“Divine Invitation”, “One Law” and the Case for Intermarriage: Some Nagging Questions Asked From A Generational Perspective

 

The following questionary remarks on intermarriage are meant as a follow-up of the comments on my previous article, “FFOZ’s New Theology of Divine Inviation”. They should be viewed as a contribution to the ongoing discussion between the “One Law”-viewpoint of TorahResource and the new “Invitation Theology” of FFOZ. This is the second in a series of articles devoted to enquiring the recent theological shift at FFOZ.

If we adopt the “One Law” position endorsed by Tim Hegg of the ministry of TorahResource [1], intermarriage heightens the problem — already inherent in this position — that being Jewish loses all practical and legal relevance, at least within the context of the Messianic Community, since both Jew and non-Jew are accountable to the same standards regarding Torah observance. The distinction between Jew and non-Jew evaporates into an empty distinction that only reveals something about a person’s descent. Intermarriage in this theological position has the additional effect of completely wiping out Jewishness. For the question that arises now is: what offspring of a mixed marriage should count as Jewish offspring? Offspring of a Jewish mother? Of at least one Jewish parent? What halachah is to decide this question? What halachah is to be followed in this domain by communities who adopt a “One Law” position?

The inevitable effect of “One Law” — at least as it is currently proposed — is that after a few generations all children that stay within the community will simply enjoy a homogeneous “Israelite” status without any remaining possibility to determine whether they are in fact Jewish or Gentile. The Jew-Gentile distinction is thus not merely made irrelevant, i.e. of no practical importance; it is also made unmanageable, i.e. unfit to be handled at all. It simply can no longer be known, and thus no longer reasonably be asked, who is a Jew and who is a non-Jew, for these names do not make sense any more. Only new members, coming from traditional Judaism could rightly be called Jews in “One Law” communities.

This seems to imply that the “One Law” position, that endorses the full equality between Jew and Gentile within the Body of Messiah, remains dependent on traditional Judaism in referring to persons as Jews or non-Jews. In declaring the equality of Jew and non-Jew in matters of Torah it makes use of the commonplace Jew-Gentile distinction while at the same wiping out its relevance and, for future generations, even its meaning. It uses the names “Jew” and “non-Jew” thus in a parasitic manner, for its communal policy doesn’t allow for the preservation of the distinction referred to by these names.

If we adopt the FFOZ “Invitation theology” perspective, intermarriage itself has problematic aspects. For the Invitation perspective requires a clear distinction between Jewish believers, who are legally obligated to full Torah observance, and Gentile believers, who are not under the same obligation. Now the question is: What actually does happen, legally or halachically, in the case of intermarriage? Does the Gentile partner perhaps become formally obligated to the whole Torah by his or her marriage with a Jewish person? In other words, does he or she become Jewish by the marriage itself, (for being Jewish and being obligated to the entire Torah are one and the same thing, according to FFOZ author Daniel Lancaster in his blogpost: “An Unbearable Yoke”)?[2] If not, how is unity of observance to be preserved in such a marriage?

What halachah is to be followed in this question? And what is the status of the children? Are they Jews or non-Jews? This is a matter of importance here, because if they are Jews they are born within the legal framework of being obligated to the Torah. If they are Gentiles, however, their relation to the Torah is one of invitation. If, for example, a certain male child is considered Jewish, it will make sense to have a Bar-Mitzvah ceremony when he reaches the age of 13 years. This would be superfluous — or non-obligatory at least — in the case of a Gentile male child. One can legitimately ask whether it is recommendable at all to have Jewish and Gentile children to have strong communal ties if the obligations of the one are to be considerably different from the obligations of the other. And how can, in the situation of a mixed marriage,  a Gentile father, who is only invited, not legally obligated to a Torah obedient lifestyle, prepare his presumably Jewish children for a lifestyle of obligatory obedience to the requirements of the Torah in a credible and sustainable way?

