THEOLOGICAL ERRORS DUE TO SEPARATION FROM HEBREW ROOTS
by Dan Rodriguez
Many theological errors have come into the Church as a result of its separation from its original Hebrew roots. The separation and eventual divorce of the Church from the synagogue began as early as the death of the Apostle John. As early as the end of the first century, there were great schisms and heresies taking root in the Church. By the beginning of the second century, the Church was set on a course that led to its paganization and eventual evolution into something completely different from the faith that was once and for all given to the saints. (Jude 3)
The historical facts are clear. The farther westward the Church spread, the more it was Hellenized. By the fourth century, it had evolved into a grotesque disfiguration of the dynamic organism Jesus intended His followers to become.
Judaism had originally been the religion of Jesus and His first disciples. By the second and third centuries, the Church had done everything it could to separate itself from its Jewish heritage. Multifarious rules and regulations were put into effect to prohibit Christian contact with Jews. Numerous other restrictions equated Judaism with paganism. Deplorably, the Church’s attitude toward the religion of Jesus and the apostles is exactly what has caused it to dive headlong into all sorts of strange doctrines and perversions of the truth. When believers in Jesus cut themselves off from Judaism, they literally stopped receiving the life-giving flow of God that had so infused them at the beginning. (See Paul's analogy in Romans 11.) The Church,, instead of realizing its debt to Judaism, cut itself off from the religion formed out of the very teachings of God in the Scriptures. Christianity became a religion that bound itself to another and began an affair with Hellenistic and pagan thought and philosophy. Christianity left out the Jewish element and became a religion that denied its background and heritage.
In this study, we will look at the great difference in the theology of the Church today compared to the teaching and understanding of Jesus and His Jewish brethren. Judaism today holds the same basic tenets of faith that it held in the time of Jesus. When we look at the basic tenets of faith among Jews today, we get a good idea of what were the major teachings circulating in Jesus' day almost two thousand years ago.
With these thoughts in mind, we will tackle only fourteen of the theological mistakes the Church has made and promulgated. Another fourteen could probably be added just as easily.
I. The foundational truth of the Bible is the monotheism it presents in opposition to the polytheism of heathen religions. This concept of one God is the foundational truth espoused by Judaism.
The scripture teaches that God is one, in opposition to the doctrine of Trinity in Christianity. Trinitarianism was not accepted by the Church as dogma until the fourth century A.D. Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the new Testament, nor did Jesus or His followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies. The Council of Nicaea in 325 stated the crucial formula for that doctrine, which adopted the Homo-ousios (sameness of essence) position. Over the next half-century, Athanasius defended and refined the Nicene formula and, by the end of the fourth century, under the leadership of Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus (the Cappadocian Fathers), the doctrine of the Trinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since. (Adapted from Enc. Britannica, s.v., "Trinity.")
Monotheism is the God concept that separated the Jew or Hebrew from the pagan nations that surrounded him. In ancient times, the multiplicity of gods was the "in" thing. It was considered heretical to believe in one God, and especially one without an image. This idea of God far surpassed the religious concepts of its day. It was a concept not created by man. It was the revelation of God Himself to man. Deuteronomy 5:4 became the foundational truth of Judaism—the Shema. It is the first thing the religious Jew teaches his child, and the last thing the religious Jew wants to say before he dies.
God has no counterpart. He is the all-powerful, omnipresent, omniscient God. His name is YHVH in the transliteration from Hebrew. It is not known how it was pronounced. What does this name mean? There are a few interpretations of this, but He said to Moses, "I am that I am." Literally this means, "I was, I am, and I will be." He is ALL in the sense that He is the only God there is, and He is all-powerful. All possibility of dualism is left out. Zoroastrian thought proclaimed the existence of two opposite gods in the universe; one good and the other evil. The one God concept excludes the polytheistic notions of a world where there are many gods.
What does Trinity really mean? In general, the interpretation is that God is one in substance but three in "PERSON;" Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then there is the school that teaches that there are really three completely separate beings in the godhead. In all honesty, it is very difficult to call this latter theory anything but a modified polytheistic philosophy of God. The New Testament does not actually speak of triunity. The Spanish texts of the sixth century are the first to offer a clear-cut trinitarian formula in the so-called Comma Joheneum of I John 5:7ff. (TDNT, III:108). The word trias and trinitas, in this application to the Godhead, appears first in Theophilus of Antioch and Athenagoras in the second century, and in Tertullian in the third. (Schaff, History of the Church, III:6564)
Professor David Flusser has discussed another problematic text, Matthew 28:19. He said that all extant manuscripts of Matthew record that Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize all nations "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." But this trinitarian formula is missing from all the quotations of the passage in the writings of Eusebius composed before the Council of Nicaea. The text before Nicaea read, "Go forth and make all nations disciples in my name, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." The texts Eusebius used from the library in Caesarea appear to have had this form. Other witnesses for this shorter form were found in a Jewish Christian source, and a Coptic text. (Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, pp. 380ff.)
