One Christian View of Torah

Occasionally, I get amusing comments to really old posts. I think I have a new name for them: trolling necromancers.

Trolling, because they’re outrageous statements designed to provoke. Internet trolls.

Necromancers, because they’re resurrecting old, dead comment threads.

Here’s one such comment I received the other day, Easter Sunday, from a Christian man named Jeremiah:

What part of the Torah do you follow? You want some scripture read Galatians.

You can't follow 90% of the Torah because it was for Israel during a specific time.

Is all of the Torah from God? Jesus didn't follow the Torah.

The Messianic Movement is of Satan period.
You are under bondage and blind.

The Torah and the OT are not the foundation of the new covenant they were only a shadow of Christ. Christ is the foundation. Take off you blinders and read our Bible. There is more to the Torah than Observing the Sabbath, eating kosher, wearing tzitits, and celebrating festivals but this is all that is emphasized.

Is the torah above man's laws? If so why don't you stone your children for being disobedient.

I challenge you to a public debate as Paul debated those who were lost on Mars Hill. Are you up for it?

Ah, Galatians this, and Paul that. You’d think he’s a member of some Paul-based religion! Certainly falls into the Meta-Disciple category of the 10 Religious Types To Watch Out For.

Most of the time, these trolling necromancers deserve no reply: after dropping a stink bomb in your virtual mail box, they promptly leave town, never to be seen again. I suspect Jeremiah won’t be seen around these here parts any time soon.

One thing I like about the Greatest Commandments Project is that it gets pasts all this rhetoric and dogma. Gets past all the talk. Goes straight to the text: is Jeremiah right, is it true we can’t follow 90% of the Torah?

No, that is a false statement: while we’re only 11% finished with the commandment mapping, so far 97% of all commandments can be carried out today.

That isn’t perception or conjured up doctrine; it’s not cheap talk – that’s reality based in months of researching the text, each commandment documented on this very blog.

Likewise, Jeremiah’s implication that not all the Torah is from God, and that Messiah didn’t follow the Torah, and that keeping God’s commandments is bondage, and that the Torah was only for a specific time are also false statements.

The Greatest Commandments project sheds light on this matter, cutting through the darkness of Jeremiah’s Christian theology.

Thankfully, not all Christian theology is so ugly. And many Messianics sympathize with Christianity now, for better or worse. But it’s times like these that I think the Church needs a reformation more than ever.

What do you think of Jeremiah’s statements?

49 comments:

  1. "...is Jeremiah right, is it true we can’t follow 90% of the Torah?

    No, that is a false statement: while we’re only 11% finished with the commandment mapping, so far 97% of all commandments can be carried out today.
    "

    Just in case anyone missed it, 97% of 11% of the commandments is 10.67% of the commandments can be carried out today. Not quite the overwhelming victory (only 0.67%)over Jeremiah's claim yet, but that's assuming that none of the remaining 89% which Judah has yet to tackle will be fulfillable. That would be a poor assumption.

    Judah, any guesses on what the final "fulfillability" percentage will be?

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  2. Yes, true! We're only 11% finished.

    My guess on "can be carried out": I think it will take a dive as we head into the sacrifices. :-) 70% is my guess. 70% can be carried out today.

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  3. A Wikipedia entry on 613 Mitzvot cites Sefer HaMitzvot HaKatzar as postulating that "there are 77 negative and 194 positive commandments that can be observed today" (this number includes 26 mitzvot that can only be observed in the Land).

    That leaves out the other 342 commandments, meaning that more than HALF of Torah can't be observed today.

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  4. This is such a tough question to answer. In one sense, my opinion is we can keep 0% of the Torah, we're all sinners, and if you break one part of the Torah you break it all.

    In another sense we can observe the Biblical Torah commandments, as we are physically capable of doing so, but then are we consistent in this, and also whose interpretation do we use - rabbinic, historic, Karaite, personal interpretation, etc?

    So you could say it is possible to keep the Torah, but you can't measure objectively if someone is or isn't keeping the Torah. And also, what about the punishments and consequences for breaking Torah:

    What happens if you accidentally kill someone? The Torah says there are cities of refuge, but we don't have cities of refuge any more.

    I mean, what is Torah? It's so hard for us all to answer that question and agree, I think this is a debate that could run and run.