If the traditional halachah is followed Invitation theology leads to the consequence that intermarriage between a Gentile man and a Jewish woman causes the children to be Jewish. However, traditional halachah also teaches that such a marriage, although it is valid, is prohibited. Should this traditional halachah be adopted by the Messianic Community? This would lead to a general prohibition of intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews within the Body of Messiah. And then the question about the wisdom of having Jews and Gentiles together in one (local) community returns.

Intermarriage and offspring are very interesting topics for investigating the broader and deeper inherent problems and viabilities of the diverse theological positions on Gentile Torah observance. Thus far, however, all proposed solutions — save only perhaps that one that simply keeps intact the since long accepted traditional distinctions and separations between Jews and Gentiles — seem to lead to rather puzzling and confusing consequences. These traditional distinctions and separations, however, although internally consistent, are clearly opposed to the message of the Apostolic Writings. In these writings, and particularly in the letters of Paul, the Body of Messiah is regarded as a community in which Jews and Gentiles worship and live together. And thus the problems surrounding intermarriage in a messianic context remain unsolved for the time being.

_____________

[1] For example in Fellow Heirs: Jews & Gentiles Together in the Family of God, First Fruits of Zion — Littleton, Colorado 2003. And in his article: “Is the Torah Only for Jews?”. The pdf-version of this article can be found at: http://www.google.nl/search?hl=nl&source=hp&q=%22Is+the+Torah+Only+for+Jews%3F%22&btnG=Google+zoeken&meta=&aq=f&oq=

[2] D. Thomas Lancaster, “An Unbearable Yoke”, In: FFOZ Blogs, at: http://ffoz.org/blogs/2009/09/an_unbearable_yoke_acts_1510.html

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9 Responses to ““Divine Invitation”, “One Law” and the Case for Intermarriage: Some Nagging Questions Asked From A Generational Perspective”


  1. 1 christian4moses October 22, 2009 at 6:51 am

    Hi Geert,

    Very well written! I think your case is very solid and these are among the toughest questions for both views. It would be interested to see these adressed by them.

    Lately I had this idea and wanted to ask your opinion about it:

    We always try to see the NT as offering a monolithic teaching hence try to reconcile certain passages where conflicting attitudes are sensed with each other, but couldnt it be that this was simply a machloket between Paul and other apostles, and in a rabbinic way we would say, the halacha, or perhaps better, the [apostolic] tradition follows Paul? In this way we are able to grapple with the fact that in certain places we get the idea that non-Jews are obligated whilst in other places it seems they are not? Instead of reading into those passages the other view?

    I know this question may seem a tautological as it was obviously a dispute between these two factions, but I think we take for granted that the legitimate view is taught over the whole course of Scripture which may not be the case, judging from the diverse perspectives that are held till today.

    Daniel

  2. 2 Messianic613 October 26, 2009 at 2:07 am

    To Daniel:

    To be able to handle the very difficult problem of the status of Gentiles in the NT it is I think the best policy from the outset to keep things as neat and simple to handle as is possible. For this reason I would like to refrain from accepting additional hypotheses about divergent halachic positions taken by the Apostles. At the same time I would like to give much attention to the earliest indications we have about the Gentile problem in the NT writings. Following this strategy will give us the best chances for putting the finger on the undiluted core of the conflict. Now the earliest NT writings which treat the position of Gentiles in the Messianic Community are Paul’s letters, in particular his letter to the Galatians. For a number of reasons that I cannot go into now in detail I’m inclined to accept an early dating of this letter, a dating before the Jerusalem Council.

    The letter to the Galations deals with the core issue of circumcision. It seems to deny circumcision to Gentiles. Circumcision is of course a very basic Torah commandment, and strongly related to the question of Israelite versus Gentile status. If Paul prohibits his Gentile audience to perform this commandment, then he in fact prohibits Torah observance for Gentiles, or at least full Torah observance.

    We know that there is an ongoing discussion in messianic circles about the precise nature of Paul’s prohibition. Is Paul denying that the biblical commandment applies to Gentiles, or is he perhaps warning the Gentile believers that they should not comply with the ritual conversion process (giur) proposed to them by those designated as the “influencers” (according to Nanos’ terminology)? I’ll leave this discussion for what it is for the moment.

    In other letters of Paul we find important indications, however, that Gentiles were involved in some typical Torah practices. I’ll mention a few of these. In 1 Cor. 5:7-8 we have a reference to the celebration of Passover. Although it is used by Paul to make a spiritual application, the passage clearly indicates that the Corinthians knew and practised what Paul was talking about. In Col. 2:16-17 we have a reference to Gentile celebration of Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and the Moadim. We know that the Colossians were Gentiles and that they were influenced by an early form of ascetic Gnosticism. They were thereby in danger of viewing the biblical celebrations in an unfavourable light. Paul warned them against this human philosophy and its teachings (in Col. 2:4-23), and encouraged them to continue in a biblical lifestyle and not to let themselves get confused by human judgment. In 2 Tim. 1:3 Paul affirms that he had served G-d as his forefathers did serve Him, which indicates that Paul had led a life of Torah observance. We may perhaps infer from this that he taught the Gentile believers to follow him in this respect. We have at least Paul’s assurance, in 1 Cor. 4:16-17, that what he taught his communities was in accordance with his own walk of life: “Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Messiah Yeshua, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every assembly”. It is relevant to notice here that the Corinthian assembly was mainly Gentile.

    From all this we may conclude that, on the one hand, we have Pauline texts that seem to be in conflict with the idea of Gentile Torah observance and that can be interpreted as prohibitions of it. On the other hand we also have texts that seem to presuppose and endorse Gentile Torah observance. This means that the problem of Gentile status and observance is in the first place a problem related to the task of developing a consistent interpretation of Paul’s letters. For it can hardly be assumed that Paul, who was a rabbi of excellent learning, got himself entangled in a blatantly inconsistent teaching on a topic that belonged to the primary object of his mission: the status and obligations of Gentiles in Messiah. The clarification much needed here must therefore mainly be sought in the continuation of recent Pauline research, which has brought to light remarkable results already, and has thus far confirmed the image of Paul as it was accepted by messianics, the image of a Torah observant and Torah minded apostle.

    As to the specific subject of intermarriage, it is possible, I think, that what we have in Paul’s theology is a certain transformation of traditional Judaism. For it is obvious that the Messianic Community cannot simply be the continuation of traditional ethnic and legal Israel, for two reasons: 1) because it is composed of Jews and Gentiles, and 2) because it is composed of only those who believe and profess faith in Yeshua. The Messianic Community can be understood as the faithful remnant of the nation of Israel, together with the believing Gentiles added to it. Thus possibly Paul’s concept of the identity of the members of the Messianic Community was indeed that of a homogeneous Israelite status mentioned in the post, based solely on faith, not on ethnicity or legal (halachic) conversion.

    Shalom,
    Geert
    (Messianic613)

  3. 3 faithbasedworks November 6, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    It’s funny to see that Messianics while examining the early church come into the same questions as Paul was facing it.

    I think you touched a great question: Who is in the covenant of G-d. Are they the children of Abraham? Israel? Jews? Paul was arguing about the New Covenant to the Galatians. And he distinguished it in two covenants by an allegory of Sinai and the new Jerusalem. To enter the new covenant only faith is needed. Not the observance of the Torah yields salvation, but only repentance. Showed in baptism. That’s the first and only requirement to come (back) to G-d. We’ve lost Him. The way to G-d is done by faith as shown in Hebrews 11:8-9, By faith Abraham … obeyed.. and was looking for a city who’s maker was G-d. And so others did. Observance of the torah is a second gift from heaven and is done by love and with the help of Yeshua. The first is repentance with love to G-d.

    shalom,
    Jos

  4. 4 Messianic613 November 10, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    To Jos (faithbasedworks):

    It would be interesting to elaborate a bit on this. You said: “Observance of the Torah is a second gift from heaven and is done by love and with the help of Yeshua. The first is repentance with love to G-d”. I would like to ask you this question: Do you think that Gentiles who repent and turn to G-d and have faith in Messiah Yeshua are by their repentance and faith included in the covenants G-d made with the House of Israel?

