Gentile Circumcision: Critical Remarks on the Position of Tim Hegg

 

 

Circumcision - The First Controversy

Circumcision – The First Controversy

In his well-known work, Fellow Heirs, Tim Hegg tries to solve the problem circumcision poses to his One Law position by teaching that it was the viewpoint of the Apostles that “Gentiles were to be received as though they were circumcised even before they underwent the physical cutting of the flesh. Before they could receive physical circumcision, they had to be well grounded in the truth that their covenant status was based upon their faith, not the declaration of Jewishness offered by the rabbinic ritual of proselytism.” [1]

What Hegg says here seems to be pure speculation, not backed by any apostolic or NT text. First, it is a huge assumption to say that “before they could receive physical circumcision, &c”, since the real question to be answered first is whether the Gentiles were to be circumcized at all. And second, where is it said that Gentiles had to postpone circumcision until after they were “well grounded in the truth &c”? This concept of a postponement leads to a complete subjectivistic approach of the timing and thus of the performance of the commandment, and I cannot find the faintest trace of such a suggestion in the NT texts.

More particularly on Paul, Hegg goes on to comment on Timothy’s circumcision, and here his argument for Gentile circumcision is based on the disputable and speculative opinion that Timothy was considered a Gentile, while remaining entire silent about the question of the specific reasons for his circumcision. His conclusion is: “We may therefore presume that Paul’s perspective on Gentile circumcision was that until the Gentile believer was sufficiently mature in his faith, he should not receive circumcision. Once he was well grounded in the fact that his faith in the Messiah was the means of his covenant inclusion, he would be circumcised, a process that gained him no new pedigree, nor awarded him any more covenant status than what he already had. In this way, circumcision would be a seal of the covenant without any connection to the rabbinic ritual of proselytism.” [2]

Again, the idea that Gentile circumcision was to follow upon maturation in faith is completely speculative and without any textual support. This idea also presupposes that Paul distinguished between two types of circumcision for Gentiles: the pharisaic-rabbinic one which was part of the conversion procedure, which he presumably rejeced, and the scriptural one, which he presumably taught and which according to his teaching was to be administered without any connection to conversion. But where in Paul’s writings do we have an indication of this distinction? Where is this essential distinction made explicit? To my knowledge, Paul’s texts are silent on this. Here the mountain of the One-Law doctrine is hanging on the hair of an unproven and probably unprovable assumption.

Last but not least, in Fellow Heirs Hegg is entirely silent on Titus, whose Gentile status is undisputed. In The Letter Writer he assumes that Titus was circumcised at some moment, but he doesn’t bring forth a shred of evidence for it. [3] His assumption is completely self-serving and the only purpose of it seems to be to prevent the invalidation of the One-Law perspective he wants to maintain. But my point is that this assumption as well as the other ones mentioned should be accurately demonstrated before taking this perspective as the theologically correct one.

 

_______________

[1] Fellow Heirs p. 82 [Tim Hegg, Fellow Heirs: Jews & Gentiles Together in the Family of God, First Fruits of Zion — Littleton, Colorado 2003]

[2] Fellow Heirs pp. 83-84

[3] The Letter Writer pp. 285-286 [Tim Hegg, The Letter Writer: Paul’s Background and Torah Perspective, First Fruits of Zion — Israel/US 2002]

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Messianic Quandaries about the “Oral Torah” of Rabbinic Judaism

 

Carl Schleicher — A Matter of Contention in the Talmud

Torah observant Messianics need to reflect on the status of what is called the “Oral Torah” — and Jewish tradition in general — for their religious practice. On the one hand it is clear that Yeshua followed many of the traditions of the Pharisees of his days, while on the other hand it cannot be denied that he opposed at least some of their traditions (cf. Mark 7:1-23).

Because of our adherence to Yeshua, we seem to enter quandaries and conundrums as soon as we get into the specific details about how actually to practice Torah. For example: It is a divine obligation to recite the Shema twice daily? Are we to follow the rabbinic guidelines about daily prayer, the halachot of Shabbat, &c?

We are in a dilemma here that cannot easily be solved and that carries with it many paradoxes or even outright contradictions. It is very difficult to accept one part of the “Oral Torah” and to reject another, and yet it is clear that we as Messianics cannot accept all of it, because this would imply our rejection of Yeshua. I have made a short list of the difficulties involved, to give a first impression of our whereabouts in this complex field

As already stated, it is part of the “Oral Torah” to reject the claims of Yeshua. Because this rejection is considered essential for Orthodox Judaism’s definition of the Jewish faith, full acceptance of the “Oral Torah” by Messianics is out of the question.

The “Oral Torah” cannot — per definitionem — be identified with any written document. It is actually nothing else but the living voice of Rabbinic Judaism in its own understanding of the normativity of Jewish tradition. For the “Oral Torah” requires the system of rabbinic authority. However, in the same manner as it is clear that we cannot accept Judaism’s rejection of Yeshua, it is also clear that we cannot without qualifications accept the authority of the Rabbis who are the embodiment of the “Oral Torah”, including its rejection of Yeshua.

According to the “Oral Torah” Gentile Messianics are simply Gentiles and nothing else. Paradoxically, our subjection to rabbinic legislation is not accepted by Judaism itself. If a Gentile Messianic should inform an orthodox Rabbi that he is obedient to the Jewish part of the “Oral Torah”, this Rabbi would contradict him by saying that in fact he isn’t obedient at all but instead very disobedient, perhaps even defiantly disobedient. For, the Rabbi would argue, while knowing quite well that Gentiles should only obey the Noachide laws, he tries to observe the laws of Israel that were never meant for him. The proper subjection of Gentiles to rabbinic authority should mean their obedience to only those parts of the “Oral Torah” which are clearly for Gentiles. Thus, on the basis of the prescriptions of the Jewish part of the “Oral Torah” itself it appears that Gentiles in fact disobey it by the very fact that they attempt to obey it. Such an attempt is completely illegal from a rabbinic viewpoint, and from the orthodox perspective it can be compared to the attempts of Korach and his followers who wanted to be priests. The only exception here is the case of giur (proselyte conversion). Gentiles are permitted to obey the Jewish parts of the Torah if they make serious efforts to become orthodox converts.

