How not to be Antisemitic


A service was held on Sunday 8th May to mark the 800th anniversary (one day early) of the Synod of Oxford of 9th May 1222 which introduced the first measures against Jews in England, and led to more harsh measures and the eventual expulsion of Jews from England in 1290. This appeared to have encouraged anti-Semitic measures across Europe. It is sobering to note that the Synod was convened by Stephen Langton, former professor of theology in Paris and then Archbishop of Canterbury, who not only likely wrote the Magna Carta, but also added the chapter divisions into the Bible which we use today. Details of the service, together with links to the sermon, and a historical account of the Synod of Oxford, can be found on the diocesan website here.

The Times reported the service with this introduction:

English Christians must repent for their “painful and shameful” history of persecuting Jews, a bishop said at a service of “penitence” at a Church of England cathedral today.

Many of the “lethal” antisemitic myths and stereotypes used over centuries to justify the abuse, oppression, expulsion and murder of Jewish people across Europe can be traced back to Christian teaching, and specifically to anti-Jewish laws enacted at the Synod of Oxford in 1222, church leaders said.

This offers something vital and positive—a rejection of antisemitic ideas and language—but also includes much nonsense. The idea that I, or anyone else, can ‘repent’ for something historic that we did not do—indeed, as the Guardian writer notes, something that happened before the Church of England even came into being—is nonsense. Those who need to repent (change) are long dead, and I do not own their views so cannot repent of them. The event was clearly of significance for the Jewish community, but it would have been no less so if the language of ‘reject’ and ‘renounce’ was used instead.

But this raises the question: what views should we reject which might contribute to an antisemitic outlook? I would suggest these 12 views, which might not all look discriminatory at first, but sow the seeds of an anti-Jewish outlook amongst Christians—and are very common indeed.

1. Jesus rejected the law

It is quite common to hear people comment that Jesus rejected the law and its legalism, and modelled a kind of free-wheeling gospel of grace where the law does not matter; it has even been promoted by some Anglican bishops. I think this originates from a simplistic reading of the ‘you have heard it said, but I say to you…’ language in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt 5–7, from seeing the criticisms by the Pharisees of Jesus’ apparent lax approach to practices they insisted on (such as Sabbath observance and ritual washing), and from Jesus’ association with ‘sinners’.

But, as Andy Angel has pointed out, all the evidence is that Jesus was a Torah-observant Jew, who called his followers to a stricter, not more lax, observance of the law, in demanding that outward observance on its own was not enough. Jesus rejected particular interpretations of the law, rather than the law itself. And he was concerned with purity, but it was a purity he offered people rather than demanded of them. In Matthew’s gospel particularly, Jesus encourages his hearers to treasure the law alongside the good news of the kingdom (Matt 13.52). And his repeated refrain is that he did not come to ‘do away’ with the law, but to ‘fulfil it’.

2. Jesus saves us from ‘religion’

Jesus was not ‘religious’, but hung around with ‘non-religious’ people on the margins—and his main criticisms were reserved for the religious. Or so we are told. If this is so, it is quite hard not to read this as seriously antisemitic, since the only religious people around in the gospels were Jews! But this claims includes at least three mistaken assumptions.

First, the world of the first century was a religious world quite distinct from our contemporary Western culture where we have compartmentalised ‘religion’ into a neat, distinct, category. Essentially, in the ancient world everyone was religious, even those ‘on the margins’! Secondly, the good news is directed towards and appeals to both the observant and the lax, the pious and the marginal. Luke’s gospel, which we are reading in this Lectionary Year C, is particularly explicit here: almost all of the main players in the narrative are pious, observant, devout Jews, and it is to these whom God reveals himself first.

Thirdly, Jesus ‘hung around with the outcasts’ in order to call them to pious holiness, not to leave them as they were. ‘I have not come to call the righteous [since they are well, and do not need my medicine], but sinners to repentance‘ (Luke 5.32).

3. The Pharisees were all bad

The sharpest conflicts in the gospels often appear to be between Jesus and the Pharisees, who were a primarily lay-led purity movement, and who were ambivalent about the power plays of those who were associated with the temple. They are often depicted as amongst those challenging and questioning Jesus, and join in the conspiracy to do away with him, and Jesus appears to reserve his harshest words for them.

Yet Pharisees were also drawn to the ministry of John the Baptist to be baptised (Matt 3.7); many of them come and attend to Jesus’ teaching and want to defend him (Luke 7.36, 13.31). In fact Jesus makes this remarkable comment to his disciples to urge them to attend to the teaching of the Pharisees:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach (Matt 23.2–3)

4. The love of God is unconditional and works don’t count

I read online yesterday an animated argument for an ‘inclusive’ church, which was accompanied by a picture of a placard in multicolour: ‘God accepts you as you are’. It is very hard indeed to reconcile that with anything to be found in the New Testament! The message we find there is much more like ‘God loves you and therefore calls you to change; at great cost he deals with your sin, what is wrong in the world, in order that you might live a changed life’.

John Barclay has demonstrated convincingly that in the writings of Paul, God’s grace is unconditioned, in that the gift of new life in Christ does not have any pre-conditions to it, but it is not unconditional, in that it does make demands. If that were not the case, how could Paul (following the example of Jesus) so often warn of the consequences of not living out the obligations of faith? Paul is very clear that we have been saved by grace through faith—in order to live a life of good works (Eph 2.8–10). The apparent contrast between the language of faith and works in James 2.18–24 and Romans 3–4 is just that: apparent. The debate here is precisely around the grounds on which we are saved (grace) and what we are saved for (good works), so that saving faith makes itself seen in a changed life. This is vital to avoid the caricature of ‘works-based Judaism’ contrasted with ‘grace-filled Christianity.’

5. Grace has replaced law 

One of the most striking and repeated refrains in the Old Testament is ‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love’ (Ex 34.6, Num 14.18, Ps 86.15, Ps 103.8, Ps 145.8 and so on). So how is it that many people come to read the OT as being about a demanding, law-giving (Jewish) God who is constantly angry, and a loving, meek (Christian) Jesus who loves us and accepts us just as we are? There is no doubt that Jesus came close to those who were far away, and touched them with the healing compassion of God—just as there is no doubt that Jesus talked more about the need for radical change and the danger of eternal destruction than anyone else in the NT.

One source of this mistake is a misreading of John 1.16–17, where the AV implies a contrast between the law given through Moses, and the grace we have received in Jesus: ‘For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’ However, the word ‘but’ is not there, and the preceding phrase ‘grace upon grace’ or ‘grace received in place of grace already given’ (TNIV) is a pointer to Ex 33.13 ‘if I have found grace…’ The grace of God in Jesus is an even greater outpouring of the grace God and already bestowed on his people Israel, not a contrast to it. God rescued his people first, and only then gave them the Commandments to shape their new life together in response to his saving acts.

6. ‘The Jews’ were opposed to Jesus

In the Fourth Gospel, there are moments where it appears that ‘the Jews’ are the ones who oppose Jesus, and taken out of context (as this language has often, tragically, been) it could be read as contrasting Jewish opponents of Jesus with his ‘Christian’ followers. This is, of course, both historical and narrative nonsense. All the characters in the Fourth Gospel are Jews, including Jesus and his followers, so we need to read this language more carefully. Even a cursory reading of this gospel shows that the term Iudaioi is used in at least three different ways: to refer to Jewish practice and belief (John 2.6); to refer to southern Judeans in contrast with northern Galileans; and to refer to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who opposed Jesus. Mark Stibbe also proposes that the term specifically refers to Jews who had believed in Jesus and had then turned against him in John 8.31.

But the Fourth Gospel is very clear: salvation is from the Jews (John 4.22) and those who are outside Jewish belief need to come to the Jewish messiah to receive God’s gift. The whole gospel is structured around the Jewish festivals, and it is only in understanding these that we can know who Jesus is. German critical scholarship of the nineteenth and twentieth century, which put this gospel as a late, Hellenised document from the second century, was profoundly anti-Jewish as well as being unhistorical.

7. Paul thought the law was bad

Protestant reading of Paul has been deeply shaped by the Reformation, and a general outlook of the contrast in Paul between ‘works righteousness’ versus ‘salvation by grace’. This is why it is important to consider the (now not very new) ‘new perspective on Paul‘ which offers a more historically rooted reading of Paul and of first-century Judaism(s), and takes seriously the positive as well as negative things Paul says about the law.

For Paul, the law is good (Rom 7.12, 1 Tim 1.8) in that it tells us the truth about God’s call on our lives, but it cannot deliver that without the defeat of sin through the cross and resurrection of Jesus, and the gift of the Spirit to empower us to live the life of obedience to God. And we fulfil the law by the power of the Spirit so that we live the kind of changed lives that he outlines in his repeated ethical injunctions.

8. The Church is contrasted with Israel

There is a good case for never using the word ‘church’ in English translations, for two reasons. First, we cannot read that word without including with it associations of either institutions (‘the Church of England’) or buildings (‘St Botolph’s Church’) neither of which belong in the New Testament. But, second, we miss a vital point of continuity: the word ekklesia was used of the gathering of citizens (that is, free men over the age of 30) for decision-making within the Greek polis, but it was also the word used in the Greek OT for the ‘congregation of the sons of Israel’, that is, the people of God.

We should therefore read the word ‘church’ as having continuity with, not differentiation from, Israel. Paul is very clear that gentile believers are grafted into the Israel of God, neither replacing it as ‘the Church’ nor being absorbed into it by becoming Jews. And John is clear, in Revelation 7, that the ordered, holy Israel of God (the ‘144,000’ that he hears counted out) is now drawn from every tribe, language, people and nation. The Israel of God is still Israel, but it now includes both ethnic Jews and gentiles from every ethnicity, nation, culture, and language. In this sense, I am an ‘honorary Jew’, a ‘Jew inwardly’ (Rom 2.29), graciously incorporated into the Israel of God.

9. Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah

Evangelism amongst Jewish people is a uniquely sensitive issue, in part because of the history of forced conversion and abuse visited upon Jews in European Christendom. But there is a strange paradox in the idea that a movement, which was entirely a Jewish renewal movement in its earliest days, following a Jewish messiah, and made up entirely of Jewish followers, should not now ever include Jews amongst its numbers.

And the idea that Jews cannot be followers of Jesus is a slap in the face to Jews who already say that they are—who are in danger of being a marginalised group within a marginalised group. We should honour and recognise those ‘messianic’ Jews who remain Jewish followers of Jesus by allowing them to share their faith.

10. Modern Israel is a uniquely evil oppressor

There are many who believe that the existence of the modern state of Israel is a sign of God’s faithfulness and, in particular, fulfilment of his ‘end times’ plan—but I believe they are quite mistaken. One of the many problems with this view is that modern Israel is treated with ethnical exceptionalism, and that to question anything that happens there is to challenge God’s plans. On the other hand, many others think that Israel is an almost unique oppressor of Palestinian Arabs, claiming that Israel is an apartheid state.

Even if modern Israel had a unique place in God’s purposes, it is hard to justify ethical exceptionalism—after all, in the OT Israel is to be a light to the nations, and is called to a higher ethical standard, not to be excepted from ethical accountability. And a deeply awkward aspect of the narrative of exile is precisely that Israel was judged by God for not pursuing justice and righteousness. But modern Israel is the only functioning democracy in the region, and stands out in comparison with neighbouring Arab states on its human rights record—and in fact on just about any other ethical measure. So if we are going to criticise modern Israel, then we need to do so in proportion, and aim our censure even more at other countries in the region.

11. The suffering of the Jews is mere history

On one of my trips to Israel, I was in a group which had the chance to meet political and religious leaders from all sides of the current political dispute. That included meeting with members of the PLO’s negotiating team who had been working with Israeli leaders in the conversations about future peace. I asked one of them: ‘How important do you think the Holocaust is for those you have been negotiating with?’ His reply was shocking: ‘Well, it was unfortunate’. He appeared to have no understanding of how central the Holocaust is in the thinking of those with whom he was negotiating.

We need to understand how important the painful history of antisemitism is for Jewish people, and confront its reality. I have found both my visits to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum deeply troubling, and we should all be troubled by this history—not least at a time when antisemitism appears to be on the rise again in the present moment, including in Putin’s Russia, and across the Arab world.

12. Jesus is a non-Jewish everyman.

Jesus relates to all people everywhere, and so has universal significance. But he does so from the particularity of the incarnation, as a first-century Jewish man. All attempts to erase this identity include within them the seeds of anti-Jewish thinking, whether that is making Jesus a white European, making him an ‘inclusive’ hero who affirms all sexualities (something that is historically implausible for Jesus as a first-century Jew), or making him the archetypal black man who suffered involuntary oppression against the ‘Whiteness’ of Roman imperialism.

