Friday, 11 October 2013

Yeshua is Adonai

This blog gets the most hits when the subject is about homosexuality. And since we are a community of GLBT believers in Messiah, this is hardly surprising. After all, we aim to provide a safe place, hope and encouragement for those who have been wounded and deeply hurt by well-meaning but ignorant believers. However, even though our sexual orientation is towards our own gender, we should not allow ourselves to be defined by it. We are all made in the image of HaShem. And the scope of this ministry goes way beyond just our sexuality. To repeat, G-d does not condemn you for being gay and being in a same-sex committed relationship is not a sin. For those of you who still live in shame, doubt and fear of divine punishment, please read (or re-read) the teaching articles on this blog.

Our primary aim is to proclaim Yeshua the Messiah. He is our Lord and Saviour. And salvation is found in Him alone. He is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty G-d, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7). He is the saviour of the world (Yochanan 4:42) and the Lamb of G-d who takes away the sins of the world (Yochanan 1:29). And one day he will draw (literally drag) all men and women to Himself (Yochanan 12:42).

We do not worship Torah, as important as Torah is, especially the Torah of Messiah. We do not worship Shabbat, as much as we love Shabbat and enjoy the blessing of it. No, we worship the King of Israel, the One slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). Through Him we can have a personal relationship with HaShem, our heavenly Father. Through Messiah Yeshua the Father is reconciling the whole world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19).

And this my friends is the crux, the faultline, the most important issue you will ever deal with in your life. Not whether you are gay or lesbian. To be blunt, G-d doesn't care whether you are active, versatile or passive. But he does care deeply about YOU, about you having a relationship with Him. Yeshua and the Father are One (Yochanan 10:30) - Yeshua is merely the divine image of the Father... they are one and the same.

But why Yeshua? What about good Muslims, Buddhists, Orthodox Jews or Agnostics? How can we know that Yeshua really is the Messiah? Do you know? And can you prove it? The Christian Church places all its emphasis on 'faith' and so millions of sincere people try to work up enough faith to be saved - a sure way to go mad. G-d loves every one of His children, so why does it matter whether we know Messiah? And how can it be that salvation is only possible through Him?

I recently received a letter from a lesbian lady (she is Jewish), expressing serious doubts about Yeshua's claim to be the Messiah. And I empathise with her, because for many years I attended a mainstream synagogue and tried to avoid the issue. But one day, I finally plucked up the courage to tell my Rabbi that I believed that Yeshua was the Messiah. No big deal you might think? Nothing could be further from the truth. I experienced the most traumatic rejection of my life and was stripped of all my duties and asked to resign from the synagogue membership. It broke my heart. And yet I am a Jew and my saviour is a Jew. Our home is a Messianic Jewish home, we keep kosher, we keep Shabbat and the Festivals, we don't keep Christmas or Easter - I could go on.

So what about Yeshua? What makes you so sure that He is the Messiah? And can you prove it?

The next blog post will focus on this very subject. I believe it will be the most important one I have ever written. I pray that for those of you who are already believers in Yeshua, it will strengthen your faith. And for those of you who have doubts and (many) questions, I hope that it will spark in you a desire to know the truth and to dig deeper. And that you will come face to face with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Days of Awe

We are currently in the Yomim Nora’im - the 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur – known as the Days of Awe. During these 10 days, we are to focus on Teshuva (Repentance) and preparation for Yom Kippur. Special insertions are added to our daily prayers, emphasizing the themes of G-d as King, G-d’s judgement, and G-d’s holiness. We also recall prayers referring to the Book of Life.
Remember us for life, O King Who desires life, and inscribe us in the Book of Life – for Your sake, O Living G-d … Who is like You, Merciful Father, Who recalls His creatures mercifully for life … Blessed are You, our G-d, the Holy King. (From additions to the Amidah during the Days of Awe).
These 10 Days of Awe (and the whole High Holiday period) are meant to particularly recall G-d’s mercy. As Rabbi Wayne Dosick notes, although our “prayers are solemn and serious, they are also filled with joy and with hope. For Judaism teaches that G-d is ready and very willing to forgive the transgressions of those who come in sincere repentance.”
HaShem’s desire is for relationship with us and the High Holidays are opportunities to meet with G-d in the most intimate of times. The 10 days help us to more intently focus on, and deal with, those things which hold us back in life, and from the presence of HaShem.
Although we should be focusing on repentance, forgiveness, and overcoming life’s obstacles every day – G-d, also knowing the procrastinate nature of humanity, has built into the calendar specific times in which we are obligated to deal with those shortcomings. Otherwise we might just continue to sweep them under the rug. For most of us, the last thing we want to do is go to someone we may have hurt in the last year to seek forgiveness. Or confront a person for the hurt they have caused us. But by doing so, and allowing forgiveness to take place, we remove more of those spiritual stumbling blocks. We are able to break free of the weight of guilt, shame, anger, and inadequacy.
The Days of Awe are awesome days because they are what you make of them. My deepest prayer is that they would be for you a time of blessing and restoration.
G’mar Chatimah Tovah – May you be sealed for a wonderful New Year!