The Apostolic Writings are in the category of prohibited books by Orthodox Judaism, and this prohibition is certainly part of the “Oral Torah”. So, if we accept the entire “Oral Torah” we — eo ipso — reject the Apostolic Writings.

If we say that we as Messianics have our own viewpoint, and that we in part accept the “Oral Torah”, we seem to run into a predicament. For the very splitting up of the “Oral Torah” into parts seems to be something that, properly spoken, cannot be done at all, because it is clear that the living voice of Judaism is undivided. By its very definition the “Oral Torah” is an undivided whole which is not written and which can never be identified with its written historical sources, e.g. the Mishnah and the Talmud. This seems to exclude that Gentile believers can have proper access to the “Oral Torah” at all. For whatever written sources of the “Oral Torah” are studied by them, these sources, when detached from living Judaism, are not the “Oral Torah”.

The statement that as Messianics we accept certain parts of the “Oral Torah” needs further clarification. Above all, it requires a criterion that can provide us the instrument to decide between which parts of the “Oral Torah” should be accepted and which parts of it should be rejected. But where can that criterion, or instrument, be found? There seem only two available candidates here: The Apostolic Scriptures and the authority of the Christian Church. Of these two the authority of the Christian Church can be easily dismissed, for nothing at all of the “Oral Torah” and very little of the Written Torah is accepted by the Church. If, however, we try to find our criterion in the Apostolic Scriptures we face the big problems that, (1), these Scriptures do not nearly cover the whole domain of the “Oral Torah” and that, (2), these Scriptures were canonized by the same Christian Church which rejects the “Oral Torah”.

Only a few items of the “Oral Torah” are discussed or touched upon in the Apostolic Writings, and it is very difficult to develop from these the general instrument required to judge what to accept of the “Oral Torah”. Although we can safely conclude that for us as Messianics no part of the “Oral Torah” or rabbinic legislation may be accepted which contradicts the words of Yeshua and his Apostles, yet this negative rule of contradiction is by far not sufficient to provide us the criterion we are searching for. From this rule we can only conclude which parts of the “Oral Torah” should be rejected but not which parts should be accepted — except those of course which we already found to be observed and taught in the Apostolic Writings.

In particular we cannot, by means of the Apostolic Writings, know which later halachic delopments would have been accepted and authorized by the Apostles, had they lived in our times.

If we accept the “Oral Torah” in part — which seems to be the only possibility for Messianics — then not only a formal criterion is required for determining what parts should be accepted, but also a ruling halachic authority able to make these decisions. But it is by no means clear where this authority is to be found. We don’t have Apostles anymore nor any other undisputed authoritative body.

These difficulties should be duly recognized and as long as they remain unsolved we should try to be moderate in all things and not by our personal acceptance of disputable rabbinic halachot implicitly or explicitly lay burdens on the communities we belong to. However, in order to prevent individualism and sectarianism in our observance, we should accept rabbinic halachah where it is practically undisputed and not in any conflict with either the Written Torah or the other Scriptures, including the Apostolic Writings, as the default option for our observance. In this way we can accept much of it theoretically albeit hypothetically as well as practically.

And we should take heed of the warning expressed by David Stern in his Messianic Jewish Manifesto (p. 172) about making modifications in Jewish liturgy and ceremonies, when he said: “It would be wise for us to make such modifications only after much thought and prayer. For we are dealing with ceremonies weighted with intellectual, emotional and spiritual meaning. Ad hoc changes are likely to prove tasteless, offensive, theologically erroneous, or all three”. In my opinion this warning is not only applicable to ceremony and liturgy, but to the entire framework of halachah.

De Laatste Maand van het Jaar: Tijd van Ommekeer

 

SHOFARBLESSING Arch GRAFO darkHoewel we altijd onze zonden dienen te erkennen en te belijden is de maand Elloel de geschikte tijd van het jaar om bijzondere aandacht te besteden aan belijdenis, berouw en ommekeer. Elloel is de laatste maand van het jaar en de zesde maand in de orde van de feestyclus die begint met Niesan. Het is de maand van voorbereiding op de afsluiting van deze feestcyclus in de zevende maand, waarin de Hoge Feestdagen van Rosj HaSjanah (Nieuwjaar) en Jom Kippoer (Grote Verzoendag) worden gevierd, gevolgd door het “seizoen van onze vreugde”, Soekot (Loofhutten) en Sjemini Atzeret (Slotfeest).

De maand Elloel is daarmee de aangewezen liturgische tijd om welbewust onszelf te onderzoeken op en te reinigen van ingesleten of niet-beleden zonden, niet herstelde verhoudingen, en alwat een obstakel vormt tussen ons en HaSjeem.

Vanaf de Nieuwe Maansdag van Elloel, Rosj Chodesj Elloel, wordt dagelijks na Sjacharit (de ochtenddienst), uitgezonderd op Sjabbat, de Sjofar (d.i. de rituele ramshoorn) geblazen als oproep tot berouw en ommekeer. Dit gebruik wordt voortgezet tot en met 28 Elloel. Op 29 Elloel, de dag vóór Rosj HaSjanah, wordt de Sjofar niet geblazen, teneinde een onderscheid te maken tussen de rabbinale verordening van het blazen van de Sjofar gedurende de maand Elloel en het bijbelse gebod van het blazen van de Sjofar op Rosj HaSjanah.

