The attempted feeding frenzy on Rob Bell at CRN/Slice continues, facts be damned, by a new Ken wannabe, Jon Cardwell.
In his article, “Dust or Blowing Smoke“, Cardwell tries (quite unsuccessfully) to paint Bell’s knowledge of ancient Judiasm as completely inaccurate. He takes issue with Bell’s use of the Tallit as a ‘prayer closet’. Cardwell says:

Check out any picture you like of Jews praying at the Western Wall and you’ll never see one praying in the manner that Rob Bell suggests.

Here is a photo I took last spring in Israel – at the western wall:

Rabbi in his prayer closet at the wailing wall

Maybe I should have interrupted this Rabbi to ask him if he was Jewish, since Mr. Cardwell tells us that Jews don’t pray in this way at the Western Wall. But wait! How do we know this was really at the Western Wall? How about because I turned to my left a few seconds after taking this picture, and I took this one:

The Western Wall

Sure enough, that’s the Western Wall…

This is why Jesus says in Matthew 6:6

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. (KJV)

As for Jesus’ comments to the Pharisees, Cardwell makes the mistake of assuming that the Pharisees are a homogenous group, and not a diverse one, of which Jesus is particularly calling out ‘Shoulder (or Shechemite) Pharisees’ who paraded their words for all to see.

Cardwell also takes issue with Bell’s interpretation of the woman with the issue of blood. The problem is, though, that he misses the first century practice which said women with an issue of blood could not come into the Temple grounds because they were unclean. The incident with the woman and Jesus occurred in the streets, where she would have been permitted.

Besides, which, as a teaching, this has been my understanding for more than a decade before Rob Bell was even a name I knew or recognized. It has been taught in Messianic Jewish circles for many years, and a number of congregations mention it in their web-based literature. Like this, for example. Ray VanderLaan has a video on this subject from the mid-90’s, and has a web page on the subject, as well. Yes, this is an interpretation based on a study of first-century Judiasm, but it is one that is valid and not anything to be sneered at as if it were a heretical teaching.

Apparently, Cardwell isn’t done with his sloppy attempts at slandering Bell, planning on taking on Rob’s discussion on first century rabbinc systems next. As I noted on my blog yesterday, in this particular sermon, Bell does not differentiate between first century rabbis (sometimes called hasidim (’pious ones’) or sages) and modern-day Rabbis (who are ministers of synagogues), but that really has no direct impact on the basic system these men followed.

At least Cardwell filed his article under “False Teaching”, because Jon is certainly full of it today…

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15 Comments(+Add)

1   Joe Martino    http://joemartino.name
February 27th, 2007 at 12:44 pm

I’m going to have to post on this at some point. I’m glad you did this post. It’s rediculous. Even without these pictures this is a rediculous argument. Modern day jews dont’ accept Jesus’ manner of praying? Really? IF it were true, which your pictures obviously show it is not, why would modern jews do what Jesus said to do?
All of this begs the question, “at which point do these people deserve the title(s) of heretic and pharisees themselves? Evidentaly, projoect Rob Bell is copasetic but Project Ken Silva and crew is not. It just makes me sick to my stomach.

2   amy    
February 27th, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Jon has placed an explanation about the prayer shawl on his post.

One thing that bothered me in Bell’s sermon is the idea that the disciples followed Jesus because Jesus saw them as worthy of being picked to follow a Rabbi. One of the reasons that this bothers me is simply the lack of logic behind that. Towards the end of his sermon Bell says that he knows of only 2 rabbis – Jesus and Hillel – who sought out disciples. If that were the case it seems to me that instead of being overwhelmed with gratitude that a Rabbi had chosen them, the disciples would have been at least momentarily quite confused. Maybe they would have said something like, “Huh? What’s this Rabbi dude asking me to follow him for?”

I didn’t think that people just followed rabbis so they could also become rabbis – perhaps I’m wrong on that.

Yes, Jesus is often misrepresented in movies as Bell points out, as someone who has some kind of zombie aura about him that draws people to him. But is my only other choice to believe that the disciples followed him because they were flattered that a rabbi chose them? Isn’t Jesus God? Couldn’t the disciples have simply followed Him because He was God and instructed them to do so? And isn’t there a possibility that Simon and Andrew, James and John, had heard him preaching and perhaps even responded to his message to turn from their sins? Isn’t it possible that Matthew had heard about or even witnessed the miracles that Jesus had done? And what about the many other disciples, (besides the 12) – did they follow him because he believed in them and they were honored? Were they all wanting to be rabbis?

