Salvation From Both a Jewish and Christian Perspective- Part 2

In Part 1 of this teaching series, we reviewed the meaning of “salvation” and the Jewish expectations of what the Messiah will do when he comes, based on both the Tanakh and the Talmud.  Today, in Part 2, we will examine why Yeshua was not, and still isn’t, accepted as the Messiah by the majority of the Jewish population.

If you prefer to watch this as a video, please click on this link: Watch the video.

For the purposes of this discussion, when we talk about “the Jews” during the time of Yeshua’s ministry we are referring to the main portion of the Jewish population living in and around Jerusalem during the First Century. And we need to remember that these people were mostly “Am Ha’aretz“, which means people of the land. The reference is not very complimentary and refers to those who are not well educated regarding the Bible or Jewish tradition. At that time, people looked to the Sanhedrin and their local Levites for instruction and guidance in their worship and how to live. Even today, most of the Jewish people look to their Rabbi for instruction and interpretation, and not to God through the guidance of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit.)

As we are told in the New Covenant writings, Yeshua performed many miracles and taught in a different and more meaningful way. Yet, he was not accepted by the majority of the Jews. And, even with the publication of the B’rit Chadashah (New Covenant), in modern times “mainstream” Judaism still rejects him, not just as the Messiah but some even reject the idea that he ever existed! And, as we will soon see, the actions “Christianity” has performed against the Jewish people over the millennia have made it nearly impossible for a Jewish person to believe anything a Christian says.

The Jews living during the time of Yeshua’s ministry rejected him based on his inability to meet the expectations they had been taught regarding their Messiah.

First off, Yeshua had no father. The Tanakh tells us the Messiah will be a son (i.e., descendant) of David, and because Judaism is a Patriarchal religion, one’s heritage comes through the father’s line. Because Yeshua was not conceived by Joseph he had no father, therefore he couldn’t be a son of David.

Another reason for the Jewish rejection of Yeshua is because the Bible says that God will raise up a prophet like Moses; however, Jewish tradition stated that the age of prophecy ended circa 300 BCE, centuries before Yeshua was born. Because the Talmud taught there were no more prophets, Yeshua could not be a prophet like Moses.

One of the major expectations was that the Messiah will rebuild the Temple and reestablish the Levitical service. Well, when Yeshua walked the earth, the Temple was there! The service was actively being performed! Therefore, how could Yeshua be the Messiah? Besides, this, there was no peace throughout the world, and under Roman rule there most certainly wasn’t a world government that recognized God as the one and only King of kings ruling from Jerusalem.

The Pharisees, who saw Yeshua as a threat to their political power over the people, also spread lies about him that last to this very day. One of these was that Yeshua changed the Torah because he violated the Shabbat (see John 9:14.) The Rabbis since then have added that Isaiah 53, one of the strongest and most accurate prophecies about Yeshua found in the Tanakh, was not prophesizing about the Messiah but about Israel. They say the references to the suffering servant are a metaphor about the nation of Israel and should not be taken as a literal prophecy about a person. In fact, in modern times this one chapter from the book of Isaiah is not even read in the Synagogue!

One of the strongest and hardest to refute arguments against Yeshua being the Messiah is that the Messiah was to bring salvation to the world, a universal redemption for the people of Israel. Yet, while Yeshua lived that did not happen. There was neither spiritual nor political nor even a social redemption of any kind.

It is easy to understand why it was so difficult for the Jewish people at that time to accept him: he didn’t perform many of the expected events the people had been taught by the Rabbis he was supposed to do, and he was rejected by the leaders of the people.  As we are told in John 12:42, even those in leadership who accepted him as their Messiah kept that fact a secret out of fear of retribution by the Sanhedrin.

But what about since then? What about all that we have learned, the additional events recorded in Acts, the miracles of the Gospels that many other Jews have been able to read about who didn’t know about it then? Why, with all this historical evidence, haven’t the Jewish people readily accepted Yeshua as the Messiah God promised to Israel?

The reason is simple: early Christianity totally separated itself from Judaism at the Council of Nicene, and since then has been such an enemy of Judaism that no Jew in his or her right mind would accept anything “Christian.”

Huh? What could they have done that was so terrible? Good question. Here are some examples:

  1. During the Crusades hundreds of thousands of Jews were slaughtered because they refused to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and reject Judaism (even his name was changed from Yeshua to Jesus to remove any trace of “Jewishness” from their Messiah);
  2. The Inquisition also saw the torture and slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Jews, not to mention all Jews being expelled from Spain, if they refused to reject Judaism and accept Jesus as their God (by now God, himself, was being left behind as Christianity gave all glory to Jesus);
  3. Because to a Jew, all non-Jews are Gentiles, a Gentile is the same as a Christian. During the Second World War, the Nazi’s (really, only a select group of them) murdered millions of Jews, but do you know what was inscribed on their belt buckles? “Gott mit uns”, which means “God is with us.” This statement of divine hatred for Jews was no different than what had been heard by Jews being killed by Christians since the second century; and
  4. The on-going persecution of Jews by the Gentile (Christian) world.  The Pogroms in Russia, the rejection by America of Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany, and even today we see the constant unjustified accusations by the media against Israel through the use of fake news and purposefully not showing the Israeli side. Don’t even ask me about the unbelievable injustice against Israel being done at the United Nations. As far as I am concerned, it should be renamed “The United Nations against Israel!”

