Of course, the way I am presenting this idea is somewhat exaggerated. Or is it?
Last week I had an intriguing, but mostly odd, conversation with a friend of mine which expressed something I have heard many times over the years in Christian circles. His basic point was that when he reads scripture he sees that God related differently to humanity in the "Old Testament" than how He did in the "New Testament". Essentially he described the God of Wrath and the God of Grace. He sees all the killing versus the mercy and grace.
I could list hundreds of cases of God's mercy expressed to Israel and the world in the Tanakh. Not even to mention the very fact that God didn't destroy all of Israel in the wilderness, like He wanted to, but relented because of Moshe's pleading. I could also list many times that Yeshua describes God's judgement and condemnation. I'm not going to list them all now; but rather I want to raise this issue, and everyone can read for themselves.
The larger issue is not over specific cases, rather perspective and way of understanding God and scripture. I recognize that very few people actually present two different Gods explicitly. Nonetheless, when we break down their arguments this is what it comes down to. A root of the problem, which most likely will be discussed frequently in the blog, is that as Christianity was developed it set itself in contrast to and in place of Israel. The very thing that Shaul warned the Romans about in becoming prideful in relation to Israel! In doing so Christianity had to rework its relationship to the "Jewish" scriptures. (Another related subject is the fact that the Messianic Writings are "Jewish" scriptures as well!) One way in which it was done was the creation of difference between God's character in the "Old Testament" versus the "New Testament". Clearly grace sounds better than wrath! I believe this attempt was to de-legitimize (to use post-modern terminology) Israel, not God. Regardless, I see this as an affront to God Himself.
God was very clear. He is unchanging. He told Moshe that His name is אהיה אשר אהיה, which is commonly mistranslated as I AM. It's not as much of a mistranslation as it is an attempt to translate something that doesn't translate well. A better translation perhaps could be, "I will always be who I always have been." This may not be the exact meaning, but it better expresses the intent, which is God's eternal nature. God always has been a God of justice and mercy, and He always will be.
Here is one way those close to Yeshua understood the "wrath of God" as expressed in the Tanakh.
2 Kefa (Peter) 2:4-6
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter. (emphasis mine)
Yehuda (Jude) 5-7
Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (emphasis mine)
I recommend reading the context in which the verses above were written. When one views the scripture properly, as a whole, things make more sense.
Harvey, Richard. Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology: A Constructive Approach. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2009. 316 pp.
Note: I submitted this review to the editors of Mishkan (of whom Harvey is one) in April 2010. I never received any reply.
Abstract: A useful book, but infused with an excessive bias toward systematization. The author pushes MJ thinkers in a direction that inevitably leads to distorting Truth.
Richard Harvey's new book organizes and outlines a wide variety of "Messianic Jewish" theological perspectives. It is therefore a very useful reference work. The reader can see at a glance what people as varied as David Stern, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Mark Kinzer, Baruch Maoz, Tzvi Sadan, John Fischer, Elazar Brandt, and other current "practitioners" have to say about Torah in theory and in practice, the deity of Messiah, and other important topics. Harvey's "Conclusion" furnishes a helpful "typology of eight major streams of thought within Messianic Jewish Theology." [262, 267-277] Readers already familiar with the wide spectrum of Messianic Judaism(s) will not be greatly surprised by this final summation. Nonetheless, even the most experienced can appreciate the way he brings coherence to the sometimes chaotic jumble of contradictory views making up "the movement." This book is one that I would like to keep on my bookshelf as a kind of mini-encyclopedia of selected MJ viewpoints.
In 2008, the journal Mishkan devoted most of Issue 57 to the earlier version of Harvey's work, his Ph.D. dissertation completed at the University of Wales under the direction of Rabbi Dr. Dan Cohn-Sherbok. Excerpts by the author and review articles by others elucidated the main content, questions, and arguments of Mapping Messianic Judaism. Rather than covering the same ground, I'd like to express some additional thoughts stimulated by Harvey's book. My hope is to offer a balancing perspective on some broad, underlying issues regarding how we ought to approach Scripture and our faith.
Mapping comes accompanied by promotional blurbs asserting its "fairness." To a significant degree, they are accurate. In the descriptive part of his book, Harvey treats each school of thought academically, even clinically, without passing judgment. His concern is to present a range of MJ perspectives, from extremely pro-Christian to enthusiastically pro-rabbinic, rather than to push one or another point of view. This apparent objectivity is commendable.
At the same time, Harvey's book is highly biased in one particular way.
[Opening lines of Ukrainian-Jewish Relations, ed. Potichnyj & Aster (1988)]