Days, Months, Seasons and Years – Paul in the Book of Galatians

This is the first entry in the ‘Apostle Paul’ series that deals with what Paul wrote.  The earlier entries are some background information.

The apostle Paul wrote,

“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.  But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?  You observe days and months and seasons and years!  I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.”  Galatians 4:8-11 (ESV)

The above verse is often used to support a doctrine that basically states that Paul taught against keeping any of God’s “appointed times” (Sabbath, Passover, day of Atonement, Tabernacles, and other feast days or times.)  But is that really what he is saying?

Galatians is a great book – but keep it in the context with which Paul wrote it. He wrote it ‘to the churches of Galatia.’ Galatians 1:2 (ESV). In other words, gentiles. When he speaks of ‘days and months and seasons and years,’ why assume he is talking about God’s times when he is talking to gentiles who knew nothing of any times God had given?

The world in the time of Paul was full of all sorts of gods and goddesses, and they all had their special days and months and seasons and years.  It is these things that Paul is calling the ‘worthless elemental principles of the world.’  There is even a clue in the verses above where Paul says, ‘how can you turn back again.’

The gentiles never knew God or Yeshua (Jesus) prior to hearing the gospel message. They weren’t ‘turning back’ to God’s times, but to the pagan days, months, seasons and years.  The beginning of the verses above states from what the Gentiles are coming from.

Throughout Paul’s writings he has nothing but good to say about God’s law. He does, however, try to caution all the gentile believers from thinking that following the law leads to salvation. It was never meant for that purpose and Paul is trying to make that point over and over.

So, if you think that Paul is, in Galatians, telling us that God’s days, months, seasons, and years aren’t important, please do an overview of Paul’s life, teachings, and his relationship to God’s law. You will see him over and over upholding the law in his actions and words, yet also pointing to Messiah Yeshua as the one through whom salvation is given.

If, in light of the context of all his letters, he is (here in Galatians) stating that God’s times, sabbath included, are not important, then we have a schizophrenic Paul, being one thing in one letter and another thing in another. Such a person wouldn’t be worth listening to.

But he isn’t schizophrenic. 

And he is worth ‘listening’ to. 

But keep all his sayings both in the context of all his letters, and in the context of the cultures he is writing to!

Shalom

  • Yosef

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Capital Punishment: Deuteronomy 19 & Yeshua (Jesus) and the Adulteress

God is clear.  Capital punishment is to be used for certain offenses.  This is a simple fact from the Bible.  There are, however, a few things to remember to keep this in perspective.

Capital punishment was only used when there were at least two credible witnesses.

Capital punishment was only to be meted out by the leaders.  No one was to ‘take the law into their own hands.’

The witnesses were often required to be the ones to throw the first stones.

According to Jewish history, capital punishment was rarely actually used.  I realize that many think this is not so as we see talk of stoning often in the “new testament.”  That was actually quite rare, and having a crowd rise up and try to stone someone was actually against the law.   Keep that in mind when reading about Yeshua (Jesus) and the times a crowd wanted to kill him.

Speaking of Yeshua, the incident where the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to him and asked, “…in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  So what do you say?” John 8:1-11;  (ESV).  Most of us know Yeshua’s reply of, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  John 8:7 (ESV).  At first glance it seems that Yeshua is saying that capital punishment isn’t the right way to go.  But is he?

First, did you note that only the woman was brought before Yeshua?  If she was ‘caught in the act’ as the passage states, where was the man?  The law states that both should be stoned (see Deuteronomy 20:10).  An interesting trap was being set for Yeshua.  If he answered, “then stone her”, he wouldn’t be following the law, so the Pharisees would accuse him thus.  If he answered “don’t stone her,” they could also accuse him of not following the law.  He could of also called them out in regards to the guilty man and the lack of trial, but instead he went to the core of the issue.

He called them out on their misuse of God’s law!  He attacked their legalism, and what better attack then to point out that there is no way to be good enough in a legalistic framework.

A sure sign of legalism is the misuse of the Law of God for your own benefit, or for control and putting others down.

Yeshua was highlighting grace over legalism, not commenting on capital punishment nor on the Law itself.

As a last comment on capital punishment, I find it interesting to read about those condemned who have been waiting for some time.  Many ask for the sentence to be carried out!  Why?  Because the jail system, keeping them locked up for years, is a cruel method of punishment in my opinion.  It can destroy a person’s mind and their dignity as a human.