Whatever the case, Bell’s interpretation of this and a number of other things he says (for example his assuming that the Jewish woman is acting on Malachi 4), are opinions. Yet he teaches them as facts. As my husband said after our church service on Sunday, when the teacher did something similar to this, “I hate it when people present their opinions as facts.”
I wouldn’t have a problem with SOME of the things Bell says if it would simply say, “Now, there’s a possibility that . . .” But much of what he presents is presented as if it is factual.

The main message of this sermon is that “Jesus has faith in us.” I do NOT believe that Jesus was talking about Peter’s faith in himself when he questioned where Peter’s faith was when he became afraid while walking out to Jesus on the water. It doesn’t even seem logical to suggest such a thing. How could Peter, no matter what his self-image was, expect that he alone would have the power to walk on water?

The message that God has faith in me is so different from what God has been teaching me over the last years – that only what is done through the power of the Holy Spirit will last.

3   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
February 27th, 2007 at 5:52 pm

Amy,

I’ve got just a minute here, but Rob said 0% that I hadn’t already heard from RVL. You can listen to it yourself here in an abbreviated format. RVL does go into much more depth behind the system of Rabbi/Talmid and why the disciples would have jumped at the chance to drop their nets and go. As I say – and this is not hyperbole – Rob’s lesson in that link is almost verbatim RVL from his seminar called ‘The Land, The Culture, The Book, and was likely used with permission, since Rob had just gone to Israel and Turkey with RVL during the year prior to that video recording.

Ray does typically open with a quick explanation of possible vs. probable vs. certain. RVL says that he typically only speaks on probable/certain subjects, or calls out ‘possible’ if it is something interesting. In the case of the woman with an issue of blood and Malachi 4, this interpretation fits somewhere between probable and certain when viewed in context. The interpretation of Malachi 4 is found in Essene writings from Qumran, the fact that she grasped at the tzit-tzit on his garment, and Jesus’ response all lead to the same conclusion.

[As an aside, RVL mentions a third rabbi who chose his disciples in a like manner, about 100 years after Christ - Akiva.]

As for Peter, Ray teaches the same thing, based on the rabbi/talmid model where the talmid lives with the rabbi 24/7, and does everything he can to be just like his rabbi. So, when Peter sees Jesus walking on the water, it would be natural for Peter – the oldest – to try and to the same thing. Here’s RVL’s version of the same story: http://community.gospelcom.net/Brix?pageID=1809

The famous 20th Century Rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, also viewed this story of Peter the same way, and commented that, historically, the greatest sin a Rabbi can commit is not to neglect teaching his talmidim to believe in God, but to fail to teach them that God believes in them (i.e. that they are capable of following God and doing what He asks of them – basically a positive version of the teaching that we won’t be tempted beyond what we can bear).

Do you not believe that God would lead you somewhere that you, with the power of His Spirit, cannot go? Faith, in Jewish terms, is both belief AND action. God ‘believes’ you can do what He asks you to do, and He takes ‘action’ by giving you the gift of the Spirit in accomplishing what you have been asked to do. What is wrong with this concept?

You asked

But is my only other choice to believe that the disciples followed him because they were flattered that a rabbi chose them? Isn’t Jesus God? Couldn’t the disciples have simply followed Him because He was God and instructed them to do so?

You don’t follow a rabbi to become a rabbi, you follow a rabbi because you want to be what he is – you want to know God in the way the rabbi knows and loves God. You want to know how to serve God in the most perfect way.

Yes, Jesus is God, but – in the same way God doesn’t force people to follow him, Jesus’ disciples had a choice in the matter. If I force you to love me, do you really love me? If I force you to follow me, do you really follow me? When you assume that Jesus somehow forced his disciples to follow him, you no longer allow Jesus to be human and to be a part of hus culture.

Here’s a footnoted article on the subject of rabbis & talmidim: http://community.gospelcom.net/Brix?pageID=2753

Just some background for you. Of course, this might be why Ken mysteriously pulled RVL in the other day, because in both of the Willow Creek messages, Rob did not say anything that RVL hadn’t said 5 – 10 years earlier…

4   RayJr    
February 27th, 2007 at 6:14 pm

The same Jon Cardwell who said this:

The service was dark! I mean, literally just lit enough to barely make out who people were! There were some other things; however, the darkness really got to Lisa and I. “Wow, what was that all about?” I thought. How could the people of the Lord be sitting in darkness? It is written,

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

“This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

Sloppy, sloppy.

