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The Model for the Messianic Community
For the Universe to make any sense at all, there
must be one — and only one — Truth, or Reality.
The ultimate goal of both Science and Religion,
and ultimately that of every person, must be to
identify that Truth and to embrace it to the
First Things First
I realize that the biographical information about the author is supposed to either come at the end of the book or be printed on either the back cover or dust jacket, that the author is expected to refer to him/herself in the third person, and that the author is never supposed to address the reader directly. But if you will bear with me I would like to do things a bit differently in this little book.
First of all, please don’t think of these pages so much as a “book,” but rather as a personal letter from my heart to yours. I have relatively recently (at this writing I am over 70 years old, so to me 20 years is “relatively recent”) discovered some startling concepts that have quite literally changed my life, my understanding of the Scriptures, and my relationship to my Savior and to His Bride, and I would like to share some of those with you in hopes that you might also participate in that wonderful experience.
I suppose is it only fair that if I expect you to read this letter, you should know a little about me. After all, if you wrote a letter to me, I would certainly want to know at least a little bit about you. But if you prefer to skip over this section, please feel free to do so.
I was raised as the son of a Christian minister, and because my parents were obedient to the Lord’s command to teach His words diligently to their son (Deuteronomy 6:4-7), I cannot remember a time before I trusted Israel’s Messiah as my Lord and personal Savior, and I made my “public confession of faith” and was baptized (immersed) a few weeks before my seventh birthday.
By the time I was ten years old, I was teaching the “little kids” Sunday school class and was elected to my first congregational leadership position (Junior Deacon) in 1962 at the age of fifteen. With only a few years sabbatical I served continuously in congregational leadership for 46 years until my retirement in 2008, and then I led a small home-based Torah-study group from 2008 to 2016. My first pastoral position was from 1965 to 1967 as the youth pastor of the chapel at the U.S. Naval Hospital on Guam. Since then I have held both pastoral and “lay-leadership” positions in eight congregations in California, West Virginia, and Tennessee.
I received my formal theological training (Master of Arts in Biblical Studies, Master of Theology in systematic theology, Doctor of Theology in cults and comparative religion, and Doctor of Ministry in Bible college administration and curriculum development) at conservative evangelical seminaries in California.
For several years I served one of those schools as Vice President for Academic Affairs, Chairman of the Curriculum Development and Academic committees, Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Assistant Dean of Directed Individualized Studies. I also served as a Professor of Theology, specializing in systematic theology, comparative religion, and the cults. For better or worse, I was therefore more or less directly responsible for helping to shape not only the theological thinking of the students who sat in my classrooms, but also the overall content of the training that was received by every student who attended that school for many years thereafter. That means, again for better or for worse, I was deeply involved in not only what my own congregations would be taught, but also in what would be taught to all the congregations served by all the pastors produced by that school.
Not long after I left that school to pursue more direct pastoral ministry, I began noticing what I considered to be some rather severe discrepancies between what Ruach HaKodesh was teaching me through my personal study of the Scriptures and what I had learned in my formal theological training and passed on to my student pastors, particularly regarding the history and nature of “Christianity” and its relationship to Biblical Judaism. Though I am certain that it is quite normal and natural for everyone who seriously studies the Scriptures to modify their peripheral beliefs as Ruach HaKodesh brings to them a deeper understanding of God’s Word, the discrepancies that I was discovering were so profound that I was left with a deep, burning concern that perhaps I had been — though certainly unintentionally — guilty of the sin that most truly committed Bible teachers perhaps fear above all others — the sin of teaching that which the Bible does not teach.
It wasn’t as if these “discrepancies” involved anything that could be considered “heresy,” or that they could adversely affect anyone’s salvation. But they did, at least as far as I was personally concerned, have a major influence on the way that I viewed:
(a) the Church, Israel, and their relationship to each other;
(b) the relationship of Messiah to His Bride;
(c) what really happened on the first Pentecost after Messiah’s resurrection;
(d) Israel’s supposed rejection of their Messiah when He first appeared;
(e) the forms of worship and fellowship that were practiced by the first-century Believers in Messiah;
(f) what the Millennial Kingdom is going to look and feel like; and even
(g) the relationship between the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament.”
A major turning point occurred relatively late in my life (my late thirties) when my mother, our family historian, discovered my paternal grandmother’s genealogical records. My paternal grandfather had died when I was in my early teens. His father had been a Scottish cabin boy named Roland Rowe who was adopted by an Englishman named Sawyer, and we had virtually no way of discovering anything about his ancestors. My grandmother had died when my father was in his early teens, and neither my father nor his father knew anything about Grandmother’s ancestors. The courthouse in their small Maine town had burned to the ground when my father was young, and all the vital records had been lost. It must have been about the time that I was starting seminary in the late 1970’s that my mother finally discovered a book, The Descendants of Israel Leavitt, which contained Grandmother’s ancestry, including both her marriage to my grandfather and the birth of my father.
The most startling revelation for me was that literally hundreds of the people in Grandmother’s family tree (including her direct lineage — and thus my direct lineage) had distinctly Jewish names dating as far back as 1300 England. Though I certainly couldn’t pass the Government of Israel’s current test for “who is a Jew” because my mother’s ancestry is not clearly Jewish, there is no doubt that the blood of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya`akov flows in my veins — some of the same previous blood that my Messiah shed for me! Armed with this information, I began trying to look at the Scriptures through my new “Jewish eyes” — to really understand the Scriptures as they would have been understood by their human authors and by those who originally received them.
