I apologize if I seem to be redundant in my presentation of the current state of Hebrews studies. My original intention was to identify some whys and wherefores, and then jump right into the text. However, I keep coming across these amazing statements by previous authors–statements that reflect gross misunderstanding of the material, and which can only arise through the application of generous doses of anti-Semitism. Continue reading
The View from the Mishkan
by David Negley
Publication Date: March 2014
|Trade Paperback;||108 pages;||ISBN: 9781493162215|
|Trade Hardback;||108 pages;||ISBN: 9781493162222|
What it means to be
“One New Man”
New book explores the role of Gentiles in the Messianic Jewish community
Germantown, Maryland – David Negley has been an Elder at a Messianic synagogue for nearly 25 years. During this time, he has observed the growing debate within the Messianic Jewish community over the role of Gentiles who join the community. In his new book, he highlights key concepts relevant to this topic, based on the contents of Rabbi Paul’s letter to the “EPHESIANS”.
The letter to the Ephesian believers is largely misunderstood these days. While everyone loves Ephesians 2:8 and 9, few are aware of the far-reaching implications to be found in the context surrounding that pair of verses. Ephesians is about kingdoms, community and warfare. It is about the culmination of the Messianic Kingdom and the blending of Jews and Gentiles into one new community in a unity never before dreamed of by either.
This little letter is almost a chapter-for-chapter exposition of Isaiah 55-59. The parallels are fascinating, and carry great significance when considering the meaning conveyed by Rabbi Sha’ul (AKA Paul the Apostle). Readers won’t want to miss out on this study, with its insightful approach to the Scriptures!
“EPHESIANS” can serve as an excellent tool for personal study, devotional reading, or group discussion. It contains well-researched material, but is written in a style that is easily accessible to all readers, young and old. Regardless of age or experience, this work will open the reader’s eyes to new ideas that will make a tremendous impact on his or her life.
Relevant and eye-opening, “EPHESIANS” is a must-read for everyone interested in the message of the Bible—Jews and Gentiles, Christians and Messianics, congregational leaders and “just plain members”. At the core of this book lies a call for unity among followers of Messiah Yeshua, regardless of ethnic background.
To request a complimentary paperback review copy, contact the publisher at (888) 795-4274 x 7879. To purchase copies of the book for resale, please fax Xlibris at (812) 355-4079 or call (888) 795-4274 x 7879.
For more information, contact Xlibris at (888) 795-4274 or on the web at www.Xlibris.com.
About the Author
David Negley obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies at Washington Bible College in Lanham, MD, where he studied between 1985 and 2001. From 1985 to 2007, he served on the Elder board at Emmanuel Messianic Jewish Congregation in Columbia, MD. For 10 years, he directed the education program at Emmanuel, where his duties included the creation of a program for training Jews and Gentiles on how to integrate together into a common community.
So far, we have observed that traditional interpretations of Hebrews end up being anti-Torah and anti-Semitic. This is largely a result, not of exegetical observation of the text, but of assumptions placed upon the text with little to no justification. Like the old saying goes, “You end up seeing what you’re looking for”. That’s what happens when we read Hebrews. Because there is so little direct background information available, we are put in a position of having to superimpose an interpretive framework upon the letter.
Who Wrote It?
With the Pauline epistles, there is invariably a fair bit of context given to us in the letter. The introductions all name the recipients, and we often know something about the relationship between Sha’ul and his audience based on details provided, either in the letter itself, or in Acts. By combining this information with other details from secular history, we can often put together a reasonable understanding of the purpose for the letter.
Practically No Internal Testimony
However, in Hebrews, we have none of that information available to us. There is very little internal evidence in the letter regarding either the author or the recipients, and what we do have is inconclusive. Even, “Those from Rome salute you”, is vague, because it could be used to support either of two possibilities:
- the author is writing from Rome, or
- the author has Roman associates with him, wherever he may be.
What external evidence do we have? A little more, but still very little, and very inconclusive:
The External Testimony
- Clement, Bishop of Rome (95/96CE)
Seems to cite Hebrews in his letter to the Corinthians. Unfortunately, the alleged citations are not explicitly indicated by Clement, and there is no named author provided. So, maybe Clement viewed Hebrews as canonical, and maybe not. Either way, he surely is no help in determining who authored the letter.