5   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
February 27th, 2007 at 6:17 pm

Ah, yes, Ray – I forgot that one…

Reminds me of –

When you’re looking to be offended, chances are you’ll always find what you’re searching for…

6   amy    
February 27th, 2007 at 7:43 pm

Chris,
I’m not going to defend any points of Bell’s teaching because Ray Vanderlaan teaches it. I do think there is a big difference in presenting things as opinions versus fact, and appreciate that Ray Vanderlaan often does so.

(Just curious – does Rob Bell ever give Ray Vanderlaan credit for using his material?)

To some of your questions:
“Do you not believe that God would lead you somewhere that you, with the power of His Spirit, cannot go?” Sorry, I’m not sure I understand what you mean. Maybe you can reword the question.

You continue,” Faith, in Jewish terms, is both belief AND action. God ‘believes’ you can do what He asks you to do, and He takes ‘action’ by giving you the gift of the Spirit in accomplishing what you have been asked to do. What is wrong with this concept?” Faith, as I understand its use throughout scripture, is not God believing in me but me believing in God, believing in who He is according to Scripture; and faith is trusting and obeying Him. I suppose one could talk about God’s “faith” in us, but it’s really not the same thing. God certainly knows our strengths and our weaknesses – but is the concept of “faith” in scripture used as a primary way of describing how God relates to us? Is it used that way at all? God knows us, loves us in spite of our sin, commits Himself to us – but is He really about the business of saying, “I believe in you,” or rather “trust me, lean on me, obey me.” In short, is the focus in Scripture on our accepting and honoring who He is or on our need to be affirmed?

I agree that “faith, believing” in Scripture cannot be separated from obedience. For that reason we can’t really consider using the word “faith” or “belief” as it is used in Sciripture to describe how God relates to us. He certainly is not required to obey us.

Yes, God knows that I can do what He asks me to do, through the power of the Holy Spirit. But, may I ask, where did Rob Bell even mention the Holy Spirit in talking about Peter’s faith or the disciples following Jesus? Why would I assume (from Bell’s sermon) that the Holy Spirit would have had anything to do with Peter’s being able to walk on the water, or anything to do with why Jesus disciples followed Him? The message I was hearing from Bell is that Jesus wanted Peter to understand that he needed to believe that Jesus believed in Him, and that the disciples were able to believe that the Rabbi believed in them.

Is there that much difference in what Bell said about Peter’s and the disciples needing to believe that Jesus believed in him/them and a New Age teacher teaching that Peter/the disciples needed to believe in himself/themselves? In their own self-worth?

You said, “You don’t follow a rabbi to become a rabbi, you follow a rabbi because you want to be what he is – you want to know God in the way the rabbi knows and loves God. You want to know how to serve God in the most perfect way.” Did Bell say, imply this? If so, perhaps I missed it. Listening to Bell, I thought the main reason he was saying that one followed a Rabbi was to become a Rabbi.

I said, “Couldn’t the disciples have simply followed Him because He was God and instructed them to do so?” and you said, “Yes, Jesus is God, but – in the same way God doesn’t force people to follow him, Jesus’ disciples had a choice in the matter. If I force you to love me, do you really love me? If I force you to follow me, do you really follow me? When you assume that Jesus somehow forced his disciples to follow him, you no longer allow Jesus to be human and to be a part of hus culture.” My statement didn’t communicate what I meant – I didn’t mean to imply any kind of forcing – perhaps “compelled” would be a good word. They were “compelled” to follow Him – what is it that draws people to Christ, but God Himself – was it any different for the disciples when they decided to follow Jesus? Maybe when He said, “Follow me” they simply knew that it was the right thing to do, through the power of God, and wouldn’t have considered doing anything else. Perhaps they knew of Him already, perhaps not. I just think that to say that they followed him because he was a rabbi and they were honored to be chosen takes the focus off of who Jesus was and places it on the disciples need to have their self-worth flattered. It also takes away the possibility of there being something more to their desire to follow Him.

7   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
February 27th, 2007 at 10:04 pm

Amy,

I’m not going to defend any points of Bell’s teaching because Ray Vanderlaan teaches it.