The best antidote to all this approaches is taking seriously what the gospel say about Jesus the Jewish messiah, whose grace has flowed from this place into all the world. Salvation is of the Jews.

In my own journey of discipleship and scholarship, I have been immensely helped by engaging with Jewish scholars and thinkers, reading Jewish commentaries on the Old Testament, and listening to orthodox Jewish critiques of contemporary culture. These are things every Christian leader—every Christian—ought to be engaged with.


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131 thoughts on “How not to be Antisemitic”

  1. Thank you for this powerful and challenging article, Ian. As I love to nit-pick, isn’t the answer to the question in your paragraph 5, “Because people have gone on from Exodus 34:6 to verse 7, and the many many other passages of wrath and condemnation in the prophets?

    Reply
    • Well, I suspect all too often they have stayed with verse 7, and forgotten verse 6. But again, we need to ask whether Jesus talks of God’s wrath and judgement, and things like ‘the place of outer darkness’ and God as the one who can destroy both body and soul.

      Reply
  2. Thank you for this thoughtful article. You make an important point regarding the Pharisees, but alas I think a typo means you have missed out the verse reference:

    ‘Yet Pharisees were also drawn to the ministry of John the Baptist to be baptised (Matt 3.7); many of them come and attend to Jesus’ teaching (Luke In fact…’

    If you have time, could you complete the Luke reference?

    Reply
      • hi, yes, in every reference to Pharisees in Luke they are in table fellowship with Jesus, and in Acts, they are usually the good guys.

        Reply
        • For a more detailed reply, one cannot understand the Pharisees apart from the more general spiritual situation which existed in Second Temple times. Christianity began as a messianic sect within Judaism. It needs to be remembered that the Jewish community in the land of Israel at this time was itself already highly sectarian and divided. The ground rules for sectarian infighting and competition were already well understood by the time the Jewish followers of Jesus of Nazareth came on the scene. This was due to the historic and religious experience of the community up to this point. If the Babylonian exile had brought the concept of the godly remnant to the fore, the impoverished reality of post-exilic life turned it divisive. If the godly individual could survive the destruction of the sinful nation, the remnant was supposed to function as a conduit to the restored, post-exilic community, where godliness would again be a community attribute. The less-than-ideal nature of the post-exilic community fundamentally challenged this worldview. This discontinuity between the historic remnant and the godly remnant created a crisis of identity, between the individual’s loyalty to and identification with the community the “all Israel” which was so fundamental to the doctrine, and the individuality/sectarian identity required by Isaiah and the godly remnant motif. Individuals had to pursue godliness, and yet be loyal to a community that did not live up to its eschatological promise. The powerful and contradictory impulses this unleashed were not resolved until 90 CE, with the triumph of Rabbinic Judaism. This tension is evidenced in the increasingly sectarian writings of the intertestamental period, as different Jewish movements try to claim for themselves the identity both of the “true” remnant, and “all Israel”. This is true of the Essenes, the communities of 1 Enoch, Psalms of Solomon, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, the Pharisees, and followers of “the Way”. It is this tension that creates the society of the New Testament. Note also that these different groups relied on their interpretation of the Law to justify their claims. That Christianity laid claim both to the title “Israel” and to the Jewish scriptures (by dint of their “correct” hermeneutic), is thus unremarkable.
          That is, the Jewish people at this time were “God obsessed peasantry” – each trying to work out how best to please God. They had experienced the reality of his judgement, and did not wish to do so again. “How far can I walk on the Sabbath? Last time I broke the Sabbath, 1 million people died!” Rather than supporting different political or sports teams, they supported different religious groupings. “How do we please God” was the central question, to which the Pharisees replied “by obeying God’s Law”, the Sadducees “by sacrifice”, the Essenes “by purity” and the Zealots “by Freedom.”
          Note that the sharpest charge leveled against the Pharisees was that in their striving for personal godliness, they separated themselves from “am Yisrael”. This charge is encapsulated in their title, a sectarian label used only by their opponents (they referred to themselves as “the sages”). For example, within the Babylonian Talmud, in both Yoma 19b and Niddah 33b, Sadducees are recorded as referring to the Sages as Pharisees. Note also that the negative connotations did not carry over into translation, both Josephus (The Life of Flavius Josephus 10-12) and Paul (Acts 23:6) using the word in non-derogatory ways in Greek.
          Even the hypocrisy of some Pharisees is thus understood – in a divided society, where a few are recognized as being more religious than the rest, and are honored for it, it is not surprising that hypocrites will be attracted to such status and join such groups. It is of interest that the Pharisees themselves recognized such problems, four of the seven “woes of the Pharisees” in the Talmud (Jerusalem Talmud, Berakhot 9, 14b) deal with hypocrisy, and that with the triumph of Rabbinic Judaism, the standards became normative, and the problem died down. Even anti-Jewish polemics of the second century did not accuse the Jews then living of the charge.

          Reply
  3. A man cannot repent of something that he has not done, and everybody who needed to repent of the anti-Semitism at Oxford is long dead. But can an institution, such as the church, repent? Or is repentance strictly an individual action?

    Reply
    • Flip that over, Anton. Can the state of Israel repent for missing their Messiah? At a national level? Or is it at the individual level?
      I can and have had great fellowship with Messianic Jews of the diaspora in the UK, who are ostracised by their local religious Jewish community, a community which does not mix with another local, but liberal, Jewish community.
      But this is only to detract from the article, taken as a whole I’d suggest.

      Reply
      • I’m asking if repentance can be corporate because I don’t know!

        But I can say that, now the Jews are back in the Land, many are turning to Christ – something that never happened in exile. After the British left in May 1948, and most Jewish believers in Jesus had accepted the offer (‘Operation Mercy’) of migration to the UK as Arab armies massed on the borders of Mandatory Palestine, there were perhaps a dozen Jewish families remaining there who believed in Jesus.

        In 1967 Israel won the Six-Day War and regained Jerusalem. Messianics who were of fighting age willingly took part, and their community viewed the recovery of the city as a highly significant event on God’s calendar. Their numbers began to rise from this time on. By the mid-1970s there were estimated to be many hundreds (it is impossible to be precise), and at the end of the decade the number was probably in four figures, meeting in some 15 Hebrew-speaking fellowships. The 1990s saw nearly a million Jewish migrants come from the former Soviet Union. Some were committed believers in Christ. In 1999 the only detailed demographic survey of the Messianic movement to date took place, by Kai Kjaer-Hansen and Bodil Skjøtt. They found about 5000 believers in roughly 80 congregations. Since then there has been great growth; in 2013 an estimate from a conservative source was 10,000-15,000, and an alternative estimate was as high as 23,000. In 2017 the Israel College of the Bible sent out a questionnaire, initially to leaders of Messianic congregations; returns suggested a total of about 30,000. This looks like the early stages of an exponential rise.

        Reply
        • In the churches in Revelation the churches are called to repentance. However, individuals who are called to live faithfully whatever the church does. In the OT Israel as a nation is called to repentance. Where repentance was only in a small remnant the nation was unable to escape judgement.

          I fear the church in the west is likely to experience its own Babylonian captivity in the sense of persecution to purge it.

          Reply
  4. Thanks for this Ian, I found it challenging. In 1. yes Jesus was undoubtedly a Torah observant Jew, however didn’t he also break the law by healing people on the sabbath and allowing his disciples to harvest grain?
    2. I think I would use the term ‘religion’ in the sense of the widespread idea, not just within christianity, that it is our good deeds which qualify us for salvation, the anti-christian idea that we can achieve a relationship with God out of our own effort. In that sense I do not call myself religious – is christianity a religion?
    6. I think the gospels’ use of ‘the Jews’ makes it easy to fall into this trap, rather than making it clear that it is certain sections of the Jewish leadership.
    10. Modern Israel is not uniquely evil but that does not provide any comfort for Palestinians who suffer under an extremely unpleasant right wing government, laws which openly discriminate and can justifiably be described as apartheid and have been by Amnesty and others, and blatant destruction or seizure of their homes with no opportunity for redress.
    I was at Lee Abbey – it was brilliant and clarified a lot of things for me, thank you!

    Reply
    • Jesus was sinless, and breaking the written Laws of Moses was the definition of sin. So he never did. What he sometimes broke were additions to those laws by the Pharisees. The idea – called the ‘fence’ – was that if you had a success rate of 90% in keeping the laws then hopefully the 10% you broke were the extra ones. Jesus and the Pharisees criticised each other over this matter; Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees is in Matthew 23:4.

      It is clear that these extra laws emerged from commentaries on the written laws, which had been given at Sinai. The extra laws later came to be known as the ‘Oral Torah’. (Remember that Torah just means ‘teaching’.) The rabbis have even concocted a claim that the extra laws were given by God at Sinai at the same time as the written laws, plus a command not to write them down; the rabbis also invented a chain of transmission of these laws (specified in Pirkei Avot). But the Oral Torah refers to the written laws of Moses hundreds of times, yet not vice-versa.

      Be careful with the word ‘Torah’! To a gentile Christian it means the Pentateuch – the written laws of Moses – but to a Jew it means those laws plus the add-ons.

      Reply
      • Jesus was also Lord of the law. It is his rights as Lord of the sabbath to which he appeals for the eating of grains of corn (that and how like David he is a rejected king who in extremis can eat what is normally forbidden). A clearer example is that he declares all animals clean. This is an abrogating of the law. He also abrogated the law on divorce. I don’t think it is a simple thing to say Jesus simply kept the law and advocated it for his followers. If he did we would all be Jews.

        (Directed partly at you Anton and partly at Ian).

        Reply
        • I suggest you look at Mark 7:19 in the original Greek.

          Jesus did not abrogate the divorce law. He held his believers to a higher standard. If they kept his standard they would definitely not be abrogating the written law of Moses. Is he then doing the same as the Pharisees, adding to the law? No, because his movement was a volunteer movement.

          Reply
          • Hi Anton

            I don’t have Greek. I use aids. But I can see nothing that contradicts my observation that Jesus declared all foods clean (and so tacitly proclaimed the end of the law). I’d also say that by narrowing the law with divorce he changed it. But more obvious still – we do not live as Jews. It is clear that the mosaic covenant is finished or we would be living as Jews. Jesus pointed to this change with his metaphor of old wineskins and new wine. Hebrews tells us the old covenant was ready to pass away. It was at best a shadow of which Christ is the substance.

            Christ came to fulfil the law and so to end it. The demand of the law (righteousness) is fulfilled not by adherence to the legal code but by life in the Spirit.

          • ‘Jesus declared all foods clean (and so tacitly proclaimed the end of the law)’

            No, I don’t think that is the case. from within a Torah observant discussion, Jesus notes that it is what comes out of your mouth, from your heart, that makes you unclean. That does not contradict the observance of food laws.

            What Mark then seizes on is that food it not in itself intrinsically unclean, so that Gentile followers of Jesus do not need to follow the food laws to be holy. But that is just the same as Paul’s argument, when he goes back not to Moses but to Abraham as the father of faith.

            Torah is for a time, and for a people (the Jews) but it does not apply to all.

        • Hello John,
          Abrogate or authoritatively arrogate? Sermon of the mount e.g.?
          He goes beyond the letter of the law to the spirit of the law, the goal or teleological purpose. Or to put it another way, he is employing a canon of construction of statutes, in that he was addressing the ” mischief” or error, misuse in behaviour the law was put in place, designed, to seek to avoid, prevent.
          He was without sin, a law (and as Ian points out a Festival keeping) compliant righteous Jew. Festivals and laws, types and symbols fulfilled by and in him. And in our union with Christ we are so credited, even as we remain gentiles.
          I do wonder how much regard the western church, either catholic or protestant, (even, or particularly, amongst the reformers) has paid to the Jewish feast/festival in understanding and interpreting scripture and fulfillment by Jesus. I have seen very little if any such exegesis, but someone could come along and point me in the right direction for sources.
          Colin in the previous article may have pointed to one book. I have a couple from Messianic Jews.

          Reply
  5. Also: how to distinguish anti-semitism from anti-Zionism when the two are intertwined? Simple: find out whether the person you suspect of it holds the State of Israel to a higher standard than its neighbours.

