The Torah is For Humanity

Summary: Today is April 6th, the 6th day of counting the omer. Today I’m writing about how the Torah is universal. It’s the inheritance of the Jewish people, yet it’s the best moral guide for all humanity.

29792709_10155674053793003_8705728413538713600_n

I just started reading The Rational Bible, an excellent new commentary on the book of Exodus from Jewish author and conservative voice Dennis Prager.

In it, Prager makes this fantastic observation:

The idea that the Torah is only for the Jews is as absurd as the idea that Shakespeare is only for the English, or that Beethoven is only for the Germans.

-Dennis Prager, The Rational Bible

torah

I think that has big implications for the Messianic movement and indeed all of Christianity. If the Torah is the world’s best moral code, and it’s included in the Christian Bible, why not follow it?

Christians certainly keep much of the Torah; you will not find Christians who justify murder, theft, adultery, etc. But even parts of the 10 commandments, like 7th day sabbath, is not kept due to a belief that Jesus did away with the Torah.

But one of the restorations God is doing through the Hebrew Roots movement is the idea that Christianity must return to its historical Jewish root, including an honoring and keeping of the Torah. It is the next great step in the Reformation of Christianity.

Messiah is in the global Torah export business. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah said,

כִּי מִצִּיּוֹן תֵּצֵא תוֹרָה, וּדְבַר-יְהוָה מִירוּשָׁלִָם

-Isaiah 2

Which is, “Out of Zion will go forth the Torah, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” And this is something Jews say in the synagogue every Shabbat as the ark for the Torah scroll is opened.

This is interesting because the Torah has gone out from Zion into all nations, and the Word of God – the whole Bible – has gone from location-specific (Israel) and people-specific (Israelites) to a global and universal application. The Torah is for everyone, all humanity.

And you know who is primarily responsible for that?

The Jewish messiah Yeshua, Jesus of Nazareth.

Regardless of one’s personal views of Jesus, one thing is historically certain: he caused the Hebrew Bible to go global. He exported the values of Judaism and the monotheism of the Jewish people to the entire world.

And, as a follower of his, I can say with certainty that he has turned us all into followers of the God of Israel. It’s really why you see such broad Christian support of the nation of Israel: it’s primarily because Christians are followers of the God of Israel.

That’s remarkable, even from a secular standpoint. Billions of non-Jews now call the Jewish God their God, the Jewish Scriptures their Scriptures. That, frankly, is a miracle.

God went to great lengths to export the Torah from Jerusalem to all nations. So, fine Kineti reader, why not consider it, hear it, listen to what it says?

(Today is the 6th day of counting the omer. Blessed are you Lord, who gave your Torah and your Spirit on Shavuot.)

You–Yes, You–Should Be Writing

Summary: It’s the 5th day of counting the omer. I aim (and fail) to blog each day of the omer count leading up to Shavuot. Today I’m writing about…writing. Writing requires thinking. Formulating your thoughts and putting them to [virtual] paper sharpens your intellect.

imageIn both computer programming and psychology, talking out a problem often leads to a solution. I suspect this applies to other areas of life too. And this is why writing is important: it forces you to think, formulate your thoughts clearly. And that leads to better and sharper thinking.

In computer programming, we have something called rubber duck debugging. Rubber duck debugging is when you encounter a bug in your code and despite repeated attempts to fix it, you’re stuck.

The solution? Talk about the problem to a rubber duck sitting your desk.

You start describing the problem to the duck, and as you formulate the problem, line by line, you begin to think of possible reasons for the error that you hadn’t thought of while heads-down debugging. Suddenly, a potential solution comes to mind.

Jordan Peterson, a rising academic, author and psychologist, was asked how he handles patients with difficult life problems.

His answer? When his patients come to him with a problem, the best thing to do is let them talk out the problem. His patients might not even know why the problem exists, let alone the solution. But when they speak to him about the problem, formulate it and explain it, often they begin to see a cause of the problem or even the beginning of a solution.

