is what God has said concerning the land of Israel and the people of Israel.

Final thoughts…

These words are worth reflecting on:

“The U.N. has placed itself in flagrant violation of God’s word and its rulings here have no divine validity. The Resolution separates the God of Israel from the people of Israel and the Land of Israel. The stage is set for a showdown between the nations and the God of Jacob.”

Avner Boskey

God has said that the land  with the boundaries that He has set is the eternal possession of the Jewish people, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

May Christians be prepared to take a stand according to what God has said His word, concerning the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

Questions and Answers about Jews and Christmas

INTRODUCTION: This article stems from some wonderful, lively discussion around a post on Facebook about what not to ask Jews at Christmas.  The comments and inquiries were sincere and thought provoking; so much so, that it was felt that this would be the best place to answer those, as well as the original questions.  We trust that this will be of interest to those that follow the Jewish Roots of Christianity.

Here is the original post from Facebook:

Ten questions not to ask Jews this time of year:
1. I know you’re Jewish, but you do have have a Christmas tree, right?
2. But you had one growing up, right?
3. Then what did you put your presents under on Christmas morning?
4. Does that mean you don’t get presents?
5. So how *do* you celebrate Christmas?
6. Do you at least eat a Christmas ham?
7. You must be envious of everyone that *does* celebrate Christmas, right?
8. Don’t you feel really left out that you’re missing out on all the fun?
9. Don’t you wish you had holidays and special food to look forward to?
10. But Chanukah is like a Jewish Christmas, right?

Here are 4 of the comments and questions that were posted which we will attempt to answer below:

  1.  “Hahaha to #9…how many holidays and how much special food we have!”

  2. “I once got that “everyone” celebrates Christmas because it’s not a religious holiday.”

  3. “Why not ask these questions? I didn’t have the privilege to grow up around a Jewish community, I don’t know the answers to a lot of these questions. There are more subtle ways to ask some of the questions, sure, but I hope someone who’s genuinely interested and not intending any offence wouldn’t be judged for just trying to understand someone else’s experience at this time of year.”

  4. “The real question is what do you ask Messianic Jews??”

The answers to these questions are as diverse as Jews themselves!


Two Jews, Three Opinions

First of all, it is impossible to speak of “the Jews” — both in Biblical times as now, as a homogeneous group with unified beliefs.

In the New Covenant (Testament) when “the Jews” are referred to, Scripture identifies which Jews were being spoken of; whether they are Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, or ordinary Jews who followed Yeshua (Jesus) from the Galilee, the Decopolis, Judea and Samaria and from beyond the Jordan (Matt. 4) .

It is very important for Christians to keep this in mind when studying the teachings of Jesus or of Paul, because the things that they said were to a specific group for a specific reason.  Reading “up” in a passage to find “which Jews” where being spoken to is required to understand what was being said, and as importantly what was not being said.

It is equally impossible to speak of “the Jews”  today as if they were a homogeneous group. 

Jews range from Orthodox to secular  — and everything in between and within each category there are many subgroups.  As well, there is a great deal of variation as to how each group would define itself as well as how it would define other groups of Jews — or whether some of those “others” would be even be considered “Jews” (such as Kairaites or Messianic Jews).

The expression “two Jews, three opinions” captures this well.

To begin to comprehend how “Jews” would answer the above questions, requires knowing a little bit about the different sects of Jews and what they believe relative to each other.

Here is a brief sketch of the main sects of Jews;

The term Orthodox Jews is synonymous with the term Rabbinic Judaism and originated with the biblical Pharisees. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the Pharisees who had already established and led and taught in the synagogues were the only group who retained their influence. The Essenes and Nazarenes (term for the first “Messianic Jews”) were considered “heretics”.  For the first 3 generations after the death of Yeshua (Jesus), the Jewish believers were still able to attend the traditional synagogue but in 72-73 CE (40 years after Jesus’ death), the addition of the Birkat ha-Minim forced the Jewish believers from the traditional synagogue.

[see the section on the “Blessing” of the Heretics” in the previous post titled “The Temple and synagogue in the Early Church”: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-temple-synagogue-in-the-early-church/]

The Orthodox Jews of today includes the Masorti (traditional Orthodox), the Chasidim (one form of “black hat” Jews including the Lubavitch and Breslov that originated in Eastern Europe in the 1700s), and the Israeli Haredi (also “black hat” Jews, non-zionists — believing only Messiah can establish Israel) and Dati (modern Orthodox, zionist).

Simplistically put, Orthodox Jews believe that the Torah has two partsthe “Written Law” (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) that was given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, along with the “Oral Law” needed to understand and practice them. The “Oral Law”, as the name implies, was originally not written down, but is said to have been passed down from Moses, and from there from father to son, and from teacher to disciple. “Oral Law” dictates everything from the wearing of phylacteries (tefillin) and the colour of their straps, to how many walls and the size of those walls, required to build a Sukkah (booth for the Feast of Tabernacles).

Halakhah (literally “the path that one walks“) is the complete body of rules and practices that Jews are to follow, including Biblical commandments and the commandments instituted by the rabbis, based on “Oral Torah”.

The Talmud

After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the Rabbinic authorities were concerned that the “Oral Law” would be forgotten, so it was written down in the form of the Mishnah, a shorthanded collection of the oral teachings. That is, the “Oral Law” was “oral” from 70 CE until 190 CE (2nd century after Yeshua’s (Jesus’ death), when the Mishnah was completed.

It was believed by the rabbis that important information was missing from the Mishnah, so this material was compiled in the Gemara (also spelled Gemorra), which comprises rabbinical commentaries on the Mishnah. The Gemarra includes the Melchilta (exegesis on the Book of Exodus) , Safra (exegesis on the Book of Leviticus),  Sifri (exegesis on verses in Numbers and Deuteronomy) as well as the Beraisos (commentaries on the Mishnah) and Tosefta (an appendix to the Mishnah).

The Talmud, is the compendium of Jewish law and thought, including the Mishnah and the Gamara.

Regardless of the sect they come from, Orthodox Jews recognize the authority of both the Written Law and Oral Law.  How those are interpreted and expressed, may vary however between the different groups of Orthodox.


Reform Jews do not believe that the Torah, even the Written Law, was given by God. For the most part, they seek to practice the ethics and values of Judaism without any obligation to God.  As such, they do not seek to practice the commandments attributed to God in the first five books of Moses  (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), or Halakhah


Conservative Jews grew out of the tension between Orthodox and Reformed Judaism and began as an American movement in the early 1900s. They generally accept the binding nature of Halakhah, but believes that the Law should change and adapt — absorbing some of the practices of the predominant culture around them, while remaining true to Judaism’s values and ethics.


The Kairaites — literally “people of the Scripture” originated with the Sadducees.  As mentioned above, after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the Pharisees who established, led and taught in the synagogues were the only group with influence. The Kairaites do not accept the concept of “Oral Law” given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai along with the “Written Law”. They only recognize the written Law, as recorded in the first five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). The Kairaites distinguish themselves from the Rabbanites (Rabbinical Judaism, derived from the Pharisees) and believe it is their responsibility to study the written text in Hebrew and to interpret the texts of Scripture, without rabbinical interpretation.


The first thing to know about Messianic Jews is that they are Jews. Messianic Jews did not ‘convert’ to Christianity.  Like the Nazarenes of the first century (i.e. Paul, Matthew, Mark, etc.) who were referred to as the ‘Jews that believe’, Messianic Jews believe that God’s promised Messiah has come.  Many Messianic Jews, like the early Jewish believers of Scripture, continue to set themselves apart as Jews, a distinct people, because God called the Jewish people to.

Torah-observant Messianic Jews don’t follow the Law because it will “save” them, but because God called them to. While this may come as a surprise to some Christians, Jesus followed the Law.  While this may be obvious once it is thought about, He followed the commands of Moses (not the “Oral Law” of the Pharisees) and had He not, He would have been committing sin and would no longer have been the Lamb without blemish.