To conclude today’s lesson, let’s review why the Jewish people haven’t accepted Yeshua as their Messiah.  The answer is two-fold: first, during his ministry, Yeshua did not perform many of the activities that the Messiah was supposed to perform based on Talmudic interpretation of the Tanakh, and he was rejected by the power elite of the Jewish people.

Secondly, and I believe even more influential in why Jews have rejected Jesus, is the historical and continual hatred for and persecution of Jews by “Jesus-loving” Christians that began as early as the end of the First Century. That was when the Gentile followers of Yeshua first began to separate themselves from their Jewish roots and reject the Torah. This separation was “set in stone” with Constantine and the Council of Nicene in the Third Century, which created the dogma and traditions of modern Christianity.

Should we really be surprised that Rabbis throughout the centuries have taught against Jesus Christ and the religion he created, which has tried to destroy Judaism? Why would any Jew even think of accepting or believing anything that is in the Christian Bible?

The rejection by the Jewish people of Jesus Christ as the Messiah is completely understandable when we consider the above reasons.  I was, as most every Jew is, brought up being taught that Jesus Christ was a Jew who rejected the Torah and Judaism, creating his own religion that wants to destroy Jews.

Next time we will look into what Christians believe their Messiah will do, and why there is such a difference between the Jewish and Christian expectations.

 

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Until then, l’hitroat and Baruch Ha Shem!!

 

Salvation From Both a Jewish and Christian Perspective- Part 1

This is the first time I have tried to give a teaching that will be formatted in a series of small lessons. I would appreciate any comments, either during or after the entire lesson is completed, which will let me know if any of you like this form of teaching. I will continue to post my normal “Drash to Start the Day” individual messages, but if you like these more in-depth lessons posted a bit at a time, please let me know.

 

To watch this as a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

 

Before we look at the different views of salvation that exist between Jews and Christians, we should agree on what we mean when we talk about “salvation.” Salvation is the forgiveness of sin, meaning we are freed from the consequences (which could be either spiritual, physical or both) of the violations of God’s law that we have committed, which also means redemption from spending eternity in Hell (whatever form that takes) enabling us to have eternal life in the presence of God.

Since salvation is redemption from a crime or a sin, how do we achieve it? Well, in the case of a Civil crime, if we go to court and the judge finds for us, we are saved from paying a fine. If a corporation is suffering failure and a larger one comes along and merges with them, injecting new funds, that corporation has found salvation from bankruptcy. And what about life insurance? If a spouse passes away, there are many expenses that must be incurred and life insurance can be a real (pardon the pun) life-saver by providing the needed funds which could be salvation from debt.

These are types of salvation we find in the physical world, but we want to discuss the “religious” kind of salvation, which is first and foremost given to us in the Torah: we call it the Sacrificial System.

In Judaism as in Christianity, the shedding of innocent blood is the only way to atone for sin, and God outlined in the first 7 chapters of the Book of Leviticus the different types of sacrifices to be made in order to receive forgiveness for the different types of sin we commit.

In Christianity, the way to receive salvation is not through this sacrificial system but by means of the sacrifice performed by the Messiah, Yeshua ha Mashiach (Jesus Christ), which we receive when we profess faith in him.

Ultimately, salvation comes from faith. Just as with Abraham, whose faith was credited to him as righteousness (meaning sinless in God’s eyes), the way we find salvation is through our individual repentance and faith in God and the Messiah; a faith that inspires obedience.

The one thing about salvation that is agreed upon in both Jewish and Christian theology is that salvation, meaning forgiveness from sin and eternity in the presence of God, will come about through the intervention of a Messiah.

Judaism is the progenitor of the idea of a Messiah and is also from whence the Messiah will originate. The Tanakh (the “Jewish” Bible) has over 130 different references to the Messiah, and there are also many references to him in the Talmud, all of which tell us what to expect of him so that when he arrives we will be able to recognize him. In order to understand the Jewish expectations of the Messiah, let’s review some of these now.

Even before the Messiah comes, there will be specific events that signal his arrival. In Ezekiel 38:16 we are told there will be wars and suffering before the coming of the Messiah. The prophets Isaiah (11:11-12), Jeremiah (23:8 and 30:3) and Hosea (3:4-5) prophesied that before Messiah arrives God will regather his people back to their land (Israel.)

Because of what the prophets have said, Jews expect other things from the Messiah, as well. For instance, there will be the restoration of the religious courts of justice and we will have a one-world government (Isaiah 2:2-4, 11:10, and 42:1; Jeremiah 33:15.) The prophet Zephaniah (3:13) said there will be an end to wickedness, sin, and heresy. There will be rewards to the righteous, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the restoration of the line of David and one of the greatest of all Messianic (Jewish) expectations: the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem and the temple service (Jeremiah 33:18.)