    I don't know about Jeremiah, maybe he doesn't know how to express himself very well, "you are under bondage and blind" is hardly fair though - he doesn't know you and shouldn't judge your motives like that.

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  5. Interesting! Lower than my guess of 70%, but still significantly greater than Jeremiah's 10%.

    Even so, I'd like to find this number on my own, rather than take another's word for it.

    This is particularly an interesting question, seeing as how some commandments might be carried out depending on the interpretation of the commandment.

    For example, the commandment to "observe the new year in the month in which Passover falls" cannot technically be carried out according to Maimonides' interpretation, simply because there exists no recognized, central religious ruling authority to rule when the new year begins.

    On the other hand, that commandment's text itself does not mention a religious ruling body, and a more general interpretation would allow for carrying out the commandment.

    Seeing as how I've preferred to state the text, rather than summarize the Rambam's interpretation, my final count of "how many can be kept today" will likely be affected, and vary from the book Gene mentioned.

    It's interesting stuff!

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  6. @Joe,

    The way I see it, we're all sinners, true. As were David, Solomon, the prophets, etc.

    And yeah, there are multiple interpretations, nuances, gray areas. As there was in the times of David, Solomon, the prophets, etc.

    The fact that sin exists, or that not everyone agrees on what a commandment means, isn't new. So I don't let that affect my judgment.

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  7. Judah, yesher koach :)

    I'm not judging you, I respect your reasons for keeping Torah.

    Have you heard of the Ishbitzer rebbe? He went to Italy in search of the blue thread to wear in his garments, as he was so passionate about keeping all the commandments of Torah.

    But in doing so, he had to oppose the Torah of his rabbinical contemporaries who told him he couldn't keep such an impossible command.

    I'll do a couple of posts about him soon, hope you'll find it interesting :-)

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  8. "This is such a tough question to answer. In one sense, my opinion is we can keep 0% of the Torah, we're all sinners, and if you break one part of the Torah you break it all."

    Joe, what's your take on "Deuteronomy 30:11"?

    Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.

    Surely, the people of Israel were just as much sinners back then as we are today. And yet, here we have G-d on record saying that the commandments are "not too difficult for you".

    The verse continues further:

    It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it? It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

    G-d thinks we can obey Him - and he doesn't give us more than we can bear.

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  9. Thanks Joe. I realized you weren't attacking me, I just figured I'd explain my thinking behind it all.

    I'm not familiar with the Ishbitzer rebbe. Will read your posts on him.

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  10. Gene, from Romans 10:

    Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

    5Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them."[a] 6But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'[b]" (that is, to bring Christ down) 7"or 'Who will descend into the deep?'[c]" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,"[d] that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.


    In other words, this is all about Christ, we cannot ascend or descend to reach the Torah, but Christ the living Torah is within our hearts - this is the righteousness by faith.

    The righteousness by the works of the law were not possible to keep by sinful man, yet God still expected us to keep his laws. That is so that we may have no excuse before him, and we have no other option than Christ, for only he could be declared righteous by Torah.

    God commanded the Torah to the people of Israel and demanded they run their country by his laws, but God brought an end to Israel run by Torah and sent Israel into exile.

    We live in non-Torah countries, and even those MJs in Israel live in a non-Torah state too. The New Testament demands we live according to the laws of the land, but doesn't demand us to live according to all the ancient commandments on top of this. The New Testament is clear about what totally isn't acceptable, but the rest seems up for debate.

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  11. No worries, debating this is good :-)

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  12. Joe, you didn't answer my question. How can G-d say to the sinful Israelites, preempting their obligatory "it's impossible" excuses, that "Now what I am commanding you today IS NOT TOO DIFFICULT FOR YOU or beyond your reach."?

    The fact that righteousness is impossible apart from G-d is well understood thought scripture, beginning to end. And yet, G-d never stops to demand obidence to his commandments. NT scriptures proclaim that the obedience is the very definition of love for G-d:

    "1 John 5:3 This is love for G-d: to obey his commands"

    This is what makes the historical Gentile Christian interpretation of Torah [that you're unfortunately holding on too with all your might, for the time being at least] as being effectively done away with so untenable and so utterly contradictory to all of scripture, including Master's own teachings.