It is also important to understand that what He taught was not different than what was taught in the Law of the Old Covenant (Testament). If it was, He would have been a false prophet, not the Messiah.  

Likewise, He didn’t give ‘new meaning‘ to what was taught in the Law as that would have been causing us to rebel against God and His commands; a most grievous sin.

Yeshua (Jesus) not only upholds the Law but speaks of the Law’s continued relevance and practice to Jews in the kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount. If one “reads up” from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew to see “who” He was speaking to, it says!  He was speaking to the ordinary Jews who followed Him there from the Galilee, the Decopolis, Judea and Samaria and from beyond the Jordan (Matthew. 4).

To these ordinary Jews He said;

“anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Matt 5:17-19

It should come as no surprise that many Messianic Jews are Torah-observant. Messiah was.


Questions and Answers

Perhaps now it is easier to see that depending which sect of Jews are asked, the answers to the above questions will be very different!

To Orthodox Jews, Christmas is a Gentile holiday. God in His Law commands the Jews not to follow the practice of the nations around us, so while they would have no issue with Gentiles celebrating it, Christmas and anything to do with it are foreign practices. Conservative Jews would hold a similar position. Reform Jews don’t believe that the Scriptures were inspired by God, so anything attributed to God is not binding. They would have no issue with decorating a tree or celebrating the secular version of Christmas — with Santa Clause and mistletoe. Since Kairaites follow the written Law, they would not follow any of the practices of the nations around them.  That said, they would have no issue with Gentile Christians celebrating it. Torah-observing Messianic Jews are not that different from Kairaites, except that they believe Messiah has already come. Most Messianic Jews would not have any problem with Gentile Christians celebrating Christmas in whatever way they wish, including Christmas trees and ham! While we certainly can’t speak for “all” Messianic Jews, we can say how we view Christmas. We believe that Yeshua (Jesus) was born during Sukkot (see previous blogs) and we commemorate His coming to “tabernacle” among us, during the Feast of Tabernacles.  We are fine with Gentile Christian celebrating their Savior’s birth at Christmas and take no issue with them having Christmas trees, or mistletoe or Christmas hams. There is nothing in Scripture defining what Gentile Christians can do or eat, outside of Acts 15 (see previous blog).

We mean no offense to our Gentile Christian brothers and sisters by not having a Christmas tree and we hope they will understand that God called the Jewish people not to follow the ways of the nations around us, so we don’t.

jeremiah-10-way-of-the-nations

For His own reasons, God called us to be a distinct nation and a peculiar people and we choose to honor Him by maintaining the Jewish practice and observance that He called us to. We are not better for not doing so, just distinct.

As Messianic Jews, raised in Jewish families, here are our answers to the ten questions:

1. I know you’re Jewish, but you do have have a Christmas tree, right? nope

2. But you had one growing up, right? nope

3. Then what did you put your presents under on Christmas morning? Since we didn’t celebrate Christmas we didn’t get any presents on Christmas morning. So we didn’t need to put the presents we didn’t get under anything.

4. Does that mean you don’t get presents? On Chanukah (which falls at different times relative to Christmas each year because ours is a lunar calendar), our parents would give us a gift of money and chocolate coins. 

5. So how *do* you celebrate Christmas? We don’t. We commemorate the birth of Messiah at Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). 

6. Do you at least eat a Christmas ham? nope. We do not eat pork because God listed a few foods in His Law that were “to be unclean to us” (not that they are inherently unclean). Since pigs do not have a cloven hoof and chew the cud, we don’t eat pork. 

7. You must be envious of everyone that *does* celebrate Christmas, right? nope. We have so many holidays that God called us as a people to observe “from generation to generation” that we are not in the least bit envious that you celebrate Christmas. Actually, we feel a little “bad” that Gentile Christians only have Christmas and Easter.

8. Don’t you feel really left out that you’re missing out on all the fun? nope. We have many holiday and special foods and observances. If you are would to include us in your celebrations, please feel free to invite us, but please don’t mind if we don’t eat the ham.

9. Don’t you wish you had holidays and special food to look forward to? nope.  We are still recovering from all the food from the several Fall Festivals and have 8 days of sufganiyot (Israeli donuts) and potato latkes (fried potato ‘pancakes’) to eat during Chanukah. Then we have a bit of time to recover before Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread. We have no shortage of holidays and special food.

10. But Chanukah is like a Jewish Christmas, right? nope. It is a commemoration of when the Jews, led by the Maccabee brothers defeated the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV (~ 165 BCE) after he had plundered the Jewish Temple of its gold objects of worship then and desecrated it by sacrificing a pig on its alter.  As sons of Mattityahu, who was a priest, the Maccabee brothers were also Levites and therefore permitted to rededicate the Temple after it was cleansed, but once the flame was lit, it had to remain lit.  But there was only enough oil for one night and it would take another 8 days to make new oil for the Temple. They lit the flame anyways, and went about making the new oil.  The miracle that occurred on Chanukah (called the Feast of Dedication, in English) is that the tiny bit of oil that was only enough to burn for ONE night, lasted EIGHT nights — long enough for the new oil to be ready.  So we commemorate that “a great miracle happened there”, by lighting an 8-branched Chanukiah and eating foods fried in oil, such as sufganiot and latkes.

Did you know that Chanukah (the Feast of Dedication) is mentioned in the New Covenant (Testament)? 

“At that time the Feast of Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple courts in Solomon’s Colonnade.”

John 10:22


With respect to asking questions about another person’s culture or practices, from our experience, it’s best to ask open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions, such as the ones above can be perceived as judgmental, as the one asking them presumes that the reference point is there own — that “everyone” celebrates Christmas.

Here are some open-ended ways to ask Jews you meet what, if anything they do at this time of year.  These would likely be welcomed by just about any Jew — from the most observant to the most secular;

1. I know you’re Jewish so I’m curious if Jews put up Christmas trees.
2. Did you have one growing up?
3. Do Jews get presents at Christmas, and if so, do they put them under that Jewish candelabra thingy…what’s it called?
4. Do Jews give presents to their children or to each other on Chanukah?
5. Why do Jews not celebrate Christmas?
6. Do you eat any of the holiday foods we eat at Christmas time, like ham?
7. Were you ever envious of everyone that *does* celebrate Christmas?
8. Do you ever feel really left out that you’re missing out on all the things we do at Christmas?
9. Do you have other holidays and special food to look forward to on those holidays
10. I’ve always wondered, is Chanukah sort of like a Jewish Christmas?

Final thoughts…

No, not “everyone” celebrates Christmas and even to some of those that do, it’s not always a religious holiday.

To many, it is about getting and decorating a tree, about giving presents to kids and blaming it on a fat guy in red underwear and drinking rich alcoholic drinks and eating foods that have no affiliation to any religious observance.

As correctly pointed out in the Facebook discussion,  the real St. Nicholas made a point of secret gift-giving.

To observant Christians, while their celebrations may have some of the above,  the main focus is on celebrating the birth of their Savior (whether or not they believe that occurred on December 25th, or not). It is an occasion with deep theological significance, as well as a time to gather with friends and family.

We understand the idea of a holiday being tied to the “commemoration” of an event, as this is very much a part of every one of the Biblical holidays, so whether December 25th is actually the date of the incarnation or not, we understand the importance of commemorating that the Messiah was at one point, a very real human baby. There are “Christmas carols” about “sweet baby Jesus” and the little baby “asleep in the manger”, but He did not remain a helpless baby — and someday, when His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, He will not be a helpless baby, but the ruling Messiah come to judge the world.

There is a day spoken of by Zechariah, the prophet — after the nations of the world come against Jerusalem, where the Scripture say;

“Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations as He fights on a day of battle.  On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east”

“On that day there will be no light; the sunlight and moonlight will diminish. It will be a day known only to Yahweh, without day or night, but there will be light at evening”

Zechariah 14:3-4, 6-7

Yes, He came as a baby, but He is returning as Messiah and King.

