I'm not *totally* convinced that commandments = the law of Moses, but it does so far seem to be the most likely explanation. John does indeed list the commandments of loving God and one another, but I still fail to see how we can ignore the many times that other commandments are given, suggesting that "love God/love people" isn't a complete list.
Matthew 23:2 "2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe,[a] that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do." (Here, Jesus is directly telling the crowds and his disciples to do the things read from the Moses seat, which would have been the Torah.)
Matthew 19:16 "16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[a] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”" (Here Jesus lists a few more OT commandments right alongside "love your neighbor")
Do you see the confusion here? There are places in the Bible where he clearly instructs the disciples and the crowds to obey far more than "love your neighbor".
(Regarding Matthew 7:21-23)
"You have overlooked the specific criticism of Jesus. Jesus said their problem was “I never knew you”."
That doesn't seem right...in verse 21, it tells us that only those who *do* the will of the Father will enter the kingdom:
"21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
Right after that is where Jesus affirms that even many people who seem to be real believers, as evidenced by their ability to do powerful works through him, will get rejected!
I'm terrified by the notion that Jesus would reject people who call upon his name and sincerely seek him, and even are able to do amazing works of faith and think they're following him correctly...but who maybe get it wrong by accident...to the point that I actually have another thread open trying to figure out who these people are, that Jesus rejects, even after they called upon his name.
If people who believe in Jesus and can even do miracles in his name can't get saved, then wow...I guess the rest of us are screwed? Seriously though, there's really no comfortable explanation for this, thus my thread on that topic.
"In your most recent post, you seem to be considering Paul's inclusion based on the standard of adherence to the Law – which demonstrates that you have predetermined the issue prior to consideration."
Faulty conclusion, and no, there's nothing predetermined about my doubts. I came into this thread because I genuinely do not understand how it is that Paul fits in, especially given the many varying viewpoints on this matter, many of which raise valid points.
So far, this explanation which you quoted makes the most sense to me so far. I'm not totally convinced, though, which is why I continue to explore. I don't yet have a conclusion. I only have the notion so far that certain explanations make a little more sense than others.
“this is where I struggle. Gentiles in synagogues on sabbaths and kept Jewish holy days and other Jewish customs” (me)
"I'm not sure where this idea comes from." (you)
Acts 18:4 "4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks." Why were there Greeks there, too?
Acts 13:14 "14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”
16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!" (Paul addressed the Jews and Gentiles as two distinct groups)
Acts 2:5 "5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”" (Why were there Gentiles there in Jerusalem at Pentecost if they weren't following Jewish traditions?)
"Jesus raised the standard of righteousness from a system of outward obedience to a system of sincere, worshipful devotion. That devotion is a faith/love response to the knowledge that our salvation is entirely the work of Christ; nothing we did (nor could ever do) contributed to our standing with God – and so Christ deservingly gets all of the glory."
On this point I do agree.
Furthermore, Torah observant Christians will further explain that the law is kept BECAUSE they are saved, not SO THAT they are saved. Tzitzit, kosher eating, and everything else is seen as obedience to God out of love...for the same reasons that we keep other commandments, such as not murdering and not committing adultery. And my suggestion above that Paul was possibly Torah observant and taught such is in line with this way of thinking, as this notion doesn't clash with Jesus' very Jewish way of teaching and living.
"This is a list of rules for the Jews to obey as their part in the covenant with God. No sincere love or devotion is required – just follow the instructions."
God DID ask for their sincere devotion, though. The commandment to love god with all your heart which Jesus gave wasn't new...it's right there in Deuteronomy 6:5.
"If you are Christ's, you have scripture and the Holy Spirit to guide you into truth."
There are an awful lot of people who think this way and yet come to drastically different conclusions. I again wonder how it is we can verify that we have arrived upon God's intended interpretation.
"None of these examples are “pagan”.
Christians celebrated the birth of Christ on December 25th before the Roman pagan festival of Sol Invictus was instituted.
Easter stems from the German festival of the East – celebrating the resurrection of Christ with the rising of the sun on the Sunday (i.e. around the time of Passover, when the Bible says Jesus was raised).
The history of wedding rings is vague – but as far as I can ascertain, they have always represented covenant marital devotion, not pagan worship. But I agree that they are not a requirement of scripture."
Ummm...ok. Most Christians don't deny the pagan origins of these things and instead insist that such origins are irrelevant due to the new meanings assigned to them after Christians adapted these holidays.
While scholars debate the origin of Christmas, most believe that it has to do with winter solstice celebrations, which definitely predate Jesus. This, at least, is the opinion of National Geographic. Pagan celebrations around this time predating Jesus are well-accepted.
