The Two Parts of Israel: Reflections on the Continuing Relevance of Rabbinic Judaism for the Messianic Community

 

One of the causes of the difficulties inherent in either the “One Law” (TorahResource) or the “Divine Invitation” (FFOZ) theological models — which were discussed in our two previous posts — is perhaps that we not duly consider all the factors involved in the issue of Gentile Torah observance. It might be that one of the neglected factors in the problem is in fact part of the solution. By this factor I mean the yet unbelieving part of Israel, more precisely: Rabbinic Judaism.

What I’m thinking of is that perhaps traditional Rabbinic Judaism and the Messianic Community are, in a mysterious way, working in tandem, so to say, for the sake of the redemption of the world.

During the time-period covered by the first parts of the Book of the Acts — the part preceding the introduction of the Gentiles, roughly Acts chs. I-IX — there were two possible results of the mission of Yeshua’s Apostles to the nation of Israel. The first possibility was that all Israel accepted the Messiah; the second was that only a part of the nation accepted him. If all Israel had accepted him, the national restoration of Israel would have happened first, is my hypothesis, and, after that, the ingathering of the Gentiles would have followed. In that schedule of things there would be no problem as we now have it of a premature mixing of Jews and Gentiles, because Israel would have been firmly restored in the Land first.

This is not what happened, as we all know. Only a minor part of the nation accepted Yeshua as Messiah. And this fact caused a change in the historical schedule of things. Now the believing remnant of Israel had to go to the Gentiles and lead them to the Kingdom of Messiah, before the national restoration of the chosen people. In this schedule the remnant minority had to mix with Gentiles in the formation of the Messianic Community. The unbelieving majority was now given the historical role of preserving Jewish national identity. Thus Israel was split “into two bands” (cf. Gen. 32:7, 10). In the great spiritual struggle against the Roman Empire (the spiritual descendants of Esau), Jacob had become two bands. One was made the instrument of “attack”. This was the missionary part that believed in Messiah. The other part stood — and until now still stands — aloof. This state of affairs can be interpreted as being part of a deep spiritual strategy, for “if Esau come to the one company, and smite it — which has happened in the formation of Roman Catholicism, when the remainders of the faithful Jewish remnant were swallowed and Torah obedient messianic faith was destroyed — then the other company which is left (i.e. Rabbinic Judaism) shall escape” (Gen. 32:8).

Maybe Paul is alluding to the emerging reality of an Israel divided in two companies when he says, in Rom. 11:25: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in”. What I mean is that, after the fact of the rejction of Messiah by the leading majority of the nation, this splitting of Israel, and this division of roles indicated above, became a kind of necessity (with emphasis on “after the fact”). A further indication for this interpretation can perhaps be found in Paul’s words immediately following: “And so (i.e. in exactly this manner) all Israel shall be saved”. Paul’s words seem to signify that the very process of blinding is part of the greater story of Israel’s redemption.

One part of Israel, the remnant, is saved within the Messianic Community. The other part is “saved” — i.e. historically preserved — without it and will ultimately be saved in its eschatological encounter with Messiah at his second and definitive coming.

My guess is that during this time of Israel being “two companies” the Messianic Community is called to express the perfect unity of Jew and Gentile as “one new man” in Messiah (Eph. 2:15). This perfect unity of Jew and Gentile in faith and observance — which naturally includes the possibility of intermarriage — is an anticipation of the state of affairs in the World to Come, when the unity of mankind will be perfectly restored. In the meanwhile the unbelieving part of Israel is functioning — through the sovereign counsel of G-d which cannot be thwarted by their unbelief — as the preserver of the peculiar identity of the chosen nation in preparation of the Kingdom Age, when Israel as a nation will be ultimately redeemed and fully restored (cf. Acts 1:6-7!).

If what I said is true, then there is a solution for the difficulties signalled in the interaction of Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic Community (either according to the “One Law” or the “Divine Invitation” model). The equality of Jew and Gentile in the Messianic Community can be maintained and propagated, including their equal access to the blessings of the Torah and the possibility of intermarriage — which actually is a very beautiful illustration of the union between Jew and Gentile as “one new man” — because the distinct preservation of Jewish national identity is relegated to traditional Judaism and is in save hands there, until Messiah will return.