To you and yours, we wish you and wonderful and meaningful Christmas...

...and from our house to yours, Happy Chanukah!

Jesus’ Teaching on Hell

INTRODUCTION: Knowing what the Scriptures teach about Gehenna is key to understanding what Jesus was referring to when He taught on it, and whether this is a place which awaits “those that do not believe” or a place for those with “detestable practices”.


Gehenna / Gehenom in Hebrew (גהנום) is a term derived from one of two valleys just outside of Jerusalem called Gai Ben-Hinnom (גֵיבֶן־הִנֹּם ) in Hebrew and Valley of the Son of Hinnom in English, which was a place of horrible idolatry.  Gehenna appears in the Rabbinic texts of the Mishna and Talmud (3rd century CE) and plays an important role as a place where unrighteous souls are punished.

Rabbinic literature describes Gehenna as a place of fire, brimstone and darkness:

“Ordinary fire is a sixtieth of the fire of Gehenna”

Berakhot 57b


“Why does a man’s soul shrink from the odor of brimstone? Because it knows it will be judged in the world to come”

Genesis Rabbah 51:3


“The wicked are darkness, Gehenna is darkness, the depths are darkness. I lead the wicked to Gehenna and cover them with the depths.”

Genesis Rabbah 33:1

In the Scriptures, Topheth in the Valley of Hinnom was the place where apostate Israelites and followers of various Ba’als and false gods, including Moloch, sacrificed their children by fire (2 Chronicles 28:3, 2 Chronicles 33:2, Jeremiah 7:31 ,  Jeremiah 19:2-6).

God’s Judgement Against Detestable Practices

In these passages (2 Chronicles 28:3, 2 Chronicles 33:2, Jeremiah 7:31 ,  Jeremiah 19:2-6), God’s judgement was against the people for what they did, not for unbelief in Him.
God judged Ahaz for burning incense and having burned his children in the fire, imitating the detestable practices of the nations that the had dispossessed before the Israelites.
Speaking of Ahaz, who “did not do what was right in the Lord’s sight” (2 Chronicles 28:1) it says;

“He burned incense in the Valley of Hinnomand burned his children in the fire imitating the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites.”

2 Chronicles 28:3

God judged Manasseh,  for practicing witchcraft, divination, sorcery, and for consulting mediums and spiritists — for doing a great deal of evil in His sight, provoking Him — one who did evil in the Lord’s sight, imitating the detestable practices of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites (2 Chronicles 33:2).

Speaking of Manasseh Scripture says;

“He passed his sons through the fire in the Valley of Hinnom. He practiced witchcraft, divination, and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did a great deal of evil in the Lord’s sight, provoking Him“.

2 Chronicles 33:6

 God judged the Judeans for doing what is evil in His sight — setting up their detestable things in the house that is called by His name and defiling it, building the high places of Topheth in order to burn their sons and daughters in the fire — a thing He did not command.

In Jeremiah 7, God says;

“For the Judeans have done what is evil in My sight.”
This is the Lord’s declaration. “They have set up their detestable things in the house that is called by My name and defiled it. They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Hinnom in order to burn their sons and daughters in the fire a thing I did not command; I never entertained the thought. “

Jeremiah 7:31-32

He judged the kings of Judah and the people of Judah for abandoning Him,  burning incense to other gods, and  filling the place with the blood of the innocent and offering their children as burnt offerings to Baal — something He never commanded;

 “This is what the Lord says: “Go, buy a potter’s clay jar. Take some of the elders of the people and some of the leading priests go out to the Valley of Hinnom near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. Proclaim there the words I speak to you. Say: Hear the word of the Lord, kings of Judah and residents of Jerusalem. This is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on this place that everyone who hears about it will shudder because they have abandoned Me and made this a foreign place. They have burned incense in it to other gods that they, their fathers, and the kings of Judah have never known. They have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. They have built high places to Baal on which to burn their children in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, something I have never commanded or mentioned; I never entertained the thought.”

Jeremiah 19:1-5

Finally, God says through the prophet Isaiah that that Topheth is a place of judgement that has been ready for a long time now, and that God’s breath will kindle it  — that it is a funeral pyre, deep and wide, with plenty of fire and wood and it will be like a torrent of brimstone:
 “Assyria will be shattered by the voice of the Lord.
He will strike with a rod.
And every stroke of the appointed staff
that the Lord brings down on him
will be to the sound of tambourines and lyres;
He will fight against him with brandished weapons.
Indeed! Topheth has been ready 
for the king for a long time now.

Its funeral pyre is deep and wide,
with plenty of fire and wood.
The breath of the Lord, like a torrent of brimstone,
kindles it.”

 Isaiah 30:33

In all of these passages, God’s judgement was against the people for what their detestable practice — what they did, not for unbelief in Him.


Isaiah 66 –  The Final Judgement

Chapter 66 of Isaiah mentions the corpses of a battle like the one Lord fought against the Assyrian army in Topheth, in the Valley of Hinnon (Isaiah 30)  but this is the final battle against those who have rebelled against Him — and Jesus said that the bodies of those who rebelled against God will be in this place (see below). This battle  follows His final gathering of all nations and all languages (Gentiles) and His final gathering of the nation of Israel, to Himself, and the outcome of this battle will be that those who worship Him from all the nations — both Jews and Gentiles will come to worship Him from “one New Moon to another” and “from one Sabbath to another” in the “new heavens and new earth“.

We are going to look at this passage from the beginning, as Jesus refers to it.


At the beginning of the Isaiah 66, God says that He will “look favorably on the kind of person who is humble, submissive in spirit and trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2) and that He will judge those with detestable practices (Isaiah 66:3);

“So I will choose their punishment,
and I will bring on them what they dread
because I called and no one answered;
I spoke and they didn’t hear;
they did what was evil in My sight
and chose what I didn’t delight in.”

Isaiah 66:4

Verse 5-6 speaks of “the voice of the Lord coming from the Temple” speaking judgement to those who ‘hate and exclude those who tremble at His Word”;
 “You who tremble at His word,
hear the word of the Lord:
Your brothers who hate and exclude you
because of Me have said,
‘Let the Lord be glorified
so that we can see your joy! ’
But they will be put to shame.”
A sound of uproar from the city!
A voice from the Temple —
the voice of the Lord,
paying back His enemies what they deserve!
In verses 10-13, God says of Jerusalem and her people ;
“Be glad for Jerusalem and rejoice over her,
all who love her.
Rejoice greatly with her,
all who mourn over her —
so that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her comforting breast
and drink deeply and delight yourselves
from her glorious breasts.
For this is what the Lord says:
I will make peace flow to her like a river,
and the wealth of nations like a flood;
you will nurse and be carried on her hip
and bounced on her lap.
As a mother comforts her son,
so I will comfort you,
and you will be comforted in Jerusalem.”

…and in verse 14-17, God speaks of His judgement against His enemies as the Lord coming “with fire“, and that His rebuke comes with “flames of fire” and His judgement with His “fiery sword“;

“You will see, you will rejoice,
and you will flourish like grass;
then the Lord’s power will be revealed to His servants,
but He will show His wrath against His enemies.
Look, the Lord will come with fire
His chariots are like the whirlwind —
to execute His anger with fury
and His rebuke with flames of fire.
For the Lord will execute judgment
on all flesh with His fiery sword,
and many will be slain by the Lord.
Those who dedicate and purify themselves to enter the groves following their leader, eating meat from pigs, vermin, and rats, will perish together.”

God says that He will gather all nations and all languages (Gentiles) and that they will come and see His glory;

“This is the Lord’s declaration.
Knowing their works and their thoughts, I have come to gather all nations and languages; they will come and see My glory.”

