societies of the ancient world were theocratic… the ancient Mesopotamian kings were regarded as chosen servants and regents of the gods, and the Egyptian pharaohs were thought to be directly descended from the sun god…ruling it through them. In both Egypt and Mesopotamia, as well as among other ancient peoples, kings also…intermediaries between men and the gods.
This was as true for Israel as it was for the other theocratic nations.
“These words spake YHVH’s Savior, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said…I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do…I have manifested thy name / attributes unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world…Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth…
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one [family, nation, gens] in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17)
The early Gentile converts in the Roman Empire understood clearly that
- their adoption into God’s kingdom / nation / gens
- removed them from their former inclusion in a Roman or heathen nation,
with ALL that entailed – active submission to the nation’s spiritual leadership.
Believers in YHVH’s Savior could no longer bow down to or serve other gods or their designated drivers like Caesar.
The reverse condition is also true. The Israelites who
- rejected the God of Israel’s designated representative Priest-King
- were removed from their inclusion in the nation of Israel.
- “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Romans 9:6)
- “God hath not cast away his people.” (Romans 11:1-2)
- “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:15-16)
- “this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:” (Hebrews 8:10)
Hopefully we citizens of humanistic democracies are beginning to understand that an accurate understanding and application of being a member of God’s theocratic kingdom has to start with understanding ancient ways.
Clans pose a challenge to state development in ways that are often difficult for Westerners to appreciate...throughout history, from medieval Iceland and Scotland to modern-day Libya and Yemen, where clans function as basic units of social organization, they claim to have the legitimate authority to administer justice for their members by using their own force.
Because religion is inevitably a fundamental identifier of a nation / clan.
…it was until quite recently fashionable among political scientists to believe that the religious factor had ceased to have much impact at all—whether in the direction of conflict or consensus—on the contemporary politics of the western democracies…If religion itself had not dissolved away in the cold light of Reason, as Enlightenment thinkers had once expected, it was surely much more marginal for the modern European with an essentially secular and materialist approach to life and politics. After 1945 in particular, the political agenda seemed to revolve almost entirely around the humdrum business of ‘who gets what, when, how’…
In the 1960’s, however…a number of studies led political scientists to re-examine the orthodox assumptions about the secularity and materialism of politics in the liberal democracies…a seminal survey of…the characteristic structures of western party systems…showed that not only had religion…been of prime importance in the foundation of the European party systems in the late nineteenth century…but that the effects of this impact had been extended into the most recent period…
these claims were not of course incompatible with the deeply rooted assumption that the religious factor was in some way archaic—a survival from some earlier era…the outcome of events as distant as the Reformation and the French Revolution…however…examination of the social bases of political parties led…to the surprising conclusion that…’religious divisions, not class, are the main social basis for parties in the Western world today.’..since then a number of publications have been concerned with the question of assessing and accounting for the strenth of the religious factor in the politics of the liberal democracies….
the impact of religion could in fact increase as ‘political Christians’ engage themselves for and against the ‘new politics’ of peace, environmental, development and other issues.
In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi put clan loyalty at the heart of his revolutionary ideology, seeking to forge a stateless state, guarded by his leadership but organized around decentralized local institutions and clans, which he viewed as the natural basis of the social order.
In Yemen, the Saleh regime’s highest priority has been to buy at any price the loyalty of the more powerful clans.
In the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat implemented a series of policies in the wake of the Oslo Accords that took power away from the university-educated leaders of the first intifada and strengthened the power of clan elders, which he could control directly through patronage.
As did Jesus Christ in the wake of the new covenant, where the nation that lost power is not the entire group of Israelites, but the rulers of the tribe of Judah and the new nation / clan is the group that identifies with him and he empowers with his Spirit, the Christ-ians.
When during the second intifada Israel destroyed numerous local government institutions, such as police stations and courts, the clans Arafat had strengthened rushed to fill the vacuum.
As did churches after 9/11. This should be the biblical response to men’s hearts failing for fear.
These cases are part of a more general dynamic, which varies in intensity throughout the region. The 2004 Arab Human Development Report calls it “clannism.”
How can modern democracies be built in the face of push-back from clans?…in addition to encouraging trade and economic development
America’s economic dependence on Consumerism is contrary to biblical “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (I John 2:15-16)]
the United States should do what it can to help reformers in the region strengthen the identity and power of the intellectual and professional classes, among whom personal identity is most powerfully peeled away from the social core of kinship.
