When did Christianity become a Gentile Religion

     Recently, I read an article in Biblical archeological review entitled, “When Non-Jews Became Jesus’ Followers”.   The article is very good and describes the lifestyle of the earliest Judeo-Christians.  It states, “How did the original Judeo-Christians of Jerusalem compare their Jewish neighbors?  In some essential ways they did not differ from them at all.  The Judeo-Christians considered themselves Jews, and their outward behavior and dietary customs were Jewish.  In fact, they faithfully observed all the rules and regulations of the Mosaic Law.  In particular, the apostles and their followers continued to frequent the religious center of Judaism, the Temple of Jerusalem, for private and public worship; it was there that they performed charismatic healings.  (Acts 3:1-10; 5:12, 20, 25, 42).  According to Acts, the entire Jesus party assembled for prayer in the sanctuary ever day (Acts 2:46)  Even Paul, the chief opponent of the obligatory performance of Jewish customs in his churches, turned out to be a Temple-goer on his occasional visits to Jerusalem.  He once fell into a trance in the course of his prayer in the House of God (Acts 22:17) and on a later occasion he underwent the prescribed purification rituals before commissioning the priest to offer sacrifice on his behalf (Acts 21:24-26). (1)  With the exception of Paul being a chief opponent of the law (it has long been my position that Paul observed torah from an eternal perspective rather than a temporal one), this is an excellent summary of the first century church.  The author then delineates that worship began on the “first day of the week” and the “Lord’s Day” which he believes is Sunday.  If these two references refer to Sabbath, then, the first church was very observant of the Torah.  It is my position to demonstrate that these two references refer to Sabbath.  (The other issue of Paul’s Torah observance is too lengthy to tackle here and should be the topic of another article.  If the reader will grant me a certain freedom with this, then my supposition will stand).  If this day is the observance of the Sabbath, then we can reach the conclusion that the author reaches when he writes, “So prior to the admission of the gentile candidates, the affiliates of the Jesus party appeared to ordinary people in Jerusalem as representative of a Jewish movement or sect.  They were comparable to the Essenes in number and they exhibited similar customs such as the daily solemn meal and subsistence from a common kitty.  Indeed, the followers of Jesus were referred to in the late 50’s of the first century as the “sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5,140.)  In the patristic literature the Judeo-Christians were designated as the Ebionites or “the Poor”.  The church historians Eusebius (260-339CE) reports that up to the Bar-Kokhba war (the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome {132-135] all of the 13 bishops of Jerusalem, starting with James the brother of Jesus, came for the “circumcision”. (Ecclesiastical history 4.3.5.) (2) Hence, the establishment of the” first day of the week” and “Lord’s Day” as the Sabbath is essential to support this conclusion.

 

     The interpretation of Sunday instead of Saturday worship comes from two passages in scripture.  One being Acts 20:7, and the other being 1 Cr 16:2.  Yet, in light of the many scripture passages that speak so clearly to Sabbath keeping and gathering, I do not see how we can say that ‘The First Day of the Week” was changed to “Sunday” instead of “Saturday” based on two passages that are somewhat obscure in their reference to a supposed Sunday worship service, compared to seven passages that specifically state the Sabbath was being observed.  (Acts 13:14; 13:27; 13:42; 13:44; 15:21; 17:2; 18:4).  Nevertheless, it is beneficial to look at these references to a supposed Sunday worship service….

 

 

 

Acts 20:7:  [7] And upon the first [day] of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

 

 

 

