Ultimately here I will point to universalism, the belief that in the end God’s love and light reconcile all things through Messiah. Many are not willing to take that radical of a step into believing in the effectiveness of God’s love. There are many alternatives besides universalism to a theology of an angry God. Imagine…

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My commentary on a reading from Acts today shows us something of the theology of the early believers. Paul’s teaching in Acts shows what Torah has to do with Messiah. Torah is the promise and anticipation. Yeshua is the new revelation that, we can see in retrospect, does all that Torah promised and more. I…

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Eternal Conscious Torment. It’s an emotional issue. I recently experienced a flash flood of comments on Facebook, mostly positive and some negative, when I said: I used to feel pressure not to go this direction. I was clergy. Many of my constituents were sold on what seems to be the crux of evangelicalism: salvation is…

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A little more than a year ago I entered a new career. My life had fallen apart. Though there were plenty of underlying causes, the fault was primarily my own. So my main blog has been dormant. I’ve been doing some blogging at TheHebrewNerd.com and TheIsaiahNerd.Wordpress.com. Well, fall is here. More than a year has…

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If you look for me in coming months, you’ll find me on my new blog focusing on both Hebrew learning and English-based instruction in Hebrew concepts and words. I spend most of my time now either teaching online students to study words like tikvah and hesed in the Hebrew Bible, translating Ruth or Psalms, or…

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Hesed. Lovingkindness. An active quality of love practiced with devotion and demonstrated by deeds of kindness rather than mere words. Ruth 1:8, But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Turn back, each of you to the house of her mother. May Adonai make hesed with you as you made with the dead [husbands] and with…

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Most of the Torah is either narrative or legal writing, the stories of early Israel or the commandments of God. But there is also poetry in the Torah. And since poetry is the least common form to be found in these five books, the poetic verses are like stars shining out in the night. The…

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If you ever find yourself on a new path in life, I am guessing you’ll find, as I have, a few things that are true. Some things are lost and others gained. Some we pray about, that they will come back to us. Others we let go of and move on. The scenery changes. But…

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See Part 1 here. We’ll begin by looking closer at one of Yeshua’s most important sayings and then listing some ways to be a better reader of his words. THE SOWER PARABLE In explaining the Sower Parable (Mark 4:3-9; Matthew 13:3-9; Luke 8:5-8) N.T. Wright warns us not to reduce Yeshua’s sayings to vague, timeless…

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It’s not easy to understand the sayings of Yeshua. He was a figure of his time, a teacher in an Israelite mode, one versed in the Hebrew Bible and best understood by Jewish hearers. He did not intend to be clear really. He said to his disciples, “To you the secret of the Kingdom of…

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A d’rash (sermon) on Parashat Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9), the story of Balaam. What is more real? The physical or the spiritual? We are tempted by our daily experience to say that the physical is more real. We can understand it. We can write laws of physics about it. We feel, see, hear, taste, and smell…

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Is the written Torah a set of ideal laws or a constitution for a people? Is it a collection of timeless principles or time-bound laws for an actual people? Is it social legislation or a set of ethical ideals? Many people want Torah to be something it is not. It seems as if Torah should…

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Messianic Judaism is a Judaism committed to Yeshua. It is a Judaism because its core purpose is to provide a home for Jewish followers of Yeshua where we may live out our covenantal relationship with God based on the Abrahamic promise, the teaching from Sinai, and the revelation of God which is in Messiah Yeshua.…

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Moses loved God. He cared about his people. He was a human being who discovered a beautiful truth about the world, that it is governed by a king, the very same king who had spoken to Abraham. A lot of us can identify with Moses in that way. Our own life story includes discovering the…

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As many of you know, I just returned from a trip to Israel. While there I thought many times about how the holiness of the place is hidden. What is Jerusalem but noisy streets, a cacophony of offensive noises, a melting pot of Jews of all varieties along with Muslims and Christians of varying kinds,…

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I am still leading a tour in Israel as I post this. This is an old article that was requested by a friend who often shares it with others. I deleted my old blog in late January 2015 and started over again. While some of my old material can still be found out there on…

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I am in Israel right now, leading a small tour group. This is a highly educated little group, more Jewishly informed than most groups I have brought here in the past. They are keeping me on my toes as we discuss the early believers and the earliest Messianic Judaism while touring. Obviously my blog output…