    Reply
  6. Regrettably at present I am not in a position at this moment to give this article a thorough appraisal . Nevertheless on a first appearance, it looks interesting to say the least!
    In passing, I would refer you to an essay in last Saturday’s Times newspaper under the heading “It’s time to end end Christian ministeries to convert Jews” and is set in the contextof the 1222 Synod of Oxford.
    Towards the end the Jewish writer , Zaki Cooper bemoans the continual “targeting of Jews for conversion”.He applauds George Carey for ending his patronage of CMJ thirty years ago.Then we are told that Justin Welby has promised to “reflect on any sense that we target Jewish people.”
    CMJ (Church’s Ministry among Jewish people) is an Anglican organization that has existed for over 200 years. It’s HQ is Christ Church, Jerusalem and at present through its ministry and worship is drawing many Jewish people into its premises out of interest that a Christian Church incorporates Hebrew into its publicity and its witness and worship. CMJ does *not* target people. It gets alongside them.And its primary ervangelistic message? We believe that Jesus is*your* Messiah. It’s somewhat ironic that those who declaim that God no longer has any place for *national Israel* in the biblical scheme are among those who are prolonging ( however mildly) a form of anti- Semitism!
    PS For the discerning reader , I would recommend a book written by three Messianic Jewish scholars and entitled “Reading Moses, Seeing Jesus – “How the Torah fulfils its goals in Jesus (Lexham Press).

    Reply
    • The ethnic Jewish believers in Jesus whom I know are adamant that Christians must not cease preaching to Jews – but must (of course) do it with love. It can fairly be said that we have, historically, done a dreadful job of making them jealous as Paul advocates in Romans 11.

      Reply
      • That is indeed key, I’d suggest Anton, provoking to jealousy.
        If anything, the exuberance of Davidic dance is a stark contrast and counter indictment for much that passes as western Christianity

        Reply
    • As I am the only commenter to have mentioned the Pharisees apart from someone who merely pointed out a typo, by “people” you must mean me. I was not writing an essay setting out their good and bad points, but making a specific comment about one of their bad points. Please do not presume I am unaware of their history as a holiness movement after the Maccabean wars.

      Reply
  7. Thanks for the excellent, well-argued 12-point exposition of Christianity’s opposition to anti-Semitism, with appropriate Biblical and other references.

    The questioning of the idea that you are responsible for the sins of a previous Church’s policy and aberrations is interesting too. But I think that the Church has always had difficulties squaring the moral imperatives in the Bible with the past behaviour of its members, including the clergy, behaviour that may well continue into the present day. It also raises the question of why you would want to continue to be a member of a church that has, in practice, a terrible record on anti-Semitism (or slavery, or women’s rights etc)?

    Nazi Germany provides a useful reminder of how the Church (both Protestant and Catholic) behaves when confronted with a racialised ideology, namely, they find a way to avoid standing up for what is morally right. Throughout the Nazi period there was virtually no public opposition to antisemitism or any readiness by church leaders to publicly oppose the regime on the issues of antisemitism and state-sanctioned violence against the Jews. There were individual Catholics and Protestants who spoke out on behalf of Jews, and small groups within both churches that became involved in rescue and resistance activities, but only the Jehovah’s Witnesses and, I think, the Christadelphians publicly opposed, and spoke out against, the Nazi regime, for which a large proportion were sent to concentration camps. By contrast the general tactic by the leadership of both Protestant and Catholic churches in Germany was caution with respect to protest and compromise with the Nazi state leadership where possible.

    Whilst not on the same scale there was, in the same period, plenty evidence of widespread anti-Semitism in the UK and the rest of Europe, which was not adequately condemned by their own churches. This was at a time when 80% of the UK population said that they were Christians. This didn’t end in 1945: a friend reminded me that in his school days (1960/70ss) the phrase “You Jews killed our Lord” was a regular taunt in his playground; but children must have picked this up from their parents and other adults.

    So my question is: If you decide to remain committed to a Church that has a bad record on anti-Semitism (or whatever other issue) should you not repent too for the sins of the past?

    Reply
    • Steven – interesting that you should bring up the German church in this context which, as you rightly point out, was a disaster – leading to the Barmen Declaration.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barmen_Declaration

      mostly written by Karl Barth. Indeed, seeing what was going on at the time gives added understanding to his emphatic `No!’ in response to Brunner’s `On Grace and Nature’, where Brunner was trying to introduce a component of natural theology. In the context of the German church at the time, the `natural theology’ could have been taken to support the idea of some German superiority that may have been evident (in the eyes of twisted people) from nature.

      As far as the institution goes – well, I don’t belong to C. of E. (or C. of S.), but if I were (hypothetical conditional – it won’t happen) to consider either of these organisations, I would be very interested to know that the official position of the organisation now strongly rejected truly awful things that the organisation had supported in the past.

      Barth takes Romans 9 to refer to the tension between `The Church’ and `The Gospel’.

      Following Romans 8 (and moving on to Romans 9) he writes `And now, in contrast with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, there is thrust upon our attention Israel, the Church, the world of religion as it appears in history, and we hasten to add Israel in its purest, truest and most powerful aspect. We are not here concerned with some debased form of religion, but with the ideal and perfect Church. Does the Church stand over against the Gospel as one point of view against another? Are we setting one company of men who think rightly over against another company who do not? Yes, undoubtedly we are. The Church confronts the Gospel as the last human possibility confronts the impossible possibility of God.’

      Reply
  8. Ian – I don’t really want to defend Karl Barth. Last week, John Thomson helpfully pointed out that the man was an adulterer. I googled it and found the following article

    https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/october-web-only/what-to-make-of-karl-barths-steadfast-adultery.html

    where the author uses the happy phrase `dialectical tension’ to describe the adultery.

    But in his commentary on Romans he is (a) strongly anti-religion and (b) not remotely anti-Semitic, so I’m not sure at all about your point (2).

    In his commentary on Romans 7, Barth points out that the first religious act recorded in Scripture was Eve listening to and hearkening to a sermon preached by the Serpent on the commandments of God.

    But he makes it very clear in Romans 9 that, as far as he is concerned, The Church of today is a continuation of The Church at the time of Jesus. So he seems to see absolutely no difference between the `pillars of The Church’ at the time of Jesus and the `pillars of The Church’ today.

    In his commentary on Chapter 9, he does make it clear that he sees exactly the same tension now as then – The Church basically trying to establish order; when the gospel message breaks in on a person’s life it creates disruption and disorder.

    He is strongly anti-religion, yet I see absolutely nothing in his anti-religious stance that is remotely anti-Semitic, since he is equally scathing of the church of today.

    I note with interest that the Torrance brothers were students of Karl Barth and at least two of them (T.F. Torrance and D.W. Torrance) were (and are) deeply convinced that God had a special purpose for Israel. You’ll find an autobiographical piece by David W. Torrance here:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20120110130554/http://www.livebyfaith.org.uk/dwt_cv.html

    and note his pro-Israel comments towards the bottom of this piece. Colin McCormack has commented favourably on this blog (on a thread long ago) about David Torrance in this context.

    So you get people who are clearly extremely pro-Israel, who also have very strong associations to the `anti-religion’ stance.

    Reply
  9. I believe it was entirely right and proper for the national church, in her Cathedral in Oxford, to repent of sins which the national church in Oxford committed 800years ago. That the repentance and reconciliation event took part in the cathedral is doubly prophetic given that the north west part of Tom quad is built on ground where once sat Oxford’s synagogue built in 1228

    Is such identification confession Biblical? Of course it is – In Nehemiah 1 & Daniel 9 -we see these godly individuals, identifying with the corporate sins of their nation, sins that led to exile in Babylon, which neither were culpable of, (Daniel was a young boy and Nehemiah probably not born) yet both own their nations’ sins and repent of their nations sins. And God honours their prayers.

    Reply
    • But it isn’t the same ‘national church’. There was a radical Reform of its views in the meantime. Why wouldn’t words like ‘renounce’ and ‘reject’ have been equally powerful? More to the point, ‘repent’ means ‘changing my direction’; many of the views I have listed persist and have not been changed, even though some of them have been preached by Anglican bishops. So where is the real repentance?

      Daniel was *in exile in Babylon* under the judgement of God for those sins he identifies with. They happen one generation earlier, so it is hardly a model for identifying with sins of 800 years ago.

      Reply
      • I have written something of a response on Premier Christianity today .

        It seems to me that Jesus’ instruction to leave one’s gift at the altar if we realise our brother has something against us, may be derived in part from David’s repentance to the Gibeonites in 2 Samuel 21 for his predecessor’s massacre of them, after which God was moved by prayer for the land. David was not guilty of this massacre, yet he did represent the current leadership of the same nation or institution that had been guilty of that atrocity, and therefore he had to take personal responsibility to seek for terms of reconciliation that would be acceptable to the offended party.

        The same approach was taken with this recent repentance service, planning the event in close consultation with the Oxford Jewish Congregation. And I assure you, although these events were so long ago, they still cause pain to the current heirs of the English Jewish community, whether or not the Christian community has any recollection of them at all. Unless we acknowledge the sins and teachings that caused those atrocities in the past, and still exist in the present, the heirs of our victims will never be prepared to trust that we truly love them today.

        As to whether we are the same ‘national church’, there is of course a lively debate about who are the true heirs of the mediaeval English church. Most parishes and dioceses and even many of the post-holders continued unchanged from the old dispensation into the new, just with a different chain of command that no longer included the Pope. And as regards canon law, in Reformation times the decision was taken to preserve any earlier laws passed specifically by English councils (hence the ‘Magna Carta’-like importance of the Synod of Oxford for canon law), unless explicitly abrogated. For more information, see my paper on the Synod of Oxford on my Academia page: . There may have been a radical Reform of the national church’s views on some subjects during the Reformation, but on other subjects very little changed at all, sadly. Perhaps it is time to make the recent (2019) theological changes effective in the realm of canon law as well?

        Reply
        • I don’t deny the need for reconciliation, and even for explicit rejection and repudiation of it. But no-one can ‘repent’ of an attitude they themselves do not have. It is just the wrong word, and an unfortunate wrong use, given that repentant of our own failings is such an important theological idea.

          Reply
          • Perhaps our mutual misunderstanding here relates to the difference between the individual and the collective. As an individual, I have not (to my knowledge / deliberately) spoken or acted in an antisemitic way towards my Jewish neighbours. If I am shown my sin, I will then repent personally for what I did, and change my thoughts and actions accordingly.

            But as a collective, we have certainly spoken and acted in antisemitic ways towards our Jewish neighbours, both in the distant past and in very recent times. When we are shown our sins, such as the 1222 Synod of Oxford, we repent collectively because the theology that led to those actions has not yet been uprooted from the church. Those who represent the church in leadership (like David with the Gibeonites) confess on behalf of their people, and make efforts to change future collective behaviour by educating their people.

            The New Testament demonstrates that despite the personal repentance of many individuals in response to the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus, the collective repentance of the nation did not happen, and as a result, the whole nation was judged. The Anglican Church has recognised in ‘God’s Unfailing Word’ (2019) the need for corporate repentance, and in the Synod of Oxford 800th this was expressed not just in word but in action. The number of people present (over 300 booked in through Eventbrite) is an encouraging sign that the collective repentance reflects an increasingly widespread change of heart at the individual level as well.

          • The precedent is in seeking reconciliation with one’s offended brother, rather than the precise penalty that the offended Gibeonites asked for. Thankfully, the Jewish people whom our Christian forebears have treated so terribly, do not require hanging for the sake of reconciliation, except in the case of the worst offenders (Adolf Eichmann, etc.). But still, reconciliation requires listening to the offended person, and making amends wherever we can. The more personal interaction we have with Jewish friends, the better we will understand the hurt that ‘we’ Christians have caused.

  10. As so often Ian you are both so right and so wrong.
    ”The idea that I, or anyone else, can ‘repent’ for something historic that we did not do—indeed, as the Guardian writer notes, something that happened before the Church of England even came into being—is nonsense. ” Agreed 100%

    Israel has a forthcoming specific role in the last days. Scripture is clear they’ll be regathered. May 1948 was a watershed moment; God says yes to Israel and has never ever reneged on his promises. I have to differ 100% with you on your take on this.

    Reply
    • Thanks David. Could you point me to the verse or verses in the NT which say with any clarity that ethnic Jews will return to the physical land of Israel?

