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    Introducing Your Jewish Friend to Yeshua, by Nessim and Surey

The Way of Life: The Rediscovered Teachings of the Twelve Jewish Apostles to the Gentiles – Book Review


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Toby Janicki

The Way of Life: The Rediscovered Teachings of the Twelve Jewish Apostles to the Gentiles

Marshfield, MO: First Fruits of Zion / Vine of David, 2017. 581 pages. $35.00 ISBN 978-1941534243

 

 

For over a century, scholars have discovered in the Didache an intriguing ‘window’ into the lives of the earliest Christians. A short discipleship and church manual for gentiles, it was written sometime around the first great Jewish War in 70 CE. Apart from a few decades in the early 20th century, before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed its very early date, scholars have generally been keen to notice the very Jewish nature of this book. What the Didache is, is a manual written by early Messianic Jews to new disciples as part of what is sometimes called the ‘gentile mission’ – the rapid explosion of the Good News of Messiah’s advent and redemptive work around the Roman Empire and beyond. The title of this famous manual, written in Greek, is translated as ‘Teaching of the Lord through the Twelve Apostles to the Gentiles‘. This is where Janicki has found a model for the subtitle for his substantial commentary. In case any might think the Didache is pseudepigraphic – falsely attributing its writings to a famous author – the Didache simply claims that its teachings are representative of the teachings of the Twelve Apostles, and its author(s) remains unnamed and anonymous.

One would think that with an ancient book full of teachings collected and presented by early Messianic Jews, their modern counterparts would have been all over it to discover what the perspective of their predecessors might have been. Such has not been the case apart from an Aberdeen PhD dissertation by E. Spivak in 2007. This is where Toby Janicki has made a remarkable contribution. While he makes no claim to being a Messianic Jew himself, as a member of the Movement he examines the Didache from a thoroughgoing Messianic Jewish perspective, in what is the second largest and most extensive commentary on the Didache ever published.

The introduction sets the tone, with a relatively brief but comprehensive overview of the history and background required to understand the background of the Didache. Janicki demonstrates that he has come to grips with the full body of Didache scholarship and has his own specific contribution to make. Thus already a Messianic Jewish perspective comes to the fore as Janicki proposes that the Didache ‘is a Mishnah for Gentile believers. It addresses key halachic issues of everyday life and community’ (pp. 16-19). The introduction is followed by the text of the Didache in Greek, with Janicki’s own translation into English.

The commentary deals with the Didache chapter by chapter. The Didache has 16 chapters. Each chapter begins with the English of the Didache cross-referenced to quotations and allusions in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, but not to extant Jewish literature or other early Christian literature. The focus then is, as through the commentary, on the practical value of the Didache.

Each chapter translation is followed by an overview in which Janicki grapples with the general questions raised by each chapter, with reference to the comments and observations raised by scholarship thus far. Janicki does so in a way that while not easy for the casual or elementary student or reader, is not difficult at all for someone who has mastered the basics.

In turn, the overview is followed by verse-by-verse commentary on the Didache. This is where Janicki’s contribution shines. Each verse is dealt with in depth, with reference not only to Didache scholarship but also comparable writings of the early church. Especially useful is his careful incorporation of insights from the Talmud and other Jewish writings. While somewhat questionable, because the Mishnah and Talmud were not committed to writing until later centuries, the insights do provide a Jewish frame of reference from which to view the teachings of the Didache. Further, they accentuate the Didache’s affinity of thought to that of other Jewish literature, as opposed to that of Christianity in those same later centuries, which was rapidly distancing itself from Jewish modes of thinking.

One of Janicki’s own distinct contributions is important to highlight. Page after page, Janicki treats the Didache as a book of value for directing the life of Jesus’ disciples today. There is a distinctly pastoral tone to the book, and the Didache is not merely exegeted, but potential applications to the lives of modern Christians are highlighted for consideration. Thus we are told ‘According to the Didache, idle and lazy members of our communities who rely on the benevolence of believers are not true followers of the Master’ (p. 442).  It is strong language, but a logical application of the Didache’s teaching in Didache 12. This is nothing less than the re-incorporation of the Didache into the tradition of a church that has long forgotten its precepts in favour of those of later church writers.

Two appendices include the text of the Epistle of Barnabas and the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1782. A bibliography is also included but no comprehensive indexes of references or subjects, items which are admittedly an option for commentaries. The layout of the book is excellent and the typeset clear and readable, which helps in making it an accessible resource for all. Jesus is consistently referred to as the ‘Master’, a usage that seems somewhat awkward, but also appropriate. Footnotes unfortunately do not flow from page to page, which sometimes causes problems in the page layout (as in page 9, which is half blank), but in general the book is very well produced.

For those who want to get an idea of how at least some early Messianic Jews taught regarding personal and congregational life, in more than just a dry, scholarly way, Janicki’s book is well worth the $35 asking price. I have a suspicion that Janicki’s contribution will be welcomed not only by laypersons but also Didache scholars for his fresh contribution and integration with contemporary Messianic Jewish thought.

