The Jewish Heritage of Many Palestinians


“If we investigate the origins of the Felahim [Palestinians], there is no doubt that much Jewish blood runs in their veins.”

-David Ben Gurion, (first) Prime Minister of Israel (1948 -1953, 1955 – 1963)

The more I learn about the different groups involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the more interesting the whole situation becomes. There’s also plenty of irony to be discovered in the claims and policies of Zionists, Christian Zionists, and the Israeli government. For example, wouldn’t it be ironic if some Palestinians are more Jewish than some of the Jewish citizens of Israel?

Introduction 

It’s no secret that Israel has billed itself as “a Jewish State” for decades. Of course, this idea has created a dilemma, to say the least, for Arabs, Bedouin, and other non-Jews living in Israel and the Palestinian territories. How do non-Jews fit into “the Jewish State of Israel”? (For a parallel, imagine if America was called “a Caucasian State.”)

The ideal of “a Jewish State” apparently runs along ethnic/racial lines more than religious lines. According to Wikipedia, 43% of Jews in Israel identify as secular, and 47% of these secular Jews (i.e. 20% of all Jews in Israel) are Atheists. Only a slight majority of Israel’s Jews consider themselves to be religious.

Israel’s aim to be a Jewish state is instead a battle drawn up along ethnic lines. However, as was pointed out in an earlier article (“Who Are the Jews in Israel Today?“), a case can be made that a significant percentage of Jews in Israel are descendants of Gentile (non-Jewish) converts to Judaism centuries ago. Not only are many Jews in Israel non-religious, but many are also non-Semitic. Yet they are more than welcome in “the Jewish State.”

Another irony is that many with a Jewish background are destined to be excluded from “the Jewish State” – because they are identified as Palestinians. It’s shameful that this exclusion – of all Palestinians – is fervently supported by the Christian Zionist movement.

Hillel Fendel’s Article in Israel National News

There’s a lot to consider in the following article published in Israel National News in 2009 (“Arabs of Jewish Descent in Israel“):

Up to 85 percent of Arabs in greater Israel stem from Jewish ancestors, it is estimated. Some of them want to become fully Jewish, but most are scared to even talk about it.

“In our search for the lost Ten Tribes in India and Afghanistan, we seem to have forgotten to look for their descendants in our very own backyard.” So says the narrator in a new film about the efforts of a former hi-tech pioneer named Tzvi MiSinai to search out the Jewish roots of Israel’s Arab enemies – and to inform them of their Judaic heritage.

MiSinai has spent about a half-million shekels, he estimates, on these efforts. They include visiting dangerous places deep inside Palestinian Authority-controlled territory, hearing the stories of Arabs who remember observing Jewish customs, and distributing literature to Jews and Arabs alike.

One Arab says his father told him the secret of his family’s Jewishness on his deathbed, while another one, on the backdrop of a photo of the saintly Cabalistic sage Rabbi Abuchatzeira on his wall, says their roots have been known in his family for generations. Wrapping what apparently used to be kosher tefillin on his arm, he says, “My father used to do this, and he taught us to do it whenever someone was sick or in trouble.”

The Jews Who Didn’t Leave

It is generally accepted that most Jews left the Land of Israel after the failed Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE. Yet many remained, and of these, many are still here, after having been forced to convert to Islam. “It turns out that a large part of the Arabs of the Land of Israel are actually descendants of forced converts to Islam over the years,” says Rabbi Dov Stein of the nascent Sanhedrin rabbinical council. “There are some studies that say that 85 percent of the Arabs in Israel are descended from Jews; others say there are fewer.”

Ben-Gurion Agrees

The claims are not new. Early Zionist leaders David Ben-Gurion and Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi wrote in a book 100 years ago: “If we investigate the origins of the Felahim, there is no doubt that much Jewish blood runs in their veins.” The authors implied that these Jews loved the Land so much that they were willing to give up their religion. The reference is probably to an edict in the year 1012 by Caliph el-Hakim, who ordered the non-Muslims to either convert or leave the Land of Israel. It is estimated that 90 percent of the Jews chose the former, though many continued to practice Judaism in secret. The decree was revoked 32 years later – apparently too late for about 75 percent of the converts.

Tzvi MiSinai continues to convince Arabs in Judea and Samaria that they are likely Jewish. The film shows him passing through the Gush Etzion checkpoint and distributing  pamphlets both to Israeli soldiers – “so that you’ll know who you’re checking here” – and to the Arabs waiting there – “so that you’ll know who the majority of you are.” Asked by an Arab if he is from the peace movement, MiSinai answers, “Yes, yes, peace, so that we can live together as one nation.”

The Sawarka Bedouin Jews

One place where MiSinai has apparently found very strong Jewish roots is in the Bedouin tribe known as the Sawarka. There are about 3-4,000 of them throughout the Sinai and the Negev, and they “are all Jewish,” says a tribal leader in perfect Hebrew. With his face camouflaged for the cameras, the Bedouin says, “They had no choice but to convert; this was centuries ago… I remember my mother and grandmother wouldn’t light fire on Sabbath, and they had a special mikveh…”

Others, in a Bedouin village east of Hebron, also remember burning a small piece of dough (reminiscent of the Biblical command to separate a small piece of dough when baking bread), lighting candles at graves, and tearing clothes and sitting shiva for seven days, and not three as is Muslim practice.

Even today, ritual circumcisions are carried out after the seventh day of birth.  Many homes in some of the Arab villages have doorpost indentations for a Mezuzah, with a scroll placed in some of them.

In another village just south of Hevron, Muhammed Amsalem – a descendant of Spanish Jews – told Aharon Granot of Mishpacha magazine that everyone in town knows he and his clan are Jews: “Our elders tell us that our forefathers came to this land during the [15th century] Spanish Inquisition, via Morocco. They settled in Ramle. Then the Mamluks forced them to convert to Islam, and they moved to the South Hevron area.”

Amsalem says they decided to reveal their Jewish roots after the 1967 Six Day War when they learned that a Jewish community had been reestablished in Hevron. “But the Jews saw we had no knowledge of their religious practices and refused to accept us… If the Jewish community would be willing to receive us today, we would join them with great enthusiasm.”

In the area of the South Hevron Hills, half of the Arabs are aware of the Jewish origins. They used to talk about it openly, though no longer. One man who recently publicized a silver Chanukah menorah that had been passed down to him from his father and previous generations was hung by terrorists by his feet for six weeks, leaving him with permanent injuries.

Genetic Studies Back Claims

At the Hadassah Medical School labs, Prof. Ariela Oppenheim of Hebrew University performed an international genetic study that backs up conclusions of Jewish-Arab genetic similarities. “We found that despite the dispersion of Jews around the world for 2,000 years, they essentially kept their Jewish continuity,” Oppenheim said. “In addition, we found that the Jewish population is surprisingly close, genetically, to the Arabs living here in Israel.”

She said that the study shows that both the Arabs of Israel and the Jews are descended from the Kurds of Aram in Babylon – the birthplace of the Patriarch Abraham. 

“It’s clear that we’re all from the same family,” Oppenheim concludes. “Most unfortunately, however, there are conflicts even within families, and sometimes brothers fight as well. I wish this is what will bring the Redemption, but I’m very sad to say that I don’t think so.”

Some Want to Return to Observant Judaism

South of Hevron, in Yatta, there is a large formerly-Jewish presence – and some even want to return to active Judaism. It is widely known there that half the residents are of the originally-Jewish Mahamra clan – a name that means “winemaker,” a trade that is forbidden according to Islam. “The people in these areas converted to Islam later in history,” MiSinai says, “and therefore more customs and knowledge and artifacts have been preserved.” These include Jewish stars over the entrances to homes, while in at least one house, the family has hidden a mezuzah and tefillin in creative hiding spots. One man pulled out a small Hebrew booklet of Psalms and Tanya with which he says he continues to secretly pray.

Miro Cohen, a Jew from Tekoa, in eastern Gush Etzion, is very friendly with the Arabs in a nearby village known as Kawazbe – a name that he and they agree is merely a corruption of Kuzeiba, the original name of the famous Bar Kokhba.

“These people are the descendants of Bar Kokhba,” Cohen declares. One Arab sitting with him can count his ancestors eight generations back, ending with a grandfather named Kawazbeh.  Another village elder says openly that his grandfather was a Jew who converted to Islam. Some of the residents want to return to Judaism; they don’t call it converting, because they are “already Jewish.”  On the other hand, Arabs with the name Kawazbeh have been arrested for terrorist activity against Israel.

Other areas where Arabs of Jewish descent reside are Kfar Anzah in Samaria, Samoa in southern Judea, villages in the Tel Arad area, and more. Rabbi Stein says, “We know that up to about 200 years ago, the Galilee village of Sakhnin was a Jewish town, with an active synagogue. The Turks pressured them to convert to Islam, but the people there know that they are of Jewish origins.”

Rachel Avraham’s Article in the Jewish Press

There are also a number of things to consider in the following Jewish Press article published on January 6th, 2015 (“Most Palestinians in Judea and Samaria Were Formerly Jews“):

As a journalist, I was always very skeptical what the origins of the Palestinian people are. Some have argued that the origins of the Palestinians date back 1,000 years. Others claim that the ancestors of the Palestinians came much more recently, during the late Ottoman and British Mandate periods. And still others allege that the roots of the Palestinian people in the Holy Land are ancient. So what are we to believe?

The American archeologist Eric Cline reported in his book, Jerusalem Besieged: “Although some would disagree, historians and archeologists have generally concluded that most, if not all, modern Palestinians are probably more closely related to the Arabs of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, and other countries than they are to the ancient Jebusites, Canaanites, or Philistines. The major movements of those Arabs into the region occurred after 600 CE, more than 1,600 years after David and the Israelites had vanquished the original inhabitants of the land.” This fact is confirmed by Sherif Hussein, the Guardian of Islamic Holy Places of Arabia, who stated that the Palestinians ancestors had only been in the region for 1,000 years.

Numerous scholars have reported that following the Black Plague and Crusades in 1517, only 300,000 people were left in the Land of Israel, of whom 5,000 were Jewish, and that many of the ancestors of the modern Palestinians came in the late Ottoman and early British Mandate period. During the British Mandate period alone, 100,000 Arabs from neighboring countries immigrated to the Holy Land.

However, after conducting intense research into this issue, another story for the origins of the Palestinian people has appeared which further reaffirms Jewish attachment to the Holy Land. A Palestinian living in Jerusalem who wishes to remain anonymous has confessed in an exclusive interview that this persons’ family origins are 100% Jewish and that this person’s father’s family were Cohanim. He proclaimed: “Most of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria are former Jews. The Ottomans converted them by force. My family converted to Islam in the early 1900’s.”

This Palestinian explained that the town where this person originally came from and the seven surrounding villages had a Jewish majority up until the early 1900’s: “My grandparents tell me they were born Muslim. The entire town which is Islin and the entire collection of towns near Beit Shemesh were Jewish. The entire towns around us used a Jewish judge known as Khawaja Kakum, who was a rabbi.”

The Palestinian noted that in the late 1800’s, the Ottoman Empire started to pressure the local population to accept Islam, after Herzl informed the Ottoman Sultan of the Zionist movements’ intentions. This resulted in the Sultan going crazy and making sure that would not happen, although he did refrain from issuing a formal edict of conversion: “The Ottoman soldiers would arrive, investigating and making sure everyone was Jewish and that would involve a humiliating act. The locals would have to bring all of the fancy rugs so the soldiers could use them. They had to fix hay mixed with sugar for the horses of the Ottoman cavalry. And then, the locals had to cook food for the soldiers. They were forced to mix yoghurt with lamb in a dish known today as mansaf.”

The Palestinian noted that Bayt Itab, which was near Beit Shemesh, was inhabited by Sephardic Jews: “A particular family in the town began holding Friday prayers on both Friday and Saturday, so the Ottomans would be fooled into believing that they were not Jews. Now Beit Shemesh, another nearby town, had mostly Jewish families that would later on become Palestinian, except for one family.”

“Many Jews would never believe this but if you visit Zora; you will see the tomb or grave of Samson the Great,” the Palestinian noted. “You would learn that Palestinians used to glorify this man in this town. Whenever someone dies, Palestinians used to sing in sadness for him: ‘Oh my G-d, why have you taken him, he has never displaced his grandmother or given advice to a Muslim.’ Why would Muslim Palestinians sing folk songs like that?”

“One of the folk songs for children goes: ‘By the G-d of Moses, don’t make me lose my way,’” the Palestinian explained. “Why not Muhammed? Also, the local comments reflected in the entire Palestinian community used the term ‘he’s a Cohen’ to reflect someone who is wise or who could see stuff others could not see. Most Palestinians don’t know what a Cohen is. Why do they use the term ‘he is a Cohen’ to describe someone with G-d given knowledge?”

While such statements go contrary to pan-Arab propaganda and the standard Middle Eastern history books taught across the globe, this Palestinian is not the only one to make this claim. According to the Jerusalem Post, Tzvi MiSinai conducted research into the Jewish roots of the Palestinian people and discovered that 90% of the Palestinians have Jewish roots: “And what’s more, half of them know it.” He noted that many Palestinians maintain Jewish customs, including mourning rituals, lighting Shabbat candles and even wearing tefillin.

Misnai is not the only researcher to believe this. Genetic studies conducted by Hadassah Medical School found that the Jewish population is surprisingly close genetically to the Palestinian population, implying that many of them have Jewish blood in them. Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion evidently agreed that most Palestinians have Jewish roots, according to Arutz Sheva: “If we investigate the origins of the Felahim, there is no doubt that much Jewish blood runs in their veins.”

…Caliph El Hakim forced all of the Jews of the Holy Land to either convert to Islam or leave the country in 1012 and the Crusaders massacred numerous Jews in the Holy Land in the late medieval period. He maintains that until the British Mandate period, the influx of Muslims into the Holy Land was minimal and most of the locals had Jewish roots.

“When General Allenby, the commander of the British military forces, conquered Palestine in 1917/1918, only a few thousand Muslim Arabs resided in the Holy Land,” Mandelbaum writes. “Most of the Arabs were Christians, and most of the Muslims in the area either came from Turkey under the Ottoman Empire, or were the descendants of Jews and Christians who were forcefully converted to Islam by the Muslim conquerors.”

However, despite the massive influx of Muslims into the Holy Land during the British Mandate period, the Palestinian interviewed proclaimed: “I don’t know of a Palestinian family who does not have a Jewish story to their history. Just like Jews were forced to convert to Christianity in Spain, they won’t ever go back, but it would be helpful to remind us publicly of whom we were and what we were, to show that we must connect as humans.”

This Palestinian explained that both sides made mistakes in the years leading up to Israel’s establishment and afterwards. The Zionist movement did not recognize the Palestinians as having Jewish roots in their family while emphasizing that both sides suffered from anti-semitism and the Palestinians themselves also very much looked down on the newcomers from Europe. But this Palestinian hopes that this information can help bring the two peoples together at the very least to pursue peace in the future: “Unless we study our past, we won’t move forward to the future.”

About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel’s Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media.”

Conclusion

Whether “most” Palestinians have a Jewish background, or only a minority of them do, this information adds further irony to the Israel/Palestinian conflict. The Zionist/Christian Zionist agenda sidelines Palestinians, some of whose ancestors were ethnic Jews, but embraces those currently identified as Jews, even if they have no Jewish blood. It should be pointed out that plenty of Jews are opposed to the Zionist agenda. See this post, for example: Dueling Jewish Perspectives on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.

Followers of Christ, in particular, should have nothing to do with an agenda that sidelines or oppresses anyone. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians,

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

Day Trip to Cincinnati, Ohio and the Underground Railroad Museum


At the very end of last spring, on June 17th, my wife (Jasmine) and I made another day trip, this time traveling to Cincinnati, Ohio and back in one day. Cincinnati would normally be a 3-hour drive from where we live (Bowling Green, Ohio), but that day it took at least five hours due to a tanker leaking toxic chemicals and I-75 being shut down north of Dayton, Ohio. Just like we did on our day trip to Columbus, Ohio in May, we stopped for lunch at an African restaurant.

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In Columbus we had Somali food, which is East African, but in Cincinnati we tried some West African food at a Senegalese restaurant. Teranga Restaurant is on the north side of Cincinnati, and as one can see from their parent website the owners also run a grocery/supply store, a hair shop, currency exchange services, and a travel agency.