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Torah is not complete redemption. When you pray from the Siddur (Jewish prayer book) or read the teachings of the early rabbis you realize immediately that Torah does not contain the last word on redemption. You could say that everything is contained in Torah in a sense, so, for example, Torah intimates a future redemption…

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“Haven’t you read what God said to you?” Yeshua asks his critics (Matt 22:31). This question sums up nicely his view of the written Torah. He assumes its divine source and authority. In another place he asks “haven’t you read in the book of Moshe” the story of the burning bush (Mark 12:26). He does…

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The Torah has a lot to say about coming near to God at the Temple and bringing offerings and gifts, including animals for slaughter. A curious question to ask is whether Yeshua ever offered sacrifices in the Temple? It’s a curious question because the Gospels never depict him doing so. Our off-the-cuff answer to the…

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Yeshua’s words are like a current of living wind in the deadness of the desert. He spoke with authority, not just interpreting Torah like other teachers, but even adding to it. He increased its moral vision and pressed the ideal of righteousness beyond the literal reading. Therefore he made a statement clarifying what he was…

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Torah is one word with many meanings. Depending on the person using it, they may be referring to the first five books of the Bible, also called the Pentateuch. Or they may mean a leather scroll kept in an Ark in a synagogue on which is written the first five books of the Bible (a…

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The following excerpt is from the beginning of a chapter in my upcoming discipleship guide for Messianic Judaism. I include it here as a prelude to a few discussion questions. I hope you, readers, will join in the discussion. This afternoon and evening I will be replying to comments. Ask any person what they think…

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This is our song. It will be or father-daughter dance tonight. Yes, I know it’s unusual to have a wedding just before Shabbat starts, but she wanted the Friday night meal to be her reception dinner. And we’ll have more guests for Shabbat tonight than we’ve ever had before! So, I’m just marking this special…

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This morning someone looking for an article I wrote in 2013 requested this, so I am posting it. I wrote “Paul Was Too Jewish for the Synagogue” after an unexpected adventure at SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) in November 2013. My young friend, David Matthews, and I were there catching all the papers we could…

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A board member of Jews for Judaism contacted me a few weeks ago via my blog. He didn’t mention, of course, who he was or why he contacted me. He made it seem like he was Mr. General-Public with a question. He said his understanding of Christianity and Judaism is that they are distinct belief…

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The following is the conclusion of chapter 10 of my upcoming book, a Messianic Jewish guide for disciples. In chapter 10 I deal with the problem of our belief, which can make us outcasts in the Jewish community, that Messiah is divine. I explain what our belief means, what views are inadequate, why this view…

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Rashi says about the final verse in our Torah portion: Here we apply the principle, when two verses contradict, a third comes along and resolves it. The first verse he has in mind is Leviticus 1:1, “Hashem called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting.” It seems here that the voice…

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Imagine you are preparing for marriage with some pre-marital counseling. The kind and helpful clergy person smiles at you, asking, “So why are you taking this step and finally getting married after three years of being together?” You gaze deeply into your fiancé’s eyes as you answer, “Most of our friends are married and we…

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To some degree, today’s short piece is a follow up to yesterday’s post in which I explained and defended the interest in Messianic Judaism we find among many non-Jews. I begin with a statement about MJ as a Jewish place, a home for Jewish believers. I then move into responding to the emotional situation reflected…

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They are inspired by what they read in the Bible. From Abraham to Moses to David to Isaiah, the Jewish people are the center of God’s plans to make something beautiful in this world. Some people who are not Jewish themselves are drawn by this, drawn to the Jewish people and toward Jewish practices that…

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Sometimes we don’t appreciate something until we face the possibility of losing it. Or worse, not until it’s already gone. It’s easy not to be able to see what’s so holy about certain things. Like the Sabbath day. Or a Torah scroll. Or a certain prayer from the Siddur. Or a certain holiday. But think…

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At the end of Part 1, we theorized that Paul’s rivals in Corinth presented Yeshua as a wonder-worker, a man who ascended to divine status, was possessed by divine power, and whose miracle-working could be passed down to his followers. To some, this depiction of Jesus might seem close enough, the very view, in fact,…

