Apologetics Hebrew Roots Theology
R. L. Solberg  

Gentiles and the Law

A Gentile Christian choosing to keep Jewish cultural traditions is a bit like an American choosing to adopt Japanese cultural traditions. It’s not necessarily “wrong,” but it seems a bit arbitrary. Let me explain.

There are Gentle Christians today—people who profess faith in Jesus but aren’t of Jewish ethnicity or descent—who choose to do things like keep Shabbat and observe the kosher food laws and Jewish feasts. They do so because they believe God commands it of them. In their mind, these things aren’t merely Jewish traditions; they’re biblical commandments that apply to all Christians today.

This is the theology of Torahism, which teaches that Christians are required to “keep Torah,” aka obey the Law of Moses. You might know them as the Hebrew Roots Movement or Torah-keepers or Torah-observant Christians. As I’ve written about at length elsewhere, Torahism is unbiblical and can be dangerous. Let’s consider one area where “Torah-observant” Christianity gets it wrong: the relationship between Gentiles and the Law of Moses.

The Giving of the Law

Our Torahist friends are, of course, correct that things like keeping Shabbat and the kosher food laws are commandments of God given in the Bible. But what they misunderstand is who God gave these commandments to and under what conditions they were given.

After God rescued Israel out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12), he brought them to Mount Sinai, where He made a covenant or contract with them (Exodus 19 ff.). The covenant wasn’t made with the entire world. It was between God and the nation of Israel. Let’s look at how that covenant was introduced. Exodus 19 tells us that the people of Israel camped out at the foot of the mountain…

…while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.

Exodus 19:3-6

This passage reveals three facts relevant to our study. First, God was not giving Moses a message for the whole world. His words were explicitly addressed to “the house of Jacob” and “the people of Israel,” the nation He rescued out of slavery in Egypt. Second, God was establishing a conditional covenant with the Jewish people. He said, “If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant.” The covenant was dependent on Israel’s obedience. And third, if she was obedient, God promised that Israel would be His “treasured possession among all peoples.” In other words, among all the nations of the earth, Israel would be His special people. King David acknowledged this unique position when he asked the Lord:

And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. And you, O Lord, became their God.

2 Samuel 7:23-24

Here we see a biblical view of the world divided into two groups. There are the Jews (aka Hebrews)—which refers to the nation of Israel as descended from Abraham. And then there is everyone else—the Goyim (Gentiles), the non-Jews, all the other nations. The covenant God made at Sinai was specifically and exclusively with the people of Israel. If she were obedient, God would set her apart from the nations around her. And in the subsequent chapters of Exodus, He describes what it means for Israel to be obedient.

God gave a set of laws, starting with the Ten Commandments, that we refer to today collectively as the Law of Moses. These laws served as the terms of the Sinai Covenant. The Gentile nations around Israel were not part of the covenant and, thus, not under these laws. God did not command the Egyptians to be circumcised. He didn’t expect the Babylonians to keep the Sabbath holy. He didn’t require the Assyrians to observe kosher food laws. His commandments were given explicitly to Israel. The only exception was when a Gentile foreigner chose to live with Israel. In that case, the Gentile was expected to keep the Law of Moses in the same way an American living in Japan is required to obey the laws of Japan. (And even then, the Law of Moses wasn’t applied to the Gentile in the same way. But I digress.)

Fifteen centuries later, the question about whether Gentile believers in Jesus were obligated to keep the Law was asked and answered at the Jerusalem Council. This was a meeting held in Jerusalem in AD 50, about 20 years after Jesus’ resurrection. (It is recorded for us in Acts 15:1-29.) It was there that Peter, Paul, Barnabas, James, and the other elders—with the endorsement of the Holy Spirit—determined that, under the New Covenant, Gentile believers were not required to be circumcised or keep the Law of Moses. They were not commanded to keep Shabbat, the feasts, the kosher food laws, the purity laws, or any other civil or ceremonial observances. Instead, they were given just four restrictions intended to foster unity with their Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ.

In short, the Bible teaches that we Gentiles were not subject to the Law of Moses under the Sinai Covenant, and we are not subject to it under the New Covenant, either.

