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Featured What does "fulfilling the covenant" mean?

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by Harel13, Apr 21, 2020.

  1. Harel13

    Harel13 Well-Known Member

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    In recent years, I've been hearing more and more the claim made by Christians that the reason they don't keep any (or hardly any) of the Torah's commandments is that Jesus "fulfilled" the old covenant and ushered in the new covenant.

    What does "fulfilling" mean exactly?

    To me, it seems that fulfilling a covenant means upholding - each side keeps their end of the bargain. In this case, Jews keep all of the commandments while God blesses them. When they don't keep the commandments, God punishes them - but that's a fact that's actually taken into account as part of the deal of the covenant. Jews not keeping the covenant doesn't annul it. And it is stated that this covenant is eternal - no expiration date:

    Gen. 17:4-11:
    "'As for Me, behold, My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be the father of a multitude of nations...And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee...And God said unto Abraham: 'And as for thee, thou shalt keep My covenant, thou, and thy seed after thee throughout their generations. This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt Me and you..."​

    Exo. 31:13-16:
    "'Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying: Verily ye shall keep My sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that ye may know that I am the LORD who sanctify you...Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant."​

    Levi. 26:41-45:
    "When I, in turn, have been hostile to them and have removed them into the land of their enemies, then at last shall their obdurate heart humble itself, and they shall atone for their iniquity. Then will I remember My covenant with Jacob; I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham; and I will remember the land. For the land shall be forsaken of them, making up for its sabbath years by being desolate of them, while they atone for their iniquity; for the abundant reason that they rejected My rules and spurned My laws. Yet, even then, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or spurn them so as to destroy them, annulling My covenant with them: for I the LORD am their God. I will remember in their favor the covenant with the ancients, whom I freed from the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God: I, the LORD."​

    Deut. 29:13-14:
    "I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us this day before the LORD our God and with those who are not with us here this day."​

    Etc.

    So how exactly do Christians understand the term "fulfillment", and why, when taking into consideration that it seems that this covenant is meant to be eternal?
     
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  2. Fool

    Fool ALL in all
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    Proverbs 10:12

    covenant fulfilled

    a new covenant

    John 13:34


    i'm not exclusively christian






    what love hath joined together let no man tear asunder.
     
  3. Valjean

    Valjean Veteran Member
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    Curious that after Jesus' ambiguous statement about fulfilling the covenant, he went on to say that he was changing nothing at all -- not a jot or a tittle.

    It seems like his followers, the Christians, are still expected to follow the Torah.
     
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  4. Rival

    Rival Noahide
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    It's pretty readily accepted that James the Just, who headed the Jerusalem Church, was known for being a dedicated keeper of Torah. There was a squabble between his Church and those by Paul whether new Christians needed to convert to Judaism and keep Torah. The consensus seemed to be that they did, with which Paul vehemently disagreed and waxed lyrical about how 'those of the circumcision' have nothing in Jesus. All of the early Jewish followers kept Torah, as we see that they are even bringing sacrifices to the Temple after Jesus' death. They goad Paul into bringing one as well, to check whether he really is Torah observant.

    There was as well another decision made, I think by the Jerusalem Church, that the new Christians need only keep certain laws such as not eating things strangled or offered to idols, not to fornicate etc. Yet later Paul rescinds even this and allows people meat offered to idols.

    The dispute still isn't over.
     
    #4 Rival, Apr 21, 2020
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  5. Fool

    Fool ALL in all
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    although i'm not a fan of paul,


    If it's true that he was Essene, he wouldn't have brought animals for sacrifice


    Vegetarian Essenes? - Archaeology Magazine Archive


    Essenes - Wikipedia


    Christian Vegetarianism



    When they send gifts to the Temple they do not offer sacrifices because of the different degrees of purity and holiness they claim; therefore they keep themselves away from the common court of the Temple and bring offerings [vegetable sacrifices] of their own. [This certainly does not mean that they opposed animal sacrifices on principle, but that they brought no free-will offerings for reasons of their own; see above.]
     
    #5 Fool, Apr 21, 2020
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  6. Rival

    Rival Noahide
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    Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them. (Acts 21:26)
     
  7. 74x12

    74x12 Well-Known Member

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    For me Jesus fulfilled the Torah through fulfilling the promises or aim/object of the Torah. (I'll explain more on that) He took the curse of the Torah on Himself. Not that He is cursed; He did it willingly. Specifically, the worse curse in the Torah is that you hang on a tree. He did this to put the curses to death in Himself so that He could redeem those who sin against the Torah and bring the curses on themselves.

    Yes the covenant is eternal; but who is it with? It's with an earthly nation. The descendants of Jacob who are flesh and blood. The Hebrews. But, when you die; you're free from it. So whoever is in the resurrection is not in the covenant of Sinai. They're dead to it. They have died to it and then been raised to a new Covenant that was predicted in Jeremiah 31-31-34 and elsewhere. The new Covenant is eternal life from the dead. So you can see how the whole aim and object of the covenant of Mt. Sinai was to obtain the resurrection one day. To receive eternal life.