By the fourth century there existed three main schools of thought concerning the nature of Christ and the nature of God. Homo-ousios was the doctrine of a similarity of essence in the godhead. Homo-ousios taught the sameness of essence, while hetero-ousios believed in a difference of essence. Again, controversy raged for many years. In 381, after the Council of Constantinople, Emperor Theodosius I published as law the homo-ousian position. In all the Kingdom, every church was to be given up to bishops who ascribed to this doctrinal point of view. The public worship of those who did not ascribe to homo-ousianism was prohibited by law. (Schaff, History of the Church, 111:618-698)
In a very enlightening scholarly work by Robert Grant of the University of Chicago, there is ample evidence of pagan influence in the Trinitarian concept of God.
Numenius was the source for much of Plotinus' thought, according to ancient critics, but the Christian authors Clement and Origen knew him well. He evidently influenced both Neoplatonism and Christianity. In his thought, there is a combination of monotheism and polytheism, of the one and the many, which is quite similar to what we find among Christians… Plato anticipated the Christian (Trinity) doctrine of God… The doctrine of the trinity in unity is not a product of the earliest Christian period, and we do not find it carefully expressed before the end of the second century… This is to say that in beginning to develop the doctrine of the Trinity, Christians made use of methods already worked out among Platonists and Pythagoreans for explaining their own philosophical theology, in harmonious accord with pagan polytheism… As time went by, the logical implications of the faith were worked out on the basis of the leading philosophies of the time, often in ways remarkably similar to such workings out in other religions. The religious impulses and their expressions turn out to be much the same… The upshot was that the development of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was, to say the least, not alien to philosophical or even rhetorical statements made by pagans about pagan gods. (Gods and the One God, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1986, pp. 150-175.)
In other words, trinitarianism has roots that go all the way back to pagan religions. As an example, we can speak of the Phoenician triad of El, Ashtarte, and Baal. Gerhard Herm said that the Phoenician pantheon could have been easily adopted by any good believer in the Holy Trinity. The concept of a triad of the gods was prominent in Tyre, Sidon, Arvad, Biblos, and Ugarit. (Die Phonizer: Das Purpurreich der Antike, Dusseldorf, Vienna, 197.) We must understand that early Christian monotheism is confirmed rather than shattered by the Christology of the New Testament. Monotheism is a firm part of the tradition and is established throughout the New Testament, beginning with Jesus' own declaration of the Shema in Mark 12:29-30 as being the first commandment of Scripture. (TDNT III:101-102)
The question of the nature of God is still an issue in many quarters. The basic problem is misunderstanding the nature of Christ. Yet, when Jesus spoke, He did not claim to be just the "Son of God." Once and again, He made the startling declaration that He was God. When He declared that He had come to seek and save those that are lost (Luke 19:10), He was alluding to Ezekiel 34 (v. 11), where it is God that is to seek and save the lost sheep. Again this calls to mind Jesus' words in John 10:1-16, where He is the good shepherd that gives His life for the sheep. Listen to Him as He states that He and the Father are one (John 10:30). "He that hath seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). "The Word that was God became flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:1, 14). He was IMMANUEL, GOD WITH US. God was manifest in the flesh according to I Timothy 3:16.
Was this a problematic concept for people of a polytheistic background? How could Son also be Father? (Isaiah 9:6) It is understood only in its Hebrew context. The Pentecostal aberration known as Oneness Theology is completely different for this. Oneness is the theology that believes that Jesus is God and God is Jesus; that ALL of God is Jesus. We could not disagree more completely with this ideology.
Jesus' name in Hebrew is Yeshua. Today, the idea that the spoken language among Jews in Judea and Galilee was Hebrew is becoming more and more accepted. It is also being recognized that the original life story of Jesus was communicated in Hebrew. (See R. Blizzard and D. Bivin, Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus; D. Flusser, Jewish Sources in Early Christianity; R.L. Lindsey, The Gospel of Mark, and others.) The angel tells Joseph, "you shall call His name "Yeshua for He will yoshia His people from their sins" (See Hebrew New Testament). The word Yeshua is a play on the word yoshia from yasha) which means SALVATION. So Yeshua means Savior or Liberator, the Salvation of God. So Jesus was Yeshuat-elohim!