    Shalom,
    Geert
    (Messianic613)

  5. 5 faithbasedworks November 11, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    To Messianic613:

    Yes, I think so. Here’s my opinion. You obviously can see it by Paul’s claim to the Galatians that nothing of man does matter to enter the New Covenant, including the birth from Jewish parents and the sign of the covenant: the circumcision (berith). In John 8 Yeshua replied to the Jews who said they were the seed of Abraham, that their father was not Abraham but the devil. That was possible because they didn’t made personal repentance and therefore didn’t hear “the word of Yeshua” (v.43) One who’s by birth into the (old) covenant has to repent and must become faithful. And thereby he receives life form Yeshua and as a newborn one Torah is put on his heart. Then he sees Torah and wants to do it.

    That said from the Jews we can turn to the Gentiles who are “grafted in” by faith and say that they will share the common wealth of the covenants, especially the New covenant of G-d with the House of Israel. In that way, the House of Israel is called by Paul the free Jerusalem which is above. (Gal.4:26)

    Not-Messianic Jews are under the old covenant. That covenant did not cease. Otherwise the Nation of Israel was not stated at 1948. The New covenant is open for Gentiles since the blood of Yeshua is the new covenant, according to his own words. It is the fulfilled promise of G-d to Abraham: “and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed”. (Gen.12:3, Hebrew: families of Adama.)

    I think the old covenant is made up with all the Jewish people (they have the Torah as a contract) and it is and will be not broken. “For the gifts and the calling of God are not repented of.” (Rom.11:29) And according to the prophets they will enter the new covenant, I think soon, by repentance.

    Shalom,
    Jos

  6. 6 Messianic613 November 12, 2009 at 10:35 am

    To Jos (faithbasedworks):

    Thanks for your answer. You rightly point out that entering the Sinai Covenant (by being born a Jew) doesn’t necessarily imply entering the New Covenant. For a person enters the New Covenant by being born again to eternal life, which happens through repentance and faith in Yeshua.

    But this raises the question why the reverse should be true. If the Jew doesn’t have eternal life simply by being born in the Sinai Covenant, why then is the Gentile believer included in the Sinai covenant by being born again to eternal life? If the temporal level of the Covenant (Sinai) doesn’t imply the eternal level (eternal life), then why does the eternal level of the Covenant yet imply the temporal level of Sinai?

    Moreover, it seems rather inconvenient that a Gentile enters the Sinai Covenant by the fact of being born again. For if this is true, then this believer suddenly and unexpectedly, and from the very first instance of having true saving faith, finds himself fully bound by the Sinai contract with all its commandments and punishments.

    Therefore my question: If in your position the legal level of Sinai doesn’t include the level of saving faith, then why does the level of saving faith include the legal level of Sinai? Can you explain this?

    Or it must be that the Sinai Covenant somehow is enclosed or comprised in the New Covenant, which is the case according to Jer. 31:33-34: “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith HaShem, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it to their hearts; and will be their G-d, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know HaShem: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith HaShem: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more”.

    The foundation for the New Covenant with Israel was laid by Messiah, in his atonement, as was made clear by his words at the Last Supper: “This is my blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Mt. 26:28; cf. Mk. 14:24; Lk. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25).

    From these texts it is clear that if the believing Gentiles nowadays receive the remission of sins, they in fact receive some of the blessings belonging to the New Covenant that is yet to be made with the Jewish nation. Jewish and Gentile believers can receive this blessing because the foundation of the New Covenant was already laid by Messiah. But the question is whether this does imply that these Gentiles, who never before were part of the Sinai Covenant, enter this Covenant by their faith alone, without any procedure on the legal level. This seems a bit like entering a marriage by love, without signing a formal marriage contract. And thus the problem remains that these Gentiles suddenly find themselves accountable to fulfil all the commandments of the Torah, with the implication that if they don’t they are sinners and worthy to be punished.

    One of the more telling implications of the fact that Gentile believers are formally included in the Sinai Covenant by their faith in Yeshua is that their males must be circumcised without delay. For as long as they are uncircumcised they are transgressing the commandment of circumcision, which is punishable by karet.