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  13. "The New Testament demands we live according to the laws of the land, but doesn't demand us to live according to all the ancient commandments on top of this. "

    Joe, Israel in Yeshua's time lived under Roman occupation and Roman laws and couldn't carry out many of the commandments (it couldn't even carry out Yeshua's own execution, but had to hand him over to the Romans). And yet, Yeshua himself lived an obedient life, as did his Jewish disciples and later believers.

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  14. Joe, you didn't answer my question. How can G-d say to the sinful Israelites, preempting their obligatory "it's impossible" excuses, that "Now what I am commanding you today IS NOT TOO DIFFICULT FOR YOU or beyond your reach."?

    It's not too difficult, which is why they're with no excuse for breaking it.

    I think I did answer your question, with my interpretation of Romans 10, which I believe is the opinion expressed by Paul, who was a Jew not a Gentile.

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  15. "It's not too difficult, which is why they're with no excuse for breaking it."

    Precisely - we are indeed without excuse[s] for breaking it.

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  16. So do you see yourself as a Torah-keeper or a Torah-breaker?

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  17. "So do you see yourself as a Torah-keeper or a Torah-breaker?"

    Joe, I see myself as a Torah-keeper. Torah-breaker would be someone who DELIBERATELY breaks Torah, makes commandments of G-d and Yeshua null. G-d, of course, always provided a way for atone for one's sins, as everyone sins. Torah-breakers, on the other hand, make disdain for Torah their lifestyle.

    Besides all that, Paul writes that even Gentiles can KEEP the Torah (those aspects of it that pertain to them, of course, as the "uncircumcised" clause indicates below)

    Romans 2:27 "And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he KEEPS THE LAW, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?"

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  18. Joseph wrote: "I think I did answer [Gene's] question, with my interpretation of Romans 10, which I believe is the opinion expressed by Paul, who was a Jew not a Gentile."

    Joseph: I think your interpretation of Paul's meaning here is basically correct. However, I don't think that your interpretation is incompatible with the literal meaning of the passage (which Gene is bringing out).

    There is plenty of evidence that Jewish hermeneutics include multiple layers of interpretation...isn't it possible that Paul is making a midrash on Deuteronomy 30 to emphasize his point?

    If you (or any other commenters) can cite some scholarly opinions that Paul is not using midrash here, I think that would bolster your case. I wonder what Richard B. Hays (Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul) has to say about it...?

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  19. Joe, I see myself as a Torah-keeper. Torah-breaker would be someone who DELIBERATELY breaks Torah, makes commandments of G-d and Yeshua null. G-d, of course, always provided a way for atone for one's sins, as everyone sins. Torah-breakers, on the other hand, make disdain for Torah their lifestyle.

    So someone who shaves or eats pork, but does his best to love his neighbour - is he someone who hates Torah?

    I'm not saying you're wrong to observe these laws, you can have the very best motives. But I don't agree with the idea that someone who doesn't deliberately hates God's law.

    I don't think all the laws are moral commandments, or that breaking some laws is being immoral.

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  20. But Paul's interpretation seems directly opposed to Gene's - namely that the Torah is something in your heart by faith, not something you can observe outwardly. I appreciate these are tricky verses, and I can see how Paul's writings are influenced by his rabbinic training, but still I think this means that we're not called to literally observe all the laws but to trust in Yeshua through faith and live our lives accordingly.

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  21. Here's a question I have: is 'the law' just referring to the Ten Commandments, or to wider laws?

    I ask because 2 Corinthians 3:3 refers to the law being given on 'tablets of stone' - correct me if I'm wrong (I could well be), but I thought only the Ten Commandments were given on stone and the other laws weren't.
    http://bible.cc/2_corinthians/3-3.htm

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  22. Joseph wrote: "But Paul's interpretation seems directly opposed to Gene's - namely that the Torah is something in your heart by faith, not something you can observe outwardly."

    I would disagree with you: Paul doesn't say that "the Torah is in your heart by faith." Rather Paul says something more like "only righteousness coming by faith in Messiah can save you." I don't see any statement in Romans 10 which negates the need for obedience to the Law--except possibly verse 4. But the difficulty of translating the word telos as "end" is well-known. ("Goal" or "destination" is the sense of the word.)

    So I reiterate my view: that Paul's midrash on Deut 30 need not (and should not!) be read in such a way as to nullify the plain sense of that text.

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  23. In terms of Jeremiah's post...I really didn't see any point in reading past the part when he said MJ was "of Satan."

