Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved… But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
Acts 15:1, 5
- We continue to see that there are two major conflicts addressed in the Apostolic Scriptures:
- The Kingdom of Light vs the Kingdom of Darkness
- Gentile inclusion into Israel without ritual conversion vs Gentiles included only by ritual conversion.
- The second conflict (ritual conversion debate) must always be seen as an intra-Judaism conflict – not one between “Christianity” and “Judaism.” From a historical perspective, “Christianity” as distinct from normative Judaism was not something that existed until the early 2nd Century.
- Paul, as the self-proclaimed “Apostle to the Gentiles” has both of these conflicts in mind in most of his epistles.
Galatians – The Ritual Conversion Debate
- Galatians is one of the earliest books of the Apostolic Scriptures. It was written in a style not seen in Paul’s other letters. His tone is one of sarcasm and rebuke.
- Gal 1:6-7: There were some who were trying to subvert the good news that Paul brought to Gentiles.
- Acts 10:28; Gal 2:11-16: Gentile inclusion, table fellowship. Acts 15:1; 5: Gentile inclusion with or without ritual conversion. 1st Century observant Jews could not eat, or fellowship with Gentiles – neither could they consider them full covenant members. Paul’s “good news” affirmed by the other Apostles, taught Gentile inclusion on the basis of following Messiah… alone.
- Acts 15:10-11: the “burden/yoke” was not the Torah which is HaShem’s standard of righteousness (Deut 30:11-15; 1John 5:2-3). This is an anachronistic and anti-Semitic perspective. The yoke is fencing out Gentiles.
- Gal 2:16: Not justified by the “works of the law” – phrase used to denote conventional identity. Specifically, ritual conversion to Judaism.
- Gal 2:6-13: Not speaking against G-d’s Torah as a righteous standard (xref Rom 7:14-16), but rather against the notion that entrance into the Kingdom is gained by it; and particularly for the Gentiles by way ritual conversion.
- Gal 4:21-26: Midrash on Isaac/Ishamael. Ishmael “joined the family” by connivance of man. Isaac “joined the family” by the miracle of geriatric conception. Meaning: become heirs of Abraham by way of Messiah, not ritual conversion (noted by vow to keep the Law, mikvah, and circumcision).