The Jerusalem Council

A Global Association of Orthodox Jewish Disciples of Messiah Yeshua

Is the Torah for Gentiles?

I was once asked, “I am definitely interested in a truly halachic Messianic Judaism. However I am deeply inclined to believe that full Torah is not incumbent on Gentiles. Halacha teaches that all that is incumbent on Gentiles are the Sh’va Mitzvos. How do you reconcile this?”

The Master taught that all the Torah and Prophets are derived from two mitzvot, V’Ahavtah et Adonai Eloheicha, and V’Ahavta L’Reahcha Chamocha. These two aren’t listed in any list of the Sheva Miztvot (and there have been different lists throughout the ages, the most popular one being promoted by the Rambam). Yet this does not mean the Sheva Mitzvot (7 Noachide Laws) do not exist as a standard by which the Gentiles are judged, nor does it mean that the Torah is not teaching a separate standard of holiness for a Jew compared to the nations.

According to the Targumim, the Torah was given to Adam in the Garden for him to avdah and shamrah. It was this covenant that he broke (Hoshea 6:7), and it was this covenant that Messiah keeps and thus merits for himself and for the rest of us, eternal life (Tehillim 133:3). Therefore we who have faith in the Word of HaShem will also receive Mashiach’s blessing which is his inheritance of eternal life (Gen 12:3) based on his perfectly righteous merit alone.

It is this Messiah, by the Ruach HaKodesh, who desires to live through all of his disciples, Jew or Gentile.

So then our position on Gentiles and Torah is taken from the Torah:

Just as HaShem did not force the Torah on the nations but rather gave it as a gift to those who would say “all that you say we will do,” we believe that the Torah should not be forced on any Gentile who does not want it, for one who is forced is not walking in love of HaShem. It is love of HaShem, we believe, that prevents one from engaging in avodah zarah (the first mitzvah of the Sheva Mitzvot in any list). Gentiles who engage in avodah zarah will be judged just as any Jew who does.

The Torah is a beautiful gift, like a bride for her groom (as Shir HaShirim puts it), and though is meant to be shared with the nations, it requires one to make the covenant commitment to be intimate with her and thus receive all that she offers. We believe that this commitment (conversion out of love for HaShem and his Living Torah, the Mashiach) is one that one must make in order to be intimate with Torah, and is just another step of obedience in one’s walk of discipleship to the Master – the Master himself who models that intimacy with Torah for us, and who desires to live Torah through us every step of The Way.

Therefore we encourage nurturing one’s love for HaShem and the Messiah in order to draw one’s soul deeply to Torah and mitzvot, to which end the blessing, commitment, and responsibility of full conversion is offered to one who is not absolutely certain of their status as a Jew. This then becomes just another step of full discipleship to Messiah Yeshua, one even which then one may partake of the Pesach meal “in rememberance of” him.

At the same time, we discourage turning Torah into dogma against traditional Christianity, since such an approach to Torah does not draw people to Torah out of love for HaShem and others, but chases them away in fear and condemnation. There is no condemnation to those in Messiah Yeshua, so therefore the Torah is truly offered as a gift in knowing Mashiach intimately without fear, without condemnation,  and in deep intimate love with HaShem and in what he desires for us as his beloved.

Yet Torah is something a Gentile has to want before HaShem will separate them from the nations in order to serve Him. If a Gentile truly desires all that HaShem has for them through Torah and mitzvot, and also desires the special calling HaShem has for the Jewish people to teach Torah to the nations, then we should certainly offer them a speedy and sincere means to full conversion to Judaism so as to help them fulfill that desire, to HaShem’s glory, and for the benefit of all.

I hope this answer is what agrees with your knowledge of Torah, and halacha, and is therefore also agreeable with the Spirit of HaShem, and with your heart.

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5 Responses to “Is the Torah for Gentiles?”

  • Jeff A says:

    B”H This is an excellent post, and I agree with it. I would like to share it with friends, if I may. Todah and shalom! Jeff

  • Mike says:

    “… then we should certainly offer them a speedy and sincere means to full conversion to Judaism so as to help them fulfill that desire…”

    I must whole-heartedly disagree with that assertion. If there was one thing the Jerusalem Council actually decreed, it was that a Gentile did not have to be circumcised in order to be saved. By “circumcised,” it is meant that a Gentile did not have to become Jewish (Jews are circumcised, hence they are called “the circumcision” in the Brit Chad.). Gentiles in no way have to become Jewish in order to accept the whole of Torah in their lives. Please read Isaiah 56. A foreigner or stranger who accepts G-d’s mitzvot thus becomes a fellow-partaker of the covenant.

  • A Gentile that comes to Torah, through faith in Messiah, ceases to be a pagan, and has become a part of Israel already. Therefore your argument is moot since conversion to Judaism is a confirmation of an already existing reality.

    • Charles says:

      I have to agree with Mike. This oft-repeated idea by The Jerusalem Council is not consistent with the NT writings, nor the Scriptures at large. Gentiles in Messiah Yeshua remain gentiles (Acts 15:17, Amos 9:12). The mystery is that the gentiles should be fellow heirs and of the same body (Ephesians 3:6), so how then are they Jews? Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the Commandment of G-d [is what matters] (1 Corinthians 7:19)!

      • The Jerusalem Council says:

        If “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of G-d [is what matters]” (and this is true) and G-d himself commands circumcision (thus finding itself in the category of “the commandments of G-d” and thus “what matters” – then what is the “circumcision” that Paul is talking about that isn’t of “the commandments of G-d”? Do you know? Paul can’t be made to contradict the scriptures that came before him, or else he would be a false prophet. One thing he can be talking about is that which is understood in historical context in his use of the term: salvation by Jewish identity alone (attained by means of Jewish conversion). This “false gospel” he calls it, is just that. False. It’s a belief in grace, but a false belief at that: that G-d had grace on someone to be born Jewish or allowed them to convert. An election of the Jewish people that is not dependent upon faith in Messiah. Notice that Paul can not be said to be against circumcision, for this is commanded in Torah of even Abraham, who wasn’t a Jew. But certainly he can be against a false gospel.

        A believer from the nations, when they convert to the teachings of Messiah Yeshua (the Torah) they are a convert to what? Christianity, which is a sect of Judaism. Thus all believers in Messiah Yeshua are converts to Judaism. Going through formal conversion is merely then an acknowledgment of an already existing reality for the benefit of the community to hold the individual accountable to the decision they have made. Some call it baptism. In Judaism it’s called conversion. Circumcision then for many, is merely an act of obedience to the command of G-d that all male offspring of Abraham are to be circumcised (and those bought from the nations in his house) – a reality that even Paul acknowledges is true of all believers: that they are the offspring of Abraham. To get circumcised then as a believer, when not done for purposes of securing a place in the World to Come, is done for the sake of (participating in and being held accountable by) the Jewish community (which is why Paul circumcised Timothy), and thus is an act of obedience to a command for someone who already is identified as one who claims Abraham as their father.