Isaiah 66:18

Then God says that He will ‘send the survivors to the nations who have not heard of His fame or seen His glory, and they will proclaim His glory among the nations, and they will bring back His People from all the nations as a gift to the Lord, to His holy mountain, Jerusalem’ ;

” I will establish a sign among them, and I will send survivors from them to the nations — to Tarshish, Put, Lud (who are archers), Tubal, Javan, and the islands far away — who have not heard of My fame or seen My glory. And they will proclaim My glory among the nations. They will bring all your brothers from all the nations as a gift to the Lord on horses and chariots, in litters, and on mules and camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “just as the Israelites bring an offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. I will also take some of them as priests and Levites,” says the Lord.”

Isaiah 66:19-21

Clearly, this is before the final judgement, as God's glory is still being proclaimed among the nations and there are still those of His People who He is gathering back from the nations, and bringing them back to Jerusalem. 

This is confirmed in the next verse, which speaks of the "new heavens and new earth" that God will make (future tense).

God says “just as this new heavens and new earth” will endure before Him, so will the descendants of Israel and their name endure — and all mankind (Jews and Gentiles, both) will come to worship Him;

“For just as the new heavens and the new earth,
which I will make,
will endure before Me” —
this is the Lord’s declaration
so your offspring and your name will endure.
All mankind will come to worship Me
from one New Moon to another
and from one Sabbath to another,”
says the Lord.”

Isaiah 66:22-23

The last verse of Isaiah 66:24 says that as they leave, they will see the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against God; for their worm will never die, their fire will never go out, and they will be a horror to all mankind.

It is these same words which Jesus said refer to Gehenna (Mark 9:42-48).

Jesus’ Teaching on Hell

Jesus picks up the last verse of Isaiah (Isaiah 66:24) and refers to Gehenna the same way that the Tanakh (Old Testament) does — as the place destined for those who have rebelled against God;

“But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me — it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes your downfall, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell — the unquenchable fire, where
Their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.
And if your foot causes your downfall, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell — the unquenchable fire, where
Their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.
And if your eye causes your downfall, gouge it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where
Their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.

Mark 9:42-48

Jesus is referring to judgement against sins that a person does — what they touch (hand), where they go (foot), what they see (eye). Such sins are wide and vast — and include adultery, fornication, idolatry (even in the modern sense, of worshiping our money, prestige or position), and pornography.

Hell is destined for people who will not turn from these sins.

How many Christians flippantly sleep with their boyfriend or girlfriend (fornication), thinking ‘it’s no big deal’?

How many Christian men — from teenagers, young adults, to older men continue to look at pornography?

Do we not know that we will be judged for what we do?

This is not an “Old Testament” concept that is no longer applicable. Jesus taught this to the unbelievers, the believers and the religious authorities.

I – Jesus Teaching on Hell to Unbelievers

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), Jesus speaking to the Jews that had followed Him there from “from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan” (Matthew 4:25) says:

“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool! ’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron! ’ will be subject to hellfire.”

Matthew 5:21-22

Are there people you just “can’t forgive”?  Jesus said we will be judged for this and that Hell is the place for those who rebel against God and His word.

Unforgiveness is a deadly sin.

“Hellfire” is confirmed as Gehenna a few verses down in Matthew 5:29-30, which is a cross reference to the passage in Mark 9: 42-48, above;

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell!”

Matthew 5:29-30

II – Jesus teaching on Hell to Believers

Jesus repeats this very same teaching that He gave to the Jewish believers in Matthew 5 — this time to the Disciples;

“But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea! Woe to the world because of offenses. For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes.  If your hand or your foot causes your downfall, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire.  And if your eye causes your downfall, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, rather than to have two eyes and be thrown into hellfire

Matthew 18:6-9

Jesus warn the Disciples, who were clearly believers, against God’s judgement that will come against those that continue to practice sins of the hand, foot or eye — saying that what they touch (hand), where they go (foot), what they see (eye) matters.

He reminds them from the teachings of Scripture,  from the Tanakh, that God will judge them for what they DO and that the destiny of those that continue to practice “detestable things” is hell.

Speaking of the end of days, Jesus said to His Disciples, who were clearly already believers in Him;

Therefore, don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known.  What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. What you hear in a whisper, proclaim on the housetops. Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:26-28

III – Jesus Teaching on Hell to the Religious Authorities

In Matthew 23, after Jesus address the crowds and His Disciples (verse 1) admonishing them to

“do whatever they (the Scribes and Pharisees) tell you, and observe it”

…when they are “seated in the chair of Moses” (i.e. teaching the Law of Moses with the authority given them) and adds;

“But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach”

Matthew 23:3

Then Jesus goes in the many “woes” addressed to the Scribes and Pharisees (Mathew 23:13-23) and in the midst of those says;

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are!

Matthew 23:15

Jesus is saying that religious leaders who KNOW what God’s Word teaches yet do not DO it are “fit for hell“.

Concluding all these “woes” Jesus says;

“Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell?

Matthew 23:1

Jesus has very strong words to those who know His word and do not DO it — for not practicing what they teach.  He says to them “how can you escape being condemned to hell?”

They are, as He says, “fit for hell“.


FINAL THOUGHTS…

Hell is the place created for those who will not turn from their detestable practices (Isaiah 66:3).

Hell is the place where those who have rebelled against God go (whether they once believed in Him or not) — where their worm will never die, their fire will never go out.

Hell is the place where someday those who will say to Him, Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?” (Matthew 7:21) and to whom He will answer

“I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!”

That is why He says;

“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

Matthew 7:13

God cares greatly about what we DO and what we PRACTICE, about us observing His Law — both written in His word and written on our hearts.

Hell was not created for “those that do not believe in Him”.  It was created for those with detestable practices, for those that know of Him and do not do the things He commands.

God says He will “look favorably on a person who is humble, submissive in spirit, and who trembles at His word” (Isaiah 66:2), to the repentant and contrite who do whatever it takes to forsake their sins.

What He will not do is wink at sin.

Hell (Gehenna) is the place where those who have rebelled against God go; where their worm will never die, their fire will never go out.

The New Perspective – second phase of the Reformation?

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nailed his ninety-five theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. His theses were copied and distributed throughout Europe and the debate which followed culminated  in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

The Reformation restored the Word of God to the ordinary people and called them out of an obligation of submission to the papacy to one of submission to Scripture.  But was the Reformation all that was required to restore the Scriptures to their first century understanding? This is the topic of this article.


Martin Luther taught that justification (God’s declaration that we are forgiven of sin and righteous in His sight ) comes only through our faith in the ‘completed work and the ‘perfect righteousness of Christ’,  which the Father imputes, or reckons to our account through faith.

Romans 1:16-17 was central to Martin Luther’s theology and lies at the heart of Reformation theology;

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17

Luther initially had disdain for the phrase, “the righteousness of God” because he understood it to be speaking of God’s standard of righteousness by which He would judge unrighteous sinners;

I was seized with the conviction that I must understand [Paul’s] letter to the Romans … but to that moment one phrase in Chapter 1 stood in my way. I hated the idea, “in it the righteousness of God is revealed”.  I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners .

—Martin Luther

In time, Luther said he began to understand that the “righteousness of God” is given as a “gift of God” given to sinners by faith and by which the righteous live;

“At last, meditating day and night and by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through gates that had been flung open.

—Martin Luther

James D.G. Dunn, Peter J. Tomson and other proponents of the “New Perspective on Paul” are restoring an understanding of the teachings of Paul to one set in its first century Jewish context, and in doing so, have set in motion what may be viewed as a second stage of Reformation of the Church.

Two foundational books by New Perspective theologians are "Paul and the Jewish Law - Halakha in the Letters of the Apostles to the Gentiles" by Peter J. Tomson (1990) and "The New Perspective on Paul" by James D.G. Dunn (1993)

According to Dunn, Paul’s theology of justification necessarily must be viewed as integral to the commission to preach the gospel to non-Jews.  This after all, is the context of Paul speaking of “the righteousness of God” in Romans 1:16-17;

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Gentile.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17

Viewed in context, “the righteousness of God” is not as Luther first thought as “God’s standard of righteousness by which He would judge unrighteous sinners” nor as he later thought, ‘as as a gift of God given to sinners by faith’ — but rather “is a relational term that refers to the fulfillment of one’s obligation to another in the context of a relationship”, specifically;

“God’s fulfillment of the obligations that He took upon Himself in creating humankind and particularly, in the calling of Abraham and the choosing of Israel to be His people.

– James D.G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul, pp 340-346

To Dunn and other proponents of the New Perspective, the ‘righteousness of God’ involves God’s reckoning of covenant membership with respect to Gentiles.  We have referred to this in previous articles as God’s fulfillment of His promise that He gave in the “all nations clause” of Genesis 12:2-3 of the Abrahamic Covenant.

God promised Abraham that he will be (1) the father of "a great nation" -- that is a specific nation (Hebrew: לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל) though Isaac and Jacob (the Jews), and He also promised (Genesis 12:3) that through a physical descendant of Abraham, a Jew, "all the peoples  (nations) of the earth will be blessed".  This is the so-called "all-nations clause".

According to Dunn and other proponents of the New Perspective, the term ‘the righteousness of God’ is not a term indicating transfer, but status recognition;

God’s justification is not His act in first making His covenant with Israel, or in initially accepting someone into His covenant people. God’s justification is rather God’s acknowledgment that someone is in the covenant — whether that is an initial acknowledgment, or a repeated action of God (God’s saving acts) or His final vindication of His people”.

– James D.G. Dunn, “The New Perspective on Paul”, p 97

The ‘righteousness of God‘ refers to God’s fulfillment of the obligations that God took upon Himself;

(1) in the calling of Abraham when He chose Israel to be His people (the “great nation”) and made His “everlasting covenant” with them, giving them as an “eternal possession” all the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:1-8).

and a fulfillment of the obligations that He took upon Himself;

(2) in the “all nations clause” (Genesis 12:3), that through a physical descendant of Abraham, a Jew, “all the nations of the earth will be blessed”.

The New Perspective as a second phase of the Reformation?

The Reformation restored the common people’s access and accountability to the Word of God, but is it helpful to view “reform” as having occurred at one point in history and complete? Perhaps what began in 1517 was the first phase in restoring a correct understanding to Scripture?

Reformation theology failed to understand that the ‘righteousness of God‘ was God’s reckoning of covenant membership to Gentiles and they also erroneously viewed ‘justification’ and the ‘righteousness of God’ as one of transfer, rather than of status recognition.

New Perspective theologians situate the teachings of Paul in their first century Jewish context, and in doing so may form the beginning of a second phase of the Reformation – one which restores the teachings of Paul and of Jesus to their first century Jewish context.

Understanding that ‘justification’ and the ‘righteousness of God’ describe status recognition of either being “in the covenant” or “not in the covenant” does not distinguish whether the one “in the covenant” came from the “great nation” through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews),  or as a result of God fulfilling His promise to “all the nations of the earth” (the Gentiles).

New Perspective theologians understand that the ‘righteousness of God‘ was God’s reckoning of covenant membership to Gentiles in addition to Jews, which leaves room for a correct reading of Romans 1:16-17; “to the Jew first and also to the Gentile“.

Furthermore, God fulfilling His promises in the “all-nations clause” of the Abrahamic Covenant necessitates that God will also  fulfill the promises He made to the “great nation” (the Jews), the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob under the same “everlasting covenant, including the “eternal possession” of the land (Genesis 17:1-8).

Final thoughts…

The ‘New Perspective on Paul’ is a much a restoration of the Scriptures to the Church as the Reformation of 1517, and may be rightfully viewed as the beginning of the second phase of Reformation.

What is surely needed next is for Gentile Christian theologians to situate the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, in their first century Jewish context — a so-called ‘New Perspective on Jesus‘.

If the esteemed theologians of the Church would work together the well credentialed theologians of Messianic Judaism, perhaps this second phase of the Reformation might take place in our day – a first century Jewish understanding of the Scriptures restored to the Church.

cover photo: "Sola Scriptura" - Scripture alone, "Sola Gratia" - grace alone, "Sola Christus" - through Christ alone, which represents the heart of Martin Luther's teachings

The Last Day of the Great Feast

In a sense, Sukkot has two  ” last days” — Hoshanah Rabbah and Shiminei Atsaret. The “last day and greatest day of the Feast” (John 7:37) is Hashanah Rabbah (also translated ‘the last day of the Great Feast ‘, mentioned in John 7:37.

During the Temple service, it was customary to make one procession around the altar on each day of Sukkot, and seven on the seventh day”. The priests would carry palm or willow branches in their hands — two of the four  ‘species’ used to celebrate Sukkot, and contained in the “lulav”. The Temple ceremony was one of rejoicing and gratitude for a blessed and fruitful year.

Jesus and the “last day of the Great Feast”

Another ceremony, called the water libation ceremony also took place during Sukkot.

“On the last and greatest day of Feast [of Sukkot], Yeshua stood and cried out loudly ‘if any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in Me, as the Scriptures has said, out of his belly will flow streams of living water. “

John 7:37-38

Just below, is an excellent article , written by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz , about this ceremony .

” The Eighth Day”

The day after Hoshanah Rabbah is the so-called “8th day” of the 7-day Feast of Sukkot called Shiminei Atzaret.

After commemorating so many significant occasions, including Yom Teruah (referred to currently as Rosh Hashanah), the ten days of Awe followed by the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, then the seven day Feast of Tabernacles called Sukkot,  G-d asked for one more day as a sabbath.  There are no special activities – no shofar, no fasting, no sukkah, no lulav. Just one more today together – just Him and us.

Tonight at sundown (Sunday October 23, 2016)  until tomorrow at sundown, is this ‘last day’ of the great feast, which we take for- and with Him.

 

PHOTOS: Reenactment of Ancient Water Libation Ritual Revives Part of Temple Service

Who is Abraham’s Seed

INTRODUCTION: Understanding who “Abraham’s seed” is, is to understand God’s plan of redemption to ‘all nations of the earth’ since the book of Genesis! This article follows the previous 3 which covered the promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant, the promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant, as well as Paul’s use of the term “Israel” in Romans.

As mentioned in an earlier article, the term “seed” in Hebrew (זֶרַע ) is a collective singular noun and can be used to refer to an individual person or to a group of related individuals. Collectively, Scripture uses the term “seed” to apply to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and singularly to Jesus, the Messiah, but does Scripture use this term to refer to the Church?

God’s Promises in the Abrahamic Covenant

As covered in the last two articles, God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 12 and gave promises to two groups of people;

I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse those who curse you,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

Genesis 12:2-3

The “great nation” (singular) that are the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and Abraham’s “seed” (plural)

“All the nations (literally families) of the earth” (plural— are the Gentile nations of the earth that will be blessed through a specific physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — a Jew, the Messiah, who is the “seed” of Abraham (singular).

God refers to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Exodus 19:5 as “My own possession out of all the peoples” or “a particular people”, so there are “all the nations of the earth” and the “great nation“. But as we’ve said in earlier posts and repeat here, the redemption of those from the Gentiles nations was by no means an afterthought to God!

The Jews as Abraham’s Seed

God specified who this “great nation” He would make of Abraham would be — and who they would NOT be.  He left no room for doubt that He was speaking of the physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac and not Ishmael, and through Jacob, and not Esau.

[see God’s Promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-jews-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/]

God repeated the same promises that He made with Abraham concerning the “great nation” that He would make of them and the land that He was giving to them  — to Isaac (Abraham’s son through Sarah) and to Jacob, Isaac’s son (whose name God changed to “Israel” — and from whom the 12 tribes of Israel, the Jews, come).

God made an “everlasting covenant” with this people and in it gave this people a specific land as an “eternal possession“;

“I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as an eternal possession, and I will be their God.”

