Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Eight things Judaizing is NOT

1. One who believes and teaches that all Old Testament scriptures are God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness unto the completion of the Christian man of God is not a Judaizer (2 Tim.3:16)

2. One who believes that the Law of God- in a certain, decisively continuous sense with the Old Testament- is still normative, at least with respect to revealing guilt and demonstrating the perfect standard of right behavior (not to mention testifying about the righteousness of faith) is not a Judaizer (Jas 2:8-12; Mt.5:17-19; 3:20).

3. One who believes that everything written in the past was put down by God's will for the instruction of the Church is not a Judaizer (Rom.15:4).

4. One who believes that certain men of the Old Testament were truly given faith and thus serve as examples and witnesses to the Christian community (including their conquering of kingdoms, administering public justice, routing foreign armies and becoming powerful in battle...all of which occurred through faith) is not a Judaizer (Heb.11:33-34).*

5. One who believes that proper ethical systems can indeed be developed from the Old Testament scriptures, in certain cases even normatively, is not a Judaizer (1 Cor.10:1-11; Mk.2:25-26; 1 Tim.5:18-20).

6. One who believes that the whole of the work of God as recorded in the Old Testament is perfect, blameless and holy is not a Judaizer (cf. the New Testament).

7. One who believes that the rulers and magistrates of today are appointed by God with the administration of justice and the sword is not a Judaizer (Rom.13:1-7; Mt.5:21-22, 25-26; Ac.25:11).

8. One who believes that this work of God is good, holy, blameless, and in total agreement with the will of Jesus is not a Judaizer (Jn 6:38; Rev.15:3-4).

* I publish no.4 with some reserve and hesitancy. It may be that the scripture in Hebrews 11 is not meant to establish these acts of salvation history as repeatable. Nevertheless, they are certainly commendable.


Theophilus said...

Anyone who ignores Jesus' refrain "You have heard it said... But I say unto you..." by appealing to the normative qualities of the Old Testament is most certainly a Judaizer. (Matt. 5:21-48, Heb. 1:1-2)

Emerson Fast said...

'cept that there isn't scholarly consensus as to the object of the refrain. "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy" isn't even an Old Testament scripture. Craig Keener does some marvelous work in exegeting these passages.

I take my definition of a Judaizer from scripture. She is one who teaches that one must keep the whole law of God in order to be found righteous (Gal.5:3-4). She is one who propels the believer to the mindset that "the one who does these things will live by them."

The law brings death, and not one jot or tittle of it can pronounce a man just before God. Yet in this very conundrum the law is not lacking in goodness or holiness or truth (Rom.7:7-20). Again, since Jesus sanctifies the magistrates use of the sword in Rom.13:4 I really have a tough time believing that one is guilty of Judaizing for agreeing with Him.

Theophilus said...

I'm speaking to something a whole lot broader than the violence question. I'm saying that compared to Jesus' ethics, those of the Old Testament are primitive and notably more lax. The righteousness to which we are called by Jesus is all that is contained in the Law and more.

On the violence question, you seem willfully blind to the words of Jesus himself and stubbornly resist considering that there may not actually be any daylight between Paul's writings and the Gospel accounts. Such a reading denies Jesus and mocks Paul's claim to "proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord." (2 Cor. 4:5)

Emerson Fast said...
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Emerson Fast said...
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Emerson Fast said...

You are correct in saying that Jesus calls us to a righteousness much higher than the law. He calls us to Himself and nothing more. Christ is the very Righteousness we are called to. "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life." This also means that he calls us to rest; to an easy yoke and a light burden, to take up our crosses daily in the infinite power of the Spirit of God and in that very confession of faith find abundant rest for our souls.

The Old Testament may be primitive, but I would be loathe to call it lax. I suggest that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is nothing other than God's own interpretation of His own eternal law. It has strict parallels with the precepts of Torah, as it should (Mt.5:17-20). Even the command of love towards enemies reflects the precept found in Prov.25:21,22. Also Lev.19:18 and Ex.23:4. We should assume such! The Torah was given by Christ to Moses in the first place!

I'm not trying to "willfully blind msyelf" to Jesus' words, as you suggest. I'm trying to understand them as He would have them understood. My conviction is that they apply to the personal sphere of ecclesial, familial and civil relations rather than to the political sphere. Making qualifications like these is not necessarily a bad thing. Jesus demonstrates that the Law can and at times should be qualified (Mt.12:3-8).