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From there we headed to downtown Cincinnati and visited the Underground Railroad Museum. If you visit Cincinnati, we highly recommend visiting this place. Free parking is available in front of the building, which is in a great downtown location near the Ohio River. The Underground Railroad Museum covers the history of the slave trade in America, and also shines the light on modern slavery around the world, including human trafficking, child labor, etc. It was a highly educational experience, and we could have learned/seen even more if we had more time. Here are some pictures from our visit to this museum:

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After spending time at the museum, we walked around the nearby parts of downtown Cincinnati.

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We then walked across a nearby bridge to Covington, Kentucky.

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(facing Covington, near the entrance to the bridge)

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(facing Cincinnati while on the bridge)

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(facing Covington)

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(facing toward Cincinnati on the left and toward Newport, Kentucky on the right)

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(facing Cincinnati)

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(Covington)

For those who appreciate unique forms of public transportation, the Cincinnati area features an amphibian taxi, the Newport Ducks. It runs along the Ohio River…

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…and on land:

Ride The Ducks Newport

(Photo Source: Newport Aquarium)

After walking back to Cincinnati, we drove back over the bridge to Covington.

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(Another bridge from Cincinnati – Newport, Kentucky can be seen on the right side of the photo.)

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We then concluded our time in the Cincinnati area by driving over to Newport, Kentucky, just east of Covington.

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Herods and Other Rulers of Judea: 1st Century AD


For several years I’ve been interested in the history of the 1st century AD, and recently I came across two resources put together by Michal Hunt at Agape Bible Studies. The first resource lists the rulers in Judea during the first century (and some from the late 1st century BC), prior to Judea’s destruction by Roman armies in 67-70 AD. This includes the Herods, Prefects, and High Priests during this time period, along with dates and the corresponding Roman Emperors.

Rulers of Judea (Source)

Roman Emperor   Ruler in Judea High Priest
*Boethus Family  +Ananus Family
Date of High Priest
Augustus
29BC-14 AD
H
E
R
O
D
I
A
N

M
O
N
A
R
C
H
Y

Herod the Great
37 BC – 4/1 BC
 
 
 
 
Archelaus (son of Herod) ruled after his father’s death but was deposed by the Romans in 6 AD. Herod’s sons, Herod Antipas, Herod Philip and Herod of Chalcis, ruled the Galilee and other territories
-Ananelus
-Aristobulus (Hasmon prince and brother-in-law of Herod = murdered
-Jesus, son of Phabi
-Simon son of Beothus*
-Matthias son of Theophilus*
-Joseph son of Elam
-Joazar son of Boethus*
-Eleazar son of Boethus*
 
(Romans now approve appointment of the High Priests)

37 BC

36 BC
 

?
?
??

?
4 BC
4 BC?

  ROMAN   ANNEXATION   OF   JUDEA
 
 
 
 
 
Tiberius
14-37 AD
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Caligula
37-41 AD
R
O
M
A
N

P
R
E
F
E
C
T
S

-Coponius (Prefect)
6-9 AD
-Ambibulus (Prefect)
9-11 AD
-Rufus (Prefect)
12-14 AD
-Gratus (Prefect)
15-26 AD-Pilate (Prefect)
26-36 AD
-Marcellus (Prefect )
36-37 AD
-Marullus (Prefect)
37-41 AD
-Jesus son of See
- Annas son of Seth +
(in Greek = Ananus)
 
 
 
-Ishmael brother Phabi I
-Elezar sons of Annas+
-Simon son of Kamithos
-Caiaphas son-in-law of Annas+
 
-Johathan, son of Annas+
-Theophilus, son of Annas+
-Simon son of Boethus*
5/6 AD
6-15 AD
 
 
 

 15-16 AD
 16-17 AD
 17-18 AD
 18-37 AD
 

 37 AD
 37-41 AD

 41-? AD

Claudius
41-54 AD
-Herod Agrippa I
41-44 AD
-Matthias son of Annas+  ?-44 AD
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nero
54-68 AD
-Cuspius Fadus (Prefect)
44-46 AD
-Tiberius-Alexander (P)
46-48 AD
-Ventidius Cumanus (P)
48-52 AD
-Marcus Antonius Felix
(Prefect) 52-59 AD
-Porcius Festus (Prefect) 59-62 AD
-Albinus (Prefect) 62-64
-Gessius Florus (Prefect) 64-66 AD
-Elionaius s. Kantheras
-Joseph son of Kami
-Ananias son of Nebedaeus
-Ishmael son of Phabi II

-Joseph Qabi
-Annas son of Annas+
-Jesus son of Damnaius
-Joseph b. Gamaliel

-Matthias s. of Theophilus
-Pinhas of Habta

44 AD
?
47-58/59 AD


59-61 AD

 61-62 AD
 62 AD
 62-63 AD
 63-65 AD

65-67 AD
 67-70 AD

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 1998, revised 2007 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Six different Herods are mentioned in the New Testament. Kenneth Berding at The Good Book Blog speaks further of their roles in first century history, concluding with this brief summary:

Herod the Great: Christmas story

Herod Archelaus: Joseph [went] to Nazareth instead of Bethlehem because of him

Herod Antipas: Killed John the Baptist

Herod Philip: Ruled area north and east of Galilee

Herod Agrippa I: Eaten by worms

Herod Agrippa II: Trial of Paul in Caesarea

Many of these different Herods, Roman Prefects, and High Priests are also mentioned in the writings of Josephus, including his famous War of the Jews (75 AD). The early church father, Remigius (437 – 533 AD), informs us that Herod Agrippa II protected a community of believing Jews in Pella (in modern Jordan) when they fled from Judea and Jerusalem in 67 AD in obedience to Jesus’ words (Matthew 24:15-20, Mark 13:14-19, Luke 21:20-23):

“[F]or on the approach of the Roman army, all the Christians in the province, warned, as ecclesiastical history tells us, miraculously from heaven, withdrew, and passing the Jordan, took refuge in the city of Pella; and under the protection of that King Agrippa, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, they continued some time.”

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The second resource from Michal Hunt features a timeline of major events between 30 – 70 AD:

TIME LINE AD 30 – 70 (Source)

YEAR (AD) EVENT
30
  • Yeshua the Nazorean [Jesus] is executed by the Romans. Three days later He rises from the dead. 40 days after His Resurrection He ascends to the Father.
  • Fifty days after the Resurrection (ten days after the Ascension), on the Jewish Feast of Weeks (called the Feast of Pentecost by Greek-culture Jews) God the Holy Spirit descends upon and indwells the disciples waiting in the Upper Room. It is the Second Great Pentecost and the birth of the New Covenant Church.
33 – 34 Stephen is martyred. Christian persecution by Jews intensifies
35 Peter is Bishop of Antioch for 7 years
37 Roman Emperor Tiberius smothered to hasten his death
41 Emperor Caligula assassinated and succeeded by Claudius
42 -67
  • Peter goes to Rome to establish the headquarters of the Universal (Catholic) Church
  • James the Just is Bishop of Jerusalem
43
  • Roman Emperor Claudius initiates conquest of Britain.
  • Paul’s conversion
46 – 67 Paul’s missionary journeys
49 – 50 Council of Jerusalem
54 Emperor Claudius poisoned by his wife and succeeded by her son Nero
59 Nero orders the death of his mother
60
  • Nero murders his wife and marries Poppaea, a Jewish sympathizer.
  • Queen Boudicca’s revolt in Britian
62
  • Parthians revolt against Rome.
  • James Bishop of Jerusalem martyred
64 Great fire of Rome. Rome begins persecution of Christians
65 Nero murders his pregnant wife Poppaea
66
  • Roman procurator of Judea, Gessius Florus, murders 3,600 Jews (crucifying about 2,000) in May. May-Oct. Christians flee Judea.
  • Jewish Revolt against Rome begins with massacre of Jerusalem Roman garrison in Oct.
  • Roman gentiles of Caesarea kill 20,000 Jews
  • Jewish army defeats and massacres the Roman garrison at Masada
  • Gentiles of Damascus, Syria massacre 10,000 Jews
  • Roman occupied cities across Judea, Samaria, Egypt, Syria,and Asia attack Jews.
  • Roman General Cestius Gallus’ army defeated in Nov. and driven out
  • Jews fight each other; 3 different factions. Each leader claims to be ‘messiah.’
  • Numerous earthquakes
67
  • General Vespasian and son Titus come across the Euphrates River; arrive in Judea from Syria with 4 Roman legions to destroy the Jewish revolt.
  • Revolts against Rome in Gaul and Spain
  • Peter and Paul executed in Rome (some time between 64-67?)
68 – 69
  • “The Year of Four Emperors” Nero commits suicide and is succeeded by Galba, Otho, and Vitellius who is succeeded by General Vespasian. Vespasian is named Emperor by Roman Senate
  • Roman army destroys Qumran (community where Dead Sea Scrolls found)
70
  • General Titus begins siege of Jerusalem in March. It lasts 3.5 months. The 9th of Ab: the Temple and Jerusalem are destroyed by the Roman army. Jewish historian Josephus estimated the dead of Jerusalem at 1,197,000.
  • Jews who survive revolt are sold into slavery

Why I Believe Israel Is the Apple of God’s Eye


Israel is the apple of God’s eye. This was true during the days of David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. It’s also true now, but of whom exactly is it true?

Two Passages Where God Said Israel Was the Apple of His Eye

Zechariah 2:8 is a well-known verse, often quoted by Christian Zionists with reference to modern Israel (as does this Christian ministry), and typically as a way of saying that Christians are bound to stand in loyalty to the nation of Israel:

For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.

Looking back at the history of ancient Israel, God did indeed refer to this nation as the apple of His eye:

Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you: When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the children of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye” (Deuteronomy 32:7-10).

Of course, Deuteronomy 32 is overall a lament concerning Israel, where God

[1] speaks of “their end” in the days of “a perverse generation, children in whom is no faith” (verses 5, 20, 28-29; see also Matthew 17:17 and Philippians 2:14-15)
[2] denies that many within Israel are even His children (“They are not His children…“; verse 5)
[3] goes on to prophesy of a time when Gentiles would rejoice with His people over the avenging of the blood of God’s servants (verse 43; see also Matthew 23:35-36; Revelation 16:3-6, 17:1-6, 18:20-24). 

Other Passages Where This Phrase Is Used

The phrase “apple of my eye” is used in two other passages. David asks God to keep him as the apple of His eye, and Solomon advises his readers to value his instructions as much as they value their own eyeballs:

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 17:8).

Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye” (Proverbs 7:2).

Which Israel Is the Apple of God’s Eye?

From Deuteronomy 32 and Zechariah 2 it’s clear that God does have an apple of His eye. Is modern, national Israel the apple of God’s eye, as many say? If so, does this include even the Arab citizens of Israel, as well as expatriates living there? If so, who was the apple of God’s eye between 70 AD and 1948 when there was no nation of Israel?

Israel is indeed the apple of God’s eye. The apple of God’s eye is Jesus, true Israel, and His followers, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). 

When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, God shouted from the heavens how He felt about His Son:

And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased‘” (Matthew 3:17). 

When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain toward the end of His ministry, God proclaimed the same words over His Son (Matthew 17:5). Throughout the New Testament we see similar testimony indicating that Jesus is the apple of God’s eye, even if this phrase isn’t used there. For a deeper study of how Jesus is Israel, see this post (“Why I Stand With Israel”), which shows how Matthew, Luke, and John are among the New Testament authors who demonstrate that what was said of ancient Israel in the Old Testament is now said of Jesus, our Savior.

The Church of Jesus Christ is also the Israel of God, His beloved, the apple of His eye. This is because we abide in Christ, the apple of God’s eye. Of Jesus it is said that “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). We who belong to Jesus are “a new creation” (II Corinthians 5:17), “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10), and “a holy temple in the Lord…a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22; compare with Deuteronomy 32:7-10 quoted above). We are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29, Colossians 3:10), and we are God’s chosen people (Ephesians 1:11-12, Colossians 3:12-13, I Peter 2:9-10).

When Saul persecuted God’s people, Jesus’ followers, He took it personally: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?…I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4-5). When the beast made “war with the saints” for 42 months (Revelation 13:5-7), God saw it as making “war with the Lamb(Revelation 17:12-14).

The Context of Zechariah 2 

Who did God ultimately see as Zion when He called the “daughter of Zion” (Zech. 2:10) “the apple of His eye” (verse 8)? Was this prophecy simply about national Israel or all Jewish people? God spoke through Zechariah at a time when the people of Judah and Israel had been “spread…abroad like the four winds of heaven” (Zech. 1:19-21, 2:6), but God was calling them to escape from Babylon (2:7). He would shake His hand against the nations that plundered them and touched the apple of His eye (2:8-9). Zechariah prophesied of a time when God would come and dwell in the midst of Zion (verse 10). This was not to be a mono-ethnic or single-nation reality:

Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem” (Zech. 2:11-12).

The identity of Zion and the identity of Israel was destined to expand to include people from all nations. This has already been accomplished in Christ, and the church was born in Jerusalem as Jews were added to the church daily (Acts 2:47) and a short while later non-Jews began to flow in as well (Acts 11:18). God again chose Jerusalem, but His chosen Jerusalem is the heavenly one, not the one 43 miles from Tel Aviv (Galatians 4:21-31).

However, Zion would not include the corrupt and perverse, disobedient people who God didn’t even regard as His children. This was true even in Moses’ day, as we saw earlier (Deuteronomy 32:5). Most importantly, God’s people, Zion, would not include those who would not hear His Son, Jesus, for they would be cut off:

For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people‘” (Acts 3:22-23).

A study of the Old Testament reveals that Jews were cut off from among God’s people for quite a number of reasons (e.g. Exodus 31:14, 32:33; Leviticus 7:20-21, 27; 17:4, 9-10, 14; 18:29; 19:8; 20:3, 5-6, 17-18; 22:3, 23:29; Numbers 9:13, 15:30, 19:13; Deuteronomy 29:19). The ultimate reason for being cut off from among God’s people, from Zion, is being separated from Jesus. Today, the Christian Zionist movement doesn’t see the slightest reason for a single ethnic Jew to be outside of God’s people, not even if they are Atheists or they mock Jesus Christ. They are all God’s chosen people, and they are all the apple of God’s eye, if Christian Zionism is to be believed. 

Any teaching that uses Zechariah 2:8 to say that the apple of God’s eye is limited to the Jewish people, or limited to people living within the borders of ancient Israel, or that it includes people who reject Jesus Christ, is off-base. The apple of God’s eye is first Jesus, and by extension those who belong to Him (Galatians 3:16, 29). If you belong to Jesus, rejoice that you are the apple of God’s eye.

I hope you will enjoy this song by the worship artist, Jason Upton, which rejoices in this truth. This song is called “One Reason,” from his 2001 album, Faith

(Alternate link #1, alternate link #2, lyrics)

Zechariah 12 Fulfilled


This post is in response to recent and past questions about whether or not the prophecies of Zechariah 12 have been fulfilled. At a later time I may do my own in-depth study of this passage, but this post draws on a few studies done by others who believe that Zechariah 12 was fulfilled in the first century AD. Here are a couple of questions to consider regarding Zechariah 12-14:

1. Did Zechariah speak of only earthly Jerusalem throughout these three chapters, or did he shift at any time to speaking about the new/heavenly Jerusalem?
2. Did Zechariah possibly have a glimpse of the revelation that Paul had in Galatians 4:21-31, when he spoke of two Jerusalems; one that was in bondage and ready to be cast out, and one that was free and is the mother of God’s people? Isaiah had this revelation to some degree (see Isaiah 65:17 – 66:24).

A. In the first study I’d like to present, Don K. Preston discusses Zechariah 12 in conjunction with Revelation 1:7, a related passage, and gives some historical and contextual background for Zechariah 12:

It seems to have escaped the notice of those who offer Revelation 1:7 as proof of a yet future coming of Jesus that this verse is taken directly out of the book of Zechariah; and as we shall see Jesus also uses this verse in the great eschatological discourse of Matthew 24. Surely the Bible student will want to be fully aware of how the verse is used in those contexts.

In Zechariah 12:10 the Spirit is speaking of a time which he designated as “in that day.” This little term is used extensively by the prophet and is a limiting factor for everything which he discusses. Some of the “in that day” statements are confessedly enigmatic; but enough of them are sufficiently specific as to subject or time that there can be no misunderstanding.

1. “In that day” was to be when God would “break my covenant made with all the people” (Zech. 11:7-11). This is undeniably when the Old Covenant would pass.

2. “In that day” would be “when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and Jerusalem” (12:1).

3. “In that day would be when “there shall be great mourning in Jerusalem” (12:11).

4. “In that day” would be when “there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David…for sin and for uncleanness” (13:1).

5. “In that day” would be when God would “cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land” (13:2).

6. “In that day” would be when the shepherd would be smitten and the sheep scattered (13:6-7).

7. “In that day” would be when only a remnant would be saved (13:8).

8. “In that day” would be when God would “gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle,” (14:2).

9. “In that day” “living waters would go out from Jerusalem” (14:8).

10. “In that day” there would be only one God and one Lord (14:9).

… Is it not patent that all the above… happened in one generation? How then can one divorce the appearance of the Messiah, when they would look on him whom they had pierced, from that same fateful generation?

Interestingly, John the author of Revelation used Zechariah 12:10 on another occasion. In John 19:37 as Jesus hung on the cross the Lord’s favorite apostle records the event as fulfillment of Zechariah’s words. This application of a single prediction to two events is not unknown in scripture… For John, Zechariah 12:10 was applicable to Jesus’ crucifixion; but it would receive final fulfillment when “all the tribes of the earth” would mourn when they looked on him whom they had pierced. To John this would be when Jesus returned in the clouds of glory.

Jesus and Zechariah 12:10

As shown, Zechariah 12:10 is the background for Revelation 1:7 and the context demands the event be in the first century generation. But our Lord also employed the language of Zechariah/Revelation in such a way that all controversy as to WHEN it would happen should be dispelled. In the famous apocalypse of Matthew 24 our Lord predicted the destruction of Jerusalem… 

In Matthew 24:29-31 Jesus adopts the classical style of Jewish apocalyptic literature in describing the fall of the Theocracy. In verse 30 Messiah quotes Zechariah 12:10 as occurring when the Son of Man would be seen “coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Now notice the emphatic time statements. In verse 32 Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree. When the predicted events began to be seen by the apostles and disciples they were to “know it is near, even at the doors.” He then [states] in positive terms, “Verily, I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, until all these things shall be fulfilled” (v.34). Our Lord has specifically told us when he would come with the clouds, cf. Rev.1:7, when he would be seen by all those who pierced him. It would be in his generation.

In confirmation of the time frame of his coming with the clouds in judgment one needs to examine Matthew 16:27-28 and compare Revelation 22:12. There is absolute harmony and unity between all these verses. In Matthew 16:27-28 Jesus promised to return in judgment with the angels in the lifetime of his disciples. In Matthew 24 he promised to come and be seen by those who had pierced him and it was to be in that generation. In Revelation he would be seen by those who had pierced him and, “Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me to give to every man according as his work shall be,” Rev.1:7; 22:12.

How can one objectively examine these texts and ignore the time frame so inextricably woven into the text? Upon what basis can one say that while Jesus in Matthew 24 cited Zechariah 12 as to be fulfilled at his return in Jerusalem’s fall, that in Revelation, although it emphatically tells us it would shortly come to pass (l:l-3) it has not yet been fulfilled?

Notice the correlation between the theme of the three texts. In Zechariah we are dealing with a time when Jerusalem would be surrounded and besieged, 12:2,11; 13:8ff; 14:2. In Matthew 24 the subject is the destruction of Jerusalem, 24:1-3. In Revelation the theme is the destruction of the great city “where our Lord was crucified,” 11:8. In all three texts you have the coming of the Lord, Zech.14:3-5; Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 1:7. In each of the texts those who pierced him would see him, Zechariah 12:10,Matthew 24:30, Revelation 1:7. And of course at the risk of being repetitious, all three [accounts of this event] were set in a specific time frame – “in that day.” Zech.12; “this generation shall not pass away,” Matthew 24:34; and “the time is at hand,” Rev.1:3

B. The second article I’d like to share is on one of Don K. Preston’s websites, but features the writings of Frank Speer and Ed Stevens as they address an article by Thomas Ice titled “Preterism and Zechariah 12-14.” Frank Speer lists some of the “difficulties that arise from taking a yet future approach to Zechariah chapters 12-14″:

• The battle described in these chapters is waged on HORSEBACK (12:4) with SWORDS! (13:7) Is that how the COMING 21st century Great Tribulation is to be fought?

• Modern Jews do not and will not live in “TENTS” (12:7).

• Modern Jewish people CAN NO LONGER BE divided by their 12 ancestral tribes (12:6-14) since those tribes have long since been genetically diluted – the Jewish peoples of today simply CANNOT be equated with ancient, biblical Israel.

• Zech 13:1 is clearly speaking of “The Cross of Christ” (i.e. a first century event). Has there been no Messianic “fountain” of forgiveness available to the Jewish people since the cross?? Have they been made to wait all this time and then some (until Messiah’s STILL FUTURE RETURN) to have access to divine forgiveness of sin?

• The modern Jews do not and will not worship then “many Idols” mentioned in (13:2) – today’s Jews are mostly atheistic.

• There are no modern Jewish “prophets” (13:2) – nor will there be.

• (13:4) – Will false Hebrew prophets wearing “HAIRY ROBES” soon appear in modern day Palestine in order to deceive a mass of Jewish peoples? …

• (13:3) – The modern Jewish peoples do not obey these ancient “Mosaic Laws” (parents killing children for false predictions etc)!

• (13:4-5) – Will “SLAVERY & AGRICULTURE” once again become COMMON PRACTICE for 21st century Palestinians and ALL NATIONS OF THE WORLD??

• Is the modern Palestinian Economy…based on GOLD, SILVER, FABRIC, HORSES, MULES, CAMELS, DONKEYS AND CATTLE?? (14:14-15)

• Notice that the “ALL NATIONS” of 14:1 are QUALIFIED later by “all the SURROUNDING nations” in 14:14. There is no mention here of ALL THE MODERN NATIONS OF THE 21st CENTURY WORLD! These ancient “Middle Eastern nations” surrounding ancient Israel were the same constant thorns Israel dealt with through their entire history!!

• (14:16) Will the modern Jewish peoples, under Messiah, be keeping all of the Old Covenant “feasts” when the N.T. writers (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) clearly state that such things were merely TEMPORARY TYPOLOGICAL TUTORS intended to lead Israel to Christ??

Will Christ then, in the future, lead the “modern Jewish Christians” and ALL THE NATIONS OF THE MODERN WORLD backwards – to those ancient and “rudimentary things” ( Gk: “stoicheion” – Col 2:8, 20; 2 Pet 3:10) that only served to point to Messiah, the cross, the resurrection, etc.???

The N.T. writers tell us that a RETURN to the Mosaic Economy (the OLD covenant system) would be to apostatize from Christ and to INVALIDATE the cross of Christ!!

• (14:16) – Will “all the nations” [of the entire modern world] soon be “GOING UP” to the modern city of Jerusalem each year to celebrate the Jewish feasts?? How will we all FIT??

Will ALL THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD soon SUDDENLY become AGRARIAN BASED in order to begin THE ANNUAL PLANTING AND HARVESTING CYCLE necessary to keep the feast of booths (tabernacles) yearly? Because, if we do not, God is going to bring PLAGUES upon all those wicked nations and destroy their crops by withholding rain on their crops. (14:17-20)

• Is modern Israel under Messiah going to return to bloody ANIMAL SACRIFICES (the NT says that would be nothing short of “blasphemous” – (study the Book of Hebrews)?

Don K. Preston then quotes from Thomas Ice, who argues that Zechariah 12-14 shows Israel being rescued, not judged, and therefore this passage can not be speaking of events related to the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD. According to Ice, those who say that Zechariah 12-14 has been fulfilled teach “in essence…that the Church had replaced Israel.” He says that preterists have made two errors: [1] believing that Zechariah speaks of “God’s judgment at the hands of the Romans in AD 70 upon Israel,” and [2] failing to see that “Zechariah 12-14 clearly speaks of a time when Israel is rescued by the Lord from an attack by ‘all the nations of the earth,’ not just the Romans” (Ice, of course, should realize that the Roman Empire did absorb many nations and made up most of the known world at the time). 

Ed Stevens then responds to the arguments of Thomas Ice:

Mr. Ice…assumes that ALL preterists (partials and fulls) are guilty of “replacement” theology (when in fact, almost all full preterists, as far as I know, are teaching “remnant” theology). We believe that God did not cut off ALL Israel from his Olive Tree. There was a righteous remnant left who did accept Jesus as their Messiah. Into that righteous remnant of True Israel (the Spiritual Israel) the Gentiles were grafted, in order to make the Jews jealous and entice them to be grafted back into their native Olive Tree and save some of them. Together with the engrafted Gentiles and the re-grafted Israelites, this righteous remnant became the ALL ISRAEL that inherited the promises.

He assumes that the Jerusalem mentioned in Zechariah is the physical city of Jerusalem (when in fact it is talking about the New Heavenly Jerusalem mentioned in Hebrew 12 and Revelation 21-22). 

He assumes that the references to “Israel” in Zech are the physical nation of Israel (when in fact it is talking about the New True Spiritual Israel that Paul refers to in the book of Romans 2, and chs. 9-11, as well as the allegory in Gal. 4).

He forgets about the Neronic persecution (AD 64) when both Rome and the Jews combined forces against the Church to destroy her and wipe her off the map. Jesus said in Matthew 24 that unless those days had been cut short, they would have succeeded. Sure enough, two years later (AD 66) the Jewish War broke out and Rome turned its attention away from hunting Christians, to attacking the Jews.

He forgets that by the first century the Hebrew people had become a melting pot of ALL NATIONS, especially in the Diaspora (Persia, India, Africa, Turkey, Greece, Rome, France, Spain, Britain, Germania, Scythia, Armenia, etc.). Just look at the description in Acts 2 of all the nations where “Jews” came from. There were Jewish communities scattered all over Europe, Asia, and Africa. When the Neronic persecution broke out, every Jewish community in the Diaspora (among “all the nations”) took advantage of the opportunity to wipe out the Christians, and used Roman authority to do it. They  were just like the wicked Haman of the book of Esther who plotted to wipe out all the Jews. That was when “all the nations” (Diaspora Jews) came against God’s people (the Christians, the New Jerusalem, the true Spiritual Israel) in the Neronic persecution (AD 64). But God turned the tables on the Hamanites. Less than two years later (AD 66) the Jews revolted, and God brought the Romans to wipe out “all the nations” (Diaspora Jews) who had come up against His true spiritual people.

Because Tommy Ice does not know his history nor understand prophetic language, he does not realize that “all the nations” which came against the True Israel and the New Jerusalem, really were destroyed by the Romans. In AD 66, when the war broke out, Diaspora Jews were forced to flee from “all the nations” where they had been scattered and take refuge in Israel. When they got back to the land, they joined the revolt and ended up being killed and enslaved afterwards.

[I don’t agree with Stevens’ final paragraph and did not include it here.]

C. Don K. Preston has another article on this topic titled, “Was Zechariah 12:3 Fulfilled in AD 70?” I’ll quote just a couple of portions from that article:

Our understanding of Zechariah is aided by the prophet’s references to “in that day.” These temporal parameters place fulfillment within the borders of a single generation, the first century generation. There are, if my count is correct, some 19 references to “in that day” in Zechariah. Space forbids an extensive examination of the “in that day” references. However, notice that the “in that day” references of chapter 12 take us directly back to chapter 11. In chapter 11 we find the betrayal of Jesus at the hands of Judas, who was paid the thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13). This in turn would be when YHVH would abandon His covenant “with both houses of Israel” (Zechariah 11:6-10), when they would eat their own flesh in the siege that was coming.

This is confirmed by Jesus’ application of Zechariah 12:10 to the fall of Jerusalem in Matthew 24:30, 34, and by John’s application of the same verse to the time when “those who pierced him” would look on him and mourn, in the destruction of the city “where the Lord was slain” (Revelation 1:7; 11:8)…

Please note: This judgment that is described, when the citizens of Jerusalem would eat the flesh of their own children, was to be part of the Mosaic Covenant provisions of wrath for violation of the Mosaic Covenant (Deuteronomy 28:52-57). Here is what is so critical about this fact: All dispensationalists agree that the Mosaic Covenant has been abrogated!

Thomas Ice affirms that the Torah was “forever fulfilled and discontinued in Christ” (Prophecy Watch, Eugene, Or. 1998, 258)! He acknowledges of the AD 70 catastrophe:  “Those first century days are called the ‘days of vengeance’ for Jerusalem is under the divine judgment of covenantal sanctions recorded in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Luke notes that God’s vengeance on His elect nation ‘is in order that all things that are written may be fulfilled.’ Jesus is telling the nation that God will fulfill all the curses of the Mosaic Covenant because of Israel’s disobedience. He will not relent and merely bring to pass a partial fulfillment of His vengeance” (Thomas Ice/ Kenneth Gentry, The Great Tribulation , Past or Future? Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1999).

…Here is the issue: All millennialists say the Law of Moses has been abrogated. Yet, Zechariah’s prediction of the assault on Jerusalem would be the fulfillment of the Mosaic Covenant… Zechariah had to be fulfilled at a time when Torah was still in effect.

ROME WAS NOT ALONE!

When our millennial friends take note that Zechariah 12 mentions “all the nations of the earth” it is perfectly justified to ask if they mean “all”? Do they mean that America will fight against Jerusalem? If not, why not? Do they mean that the 17 smallest countries in the world, most of which have no armies, will join the battle? If, after all, one is going to insist that  “all the nations” means literally, every nation on earth, then to be consistent, one must argue that every South American country, the USA and every other country on the globe will join in…

In fact, Josephus records that Titus had ten cohorts of  auxiliary troops from kings of different countries, such as Arabia, Syria and other countries (Wars, Bk. 4, chapter 4, Whiston, p. 642). In other words, it was the kings of the earth that gathered against literal Jerusalem!

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

It is critical to honor the fact that in Zechariah (and other OT prophetic books), there is what I call the doctrine of Two Jerusalems… What this means is that in some texts there is a seeming conundrum. On the one hand Jerusalem is destroyed, and yet in the same texts, Jerusalem is delivered! This apparent difficulty is resolved by understanding that Old Covenant Jerusalem was to perish, while the heavenly Jerusalem would be delivered. Galatians 4:22f; Philippians 3; Hebrews 12, and Revelation are some of the NT texts that teach this. This suggestion well explains the situation in Zechariah. The Old Jerusalem would indeed be desolated, in the final outpouring of Mosaic Covenant wrath. Yet, the Jerusalem that is above, the True Jerusalem, would be delivered, and it would be in her that deliverance, the fountain for sin would be opened for salvation (Zechariah 13:1f)…

Zechariah’s prophecy demands that it was fulfilled in the first century, “in that day” when Judas betrayed the Lord. The context demands that the prophecy was fulfilled at a time when the Mosaic Law was still in effect. The judgment described is Mosaic Covenant Wrath. The “kings of the earth” did in fact support Rome’s assault. Finally,  the doctrine of the Two Jerusalems demands the passing of the Old Jerusalem, but the deliverance of the New Covenant Jerusalem. This happened in AD 70.

What do you think? Does the idea of two Jerusalems, one earthly and one heavenly, help to explain Zechariah’s prophecy? Is Zechariah 12 more clear when it’s viewed in relation to the two passages where it’s quoted – Matthew 24:30 and Revelation 1:7? In the near future, I also plan to post a 3-part study by Gary DeMar on Zechariah 14.

The Modern Practice of Tithing in Light of Christ Fulfilling the Law: Part 6 (Conclusion)


This is the sixth and final post in a series on tithing, as it’s taught in many churches today. This series examines all 17 Bible passages which speak of tithing, and is taken from a term paper I wrote in 2006. The first post included the series outline and an introduction, and covered the two passages where tithing was mentioned prior to the Law of Moses (Genesis 14:8-24 and 28:8-22). The second post examined how tithing was prescribed under the law of Moses. The third post looked at how tithing was enforced by a king (Hezekiah), a reformer (Nehemiah), and two prophets (Amos and Malachi).  The fourth post examined what Jesus and Hebrews 7 said about tithing, along with an overview of tithing in history. The fifth post discussed different ways that the law of Moses is viewed today, and included a summary of the book of Galatians, followed by an analysis of tithing in light of Christ having fulfilled the law. This post will feature a study on New Testament giving, a conclusion, and references.