Rosh HaShanah

HaShem spoke unto Moshe, saying: “Tell the people of Israel, ‘In the seventh month, the first day of the month is to be for you a day of complete rest for remembering, a holy convocation announced with blasts of the shofar. Do not do any kind of ordinary work, and bring an offering made by fire to HaShem (Lev. 23:23-25).’”

The festival of Rosh HaShanah is intimately connected to the sounding of the shofar. It is so bound together with the imagery of the shofar, that the Biblical term for the holiday is actually Yom Teruah – “the Day of Sounding.” The English reference to the holiday, the Feast of Trumpets, also reflects this relationship. So how did this come to be?
The Torah speaks of Rosh HaShanah as a holy convocation to remember, announced with blasts of the shofar. According to the Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 16a) and expounded on by Rashi, remembrance is to be understood in conjunction with the shofar blasts, which call upon God to remember the deeds of the Jewish people for good.
According to Tosefta Rosh HaShanah 1.13, “All things are judged on Rosh HaShanah, and their fate is sealed on Yom Kippur.” Being that Rosh HaShanah is the day that the Book of Life is opened, and judgment begins, the shofar is sounded to call our souls to repentance. The Rambam states that the shofar beckons to our souls: “Awake, you sleepers, from your sleep! Arise, you slumberers, from your slumber! Repent with contrition! Remember your Creator! (Hil. Teshuvah 3:4)” As such, the shofar serves to call us to do teshuvah, and for God to act mercifully toward us and pardon us for our shortcomings.
The shofar is also sounded on Rosh HaShanah to announce the arrival of our Righteous King. To recognize God’s sovereignty and His creation of all that exists. The shofar blasts serve as a reminder of the time to come, when Yeshua, our righteous Messiah, will ultimately return and regather the exiles of Israel.
For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven and with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God’s shofar; those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with Him in the air. And thus, we will always be with the Lord. So encourage each other with these words (1 Thess. 4:16-18).
During this Rosh HaShanah, let us hear the calling of the shofar, and let it beckon our souls to repentance. As we seek God to remember us for good in the coming year, let us do so with the confidence that one day that same shofar will sound, and it will bring with it the return of Messiah Yeshua. L’Shanah tovah tikateivu – May each and every one of us be inscribed for a sweet New Year, and may this be the year that we merit the coming of Mashiach!

Copyright: Yinon Blog - Rabbi Joshua

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Are there contradictions in the Bible?

In this groundbreaking article, Messianic Rebbe Dr Les Aron Gosling, tackles a subject that has burdened many intelligent, truth-seeking believers in Messiah: Are there contradictions in the Bible? On the one hand we are told that the Bible is a collection of fairy tales and on the other extreme we are supposed to believe that every single word in the Bible was 'dictated' by G-d to His prophets. Expect to be surprised (and encouraged):

What does the word inerrant mean? One dictionary offers the following definition: "Exempt from error; free from mistake; infallible."

The late Dr Edward J. Young, professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, stated: "The derivation of the word ‘inerrant’ is clear. Errare is the Latin infinitive which means ‘to wander,’ and the concept of erring implies a departing or going astray from the truth... The word ‘inerrant’ simply denotes the quality of freedom from error, and it is in this sense that the word is applied to the Holy Scriptures. The inerrancy of the Scriptures, then, implies their freedom from any error of doctrine, fact or ethic. To state the matter in a slightly different way, every assertion of the Bible is true, whether the Bible speaks of what to believe (doctrine), or how to live (ethics), or whether it recounts historical events [accurately]. On whatever subject the Scripture speaks, it speaks the truth, and one may believe its utterances"
(The Bible: The Living Word of Revelation, 1968, 103,104).

In other words, "inerrancy" demands that the Bible speak infallibly on matters of science, geography, history as well as on questions of faith, salvation and theology. The current "inerrancy" debate has continued unassuaged for almost a century.

Both sides can’t be right, can they? Isn’t it high time we looked honestly at the biblical revelation itself? I said, honestly.

For, far too long Christians have been content to read into the Word of God their own preconceived ideas and beliefs which they have inherited from previous nascent religious traditions. Presumptuous Constantinian churchianity has fast become an irrelevant backwater. Clich├ęs have replaced a grasp of true biblical doctrine. Inarticulate slobberdrool has usurped authentic discipleship. Religion, if it is anything, is (as eloquently articulated by J.A. Froude), "the dominion of absurdity."

Most Christians today are both biblically and theologically bankrupt.

This is not just the assessment of those of us associated with BRI. Some of the most profound Christian theologians (like
Carl F.H. Henry) and philosophers (such as Jacques Ellul) have said the same thing. This deplorable condition exists primarily because the Christian Church during the days of the emperor Constantine literally jettisoned anything and every-thing considered "Jewish" from the thinking of the Christian community. Israel was unceremonially replaced in God’s economy with the Church.

Replacement theology, always just below the surface of the Gentile Church, was finally born during the period of
Augustine in the late fourth/early fifth century. Articulated in the original ‘Satanic Verses’ -- ‘The City of God’ -- this Gentile theology was penned during a time of great spiritual darkness and apostasy. The outcome was that first century beliefs of the Jews were discarded in favour of a Babylonian ‘no frills’ brand of sensuous, pagan churchianity, accomp-anied by a romanticised perversion of the horrors of Golgoleth (perverted to "Golgotha"/"Calvary").

Changing currents in the study of the Jewish people of the first century of our Common Era, and especially of the suspiciously silent period dominated by the Fifth Procuratorship of Judaea, make it hard enough for specialists to stay abreast of new findings. For student and scholar alike, and other specialists in complementary fields, it becomes virtually impossible. Today, as we hurtle toward the first years of the new millennium, our prayer is that the Bible can be properly assessed in the light of modern research by those who claim to be educators of the Christian masses. But not all biblical educators are honest men. Scholars they may claim to be, but scholarship has a strange way of sometimes hiding, and not always illuminating, the truth.

Being economical with the truth has been a charge often levelled in the direction of those who have been tempted to strut about as little Napoleonic Pontiffs telling us what we can or cannot believe. Frankly, it would come as a surprise to us at BRI to discover that any Christians realised that the annals of the church reveal that a belief in reincarnation was rife in the early ‘Yeshua Party,’ and that it was once part of Christian dogma until a cabal of bishops at a council at Constant-inople as late as 553 C.E. voted the transmigration of the human soul, as a legitimate concept, out of Christianity. The bottom line seems to be that continued acceptance of, and adherence to, the doctrine of reincarnation was not an economically viable proposition as too much revenue could rather be made by Indulgences through the substitution of a refined doctrine of purgatory.

The plain truth is, of course, that the Bible is a collection of man’s wisdom (inspired to be sure by the holy Spirit of God) but the record still reflects man’s growth in understanding of a variety of subjects, not the least the nature of immortality.

As a prime example of what we are discussing, the Bible incorporates not just one view of the afterlife, but three. And all of them can be held together equally in a balanced tension. (BRI students may access the private member's BRI/IMCF International Internet Yeshiva Discussion Board lectures on immortality entitled Is Man the Phoenix? to see this to be the case.)

The Bible includes a variety of such factors that merit our consideration, especially as it relates to the unfolding of historical events. It contains, as an example, two very different accounts of the initial meeting of David with Saul. Any Sunday school student knows that Saul knew David who strummed his lyre for the mad king, but in the other incident their meeting is on the field of battle involving Goliath of Gath! Ezra (who compiled a canon of the Hebrew Scriptures, saving some documents and ruthlessly destroying others) collected two popular traditional accounts from the divided states of Israel and Judah. He then proceeded to weave them together as one official document. This brilliant intertwining of the two traditions, one cherished by the northern kingdom of Israel and the other close to the heart of the southern kingdom
of Judah, was a clever ruse to give some stability in faith to a hopelessly segmented nation coming to terms with the consequences of civil war. The unity of the faith was guarded, at least for a time. Certainly, we come across similar compilations of different traditions in the question of the death of Goliath of Gath (II Samuel 21.19; 1 Chronicles 20.5) and in the sin of king David in his numbering of Israel (II Samuel 24.1; 1 Chronicles 21.1).

As far as the Messianic Scriptures of the Yeshua Party are concerned, the writings of the Apostle Paul also reveal a series of stage-by-stage knowledge growth spurts. When one examines the attitudes of the apostle regarding male-female relationships in his early writings, and compare these sexist crippling views with those more highly evolved attitudes contained in his later final letters we see that husbands and wives are by that time on an equal footing and are subject to mutual submission, not hierarchical advantage. This principle of progressive revelation holds true with Paul on a variety of subjects, including some often overlooked social factors linked to his doctrine of the second advent. Those who would seek to disagree with this assessment need their heads read by a psychiatrist as in my opinion they are in dangerous waters as far as their sense of reality is concerned.

Unpopular though it may be to admit it, the Bible is nonetheless man’s word containing the Word of God. True, Peter
wrote "that no prophecy of the Scripture is of its own origination. For the prophecy came not at any time by the exercise of the will of man: but men of God spoke as they were moved by holy Spirit" (II Peter 1.20-21). And Paul recognised that the Word of God was breathed out onto the parchments (II Timothy3.16 Greek). Yet while this is true, men still wrote down in their own words and in their own way their perception of what the Spirit had revealed to them.

Proof? Evaluate the following texts, but prior to so doing let us comment on the fact that biblical contradictions -- which do exist -- come in basically four types.

Firstly, there are those which are essentially due to scribal error in copying from a previous manuscript [ms] text or a translator’s preference for a variant reading from a minority text (which, although obscure, may be authentic).

Secondly, there are contradictions due to an apologist and/or adaptionist approach. Luke’s sermon on the plain is probably the correct incident for Yeshua’ lecture about the beatitudes (Luke 6.17ff), while Matthew desires Yeshua to be the new Moses as he places him, like the original Moses, on a mountain (Matthew 5.1ff). When comparing Luke’s account with Matthew’s this principle begins to stand out over and over.

The occasion of Pilate washing his hands at the trial of Yeshua is clearly apologetic, for this is a Jewish custom, not a Roman custom (Matthew 27.24). It is difficult to believe that Pontius Pilate, historically described not only as arrogant and ruthless when it came to matters involving Jewish public unrest and political disturbance, would be so accommodating to the Jewish authorities when we read of his temperament in contemporary accounts. There was no love lost between the representative of Imperial Rome and the Jewish people.

The adaptionist case is seen in the healing incident during which an ill person is lowered through a roof to get to Yeshua due to crushing crowds. In Mark’s chronicle desperate men strenuously dig through a mud thatch roof (Mark 2.3-8 Gk) but in Luke’s account they effortlessly remove tiles (Luke 5.19 Gk). Luke has adapted to his Gentile audience for his readers would not have known what was meant by a mud thatched roof!

Thirdly, we have the more problematic. Example: Yeshua clears the Temple. We all agree it happened -- but when? At the conclusion of His ministry as made clear in the Synoptic Gospels and which incident evoked a revolution which helped put the nails into His wrists and feet (Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19), or was it in fact at the very start of His ministry (Jn2.13ff)?

The Bible is not "one" book -- it is several books linked together by man’s inadequacy of human expression as presented in his various "scientific" disciplines as he submits to Deity. Man’s disciplines and man’s submission in honour to God is ever little more than half-hearted, even in his best state and motivated by holy Spirit.

Fourthly, there are what we would term true contradictions. Similar inconsistencies as those involving the meeting of David and Saul, and those entailing the mysterious death of Goliath, are also to be found frequently throughout the four remaining Gospels in the Messianic Scriptures of the Yeshua Party. These virtual contradictions usually reflect nothing more than different elements accepted in divergent circles of the One Christian Faith. Jewish rabbinical thinking in the days of the Fifth Procuratorship of Judaea was ‘inerrantist’: that is, they viewed every word of Scripture as equally revelatory (Rowland Croucher, Recent Trends Among Evangelicals: Biblical Agendas, Justice and Spirituality, 1986, 19). Our Lord Yeshua rejected such a position, claiming that certain texts of Scripture revealed the will of God more perfectly than others (Matthew 23.23; Mark 10.4-9; John 7.22).

Consider questioning your "fundamentalist" pastor or priest concerning the following (and be prepared for vivid and fiery expostulations -- yes, even among some of the "authorities" who emphasise a Gospel of "universal reconciliation")

Acts 5.36-37 The uprising of Theudas during the Procuratorship of Cuspius Fadus (44/45 CE) a whole decade later than the time of which Gamaliel is speaking (Josephus, Antiquities, XX, 97-8). This fact is further complicated by the statement of Luke that he came prior to Judas of Galilee (6/7 CE). It is a glaring problem that won’t go away!

Matthew 8.26; Mark 4.39-40; Luke 8.24-25 Did Yeshua rebuke the disciples before or after He calmed the storm?

Matthew 5.32; 19.9; Mark 10.10-12; Luke 16.18 Saying there are no grounds at all for divorce is not the same as saying
porneia is the only grounds for divorce.

II Samuel 6.23 (Heb); II Samuel 21.8 (Heb) Michal had no child.

II Kings 8.25; 9.29 Ahaziah began to reign in the 12th year of Joram.

Genesis 25.1; 1 Chronicles 1.32 Keturah was Abraham’s wife.

Galatians 4.22; Hebrews 11.17 Abraham had only one begotten son.

II Samuel 24.9; 1 Chronicles 21.5 The number of fighting men of Israel was 800,000 and of Judah 500,000.

II Samuel 24.10; I Kings 15.5 David sinned only in the matter of Uriah.

II Samuel 24.13; 1 Chronicles 21.11-12 One of the penalties of David’s sin was 7 years of famine.

II Samuel 8.4; 1 Chronicles 18.4 David took 700 horsemen.

II Samuel 24.24; 1 Chronicles 21.25 David purchased a threshing floor for 50 shekels of silver.

Ps 89.35-37,44 David’s throne was to exist for as long as the sun.

Genesis 25.1-2 (note "then again"); Genesis 21.2; Romans 4.19; Hebrews 11.12 Apparently Abraham begat six more children after he was 100 years old without any interposition of providence.

I Corinthians 7.6,12; II Corinthians 11.7; II Timothy 3.16 All Scripture is inspired.

Numbers 12.3; 31.15-17 Moses was a very meek man.

Ex 7.10-12; 14.31; Deuteronomy 13.1-3; Matthew 11.2-5; Luke 11.19; John 3.2 A miracle is a divine proof of a divine mission.

Matthew 19.16-17 cf Mark 10.17-18; Luke 18.18-19 The question of "the rich young ruler" and Yeshua’s response to it in
Matthew’s account is substantially different from the question and answer in Mark and Luke.

Jeremiah 18.7-10; II Peter 1.19 Prophecy is certain.

Matthew 6.13; Jam 1.2 Temptation is to be desired.

Luke 22.3-4,7; John 13.27 Satan entered into Judas.

Matthew 27.6-7; Acts 1.18 The potter’s field was purchased by the chief priests.

Matthew 28.1; John 20.1 (‘two’); Mark 16.1 (‘three’); Luke 24.10 (‘three plus’) There was only one woman who came to the tomb.

Matthew 15.22; Mark 7.26 A woman of Canaan besought Yeshua.

Matthew 20.29-30; Mark 10.46-49; Luke 18.35-39 Two blind men besought Yeshua, or was it only one? As Yeshua approached Jericho, or when he already had departed, or was it when he was in the process of leaving?

Mark 1.12-13 (with surrounding texts); John 2.1-2 (with surrounding texts).Messiah was tempted 40 days in the wilderness immediately after his baptism. So where was he 3 days after his baptism -- in the wilderness or some place else?

Matthew 1.14; John 1.43; 3.22-24 John is imprisoned when Yeshua goes into Galilee. Or was he?

Matthew 1.16; Luke 3.23 The father of Joseph, Mary’s husband, was Jacob. (Was Joseph himself an adopted child, which trained him for his later ‘father-role’ for Yeshua?)

Ex 2.14-15,23; 4.19; Hebrews 11.27 Moses feared Pharaoh.

Genesis 1.25-27; 2.18-19 Man was created after the other animals.

Exodus 9.3,6; 14.9 All the horses and cattle of Egypt died.

Leviticus 20.21; Deuteronomy 25.5 A man may marry his brother’s widow.

Genesis 22.1; II Samuel 24.1; Jeremiah 20.7; Matthew 6.13; James 1.13 God tempts man.

I Kings 22.23; 2 Thessalonians 2.11; Hebrews 6.18; Ezekiel 14.9 God cannot lie.

Genesis 22.2; Deuteronomy 12.10-31; Judges 11.30-32,34,38-39; II Samuel 21.8-9,14 God accepts human sacrifices.

Exodus 15.3; Isaiah 51.15; Romans 15.33; I Corinthians 14.33 God is warlike.

Genesis 3.8; 11.5; 18.20-21; Job 34.21-22; Ps 139.7-10; Proverbs 15.3 God is everywhere present, sees and knows all things.

Judges 1.19; Jeremiah 32.27; Matthew 19.26 God is all-powerful.

II Chronicles 7.12,16; Acts 7.48 God dwells in chosen temples.

I Kings 8.12; Psalm 18.11; 97.2; I Timothy 6.16 God dwells in light.

Matthew 28; Mark 16; John 21 cf Luke 24.49; Acts 1.4 Matthew, Mark and John all ascribe post-resurrection appearances of Yeshua in Galilee where he meets with the disciples. Yet immediately after the resurrection, Yeshua instructs his disciples to remain in Jerusalem until the coming of the holy Spirit.

If we are honest with these biblical texts, we must admit that facts are facts. Of course, I freely admit there well may be someone with a more powerful intellect than my own, who can readily enough bring forth straightforward, easy to comprehend solutions to these God-given challenges. This may very well prove likely to be the case. I would personally, and faithfully, hope so.

But in my humble opinion we are faced with some very serious issues of uncertainty. We at BRI hold therefore to a rather simplistic approach to the problem. For, I am reminded that Karl Barth -- probably the greatest theologian of all time (next to Rav Shaul), was made a potential victim of ridicule by presumptuous evangelist Billy Graham, at the height of Graham’s popularity.

Barth had just released his voluminous and awesome series of commentaries on Romans, but hardly anyone could understand what he had authored. In his now infamous letter the impertinent Graham enquired of the noble Barth, "How do you know you’re even saved?"

Karl Barth wrote back a simple reply,

"Dear Mr Graham,

'Jesus loves me

This I know,

For the Bible tells me so!’

Yours very sincerely, Karl Barth."

The one basic factor we must not overlook in any serious desire for a solution to the problems confronted by us in pursuit of the answer to the inerrancy problem is this: The Sovereign Lord doesn’t demand that we be right all the time. Grace
means we are all allowed to fail.

Having said this, being called into God’s Family places us in relationship with ALL of those who claim to be His people. This cannot mean that we will all be in agreement all of the time. It would be a rather dull world were this the case. What it does mean is that in spite of our differences there will be a basic functioning union. All who confess Messiah, all who recognise Him for who He is, and who have been placed under His authority, MUST BE ACCEPTED as brothers and sisters in God’s Family, and in the ONE FAITH.

Healthy discussion, honest debate and unaffected argument (along with an openness to hear what the other side is saying, and possessing an authentic desire to believe the truth -- even if the result is unpopular) these are unabashed criteria for the Messianic Believer. Not only so, but we must all remember that the truth we presently know and cherish will not be complete until a later date!

I readily and heartily acknowledge that Yeshua said there would be tares placed by the Dark Lord amongst the wheat, but He also made it abundantly clear that HE was the gardener!

So, in keeping with the simplicity of spirit displayed by Barth, and on behalf of the Yeshiva students of the BRI, I state that the holy Bible, although inspired by the holy Spirit, was written onto the parchments by fallible human beings subject to the constraints and restraints of their own day and age.

The Bible therefore contains the Word of God.

Inspired by the Spirit it remains, however, a very human literary garment that both hides -- and reveals -- spiritual infallibility.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Would Yeshua attend Gay Pride?

I wonder how many of you have attended a GayPride event? A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with my mother about Gay Pride. Yes I know, it's not the usual conversation topic you have with your mother and I tip-toed around it nervously for most of the time. She had watched a documentary about it and did not hesitate to voice her opinion. My mother never had a problem with my coming out and has often told me that she much prefers the company of gay men. But when it comes to Gay Pride, she articulated her feelings forcefully and to the point. "It's an outrage", "nobody should be allowed to dress up like that", "there are children watching" and so forth.

I could see where she was coming from and she had a point. I tried to explain to her that some of the more colourful "expressions" are akin to a teenager trying to make a statement and that until recently homosexual acts were illegal (and this is of course still the case in most of Africa, the Middle East and Asia). For many in the GLBT community, it's an opportunity to make a public statement about who they are without shame or fear. Even here in the West until very recently, the gay community suffered harassment and discrimination, which the movie "Milk" (the story about the gay activist Harvey Milk) portrays so well. It is no accident that the term "Gay Pride" is used and although I don't like it, I fully understand what it stands for and why.

I spoke to a Salvation Army chaplain several years ago who shared with me his harrowing coming out story (he was married with four children). He was ostracised from his spiritual community in the most brutal manner and never recovered from the trauma. It is sadly not an isolated case. We are in contact with many GLBT believers in Kenya and Ethiopia and know just how isolated and restricted their lives are. They would give their right arm to stage an event of affirmation in Nairobi or Addis Abeba that we here in the West wouldn't think twice about. In the UK we now have summer pride events in pretty much every town up and down the country (even Black Pride and Asian Pride).

In Germany the parades are called Christopher Street Parade, named after the police raid on 28th June 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in 43 Christopher Street, NYC. The purpose of gay pride, despite its carnival atmosphere in the majority of cities in the West, is a serious one and should not be forgotten. It is to take a positive stance against discrimination and violence and to promote equal rights and dignity. It saddens me when I see an increasing indifference in our community towards this important date in our social calendar. I have often heard gay or lesbian friends say to me "what's the point", "we've achieved equality in the work place, adoption and marriage rights etc". To which I reply: "then go to Russia or Nigeria, Uganda or Kenya and stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBT community there - they need your support". "And stop taking your freedoms for granted
they were hard won by those who went before you".
 
There is nothing wrong in celebrating our diversity and unique contribution to society. We know how to throw a good party and enjoy ourselves and if you've never been to a Gay Pride event, you owe it to yourself to check it out. For the most part, it's harmless fun with a cheeky smile. From the 'dykes on bikes' to the carneval queens dressed in tight shorts, from gay anthems and rainbow flags - it's a day I would not miss for the world.

But back to the title of this blog post. Would Yeshua attend Gay Pride? What do you think? So many people have a sanitised image of our Messiah. He was the life and soul of the party. He loved people and attracted even the most hardened criminals. Remember the story where he turns water into wine at the wedding? It was the Chateau Lafite of its day. The guests ended up 'under the table', so it was hardly sparkling grape juice (as some Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons would have us believe). I imagine the atmosphere at that wedding would have been electric and full of fun and laughter and Yeshua would have been in the thick of the action, telling jokes and making everyone feel welcome.

So what about Gay Pride? Well, for one thing, most Pride marches these days fall on Shabbat and it took me a while to square it with my conscience to attend as a spectator. I wish it fell on Sundays (in Tel Aviv it's always on a Friday by the way), but here it's always on a Saturday. I love Shabbat. I look forward to each Shabbat as if it were a National Holiday. We light the candles on Friday night, say the blessings, welcome the angels and always make it a festival. But once or twice a year, we put on our Kippah and join in the carnival atmosphere of our favourite pride events on Saturday afternoon. I guess my question is more: Does Yeshua approve of us going there? I believe He does. Although he never violated the Torah, He showed His Fellow-Jews what the original intent was and removed many Rabbinic restrictions. He showed His followers that the Torah was a way of Grace for the people of Grace, that it served a positive purpose and was not to be abused by religious control-freaks. He identified with minorities, with the persecuted and those on the fringe of society. He was no prude and I'm sure He would appreciate the purpose of Pride and what it stands for.

Yeshua's enemies called Him a "friend of sinners", which He affirmed and took as a compliment. He was not ashamed to identify with those less fortunate. And while He would never sanction promiscuity, He knew how to have fun and encouraged others to enjoy themselves. He lived life abundantly, whereas most people seem to live lives of quiet desperation (to quote from Thoreau's "Walden").

So if you get the chance this year, go and enjoy yourself. And if you would like to participate with us in 2014 and march under the GayMessianic Banner, do get in touch with us - we'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Gay Messianic is now on Facebook

Today we have finally been able to launch Gay Messianic on Facebook. Join us for updates, helpful resources and events...

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Those who practice 'arsenokoitai' shall not inherit the Kingdom of G-d


So it is written, in black and white in I Cor 6:9-11, across the spectrum of English Bibles. Well, not quite. The NASB (New American Standard Bible) translates the Greek word arsenokoitai as'effeminate men'. Whereas the NIV (New International Version) translates the word as 'those who have sex with men' and the NKJV (New King James Version) as 'homosexuals'.
 
This is a review of Michael Wood's new book "Paul on Homosexuality", published in 2011. It provides a scholarly insight into the Greek word arsenokoitai, which has caused untold pain and suffering over the centuries to G-d's gay and lesbian children.
 
I am listing Wood's own words from the book in italics.

It is alarming that the translators' own prejudices against effeminate men are now taught as God's own prejudices. The God who is discussed in modern translations is, in many ways, the opposite of the God who is discussed in the original Bible - the only Bible . ...God wants his children to lovingly accept the dispositions of all manners of men (and women).

Paul constantly focused on the just, fair, altruistic treatment of people. In his society, the unjust, unfair, unkind treatment of others was found in abundance everywhere. But perhaps no mistreatment of others was more visibly on display than the cruel injustice committed against young boys. During Paul's day, young boys were sodomised routinely and regularly (emphasis mine throughout). For men, sex with young boys was often more desirable than sex with women. This is illustrated in a play written by Quintus Novius, a near contemporary of Paul. One character nonchalantly proclaims, 'everyone knows that a boy is superior to a woman'. The character then proceeds to explain the attributes of boys that turn everyone on.

What age were these boys? The upper limit was determined by body hair. The moment hair formed on the buttocks or face, the boy was too old to be desired for sex. There is no getting away from it. Roman men were attracted to young boys up to a certain age - that age may be defined as the point after puberty that the body developed hair on the buttocks and on the face (Professor Ray Laurence, 'a history of pleasure in imperial Rome').

What was the lower age limit? There wasn't one! The youngest boys were open to be raped. And raped they were... en masse. In many cases, men preferred the youngest boys. They took pleasure in their screaming and wailing produced by the destruction of their virgin innocence (Prof Lawrence, p80).

For wealthy men, owning a stock of slave boy-toys was one of the most common status symbols of the day. The sons of the family greatly desired their fathers' stock of slave boys. The satirist Martial, another near contemporary of Paul, wrote that sons so desired to rape their father's slave boys that they got busy doing so the very night of their father's death; before the corpse was even cold, the sons went straight for the slave boys (Craig A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality, 2nd edition).

Moses' famous Ten Commandments are knows as the Decalogue. The Didache, a first-century Christian work, used the 'murder, adultery, steal' order (i.e. the 6th, 7th and 8th commandment) as follows: don't murder (6), don't commit adultery, don't rape young boys, don't have sex with prostitutes (7), don't steal... In early Christian 'sin lists', the prohibitions relative to the seventh commandment refer to either Adultery (sex with a married woman), Raping slave boys or Sex with prostitutes. It is extremely important to recognise how common it was for the earliest Christians to list 'raping young boys' relative to the seventh commandment. This is a critical piece of information, for it allows us to understand the precise meaning of the ancient Greek word 'arsenokoitai'.

I would just like to pause there for a moment. For the sake of brevity, I am only highlighting the key sentences relating to 'arsenokoitai', the word that has caused so much misunderstanding. Wood goes into much more detail and I urge you to obtain a copy of his book. His is one of the best I have read on the subject of Homosexuality and the Bible.

Wood continues: As previously documented, early Christian sin lists consistently listed the rape of slave boys relative to the seventh commandment, which was only natural, given that raping slave boys was the most common form of marital unfaithfulness at that time.

It cannot be emphasised enough that raping slave boys was associated with the seventh commandment. The Didache documents 'not raping young boys' as an extention of the seventh commandment. The Epistle of Barnabas documents 'not raping young boys' as an extention of the seventh commandment. Clement of Alexandria documents 'not raping young boys' as an extention of the seventh commandment.