Same story with Easter. Scholars tend to agree that it was originally a pagan festival, but they disagree about exactly which one. One thing we do know is that even as early as the first apostolic successors, the Easter vs. Passover question was causing problems:
Polycarp was being pressured to celebrate Easter instead of Passover, and he flat out refused, insisting that he would continue to observe Passover the way that John did and according to the calendar date that John had used. Naturally, I question your statement on the origin of Easter as a German tradition; seeing as this argument happened prior to 100 AD.
Wedding rings date back to at least the ancient Egyptians. No, they're not pagan "worship" as you mentioned, but they were pagan nonetheless.
So...where did you get this information of the supposed origins of these holidays? Many things you have said up to this point have been credible, but these statements aren't.
"You skipped the argument. You suggested you were testing “the prophets”. I provided the context (1 Jn 4:1-3) revealing the standards against which we are instructed to “test the spirits” - i.e. “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God”. In Romans 1:3, Paul explicitly confesses that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. So Paul passes the test."
This is still circular reasoning. Paul is still the one proclaiming that Paul passes the test.
One reason so many Jews did NOT accept Paul is that he didn't pass the Deuteronomy 13 test. No one had John's writings to refer to until many decades after Jesus' death.
"But not Luke or Peter – who explicitly endorse Paul's legitimacy in scripture."
Luke was Paul's companian, so this isn't surprising (that he agrees with Paul). It was mentioned that 2 Peter endorses Paul, but when I responded that this was and is indeed one of the most disputed authorships in the NT, no one has provided any additional information regarding why it should be considered to be Peter's writings genuinely, and thus my doubt surrounding this remains.
"This is a red herring. My claim was that God revealed our freedom from Law to Peter by showing him that salvation was also offered to those who are not under the Law."
No it's not. I'm asking what Torah laws might have prohibited Peter from visiting the Gentiles, since you said:
"Peter was initially resistant to the message of freedom from Law - God had to reveal this to him in a vision"
We know that Peter's own interpretation of the vision was that he could visit Gentiles, yet you suggested that it had something to do with freedom from the law. So, naturally, I'm asking exactly which laws you think he was freed from, since the only change enacted here was that he went from NOT visiting Gentiles to doing so.
"Christians relate to God under a completely New Covenant. But what doesn't change, regardless of the covenant, is morality."
This seems to be the crux of your position and what I'd appreciate if you could elucidate. Yes, a new covenant is foretold, with Israel. Where exactly do we see this distinction between what was and wasn't changed? There is much disagreement even on WHICH rules changed. I just don't see any clarity on this matter.
You mention that the distinctions between moral and "other" laws are self-evident--but I maintain the question of where GOD makes such distinctions, or where he cancels some and not others?
"None of the “Torah rules” ever applied to the gentiles."
They sure seemed to be, according to the old testament. For example, there were Egyptians who fled Pharoah along with the Israelites. They were welcome to come along as long as they also followed the rules.
Plus, God's covenants were/are with Israel. We're "grafted into Israel" so that we can partake in that new covenant (whatever its rules may or may not be).
"We please Him by faith in the finished work of the cross – and our subsequent good works will reflect that faith, but not add to our standing before God."
I do accept that Jesus has already paid the price for our salvation. The main thing which I am NOT sure of is which works are those which those who love God will do; which works are those without which faith is dead? Jesus' commandments include a lot more than "love God/love people", and without a strong case to disregard them, it seems like doing so might risk living a lifestyle that isn't pleasing to God. I don't think any of us wants to risk intentionally living in sin, so it's utterly important that we define it. Defining the way God wants us to live is indeed one of the things I hope to determine from this discussion and others I'm having.
Matthew 7:21 "21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
"I am happy to let Romans 14:6 speak for itself. For me, there is no reason to assume it means anything other than what it says. You are the one suggesting it might mean something beyond what it says. So you are the one obligated to provide support for “your position, but you are also welcome to not support your position”."
Except it doesn't work that way. You originally brought that verse out hoping to support your position, citing it directly following these words:
"We can abstain from bacon if we choose, but there is no value in that decision before God with regards to righteousness (either for or against)."
Thus, you're the one making a claim, and the burden of proof lies on the person making the claim. I'm merely a skeptic; my position is merely that I currently do NOT have a satisfactory explanation for how the teachings of Paul fit in with the very Jewish repentance/kingdom teachings Jesus made during his lifetime. I don't claim that it does or doesn't mean what you say--and I cast doubt on people's explanations hoping to see which position is best supported. And because the "eat anything" position doesn't seem very well-supported, my doubts remain.
“Were we not "grafted onto Israel" and made a part of it?” (me)
"We were not. Jesus is the vine onto which we were grafted (Jn 15:1-5). We were grafted into the promise of salvation – which followed the ancestral line from Adam to Jesus." (you)
What is the meaning of the following, then:
Romans 11:17 "17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree..."
Here, our buddy Paul is talking about how Gentiles are made a part of the tree which symbolizes Israel and its inheritance. Corroborating that, we remember that the new covenant was FOR Israel in the first place:
Jeremiah 31:31 "“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to[d] them,[e]” declares the Lord. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people."
(By the way, the above verse is one that supports your hypothesis of the differences in Paul's teachings being of the new covenant. We would still have to explain, though, why it is that it's so different than the message Jesus gave during his life on Earth. We could explore this; it would be helpful.)
"Were they differences over morality, or other doctrines? Were they condoning sex outside of Godly marriage, or murder, or theft, or pagan worship etc."
Both. I've made a point of visiting a number of varying denominations and seeing how people explain their beliefs. Here are just a few issues on which the varying churches I have seen differ:
- Modest dress standards
- Saturday versus Sunday worship
- Acceptance or rejection of practicing gays
- Torah observance
- Marriage to non-Christians, or even those of another denomination
Churches are kind of all over the map. It's been an interesting experience, but I'm not sure it's brought me closer to any conclusions, other than that I am fairly certain I do not like churches.
"What if God's truth is, as I argue, that the New Covenant of grace is superior to, and therefore replaces, the Old Covenant of Law?"
We need support for that position, then. I've actually been looking into this possibility as well, since I wanted to better understand how these widespread ideas came to be without any explicit point in biblical history where the apostles or Paul flat out abandoned their Torah observance. On that note, it seems that whether or not Christians ought to be Torah observant mostly belongs on its own thread. I would have arguments for and against this at present, if I were to participate in such a thread.
In support of your theory, though, I would offer the following points so far:
* Jesus makes a point of declaring that his own blood sealed the new covenant. This mirrors the way the Mt. Sinai covenant was sealed--also with blood.
* We do in fact have several OT verses which prophesy the establishment of a new covenant.
* The Talmud records that since about AD 30, (approximately the time of Jesus' death,) the crimson rope which used to turn white as a sign of the forgiveness of sin following Yom Kippur observances in the traditional Jewish manner. (This is one my my favorites, as it's a widely verified, non-Christian source pointing to the legitimacy of Jesus' work on the cross in general. I'm surprised no one mentioned it so far, actually.)
But the doubts remain: I've spelled many of them out, but in summary, here are the specific status updates on my original questions:
* At what point are Paul's gospel and the twelve apostles' version harmonized?
* Possibility: Since we know that the apostles were Jews, Jesus was a Jew, and Jesus told people to follow Jewish commandments, Paul's letters, which are confusing the the apostles' admission, can indeed be interpreted as opposition to the traditions of MAN rather than opposition to any of the laws God gave to Moses. We're left with the question of why he seemed to tell the Gentiles not to be under the law, or if indeed he did.
* Possibility: We see in the OT that a new covenant was foretold. If we can establish that the new covenant is characterized by a new set of commandments replacing (and not in addition to) the old ones, then Paul's (again confusing) letters can also be interpreted as supporting adherence to such a set of new rules. We're let with the question of whether the old laws were truly abolished, though, since the apostles seemed to keep them, many early church fathers are recorded as keeping the sabbath and the biblical feasts, and why Paul so adamantly wanted to prove to the Jews in the book of Acts that he indeed DID keep the law.
* Why does Jesus never mention during his time on Earth any of the things Paul is teaching?
* I still don't know. But I can recognize that the notion that a few things were changing was definitely alluded to on multiple occasions. It's a bit cryptic, though, which doesn't satisfy my black-and-white mind.
* Since Paul's version is so different from the apostles' version, how can we be sure he's not a false prophet? (Many people at the time thought he was)
* The explanations to this are seen under the first point.
* If Paul's truth is the one we're supposed to go by, then why wouldn't Jesus have made any mention of those concepts during his earthly ministry? Why would he choose twelve guys who would ultimately "get it wrong"?
* This I am still confused by...especially since those twelve guys seemingly kept on living by the Jewish laws long after the resurrection. I'd love to see some material that demonstrates otherwise.
* What early Christian records do we have which suggest that the churches founded by the apostles and NOT touched by Paul were taught Paul's version of the gospel...and were taught so by the apostles and not Paul? (This perhaps would be the most convincing to me, seeing as all biblical attempts to harmonize Paul and the apostles are written by Paul's camp.)
* While searching, I found out that people like Polycarp DID keep sabbath on the 7th day, as well as the biblical feasts, which is odd if those things "passed away".
I observe that you bring up a myriad of verses which seem to say that sabbaths and dietary laws requirements and such are done away with, but I fail to see how this explanation fits: I fail to see how these verses harmonize with the words of Jesus who told us to listen to and DO the law of Moses (Matthew 23) and who told a man seeking eternal life to follow the ten commandments literally (Mark 10:18). This is part of the information I have been seeking, if it exists, from the start, and this is the information I still lack, if we are to support Paul's differences as a "new covenant" position.