The results were truly amazing! The Scriptures opened up to me in a way that I had never seen before. I certainly don’t pretend to have all the answers yet, and I don’t expect to have them this side of Eternity. But what I do have as a result of this personal quest is such a fresh, new excitement about my faith and my relationship to my Messiah and His Bride that, at least for me, the experience must be somewhat like what being “born again” as an adult feels like!
I invite you to go along for this amazing ride!
But be warned; as we progress through our journey together, some of the things that you will read here may surprise you as they did me. Some things may upset you, as they did me. Some things may even offend you, as I have been informed they have offended many others, including many members of my own family. Please be assured that it is not my intent to offend anyone, nor is it my intent to accuse or unduly criticize anyone, or to coerce anyone into my way of thinking. I only want to share what I have learned in the hope that this little volume will achieve these three goals:
1. To encourage my Jewish mishpachah to set aside their feelings about “Gentile Christians” and freely embrace their Jewish Messiah while retaining their precious Jewish lifestyle and traditions.
2. To educate (but in absolutely no way to either condemn or unduly criticize) my Gentile Christian brothers and sisters about some of the many pagan practices and “traditions of the elders” that have contaminated the “Church,” and to encourage them to embrace the thoroughly Jewish roots of their faith.
3. To in some small way contribute to the healing of the rift between the Church and the Synagogue, that the words of Ephesians 2:14 may be fulfilled, and that Jew and Gentile may truly become one in the Messiah.
For he himself … has made us both one and has broken down the m’chitzah which divided us. (CJB)
For He Himself … made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall. (NAS)
For just as there are many parts that compose one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function; so there are many of us, and in union with the Messiah we comprise one body, with each of us belonging to the others. (CJB)
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (NAS)
Galatians 3:28, 29
[In Messiah] there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor freeman, neither male nor female; for in union with the Messiah Yeshua, you are all one. Also, if you belong to the Messiah, you are seed of Avraham and heirs according to the promise. (CJB)
[In Christ] there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. (NAS)
1 Corinthians 10:32, 33
Do not be an obstacle to anyone—not to Jews, not to Gentiles, and not to God’s Messianic Community. Just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not looking out for my own interests but for those of the many, so that they may be saved; (CJB)
Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. (NAS)
Granted, much of the information presented in this “treatise” is highly speculative and is certainly open to interpretations other (and perhaps better) than my own. Be that as it may, the simple fact still remains that there is nobody alive today who was around to personally observe what the Messianic Community of the first century actually looked like. And to my mind it would have been a very strange thing indeed for Jewish Believers in a Jewish Messiah, steeped in centuries of Jewish Culture and led by Jewish Rabbis (the Apostles) equipped only with Jewish Scriptures, to have constructed anything remotely resembling today’s predominantly Gentile Church.
1. Ruach HaKodesh is the Hebrew term for the Holy Spirit; literally Spirit, the Holy One. Hebrew words and other unfamiliar or unusual terms will be translated or explained the first time they are used. For definitions and explanations of unfamiliar words and phrases, please consult the Glossary. [RETURN]
2. God has expressed quite clearly His disdain for teachers who teach what He has not spoken. See, for example, Matthew 5:19; Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 18:20-22; 14:14-15; 23:1-40; 27:9-16; 28:16-17; Ezekiel 13: 2-9; 1 Timothy 1:5-11; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; James 3:1; 2 Peter 2:1-4, and many others. [RETURN]
3. On July 18, 1290 (Tisha b’Av in the Jewish calendar), Edward I (1272-1307) issued an edict of expulsion banishing the Jews from England. The Jews were required to leave England by November 1, 1290. They were permitted to take their money and personal property, but all of their real estate was turned over to the crown. It was much easier for many to “convert” to Christianity than to face the hardship of expulsion. Many Jews actually converted, while many others only pretended to do so. I have no way of knowing which path my ancestors initially chose, only that from what sketchy records exist they must have been living totally assimilated for at least the past several generations. I do know, however, that many of them became the Puritans which originally settled in the New England Colonies. Tisha b’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av on the Hebrew calendar, is the same as the date on which both Temples were destroyed and on which scores of other atrocities have been committed against the Jews. See Appendix A, “Tisha b’Av and 17 Tammuz” for a list of events associated with these two days. [RETURN]
4. Under Israel’s current Law of Return, a person is considered to be Jewish only if his or her mother is Jewish and he or she has not “converted” to another religion. This distinctly — and patently erroneous — Rabbinical position ignores the simple biological fact that a person contains the genetic history of both one’s father and mother, not just that of the mother. Thus a person is genetically at least partially Jewish as long as there is a single Jewish ancestor. Additionally, under that law, a person can be considered Jewish even if he or she has completely abandoned the God of Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya`akov (see following footnote) and has “converted” to Secular Humanism or Atheism, both of which are clearly religions in their own right, both having clearly defined tenets of belief. [RETURN]
5. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. [RETURN]
6. By the term “human authors” I mean those men who were directly inspired by Ruach HaKodesh to document, with no trace of error, God’s message to humanity. [RETURN]
8. Yeshua is the Hebrew word for “salvation” and is the Messiah’s true name in His native Hebrew language, later corrupted to “Jesus” through faulty translation and transliteration. Nobody who ever knew Him in the flesh ever addressed Him as “Jesus.” See the entry in the Glossary. [RETURN]
9. The called-out community of Believers in Messiah; used in this document to refer to the entire Body of Messiah as a whole, as well as to the local congregation. With David Stern, translator of the Complete Jewish Bible quoted frequently herein, I prefer this term to the word “church” for reasons that will be discussed in detail later. [RETURN]