Maybe I’ve given the wrong impression, here. I’m not defending Bell’s teaching because RVL teaches it – I am trying to show that it’s not something Rob made up (or even something all that original), and that its sources and conclusions aren’t unorthodox.

Just curious – does Rob Bell ever give Ray Vanderlaan credit for using his material?

In the footnotes of both Velvet Elvis and Sex God, Rob credits RVL. In some of his sermons, he has credited Ray, and RVL has been introduced and given the pulpit a number of Sundays at Mars Hill.

“Do you not believe that God would lead you somewhere that you, with the power of His Spirit, cannot go?” Sorry, I’m not sure I understand what you mean. Maybe you can reword the question.

In the scriptures, we are told that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond that which we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). This is the negative version of the observance RVL/Bell make – God will not lead us to serve Him in a way we are incapable of serving Him – He will always provide a way. This was understood in first century Judiasm, with Moses’ calling to confront Pharoah as the specific example of God’s ‘faith’ in man – that there would be humans who would be faithful to carry out His will. It has absolutely nothing to do with self-esteem, but everything to do with God’s provision.

In short, is the focus in Scripture on our accepting and honoring who He is or on our need to be affirmed?

Why is this an either/or proposition? Of course, scripture is concerned with our honoring God. Does He not love us and provide everything we need – physically, spiritually and emotionally? The Christian tradition has become so overtly focused on the sinfulness and fallenness of man, that it has forgotten that we were not meant to remain in that state.

Is it our doing? By no means. I’m sorry you have been burned by the Purpose Driven movement. That does not mean, though, that we do not have purposes given by God which He knows we are capable of doing.

I know and number of people who struggle with addiction issues, and one of the key factors in breaking their addictive behaviors is in coming to realize that our relationship with God isn’t a one-way street. The traditional emphasis of the church – which is the one-way street – does men and God a disservice.

For that reason we can’t really consider using the word “faith” or “belief” as it is used in Sciripture to describe how God relates to us. He certainly is not required to obey us.

In Hebrew, ‘faith’ has the same roots as the word chutzpah, which is a bold persistence. It is belief and action. In the case of having faith in God, this action is reflected in obedience. God having ‘faith’ in us is not saying that God must obey us – it is His persistence in being our shepherd, keeping His word, and providing our salvation. It is God saying “I chose you and saved you before you did anything for me (Romans 5:8), and I will not send you anywhere or ask you to do anything that you cannot go or do for me (Exodus 3:11-14; John 15:16)”

But, may I ask, where did Rob Bell even mention the Holy Spirit in talking about Peter’s faith or the disciples following Jesus?

Didn’t the gift of the Holy Spirit come a couple years after this incident, on Shavuout (Pentecost)? The disciples depended on Jesus (who they could see and touch) in the same way we depend on the Holy Spirit.

The message I was hearing from Bell is that Jesus wanted Peter to understand that he needed to believe that Jesus believed in Him, and that the disciples were able to believe that the Rabbi believed in them.

In the relationship of a rabbi and a disciple, the spoken and unspoken belief of the disciple is “I can be just like my rabbi” (NOTE: This is NOT a Western, literal concept that would say ‘I can be the divine Son of God’, but an Eastern concrete concept which says ‘I can believe and interpret and follow Torah in the way that my Rabbi does’), and the spoken and unspoken response of the rabbi is to say ‘I believe you can be just like me – I wouldn’t ask you to try if you couldn’t cut it’ (once again, not a literalist ‘be like me’, in the case of Jesus)

The lesson to Peter is ‘I will not ask you to do anything you cannot do. When you doubt that you can do it, you will sink.’ This does not rule out the lesson ‘When you doubt me, you will sink,’ but that does not at all appear to be what happened in this incident. Jesus certainly wasn’t sinking, and Peter asked Jesus to save him (which doesn’t imply a lack of faith in Jesus…)

Is there that much difference in what Bell said about Peter’s and the disciples needing to believe that Jesus believed in him/them and a New Age teacher teaching that Peter/the disciples needed to believe in himself/themselves? In their own self-worth?

I am only worth something because God says I am. That is not a New Age concept. I can only know that I am capable of doing what God asks of me because He say I can. That is not New Age, either… It is not because of me, it is because of Him.

