• Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Derech Yeshua

    Derech Yeshua: The Way of Salvation

    Derech Yeshua: The Way of Salvation, by Daniel Nessim

  • Siddur Sar Shalom

    Siddur Sar Shalom, edited by Daniel Nessim

    Siddur Sar Shalom, edited by Daniel Nessim

  • Introducing Your Jewish Friend to Yeshua

    Introducing Your Jewish Friend to Yeshua, by Nessim and Surey

    Introducing Your Jewish Friend to Yeshua, by Nessim and Surey

  • Advertisements

Rabbis and Fathers


matthew 23.12

May Messianic Jews appoint Rabbis?

Messianic Jews have a natural predisposition and tendency, as Jews who care about our people and our peculiar calling, to maintain the traditions and culture of our ancestors. This means that in our lives, traditions and prayers it is most natural and fitting for us to follow the ways of our people’s lifestyles, traditions and prayers which are founded in the complete Jewish Bible and secondarily in the sea of Jewish holy writings and literature that we have inherited.

It is therefore with great surprise that many Messianic Jews have considered the words of Yeshua which seem to prohibit calling anyone ‘rabbi’ (= ‘teacher’), ‘father’, or even ‘leader’. Does this mean that Messianic Jews may not ordain rabbis, or may not call their teachers by that title? Christians call their pastors ‘pastor’, or their teachers ‘teacher’, don’t they? Why are rabbis in particular singled out?

The immediate context is the first place one should look for an answer:

In Matthew 23:1-12 (CJB), Yeshua addressed the crowds and his talmidim: “The Torah-teachers and the P’rushim,” he said, “sit in the seat of Moshe. So whatever they tell you, take care to do it. But don’t do what they do, because they talk but don’t act! They tie heavy loads onto people’s shoulders but won’t lift a finger to help carry them. Everything they do is done to be seen by others; for they make their t’fillin broad and their tzitziyot long, they love the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and they love being greeted deferentially in the marketplaces and being called ‘Rabbi.’
“But you are not to let yourselves be called ‘Rabbi; because you have one Rabbi [here ‘Teacher‘ in the original], and you are all each other’s brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘Father.’ because you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to let yourselves be called ‘leaders,’ because you have one Leader, and he is the Messiah! The greatest among you must be your servant, for whoever promotes himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be promoted.

These terms: teacher/master/Ῥαββί (=’διδάσκαλος’), and father/πατέρα and leader/καθηγηταί are innocuous enough. It is their use in the realm of the community – synagogue and marketplace that is a problem. The problem is their use as a basis for pride and elitism (versus Yeshua’s egalitarianism).

What is Yeshua saying?

First, we must note the content of what he says:

  1. Yeshua notes that these people do sit in Moses’ seat. This is a place of authority and prestige.
  2. Yeshua notes that these people do not help others with the burdens that they impose upon them.
  3. Further, these people glory in the prestige they are accorded.
  4. Yeshua teaches:
    a. equality among the people
    b. the fatherhood of God
    c. the leadership of Messiah
    d. the necessity of humility.

Here, Yeshua is opposing elitism and the honouring of persons. As he does elsewhere in Matthew, Yeshua teaches servant leadership where the leader does not self exalt nor is exalted by those he or she serves. Thus no one is to be called rabbi, father, or leader. But it is interesting that there are few who would quibble about calling their fathers ‘father’ or leaders ‘leader’. Innately, it is understood that Yeshua is teaching regarding what is behind the use of these terms, as the context shows: The leaders he castigates are those who love the honour accorded them. This is what is unseemly. As Yeshua’s followers, we should not be enamoured by titles but together, equally, give all honour to God and Messiah.

After looking at the immediate context, we must look at it in the context of all Scripture. No major teaching stands alone or should be asserted on the basis of one passage.

If this were the only Scripture that we have that bears on the topic, it would be case closed: Don’t use the terms rabbi, father or leader. Yeshua decries the elitism that these terms engender.

Other Scriptures show that against the problem of pride and elitism, a statement of fact in a way that does not glorify individuals other than God or Messiah is appropriate. Yeshua himself did not hesitate to call teachers by their title, as was the case with Nicodemus (John 3:10).

Teachers and leader in the New Testament are also frequently addressed as such. Thus Paul asserts his apostleship too many times to mention (e.g. Gal 1:1). He does this for the purpose of establishing his God-given authority rather than to exalt himself. Likewise he calls himself the father of the Corinthians (1 Cor 4:15). Again, he does not do so in such a way to glorify himself but as a statement of what is known.