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The Good News Translation captures 2 Corinthians 11:25 well, “I do not think that I am the least bit inferior to those very special so-called ‘apostles’ of yours!” The term in Greek is huperlian apostolon, often rendered “super-apostles.” Their boasted qualifications led Paul to a fool’s speech in 2 Corinthians 11 and 12, boasting of…

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It’s easy to miss the Jewish brilliance of Paul. It’s common not to regard him as a Jewish thinker at all. He no doubt had much more to say than we will ever know in our lifetime, given the limitations of the Pauline writing we possess. But there are glimpses of more. And it is…

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Son of Man

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In making self-claims, Yeshua’s normal mode was to be ambiguous. This feature in the way the Gospels tell the story has become known as “the messianic secret.” It means that even today it is possible for some historians to say things like, “Jesus had no knowledge of being either Messiah or a divine man.” Is…

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This is the paper I just read at the Hashivenu Forum, a Messianic Jewish think tank. You can tell from my paper a lot about Dr. Vered Hillel’s paper on divorce. Dr. Hillel is the Provost of Messianic Jewish Theological Institute http://MJTI.org. I believe her paper will be posted on http://MJStudies.com. I will let you…

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It could be easy to doubt Paul. He is widely regarded as a key founding figure of Christianity and many people have mixed feelings about the legacy of the church. Perhaps Paul gave some bad guidance. Perhaps he left people thinking they could live like hell and wait for heaven. Perhaps Paul was a small-minded…

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In a fascinating study, Larry Hurtado examines the ways people in Yeshua’s lifetime exhibited worshipful behavior toward him (How On Earth Did Jesus Become God? Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005, pgs. 134-151). To be clear, people would fall on their knees before a king or general or even a landlord to implore their favor. Just because…

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God is the Lord of time and we are creatures swimming in it. But we can only swim in the stream of time in one direction. Time keeps on slipping, slipping into the past. And when time is gone we can only remember it. We sometimes remember it with regret. Others we recall with fondness. Sometimes…

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I’ve been teaching students Biblical Hebrew online for about two years now. But some people want Modern Hebrew and I don’t teach that. I’m thrilled to announce that a friend and member of our congregation is now starting to take online students. My wife and I began working with our friend as a tutor in…

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My friend and student, Krista Coyan, leads an interfaith Jewish service in a historic synagogue in the Czech Republic in the town of Ceske Krumlov. I periodically share happenings in Ceske Krumlov with MJ Musings readers. I will be traveling there in early August after a stop in London to meet with some new Messianic…

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One of the earliest expressions the first followers of Yeshua used was marana tha, which in Aramaic means, “Our Lord, come.” What they likely meant was, “Lord, Yeshua, be present with us in our gathering.” This is like Yeshua’s saying, “wherever two or three are assembled in my name, I am there with them” (Matt…

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The 2015 Hashivenu Forum is coming May 14-15 in Hartford, Connecticut. Hashivenu is an annual Messianic Jewish think tank. This year’s topic is “Marriage and Divorce.” I have been asked to give a response paper to Dr. Vered Hillel’s “A Messianic Jewish View of Divorce.” Before sharing this excerpt from my paper, I need to…

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The Torah teaches us the ideal, but has no power to enable us to live it. What the Torah unaided cannot do, God does in us by his Spirit. Last week’s Torah portion contains the essence of righteousness, the beauty of living for God through neighbor-love. Learning to do this in the power of the…

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I have an email list called the Daily D’var. I’ve been doing it for a while now, I think it has been five years. I send each day the daily portion of Torah, outlined and commented upon and with the full text of the JPS translation of the Torah. I also send a daily portion…

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A friend sent me a link to an article by Daniel Dennett in a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal. Dennett says the future of religion is bleak and the reason, specifically, is that we clergy can no longer keep people away from good information. People can easily, via internet, find information about contradictions…

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Last week the Torah portion was Tazria and Metzora combined (Leviticus 12-15). I asked myself the question, as I do about the readings each week, “What does this Torah portion mean for us as Messianic Jews and Gentiles?” I believe the Israelites could see a lesson at the Tabernacle, but it must have been mysterious…

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What did Paul do: when, where, and how? This might seem to be an easy question since we have the book of Acts. But approaching the question from a different angle, Douglas Campbell looks first at clues in Paul’s own writings and only later correlates information from Acts (Framing Paul: An Epistolary Biography, Grand Rapids:…