Who was He? He was, for the believer, God in human flesh redeeming or saving. Just as Ruach Elohim or El-Shaddai is God, each revealing a different aspect of deity, so it is with Yeshuat-elohim. Yeshua was God, but He was not all of God there is. Ruach Elohim is all god, but it is not all to God there is. Ruach Elohim is the aspect of God’s nature that reveals His power. God is all we have mentioned and much more. He is beyond the capacity of human reason to understand His greatness. We can only know Him by His names and His activity among men. Yet, God is beyond human description, definition, or discernment. He is beyond our imagination. Still, in all His varied ways and manifestations, He is the One Supreme God. Maimonides best expressed this by insisting that trying to comprehend God adequately was so hopeless that it was impossible to describe Him in positive terms. Language could never convey what God was, only what He was not, and that any intelligent discussion about His nature could only contain negatives. The consensus of Jewish thought here can be summarized in this: the fullness of God is impossible to know.
In the New Testament we have an emphasis on God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because of the unique features of the ministry and mission of Jesus. The One that was to come was to have a relationship with God as a father has with a son, and in some special way, He was to be the bearer of the Spirit. In addition, we must remember that the Greek of the New Testament is at pains to express these Hebrew concepts in a language of pagans.
Throughout this entire explanation we have maintained the integrity of biblical monotheism for the believer in Christ Jesus. The Trinitarian or Pentecostal Oneness doctrines put severe limitations on the biblical concept of God. God is more than a mere manifestation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is more than only Jesus. He is beyond anything we can ask or think, yet He is the ONLY God, and He can manifest Himself however He chooses to do so.
II. The Trinitarian concept of God led to the development of the trinity of man. Christianity teaches that man is spirit, soul, and body, or it promulgates the duality of man. In Judaism, man is considered a unity. Man is seen as a complex, multifaceted, unitary being, a nephesh chayah, "a living person" (Genesis 2:7). Man was made in God’s image and likeness. Like God, he must be in unity, not a trinity. Man does have two parts: that which is of the earth—the body, and that which is non-material—his soul or spirit. Man is not to be seen as dichotomy of body and soul as is believed in Platonism and Orphinism. He is not the opposition of body and spirit. Platonism taught that the spirit was the pure, higher, and eternal principle, while the material substance was the lower, imperfect form of being, subject to change and corruption. This concept, when applied to man’s nature, meant that man was composed of the inferior, material element (the body), and the superior, spiritual element (the soul). This led to and motivated the principle of asceticism as the way in which the soul could be liberated from its bondage to the body. In this way, individuals could purify themselves from their corporeal passions, thus making the soul worthy of returning to its spiritual home or its celestial dwelling. This sounds a lot like modern Christian thinking. In Hebrew "Theology," man is an animated body, not an incarnated soul. John A. T. Robinson, in his monograph on the body in biblical thought, wrote, "Man does not have a body, he is a body. He is flesh-animated-by-soul, the whole conceived as a psychophysical unity." See also George E. Ladd, I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1973, p. 45) where he says, "Man’s soul is primarily his vitality, his life—never a separate ‘part’ of man."
III. A world of difference exists between Judaism and traditional Christian theology when we come to the subject of sin. Judaism teaches that man is born good. He is not born a sinner. He becomes responsible for his sins at the age of 13 (12 for girls) when he becomes a "man of duty" (Bar-Mitzvah). Until this age, a child’s sins are the responsibility of the parents. From the age of 13, he is considered a responsible adult who can choose not to sin. It is taught that man is born good, but has two opposing inclinations in him: One leads to the good, and the other to the bad. Paul dealt with the concept of the good and bad inclinations in Romans 7:17-21. Even the bad inclination is not evil in and of itself. If properly directed and controlled, it serves a useful purpose.
In contrast to this biblical concept, Christianity offers the doctrine of original sin, beginning with Augustine (355-430), bishop of Hippo in Africa. He was the architect of an ideology that taught that the act of sex was the vehicle of original sin. (See D.J. Bailey, Sexual Relations in Christian Thought, pg. 53-56; D. Feldman, Marital Relation, Birth Control and Abortion in Jewish Law, pg. 83-84) Augustine taught that the consequence of this sin is transmitted through the sexual act from one generation to the next. Because of this, a child, he said, was literally conceived in the "sin" of its parents. The connection between this idea and the doctrine of Immaculate Conception and Virgin Birth should be obvious.