    It doesn't matter whether the percentage is 10% or 20% or whatever, the question is whether there is an obligation to be observant (of whatever you can observe). Or was that

    1. nullified by messiah
    2. not nullified but transformed by advent of messiah (like child > adult or catepillar > butterfly or some other inadequate analogy). Example, should there be special leniencies or strictures due to messianic circumstances (eat kosher food on non-kosher plate of gentile believer out of fellowship? I'm sure others can think of better examples). I..e how does the "community" develop a specifically messianic halacha?
    3. Messiah has no effect on externals. External observance should be identical to rabbinic obseervance. Problem, not all OJ's observe alike, much less all Jews. Not even within streams of OJ is their identical observance, hence on OJ forums: "ask your rabbi". Who do MJ's ask - who rules on a specific MJ halachah? and where is the living MJ community with such a tradition which such a halacha presupposes to exist. This is what Kinzer is trying to face in my opinion.

    Finally, in my view, all of the above only applies to Jews. IMHO, Gentiles are obliged to follow noahide which for christians is generally consistent with their Christian obligations anyway. although in its own, transformed by Messiah as well.

    Todd

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  24. So how can Gentiles inspire Israel to jealousy (Romans 10:19; 11:14) if they have different moral requirements as believers in Jesus to Jews?

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  25. Interesting discussion. But don't we all forget one thing? God is the judge, not us...

    I think if we use dvekut and Kavanah in keeping Torah, we will do good. There is a reason why God said He will put His Torah on our hearts and minds. There are so many laws that are not aplicable for us today, does this fact in anyway diminish the Torah?

    Ps. 1:2 says: "...But whose delight is in the Torah of Adonai, and in His Torah he neditates day and night..."

    On the other hand, what of the rabbinite who's meditate on the law day and night, but do not recognize Yeshua as God's sent Messiah?
    Jeremiah's diatribe notwistanding, the torah stands as long that God sais it stands (Matt. 5:17-20).

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  26. Could someone possibly show from the New Testament that "the law" is anything beyond the Ten Commandments?

    Does "the law" in Paul only refers to the tablets of stone in the New Testament (based on a reading of 2 Corinthians 3, especially v.3 and v.7), or something else?

    What is the New Testament definition of "Torah" or "law"? I fear we're working from different definitions and assumptions, which may lead to possible misunderstandings.

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  27. Dan, from Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus starts by saying:

    "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them."

    Yet in Hebrews 1:1, we read:

    In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

    The implication is that there are now no more prophets because Yeshua has come - the prophets' role is "in the past".

    So whilst Yeshua didn't abolish the prophets, there is now no longer any need for prophets because they have pointed towards their ultimate goal, Yeshua haMashiach. Yeshua did not disregard the prophets, indeed without them we wouldn't be able to appreciate what Jesus as Messiah really means in full.

    I believe this applies to the Mosaic Torah laws too - that is, they are worthy to be studied and as pointers towards Yeshua, and in doing so they fulfil their purpose for us.

    But there is nothing more to Torah or the Prophets than to pointing us towards Yeshua. This is a tremendously important role, and not one which I look down on, I just think their power is limited.

    Consider Jesus' words about John the Baptist in Luke 7:24-28:

    24After John's messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 25If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. 26But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27This is the one about whom it is written:

    " 'I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.'

    28I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."

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  28. Joseph,

    Are you using the old and tired Christian double-talk on us now?

    I prefer to stick with yeshua, His word are quite clear, no need for explanations.

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  29. Joseph,

    Also it is true that Paul uses the term law not in a monolithic way, this is the first I hear of him separating the 10 from the rest...

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  30. Are you using the old and tired Christian double-talk on us now?

    What does that mean? Explain?

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  31. Dan, which laws other than the Ten Commandments were written on a tablet of stone?

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  32. I think if we use dvekut and Kavanah in keeping Torah, we will do good.

    These are both kabbalistic concepts which aren't Biblical - they are at best anachronistic.

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  33. Joseph,

    Kabbalistic? Stupid me, and here I thought that they are Hebrew words.....