      Reply
        • Jock – Try Jeremiah 30:1-2 for a start! Then trace it back to Genesis 12: 7; followed by Genesis17: 7-8. Then ask yourself the following questions: (1) When did the word *everlasting* cease to mean everlasting?
          (2) By what criteria,in the setting of Jeremiah 31:31 – 35 and reiterated in Hebrews 8 ( in the latter case not addressed to *the Church* but to” Judea and Samaria”) – do we arrive at the conclusion that, in order to deny the promise of the land, we are perfectly justified in affirming the parts of the *Jeremaic* covenant which promote the renewal of heart and mind but not the land? By what criteria therefore do we create a division between the “spiritual” and the physical? Or are we still held captive by Greek modes of understanding while being dismissive of Hebraic? (it’s interesting to see in two previous contributions questions being posed by treating the testaments as separate entities). (3) RE *the argument from silence* “It’s not mentioned in the NT!” A similar argument has been used all too often to assert that Jesus showed no interest in the issue of SSM. Yet how often to we refer back to, say, Genesis to affirm the truth of his *silence*. And finally (4) it i assumed all too often assumed that those who at least see the significance of the land are guilty of positing a *two-tier* model of entry into the kingdom . If you read “Reading Moses, Seeing Jesus” you will clearly see that this is not the case for a growing body of Messianic believers!

          Reply
          • Thanks Colin – that is very helpful.

            I agree that there is something unsatisfactory about seeing the OT and NT as separate entities.

          • Colin

            ‘Everlasting’ means lasts forever. But if Jesus is now ‘the land’, then God’s ‘Israel’ is now not those in the physical land, but those who are ‘in Christ’. Jesus is the fulfilment of *all* God’s promises.

            The ‘argument from silence’ argument simply won’t wash. It is very clear that much of the ‘end times’ promise language was clearly understood as being fulfilled in Jesus. As I said in my videos in the previous post, given that the Jews were exiled from the land, and given the amount of material in the NT about the parousia, it is remarkable that, at no point whatever, these two things are linked. You would almost think that the NT believe those OT promises were fulfilled in Jesus!

          • It is hard to avoid that conclusion. Jesus is the new temple. Incorporated into him, we too are the temple of God’s presence on earth. That is at the centre of the land.

            All the blessings and obligations of being the people of God are now, not for those who are ‘in the land’ but those who are in Christ.

            If Jews return to the land, where does that land feature in the New Jerusalem..??

          • You have persuaded yourself of that, Ian. I do not believe that ancient Hebrew holy writing has a tradition of allegory of that sort.

          • Fine. Then all you have left to explain is the zero reference to this in any of the NT, the zero expectation in the early Christian movement, and the zero reference to it in the substantial eschatological vision of Revelation 19–22.

          • Ian, I still cannot see where the justification is for seeing Jesus as the fulfilment of the land.

            On the other hand, the idea of Jewish exiles being restored to their ancestral land, which pervades the Hebrew scriptures from Genesis through Chronicles (and of course practically every prophet also), is certainly picked up again by Jesus in the New Testament.

            For example, when Jesus wept over Jerusalem’s coming exile, He used terms familiar from Isaiah 40-55: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” The ‘gathering’ of Zion’s children is a clear reference to the prophesied ingathering of exiles that Messiah was destined to accomplish. However, Zion’s unwillingness would result in further “desolation” of her “house”, but only “until you say, ‘Baruch haba b’shem Adonai!'” Exile will end, and then the age-old longing of Jesus’ heart will be fulfilled, to regather Jerusalem’s children as the prophets spoke.

            The “restoration of all things, about which God spoke by the mouth of His prophets from ancient time” (Acts 4:21), can certainly not fail to include the restoration of the exiles to the land of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, or else the prophets were deceived en masse. There is no doubt that the eschatological restoration would be a spiritual one, but this too was prophesied, both distinct from and concurrent with their physical restoration to the land also – see for example Ezekiel 36 – 37.

            And a couple of other statements in John’s Gospel that reinforce Jesus’ desire to be the true Shepherd of Israel and regather the Jewish exiles:

            John 10:16 – “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” There is no question that Ezekiel 37:21-25 is being alluded to here, and the context is explicitly about the re-uniting of (exiled) Israel and Judah as one flock under one Davidic king. Yet of course, this is not the limit of what Jesus is saying. When cleansing the Temple Court of the Gentiles from merchants to make space for Gentiles to worship, Jesus quoted from the famous prophecy in Isaiah 56:7 – “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples”. How rarely do we consider the following verse in Isaiah – “The Lord YHWH, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, ‘Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered’.” Clearly Jesus also intended to gather the Gentiles under His leadership, but this was a gathering to those already gathered, namely, the dispersed of Israel.

            The same focus on the Jewish exiles scattered in the Diaspora among the Greek-speakers is found in the assumption of Jesus’ hearers that Jesus was planning to travel to the Diaspora to teach and gather Greek-speaking Jews, whom they despised (John 7:33-35; compare Acts 6:1). It was then the arrival of Greek-speakers at the Feast who had heard about and were seeking Jesus (John 12:20-23) which convinced Jesus that His earthly mission was ready to be taken to the next level, when the Holy Spirit would multiply His ministry throughout all the nations.

            Jesus knew that His death would be the necessary Passover sacrifice of “the Lamb of God”, enabling the greater Exodus of exiled Jews from all nations back to the land of Israel (Jeremiah 16:14-15). This is why John explains as much in John 11:51-52 – “being high priest that year, [Caiaphas] prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad”. We Gentiles inevitably read this as a reference to ourselves, but in what sense have we been “scattered”? The “children of God” are those referred to as such by Moses in Deuteronomy 32:5-6, 19-21 (which Paul quotes in Romans 11:11) – properly though not exclusively the Jewish people.

            To reinforce the ongoing focus of God on the Jewish people, Paul explains to his Gentile listeners in Romans 15:8-9 that “Messiah has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy [shown to the Jews]”. This reference to “promises” simply reiterates what he had said earlier with reference to unbelieving Israel: “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:28-29). For a Jewish rabbi like Paul, it is impossible to exclude the land from among the “gifts” given by God to Israel, as is repeated throughout the Hebrew Bible (e.g. Psalm 105:7-11).

            We read the New Testament with Gentile eyes, understandably, so we look straight past the regular references to the specific hope of the Jewish people prophesied in Scripture of a return from exile through Messiah. That is not to deny at all that Messiah will rule over all nations, and that every nation will receive its own territorial inheritance in Messiah once He returns to reign on the earth. But in affirming the truth of the latter hope, we don’t need to deny the faithfulness of God to His promises to the Jewish people also, only and completely to be fulfilled in Messiah.

          • Ian: It is one thing to provide one’s exegesis of Revelation, Daniel, the Olivet discourse etc, but another to write down a summary of what one believes the sequence of events in the endtimes will be in one’s own words. Unless you are willing to do that and display it then I doubt that further discussion will get anywhere. I am willing to do the same.

  11. Thank you Ian for this thoughtful and wise article. As ever your work is both encouraging and provocative thank you for both. You made reference to Jewish works that have helped you in your reading of the OT, could you make any recommendations?

    Reply
  12. Biblical studies as a discipline (and those aspects of the Church with which it closely overlaps) is still hugely ignorant of or in denial about the extent to which several of its modern foundations were laid by those who were avowedly, enthusiastically antisemitic. Julius Wellhausen took up and popularised the idea that the P source should be dated late primarily because he believed that its ‘ritualism’ and ‘legalism’ belonged to a period in the history of Israel where the ‘authentic’ religion of the prophets (which would later be taken up by Jesus and carried into Christianity) had begun to be ‘corrupted’ into what became early Judaism. His ideas were shared by and inspired many of his NT colleagues who were attempting to de-Judaize their studies long before there were Nazi resources to build a research centre for that project. They were also perpetuated fairly uncritically after WWII by those, like Gerhard von Rad, who pushed the (highly influential) concept of ‘Salvation History’. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament bears many obvious marks of the antisemitism of its chief architects, and there were those who actively suppressed attempts to alter those elements when it was translated into English (household names). Likewise the early history of the Society for New Testament Studies is tied up with those whose work flourished under the Nazis and who the society itself later defended (and in some quarters continues to defend). When, in 1999, Maurice Casey wrote one of very few really frank articles about this legacy (one which invited further work that has mostly not been done) he was surely right when he said that “[i]t may however also be that anti-Jewish prejudices are so convenient, and the story of Nazi New Testament scholars is so discreditable, that some of us are happier without the whole of this story” (‘Some Anti-Semitic Assumptions in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament’, Novum Testamentum 41/3 (1999), 281).

    Reply
      • They have—though concerns about antisemitism have rarely, if ever, been their motivation. Moreover, just because, for example, Graf’s thesis about the relative dating of P was appealing to Wellhausen primarily because of his antisemitism, that doesn’t automatically invalidate it. The reason revised versions of that dating theory have been influential among many scholars who would be very difficult to paint as antisemitic is because they make good sense of a lot of the evidence. Though most people are now far less confident about talking of sources in the traditional sense, the current scholarly consensus tends to think of most Pentateucal material (as we know it) as belonging to that later period. What must be rejected wholesale, however, is the aspect of Wellhausen’s work that assumed a process of religious/cultural/racial evolution (he deliberately modelled his ‘Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels’ on ‘On The Origin of Species’). And that aspect can be found in many versions of ‘salvation history’ that continue to have traction, including among evangelicals.

        Reply
          • Ian, how much of the OT that we read today is thought to have been collected and redacted in the 2nd Temple period by (unknown?) scribes and put in a form so that the Jews could make sense of their captivity and God’s dealings with them?

            Would it not have been shaped thereon to reflect Israel’s national history considering their national life had all but been destroyed by invading forces?

          • Chris: It depends who you ask! A very good, brief, scholarly defence of the traditional view that the Books of Moses were largely written at the time of the events they describe, with minor redactions not very long after (“the monument is still there to this day”; Moses’ death scene, etc), is given by Paul Lawrence in The Books of Moses Revisited (2011).

  13. Ian

    I appreciate your pushback on antisemitism. It really should be clear to Christians on the basis of the christian ethic of love that antisemitism is wrong. However, while agreeing with your aim, i find I want to qualify many of your assertions.

    1. Jesus and the Law. As I’ve pointed out below I don’t think Jesus’ position on the law is simply one of endorsement. He looks to a time of eschatological fulfilment of the law which arrives in himself . He fulfils the law, dies to it and takes his people into that death so that they are no longer under the authority of the mosaic covenant. Fulfil is not the same as ‘keep’. Fulfil means to bring to its God appointed purpose. Some signals of this change include: declaring all foods clean; changing divorce conditions; new wine and old wineskins; marriage at Cana etc. With Jesus there comes a change of age (dispensation).

    2. Grace has replaced law. I go partly with you on this but I think the NT, does make a grace law eschatological contrast. Fundamentally it is the distinction between the old covenant and the new covenant. In the former righteousness is demanded and in the latter it is supplied. Even if the ‘grace instead of grace ‘ is right there is a contrast at work ‘the law was given by Moses but grace and truth came into being (Lincoln) by Jesus Christ. It may well be ‘grace’ and ‘more grace’ where ‘more grace’ means occludingly more grace so that the glory of the old becomes nothing because of the surpassing glory of the new. The shadow of the law disappears before the light of the substance who s Christ.

    It was gracious of God to enter into a covenant relationship with Israel. Plus a sacrificial system was given to deal with sin yet we must not lose sight of the fact that the law was a covenant of works which both Jesus and Paul recognise has a premise of ‘this do and live’. The law is not normally viewed positively because of the human heart. It was a ‘disciplinarian’. It held those under its authority as prisoners. It was a burden too heavy for those wed to it to carry. It was an administration of death.

    Redemption/rules in the OT was a counsel of despair because the redemption was political and not spiritual. There was no new life and nature and no Spirit enabling obedience. Redemption was a type and not a reality. I’m speaking in salvation-history terms. Obviously individuals had circumcised hearts both before and after the exodus.

    Paul recognises the law as intrinsically ‘good’ but it is inadequate and indeed in many ways a hindrance when confronted with flesh. It exacerbates, exposes and emphasises sin (Roms 7).

    3. The Jews were opposed to Jesus. The Jews WERE opposed to Jesus. Obviously not all but most. The trajectory of Jesus ministry is increasing opposition to Jesus. Eventually leaders and people are united in their cry for his death. When Pilate tries to release him the Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.’ His own we are told in John ‘received him not’. It is this fateful rejection that brings the judgement of AD 70 and the diaspora of over 1900 years. The divine judgement does not justify any ill-treatment of Jewish people over history.

    4. Church and Israel. I mainly like the points you make here but I see here a further example of flirting with overstatement. There is continuity between Israel and the church but there is also discontinuity. Again it is an epochal distinction. Israel belongs to promise and the church belongs to fulfilment. Israel is essentially ethnic Israel whereas the church is Jew and gentile. At a pinch gentiles are ‘honorary Jews’ but in reality both are ‘one new man’ in Christ where old racial distinctions are discounted.

    Ian, your other points I have enjoyed reading and found helpful. Given a number of the groups surrounding Israel propagate the notion that the holocaust never happened I’m not surprised that the PLO representative pretty well discounted it. Given Hamas’s avowed aim to annihilate Israel it is hard to be sympathetic to their cause. However, I recognise the danger of bias for I do think God intends to save Israel at the end of the age. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance. God cannot give up on those he loved.

    Reply
    • Hi John

      I wonder whether (just the same as today) the general population took their lead from the opinion formers.

      Had they been opposed to Jesus they would at least have had to have a clear idea of what Jesus actually stood for rather than jumping uninformedly on the bandwagon.

      The Holy Week events took place in a blink of an eye. Within that minuscule time, how many of ‘the Jews’ had any idea what Jesus stood for?

      Reply
    • Thanks John. Just some brief observations.

      1. Jesus was a Torah observant Jew. Isn’t it interesting that his first Jewish followers continued to observe Torah. If he had done away with it, why did they do that?

      2. Yes, quite agree that the grace in Jesus supersedes the grace of the law. The law is good, but not enough. But this is very different from saying the law is bad and grace is good, which is most commonly heard.

      3. Many Jews were opposed to Jesus—just as much humankind is resistant. ‘He came to his own, and his own did not receive him…but to all who received him…’ ‘His own’ can refer to ‘the Jews’, but also to humanity made in the image of God. The response of the Jews was a paradigm of the response to humanity. They are not unique in their rejection.

      4. If old racial distinctions are ‘discounted’ why don’t gentiles become like Jews or Jews become like gentiles? Paul appears to think that the two remain distinct and yet are one.

      I agree with your comments about Hamas, and we need to take these into account. But given the grammar of Rom 11.25 and the complete absence of any other clear statement in the NT, I don’t believe that there will be an ‘end times’ turning of Jews to Jesus.

      Reply
      • Did Jewish followers of Jesus eventually stop observing Torah? You said the ‘first’ Jewish followers. Do so-called Messianic Jews today still observe Torah? If not, why not?

        Reply
        • Yes, there certainly are Messianic Jews who still observe Torah, being zealous for it through the grace and empowering of the Holy Spirit, just as their forebears in the first century were (Acts 21:20). There is no inherent contradiction between Jewish believers being filled with the Spirit, made righteous by the grace of Messiah, and yet still observing Torah. After all, the Torah was originally given as a gracious gift of God *after* His salvation of the Israelites from slavery, not as a qualification for salvation.

          Naturally, there is a wide diversity of views about the Torah among Messianic Jews today, both in Israel and in the Diaspora, and some live effectively as Gentiles because of the theology they have been taught by the Gentile church. However, this is a matter for them to discuss and come to agreement about together, interpreting their prophetic scriptures as led by the Holy Spirit.

          One Messianic theologian you might find worthwhile to read is Mark Kinzer.

          Reply
        • Ethnic Jewish believers in Jesus are divided over the question. It is a hot topic in the Holy Land where congregation leaders expect members of the congregation to do what they say. I think it is very clear from 1 Corinthians 9:20 that a Jewish believer in Jesus is not sinning against God if he has a ham sandwich. But Timothy got circumcised and believers in Jesus are told more than once in the NT to do nothing that might cause people to stumble, so it might be best for those in the Land to walk with care.

          Reply
    • …. on Hamas – well, you *can* be sympathetic to their `annihilate Israel’ cause if you come to the conclusion (as I have done) that the 1947/48 war was basically ethnic cleansing.

      I think that one of the main reasons why the anglo-saxon empire (whose base had already moved across the Atlantic from London to Washington DC) was so supportive of the State of Israel was the Suez Canal. Very useful to have an ally there.

      Reply
        • Indeed. Jamal Husseini, the Palestinian Arab leader, candidly told the UN Security Council on 16th April 1948 during the fighting: “The representative of the Jewish Agency told us yesterday that they were not the attackers, that the Arabs had begun the fighting. We did not deny this. We told the whole world that we were going to fight.”

          Reply
          • Yes – probably a stupid move on their part to try and take on the anglo-saxon empire. It was, though, started by the anglo-saxon empire – as James Patrick points out -driven by Zionist `Christians’ who believed that God needed a helping hand from the anglo-saxon empire to fulfil his promises.

          • Of course, even if we do take a Zionist position, that a physical nation of Israel will return to the Palestine, then biblically, this is a false start. I seem to remember the prophet Isaiah saying something about turning swords into plough shares and spears into pruning hooks.

            This clearly isn’t happening and isn’t going to happen, due to the big stink over the origins of the current state of Israel. One of the motivations for the Balfour declaration of 1917 was (of course) the attempt to persuade the U.S. of A. to enter WW1 – so it was all connected with military might and power – with the Palestinians the unfortunate pawns in some political power play.

            The whole business of the current State of Israel, politically, has suspect origins – and has been carried out in such a way that the prophecies (if you take them to mean a physical Israel in the Middle East here on earth) just aren’t going to be fulfilled.

          • Jock

            You write: “One of the motivations for the Balfour declaration of 1917 was (of course) the attempt to persuade the U.S. of A. to enter WW1 – so it was all connected with military might and power

            Do you realise that this sentence moves from ‘one’ of the motivations to ‘all’ being worldly factors? The extent to which evangelical Christianity motivated the Balfour Declaration is not clear, but almost all of the members of Lloyd George’s War Cabinet at the time had strong protestant (and, unusually, non-Anglican) backgrounds, and this was the church sector where the Zionist view was strongest – and had been ever since the Puritan era several centuries earlier.

            Of worldly political factors, there were several. Zionists recognised an opportunity if Britain won, for Britain would wish to occupy Palestine as a buffer zone in order to protect its interests in the Suez Canal. The British were also aware that a pipeline from the oilfields of Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean would be an important strategic asset. (This was built after the war, and it terminated at Haifa.) Britain also wanted diplomatic pretexts to keep the French, who had their own forces in the Middle East, out of Palestine. A motivation for occupying Palestine that did not appear purely selfish would suit the British, who invited Jewish leaders to make a proposal. Britain was further aware of the influential Jewish community (including financiers) inside its enemy, Germany, and its allies, the USA and Russia.

      • Of course, some people believe God personally commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites – including civilians, pregnant women, the elderly, the handicapped, children, even animals.

        There is a danger if the narratives of the victors, claiming mandate from God for their actions, are taken to imply exceptional right of occupation for Jewish people and removal of Palestinians from the land… ‘because God desires it’.

        I think we have to be incredibly careful not to make our own ‘end time’ hopes blur the ethics and actions of a State which frankly in 1947 set about ‘occupying the land’ at huge cost to people already living and settled there. I don’t attribute that to God, and I don’t associate ‘the return of a Jewish nation’ to some kind of end times prophecy.

        Equally, while pointing out the assumptive ‘exceptional rights’ to the land, that mis-reading of scripture may lead to… I also accept that any time we talk about ‘ethnic cleansing’ we must be acutely aware that few peoples – probably none – have suffered more from vile ethnic cleansing than the Jewish people themselves.

        I think we need to be hard-headed about Middle East political realities, but I am not sure it helps to deploy scripture (and alleged prophecies about Israel today) if we want to treat all peoples with an even hand.

        Since the introduction of the New Covenant, the chosen people of God come from ALL peoples, not just one. The Jewish people bring many gifts to the world. That does not mean they have ‘exceptional’ rights to the land.

        I have a long-term fondness for many Jewish people. I’ve had Jewish girlfriends. I tried to learn Hebrew when I explored work with CMJ in Jerusalem. I feel tender towards Jewish people, not least for their cultural vulnerability.

        But please no-one use the Bible to try to justify occupation of the land as some inevitable inherent right. As I think Ian has said elsewhere here (if I’ve understood aright), God’s land and God’s ‘Israel’ is not a specific physical land, under the terms of the new covenant. People of all nations are children of Israel now, in the spiritual sense. I don’t think that would change, even if the modern state of Israel ceased to exist, which of course it could, because we live in a dangerous world.

        God alone knows how human history will unfold.

        Reply
        • Are you suggesting that God did *not* command the Israelites to drive out the Canaanites from the land and kill those who refused to leave? It is explicit and unambiguous in the Old Testament and if we cannot trust this episode then how can we trust what purports to be the word of God anywhere else in scripture?

          Reply
          • Anton
            I believe God did command the actions that Saul failed to execute. Do you believe that God would command such actions today?

          • Steve: I’m not sure what you mean by “such actions.” If you mean kill all the Arabs in the Holy Land then No – because the Jews are back there under the Abrahamic covenant, not the Mosaic one. I believe the Jews have divine right to political hegemony throughout the Numbers 34 zone (corresponding roughly to Mandatory Palestine) whenever God permits them to occupy it, as today. But the command to drive out the inhabitants and kill those who did not flee was specific to the entry from Egypt and the Exodus. Today the Jews have no right to dispossess peaceable Arabs from plots of land their families have long farmed. But the Jews have the right to set laws that are fair and to enforce them.

            If by “such actions” you mean something more general, please explain and I’ll attempt to reply.

          • “Are you suggesting that God did *not* command the Israelites to drive out the Canaanites from the land and kill those who refused to leave?”

            Yes.

          • Hi Anton, good morning.

            It’s NOT clear that God commanded the Canaanite children to be slaughtered.

            Given that the God we know in Jesus Christ said ‘Let the children come to me’, and given everything we know about God’s love and compassion, it’s not clear or proven that this same God also said “Slaughter all the children.”

            That pretty obviously raises questions.

            Given that the authors of the Bible were fallible human beings, sure, it’s possible they imagined God was on their side and would want the little kids, the elderly, the vulnerable all slaughtered.

            But it is *their* narrative, *their* words, *their* claims… and as we well know, history is often written by the victors. To claim to have God’s mandate for carrying out terrible crimes is perfectly credible – look at the way the patriarch Kirill gives the backing of God’s Church in Russia to the invasion of Ukraine.

            Obviously that’s an entirely different circumstance, but the slaughter of children is never justifiable.

            Your credulous view that it is (because God says so) could be seen as a way in which scripture, wrongly read, has the power to brutalise our sensitivities and consciences.

            Of course God didn’t order the slaughter of little children.

            These passages are part of the reason why we should recognise the Bible is fallible (because its authors were just humans like you or me) and we need to view the narratives in these contexts, looking for the religious impulse behind their writing, as they try to make sense of encounter, or to build a religious structure of belief… but also, essentially, deploying our own God-given consciences, to try to discern through the Holy Spirit how to receive and use the text… not as literal fax from God, but as human records and attempts at understanding or (in this case) authorising actions which were their own.

            Does that then subvert the whole Bible? No. Just because biblical text is contextual and written by fallible authors does not mean that *all* of it is untrue. Some people are scared that if one single fact of the Bible is fallible, the whole Bible will collapse like a house of cards. It doesn’t. God is still God, and the *true* Word, calling our lives and our consciences into being day by day.

            The Bible is a conduit, through which we learn about God through the experiences and fallible attempts to make sense of mystery, by fallible humans in successive religious communities.

            Of course, as you will probably know well, this is so-called ‘liberal theology’… but my point in the context of Israel and Jewish people is that there are dangers if we set precedents as God-mandated: if the Canaanite children can be slaughtered, then why not other children? Is that really the attitude of God? Or does scripture mishandled end up brutalising, normalising crime (Jephthah’s daughter?), lending mandate to a nation with some sense of divine authority to drive out people already settled in the land, because God gives them ‘exceptional’ authority at times? The slaughter of Canaanite civilians… little children… elderly… vulnerable… girls at the outset of their lives… families… animals… that is *never* alright, and many with a ‘liberal’ theological method would not agree that God commanded those crimes.

            Fundamentalists will think he did… because it must be literally true… but I fear fundamentalists can anaesthetise their God-given consciences, out of desperation to believe that everything *has* to be infallible and true, word by word. It doesn’t. I think we disrespect the Bible if we treat it like that. We also alienate millions of decent truth-seeking people with that literalism.

            Best wishes, Susannah

            What’s far more dangerous

          • Ignore that last line: ‘What’s far more dangerous’. That must have been the start of a sentence I didn’t complete.

          • You are using the principle of non-contradiction in regard to the Bible, which as an evangelical I support! The contradiction you assert is that passages commanding the Israelites to drive out the Canaanites and kill all who won’t go are incompatible with the revelations of God’s love and mercy elsewhere in scripture. It is your conclusion that I disagree with: that those passages are not accurate. The trouble is: your conscience by which you navigate is fallen and that is why we need God’s word; you probably reject Jesus’ words on hell as eternal torment too, so that calls into question the accuracy of all else in the New Testament he is reported as saying; if you start cutting the scriptures like this then you end up like Marcion and everybody has differing views – not so much Bible as Babel.

          • Anton,

            I don’t think any of us have differing views on slaughtering little children, unless we are insane.

            You do realise that slaughtering little children is insanity? Or evil.

            There can be no defence.

            The God I worship is not a psycho.

          • And hell? That is worse than the Canaanite issue, is it not? Yet all we know of it are reports from the lips of Jesus. Are they inaccurate?

          • I’m not going to diverge that far from the topic into a discussion on Hell. I was discussing the impact of the Canaanite murders on mindsets up to the present day, if those crimes are attributed to God’s command. That would set precedent for the ‘sometimes alrightness’ of ethnic cleansing and terrible slaughter of innocent children, if ‘God was on your side’.

            I believe God is NEVER on the side of slaughtering children, and I don’t believe the Jewish people have a divine right to occupy the Holy Lands, whether by ethnic cleansing or by evictions of any kind. That does not mean I have ill will towards Jewish people. I simply don’t think they have ‘exceptional’ rights to the land.

          • Given that the God we know in Jesus Christ said ‘Let the children come to me’,

            No he didn’t.

            I know that he is recorded in the Bible as saying that, but the Bible was written by fallible human beings. They might well have imagined that Jesus would say such a thing, and put those words into his mouth; but Jesus never actually said anything about letting the children come to him.

            That’s exactly the argument you’re using, isn’t it? So care to explain why you think that the one thing recorded in the Bible is accurate and the other isn’t?

      • You might want to read Donald M. Lewis, ‘The Origins of Christian Zionism’, to learn how deeply embedded in 19th century evangelicalism was the conviction that God would soon restore His Jewish people to their ancestral land. Political considerations were brought forward to justify this theological conclusion to those in power who would not be convinced by the prophecies of Scripture, but politics and economics was far from being the underlying motivation of the ‘anglo-saxon empire’ as you call it, with regard to its dealings with the Jewish homeland.

        Reply
        • Many evangelicals then were postmillennialists, and that view certainly drove social reform.

          Do you know if this Christian Zionism was within a postmillennialist framework? If so, that is interesting, since contemporary Christian Zionism appears to me to be uniformly premillennialist.

          Reply
          • Yes, the majority were postmillennial, but the early premillennialists were equally committed to the prophetic hope of restoring the Jewish people to their land. We often get distracted by their views about Revelation, and fail to realise that the ground of their convictions about the Jewish hope was the book of Romans – God’s faithfulness to His promises.

          • … God’s faithfulness to his promises – but just in case, the Good Lord could use a helping hand from the anglo-saxon empire.

        • James Patrick – thanks for this! I was (of course) vaguely aware that `Christian’ religious nutters were essentially responsible for the mess in the Middle East and had some input into the Balfour declaration of 1917, but I wasn’t aware of the details. The book you suggest looks like a good, comprehensive and well written discussion of the subject.

          Of course, they wouldn’t have been able to get away with it without the anglo-saxon empire.

          Reply
          • My reply is for Susannah
            God is not Psychotic.
            So how do you interpret the Flood ? How’s that for psychotic.?!
            I think the problem is that at one extreme premillennialist Zionists want to revive direct action to further the perceived Plan and at the other extreme Liberals want to keep the baby in the bathwater. I believe God did want to destroy the Amalekites. He did destroy with a flood. Eventually He will destroy the earth. We live in the age between two extremes. The Age of Grace is a ceasefire in the midst of a war. The Commander of the Lord’s army is shouting to us holed up in our devastated world fortress. He demands unconditional surrender. “Come out of Babylon” . We should obey, not help by burning down the world like Christian Nationalists want to or assume that because a ceasefire has come all is well.

          • Steve: “So how do you interpret the Flood ?”

            It didn’t happen.

            It’s a myth, and a powerful one.

            It’s speaks to the need to surrender your life to God, and trust God, and give yourself, and go through the storm and let God hold you and carry you. And it speaks of ‘after the storm’, and how we find ourselves released to live in the love of God – pointing both to resurrection, and to how we live daily life after we trust God and let ourselves be carried by God’s love, in loving other people.

            Noah’s Ark is a myth that resonates a fundamental spiritual experience: baptismal ordeal.

            That’s how I interpret the Flood.

            But it never happened. I find it ludicrous to suggest that it did, or that only the creatures on the Ark survived.

            But that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be literally true to carry huge spiritual meaning. Indeed, it carries deeper meaning as a myth.

            To literalise those events is like looking the wrong way down a telescope. You make things smaller, rather than larger. You belittle the narrative, and you belittle the Bible, if you do that.

            You look stupid to onlooking decent, truth-seeking people… because… it’s just not true. It didn’t happen. It’s a story. Open to the imagination, rather than cerebrally inspecting it as nit-picking literal truth.

            best wishes,
            Susannah

  14. Thanks Ian.

    Re (4) I think Paul’s intention is that with the passage of time Jewish distinctives will gradually disappear as Jewish consciences are progressively freed through the gospel. 2 Cor 3

    For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

    Hebrews seems to made the same point as it constantly points to the ‘batter’.

    ‘According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.’

    ‘Until the time of reformation’ (the gospel age) sounded the death knell to the old age of immaturity and shadow.

    ‘ In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.’

    ‘Lay aside every weight’. I wonder if contextually the ‘weight’ is Judaism to which the Jewish converts were clinging.

    Ch 13. ‘Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. ‘

    Most of the allusions here point to Jewish believers leaving aside Judaism. Going to Jesus outside the camp (of Judaism) seems to me a particularly strong injunction for Jewish believers to shed aspects of their Jewishness; this for them would be the reproach of Christ.

    I realise that for messianic Jews this is a big question. Is it possible to be culturally Jewish without being religiously Jewish? In C1 it must have been hard to distinguish between the two. AD 70 changed all that. Judaism was essentially finished. It had lost its nerve centre and was severely truncated.

    Yet, of course, aspects of the festivals still continue and Torah observation keeps Judaism alive. Should Jewish believers continue these aspects of Judaism? I don’t want to be absolute in saying I don’t think they should but that is my inclination, to put it no stronger. It is very hard to say what is acceptable when culture and religion are so integrated. Yet all the trappings of Judaism belong to the shadowlands. Ceremony and ritual which seem concrete and real are in fact shadows which what is unseen is the true reality.

    I thought I had demonstrated conclusively too that ‘Israel’ in Roms 11:26 is ethnic Israel. 🙂

    Reply
    • A thought popped into my mind regarding Jesus fulfilling the law. Is it a bit like Cinderella’s glass slipper? Only Jesus can fill it although everyone was encouraged to try it on.
      Thus the Law was never going to ‘fit’ and justice was seen to be done when Jesus put it on. And, the Beatitudes are robes only He could wear. He was laying out his wardrobe, so to speak. In Him we get to wear His clothes…. just an aside from a very interesting read 🙂

      Reply
    • The Torah was revealed by God as His good gift to the one nation He had chosen from among all nations on earth to be his “special treasure”. He delighted in them, and He gave them a perfect and life-giving set of instructions, governing every aspect of their existence. He revealed Himself through His laws, and He fed them with knowledge and understanding and wisdom.

      It is for this reason that David could say, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O God; Your Law is within my heart!” (Ps 40:7-8). The writer of Psalm 119 could not be more effusive about his delight and joy in the Torah of God, and of course, Jesus kept the entire Law joyfully and without any hint of legalism.

      The problem, as Jesus pointed out to the scribes of the Law, was that “you search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me, and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). The source of life was not the Torah itself, but the God who revealed Himself through the Torah. The revelation of God, whether Old Testament or New Testament, is lifeless without the living and active Spirit who empowers us to fulfil God’s commands by His grace.

      Consequently, there is still abundant joy and life and revelation of God’s heart and truth to be found in the detailed commands of the Law of Moses, though of course this was specifically given as a treasure to the Jewish people. Paul rebuked those who presumed to be “teachers of the Law” without even understanding the purpose of the Law (1Tim 1:3-11), and he himself continued to observe the festivals and customs of the Law even as a believer in Messiah (Acts 18:18; 20:6, 16; 27:9), though not if it would interfere with the life-giving proclamation of the gospel of Messiah (1Cor 9:20-22). This is still legally acceptable even within orthodox rabbinic Judaism, because almost all laws can be broken if it is for the purpose of saving a life (except immorality, idolatry, and murder).

      For us who are Gentiles, we should strongly resist any attempts to make us submit to the Law, which was never intended for us anyway (Galatians, Colossians). But nevertheless, the Law of the Spirit of Life transforms our lives and writes God’s laws upon our hearts, whether we are Jewish or Gentile. Let’s allow the Jewish people to discover God’s delight in the Law that He graciously gave to them, and not try to ‘de-Judaise’ the Jewish people, depriving them of their God-given identity as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. We do not want to risk the judgement of Jesus regarding His own Jewish people, that “whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:19).

      Reply
      • Anton,
        Sorry, I try to be succinct but end up being vague. I had in mind the slaughter of everybody and everything belonging to Amalek. Your answer was clear. I agree. My worry , I suppose, is that politically active Christians today seem to use the O.T. as a justification to ‘make things happen’ .

        Reply
        • Steve: Please see elsewhere on the thread my comment that the Jews are back in the land under the Abrahamic covenant, not the Mosaic, and certainly do *not* have divine right to slaughter Arabs there. I believe they have divine right to set and enforce fair laws on an Arab population that may be reluctant, however.

          Reply
          • Yes, I’ve read your interesting comment about Abraham. It triggered an aside to James. Still thinking about it….
            Thanks

      • Patrick

        Much you say is helpful, however, I am not convinced of the legitimacy of living by the mosaic covenant even for Jews. I think Acts is a kind of transition period. Hebrews seems to me to argue that a time must come as Jewish believers move to maturity where the OC must be left behind, Going to Christ outside the camp is a call to leave Judaism behind (Hebs 13).

        Even in Roms 14 law-keeping belongs to the weaker conscience. I think you are misusing Matt 5:19. It has to be understood within its redemptive-historical setting. It is certainly not a text to condemn anyone who tries to persuade his Jewish brother that the law is fulfilled in Christ and that he has died to it (Roms 7).

        Reply
    • I cannot think of passages where “children of God” refers to humans in general or Gentile nations, as opposed to those whom God has chosen to be His children – the Jewish nation, and now also Gentiles chosen in the Jewish Messiah. In that case, “scattered children” makes little sense as a reference to Gentile believers, but far more sense as a description of the exiled Jewish people. Ditto in 1Peter 1:1 – written by one of the “apostles to the Jews” (Gal 2:8) to a Jewish audience primarily, even if there were a minority of God-fearers present among the Messianic Jewish synagogues that Peter had been planting.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the additional clarifications. I’ll leave it at that.

        As an aside It occurs to me that God was prepared to call humanity ‘sons of God’ up to the time of the flood and then He differentiates as the plan of salvation progresses. Abraham was ‘friend’ the Israelites were ‘children’ but Jesus brings us closer as ‘brothers’ and then even part of His body. We come full circle in Him as Sons of God.
        However it works, we are in Him, I’m glad.

        Reply
  15. This of course applies not just to Anti-Semitism but to all historic and current forms of racism.

    I guess it is right to say a ritual act of repentance is pretty empty if all it is doing is saying sorry for sins committed generations ago and confessing this to God and the public. It’s not much more than virtue signalling.

    BUT.. it is right for the Church as an institution, and probably also for the UK state / nation to offer..

    Public RECOGNITION that anti-semitism, slavery and many other acts of the Imperial period were an evil injustice.

    To consider RESTITUTION (a Biblical concept) and REPARATIONS as a way, if only as a token, of setting right some of the damage that was done, and the violence, theft and exploitation perpetrated centuries ago, the fruits of which we in the UK and other Imperial nations still enjoy.

    To commit to REFORMATION of current and more recent attitudes and practices in Church and society which are clearly RACIST in personal and corporate (institutional) ways. This perhaps is where self examination, confession, change of mind and behaviour is most important, and maybe what constitutes the most important and relevant REPENTANCE.

    (you can tell I was trained as a Methodist preacher from the alliteration of my key points!)

    Reply
    • I’m curious as to what acts of anti-semitism in the Imperial period you are considering. The earliest that you might consider the British Empire to start would be, perhaps, the late 16th Century with the establishment of colonies in N. America. However, it really only got going properly in the 18th Century, and I think that it was Victoria who was the first to be named ‘Empress’ or ‘Emperor’.

      I think that Jews were welcomed back into Britain in the 17th Century by Oliver Cromwell, possibly.

      Reply
  16. The British empire was one of a whole series of empires in history. It is difficult to weigh up whether its influence on the colonies was a net good or bad. Every nation more or less was involved in slavery and the slave trade, Black Africans sold black Africans into slavery. Male slaves who were taken by Moslems were castrated so they could not procreate which is why there are few blacks descended from slaves in Arab countries today,

    The British empire brought the slave trade to an end despite the cost to itself. At huge cost it patrolled the seas to intercept and capture slave ships from Brazil and other countries which still practised slavery, It seems to be a matter of some doubt as to whether slavery for Britain was a net gain or loss.

    Apart from other considerations I think a victim mentality (receiving reparations) is the last thing that African Americans need. They need to take responsibility for their own future and seek to carve it out. The present exaggerated difficulties of African Americans is not due to racism but absent fathers.

    Reply
  17. Absent fathers was a huge problem in black families before it began to be a problem in white families. Even now as I understand it black famines have a higher percentage of absent fathers.

    Reply
  18. We should remember that slavery was permitted under Mosaic law and was not condemned in the NT. We should remember too that the life of a slave in the south was longer than the life of a worker in the mills in the north of England.

    Was the mill worker in the north of England responsible for slavery? Was he a free man to be envied>. I’m not condoning slavery it was an appalling practice and often an appalling life. I’m simply pointing out that the issues are far from clear when it comes to defining historical wrongs and apportioning blame.

    The NT condemns slave traders but not slavery as an institution.

    Reply
    • Peter J Williams has identified a change in biblical language from servant to slave.
      Indeed when I studied law employment law and the some of the law of tort, was under the heading of Master and Servant.

      Reply
  19. Jock,
    I think exploring how prophesy gets fulfilled is important.
    Judas Iscariot asked “is it I” and Jesus confirmed him but Judas wasn’t commended for being an agent of change.
    This makes me think that It is possible to be at the cutting edge of word history but still not in fellowship with God.
    Ultimately all the minor juggling over Palestine will result in a temple being built on Temple Mount. Zionists will ask Jesus “should The Temple be built?” And the answer will be “yes…”.
    But they won’t hang around to hear “…to fulfil prophesy.”
    When the Abomination takes over they won’t feel elated to have facilitated prophesy.

    So it was bad that Judas tried to force God’s hand. The Stone he was trying to move crushed him. “A little knowledge is a bad thing.” A poor understanding of prophesy is likewise. Zealots have a narrow field of view.

    Reply
  20. Thank you for this very positive article.
    It is notable how little neutral attention is given to what Paul actually says about the Jews.

    In this respect, Rosner’s book, “Paul and the Law”, gives a valuable perspective on the relative positions of Jew and Gentile in Paul’s time. Unusually, his argument proceeds by showing how the Christian situation in relation to the Law is the obverse to that of the Jews. They are still the people to whom the oracles were given and still are under the law, whereas Christians are not.

    He writes:

    “Paul does three things with the law and each one must be fully heard without prejudicing the others: (1) polemical repudiation; (2) radical replacement; and (3) whole-hearted reappropriation (in two ways). These respectively correspond to treating the law as legal code, theological motif and source for expounding the gospel and for doing ethics. When describing Paul’s view of the law, too often scholars notice only one or at best two of these impulses and minimize, ignore or deny the other(s). All three moves occupy a vital place in what Paul says about and does with the law. (p.39)”

    Rosner writes:
    “In the following analysis of Paul’s letters I seek to establish three points.
    1. Jews are those who are ‘under the law’, meaning that they are ‘bound by the demands of the Mosaic law code and subject to its sanctions’.
    2. Gentiles are not and were never ‘under the law’. Even though the second point follows logically from the first (if Jews are those who are ‘under the law’, then Gentiles are not), certain texts are widely seen as contradicting it. Part of my discussion below is thus a defence of Paul’s consistency of usage with respect to the phrase.
    3. If for Paul being ‘under the law’ can have a neutral sense, simply referring to Jewish identity (as in point one above), it can also carry more ominous and negative connotations: ‘under the law’ can be equivalent to being ‘under the penalty and power of sin’, and is thus something from which Jews need to be released (and something to which being under grace can be favourably contrasted). The semantic range of ‘under the law’ is analogous to Paul’s use of ‘flesh’. Just as sarx in Paul’s letters refers simply to the human body but at other points denotes the ‘sinful nature’, so too ‘under the law’ can point to either neutral or negative statuses depending on the context.” (p. 48)

    Although Rosner does not make a point of it, his book helps us see the Jews as Paul saw them. Paul did not hate the Jews. He loved them.

    1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. Romans 9:1-5

    The Jews however are still under the Abrahamic Covenant which promised 1. Offspring, 2, land, and 3. blessing and favor.

    In their diaspora, they have arguably been a blessing to every country which gave them shelter. Presently the Jews are demonstrably gathering in Palestine or Israel.
    Some people think that this is the end-time. Many do not. But if the Jews are to be driven from Israel now, they will find refuge again as they always have.

    By their very existence, they testify to the Law of Moses. Wherever they go they will take that Law and be witness to it until all the Gentiles have come in. That is the Christian Hope. In this sense, and others, the Jews are and have been a gift to mankind.

    Reply
    • Thanks—really helpful. I agree with his observation about the three ways in which Paul treats the law, though very wary of the term ‘replacement’. I think Roland Deines is right here; where the law had primacy in the past, now it plays a supporting role, and Jesus has centre stage.

      We need to take seriously that Paul draw on the law in particular, and the OT in general, and appeared to think that it was now the Scriptures for gentile converts.

      But note, Paul makes absolutely nothing of the role of the land for ethnic Jews in any of his writings.

      Reply
  21. Ian, I do not deny that all is fulfilled is Jesus. What I have great difficulty with is when you declaim that “Jesus is now ‘the land’ ” – and then followed by the term ‘Israel’. The use of inverted commas is a clear indication of a transition from the literal to the figurative where there is no justification for it except through a particular lens which makes no allowances the breadth and depth of prophet insights including those incorporated by Luke in his gospel. And this is the root of a methodology that has permeated so much of evangelical thought. As I have written before re Morris’s commentary ; specifically relating to the song of Zechariah. According to Morris, even though it speaks of Israel (physical?) being redeemed and being”rescued from the hand of its enemies” (physical?) we are exhorted to see it as” *religious* rather than *political*.” I firmly believe that all is focused in Jesus Christ – but not at the expense of transforming physical realities that have been initiated by God the Father into “spiritual/ etherea” substitutes!

    Reply
    • ‘The use of inverted commas is a clear indication of a transition from the literal to the figurative where there is no justification for it’. I am not suggested a move to the figurative, but the theological. And there is plenty of justification.

      Paul himself uses ‘Israel’ to mean Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus at the end of Galatians. In Romans 2, the heart of his argument is that ‘a Jew is not one who is a Jew outwardly’ and that gentiles who do right are ‘a law unto themselves’ ie they are effectively ‘Jews’ whilst not changing their ethnicity. Rev 7 claims that spiritual Israel are actually from ‘every tribe language people and nation’.

      And the transfer of the term ekklesia from a description of Israel in the OT to a description of followers of Jesus does the same work.

      Reply
      • And what is meant by the “theological” – particularly when we see the term *spiritual Israel*is employed as a direct connection between Rev7: 1-8 and verse 9 onwards? I prefer Richard Bauckham’s take on this; while seeking to maintain what he sees as an underlying reality between the two sections, he also notes that the list of 12 tribes begins with reference to Judah ( the tribe of Jesus). Consequently he refers back to chapter 5, thereby *distinguishing* those who follow “the Lion of Judah, the root of David” from – “every tribe and language and people and nation”[5:9] – those “purchased” with the blood of Christ .

        Romans 2 – re “a Jew who is not a Jew outwardly”: does this not echo the prophet Jeremiah when he declares against Judah ,”This is what the Lord says to the men of Judah and Jerusalem —– “circumcise yourselves to the Lord,circumcise your *hearts* you men of Judah and pe0ple of Jerusalem.[4:3 – 4]?And likewise, ” The days are coming says the Lord ‘when I will punish all who are circumcised only *in the flesh*[9: 25]”
        Is the language here *theological*? *Spiritual?Or even *literal*? Whatever, the prophet is in no way denying the existence of *physical* Israel for the sake of a *spiritual* kingdom ! Nor for that matter is Paul when he changes terminology from “the Jews” in Romans 2 to “the people of Israel” in chapters 9 – 11! Yes,he even admits that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel[9:6]” But the literal context is emphatically established in 9:1 – 5 !

        Finally re Galatians 6:16 : John Stott in his commentary *Only one way * dogmatically asserts that the *kai* in this verse”should be translated as *even* not *and*, or be omitted as in the RSV.” And this in spite of the fact that kai translates much more frequently in/the NT as *and* not *even*!
        Moreover, he (Stott)doesn’t appear to allow for the context of verse 12; which surely cannot imply that the Judaizers in their desire to *continue* the practice of *circumcision* are referring to fellow Jews? Verses 12 and following must apply to Gentiles. The expression “those who follow this rule” must mean, in the first instance Gentile converts. And If we allow for the possibility that *kai =and*, *the Israel of God* probably refers instance to *Jewish* believers. I do not believe there is any ground here for dogmatically asserting as Stott does that the expression can be equated with the church particularly when he pontificates thus,” God’s people, God’s ‘Israel’ are said to ‘walk by the rule’. ” Once again theological agument is subjected to inverted commas!However if we wish to maintain this position, then it’s the only occasion on which this or equivelant terminology re Israel actually occurs in the *text* of Scripture.

        Reply
        • Are you suggesting that those who ‘follow the lion of the tribe of Judah’ are *not* purchased by the blood of Christ? So there are two ways of being saved—either being Jewish, or being redeemed by his death…??

          The allusion to Jeremiah simply demonstrates that being a member of Israel was *never* merely about outward observance. So Paul is arguing in Romans that the inclusion of gentiles as gentiles is the logical outworking of everything the Scriptures say.

          On Gal 6.16, the NET notes are helpful:

          The word “and” (καί) can be interpreted in two ways: (1) It could be rendered as “also” which would indicate that two distinct groups are in view, namely “all who will behave in accordance with this rule” and “the Israel of God.” Or (2) it could be rendered “even,” which would indicate that “all who behave in accordance with this rule” are “the Israel of God.” In other words, in this latter view, “even” = “that is.”

          I don’t agree with you that ‘those who follow this rule’ are gentiles. The ‘rule’ is ‘neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation’ which applies to all.

          Outside of Rom 9–11, the term ‘Israel’ is not very common in Paul. But note:

          a. ‘Israel according to the flesh’ Ἰσραὴλ κατὰ σάρκα in 1 Cor 10.18. Why does Paul add ‘according to the flesh’ if the term was not ambiguous?

          b. Eph 2.12 ‘remember when…you were excluded from citizenship in Israel’, which implies they are indeed now citizens in the new Israel in Jesus.

          c. Note the promise of the ‘new covenant with the House of Israel’ in Heb 8.10, from Jer 31. This is the covenant in which we are included, yet it is a ‘covenant with Israel’. The NT sees no separate covenant.

          d. In Rev 7, the majority of commentators agree with me in noting the mutual relationship between what John hears and what he sees, including Bauckham. This is pretty compelling to identify those ‘from the tribes of Israel’ with those ‘from every tribe, language, people and nation’. Besides, if the latter group are ‘from every nation’, that must include Israel itself.

          But I note you have not responded to the re-use of ekklesia to refer to all followers of Jesus together, a term previous applied to Israel.

          Reply
          • For me two things clinch Gals 6:16 ‘Israel of God’ as a reference to the church. The first is that since Paul is at great pains to show Jew and gentile are one people with equal standing in opposition to the Judaizers then it is inconceivable he would bring the letter to a head dividing them into two groups – ‘those who walk by this rule’ and ‘the Israel of God’. This would be to build up what he had been at pains to break down.

            Secondly the title is deliberately used as a polemic against those who believed that ethnic Israel was the ‘Israel of God’. Paul insists the ‘Israel of God’ is the church. In the same way Paul speaks in Philippians of the church as ‘the true circumcision’ against a background of Judaizers. Peter speaks of the church as ‘chosen people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, people for a possession’ etc titles that specifically belong to Israel.