Sin should be understood as defiance and rebellion to divine law. It is not a hereditary evil. It should be clear that if there did exist such a thing as "original sin," transferred from one generation to the next, this would undermine man’s divine right to a free will. Man would no longer be a free moral agent. Man, contrary to this, has to choose the good and reject the evil; overcome the evil with good. (For an analysis of this see S. Schechter, Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, New York: Schocken Books, 1961, pp. 242-263.)
IV. In Judaism, the devil is a created being subject to God. He can not do anything he wants. He has no power or authority of his own. He almost becomes a non-entity. He is more identified with the inclination towards evil, the yetzer-ha-ra. Judaism spends very little time (if any at all) even discussing him. "The Satan" is man’s adversary that accuses him before God. He is not given in Judaism the emphasis that he is given by modern Christianity. In Christianity, Satan has become almost a god of equal force for evil as God is for good. Dualism is the foundation for this kind of thinking. It is a thought contrary to pure monotheism. As far as monotheism is concerned, God is God and there is none to even compare or challenge Him. Satan is not omnipresent, omniscient, or omnipotent. Satan is a deceiver and a liar. (John 8:44, II Corinthians 11:3). Satan is not the god of this world as is taught in Christianity. II Corinthians 4:4 has been seriously misunderstood, and erroneously translated.
V. In Judaism, sex is good, appointed by God. The marriage bed is undefiled (Hebrews 13:4). Marriage is considered a great honor. Having children is considered as the fulfillment of "be fruitful and multiply." The husband is to satisfy his wife and give her pleasure in sex. Sex is to be engaged in a certain number of times per week or month depending upon one’s profession. No prescribed maximum number of times for engaging in sex was given. Sex, within its prescribed limitations, was considered holy, because it was created by a Holy God. Sex in marriage was considered so holy that the pious Jew was enjoined to have sex with his wife, especially on Sabbath, because it is holy unto the Lord. Sex was so highly valued that a man or woman who was denied sexual relations by their marriage partner could sue for divorce and get it. If one withheld sex for two weeks, according to the school of Shammai, and one week, according to the school of Hillel, a divorce could be granted. The school of Hillel prevailed! (Ketuboth 5:6)
Now compare this with the "Christian" (devilish) sex ethic traditionally taught for centuries. There has always been a certain stigma or taboo about sex in Christianity that is inherent in its theology, dating from the second century. Many consider sex as inherently sinful, though in marriage, for the purpose of procreation only, it is not a "mortal" but a "venial" sin. The idea developed in Christianity that it was meritorious to abstain from sex in marriage. It’s no wonder that, among believers, there have been so many marital problems in this area. If the Church had retained the Jewish understanding of the marital relationship, many problems would have been avoided. In recent times, there has been some progress and correction among Christians concerning marital sex and the marriage relationship in general. It is too bad the progress has been so slow. Still, much error is being taught by self-proclaimed "teachers," and some are being carried away by their ignorance.
Judaism considered marriage a mitzvah—a religious duty. Delaying marriage had to be justified with legitimate reasons; when one is married, "sin comes to an end." (Yeb. 63b). He that was not married was considered to be without joy, blessing, good, protection, peace, or life. Raavad said that it is correct for a man to love his wife as himself, that he respect her more than himself, that he be compassionate with her, that he take care of her as he would care for one of the members of his own body; and she should love him because she came out from him. This is why the Creator commanded the husband to never subtract from her what is rightfully hers; food, raiment, shelter, and conjugal rights (marital relations), that should include joy and intimacy. (See Maurice Lamm, The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage, New York: Harper and Row Publishers; 1980, p. 124. This entire book is an excellent exposition on the subject.)
VI. In Judaism, the synagogue and its functionaries were equally involved in the religious and secular life of the community. It is not an ecclesiastical structure. (In Jesus' day there was no paid clergy.) It was not hierarchical but rather emphasized the priesthood of all members of the community. How was the community or the synagogue organized in the first century? This is of utmost importance to the Christian because the organizational structure of the Church is founded upon that of the synagogue. (Schaff, History of the Church, I:956) Here are the main functionaries of the synagogue:
1. Rosh bet-ha-kennesset - The head of the synagogue or the assembly. He (or she) was selected to the function as such by the community. He was the leader of the community. (See Mark 5:22. In Greek he was called the arche sinagogos). Every synagogue was an autonomous or independent unit. There was no headquarters or denomination to dictate policy. The functions of the head of the synagogue were varied and included the order of the synagogue assembly and all related to its physical administration. He was in charge of the general supervision of the affairs of the community.
