Archive for July, 2012

Sir Anthony Buzzard’s Absurd Crusade Against the Torah

 

The Millennial Temple of EzechielIt is always amazing to notice how some biblical scholars succeed in undermining their own theological position. One of the recent examples is Sir Anthony Buzzard. Buzzard has done a lot of biblical research and deserves well of all Messianics for his work on the Trinity and the Incarnation [1]. He did an excellent job in showing that the G’d the Bible teaches is One Person, not the multipersonal Being of Christian orthodoxy, and that Jesus was a faithful Jew who wholeheartedly subscribed to the Jewish creed: Hear, O Israel, HaShem is our G’d, HaShem is One (Dt. 6:4).

Buzzard ardently emphasizes the Jewishness of Jesus and the Jewishness of Jesus’ expectation of the Messianic Kingdom, and with great enthusiasm quotes the words of L.L. Paine about Jesus:

Jesus was a Jew, trained by Jewish parents in the Old Testament Scriptures. His teaching was Jewish to the core; a new Gospel indeed, but not a new theology. He declared that he came “not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill” them, and he accepted as his own belief the great text of Jewish monotheism: “Hear, O Israel, the L-rd our G’d is One G’d”. His proclamation concerning himself was in line with Old Testament prophecy. He was the “Messiah” of the promised Kingdom, the “Son of Man” of Jewish hope…[2]

Buzzard insists that we should believe in HaShem and expect his future Kingdom in the same manner as Jesus did. His magazine, Focus on the Kingdom, and his website, Restoration Fellowship, are devoted to this mission.

While teaching, however, that we should adopt the biblical faith of Jesus, Buzzard at the same takes great efforts in teaching us that we should not follow Jesus’ practice of a biblical, Torah obedient lifestyle. In Buzzard’s eyes, Christians would go in the wrong direction in seeking Torah obedience. This would result in a life of shadows. In an article entitled: “Resting in Christ as More Than a Weekly Sabbath”, of the July 2012 issue of his magazine, he exclaims: “Why live in the shadows when the light has come?” [3]. Buzzard’s version of the Christian faith can thus be summarized as: Believe in the One G’d of Israel, like Jesus did, but don’t follow his Torah.

I think it is at this point, where theory and practice are separated, that Anthony Buzzard loses Jesus’ Jewishness and gets lost in ordinary Christian Replacement Theology. For if the Torah is set aside, Jewishness is set aside. A Messiah who doesn’t teach Torah is false Messiah, who cannot be accepted by the Jewish nation.

How contrary is Buzzard’s teaching here to the very words of Jesus spoken at the sermon on the mount (Mt. 5:17-19):

Think not that I am come to destroy the Torah, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one titte shall in no wise pass from the Torah, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

From this text we learn that fulfilling the Torah includes practising it. Even the the least commandment is important. Any ‘focus on the Kingdom’ of heaven will be empty and void if it doesn’t include doing and teaching Torah. How can we focus on the Kingdom at all, if we deny it by our lifestyle and do not follow the Royal Torah? (Cf. Jas 2:8-10). The words Jesus spoke on the mount after his resurrection make it all the more clear that his Kingdom includes the rule and reign of the Torah (Mt. 28:19-20):

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Ruach HaKodesh: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.

Do the “all things whatsoever I have commanded you” include Jesus’ words of Mt. 5:17-19, yes or no? So when one thinks about the consequences of Buzzard’s viewpoint, one can only wonder whether he would be prepared to affirm that Jesus himself lived in the shadows during his earthly days and followed a pattern of behaviour of an altogether lower nature than the life of freedom from the commandments now supposedly enjoyed by Christians [4]. If Buzzard would dare to affirm and uphold that, essentially, Messiah’s own lifestyle was less spiritual than the so-called ‘Christian’ lifestyle of today, then the question arises how he can take serious Paul’s injunction to the Corinthians: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Messiah” (I Cor. 11:1), particularly so if we know that Paul too was a Torah observant Jew, as is clear from Acts 25:8-11; 28:17.