Genesis 17:7-8

God also promised through the prophet Jeremiah that as long as the sun shines in the day and the moon and the stars shine at night, that this “great nation”, Israel will be a nation before Him.  Only if the heavens above and the foundations of the earth below can be measured, will He reject Israel’s descendants because of all they have done;

This is what the Lord says:

The One who gives the sun for light by day,
the fixed order of moon and stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea and makes its waves roar—
Yahweh of Hosts is His name:
If this fixed order departs from My presence—
this is the Lord’s declaration—
then also Israel’s descendants will cease
to be a nation before Me forever.
This is what the Lord says:

If the heavens above can be measured
and the foundations of the earth below explored,
I will reject all of Israel’s descendants
because of all they have done
this is the Lord’s declaration.”

Jeremiah 31:35-37

Finally, God swore by Himself to uphold this covenant He made with the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He alone walked through the cut animal parts – He alone ratified the Covenant.

The only reason the Jewish people still exist is because of God’s faithfulness to His word — to keep the covenant that He made with Abraham, and restated to Isaac and to Jacob, and that He swore by Himself to uphold, even if the Jews broke it, which they did.

[Note: The penalty for the Jew’s disobedience was exile from the land (Leviticus 26: 30-33), see http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/fullfullment-of-the-second-gathering-of-the-jews-to-the-land-of-israel/]

The Jewish people (physical Israel) remains the nation before Him and will ever remain a nation before Him.  They are the people with whom God has an eternal covenant and to whom the land belongs as an eternal possession.

He has a plan of redemption for this people that He will fulfill — “when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled“.

[see “A Partial Hardening has Come to Israel Until the Full Number of the Gentiles has Come in” http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-partial-hardening-has-come-to-israel-until-the-full-number-of-the-gentiles-has-come-in/]

Jesus as “Abraham’s Seed”

Most occurrences of the term “seed” in Genesis ( זֶרַע ) is the collective use of the term and refer to Abraham’s physical descendants through Isaac and Jacob.  There are a few instances where the use is singular.

To understand whether the term “seed” is referring to a collective group of related people or to an individual requires looking at the context of its use. For example, in Genesis 17:9 (” God also said to Abraham, “As for you, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations are to keep My covenant.”), the third person masculine plural personal pronoun in Hebrew (the equivalent of the word “their”) makes “seed” (or “offspring”) explicitly collective. However, in Genesis 3:14-15, where God speaks of the remedy He will someday bring after the fall of man, it is clear by the use of pronouns in the Hebrew (and reflected in the English translation, by the pronoun “He”) that God is referring to a single individual;

“I will put hostility (enmity) between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

The “seed of the woman” is the One that will crush Satan’s head and He is also the “seed” that all nations of the world are blessed though;

“…and all the peoples (nations) on earth
will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:3

Paul refers to Jesus as “the seed” (singular)

From the beginning of Chapter 3 of Galatians, Paul is speaking of the inclusion of the Gentiles;

“Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, then understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons. Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you. So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.”

Galatians 3:6-9

…and Paul continues with the theme of the inclusion of the Gentiles in Galatians 3:14-16, when he refers to the “seed” singular, meaning the Messiah — in contrast to “the seeds” (plural) which are the Jews;

The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that we could receive the promised Spirit through faith.  Brothers, I’m using a human illustration. No one sets aside or makes additions to even a human covenant that has been ratified. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ.

Galatians 3:16

Since “seed” can be used to refer to a single person or a group of related people, Paul in this passage is specific that he is suing the singular of “seed”, because he is referring back to the promise given to Abraham regarding the inclusion of the Gentiles — the “all nations clause” in Genesis 12:2-3 ( “…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”) which points to the original promise of the “seed of the woman” in Genesis 3:15 (“I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel”).

Paul uses the singular form of the term “seed” because he is referring to the “seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15)  — which is One person, the Messiah.

In Galatians 3:16, Paul is saying “this is that“!

He is saying that Jesus is that “seed” — He is the descendant of Abraham, through which all the nations of the world are blessed!

Peter refers to Jesus as “the seed” (singular)

Peter, in speaking to the Jews at the Temple, also identifies Jesus as this “seed” or “offspring”;

“…all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, have also announced these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring. God raised up His Servant and sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Acts 3:24-25

The Church as “Abraham’s Seed”

God made a promise in Genesis 3:15 to “all the nations (or families) of the earth” that they would be blessed through a very specific physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — and that He would put an end to the hatred and hostility that Satan (the serpent) has for man by sending “the seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:16) who will strike the serpent’s head. The One being spoken of is the Messiah, the “seed of the woman”.

As mentioned above, from the beginning of Chapter 3 of Galatians Paul is speaking about how salvation came to the Gentiles:

“Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you.So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.”

Galatians 3:8-9

Paul is still taking about salvation to the Gentiles in verse 14, when he says that the purpose of Messiah being hung on the tree and taking the curse for us was that the “blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles“;

“The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus…”

Galatians 3:14

Paul is still speaking about how salvation came to the Gentiles in Galatians 3:16, when he speaks of “the seed“, the Messiah, in the singular;

“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ”

Galatians 3: 16

As mentioned previously, Paul is relating this “seed” of Abraham back to this .promise of “the seed of the woman” and saying that this “seed” is Messiah.

In verse 19 of Galatians 3, Paul is still speaking of this “seed” in the singular;

“Why then was the law given? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come. The law was put into effect through angels by means of a mediator.”

Galatians 3:19

 

Paul is saying that the coming of the Messiah — Abraham’s “seed” (Galatians 3:16) was to enable Gentiles to be granted the same title  – Abraham’s seed!

“There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.”

Galatians 3:28-29

Messiah is the descendant of Abraham in whom all the nations (or ‘families’) of the earth are blessed.

Reading backwards

Those that view that the “seed” in Galatians 3:16 as referring to the “singular family” of those that believe in Messiah (i.e. the “Church“) and not to the Messiah Himself, base it on it ‘being good exegetical practice to understand more obscure texts in light of clearer ones” (N.T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology).

They maintain that since verse 29 refers to those who belong to Messiah (whether Jew or Gentile) as “Abraham’s seed“, and it is [allegedly] not clear what verse 16 is referring to, we necessarily need to understand verse 16 in light of verse 29.  In other words, we understand verse 16 by reading backwards, beginning at verse 29.

Reading backwards to understand a text is not only incredibly poor exegesis but it is abundantly clear from the beginning of Galatians 3 what Paul is speaking about.  He says so! Paul says in verse 8 and 9 of Galatians 3 that he is speaking about how salvation came to the Gentiles:

“Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you.So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.”

Galatians 3:8-9

…so Paul is still speaking about how salvation came to the Gentiles in Galatians 3:16, when he speaks of “the seed” in the singular;

“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ”

Galatians 3: 16

Furthermore, in verse 16, Paul says that the “seed” is Messiah!  How much clearer could it get?

As God had promised in the “all-nations clause” of the Abrahamic Covenant, salvation came to the Gentiles though the “seed” (singular),  who is the Messiah — the “seed of the woman“, who strikes the serpent’s head. It is through the Messiah, a physical descendant of Abraham, through Isaac and through Jacob – a Jew, that “all the nations of the earth are blessed” (Genesis 3:15).

This is what Paul is saying throughout Galatians 3 — and a straight-forward reading of the text clearly shows this.

In addition, this is also what Peter was saying in Acts 3:24-25 when he identifies Jesus as this “seed” or “offspring” of Abraham;

“…all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, have also announced these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring. God raised up His Servant and sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Acts 3:24-25

Israel, the Gentiles and the Church

Paul says in Galatians 3 that even when people make covenants with each other, they don’t set aside or makes addition to it after it has been ratified;

“Brothers, I’m using a human illustration. No one sets aside or makes additions to even a human covenant that has been ratified.”

Galatians 3:15

The implication here is ‘how much more will God not set aside or make addition to a covenant He makes, after it had been ratified’?

God ratified the Abrahamic Covenant when He alone walked through the cut animal parts. It is an eternal covenant; with the “all-nations clausestill in effect to the Gentiles and the promises of a “land” and a “people” to the “great nation” (the Jews) still in effect.