They were “compelled” to follow Him – what is it that draws people to Christ, but God Himself – was it any different for the disciples when they decided to follow Jesus? Maybe when He said, “Follow me” they simply knew that it was the right thing to do, through the power of God, and wouldn’t have considered doing anything else.

That completely removes him from his context, though, and has no historic basis. These were most likely teenage boys, aged 12 (John) through 19 (Peter), raised in a system either exactly as described (or similar to) by Flusser, Young, VanderLaan, and Bell. Your scenario makes absolutely zero sense when viewed in context.

I just think that to say that they followed him because he was a rabbi and they were honored to be chosen takes the focus off of who Jesus was and places it on the disciples need to have their self-worth flattered. It also takes away the possibility of there being something more to their desire to follow Him.

Do you choose to follow him because it is an honor, or do you choose to follow him because you want to be like him, and his telling you that you can do it is enough to give you the faith to try. It has nothing to do with flattery… It has to do with the faith of and in the rabbi…

8   amy    
February 28th, 2007 at 11:15 am

Chris,
I decided to look up some other passages on the disciples being called to follow Jesus this morning and I’m going to discuss that before reading your reply (10:04) to me.

First of all, as I was beginning to look up the passages I first came across John 17 and decided to read that. It’s a passage that is critical in analyzing why the disciples followed Jesus. Please look at the whole passage, but here are some key verses to consider: For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him” (v2) ” I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. “6-8

Then I looked at John 1:35-50 and Luke 5: 2-11. I don’t have time right now to try to make some kind of time line and fit all these passages together with Mat 4:18 -22 and Mk 1:16-20. Even if I had time, I would be left with uncertainties as to how everything actually fit together. What is clear, especially from Luke 5 and John 1 is that there is a good possibility that the disciples being called to follow Jesus recognized that he was the Messiah, that he was more than just your ordinary rabbi.

In fact, look at Peter’s words in Luke 5, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.”

I don’t have time to elaborate on all this but I hope that you can look at the passages and acknowledge that there was so much more on the soon-to-be disciples part than an attitude of “The rabbi is calling ME. He thinks that I (emphasis on I) am worthy of following Him.”

9   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
February 28th, 2007 at 11:19 am

Amy,

I’ve got about 2 minutes here, but your last item misses the point –

It is NOT “He thinks that I am worthy of following him” – it is “He thinks that I am capable of following him”. There is a HUGE difference between the two…

10   amy    
February 28th, 2007 at 12:02 pm

Chris L,
To try to answer some of your comments in 10:04.

You said, “Maybe I’ve given the wrong impression, here. I’m not defending Bell’s teaching because RVL teaches it” No, I didn’t think you were. What I meant by my own statement is that I thought that you might think that I would defend the teaching because it came from RV, and I wanted to make it clear that I wouldn’t.

You said, “God will not lead us to serve Him in a way we are incapable of serving Him – He will always provide a way. This was understood in first century Judiasm, with Moses’ calling to confront Pharoah as the specific example of God’s ‘faith’ in man – that there would be humans who would be faithful to carry out His will. It has absolutely nothing to do with self-esteem, but everything to do with God’s provision.” I agree. But is that what Rob Bell is teaching?

I asked, “But, may I ask, where did Rob Bell even mention the Holy Spirit in talking about Peter’s faith or the disciples following Jesus?”

And you said, “Didn’t the gift of the Holy Spirit come a couple years after this incident, on Shavuout (Pentecost)? The disciples depended on Jesus (who they could see and touch) in the same way we depend on the Holy Spirit.”

Granted to some extent. Where was the power that the disciples had, for example in doing miracles, coming from? But that is another discussion. Maybe what I should have brought out is that nowhere in Bell’s sermon do I have the impression that Peter’s action in being able to walk on water has anything to do with the power of God. Nor does the disciples following Jesus. Any explanation that focuses on the power of God, on their recognition of who God is, is missing. And nowhere do I see how he tried to get people at Willow Creek to apply this sermon to themselves in a way that brought out any recognition that they can do what God wants them to do, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Nowhere do I come to understand through His message that I can do what Christ calls me to do because He enables me to do it. I think his message is more that of “Feel good about yourself because God feels good about you. Take this strong feeling and realize that You can be who God wants you to be.”