Moreover, I have been saying all along that the confession of Jesus' Lordship leads us directly to His chosen apostles. You cannot evade this. You yourself rely entirely on the apostolic testimony as you cite passages from Matthew and Luke and Mark. You have no independant access to the Sayings of Jesus other than through the messengers appointed by Him, one of which is Paul (as is recognized and affirmed by the other apostles).

Since you insist on pitting Paul against Matthew, might I ask why you are so certain that Matthew should not be critiqued by Paul? Why are you choosing the later documents over the earlier ones? How do you know Matthew is being faithful to the sayings of Jesus? What if Matthew is the one who is off rather than Paul?

These are not my questions. I discard them because the demand of the New Testament is that all of the apostles be accepted as men entrusted with the Word of God.

Theophilus said...

Your conviction that the words of Jesus "apply to the personal sphere of ecclesial, familial and civil relations rather than to the political sphere" is ridiculous. When Jesus said "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,'" (Mt. 5:38) he was citing several judicial prescriptions (Ex. 21:23-25, Lev. 24:19-20, Deut. 19:21) meant to be exercised by due process of law. Did those prescriptions stop being legal statutes when Jesus talked about them? You cannot claim that Jesus wasn't talking about political and judicial matters here unless you are utterly ignorant of the Old Testament.

You have clearly not understood me when you claim I pit Paul against Matthew. I believe that Matthew and Paul are in agreement, and that Romans 13:1-7 speaks of the same kind of government external to Christian practice as Matthew 22:15-21. Moreover, both Matthew 5:38-45 and Romans 12:17-21 prohibit Christians any recourse to violence. There is then no quarrel between the two apostolic writers; they preach the same Christ. It is your position that purports to separate the witness of Paul from the witness of Matthew, and then make recourse to scholarly arguments that impugn the faithfulness of the scriptural record.

Emerson Fast said...

To be sure, "eye for eye and tooth for tooth" comes from judicial passages in the Torah. But the following examples (being struck on the right cheek, being sued, being forced to carry a load for a mile, being asked for alms) and the personal responses Jesus advocates to these situations, are personal and civil.

If a Roman guard turned aside and demanded that you carry his pack, this would not be a situation homogeneous to the Torah laws and their judicial settings.

Nor do the Torah laws ever allow the "eye for eye" principle to be carried out by the one offended. As you said, this was a matter taken up by the judges. Personal vengeance in Jewish society is verboten.

The only way to properly understand this passage is to see a principle of "eye for eye" extracted from the Torah and its context and forced into a folk theology popular in Jesus' day. Commoners may have used the saying to support personal and immediate retaliation, or to pay the Roman soldier back by stealing from him etc...they had taken the verse out of context, just as people today use the saying," where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more" to advocate presumptuous and licentious living.

My interpretation is far from ridiculous. "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person" would make ZERO sense if Jesus was directing his teaching against the judicial passages in the Torah.

I'm glad you agree that Paul and Matthew proclaim the same Christ. I fail to see how you can make the principle of "nonviolence" encumbant on a Christian judge or ruler, as if the office set up BY GOD suddenly becomes corrupted when a servant of Christ steps into it.

Theophilus said...

Your argument amounts to saying that a Biblical precept's status as both a legal statute and a moral principle are separable. This principle cannot be derived from the examples you give, personal though they be, because Jesus' examples also had legal consequences.

If the person who was struck the second time was injured and was at all incapacitated, the aggressor was legally responsible for compensating the victim for lost wages and the cost of care (Ex. 21:18-19). Accepting a person's cloak as part of a financial transaction was illegal under Jewish law (cf. Ex. 22:26-27, Deut. 24:13, 17; given that Jesus' audience was generally not well-off, and a cloak is neither terribly liquid nor valuable as an asset, it's safe to assume that the plaintiff was suing for the coat as a pledge against monetary remuneration). Similarly, it was not legal for a Roman soldier to force a civilian to carry a pack more than a mile; doing so would open the soldier up to prosecution under Roman law. All of Jesus' examples were simultaneously morally and legally significant. They are also notably passive-aggressive, a tactic that is also advocated in the epistles (Rom. 12:20).

And your claim regarding due process of law assumes a professional judiciary and an individualistic audience. That's anachronistic. Justice among first-century Jews, particularly in rural areas like where the Sermon on the Mount was preached, was administered by local elders, not legal professionals, and executed by the community in at least some cases, such as stoning. Jesus was speaking to a people who were personally and collectively implicated in the machinations of their legal system, not a horde of wild-eyed vigilantes.

Emerson Fast said...

The Torah passages provide zero grounds for someone to take vengeance into his own hands, or even his family or his tribe. The whole matter is regulated by sopetim appointed at every town.