Andere liturgische veranderingen zijn het reciteren van Psalm 27 na Sjacharit en Maariv (de avonddienst), ook op Sjabbat, en het reciteren van Selichot (gebeden van berouw en ommekeer). Sefardische gemeenschappen beginnen Selichot te zeggen vanaf Rosj Chodesj Elloel, Asjkenazische gemeenschappen beginnen daarmee op de zondag van de week waarin Rosj HaSjanah valt, of, als Rosj HaSjanah vroeg in de week valt (maandag of dinsdag), op de zondag van de voorafgaande week.

Alle zonden die we begaan hebben moeten met berouw en een oprecht voornemen van ommekeer aan G’d beleden worden. Zonden tegenover onze naasten moeten bovendien aan deze naasten beleden worden. Waarachtige belijdenis tegenover G’d en waar nodig tegenover onze medemensen, is een voorwaarde voor vergeving (Mt. 5:21-26). Daarenboven is nodig dat we altijd bereid moeten zijn anderen te vergeven om zelf vergeving van G’d te kunnen ontvangen (Mt. 6:14-15).

Het berouw dat we moeten verwekken, en het voornemen tot ommekeer, mogen niet iets zijn in de natuurlijke orde alleen, maar moeten stroken met onze bovennatuurlijke eindbestemming. Berouw dat alleen maar bestaat uit het toegeven dat we dom of dwaas zijn geweest in ons handelen met het voornemen nu op deze domheid of dwaasheid terug te komen is dus niet voldoende. We dienen toe te geven dat het zondige handelen of nalaten ons uitsluit van G’ds Koninkrijk (cf. I Cor. 6:9-10). Ook de loutere vrees voor deze uitsluiting, het oplopen van de eeuwige straf, is, al is ze een bovennatuurlijk motief want gebaseerd op de goddelijke openbaring, nog onvoldoende en onvolmaakt. Eerst wanneer onze akten van berouw en ommekeer voortkomen uit het besef dat we HaSjeem’s liefde geschonden en de band van deze liefde verbroken hebben, en uit het verlangen naar het herstel van deze liefdeband, is de vereiste gesteldheid die tot vergeving leidt bereikt.

De jaarlijke liturgische tijd van ommekeer duurt 40 dagen en culmineert in Jom Kippoer. De laatste 10 dagen, vanaf Rosj HaSjanah tot en met Jom Kippoer worden de Ontzagwekkende Dagen genoemd. Het blazen op de Sjofar op Rosj HaSjanah verwijst naar de laatste dagen, wanneer de Aartsengel Michael op de Sjofar zal blazen ter aankondiging van de Wederkomst van de Messias (I Thess. 4:16).

Bij de Wederkomst zullen wij geopenbaard worden worden voor de Rechterstoel van de Messias, om het loon te ontvangen op wat wij in het lichaam — d.i. in dit leven — gedaan hebben, goed of kwaad (cf. II Cor. 5:10). Het is dus zaak onze behoudenis te bewerken met vrees en beven (Fil. 2:12), opdat wij waardig geacht worden het Messiaanse Rijk binnen te gaan.

De rechtszitting die de Messias zal houden bij zijn Wederkomst wordt gesymboliseerd in Jom Kippoer. Op die dag staan wij om zo te zeggen naakt en geopend voor HaSjeem’s Aangezicht. Dan zal Hij, als wij ons waarachtig bekeerd hebben, de door de Messias bewerkte verzoening op ons toepassen en ons in zijn Rijk opnemen.

In joodse traditie wordt nog als laatste mogelijkheid van ommekeer vermeld de zevende dag van het Loofhuttenfeest, Hosjanah Rabbah  (grote ontferming). Wanneer we bedenken dat het Loofhuttenfeest het Messiaanse Rijk symboliseert, doet dit op het eerste gezicht wat merkwaardig aan. Hebben degenen die in dit Rijk worden opgenomen nog steeds nodig zich te bekeren?

Hier dient men te bedenken dat het Messiaanse Rijk uit twee afdelingen bestaat. Er is een groep die bij de Wederkomst het verrijzenisleven en de onsterfelijkheid ontvangt. Dit zijn de leden van het mystieke Lichaam en alle getrouwe gelovigen, Joden en niet-Joden, vanaf het begin der wereld. Er is een andere groep die het Messiaanse Rijk binnengaat in een toestand van sterfelijkheid, in lichamen zoals wij nu hebben, in dit leven. Deze laatste groep bestaat uit Joden die pas bij de Wederkomst tot geloof in de Messias zullen komen, en uit niet-Joden die zullen overblijven na de verschrikkingen van de Grote Verdrukking (cf. Zach. 14:16), en die zich niet hebben verbonden met de Anti-Messias of Antichrist en zijn teken niet hebben ontvangen (cf. Apoc. 14:9-11). De schapen onder de niet-Joden, die goed gedaan zullen hebben aan de minste broeders van de Koning (cf. Mt. 25:31-46), zullen dus met deze broeders het Rijk binnengaan in sterfelijke lichamen. Zij worden dus om zo te zeggen op voorlopige basis in dit Rijk opgenomen, ongeveer zoals wij nu op voorlopige basis deel uitmaken van het Rijk in de Gemeente van de Messias.

Zij die in sterfelijke lichamen het Messiaanse Rijk zullen binnengaan hebben nog de verantwoordelijkheid om een zodanig leven te leiden in dit Rijk dat zij het eeuwig leven van de Toekomende Wereld kunnen beërven. Zij moeten dus tot persoonlijk geloof en bekering komen om het eeuwige leven van de Toekomende Wereld, in de uiteindelijke en definitieve vernieuwing van de schepping, te kunnen ontvangen. Sjemini Atzeret, het Slotfeest, symboliseert deze uiteindelijke en definitieve vernieuwing.