Besides the general expectations we have seen already for what the Messiah will do, the Tanakh gives us very specific instructions on how to recognize the Messiah.  Micah 5:12 tells us he will be born in Bethlehem, Isaiah 7:14 tells us he will be born of a virgin (there is an on-going argument about the use of the word “almah” in this passage), Isaiah 35:56 and 42:18 tell us that he will have the power to heal people, Daniel 9:24-26 tells us exactly when the Messiah will come (which has been mathematically worked out to the day Yeshua rode into Jerusalem on the back of a colt), Zachariah 11:12 lets us know he will be sold out for 30 pieces of silver, and (finally) Isaiah 53:5-7 and 53:12 give us the best news of all- his death will atone for the sins of all mankind.

This ends the first portion of this teaching, which is to identify the Jewish expectations of their Messiah and how they should recognize him when he arrives. Next, we will discuss why within Judaism, at that time and since then, the Jewish people (as a whole) have not accepted Yeshua as their Messiah.

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I welcome any comments you may want to make- just be nice.

Until the next time, lehitraot and Baruch HaShem!!

 

 

Why Christianity Has Ignored the Torah

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Today I am doing pretty much an opinion piece but the historical references are accurate.

I have two theories about why Christianity, in general, has ignored the Torah. In truth, most of the Tanakh is ignored, but the Torah, which has been misidentified as “the Law”, is taught to have been done away with by Yeshua’s sacrifice. As such, Christianity has been focused on love and forgiveness, and has marketed salvation through the Blood of Christ as a “Come as you are” party, after which you can “stay as you are.”  

First, we must remember that in First Century Jerusalem there were two religions: Judaism and Roman paganism. When a Gentile repented of their pagan ways and accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, they were converting to Judaism- there was nothing else. When a Jew accepted that Yeshua was the Messiah, he didn’t convert to anything because Yeshua was (and still is) Jewish and taught from the Tanakh, which included the Torah. So, Jews were still Jews and Gentiles were converting to Judaism.

The Elders in Jerusalem gave the new Gentile Believers some time to wean their way (so to speak) off of paganism and into this very different lifestyle by only having 4 absolutely “You can’t do this anymore” items on the list of immediate changes they must make (see Acts 15:19-21.) Soon, there were more Gentiles accepting Yeshua than Jews, and the distance between a Jewish lifestyle and the changes Gentiles had to make was growing further and further apart.

To add to the problem, Rome was persecuting the Jewish population because they were rebelling against Roman rule. This was not a religious persecution, mind you- it was a political one. To the converting Gentiles, though, it didn’t matter- the closer they were associated with Jews, the more under Roman persecution they came. Let’s not forget that the power elite in Judea also was persecuting this new sect of Judaism(it isn’t Christianity yet) because the teachings of Yeshua eroded the power base of the Pharisees, which was a performance-based salvation through which they could control the people by use of traditions they created.

By the end of the 1st Century leading into the 2nd Century, the majority of Believers were Gentiles who changed the rules of worship. The Sabbath was changed to Sunday and Ignatius of Antioch proclaimed Judaism and (now called) Christianity were unable to exist together. At this time we see most of the commandments in the Torah being ignored and the (mostly) Gentile Believers no longer had anything to do with Judaism.

NOTE: this back-fired on the Christians because to the Roman government, what was even worse than rebelling was forming a new religion. The Jewish persecution stopped sometime around the time of the first Jewish-Rome wars (60-90 C.E.)  when Rome had killed thousands of Jews and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. The next devastation of the Jewish population was about 60 years later during the Bar Kochba Rebellion, and by then Christians only had to worry about Rome.

The second reason, in my opinion, that Christianity ignored the Torah is because of a terrible misunderstanding of the “Great Commission”, which is considered a commandment by Yeshua to go out and make disciples of everyone in the world. This is found in Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19.

I call it a terrible misinterpretation because it has been used as the justification for slaughtering thousands upon thousands of Jews and Muslims over the centuries (the Crusades and the Inquisition are the best-known means of performing what can only be called a “religious genocide”, but Nazi Germany and the Russian Pogroms are an indirect result of this.) The idea of going throughout the world and spreading the Good News was meant to be a benevolent ministry, not a military incursion where people are forced to convert or die. Any condemnation for rejecting God and/or Yeshua was to be administered by God, not people.

At some point, people realized that instead of the threat of death, to make the “Great Commission” successful market it as a “Once saved, always saved” program, and to sell the idea that “God loves you just as you are, ask forgiveness in his name and go to heaven.” Now that is an easy sell!

“Wow! All I have to do is proclaim Jesus is the Messiah, I am sorry I have sinned, please forgive me in Jesus’s name, Amen…and that’s all? Really? Just repeat the “Sinner’s Prayer” and I will be guaranteed a place in heaven forever? Where do I sign?”

