Christians and Jews
First Century Beginnings
(I write this on 25 Elul–the First day of Creation..so let’s talk about beginnings)
Galatians has been very misunderstood. Authors Bryan Stevenson and Steve Salters have given some great insight in the last several years on Galatians.
II Tim 2:15, “Study to present yourself approved unto G-d, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Salters, “Since Paul penned most of the New Testament, it is astonishing that the misunderstanding of this one person can cause so much inaccuracy.”
“The principle reason for misunderstanding Sha’ul (Paul) comes from this verse. To study the Scriptures is one of the highest forms of worship. This is because to study the Scriptures is to know G-d, and what better way to worship G-d than to get to know Him.”
“Study books are the most indispensable tools that G-d has given us in these last days. To have and to know how to use them is the foundation to understanding the Word of G-d and being able to rightly divide it. They have not been taught by the leaders of the congregation how to study the Scriptures for themselves. This is a tragedy and a gross injustice done to the congregations by its leaders and a gross injustice.”
“With the departure from the blueprints of G-d, i.e. the Festivals, Sabbaths, New Moon, etc. we no longer have the ability to ‘rightly divide the Word of G-d’ and therefore the congregation is in the chaos that we see today.”
In the last days…
men are now scurrying to find out what The Lord’s Feasts mean since Pastor Biltz brought the Blood Moons to people’s attention. Now understanding the Shemittah year is quickly trying to be understood… There has to be much disappointment in the leadership that has failed us. In order to understand the end you must go back to the beginning.
In the beginning….
Hillel and Shammai
Judaism had different sects: Sadducees, Pharisees, Boethusians, Essenes, Chasidim, Zealots, etc. All these contended for the faith of the people. They can be divided further into two groups, The Orthodox or Traditionists, and the Hellenists.”
Hellenists can further be divided into three groups:
- Those who lived in Israel, but departed from Torah and embraced paganism.
- Those from Alexandria, Egypt. Torah observant but accepted Greek dress. They studied, wrote and spoke Greek.
- Those of Asia Minor. Torah observant but not as well learned as those in Egypt.
There were two primary schools of thought: The House of Shammai, House of Hillel. These teachers would each be 80 years old. They would be Yeshua’s contemporaries and what people thought at that time. In Luke 2:41-50 the young Yeshua was discussing the Scriptures with the teachers of his day and this was two to four years before Hillel died. These topics discussed would be by those teachers. At times these schools were hostile toward one another. The School of Shammai thought the School of Hillel was too lenient in its teachings and interpretations of Scripture. Yeshua’s teachings will be very close to Hillel’s teachings. Hillel and Rabbi M’nachem were of the same belief in agreeing with the הלכה, halakhah, the way one is to walk or live his life.
Hillel born around 70 B.C.E. and died around 10 C.E. (AD).
Shammai born around 50 B.C.E. and died around 30 B.E.
“Around 20 B.C.E. The House of Shammai gained the majority in the Sanhedrin and passed what has come to be called the Eighteen Measures. These measures, or edicts, were designed to further separate Jews from non-Jews. The Jewish community had limited interaction with the non-Jewish community because of these edicts passed by Shammai. You can follow the rest of this story in Steve Salters, Galatians Law & Grace Companions in Redemption.
But…to continue… it got so bad that the Shammaites believed that non-Jews could not enter the Kingdom of G-d. This topic would continue to divide the faith (Jews) for many decades after the resurrection of Yeshua.
All believers were Jewish. They were considered a Jewish sect by non-Jews and Jews alike. As non-Jews started to come into the fold with Jews, they were not required to convert to Judaism and were called G-d-fearers. The fact that they did not have to convert to Judaism but only to become a G-d-fearer caused much persecution…. by the Jews. Most Jews that believed in Yeshua, believed that non-Jews had to convert when they became believers in Yeshua.
Acts 15:l,5; Act 22 Circumcision was a sign of the covenant according to the Law of Moses and meant one had converted or accepted the mitzvot, commandments of God.