How can any call to lead a life of following Messiah — imitatio Christi in the terminology of traditional Christianity — be taken serious if the Jewish and Torah obedient lifestyle of Messiah is perceived of as belonging to an altogether lower order of things than the Christian believer is thought to be part of?

One also can only wonder about what kind of Kingdom Buzzard is expecting if it is not the Kingdom of the universal rule of the Torah announced by the prophet Isaiah (Is. 2:2-3):

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of HaShem’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of HaShem, to the house of the G’d of Jacob; and he will teach us his ways, and we shall walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of HaShem from Jerusalem.

If these words are literally true and if the rule of the Torah is the rule of HaShem’s Kingdom, then what excuse do we have for not obeying the Torah and its commandments, since in them we anticipate and foretaste the reality of the Kingdom? [5]. Buzzard has repeatedly admitted that the Kingdom of G’d is a real physical Kingdom to be expected here on earth, having its centre in the land of Israel and in Jerusalem. And yet he seems to conceive this Kingdom as a secular reality without the Torah and without a restored Temple.

Buzzard deplores that “a giant muddle has been introduced by a failure to grasp basic distinctions between the two covenant arrangements provided by G’d. The Old must not be confused with the New” [6].

One can ask who is really muddling the waters here if one recollects the words of Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-33):

Behold, the days come, saith HaShem, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith HaShem: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith HaShem, I will put my Torah in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their G’d, and they shall be my people.

Here it is clearly taught by the prophet Jeremiah that the content of the New Covenant is the same as the content of the Sinai covenant. The New Covenant has the same commandments and ordinances, and this is only logical as it is the renewal of the Sinai Covenant. The only important difference is that in the Kingdom Age this content will be written in the heart of HaShem’s people. The circumcision of the heart was always the deepest intention of the Torah [7]. It will be realized when all Israel is brought back to HaShem and his Torah, and the full effects of Messiah’s sacrifice will be revealed.

And the prophet Ezechiel teaches us that the centre of the Kingdom will be the restored and expanded Temple he depicts in chs. 40-48 of his prophecy.

In his absurd crusade against the Torah, Anthony Buzzard is threatening the legacy of his own worthy case, the defense of the Unity of G’d. For if Christians are no longer bound by the commandments of the Torah and should not follow Jesus’ practice and lifestyle, then why should they make such a big point of the commandment of the Shema? If the Torah is superseded and we have something better now, shouldn’t this be reflected in a better teaching about G’d?

By undermining the authority of the Torah, Buzzard undermines his own position on the Jewishness of the Creed of Jesus. For the Jewishness of this creed is rooted in the Torah. Buzzard also undermines his own Kingdom theology. For Jesus’ expected a Kingdom as outlined by the prophets and ruled by the Torah.

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[1] Buzzard, A.F. & C.F. Hunting, The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity’s Self-Inflicted Wound, International Scholars Publications, Lanham · New York · Oxford 1998.

[2] Buzzard, A.F., Who Is Jesus? A Plea for a Return to Belief in Jesus, the Messiah, Restoration Fellowship.

[3] Focus on the Kingdom, Vol 14, No. 10, July 2012, p. 3.

[4] We would recommend to Buzzard Tim Hegg’s paper: “Spirituality: Are We Better Off Now? At: TorahResource

[5] This is clearly the gist of the much disputed verses 16 & 17 in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians. View the article: “Exegesis: Colossians 2:13-17”, from the Parshanuth website.

[6] Focus on the Kingdom, Vol. 14, No. 10, July 2012, p. 3.

[7] This can be deduced from the Shema itself, which concentrates on the obedience of the heart, and from many other texts, among them Dt. 10:12-16: “And now, Israel, what doth HaShem thy G’d require of thee, but to fear HaShem thy G’d, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve HaShem thy G’d with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of HaShem, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is HaShem thy G’d, the earth also, with that therein is. Only HaShem had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked”.

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