Here we see that the disciples came together to “break bread” on the “first day of the week,” which would obviously mean Sunday.  But what is not obvious is when (I.e. what time) on Sunday they were gathered together.  According to the Jewish calendar (and this would be the calendar they were using) , days run from Sundown to Sundown.  Sabbath starts on Friday night and ends on Saturday night.  Sunday (the first day of the week) starts at Sundown on what we would typically call Saturday.  I would like to suggest that perhaps our interpretation of this event is somewhat skewed.  Acts is filled with references to meetings where they gathered together on Sabbath (Acts 13:14; 13:27; 13:42; 13:44; 15:21; 17:2; 18:4), which would be Saturday (during the day.)  I would like to suggest that in the above passage, they are not meeting on Sunday morning but on Saturday night – just after the Sabbath had ended.  Verse 8 goes on to say:  [8] And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. Lights would obviously infer candles during those times and what were candles doing all over the upper chamber on a Sunday morning?  Furthermore, verse 7 tells us “he continued his speech until midnight” and verse 9 tells us that Eutychus fell asleep during the meeting.  Verse 11 tells us they continued to talk until the “break of day” and then they departed.  All of these things point to the fact that the meeting was held during the night (Saturday night, in our time, the beginning of Sunday morning, and “the first day of the week,” for the Jews.)  So even if this passage could be said to bring about a Sunday worship service, it would mean that they gathered together Saturday night and not Sunday morning.  However, I believe that this was a special gathering together to bid Paul and his companions farewell.  There is nothing here to infer that this was a worship service – we can see from the above mentioned scriptures that those happened on Saturday – but was more likely a last gathering to spend a little while longer with Paul and his companions.  Dr. David Stern also writes, “But what is meant by the first day of the week? (Or to make the question’s relevance to Messianic Judaism clearer were the believers meeting on Saturday night or on Sunday night?  It is clear from the verse that the meeting was n the evening.  A Saturday night meeting would fit more naturally with the Hewish Shabbat observance; wherein the restful spirit of the Shabbat is often preserved into Saturday evening, after the official end of Shabbat itself, which occurs after sunset when it gets dark enough to see three starts.  It would be natural for Jewish believers who had rested on Shabbat with the rest of the Jewish community to assemble afterwards to celebrate their common faith In Yeshua the Messiah.  The Gentile believers who came along later would join in on the already established practice, especially since many of them would have been ”God-fearers” (10:2) already accustomed to following the lead of the Jews in whose company they had chosen to place themselves.  And since by Jewish reckoning days commence after sunset, the sense of the Greek text seems best rendered by “Motz’ ei Shabbat”, not Sunday.” (3)  Dr. Stern’s point is well taken. Why would the Jewish Christians observe all other aspects of Mosaic Law only to disregard Shabbat?  His explanation is much more plausible than a supposed Sunday worship.

1 Cor 16:2:  “Upon the first [day] of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as [God] hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”

This, in my opinion, is the weakest argument for Sunday Sabbath/worship.  Paul is telling them to “lay by in store” on the first day of the week.  This passage doesn’t even give a hint of this being during a worship service or a gathering, unless we read into the scriptures what is not there.  It seems much more likely that he was telling them to lay by what they made on the first day of the week – it is possible that this was the day they got paid. 

While we could certainly read into this verse to advocate Sunday worship, we cannot infer such from the text itself.  And in light of the fact that there is not a single scripture verse that will back up this inference in clearly stated language, I believe that to use this verse to advocate Sunday worship is an error.

The common reason given for changing Sabbath worship to Sunday is as follows, written by The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

“Christians chose the first day of the week for worship undoubtedly because Christ rose on that day and met with the gathered disciples at the time of the evening meal.  Hence, Lord’s Day worship is the Christian festival of the Resurrection.” (4)

But here we have a very grave problem.  “Christians chose the first day of the week for worship.”  But who makes up the rules?  Christians or Christ?  Do Christians have authority from Jesus to negate God’s rules and to make their own rules?  If they did, it would be written in the New Testament somewhere.  It’s not.  Are we under God’s Authority or do we usurp that Authority and declare it null and void and create our own?  When did Jesus Christ tell us that the Holy Sabbath should be changed to Sunday?  When did the Apostles say this?  If Sunday were the day of assembly, for whatever reason, wouldn’t it be at least mentioned once in the New Testament (that it was the day of assembly)?  But it is nowhere to be found. 

The Lord’s Day

     Since both the Didache and the New Testament use the phrase “Lord’s Day.” It is something that we need to address.  When is the Lord’s Day.  I would suggest that since we have already established that the Christian church in its beginning was observing the Shabbat, according to the New Testament, it is a foregone conclusion that any designation of the “Lord’s Day” would not refer to Sunday since Sunday worship itself would not be institutes until well after the end of the first apostolic period.  Since the Didache and the New Testament were both written well before the establishment of Sunday worship, any reference to a particular day belonging to the Lord would have to refer to Shabbat.

The Jerusalem Council

    The writer of the article comes to a conclusion that Gentile Christianity was established as being separate from Judeo-Christianity as the Jerusalem council.  His point is that the Gentiles were excused from the Mosaic Law while the Jews were to continue in it.  It is my opinion that this is one of the most common misperceptions in Christian history and I believe that it is an erroneous position.  Consider the following:

   Acts 15:1-21:  [1] And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, [and said], Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 

Keep in mind as you read this what the dispute is over.  It is regarding how the Gentiles must be saved.)

[2] When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. [3] And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. [4] And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and [of] the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. [5] But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command [them] to keep the law of Moses.

(These are a group of Pharisees who believe in Christ.  Their position is that the Gentiles need to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved.  This is the essence of the council.  The question is how the Gentiles can be saved.  One camp says they must have faith and keep Torah and the other camp states it is simply a matter of faith.  Let’s keep reading.) 

[6] And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. [7] And when there had been much disputing,

Why was there so much disputing?  Does it make any sense that if the Law had been “done away with” as is so commonly taught, someone here would have said so, and the dispute would have been resolved quickly and easily?  If the believers in Christ were not obligated to follow the Law, why didn’t they just say “well, this is awfully silly.  None of us have to follow the law!  Don’t you know that it’s been done away with?”  But no one says this.  Instead they are trying to figure out the laws the Gentile believer must follow in order to be saved ([see verse 1])

[8] Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men [and] brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. [8] And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as [he did] unto us; [9] And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. [10] Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 

(The yoke on the neck mentioned here is not the yoke of the Law, for the Bible clearly tells us the Law is holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:14, 7:12, 2 Tim 3:14-17)… and that it is freeing for those who follow it (Psalm 119, Romans 7:22) Instead it is talking about the yoke of the Law as a requirement for Salvation.  The Law was never given as a vehicle of salvation.  The jews ere saved out of Egypt by the blood of the Passover Lamb and then they were given Torah.  Torah was given to a people already saved to demonstrate and model holiness as a nation.  The next verse really sums up this position…)

[11] But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

(This sentence and the one above it are partners.  “Why would you put a yoke on the disciples that none of us are able to bear?  It through grace that we will be saved… [Not by the Law].”)

12] Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.

(They give examples that testify to the fact that the Gentiles have already been saved, even though they have not yet learned all of the Law, making it clear that Salvation does not hinge on circumcision or any other adherence to Mosaic Law.)

[13] And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men [and] brethren, hearken unto me: [14] Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. [15] And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, [16] After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: [17] That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. [18] Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

[19] Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: [20] But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and [from] fornication, and [from] things strangled, and [from] blood.

 

 

 

A wonderful book on the Jerusalem council can be found at http://www.seedofabraham.net/smpf.html.   In this book, Avram Yehoshua will define exactly the extent of these laws.   For now we will just say that we believe they all have to do with the worship of idols.   It is most important to remember that we are talking about the salvation of the Gentiles, and what they must do in order to be saved, or remain saved [verse 1].  It must be remembered that while those of us in modern day America have a hard time understanding why anyone would need laws against worshipping other gods, the world in those times was steeped in idolatry.  Everywhere there were temples devoted to sacrifice of pagan gods, and polytheism was the norm.  It was of little importance to the new Gentile converts, who already worshipped many gods, to keep the worship of Yahveh separate and distinct and exclusive of any worshipping of other gods.  They would have thought nothing of adding Yahveh to their list of gods and worshipping Him along side Zeus.  This is why they had to be taught – immediately – that they could no longer continue this practice.  Later, they would learn the other aspects of the Law needed for a Godly life inside of His will.  [Verse 21.]

 

Furthermore, common sense tells us that these can’t be the only four things of the Law that are required of Gentiles, because then Gentiles would be free to murder or to lie or to steal or to hate their neighbors, or to practice homosexuality, or witchcraft – all of which come directly from the Torah but are not mentioned here as the “necessary things” (vs. 28)  These four laws have something distinctive about them that sets them apart from other Laws which we believe to be the worship of idols.

 

 

 

[21] For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.