See what I mean? Now, if I came to you and said you need to repent, accept Yeshua as your Messiah and follow the 613 commandments in the Torah, you might want to think about it for a while. Like, maybe, for the rest of your life think about it! It’s not an easy thing to just jump into a completely different lifestyle. There is a Shabbat where you aren’t supposed to buy or sell anything, you aren’t allowed to work on many festival days during the year, and you can’t eat any pork or shellfish. You can’t fornicate, you can’t lie, and you have to do this for the rest of your life! In fact, even after you have repented, if you return to your old ways of sin you will lose the salvation that you were given.

See what I mean? If I am trying to convert people from a gluttonous, sexually free and hedonistic religion to one of moderation, sexual purity and servitude to others, I will not be very successful. However, if I say just proclaim faith in Jesus, ask forgiveness and you are set for eternity, I will get many more people to join the club.

Following the Torah is being made holy, which means you are separated from the world and that results in the world not accepting you. People, human beings, want to be accepted. We are a social animal, and so the true religion that God gave to the Jewish people to bring to the world is not going to be a popular choice. Christianity, especially after Constantine, was and still is being sold as something very simple to change to.

Throughout history, Jews have not encouraged anyone to convert to Judaism- but Christianity is all about converting, and the easier it is to convert without really changing your current lifestyle, the more converts you will get.

So there you have it! Christianity has rejected the Torah because:

  1. they didn’t want to be part of the persecution of Jews by Rome; and more recently
  2. it makes it easier to get converts.

Let me again state that these theories are my own ideas. I expect that most Christians raised and accepting typical Christian dogma will vehemently disagree with me, and most Messianic Jews and Hebrew Roots Christians will agree with me, or at least accept that it is possible things happened this way.

 

What Jews and Christians Agree on That is Wrong for Both

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How many of you have heard someone say “Jews have the Torah and Christians have the Blood of Christ” when talking about the commandments in the Torah and who is supposed to obey them? I know I have, and the general understanding is that Jews and Christians are separated by this idea that Jews need to obey the Torah but Christians don’t because Jesus died for their sins.

Both sides seem to agree to this: Jews say the New Covenant is only for Christians and Christians say the Old Covenant is only for Jews.

Jews use only the Tanakh and Christians reference the Tanakh, sometimes, but generally stay only within the New Covenant. In fact, I believe the vast majority of Christians who have been taught from the Gospels and the Epistles don’t even realize that the writers of those books and letters are all quoting from the Tanakh.

So if both Jews and Christians feel “their” Bible is only for them, why is this wrong?

Well, I’ll tell you why- because the Torah is for everyone and Yeshua died for everyone. Yeshua taught the Torah and the Apostles taught the Torah: that was the only “Bible” around. The New Covenant letters and Gospels were being written as early as the middle of the First Century but didn’t come together until around 367 C.E., nearly three centuries later.

What has happened is that the “grafted in” are trying to take over the tree, and the tree is letting them!

The Old and New Covenants are one Bible, one story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It starts with the creation of everything, then God chooses a man (Abraham) to be the father of a nation dedicated to serving God; later, God tells that nation they are to be a nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) and he gives them the Torah, his User Manual (if you will) on how they should live their lives. As priests, of course, they are not only to live their lives in accordance with the Torah but they are to teach the rest of the world how to do that, as well. The story continues as we read how the people of God fail to perform their priestly duties, and after the nation suffers a civil war leaving two nations, Shomron in the North and Judah in the South, their constant sinning forces God to disperse them throughout the world. However, that isn’t the end of the story.

There has, from the beginning, been the promise of a Messiah to come and reconcile the chosen people to God, and then all the world will worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in accordance to God’s commandments (Torah) when God regathers his people into their land, Israel. The promise of a Messiah comes to fruition in the New Covenant, which is the continuation of the Old Covenant. It starts some 400 years or so after the last entries in the Tanakh and it is Yeshua who is the Messiah. As prophesied, he is not accepted by the masses although he was supernaturally born and portrayed God’s power throughout his ministry. The prophecy that all people will come to worship God begins (properly) with the Messianic Jews (early followers of Yeshua) adding to their numbers from the Gentiles who were converting to Judaism. Despite what has been taught, first century Jews that followed Yeshua never converted to Christianity because Yeshua was, is and always will be a Jew teaching the Torah. As his ministry grew in strength and numbers more and more Gentiles were added as fewer and fewer Jews came to accept him as their Messiah. I suppose at some point there had to be a limit, since there were so many more Gentiles than Jews in the world then, just as it is today.

Starting around the end of the first century, the separation of Yeshua’s followers from Judaic worship to what is today Christianity begins to really “take off” and with the Council of Nicene, Christianity is a totally different religion, persecuting the Jews and re-branding Yeshua as Jesus Christ, the blue-eyed, blond-haired Teutonic image that is what people think of today.