Commands vs. Traditions

Once given, the Law of Moses became the heartbeat of Jewish culture. This lasted for 1,500 years until Jesus established the New Covenant. And under the New Covenant, many things changed. The definition of the “people of God” was expanded to include both Jews and Gentiles (Gal 3:28-29, Eph 2:11-16). The Sinai Covenant became obsolete (Heb 8:13). And the Law of Moses ceased to be binding on God’s people, Jew or Gentile. We see these changes taught in several places in the New Testament. For example, in Galatians, the apostle Paul writes:

The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

Galatians 3:24-25

Paul teaches now that Christ has come, we are no longer under the Law. This teaching is primarily aimed at Jewish believers because, as we’ve seen, Gentiles weren’t under the Law of Moses. The Law wasn’t given as a guardian for the Gentiles but for the Jews. And now that Jesus has come, we are no longer under that guardian. Paul further teaches that the “people of God” are no longer defined by their Jewish ethnicity. Rather we “are all sons of God, through faith” (v. 25). He then expounds on this teaching:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Galatians 3:27-29

This would have been quite a shocking pronouncement to Paul’s first-century Jewish audience, who were literally Abraham’s offspring and heirs of the promise God gave him. Under the New Covenant, the identity of “Abraham’s offspring” was expanded to include anyone who has placed their faith in Jesus; Jew or Gentile, man or woman, slave or free.

What about the commandments today?

The Law of Moses given to Israel under the Sinai Covenant is no longer in effect. But that doesn’t mean Christians today are lawless. Scripture tells us that under the New Covenant, the law is written on our hearts (Jer 31:31-34; Ez 37:26; 2 Cor 3:2-3; Heb 8:10, 10:16). Moreover, the moral and spiritual commandments given under the Law of Moses are repeated, taught, and endorsed under the New Covenant. However, the laws given to separate Israel from the Gentile nations, are not. For example, Paul teaches:

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Chris.

Colossians 2:16-17

And Jesus taught that the laws about unclean food no longer apply. After clashing with the Pharisees on the issue, he turned to His disciplines…

And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

Mark 7:18-19

For Jewish believers in Jesus, many of these observances understandably continued as important, even sacred, traditions. And it makes sense that Jewish believers would want to maintain them. These rituals are part of their ethnic DNA, their cultural identity as Jewish people. And they were not forbidden; they only ceased to be obligatory. Thus, what was initially given as law continued under the New Covenant as tradition. And we are free in Christ to observe such traditions. Provided, of course, they are undertaken as a matter of personal preference/conscience rather than a requirement of salvation or a condition of obedience.

When it comes to Gentiles who want to be “Torah observant,” things can start to get a little strange, in my opinion. I understand the motivation for Gentiles who want to adopt the Mosaic traditions. These are the rituals Jesus kept. However, an important distinction is often overlooked by our Torahist friends. Jesus was Jewish. Therefore, unlike we Gentiles, He was under the Law of Moses. “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Gal 4:4-5). In fact, Jesus was the only person to ever obey that Law perfectly (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 1 Pet 1:19, 2:22; 1 John 3:5).

Biblically speaking, Gentiles are free in Christ to observe whatever Jewish traditions they want. I’ve attended a Passover Seder and a couple of Sabbath services at a local Messianic synagogue, and I loved it. I learned a lot and was blessed by the experiences. But adopting the Jewish traditions and food laws as a regular part of a Gentile’s practice of their Christian faith is not necessary. And the danger in Torah-observant Christianity is the belief that these traditions are required of all Christians. Torahists often look down on Christians who choose not to keep those traditions, considering them “lawless” and “walking in sin.” But the bottom line is this: if you’re not Jewish, the Law of Moses has never applied to you.

14 thoughts on “Gentiles and the Law

  1. Barry Jones

    What would be unreasonable with the late 1st century Judaizer who said Matthew 28:20 was left intentionally unqualified?

    1. R. L. Solberg

      Hi, Barry. I don’t understand your question. What do you mean by “left intentionally unqualified”?

  2. Barry Jones

    20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20 NAU)

    The phrase “all that I commanded you” is not qualified. What then would be unreasonable about the inference that Matthew thinks the risen Christ wanted all the Christ-teachings recorded in Matthew, to be obeyed by future Gentile believers?

