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R. L. Solberg  

The New Book!

When I began the research that eventually turned into this book, I had no idea the world was about to witness another wave of anti-Semitism. It breaks my heart when any people group suffers hostility and prejudice at the hands of anyone else. I find it even more tragic when the people doing the hating are Christians, and the people being hated are Jews. Not all Christians harbor anti-Semitism, of course. But the problem is pervasive enough that I felt moved to do something about it. That is why I am donating every penny of profit from this book to a non-profit organization that fights anti-Semitism around the world. And I was thrilled when my publisher Williamson College said they wanted to join me in that effort.

There is a unique, complex historical relationship between Jews and Christians. Israel is a nation supernaturally called forth by God. The historical thread that began with Abraham sometime around 1,900 BC has evolved down through the centuries into a glorious, colorful tapestry. It continues to grow today, and we Christians have been woven in.

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 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 3:26-29

Christians can rightly view the Jewish people as our spiritual cousins. Indeed, the Gospel is a Jewish story. This is something the early Christian writers roundly affirmed.

Interestingly, anti-Semitism is not the main point of this book. My research was initially inspired by the apologetic work I do in defending biblical Christianity against the growing modern heresy known as Torahism. These are folks who profess faith in Jesus, and at the same time, teach that Christians are required to “keep Torah.” (You may have heard of the Hebrew Roots Movement or the Black Hebrew Israelites?) These groups believe we should be keeping all of the Old Testament Laws given to Israel, including the Saturday Sabbath, dietary restrictions, biblical feasts, and so on. At the root of Torahism is the idea that Christian theology was corrupted in the early centuries of the faith by rampant anti-Semitism. It is this foundational belief that I set out to investigate.

My goal was to understand the true nature of Jewish-Christian relations through the first three centuries of the faith. I chose this specific period of history because it is here that Torahism (among others) claims Christian theology was hopelessly corrupted. The Council of Nicaea in AD 325 is seen as a crystallizing event. It was there that the Church officially embraced the anti-Jewish attitudes of the early Christians. Right?

After studying scores of early writings and the work of modern Jewish and Christian scholars, I discovered things weren’t nearly as black-and-white as we think. The relationship between Jews and early Christians was complex and nuanced. As Jewish scholar Daniel Boyarin points out in the preface to his book Borderlines, “The affiliation between what we call Judaism and what we call Christianity is much more complex than most scholars, let alone most lay folk, imagine” (p. xi). The two groups were entwined by a shared history, common sacred texts, and a conjoined theology. They were each trying to work out what this whole Jesus thing meant. And they were fumbling for solid footing amid ever-shifting political and cultural sands.

I discovered that anti-Jewish sentiment absolutely did exist in early Christianity, but it wasn’t what our modern minds would expect. The clashes were chiefly based on issues of theology, not race. In fact, racial theory in antiquity was markedly different from today, which had to be figured into my findings. In addition, during these early centuries, Jewish-Christian tensions were more of a two-street than we realize.

In the end, I was both enlightened and encouraged by my research into the formative centuries of our faith. And I pray you find a little of each in my new book, as well.

2 thoughts on “The New Book!

  1. Barry Jones

    Mr. Solberg,

    One of my chief counter-apologetics arguments for the last 20 years has been that Jesus and the original 12 apostles taught the Judaizer gospel.

    In other words, I would blame Paul for corrupting the original form of the gospel. Paul’s heretical view of the gospel is part of what motivated me to give up Christianity.

    I would therefore think my arguments might pose a bigger challenge to you than similar arguments advanced by legalistic Christians, because many of them still try to hang onto Paul, whereas I accuse Paul of being a heretic and changing the gospel in ways Jesus never intended.

    One particularly devastating argument is the last part of the Great Commission from Matthew 28:

    18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
    19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
    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. 28:18-20 NAU)

    Notice the phrase “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…”

    The only apparent qualification on “all” is Matthew’s own gospel. That is, if Matthew correctly understood what the risen Christ meant here, then Matthew would have intended future Gentile converts to obey whatever Jesus-teachings that Matthew includes in his gospel.

    So the risen Christ wanted the apostles to require future Gentile believers to observe everything that Jesus had previously commanded the apostles to observe, the ony apparently limitation being that the “everything” should be defined in terms of whatever Matthew recorded about Jesus’ commanding the apostles to do anything.

    What, according to Matthew’s own gospel, did Jesus command the apostles to observe?
    And therefore, according to the Great Commission, what did Jesus require all future Gentile converts to obey?

    —First be reconciled to your brother before you offer your gift at the altar (5:23).
    —Do everything the Pharisees tell you, except the hypocritical stuff (23:3).

    Would you agree with me that Matthew’s teaching the Judaizer gospel is theory having just a bit more probable merit, than Paul-worshippers would like to admit?

    What are the odds that the same guy who tells Gentiles to leave gifts at the Temple altar, would also say Jesus’ death made Temple ceremonies unnecessary? The contradiction between Matthew and Paul is clear.

    And of course, this little bit is just the tip of the icebox.

    1. R. L. Solberg

      Interesting. Thanks for your comments! I have so many questions. I’ll start here: It’s not clear why you suggest that “The only apparent qualification on ‘all’ is Matthew’s own gospel.” Why did you opt to place that constraint on this statement?

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