Every now and then you get your paradigm blown about some aspect of biblical history or theology. That happened to me at the recent SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) meeting in a session put on by the Historical Jesus Section, with Amy-Jill Levine presiding. Specifically it was R. Steven Notley’s paper in the session whose…

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SBL (Society of Biblical Literature, #SBLAAR2016) has been a reawakening for me, an experience of recapturing something that has been beautiful in my life. Since leaving my former occupation as a rabbi a year and half ago, I’ve not stopped studying the Bible, wrestling with texts and ideas, trying to comprehend what God has spoken…

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SBL is the Society of Biblical Literature, and every year there is a joint conference with AAR, the American Academy of Religion. It’s 10,000 plus Bible scholars and theologians all in one place. There are something like a hundred parallel tracks for just about any topic you can imagine and some you’d never imagine. I…

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We’ve had a great deal of discussion here on Messianic Jewish Musings and also on my Facebook profile about my recent post: “Jesus and Mosaic Authorship of Torah”. Why not join the dialogue about Yeshua? Two points in particular have been raised, but I think even more could be. Here are two questions I invite…

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Yeshua (Jesus) reportedly said things like, “Moses wrote about me” (John 5:46) and “have you not read in the book of Moses?” (Mark 12:26). Many Christians argue that if Yeshua believed in Mosaic authorship of the entire Pentateuch (Torah, Five Books of Moses), we must believe it as well. The argument for Mosaic authorship might…

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Jesus (Yeshua) famously said: “the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” (Matt 7:13). The common reading of Yeshua’s narrow road saying is that he was speaking of eternal destinies, giving us truths about the afterlife and the extent of salvation. According…

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What’s so great about Abraham? How does his name and example inspire or motivate a person living now? What does the concept of God’s friendship with Abraham mean for Jews? For Christians? When God calls out one person among the mass of humanity as his friend, it is personal and scandalous. When God chooses a…

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Is prophecy a real thing? Is the Hebrew Bible (“Old Testament”) inspired by God? Are its words sacred, conveying somehow true things about God’s nature and his desires? Yes, I certainly think so. A commenter challenged me regarding my recent article, “Believing in Torah While Accepting Biblical Criticism.” His words are sharp and to the…

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I believe in two things at the same time that seem irreconcilable to many people of faith. On the one hand, I believe in Torah, the very idea of Torah. I believe that God moved prophets and priests and sages to speak and write Torah. I also believe God appointed scribes to preserve and pass…

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The pages of the Bible are like those scenes in war movies of darkened fields wrecked by fighting and death. The mortal weaknesses of the Bible’s authors is evident. Its pages are filled with institutions which contradict its higher values: slavery, polygamy, patriarchalism, vengeance, and even genocide. Like bloodied soil, the beauty of the letters…

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Messiah is everything. In today’s DAILY PORTION email, I address the long debated issue of Matthew seemingly misinterpreting Isaiah 7:14. Those who have become used to ancient ways of interpreting texts, such as the midrashes of the Jewish sages, are not surprised by what Matthew has done. It’s a Jewish thing. (Note: a midrash is…

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One of the earliest expressions the first followers of Yeshua used was marana tha (maranatha), 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”…

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The following is an excerpt from an upcoming book, Living Yeshua, chapter 4,”Yeshua as Lord.” What does it mean when people say, “Jesus is Lord?” Here is something worth noting: when Paul in his letters refers to “the Lord,” he generally means Yeshua, not the Father. I’d be interested in seeing some of my detail…

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I get that not everyone wants to study Hebrew. I mean, an alphabet to learn. Most people quail even at the thought of getting started. Twenty-two little letters and ten vowels can scare the שְׁאוֹל [Sheol] out of you. I know. My Story, Learning Hebrew My own story about learning Hebrew goes back to when…

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So many things people think are part of Christian belief, including hell, do not exactly come from the Bible. There is an idea that some of the angels rebelled against God, led by their captain whose name is Satan. It’s all spelled out in Milton’s Paradise Lost. But in reality, this war in heaven saga…

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The general thesis of this series is that Paul’s statements about faith and Messiah do not mean “faith in Messiah” but rather “the faithfulness of Messiah.” They do not refer to something we must have to please God (the ability to believe) but something God does to show us we can confidently hope in him…

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The year 5777 has arrived! If you haven’t already, this is a good time to be amazed by the number and its significance. On October 23, the daily readings for the new Torah year will begin. And in keeping with the newness and excitement a new year brings, my daily email with commentary on the…

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Calvinism says: If you don’t believe in God and Messiah, then probably — unless you believe before you die — God doesn’t want to save you. Arminianism says: If you don’t believe in God and Messiah, God wants to save you, but he will keep letting you choose exile and darkness. Universalism says: If you…

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Faith and Gospel I googled “what is the gospel” and came up very quickly with some simple lists, steps, and answers. I wanted to see how the requirement of faith is generally brought into a gospel scheme. Here is one that is rather typical: 1) God is holy, 2) we are hopeless sinners, 3) Christ…

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Yesterday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the anniversary of the creation of the world and beginning of ten days of awe. During this period, we reflect on our sins, the people we have hurt, on making amends, and renewing ourselves for another year with God. Instead of throwing stones at one another on…

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I often tell people two things to get them started on this experiment of reading Paul with new eyes. One, read Romans 5-8 daily for a while. Two, read chapter 5, verse 1, the way it was meant to be translated: Therefore, since we have been justified by faithfulness [Messiah’s, not ours], we have peace…

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Maybe you love Paul, thinking he’s a great intellect or inspiring or both. Maybe you hate him, thinking he is what is wrong with Western religion. If you’re Jewish, perhaps you heard he was the guy who declared Jewish customs obsolete. He is used by some Christian thinkers as Paul the anti-Moses. There is a…

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Elijah. Where did he come from? What is the meaning of his life? How has he come to be such a towering figure in Judaism and Christianity? Why is there a place left for him at Passover tables? On TheHebrewNerd.com I am exploring Elijah with some rather thorough commentary, a look at Jewish thoughts on…

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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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