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  34. "So whilst Yeshua didn't abolish the prophets, there is now no longer any need for prophets because they have pointed towards their ultimate goal, Yeshua haMashiach. "

    Do you mean there is no longer any need for [new] prophets [to continue prophesying]? Or do you mean there is no longer any need for the "capital P" Prophets (i.e. the Neviim of Torah-Neviim-Ketuvim). I disagree with either of those options (we have prophets after Yeshua, and we still need the message of the "capital P" prophets)...but I can't imagine they are what you meant. What do you mean, Joe? :-)

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  35. Joseph,

    2 Cor. 3;

    In order for this to fly you first need to explain "the Law of commandments in ordinances..." (Ephs.2:15).

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  36. Dan, they're kabbalistic concepts:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devekut

    "Devekut, deveikuth or deveikus (Heb. דבקות , Mod. Heb. "dedication", traditionally "clinging on" to God) is a deep, trance-like meditative state attained during Jewish prayer, Torah study, or when performing the 613 mitzvot (the "commandments"). It is particularly associated with the Jewish mystical tradition"

    Kavanah:
    http://www.kabbalah5.com/Kavanah.htm

    How are you using these terms, otherwise?

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  37. Yahnatan, yes, I mean just as there are no new prophets, and we no longer have any prophets other than Yeshua, the "old" prophets are still relevant for us, we couldn't understand Yeshua without them.

    The same goes for the old law, though we no longer have the law in the same way, it doesn't mean it isn't relevant.

    Of course I think the writings of the Torah and the Prophets are totally relevant - that's my point.


    we have prophets after Yeshua

    Could you name one?

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  38. Joseph,

    2 Cor. 3;

    In order for this to fly you first need to explain "the Law of commandments in ordinances..." (Ephs.2:15).


    Right okay, I will write a post on this, have been thinking about this all evening. I need to explain myself fully here, which I will do.

    Briefly - I think Eph 2:15 is a reference to the wider commandments outside the Ten - but even then it's talking about Yeshua has abolished them in his flesh.

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  39. "> we have prophets after Yeshua

    Could you name one?
    "

    Abagus. Also Judas, Silas, Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch), Saul. But obviously these prophets were not "capital P" prophets.

    "the "old" prophets are still relevant for us, we couldn't understand Yeshua without them.
    The same goes for the old law, though we no longer have the law in the same way, it doesn't mean it isn't relevant.
    "

    So which is it? The "old" law and prophets are still relevant, but we don't have them in the same way. I'm afraid we're just going around in circles... :-)

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  40. (In an effort to to bring us back to some common ground:) Joseph wrote:

    "there is nothing more to Torah or the Prophets than to pointing us towards Yeshua."

    Even though we disagree on the details, we agree on the big picture here. The difference is that I see the Torah's instructions as pointing towards Yeshua particularly when they're obeyed. And while I agree that Amos's message points to Yeshua, I don't think you have to ignore the content of Amos's message ("God desires justice!"). Similarly, I don't think you have to ignore the content of the Torah ("God gave these commandments to Israel").

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  41. Acts 13:1? Now that is interesting, not seen that before :)

    Thanks Yahnatan & Dan, lots to think about.

    Re. ignoring the content of Torah: if you don't mind I'll draw up a post on this subject because it will take me a long time to explain otherwise, and I need to define my terms - I don't want to go round in circles otherwise.

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  42. Joseph;

    Hope you know how to read Hebrew.

    דבקות--רכוז מלא של הכוונה.( מלון ספיר).

    It is not all about Orthodoxy.

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  43. Joseph,

    Eph. 2:15;

    Look around Paul's epistles to find a list of the transgression who will send one to hell..You will find the list includes more than 10.

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  44. Okay Dan. Let's leave this for now, I'll write up a couple of posts on this issue later this week or maybe next week, and we can follow it up then.

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  45. Shalom Judah,

    I know I sound like a broken record, but comments from someone like Jeremiah make me look at myself more.

    Yeshua and the disciples did not stress Sabbath, diet, tzitzits etc because those were the standards that Jews lived by already. What they spent their time talking about was loving your fellow man and other character issues. What does it say about the Messianic movement that others only see the "Jewish" things stressed?

    Jeff

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  46. Considering those things aren't kept like they were in Yeshua's day, I think we're right to be stressing some of those things.

    On the other hand, if those things are stressed without regards to weightier matters, then we'd have a problem.

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  47. As soon as Jeremiah implied that you should only read the New Testament, I stopped listening. As a Gentile believer, I smelled decaying doctrines.

    "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NLT)

    I think Jeremiah is the one skirting close to dangerous territory. We must be very careful about tagging something as the work of the enemy.

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