    Shalom,
    Geert
    (Messianic613)

  7. 7 faithbasedworks November 17, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    To Messianic613:

    Dear Geert,

    I’m sorry that I am a bit late with my answer. I just saw your reaction today. I appreciate your answer. It gives me much to think about.

    I think it’s good to speak about levels as you do. There are always two levels in every era. Let us call them according to your words: the legal level (of Sinai) and the level of saving faith. Anyone can do the legal level in some sense. But to have faith, you need more than just a rational choice. There is something divine in it. Then you are really convinced, powered by the Holy Spirit. But both levels belongs to each other. That’s why, I think, when a gentile (and even a Jew) makes repentence, truly, he faces indeed suddenly and unexpectedly the legal side of the covenant. The first thing he is going to do is trying to keep the commandments. He wants to please G-d in this way. But because the commandments are not the purpose of his faith, he is going to learn that only Yeshua is the purpose who enabled him to live righteous.

    So I think the old and new covenant are not separate from each other. You gave the key by citing Jer.31:33-34 “… I will put my law on their inward parts …
    You say “The foundation for the New Covenant with Israel was laid by Messiah”. I would say also the foundation of the Sinai Covenant was laid by Messiah. However it was by a promised Messiah.

    Back to your question whether the level of saving faith includes the legal level of Sinai. G-d is righteous and holy. He demands that from us to enable us to be with him. So the law always applies to us and gives us the opportunity to be holy. However, we can only be holy in Yeshua, who fulfilled the law and set us from bondage into a free man, who’s willing to obey the law. He who enters the New Covenant has always to deal with the legal Sinai Covenant, and would say: We will hear and we will do. (Deuteronomy)

  8. 8 Norbert January 1, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Sorry this is somewhat late, but the subject has always been near and dear to me.

    When it comes to marriage, who nowadays teaches the whole of this, “For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1Co 7:7-9)

    Where it could be said, a beliver can be for marriage and against marriage as a good thing too. Both at the same time as two opposites in agreement. And by extension can intermarriage be seen that way? Which is a hard subject, seeing how easy it can be misinterpreted and all of a sudden the ideas are accused of just “forbidding to marry”.

    However what can be looked at are the motives for marriage to begin with. Whereby any two believers who cannot exercise self-control should be allowed to marry. But is that the only example for marriage, just because people meet on a regular basis and can’t control themselves? That somehow romantic love is the only scriptural method and formula for marriage?

    I would say not in scripture and not even in this world. Who said, “Please, put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”? (Gen 24:2-4)

    Whereby the entire continent of India still testifies to that today to some extent. That love can be something more than at “first sight”, soul mates or sexual necessity. So too is it shown and understood scripturally, it involves a larger community. The underlying question here is, is it scripturally wrong for any person to desire to marry someone from their own heritage as well?

    I would argue it is no more wrong for a person to look to marry someone from their own background than it is for a person to marry outside of it. Again two opposites in agreement. However it should be understood what Paul wrote, “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.” (Rom 14:7)

    The conclusion of which I wish to make, that believers should be very sober minded before entering marriage to begin with. That when it comes to intermarriage, sometimes it can be wrong just as much as it can be right. Just as all marriages where divorce is not impossible. Believers should concider the responsiblities and duties affect more than just their circle of two. Concider what was written to Timothy after he was circumsized, “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully” (1 Ti 1:8)

    All I am basically saying is, I believe believers among themselves should be very cautious about the idea, go ahead marry whomever you like. They need to know of the greater responsiblities to the Lord and to the communities of their fellow men.

  9. 9 Pierre November 6, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    To Messianic613:

    Daniel Lancaster has a great audio teaching on the book of Galatians that (at least for me) helps clarify the “Divine Invitation” versus “One Law”. The series does not center around directly addressing this controversy, rather it is a detailed teaching on Galatians. Browse to: http://bethimmanuel.org/audio
    There are (I think) thirty sermons in this series.


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