I said, “They were “compelled” to follow Him – what is it that draws people to Christ, but God Himself – was it any different for the disciples when they decided to follow Jesus? Maybe when He said, “Follow me” they simply knew that it was the right thing to do, through the power of God, and wouldn’t have considered doing anything else.”

You said, “That completely removes him from his context, though, and has no historic basis. These were most likely teenage boys, aged 12 (John) through 19 (Peter), raised in a system either exactly as described (or similar to) by Flusser, Young, VanderLaan, and Bell. Your scenario makes absolutely zero sense when viewed in context.”

I think that what I said has biblical basis. Look at the passages I referred to in the earlier blog. Jesus came to those “who had been given to Him.” They recognized that He was the Messiah. Today, we can’t become Christians, unless He draws us to Himself by the Spirit? Why should it have been any different then? Is not God simply God? Can’t he draw people to Himself?

You asked, “Do you choose to follow him because it is an honor, or do you choose to follow him because you want to be like him, and his telling you that you can do it is enough to give you the faith to try. It has nothing to do with flattery… It has to do with the faith of and in the rabbi… ” I choose to follow Him because His Spirit lives in me, drawing me to daily obedience, because I love Him. I follow Him because I have no other choice; I desire no other choice. He tells me that I can do it, through His Spirit.

Without the acknowledgement that God is a God of power and that that power was active in Peter’s being able to walk, and in the disciples being able to follow Him (not just the first time, but continuing to follow him) we have a Jesus who is little more than a coach motivating his team to believe in themselves because he (the coach) sees and knows that they can “do it.”

Sorry I haven’t gone through your comments as carefully as I would like to. I’m leaving for a couple of days and am short on time.

I know this sounds ignorant, but I came to the internet late in life (we couldn’t use it overseas) and don’t know some basic things, like how you indent my quotations in your comments. Is there some site I could look at that would explain things like that?

11   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 1st, 2007 at 8:33 am

Amy,

1) For indenting, here is a link to a page with info on how to do it (I can’t explain it in this forum, because it converts my examples into actual indentions).

2) Where I find fault with Bell on this message is not content (which I do not disagree with in any way), but in that he presents material that requires 4-6 hours for even decent understanding in about an hour, he does not tie in most of the corresponding faith lessons that should accompany the information, and those he does pull in (like that with Peter) require a lot more background to understand in their Jewish context. [He also butchers Hebrew pronunciation, as he seems to do with Greek on occasion, as well, but so does my Mom...]

3) In your most recent reply, you seem to present a lot of ‘either or propositions’, which nearly force a “tyranny of the of the ‘or’”. In the New Testament, as in the Old, scripture has a large number of facets of truth, which are best symbolized by the literary Hebrew over-usage of the conjunction ‘and’. A lot of what you say is true, but none of it precludes the interpretation of first century Judaism from the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, RVL and Bell.

4) While I realize I’m going to fall into the same trap as Bell (trying to summarize a couple books’ worth of content into a few paragraphs), I am going to try, because it is necessary to understand, lest you come away with a wrong impression.

In the case of the call of the disciples, it is important to understand exactly what a disciple (talmid) is. In the English language, disciple is often seen as synonymous with ’student’. However, this is miles apart from the Jewish concept of discipleship:

A ’student’ wants to know what his rabbi knows. A ‘disciple’, on the other hand, wants to be what their teacher is. When you signed on as a talmid, it was a 24/7/365 commitment. You went everywhere your rabbi went. You observed everything your rabbi did – whether it was buying/selling, teaching, serving, or even going to the restroom! If you were a talmid and your rabbi did something, your immediate reaction was to try and do the exact same thing – even if you failed.

It is also important to understand how Jesus fit into the rabbinical system:

During the Second Temple period, there were two recognized types of rabbis – 1) Torah Teachers (often translated as ’scribes’ or ‘teachers of the law’); and 2) S’mikhah Rabbis (teachers with authority). What is the difference between the two?

Torah teachers would teach children in bet sefer (memorizing the Torah) and beth midrash (application of Torah and Oral Law), but they were limited in that they could only teach Torah practices that were acceptable and traditional to the community they were in.

S’mikhah Rabbis, those with authority, were very special (scholars estimate that there were maybe only a dozen at the time of Jesus, with Gamaliel, Paul’s Rabbi, as the most famous of his contemporaries) in that they were able to render new interpretations of Torah, and they could take on talmidim, who would follow them throughout their schooling. One formula for rendering such rulings was “You have heard it said ___, but I tell you ___.” Does this sound familiar to you?