Inclusion of the Gentiles in no way alters God’s covenant with the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and God’s promise to the Gentiles, in no way supersedes God’s promises to the Jews.

God made promises to both the Jews and the Gentiles and He will keep His promises to both.

In fact, Paul warns the Gentile believers in Romans 11:14-25 not to think that God has rejected the Jews and in speaking about the unbelief of much of physical Israel exhorts the Gentile Christians “not to brag (:18), not to be arrogant (:20), not to be conceited (:25) and not to be unaware (:25) of the mystery of God’s plans of redemption — that a partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.”

Why did God allow this partial hardening to happen to the Jews? Romans 9:23 says specifically that it was to allow the Gentiles to come to faith (i.e. “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”).

God has done as He said He would;

“to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory on us, the ones He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.

~Romans 9:23

Choosing the Gentiles

God said to Moses (Deuteronomy 32:16-21) that because the Jews made Him jealous and angered Him by serving worthless idols, that He would make them envious and angry by choosing the Gentiles. (Deuteronomy 32:16-21, esp. verse 21);

“They made Me jealous by what is no god

and angered Me with their worthless idols.

I will make them envious by those who are not a people;

I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.”

Deuteronomy 32:21

…and God did exactly as He said He would by calling those from the Gentiles;

And what if He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory—on us, the ones He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?  As He also says in Hosea:

I will call Not My People, My People,
and she who is Unloved, Beloved.
And it will be in the place where they were told,
you are not My people,
there they will be called sons of the living God.

Romans 9:23-25

One New Man

Those who have faith in the Messiah – both Jew and Gentile according to the promise are “the Church” (Galatians 3:28-29) – the “one new man” of Ephesians 2:11-15;

“So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh—called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands.  At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.  For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.  He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it. When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household,  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.”

Final thoughts…

Understanding who “Abraham’s seed” is — is to understand God’s plan of redemption to ‘all the nations of the earth’ and ‘the great nation’ since the book of Genesis!

 

Inclusion of the Gentiles as “Abraham’s seed” in no way alters God’s covenant with the physical descendants of Abraham (the Jews) and God’s promise to the Gentiles in the “all nations clause” in no way supersedes God’s promises to the Jews.

It is “both” / “and”.

The “Church” are those, whether Jews or Gentiles, who belong to Messiah, the “one new man” of Ephesian 2: 11-15.

“And if you belong to Messiah,

then you are Abraham’s seed

—heirs according to the promise.”

Galatians 3:28-29

Israel the Church the Nations


 

God’s Promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant

This article is Part 3 of 3 where we look at what God promised the physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) in the Abrahamic Covenant.

The Calling of Abraham

The first mention of Abraham is in Genesis Chapter 11 where we learn that Abram (his name at first) is from Ur of the Chaldees, and is the son of Terah, has two brothers named Nahor and Haran and that Haran’s son (Abram’s nephew) is Lot and that Abram’s wife is Sarai (later changed to “Sarah“). It seems apparent that Abram knew God’s voice because when He spoke to him at the beginning of Chapter 12, Abram knew it was God. In verse 1 of Chapter 12 of Genesis, God speaks to Abram for the first time recorded in Scripture of two specific promises;

(1) that He will make him and his descendants into “a great nation” — a people

(2) that he will give this people a very specific land. 

As we will demonstrate below, God specifies throughout the book of Genesis that the “great nation” is a people of physical descendants of Abraham  — and not just any physical descendants of Abraham! God is very specific who can and cannot be Abraham’s “heir” and thus, who Abraham’s descendants will be.  For example, as we outline below, God specifies that Abraham’s heir cannot be through his servant Eliezer and cannot be through Hagar’s son Ishmael, even though Abraham is his father. Furthermore, God foretells in advance that Isaac’s heir will be though Jacob, and not Esau (Isaac’s firstborn son).

God is very particular that Abraham’s descendants i.e. “seed” (plural) are a very specific nation who are descended from very particular Patriarchs.

A Land and a People

The very first time God speaks to Abraham as recorded in Scripture, it is of of the two promises concerning a people and a land, in Genesis 12;

“The Lord said to Abram:

Go out from your land,
your relatives,
and your father’s house
to the land that I will show you.

Genesis 12:1

Then God spoke to Abraham of His promises, God says;

I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse those who curse you,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

Genesis 12:2-3

In Genesis 12: 1-3, God is contrasting the promises made to Abraham pertaining to two groups of people 

(1) to the “great nation” (singular) — a specific physical people, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — the “great nation” (singular) with whom He makes an “everlasting covenant”. This group is a physical nation, the people  of Israelthat is derived from Abraham’s “seed” (plural).

and 

(2) “all the nations (literally families) of the earth” (plural— The word for “nations” is the word in Hebrew מִשְׁפְּחֹת meaning “families” refers to the Gentiles that will be blessed through a specific physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — a Jew, the Messiah.

 

God leaves no room for doubt that the “great nation” He will make of Abraham is a physical nation that would come through very specific physical offspring or “seed” (plural) of Abraham (i.e. through Issac and Jacob and in Genesis 22:15-18, He repeats the exact SAME promises  to the exact  SAME two groups of people as in Genesis 12:1-3! After Isaac was born and after Jacob became Isaac’s heir, God reaffirmed His covenant with  BOTH the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the ‘great nation’) as well as His covenant with “all the families / nations of the earth”;

Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By Myself I have sworn,” this is the Lord’s declaration: “Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the gates of their enemies.

And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed My command.”

Genesis 22:15-18

Furthermore, God also reaffirmed the covenant He made with Abraham concerning his physical descendants to Isaac in Genesis 26:1-5 and to Jacob in Genesis 28:13-15 and in Genesis 35:9-12.


God’s Promises to Abraham were “a people” and “a land”

God made two specific promises to the physical descendants of Abraham in Genesis Chapter 12:1-3; that He will make of Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and that He will give this great nation a specific the land (verses 5-7) ;

“He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated, and the people he had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the site of Shechem, at the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, I will give this land to your offspring.”

Genesis 12:5-7

The term “offspring” is also translated “seed” (Hebrew זֶרַע), and is used here in its plural form and as we will demonstrate, refers to the physical descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacobthe Jews. In this verse, God is speaking of a specific land (the land of Israel) that He will give to the Jewish people.

When Abram leaves Ur of the Chaldees, he takes Lot, his brother’s son, with him.  Things get tense between Lot’s herdsmen and Abram’s herdsmen, so Abram gives Lot his choice to go one way and he goes the other.

After Lot  separated from Abram, God said to Abram to look as far as he could see, looking north, south, east and west for He was going to give Abram and his offspring (“seed”, Hebrew זֶרַע)  all the land that he sees, forever. In this case too, the word “seed” is in its plural form and refers to the physical descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob;

“After Lot had separated from him, the Lord said to Abram, “Look from the place where you are. Look north and south, east and west, for I will give you and your offspring forever all the land that you see. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust of the earth, then your offspring could be counted. Get up and walk around the land, through its length and width, for I will give it to you.”

Genesis 13: 14-17

The beginning of Chapter 15 of Genesis reads

After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision“.

God says to Abram;

Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield;
your reward will be very great.”

Genesis 15:

Abram was frustrated because anything that God would give him would only be for his lifetime, because Abram didn’t have an heir and everything he had at that point, or would receive from God in the future, would become the property of his head servant, Eliezer.

Abram complains to God (:3);

“But Abram said, “Lord God, what can You give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abram continued, “Look, You have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house will be my heir.”

Genesis 15: 2-3

The Lord answered Abram clearly and said that Eliezer will not be his heir but one who comes from his own body will be his heir.

God knew that He was going to bring Abram’s heir through his wife Sarai and that He would make His covenant with his physical descendants:

“This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.

Genesis 15:4

Then God took Abram outside and said to him (:5);

“Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then He said to him, “Your offspring will be that numerous.”