The arsenokoitai, then were the rapists of young slave boys!

Modern conventional Bibles claim that no homosexual shall enter the kingdom of God. From a historical perspective, virtually every heterosexual Roman male was both a womaniser and a rapist of young boys. Given that 1. Timothy 1:9-10 used arsenokoitai relative to the seventh commandment, we know that the passage was actually condemning those heterosexual rapists of slave boys, not homosexuals.

Once again, we find that... Bibles contain a prejudicial statement which is patently erroneous... Note: The Messianic Scriptures (NT) were written in Koine Greek, the 'lingua franca' of the day.

  • Does any Koine Christian sin list mention homosexuality relative to the seventh commandment? No, none do. Do Koine Christian sin lists mention raping young boys relative to the seventh commandment? Yes, very much so. Therefore, only 'rapists of young boys' matches 1. Timothy's use of the Decalogue in this passage.
  • Historically speaking, were the rapists of slave boys heterosexual or homosexual? When it came to adult sex, they slept with women, not men. It was the macho heterosexual men who were raping slave boys. "Homosexuals" is historically incorrect. Therefore, only 'rapists of young boys' matches the real-world situation being addressed in 1. Timothy 1:9-10.
Conventional translations ignore the context of the letter (the Decalogue), turn a blind eye to the historical setting, and contradict Paul's (and Jesus') most fundamental teaching, all at the same time.

Conventional translations replace 'boy rapers' with homosexuals. Were the rapists of slave boys inherently unloving? Yes, very much so. Are homosexuals inherently unloving? No, of course not.

Stay tuned for part two.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Commemorating Purim

This weekend, commencing Saturday evening at sunset and ending Sunday evening at Sunset, is the Biblical commemoration of the Book of Esther. The photo shows a scroll of the book of Esther (also called "Megillah"). Incidentally, it is the only book in the Hebrew Scriptures where G-d is not mentioned at all. Nevertheless, HaShem was very much at the centre of events. It's a short book and recounts the historic events of the planned genocide of the Jewish People by an evil general of the Persian Empire known as Haman, a descendant of Amalek. If you are able, take out some time to read the book of Esther. You will learn that the plan of Haman was thwarted through the Prophet Mordechai and the Jewish Queen Esther. It's a story of immense courage under terrifying circumstances. Today, Purim has been set aside in synagogues around the world as a period of commemoration and rejoicing for G-d's miraculous intervention and protecting His people from certain genocide all those years ago. However, detached by several thousand years of history, it is tempting to read the book of Esther as 'one of those stories in the Bible'. But if you consider that had Haman succeeded with his evil plan, the majority of the Jewish people would have been wiped off the face of the earth.

The 20th century has seen arguably the worst genocides since the dawn of history. Notably the Holocaust (or Shoah), genocide of the Armenians, the Khmer genocide in Cambodia, the genocide of Bosnians in Srebrenica, the horrors of the Rwandan genocide and more recently the genocide in Darfur (Sudan) and now in Syria.

Syria is the most recent example of the depth to which the human heart can sink. Civilians are being lined up and shot or raped. Children are terrified of venturing out to play and refugees are fleeing into neighbouring countries.

Whether you personally celebrate Purim or not, try and take some time out this week to read the book and reflect upon the seriousness of the planned genocide that was overcome. It is most significant to truly conceive what that horrific term means because it is happening on earth right in front of our noses. Christians ensure massacres and acts of genocide throughout Asia and Africa as we speak. Regimes in nations like Iran have already planned the genocide of the Jewish people in Israel and have their militias of Hezbollah and Hamas, ready on Israel's borders for the slaughter.

This terrible, tragic and horrific reality is a direct manifestation of sin. Thank G-d when He appoints leaders who act with benelovence, compassion and in the interests of peace and humanity. But these men (and women) are few and far between, because of the greedy and self-serving nature of politicians. Therefore, thank G-d for His Messiah and the Salvation that He brings. Yeshua is the Saviour of the WHOLE WORLD, especially to those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10). He is in other words the Saviour of every human who has ever been born, but currently only true believers are aware of this fact and are able to enter into that special relationship with G-d who became flesh to dwell among us. But make no mistake - the G-d of Israel is the G-d of ALL mankind (Jeremiah 32:27) and one day through Messiah He will draw ALL men to Himself (John 12:32).

Pray earnestly and in tears for His coming and call upon G-d to appoint men to intervene against genocide and acts of genocide, to establish for humanity and all living beings a world in which none will need to be afraid. It is the duty of believers to forget themselves, to call upon G-d and pray into existence an Earth which is not capable of these horrors, an Earth where there will finally be real peace among the nations:

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. For nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore - Isaiah 2:4.

May the Lord our G-d hasten that day.
Shabbat Shalom
Shavuah Tov and Chag Sameach!