Jesus was called ‘Rabbi’ by members of all of the recognized Jewish movements, and acted in every way like a S’mikhah Rabbi. In Matthew 7:28-29 we read:

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

But where would a Rabbi get S’mikhah? According to rabbinical tradition, Rabbis could only receive their S’mikhah by receiving it from two other sources with recognized S’mikhah (or from God, Himself, in spoken voice).
So, if Jesus had S’mikhah, when and where did his disciples believe he received it? From the synoptic accounts, we read:

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

Additionally, we have the testimony of John the Baptist (believed by the people to be a prophet of God alike to Elijah, who would, by nature as a prophet, have S’mikhah) in the book of John:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

So, we have the voice of God granting Jesus authority, and John, a prophet of God, affirming it. Seems like a solid anointing to me. Did Jesus really need to follow this system? No, he is God’s son, regardless. However, I believe that he chose to, because it would serve to draw men unto him in a way they would understand and accept.

When a prospective talmid approached a S’mikhah rabbi (the only type that took on talmidim), the question asked of the rabbi was not Can I study under you? – it was Can I be like you?

“Being like the rabbi” meant taking on his yoke (his method of interpreting scripture and applying it to one’s daily walk) in every way possible. In the case of Jesus, his yoke is the simplest of ANY recorded – Love God, love your neighbor – which he spoke of in scripture:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

We see throughout the gospel where Jesus does something (teaching, miracles, casting out demons), and he gives his disciples the opportunity to do the same thing. Are they always successful? No. I wouldn’t expect that they would have been. The incident with Peter and Jesus walking on the water makes perfect sense to me in this context. If Jesus is walking on the water, then it would be odd if at least one of his disciples (most likely Peter, the oldest) didn’t try to do the same thing. This isn’t a message of self-esteem, it is a message of affirmation in the power of the greatest Rabbi of all rabbis.

You said:

Without the acknowledgement that God is a God of power and that that power was active in Peter’s being able to walk, and in the disciples being able to follow Him (not just the first time, but continuing to follow him) we have a Jesus who is little more than a coach motivating his team to believe in themselves because he (the coach) sees and knows that they can “do it.”

Where does RVL’s teaching deny the power of God? Not only do we have to recognize that Jesus is God, but we also have to recognize that he was human. Too often we emphasize the former and pay little more than lip-service to the latter. Was Jesus a mentor and “coach”? Most certainly, he was. Was Jesus the Son of God? Most certainly, he was. It is not an either-or proposition.  Was the power of God required for Peter to walk on the water?  Most certainly it was.  Was Peter’s belief that he would be able to walk on water – with God’s help – required?  Most certainly it was.
I need to get the kids on the bus here, but hopefully this is a good enough start…

12   Joe Martino    http://joemartino.name
March 1st, 2007 at 8:50 am

Couple of things:
1. Amy, were you a missionary? I’m just trying to better understand the background you’re coming from and you said, “overseas” so I ask.

2. Chris, You should repost that last comment as a post.

3. Chris, I think IMHO you should put a reading list together fo material that covers what you are talking about. That might be good for everyone who stops by here.

13   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 2nd, 2007 at 12:59 pm

Joe,

I pulled much of that information from posts over on my Fishing blog. I also have a reading list posted over there, which includes some of the Hebrew Roots books:

Additionally, I would include:

14   amy    
March 2nd, 2007 at 1:46 pm

Chris,
Thanks for your detailed answer. Just to respond to a few things . . . (And here I’d like to point out that I often don’t have time to reply to what I agree with, so I tend to reply first to things I disagree with. So if I come across as unnecessarily disagreeable, it’s not necessarily the case. But on the other hand please don’t assume that I agree with everything I don’t remark on :)

(I’ll have to look up the indentation stuff later. Thanks for the reference.)

You said, “A lot of what you say is true, but none of it precludes the interpretation of first century Judaism from the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, RVL and Bell.” First of all, just for the record, I’m not going to equate everything that Bell says with the Jerusalem School or with RVL. Secondly, I think that some of the ideas about how a Rabbi operates and how a disciple views his relationship with a Rabbi are important to consider in studying the New Testament. However I would never want to take interpretations, understandings of NT culture and make them a primary way of interpreting a passage. Bottom line, I think this is what Rob Bell has done. It will probably be pointless for us to discuss this. I think that we may get somewhere in discussing, but I’m not sure either of us has the time to put into it. I think it is absolutely critical that a pastor, teacher, know Scripture well and take passages relating to passages into consideration when teaching on a passage.