There was one individual that operated outside the organizational structure of the local synagogue, the maggid. He was "the proclaimer," especially talented in his ability to speak in public. He would travel from place to place visiting the different communities. They would all be overwhelmed by the power of his oratory. He is probably to be identified with the evangelist, the electrifying personality.
2. Gabei tzedakah - People in charge of the temporal affairs of the community. They were given their charge and responsibilities by the leader of the community or assembly to take care of the widows, orphans, and the needy of the congregation. These are to be identified with the diaconos, or deacons (See Acts 6:1-7). In the first century, they had no government aid or welfare programs. All that wanted to eat had to work. but the widows, the sick, the elderly, and the poor, were helped by the congregation. The daily distribution was their responsibility.
3. Zkeynim - The most spiritual and mature leaders of the congregation, responsible to watch out for and take care of the sheepfold. In Hebrew, a zaken is an elderly person. Many times they were elderly, but a person was determined capable of this function if he was spiritually mature. The zkeynim were the elders. In Greek there are three words that have reference to the elders: presbuteros, or presbytery, obispos, or bishops, and poimen, or pastor. It’s important to understand that in the New Testament, bishop, elder, and pastor are speaking about one and the same function. (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. "elder"). The zkeynim were not the Rabbis. Elders were men or women who had the capacity to take on the responsibilities of an elder, chosen from among the congregation, and desiring to serve in this capacity.
4. Shlechim - A shaliach was one sent by the community as the public announcer. He proclaimed certain things in the name of the congregation. He was the "sent one," sent by and for the congregation, and was wholly responsible to it. He was sent with a commission. These were the apostles of the community.
5. Bat-lanim - Every synagogue had a minimum of ten individuals of independent means that gave themselves to the study of the Scripture. They studied so as to accurately interpret the Word. The Asarah (ten) bat-lanim were an integral part of each synagogue. We might identify these with the "teachers" in the New testament. Another group of people that probably also filled the function of a teacher, the meturganim, were those linguistically inclined to translate the Scripture, as well as the literature and history that had some kind of spiritual value for the congregation. It is interesting to notice that the modern-day preacher that stands behind the pulpit is nowhere to be found in the organizational structure of the synagogue or the early company of believers. It is a relatively modern invention.
6. Rav - The Rabbi would operate inside the local Kahal (congregation) or outside of it. He was not limited to one community. He would be best identified with the prophet. This was he who spoke forth the Word of God. The best picture we have of a first century rabbi is Jesus. In Him we have the clearest evidence of the wandering peripatetic rabbi, and the methods of teaching he used. He taught using well-known rabbinic parables, kal v’chomer (reasoning from the minor to the major), Remez (hinting or alluding), etc. Because of a rabbi’s knowledge of Torah, wisdom, and spiritual leadership, he could be rabbi of several congregations. The rabbi was not essential to the operation of the synagogue.
7. Chazzan - Today this is the Cantor. In the first century, he was the one that administered the stripes. If there was a need for correction or punishment in the community, it was his job to administer the prescribed number of stripes ordered by the courts. Every community of up to 120 people had its own three-judge court called the bet-din. Communities of over 120 could have a court called the Small Sanhedrin of 23 judges. The highest court was the Great Sanhedrin that had 71 members and assembled in the Temple precincts.
In the fifth century, the Jewish-Christian Ebionites still continued the traditional organizational structure of the synagogue. (B. Brooten, Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue, p. 22. Most of this information can be found in the Encyclopedia Judaica under the various names of the synagogal functionaries, and Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, I:456-460.)
Today, Church has become a building or something one does on Sunday, a religious service rather than a community. It does not have the same organizational structure and functionaries as ancient Judaism and the early Church. It has become ecclesiastical and hierarchical.
VII. In every synagogue, there was a room adjacent to it called the bet-hamidrash. It was a room for study, considered to be even more important than the synagogue. With this, we come face to face with the great emphasis placed in Judaism on study and teaching. The Church has almost completely lost it here. It has been terribly negligent in this area. According to the work of Jewish oral law known as the Mishnah, a boy began study of the scripture at 5 years of age, the Mishnah at 10, the Talmud at 15, etc. The point is that study and teaching were of primary importance.