The real message of Yeshua’s teaching is that The greatest among you must be your servant (Matt 23:12). This is also what He says in Luke 22:26-27: let the greater among you become like the younger, and one who rules like one who serves. For who is greater? The one reclining at the table? or the one who serves? It’s the one reclining at the table, isn’t it? But I myself am among you like one who serves. Yeshua is to us the supreme example of servant leadership, and that is what He asks of us. He asks us to serve one another. 

The result from a look at Matt 23:1-12 as a whole, and its relationship to the rest of Scripture is that titles are not to be used by individuals to exalt themselves nor by others to exalt those individuals. On the other hand, titles such as rabbi (teacher), father and leader are indeed appropriate when used in a descriptive sense or as a statement of fact.

Messianic Jews have good reason to use the term rabbi of their ordained teachers and leaders. It is not that that teachers should be called rabbis if they are not appointed as such by a reputable body. Abuses of this abound, and remind one of the doctoral degrees that are proverbially offered via cereal box tops for a sum of money. It is in fact a statement of fact. It asserts to the community, the Jewish community and the world at large that Messianic Jewish communities are in fact Jewish communities.

Titles are widely used in the Christian world. Elder, Pastor, Father, Brother, and so on. These too find their genesis in the complete Jewish Bible. They also perform a role in their communities to provide a sense of order. Yeshua says to the use of such terms: Do not use them to aggrandise. We are all siblings, we all look to God and His Messiah, not to others.

Yes.

 

Advertisements

Thy Kingdom Come: A Conference on the Bible, Theology and the Future


Thy Kingdom Come

Thy Kingdom Come: A Conference on the Bible, Theology and the Future

It was a tale of two cities… Two centuries ago, Britain was a place awash with apocalyptic expectation. Napoleon’s armies were bringing the Enlightenment across Europe, feudalism was collapsing, and the Jewish people were experiencing emancipation from the ghetto and their own enlightenment, the Haskalah.
Fast forward to the present, and the opposite seems to be the case. The famous British reserve has given rise to a general abhorrence of the speculative and extreme. Sadly, in many cases, this has meant that what the Bible has to say theologically about the future has fallen into disregard and disrepute. In some quarters there is a fear of the extremes of the past, but is this justified? Does the Scripture have anything relevant to say about our current situation and God’s plans for our world?

I am really thrilled to be part of Thy Kingdom Come: A Conference on the Bible, Theology and the Future, which brings together leading Bible scholars from the UK and USA to explore what the Bible says about our world. With human rights abuses, the environment, and the threat of war, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction constantly in the news, what is our hope as Christians and what does the Bible say about what the future holds? Surveying a broad cross-section of biblical passages, the Thy Kingdom Come conference seeks to equip believers with the tools to discern properly what the Scriptures teach about the world and the future.

Information is available at http://www.thykingdomcome.org.uk. Maybe I’ll see you there – at Emmanuel Centre in Westminster, 17-18 October!

The End and the Eschaton


TKCbannerKings Evangelical Divinity School and Chosen People Ministries are jointly sponsoring a conference to be held in London on 17-18 October 2014 highlighting Scriptural passages and approaches that bear on the eschaton.

Entitled Thy Kingdom Come: A Conference on the Bible, Theology and the Future, the event includes well-known theological speakers, including Derek Tidball, Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock. Full details are available at the event website – www.thykingdomcome.org.uk. There is also a Facebook page which you are invited to Like to help get the word around.

 The organisers have also issued a call for papers. There are more details regarding that here.
Egypt and the Bible

Thoughts from a Follower of Yeshua

Kehillath Tsion - קהלת ציון

Vancouver's first Messianic Jewish congregation founded in 1985 to celebrate the good news of Messiah Yeshua.

Messianic view

A Messianic Jew in the Orthodox World

Morning Meditations

"When you awake in the morning, learn something to inspire you and mediate upon it, then plunge forward full of light with which to illuminate the darkness." -Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

Jewish Roots of Christianity

Thoughts from a Follower of Yeshua

Kehillath Tsion קהלת ציון

Vancouver's First Messianic Jewish Congregation

Messianic Marzipan

Thoughts from a Follower of Yeshua

...toward a messianic judaism

the blog of R. Sean Emslie

%d bloggers like this: