Messianic jews, Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 13
1. Let brotherly friendship continue;
2. but don’t forget to be friendly to outsiders; for in so doing, some people, without knowing it, have entertained angels.
Brotherly friendship, Greek Philadelphia. Friendship toward "brothers," i.e., other believers.

Greek philoxenias, "friendship to outsiders." Hospitality toward nonbelievers.

Some people, without knowing it, have entertained angels. This matter-of-fact statement (like those of 1:5-2:16,12:22) takes for granted that angels exist. Do they? Science cannot answer such a question, because science doesn't deal with metaphysics. Modem first-hand reports, of which there are many, are no more conclusive; since those inclined to disbelieve explain them away and are not convinced. The writers and characters of the Bible considered angels real, reporting encounters with them as straightforwardly as we would describe driving off in a car; therefore whoever can accept the Bible as God's revealed Word should have no difficulty acknowledging the reality of angels. 

3. Remember those in prison and being mistreated, as if you were in prison with them and undergoing their torture yourselves.
4. Marriage is honorable in every respect; and, in particular, sex within marriage is pure. But God will indeed punish fornicators and adulterers.
Marriage is honorable in every respect; and, in particular, sex within marriage is pure. It is commonly supposed by non-Christians and even by many Christians that the Bible opposes sexual activity of any kind. But the New Testament standard is set by passages such as this verse, 1С 7:2-9&N and Co 2:16-23, which express the same view (see also Ro 7:5N). This verse permits considerable variety in sexual activity between husband and wife, so long as both agree (1С 7:2-5); the notion that God requires the so-called "missionary position" is fiction, a limitation that Christians of the past imposed upon themselves. There are a number of popular books about the New Testament's approach to marriage, sex and family. On the other hand, although the Bible encourages sexual fulfillment, it does not condone promiscuity. Sexual activity is to be limited to the marriage relationship.

There is some uncertainty about the Greek text, so that an alternative reading is possible: "Let sex within marriage be pure." If this is correct, the author may be admonishing his Messianic Jewish readers to observe the laws of family purity, and specifically, the laws concerning the niddah ("menstruous woman"). The Torah says,

"When a woman has a discharge, and her discharge is blood from her body, she is to be seven days in menstrual separation; anyone who touches her is ritually unclean until evening." (Leviticus 15:19)

The rest of Leviticus 15 details further stipulations.
"If a man lies with a woman during her menstrual period, exposing her nakedness, baring her flow and exposing the source of her blood, both of them are to be cut off from among their people." (Leviticus 20:18)

Although Yeshua clearly ranked inward heart purity above outward ceremonial purity (Mk 7:1-23&NN), Sha'ul and the Messianic Jews of Jerusalem continued to observe details of ritual cleanliness (Ac 21:24&N, Ga 2:12bN). 

5. Keep your lives free from the love of money; and be satisfied with what you have; for God himself has said, "I will never fail you or abandon you" (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Compare Mt 6:19-34; Pp 4:6,11-13, 19:1 Ti 6:6-10,17-19. 

6. Therefore, we say with confidence, "Adonai is my helper; I will not be afraid — what can a human being do to me?" (Psalm 118:6)
Compare Psalm 27:1. 

7. Remember your leaders, those who spoke God’s message to you. Reflect on the results of their way of life, and imitate their trust —
The references to "your leaders" here and at vv. 17, 24 suggest that Chapter 13 was appended as a covering letter accompanying the summary of sermons constituting Chapters 1-12 and was addressed to individuals in the congregation whom the author knew personally. Perhaps they had heard him give this series of sermons orally and had requested a written summary from him. The Greek phrasing seems to imply that the leaders mentioned in this verse had died, perhaps as a result of persecution.

Imitate their trust. It should be easier for the readers to imitate the trust of leaders they had known and loved than that of their distant forefathers (10:35-12:4). Compare Sha'ul at IС 11:1, "Try to imitate me." The chief argument for imitating these leaders is the results of their way of life. 

8. Yeshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today and forever.
This connects with v. 7 at the point where those leaders "spoke God's message to you." You acted on the message then but are forsaking it now. It Yeshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today and forever; if his sacrificial death remains the only true atonement; if holiness, "without which no one will see the Lord" (12:14) comes only through him; then why are you slacking off or seeking other paths to God (see v. 9&N)? Regain your former loyalty to Yeshua, and behave accordingly!

Moreover, Yeshua's being the same yesterday, today and forever means that he is still Jewish and will return as a Jew. The Messiah has not been transformed into a Christian (rather, the word "Christian" refers to people who are being transformed by him). Yeshua was bom a Jew, died a Jew, and was resurrected a Jew. He is a Jew now, serving in heaven as a Jewish cohen gadol (2:17&N, also Rv 1:13&N). He will return as a Jewish king to occupy the throne of his Jewish ancestor David. His humanity makes him the savior of all, both Jews and non-Jews. But he has not himself been made over into a Gentile. 

9. Do not be carried away by various strange teachings; for what is good is for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods. People who have made these the focus of their lives have not benefited thereby.
Do not be carried away by various strange teachings. This is evidence that v. 8 warns against seeking ways apart from Yeshua for reaching God. Compare Ga 1:9, 3:1; 1С 2:2.

Foods. This has nothing to do with whether Messianic Jews should keep kosher, which is not at issue in this book. Moreover, scholars agree that the early Jewish believers observed kashrut (see Mk 7:19&N, Ac 10:17-19N, Ro 14:1-I5:6N), and that the only question which they needed to solve concerned how Jewish believers should behave at the dining table with Gentile believers (Ga 2:11-16, especially Ga 2:12bN).

There are two possibilities for interpreting "foods" here. The more likely, based on the way in which v. 10 elaborates the subject, is that it refers once again to animal sacrifices, this time rather ironically — recall that the animal sacrifices were eaten by those who offered them.

The other is that some members of this community thought that eating certain foods would enhance their spirituality. As a former owner of health-food stores, I suggest that those who find such a notion improbable should spend an hour or two in a health-food store; they will discover that many people believe that eating in such-and-such a way will bring them to a higher spiritual plane. As with most lies, there is a kernel of truth: just as there are psychosomatic phenomena, wherein the body is affected by thoughts and emotions, so also there are "somatopsychic" phenomena, in which one's thoughts and emotions, and indirectly one's spiritual condition, are affected by the body. Just as drags or coffee сал affect one's state of mind, so can food. The most radical way to experience this is to note the difference in one's thoughts and emotions after fasting a number of days; a change of diet has comparable effects, though usually in reduced degree. But to grant these commonplace facts any great spiritual importance is to displace priorities; one's spiritual condition of sin is affected by God's grace appropriated by trusting, not by foods. People who have made these the focus of their lives have not benefitted thereby. Rather, faithfulness to God and to Yeshua should be the focus of everyone's life; this provides eternal benefits. 

10. We have an altar from which those who serve in the Tent are not permitted to eat.
We believers have an altar. This altar is in heaven; on the heavenly altar Yeshua the Messiah made the once-for-all sacrifice of himself (8:2-5,9:23-24,10:1-14). But the altar is also "outside the camp" (v. U), so thai although those who serve in the Tent, the Levitical cohanim, representing the pre-Yeshua dispensation and nonbelievers. may eat the thank offerings and peace offerings, they are not permitted to eat the sin offerings, because the bodies of those animals are burned outside the camp. Since Yeshua was a sin offering, nonbelievers are not permitted to partake of him unless and until they put their trust in Yeshua.

It seems to me that while it is inappropriate for nonbelievers to participate in the se'udat-ha 'Adon (the Lord's meal. Communion), in which bread and wine "are" or represent the body and blood of the Messiah, there is no direct reference to it here. Rather, the metaphorical "eating" is of the spiritual truth available through the Ruach HaKodesh to those who have trusted Yeshua. 