Acts 10:10-16 shows God showing Peter his misunderstanding of kosher meaning men are kosher (clean/acceptable) not the food that came down in his vision. Peter then ties salvation to Cornelius and his family. (You can’t eat men, so we can see it was about men’s salvation…not eating!)
In the scriptures you will find that Yeshua is contending with the School of Shammai and not so much Hillel. One last thought on Shammai. “It was a common practice to refer to those following the teachings of Shammai as ‘followers of Satan, vipers, Synagogue of Satan, etc.” In the first and second centuries, this term would have commonly been understood to be referencing to those who followed the teachings of the House of Shammai.” Rev 2:9 and 3:9 thus are referring to the House of Shammai and not to the Jewish people as a whole.
This is one example of not studying to show yourself approved a workman….. We now have over 38,000 different sects of religions in the world because we fail to do the four steps to studying an ancient document. (see below)
Outside the land of Israel there were so many Gentiles that became G-d-fearers so there were more of them than Jews. This was not a problem until the last revolt with Rome 66-73 C.E. It resulted in the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E lead by Rome’s General Titus. This last revolt with Rome finally ended in 132-135 C.E. Some of the Jews declared Bar-Kochba the Messiah. When this happened the believers in Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah caused them to leave the fight with the Romans. This resulted in the ultimate defeat by the Romans and the believers in Yeshua were blamed for this defeat because they abandoned that cause.
Rome had had enough of the Jews revolts and made an example of them by cutting down all the trees they could find and crucified all the rebels they could find. Rome forbade anything Jewish and attempted to destroy the Jewish social life as well. Previously Jews could practice their way of life as long as they paid their taxes to Caesar and submitted to Roman regulations. They were known as Jews and not citizen of Rome. They could meet and go about their religious practices as they desired. The Sanhedrin Court only ruled on Torah. The Sanhedrin did not have the authority to try cases such as murder. They could not have sentenced any one to death. Now, we have the setting of why the Caesar and Pilate were involved in the case of Jesus. Yeshua (Jesus) was not put on trial by the Jews, but the Romans. Rome’s hirelings were the priests of that day and not really Orthodox Jews. They married female Jews and joined that way. Rome’s hirelings were required to keep order and Yeshua was doing everything NOT to keep peace among the jealous sects of Pharisees. There were at least five sects and Yeshua was part of a Pharisee sect. His brothers were Pharisees in their particular sect. This is what teachers of Torah did…become a Pharisee.
After Yeshua’s death they were all still meeting in the Temple and synagogues and learning and applying Torah and The Feast Days. Yeshua was very misunderstood and now…..
Enter Sha’ul (Paul)
The Church today portrays him as anti-Semitic and anti-Torah. They consider Paul the leader that moved the church away from Torah observance to freedom from Torah with all its laws and regulations.
Four things – When you study an ancient document you must ask..
- To whom was the document written.
- What time in history was the document written.
- What was the purpose of the document.
- Who wrote the document.
To whom * Time * Purpose * Who wrote
If our understanding of Sha’ul is incorrect than our understanding of the major books of the NT will be incorrect. It begins right here….understanding Paul. Who was he and who was he not!
“If Sha’ul was Torah observant, then he would not have taught against it in the Epistles. If he did not teach against it, then a great deal of Christianity has for centuries been teaching a false doctrine concerning much of the Scriptures.”
The Bar-Kochba rebellion broke the camel’s back. Jewish life would not be the same. It was no longer acceptable to keep the Sabbath or any other Jewish Holydays. You would not want to be pro-Israel at this time in history. Non-Jewish believers (these did not include the God-fearer) began to estrange themselves from the Jews and their religion to escape persecution by Rome. You could say that this was the beginning of the end for the assembly Yeshua and his disciples had started less than a hundred years earlier.