    1. R. L. Solberg

      Thanks for the clarification, Barry. Nothing is unreasonable about what you just asked. However, it’s incomplete. And a bit anachronistic in its approach.

      • It would be unreasonable to presume that Matthew thinks the risen Christ wanted only the Christ-teachings recorded in Matthew to be obeyed. The letter was not written in a vacuum, nor was it read by its first readers in a vacuum. There was an oral gospel floating about for decades prior to Matthew writing this work. That was how that culture learned and shared information. (Check out The Oral Gospel by Dunn. Fascinating read.) For that reason, I believe it is unreasonable to assume that Mattew believed he captured 100% of the teachings of Christ in his Gospel. His co-traveler and fellow apostle John wrote at the end of his Gospel, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). That doesn’t necessarily tell us Matthew’s frame of mind, but it does reveal that Jesus’ ministry contained more events and teachings than could be reasonably contained in a single Gospel.
      • Which brings me to the anachronistic error I believe underlies your question. The first-century writer did not use the modern historian’s detailed approach. Chronology was not expected nor were exact quotes. Quotes were gisted. (Quotation marks didn’t even exist as a punctuation device.) And further, the Ancient Near East listener or reader had no expectation that they were being told the exact words that were spoken. Matthew left the phrase “all that I commanded you” unqualified because it did not need qualification.
      • It would also be unreasonable to presume Matthew thinks the risen Christ wanted His teachings to be obeyed only by future Gentile believers. The Gospel is first to the Jew, and also to the Gentile. Matthew who traveled with Jesus and the apostles would have known that.

      So, in my opinion, it is unreasonable to conclude that Matthew thought the risen Christ wanted only the Christ-teachings he (Matthew) recorded to be obeyed only by future Gentile believers. But even if Matthew as the author thought that way, it has no bearing on the way his contemporary readers would have understood Jesus’ words in his Gospel. The first Christians to read Matthew (and all the generation of Christians who followed) take the phrase “all that I commanded you” to mean all the Jesus commanded of us during His earthly ministry. This phrase is not seen as constrained to the gospel of Matthew.

  3. Barry Jones

    Let’s forget the extra stuff outside of Matthew for the moment and just concentrate on what Matthew explicitly indicated that he wanted. What would be unreasonable in saying on the basis of the “all” in 28:20 being unqualified, that therefore Matthew intended for Gentiles to obey everything WHICH MATTHEW RECORDS that Jesus required of the original apostles? Would the contention in 28:20 justify imposing the requirement in 5:27-28 on Gentiles?

    1. R. L. Solberg

      That’s a bit like asking, “What would be unreasonable in saying that if Godzilla got in a fight with Superman, Godzilla would win?” Your question is so far out into the hypothetical sphere that the categorization of “reasonable” becomes meaningless.

      First, why are you asking solely what Matthew intended for the Gentiles and not all believers? He doubtless has multiple purposes in writing, but his central message seems to be addressed to Jewish Christians, teaching that following Jesus is the true way for a Jew to continue as one of God’s elect people. Second, why are you asking what Matthew intended, rather than what Jesus intended? As a devout apostle who personally knew Jesus, Matthew’s goal would have been to communicate Christ’s intent, not his own. Third, the arbitrary constraints you’re suggesting are foreign to the first-century scenario in which Matthew wrote his gospel. It was written after Christ’s resurrection and after the Church was born (Acts 2). The gospel story was spreading orally and known by many before Matthew put pen to parchment. And because Matthew didn’t live in a vacuum, it’s unreasonable to presume his intention was to restrict his reader’s obedience to only the specific teachings of Jesus that he himself recorded. As a Jewish studier of Scripture, Matthew would have recognized that no single book or writing is intended to stand on its own, nor would it be interpreted on its own. Matthew was knowingly adding his perspective to a public conversation that was already well underway.

  4. Barry Jones

    “That’s a bit like asking, “What would be unreasonable in saying that if Godzilla got in a fight with Superman, Godzilla would win?” Your question is so far out into the hypothetical sphere that the categorization of “reasonable” becomes meaningless.”
    ———I’m having trouble taking you seriously. Are you seriously trying to pretend that Matthew may have thought some of his gospel “didn’t apply” to Gentiles? If so, can you glean such a specific thing from Matthew’s own gospel?

