With Rosh HaShanah and the beginning of the High Holidays only a few days away, I thought I would review some of my material on this from the perspective of a Christ follower.
It should be of no shock that the early believers, both Jew and Gentile, celebrated the festivals of Israel even after coming to Messiah. This included the celebration of Rosh HaShanah and fasting on Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is to Judaism what Christmas is to Christianity; just as many Christians go to church on Christmas—even if they never enter a church throughout the rest of the year—so too, most Jews fast on Yom Kippur and attend synagogue services. It is a cultural and spiritual landmark. Not surprisingly then, we find a passing reference to this fast in the book of Acts:
“Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, “Men, I perceive that this voyage will be with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives“(Acts 27:9–10, NKJV).
“The Fast” referenced here is Yom Kippur. Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra assumes that Luke would not have used the term “the Fast” as a calendaric reference unless he himself was keeping the fast and assumed that his readers were as well:
I cannot help but draw the conclusion that Luke himself and his implied readers observed Yom Kippur. Why else would Luke use a “Jewish calendaric reference for a secular problem?” He clearly presumes that his readers will understand what he is referring to.
Scholars speculate that the readers of Acts were Gentiles like Luke himself. In order for Luke’s readers to understand such a passing reference, they must have been observing Yom Kippur. Indirect evidence can be found in the book of Revelation.
The book of Revelation is packed with allusions to the rituals and themes of the high holidays. The apocalyptic imagery—the day of judgment, the books of judgment, the blast of trumpets, the Temple scenes, and so forth—are all borrowed directly from the traditional observance of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. John addressed the book of Revelation to seven communities in Asia Minor, constituted predominantly of Gentiles.
If those communities were not celebrating the high holidays along with the Jewish community, they would have been ill-prepared to decipher the book of Revelation, just as the church is today. Records of Gentile believers celebrating Yom Kippur appear in later church literature. The late second-century Epistle to Diognetus rails against Christians who observe Jewish laws such as “the Fast.” Origen mentions Christians fasting on Yom Kippur:
Whence also we must say something now to those who think that in virtue of the commandments of the Law they must practice the fast of the Jews (Homily on Leviticus 12:2 [Barkley]).
He mentions another case, again involving Caesarean Christians, in his Homilies on Jeremiah, proving that this is not an isolated instance; there must have been at least several groups of Gentile Christians in the third century still celebrating this major feast day of Judaism. In the late fourth century, John Chrysostom is still denouncing those who “join the Jews in keeping their festivals and observing their fasts.”
Further witness to this phenomenon can be found in the fifth-century medieval church practice of the Fast of the Seventh Month. This fast formed part of the Ember Days and was one of the most solemn days of the church’s liturgical year. Scholars see this fast as the result of the Christianization of Yom Kippur.
In other words, because many Christian Gentiles were celebrating Yom Kippur, as the church began to split from Judaism, Christianity slowly transformed it into a solely Christian fast in the month of September. This is similar to the transformation of Passover into Easter.
The fifth-century theologian and pope Leo the Great wrote: “We proclaim the holy Fast of the Seventh Month, dearly-beloved, for the exercise of common devotions, confidently inciting you with fatherly exhortations to make Christian by your observance that which was formerly Jewish” (Sermon 90:1).
In this we once again see that many Gentile believers celebrated Yom Kippur, so much so that it remained even after the parting of the ways began to take place between Judaism and Christianity.
Toby Janicki is a teacher, writer, and project manager for First Fruits of Zion(ffoz.org). He contributes regularly to Messiah Journal and has written several books including God Fearers: Gentiles and the God of Israel.
It’s often said, “There is only one race—the human race.” While the phrase has become almost cliché in repetition, it happens to be 100 percent accurate, both scientifically and theologically speaking.
From Ferguson to Baltimore, Tulsa to Charlotte—and on college campuses from coast-to-coast—a great divide is sweeping America. It is fueled largely, if not entirely, by half-truths and outright lies. Truth is irrelevant. Only the narrative matters. When “Hands Up Don’t Shoot™” can do so very much to further “the cause,” it matters not that it represents a holocaust-denial-level of detachment from reality.
Which tells you everything you need to know about the cause.