The apostle Paul lived before this rebellion as we do not hear of the Second Temple as having been destroyed. In fact, Paul makes it a point of returning to Jerusalem in order to celebrate the festivals, Pesach (Passover) being one of them. Paul even desired to be put in prison so he could stand before the courts and preach Yeshua. The longer Paul waited trial, the longer he was free in the city to preach Yeshua and Torah. One of his trials took two years to occur so he had time to preach up a storm.
He was respected as a Roman, but he was 100 per cent Jew. He was from the tribe of Benjamin. were Jews living in Rome and thus he was truly born a Roman although a Jew. He attended the greatest of Jewish schooling. He understood Stoic thinking and the ways of the Greeks. He studied under the great teacher Gamaliel, the grandson of Hillel. The School of Hillel was the school Yeshua chose to associate with although he did not agree with them on everything. Yeshua was a Pharisee and wore the talitt with the 613 blue strings representing Torah. He was not a Torah breaker and never once denied Torah. He did tear down walls that had been put around it. And, He also made the Torah stronger….if you even think of lust it is the same as having done it.
Yeshua’s brother, Joshua (James), sat under a different school of thinking which was of the Sadducee mindset.. One of their mindsets was that there was no resurrection of the dead. It would take Yeshua a lifetime to prove to Joshua, his brother, that there was life after death…. The scriptures that tell us a prophet is not known in his own town applied to Yeshua. His family sat under teachings of different persuasion than He did. We see that after Yeshua’s resurrection it is Joshua’s writings that are permitted to be canonized. He changed his thinking.
There is little known of the history of the God-fearers from 70 – 110 C.E. The Romans were steeped into Zeus, Diana, etc., and horoscopes. This is what Paul was contending with as He visited the Galatian gentiles who had gone back to the gods of the Greeks with their festivals and sun and moon gods. Christians today, take these verses as meaning the Jews feasts and sacrifices.
Point One: The festivals are The Lord’s Feasts, not the Jews Feasts.
Point Two: The Colossians, of whom lived next door the Galatians, were complimented by Paul on their following The Lord’s Feasts. They had not left what they knew.
Galatia is a big providence, not just a town. It would be hard not to slide back into these occult religions as the congregations could no longer do ‘anything’ Jewish. Paul’s persecution of the Jews was stopped by his encounter on the road to Damascus (Syria). He was not one of the twelve apostles, but came on the scene later.
He even talks about how they still listened to him even though he may have looked frightful to them…. possible the scales on his eyes were now scares. He always had a disciple with him to help him. He also had battle scars from being beaten and left to die after being stoned. He would not give up on the message to the Gentiles that they could be saved along with the Jew, but without having to be circumcised. The Judaizers were misguiding the Gentiles so they could have authority over them. The Gentiles were growing and adding in their old traditions and the Jews were upset. Zeus, Diana, Socrates, Plato etc. abounded.
Paul had a big job in convincing the Judaizers that circumcision did not have to be done on the Gentiles. The Gentiles were told they would do everything God’s ordinances spoke of in Torah but circumcision. They would eat kosher, no blood or scavengers, not participate in pagan practices nor offer food to other idols as the other Gentiles were doing. The Gentiles would be baptized (mikvah) according to Jewish custom which was in the name of Messiah Yeshua only. There was no trinity (father, son, Holy Spirit) yet developed for baptism. The Judaizers were so upset with Paul that they were accusing him of not being a Jew any longer. Paul states that he is a Jew above all Jews…He was a Pharisee of great standing. Paul did not leave Judaism but was given the ‘Good News’ of grafting the Gentile into the Jewish ways once they received Yeshua as their Messiah.
Remember, John the Baptist baptized to repentance and Yeshua’s baptism was for salvation from the curse of sin which is death. He beat the curse… The curse of sin is death. He was not a cursed man, but defeated the curse of sin which is spiritual death. Oh how wonderful for that….
Look who is speaking…Romans and men (Paul included)
Acts 16:20-21 “And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.”
The word for customs is ethos, and means the customs of the Jewish people. The customs were known as the, הלכה, halakhah, which means “the way one lives his life” or “the way one is to walk.”