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F. New Testament Giving

When faced with the idea that the modern practice of tithing may not be Biblical, some would naturally be concerned that a “no tithe required” position could pose a financial threat. In other words, if people stop “tithing,” can Christian leaders maintain their livelihood?

This becomes a matter of trusting that God can speak to the hearts of individual believers and guide them as to how they should give. It’s also a matter of having faith that God can meet the legitimate needs of ministries, even without the modern tithing system to lean on as a crutch. It’s also good to remember that western churches today are run like businesses, unlike the early church. Building mortgages, staff salaries, lobbies and foyers, parking lots, etc. are major factors in a lot of church budgets today, but they are extra-biblical and do not reflect the financial needs of the early church.

Regarding giving in the New Testament, Pastors David Clark and Bryce Carter (2006) admit that “giving is of little value” unless it comes from a willing heart. At the same time, however, they strongly question whether God ever gave man “the right to decide how much He requires.” Anonymous Pastor (2003), who teaches tithing, also affirms that giving should be done willingly, cheerfully, lovingly, thankfully, and with pure motives.

The following is a brief overview of a number of passages which show the progression, patterns and principles of New Testament giving. It’s clear that the poor, needy, and widows are still a priority:

[A] Acts 2:44-45 (The earliest believers were together, had all things in common, sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all based on need.)

[B] Acts 4:32-37 (There was great unity. No one claimed personal possessions, as they had all things in common. No one lacked. Lands and houses were sold. The proceeds were brought to the apostles, who distributed them based on need.)

[C] Acts 6:1-4 (The number of disciples had grown. The Hellenists complained that the Hebrews were leaving their widows out of the daily distribution. Seven men were chosen to be overseers.)

[D] Acts 11:27-30 (During a time of great famine, the disciples, “each according to his ability,” sent relief to believers in Judea. Paul and Barnabas brought the supplies to the elders.)

[E] Acts 18:3 (Paul earned some of his salary in his trade as a tentmaker.)

[F] Acts 20:34-35 (Paul did secular work to help support himself and his companions. He also wanted to demonstrate that “you must support the weak.”)

[G] Romans 15:26 (Believers from Macedonia and Achaia contributed to poor saints in Jerusalem.)

[H] I Corinthians 4:11-12 (Paul, at times, went hungry, was poorly clothed, was beaten and was homeless. He and his companions also did secular work with their own hands.)

[I] I Corinthians 9:1-18 (Paul was being examined, and defended his apostleship. He was possibly seen as inferior to the other apostles because he was working. He quoted from Moses to show that those who serve deserve to be supported. Paul had not even used his rights, though the Lord had made a provision for “those who preach the gospel [to] live from the gospel.” He preached the gospel out of his duty to the Lord, but he had chosen to also do secular work on the side so that he could “present the gospel of Christ without charge.”)

[J] I Corinthians 16:1-3 (Paul didn’t want to take up a collection for the Jerusalem saints in person when he came. So the Corinthian church, like the Galatian church, was to “lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper,” on the first day of the week. They had already promised to help the needy Jerusalem saints, affected by the famine.)

[K] II Corinthians 8:1-24 (Paul did much collecting on behalf of others. He rejoiced that the Macedonian Church received the grace of God, and had given freely, willingly, and beyond their ability [cf Romans 15:26]. The Corinthian church had already taken a year just to assemble their gift, even though they were wealthy. Paul desired financial equality in the churches. Titus and another brother had been sent to collect their gift on behalf of the needy.)

[L] II Corinthians 9:1-15 Paul announced that he would visit Corinth. Paul sent the brethren ahead to urge the Corinthian believers to have their promised gift ready before he arrived, out of “generosity and not as a grudging obligation.” Giving was to be done [1] as one purposes in his heart [2] “not grudgingly or of necessity” [3] cheerfully and [4] by God’s grace. Their service would supply the needs of the saints.)

[M] Philippians 4:10-19 (Paul had learned to be content, whether hungry and suffering need, or full and abounding. He was grateful to the Philippian believers for often sending for his necessities. They would receive fruit in their own accounts, and Paul promised that God would supply all their needs.)

[N] I Thessalonians 2:9, II Thessalonians 3:7-9 (Paul and his companions labored and toiled night and day, so they wouldn’t be a burden to the believers. They did it to be an example.)

[O] I Timothy 5:3-18 (The church was to relieve genuine widows, who had no one to take care of them. But if a widow still had believing family members, they were to take care of her. Those failing to provide for their own households had “denied the faith.” Younger widows were advised to remarry. Elders who ruled well were to be “counted worthy of double honor.”)

Giving from the heart was not a new concept in New Testament times. In the time of Moses, Scripture records numerous instances of freewill giving (e.g. Exodus 25:2, Exodus 35:4-5, Exodus 35:21-29, Leviticus 22:29). The people’s hearts were stirred, and they gave as they were willing. On one occasion, they gave far too much! They had to be restrained from bringing anymore (Exodus 36:2-7).

The New Testament insists that we belong completely to God, and we are not our own, for we were bought with a price (e.g. I Corinthians 6:19-20). Everything we have belongs to God, and we are to be good stewards of all that we have temporarily been given (e.g. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 12:42-48, 16:1-13, 19:11-27). Regarding the subject of giving, F.F. Bruce concludes:

“Each Christian must come to a conscientious decision on this subject before God, and not be content to submit to the dogmatic statements of others; and it will be surprising if grace does not impel him to give a larger proportion than ever the law demanded” (David Yeubanks, 2006).

G. Conclusion

I do not assume that the majority of those who practice monetary tithing today do so out of selfishness, fear, or an attempt to validate their salvation. Most probably, they sincerely believe that what they are doing is required by Scripture. I sympathize with the 54% of US Protestant Christians who believe God requires them to tithe, but for whatever reason fail to do so. I wonder how many of them are needlessly racked with guilt.

I also don’t assume that all tithe teachers use the curse of Malachi 3:9 as a means to scare, pressure, and dupe their followers into forking over at least 10% of their income. Some do this, of course. Many, however, are simply repeating what they themselves have heard and been taught.

I must conclude that those who teach tithing today rarely, if ever, teach it consistent with Old Testament teaching. If they did, those in the agricultural sector would be urged to tithe, not 10%, but around 23% every year. They would ensure that the poor, widows, and orphans benefited greatly from their tithes. They would give to Levites living closest to them. They would eat part of their yearly tithes. Their tithes would be mainly food products. The Levites would have a problem, though. The former temple, with its storehouse, no longer remains.

If a person were to do these things, perhaps he could then say he is tithing according to the Bible. However, if he did so out of any kind of obligation, he would be in danger of falling into the same error as the Galatian church, putting himself under law, and falling from grace.

I believe that the modern practice of tithing represents a large deception in the Church, though not always intentional. If we choose to obligate ourselves to even part of the law of Moses, we are under obligation to keep all of it. Galatians 3:10 states, “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the Law, to do them” (emphasis added).

The Israelites had willingly agreed to be put under the curse if they disobeyed the law (Deuteronomy 27:11-26, 28:15-68), and they likewise anticipated blessings for obedience (28:1-14, 30:1-10). Centuries later, in Nehemiah’s day, they again “entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses…” (10:29). Around this same time, God used Malachi to tell His people that they were under a curse for failing to keep His commands regarding the priesthood and the poor.

By fearing the curse spoken of in Malachi’s day, many are putting their trust in the tithe for protection and financial blessing, rather than trusting in God. We negate the work of the cross in our lives if we still fear that curse, or if we try to avoid it by keeping the Law. The implication of placing one’s self under the curse of Malachi 3:9 for failing to tithe is that Christ’s death on the cross is regarded as insufficient to redeem His people from the curse of the law. Tithing is what allegedly bring us out from under that curse.

Giving 10% of one’s paycheck to a church or Christian ministry is not, and never was, Biblical tithing. What was formerly supported by the tithes (Levitical priesthood, festivals, etc.) has now been fulfilled in Christ in such a way that tithes are no longer needed to support them. Clear provision has been made in the New Testament to continue supporting the poor, orphans, and widows, without the presence of the tithing system. There is also provision made for supporting the work of various ministries, especially in I and II Corinthians.

God’s people have been redeemed from the curse of the law, with its demand for perfection of which we all fall terribly short. Only Jesus was perfect. He became a curse, so that through Him “we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:10-14). In light of Christ fulfilling the Law, the modern practice of tithing has no solid ground on which to stand.

References

Anonymous Pastor. The Trinity of Giving. 2003. Source to remain anonymous.

Carter, Pastor David L. and Clark, Pastor Bryce G. Tithing Today. Eugene, Oregon: Bethel Church of God. 2006. At http://www.bethelcog.org/GA_TithingToday.html.

Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Nehemiah. 2004. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/nehemiah.pdf

Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Malachi. 2005. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/malachi.pdf

Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Matthew. 2005. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/matthew.pdf

Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Galatians. 2005. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/galatians.pdf

Constable, Dr. Thomas L. Notes on Hebrews. 2006. At http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/hebrews.pdf

Ellison Research. Clergy and Laity Disagree About Tithing and Charitable Giving. 2006. At http://www.ellisonresearch.com/releases/20060302.htm

Fee, Gordon D. and Stuart, Douglas. How to Read the Bible for All its Worth: Second Edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing. 1993.

Foy, Nathan. Tithing – Is it for Today? Desert Cry Ministry. 2006. At http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/tithing-is-it-for-today-nathan-foy-sermon-on-giving-general-82833.asp

Greenwood, Tim. Why You Should Tithe. Arcadia, California: Tim Greenwood Ministries.  2006. At http://www.tgm.org/WhyUShouldTithe.htm.

Hughes, R. Kent. Disciplines of a Godly Man: Tenth Anniversary Edition. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books. 2001.

Kaiser, Jr., Walter C. Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House. 1987.

Kaiser, Jr., Walter C. The Christian and the “Old” Testament. Pasadena, California: William Carey Library. 1998.

Kelly Ph.D., Russell Earl. Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine. Writer’s Club Press: New York. 2000. Available online at http://desatky.webzdarma.cz/rek.pdf

Kelly Ph.D., Russell Earl. Should the Church Teach Tithing? Acworth, Georgia. 2006. Essay at http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/

Narramore, Matthew E. Tithing: Low Realm, Obsolete, and Defunct. Graham, North Carolina: Tekoa Publishing. 2004. Available online at http://tekoapublishing.com/books/tithing/index.html

Nelson, Thomas The Holy Bible: The New King James Version. Philippines: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Pentecost, Dwight. The Purpose of the Law. Bibliotheca Sacra 128:511. July-September 1971 edition.

Snell, Jay. How to Amass Abrahamic Wealth. Livingston, Texas: Jay Snell Evangelistic Association. 1995. Available online at http://jaysnell.org/freebooks.htm.

Sparks, James. Why Modern Churches Are Carnal: God’s Plan for a Scriptural New Testament Church. Hico, Texas: Christian News and Views. 2005. At http://cnview.com/churches_today/chapter_6_truth_about_the_church.htm

Strong, LL.D., S.T.D., James. The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: With Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2001.

Teall, A.M., Edward N. New Concise Webster’s Dictionary: Revised Edition. New York: Modern Publishing. 1988.

The Barna Group, Ltd. Americans Donate Billions to Charity, But Giving to Churches Has Declined. 2005.  The Barna Group at https://www.barna.org/barna-update/5-barna-update/180-americans-donate-billions-to-charity-but-giving-to-churches-has-declined#.VH1oiDHF-So

Westby, Ken. Which is Scripturally Supportable: Tithing or Christian Giving? The Journal: Publication of the News of the Churches of God. 2006. At http://www.thejournal.org/articles/issue31/westby.html

Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia. Tithe. 2006. At http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tithe

Yeubanks, David. Study References and Quotes. 2006. At http://truthforfree.com/html/tithing-related/tithing/index.html

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All posts from this series, and on the subject of tithing, can be found here.

The Modern Practice of Tithing in Light of Christ Fulfilling the Law: Part 5


This is the fifth post in a 6-part series on tithing, as it’s taught in many churches today. This series examines all 17 Bible passages which speak of tithing, and is taken from a term paper I wrote in 2006. The first post included the series outline and an introduction, and covered the two passages where tithing was mentioned prior to the Law of Moses (Genesis 14:8-24 and 28:8-22). The second post examined how tithing was prescribed and practiced under the Mosaic Law (in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The third post looked at how tithing was enforced by a king (Hezekiah), a reformer (Nehemiah), and two prophets (Amos and Malachi).  The fourth post examined what Jesus and Hebrews 7 said about tithing, along with an overview of tithing in history. This post will discuss different ways that the law of Moses is viewed today (including a closer look at the book of Galatians), followed by an analysis of tithing in light of Christ having fulfilled the law.  My references will be included in the final post.

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D. Ways of Viewing the Law of Moses Today

How should present-day believers approach the Law of Moses, and the Old Testament as a whole? Although the New Testament is clear that Christ’s followers are no longer “under the law” (e.g. Romans 6:14-15; Galatians 3:25; Hebrews 7:18, 8:13), it’s also clear that the entire Old Testament is inspired by God, and is profitable in many ways to us today (II Timothy 3:16-17, I Corinthians 10:1-12). In fact, much of the New Testament is made up of references to the Old Testament, including references to the law of Moses. We have much to learn by studying the Law of Moses and every other part of the Old Testament.

Walter Kaiser, who has authored a number of books on the Old Testament, says that although the Law came “as a host of specific enactments distinctively relevant to particular times, persons, and places” (1987, p. 155), this “was not meant to prejudice its universal usefulness” (p. 172-3). He affirms that we can derive principles from the Law, but not irresponsibly, or by searching for “hidden meaning.” He says that “this search for principles or axioms must not be imposed as a grid over Scripture; Scripture itself must supply them” (p. 157).

Kaiser (1998) notes that there are two different views generally held by Christians on the relevance of Old Testament Law. The first view says that [1] we are required to obey Old Testament commands if they are specifically repeated in the New Testament, but whatever is not repeated is now passé. The second view says [2] we are still required to obey Old Testament commands, unless the New Testament specifically says otherwise.

Jay Snell (1995), and pastors David Carter and Bryce Clark (2006) clearly prefer the second view when it comes to tithing, as can be seen in their statements:

“[U]nless the New Testament has plainly set it [tithing] aside, you New Testament people are grafted right into the Old Testament Abrahamic System. So not only is the tithe, the offering and the first fruits offering not set aside, you are grafted right smack into the middle of all three of them…” (Carter and Clark). “And unless the cross sets aside something from the Old Testament, we are part and parcel of it. The cross has never set aside the tithe, the offerings and the law of the First Fruits Offering. We are in it” (Jay Snell, 1995, p. 36-37, emphasis added).

That’s an amazing statement, in light of the book of Hebrews explicitly teaching that the law, the old covenant, and the sacrifices have become obsolete. Carter and Clark (2006) have a similar view. They teach that the tithing laws did not need to be repeated in the New Testament because they were already well established in the Old Testament. Their stance is that unless “one can find a clear command not to tithe, one should never assume tithing has been done away.

Charles Ryrie clearly prefers the first view. On page 105 of his book Basic Theology, he said:

“Now the Mosaic Law was done away in its entirety as a code. It has been replaced by the law of Christ. The law of Christ contains some new commands (1 Timothy 4:4), some old ones (Romans 13:9), and some revised ones… All of the laws of the Mosaic code have been abolished because the code has. Specific Mosaic commands which are part of the Christian code appear there not as a continuation of part of the Mosaic Law…but as specifically incorporated into that [Christian] code, and as such they are binding on believers today. A particular law that was part of the Mosaic code is done away; that same law, if part of the law of Christ, is binding” (David Yeubanks, 2006, emphasis added).

Kaiser (1998) points out that two of the Protestant reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, held opposing views. Luther’s view seemed to reflect the first view above, while Calvin more or less held the second. Luther once wrote, “There is one answer that can be made to all attempts to cite passages from the Old Testament to support [monastic vows]. ‘Do you Christians want to be Jews?’ Prove your case from the New Testament. The Old Testament has been set aside through Christ and is no longer binding.” On another occasion, he wrote,

“The Law is no longer binding on us because it was given only to the people of Israel… [Exodus 20:2] makes it clear that even the ten commandments do not apply to us… The sectarian spirits want to saddle us with Moses and all the commandments. We will skip that. We will regard Moses as a teacher, but we will not regard him as our lawgiver-unless he agrees with both the New Testament and the natural law.”