The Church today is woefully ignorant because she has emphasized preaching and evangelization and almost completely ignored teaching and study. Instruction for growth has been sadly lacking. She has forgotten the commission of the Lord to go and teach and make people disciples. "Disciple is a word best understood by its Hebrew counterpart talmid, a student (Matthew 28:12-20). The Church must study to show itself approved unto God.
VIII. In Judaism, it is understood that the earth was not created in six literal days. The Hebrew word for day, yom, can be understood a number of different ways. The best definition for "day" in the first chapter of Genesis could be a creative day, however long this was. One translation is "period" as in an unspecified period of time. (Solomon Schonfeld, The Universal Bible, London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1955, pp. 13-16) It could not have been a literal day of twenty-four hours. If it was, the biblical text would have to be thrown out as fiction. Science has proven the process involved in creation through astronomy, physics, anthropology, archaeology, etc. The age of the earth is certainly much more than the fictional six-thousand-year theory that was introduced by Bishop Ussher. He estimated, through the genealogies in Matthew and Luke, that the earth was created in 4004 B.C. Anytime you begin to try to figure dates by the use of biblical genealogies, you are in trouble. The genealogies in the Gospels are incomplete, yet they fit perfectly into the Jewish understanding of them. In Matthew 1:8-9, of Jesus' genealogy, these kings are left out: Ahaziah, Athaliah, Joash, Amaziah, Jehoahaz, and Jehoiakim. With this we learn an important lesson in Jewish genealogy. To the Hebrew mind, it was as correct to say "A" begat "Z," and leave out all the others, as to say "A" begat "B."
Remains have been found of Homo sapiens that go back one hundred thousand years or more at the Border Caves in Africa. At the Carmel Caves in Israel, there have been found very old remains of humans that go back sixty or seventy thousand years. The human family is much older than 4004 B.C. The Hebrew text of the Genesis account would admit this understanding of creation. We must understand that Genesis chapters one and two are not scientific accounts. It is a simple narrative that did not in any way have science in mind. When we look at it in Hebrew, we see that the best that is known scientifically fits perfectly with the biblical text and does not contradict it. Creation theology in Christianity simply does not have a leg to stand on in the Hebrew account of the Genesis narrative.
A translation endorsed by numerous rabbinic authorities is the modern targum by Isaac Elchanan Mozeson. If space permitted, we could quote the entire passage of Genesis chapter one, but a few verses will suffice for our purposes. "From the beginning of this creation for revelation, the Lord balanced the spiritual and the material. (1) And the Lord willed energy and it radiated. (3) And the Lord summoned the energies of day and entropy of night, and there was mingling before examination in millennium one. (5) and the Lord willed vegetable from the mineral, perennial greening… (11) And the Lord willed that there evolve from marine plants motile, organic life; amphibians emerging until fin and wing fly through the skies… (20) And the Lord created the dinosaurs and all reptilian life that evolved from aquatic species and all species of feathered birds… (21) And the Lord willed that the material and spiritual together make up human form and essence… (26) And Cro-Magnon was created from its Neanderthal mold, body and soul a divine creature; hermaphroditic were they created. (27)" (From the beginning: A modern Targum) The best exposition of this subject is found in the tape series "Science and the Bible" by Dr. Blizzard.
IX. Christianity has become a very exclusive religion. If one is not a member of the Church, or sometimes even of one particular denomination, then it is taught one is bound to go to hell, or be separated eternally from God. In Judaism there has always been the principle that the righteous non-members of the nations will have their place in olam haba, the world to come. These are the righteous, being neither Christian nor Jew, who will have a place in the world to come. They are the ones that have been obedient to the minimum demands of God upon all the human race. God expects every human being to at least adhere to the basic commands and prohibitions incumbent upon all mankind. In Judaism, these are known as the Noachide Laws or the Laws to the sone of Noah - torat benei noach. They were derived exegetically from the commandments and instructions God gave Adam and those given to Noah when he came out of the ark. The Noachide Commandments are basically seven in number. The Hebraic tradition attached to the Hebrew Bible has taught throughout its history the existence of a biblical code of "Seven Laws" for all the children of Noah. (See Aaron Lichenstein: The Seven Laws of Noah.) This would include all humanity because, according to the biblical text, we all descended from Noah and his three sons. (This concept is not to be confused with the seven deadly sins of medieval philosophy.) In the Talmud, there are many references to these (e.g., Sanhedrin 56-60).