"If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" is not an antithesis to "Eye for eye and tooth for tooth" since the Torah law forbids the offended to respond in kind.

You can relate all of the personal examples used by Jesus to the legal sphere if you wish, but their direct content remains personal.

Individualism exists now and it certainly existed then. There were vigilantes in the hordes of people who followed Jesus, as the presence of Simon the Zealot testifies. And personal vengeance was most certainly an issue due to the amount of times Second Temple literature addresses it (if you wish for citations let me know).

The Galilean Sermon on the Mount took place close enough to Scythopolis, a cultural Mecca for Northern Palestine. The context of the same was the presence of "large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan" which alters your idea of a sermon with rural themes at its forefront.

I fail to see how this passage is an implication of the judicial proceedings of the local townships, given that no evidence exists which would suggest that these townships legalized striking back at an aggressor, rebelling against Roman authority or treating a beggar unkindly.

Theophilus said...

You are right to say that the Torah prohibits individual vengeance. The Torah's commandment "an eye for an eye" should therefore be read as a piece of judicial procedure, rather than as licence for individual vengeance. Yet Jesus still said to proceed differently. Jesus' instruction is therefore of both personal and legal significance. I do not see how to understand your acceptance of one and rejection of the other as anything but ideological.

I said absolutely nothing to the effect that Jesus was addressing exclusively rural themes. I said that the exercise of judicial power by local authorities was stronger in rural areas, where recourse to Roman courts was more difficult. But even in Jerusalem, the elders of the people, in the form of the Sanhedrin, exercised great judicial power without being a professional judiciary.

And even allowing for the presence of urbanites among Jesus' hearers, it is unreasonable to think they were Jesus' main audience. Only ten to thirty percent of the population of the Roman Empire lived in cities. Most people lived in the countryside. And given that Jesus' traveling habits are recorded as favouring rural regions rather than major centres like Jerusalem and Sepphoris, and that he favoured agricultural metaphors, there is no reason to believe that either Jesus or his first hearers were particularly cosmopolitan.

Emerson Fast said...


Jesus' instructions on non-violent resistance make no sense if they are to be applied to the legal sphere. When would a judge have ever used "eye for eye and tooth for tooth" to condone personal retaliation among his fellow townsmen? If he did, the problem wouldn't be the saying itself but the judge's misuse of it.

Theophilus said...

You're absolutely right, the legal implications of Jesus' commandment would have absurd results if implemented by a judge. That's why Mennonites who take Jesus at his word have traditionally viewed the post of magistrate as being equally inappropriate for Christians as soldiery, and why Mennonites to this day can plead out of jury duty as conscientious objectors. The orthodox Mennonite position is to accept the powers that be as legitimate, but to avoid seeking positions in which Christian duties would conflict with vocational ones.

Emerson Fast said...

I see no conflict of duty here so long as there is a distinction of spheres. The priestly work required of God on Sabbath did not conflict with the levitical Jews' responsibility to uphold and inculcate the fourth commandment.

I offer the same interpretation of Mt.5:38. A Christian is exempt from the injunctions against vengeance if he is standing in the office of a judge, where the sword is ordained by God. Besides, you will be hard pressed to find a judge who find himself struck on the right cheek, forced to carry a load for a mile, sued, or begged for alms. And I agree that he would be disobeying Jesus if he used his judicial status to nurse his wounded pride and take personal vengeance on the offender.

Theophilus said...

I believe that there is no reason to apply the "distinction of spheres" here. This is because Jesus was fully aware of the inappropriateness of his ethic in the judicial sphere, and acted accordingly. When Jesus was asked to arbitrate a legal dispute over an inheritance, he declined (Luke 12:13-14). He asserted that he did not have authority to pass legal judgment.

Moreover, in the one instance where Jesus did pass legal judgment, the result was a spectacular implosion of the legal process. I am referring to the case of the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11). Jesus' judgment brought about neither an acquittal nor a conviction, but the breakdown of the trial and a lack of condemnation for the ostensibly guilty party.

The Christian judge must then count the teachings and example of Jesus in the legal sphere to be meaningless in order to carry out his or her vocational duties. I believe that setting aside God Incarnate in this way cannot be reconciled to Christian discipleship and submission to the lordship of Jesus.

Emerson Fast said...

In the case of the woman caught in adultery, I would refer you to Lk 12:13-14 which clearly shows us that judicially settling disputes was not on Jesus' agenda (as you rightly point out in your comment). As Jesus says elsewhere in John: "I did not come to judge the world but to save it."