Het is dus passend dat in de orde van het liturgisch jaar een laatste gelegenheid tot bekering wordt gegeven op Hosjanah Rabbah. Want uiteindelijk draait alles in ons leven om het beërven van het eeuwige leven en de Toekomende Wereld. Het spreekt vanzelf dat deze gelegenheid op Hosjanah Rabbah nooit een excuus mag zijn voor het veronachtzamen van Jom Kippoer en de daaraan voorafgaande periode van ommekeer die begint met de maand Elloel.

An Illuminating Remark by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) on the “Second First Sabbath” of Luke 6:1

Waving the OmerThe following is from pp. 177-178 of Darby’s “Preface to the German Testament”, in: The Collected Writings of J.N. Darby, edited by William Kelly, Volume 13, Critical no. 1, H.L. Heijkoop — Winschoten (Netherlands) 1972 (Reprint).

«The expression “second first sabbath” (Luke 6:1), at first sight presents some difficulty, which, however, disappears upon a closer attention to Jewish customs. The year, as regards the worship of God among the Jews, began with the month Abib (Heb. “green corn”), which lasted from the middle of March to the middle of April.

In Leviticus 23, in which we find the Jewish feasts described, we may observe that in addition to the general and weekly recurring feasts of the sabbath, the chief feasts begin with the passover (the 14th of Abib), and that, in immediate connection  with it, it was ordained that on the day after the following sabbath the first-fruits of the corn should be offered in the ear, a foreshadowing of the resurrection of Jesus which took place on the morrov after the sabbath of the passover week, or feast of unleavened bread.

The sabbath immediately following the passover was therefore the “first” or great sabbath, and after the offering of the first-fruits on the morrow after the sabbath, the first day of the week, the harvest might be commenced, and the new corn eaten, which was not permitted before, even though corn stood ripe in the fields.

On the following sabbath, the “second” after the “first” or great sabbath, we see that the disciples ate ears of corn on the way, for the offering of the first-fruits had already taken place on the first day of the week; and, as seven weeks or sabbaths were counted from this day to the feast of Pentecost, it was therefore the “first” of these seven sabbaths, or the “second” with reference to the great sabbath of the Passover. By these explanations we have, we think, justified the expression “second first sabbath”, and removed any difficulty to the reader’s understanding.»

According to Darby the “first” or “great” sabbath was thus the sabbath immediately preceding the sunday of the first-fruits- or Omer offering. The next or “second first” sabbath was the first of the seven sabbaths of the Omer count until Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks). Here we have a clear and simple explanation of Luke 6:1 which has the advantage of following scriptural terminology in not mixing up sabbaths and annual feast days.

This is an indication that when the Gospel of Luke was written the Sadducees were still in control of the Temple ceremonies and that the Omer was counted according to the ancient priestly (Zadokite) tradition that was preserved by them.

Messianic613’s Passover Haggadah

Seder Plate

Seder Plate

We are pleased to announce here, right before Passover, a new messianic version of the Seder night liturgy. Under the following links one finds a downloadable Passover Kabbalat Service, and a Maariv Service followed by the Haggadah, all in pdf format. Comments and criticism are welcome. Remember not to violate the copyrights of the material. Wishing you a kosher Passover and Chag Sameach.

 

Downloads:
Passover Kabbalat Service 19042016

Maariv Service & Haggadah for a Messianic Passover Seder 19042016

 

 

The Messianic Meaning of the Book of Esther (Part I)

 

 

Illuminated Megillah

Illuminated Megillah

Christian commentators of the Bible often have greatly disregarded the Book of Esther. As noticed for example by Trisha M. Gambaiana Wheelock,

“The early Christian community did not produce a single commentary on the book for seven centuries, and John Calvin never preached a sermon or wrote a book concerning the Esther text. Martin Luther’s infamous remark succinctly summarizes much of the Christian response to the Esther scroll, “I am so great an enemy to the book of Esther that I wish it had not come to us at all, for it has too many heathen unnaturalities [it Judaizes too much].” [1]

Yet early Christians loved this book, which was appreciated by many Church fathers, like Pope Clement I, Athanasius of Alexandria, Ambrose of Milan, Jerome, and Aphrahat the Persian. [2] Their appreciation seems to be based, however, on allegorical or typological interpretation. Jerome, for instance, saw its principal characters, Mordechai and Esther, as types of the Church and Christ. One should know, moreover, that, until Jerome, the Church mainly favoured the Greek version of the book, preserved in the LXX. [3] That’s probably why in the Eastern Church there never was a real controversy about Esther. The reason for its problematic position in the West was that the Hebrew text was perceived as too typically Jewish and lacking in piety. The conspicuous absence of any mention of God or religious practice had even caused some Jewish reservations about its canonicity [4]:

For how to explain the inclusion in the canon of a book which was ostensibly so secular in nature? Furthermore, it is important to bear in mind the view of the Christian Church for whom the Book of Esther was, on the whole, an embarrassment. Most premodern Christian exegetes would probably have wished that it had never been included in the canon. The Church Fathers ignored it completely, and in the Middle Ages it was commented upon very rarely. Those exegetes who did comment on it usually interpreted it allegorically. Many Christian scholars, and not a few Jews, even in our own century, are offended by its particularistic, nationalistic tone and especially by the bloody scenes of revenge and the joyful triumph of the Jews over their enemies described in the book. [5]

Jerome’s comparison of Esther to the Church introduces us into the problems of interpretations based on Replacement Theology. Should this comparison lead to the conclusion that while in pre-Christian times God saved the Jews from their persecutors and secured their national and ethnic survival, yet after the advent of Messiah he transferred this favour to the Christians? Such a reading is not only completely beyond the literal meaning of the Book of Esther, but flatly contradicts its message, which is that the Jews are physically saved as a nation and people, wholly apart from their spiritual and religious condition.