This may explain why Paul notes that:
“ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;” (I Corinthians 1:26-27)
Tragically, for a world desperately needing salvation in this world and the next, much of modern American Christianity has lost sight of the true meaning of “one nation under God”. We need to start with studying the exemplary life and times of our ancient religious leaders.
“there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites…(now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel…the children of Israel had sworn unto them: [but] Saul sought to slay them)…
Saul was from Gibeah so seizing their property would increase his wealth. He may also have attacked them as easy prey to save face militarily after being embarrassed by the Philistines. But he had broken a vow made by the Israelite government, which demanded not just punishment but reparations according to the law.
Wherefore David said unto the Gibeonites…wherewith shall I make [up for this] the atonement, that ye may bless [instead of cursing as apparently they were doing] the inheritance of the LORD?
And the Gibeonites said unto him,
- We will have no silver nor gold of Saul, nor of his house;
- neither for us shalt thou kill any [random] man in Israel…
- The man that consumed us, and that devised against us that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the coasts of Israel, Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, whom the LORD did choose.
And the king said, I will give them.” (I Samuel 21:1-8)
This God-authorized blood feud may seem appallingly uncivilized and allow you you to confirm your rejection of the God of the Bible as a cruel tyrant, but it is actually the basic principle of redemption. How many more deaths were prevented by this act?
Would you risk dying to donate a kidney to your dying child? Would you willingly outright die so your beloved child could live? When seen from the side of the person whose life is saved by another family member substituting his life, this practice isn’t so bad after all.
But take note, just as with Saul’s replacements and organ donations, you must share the same genetics as the life-giving donor.
And that clan / family has a name. The Hebrews.
Paul’s claim to be an Hebrew, and a consummate one at that, confirms that there is a religious significance to this identification, which precedes and is separate from the Israelite national identification, and is important enough for Paul to brag about.
From II Corinthians 11:22
- “Are they Hebrews? so am I.
- Are they Israelites? so am I.
- Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.”
From Philippians 3:5-6
- “Circumcised the eighth day,
- of the stock of Israel,
- of the tribe of Benjamin,
- an Hebrew of the Hebrews;
- as touching the law, a Pharisee.”
I am aware how sharply this contrasts with the orthodox Christian analysis of the letter to the Hebrews. “With its myriad references to Hebrew customs and the Old Testament, the book was likely sent to a Jewish Christian community.”
This is illogical for starters. The Messianic Jews didn’t need to be educated on the holy scriptures. It was the influx of scripturally illiterate Gentile believers who did to protect themselves from being led astray by Judaizers.
Assumptions like this analyst’s betray ignorance that the identity of “Hebrew” encompasses, but is not synonymous with, “Israelite” – all the descendants of Jacob, or “Jew” – genetic and amalgamated members of the clan of Judah.
I strongly suspect that Paul struggled with recognizing his and his fellow Israelites’ priority identity as Hebrews. Like Jesus‘, Paul’s pervasive quoting of Old Testament writings to prove his New Testament assertions proves to me, at least, that this superlatively knowledgeable Jewish lawyer spent most of his one-on-one tutorial with the Word reframing his understanding of the Old Testament presentations and prophecies.
Having a problem digesting this? Then you can grasp what a massive “backward” paradigm shift this was to the Messianic Jews. Think of this situation like the conflict between American Federalists claiming higher authority to annul any laws made by one of the States comprising the United States. We know how that turned out.
A common explanation is that the Civil War was fought over the moral [emphasis added] issue of slavery.
In fact, it was the economics of slavery and political control of that system that was central to the conflict.
A key issue was states’ rights.
The Southern states wanted to assert their authority over the federal government so they could abolish federal laws they didn’t support, especially laws interfering with the South’s right to keep slaves and take them wherever they wished.
Sectional tensions over slavery in the United States had been building for decades by 1854, when Congress’ passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act opened territory that had previously been closed to slavery according to the Missouri Compromise...
Emancipation would redefine the Civil War, turning it from a struggle to preserve the Union to one focused on ending slavery, and set a decisive course for how the nation would be reshaped after that historic conflict.
At the outset of that conflict, Lincoln insisted that…”My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery…If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others along I would also do that…”
As Lincoln and his allies in Congress realized emancipation would have no constitutional basis after the war ended, they soon began working to enact a Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. By the end of January 1865, both houses of Congress had passed the 13th Amendment, and it was ratified that December.
“It is my greatest and most enduring contribution to the history of the war,” Lincoln said of emancipation in February 1865, two months before his assassination. “It is, in fact, the central act of my administration, and the great event of the 19th century.”
Likewise, Paul’s proclamation that the Gentiles were entitled to full rights in the Hebrew nation inflamed the existing conflict with the Messianic Jews. And understandably so. They stood to lose significant political and economic power if they acknowledged that their political entity of “Jews” was subordinate to a higher authority of “Hebrews”.
Note carefully that Abraham Lincoln recognized that he needed a higher authority than just his position as elected president and the current government officials to truly empower the freeing of slaves. He did this by appealing to the Constitution, the supreme law of the nation, and to Almighty God as supreme law giver.
…And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution…I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind [note the humanism], and the gracious favor [blessings only, not authority] of Almighty God.
Likewise, Paul’s proclamation of equality among ALL believers in Jesus Christ as the promised Seed of the Woman, regardless of national origin, was not established via fiat through a “revelation” creating a “new Christian” church superseding the now extinct Jewish religion.
It was based on the existing constitution of the Hebrew nation.
Whoa! Hands waving frantically by those in the know. Paul himself said he received revelation about the church from Jesus. Good point. Let’s look at that passage.
“Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
- How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery
- compare the revelation of Jesus Christ to John. No revelation at the end of any mystery story announces a new thing. Unveiling a new product or service is advertising. Revelation of a mystery clarifies the details about circumstances already known in generalities.
- Whereby, when ye read [what else, if not scripture?] ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ / the Messiah / Prophesied One To Come
- Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit
- That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in the Messiah / Christ by the the gospel
- Whereof I was made a minister…to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery
- which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God…
- To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church / congregation of sanctified one the manifold wisdom of God – he always outwits the Adversary!
- According to the eternal purpose which he purpose in YHVH’s Promised Savior our Lord
- Of whom the whole family / tribe / nation in heaven and earth is named
- Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages (Ephesians 3)
Now do you get it? What appeared to be a constantly losing battle with Satan from the beginning of time to possess men’s souls is revealed to be instead a win for God through his COVERT ACTIONS WORKING WITHIN SATAN’S STRATEGY!
What a coup!
This is the revelation Paul – and other apostles and prophets – were given. Not the creation of a new Christian Church.
The apparent loss of the Adams to the serpent’s lie has already been discussed in the post The King Is Dead as instead a win for God when, faced with a choice, Adam developed the likeness of God. Instead of taking the easily rationalized route of self-ishly abandoning his helpmeet, he instead self-lessly died for her sake.
Another example would be the spreading of Judaism throughout the Persian Empire made possible only when Haman’s plan to destroy all Jews gave Esther the opportunity to choose to selflessly present her body a living sacrifice rather than selfishly abandon her people. Read the book of Esther if you are not familiar with this magnificent military report. And for the purposes of this discussion, the spreading of faith in Jesus Christ world wide was expedited, not crushed as would be expected, by the terrifying Roman Empire’s military-backed world-wide reach.
This is further proven hermeneutically. Note carefully, this word “constitution” encompasses the action of bringing into existence as well as the policies and practices on which all national actions are either legitimized or deemed acts of rebellion against the State.
All these requirements are found in the biblical record of the constitution of the Hebrew nation led by Abraham, but not for a new nation led by Paul.
- “…they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and…reasoned with them out of the [Old Testament only being available at that time] scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ / promised redeemer must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus whom I preach unto you, is Christ.
- And some of them believed…and of the devout Greeks a great multitude…
- Coming [to Berea] thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
- These…received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.“ (Acts 17)
It was Paul’s humility in lowering his identity from that of a privileged national in a uniquely favored relationship with YHVH to a universal average Joe that qualified him to be the rare apostle to the Gentiles.
Why do you think there were so many apostles to the Jews and so few to the Gentiles? Because events messianic Jews couldn’t bring themselves to give up their privileges and prerogatives.
It is easy to see how Paul’s egalitarian association with the Gentiles would have appalled even the Messianic Jews as much as interracial couples in the Deep South, regardless of the Emancipation proclamation. I’ve rearranged the order of the phrases to demonstrate the parallels.
From Moses gloriously on Mount Sinai:
- “Ye are the children of the LORD your God
- thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God
- the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” (Deuteronomy 14:1-2)
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
- adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself…
- holy and without blame before him in love / merged identities:
- chosen us before the foundation of the world
- ergo, trumping the establishment of the nation of Israel on Mount Sinai. (Ephesians 1:1-5)
- quickened / brought to life us together with Christ…
- raised us up together [in status as favored royalty], and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus…
- ye being in time past Gentiles [i.e. belonging to the Roman nation] in the flesh...
- aliens from the commonwealth of Israel
- strangers from the covenants of promise [starting with redemption from the bondage and death from sin through the Seed of the Woman, and pledge to Noah, and promises to Abraham]
- having no hope, and without God in the world;
- But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ…
- who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
- that he might reconcile both unto God in one body…
- Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God“ (Ephesians 2)
The letter to the Ephesians addresses current events and stressors facing the new Gentile believers in the first century AD, hence the focus on the Commonwealth of Israel. By that time the nation of Israel was in fact the last bastion of YHVH’s salvation.
“Simeon / Peter hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 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: 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…For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.” (Acts 15:14-21)
Stop! Hold up! Doesn’t this passage refer to Gentiles as any non-Jewish person?
Whenever there is an apparent contradiction, the best thing to do is to study it.The Gentiles are first mentioned and defined as the descendants of Japheth, i.e. Whites, when nations were first formed.
“The sons of Japheth…By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.” (Genesis 10:2-5)
During the time of the Judges, Gentiles were defined as a distinct people group from the Canaanites.
These would be the Caucasians, the bridge people of the Indo-Europeans.
The next reference to the Gentiles is found in multiple places in Isaiah’s prophecies for the future, not reporting current interactions current to that time. These prophecies would have been obscure at the time Isaiah gave them, but Daniel would have understood their application to the future Gentile kingdoms of his revelations, beginning with Greece.
As with the Babylonian and Persian Empires, despite their function as conquerors, through their interaction with the people of God many of their people would be convert to faith in YHVH.
“And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.” (Esther 8:17)
It’s understandable that, however the Hebrew nation was defined in Abraham’s day the Jews in Paul’s day defined themselves as the sole heirs to God’s covenant with Abraham. This is a misperception, however, which only Bible scholars at that time recognized.
“Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt?…Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.
- Stay yourselves, and wonder;
- cry ye out, and cry:
- they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.
- For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes:
- the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.
- And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:
- And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.
Wherefore the LORD said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
- Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder:
- for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
- And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book,
- and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.
- The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord,
- and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
- For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off:
- That make a man an offender for a word,
- and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate,
- and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.
This absolutely describes Israel’s leadership in Jesus’ day.
Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham [the Hebrew], concerning the house of [one of his children] Jacob,
- Jacob shall NOT NOW [compared to before] be ashamed…when he seeth his / Abraham’s children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him / Jacob
- they [Abraham’s Hebrew children] shall sanctify my name,
- and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
- and shall fear the God of Israel.
- and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
- They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.“ (Isaiah 29)
“Zacharias [Priest and father of John the Baptist] was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying…As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began…to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we…might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life…And thou, child…shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
- to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins
- to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” (Luke 1)
Zacharias is quoting the scriptures, specifically the reference to Gentile children of Abraham.
“in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” (Isaiah 9:1-2)
And sure enough, John the Baptist gets it.
“John the son of Zacharias…came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
- As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet
- ALL FLESH shall see the salvation of God
Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, Bring forth therefore fruits / products worthy of repentance, and [don’t even!] begin to say [so much as secretly] within yourselves
- we have Abraham to our father
- for…God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Luke 2)
The stones that John points to were likely the building blocks transforming rural Galilee and the Deca-polis / Greek for Ten Cities around the Jordan River into a major urban international crossroads.
When Herod Antipas took over Galilee in Jesus’ time, it was a rural region on Judea’s margins…
Herod Antipas transformed sleepy Galilee by building bustling urban centers of government, commerce, and recreation. The crown jewels of his building program were Tiberias and Sepphoris…
the socioeconomic impact of Antipas’ two cities of Galilee in Jesus’ time was enormous…archaeological evidence has indicated that within one generation – the very time of Jesus – some 8,000 to 12,000 people moved into Sepphoris and Tiberias…
The socioeconomic changes and uncertainties faced in 100 AD provided golden opportunities for YHVH’s witnesses to proclaim the advantages of transferring citizenship from the earthly Roman empire to God’s Hebrew kingdom led by his Israelite leaders.
Don’t the same circumstances apply in 2100 AD?