Calvin took an almost opposite stance. Referring to Deuteronomy 32:46-47, he said, “We are not to refer solely to one age David’s statement that the life of a righteous man is a continual meditation upon the law [Psalms 1:2], for it is just as applicable to every age, even to the end of the world.” In the same document, Calvin added,

“What Paul says, as to the abrogation of the Law [Gal 3:10] evidently applies not to the Law itself, but merely to its power of constraining the conscience. For the Law not only teaches, but also imperiously demands… We must be freed from the fetters of the law… Meanwhile…the law has lost none of its authority, but must always receive from us the same respect and obedience” (p. 68-69).

Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart (1993) note that there are more than 600 commandments in the Old Testament. They are contained within four Old Testament books: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Fee and Stuart add that “the function of most Old Testament books is largely to illustrate and apply the Law found in the Pentateuch (p. 149). They then ask (p. 150), “If you are a Christian, are you expected to keep the Old Testament law? If you are expected to keep it, how can you possibly do so, since there is no longer any temple or central sanctuary on whose altar you can offer such things as the meat of animals (Lev. 1-5)?” Fee and Stuart conclude (p. 152):

“The Old Testament represents an old covenant, which is one we are no longer obligated to keep. Therefore we can hardly begin by assuming that the Old Covenant should automatically be binding upon us. We have to assume, in fact, that none of its stipulations (laws) are binding upon us unless they are renewed in the New Covenant. That is, unless an Old Testament law is somehow restated or reinforced in the New Testament, it is no longer directly binding on God’s people (cf. Rom. 6:14-15).”

They also note that we can learn much about God by what we see in the laws that were given. For example, we can see that God loves slaves, and the regulations for slaves were far more compassionate than the treatment slaves received in the surrounding nations of that time (pp. 158-159).

I believe there is also much to be gleaned from the tithing laws. Foremost in my mind is that God showed great concern for the needy and the dependent. Those who tithed had a great responsibility toward orphans, widows, and strangers. When studying the tithing laws, we should be motivated to help the needy as well. The Law sought to ensure that those who ministered to the people, the priests and the Levites, were well taken care of. We should likewise be motivated to give generously to support those who genuinely serve the Body of Christ today.

The entire Old Testament is relevant to us today. This includes the Law, which contained “types and shadows” of the New Covenant God promised He would establish. Circumcision, for example, pointed to a future spiritual reality, being made a new creation (Romans 2:28-29, Galatians 6:15). So this obsolete regulation still illustrates how God cuts away the “flesh” from our hearts today, and this is worth studying and teaching.

The question is this: Are the ordinances of the Law of Moses binding in any way upon believers today, either to [1] govern behavior or [2] to attain some state of acceptance before God? Dwight Pentecost (1971) spoke well when he said, “For the Christian the Mosaic Law has revelatory value (2 Tim. 3:16-17) even though it does not have regulatory value, controlling our behavior” (p. 227).

John Wesley said, in his explanatory notes on Hebrews 7:18:

“For there is implied in this new and everlasting priesthood [the priesthood of Christ], and in the new dispensation connected therewith, a dis-annulling of the preceding commandment – An abrogation of the Mosaic law. For the weakness and unprofitableness thereof – For its insufficiency either to justify or to sanctify” (David Yeubanks, 2006).

There are many Scriptures in the New Testament which speak of our relation to the Law of Moses. Momentarily we’ll take a closer look at the Book of Galatians, but before doing so, consider this brief overview of some other relevant passages:

[A] Romans 6:13-15 (Sin doesn’t have dominion over us, because we are not under law. We are under grace, but we are not free to sin.)

[B] Romans 7:4-6 (We are dead to the law, which used to arouse “the passions of sins.” Now we are “delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by.”)

[C] Romans 7:7:12 (The law is holy, just, and good. But it brought death, because it revealed what sin is, and sin took the occasion to deceive and kill.)

[D] Romans 1:16-8:17 (This large passage discusses the Law at length.)

[E] Romans 10:4 (“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”)

[F] Romans 13:8-10 (“[He] who loves another has fulfilled the law.”)

[G] Ephesians 2:11-18 (The wall of division between Jews and Gentiles, “the law of commandments contained in ordinances,” has been abolished. Both groups are reconciled as one in Christ.)

[H] Colossians 2:11-17 (The “handwriting of requirements that was written against us” has been “wiped out”, “taken out of the way”, and nailed to the cross. They were against God’s people in the sense that they condemned those – everyone – who didn’t keep them perfectly.)

[I] I Timothy 1:5-9 (Some wanted to be teachers of the law, but had strayed. The “law is good if one uses it lawfully.” The “law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless…”)

[J] Hebrews 9:8-10 (The gifts and sacrifices offered in the tabernacle were temporary, “fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of the reformation. But Christ came…”)

[K] Hebrews 10:1 (The law had a shadow of good things to come, but could not make anyone perfect.)

[L] James 2:8-11 (The law convicts people as transgressors. Breaking even one point of the law makes a person “guilty of all.”)

We can also add that Jesus and the apostles taught that we fulfill the Law by wholeheartedly loving God and those around us (Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 6:2; James 2:8).

The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians

One of the main concerns in the book of Galatians is whether Gentiles who believe in Christ must also be subject to Mosaic Law. The example which Paul looked into the deepest was circumcision (2:3-14, 5:2-12, 6:12-15). He touched on both justification and sanctification in this epistle.

Paul began his epistle to the Galatians by warning them that they were turning from the grace of Christ to a different gospel (Galatians 1:6-7). After relating how he had received the gospel, Paul spoke of false brethren “secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Jesus Christ, that they might bring us into bondage)…” (2:4). Paul even firmly opposed Peter on the issue (2:11-21). Throughout the rest of the book, he warned against the danger of returning to any part of the Law for justification. If righteousness is said to come through the law, Paul warned, then Christ’s death was in vain (2:21).

The Galatians had “begun in the Spirit,” but then were attempting to be made perfect by the flesh (3:3). Here Paul touches on sanctification, the state of being increasingly set aside for God as holy (Strong, 2001). Like justification, this is also to take place in the lives of God’s people by the Spirit, not by the law.

If anyone is “of the works of the law,” he is under a curse, because he can’t possibly keep the entire Law (3:10-11). Christ redeemed His people from the curse of the law, by becoming a curse for them (3:13). As a result, the Gentiles can now receive the blessing of Abraham through faith, which is the promised Holy Spirit (3:14). The law had been “added” only until Jesus came (3:19). It was a “tutor” to bring people to Christ, and now His followers “are no longer under a tutor,” but have been justified by faith in Him (3:24-25).

Paul compared those under the law to a child who, like a slave, is still “under guardians and tutors until the time appointed by the father” (4:1-3). Those who are redeemed “receive the adoption as sons” (4:4-7). The law brought bondage (4:3), but in spite of knowing God, the Galatians turned again to bondage (4:9). They were observing “days and months and seasons and years” (4:10), i.e. the annual feasts, etc., as an obligation. 

Galatians 5 begins with Paul exclaiming: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (5:1). In his day, the Galatian believers were obligating themselves to be circumcised, which was indeed an obligation under the law of Moses. False teachers were evidently telling them that they still needed to be circumcised to receive the blessings of God in their lives.

Paul told them that because of their stance on that issue, they were then in debt to keep the entire law: “Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law” (5:2-3). In the next verse, he was even more severe, telling them that they had fallen from grace: “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (5:4).

E. Tithing in Light of Christ Having Fulfilled the Law

I believe Paul would have said the same if the issue in Galatia had been tithing rather than circumcision. By this I don’t mean that all who claim to tithe today have fallen from grace, but this is the danger if we teach that tithing is necessary to be justified or sanctified before God.

Is this error taking place today? I believe it is. God’s people are no longer under a curse, but were redeemed from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:10-14). By saying that those who do not tithe today are under the curse spoken of in Malachi, it’s implied that Jesus’ work on the cross was not enough to take it away. An additional effort on our part, i.e. tithing, is needed to obtain acceptance before God and remove the curse. I say this is implied, because tithe proponents normally don’t identify the curse of Malachi 3:9 (cf. Nehemiah 10:29) as the curse of the law.

Malachi 3 is probably cited more than any other passage to promote tithing today. It is often used to teach that those who fail to tithe are robbing God, and are cursed. Matthew Narramore (2004) sees this as ironic, because the opposite is actually true. He says, “[If] you put yourself back under the Law you will put yourself under the curse [according to Galatians 3:10].” The curse is not for those whom Christ has redeemed (Galatians 3:13), who are justified by faith in Him (2:16), and are standing fast “in the liberty by which Christ has made us free” (5:1).

“Tithing is based on theological premises that are inconsistent with the finished work of Christ on the cross. The doctrine of tithing contradicts the most important aspects of the New Covenant and the believer’s new nature in Christ,” says Narramore in the introduction to his book. “The doctrine of tithing has been mindlessly taught and accepted for so long that some of the most outstanding Christian leaders do not recognize how it contradicts the very foundation of the gospel they are preaching.”

The question of whether Christians today are under grace or under the law is at the heart of the issue of tithing today. Narramore adds in chapter 4 of his book, “The New Testament scriptures make it plain that if you put yourself under any part of the Law then you are under the whole Law (James 2:10, Galatians 5:3).” Are some tithe teachers putting people under the Law?

Pastors David Carter and Bryce Clark (2006) give further insight into why they believe the tithing law is still required:

“The New Testament contains the same laws as the Old. Jesus did not do away with God’s Law. He expanded it. He said, “…That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). The scribes and Pharisees scrupulously tithed. Tithing is an act of worship. Jesus said, “…Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). The comparison here is obvious. Caesar had his just dues coming and so does God! The only Bible example of God’s just dues is the tithe.”

It sounds like they believe we need to outperform the scribes and Pharisees in keeping the Law. Carter and Clark then add, “Paul went on to say in Galatians 6:7 that we reap what we sow. The implication is clear. Those who refuse to support His true work will reap little spiritual help. Without the help of God, man stands no chance of ever attaining eternal life.”

Here they come dangerously close to saying that unless we tithe, we have no hope of being granted eternal life. Jay Snell (1995), whose books are frequently sold on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, admits that this is exactly what he used to teach. He used to tell non-tithers that they were “next to going to hell, probably are anyhow.” He admits that formerly, as a Baptist teacher, he also put people under the Law when he told them they needed to tithe:

“You know I could tighten the screws down better and put a Gentile Christian under the Law better than any Baptist preacher you ever heard. But, when God began to show me other things, I got into the deeper things of God and…saw the seven blessings involved with [tithing].”

Now he motivates them to tithe with promises of great material blessings (p. 12). He believes he isn’t putting them under Law anymore, because he presents tithing as the deal that “Abraham got in on” before the Law was given (p. 13). He elaborates:

“It’s a fact that Jesus did away with the law. But it is also a fact that the Holy Ghost wrote it in our hearts now. The blessing part is still valid and we are included in that. Do it. Act on it. Move out upon it and see what comes your way. Failure to do so is a matter of neither acknowledging God as your Source nor honoring Him with your first fruits. If I act on the above, God is obligated, based on the Abrahamic Covenant, to see me through” (p. 37).

Despite his new tactics, Snell does still clearly teach that not tithing amounts to a crime. He says that failing to tithe means “spending God’s money” while “trying to justify it” (p. 37)—no small accusation. Snell may not “tighten the screws down” as hard as he once did, but, sadly, it’s hard to conclude that he has put aside the error of the Galatians. While trying to refute the idea that poverty is associated with righteousness, Snell actually taught the opposite. He believes that obtaining wealth helps him to be righteous before God:

“I am not convinced we have to be “flat busted” to be a “good” Christian. I can be a much better Christian if I have a decent car that runs good, wear decent looking clothes, live in a decent looking house, and have enough money in my pocket to take my wife to the restaurant after church if I want to. Now I can just be right with God a whole lot quicker and easier with things like that” (p. 56, emphasis added).

Matthew Narramore (2004) says,

“Most of the erroneous teaching on tithing comes from one thing; people are trying to apply Old Covenant principles to life in Christ and the two don’t mix. Paul had his biggest problem with people who were trying to fit the New Covenant believers into an obsolete way of living. The same problem continues today. People who teach tithing say they are not promoting the Law. However, the only instructions on tithing that came from God came through the Law to people who were under the Law. That was the only group of people he ever instructed to tithe” (Chap. 7).

David Yeubanks (2006) quotes from another source on why tithing was not taught in the New Testament by Jesus or any of His followers, including Paul:

[1] The silence of the NT writers, particularly Paul, regarding the present validity of the tithe can be explained only on the ground that the dispensation of grace has no more place for a law of tithing than it has for a law on circumcision (Wycliffe Bible Dictionary of Theology).

[2] Tithing is not taught in the New Testament as an obligation for the Christian under grace… Because we are not under law, but under grace, Christian giving must not be made a matter of legalistic obligation, lest we fall into the error of Galatianism… (Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, p. 1152).

Some tithe proponents, while admitting that believers are not under the Law, point to the fact that Abraham and Jacob tithed before the Law was given. However, Abraham and Jacob were also circumcised prior to the Law. Moses’ wife even circumcised their son, just in time to prevent God from killing Moses for failing to do so (Exodus 4:24-26). This was before the Law was given. Abraham gave animal sacrifices before the Law said to do so. If tithing is required today because it appeared before the Law, then, to be consistent, circumcision and animal sacrifices should also be required today.

In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas argued with some men who were telling the Gentile believers that they had to be “circumcised according to the custom of Moses” to be saved (15:1). Some believing Pharisees even told the Gentiles to “keep the law of Moses” (15:5). The Jerusalem Council took up this matter. Peter said they were testing God by “putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (15:10). He affirmed that all are saved by grace (15:11).

The consensus of the council was to advise the Gentiles to stay away from four things: [1] things polluted by idols [2] from sexual immorality [3] from things strangled [4] from blood (15:19-20, 22-29). Even this decree was circumstantial, as Paul later advocated freedom in the above areas, except for the area of sexual purity (e.g. Romans 14).

Soon after this council, believing Jews who were “zealous for the law” protested because the Gentiles were not being circumcised or taught “to walk according to the customs” (Acts 21:20-21). The leaders of the Church once again affirmed that the Gentiles should “observe no such thing” and repeated their earlier decree (21:25). Paul and his companions did purify themselves according to the Law, but only in an unsuccessful attempt to make peace (21:23-36).

Why wasn’t tithing listed among those “necessary things” decreed by the Jerusalem Council? The answer is that tithing falls into the same category as circumcision and the other Mosaic commands which are not repeated in the New Testament. They are no longer necessary.

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Part 6, the final post of this series, will feature a study on New Testament giving, followed by a conclusion and references.

All posts from this series, and on the subject of tithing, can be found here.

The Modern Practice of Tithing in Light of Christ Fulfilling the Law: Part 4


This is the fourth post in a series on tithing, as it’s taught in many churches today. This series examines all 17 Bible passages which speak of tithing, and is taken from a term paper I wrote in 2006.  The first post included the series outline and an introduction, and covered the two passages where tithing was mentioned prior to the Law of Moses (Genesis 14:8-24 and 28:8-22). The second post examined how tithing was prescribed and practiced under the Mosaic Law (in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The third post looked at how tithing was enforced by a king (Hezekiah), a reformer (Nehemiah), and two prophets (Amos and Malachi). This post will look at what Jesus and Hebrews 7 said about tithing, and will also take a look at tithing in history. My references will be included in the final post.

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IV. Tithing Spoken of in the New Testament

Passage 14: Matthew 23:23

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

The Pharisees, who rigorously followed the letter of the law, tithed different types of herbs from the ground, not Roman currency. Jesus affirmed that they were correct in doing so, although other matters of the law were more central. His main concern was the same concern that Nehemiah, Amos, and Malachi had. Justice, mercy, and faith were being neglected.

Jesus’ audience was still under the Law. The Law of Moses was still in effect during Christ’s ministry, because He had not yet gone to the cross. Therefore, all the Israelites who had land were to tithe from their herds and crops to the Levites, strangers, fatherless, and widows. They were even to consume some of it themselves at the annual festivals. There were still Levites, the temple was still standing, and the priests were still ministering and offering sacrifices. Not only the Pharisees, but other eligible Jews as well, were correct in tithing their crops and animals, and tithing to the poor.