    “First, why are you asking solely what Matthew intended for the Gentiles and not all believers?”
    ——–Because most Christian scholars, including conseratives, have convinced me that asking what the author intended, is probably more important than asking what a story character intended, as Matthew thought about the Christ-sayings for at least 20 years before he wrote them down in canonical form, and the notion that the Matthew never mixed his Christ-quotes with his own theology is absurd.

    “He doubtless has multiple purposes in writing,”
    ———You don’t know that, he could have had the singular purpose of requiring any follower to obey every Christ-teaching he included therein.

    “but his central message seems to be addressed to Jewish Christians, teaching that following Jesus is the true way for a Jew to continue as one of God’s elect people.”
    ———But the “all” in 28:20 is relevant to the Gentiles (v. 19) and since he doesn’t further qualify it, I was assuming he intended for Gentiles to at least obey “all” that Matthew’s gospel teaches, without worrying for the moment whether he required them to observe anything outside his gospel.

    “Second, why are you asking what Matthew intended, rather than what Jesus intended?”
    ——–Because Jesus didn’t write Matthew’s gospel, and no Christian scholar thinks Matthew’s Christ-quotes are verbatim, most conservatives reluctantly admit such quotes gives is the ipsissima vox (gist), not the ipsissima verba (actual words).

    “As a devout apostle who personally knew Jesus, Matthew’s goal would have been to communicate Christ’s intent, not his own.”
    ————–You don’t know that sufficiently well to pretend it should function as a given. Conservatives often characterize Matthew as one of the more “obscure” apostles, and that opens the door to the possibility that while he may have been a follower, that doesn’t require that he attend to Jesus equally as often as some of the other apostles.
    Even with an early date of 55 a.d. Matthew is still writing at least 20 years after Jesus died. Most Christian scholars on Matthew ask what *Matthew* intended, so unless you call the majority Christian conservative scholarly view unreasonable, my agreement with them and with general historians that inquiring into authorial intent is reasonable, is going to be reasonable.

    “Third, the arbitrary constraints you’re suggesting are foreign to the first-century scenario in which Matthew wrote his gospel. It was written after Christ’s resurrection and after the Church was born (Acts 2). The gospel story was spreading orally and known by many before Matthew put pen to parchment. And because Matthew didn’t live in a vacuum, it’s unreasonable to presume his intention was to restrict his reader’s obedience to only the specific teachings of Jesus that he himself recorded.
    ——Strawman, I never expressed or implied any such thing. Understanding Matthew in his own literary context is a necessary first step before we try to view him in the context of anything else. Scrunching all related contexts together at the beginning is not wise. Like Jesus, Matthew could possibly have meant something that is at odds with his own culture, or maybe differs slightly from what Jesus actually meant. I am not an inerrantist, I do not blindly presume harmony of all applicable contexts. Just like if you see somebody walking down the street in America, you don’t bet your life they love mom, baseball and apple pie merely because they are present in America. Dissent is sufficiently likely as to make room for its possibility at the beginning of the inquiry.

    “As a Jewish studier of Scripture, Matthew would have recognized that no single book or writing is intended to stand on its own, nor would it be interpreted on its own.”
    ———-Except that the Jews disagreed amongst themselves which OT books were divinely authoritative, such as the Sadducees who denied the all books in the canonincal OT beyond the writings of Moses. Perhaps Matthew disagreed with other Christians or apostles about which writings are authoritative.

    “Matthew was knowingly adding his perspective to a public conversation that was already well underway.”
    ———–“perspective”….now you know why I’m asking what *Matthew* meant.

    My question is every simple, friend: Your foray into related social and literary contexts might be interesting but doesn’t answer the question. Obviously there is the looming problem that yes, Matthew may have intended Gentiles to obey all Christ-teachings recorded in Matthew’s gospel, in which case Matthew would be a judaizer.

    The fact that this would spell disaster for your own theology doesn’t mean it is an unreasonable hypothesis. Galatians and Acts testify that the orignial Jewish faction of the church was Judaizer in outlook (and apparently had such good arguments for it that they also persuaded Barnabas to differ with Paul on table fellowship (Gal. 2:13) even though Barnabas was selected personally by the Holy Spirit to help in Paul’s Gentile mission field (Acts 13:2), so the notion that Matthew intended Gentiles to obey “all” Christ-teachings he included in his gospel, including the Jewish-centered ones, is certainly well within historical possibility and probability, even if such a notion is anathema to inerrantists and other fundamentalists.