I acknowledge, of course, that this hypothesis has to be further examined. But what I like about it is that it gives a positive role to traditional Judaism, while at the same time it keeps its focus firmly on Messiah and does not give way to a cheap “two-ways” –theology in dealing with the division between traditional and messianic Judaism.

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4 Responses to “The Two Parts of Israel: Reflections on the Continuing Relevance of Rabbinic Judaism for the Messianic Community”


  1. 1 Leslie April 3, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Wow, no comments, how surprising! This post makes the most sense of any that I have read on this entire issue! You are the only one brave enough (again, I have not read the entire WWW on this issue, but I read alot) to touch on what do we do with marriage? Having daughters of marriageable age, I was asking people in my community, and no one really had an answer. What a perfect picture of the unity of Jew and Gentile. Since we are a Torah-observant family, this aleady makes our “pool”, if you will, for our daughters more narrow than if we fell into the camp of being Jewish or Christian. Then, DI is thrown in….does this mean no intermarriage? Does this mean we have to find out if we really are Jews or Gentiles before they marry? And what about community? How do we have community together if intermarriage is prohibited in the Messianic realm, or is it? Your previous article about this issue really brought many more ?? out, and I don’t see anyone else addressing this.

  2. 2 Chr. Levi Zoutendijk January 8, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Ik zie er ook wel wat in.

    Op zich is het vlg. mij wel zo dat als Jesjoea was ontvangen als messias door allen en in vrede stierf, hij gelijk hogepriester en koning zou kunnen worden over de volken.

    Maar profeten worden altijd vervolgd, dus zeker de zoon van God.

    God moest dus een Reddingsplan hebben, menselijkerwijs gesproken.

    Israël zou vlg. Bileam altijd alleen wonen, afgezonderd.
    Zo leren ze in onze dagen de waarde van de Tora nog door in de eerste plaats (M.) Joden.

  3. 3 Gene Shlomovich April 22, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Very interesting and unique interpretation. So, in essence, what you are suggesting in this theory, is that the Jewish followers of Messiah may be called to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of everyone – both the rest of Israel and the “Esau” – by completely assimilating into the mass of nations, physically, culturally and religiously, willingly erasing themselves and all their progeny from the Jewish nation through intermarriage?

    • 4 messianic613 April 24, 2013 at 5:53 pm

      To Gene Shlomovich:

      Not quite. A Jew, messianic or not, should always live according to the Torah, since the Covenant of Sinai is everlasting. We know, however, that the Jewish believers in Yeshua were gradually expelled from the Synagogue and the larger Jewish community. This happened in the time of the Acts of the Apostles, and already incidentally in the Gospels. The conclusion of this process of expulsion was that it became more and more difficult and ultimately impossible to be a Jew and a believer in Messiah in the context of normative Judaism. By the end of the first century, messianic Jews were considered as out-and-out apostates by the Jewish community. So, for all practical purposes, their faith in Messiah separated them from larger Israel, anyway, even without assimilation to Gentile culture or intermarriage.

      Now, if the Gentiles had accepted the full message of the Gospel, which is “to observe all things whatsoever” Yeshua commanded his talmidim to observe — i.e. the Torah and Yeshua’s particular teachings — then the tiny Jewish remnant of believers in Messiah would have found a new spiritual home in this Torah obedient context of Yeshua’s Assembly.

      If this had happened, individual believing Jews would have been enabled to retain and fully express their Jewish lifestyle in the Assembly of Messiah. In the mean time the continuity of the collectivity, the Jewish nation, would have been provided for by the majority who did not believe.

      Tragically, this was not how things worked out, historically. The majority of the Gentile believers never accepted the Torah as relevant for their new life of faith. This caused the messianic faith to be embedded in new and foreign cultural forms, predominantly Roman forms, which is the essence of the later Catholic Church: A Jewish content embedded and controlled by a Roman structure. This resulted in Torah observant Messianic Jews either being forced to give up their Torah observance or to face expulsion from the Church. As things went, it was thus only the unbelieving part of Israel which was able to continue a Torah observant lifestyle.


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