Posts Tagged ‘conversion’

Choice of Conversion (Our Place, part4)

April 13, 2012

Conversion

In Judaism a gentile never needed to convert himself. It is even not advocated by the Jewish authorities. They found no reason for it, because they say that the righteous gentiles have a place in the world-to-come. (Tosefta Sanh.13:2) In Judaism there’s always room for the gentiles.
On the other hand, one is free to come to the “Jewish citizenship” by way of conversion. Genuine converts were welcomed and highly esteemed, as said in Mechilta (to 22:20, 95a) It is said that a gentile who obeys the Torah is equal to the High Priest. [1] Who obeys the Torah? He who loves his brother. (1John2:8-11) That’s why Peter could called the gentiles (and Jews) a royal priesthood: “But ye [Jew and Gentile, divine called] are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1Peter2:9)

The deliberate choice of conversion was always hold up by Paul. Paul never forced anybody to convert to Judaism. Everyone agree. But he also never hold off someone to convert to Judaism. What he was arguing to the Galatians is that nobody would make any (religious) act a reason to become part of the covenant of grace. He boldly declared that circumcision was not necessary. The opposite, it could become to serve as a barrier, as a false ground to build your faith on. That’s why he was so furious about that topic. But he didn’t say to the Jews that they might not circumcise themselves. Paul himself circumcised Titus who was born from a Jewish mother according to the law. Paul kept the Torah to the and of his life. (Acts.25:8 and 28:17) But he didn’t gentiles obligate to do it. (Acts15) There were many ways to fit a gentile into a Jewish community. That was not something rare or new at that time.

What was new, was the renewal of the heart by the Holy Spirit. And the apostle sought a way for the gentiles to join  the journey along with the Jews. Together with Jews who also received the renewal of the heart. Together on only one ground: Jesus the Messiah.

Jew or Gentile

There is still a remaining difference between Jew and gentile, because the gifts to the people of the covenant and calling of Israel are irrevocable, even in the latter days of Jesus. This is explicitly stated by Paul in Rom.11:29.

When Paul speaks about the calling of Israel, we can go back to the Torah portion Vayikra. In Lev.1:1 the Divine calling came to Moses who must speak to the people of Israel, the words which are directly spoken to him by God. This was the manifestation of the Godly word what came upon the people of Israel. It was part of the covenant God made with the people of Israel, which they commited by saying “we will do and hear”. In fact Le.1:1 is the beginning of the Torah, the Word what is given particularly to the people of Israel and which is incumbent upon them.
It is the final contract of the people of Israel who are called “out of Egypt” (Ez.16:16, Ho.11:10) It is the result of the calling of Abraham. It is the result of the calling of Adam. All those callings are irrevocable, but here Paul speaks in particular about the people of Israel. And they are a nation who were blessed with many promises and who bear the blessings and the curses. And if Paul speaks about the gifts, he obviously has (according to the context of Rom.9-11) the promises in mind which they would gain in future by the national acceptance of the Messiah.

Paul saw in advance that Israel in history must go another way then the non-Jews because of this special calling and blessing, but also of this special curse. They will come to redemption certainly, with great glory to all mankind, but after a long time in a way what he called a mystery. The bottom line however, was a distinction between Jew and Gentile.

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[1] This is given by the exposition of the verse of Lev.18:5, (Sifra 5): “Whence is it deduced that even a gentile who obeys the Torah is the equal of the High Priest? From the words ‘which if a man do he shall live by them.’ Similarly it is said, ‘This is the law of mankind, Lord God’ (2Sam.7:19) It is not stated, ‘This is the law of the priests, or the Levites, or of Israel,’ but ‘the law of mankind.’ In like manner it is not stated , ‘Open the gates that priests or Levites or Israel may enter,’ but, ‘Open the gates that a righteous Gentile keeping faithfulness may enter’ (Is.26:2). Furthermore it is not stated, ‘This is the gate of the Lord, priests or Levites or Israel shall enter into it,’ but ‘the righteous shall enter into it’ (Ps.118:20) In the same way it is not stated, ‘Rejoice in the Lord, oh ye priests or Levites, or Israel,’ but ‘Rejoice in the Lord oh ye righteous’ (Ps.33:1). And it is not stated, Do good o Lord, to the priests, or Levites or Israel,’ but ‘unto the good’ (Ps.125:4) Hence even a Gentile who obeys the Torah is the equal of the High Priest.”   (Cited from: Everyone’s Talmud, p.66/67)

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Who is a Jew?

July 19, 2010

This question raises many problems amongst the Jews and the Israeli government. And it’s not surprising. The question is as old as the people of Israel. Of course there are rules in the Torah, but even that doesn’t make the ultimate sense.

The question is by which authority are we declared to be Jews? Real Jews? Jews circumcised by heart? Which Authority makes His people to be the elected ones? Who is adopted in that community?

It doesn’t belong to a certain land or to certain tradition. They are all around the world. Scattered to the end of civilization and beyond. But one people at the same time. What makes one to be a Jew? That’s a great question. It’s even seen in my own local Christian reformed church. Who belongs to the covenant?

Paul put it before our eyes: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise [1] is not of men, but of God. (Rom.2:29) And once a time, may it be near, everyone should agree about this statement. And no other authority should cooperate in this matter anymore.

Chief Sephardic Rabbi: Bolt Coalition if Conversion Law Fails

[1] The word Jew derives from the word Judah, which means one who praises God.