- Hyppolytus (~165-240CE)
Expressly denied the Pauline authorship
- Clement of Alexandria (150-215)
Almost 100 years after Clement of Rome, in the last decades of the 100′s, another Clement who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, indicated in his own writings that he believed Hebrews to be both canonical and authored by Rav Sha’ul.
- Origin (185-254CE)
Wrote, “Who wrote the Epistle, only God knows.”
- Cyprian (200-258CE), Bishop of Carthage
Did not recognize the book as canonical at all.
- Eusebius (260-340CE)
Testified to the views of both Clement of Alexandria and a contemporary of Clement named Pantaenus. Both apparently shared the same view—that Sha’ul authored the letter, and that it belonged in the canon.
Basically, once Eusebius documented the view of the earlier Christian leaders, acceptance of the letter as part of the Christian canon was set on a fast track, especially among the Western churches. Events of the late 4th and early 5th centuries contain evidence to this effect. Pauline authorship began to gather increased popularity, and the canonicity of the letter became unquestionable. This is attested to in an unusual decision by the Council of Hippo, in A.D. 393. In their conclusions regarding the books to be included in the canon, they declared they would include, “thirteen epistles to the Apostle Paul, and one by same to the Hebrews.” A few years later, two Councils of Carthage (397 and 419CE) affirmed “fourteen epistles to the Apostle Paul.”
This position held sway in the West until approximately the 16th century, at which time the topic was revisited by the Protestant reformers. Their conclusion was to accept Hebrews on its own merit, recognizing that the author remains anonymous. That is the consensus view until this day (though there remains a fair number who still hold to Pauline authorship, as well).
My own view is that Hebrews is beloved in Christian circles precisely because it is the perfect vehicle for perpetuating gnostic philosophy and theology in the Church. As an illustration, consider this quotation from John Calvin:
I, indeed, without hesitation, class it among apostolical writings; nor do I doubt but that it has been through the craft of Satan that any have been led to dispute its authority. There is, indeed, no book in the Holy Scriptures which speaks so clearly of the priesthood of Christ, so highly exalts the virtue and dignity of that only true sacrifice which he offered by his death, so abundantly treats of the use of ceremonies as well as of their abrogation, and, in a word, so fully explains that Christ is the end of the Law. Let us not therefore suffer the Church of God nor ourselves to be deprived of so great a benefit, but firmly defend the possession of it.
(Commentary on Hebrews, “The Argument”, by John Calvin, 1509-1564)
Let us pay close attention to the thrust of Calvin’s defense for the canonicity of Hebrews. His position is that we must preserve the letter on the basis of its elevation of Yeshua over against all things Jewish or Torah-based! It is my own observation that most non-Messianic followers of “Jesus Christ” tend to agree with Calvin in this summation of his position. This fact is a large part of my own motivation for treating the letter in this series. I intend, over the course of the next few months, to demonstrate that the Letter to the Hebrews, Sefer Ivrim, is nothing more, nor less, than a midrashic approach to resolving the major theological dilemma facing the Jewish community at the close of the first century.
What Makes It Anti-Semitic?
Considering the fact that Hebrews was largely preserved and studied by Gentile members of the Catechetical School of Alexandria, it stands to reason that they enjoyed the letter for its apparent use of allegory and philosophy. As a result, we find two key ideas that generally form the interpretive grid for Hebrews:
The letter was written prior to the destruction of the Temple. This assumption pushes interpreters to conclude that members of the original audience suffered from a tendency to depart from Yeshua, and return to traditional Judaism and the Temple. With such a premise, the interpretation of the letter can only lead to a rebuttal of Judaism, and an elevation of Yeshua over everything even remotely Jewish.