11. For the cohen hagadol brings the blood of animals into the Holiest Place as a sin offering, but their bodies are burned outside the camp (Leviticus 16:27).
12. So too Yeshua suffered death outside the gate, in order to make the people holy through his own blood.
13. Therefore, let us go out to him who is outside the camp and share his disgrace.
14. For we have no permanent city here; on the contrary, we seek the one to come.
11-14 The author evokes at least five images here:

(1) Sin offering: Yeshua suffered death (see 2:9-10N), and this had the significance of a sin offering in two ways. First, just as the cohen gadol brings the blood of the animals into the Holy Place, so Yeshua suffered death in order to make the people holy through his own blood. Second, just as the bodies of the animals used for a sin offering are burned outside the camp, so Yeshua's death took place outside the gate of the city of Jerusalem, which replaced the "camp" in the wilderness. See Mishna Sanhedrin 6:4, quoted in Ac 7:58N.

(2) Impurity: Just as lepers and other people declared impure had to remain outside the camp in disgrace, so Yeshua was wrongfully regarded as impure and suffered death (see 2:9-10N) with disgrace by being executed as a criminal on a stake outside the gate at Gulgolta.

(3) Separation: Being outside the camp in disgrace implies not only impurity but separation from the Jewish people. Yeshua is indeed separated; however, his separation is in fact not from the Jewish people, due to impurity, but unto God, due to his holiness; so that his separation from the Jewish people is wrongful, illusory and not disgraceful. Moreover, he can make the Jewish people holy through his own blood, ending their very real and justified separation from God due to sin (as he also can end the justified and real separation of Gentiles from God due to sin). Messianic Jews, who go out to him who is outside the camp to share his disgrace, remain, like him, part of the Jewish people, even though, like him, we may not be so regarded. Like Yeshua, we experience the pain of exclusion; but we must stand with him and not seek respect or inclusion on any terms except God's.

(4) Red heifer. The reference to Yeshua's making the people holy through his own blood recalls 9:11-14, which mentions the red heifer. The body of the red heifer too was burned outside the camp; by suggestion, (hen, Yeshua is also our "red heifer." See 9:13N.

(5) Permanent city: Having mentioned the gate of the city, the author returns to the language of 11:9-10, 13-16; 12:22 in reminding us believers that we have no permanent city here but seek the one to come, heavenly Jerusalem. There is no implication of otherworldliness, in the sense of neglecting the needs of this world; rather, we live simultaneously in both the 'olam hazeh and the 'olam haba. 

15. Through him, therefore, let us offer God a sacrifice of praise continually (Leviticus 7:12; 22:29; Psalms 50:14, 23; 107:22; 116:17; 2 Chronicles 29:31). For this is the natural product of lips that acknowledge his name.
16. But don’t forget doing good and sharing with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Modern man is not accustomed to using the word "sacrifice" except metaphorically, but the author here may be referring to real, physical thank-offerings. This would be consistent not only with the context of vv. 10-14, but also with the End-Time prophecies of Jeremiah 33:11, the Messianic prophecies of Malachi 3:1-4 and with rabbinic Jewish understanding as seen in the Midrash Rabbah:

"Rabbi Pinchas, Rabbi L'vi and Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Menachem of Galiia, 'In the time to come all sacrifices will be annulled except for the sacrifice of thanksgiving.'"(Leviticus Rabbah 9:7)

But for two reasons it seems at least equally likely that he is in fact speaking of metaphorical sacrifice, like Sha'ul at Ro 12:1-2. First, lips that acknowledge his name should offer God a spiritual sacrifice which consists in praise; compare Psalm 51:19( 17), recited in the synagogue before the 'Amidah: "Adonai, open my lips and I will declare your praise." Second, doing good and sharing with others are spiritual sacrifices with which God is well pleased. 

17. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your lives, as people who will have to render an account. So make it a task of joy for them, not one of groaning; for that is of no advantage to you.
Obey your present leaders (compare v. 7&N) and submit to them. Many who call themselves believers in the Bible are unwilling to live by this verse of inspired Scripture; possibly because of fear and distrust of authority figures or excessive individualism (read self-centeredness), they are rebellious, undisciplined, and unwilling to be part of a team in order to accomplish the work of the Body of the Messiah. Compare Jeremiah 6:17, "I set watchmen over you, saying, 'Hearken...!' But they said, 'We will not hearken.'"Such people should acknowledge this attitude as sin and seek the Body's help and counsel in overcoming it.