In the XIXth centure some of the first dispensationalists, in a predictable reaction to Church theology, moved to the opposite view that saw in the replacement of Vashti by Esther a veiled prophecy of the end of the Gentile Church. At least, in his Études sur la Parole, John Nelson Darby made the following intriguing remark:

Nous voyons l’épouse Gentile, mise a côté à cause de sa désobiesance et pour avoir manqué à montrer sa beauté au monde; elle est remplacée par une épouse Juive qui possède l’affection du roi. [6]

William Kelly, following Darby’s dispensationalist approach, was even more explicit. He typologically compared Vashti to Christendom in an explicit way in a 1873 lecture on the Book of Esther:

The book not only is a book of providence — God’s secret providence — when He could not name His name on behalf of his people — in behalf of the Jews in their poor and dispersed condition among the Gentiles; but, further, it is typical of the great dealings of God that are yet to be, because what, mainly, does the book open with? This — the great Gentile wife of the great king is discarded, and the singular fact comes that a Jewess takes her place. I cannot doubt, myself, that it is what will follow when the Gentile has proved himself disobedient, and has failed in displaying the beauty that should be in the testimony of God before the world. In short, it is what is going on now; that is, at this present time, the Gentile is the one that holds a certain position before God in the earth. The Jew, as you are aware, is not the present witness of God, but the Gentile. The Gentile has utterly failed. According to the language of the 11th of Romans, the branches of the wild olive — the Gentile — will be broken off, and the Jew will be grafted in again. Well, Vashti is the Gentile wife that is discarded for her disobedience and failure in displaying her beauty before the world. That is what Christendom ought to do. The Gentile, I say, will be broken off and dismissed, and the Jew will be brought in. This is what is represented by the call of Esther. She becomes the object of the great king’s affections, and displaces Vashti, who is never restored. [7]

Whether Kelly’s comparison has any sound textual basis remains to be seen. It is obvious, however, that in dealing with the interpretation of a biblical text we should not in the first instance run to a typological, allegorical, or any other kind of non-literal explanation. Our first concern should be to establish its literal meaning. This being said, it is also obvious that historical events described by a text may point beyond themselves to other and greater events of which they are preconditions and prefigurations. That’s why the redemption from Egypt and the birth of national Israel can point to the national end-time redemption in the Messianic Kingdom and even beyond that to the state of eternal redemption in the World to Come.

The reason for this possibility of a deeper explanation is that God not only reveals himself in the words of Holy Scripture but also in the historical events described by the words of Scripture. These events are all directed by God and are part of his all-encompassing purpose with creation. This causes not only the words of Scripture to have signification, but also the events described by the words. Hence a particular and limited story can point beyond itself and find a deeper and more comprehensive meaning in later events or in the broader context of scriptural history. Thomas Aquinas gives a succint account of this possibility in the opening question of his Summa Theologiae:

The author of Holy Writ is God, in whose power it is to signify His meaning, not by words only (as man also can do), but also by things themselves. So, whereas in every other science things are signified by words, this science [i.e. sacred doctrine — GtH] has the property, that the things signified by the words have themselves also a signification. Therefore that first signification whereby words signify things belongs to the first sense, the historical or literal. That signification whereby things signified by words have themselves also a signification is called the spiritual sense, which is based on the literal, and presupposes it. [8]

By this account of Aquinas a typological or other “spiritual” sense of a scriptural text that would go against the literal sense, or overthrow its gist, is rightly excluded. That’s why I discarded here above the typology of the Church father Jerome.

The preferred way to find out whether a biblical history contains a typological meaning is to examine its connection to the mystery of Messiah. When there are hidden clues which clearly signify the person and work of Messiah, then it is reasonable to assume that the text has a spiritual meaning related to the broader context of biblical history, since all divine plans and purposes culminate in Messiah.

To find such hidden clues in the Book of Esther is not particularly easy, because of its secular appearance. Neither God nor anything religious is explicitly mentioned by it. However, there’s a character which shows a resemblance with Messiah in his humiliation and exaltation. This is Mordecai. He is a Jewish official in the palace of Ahasuerus (Est. 2:5). When he gets the news of the decree of Haman, Mordecai puts on mourning apparal (Est. 4:1). But soon after he is exalted as “the man whom the king delighteth to honour” (Est. 6:11). Finally, he replaces Haman (Est. 8:2) and reigns under Ahasuerus, in a similar position as Joseph under Pharao (Est. 8:15; 9:4; 10:3). This is an indication that Mordecai can be considered a type or prefiguration of Messiah.

When we look a bit closer to the details of the text, this indication is confirmed and we see in the events of Mordecai’s life a striking resemblance of “the sufferings of Messiah, and the glory that should follow” (I Pt. 1:11). In the following paragraphs we’ll go into some of these details, by way of a preliminary survey, without trying to be complete.

The calendrical date of the publishing of Haman’s decree is the thirteenth day of the first month (Est. 3:7, 12), i.e. the 13th of Nisan or the day before Pesach. [9] According to the Gospel of John this is the day before the crucifixion. [10] It seems probable that this was the first of the three fast days demanded by Esther as a preparation of her appearing before the king. For we read in Est. 3:15 that the king and Haman set down to celebrate and drink on the publication of the decree, but that the city Shushan was perplexed. So the city seems to have known of the decree the same time when the king and Haman were celebrating. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Mordecai, being an official in the palace, would have found out about it at the same time or even earlier than the city. [11]

On the assumption that this is correct, Mordecai appeared in sackcloth before the king’s gate on that very day, and this would make the 13th of Nisan the first of the three days of fasting. The third day of this fast, the day of Esther appearance before the king and of her first banquet with the king and Haman, is then the  15th of Nisan , the first Yom Tov of Matzot and the day of the Pesach Seder. This is the day when Messiah was dead and resting in the sepulchre. Mordecai prefigures this death in remaining complete motionless before Haman. While at an earlier occasion (Est. 3:5) it is said that Mordecai bowed not before Haman, nor did him reverence, here (in Est. 5:9) it is said that Mordecai did not rise or even stir on Haman’s account. Surely he didn’t rise, for he was destined to be typologically risen — i.e. to be exalted — the next day, the 16th of Nisan, which was to be the day of Haman’s definite humiliation and death. According to the chronology of John’s Gospel the 16th of Nisan is the day of the resurrection of Messiah.