In the end, Jesus' so-called "judgment" in the matter was correct: we have no right to put an adulterer to death because all of us are adulterers. But if you take this passage as a sort of Divine slight against legal and judicial procedures; I would cautiously suggest that you are reading a little bit too much out of the text. Jesus did, after all, recognize the solemn legitimacy of the seat of Moses and of Caesar (Mt.23:2; Lk.20:25). As you know, both the seat of Moses and the seat of Caesar presuppose judicial procedures.

Nor do I find any evidence that Jesus' point in Jn.8:1-11 was that Christians have no right to take a vocation as judge. The fracas here is between Jesus and the Pharisees, not Jesus and the Christians. Moreover, if I follow your reading to its logical conclusion, then Jesus is basically abolishing the validity of judicial acts even among the unbelievers. This would contradict some of the things you said earlier about God really and truly establishing judges among the heathen to keep order.

I would be wary of setting up everything Jesus said, did or did not do as incontestably binding on Christians. Such would assume that the incarnation of God and the creaturely sphere of disciples are co-extensive. Moreover, I could make a case that in praising the faith of the Roman centurion as being greater than anyone in Israel, and simultaneously NOT telling him to step down from his office, Jesus was showing us that it is more than possible for men of GREAT faith to have such in the very context of their political activities. Obviously the centurions regular duties did not conflict with his possessing a strong and uncompromising faith in Jesus.

Theophilus said...

If, as you say, we should not execute adulterers because we are all adulterers, that is, because we have all broken the law at some point, I fail to see how you go on to say that this principle is lifted for Christian judges. You seem to think that this sort of exemption is needed in order to honour the judicial legitimacy of the seats of Moses and Caesar. But both Jesus and the Apostles did honour these positions without aspiring to them themselves. Whether it's Jesus' and Paul's admonishments to pay taxes due to Caesar or the Temple, or Jesus' refusal to call down angels to save him from his trial and execution, or Paul's submission to rites of purification before entering the Temple in Jerusalem, the unanimous testimony of the New Testament in word and deed is for Christians to let the judicial systems do their work without hindrance, without aspiring to judicial office themselves. I believe the coherence of this position with the teachings and examples of Jesus and the Apostles is compelling and should be normative for Christians. The position you advocate involves understanding respect for authority differently than does the New Testament, and I do not see by what authority we are justified in making these revisions.

The fact that Jesus was disputing with the Pharisees in John 8 in no way can or should prevent us from looking at other issues related to that case. The Biblical texts are hardly simplistic, one-dimensional accounts, but are rich and layered in meaning and teaching. Jesus' willingness to use a creation text to address the question of divorce (Mt. 19:3-9) validates this principle.

Jesus did not command the centurion to resign his commission, but neither did he tell the centurion to free his slaves. Now it is clear to us today that the thrust of Christian teaching leads us away from practicing slavery. Nevertheless, we look with kindness and forbearance on those earlier Christians who were slaveholders, despite the fact that if contemporary Christians held slaves we would rightly consider it a grave sin. Just as the centurion's slaveholding did not cancel out his faith, so his military commission did not cancel out his faith. But just as his slaveholding is now judged un-Christian, so we can make the same judgment about his military post without impugning his very real faith in Jesus.

Emerson Fast said...

Slavery is illegal today. This is why it would be a grave sin for a Christian to have a slave, on account of its being an act of rebellion against the authorities. Since it was not illegal in the time of Christ, and since the scriptures nowhere condemn a Christian for having one, I am not about to go beyond what is written and say that "Masters" in Palestine and the rest of the Roman world were gravely sinning by holding slaves. They weren't sinning at all.

I don't like slavery on account of its abuses. The whole concept has been defiled in my eyes. This does not, however, mean that the ordinance of itself is wrong. The Pauline ethic of Master/Slave relationships is built on love, hard work, fairness, and even filial kindness. Were I to see this ethic in play I would be loath to call slavery a "grave sin."

Once again, following everything the apostles did and did not do can wind us up in alot of trouble. We know that Jesus refused to take part in judging, for he "did not come to judge the world but to save it." That is not our role. We are not the Messiah of God. We have not come to save the world. We aren't all about to go cleanse the temple, preach new revelation from God, get transfigured on sacred mountains, walk on water, and find ourselves born of virgins.

So much of what Christ did and did not do is un-related to the subject of Christian normativity. Besides, I am doing exactly as you do (hermeneutically speaking) in my appeals to Jesus' ommission in the case of the centurion.