“Good session, Dr. Peterson!”

The same goes for writing. Writing requires thinking. And often when I sit to write, I have to organize my thoughts in order to write something coherent. (Hopefully that comes across in at least some of my posts!)

And as I organize my thoughts, I almost consistently see new insights and observations that I otherwise would’ve missed. Writing products better thinking.

And better thinking is good for disciples of Yeshua.

So, start writing. Get a blog. Tweets don’t count. If you’ve neglected an old blog, consider this a sign that you should start blogging again.

Paul: Apostle of Christ Movie Forgets Early Christianity was Jewish

Summary: To mark the 3rd day of counting the omer, I’m reviewing the movie Paul: Apostle of Christ. It was enjoyable but lacking; a movie about early Christianity omits the reality that early Christianity, and indeed its primary apostle, was Jewish.

Image of Luke and Paul

I recently saw Paul, Apostle of Christ with some friends. I’ve been studying Paul for over a decade – and I’m currently in the midst of a comprehensive teaching of Romans to my local congregation, currently on part 10 of about 70! So, Paul is an interesting topic to me.

Admittedly, I have low expectations for Christian films. They are usually cheesy, have poor production value and writing set to subpar acting. And they’re often theologically questionable. (The Christian satire site Babylon Bee suggests the Oscars introduce a new category, “Most Tolerable Christian Film”.)

Going in with low expectations, Paul: Apostle of Christ exceeded them.

While there were parts of the acting and dialog that were poor and even cringe-worthy – I am thinking of scenes in the Roman tavern especially -- the finale was strong and stirring, as Paul headed to his execution and gave a moving farewell to Timothy. It was enough to say I enjoyed the movie.

But theologically, there were problems to be sure.

“I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He knew beforehand.”

-Paul, Romans 11

The movie ignores Jews, Judaism, and the Jewish roots of Christianity. Despite the film centering around Paul, the Jewish disciple of the Jewish Messiah Jesus, and the Roman community founded and headed by the Jewish couple Aquila and Priscilla, the early Christianity portrayed in the film is distinctly non-Jewish.

image

Showing Paul the Jew following the Jewish Jesus alongside the Roman community practicing the Way – a Messianic sect of 1st century Judaism – would have both added historical authenticity, renegotiated traditional lines between Judaism and Christianity, and helped Christians think deeper about their faith and their relationship to Jews.

But the film didn’t take such a bold leap.

The only Jewish element I noticed in the movie is when Paul recounts to Luke about his time as a Pharisee in charge of rounding up believers. During his retelling, we see a group of tzitzit-clad men stoning Stephen.

That’s it.

It’s not to say the movie was anti-Semitic – in our tragic history, 1st century Judaism did persecute early Christians, and later Christianity persecuted Jews – but it is to say the movie ignores the reality that Christianity at its founding was a Jewish faith. Even the idea of a Christ, a Messiah, is a Jewish concept and expectation. Yet none of this shows up in Paul: Apostle of Christ.

The Jews Aquila and Priscilla are featured prominently in the movie – their Christian community in Rome are central to the plot – but they too are never shown to be Jewish. Aquila and Priscilla’s community, which the movie centers around, is not at all Jewish in character or practice.

After these things, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jewish man named Aquila—a native of Pontus having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all Jewish people to leave Rome.

-Acts 18

One wonders that if the Roman Christian community was not Jewish, as the movie portrays, how is it that its Jewish leaders Aquila and Priscilla were removed during the Jewish purge under Emperor Claudius, as recorded in Acts 18? Had Aquila and Priscilla had appeared as non-Jewish as the movie shows them to be, they would never have been ousted during the purge of Jews from Rome.

Overall, I liked the movie; the end was stirring as Paul gives his farewell letter to Timothy. It’s probably unreasonable to expect modern Christian movies to portray early Christianity as Jewish. In that regard, we have a lot of work ahead of us to restore the Jewish roots of Christianity.