The halakhah which the Rabbis imposed upon the G-dfearers is to this day somewhat vague. We do know that there were halakhah attached to them, as this was the charge brought against Paul in Acts 16:20-21.
The Courts of the First Century were designed to interpret the Torah. They did not make new laws or do away with an existing one.
D’varim (Deuteronomy) 4:2 “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the L-rd your G-d which I command you.”
We hear these same words in the Book of Revelations showing that the NT got it’s beginning in the OT. Actually, all the Covenants support each other and never go against what was already said. We are actually in a re-newed Covenant. The Covenant has always existed but was enhanced with Yeshua Messiah reinforcing it during His earthly appearance.
The Sanhedrin Courts allowed them only to make judgments on a commandment. They were to determine how one was to live his daily life without breaking a commandment. They did much of this by instituting fences.
The Mishna – The first part of the Talmud which contains the traditional and oral interpretations of Scriptural ordinances.
The Mishna in Avot 1.1 explains fences in this way….
- Be deliberate in Judgment.
- Raise up many disciples.
- Make a fence around the law (Torah).
The fences were not to make life hard but they were to protect them from themselves.
Marcion put the first New Testament canon together. He would be considered a heretic from the God-fearer viewpoint. Yeshua never taught a New Testament Old Testament program. They looked at God through covenants. God established the covenant and God never breaks a covenant. Men will break covenants, but God can not. We see this when He put Abraham to sleep and passed over the bull that had been cut in half. Abraham was flesh so this covenant was solely made as God’s total responsibility for it to happen.
God made a covenant of blood with Abraham. This was not about the death of the animal, but it was about the LIFE that was in it’s blood. That is why God says not to eat blood. It has life in it. All life belongs to God. God is interested in life.
“Marcion’s canon of the New Testament consisted only of the book of Luke from the gospels, excluding the Jewish parts, and most of the writing of Sha’ul (Paul) with the exception of the epistles of Timothy and Titus and the book of Hebrews if one is inclined to follow that Sha’ul wrote it.” Salter
The New Testament canonization was around 140 C.E. with Marcion being excommunicated from the Church in 144 C.E.
“Gnostics believed in dualism of which Marcion endorsed. His Gnostic teacher was Cerdo. Marcion taught that the G-d of the ‘Old Testament” was NOT the same G-d of the ‘New Testament.’ The G-d of the OT was, according to Marcion, a judge, fierce and warlike. The G-d of the NT is mild and peaceable, completely kind and supremely good. The quotes from Marcion are from the writing of Tertullian in his letter titled “Against Marcion” in which he rebuts a writing of Marcino called, “Antithesis.” There is no remaining copy of “Antithesis” left in existence, therefore we are left with the writing of Tertullian to give us some insight into the mind of Marcion.” Salter
Marcion teachings were considered heretical to the early Church and he was considered a heretic. But, they still kept some of his teachings. His followers assimilated back into the Church after about 300 year.
Today many Christians take a watered down form of Marcion. Many Christians still believe in Old and New Testament. They make a distinction between Torah (Law) and Grace as if one is opposed to the other. We are programed today to OT and NT just by the division in our bibles.
Tertullian shows another atrocity of Marcion as Marcion states, “forbidding what G-d commands and commanding what He forbids.” This is seen today in criticism of believers that attempt to keep the Sabbath of G-d, the Holy Days (The Lord’s Feasts), for keeping kosher and other commandments of G-d. If a Messianic Jew (believer in Yeshua) tries to be observant they are almost ostracized.
The Church today does indeed, “forbid what God commands and commands what He forbids.”
Salter 2. “Christmas, or many of the acts within it, are directly forbidden by Scripture. Valentines Day is held on the same day as the Roman feast Lupercalia. The Greek god Eros was the son of Aphrodite and Ares, Venus and Mars to the Romans, and he would shoot arrows that would cause people to either dislike or fall in love with one another. In Roman mythology he is known as Cupid.”
next Galatians study –
Terullian and Origen