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Jesus, whose original name was Yeshua in the Aramaic language of first century Israel, is thought by hundreds of millions to be the most important person in history. As modern people we have to ask whether the stories of the life and sayings of a person from so long ago could be meaningful for us…

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It might be assumed that what God has done in Torah is condemn people with a curse. But what he has actually done is promise a great blessing — the blessing of a society that will be like the world to come with abundant food, no disease, and pleasant conditions for living for everyone (Lev…

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A new friend, an American now living in the U.K., wrote to ask me if the name “Messianic Judaism” is really the best label. He had two primary concerns. First, any Judaism that believes in a personal Messiah (all sub-branches of Orthodoxy and many Conservative Jewish expression) as opposed to those in which “Messiah” is…

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A lot of people would read more books if they knew which ones were valuable. Some people who don’t read books about God, the Bible, Torah, theology, Messiah, faith, and similar topics don’t understand as yet what a regular diet of these books can do for your day to day life. The MJ Musings Book…

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Women and Worship at Corinth: Paul’s Rhetorical Arguments in 1 Corinthians. Lucy Peppiatt. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2015. Bible myths arise easily. A text is assumed to mean something and some trusted source will assert it to be a known custom from historical writings. This might be seen most strangely in the writings of Paul concerning…

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Why did Paul write Romans? What was his main purpose, the one that explains the whole letter and not just some of its parts? There have been many theories. Maybe he wrote to assert his authority as the apostle commissioned by Yeshua to the Gentiles. Maybe he wanted to ask for funds for his trip…

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In Part 1 (read it here) I explained what “apocalyptic” means, what it has to do with Paul, and talked about two kinds of texts in Paul about salvation. There are those texts in which Paul is debating with some Jewish teachers and then there are those where he is expressing his own view with…

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Apocalyptic. Hidden things revealed. I don’t mean so much the other connotation we sometimes see in modern usage of the term, like “momentous, catastrophic.” I mean something that bodes well for us, something from beyond that shows through into the here and from the future that shows through into the now. Douglas Campbell’s 1,200 page…

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Paul, like all writers of his time, composed his letters without punctuation, divisions between words, paragraphs, or other divisions. He or his scribe wrote in scripto continua, unbroken lines of capital letters from margin to margin. -Stanley K. Stowers, A Rereading of Romans, New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1994, (9). Consider the possibility that before…

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One of the difficult things about our Messianic faith is that the key event which transformed our Judaism into Messianic Judaism happened two thousand years ago. I say it is one of the difficulties because there are certainly others (e.g., our Messiah has not done most the the Messiah things yet, leaving us open to…

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Luck vs. providence. Randomness vs. meaning. Chance vs. order and purpose. In Ruth 2:3, a good translation option is that Ruth’s “chance chanced upon” the very portion of land that was Boaz’s when she went gleaning. Although Ruth 2:1 has told the reader about Boaz, Ruth has not been told and she did not seek…

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I attended a paper in 2013 on the meaning of the dividing wall passage of Ephesians 2. A year and a half later, the interpretation put forward by Jesper Svartvik still looks good to me. I include here a postlude concerning the meaning of “abolishing the law of commandments in decrees.” You can imagine how…

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God’s Torahs are his teachings, his instructions. God appeared to Isaac and said, “I will make your heirs as numerous as the stars” and “all the nations of the earth will bless themselves by your seed.” When God made this promise he said it was because, “Abraham listened to my voice, kept my charge: my…

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When my upcoming Paul book concludes, I plan to send it out with a bang. What good does it do to spend a few hundred pages learning the theology of a Jewish teacher like Paul if it’s all theory disconnected from life? So the final section will be “Paul’s Guide to World Transformation,” the application…

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Romans 5:1-11 (see the text here) begins with a “therefore,” which means it looks back to what came before in Romans 4:25. We find there that Messiah Yeshua was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. It is because of Messiah’s doing that verse 1 is true. Vs. 1. Therefore, we have…

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So, you want to celebrate Passover in a traditional way. You pick up a Haggadah, a Passover manual, and you think it will be simple. Passover is a ritual meal with a few symbolic foods and the story from Exodus, right? But as you read the Haggadah it seems anything but. What’s going on? It…