God’s way called for swift carrying out of the punishment, leaving no time for the society to treat the criminal as an animal or for society as a whole to start relegating even those accused of crimes as monsters.

Personally, I’d rather we do things God’s way and retain the value and dignity of human life.  Any human life.  What do you think?

Shalom,

  • Yosef

 

How to Boil a Kid in its Mother’s Milk

Don’t get excited, ‘kid’ here means a baby goat.  And yes, people in ancient times would boil a kid in its mother’s milk.  Some scholars say that this was done by some ancients in the middle east in their worship of their gods.  Yehovah (the LORD) told the Israelites several times to not copy the nations’ practices in worship to Him.

“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” Deuteronomy 14:21 (ESV)

This command gave rise to Judaisms’ complex set of rules about dealing with meat and milk products.  They started with this command, and in their wish to not even accidentally break, or even appear to break, this command, fences upon fences were built around this command until it looks like what it does today, where dairy and meat products should (ideally) be stored in separate refrigerators and served on separate dishes, hours apart.  Silly you say?

Well, at the other end of the spectrum we have Christianity taking a simple command such as “don’t eat blood” and building theology upon theology upon it stating that any “Old Testament” laws are not to be followed as “we are not under law, but under grace.”

“Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do.  You shall not add to it or take from it.”  Deuteronomy 12:32 (ESV)

God is clear that He doesn’t want us to add to or take from His words.  Judaism loves to add to it (and I doubt any Christians out there will disagree with this, though Jews would), and Christianity loves to take away from His word (and I doubt any Jews would disagree with this, though Christians would vehemently disagree).

How do Christians take from His word?  Well, lets start with the command for not eating blood.  That is actually also found in the “New Testament” in a letter written to all Gentile churches (Acts 15:22-29).  The letter also mentions that you shouldn’t eat meat from a strangled animal.  (Ever hear either of these talked about during a sermon?)

[I’m not ‘bashing’ Christianity here, but there is a need to point out some facts.  I praise and thank God for my Christian brothers and sisters.]

Historically, Christianity started divesting itself of anything “Jewish”, including the “Law of God”.  This started as early as in the 2nd century AD.   Over the decades, this ‘divestment of all things Jewish’ went deeper and became thoroughly entrenched in Christian theology.  So much so that much of Christianity understands the apostle Paul’s comment about Christians “not being under law, but under grace” to mean that all “Old Testament” laws have been done away with (or fulfilled – the result is the same).

That is certainly ‘subtracting from’ God’s word in a big way.

Before wondering what, if any, of God’s “Law” is still to be followed today, first start following what Yeshua (Jesus) and the apostles said, including the “don’t eat blood” injunction.  And understand that the “Law of God” is not bad – even Paul states this.  But remember that Yeshua (Jesus) stated that “his burden is light and his yoke is easy.”  That saying is a Hebraism in reference to the “Law”  and following God.

Also, obedience to God is not to be misconstrued with being “under the law.”  Paul even refers to the anti-Christ as “the lawless one”.  2 Thessalonians 2:8-9.

“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”  Matthew 7:23 (ESV)

Yeshua (Jesus) said those words to apparent Christians.

So, be aware of adding to or taking away from God’s word, and don’t try a recipe for boiling a kid in its mother’s milk!

Shalom,

– Yosef

If Pigs Could Be Clean – Deuteronomy 14

In Deuteronomy 14 we are given a list of animals that God says we can eat and some general rules with which we can determine ourselves if an animal can be eaten.  This list gives rise to the ‘kosher’ food industry, but really the section is about clean and unclean animals.  Kosher takes in much more then that and isn’t the topic of this post.

In the passage, pigs are singled out as one of the animals that meet half the requirements needed to be clean (and therefore eatable).  And throughout history, eating pork has been one of the activities used as a measurement to show that one is not Jewish.  (Another is not keeping the Sabbath, but that is for a different post.)  And, judging by most Christian breakfasts or pot-lucks, I wonder if that isn’t still true today.  I digress.  Here are a couple comments on the topic of whether or not Christians should pay attention to the ‘kosher’ laws.  This is not meant as a counter argument against all the reasons Christianity has for eating pork.  Just a couple things to think about.