The story ends with the regathering of the Jewish people to their homeland and the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) that we read about in Revelation. And, when all is said and done, all people will recognize and proclaim Yeshua as the Messiah and worship God on his Holy Mountain in Jerusalem (the new Jerusalem) as God told us we should, which is found (you guessed it!) in the Torah.

So, nu? What’s my point? My point is this: we need to bridge that gap that people created which God never intended to exist. We need to overcome the bigotry and hatred between Jews and Christians and realize that there is one God who does not have any religion, just laws, commandments, rules, ordinances, and regulations that tell us how we are to worship him and how we are to treat each other.

One God, one set of laws, one people under God and one Messiah for all. The separation between Jews and Christians serves only to help the enemy of God to be able to take over the world. Anyone, therefore, who promulgates that Jews and Christians should remain separated and that following the Torah is no longer valid or needed is an agent of Satan, whether or not that person realizes it.

If you are Christian, read the whole Bible and you will see there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant. If you are Jewish, rebuke the bigotry and fear that Jews have of the New Covenant. Read a Messianic version of the New Covenant (NOT the King James version, please!) and see that what Yeshua said was not in any way different from what Moses said. Yeshua taught the deeper, spiritual meaning of the Mosaic law by using a Drash to teach the Remes (look up the exegesis system called PaRDes to see what I am talking about) but never, ever taught against the Torah. He couldn’t! He was and still is, the Living Torah.

For Jews that are waiting for Messiah, you must be open to the idea that maybe, just maybe, he already came and he will be coming back. You can still wait, and I pray you accept him when he returns, or you can open your heart and mind and just simply study about Yeshua now. Remember, the Talmud talks about the Messiah as the Son of Joseph and also as the Son of David, indicating two separate Messianic occurrences.

For Christians, you must be open to hearing that the Torah is what Yeshua taught and the Canon of Modern Christianity is not what Yeshua taught but what Constantine created. You need to read the Old Covenant to really be able to understand what Yeshua was teaching and accept that following the Torah isn’t just for Jews.

Yeshua is Messiah to the world: Jews, Gentiles, Buddhist, Muslims ….everyone! God has no religion and when all is said and done, we who will survive through faith will worship God in the way he instructed his chosen nation of priests to teach us.

Old Covenant for Jews; New Covenant for Christians- True or False?

The basic understanding between Jews and Christians is that the OC (Old Covenant, or Tanakh) is for Jews and the NC (New Covenant/Testament) is for Christians. One is the Jewish Bible and the other is the Christian Bible.

I do not believe this to be true, but from a certain viewpoint the NC was written for Christians.

Before I explain why I say this, let me first identify the four different types of writings that are found in the bible:

  1. Divinely Dictated: these are writings of what God said written exactly as he said it. The best example is the 10 Commandments, written “with the finger of God.” (Exodus 31:13);
  2. Divinely Inspired: these are writings by people of what God told them to write down or repeat. Examples are the Torah and the writings of the Prophets;
  3. Divinely Based: these are writings by people to people explaining the meaning of the divinely dictated or inspired writings. The letters of the Apostles are examples of this type of writing; and
  4. Narratives: these are writings that give us a historical accounting. Examples would be the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles and the Book of Acts.

The Tanakh (OC) was written by Jews to Jews but it is for everyone in the world. God has no religion: he has his rules for how to worship him and how to treat each other. He choose Abraham’s’ descendant’s as his chosen people because of the faith of Abraham; later that faith was tested when God told Moses the children of Israel would be a nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6.) It is generally said God gave the Torah to the Jews, but I prefer to say God entrusted it to the Jews. It was entrusted to Jews not for their use only, but for them to learn it and live it, then teach the rest of the world how to do the same. The fact that the Torah is for everyone is undeniable because God said the Jews were to be a nation of priests: a Rabbi doesn’t teach his congregation how to be Catholic and a Priest doesn’t teach his congregation how to be Buddhists. If the Jews are God’s chosen priests to the world, and he gave them the Torah to live by, then it is clear that God wants the world to live by the Torah, too.

This is further confirmed when we read that God said those who sojourn with the Jewish people (meaning choose to live with them and adopt their lifestyle) would have the same rights as a natural born Jewish person (Lev. 24:22; Lev. 19:33), meaning not only were they legally the same but spiritually the same. As the New Covenant puts it, “adopted sons and daughters of Abraham” (Gal 3:29.) Again, if they are adopted children they are subject to the same rules of the household that the natural born children are.

The NC is different. As in the Tanakh there are some writings by Jews to Jews, and these include the books of James, Hebrews, Peter, John and Jude.  However, most of the NC (about 2/3) is composed of the letters written by Shaul, and although these were written by a Jew, they were not written to Jews- they were written to Gentiles who were learning how to be Jewish. So, as I said above, from a certain viewpoint we could make an argument that the NC is a “Christian” bible because the majority of it was written to Christians.