Passage 15: Luke 11:42

But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

This is a parallel passage to Matthew 23:23. This wasn’t the only time Jesus advised someone to submit to Mosaic Law. For example, in Matthew 8:1-4, Jesus healed a leper, then told him to show himself to the priest and “offer the gift that Moses commanded.” To be consistent, if we’re going to say that the law of tithing here applies to us, we should also apply this law regarding lepers. Why don’t we do that? Are we authorized by Scripture to pick and choose which Mosaic laws we still want to keep?

            Passage 16: Luke 18:9-14

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus is neither promoting nor devaluing tithing here. His point was that no one can trust in his own righteousness for acceptance with God. The Pharisee did just that, and he felt that all of his efforts to tithe and fast would help his case. He even went beyond the Law by tithing on all that he possessed. Jesus indicated that he was proud. The tax collector came before God as a sinner who had no merit to offer. He cried out for mercy, and was justified.

            Passage 17: Hebrews 7:1-10

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

The author of Hebrews spoke in chapter 6 of the hope set before us, which anchors our soul. Abraham is seen as an example of one who “obtained the promise” (verse 15). The author concluded chapter 6 by saying that Jesus has become an eternal High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. This idea had already been established in Psalm 110:4.

Quoting Warren Wiersbe, Dr. Thomas Constable (2006) briefly outlined the next 4 chapters: “In Hebrews 7, the writer argued that Christ’s priesthood, like Melchizedek’s, is superior in its order. In Hebrews 8, the emphasis is on Christ’s better covenant; in Hebrews 9, it is His better sanctuary; and Hebrews 10 concludes the section by arguing for Christ’s better sacrifice.”

Hebrews 7 is far more descriptive of Melchizedek than both the Genesis 14 and Psalm 100 passages. Still it’s not easy to understand his identity. Some interpret Melchizedek to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. Matthew Narramore (2004) writes that scholars “and theologians debate whether this language referring to Melchizedek’s endless life is literal or symbolic.”

Dr. Constable (2006) says a “literal interpretation of this verse [7:3] might lead one to conclude that Melchizedek was an angelic being, but there is no indication elsewhere in Scripture that he was anything but a human being.” He then states the facts: (1) he was a king-priest, (2) he was a blesser, (3) he received tithes, and (4) he had a significant name.” He adds that one of the writer’s aims, as seen in verse 4, was “to show how great Melchizedek was compared to the venerated patriarch Abraham.”

Dr. Constable also makes a note about the style in which the passage is written:

Verse 4 sounds as though the Jewish priests were presenting offerings in Herod’s Temple when the writer wrote… However it is more likely that we should take these present tenses as timeless. The writer was describing what had been done in Judaism as though it was still going on for the sake of vividness (cf. 7:27-28; 9:7-8, 25; 10:1-3, 8; 13:10-11).

One of the points of this passage is that Melchizedek, who blessed Abraham, was greater than him (7:7). Melchizedek’s priesthood, of which we have limited detail, as a prototype of Christ is superior to that of the Levites (7:8-11). Narramore concludes that the phrase “there he receives them” (7:8) refers to Melchizedek once receiving tithes. He also cautions:

Hebrews 7:8 has been taken out of context and misinterpreted. It is erroneously considered by some to be teaching that tithing is the customary way of giving in the New Covenant. This passage of scripture is part of a weighty and complex theological argument. The casual reader may not comprehend its meaning. It requires a careful study of the whole passage, verse by verse and word by word, to get a clear understanding of what is being said.

Some say that Christian ministers are authorized to receive the tithes that formerly belonged to the Levites, based on the idea that both the Levitical priesthood and the tithing laws have been modified. In other words, today’s Christian ministers have replaced the Levites, and are to receive monetary tithes.

Looking beyond the passage quoted above, the law which needed to be changed (7:12) does not refer to tithing, but to the entire Law of Moses received under the Levitical priesthood (7:11). The Law needed to be changed, just as the priesthood had been changed (7:12). That the Law of Moses is being spoken of is made even more clear in verses 19 and 28. Regarding verse 12, Dr. Constable says:

The priesthood was such a major part of the whole Mosaic Covenant that this predicted change in the priesthood signaled a change in the whole Covenant. This verse is one of the clearest single statements in the New Testament indicating that God has terminated the Mosaic Law (Covenant; cf. Rom. 10:4). Paul went on to say that Christians, therefore, are not under it (Rom. 6:14-15; Gal. 3:24-25; 5:1; 6:2; 2 Cor. 3:7-11). It is not what God has given to regulate the lives of Christians.

Verse 18 points out that “the former commandment” was annulled because it was weak and unprofitable, and no one was made perfect by it. The priests also had weaknesses, because they were limited by death (7:23) and had to offer sacrifices daily (7:28). No wonder they were earlier called “mortal men” (7:8). They have been superseded by a High Priest, Jesus (7:26).

We are told that Christ now mediates a better covenant, with better promises (8:6). The first covenant had faults (8:7), but the biggest fault God found was with the people (8:8). He promised a new covenant in which He would write His laws on the hearts and in the minds of His people (8:8-12). The author of Hebrews concluded that the old covenant was obsolete, growing old, and ready to vanish away (8:13). Dr. Constable comments,

The Mosaic Covenant is now ‘obsolete’ and even as the writer wrote the Book of Hebrews it was also ‘growing old.’ It virtually disappeared in A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed the temple, terminated its ritual, and scattered the Jews throughout the world (cf. Matt. 24:1-2).

Matthew Narramore (2004) gives his take on why Abraham’s tithe is recorded in Hebrews:

The discussion of tithing in Hebrews chapter 7 was only included to prove that the priesthood of Melchizedek was superior to the Levitical priesthood. By proving that point the writer would also prove that Jesus is superior to the priests of the Old Covenant because Psalm 110:4 had prophesied that he would be a priest forever, “after the order of Melchizedek.” That was the ultimate purpose of the argument, to prove that Jesus was greater than the Old Covenant priests.

Tithing is part of the comparison and the argument because the tribe of Levi was symbolically in the loins of their great-grandfather Abraham when he met Melchizedek and gave him a tithe. Therefore it can be said that Levi paid a tithe to Melchizedek and received a blessing from him. Paying the tithe to Melchizedek and receiving the blessing from him are both considered by the writer of Hebrews to be proof that Melchizedek was greater than Levi and all the Old Covenant priests, which came from the tribe of Levi (Heb. 7:1–17).

Jay Snell (1995) deduces a great deal from this incident in the life of Abraham. He says that God infuses reproductive power into our money when we release it as a tithe or an offering: “With the supernatural, Abrahamic blessing power God promised and gave in His covenant with Abraham, He gives life to the inanimate money when you tithe it and give it in the form of offerings so that it reproduces itself.” Snell concludes that God gave us this power in order to continue His “Abrahamic Covenant” with us, and so that we can be “extremely wealthy” (p. 8).

Matthew Narramore (2004) would disagree: “Abraham was not made rich by giving a tithe to Melchizedek. He was already exceedingly rich before he gave it” (Chapter 2).

This passage does not set out to endorse tithing as a doctrine to be practiced, but seeks to endorse Jesus as our High Priest. As Russell Kelly (2000) says, “The New Testament’s only use of ‘tithe’ after Calvary is in Hebrews 7, and it teaches that God abolished tithing and all other ordinances relating to the Levitical priesthood (Heb. 7:5, 12, 18)” (p. 267). Intentional or not, the modern practice of tithing seems to be an attempt to resurrect something which God has abolished.

C. Tithing in History

The following observations are made in the Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2006):

Tithes were not adopted by the Christian church for over seven centuries. Although rejected, they were mentioned in councils at Tours in 567 and at Mâcon in 585. They were formally recognized under Pope Adrian I in 787… [Today] Word of Faith advocates espouse that tithing, which is inspired in the individual by God, will enable blessings, usually financial, with references to ten or hundred-fold increases… In recent years, tithing has been taught in Christian circles as a form of “stewardship” that God requires of Christians. The primary argument is that God has never formally “abolished” the tithe, and thus Christians should pay the tithe (usually calculated at 10 percent of all gross income from all sources), usually to the local congregation (though some teach that a part of the tithe can go to other Christian ministries, so long as total giving is at least 10 percent). Some holding to prosperity theology doctrines go even further, teaching that God will bless those who tithe and curse those who do not.

David Yeubanks (2006) has compiled more than 100 quotes on tithing from encyclopedias, dictionaries, commentaries, and other sources. Below is just a small sample of quotes which reveal the place of tithing during the earliest centuries after Christ’s ascension:

[1] “It is admitted universally that the payment of tithes or the tenths of possessions, for sacred purposes did not find a place within the Christian Church during the age covered by the apostles and their immediate successors” (Hasting’s Dictionary of the Apostolic Church).

[2] “The early Church had no tithing system … it was not that no need of supporting the Church existed or was recognized, but rather that other means appeared to suffice” (The New Catholic Encyclopedia).

[3] “In the Christian Church, as those who serve the altar should live by the altar (1 Cor., ix, 13), provision of some kind had necessarily to be made for the sacred ministers. In the beginning this was supplied by the spontaneous offerings of the faithful” (The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia).

[4] “[The Jews] had indeed the tithes of their goods consecrated to Him. In contrast, those who have received liberty set aside all their possessions for the Lord’s purposes, bestowing joyfully and freely not the less valuable portions of their property, since they have the hope of better things” (Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W 1.484, 485) – Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs [p. 645]).

[5] “If we still live according to the Jewish Law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace” (Ignatius [c. 105, E] – Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, p. 393).

Ken Westby (2006) recently wrote an article for the Churches of God, the fifth in a series on tithing, which featured a variety of views. Observing the first two quotes above, Ken asked:

How, then, was a tithing system introduced as a means of financing the work of the church? Early-church history shows that, just as the Catholic Church, by its own authority, made other far-reaching changes that have been carried down in the Christian-professing world, that church is responsible for much of today’s misunderstanding on the subject of tithing.

Russell Kelly (2006) notes that the following well-known early Church fathers explicitly opposed the practice of compulsory tithing: Clement of Rome (c95), Justin Martyr (c150), The Didache (c150-200), Irenaeus (c150-200) and Tertullian (150-220).

He shows in his book (2000) that tithing did appear in a limited fashion in the life of the early Church. He says that its introduction came “in direct proportion to the disintegration of the doctrine of the priesthood of believers and the emergence of the power of the bishop-priests” (p. 247). One exception to his “gradual emergence” overview was the large group of Jewish believers who remained “zealous for the law” (Acts 21:20) in Paul’s day:

Almost every denomination’s historians of early church history agree that, until A.D. 70 the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem faithfully attended the temple in obedience to Jewish law and, as faithful Jews, supported the Jewish temple with tithes and offerings in addition to their church support. Acts 21:21-24 can hardly lead to any other conclusion! The Jewish Christians had merely added their unique brand of Judaism into the already diverse Judaism of their day (p. 249).

Of course, these Jews were unable to support the Jewish temple after it was destroyed by Rome in A.D. 70. However, Kelly writes that from the time of Jerusalem’s destruction until the end of the fourth century, a small group of professing Jewish Christians held themselves bound by Mosaic Law, but did fellowship with Gentile believers. They were called “Nazarenes.” They later split into three factions, including Pharisaic Ebionites, but throughout their existence they considered Paul to be a false teacher. They “eventually found themselves outside of the recognized church. These Jewish Christians never ceased teaching that strict obedience to the Mosaic Law was necessary for salvation” (p. 249).

Kelly believes that the majority of professing Christians during that time probably wouldn’t have found the modern practice of tithing to be relevant for several reasons:

When the New Testament was written, very few, if any, of the churches were organized into a ruling-bishop system which would require or sustain a full-time minister. The churches were too primitive, too small, too poor, and often had to hide from the authorities to meet. Church buildings did not exist because they would not have been tolerated until about A.D. 200 and did not flourish until after A.D. 260 [due to a temporary lapse of persecution] before being destroyed again in 303” (p. 258).

He quotes from Philip Schaff, who points out that until the end of the second century Christians worshiped mostly in private homes, desert places, at the graves of martyrs, or in the crypts of the catacombs. Tertullian was the first to speak of “going to church,” possibly indicating the presence of special houses of worship. Around the same time, Clement of Alexandria mentioned the double meaning of the word “ekklesia” (p. 251).

Kelly writes that many competing centers of Christianity arose leading up to the 4th Century (p. 247). “Cyprian (200-258) followed Tertullian in Carthage (North Africa only) and was probably the first influential leader to suggest (unsuccessfully) that tithes should support a full-time clergy” (p. 254). Kelly goes on to say:

Cyprian’s church now compared the bishop to the Old Testament high priest, the presbyters to the Old Testament priests, and the deacons to Old Testament Levites. Cyprian merely took what he thought was the next logical step (in this scenario of the role of bishops) and insisted that the clergy should cease all secular work and depend on tithes for full-time support.

However, Cyprian repeatedly insisted that the clergy should only keep the bare minimum which they needed, and give the rest to the poor (p. 255). Kelly quotes from the 1912 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia regarding the evolution of compulsory tithe giving:

‘In the beginning [provision] was supplied by the spontaneous support of the faithful. In the course of time, however, as the Church expanded and various institutions arose, it became necessary to make laws which would insure the proper and permanent support of the clergy. The payment of tithes was adopted from the Old Law, and early writers speak of it as a divine ordinance and an obligation of the conscience. The earliest positive legislation on the subject seems to be contained in the letter of the bishops assembled at Tours in 567 and the Canons of the Council of Macon in 585.’ (p. 259)

Kelly clarifies that these councils only enacted regional church decrees for tithing, but did not yet enforce collection because they didn’t have the backing of the king. The Catholic Church did, however, begin to excommunicate non-tithers (p. 260). Charlemagne was the first king to allow enforced tithing, after the pope convinced him to do so by quoting from the Law of Moses. Rome officially became the “Holy Roman Empire” when Charlemagne was crowned as the Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD. Kelly adds, “It is significant that tithing did not emerge historically until the church became powerful in the secular realm” (p. 260).

Tithing was legally enforced in England in 906 AD by King Edgar. Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) raised the status of tithing above all other Church taxes, and at the same time prohibited all interference by the common people in Church affairs. Kelly adds,

In 1067 and 1078, at the Church Councils of Gerona, and in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council, tithing was increasingly applied to all lands under Christian rule. All citizens, including Jews, were required to tithe to the Roman Catholic Church. A typical peasant was giving the first tithe of his land to ruler or landlord (which was often the church) and a second tenth to the church outright. In 1179 the Third Lateran Council decreed that only the pope could release persons from the obligation to tithe, and he exempted the Crusaders” (p. 260).

Not long after the Bible had been translated into the language of the common man, Otto Brumfels, in 1524, proclaimed that the New Testament does not teach tithing” (p. 261), says Kelly. Church-sanctioned tithing began to decline as a practice in the 1700’s. The secular authority of France abolished tithes in 1789. Compulsory parish tithes in England did not disappear until 1936 (p. 261). While Europe was making these changes, a different story was emerging in North America:

In Canada, as late as 1868, the Fourth Council of Quebec declared that tithing was mandatory. For a while tithes were even made mandatory in the French lands of the New World until the territory was sold in the Louisiana Purchase. In 1871 tithes were abolished in Ireland. In 1887 they ended in Italy… Elsewhere, the Eastern Orthodox Church has never accepted tithing and its members have never practiced it. The Roman Catholic Church still proscribes tithes in countries where they are sanctioned by law, and some Protestant bodies still consider tithes obligatory (p. 261).

Tithing was never a legal requirement in the United States, Kelly continues, but the Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists in particular have required their members to tithe 10% of their income (p. 261). Many Assemblies of God, Baptist, Churches of God, Pentecostal, and Holiness churches strongly compel their people to tithe (p. 266).

James Sparks (2005) links the modern practice of tithing to the business-like way churches are run today in the West:

[Most churches] operate as businesses, and when they do, they must have a source of revenue in order to operate the business, and must have an executive or businessman to run the business. But, early churches did not operate as businesses, because God did not set them up to run that way.