  • The idea of clean and unclean animals predates the giving of the ‘Law’.  Noah took on two of each animal and 7 (pairs) of each clean animal.  See Genesis 7:1-3.
  • In defense of eating anything, people like to point out that God gave ‘all things’ for food.  And this is true.  However, near the end of the ‘clean animals’ (kosher) lists (Deut. 14 and Leviticus 11), God makes the comments that we are to be holy for He is holy, and that the list is for us to learn to distinguish between clean and unclean.
  • Peter also tells us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16).  One way of being holy is to only eat ‘clean’ animals.
  • Learning to distinguish between clean and unclean is training for leaning to distinguish between Godly and ungodly.

I realize that the whole issue of eating clean seems an anathema to Christians as Christians are ‘under grace, not under law.’  Well, that saying will be discussed later as it is a greatly misunderstood statement.  Mostly, though, I will just point out that neither Yeshua (Jesus) nor the apostles, nor anyone in the early Jerusalem church, ate pork or taught that it could be eaten.

However, before even discussing the ‘kosher’ laws with Christians, the question, “do you eat blood?” should be asked.  And when it is asked, a reply such as, “I’m not under the law!” is inevitably given.

There is a much ignored verse in the book of Acts.  In Acts 15 there is the account of the ‘Jerusalem council.’  The results of that council is a letter written and agreed upon by all apostles, elders (of the Jerusalem church) and Paul.  It is address to all Gentile churches.  Part of that letter states:

“…but [we] should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.”  (ESV) Acts 15:20

So, before even wondering about clean / unclean, one needs to learn what is meant by not eating meat from a strangled animal and refraining from blood.

  • Yosef

 

 

 

The Apostle Paul’s Background – Is He Jewish or Christian or ???

Was the apostle Paul Jewish or Christian?  If you go by the section headings in your Bible, it is clearly stated that Paul converted [to Christianity].  But did he?  Did he ever quit being a Pharisee or a Jew?  Also, what was Paul’s general attitude towards the Law of God?

Before we jump into Paul’s letters, we need to get a quick overview of who he was.  Most people know that he was a Pharisee (he calls himself the Pharisee of Pharisees).  Consider these two scriptures:

“Brothers [he is addressing the Jewish council],  I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees.  It is with respect to the hope and resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”  Acts 22:6 (ESV)

“Brothers [he is addressing fellow Jews in Rome] though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers…”  Acts 28:17 (ESV)

Near the end of his life he is maintaining that he is still both a Pharisee and following the customs of his people.  He also makes the very important comment that highlights what is behind the hatred towards him: his hope and belief in the resurrection of the dead.

In other words, he was still Jewish, but believed God had raised Yeshua (Jesus) from the dead and through him, everyone has this hope, as given forth in the scriptures (which was only the Tanakh, or “Old Testament”, at that time.)

A couple more scriptures:

“…stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us…” 2.Thess. 2:15 (ESV)

“Now I commend you because you…maintain the traditions…” 1.Corinthians 11:2 (ESV)

Not only did Paul remain Jewish, he even taught Gentiles some of the traditions!

[A quick side comment.  Paul did not change his name from “Saul” to “Paul”.  He was born in a Gentile city and, even today, a Jew born outside of Israel will have both a Hebrew name and a Gentile name.  Paul simply started using his Gentile name as he realized his main focus was to be Gentiles.]

Did Paul have a negative view of “the Law”?  Here are a couple scriptures to remember:

“…but the doers of the law will be justified.”  Romans 2:13 (ESV)

“So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” Romans 7:12 (ESV)

The point of all the scriptures that I have shared is to show a broad overview of Paul.  I’m not trying to form a theology with these quotes.  If, as many Christians claim, Paul renounced Judaism and the Law, then he must have been a schizophrenic, and I certainly would not want to give heed to his writings in that case.  But he isn’t schizophrenic, and his words are relevant, challenging, and at times hard to understand.  We need to understand this background of Paul to be able to understand all his writings.

Here is a last thought about Paul.  Of all the people God could have chosen as an apostle to the Gentiles, God chose a highly educated Pharisee!  Have you ever asked, ‘why?’  Why didn’t God choose someone like a fisherman or tax collector, as many of the other apostles were?  Because God knew that the person going to the gentiles would need a solid understanding of the Law in order to counter all the weird ideas that the Gentiles would bring in, as well as countering false ideas that other Jews would bring in.

And we need to remember that above all else: Paul had to address a wide-ranging, often eclectic set of views, opinions, traditions, and mind-sets.   He did this well, but, in the words of the apostle Peter, “There are some things in them [Paul’s writings] that are hard to understand…”  2.Peter.3:16 (ESV)

  • Yosef

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