    I’d like an answer please: Did Matthew intend for future Gentile converts to obey ALL of the Christ-teachings Matthew recorded, or only SOME of them? It cannot logically be both, to please answer directly.

    1. R. L. Solberg

      BJ: “I am not an inerrantist, I do not blindly presume harmony of all applicable contexts”

      Rob: This may be the crux of our disagreement. I firmly believe that Scripture is inspired (co-authored by God) and inerrant (true in all it teaches and asserts). That’s the theological commitment from which I am answering your questions. So while your opposing commitments, if true, would “spell disaster” for my theology, the reverse is just as true.

      I agree with you that asking what the author intended to communicate to his/her readers is more important than asking what a story character intended. And the point I am making is that Matthew’s intention as an author was to accurately communicate Jesus’ teachings to his readers. You’re correct that Jesus did not write Matthew’s gospel, and that Matthew did not quote Jesus verbatim. There was no expectation of word-for-word quotes in that time and culture. (They didn’t even have quotations marks!) So all quotes we read in Scripture should be understood as ipsissima vox (“the very voice”); meaning the gist of a conversation not being quoted verbatim. This was the sense in which Matthew shared the words of Christ. And Matthew, as a devoted apostle of Christ, like any good Jewish follower of his rabbi, intended to accurately capture Jesus’ intentions rather than promote his own.

      This is not to say that Matthew did not also have personal intentions in how he relayed the teachings of Christ. His is the most Jewish of the gospels. Notice how often Matthew ties the story of Jesus to the Tanakh. And how he weaves in themes of Moses and the Exodus—the person and the event which would have been preeminent in the minds of his first-century Jewish audience.

      Regarding 28:20, the end of Matthew’s gospel reveals a teaching that Jesus gave after His resurrection. During His earthly ministry, Jesus was primarily and overwhelmingly focused on Israel. But after His resurrection, He notably expanded His commission to Gentiles as well:

      “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations [all nations: Jews and Gentiles], baptizing them [Jews and Gentiles] in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them [Jews and Gentiles] to observe all that I [Jesus] have commanded you [Jesus is directing His instructions toward His eleven disciples]. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20; see also Acts 1:8)

      Matthew’s intent is to relay the message of His Lord. And Christ’s intention is that Jews and Gentiles who come to faith in Him should obey all that He taught. And if Matthew is accurately capturing the gist of what Jesus said—and I believe he is—we have zero reason to expect the artificial constraints you are proposing. Jesus brought His eleven disciples to the mountain and shared the great commission with them. Why would He intend them to understand His words as referring only to those specific teachings that Matthew was going to later write down, and not all His teachings they had witnessed with their own eyes and ears?

      BJ: “I’d like an answer please: Did Matthew intend for future Gentile converts to obey ALL of the Christ-teachings Matthew recorded, or only SOME of them? It cannot logically be both, to please answer directly.”

      Rob: All of them.

  5. Barry Jones

    Thanks for answering directly “All of them”.

    That means the risen Christ expected future Gentile converts to obey the following Christ-teachings as documented in Matthew’s gospel:

    19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
    20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
    (Matt. 5:19-20 NAU)

    23 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,
    24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
    (Matt. 5:23-24 NAU)

    2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses;
    3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. (Matt. 23:2-3 NAU)

    ———What would be unreasonable about the non-inerrantist drawing the conclusion from your answer and from the above-cited texts from Matthew’s gospel that the original apostles and Jesus taught the very Judaizer-version of the gospel that Paul later so radically opposed?

    1. R. L. Solberg

      Well, that’s the thing. The non-inerrantist places himself in a position of authority over the text and is able to freely accept, reject, or modify any verse or passage as he sees fit. If he comes across a teaching he doesn’t like, he can decide it was a later addition by an anonymous editor, or it was only meant metaphorically, or that it was merely a cultural statement of the time and is no longer applicable to us. (This is how progressive Christianity does it.) Or he can decide to reject (or edit) the Pauline epistles because he thinks they clash with the teachings of Jesus, or because they teach the Law of Moses is no longer in effect. (This is what some HRM teachers end up doing.) Or like Marcion, he can reject the entire OT and any books of the NT that indicate Jesus was the prophesied Jewish messiah.

