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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

From Hebraic roots to Greek philosophy!

Just today, I came across some notes that I had prepared for a series of talks on the topic: "From Hebraic roots to Greek philosophy!" Sadly, the group with which I had hoped to share those talks was unable to meet as regularly as had been envisaged, and the talks were never given.

As I read over them, I sensed that it might be of interest to some of those who regularly read these posts, to gain some insight into the topic. It is my plan, therefore, to share the notes - expanded, and in suitably-sized sections - on this blog. I hope that they will be helpful - and, perhaps, even eye-opening!

The plan was to look at some parts of HaTorah (the first five books of the Tanakh - the Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament in the Christian Bible) from a Jewish perspective – and to try to discover how they relate to the Brit Chadashah (the New Testament).  However, it is necessary to begin with a brief lesson in Church History in order to understand that the church, before it was too many centuries in existence, lost its Hebraic roots.

I began to realise this when a friend introduced me, some years ago, to the writings of a Messianic Jew (i.e. a Jew who accepts that Yeshua [Jesus] is HaMashiach [the Messiah]) by the name of Steve Maltz. It was his writings that made me realise how far the church has moved from the true Brit Chadashah church of the early apostles. I freely acknowledge my indebtedness to Steve Maltz, and also to another writer, Victor Schlatter, who has written in a similar vein although from a specifically Christian perspective.

I would not have had time to provide even a basic résumé of the six books that I have read - and certainly would not be able to do so on this blog! What I hope to share is only the scratch on the scratch on the scratch on the surface. But we start, as Novice Maria might say, at the beginning, because that’s a very good place to start (that only makes sense if you know the story "The Sound of Music"!).

The early disciples, of course, were virtually all Jews. After all, Jesus was a Jew, and He Himself told a woman of Syro-Phoenicia: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”! (Mt.15:24). The first nine chapters of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles centres around the apostles’ ministry to the Jewish people and to the conversion of Jews – including a Pharisee by the name of Saul - and Samaritans and Proselytes (converts to Judaism).

Then we come to ch.10, and a new phase in the spread of the Gospel through the conversion of the Roman centurion, Cornelius. Surely a time for rejoicing! Not according to Acts 11! "Now the apostles and the brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticised him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” But Peter began and explained to them ... ... As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptised with water, but you shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” When they heard this they were silenced. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life.”" 

Fast forward to ch 15. Some of those who have become known as “Judaisers”, were still at work. "But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question." This first major conference/summit of the leaders of the church had been convened to address one issue – the Gentile (non-Jew) problem! It was much easier when God was drawing believers out of only His ancient chosen people – and one or two who had “adopted” Judaism. After all, He was their God, wasn’t He? They were the custodians of the Law and the writings of the prophets; they were the children of the Covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; they bore the mark of circumcision. What did Gentiles know of the things of God?!

It had been a hard lesson – but that same God had made it abundantly clear, through Peter’s dealings with Cornelius, that even the Gentiles had a future in the plan and purpose of God! Perhaps they remembered the words of the prophets: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Is.49:6). 

You may read the record in Acts, but the end-result of this first Church Council was an open invitation, from the Jewish leadership to the Gentiles: “Jesus is for you, too. Let’s move forward together”. And most of the rest of the record in Acts shows Saul – now known as Paul – established as “the apostle to the Gentiles”, and his letters are to Gentile churches, most of which he, and his associates, founded.

Well, that's probably enough for this post but, if you are at all interested, do keep an eye out for the next "instalment"! There may, indeed, be some "eye-opening" information!!

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