Friday, April 5, 2013

Paul, Christianity, and Judaism at Last Night's Bible Study

At my church's Bible study last night, we did Session 11, which is entitled "Paul's Peace Movement".  We're going through Romans: The Letter That Changed the World, with Mart De Haan & Jimmy DeYoung.

My posts on my church's Bible study are usually pretty long.  Today, however, I just want to make two points.

1.  A few people in the group said that many of the Jews in Paul's day did not like Paul's preaching to the Gentiles (see Acts 22:21-22) because they wanted to keep on being God's special people----they wanted God's blessings for themselves alone.  A problem that I have with this notion is that it seems to presume that these Jews deep-down believed in Christian concepts: that these Jews admitted that Gentiles were becoming a part of Israel through faith in Christ, they did not like that because they wanted God's blessings for themselves alone, and so they opposed Paul.  The thing is, though, that these Jews weren't Christians!  How could they be upset that Gentiles were entering Israel through faith in Christ, when they didn't even believe that Jesus was the Messiah?  If Jesus is not the Messiah, then the Gentiles are not entering Israel through faith in Christ, whatever the Gentiles or the Christian missionaries may think!

Perhaps the Jews who opposed Paul didn't like the influence of Paul's message, though: even if they did not believe that Gentiles could enter Israel through faith in Christ, they did not appreciate that Paul was proclaiming otherwise, for ideas have consequences.  A number of Jews even accused Paul of bringing Gentiles into the Temple----it wasn't enough that Paul was proclaiming false ideas, but Paul was also infringing on Judaism by bringing Gentiles into the Temple!  Was that why they were upset when Paul mentioned Gentiles in Acts 22:21?

2.  Our workbook cited passages in the Hebrew Bible about the Gentiles worshiping God.  People in the group thought that the Old Testament in these cases was predicting that Gentiles would become a part of God's people.  As I've said before, that's not necessarily true.  But I liked what my pastor read from a study Bible: that Gentiles would be drawn to the God of Israel after seeing God's activity on Israel's behalf, the greatest example of which was the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Rather than subordinating the Hebrew Bible to Christianity (as treating the Old Testament as a document predicting the New Testament does), this approach acknowledges Christianity while (on some level) preserving the Hebrew Bible's integrity: the Hebrew Bible gets to keep the message that Israel is an important part of the Gentiles coming to God.    

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