      In the case of the Scripture you cited, I don’t see how they teach a Judaizer version of the gospel. Judaizers were Jews who believed that Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism (be circumcised, keep the Law of Moses, etc.) in order to join the followers of Christ. Jesus here was preaching to a Jewish audience and, as Paul so aptly teaches, Jewish followers of Jesus are not required to leave their Jewishness behind. The Mosaic traditions were not prohibited.

  6. Barry Jones

    “Well, that’s the thing. The non-inerrantist places himself in a position of authority over the text and is able to freely accept, reject, or modify any verse or passage as he sees fit. ”
    ———-Because that’s what fundamentalist inerrantists are inviting us to do when they tell us the gospels pass standard tests of historiography, and that we should “check out” such claims. The tests of historiography are not nearly as rigid as say, the rules of chess. Were it otherwise, we’d find Christians scholars and historians disagreeing with each other about bible history about as often as they disagree with each other about what chess moves are legal and illegal.

    As far as authority over the text, I’m not seeing why you think this is any sort of flaw in the non-inerrantist. The tests of historiography which McDowell, W.L. Craig and others tell us to employ upon the bible, MAKE us an authority over the text, since at that point the decider is not the bible, but the way we employ the historical rules. Will you say that most popular Christian apologists and scholars are wrong, and only the devil wants unbelievers to employ standard rules of historiography when analyzing bible claims?

    “If he comes across a teaching he doesn’t like, he can decide it was a later addition by an anonymous editor,”
    ———–I don’t use that excuse unless I can provide argument which raises that possibility to a level of probability, thus my employment of the excuse is not arbitrary.

    snip

    “In the case of the Scripture you cited, I don’t see how they teach a Judaizer version of the gospel.”
    —-Jesus told the apostles to obey the Pharisees (Matthew 23:2-3, cited supra). How could future Gentile believers “obey” this (28:20)? The Pharisees would tell them covenant with god is impossible without circumcision (Exodus 12:48).

    Jesus also praised the keeping of the Law (5:19b) and condemned those who would try to “nullify” any part of it (5:19a). The only way future Gentile believers could “obey” 5:19 is to keep the Law to such a degree that their righteousness exceeded the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (5:20, which from the context which follows, proves to be not a discussion about imputed/imparted righteousness, but actual personal righteousness, i.e., salvation by works). I don’t think you appreciate why so many fundamentalist Christians limit their evangelism texts to gospel of John and Paul….they recognize, even if only subconsciously or reluctantly, that soteriology in the Synoptics is most definitely merit-based.

    “Judaizers were Jews who believed that Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism (be circumcised, keep the Law of Moses, etc.) in order to join the followers of Christ.”
    ——–Correct.

    “Jesus here was preaching to a Jewish audience”
    ——–I don’t see how that matters, his statement in Matthew 28:20 requires the apostles to take all they learned from Jesus and require future Gentile believers to “obey” it. What you need to do is demonstrate that certain Christ-teachings in Matthew did not apply to Gentiles…but you previously specified that “all” of the Christ-teachings in Matthew applied to Gentiles at the time the risen Christ said the words in 28:20.

    “and, as Paul so aptly teaches, Jewish followers of Jesus are not required to leave their Jewishness behind”
    ———-Strawman, that’s not the question. We are not debating whether Jesus or Paul required Jews to leave their Jewishness behind. We are debating whether Jesus in 28:20 intended the apostles to require future Gentiles to obey the Christ-teachings found in 23:2-3 and 5:19. We are also debating how you figure such Gentiles could “obey” such things without conceding the truth of the Judaizer gospel by their actions.

    “The Mosaic traditions were not prohibited”
    —-Strawman, that’s not the issue. It doesn’t matter if Jesus and Paul allowed originally Jewish persons to retain their Jewish practices after conversion to Christianity. We are discussing an entirely different question: whether Matthew 28:20 indicates that Matthew thought the risen Christ required the apostles to make future Gentile believers “obey” all the Christ-teachings recorded in Matthew’s gospel, such as those found in 23:2-3 and 5:19.