This is by design. These embers of racial division are purposely fanned to a red-hot flame by certain political leaders, “social justice” warriors and “community organizers”—cut principally from the same ideological cloth—in order to permanently ingrain a turbulent level of cultural division based solely upon the varying shades of people’s skin. This, in turn, is intended to provoke widespread governmental dependency and, thus, one-party political control in perpetuity.
Yet, even at its core the idea of racial division—of race itself—is a myth. To sub-divide humanity based upon nothing more than varying levels of skin pigmentation is to rely upon the weakest of genetic markers.
And “race” really does signify nothing more than skin color.
Science dispels the Myth of ‘Race’
In a Feb. 5 Scientific Americanarticle titled, “Race Is a Social Construct, Scientists Argue,” journalist Megan Gannon writes, “Today, the mainstream belief among scientists is that race is a social construct without biological meaning. And yet, you might still open a study on genetics in a major scientific journal and find categories like ‘white’ and ‘black’ being used as biological variables.”
“In an article published today (Feb. 4) in the journal Science,” continues Gannon, “four scholars say racial categories are weak proxies for genetic diversity and need to be phased out.”
“It’s a concept we think is too crude to provide useful information. It’s a concept that has social meaning that interferes in the scientific understanding of human genetic diversity, and it’s a concept that we are not the first to call upon moving away from,” notes Michael Yudell, professor of public health at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Under the latest genetic research, race is “understood to be a poorly defined marker of that diversity and an imprecise proxy for the relationship between ancestry and genetics,” he adds.
While not directly involved with the research, Dr. Svante Pääbo, a biologist and director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, agrees wholeheartedly with its findings. “What the study of complete genomes from different parts of the world has shown is that even between Africa and Europe, for example, there is not a single absolute genetic difference, meaning no single variant where all Africans have one variant and all Europeans another one, even when recent migration is disregarded.”
Still, as the researchers likewise note, “Assumptions about genetic differences between people of different races have had obvious social and historical repercussions.” Indeed, there are those on both extremes of the political spectrum with a vested interest in making sure these social and historical repercussions remain as inflamed and catastrophic as possible.
“Race” is a divisive means to a selfish political end.
It is not a scientific reality.
God’s Final Word on ‘Race’
We love labels. We love to pit people against one another and lump them into neat, fixed little categories of put-upons, most often based upon outward appearances: black vs. white; Hispanic vs. Asian; tall vs. short; skinny vs. fat; old vs. young; abled vs. disabled, and so on.
Yet these divisions are artificial. They’re man-made. Every human being is created by a holy God, in His image and likeness, and imbued by Him with infinite worth and import. There is only one true and transcendent physical division, and that division was both created and intended by God to become reconciled as one flesh through the holy bonds of marriage—this, to propagate the human race: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27).
Male and female. The XY and the XX. Immutable distinctions with a beautiful and bountiful difference. That’s it. All other physical divisions, especially racial divisions, remain artificial.
Our bodies, you see, are merely outward shells. As the great Scottish author and theologian George MacDonald once wrote, “Never tell a child ‘you have a soul.’ Teach him, ‘you are a soul; you have a body.'”
We are souls. We have a body—an outward shell or “Earth suit” as one of my favorite professors used to say. Why on God’s Earth are we so deceived to believe that we must separate ourselves and hate one another based upon superficial, almost cosmetic outward appearances?
“Now I urge you, brothers, to closely watch those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17).
To be sure, Christ Jesus alone can dissolve these divisions. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is generous toward all who call upon Him” (Rom. 10:12).
These are not financial riches, but riches of love, life, spirit and salvation.
As a man with an Italian wife, a black sister-in-law, a Filipino uncle and biologically-related half Filipino cousins, a step-grandmother who illegally immigrated from Mexico, biologically-related half Mexican aunts and uncles, and dozens of foster brothers and sisters from across the globe, I have learned firsthand throughout my life that “race” is truly meaningless—it’s less than skin deep.
Until we learn this as a nation, we will remain a nation divided.
Yes, love is the answer. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).
There is no political fix to this problem.
It’s a spiritual problem, requiring a spiritual fix.
And His name is Jesus.
3 Reasons Why you should read Life in the Spirit. 1) Get to know the Holy Spirit. 2) Learn to enter God’s presence 3) Hear God’s voice clearly! Go deeper!
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