Both the OC and NC were written by Jews. Originally each was written to a specific group but they both are for the entire world. What went wrong was that the NC writings were difficult for the Gentiles to understand because they were written by Jews very well versed in Torah and who had a Jewish “mindset.” There were many more Gentiles that came to accept Messiah than Jews, and as the Jews that wrote these letters died off, Gentiles who did not know the Torah and had never lived a Jewish lifestyle didn’t recognize implied meanings (which Jews would understand) in these letters. Consequently, they began to interpret them incorrectly. This pollution of the original meanings culminated with Constantine and the Christian Canon he devised, which completed the separation into two religions: one that worshiped God and obeyed Torah waiting for their Messiah and one that worshiped God and accepted his Messiah but ignored the Torah.

For the record, the letters from Shaul (Paul) were instructions to Gentiles becoming Jewish advising them of the difference between legalistic Torah observance and faithful Torah obedience. The former is a Pharisaical teaching based on complete legal performance of Torah laws as the path to salvation; the latter is based on understanding that we are saved by faith and the Torah should be obeyed because it is God’s instructions to help us live a better and holier life.

There is a big difference between obeying God just to obey and obeying God as a result of faithful trust in him.

For me the Tanakh and the NC are one book: it starts with Genesis and ends with Revelation. It is the story of God and his relationship with the world, how he honored Abraham’s faith by choosing his descendants to be entrusted with the Torah so they could teach the world God’s laws and rulings that lead to eternal life (Deut. 30:15-19; Ezekiel 18:23.) The first part of the bible brings us from creation to the dispersion of the Jewish people and their hope in Messiah. The rest of the book tells us of the coming of Messiah and the spreading of God’s salvation to all people, finishing with a vision of the Olam Haba (world to come.)

One day people will recognize the OC and NC are one book for everyone. Until then each one of us must practice good exegesis; that means to read the bible remembering the four types of writings and considering what was written to whom and why. We need to maintain proper context, using hermeneutics and the culturally correct definition of words and phrases for that time. And we must read the entire bible- Genesis through Revelation. It is only when you have an understanding and knowledge of the Old Covenant that you will realize there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant.

 

Who Really Made Christianity a New Religion?

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Being raised on Long Island as a Reform Jew I was always told that Jesus was a Jew who betrayed his Jewish roots and created Christianity, a totally separate religion which has historically hated and persecuted the Jewish people. Consequently, no real Jew believes in Jesus; in fact, if you believe in Jesus you can’t be a Jew anymore!

I spent 2/3 of my life believing this; fortunately, I have learned the truth about Christianity, who Jesus really was and what he really taught. And through that study and the guiding of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) I have come to accept that Yeshua (Jesus’s real name) was a Jew, still is a Jew, and taught from the Torah. He did not create a new and separate religion at all.

As I studied the New Covenant writings, especially the Epistles of Shaul (Paul) I began to understand that he did not convert to Christianity or write against the Torah and Judaism (as most Christian teachings profess), but remained a Jew and always confirmed the importance of following the Torah. The problem with reading Shaul’s writings is that one has to get into the right “mindset” to understand what Shaul was saying, as well as be trained in biblical exegesis. Shaul wrote to Gentiles that were first learning how to be Jews; there wasn’t anything else to be at that time. You were either a Jew or a Pagan. The early churches he set up weren’t churches at all; at least, not as we understand what a church is today. The first time they were called a “church” was in the early 1600’s, when King James decided to call them that, despite the fact that his bible experts disagreed.  In my opinion, the organizations that Shaul created as he preached the Gospels would be more accurately called “Kehillot“, the plural of the Hebrew word Kehillah which means “community organizations.”  So although Shaul’s preaching has been confused and misinterpreted probably ever since he wrote the first letter, he did not create Christianity as a separate religion.

I finally came to understand that the Christian Canon of today was developed mainly by Constantine at the Council of Nicene in the 3rd Century. The rules and separation of Christian worship from it’s beginnings in Judaic worship was confirmed and finalized, so to speak, by what Constantine did. Therefore, I (and many others I know) have been accusing Constantine of being the real creator of Christianity as a separate religion from Judaism.

I have been wrong.

Constantine definitely is the creator of Christian Canon that all of the modern Christian religions are based on, but he was not the first one to identify Christianity as a religion separate and unique from Judaism. It wasn’t Ignatius of Antioch, either, although he certainly did what he could to separate it (he changed the Sabbath to Sunday and also stated that one cannot have Judaism and Christianity together.) And it wasn’t first declared separate and unique by any of the other early “church” fathers.

Sherman, warm up the WABAC Machine and let’s go back before Yeshua and just after the Maccabees revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, which is the story of Hanukkah.”

 

After that last Seleucid king was defeated, there was still political upheaval in Judea and the Judeans invited the Hasmoneans to mediate, eventually leading to Roman rule over Judea. However, because the Romans were “invited” in they allowed the Jews to continue to worship in accordance to their religion. This was very unique, since almost every Roman-conquered city or province was forced to worship as Rome did. Under normal conditions, it was illegal for any Roman ruled people to have their own religion (this is important to remember.)

