Jew – Which Jew? Torah?
Messianic Jews (those who have accepted Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah) and Judaism-Jews often quote Zechariah 8:23 as their ‘reason’ to convert ‘Gentiles’ into being ‘Jewish’.
Firstly, here are the verses:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘It will yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities.
‘The inhabitants of one will go to another, saying, “Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts; I will also go.”
‘So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD.’
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” (Zechariah 8:23, NASB)
Please note that these things will happen during a particular time (namely in “those days”, Zechariah 8:23) when Lord Jesus Christ has Returned & Rules from Jerusalem (implied by Zechariah 8:22 or even Zechariah 14:1 – 21 too):
“At that time they will call Jerusalem ‘The Throne of the LORD,’ and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of the LORD; nor will they walk anymore after the stubbornness of their evil heart.” (Jeremiah 3:17, NASB)
So, does it mean that Torah keeping is a must for Gentile believers?
No. Gentile believers remain as Gentile believers as Acts 15 (example: Acts 15:29) clearly speaks of NO conversion from a “Gentile believer” to a “Jewish believer” in the Bible to keep the “Torah” (Acts 15:1, Acts 15:5, Acts 15:21).
The ‘conversion’ is only from a Gentile (who has not accepted Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah) to become a ‘Gentile believer’ (as one who has accepted Lord Jesus Christ as his/her Messiah) as it’s implied in Acts 15:3 and Acts 15:7 – 9 with “no” further ‘Torah requirements’ or conversion into becoming an ‘outward Jew'(Acts 15:10, Acts 15:19) beyond these essentials only as mentioned clearly in Acts 15:20 (even Acts 15:29).
This decision by the apostles and elders of the earliest church (Acts 15:22 – 23) regarding ‘Gentile believers’ with regards to being “Jewish or keeping the Torah” (Context Acts 15:1, Acts 15:5) is endorsed by the “Holy Spirit” of God Himself as “Good” (Acts 15:28) —-> and this decision is Gentile believers to only needing to keep what is mentioned in the next consecutive verse, Acts 15:29.
Nothing more from the “Torah” is ‘required’ for ‘Gentile believers’ because if it’s so, it will be mentioned here when that decision (Acts 15:29) was made which is clearly not the case. Some optional things from the Torah (e. g. Romans 14, Colossians 2:16, 1 Corinthians 5:8) which are NOT a must are allowed either way for the ‘things or topics mentioned in these verses only’ (as it is clearly implied by even Romans 14:5).
Any other believer who teaches contrary to this toward Gentile believers is ‘not’ endorsed and is ‘not’ sent by God as the verse in Acts 15:24 clearly proves.
Can we see it?
For a detailed discussion regarding this aspect with more verses, please consider:
Now, how about Zechariah 8:23 which speaks about being a “Jew”?
We can only understand the meaning of “Jew” from apostle Paul’s explanation of God’s Judgment in Romans 2 as it’s explained below:
The “Jew” meant in Zechariah 8:23 cannot be ‘outward’ but ‘inward’:
“But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God,
For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?
And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.
But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” – apostle Paul (Romans 2:17, 25 – 29, NASB)
Does it mean that the Gentile believer is required to keep the Torah (e. g. Romans 2:26 – 7)?
Not ‘all’ the Torah but only the decision to keep those mentioned things prior from the Torah as it is Written in Acts 15:29 (even Acts 15:20) & also in Acts 21:25.
Those who are born Jewish (e. g. Israelites, Romans 2:25, Romans 2:17 – 24) may keep the Torah (Acts 21:24 too).
Context of definition of Jew in apostle Paul’s usage as referring to those physically as the descendants of Jacob or as Israelites is implied for example in Romans 2:9 – 11 or even in Romans 3:29. The usual Talmudic or other definition of Jew is irrelevant to New Testament Scripture unless the New Testament Scripture itself points to such a definition in such specific cases only. These verses quoted are ‘general verses’ and thus we stick to apostle Paul’s usage as claimed.
This two distinct observances of the Torah based on two different audiences (Gentile believers vs Jewish believers) are clearly seen in the couplet verses in Acts 21:24 – 25 itself in practice —–> where ‘Jewish believers’ (Acts 21:20) such as apostle Paul may keep the Torah (Acts 21:24) —-> but ‘Gentile believers’ need not observe anything beyond those four things in the decision prior from the same Torah as it is Written in Acts 21:25 too.
Doesn’t Scripture agree ‘Perfectly’ casting down false teachings in this aspect?
Are we that blind toward what is actually Written in Holy Scripture or do we just love to ‘keep up with Jewish myths & the traditions of men’? No wonder Scripture warns against these as follows:
“not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.” – apostle Paul (Titus 1:14, NASB)
“and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” – apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:4, NASB)
“But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;” – apostle Paul (1 Timothy 4:7, NASB)
“For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,” – apostle Paul (Titus 1:10, NASB)
Thus it is clear that the “Jew” mentioned in Zechariah 8:23 must be “an inward Jew” (implied from Romans 2:29).
Please note that ‘one who rejects Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah’ but keeps the Torah is only an outward Jew & not an inward Jew (as it’s implied from Romans 2:28) and thus certainly can’t be referred to as the one in Zechariah 8:23.
Gentile believers need to keep apostle Paul’s details and commands of the Gospel too (1 Corinthians 14:37) as they will be judged by it (implied from Romans 2:16 as well).
For more details regarding being “inwardly a Jew”, please consider the write up below for edification:
How about Jews who reject Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah?
Is there hope for them?
The Infamous All Israel Example: There is a Judgment toward Jews for rejecting Lord Jesus Christ as Matthew 8:11 – 12 clearly points.
However, that’s not the end nor is it an eternal Hell sentence as so popularly erred.
There is Biblical (Sola Scriptura) Hope for all Israel to be Saved post afterlife Judgment too when His Mercy triumphs or ends any afterlife judgment sentence as James 2:13 implies in all generality.
For specifically seeing this afterlife hope for all Israel, please consider the write ups below for edification & Thank you for reading
On a closely related note —> as this Hope in Christ applies to both Israel and Gentiles too, please consider:
Peace to you