Genesis 15:5

In this case, the Hebrew word for “offspring” or “seed” is in its plural form and refers to the physical descendants of Abraham — and as we shall see, specifically through Isaac and Jacob.

In Genesis 15:6-8, when it came to having physical descendants, Abram believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (:6) but when God spoke to him about the physical land they would inherit, Abraham wanted proof (:7)!

“Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, “I am Yahweh who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.

”But he said, “Lord God, how can I know that I will possess it?

Genesis 15:6-8

God’s asks Abram to bring Him specific animals, split them down the middle and lay them opposite one another. This act is how covenants were made.


God’s Covenant with Abraham

God’s responds to Abram’s request for proof that his physical descendants would inherit the land by asking Abram to bring Him specific animals, split them down the middle and lay them opposite one another. This is how covenants were made, and the term in Hebrew for making a covenant is literally “to cut a covenant” (וַיִּכְרְתוּ בְרִית).

A covenant is an agreement between at least two parties where the terms of the agreement are set out and both parties accept them. In this case the covenant is made between YHVH and Abram but looking at another example of the covenant cut between Zedekiah and the people of Judah (Jeremiah 34:8–22) — in both cases at least one animal was killed, cut into two pieces and someone passed between the divided pieces.

The killing of an animal in making a covenant signified that those that entered into the covenant could expect the same fate as the animals if he violated his oath. The slaughtered animal(s) was both a ratifying sacrifice and symbolic of the curse for violating the covenant.

It is important to note that God alone ratified the covenant with Abram – and Hebrews 6:13 refers to this saying, He swore by Himself and furthermore, says why God swore by Himself;

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater to swear by, He swore by Himself:

I will indeed bless you,
and I will greatly multiply you.

And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham obtained the promise. For men swear by something greater than themselves, and for them a confirming oath ends every dispute. Because God wanted to show His unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.”

Hebrews 6:13-15

God swore by Himself to demonstrate that His promises were unchangeable, and these are His promises were to both the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and to the “nations”, the Gentiles;

(a) to the Gentiles that the “seed of the woman” and the “seed” (singular) of Abraham (Jesus) would be a blessing to “all the families of the earth”

and

(b) to the Jews that He would have an “everlasting covenant” with them and that the land was their “eternal possession”.

God alone ratifying the covenant (i.e. Abram did not have to walk through the cut pieces of animals as is normally the case) signified that if either side broke the covenant, God Himself would die! 

We all know the story of what happened next…

Abraham was getting old and his wife Sarai was resolved she was not going to conceive, so she tells Abram to sleep with her handmaiden, Hagar so that he would have an heir to the promise of ‘the land’ and to bring forth ‘a great nation’. Abram obliges and Hagar conceives Ishmael.  After Ishmael’s birth, at the very beginning of Genesis 17, God appears to Abram and reiterates the covenant he made with him when He passed through the animal part— including the certainly of the Land as an eternal possession that He was giving to Abram’s descendants through a son that Sarai, Abram’s wife will bear;

“I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.”

Then Abram fell face-down and God spoke with him: “As for Me, My covenant is with you: you will become the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you. I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as an eternal possession, and I will be their God.”

Genesis 17:1-8


Abraham Through Isaac – not Ishmael

Abraham was hoping God would simply recognize Ishmael as the heir to the covenant and the son of promise, saying to God “If only Ishmael were acceptable to you”(Genesis 17:18) but after Ishmael’s birth (Genesis 17:1-8), God appears to Abram and reiterates the promises He made with him when He passed through the animal parts — including the promise of the Land and in verse 15, God tells Abraham that his wife Sarai, whose name He will change to Sarah, will bear a son and that nations will come through her.

 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai, for Sarah[e] will be her name. I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she will produce nations; kings of peoples will come from her.

Who are these “nations” (plural) that will come through Sarah?

Sarah bore only one son, Isaac and the “nations” that God foretold come through him.

God specified that Abraham’s physical offspring or “seed” (plural) would be through Isaac and NOT Ishmael (Genesis 17:19) and that it was through Isaac that God would confirm His covenant with Abraham;

“But God said, “No. Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his future offspring. As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will certainly bless him; I will make him fruitful and will multiply him greatly. He will father 12 tribal leaders, and I will make him into a great nation.  But I will confirm My covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year.”

Genesis 17:19-21


Abraham through Isaac and Jacob – not Esau

God was very specific that Abraham’s physical offspring / “seed” (plural) would be through Jacob and not Esau (Genesis 25:23) and foretold this;

“These are the family records of Isaac son of Abraham. Abraham fathered Isaac. 20 Isaac was 40 years old when he took as his wife Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan-aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.  Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was childless. The Lord heard his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. But the children inside her struggled with each other, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?”So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her:

Two nations are in your womb;
two people will come from you and be separated.
One people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.

Genesis 25: 19-23

Isaac’s wife Rebekah had twin sons; Esau and Jacob and God said (Genesis 25:23) that “two nations” were in her womb and that the “older shall serve the younger“. The first born son was Esau, who under ordinary circumstances would have been the heir to Isaac, but God foretold that he would serve his second born twin brother, Jacob. As God said would happen, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, effectively making Jacob as if he were the “first born son” — fulfilling the promise that the “older would serve the younger.

The “two nations” that Isaac’s wife Rebekah bore were:

(1) Jacob’s descendants, the 12 Tribes of Israel. This is the nation of “Israel”. 

and

(2) the descendants of Esau. The descendants of Esau are listed in Genesis 36 and verse 6 says that Esau moved some distance away from his brother Jacob to another land called Se’ir, also known as Edom (or Idumea). The nation which came from Esau are the Edomites.

The Physical Descendants of Abraham – a “people” forever

 

God promised through the prophet Jeremiah that Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would always exist before Him.  In Jeremiah Chapter 31, immediately after promising to give the Jews the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33) because they broke the Mosaic Covenant (the Law) that He gave them at Sinai, God promised in Jeremiah 31:35-37 that as long as the sun shines in the day and the moon and the stars shine at night, that Israel will be a nation before Him.  He promised that only if the heavens above and the foundations of the earth below can be measured, will He reject Israel’s descendants because of all they have done;

This is what the Lord says:

The One who gives the sun for light by day,
the fixed order of moon and stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea and makes its waves roar—
Yahweh of Hosts is His name:
If this fixed order departs from My presence—
this is the Lord’s declaration—
then also Israel’s descendants will cease
to be a nation before Me forever.
This is what the Lord says:

If the heavens above can be measured
and the foundations of the earth below explored,
I will reject all of Israel’s descendants
because of all they have done
this is the Lord’s declaration.”

Jeremiah 31:35-37

We know that both of these promises still exist because “it is impossible for God to lie”;  

“Is God a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind? Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?”

Numbers 23:19


Final thoughts…

It is our belief that only reason that the Jews still exist and that they are back in the land is because of His faithfulness to His word — to keep the covenant that He made and swore by Himself to uphold, even if the Jews broke it, which they did.

God was clear in Scripture, that the penalty for the Jew’s disobedience (even the rejection of His Messiah) was exile from the land (Leviticus 26: 30-33).

[see http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/fullfullment-of-the-second-gathering-of-the-jews-to-the-land-of-israel/]

The Jews were exiled in 70 CE after the death of Jesus and for more than 2000 years were in exile from the land He gave them as an “eternal possession”, but as He promised, the Jews would never cease to be a people before Him.  Even though in WWII 2/3 of the Jewish people were wiped out), God promised (Jeremiah 31:35-37) that as long as the sun shines in the day and the moon and the stars shine at night, that Israel will be a nation before Him and He has been faithful to His word. He returned the Jews to the land He gave them because He is faithful to His word and said that it was their “everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:7-8).

Israel is still Israel.  

God's eternal promises to Israel


Part 2 on God’s Promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant can be found here: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-gentiles-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/

Part 1 on Paul’s use of the term “Israel” in the book of Romans can be found here: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/pauls-use-of-the-term-israel-in-the-book-of-romans/