    So once Jesus rose from the dead; that marks the beginning of the new Covenant. So you can see how the old Covenant is fulfilled. It's work is finished because the new Covenant has come. But you must receive His Spirit within you to be a partaker of the new Covenant. The new Covenant begins within first and then later on there will be the redemption of the physical body as well. But first your spirit is resurrected while in the meantime you keep your body dead. That is you crucify it's evil desires.
     
  8. Fool

    Fool ALL in all
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    i was speaking of jesus and his followers. jesus was believed to be raised as an essene. it would make sense at the last supper as to why there was no lamb offering. just wine and bread. but even some essenes rejected him because he didn't follow their strict adherence

    i'm not a hellenistic christian fan
     
  9. Rival

    Rival Noahide
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    I thought you were talking about Paul.
     
  10. Fool

    Fool ALL in all
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    i can understand that. I didn't clarify. no big deal. sorry for the confusion.
     
  11. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    @Harel13 Great question!

    Christians have different views on covenantal nomism, as well as on the interrelationship between adherence to the commandments of the Torah and divine grace. From the first generation of the church until today, it has been hotly contested by theologians.

    So, you've opened up a right can of worms. :D

    @Rival is right in saying that the apostles and all of the earliest disciples were Torah-observant. She's a bit too harsh on Pauline thought - though - and takes too much for granted the traditional Protestant commentaries on his letters, IMHO, whereas modern secular scholars adhere to the "New Perspective on Paul", which brings much more nuance into his teaching. The majority of scholars no longer believe that he had a serious ideological breach with James over Torah-observance for Gentiles, because James himself believed that only the Noahide laws applied to them and was not a 'Judaizer' like the faction Paul was combating (who believed Gentile Christians should be circumcised and subject to the full shabang in terms of Torah-observance).

    Initially, in the immediate aftermath of Jesus's death, there was no dissension about keeping the Mitzvot (and this includes from St. Paul, when he first joined, as demonstrated from Acts) because everyone in the early church - for the first decade or so - was ethnically Jewish.

    Thus, kashrut and tefillin and the Jewish holy days - Pesach, Pentecost, Sukkot and the Festival of Dedication (Hanukkah) etc. - were just part and parcel of their national life, heritage and cultural identity as Judean Jews; just like it was for all their neighbours.

    What reason did they have to cease abiding by the covenant that God had, allegedly, bequeathed to their nation in ancient times?

    There was no written New Testament at that primitive point in time - no canon gospels, no apostolic epistles - which meant that the liturgical life of these first Christians was hardly any different from other Jews of the time in a synagogue setting (i.e. they read the Tanakh and interpreted it according to their own novel theology, in light of Jesus's teachings, ministry, death on the cross and (as they believed) resurrection and glorification in heaven). The only distinction was that the Christians, because of their marginal and persecuted status, had to gather more often in house-churches for safety reasons.

    The Temple had not yet been demolished by the Romans, which meant that the ritual life and priestly code in Leviticus was still in operation. The first disciples were thus habitual 'temple-goers': "And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts" (Acts 2:46).

    So, even St. Paul offered sacrifices according to the Book of Acts, whenever he went up to the Temple to pray.

    Dom Bernard Orchard, A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (1953) comments with great insight on this passage and St. Paul’s views:


    21 St Paul’s Attitude to the Law — In view of the false accusations against him St Paul was bold indeed to come to Jerusalem....

    As long as Jewish Christians acknowledged that salvation came through faith in Christ, he had never forbidden them to observe the Law. It became for them something in the nature of a work of supererogation. The breach with the Synagogue was gradual. It is generally held that after A.D. 70 it was complete, and that then all participation in Jewish rites became unlawful.

    Thus when St Paul now acceded to the request of St James the Just [head of the Jerusalem church], he did not go against his principles. He was hardly the man to do that. He acknowledged a relative value in the Law, and he seems generally to have observed it himself; cf. 16:3; 18:18. He claimed to be a strict Pharisee, 23:6; 26:4–5.

    He protested that he had not offended in anything against the Law or the temple, in which he had come ‘to adore’, 24:11; 25:8; 28:17. These things were not incompatible with the preaching of the new faith. They prepared the way for it, and found in it their fulfilment, 24:14; 26:22–23, cf. Rom 9–11, 1 Cor 7:18–20.


    In essence there wasn't, as of yet, two distinct religions "Judaism" and "Christianity" but rather yet another novel mutation within the multiplicity of ideas that we lump together as 'Second Temple Judaism', which already included within its ambit many Hellenistic Jewish sects and philosophies. Jewish Christianity, initially, was just another variation.

    Phrased differently, their understanding at that stage of what the "New Covenant" of Jesus meant for the "Old Covenant" was not, yet, supersecessionary in nature.