 

 

 

This is probably the most interesting sentence in this passage.  “For Moses of old time has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.”  What does Moses being taught in the synagogues have to do with anything?  We believe that verse 21 is the logical extension of verse 20 and verse 11 (that the Gentile is saved in the same way as the Jew.)  The Gentile didn’t need to be circumcised in order to be saved.  But the Gentile did need to be told what would disqualify him from membership in the kingdom of God. (v. 20) then he was directed to the synagogue to learn all of the rules of the Kingdom that pertained to him (v. 21).  Not every law of God pertained or applied to the Gentile, just as every law of God didn’t apply to Jesus.  He didn’t need to keep the laws pertaining to offering up the daily sacrifice (Exodus. 29:38-42) because He wasn’t the High Priest in the Jerusalem Temple.  But Jesus kept all the laws that applied to Him.  The Gentile would learn Torah as they walked with Jesus.  No one, least of all James, expected the Gentile to learn Torah overnight.  The Gentile would assemble in the synagogue on the Sabbath (see Acts 13:42; 13:44; 18:4) to learn the Torah of Moses, gradually.  This verse tells us that James assumed or understood that the Gentile was to go to the synagogue to learn the Law of Moses.  In declaring to everyone at the council that the Gentiles were to go to the synagogues on the Sabbath Day to learn Christ’s commandments, we see that James was thinking about Torah specifically in relation to the Gentile.  They would learn it every Sabbath.  With that, he shows us today that Torah should be a part of every believer’s life.  James was establishing the place of the Law for those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:31).  He was presenting Torah as a lifestyle of sanctification for the Gentile just as it is for the Jew (e.g. Peter, Paul, etc).

 

 

 

     We believe that this is the correct interpretation of the Jerusalem council and that this interpretation brings unity among believers rather than the division that is projected by the author.

 

 

 

Concluding Remarks

   Back to the original question of when did the Christianity cease to be Jewish and become a Gentile religion, I don’t really know the answer but I can speculate. By the writing of the epistle of Barnabas, Christians were rapidly departing from the Judiac root.  It is my opinion that this can be summed up in a word:  persecution.

 

 

 

     With the Jewish uprisings against Rome, it became patriotic in the Empire to persecute Jews.  The average everyday roman would have looked at Christianity as only a mere extension of Judaism and they would have persecuted them along with the Jews.  Additionally, the Jews were also persecuting the Christians as heretics and expelling them from the synagogues and the social circles from which it sprang.  In short, Christianity found itself without a home and without a separate identity.  Thus, the early church father began to establish these.  This identity had to be separate from that of the Jews.  It was at this juncture that Christianity became a Gentile religion. 

 

 

 

Endnotes

 

  1. 1.       Vermes, Geza, From Jewish to Gentile, How the Jesus Movement became Christianity, Biblical Archaeology Review, vol38, no.6, www.biblicalarchaeology.com.
  2. 2.      Ibid
  3. 3.      Stern, David, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarksville, Maryland, page 297-298.
  4. 4.      Bromiley, Geoffrey, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, W. Erdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, 1979.

 

 

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The Defense of Christian Deity

Recently, a reader of my post, The Defense of New Testament Prophecy, wrote a comment.  He wrote:

 Perhaps the problem with your group is that a “Torah-observant Christian” is an oxymoron. For an observant reader of scripture reads:

Numbers 23:19: YHWH is not a man, that He should be deceitful, nor the son of man, that He should repent.

Psalms 146:3: Do not rely on princes in or in the son of man, for he holds no salvation.

Hoshea 11:9. I will not execute the kindling of My anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim, for I am God and not a man.

1 Sam15: 28-29 And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you, today; and has given it to your fellow who is better than you. And also, the Strength of Israel will neither lie nor repent, for He is not a man to repent.”

Perhaps a Torah observant reader would conclude that these verses are incompatible with the notion of a Christian Deity.

