Christian Zionist Messianism Run Amok: Eddie Long's Torah Coronation

Eddie Long from the YouTube VideoI am writing this response to a YouTube video circulating widely on the Internet in in which Eddie Long, the troubled pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta GA, is apparently crowned king with the ritual use of a Jewish Torah scroll. The reader may know Long for the recent scandal in which he was accused by five young men of sexual misconduct. After initially denying the allegations, he went into settlement talks with them. A number of specious claims are made during the ritual which I would like to refute. (right: image of Eddie Long from the YouTube video)

The unidentified man represents himself as a Jew (in the YouTube video to which I had access he is identified subsequently as Ralph Messer). He may well be some sort of Messianic Jew, a person who claims Jewish heritage and recognizes Jesus as the Son of God, but who is not part of one of the major Jewish movements: Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, Renewal. He does not, however, represent recognizable Jewish thought or practice in his (mis-)representations of the Torah and other Jewish sancta – or for that matter, New Testament and Christian biblical interpretation and theology. 

  1. The claim that Holocaust Torahs cannot be insured “because there are no more” is patently false. They are regularly insured as are other one of a kind objectsd’art, i.e. the works of Picasso.
  2. The Torah cover is not a “foreskin.” Hyper-masculine, hyper-sexualization of the Torah reduces the holy Torah to a problematic phallic symbol – God’s? or Long’s? – and categorizes the most destructive behaviors associated with New Birth ministries in recent years. Grammatically and symbolically, the Torah is feminine in Hebrew and is personified as “She,” as in “She is a Tree of Life,” in Prov. 3:18.
  3. The Temple in Jerusalem was not a synagogue or Beth Midrash, where Torah scrolls were kept and studied.
  4. The Torah wrapper is not referred to as a “belt of righteousness.”
  5. The tree in the vision in the book of Revelation whose “leaves are for the healing of the nations,” (22:2), is a fruit tree – not a Torah scroll – and the text does not say that there are “39 leaves” as claimed in the video.
  6. The claim that “only one of great authority” is given a “finger” to touch the scroll is patently false. Any bar or bat mitvah, girl or boy, woman or man, who has completed the rite of passage, can chant the Torah according to the (minhag) custom in their congregation. Torah scroll pointers, called “hands,” (yadayim), not “fingers” are common gifts and possessions in Jewish families and communities.
  7. The claim that 90% of the Jews in the world have “never seen, approached or touched” Torah scrolls is utterly without foundation. The Torah is taken out of the Ark during Shabbat and other services; it is processed through the assembly twice where people reverence it (Her!) by touching and kissing it/Her.
  8. The frequent references to significant numbers may be an attempt to mimic the Jewish mystical tradition of Gematria that elicits meanings from numbers and their contexts.  The speaker is devising his own system without reference to any of the classical texts in Judaism, frequently by simple free- and word-association.
  9. There is no verse in the scriptures where Jesus calls himself “the eternal government of God” as claimed by the speaker.
  10. The point that “these” – presumably Torah scrolls or just Holocaust Torah scrolls are only given to “cities in need of anointing” is false. Individuals, families and religious communities own and commission Torah scrolls and keep or give them as they see fit, to synagogues, Jewish seminaries and other schools and museums.
  11. Even if the speaker identifies as a Jew and has Israeli citizenship, he does not speak for “the Jewish people,” “the land of Israel” or “the state of Israel.”
  12. His address of Eddie Long as a biblical or Israelite king is without foundation in the scriptures or in reality.
  13. The notion that there is such a thing as a “king chromosome” is a fiction, as is the claim that it is kohenic, that is priestly; the Israelite and Judean monarchs – there were queens as well – were not priests.
  14. The man’s articulation of what “God wants,” is to say the least unsubstantiated outside that particular setting.
  15. The man never says how he knows that none of Long’s ancestors or relatives has ever seen a Torah scroll.
  16. While there are some traditional reflections on the human body – including DNA and chromosomes – in the mystical Kabbalistic tradition, the speaker is crafting a verbal montage without reference to the classical texts or their theologies.
  17. He attributes a quote to “Jewish doctors” stereotyping an entire community as conflating cellular biology with his Hebrew mysticism without actually naming or quoting any single “Jewish doctor” who holds such an opinion.
  18. The “crowns” in Torah scrolls stem from a particular – now-normative – calligraphy style, but other types of calligraphy have been used through the ages to produce legitimate Torah scrolls.
  19. The claim that the kings of Israel were crowned with Torah scrolls wrapping them has no foundation in the biblical text. According to the bible’s own chronology the written Torah did not come into existence until the reign of King Josiah in the sixth century BCE (2 Kgs 22), some four hundred years after the time of David. However, the great second century rabbi Hanina ben Teradion, was however wrapped in a Torah scroll and burned alive in his martyrdom. Perhaps he has confused or conflated the traditions.
  20. While the Torah poles are called, etzim, “trees,” they are not known as “justice and blessing.”
  21. The speaker’s claim that his speaking “life” to Eddie Long as a Jew has some meaning, is utterly without meaning.
  22. The speaker’s prediction that the ritual – his antecedent is unclear – will arouse either “death” or “life” in someone – Long? Or the congregation? – is his own Gnosticism, knowledge that is not shared by those outside that particular setting.
  23. There is no precedent for presenting anyone, even a fictitious Israelite-ish monarch with the Torah wrapper.
  24. The donning of the tallit, prayer shawl, is done by those who have completed their bar or bat mitzvah – whatever it was that just occurred, it had none of the requisite elements of a bat or bar mitzvah. In addition the tallit is donned by pulling it over one’s head and reciting the traditional prayer, which was not done. It is also not draped like a clergy stole.
  25. The elevation of Long lifted in the chair by four men seems to have been borrowed from Jewish wedding festivities and has noting to do with coronation; there is no evidence of this practice among Israelite or Judean monarchs.
  26. The Aaronic blessing (Num 6:24-26) is a blessing for the people and not a putative leader.