On the other hand, there are leaders who misuse this verse to exploit their charges, brainwashing or forcing them to submit to unreasonable and ungodly demands.

But the verse itself encourages cooperation between leader and led for the good of the led and the glory of the Lord. On the one hand, your leaders have work to do: they keep watch over your lives (or: "over your souls"; compare Ezekiel 3:17-18, 33:1-6). Moreover, they are not their own bosses: they will have to render an account of their stewardship to the "great Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Yeshua" (see w. 18-21&N). On the other hand, you who are being led can make it a task of joy for them, not one of groaning; and it is to your advantage to do so. 

18. Keep praying for us, for we are certain that we have a clear conscience and want to conduct ourselves properly in everything we do.
19. And all the more I beg you to do this, so that I may be restored to you that much sooner.
vv. 1-19 The positive part of the author's final exhortation (see 12:1-13:19N) offers examples of the "service that will please God" (12:28). His readers are to do again good deeds like those of "earlier days" (10:32); compare vv. 3,5-6 with 10:33-34. 

20. The God of shalom brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Yeshua, by the blood of an eternal covenant.
21. May that God equip you with every good thing you need to do his will; and may he do in us whatever pleases him, through Yeshua the Messiah. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The author requests his readers to pray that he be restored to them; imprisonment may be preventing it (w. 18-19; compare Pp 1:14-26, Ep 6:18-20, Pm 22-24); and he in turn prays for them (v. 21). He fixes the direction of his brief prayer by summing up the six key points of his letter.

(1) God is a God of shalom. By reconciling sinful mankind to himself through Yeshua God has taken the initiative in restoring peace, integrity and wholeness (see 7:2, 12:14; Ml 10:12&N).

(2) Yeshua has been brought up from the dead. He is alive, our cohen gadol forever making intercession for us at the right hand of God (see 1:3; 2:5-18; 7:15-17,24-28; 9:24-28; 13:8).

(3) Yeshua is the great Shepherd, or, as he calls himself in the best explanation of this phrase, Yn 10:1-18, "the good shepherd." That passage also speaks of the sheep, both Jews and Gentiles. Isaiah 53:6 too compares God's people with sheep: "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned each one to his own way, but Adonai has laid on him," Yeshua, "the iniquity of us all." Kefa puts all of this together: "For you used to be like sheep gone astray, but now you have turned to the Shepherd, who watches over you" (1 Ke 2:25). He guides each of his sheep "into the paths of righteousness" (7:2; 12:11; Psalm 23:1, 3); he initiates and completes our deliverance and our trust (2:10,5:9,12:2); and it is to him that all leaders, who themselves are his sheep and may yet go astray, "will have to render an account" (above, v. 17).

(4) Yeshua is our Lord (1:2-4, 8—13; 3:6), who disciplines us for our benefit (12:5-10) and expects obedience (5:9).

(5) Yeshua has come to have this role in God's administration of world history because he gave his blood to atone for the sins of mankind (1:3,2:9-15,9:12-10:14).

(6) Through this blood Yeshua also inaugurated an eternal covenant, the New Covenant (7:22,8:5-13,10:15-18), the b'rit chadashah promised by Jeremiah 31:3O-33(31-34). 

22. Now I urge you, brothers, to bear with my message of exhortation; for I have written you only briefly.
Bear with my message of exhortation; for I have written you only briefly. This supports the idea that the author is summarizing a series of sermons he previously gave orally to some of the brothers. 

23. Know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he comes soon enough, I will bring him with me when I come to see you.
24. Greet all your leaders and all God’s people. The people from Italy send greetings to you.
These verses lend weight to the theory that Sha'ul is the author of Messianic Jews (see 1:1N); for although he spent his last days imprisoned in Italy (2 Ti 4:6-8), by then his co-worker and brother in the Lord Timothy (see Pp 1:1N), who had at one time been imprisoned with him (Pm 1:1), had been released, so that Sha'ul could write 2 Timothy to him.

On the other hand, "I will bring him with me" suggests that the author was not in prison when he wrote this letter but was free to move about. 

25. Grace be with you all.

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