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Analzying Christianity and the TorahDissertation

Pages: 150 (47287 words)  |  Style: MLA  |  Sources: 10

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Christianity and the Torah

History of Christianity

Basic concepts in Christian theology

History of the Torah

Christianity and the Torah

Torah observance at the Table 130

The Significance of the Torah to Christian in modern day 134

It is the Powerful Word of God 134

It Leads Christians to Jesus the Messiah 136

It Deals with the Questions of Life 139

What we Understand about The Law 141

Interpreting and Applying the Law 143

Suggested Christian approach towards the Torah 144

Identifying what the specific law meant to the initial audience 145

Determine the differences between the initial audience and believers today 146

Develop universal principles from the text 146

Correlate the principle with New Testament teaching 147

Apply the modified universal principle to life today 148

Study Limitation 151

Conclusion 152

Suggestions for future study 155

References 156

Miles Raynor Page -- i

Introduction

The early church was founded within the framework of Judaism in the regions of Palestine and Jerusalem. The church's growth in the two regions is attributed to the Qumran Covenanters, who were to some extent tolerated by the authorities and only faced sporadic incidences of persecution. Gamaliel's tolerance[footnoteRef:1] of the Christians was probably out of his knowledge of the fact that the parties behind the persecutions were Sadducees, a group that he hated and feared much more than he did the Christians. The toleration of the Infant Church lasted up until the great uprising against the Roman Empire. By the time of the great uprising, disagreements between the Sadducees and the Nazarenes had heated up. Bar Kochba's 132-135 AD revolt[footnoteRef:2] further brought to the clear, the deep rift between Jewish Christians and other communities of Israel that had been brought about by the Savior in the form of Jesus. [1: Acts v. 34-39] [2: Sasson ]

The emerging Synagogue worship was adopted by the Infant Church. And from the ancient church to date this form of worship is still maintained within churches. Another church element adopted from Judaism was baptism - whereby the leaders of the Infant Church linked Christian baptism to the baptism of proselytes in Judaism through John the Baptist. Although, the Lord's Supper was increasingly becoming a frequent celebration, the practice was largely based on the practices related to the Passover supper. More significantly, the Infant Church adopted the Old Testament. To many individuals it must have been noteworthy that the Infant Church was born during the Pentecost. These individuals would have perhaps cited Jeremiah's prophesy[footnoteRef:3] of a new covenant that would give them a new power. They would be quick to remember that there was not a promise of a new law. However, for the Infant Church, the Old Testament was not new set of laws but scriptures for guidance[footnoteRef:4]. [3: Jeremiah xxxi. 31-34] [4: ELLISON, 231]

In the first few years, there were no significant changes when the Church first made forays into the Greek world. Some believe that before Paul died, possibility exists of a couple of converts who were not fully ready for the gospel through their former strong links to Judaism. It not known with certainty, whether such individuals were only fearers of God, had become proselytes, or were merely individuals who had been shaken from their pagan ways by the knowledge of something greatly different. What is known is that the majority of the Gentile Churches had sufficient numbers of converts from Judaism who later went on to spread the Jewish perspective of the Torah[footnoteRef:5]. [5: Ibid, 232]

There is little doubt that the author of According to the Scriptures C. Dodd is correct in his argument that certain parts of the Torah formed the main portions of the Gospel. In fact, the early church attributed Messianic significance to many of these portions, claiming the authority of Christ Himself for that revelation[footnoteRef:6]. The majority of Church members being former Judaists themselves would have known the portions of Torah used in the Early Church. The understanding of certain segments of Torah was such that even the mention or citation of a passage from the Old Testament in an apostolic letter from one church to another would have been easily understood. This however means that although non-Jewish Christians at best imperfectly knew many parts of the Torah, most of the gospel message was still largely based on portions of Torah. [6: Luke xxiv. 27, 44]

Passages from Torah were however so much a part of the early Church to such a degree that hundreds of years later, scholars such as Origen and Melito of Sardis noted in their respective works of public worship still being conducted in original Hebrew.

The role played by the use of Scriptures from the Torah led to the controversy regarding the place and interpretation of the Mosaic Laws in the New Covenant. This is because the Early Church had not taken time to reconsider the purpose of the Old Testament now that most of the promises there had been fulfilled and a new quantity of material (the Gospel Message) had emerged apart from it. As usually happens, in occasions where there is opposition to traditional perspectives of something important, the initial challenges went to the extreme. For instance, Marcion the son of a Pontus Bishop was of a Gnostic dualism perspective. He argued that the Torah had no spiritual value and ascribed no kind of authority to it. Instead, he claimed its value was merely historical. The church, realizing the kind of harm such sentiments could do to its growth, quickly excommunicated him and reasserted the Torah and reaffirmed its authority to its followers[footnoteRef:7]. What followed was that any intelligent discourse on the place and utilization of the Torah became almost impossible, since anyone who challenged the church-accepted views of the Torah could be labeled a Marcionist. It was unavoidable that the use of the Torah (Old Testament) would quickly fade away, and soon the Old Testament became either a challenge to the expertise of 'allegorizers' or a source of evidence-texts, Messianic or otherwise[footnoteRef:8]. [7: ELLISON, 232] [8: Ibid, 232]

Despite the reemergence of interest in the Old Testament among Reformers, the place of the Torah has remained in the position it was two centuries ago. Even though, for certain books, like Psalter, many portions were familiar, the average Christian had very little idea of what he or she would do with the book as a whole. It is noteworthy that for some individuals, different ways of incorporating such books into what had become the normal church routine, however very soon the Torah was lost owing to amplified dispensationalism[footnoteRef:9]. [9: Ibid, 233]

1.1 Background

According to dabru emet[footnoteRef:10], a book in which American Judaists document their reactions to the most recent developments in Christian theology, Christians and Jews worship one God. Obedience to One God, in addition to reference to the same scriptures (the Torah, which has now become the Old Testament of the Christian Bible) is now thought of as the most vital and undisputed similarity in the dialogue between Jews and Christians. At the same time however, the Torah, its Jewish interpretation, and the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazarene are now regarded as the most divisive factors between Jews and Christians. The division is however to be expected, given the heavy devaluation in many versions of Christian theology. Such versions view the Gospel message as the specifically Christ thing and not the law. In fact, the devaluation is extreme that recent theologies either overrule the Torah or disregard it altogether. Additionally, there is a strong dismissal of many portions of the Torah as either being incomprehensible, cruel or pre-Christian. Other widespread claims are that the church founded by Pual was a "law-free" gentile church or that Jews tried some sort of self-redemption by agreeing that the law had been fulfilled[footnoteRef:11]. [10: CRUSEMANN, 243] [11: Ibid, 243]

Moreover, the Old Testament, especially the Law, remains that part of the Christian Bible that many Christians are not aware is considered distant and not related to them or their faith. This is in contrast to other books in the Old Testament such as Psalms, Genesis and much of the prophets. Still, it is noteworthy that certain elements of the Torah, such as the command of 'love thy neighbor' and the Decalogue, are considered as the basis of Christian morals/ethics. Other segments of the law also retain their significance despite the many years and the changes that have occurred between that time and now. This significance or relevance applies in new ways outside areas of theology and church such as in call for debt release for underdeveloped countries or as an ethic of nature in the face of environmental crises such as global warming[footnoteRef:12]. [12: Ibid, 244]

1.1.1 History of Christianity

Christianity is widely-believed to have begun with the birth of Jesus about two millennia ago. However, given Jesus' background as a Jewish man, some scholars date the founding of Christianity many more years back to the formative years of Judaism. To show how Christianity… [END OF PREVIEW]

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