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Once more: what is Judaising?

14-12-2017 - Posted by Andre Piet

Last Sunday I spoke in Rotterdam, following Galatians 2: 14, about judaizing. Via Facebook I got a reaction from someone who experienced the predication ‘deeply hurtful’. Let me, in this blog, take a closer view to the points of his criticism.

Keeping the law of Moses is NOT the same as judaizing. That is what isn’t understood. Paul himself kept that law, he celebrated the feasts. Note that he wanted to be back in Jerusalem for celebrating Shavuot.

I would have argued that keeping the law of Moses is the same as judaizing. That is definitely not true. Judaizing means ‘making Jewish’, that means: transforming non-Jews to Jews. So that is something completely different from living Jewish like a Jew. Indeed, Paul himself was a Jew and he lived according to the law of Moses.

My opponent continues:

André doesn’t understand the essence of the Galatians. He is totally wrong. The law is never meant for becoming justified, also not for Jews.

The thing I argued is that In Galatia the believers were told that who wants to live righteous, is dependent to the law of Moses. Paul was bewildered about that, because he had just taught the Galatians that a man is justified by faith. Like Abraham, hundreds of years before the law was given on Sinai (Galatians 3: 8). The juadaizers, who penetrated after the departure of Paul, taught in contrast, that nobody could be justified without keeping the law of Moses (Galatians 2: 21, 3: 11, 12: 4 and 5). This is the claim attacked by Paul in the Galatians-letter.

Judaizing is just promoting everything that is BESIDES the law in Judaism.

My Facebook opponent thinks that Paul doesn’t oppose against the promotion of the law of Moses, but against traditions, as we find in the Talmud. Paul would oppose self-made rules, like Jesus did in his conflicts with the religious leaders. But that dispute was about something completely different.

Nowhere in the Galatians letter Paul criticizes that false preachers introduced rules besides the law of Moses. He doesn’t fight any Talmudic additives. Nowhere that’s his subject. On the contrary, the focus of Paul’s education is that the law of Moses isn’t a universal standard, but is given on the Mount Sinai, centuries after the promise Abraham had received (3: 17). He writes to the Galatians (4: 21, 22a):

Tell me, you who want to be under law, are you not hearing the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, …

Paul blames the Galatians that they want to be under the law, without listening to the law, and that they subsequently refer to the Torah (Genesis). Paul makes obvious that it’s about the law of Moses and not about the Talmud or whatsoever.

In Galatians 2: 14 Paul blames Peter that he judaizes the believers of the nations. First he ate together with those of the nations, but when some (people of the group of) James came, he withdrew, fearing those of the circumcision (2: 12). Do we have to derive from this that Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem did maintain Talmudic traditions? Is that expectable after the teachings they got from Jesus? By the way, if that would be Paul’s criticism, then he just could have shown Peter the law of Moses. Then it would have been enough to prove that what Peter did, was a law of people, not based on the Torah. The simple fact that Paul doesn’t do so, implies that his criticism is completely different.

Celebrating the Sabbath has nothing to do with judaizing. (Moreover: the first centuries ALL Christians kept the Sabbath).

Here again the already spotted misunderstanding that a Jewish lifestyle would be the same as judaizing. But not the one who keeps the Sabbath is a judaizer. The one who imposes the celebration of the Sabbath to the believers of the nations, that is the judaizer. And that imposing happened in Galatia, by claiming that one only would live righteously, by keeping the law of Moses.

By the way, in the history of the church another much more undesirable form of judaizing has been introduced, by changing the use of the law of Moses arbitrary, and by subsequently imposing it to the nations. Think about the doctrine that Sabbath should be replaced by the Sunday. Or that circumcision should be replaced by the baptism. Etcetera. All forms of judaizing.

The statement: “One cannot be rescued without circumcision”, THAT  is judaizing.

Indeed. That statement ‘one cannot be rescued without circumcision’, was the direct cause for the apostle’s meeting in Acts 15(:1). But that matter was already decided unanimously before writing the Galatians-letter, and it was also communicated in Galatia (Acts 16: 4). In the Galatians-letter Paul refers to this meeting extensively (2: 1-10), but not to the decision which was taken there. Why not? Because in Galatia it wasn’t taught that one couldn’t be rescued without circumcision. The words ‘salvation’ or ‘rescue’ aren’t used even one time in the entire letter! The entire Galatians-letter is a fight against the doctrine that a man will be justified by works of law. One taught in Galatia: one is rescued by faith, but subsequently one is only justified by law (3: 3).

This doctrine is fought by Paul so very powerful. Paul calls the Galatians who follow this doctrine ‘foolish’ (3: 1) and the preachers and their message are cursed by an anathema (1: 8, 9). Maybe they felt deeply grieved by the words of Paul. But the ‘truth of the Evangel’ (2: 5, 14) doesn’t tolerate compromises.  It is grace or no grace. A little bit for free doesn’t exist.