Tithing today certainly looks nothing like it did from the time of Moses to the time of Christ. Often only select citations from the Old Testament are used to promote the practice and to say it’s the duty of Christians today. However, the methodology governing the practice almost always comes from outside the Law. I’ve even been told that giving part of a tithe to the poor is not valid because they do not “spiritually feed me.” Instead of receiving tithes, today the poor are compelled to tithe. Televangelists even coerce them into making pledges when they can’t immediately come up with the money, and then pile on guilt, threats, and gimmicks if they fail to follow through.

One minister who teaches tithing, Tim Greenwood (2006), expounds on the “who, what, when, where, why, and how of tithing.” In my experience, Greenwood’s synopsis is fairly typical of current teaching on tithing:

[Who] Whoever desires to worship God.

[What] Giving first 10% of income to God.

[When] Whenever you receive income.

[Where] Where you have been fed the Word of God.

[Why] To worship God and to receive His blessings.

[How] By faith, diligently, promptly, cheerfully.

Tim Greenwood insists that those who don’t tithe are trying to do things their own way rather than God’s way. Like Anonymous Pastor (2003), and Pastors Carter and Clark (2006), he sees this as the same attitude which Cain had. He also says that tithing was “acceptable worship” in the Old Testament Law, and nothing was said otherwise in the New Testament. “Anyone who claims Jesus as their Lord and does not give Him at least ten percent of their money should face the truth: money is their Ruler, not Jesus,” he concludes. He lists four reasons why Christians do not tithe: [1] unbelief [2] fear [3] greed, selfishness [4] lack of right teaching.

Ironically, he says that to forsake tithing is to “invent a new method.” The truth is that the modern system of tithing represents a new and unbiblical method.

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In Part 5, we will discuss different ways that the law of Moses is viewed today, including a summary of the book of Galatians, followed by an analysis of tithing in light of Christ having fulfilled the law.

All posts from this series, and on the subject of tithing, can be found here.

The Modern Practice of Tithing in Light of Christ Fulfilling the Law: Part 3


This is the third post in a series on tithing, as it’s taught in many churches today. This series examines all 17 Bible passages which speak of tithing, and is taken from a term paper I wrote in 2006.  The first post included the series outline and an introduction, and covered the two passages where tithing was mentioned prior to the Law of Moses (Genesis 14:8-24 and 28:8-22). The second post examined how tithing was prescribed and practiced under the Mosaic Law (in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). This post will look at how tithing was enforced by a king (Hezekiah), a reformer (Nehemiah), and two prophets (Amos and Malachi). My references will be included in the final post.

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III. A King, a Reformer, and Two Prophets Restore Tithing

In Walter Kaiser’s book, “Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament” (1987), he says that the Law of Moses was the basis for much of the teachings of the Biblical prophets. Often they came along when Israel had strayed far from the Law, and challenged the people to return to God’s ways. Kaiser says that there are literally hundreds of citations and allusions in the Major and Minor Prophets to just two Law passages, Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 (p. 182).

More than once in Israel’s history, the tithing system God had ordained was grossly neglected. The poor and the needy were left to fend for themselves. The Levites were not taken care of, and they in turn failed to support the priests and the tabernacle. It was at such points in Israel’s history that God sent Hezekiah, Nehemiah, Amos, and Malachi with a word from heaven.

Passage 8: II Chronicles 31:4-12

Moreover [Hezekiah] commanded the people who dwelt in Jerusalem to contribute support for the priests and the Levites, that they might devote themselves to the Law of the LORD. As soon as the commandment was circulated, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of grain and wine, oil and honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything. And the children of Israel and Judah, who dwelt in the cities of Judah, brought the tithe of oxen and sheep; also the tithe of holy things which were consecrated to the LORD their God they laid in heaps. In the third month they began laying them in heaps, and they finished in the seventh month. And when Hezekiah and the leaders came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD and His people Israel. Then Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps. And Azariah the chief priest, from the house of Zadok, answered him and said, “Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and have plenty left, for the LORD has blessed His people; and what is left is this great abundance.” Now Hezekiah commanded them to prepare rooms in the house of the LORD, and they prepared them. Then they faithfully brought in the offerings, the tithes, and the dedicated things; Cononiah the Levite had charge of them, and Shimei his brother was the next.

The most common dates given for Hezekiah’s reign are 715-687 BC., soon after the Northern kingdom of Israel fell to Assyria in 722 BC. Hezekiah ruled over the Southern kingdom of Judah, which didn’t fall to Babylon until 586 BC. Reinstating support for the priests and Levites was just one of his many reforms. He had already cleansed the temple (29:3-19), restored temple worship (29:20-36), gathered all Israel to keep the Passover (30:1-27), destroyed idolatrous high places (31:1), and reappointed the priests and the Levites to their divisions (31:2).

The priests and the Levites needed the support of the people in order to devote themselves to God’s law. Under Hezekiah, the people again brought their food offerings, and their tithes of oxen and sheep and other holy things. Azariah, the chief priest, testified that the priests suddenly had more than enough to eat, and the Lord was blessing them. Storage rooms were prepared in the temple for the offerings, the tithes, and the dedicated things.

Passage 9: Nehemiah 10:28-39

Now the rest of the people—the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, everyone who had knowledge and understanding—these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes— …And we made ordinances to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, to the house of the LORD; to bring the firstborn of our sons and our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and our flocks, to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God; to bring the firstfruits of our dough, our offerings, the fruit from all kinds of trees, the new wine and oil, to the priests, to the storerooms of the house of our God; and to bring the tithes of our land to the Levites, for the Levites should receive the tithes in all our farming communities. And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the rooms of the storehouse. For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the grain, of the new wine and the oil, to the storerooms where the articles of the sanctuary are, where the priests who minister and the gatekeepers and the singers are; and we will not neglect the house of our God.

Nehemiah came to Jerusalem in 445 BC. His reforms occurred around 435-430 BC, about 150 years after Judah went into exile in Babylon. He was a contemporary of Malachi, who also referred to worship at the restored temple (Malachi 1:6-14, 2:7-9, 3:7-10). Cyrus the Persian had given the Jews permission to return to their land, rebuild their temple, and reinstitute the sacrificial system. Nehemiah took a prominent role in reminding the people of God’s code of conduct given to them in the law. Ezra the scribe read the Law of Moses before the people for days (Nehemiah 8:1-18), and the people responded with fasting, confession, and loud cries of repentance (9:1-38).

This passage, quoted here, is very significant regarding tithing and the Law. We see that the people as a whole “entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD [their] Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes.” The vocabulary used here should be very familiar.

When the Israelites were still in the wilderness, Moses communicated in detail the Law God had given him. His address closed with these words: “‘Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen’” (Deuteronomy 27:26). The nature of the curse is given in detail in Deuteronomy 28:15-68. In Nehemiah’s day, they once again heard the law, said ‘Amen,’ and affirmed that they were under obligation to obey all of God’s commands, and thus under a curse. We’ll see this curse brought up again when Malachi proclaims his message, and again when we look at the New Testament.

The first fruits offerings and the tithes were once again reinstated. The tithes for the Levites came from the land, and they were to receive them “in [their] farming communities.” A priest was to be with them when they received the tithes, and only then were they to bring a tenth of their tithes to the House of God.

Many are aware of Malachi’s use of the term “storehouse,” but do not know that true “storehouse tithing” was already spoken of here in Nehemiah 10:37-39. The storehouse and the storerooms literally contained grain, new wine, and oil for the temple workers.

Russell Kelly (2006) recalls that earlier sections of Scripture speak of the Levites living on borrowed land in farming communities. Only a small percentage of the Levites worked in the temple at any given time. They were responsible to bring the Levitical tithe to the temple. Only 1 % of the crops and herds of the people were brought there, to be consumed by the priests and Levites serving on site. The other 9 % remained in the farming communities.

Therefore, 90 % of the tithe (grain, wine, oil, animals, etc.) the people brought to the Levites never made it into the temple, but instead remained in the 48 cities where the Levites dwelled. Also none of the “festival tithe” and none of the “poor tithe” made it into the temple storehouse.

As Russell Kelly (2006) points out, Numbers 18:21-24 instructed the people to tithe to the Levites, and this command is repeated in Nehemiah 10:37. Numbers 18:25-28 instructed the Levites to give a tenth of this amount to the priests, and this command is recalled in Nehemiah 10:38.

Passage 10: Nehemiah 12:44

And at the same time some were appointed over the rooms of the storehouse for the offerings, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions specified by the Law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who ministered.

This passage again states that the tithes, together with offerings and first fruits, were brought into the temple storehouse from the fields. These tithes, consisting of farm produce, were for the priests and Levites. Workers oversaw the operation of the storehouse.

        Passage 11: Nehemiah 13:4-13

Now before this, Eliashib the priest, having authority over the storerooms of the house of our God, was allied with Tobiah. And he had prepared for him a large room, where previously they had stored the grain offerings, the frankincense, the articles, the tithes of grain, the new wine and oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and singers and gatekeepers, and the offerings for the priests. But during all this I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Then after certain days I obtained leave from the king, and I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room. Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense. I also realized that the portions for the Levites had not been given them; for each of the Levites and the singers who did the work had gone back to his field. So I contended with the rulers, and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their place. Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the storehouse. And I appointed as treasurers over the storehouse Shelemiah the priest and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah; and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah; for they were considered faithful, and their task was to distribute to their brethren.

It didn’t take long for Nehemiah’s reforms to collapse. Tobiah, who had earlier opposed his efforts to rebuild the city walls, had now infiltrated the temple while he was away from Jerusalem. Tobiah was sleeping in a large room in the storehouse! This is where the tithes of grain, new wine, and oil, and other items meant for the Levites, singers, gatekeepers, and priests had previously been kept. The Levites working in the temple were not receiving their portions. The Levites and singers had left their assignments and gone back to their fields. It’s possible that they had already left before Tobiah moved in, rather than being chased out.

When Nehemiah came back and discovered all this, he was grieved and asked why the house of God had been forsaken. He threw out Tobiah’s personal belongings, had the storerooms cleansed and replenished, and appointed new treasurers over the storehouse. The people once again began to contribute their tithes of grain, new wine, and oil.

Dr. Thomas Constable (2004) is the Department Chairman and Senior Professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary. In his study notes on Nehemiah, he explains that Nehemiah went to Babylon in 432 BC to report to King Artaxerxes (verse 6). It’s not stated how long he was there. Dr. Constable surmises, “The prophet Malachi reproved the Jews in Judah for the same sins Nehemiah described in this chapter, and conservative scholars usually date his prophecies about 432-431 B.C. Therefore Nehemiah may very well have returned to Jerusalem about 431 B.C.”

Passage 12: Amos 4:1-5

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, “Bring wine, let us drink!” The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness: “Behold, the days shall come upon you when He will take you away with fishhooks, and your posterity with fishhooks. You will go out through broken walls, each one straight ahead of her, and you will be cast into Harmon,” says the LORD. “Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression; Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days*. Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; For this you love, you children of Israel!” says the Lord GOD.  

This prophecy came some 300 years before Nehemiah’s time. It was directed toward those in the Northern Israeli kingdom of Samaria who oppressed and crushed the poor while living in luxury (4:1). God swore that judgment would come to them (4:2-3). He then used irony to beckon the people to Bethel and Gilgal, main worship sites, but to transgress rather than worship. With biting sarcasm, He told them to bring their tithes, offerings, and sacrifices to Him.

(*The NKJV indicates in a footnote that an alternative translation to “days” in verse 4 is “years,” recalling the command in Deuteronomy 14:28 to lay aside a tithe every third year for the Levites, strangers, orphans, and widows. A number of Bible versions do choose to translate this as “years,” among them the NIV, KJV, and Young’s Literal Translation.)

In any case, it is quite fitting that God would ironically tell them to bring their sacrifices, tithes, and freewill offerings, which they loved to do. From the time of Moses, God had always made needy people a primary concern. Now His people were ‘majoring on the minors, and minoring on the majors.’ The obvious point is that these external practices were secondary to what God desired most, love toward Him and love for their neighbors, especially the poor. This passage helps to illustrate what Jesus later said, that the entire Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:34-40), and that certain matters of the Law were “weightier” (23:23).

Passage 13: Malachi 3:5-12

“And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against sorcerers, against adulterers, against perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien— because they do not fear Me,” says the LORD of hosts. “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” says the LORD of hosts; And all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,” says the LORD of hosts.

Malachi, like Moses and Amos, picked up the theme of the plight of widows, orphans, and strangers, adding one more segment, wage earners. All were being exploited, and judgment was coming. The sin of the “sons of Jacob” went deeper than failing to tithe and give offerings. They didn’t fear God, Malachi said. One resulting symptom was that they had again stopped keeping God’s ordinances. Who was God talking to?

It’s helpful to see this passage in the context of the entire book. The “word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi” (1:1) was addressed primarily to the priests. He addressed their mocking questions throughout the book (1:2, 1:6, 1:7, 1:12-13, 2:14, 2:17, 3:7, 3:8, 3:13-15). There is no indication that God ever stopped addressing them. He chastised the priests for despising His name, and failing to honor Him by offering polluted offerings (1:6-8), including the stolen, the lame, and the sick (1:13).

He was still addressing the priests in the second chapter, which begins, “And now, O priests…” He had already cursed their blessings (2:2), but affirmed that He still had a “covenant with Levi” (2:4). The priests had corrupted His covenant, however, and had “caused many to stumble at the law.” The people held the priests in contempt (2:9).

In the next chapter, He was still addressing the priesthood, as indicated by the words, “sons of Levi” (3:3). Their once pleasant offerings (3:4) had been replaced by open exploitation of wage earners, widows, the fatherless, and the alien (3:5), the very ones the tithing laws had been designed to benefit.

The priests were told that they had left God’s original ordinances (3:7), and the Lord called them to return to Him. There is no reason to assume that in the next four verses, quoted often by tithe proponents, God let the Levites off the hook and only rebuked the common people.

The whole system of tithing and offerings was in disrepair. God said they had robbed Him (3:8). He declared once again that they were cursed (3:9), and commanded them to obey Him with their tithes of food (3:10). The temple storehouse didn’t have enough food for the temple workers anymore, because of their neglect. Finally, God repeated His conditional blessing, previously given to Moses. If the nation would obey Him, their vines, fields, and the ground would again bear fruit (3:10-12).

Regarding blessings and curses, God simply restated what was already clear in Mosaic Law. The Law of Moses required the Israelites to keep many laws (of which tithing was just one) in order to receive blessings. They were automatically under the curse of the Law if they failed to keep even one of the 613 commands in the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 27:26, Galatians 3:10).

It seems that the Levites were chiefly involved in robbing God in Malachi’s day. They were the ones who brought the tithe (of the people’s tithe) into the storehouse, so that those working in the temple had food to eat. God’s charge here in Malachi 3 is that they were keeping almost 100% of their portion for themselves, causing the priests and temple workers to go hungry. Regarding offerings, they were also the ones giving inferior food offerings, and sacrificing inferior animals on God’s altar (1:6-8).

Malachi 4:4 summarizes his message well: “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.” It’s precisely because the sons of Levi and their followers were not doing so that they were faced with a curse.

Some, however, view this passage in Malachi very differently. Pastors Carter and Clark (2006) believe that those who fail to tithe today are breaking several of the 10 Commandments, the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 8th, and 10th. They say, “The eighth commandment forbids theft. God says that to refuse Him the portion He requires is theft (Mal. 3:8).” They say non-tithers are also guilty of breaking the first two commandments, because they can’t “find it in their hearts to return to God a portion of His goodness.”

Carter and Clark maintain that tithing is still required today because the third chapter of Malachi mentions both the day of the Lord’s coming and tithing. Since both are linked together, they say, the world will be “under indictment for theft” (i.e. failing to tithe) when the Lord returns. They also lament the fact that people have forgotten the Law of Moses, including tithing. They imply that we are still to follow the entire Mosaic Law.

Jay Snell (1995) says that the “storehouse” and “My house” of Malachi 3:10 is “where you get fed, whether your church, a book and tape ministry, TBN, a missionary, or a combination of the above, etc.” He says that God asks present day believers to test Him by doing one thing, tithing, and then they can receive the 7 blessings promised in Malachi 3:10b-12. He says they belong to “The Abraham Seed Group,” because Abraham paved the way by giving the first recorded tithe. Abraham “has a good deal going here” for those who also tithe. According to Snell, Abraham had already figured out that he could get “700 % interest” on his tithe investment (p. 11).