In the Book of Esther this typological resurrection day starts with the night when the king couldn’t sleep and the merits of Mordecai were read before him from the royal chronicles. Here Ahasuerus functions as an image of the King of kings, because “he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:4). [12] It isn’t difficult to recognize that Mordecai’s exaltation as “the man whom the king delighteth to honour” (Est. 6:11), on the very calendrical date of the resurrection, typologically functions as a prefiguration of the resurrected Messiah in whom all Israel will be saved in the end. The hanging of Haman on the same day (the 16th of Nisan) clearly prefigures the defeat of Satan by the resurrection of Messiah.

At this point we have to pay attention to the more difficult question of the typological role of Esther. We have already seen that this role is linked to that of Vashti, whom she supersedes as queen. Esther cannot simply stand for the Jewish nation, since the Jews’s literal presense in the story is manifest enough. But perhaps we can discover what she represents by exploring her connections to the persons whose typological functions we have establised thus far. We’ll attempt to do this in Part II.

To be continued.

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[1] Wheelock, Trisha M. Gambaiana, Drunk and Disorderly: A Bakhtinian Reading of the Banquet Scenes in the Book of Esther, Baylor University — Waco, Texas 2008

[2] According to Athanasius, the Book of Esther was not included in the canon of Scripture.

[3] Summer 16-17: “In his survey of patristic literature on Esther, Timothy Gustafson notes that the response of early Christian writers to the Book of Esther was largely shaped by the Greek additions described above: “Although the translators of the Septuagint could not know it, their pious recasting of the story would give the book a general religious appeal that Christians could accept.” Because the Greek version emphasizes Esther’s extraordinaryfaithfulness, patristic writers often interpreted the narrative typologically with Esther representing the Church. In a late fourth century letter, for example, Jerome offers a typological reading of the story. Esther is a type of the Church, he writes, who “frees her people from danger and, after having slain Haman whose name means iniquity, hands down to posterity a memorable day and a great feast.” Gustafson cites other Christian writers with similar interpretations, including Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Rabanus Maurus.” [Saralyn Ellen Summer, “Like Another Esther”: Literary Representations of Queen Esther in Early Modern England, George State University — Atlanta, Georgia 2006]

[4] Philo of Alexandria never mentions the Book of Esther at all; Josephus summarizes it in his Antiquities, but it is not clear that he viewed it as part of Scripture.

[5] Walfish, Barry Dov, Esther in Medieval Garb. Jewish Interpretation of the Book of Esther in the Middle Ages, State University of New York Press — New York, Albany 1993

[6] Darby 172 [John Nelson Darby, Études sur la Parole destinées à aider le chretien dans la lecture du Saint Livre, Tome II (I Rois à Esther), Éditions Bibles et Traités Chrétiens — Vévey 1974]

[7] Kelly 8-9 [William Kelly, The Book of Esther, Lecture by W. Kelly 1873, Bible Truth Publishers — Oak Park, Ill.]

[8] S.Th. I.1.10c: “[…] auctor sacrae Scripturae est Deus, in cujus potestate est ut non solum voces ad significandum accommodet (quod etiam homo facere potest), sed etiam res ipsas. Et ideo, cum in omnibus scientiis voces significent, hoc habet proprium ista scientia quod ipsae res significatae per voces, etiam significant aliquid. Illa ergo prima significatio, qua voces significant res, pertinet ad primum sensum, qui est sensus historicus, vel litteralis. Illa vero significatio, qua res significatae per voces iterum res alias significant, dicitur sensus spiritualis, qui super litteralem fundatur, et eum supponit.”

[9] Pesach in the strict sense is the day when the Pesach lambs are to be slaughtered, the 14th of Nisan. This is not the same day as the feast day of Matzot, which is the immediately following day, the 15th of Nisan (Lev. 23:5-6).

[10] Jn. 19:14 says that the day of the crucifixion was on the preparation (day) of the Passover. This is to be understood as the preparation of the feast day of Matzot, as is clear from Jn. 19:31. According to John’s chronology the Lord Yeshua was thus crucified on the 14th of Nisan.

[11] Berlin 45: “Mordecai heard the decree at the same time as the city of Shushan. Unlike the dumbfounded city, Mordecai springs into action, taking definite steps to publicly demonstrate his feelings.” [Adele Berlin, The JPS Bible Commentary: Esther, The Jewish Publication Society — Philadephia, Pennsylvania 2001 (5761)]

[12] This is confirmed by the opinion of R. Tanhum, who said that “the sleep of the King of the Universe was disturbed” (BT Megillah 15b). Actually, the Hebrew text doesn’t say “disturbed”, but that the kings sleep “fled”, according to Young’s literal translation of ‘nâdad’. The same Gemora explains the passive form used for the reading of the chronicles — “they were read” instead of “they read them” — as an indication “that they were read of themselves”, meaning perhaps a passivum divinum.

 

The Problem of Women Dressing Like Men: An Early Warning from a Roman Cardinal

 

 

Modest and elegant

Modest and elegant

No serious believer will deny that in our time sexual perversions are propagated and modesty and chastity ridiculed. Today’s political correctness is siding with those who attack traditional family life, religion, and the divine laws of nature and revelation.

This counter-culture of perversion has invaded traditional Christianity on a massive scale since the end of the Second World War. It started with the mistaken emancipation of women and feminism and is now involved in the diabolical attempts to destroy all traditinal morality  by the LBGTQ and Gender Ideology movements.

