Monday, 2 November 2015
The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission and Reception of Faith,
Andrew F. Walls, T&T Clark, 2002, page 77-78
Walls goes on:
It is usual to see the great celebraton of Ephesians 2 in terms of the reconciliation of two races, Jew and Gentile; and the words have in modern times spoken powerfully to situations of racial division. But in their own times these also stood for two cultures; and, in the church, they stood for two contrasting Christian lifestyles. Two lifestyles met at the institution that had once symbolised the ethnic and cultural division: the meal table.
Doubtless there was much soul-searching and hand-wringing over the Jerusalem Council decision and its implications. Walls is cleary right when he says:
The shared table was the acid test. It stood for diverse humanity redeemed by Christ and sharing in him ... Two races and two cultures historically separated by the meal table now met at table to share the knowledge of Christ.
Rav Sha'ul clearly understood the impact of his words. The long treatise in Romans 14 speaks to food issues: meat vs. vegetables; the provenance of meat; and so on. Yet Sha'ul finds a way forward, accomodating both Jewish partcularity and Gentile universality to keep the body united.
Where Walls goes wrong is to base his conclusions on the erroneous idea that all the 'give' is from the Jewish side and all the 'take' is from the Gentile side. G-d doesn't urge the church to settle the differences and work out a compromise that both side can live with. He gives specific directions to enable the two groups to remain distinct and identifiable, yet with overlap and deliberate points of contact and sharing.