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The connections between Yeshua’s Last Supper (Mark 14, Matthew 26, Luke 22, John 13-16, 1 Corinthians 11) and Passover are undeniable. Yet there is a famous problem about the timing of the event in relation to the Passover and Yeshua’s crucifixion. My own views on the topic have changed over the years. I present here…

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Way back in 2008, I first posted one of the most searched articles in the history of Messianic Jewish Musings (before I deleted my old blog and started over, I had almost 2,500 articles on here). Why this article and it’s popularity in Google searches? I think a lot of people find out connections and…

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Krista is a student and friend of mine in the Czech Republic. She told her story in “A Synagogue on the Czech Republic” (read it here). This month she explains what it is like to lead Jewish services for an interfaith community in Ceske Krumlov. Jews in formerly communist nations have a different kind of…

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I think you will see from the very first question why I picked this title for a blog today. And it’s nice sometimes for me to hear from you. There are a lot of people who come and read here. Some are three to five time a week regular visitors. Some subscribe via wordpress (although…

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In Part 1 I said that faith is not a condition of God’s love and acceptance but rather a result of God’s love and acceptance. I introduced an idea that will be new for some, that Paul’s “we have been justified by faith” is likely better translated “by faithfulness.” And the faithfulness being referred to…

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The light of a person’s faith sometimes grows dim. Faintly burning wicks are all around us, people let down by religious groups, whose questions aren’t answered, who feel left out, and others who fear the love of Messiah cannot be real for them. I wrote yesterday suggesting a way for non-Jews to look at the…

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I can imagine how this article’s title appears to some people. “You mean I need some special permission or something?” But some people get it. There are at least two issues here. Most of the readers of the Bible are not descendants of Abraham. Most are not from the people who stood at the foot…

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Sometimes I try to see past this world to the one to come. Nature is one of the ways I catch a glimpse. And I use my imagination. I find a desire in myself for an unspoiled place. I picture a beguiling forest, a deep carpet of brown leaves beneath my feet and a green…

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The following is part of a larger document which I will soon be sending out to MJ Musings email list members: “Paul’s Guide to World Transformation.” It will also be part of the final section of my upcoming book, Paul: The Jewish Teacher of Gentiles. I post it today as a bit of a preview…

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To be clear, it is not that Yeshua never said anything to or about individuals. He did not, however, address in a clear manner personal salvation, minimum requirements, or specific advice about final destinies. He offered individual hope and also warnings, but there were often about the exacting demands of discipleship rather than the lowest…

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Instead of trying to fit the round peg of Messiah into the square hole of Paul, wouldn’t it be better if we asked, “Are Paul’s ideas true to what Yeshua had to say?” That is, instead of re-reading Yeshua’s messages based on what people think Paul meant, what if we sought to understand Yeshua first…

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The Torah cycle is now in Leviticus. I’ve spent a great deal of time in Leviticus and written on it extensively. People write to me often having grasped the idea, new for them, that atonement in Leviticus was primarily to keep the Temple clean so God would remain there in the midst of the people.…

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When there’s kryptonite around, even Superman has limitations. Sometimes those larger than life figures seem invulnerable, and almost omnipotent. Like Moses. He could do anything. He could raise his hands and the power of his prayer defeated Amalekites and the urgency of Israel’s need could turn sea waters into walls beside Israel’s path. Moses could…

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Is it really believable that in some way Jesus is divine? That question looms even in the minds of those who give credence to the Bible and to faith in Jesus. Is it something we should look deeply into or might we risk finding out the faith in which we stand is a fragile web of…

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Tearing things down sometimes has to happen. When it does, people look at the vacant spot and say, “Should that have been demolished?” Many wonder what will be built in place of the flattened tower that once was. According to one theory, the one I have been knocking down, people need to do some things…

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A reader emailed yesterday in response to “Our Faith; Messiah’s Faithfulness.” I have been unfolding for readers a theology of God, faith, and Messiah that differs from a common way of seeing it (justification theory). My assault on the conditional understanding of the Gospel (“God accepts faith, instead of moral perfection, as an easier condition…

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Sometimes the things we think we know turn out not to be true. Before we get into the topic, I want to clarify what I am not saying. I am not saying that our faith (belief, trust) in God and Messiah is irrelevant or unimportant. To be clear, I am saying that our faith (belief,…