The seven laws are in reality six prohibitions and one command which are as follow: 1) Idolatry, 2) Blasphemy, 3) Murder, 4) Theft, 5) Sexual immorality, 6) Eating maimed animals or portions severed from living animals.
The seventh law is an injunction to establish a legal system of justice to enforce the prohibitions and mete out punishment to the violators. We have three clear witnesses that this was taught in the New Testament. This will prove that the faith of Jesus was not to exclude the rest of the righteous of the world from a place in the world to come. The three witnesses are none other than Jesus, Paul, and James.
Jesus’ teaching is in Matthew 25:31-46, where He gives the parable of the gathering of all nations (Gentiles) before God, and He separates the righteous from the wicked. The righteous of the nations (Gentiles) were not Jews. No Jew would call himself or another Jew a Gentile. (Even Paul distinguished between Gentiles and the followers of Christ.) Jesus' reference could not be to Christians because there were none in his day. It was to those that followed the Noachide Laws, the righteous of the nations. The clarity of His teaching here is unmistakable when seen in its Jewish context.
Paul's teaching is found in Romans 2:5-15. He refers to God dealing with those without the law, the nations (or the Gentiles). The nations without the law do by nature those things of the law. They have no law, yet are a law unto themselves. The law to the nations being that which God spoke to Noah and his three sons. This law has been written in their hearts, their conscience witnessing to them, and the thoughts between one Judge who will give to every man according to his works. Everlasting life, or a place in the world to come, will be to those persisting in good works. Those disobeying the truth, because of self-interest and obeying unrighteousness, will receive God’s anger and be eternally separated from Him.
The Jew has more responsibilities before God than these seven laws of Noah. He is subject to the 613 Mitzvot in the Torah. In Christ, the believer is not subject to the 613 mitzvot. He is subject to Christ and to the basic laws incumbent upon all mankind as they are amply expanded upon by Paul in his Epistles. Yet, the believer in Christ also has the privilege and liberty to practice those mitzvot (beyond the basics) if he wants to, but he is not under obligation to them.
The leaders of the community of the faithful in Christ at Jerusalem, with James presiding came to an important conclusion at a meeting called to settle the question, "Do the Gentiles that come to God through Jesus need to be circumcised and keep the law?" (See Acts 1) They concluded that it was completely unnecessary for a pagan converted to God through Christ to be circumcised or obligated to the 613 mitzvot. (They were all still in force at this historical period of time.)
They arrived at the same conclusion many rabbis of the period would have come to, especially those of the school of Hillel. It was determined to prohibit converts from their old pagan forms of worship. The possibility that these prohibitions were taken from the laws of Noah are undeniable. (See D. Flusser, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, pp. 630-631; and W.D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, 4th ed. p. 118; Encyclopedia Judaica, s.v. "Noachide Laws.") They prohibited idolatry, fornication (sexual immorality), eating blood, and that that was strangled. Paul taught this to his Gentile converts. The prohibitions of the Jerusalem Council were evidently only representative. Later, Paul greatly expands them in his letters to the churches that were mainly composed of converts from paganism. The Jewish follower of Jesus continued to be a Jew in all respects and maintained his religion. He did not "convert" to another religion. Jewish followers of Jesus were practically indistinguishable from those Jews who did not believe in Him. Even in the days of Hadrian (second century), the Christians were still generally considered to be Jews.
X. The Jewish idea of spirituality is very different from the Christian one. Judaism understands the sanctity of all life and is down-to-earth rather than otherworldly. Christianity compartmentalizes life into categories of spiritual and secular. So much importance is laid on that which is supposedly spiritual, that some become of no earthly good. Probably this is what has contributed to the low ethical quality of some Christians. The spiritual has been divorced from the physical. Once again, this is evidence of pagan philosophy—dualistic thought that has permeated the Church. (An excellent treatment of this subject is found in Marvin Wilson's Our Father Abraham, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1989. The entire book should be required study for every follower of Jesus.)
XI. Judaism sees the world as divided into Jews and Gentiles; those chosen and those that are not. The idea of chosen-ness excludes racism and is not to be identified with it. Judaism is a matter of religion, not race or nationality. Anyone can become a Jew through conversion. Any person of any nation, or any color, can convert to Judaism and will be considered to be a Jew just like the one born of a Jewish mother. The charge that Judaism is racist is completely without foundation and is a slanderous fabrication of modern anti-Semitism.
The Church has nevertheless indulged not only in boasting, but in the persecution, repression, forced conversion, and even the murder of the Jew. The Christian Church, down through history, has done its best to destroy the Jew, culturally, politically, financially, socially, and in every other way it could dream up.
