Jan 31, 2011

Weak Brethren XV

"One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks." (Romans 14: 5, 6)

The observing of "holy days" by Christians is contrary to the new covenant. This is clearly taught in new testament scripture, and cannot therefore be regarded as a thing "indifferent" or in the category of "things not discussed in scripture." Those commentators of the "consensus view" who teach that Romans 14 deals with such things are in error. The observing of "days," in Romans 14, is clearly in the context of religion, just as religious diet (vs. 2-4). Just as was seen in the preceding chapter, regarding religious diet, so in these verses, regarding observing religious days, the bible is not silent, but speaks loudly.

In the above passage, Paul clearly connects the observance of a religious calendar with the "impotent ones" set of beliefs. These lost religious people had religious diets and a religious calendar. These, however, Paul taught, were not binding on Christians. The new covenant dictates no such things.

Dr. Mark Nanos, referred to in previous chapters, was correct in identifying "the impaired ones" of I Corinthians as lost polytheistic Gentiles. In his analysis of Romans 14 he identifies "impaired ones" with lost Jews, those who had not believed in Jesus as Messiah. He is one of the few commentators to identify "the impotent ones" as non-Christian. However, it does not seem that he is correct in making "the impaired ones" of Romans 14 as strictly Jewish. It seems clear that, in both cases, the "impaired ones" are unconverted pagans, although the things said by the apostle have application to unconverted Jews. As has been said, religious vegetarianism was a part of polytheistic faith and practice but not of Jewish (Torah) faith and practice. To the Galatian Christians, who were mostly converted Pagans, Paul wrote:

"But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain." (Gal. 4: 9-11)

Are these words chiefly addressed to converted Jews or converted Gentile pagans? This is an important question in understanding what class of religious practice the apostle alludes to when he refers to "observing days, months, times, and years." The Jews, by the direction of God, had a religious calendar. But, polytheistic Gentiles also had such. Is one or the other, or both, condemned by the apostle? The same question may be asked about the "impotent ones" of Romans 14. As was shown in the previous chapter, it is unlikely that the apostle had Jewish (Torah) observances in mind, in Romans 14, seeing he mentions religious vegetarianism, which the Torah did not promote. He seems rather to be alluding to Gentile (pagan) rituals and observances.

It is not of greatest importance, in this study, to ascertain which religious calendar Paul had in mind in the Galatians passage, because it is clear that Christians were taught to observe no religious calendar of holy days. Paul was informing the Galatians that they, as Christians, had no religious "days, months, years, and times." Every day was holy to the Lord. Paul speaks of this as part of his initial teaching "labors," to teach that every day was now holy to the Lord. For the Galatian Christians, Jew or Gentile, to begin anew to observe a religious calendar, represented a failure, on their part, to heed his prior teaching on the subject. Where Paul's teachings have not been "in vain," Christians observe no religious diet or calendar. However, where his teachings have not been heeded, his efforts were "in vain."

Interestingly, Paul connects a return to religious observance of "days, months, times, and years," as a return "to the weak (impotent) and beggarly elements" that put one into "bondage." What does he mean by "the weak and beggarly elements"? Forerunner commentary says that the expression is "referring to the demonism they had been involved in prior to their conversion." It also says: "The Gentile Galatians were observing certain days, months, seasons, and years that had nothing to do with God's holy days..." Commentator David B. Grabbe says - "The "days and months and seasons and years" of verse 10 do not refer to God's holy days, but rather to pagan, Gentile holidays that the Galatians observed before conversion in service to "those which by nature are not gods," as verse 8 says." Further, he says - "Thus, the "days and months and seasons and years" is not something Paul wrote in reference to the law of God or even to Judaism. Instead, they are something apart from both of them." See here

In those places, in the Pauline epistles, where Paul speaks of observing religious dietary laws and religious days, it is in the context of pagan observances, not in the context of Torah observances. This was the case in I Corinthians chapter eight, the case in Galatians chapter four, and in this passage, again addressed chiefly to converted pagans.