     These comments, from a Karaite Jew, really demonstrate the point of the above-mentioned article.  Mainly, that a Peshat (plain/literal) interpretation of scripture has tremendous pitfalls.  This comment also demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of Christian Deity.  The concept of Christian Deity is much deeper than Jesus, the man.  It represents YWHW as Father, Son, and Spirit.  That all three are equally YWHW, that all three are one (Hebrew “echad”) and all three are well documented in Torah, even using a Peshat mode of interpretation of the text.  This is a great mystery.  As Avram Yehoshua writes, “The problem that some have with Jesus ‘being God’ is that most confuses the noun-title God with a name like John or Ted.  So, in Heaven, there can only be on John (God), but God is not a name.  It is a designation, the One having it being deity.  In a sense, ‘God” could be the last name of Deity; the family name:  Papa God, Yeshua the Son (God), and the Holy Spirit (God). All share the God-ness or deity.  We have no problem with an earthly family having all its members with the same last name…They, too, share the name nature (human) and are one family.” (1)  Yes, they can be different but be “one”.  The Hebrew word “echad” denotes this particular concept.  According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament it means, “to be united…and stresses unity while recognizing diversity within that oneness.” (2) This concept is, perhaps, demonstrated the most in what contemporary Judaism calls the “Sh’ma.”  In Deuteronomy chapter six it states, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is one.”  The word is “echad” and illustrates the point that God is diverse but still united.   The purpose of this post is to demonstrate the concept of the Trinity, not from the entire Tanach (in which it is also well documented) but from the Torah alone.

    Our first evidence comes from the book of Exodus (twmv) and it states, “HaShem (YWHW) would speak to Moses face to face, as a man would speak with his fellow…” (33:11 Stone Edition Tanach, I’m using a Jewish translation to demonstrate no Christian bias from the text) However, we see an apparent contradiction in a different verse later in the same chapter.  Moses, requesting to behold the glory of YHWH is told, “You will not be able to see My face, for no human can see My face and live.” (33:20) (The Hebrew word for face is the same in both verses.)  How can both these exist?  Simply, it is the Father whose face cannot be beheld by humans and live.  It is a different aspect of YHWH than what Moses met with face to face in the tabernacle.  This is the Pre-incarnate Messiah!  There is additional evidence of this. 

     When Moses beholds the “glory” of God from the rock, this is what the Torah says, “Hashem  (YWHW) descended in a cloud and stood with him there, and He called out with the Name Hashem (YWHW).  Hashem (YWHW) passed before him and proclaimed…” (34:5-6) How can YWHW descend in a cloud and stand next to Moses and proclaim the name of the YWHW as YWHW passes by?  Plainly, there is more than one aspect of YWHW.  There is the Father who passes by, the Son who descends in the cloud, and the Spirit is the cloud (The Shekinah).

    In Exodus ((twmv), the angel of the YWHW appears to Moses in the burning bush.  Who is this angel that speaks in the first person on behalf of YWHW?  It is this angel that tells Moses to go to Egypt to deliver “My People”.  It is this angel who tells Moses that “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…”  It is this angel that tells Moses that his name is YWHW.  The text clearly identifies YWHW with this angel.  Who is this angel?  This is the Messiah before his incarnation into humanity.  I’m not the only one who has come to this conclusion.  The Talmudic Sages saw the same reference to Messiah here as well.  They state, “Three things were created on the basis of the name of the Holy One:  the Righteous, the Messiah, and Jerusalem.” (3)  Also, Rabbis Shmuel Ben Naham (ca 260 ad) and Abba Bar Kahan (ca 300 ad) came to the conclusion that “this is the name of the Messiah.” (4)  According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “This angel is spoken of as ‘the angel of the Lord’, and ‘the angel of the presence or face) of the Lord.’  The following passages contain references to this angel:  Gen 16:7 the angel and Hagar; Gen,18  Abraham intercedes with the angel for Sodom; Gen 22:1 the angel interposes to prevent the sacrifice of Isaac; Gen 24:7,  Abraham sends Eliezer and promises him the ange’ls protection; Gen 31:1 the angel who appears to Jacob and says, “I am the God of Bethel’; Gen 32:24  Jacob wrestles with the angel and says, ‘I have seen God face to face’ ; Gen 48:15 Jacob speaks of God and the angel as identical; Ex 3 the angel appears to Moses in the burning bush; Ex 13:21; 14:19 God or the angel lead Israel out of Egypt; Ex 23:20  the people are commanded to obey the angel; Ex 32:34-33:17  Moses pleads the presence of God with His people.” (5) This angel is the pre-incarnate Messiah!  I say this because the Hebrew word for angel (מלאך mal’lach) can be translated a “messenger or representative” and not just angel.  We can clearly see that this representative of Yahweh was in fact, Yahweh Himself.  Additionally, it was necessary for this angel or pre-incarnate God to become a man.