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This is a list I made some time ago, but which I updated this morning and added short explanations to. Some of the points touch on current events, such as my recent post on the unfortunate decision of a good leader (Andy Stanley) to use “the Temple” (which represents the Old Testament and Judaism) as…

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Right now it’s quite possible that you are paralyzed in your relationship with God and feel stuck. I want to persuade you that some rather common views of God and life and meaning are wrong. It starts with getting rid of a demotivating view of God and his stance toward you and everyone else. Using…

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For some people this thing I am calling the big lie is synonymous with “the faith” or “the Gospel” or “what Jesus is all about.” It’s an argument that seems tight, maybe airtight to some people. A lot of people see some problems with it, but think they have to believe it. It seems certain,…

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In a few weeks I’ll be sharing a manifesto with people who follow my writing and are on my email list: “Paul’s Guide to World Transformation: How to Recognize and Collaborate with Messiah’s Work.” The idea came to me from Chris Guillebeau’s “Brief Guide to World Domination,” a PDF he shared that was downloaded by…

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Confusing the New Covenant with the New Testament is a lazy habit of interpretation. Many people see the words “New Testament” whenever their eyes scan over the words “New Covenant.” Unfortunately this is not helped by the tradition in early Messianic Judaism, which many MJ congregations still follow, of calling the New Testament the B’rit…

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To the Galatians. When we read it now in the standard English translations, we sometimes yawn. We’ve heard it, many of us, many times. Worse, the phrases often sound like empty religious jargon. Who talks like that anymore? And since we don’t know Paul as, well, one of the guys, his words don’t sound personal…

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The Hebrew word tikvah might just have been an important word to a scholar named Tikva Frymer-Kensky, the original author of The JPS Bible Commentary: Ruth. Frymer-Kensky died before the completion of her commentary which was completed by her student, Tamara Cohn Eskenazi. Obviously Tikva Frymer-Kensky had a personal investment in the word תִקְוָה tikvah, the…

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Andy Stanley is a leader whose shadow covers this entire city of Atlanta and its suburbs. As far as I know he has more congregants than any pastor in America except Joel Osteen. And I have personally seen the commitment of his church, Northpoint Community, to loving neighbor and giving food and money to people…

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Galatians takes us other places besides its overarching issue of Jew and Gentile, Torah and Messiah. The reason is that understanding the role of a Gentile in God’s redemptive promise requires knowing what Messiah has provided for everyone, how we are to live life now, and a peek into mysteries about our identity. There is…

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The following article is by one of my students, Krista. If her story doesn’t amaze you, I will be amazed. . . . . . . . “Men plan; God laughs,” says a Yiddish proverb. Things haven’t turned out as I expected them to. And for that I thank God. We moved to the Czech…

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There is a principle for reading the Bible that I think is simple, yet it has been undermined by a false idea. Recently a reader emailed about this principle (on my old blog this was a classic article) saying it could be a positive contribution that Messianic Judaism makes to the Christian world. He said…

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Non-Jews who believe in God and Messiah are a last days miracle according to Paul and James. Prophets foresaw their arrival in dreams and visions. These prophetic dreams found partial realizations at times, especially in Jerusalem, as Gentiles were attracted by the Temple and the light of monotheism. But in the early days of the…

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The use of forms, appearances, and manifestations of God in the Hebrew Bible seems to be a way of saying God enters the world without abandoning his unlimited, omnipresent rule over all things that exist. In Exodus 24 the elders of Israel see God. The story of what they see is shrouded in mystery. When…

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An excerpt from my 2014 book, Divine Messiah . . . Most people who have believed in Yeshua have not seen visions of his heavenly glory. Only a relative few saw such things in the early years. What came down to us is the record of people who believed something because they saw them. The…

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Magnus Zetterholm’s theory is bold. It is precisely the opposite of the common view. Where did the name Christians come from? Most think it grew within a new religion of Jesus-believers as a way of distinguishing themselves from Jews and pagans. Not so, says Zetterholm. The label came instead from what people started calling a…

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Misinformation in some cases has become the standard view of God and the Bible. Last week I posted “Our Deeds Are Not Filthy Rags” (see it here). A related misconception is that God could care less about the quality of your character and deeds, but only wants to give undeserved favor to everyone. Grace. “God’s…

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