"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." (Col. 2: 16, 17)

It is interesting that the word "judge" is used here as in Romans 14: 3, where "the impotent" are told not to "judge" those who are "strong" in their refusal to observe religious dietary laws. Who was doing this "judging" (condemning) of the Christians for their non-participation in observing dietary laws and religious days, months, and years? It was not Jews, either unconverted or converted, but the pagan brethren of converted pagans. These condemned the converted pagans for their non-participation in such relgious activities. Paul's command "not to judge" the Christian in Colossians 2: 16, 17 is the same as Romans 14: 3. It is not a case of one Christian judging another Christian, but of pagans judging Christians.

Some commentators feel compelled to make "the impotent" to be Christians because Paul seems to them to be affirming that they serve the same "lord." He that observes religious diet and calendars does it "to the lord," and he that does not observe it also "to the lord" refrains. The commentators think the same "lord" is under consideration and conclude that both must be Christians because they practice such, or refrain from practicing such, to the same "lord." But, this is not the case. The "lord" and "god" is not the same and the context shows this to be so.

First, as was seen in the previous chapter, Paul asked - "who are you (impotent ones) to judge (condemn) another man's (another lord's) servant?" This language is unmistakeable in showing that the "lord" of the "impotent" was not the same "lord" as the "potent." So, in the verse now under consideration, the same distinction is made. Second, the definite article "the," before the word "lord," is missing in the text, a fact that most translations fail to appreciate. In fact, most translations put the definite article into the text. Thus, they translate - "He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks." Also of interest is the fact that most translators not only put the definite article before "lord," which is however absent in the Greek text, but omit the definite article before the word "god," which is however present in the Greek.

The Greek language had no "a" or "an," no indefinite article. The absence of the definite article, however, signifies the indefinite. Also, the word for "lord" and "god" do not come with a capital letter beginning the word, but again, most translations capitalize the first letter, giving the reader the impression that the reference is not to a pagan "lord" or "god," but to the Lord and God of Christians. We can thus read the passage thusly:

"He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto a lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to a lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to a lord, for he giveth the god thanks; and he that eateth not, to a lord he eateth not, and giveth the god thanks."

One must keep in mind that these words, like the words of the preceding verse, are addressed to the "impotent," and not to the "potent." The prior question - "who are you to judge another man's (lord's) servant?" - is addressed not to Christians, or to the "strong," but to the "impotent," to unconverted pagans. Their judging amounted to their judging "another lord's servants." In the words cited above, Paul is still addressing the unconverted pagans. Paul is seeking to quell their condemnation. After asking them why they are judging the servants of another lord and god, he continues his same argument by stating that "you pagans observe your religious diets and calendars to your lords and gods, and the Christian does not observe the requirements of your lords and gods, but of his own particular lord and god, and affirms that the lord and god of the Christian makes no such requirements of his servants."

The translation or interpretation should go like this:

"The pagan that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto a heathen 'lord'; and the Christian that regardeth not the day, to a Christian 'lord' he doth not regard it. The pagan that eateth, eateth to a heathen 'lord', for the pagan giveth the heathen 'god' thanks; and the Christian that eateth not, to a Christian 'lord' he eateth not, and giveth the Christian 'God' thanks."

When Paul says - "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind," he does not mean "let every Christian be fully persuaded in his own mind," but "every man," converted or unconverted, pagan or Christian. The Christian is persuaded that his Lord and God does not require him to observe religious diet and holy days. Paul wants the pagan to see that "food commends us not to God, for neither if we eat, are we the better, and neither, if we don't eat, are we the worse." He wants the pagan and the Christian to discuss this and come to agreement. He does not want any to think that observance of holy days and religious diet is a "matter of indifference" or "something the bible says nothing about." The Christian should seek to convert the pagans from his thinking regarding religious diet and calendars, to see that such things affect not a man's standing with God. The Christian is not to "despise" the pagan for his beliefs, but this does not mean that he does not seek to convert him from his false religion. On the other hand, Christians should use the argumentation of the apostle in confronting those pagans who "judge" or condemn the Christian for having no laws regarding diet and holy days.

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