     It began in the beginning.  Immediately after Adam and Eve sin and eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the mission of Messiah is identified.  In Genesis chapter three, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers, he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)  It is the ‘seed’ of a woman that will crush the head of the enemy (HaSatan).  Thus, it is imperative that Messiah would become a human being.  Jesus was not just a man, as the comments from my Karaite friend seem to suggest, He was God who became a man because the seed of a woman would crush the enemy (death and the devil).  This is not just my opinion, it is also noted in the Jerusalem Targums.  It reads, “Finally, in the days of Messiah-King, he will be wounded in His Heel.” (6)  In order for mankind to be redeemed from the curse, it required the intervention of a man.  The seed of a woman would be the Messiah, it was necessary for this aspect of Yahweh to become “a man.”

  The activities of the Spirit are well documented as well.  It is the Spirit that “hovers over” in the beginning of creation (Bereshit Gen 1:2) It is the Spirit that “will not contend” with sinful humanity (6:3).  In Exodus, (twmv), it is the Spirit of God (ruach elohim) that fills Uri and Bezalel and empowers them to construct the tabernacle. (Ex 37:1-2)  It is also the Spirit of God that comes upon Balaam and orders the prophetic blessings rather than curses.  The activities of the Spirit are all activities of YWHW.  Thus, the Spirit is an aspect of YWHW as well.

     In conclusion, it is well documented in the Torah that YWHW acts through three distinct beings.  That of the Father, the Creator who no human can behold and live.  That of the Son, the pre-incarnate angel of YWHW who speaks in the first person for YWHW and delivers Israel from Egypt.  That also of the Spirit, who gives divine power to accomplish the will of YWHW and to speak prophetic blessings of Israel.  This is the concept of Christian deity; it is more than just “a man.”  Rather, Christian deity exemplifies all of the activities of YWHW and recognizes the many aspects of YWHW as all co-equal and one.

 

 

 

 

Endnotes

  1. 1.      Yehoshua, Avram, Yeshua:  God the Son, www.seedofabraham.net.
  2. 2.      R.L. harris, Editor; Gleason Archer, Jr. and Bruce Waltke, Associate Editors, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980, page 30.
  3. 3.       Masekhet Baba Bathra 75b.
  4. 4.      Ibid.
  5. 5.      Bromiley, Geoffrey, Editor; The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,   Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, volume one; 1979, page, 125.
  6. 6.      As quoted in Risto Santala, The Messiah in the Old Testament  in the Light of the Rabbinical Writings, Keren Ahvah Meshihit, Jerusalem Israel, 1992, page 38.

Jesus and First Sheaf Fulfilment

     The Holy days in Israel, or the holy convocations, all give us a prophetic glimpse into the life of Messiah and the mission that He would fulfill.  It is universally accepted that Jesus was the Passover lamb, slain for the sins of the world, and in this, He fulfilled the prophetic picture painted by Torah regarding the Passover Lamb.  Israel was saved by the blood of the Passover lamb and not by the keeping of Torah.  Additionally, all the feast days of have a prophetic picture, and when discussion the resurrection of Jesus the festival of First Sheaf should be examined.  It is the writer’s opinion that the day of the celebration of first fruits will lead us to the day that Jesus was raised and scripture will elaborate on His fulfillment of the day.

      To begin with, let us determine exactly what the festival was in ancient Israel and to do this, let us examine Leviticus 23 to ascertain what the prophetic picture would look like when Messiah incarnated.

 Leviticus 23:9-14):  “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the  first fruits of your harvest to the priest,  He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, and to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.  And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the shear, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the LORD.  Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and offering mad by fire to the LORDS, for a sweet aroma and its drink offering shall be of wine, one fourth of a hin.  You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God, it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

     Avram Yehoshua can shed some light on the procedure that takes place in the temple.  “On the Sunday of First Sheaf, the High Priest would be presented with an omer of very finely crushed barley.  He would scoop up a handful of the grain, place some incense on it (symbolic of the prayers of the High Priest for Israel, and Israel’s prayers also,), wave it before Yahveh (a symbol of dedication, this first part of the crop representing all the harvest), bless Yahveh, and cast it upon the Fire of the Altar.  As the first sheaf was dedicated to Yahveh, it made the rest of the harvest acceptable to Israel for their use.” (1) 