The author was a Hellenistic Jew, like Philo of Alexandria. This assumption is based on the presence of word pictures that appear to reflect Grecian-style Platonic ideology. Claims that reality exists in an alternate dimension, and our material world is only a poor copy is thinking that comes right out of Plato and Aristotle. Because we know of Jewish interpreters, like Philo, who routinely allegorized the Torah in order to make it fit with Greek philosophy, it is assumed that the author of Hebrews shares that characteristic. As a result of these two ideas, we find that Hebrews serves as the basis for a great deal of modern Christian thinking, including anti-Semitic, anti-Torah, anti-Material, and pro-Dualistic tendencies. Really! This is explicitly stated in a classic quotation by a well-known Christian apologist named Walter Martin:
The Book of Hebrews was written by a Hebrew to other Hebrews telling the Hebrews to stop acting like Hebrews. In truth, many of the early Jewish believers were slipping back into the rites and rituals of Judaism in order to escape the mounting persecution. This letter, then, is an exhortation for those persecuted believers to continue in the grace of Jesus Christ.
(Source: Got Questions)
It is no wonder that any attempt to develop an approach to Hebrews that leads one in another direction leads to immediate rebuke and challenge. Nevertheless, in considering how best to frame discussion on this letter, I have decided to re-evaluate those assumptions.
An Alternate Framework
What could I propose as an alternate interpretive grid? What methodology could I suggest that might lead to a different set of conclusions? Conclusions that aren’t fundamentally contrary to the Torah and to the chosen status of Israel?
1. Late, Rather than Early
First of all, let’s take a look at the timing. What evidence is offered to prove that the letter was written prior to the destruction of the Temple? The only semi-factual constraint on the timing of Hebrews is the claim that Clement of Rome cited Hebrews in his letter to the Corinthians. Clement wrote his letter about 95/96 CE, which would put that as the upper boundary for the timing of Hebrews. However, if one carefully examines the alleged citations of Hebrews, one will see that they are based on slim evidence, indeed—no explicit attribution, and each of the three (or four—we aren’t sure!) supposed references containing numerous discrepancies. This is made clear in “The Use of the Old and New Testaments in Clement of Rome”, by Donald Alfred Hagner. Even if we accept that Clement of Rome was citing Hebrews in 96, that gives us a window of 26 years since the destruction of the Temple! There is no reason to presume a pre-destruction date for the authorship of the letter. There was plenty of time in which the letter may have been developed and distributed after the Fall of Jerusalem.
2. Hebraic Author
The fact is, with the exclusion of Luke and Acts, all the rest of the Messianic Writings were penned by Israeli Jews who were immersed in the Torah-based perspective of first century Messianic Jewish expectation. And Luke, who wrote the Gospel and Acts, was a close companion of Rav Sha’ul for many years. He was nothing, if not assimilated into the ways of his Rabbi. It makes no sense to assume the author of Hebrews would have possessed anything other than a Middle Eastern mindset, well versed in Torah and in rabbinic literary techniques. Especially when such style of thinking and writing is so obviously demonstrable in the letter. So, while we may not be able to pin down the precise individual, we will be taking the approach in this study that the author is Jewish (or a convert to Judaism) who has studied under a trained rabbi, and is familiar with the use of PRDS and aggadah as techniques for relating his message.
What Message Is That?
Almost all modern commentators work off the assumption that the letter was written in order to prevent Jewish believers in Yeshua from falling back into the Temple framework. It is generally assumed that the Temple was still standing, and the writer intended to exhort his audience not to return to “pale, dingy, outdated Judaism, with its priesthood and Temple service”. However, I propose that we investigate the letter from the perspective that the Temple had already been destroyed, and the author’s goal was to encourage and console an audience that was absolutely devastated by the sack of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and the failure of all their national hopes and dreams.
Messiah was supposed to be the one who made everything right! What went wrong???
Some opening thoughts on Hebrews…
Most studies of Biblical books start out with some standard basics. These basics include information about who wrote the book, to whom it was written, when it was written, and where. Let’s start out that way with Hebrews: Continue reading
At the time of this writing, I am currently teaching through the letter to the Hebrews for an organization called the “Coalition for Torah Observant Messianic Congregations” (CTOMC). Each Wednesday night at 8:00 Eastern Time, we spend about 90 minutes talking about the theme and literary style of this very important letter.