Now we come to the point where the power elite Judeans, who rejected Yeshua as Messiah, needed to get Pontius Pilate to convict Yeshua. So what did they say? They first accused him of blasphemy, but Pilate said that was an internal religious issue and not a legal one. They next accused him of stirring up the people and telling them not to pay taxes, making him an enemy of the Emperor. Pilate didn’t fall for that one, either. Their final accusation was that Yeshua was a King, which he admitted to being but said his kingdom was not of this world, so Pilate had no legal reason to find him guilty of treason. In truth, they couldn’t get Pilate to find Yeshua guilty of anything. They had the same problem with Shaul when they brought him before the Roman rulers of whatever province he was preaching in. But then later, the Jews in the provinces around Judea who wanted to stop the Apostles from preaching about Yeshua found the one argument they could use that got the Romans to take action: they accused the Apostles of creating a new religion! This was against Roman law. The Jewish religion was tolerated by Rome but this new “Way” was denounced as a separate religion from Judaism so Rome had to take action. By the 2nd Century, both Jews and Christians were being persecuted, but for different reasons: Jewish persecution was for political reasons (they were rebelling against Roman rule) and Christian persecution was for religious reasons (practicing a religion that wasn’t approved by Rome.)

So, who really created Christianity as a separate religion? It was the Jewish power elite of the First Century!  We created our own “Frankenstein’s Monster” which turned against us and since then caused us harm and suffering. This was a real surprise to me: imagine…it was us! Jews are the reason that Christianity has become a separate religion from its Jewish roots. Who wuddah tought it?

If the Jewish elite had only ignored the Jews and Gentiles that accepted Yeshua as Messiah, then who knows what might have happened?  But, of course, that didn’t happen and maybe it was, in the long run, for the best. After all, didn’t Shaul write to the Kihillot in Rome (Romans 11:11):

“Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.”

This shows that God’s plan of salvation for the Gentiles could only come through the Jews and eventually we will all be one in Messiah.

Now, for those of you out there who love to take a word or sentence out of context and go off in all sorts of tangential arguments that have nothing to do with the point of the message, let me address the fact that when I say “the Jews” I am not using it as a universally descriptive term but a reference to the power elite of the Judean political system at that time. And let me also say the Jews aren’t the only ones responsible: Ignatius, Constantine and nearly every Pope and Christian leader since the 2nd Century has contributed to making Christianity a separate and different religion. Christianity has become a separate and unique religion from Judaism as the result of the work of many people over many years.

My message today is that Christianity as a separate religion wasn’t proposed or initiated by Yeshua or any of his early followers- it came about as a result of the accusation from the non-Believing Jewish power elite in order to give Rome legal justification to persecute those people who accepted Yeshua as the Messiah.

So Yeshua didn’t create a new religion. Neither did the Apostles or Shaul or Constantine- the ones who first identified Christianity as a new religion were the Jews of the First Century!

Passover Message 2018

If you would prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

 

Chag Sameach!! Pesach Tov! Shabbat Shalom!

These are the greetings we will be giving to each other this evening because Passover (Pesach) starts at sundown, and this year (2018) so does Shabbat. Our preparations are twice as important today: not only do we prepare for Shabbat but we also prepare for Pesach.

For those people who keep their home Kosher according to Talmudic (also called Rabbinic) tradition, the plates might be the special, once-a-year Pesach servings. The house will not just be cleaned of dirt and dust, but also everything with any form of leavening in it. The Orthodox will even have the Rabbi confirm this and give them a certificate to state their house is “clean.” The removed foods will be given to the (Gentile) poor.

The Seder plate will be set: we will need chicken (the traditional meat for the Seder since we cannot sacrifice a lamb), a roasted egg, charoset (an apple, walnut, honey and wine mixture), matzo (lotsa matzo!), wine that has been approved as Kosher for Pesach, horse radish, parsley and salt-water. A lamb shank bone is also needed.  All of these food items are part of the Seder, which we celebrate with the reading of the Haggadah.  That is the Passover story, taken from Exodus 12, and as we read from the Haggadah we sample the foods and remember the bitterness of their slavery as we taste of their bitter tears when we dip the parsley in the salt water and eat it. In the middle of the story, just after they’ plagues are recited, we eat the Passover meal. After dinner the children look for the Afikomen (a hidden piece of matzo) so that we can then have desert and complete the reading of the Haggadah.

All told, it is more than a meal- it is an experience.

Over the past twenty years or so Donna and I have shared our Seder with different friends each year, trying to invite those friends who have never experienced a Seder. We use a Messianic Haggadah so that our Gentile friends can see where Yeshua (Jesus) fits into the Seder. It is surprising (I should say, disappointing) that so many of our Gentile friends have no idea that this Seder was what they know as the Last Supper. Their Christian training has done nothing to help them understand their connection to Judaism.

I want to leave you with this interesting thought: did you know that even though Yeshua is called the Passover Lamb because he died for our sins, the real Passover lamb was NOT a sin sacrifice? It was a peace offering, also called a Thanksgiving sacrifice. However, the Yom Kippur sacrifice (which was a goat, not a lamb) is a sin sacrifice. So Yeshua really was a Yom Kippur sacrifice but he performed that function on Passover. Do you know why?

I don’t! But…I do know that because we are cleansed of our sin by Yeshua’s sacrifice we can then come into the presence of God. What Yeshua did was actually perform two sacrificial functions at one time: he made it possible for us to be cleansed of sin which allows us to come into the presence of God and share our thanksgiving meal with him.

If you are having a Seder tonight then may God’s blessing be on you and all with you.

If you are enjoying an Easter ham this Sunday, well…I wish God’s blessings on you if your heart is for Messiah and God, but please consider this: you will be eating something that the person you are celebrating would find to be an abomination on his table.

I will end today’s message with the phrase that concludes every Seder:

לשנה הבאה ב’רושל’ם

(Lashanah haba’ah bi Yerushalayim)

Next year in Jerusalem! 

Parashah Tzav 2018 (Give an order) Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

 

As we continue in Vayikra (Leviticus), God gives the orders and commands regarding the daily offerings, specifically the wholly burnt, meal, guilt, peace and thanksgiving offerings.

The procedure and requirements for anointing of the Priests and the Cohen haGadol (High Priest) are given, and Aaron and his sons are anointed by Moses.

There are so many different things we could discuss in these few chapters, but since in this year (2018) Passover falls next Friday night, I would like to talk about the Passover lamb and its significance in the sacrificial system.

Yeshua (Jesus) has been referred to as the “Passover Lamb” for centuries, and His sacrifice is the means by which we are able to be absolved of our sins, so why is He called a “Passover” lamb? The lamb sacrificed on Passover was not a sin sacrifice.

We are told the requirements for the 5 different types of sacrifices outlined in Leviticus; by definition, Yeshua’s sacrifice was a Thanksgiving, or Peace sacrifice. We know this because only the peace sacrifice was eaten by the one bringing the sacrifice. In all the other forms of sacrifice some of the animal was given to the Priest as his compensation, with the remaining parts either burned on the Altar or removed and thrown away. Only the Peace sacrifice was also shared with the one bringing the animal.

Yeshua’s sacrifice was a sin sacrifice, and also served as a Passover sacrifice; in fact, His sacrifice fulfilled three sacrifices: peace, sin and wholly burnt. Of course, His body wasn’t consumed by fire, but His entire body was sacrificed (which is what was done with the wholly-burnt sacrifice.)

The wholly burnt sacrifice represents our complete devotion to God- no question that Yeshua was completely devoted to His Father in heaven.

The sin sacrifice is the means by which we are forgiven our sins when we do T’shuvah (repentance) and ask God for forgiveness (now by means of Yeshua’s sacrifice.)

The peace offering is how we enter into communion with God by sharing the meal made from the sacrifice, which we do at the Passover Seder.

Can you see how Yeshua’s once-and-for-all sacrifice accomplished all three types of sacrifice? Through our acceptance of Yeshua we can show our complete devotion to God, receive forgiveness of sins and enter into communion with God.

Does this mean we shouldn’t call Yeshua the “Passover Lamb” anymore? I think it is still appropriate to refer to Him that way, just as it would also be appropriate to refer to Him as the Yom Kippur goat.

Personally, I prefer to use “lamb” other than “goat” when I refer to Yeshua, although from a technical perspective either would be correct.

For those that will celebrate the Holy Days of Passover and Hag ha Matzot, I pray you thoroughly enjoy this festive festival. I am always afraid I will accidentally eat something with yeast during the week of this festival, and have done so, once or twice, in the past. I hope it is easier for you to keep away from leavening than it is for me (I just LOVE bread!)

Donna and I have different people to our Seder every year, and we usually try to have Gentile friends who have not enjoyed this Holy Day. Every single couple we have shared our Seder with, for nearly 20 years now, has enjoyed it and it has helped them to get closer to their Jewish roots.

I may be a week early, but…Chag Sameach!

Who Killed Who?

As a child I was constantly reminded that “You Jews killed Jesus” by my Christian friends and acquaintances.

Back then I didn’t know and (frankly) didn’t care about God or the Messiah, but I knew enough to say that Jesus came to die for their sins, so all we did was help Him.

Now I know better- it wasn’t the Jews who killed Jesus, nor was it the Romans: it was ME.

Parashah Yayyechi 2017 (and he lived) Genesis 47:28 – 50:26)

This week we come to the end of the book of Genesis.

Jacob blesses Joseph’s children, and adopts them. He later blesses each of the 12 Tribes, then acob dies. The book ends with Joseph’s death and his request to make sure his bones are brought back to the Land when the children of Israel return.

When Jacob blesses Judah, we have a messianic prophecy of the coming of Yeshua…or do we? Where as Christianity sees this as a messianic prophecy, Judaism rejects it as such,,,but why?