      In order for the harvest to be used and to be successful before the LORD, the first sheaf or first fruits had to be waved before the alter in the temple.  “The waving by the High Priest of the finely crushed barely grain, the first sheaf, would picture Yeshua being totally dedicated to Yahveh.  The incense on that quantity that was to be thrown into the fire of the altar (a handful), pictures the prayers of Yeshua as our High Priest, for His people Israel, engulfed in the ‘Fire of the Holy Spirit.  The High Priest, thanking Yahveh for the harvest, thanking Yahveh for His Faithfulness to Israel would picture Yeshua as our High Priest, thanking His Father for giving unto Israel their Messiah, their Savior, their King.  The grain that was not thrown onto the fire of the Altar, the priests would eat,  This pictures the Body of Yeshua being given to His priests, as Food for us (John 6:53).  Yahveh has been found faithful to His word.  He has provided everything that Israel needs; from literal food to the Bread or Matza or Food of Heaven.” (2). 

      The Bible states that Jesus is our High Priest (Hebrews chapter 4 and 9), and as such, He did ascend to present an offering to Yahveh to fulfill the prophetic picture painted for us in the day of First Sheaf.  The question does remain, what did He present?  As Yehoshua mentioned earlier, He presented Himself, but the High Priest on this day was supposed to wave before Yahveh, the harvest of the land, the land that Yahveh had given to the people, His people, Israel.  It is the opinion of this writer that Jesus presented before Yahveh, Jewish saints that were sleeping. Scripture tells us that Jesus would descend into Sheol and preach the gospel to the ones sleeping in the holding area (I Peter 3:20 4:6).  Jesus himself testifies to this fact in John 5:25-29, that the dead will “hear the voice of the Son-of-Man.,” and many will respond to it.  Also, Isaiah prophesies in chapter 26 verse 19 that the dead will be raised.  Matthew relates in 27:51-54 that after the earthquake, the graves were opened and the bodies of the saints could be seen.  It is my opinion that these bodies remained in view while Messiah was in the tomb, as the Sabbath had begun after the earthquake and time would not have been available to fix all the tombs, then, after three days, or after the Sabbath, the righteous saints that slept, arose and were seen in the streets of Jerusalem after the resurrection of Jesus.  These are the first fruits, the first sheaf, that Jesus, The First-Fruits would present before Yahveh in order for the harvest of the world to begin, as Israel would soon be opened to Gentiles, to come to salvation just as the Jews had come to faith, this scenario fulfills the Day of First Sheaf.  Additionally, this gives us another prophetic glimpse at what will take place in Jerusalem with the two witnesses of Revelation (Rev 11:11).

     A final note on the day of First sheaf as it relates to the topic at hand.  First Sheaf is kept, except under some extenuating circumstances, on the Sunday after the Sabbath during the Feast of Passover. (Both the Sadducees and Pharisees agreed on this, this in and of itself, is almost miracoulous)  Further evidence that Jesus rose on Sunday can be found in the dating of the days.  In order for Jesus to fulfill three days in the tomb, He must be raised on Sunday.  The timeline goes like this, Thurs 14th Aviv, at twilight, Jesus celebrates Passover, on the 15th of Aviv, this year was on Preparation day (Friday) Jesus is crucified, dies, and is buried  thus beginning is first day in the tomb.  (Keep in mind that He must rise to fulfill first sheaf as he has already fulfilled Passover).  16th of Aviv, is the Sabbath, the disciples keep the commandment, the Pharisees worry and go to Pilate, Jesus completes his second day in the tomb and rests on Sabbath, or perhaps preaches in Sheol (as was his custom to preach on Sabbath).  17th Aviv, at the close of day 2 and on day 3, Jesus, the first fruits, the High Priest, rises on this day, this Sunday, early in the morning, to fulfill this feast and receives from Sheol, the wave offering of saints, that have responded to Him, and He ascends into heaven to present them before Yahveh as both High Priest, and Fulfillment of First fruits.   In all this, Jesus fulfills all the righteous requirements of Scripture and proves himself both King and Priest.

 Endnotes

 1)  Yehoshua, Avram, First Sheaf, The Seed of Abraham ministries, Ramat Gan, Israel,    http://www.seedofabraham.net   

2.  Ibid