When in the late 50s and early 60s of the XXth century emancipated women began to dress like men, only a few prophetic voices foresaw what was coming. One of these voices was the Roman Cardinal Siri’s. [1] In a pastoral letter entitled: Notification Concerning Men’s Dress Worn By Women, dated June 12, 1960, this staunchly conservative Catholic prelate dealt with the roots of the problem in an excellent psychological and social analysis based on the principles of natural law. [2]

We decided to republish this Notification for our readers. It highlights aspects of sexual morality which are often overlooked by believers of evangelical upbringing, but which are quite familiar to traditional Catholics and religious Jews. Messianics will discover that Siri’s analysis provides a general clarifying background to many Torah injunctions and prohibitions on the domain of the social interacting of the sexes as well as on traditional Jewish fence laws.

I expect that Siri’s letter, given here below, will surprise many readers for its actuality, relevance and depth of vision.

Notification Concerning Men’s Dress Worn By Women

By Giuseppe Cardinal Siri

Genoa,
June 12, 1960
To the Reverend Clergy,
To all Teaching sisters,
To the beloved sons of Catholic Action,
To Educators intending truly to follow Christian Doctrine.

I

The first signs of our late arriving spring indicate that there is this year a certain increase in the use of men’s dress by girls and women, even family mothers. Up until 1959, in Genoa, such dress usually meant the person was a tourist, but now it seems to be a significant number of girls and women from Genoa itself who are choosing at least on pleasure trips to wear men’s dress (men’s trousers).

The extension of this behavior obliges us to take serious thought, and we ask those to whom this Notification is addressed to kindly lend to the problem all the attention it deserves from anyone aware of being in any way responsible before God.

We seek above all to give a balanced moral judgment upon the wearing of men’s dress by women. In fact Our thoughts can only bear upon the moral question.

Firstly, when it comes to covering of the female body, the wearing of men’s trousers by women cannot be said to constitute as such a grave offense against modesty, because trousers certainly cover more of woman’s body than do modern women’s skirts.

Secondly, however, clothes to be modest need not only to cover the body but also not to cling too closely to the body. Now it is true that much feminine clothing today clings closer than do some trousers, but trousers can be made to cling closer, in fact generally they do, so the tight fit of such clothing gives us not less grounds for concern than does exposure of the body. So the immodesty of men’s trousers on women is an aspect of the problem which is not to be left out of an over-all judgment upon them, even if it is not to be artificially exaggerated either.

II

However, it is a different aspect of women’s wearing of men’s trousers which seems to us the gravest.

The wearing of men’s dress by women affects firstly the woman herself, by changing the feminine psychology proper to women; secondly it affects the woman as wife of her husband, by tending to vitiate relationships between the sexes; thirdly it affects the woman as mother of her children by harming her dignity in her children’s eyes. Each of these points is to be carefully considered in turn: —

A. Male dress changes the psychology of woman.

In truth, the motive impelling women to wear men’s dress is always that of imitating, nay, of competing with, the man who is considered stronger, less tied down, more independent. This motivation shows clearly that male dress is the visible aid to bringing about a mental attitude of being “like a man.” Secondly, ever since men have been men, the clothing a person wears, demands, imposes and modifies that person’s gestures, attitudes and behavior, such that from merely being worn outside, clothing comes to impose a particular frame of mind inside.

Then let us add that woman wearing man’s dress always more or less indicates her reacting to her femininity as though it is inferiority when in fact it is only diversity. The perversion of her psychology is clear to be seen.

These reasons, summing up many more, are enough to warn us how wrongly women are made to think by the wearing of men’s dress.

B. Male dress tends to vitiate relationships between women and men.

In truth when relationships between the two sexes unfold with the coming of age, an instinct of mutual attraction is predominant. The essential basis of this attraction is a diversity between the two sexes which is made possible only by their complementing or completing one another. If then this “diversity” becomes less obvious because one of its major external signs is eliminated and because the normal psychological structure is weakened, what results is the alteration of a fundamental factor in the relationship.

The problem goes further still. Mutual attraction between the sexes is preceded both naturally, and in order of time, by that sense of shame which holds the rising instincts in check, imposes respect upon them, and tends to lift to a higher level of mutual esteem and healthy fear everything that those instincts would push onwards to uncontrolled acts. To change that clothing which by its diversity reveals and upholds nature’s limits and defense-works, is to flatten out the distinctions and to help pull down the vital defense-works of the sense of shame.

It is at least to hinder that sense. And when the sense of shame is hindered from putting on the brakes, then relationships between man and women sink degradingly down to pure sensuality, devoid of all mutual respect or esteem.

Experience is there to tell us that when woman is de-feminised, then defenses are undermined and weakness increases.

C. Male dress harms the dignity of the mother in her children’s eyes.

All children have an instinct for the sense of dignity and decorum of their mother. Analysis of the first inner crisis of children when they awaken to life around them even before they enter upon adolescence, shows how much the sense of their mother counts. Children are as sensitive as can be on this point. Adults have usually left all that behind them and think no more on it. But we would do well to recall to mind the severe demands that children instinctively make of their own mother, and the deep and even terrible reactions roused in them by observation of their mother’s misbehavior. Many lines of later life are here traced out — and not for good — in these early inner dramas of infancy and childhood.

The child may not know the definition of exposure, frivolity or infidelity, but he possesses an instinctive sixth sense to recognize them when they occur, to suffer from them, and be bitterly wounded by them in his soul.

III

Let us think seriously on the import of everything said so far, even if woman’s appearing in man’s dress does not immediately give rise to all the upset caused by grave immodesty.