 

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Titus, the Temple, and the Fire of Judgement


Titus and his armies destroy Jerusalem in 70 C.E.

Titus and his armies destroy Jerusalem in 70 C.E.

Was it judgement? In 70 C.E. the then general Titus captured Jerusalem. Although Josephus (possibly disingenuously) disclaimed Titus’ responsibility, the Temple was destroyed and burned to the ground. In witnessing the event Josephus recalled:

the roar of the flames streaming far and wide mingled with the groans of the falling victims; and, owing to the height of the hill and the mass of the burning pile, one would have thought that the whole city was ablaze. And then the din–nothing more deafening or appalling could be conceived than that. There were the war-cries of the Roman legions sweeping onward in mass, the howls of the rebels encircled by fire and sword, the rush of the people who, cut off above, fled panic-stricken- (Jewish War 6.272-3)

Titus was the general in who took the city and was responsible for these events. His father, who had been charged with putting down the revolt had gone to Rome, having been elected as Emperor. Nine years later, Titus would take his father’s place. It would be 79 C.E. when Titus became Emperor himself. In exquisite irony, it would be that very same year that Vesuvius would erupt, engulfing Pompeii in burning ash, extinguishing the vast portion of the population of that great yet decadent city. Titus, while visiting Pompeii to assess the damage would get yet further bad news. Back in Rome, the great fire of 80 C.E. had broken out. While less destructive than that of Nero’s day, this fire would result in an equal loss of life and the destruction of many great structures – notably on Capitoline Hill, the Temple of Jupiter, the Pantheon, and the theatre of Pompeii.

The destruction of Pompeii as Mt Vesuvius erupts in 79 C.E.

The destruction of Pompeii as Mt Vesuvius erupts in 79 C.E.

Could it not have been noted in that day, what the comforter Eliphaz said: As I have observed, those who plough evil and those who sow trouble reap it (Job 4:8).

Maybe Hashem was saying something.

Our daily prayer is May it be your will, Hashem our God and the God of our forefathers, that the Holy Temple be rebuilt, speedily in our days. Grant us our share in Your torah, and may we serve You there with reverence as in days of old and in former years. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to Hashem, as in days of old and in former years.

Amen.

Neo Nazis in London?


On Passover, Jewish people read in the Haggadah (Passover Story Guide) that  ‘In every generation they rise up against us.’

This week has already seen a lone gunman in Kansas kill three people at Jewish community centres in Kansas City. It has driven home the truth of the Haggadah‘s saying. On top of that, the infamous Westboro Baptist Church plans to picket the funerals of the victims.

Never mind that the gunman, reportedly an ex member of the Ku Klux Klan and shouting ‘Heil Hitler’ failed in his attempt at killing Jews, killing non-Jews instead. Jews again have one of those all-too-frequent reminders that no matter where we are in the world, no matter how enlightened the country, province or city, there are always those who ‘rise up against us’.

This month, just two blocks from my home in London, a store historically linked to Neo-Nazis opened in the heart of London’s Jewish world.

Thor Steinar North FinchleySteps away from the office of the Chief Rabbi, close to a Jewish school, synagogues and – my family, a shop by the Thor Steinar Nordic Company has opened up.  The Independent has summed it up: ‘A German clothing brand favoured by neo-Nazis in Europe, whose goods were banned because of their similarity to logos worn by SS officers, has opened a high-street store in the heart of London’s Jewish community.’
When I went by, a man wearing a WW2 Nazi-style helmet with skull and crossbones on the back was handling the merchandise inside. Very nice. Wearing a kippah, I wasn’t about to go in and enquire further.

This is the company that in 2012 opened a store called ‘Brevik‘ – right after the coward Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 unarmed, mostly young, people in a rampage against Islam, Zionism, Feminism and more.

The Independent reports that ‘Users on the white power website Stormfront claimed “London gets its first white nationalist clothing shop”. This can be seen here: Capture

However, Stormfront has removed the offending posts at this time.

I’m aghast and don’t know what to write more. As the executive director of Chosen People Ministries (UK) what can I ask? I would like to see Christian street preachers take this as their favourite spot for street preaching. I would like to see Christians standing up for the Jewish community. But none of that will really and truly make any difference.

The shop owner, maybe unaware of his brand’s dodgy history (he is now!) said he is appalled and is not ‘Nazi’ nor a racist. Still, there is the very real concern, as evidenced by the Stormfront post, that this shop will become a magnet for those very undesirable elements.

Those who frequent the shop need to be prayed for, as my Yeshua, my Rabbi, instructed (Matthew 5:44). Hate cannot be met with hate, but we are reminded to speak up, love our enemies, and be a light to the world come what may. And please, pray for the safety of the Jewish community in the United Kingdom, where every Jewish institution of any significance has to have serious security provisions in place because of the constant threat we are under……..

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