    Jesus had given them a New Covenant with renewed ethical stipulations, his own interpretation of halakhah (which, you could describe as fairly liberal and progressive on points - as in the relative value of ritual purity, he prioritised inner purity (i.e. mysticism, really) over the outward practices - and conservative on others), a new theology that was close to Pharisaic Judaism but included some novel concepts and at least two 'additional' rites that had not been in the Torah: the baptism ritual of St. John the Baptist (for new converts to the movement) and the Eucharistic meal, which functioned as a Messianic banquet in which the sacrifice of Jesus for humanity was commemorated and the community engaged in fellowship (a "love-feast").

    So, how do we get from there to - well - modern Christianity? What was it about this new Jewish movement that had within it the 'seeds' of something radical and subversive of other Judaisms of the time - indeed of Torah itself - and pointed towards a new horizon?

    I'll handle that in my next post (later on).

    For now, a short summary: it consisted in two radical concepts, I think, in particular (although there a few others as well)-

    1. The deification of Jesus as the incarnation of a pre-existent agent of creation that had co-existed with Adonai from all eternity and through whom Adonai had created the universe (this was pre-pauline). Even by Judaism of the time, this was really, really, really weird (but its emergence had proto-Jewish roots in the Book of Enoch and other apocalyptic Jewish literature outside the Tanakh, such that it wasn't entirely novel for the Second Temple era).

    2. Inner purity

    What Jesus did do was leave an 'explosive' saying attested independently by Mark, Luke and Paul in his letter to the Romans, which Paul - according to some Christian theologians but in reality it's far less clear- apparently readily cited and used to effectively render the entirety of the cultic laws of the Torah a matter of conscientious determination decades after Jesus's death (even though Jesus certainly didn't do this himself).

    In Mark 7:14, 18-23 Jesus says, “There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile...Nothing that enters a man from the outside can defile him, because it does not enter his heart, but it goes into the stomach and then is eliminated.”...What comes out of a man, that is what defiles him. For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts...All these evils come from within, and these are what defile a man".

    Luke's gospel and St. Paul (decades before Mark) attested to different, independent variations of this same teaching (making it one of the most authoritative and ancient Jesus sayings by multiple attestation):


    "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? Instead, give for alms those things that are within; and see! everything will be clean for you" (Luke 14:39-41)

    I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean" (Romans 14:14)​


    I think these are the two areas, theologically, where Christianity began but did not quite (until the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70) depart rather radically from the mainstream of Judaism before it to become an entirely distinct faith with a more supersecessionist (whether weak or strong) understanding of the relationship between the two covenants.
     
    #11 Vouthon, Apr 21, 2020
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  12. Harel13

    Harel13 Well-Known Member

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    Source that this is both a curse and is the worst curse?
    Source?
    But then why is it described in eternal/infinite terms?
     
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  13. Terry Sampson

    Terry Sampson ζει

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    IMO: Although I don't remember ever having heard or read any claim that Jesus "fulfilled the old covenant", I'm not surprised that you've encountered the claim. The version that you've "heard" sounds like an aberrant version of the claim that I do remember, which is that Jesus "fulfilled the law" and "that his fulfillment abrogated the old covenant and facilitated the establishment of a new covenant that replaces the old" ... which I say is nonsense.

    I do believe, and wholeheartedly so, that
    1. Jesus was conceived sinless,
    2. Died involuntarily and sinless, and
    3. Was a sinless Tzaddik all his days in this world.
    Ergo, I believe that Jesus "fulfilled the law" and, consequently, lived and died "an unblemished human." Furthermore, as you know, I affirm the eternal covenant between the One, True God and Israel, and count myself among the minority of those who affirm the new covenant between the same God and any and all who believe and trust in Jesus.

    And, finally, I say: anybody who is not in one or the other of those two covenants is **** out of luck.
    P.S. Noachides squeeze in by the merit and grace of the Jewish beneficiaries of the first covenant.
     
    #13 Terry Sampson, Apr 21, 2020
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2020
  14. Harel13

    Harel13 Well-Known Member

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    I knew that when I started this thread...:relieved:
     
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  15. Harel13

    Harel13 Well-Known Member

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    Would you say that there's an inherent difference between calling the claim "fulfillment of law" and "fulfillment of covenant"? Because it's entirely possible I may have heard the first and mixed it by mistake.
     
  16. metis

    metis aged ecumenical anthropologist

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    It's basically a reflection of what's called "replacement theology", namely that Jesus was and is believed by most Christians to be the Messiah and that he was also the "final sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins".

    BTW, just to put this into a perspective, some of us are not literalists nor believers in inerrancy, thus we can take at least some of this with a grain of salt-- sometimes a real large one.
     
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  17. Rival

    Rival Noahide
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  18. Harel13

    Harel13 Well-Known Member

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    Of course, but I'm trying to understand how that works, you know, logically.
     
  19. Rival

    Rival Noahide
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    Bonne chance.
     
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  20. lostwanderingsoul

    lostwanderingsoul Well-Known Member

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    I do not see anything that says one covenant replaces or does away with the other. The old covenant was for the Jews. The new covenant extended the benefits of the old covenant to non-Jews. Does not say anything changed. Just that more people were able to receive the benefits.
     
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