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Not much Kosher Jesus but too much non Kosher Peter and Paul
on 22 February 2012
When I saw the review of the book "Kosher Jesus" by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach last week in the Jerusalem Post I bought the book straight away. I have read the Bible and knew about the fact that Jesus, whose Hebrew name is Yeshua, was a Torah keeping and Torah teaching Jew, probably a Pharisee. Always eager to learn more I anticipated a feast of new information which would broaden my understanding.
I was sadly disappointed. The book does make some, although well known statements, about Yeshua being a Jew who upheld Torah and it does give some background to the parables using and acknowledging the work of Hyam Maccoby which I recognised from his book "Judaism in the First Century" but after that Rabbi Boteach heads off into a headlong attack on Peter, Paul and the early Christians.
Firstly I would point out that the writer seems to have ignored the fact that so many early Gentile Christians had been martyred for keeping Torah particularly Sabbath and The Feasts because Rome had instituted Laws against Judaism and Judaising which these early followers of Yeshua did. All would accept that many Gentile Church leaders from 85 AD onwards sided with Rome and paganised Christianity but there were thousands more who didn't. In fact Christians throughout many parts of what is now the United kingdom, Europe, India and China kept Sabbath even as late as 17th century because they kept Torah as best as they knew how to do. Millions of Christians were slaughtered by the Roman Church because practiced many aspects of Torah particularly Sabbath (seventh day).
Secondly I was so surprised to read that he believed Peter and Paul had abandoned the Torah. On page 112 the writer "states "For example, one of Paul's most monumental claims is that Jewish Law is no longer applicable after Jesus" Why then, I must ask, does Paul say this in the book of Romans;
Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. Romans 3:29-31 (NASB) Or in some other translations he says we uphold the Torah.
Regarding Paul and the issues he raised with the early Church leaders in Jerusalem in Acts 15 and 21 the writer says that the advice to Gentiles not to eat food sacrificed to idols was because it was inhumanly killed and because the prohibition against blood was because it encompasses murder. These are both incorrect assumptions. The prohibition of eating food sacrificed to idols is because the meat that the Gentiles had been used to eating had often been sacrificed to Idols such as in Mithraism when a Bull was slaughtered to the god and the meat was shared amongst the followers. These two prohibitions enforced on the Gentiles by the Jerusalem leaders where in fact enforcing Torah -Not worshipping Idols in any way and not eating blood because the Life is in the blood. The early Church leaders and Paul were enforcing Torah.
Paul also praises the Gentiles for Keeping Torah;
Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts Romans 2:14-15 (NASB)
Paul admonishes Gentiles for going back to their pagan ways and worshipping their old gods thereby breaking the Torah.
8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? Gal 4:8-9 (NASB)
"Elemental things or powers" are translated from the Greek word "stoicheia" which means evil, hostile powers. Gentiles believed that these evil forces threatened their well-being and that certain "magical" practices were necessary to avert their influence. Paul spoke strongly against this practice because it was opposed to Torah.
The writer says that he has been studying this subject for over 20 years, so how could he then write "Even Peter once he began agreeing with Paul and eating non Kosher food " the writer then goes on to quote Acts 10 which has nothing to do with Peter or Paul eating non Kosher but it is to do with Peters visit to the house of a Gentile who God is telling him is OK because through repentance this Gentile is being made clean. See below the way Peter describes this to his brothers when he gets back to Jerusalem;
1 The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticised him 3 and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them." 4 Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: 5 "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, 'Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.' 8 "I replied, 'surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' 9 "The voice spoke from heaven a second time, 'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.' Acts 11:1-10 (ANIV)
I was so surprised and saddened to read so little about Kosher Jesus and so much about the so called non Kosher Paul and Peter both of whom were clearly Torah keeping and Torah teaching Jews of their time-- not that Rabbi Boteach would know.
Michael S Fryer