The changing of feminine psychology does fundamental and, in the long run, irreparable damage to the family, to conjugal fidelity, to human affections and to human society. True, the effects of wearing unsuitable dress are not all to be seen within a short time. But one must think of what is being slowly and insidiously worn down, torn apart, perverted.

Is any satisfying reciprocity between husband and wife imaginable, if feminine psychology be changed? Or is any true education of children imaginable, which is so delicate in its procedure, so woven of imponderable factors in which the mother’s intuition and instinct play the decisive part in those tender years? What will these women be able to give their children when they will so long have worn trousers that their self-esteem goes more by their competing with the men than by their functioning as women?

Why, we ask, ever since men have been men, or rather since they became civilized — why have men in all times and places been irresistibly borne to make a differentiated division between the functions of the two sexes? Do we not have here strict testimony to the recognition by all mankind of a truth and a law above man?

To sum up, wherever women wear men’s dress, it is to be considered a factor in the long run tearing apart human order.

IV

The logical consequence of everything presented so far is that anyone in a position of responsibility should be possessed by a sense of alarm in the true and proper meaning of the word, a severe and decisive alarm.

We address a grave warning to parish priests, to all priests in general and to confessors in particular, to members of every kind of association, to all religious, to all nuns, especially to teaching Sisters.

We invite them to become clearly conscious of the problem so that action will follow. This consciousness is what matters. It will suggest the appropriate action in due time. But let it not counsel us to give way in the face of inevitable change, as though we are confronted by a natural evolution of mankind, and so on!

Men may come and men may go, because God has left plenty of room for the to and fro of their free-will; but the substantial lines of nature and the not less substantial lines of Eternal Law have never changed, are not changing and never will change. There are bounds beyond which one may stray as far as one sees fit, but to do so ends in death; there are limits which empty philosophical fantasizing may have one mock or not take seriously, but they put together an alliance of hard facts and nature to chastise anybody who steps over them. And history has sufficiently taught, with frightening proof from the life and death of nations, that the reply to all violators of the outline of “humanity” is always, sooner or later, catastrophe.

From the dialectic of Hegel onwards, we have had dinned in our ears what are nothing but fables, and by dint of hearing them so often, many people end up by getting used to them, if only passively. But the truth of the matter is that Nature and Truth, and the Law bound up in both, go their imperturbable way, and they cut to pieces the simpletons who upon no grounds whatsoever believe in radical and far-reaching changes in the very structure of man.

The consequences of such violations are not a new outline of man, but disorders, hurtful instability of all kinds, the frightening dryness of human souls, the shattering increase in the number of human castaways, driven long since out of people’s sight and mind to live out their decline in boredom, sadness and rejection. Aligned on the wrecking of the eternal norms are to be found the broken families, lives cut short before their time, hearths and homes gone cold, old people cast to one side, youngsters willfully degenerate and — at the end of the line — souls in despair and taking their own lives. All of which human wreckage gives witness to the fact that the “line of God” does not give way, nor does it admit of any adaption to the delirious dreams of the so-called philosophers!

V

We have said that those to whom the present Notification is addressed are invited to take serious alarm at the problem in hand. Accordingly they know what they have to say, starting with little girls on their mother’s knee.

They know that without exaggerating or turning into fanatics, they will need to strictly limit how far they tolerate women dressing like men, as a general rule.

They know they must never be so weak as to let anyone believe that they turn a blind eye to a custom which is slipping downhill and undermining the moral standing of all institutions.

They, the priests, know that the line they have to take in the confessional, while not holding women dressing like men to be automatically a grave fault, must be sharp and decisive.

Everybody will kindly give thought to the need for a united line of action, reinforced on every side by the cooperation of all men of good will and all enlightened minds, so as to create a true dam to hold back the flood.

Those of you responsible for souls in whatever capacity understand how useful it is to have for allies in this defensive campaign men of the arts, the media and the crafts. The position taken by fashion design houses, their brilliant designers and the clothing industry, is of crucial importance in this whole question. Artistic sense, refinement and good taste meeting together can find suitable but dignified solution as to the dress for women to wear when they must use a motorcycle or engage in this or that exercise or work. What matters is to preserve modesty together with the eternal sense of femininity, that femininity which more than anything else all children will continue to associate with the face of their mother.

We do not deny that modern life sets problems and makes requirements unknown to our grandparents. But we state that there are values more needing to be protected than fleeting experiences, and that for anybody of intelligence there are always good sense and good taste enough to find acceptable and dignified solutions to problems as they come up.

Out of charity we are fighting against the flattening out of mankind, against the attack upon those differences on which rests the complementarity of man and woman.

When we see a woman in trousers, we should think not so much of her as of all mankind, of what it will be when women will have masculinized themselves for good. Nobody stands to gain by helping to bring about a future age of vagueness, ambiguity, imperfection and, in a word, monstrosities.

This letter of Ours is not addressed to the public, but to those responsible for souls, for education, for Catholic associations. Let them do their duty, and let them not be sentries caught asleep at their post while evil crept in.

Giuseppe Cardinal Siri,
Archbishop of Genoa

From a Torah obedient perspective it is clear that believers in Messiah Yeshua shouldn’t be involved in modern cross-dressing or in any attempts to blur moral standards or the natural distinctions of creation. These standards and distinctions should instead be cherised and accentuated by cultural norms. Many of these norms are given and upheld by divine revelation. The Torah explicitly warns us against cross-dressing, which is considered an abomination in Dt. 22:5. The Body of Messiah has the clear and unambiguos obligation to uphold a biblical and traditional culture in matters of sexual morality.

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[1] Giuseppe Cardinal Siri (1906-1989) was Archbishop of Genoa. His Notification can be found at: http://olrl.org/virtues/pants.shtml

[2] ‘Natural law’ can be defined as the collection of moral principles and norms detectible by natural reason unaided by divine revelation. The Apostle Paul refers to the natural law in Rom. 1:18-32.