You ask, “Was the power of God required for Peter to walk on the water? Most certainly it was.” Certainly I agree with this. But I didn’t get that idea from Rob Bell. What I got was, “A Rabbi thinks they’re good enough to be chosen by a Rabbi.” and, a pretend quote from Zebedee, while he’s strutting, “My boys have got what it takes . . . ” (Probably not exact quotes here, but what I jotted down while listening to Bell’s sermon.) PETER IS GOOD ENOUGH. THE DISCIPLES ARE GOOD ENOUGH. You are saying that Rob Bell is not saying that we are worthy of following him, but that we are capable of following him. I simply don’t hear Bell saying that. Nowhere in his sermon do I hear the message that the disciples were unworthy, yet God chose them. I don’t have an understanding, from Bell’s sermon, that the disciples understood that there was anything more to Jesus calling them than an ordinary rabbi gathering disciples in a rather unordinary manner. Nowhere do I have a sense of Peter’s “Go away from me Lord, I am too sinful.”

Yes, we can “be like the Rabbi” in so many ways. But we have to be careful with that, otherwise we end up with some of the errors that are present in some charasmatic circles. We need to do what he calls us to do, first of all by being obedient to commands in scripture through his power. But we can’t just decide that we can “be like the Rabbi” in things he has not called to do. For example, I cannot choose to simply believe that I can be like the Rabbi, in choosing to heal people as he did. No matter how much I believe that God could give me a gift of healing, it will never happen unless He ordains it. I have “seen” Jesus walk on the water, through Scripture, yet I am not free to say, “God, call me to walk on water. I know that by trusting that you can give me the power, I can do it.”

In summary, Chris, I agree with some of the things you say much more than I agree with Rob Bell. We have a completely different understanding of what Bell is saying. Either you are reading “into” what he is saying, or I am reading “out” of it.

I discussed this whole sermon with my husband, and my response to it. He agrees with my conclusions. He wonders, by the way if is possible that Bell is distorting some of RVL’s teachings, not necessarily his basic ideas, but the way that he applies them. If that is not the case, then I will be much more careful in listening to RVL’s teachings.

Again I would emphasize that I don’t have a problem considering cultural issues. This is something that is essential in Bible translation work, and perhaps because of my background in that, I don’t veer away from wanting to know, for example, what first century life was like. But cultural findings/speculations about findings need to be understood in the context of Scripture, not the other way around. The part of Bell’s sermon that is talking about Jesus’ calling the disciples really ignores some scriptures that would make his emphasis questionable.

15   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 2nd, 2007 at 2:03 pm

Amy,

I realize that part of my problem is that I probably know the material much too well, and automatically ‘fill in the gaps’ when I hear it presented by Bell. His faith lesson about Peter and walking on the water IS 100% the JPS/RVL faith lesson. Bell doesn’t explain it very well, and ‘cuts corners’, doing so. Like I said – 4-6 hours of material crammed into 50 minutes. In doing so, he shortchanged the material AND the audience.

I went back to my podcasts from RVL, as well, and figured out that a number of them were preached at Bell’s church – including one on this subject matter and on Mithraism.

I suspect Rob bell had a 1-week window at WC, and they asked him to speak on that subject – which tends to be how that church operates – (even though RVL taught it over at least 4 lessons at Bell’s church, two or three months before Bell gave the linked sermon).

Just the kanaf lesson, if done correctly, takes 30-40 minutes of background.

You said

Again I would emphasize that I don’t have a problem considering cultural issues. This is something that is essential in Bible translation work, and perhaps because of my background in that, I don’t veer away from wanting to know, for example, what first century life was like. But cultural findings/speculations about findings need to be understood in the context of Scripture, not the other way around.

I agree, and what Bell cut out/skipped was most of the tie-ins to the gospel accounts and relevant OT passages, outside of the obvious ones at hand

The part of Bell’s sermon that is talking about Jesus’ calling the disciples really ignores some scriptures that would make his emphasis questionable.

I will disagree in concept that this overall description of the disciples’ calling ignores ANY scriptures. However, I will give you that Bell did not adequately cover all of the connections…

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