  22. Para 1 Absolutely not! I am referring to the sentence beginning : ” The spiritual Israel are actually from every —–. Once again the use of a preconceived term “spiritual Israel” and secondly you have not referred to the distinction the RB has made re Ch.5
    Para 2 No quarrel with what you say in second sentence. However you’ve completely missed the point in my reference to Jeremiah.
    Re Galatians 6:16 I take that you qualify equating the rule with verse 15 by using inverted commas. Clearly this verse cannot be defined as an actual rule.
    Ephesians 2: 12 What I see in the NIV following on from verse 12 says nothing re “being citizens of a new Israel in Jesus” Theis is simply eisegesis – not least with the importation of “new Israel”
    Hebrews 8:10 ” The NT sees no separate covenant” I have never on any previous occasion said that it did! Once again you have missed the drift. If as you keep maintaining, we are now dealing with the New Israel, why is this term (or some equivelant)not replacing, in the writer of the Hebrew’s virtually verbatim quote from Jeremiah, a new term that embraces the new situation? Or is the New Israel now in competion with the Old Israel?
    Re Romans 9 – 11 (et al) I don’t quarrel with your quotes. However the brevity of “the term “Israel” is not very common in Paul.” Really! Well its a heck of a lot more common than “New Israel”!
    Re Ekklesia! I”m ready now for a sleep. Perhaps its because of the structure of the sentence incorporated!

    Blessings

    Reply
  23. Hi Susannah,
    Thanks for replying with a straight up answer. I suppose we are all on a spectrum somewhere. At one end , the flat earthers. Who believe Jesus saw all the earth in an instant from the top of a mountain and humanists ( for want of a more accurate word) who thing the Bible is just one long myth foe religious instruction.
    I think that Noah existed, saved his family from a flood in Mesopotamia on a large raft. Spent a year floating around and beached up somewhere. Probably an exceptional flood caused by the final throws of the Ice Age. It’s main function to me is to symbolise Jesus death , the baptism he was baptised with. By believing in Him we are taken into Him to be kept safe when the flood of sin takes everyone else away.
    Ancient language had few words that were used to describe a simple world. It would be interesting to find a translation that took this into consideration. Then instead of ‘the whole earth’ we could have ‘ the world known to Noah’, or some such.
    Am I just twisting the plain reading, I hope not. I’m trying to put the best construct on it to maintain my intellectual credibility…to myself.
    I still maintain that God has the last word on life or death whatever age we are.
    If I gave you a lift in my car I would be taking responsibility for your life as well as my own. In Christ He takes responsibility for us. Outside everybody takes their lives in their own hands. They are responsible for themselves and those travelling with them. The Amalekites opposed and tried to thwart Gods promises to look after the children of Israel.
    In Him is Life. It could be said that outside of Him everything is dead already.

    Reply
    • Steve,

      Thank you, in return, for your straight up answer.

      I agree with you that there is a strong connection between the Noah/Flood/New Beginning narrative… and the baptismal ordeal of Jesus, which involved death, burial, and resurrection.

      Likewise, the Bible narrative suggests that we must also be baptised with the baptism Jesus was baptised with, “by which He meant His death”.

      In short, the call to Christians is to die to self, to give ourselves up to God in trust, and to live each day in the power of the Holy Spirit.

      The imagery (and fundamental spiritual principle) of the baptism ordeal recurs several times in the Bible…

      Noah, the Lion’s Den, the Firy Furnace, and of course the Passover, and the exodus through the Red Sea. Then there are passages like Isaiah’s… “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you… when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned… Do not be afraid, I am with you… you are precious and honoured in my sight.”

      Isn’t that wonderful?

      And of course, there is that other precurser of the baptism of Jesus – the one sign Jesus homes in on – the account of Jonah and the Whale.

      Now, I don’t believe there was intention in the authors of the NT texts to allude specifically to Jesus, who they had never even heard of. Rather, baptismal ordeal is a fundamental spiritual principle that runs so deep that they picked up on its resonance.

      And it found its fulfilment and greatest revelation in Jesus Christ.

      We are called to entrust our lives to God, to die to self in givenness to God, to receive the Holy Spirit (the flow of the power of Love in our daily lives…)

      …and to take up our Cross each day and follow Jesus.

      That bit is costly, of course. But it enlarges our lives, as we open to the God within us.

      So to me, I don’t really care whether there was a real Noah, in an ark or on a raft as you put it. Personally I think the whole story is a myth, a story, which carries the deep resonance of this deep spiritual imperative.

      As Christians who have encountered Jesus, the heart of the matter is: do we open our hearts, and entrust ourselves to God, and die to self in the name of God’s Love? Today, tomorrow, and all the way into eternity.

      God bless you on your journey.

      Reply
  24. I am a Messianic Jew. There is much that is good and useful in this piece. I was however surprised to see Dr Paul referring to “messianic” Jews in the lower case and in speech marks. This is how the Jewish Chronicle refers to us!

    The term Messianic Jew (capitalised and without scare quotes) has been common coinage since at least the early 90s, when a book of that title by John Fieldsend (a Holocaust survivor and Anglican minister) was published by Monarch Press. There are obvious reasons why the Jewish Chronicle might want to put the m in lower case and use scare quotes but Christian theologians who believe Jesus is the Messiah ought not to go down the same track!

    Reply
  25. You would have hoped that for an article on how not to be anti-Semitic ‘Step 1: Don’t do Marcionism‘ would have been so obvious as to not need spelt out, but there we are.

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  26. If I have to ‘repent’ for the Synod of Oxford’s anti-Semitism, this must be on the basis that I should ‘identify’ with that Synod. I do live in the diocese of Oxford, and I am on the electoral roll of an Anglican church. However, in my opinion the institution of the Church of England is spiritually bankrupt and in any case I do not conceive of my identity in relation to being a member of the Oxford diocese. Let fellow bishops so identify if they wish. I feel obliged to identify as a member of my local church, but again with much misgiving. While the call to repent must be because, racially or culturally, I have more in common with the Oxford Synod than say a Christian living in Nairobi, I do not and cannot. To me the call exemplifies the spiritual bankruptcy.

    Anti-Jewish feeling is of course bad, whether theologically grounded or otherwise. But if there is a call to repent for such things 800 years ago, this call will have to be repeated in every generation to the end of time. And what other sins perpetrated by past generations must I repent of because of my identity? The list is potentially endless.

    Meanwhile, is the Chief Rabbi calling on all Jews to repent for their forbears’ persecution of Christians in the first and second centuries (e.g. Matt 23:34)?

    Reply
  27. Regarding ‘the Law’. This consists of various elements: (1) the ten commandments, governing Israel’s relationship with God and the individual’s behaviour towards his fellow man, (2) more particular laws governing behaviour, (3) food laws, and (4) laws governing when and how to sacrifice, so as to atone for impurity and every kind of sin. It was the nation’s legal system. Some say that it amounted to more than 600 laws, as if this were a large number, but this is as nothing compared to the number of laws in our own country, which grow every year.

    ‘The Law’ was given to Israel because every nation needs a set of laws. And it was given in the context of a covenant. However, the covenant was not “Obey all these laws perfectly and you will live”, not in the sense of “have eternal life”. The covenant was “Be faithful to these laws and I will bless you in the land that you are entering; otherwise – when my patience runs out – you will be expelled”. The sacrificial system dealt with the problem of not being able to obey the laws fully, because we are all sinners.

    Jesus made clear in the Sermon on the Mount that he had not come to abolish the law, because it is God’s standard of righteousness, and we should be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect. Indeed, fully understood, commandments 5–10 were not just about actions affecting other people but about the state of a person’s heart. The Law, in this respect, continues to demand righteousness of the highest order. Grace is the free gift of perfect righteousness, with this end in view that, having been forgiven, we might strive to emulate that perfect righteousness.

    The food laws are a separate issue. I have not thought deeply about them, but my starting point would be that God did not originally create any animal life for food. Later he did allow animals to be killed for food (Gen 9:3). In the Torah this relaxation was made more restrictive, for reasons I don’t fully understand, but God relaxed it again in Acts 10:15, albeit in a context that is more about Jews’ keeping themselves separate from Gentiles.

    I don’t understand the question about Messianic Jews keeping the Law. We should all keep (1) and (2), (3) has been relaxed for everyone, and with the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 it has been impossible for any Jew, Messianic or Orthodox, to keep (4).

    Reply
    • Steven

      ‘This do and live’ (Lev 18:5) is considered by Paul to express the fundamental principle of the law (Galatians 3:12; 10:5); that principle was life granted on the basis of obedience or works and works that kept the whole law – an impossibility that brought God’s curse (Galatians 3:10). By contrast the righteous live by faith (Galatians 3:11). It is clear in the context of Galatians that ‘life’ is eternal life. If a law had been given that could give life then righteousness would indeed be by the law (Galatians 3:21). The law that promised life delivered death (Roms 7:10)

      In Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler it is clear that the ‘life’ promised by the law is understood to be ‘eternal life’. The young ruler asks ‘what good deed must I do to have eternal life’ (Matthew 19:16). Jesus replies ‘If you would enter life keep the commandments’ (Matthew 19:17). Clearly there is an eschatological fulfilment of the law that surpasses simply life in the land.

      I would add that the law was a covenant. If not kept completely ten he covenant was broken. This is why it was important for Jewish believers to be delivered from the law through death. At a covenantal level Jewish believers are no longer obligated to the covenant stipulations and by that I mean ALL its stipulations. Covenant partners cannot pick and choose. If in covenant relationship they are subject to its demands and if free from the covenant are subject to none.

      Thus believing Jews and for that matter believing gentiles are not subject to the Ten Commandments or any other of the Law’s commands. We are not called to keep the Sabbath etc. We are not under the covenant law ‘Do not covet’ for we are free from the law (Cf. Romans 7:7). If we approached such an ethic as a covenant rule it would simply produce all kinds of covetousness and a sentence of death (Romans 7:7-12)

      Of course believers make it their aim not to covet but they do so as those who have died to sin and live to righteousness. They do so depending on the Holy Spirit to produce such fruit as they walk by his power.

      I think you need to give more weight to the eschatological aim and terminus of the law.

      Reply
      • You seem to have missed the fact that I was referring to the Law as set out in the Torah. It was impossible for Israelites to interpret the Torah in the light of Galatians, since the latter was not written until 1500 years later.

        The young ruler asks ‘what good deed must I do to have eternal life’ (Matthew 19:16). Jesus replies ‘If you would enter life keep the commandments’ (Matthew 19:17). Clearly there is an eschatological fulfilment of the law that surpasses simply life in the land.
        The young ruler is asking about eternal life, not explicitly about the Law. Jesus replies by referring to the (ten) commandments, the gold standard of righteousness. Given my own reference to Matt 5:48, I don’t see what point you are making.

        I would add that the law was a covenant.
        You might have noticed that I said that the Law was given in the context of a covenant.

        If not kept completely ten he covenant was broken.
        No, that is your retrospective reading of it in the light of your reading of Galatians. It’s not what the Law itself says, and indeed the Law itself prescribes a sacrificial system to deal with occasions when it is broken.

        Of course believers make it their aim not to covet but they do so as those who have died to sin and live to righteousness.
        Yes. But more than that, God requires us to live righteously. That means we are called to keep the Sabbath, not to covet, not to steal, not to murder – and, as Jesus says, not just outwardly, in doing or not doing the actions, but inwardly.

        The aim of the law is that “you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers” (Deut 8:1). There is, also, what you call an ‘eschatological aim’, as per Deut 30. At the end of the age God will raise Israel from their graves and circumcise their hearts, and then they will love Yahweh their God with all their heart and soul, and live (Deut 30:6).

        For more on this, you will need to read my book, particularly pp 130f, 159f, 250–264.

        Reply
  28. Could you point me to the verse or verses in the NT which say with any clarity that ethnic Jews will return to the physical land of Israel?

    The OT is just as much Scripture as the NT, and the Law and the Prophets speak numerous times about the return to the physical land. The idea that Jesus is the Land is supersessionist and it, certainly, does not have the support of any verse or verses in the NT.

    As for NT references to the return, the obvious place is Matt 24:15-20. The parable of the fig tree, although it requires interpretation, is nonetheless a clear prediction that Israel will be restored as a nation to the land. That is why When the Towers Fall: A Prophecy of What Must Happen Soon should be taken seriously.

    Reply

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