As I prepared for teaching through this letter, I found something remarkable in the text. Continue reading
As I sit here this afternoon, there are many who are caught up in preparations for an annual event known as “Christmas Eve”. Following that, there will be the huge party tomorrow known as “Christmas”.
Our Next “Big Thing”—
Sefer Ivrim (The Book of Hebrews)
If you have been following the Mishkan David for any amount of time, you will have noticed that we focus largely on teaching the significance of controversial Biblical texts from a Messianic Perspective. We have articles on gnosticism, supercessionism, historical perspective, rabbinic midrash, and other foundational assumptions that affect how we understand what we read in the Bible. Continue reading
The Year in Review
We’ve had such a busy year! For one thing, we’ve all survived the end of time. Apparently, the hype about the Mayan calendar was nothing but conspiracy theories and hot air. Yet one more reason I have grown cynical of claimed prophecy over the years.
Meanwhile, a lot has been going on here at the Mishkan David. Most notably, we have brought a spouse into the tent! Yes, the Mishkan David is now the Mishkan David v’Yael. Those who follow me on Facebook have already seen the photo album.
But, in terms of the writing/teaching/outreach of the Mishkan, some of our achievements during the past year include:
- We completed our series of Parsha commentaries, called “Campfire Torah”, a wonderful and exciting review of the Torah, based on the idea that Moshe wrote the Torah in order to answer real questions being asked in his day. Rather than assuming the Torah is supposed to be employed as a form of spiritual Rorschach test, where we create linkages and connections that were never intended by the author, we reviewed the Torah as a summary of Hashem’s calling upon Israel. Even the Creation story, with its profound concepts and majestic grandeur, was told primarily as backdrop to the covenant with Abraham!
- We have talked a bit about some theological topics, like Pesach, Grace, Hanukkah, and the use of allegory in the Messianic letters. This last—the use of allegory in the Messianic Writings—is a favorite theme to which we keep returning. It is a key to understanding the letters without resorting to anti-Semiticism and anti-nomianism.
- In early August, I spoke at the annual conference for the Coalition of Torah Observant Messianic Congregations (CTOMC), where I gave a presentation on the unity of Jew and Gentile in the Body of Messiah. The basic content involved a review of—what else?—the letter to the Ephesians. The unique aspect was identifying a parallel between the content of Ephesians and Yeshayahu/Isaiah 55-59. That is an amazing study that we hope to present on the blog sometime soon.
- Our commentary on the letter to the Ephesians is in the final stages of review and editing. Soon, it will be submitted for publication. It should be available sometime before the end of the calendar year. The working title is “Ephesians: Handbook for Gentile Integration in a Jewish Community”. That may have to get shaved down a little bit, eventually.
Plans for Articles to Come
- We will continue with postings on Biblical interpretation. There will be ongoing discussions regarding layers of interpretation, historical development, and parallels between Biblical texts and extra-Biblical writings.
- We will be looking at the significance of some passages in the Tanakh, and how they might be applied to the Messiah.
- We hope to move into some studies of particular texts, including Hebrews, Matthew, and Pirkei Avot.
- From time to time, we will probably comment on the developing relationships between Messianic Judaism, Hebrew Christianity, and the Hebrew Roots communities.
We appreciate your continuing support of the Mishkan David. Without your encouragement, we would have no reason to continue producing these articles. If you have any questions, or topics you would like to see addressed here, please feel free to contact us by visiting our “Contact Us” page.
Campfire Torah 5773
Parsha V’zot Haberachah
“And This is the Blessing”
Hey, chaver! Do you realize that you and I have spent a full year listening to the stories of Moshe! During all this time, he has shared with us the family origins and how we came to be followers of Hashem. He gave us this background because we wanted to understand the One we serve, and we wanted to know why we were wandering around in this wretched barren wilderness. Continue reading
Just a little thought to share on the eve of Sukkot. This holiday is also known as “Z’man Simchateinu”, “the Time of our Rejoicing”. It developed out of the ancient harvest festivals, and came to symbolize all that is right with the world. This is when we acknowledge the blessings of Hashem, and the abundance of provision that he gives each year. Continue reading