The twentieth-century Church is far removed from the historical and religious roots of the Judaism of the first century. Christianity has become a religion that would have been totally foreign to Jesus and the apostles. Today, the Church universal sees itself as Gentile in composition and not a part of Israel. It believes that the Jews have been rejected by God and that the Church has replaced them as the chosen people. Replacement theology, as this ideology is known, is widespread. The belief is that the Church is the "New Israel." Israel has been spiritualized by the Church. "Spiritual Israel" is what some call themselves. The references in the Scriptures to Israel have been terribly twisted and reinterpreted to mean the Church and not physical Israel. All the blessings are for the "Real Israel," the Church, and all the curses are for the Jews. This is a grotesque perversion of the Scriptures that is still being taught among Christians.
XII. One further example of the loss of Jewish roots among Christians is the change from the "Sabbath" to "Sunday." This change took place long after the establishment of the Church. The day holy unto the Lord was the Sabbath among Jews and the Jewish followers of Jesus. The Sabbath was the most important day for study and worship, even though prayer was a daily event. The records of history clearly point out that the Church to the west established laws that prohibited the believers from even keeping the feasts and festivals or to even associate with Jews.
XIII. In the interpretation of the Scripture, we have further proof of the loss of the Hebrew heritage of Christians. Christian interpretation of the Scriptures is many times far removed from the Hebrew significance. The Scriptures have been mostly reinterpreted by the Church through Hellenism, Catholicism, and Protestantism. It is high time to denounce of all this paganistic theology and return to the Hebrew understanding of the Scriptures.
XIV. In Christianity, faith in God is elevated to a belief system that is above tangible action. The word for "faith" in Hebrew does not exclude tangible action, and is not to be understood as intangible belief alone. Faith without corresponding action is dead; it has no life and is not pleasing to God. Faith is better understood as faithfulness to God and His Word, doing that which is right in His sight. It is faithfulness to God via good deeds. (cf. James 2:14-26) The idea is best summed up in the words of Jesus when He said: "By their fruits you will know them…every good tree produces good fruit; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruits… Not every one who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will be those over whom God (or Heaven) rules, but the ones who DO the will of My Father in Heaven." (Matthew 7:16-21) "Good fruits" are good works. The Scriptures emphasized works above creeds or dogma. God considers actions to be of more importance than beliefs. In Christianity, beliefs became the central demand. Deeds became less important than creeds. Though belief became the priority and essence of Christianity, this idea was not practiced by Jesus or his disciples. Jesus' emphasis always lay in doing the will of the Father. The Church has come to judge people by beliefs plus the sacraments. The Father of Protestantism, Martin Luther, in disagreement with the Church, (though not because he placed more importance on good works), emphasized that belief alonewithout works, justifies, delivers, saves." (By faith he meant belief.) What has been the result of this heresy? Millions of Christians are convinced that, in God’s eyes, a person’s conduct is less important than his beliefs. This mentality has led to the development of the doctrine of eternal security prevalent in many evangelical circles, and he "union" and "communion" theology, which is basically identical to the former.
In conclusion, I would like to give credit to whom credit is due. Much of the material from this article (and a whole lot more) is covered in Dr. Blizzard’s Level I Pastors/Teachers conference. As a pastor, I highly recommend these seminars. Help and blessing have come to those who have participated in them (the author included). The seminars are filled with quality teaching and rich information that is difficult to find elsewhere. He synthesized information from many scholarly sources that would take years of research, and then only if you knew where to look. We have sent a few people to take the seminars from our congregation. All have come back renewed, informed, and with a strong desire for study and learning. Pastors would do themselves (and their congregations) a favor by attending these seminars, and then sending all their aides, assistants, and church leaders, to participate in them.
[Yavo Digest, vol 4, no 4 & 5, 1990]
When this article was written, Dan Rodriguez was pastor-teacher at Church Fe Es La Victoria in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He served in the pastorate from 1975 to 1993. He holds a Bachelor's degree in religion from the Union of Experimenting Colleges and Universities in Cincinnati. Beginning in 1986, he studied intensely under the guidance of Dr. Roy B. Blizzard, Jr. on the subjects of Jewish History and Thought, the Archaeological and Historical Geography of the Land of Israel, and Studies in Comparative Religions. Mr. Rodriguez is father of five sons and one daughter, and now has three grandchildren. He continues to minister in churches and conventions as the Lord leads. He has lived in Texas since 2004.
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