    In other words, I’m establishing a prima facie case that Jesus taught a Judaizer-type gospel, and therefore taught contrary to apostle Paul.

    1. R. L. Solberg

      Hey, Barry. This is great stuff! Thanks for the dialogue.

      BJ: Will you say that most popular Christian apologists and scholars are wrong and only the devil wants unbelievers to employ standard rules of historiography when analyzing bible claims?

      Of course not. I employ historiography myself. All Christian scholars do. I’m not suggesting anyone abandon the myriad hermeneutical tools we have at our disposal (historical-grammatical, literary, literal, anagogical, etc.)

      BJ: I don’t think you appreciate why so many fundamentalist Christians limit their evangelism texts to gospel of John and Paul. They recognize, even if only subconsciously or reluctantly, that soteriology in the Synoptics is most definitely merit-based.

      Well, I’m certainly not here to defend errant theology, no matter who holds it. Christians who miss the grace-based salvation taught in the NT usually also miss the fact that the soteriology of the Hebrew Scriptures (OT) was not merit-based either. It is a ubiquitous human trait to want to believe that “Surely, I must be required to do something in order to be worthy of being saved.” We all fall prey to that temptation, me included. That’s why the Gospel is so astounding! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). It is certainly not a theology invented by human beings.

      BJ: What you need to do is demonstrate that certain Christ-teachings in Matthew did not apply to Gentiles…but you previously specified that “all” of the Christ-teachings in Matthew applied to Gentiles at the time the risen Christ said the words in 28:20.

      And I stand by that statement. I feel no obligation to demonstrate that certain Christ-teachings in Matthew did not apply to Gentiles because that’s not actually where the rub is. I believe the problem in your attempt to reconcile 28:20 is an overly literal interpretation of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew’s gospel. In the arc of God’s redemptive story, those teachings were given as the old covenant was winding down and the new covenant was starting up. Jesus’ earthly ministry was focused primarily (almost exclusively) on Israel. He instructs His disciples to avoid the towns of the Gentiles, “but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:6). And we see a clear emphasis on the Jewish people in His prophetic warnings to the nation of Israel, and the symbolic actions He took, such as cleansing the temple and cursing the fig tree. And we see it on display in His conversation with the Gentile woman who begged Him to help her demon-possessed daughter in Matthew 15:23-28. Both Jesus and Paul taught that the Gospel was first to the Jew, but also the Gentile (Rom 1:16).

      So when it comes to “Jewish-specific” teachings in Matthew, you seem to be interpreting them with a wooden literalism that I don’t believe Matthew intended, nor that his readers (believers in Christ) share. For example, you mentioned Matthew 23:2-3, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach but do not practice.” (Interestingly, this is the only verse in the entire Bible where the phrase Moses’ seat (or some translations render it chair of Moses) is found.) What is Jesus teaching in this passage (and the woes in general)? He’s teaching His followers not to be persuaded by the hypocritical actions of religious authorities but rather to obey only what comes from the Word of God. (Or perhaps we could say He’s teaching His followers how to properly obey those in authority and keep the commandments.) To the Jews who were still under the Law at that time, this would have meant observing the Law of Moses. But Jesus knew the specifics were about to change. Not only because He was about to inaugurate the New Covenant (Jer 31:31-34; Luke 22:20), but also because He knew the temple’s days were numbered (Matt 12:6, 24:1-2, 26:61). And the destruction of the temple would make it literally impossible for anyone to fully keep the Law of Moses. So how would a Gentile obey Matt 23:2-3? By being wary of the hypocritical actions of religious authorities and by keeping the commandments found in Scripture. And the Gentiles’ point of reference for those commandments is found just a few verses earlier in Matt 22:34-40.

  7. Barry Jones

    I just provided a point by point response, and the “post comment” function caused the page to refresh without posting my comments, again. Can you recover it and post it?

    1. R. L. Solberg

      How frustrating! Sorry for the trouble you had, Barry. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to check if your comment was captured in my WP database somewhere. That kind of thing is exactly why I started writing my replies in notepad and copying them to the live platform (WordPress, YouTube, etc.) when I’m done.

Share your thoughts.

Wordpress Social Share Plugin powered by Ultimatelysocial
%d bloggers like this: