Friday, June 25, 2010

Keeping the law

There has been a common misconception amongst certain Christian circles that when Paul spoke against those who enforced "the law," he was speaking about Jews. This has furthermore been morphed into a belief that Judaism is a legalistic religion in which one must follow the law in order to be "saved."

This can not be further from the truth.

To break down what Christian often mean by "being saved," it usually refers to, ultimately, eternal life not spent in Hell. This will be an important point later on.

The real question is, is sin a black and white issue? In God's eyes, do you either obey all 613 of his laws or break one and then break all? We can not answer for God, but we can explore what His people thought.

E.P. Sanders in his book "Jesus and Judaism" craftily divides Jesus' words and our english word "sinners" into two categories: The wicked, and the 'amme ha-arets. The wicked are those who "sinned willfully and heinously and did not repent. It is often said that the wicked were 'professional sinners'" (pg 177). These professional sinners were usually those who deliberately took advantage of the common people, usually depicted as those who take inflated interest from their debtors and thus keep the poor, poor.

The 'amm ha arets, or common people, "were not irreligious. They presumably kept most of the law most of the time, observed the festivals, and paid heed to some of the more serious purity regulations."(182) These common people, those who went to church not all the time, tried their best to not lie and to give to the poor were included in God's eternal plan. In fact, no one ever thought the common people would be excluded from salvation! (189) Sanders presses this issue to even say that the uneducated, those who did not know the law, were also included in the plan for salvation!

So who receives God's judgement?

Paula Fredricksen in her article "Judaism, Circumscision, and Apocalyptic Hope" in Mark Nanos' "The Galatatians Debate" writes that even the Gentiles had a part in God's eternal plan. The Gentiles are simply cleansed from their idolatry, and are henceforth deemed "His people." ( see 246-247 especially)

So, again, who receives judgement? For the Christian it is those who do not accept the sacrifice Jesus gave so that we don't have to be bound from by the law. But I just showed that the law was never seen as so binding when it comes to salvation! If God had an eternal plan for the Gentiles, what did Jesus come to do then?

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