He also calls Malachi 3:11 our “blanket insurance policy” against Satan: “But there is a blanket insurance policy that we can have from God against the devourer which stops him from devouring what’s ours, and that insurance policy is tithing” (p. 14).

Anonymous Pastor (2003) agrees with Snell on the point that tithes are still to be given to the storehouse of God. He says the storehouse is “where you receive spiritual nourishment.” He adds that to Israel the storehouse was the Tabernacle, but “to the New Covenant believer [it] is the local church.” He represents many by saying that non-tithers rob God:

IS IT NECESSARY FOR BELIEVERS TO TITHE TODAY? [A.] YES. God admonishes us to tithe (Leviticus 27:30; Proverbs 3:9-10). [B.] If a person does not tithe and present offerings to God, he is robbing God (Malachi 3:8-12). The tithe is not ours to give; it is already God’s possession. If a person only tithes and does not present offerings, he is not giving anything at all to God.

Nathan Foy (2006) would disagree that the offerings spoken of in Malachi had anything to do with money, as is often taught:

Since tithes is used in a plural form is it talking about all 3 types of tithe that were required under law. Secondly, offerings is mentioned in the same context.  The offerings talked about [are] in the first few chapters of Leviticus, which are burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings.  These offerings were primarily animal sacrifices.  We no longer practice animal sacrifices today but tithing is practiced widely in the church.  Why would we still practice tithing and not animal sacrifices when they are mentioned together in Malachi 3:8? Of course most churches somehow switched the definition of offering to mean the amount you give to their church after you give your tithe.  I don’t know where this is Biblical.

Strong’s Concordance (2001) indicates that the Hebrew word, terumah, used in Malachi 3:8 for “offerings,” had nine uses in the Old Testament. It was used on different occasions to describe heave offerings, animal sacrifices and sin offerings, two different taxes, a land offering; and offerings of gold, thread, animal skins, oil and stones for the Wilderness Tabernacle and the Second Temple Period. The two remaining uses were offerings of grain products set aside for the priests, and a portion of the tithe of the Levites to the priests.

In Dr. Constable’s study notes on Malachi (2005), he says regarding Malachi 3:10,

This verse has been used to teach “storehouse giving.” Those who do so view the church building, or the church congregation, as the storehouse into which Christians should bring their gifts to the Lord. Some go so far as to say that it is wrong for Christians to give to the Lord in ways that bypass the local church, for example, giving directly to a missionary. This viewpoint fails to appreciate the difference between Israel’s temple and Christian churches. Israel’s temple was a depository for the gifts that the Israelites brought to sustain the servants and work of the Lord throughout their nation. The Christian church, however, is different in that we have no central sanctuary, as Israel did, nor does the church have a national homeland.

For almost 300 years after Pentecost, Christians didn’t even have buildings of their own which they could call “storehouses.” They lived in nations where it was illegal to be a Christian, much less to receive approval to raise up buildings devoted to Christian worship. The word “church” in the New Testament is not used to describe buildings where God dwelled.

Why is it that in Malachi 3:10-11 the phrases “storehouse”, “food”, “fruit of your ground”, and “the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field” are used? Is God reprimanding Christians in this century through Malachi’s prophecy for not bringing 10% of our income into church buildings, “that there may be [money] in [His] house”?

There is indeed a reason why food is spoken of in Malachi 3:10. As we’ve seen, the tithes under the Law of Moses were food products, not money. It’s also no accident that the blessing promised in verse 11 is that the land would produce fruit and come under God’s protection. The tithes came from the land, and those who tilled the land were the ones responsible to bring the tithes to the Levites.

God designed a brilliant system, which, when its ordinances were followed, benefited everyone. When one link failed, the whole system was affected. The Levites and the priests depended upon this system for their support and livelihood. Without it, the entire Levitical system of worship could not be maintained. In fact, that is exactly what happened, and is one of the reasons why the reforms and rebukes of Hezekiah, Nehemiah, and Malachi became necessary.

Dr. Constable sums up the passage regarding tithes and offerings in Malachi:

The issue in Mal 3:7-12 is not tithing but apostasy. Judah is charged here with abandoning the God who had chosen and blessed them, and turning away from the statutes he had given them to test their loyalty and to mark the path of life he would bless. By retaining for themselves the tithes and other offerings they owed to God, the people showed their idolatrous hearts in placing themselves before God, and they showed their callous hearts in leaving the Levites and landless poor to fend for themselves.

As already noted, Malachi prophesied during the same post-exilic time period as Nehemiah, the reformer. God’s announcement, “You are cursed with a curse” (3:9), should not have been a surprise to the priests, the Levites, or any of the Israelites. If the events of Nehemiah 10:28-29 took place first, they had just recently “entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses.” The curse of Malachi 3:9 is nothing less than the curse of the law which Paul writes about in Galatians 3:10-13.

Russell Kelly (2006) makes his application of the passage:

Both the blessing and the curse of Malachi 3:9-11 only lasted until the Old Covenant ended at Calvary. Malachi’s audience had willingly reaffirmed the Old Covenant (Neh.10:28, 29). “Cursed be he that confirms not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen” (Deut. 27:26, quoted in Gal. 3:10). And Jesus ended the curse. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).

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In Part 4, we will look at how tithing was spoken of by Jesus and the author of Hebrews, and also look at tithing in church history.

All posts from this series, and on the subject of tithing, can be found here.

The Modern Practice of Tithing in Light of Christ Fulfilling the Law: Part 2


This is the second post in a series on tithing, as it’s taught in many churches today. This series examines all 17 Bible passages which speak of tithing, and is taken from a term paper I wrote in 2006.  The first post included the series outline and an introduction, and covered the two passages where tithing was mentioned prior to the Law of Moses (Genesis 14:8-24 and 28:8-22). This post will examine how tithing was prescribed and practiced under the Mosaic Law (in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). My references will be included in the final post.

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II. Tithing Prescribed Under Mosaic Law

Kent Hughes, a Senior Pastor, Bible commentator, and author, writes in his book, “Disciplines of a Godly Man” (2001): “There is some confusion today about what it was that God actually required from His people in the Old Testament. Most think it was something like 10 percent, which is a woeful misconception. Actually there were multiple mandatory giving requirements in Israel which came to considerably more” (p. 192). We will later see that there were at least three separate tithes.

Passage 3: Leviticus 27:30-33

And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’s. It is holy to the LORD. If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD. He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.

Looking at the context, God was giving Moses laws which were to come into effect when they came into the Promised Land (25:2). In fact, the tithe spoken of here was called “the tithe of the land.” These commands were given while Moses was on Mount Sinai (27:34).

Of all the instructions on tithing in the Mosaic Law, this one appears to be the most general, perhaps even an introduction. Still we can observe several details in this passage, which indicates two types of tithes. The first type of tithe came from the land, either from seeds or from the fruit of trees. It was holy to the Lord. If a person wanted to redeem it, presumably for money, he had to add another 20% of the value to his tithe. The second type of tithe was from herds or flocks of animals. The tenth animal which happened to pass under the rod would be holy to the Lord, even if it was of bad quality.

Monetary tithes were obviously not encouraged. In fact, a monetary tithe had to be 12%. Those who say they tithe today, but do so in money, fall short of this tithing law by 2%. Those who have a garden, but do not tithe on their crops, also fail to keep this law. Those who say the tithe has to be the best 10% apparently have the “first fruits offering” in mind, but these are not the same. These are not the only areas where they fall short of the tithing laws, as we will continue to see.

The tithing laws given through Moses were for a specific nation, in a specific situation, and for a specific purpose. We will see in the next four passages who these tithes were to go to. At the end I will give a summary.

Passage 4: Numbers 18:21-32 (TITHE #1, Parts A and B)

(Tithes for Support of the Levites) Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’

(The Tithe of the Levites) Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: ‘When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the LORD, a tenth of the tithe. And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the LORD from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the LORD’s heave offering from it to Aaron the priest. Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave offering due to the LORD, from all the best of them, the consecrated part of them.’ Therefore you shall say to them: ‘When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor and as the produce of the winepress. You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting. And you shall bear no sin because of it, when you have lifted up the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die.’

The tithes of the Israelites became the Levites’ inheritance. The Levites were responsible to minister in the tabernacle, and could not own land, which gave them limited means of income. God meant for their support to come from those they ministered to. Before giving their tithes to the Levites, the Israelites were to offer them up as a heave offering. The tithes were elevated before the altar, and were presented with an up and down motion (cf. Exodus 29:27, Leviticus 7:34, Numbers 15:20-21).

All the priests were Levites, but not all the Levites were priests. That’s why the Levites also paid a tithe of what they received to the priests (Numbers 18:25-31). They tithed grain and wine, not money. The Levites gave a tenth of the people’s tenth directly to Aaron. Unlike the tithe of the herds in Leviticus 27, they had to give the very best 10%. They were free to consume the other 90% together with their families, as a reward for their service. We don’t see that the priests tithed at all. According to Strong’s Concordance (2001),

“While all the priests had to be from the tribe of Levi, inheriting their office through their fathers, not all Levites could function as priests. For one thing, there were too many of them. Also, some were needed to work in the tabernacle, and later the temple, as maintenance and cleanup people, something that is readily understandable when one thinks of all that was involved in the sacrificial system. The Levites actually lived in various parts of Israel, and they were the welfare responsibility of the Israelites among whom they lived… The Levites, then, were to tithe the tithe they received, giving their own tithe from what they received from the people to the Lord. Part of that tithe was to be a terumah or “heave offering” to the priests, the descendants of Aaron.”

According to Numbers 35:1-8 (cf. Joshua 21), the Levites were given cities to live in, from each tribe of Israel. They were given a total of 48 cities, and could dwell in them together with their animals.

Passage 5: Deuteronomy 12:5-19 (TITHE #2)

But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the LORD your God has blessed you. You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes— for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the LORD your God is giving you. But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the LORD. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you… You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or your new wine or your oil, of the firstborn of your herd or your flock, of any of your offerings which you vow, of your freewill offerings, or of the heave offering of your hand. But you must eat them before the LORD your God in the place which the LORD your God chooses, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all to which you put your hands. Take heed to yourself that you do not forsake the Levite as long as you live in your land.

This passage gives instructions for a second tithe to be given by the Israelites, known as the “Festival tithe.” It was to come into effect some time later, after they crossed over the Jordan into the Promised Land. During that time they were to go to Jerusalem at the assigned times to celebrate. The expenses for these festivals were met by this second tithe and various offerings. They were to eat at least part of the tithe, which was said to be of grain, wine, and oil. They were also reminded of the importance of always taking care of the Levites.

This was a time of rejoicing in God’s chosen place. The tithe had to be consumed there, and not at home. They were to go with their families, their servants, and any Levites who dwelled within their gates. Nathan Foy (2006) speculates, “The ones to raise animals and grow plants were probably the richer people of that day, since the Bible says ‘all who were in their gates.’”

Kent Hughes (2001) says regarding this tithe, “According to Deuteronomy 12…another 10 percent had to be given for an annual celebration-feasting with one’s family, friends, and servants.” He adds that the purpose of this second tithe “was to build religious celebration and mutual community in God’s people” (p. 192-193).

Russell Kelly (2006) links it with the three annual festivals in Jerusalem, the Feasts of Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles (Exodus 23:14-19, Deuteronomy 16:1-17). He says, “According to Deuteronomy 12 and 14, the second religious tithe, called the ‘feast tithe,’ was eaten by worshipers in the streets of Jerusalem during the three yearly festivals.”

Passage 6: Deuteronomy 14:22-29 (TITHE # 2 repeated, TITHE #3 introduced)

You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.

At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

The first part of this passage (14:22-27) repeats the second tithe outlined in Deuteronomy 12. The firstborn of their herds and flocks were part of the tithe. Their tithe could be sold for money in case long travel was necessary. This relieved them of the burden of transporting large numbers of animals and produce. At the destination where God placed His name, the money would then be spent on food for each family to consume. Money was not presented to the Levites as a gift.

The last part of the passage introduces a third tithe, to be set aside every third year for the strangers, the fatherless, widows, and Levites living within the gates of the Israelites. There was a blessing attached to this tithe. As Kent Hughes (2001) points out, “This tithe averaged out to 3.3 percent yearly, “thus bringing the total to over 23 percent per year” in tithes required by the Israelites (p. 192-3).

Strong’s Concordance (2000) confirms that this tithe, like other tithes, was made up of farm produce, rather than money. Russell Kelly (2001) says that not everyone was required to tithe. He cites a noted authority on Judaism, Alfred Edersheim, as saying that tithing in Israel was not universal, “because it did not apply to crafts and trades” (p. 247).

Passage 7: Deuteronomy 26:12-15 (TITHE #3 repeated)

When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the LORD your God: ‘I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. I have not eaten any of it when in mourning, nor have I removed any of it for an unclean use, nor given any of it for the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me. Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, just as You swore to our fathers, “a land flowing with milk and honey.”’

This command was also given before the Israelites had actually come into the Promised Land (26:1), and repeats the third tithe given earlier. Here it is called “the year of tithing.” Again the recipients are said to be the Levites, strangers, orphans, and widows. The person tithing needed to be able to say that he had done so according to the correct procedure. He could then pray that his people and land would be blessed.

Russell Kelly (2006) notes that it is “wrong to teach that the poor in Israel were required to pay tithes. In fact, they actually received tithes! Much of the second festival tithe and all of a special third-year tithe went to the poor. In fact, many laws protected the poor from abuse and expensive sacrifices which they could not afford…” He adds that false assumptions on tithing would be minimized if we don’t ignore “the very plain definition of tithe as food from farm increase or herd increase.”

SUMMARY: Looking carefully at the tithes outlined in the Law of Moses, it is apparent that there were three different tithes:

[1] The first tithe is described in Numbers 18:21-32, and has two parts. The first part (18:21-24) tells of the tithes given to the Levites as their inheritance, since they had no land inheritance. It amounted to 10% of one’s livelihood. The second part (18:25-32) shows the Levites tithing from this amount to Aaron for the priesthood.

[2] The second tithe is described in Deuteronomy 12:5-19, and repeated in Deuteronomy 14:22-27. This tithe supported the annual feasts. It was to be taken to Jerusalem and consumed there. The Levites only got a small portion of this tithe, which made up an additional 10% of one’s livelihood.

[3] The third tithe is detailed in Deuteronomy 14:28-29, and repeated in Deuteronomy 26:11-13. It didn’t go primarily to the Levites, but to the needy. It was given every three years, during the “year of tithing,” and was designated for strangers, orphans, widows, and Levites, those who could not provide for themselves. It averaged out to 3.3% of one’s livelihood annually.

Therefore, those who were eligible to tithe needed to set aside an average of 23.3% of their livelihood each year just to fund the tithes for the Levites, the feasts, and the needy. Kelly (2006), Hughes (2001), and Foy (2006) all agree on this figure, and the fact that there were three tithes required of the Israelites. They also affirm that the tithes consisted of crops and herds.

Russell Kelly (2006) indicates just how restrictive tithing was under Mosaic Law:

“True biblical tithes were always: (1) only food, (2) only from the farms and herds, (3) of only Israelites, (4) who only lived inside God’s Holy Land, the national boundary of Israel, (5) only under Old Covenant terms and (6) the increase could only come from God’s hand.”

Therefore, (1) non-food items could not be tithed; (2) clean wild game animals and fish could not be tithed; (3) non-Israelites could not tithe; (4) food from outside the land of Israel did not enter the Temple; (5) legitimate tithing did not occur when there was no Levitical priesthood; and (5) tithes did not come from what man’s hands created, produced or caught by hunting and fishing.

Nathan Foy (2006) paints the picture in personal terms:

“To tithe according to the Old Testament you would have to give up your job and farm so you could raise animals and grow crops to tithe with.  You’d have to find some Levitical priests to give your tithe to.  You would have to celebrate the Old Testament festivals and eat your tithe in the presence of the Lord. For 2 years you would have to give 20% of your herds and crops to God and on the 3rd year you would have to give another 10% to the poor, [totaling] 30% in tithe[s] that particular year.  If you do all this you will be keeping the law of tithing totally.”

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In Part 3, we will look at how tithing was enforced by a king (Hezekiah), a reformer (Nehemiah), and two prophets (Amos and Malachi).

All posts from this series, and on the subject of tithing, can be found here.