It is unfortunate that the speaker chose to plunder the sacred traditions of Judaism as he invented novel interpretations of biblical texts and imagery to affirm and elevate an individual who had admittedly broken the sacred trust between pastor and congregant.

A version of this post ran first on TheFeministWire.com. A quote appears in Anthea Butler's commentary on ReligionDispatches.com.

Comments

Ralph Messer's reply to your blog points

Dear Dr. Gafney

First let me say that I thank God for the article your wrote. Thank you, thank you thank you.

I like so many were appaled by what what done with Eddie long by Messer.

I do not know if you were aware of it but he has produced a video "supposedly" responding to and refuting your points. As you noticed I put supoosedly in quotes.

I have heard the video and his refutation is sickening. His use of scriptures and twisting of it again is sickening. He even imlies and suggests that what people found appaling is that this was done for a black man. You can find the video here: http://madamenoire.com/tag/ralph-messer/ Bkessing, and thank you again. Mike Davis

A confusing rebutal

Here is a link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcF8uGOWgHE&feature=share to his confusing rebuttal of this article. It took 1 hour and 9 minutes to spout gobbledygook which doesn't begin to adequately address his actions and statements nor even to address the points in the above article. It is back-pedaling, and an incredible amount of scripture twisting. He has disabled commenting and displays a large copyright notice throughout reading; Rebroadcast and Reproduction are not allowed. Guess he never heard of Fair Use. I imagine this is an attempt to censor offended parties and anyone with an actual brain. Since every single ridiculous statement he made is another cord of wood for the fire. 1 hour and 9 minutes long. I am even more appalled now than before.

A Messianic Jewish response to the "coronation"

I represent the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, which just joined with our sister organization Messianic Jewish Alliance of America to issue a statement condemning the coronation ceremony at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Check it out under "Community News" at www.umjc.org. 

Thank you!
Rabbi Russ Resnik 

Ralph Messer

First off, Ralph Messer is NOT jewish.   He has no understanding of jewish tradition, culture or religious practices, clearly.    I have met him several times and while a very charming and nice person, but his teachings are false.   He is trying to lead people to believe he has some new deep revelation but all the teachings I have heard from him are so screwy.  He has people worshipping the torah and yet he desecrates them with his actions.   So odd.   Secondly he has never had any affiliation with the messianic movement in the USA, ever.    I am so glad that Rabbi Russ has come out and issued a statement.   Messer is giving messianic jews a very bad image.    Considering he isn't really messianic since he is not jewish.   As Gypsy Rose Lee said "You gotta have a gimmick"...this torah ceremony is just another gimmick to try to gain favor with certain ministers.  He did the same ceremony with Juanita Bynum.    

 

 

Eddie Long/ Ralph Messer.

I fine this appaling. This is just dead wrong. What this has done it has brought a reproach on the,
Hebrew Roots Movement, the Non-believing Jewish believing community is livid those of us in the Hebrew Roots are up in arms.
I am NOW ashamed to even be labled a Messianic. I go by the term Nazarene now.

I am gonna be pounced on this but as a member of the MIA. (Messianic Israel Alliance) I can not speak for all of them,

what Messer has done  he should be ashamed and repent. We as believers in Yahshua HaMashiach are trying to reach,

the world with Yahshua and Torah and then we have this CLOWN come out and pull this stunt is gonna make it harder for us

to reach people with the truth.

JJ. Roxx Nazarene Radio Network.net

It never fails to amaze me how far preachers go ..

.. to create their own little spiritual fiefdoms drawing from any spiritual stream that their patently carnal syncretism can draw from. They always rely upon some self-appointed charlatans like "Rabbi" Ralph Messer to invoke a pseudo-wisdom tradition drawn completely off the top of the heads to invoke a connection to an ancient faith system that, inconveniently, never existed. That never stops them, though. The distortion truly is painful to listen to and as a Christian Pentecostal minister, I'd like to personally apologize to any and every devout Jewish man and woman for the imbecilic and grotesque presumption that marked the actions of these characters. The cooption of their traditions in this vain glorious and self-aggrandizing mannter is unspeakably offensive and without any excuse at all.