Res est misera ubi jus est vagam et invertum” (“It is a miserable state of things where the law is vague and uncertain”)

Some of you probably remember the following lines from “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter:

“‘Now my dears,’ said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, ‘you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.”

This is what parents are constantly doing:  issuing specific instructions so that our children don’t get hurt and/or die.

Don’t play in the road.

Don’t run with scissors.

And we also have to give specific instructions if we want our children to do something good for themselves and do it correctly.  Whether it’s for the purpose of avoiding something harmful or directing towards something good, we try to give specific instructions because….why?

What happens when vague instructions are given?

Answer:  bad things will happen.

And a loving father doesn’t want bad things to happen to his child.  He shows his love then through specificity.

But according to the UMJC, G-d doesn’t have specific instructions for the Gentiles.  

A Gentile wonders “which commandments do I have to perform?” David Rudolph says “Well, you’re exempt from the most distinctively Jewish requirements of the Torah” (note 1).  So which ones are those?  That’s rather vague…  Mark Kinzer says “Well, you’re only obligated to keep a limited number of commandments from the Torah” (note 2).  So which are those exactly?  That’s extremely vague.  Dan Juster says “Well, you’re just supposed to keep the morally good commandments” (note 3).  But if morality refers to G-d’s value system then aren’t all of the commandments moral?  So that hermeneutic isn’t even workable.  Michael Rudolph says, “Well, you’re only obligated to keep the commandments that apply to Gentiles as opposed to the commandments that apply to Israelites,” (note 4).  Right…which ones are those again?

It’s little wonder that I’ve seen so many Gentiles leave the UMJC for non-Messianic synagogues (which, sooner or later, also involves rejecting Yeshua).  But I can sympathize with them.  They want a Heavenly Father who loves them–loves them with specificity.  But all they’re offered is a Heavenly Father who doesn’t care what they do. 

To the Gentiles I’d just like to say:  G-d does love you with specificity.  He does want you to have clear and specific instructions for how you should live your life.  And if you want to know more about how Torah applies to you, please check out these ministries:




Note 1:

“[In] the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council decision [James] exempted Jesus-believing Gentiles from most of the distinctively Jewish requirements of the Torah…” David Rudolph, A Jew to the Jews, pg. 56

“The Jerusalem Council decision in Acts 15 centered on the question of whether Jesus-believing Gentiles were exempt from Mosaic law…The apostolic decree was only addressed to ‘Gentile believers’ and clarified the ‘requirements’ (including certain minimal food restrictions) that were incumbent upon the ‘Gentile believers’ (Acts 15:19-20, 23),” David Rudolph, A Jew to the Jews, pg. 49.

Note 2:

“Jervell notices what most commentators miss.  James’s exegesis of Amos 9 leads to the immediate conclusion that ‘two groups exist within the church.’  The first group consists of the Jewish Yeshua-believers, who constitute Israel’s eschatological firstfruits.  As we showed in chapter 2, the controversy in Acts 15 makes sense only if all parties assumed that this Jewish group is obligated to live according to the Torah.  The second group consists of Gentile Yeshua-believers, the ‘people’ whom God took for himself from among the nations.  Amos 9 treats this as a distinct group, related to Israel but also distinct from it.  Therefore it cannot be presumed that the commandments incumbent on Israel are also incumbent on this group.  According to the implicit Torah exegesis of James [in his fourfold decree] based on Leviticus 17-18, this group associated with Israel is obligated to keep only a limited number of commandments from the Torah.  Thus James roots his halakhic decision in the bilateral ecclesiology he derives from Amos 9,” Mark Kinzer, Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism, pgs. 159-160.

Note 3:

“As for gentile believers, they are given the direction to ‘abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood’ (Acts 15:29).  We recognize here one of the historic Jewish positions:  A gentile who is to be accepted as righteous must follow the Noahic Covenant. …[James] affirmed the basic moral dimensions of the Law as universally applicable as well as the sanctity of blood…It is also of note that this is the minimum standard for Jews and gentiles to achieve table fellowship, that great symbol of spiritual unity…,” Dan Juster, Jewish Roots, pg. 83

Note 4:

“In this paper, I posit that the [Fourfold Decree of Acts 15] was intended only as a minimum requirement, and was neither meant to limit Gentiles’ adherence to Torah, nor infer that Torah was not applicable to them.  I then proceed to suggest that, not only has Torah always been for Gentiles, but that Gentiles were its first recipients….Since we have shown that Torah predated Israel and the Mosaic Covenant, obedience to Torah cannot possibly be claimed by Judaism as a unique Jewish distinctive.  That notwithstanding, particular requirements of Torah and the manner in which they are obeyed may indeed be identity-dependent….In the same way, certain commandments apply only to Israeltites (Jews), certain ones only to Gentiles, and many to both….In the New Covenant, both Jews and Gentiles need to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit in order to know how to apply commandments that were given under the previous Covenant and many centuries ago….” Michael Rudolph, “Of Course Torah is for Gentiles!”, 2005

Source: Orthodox Messianic Judaism (