(Be sure to read the earlier episodes in this series before you get to this one: 1: The Black Bapticostal Bishop, 2: Yogis, Swamis—and Rabbis, 3: Have Shofar, Will Travel, 4: Have Torah, Will Travel, 5: Doin’ the Torah Wave, and 6: Revisiting the Black Bapticostal Bishop.)
If you’ve followed this whole saga to this point, you will remember we started with the introduction of Eddie Long, the Black Bapticostal Bishop. (The term “Bapticostal” was coined by some wags who wanted to indicate an unusual mash-up of Baptist and Pentecostal.) And traced the story of his recent infamy in the matters of finances and sex.
Also introduced was the Torah-toting “Rabbi” Ralph Messer, alleged specialist in teaching the “Hebrew Roots of the Christian Faith.”
The names of both of these men were not well-known outside their own circles … until that fateful day of January 29, 2012 when their paths crossed at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in the Atlanta area in a strange spectacle. Even then, they would have likely remained out of the limelight if it weren’t for the Viral Video of said spectacle that was posted on Youtube. Before it was yanked off Youtube by New Hope via complaints of “copyright infringement,” it was seen by millions around the world. (And it can still be seen elsewhere, anyway … see the link below. Closing the barn door after the horse is out is never a successful effort.) And what did those millions see on their computer screen?
Dip into the middle of the recording and there is a strange sight indeed. Rabbi Ralph appears to be waving at Bishop Eddie. Big ‘n’ burly Eddie, wrapped in a Jewish prayer shawl and holding a big Torah Scroll, is being tippily held aloft in a chair by four grimacing men. (It was almost painful to watch those fellows hoist the Big Bishop up initially!) And then Ralph and the men march Bishop Eddie all around the stage! (I literally held my breath wondering if they would make a misstep and drop him!)
What on earth was going on in these pictures?
To find that out, you have to go back to the beginning of the video clip on Youtube.
Evidently, as a visiting speaker at New Hope, Rabbi Ralph talked for a while about various aspects of Hebrew Roots. He mentioned that he was a Jew, with “dual citizenship” in the US and Israel, and that in the name of the Jewish people … and God … he was going to bring a blessing to New Hope. And then he launched in to staging a “ceremony” for the New Hope audience in which he declared their Bishop a King. (Sounds like a cross between checkers and chess …).
A Torah scroll was brought out on stage, which RR declared was “312 Years old,” and a “Holocaust scroll” that had been found near the Auschwitz concentration camp in WW2. He waxed eloquent about supposed “Jewish lore” regarding Torah scrolls. Supposedly 90% of the Jews in the world had never “seen, touched, or approached” a Torah scroll, and only one with Great Authority could read from it. Torah scrolls were allegedly made from “39 lamb skins” … which he indicated was a deliberate reference to the 39 stripes Jesus’ received before His crucifixion. Pulling off the velvet covering, he commented, “I’m going to pull off the foreskin of this,” evidently implying he was “circumcising” the scroll! He then mentioned Jesus “walking into the Temple” and approaching a Torah scroll. This must have been a garbled reference to the synagogue in Nazareth, since the Temple’s interior was not a place of meeting where Torah scrolls were kept. All the while he kept up this patter, he was very pointedly implying that every word was revealing deeply important spiritual things about the “Hebrew Roots” of the Christian faith.
The only problem was, almost every word was nonsense. (See the list below of comments by a Hebrew scholar about RR’s patter.)
After “circumcising” the scroll, he ordered some assistants to unroll it about six feet or so … and, bringing Bishop Eddie to the center of the stage, Ralph had them “wrap” Eddie in the scroll!
As Eddie approached, Ralph bellowed forcefully, “He is a King! God’s blessed him! He’s a humble man, but in him is kingship. In him is royalty. In him was the Land of Israel. In him was a K chromosome of that of Konem (?) Kohenim. He was brought through the slaves, raised up in a city, and God now wants to release a new anointing.”
With Eddie inside the scroll, Ralph began shouting again. “He is sealed to come out with a new anointing! The kingship within him, the POWER within him, is gonna come out. It doesn’t matter where you go, now how you try to attack him. You CAN’T attack him. He’s sealed!… wherever he turns the power of God is there!”
Then he had them roll the scroll back up. He put back the “foreskin,” and had a female assistant come out and drape a “Jewish” prayer shawl around Eddie’s shoulders. He had Eddie sit down on a royal red leather chair, and as the Torah was handed to him, Ralph intoned, “He is now positioned in a seat of … position of … power and authority. … He is now given the Constitution of God as a King.”
And then RR ordered four assistants to lift B.E. up in the air on their shoulders. (Insisting they “represent the four corners of the earth.”) And as he was paraded around the stage, Ralph declared that Eddie was no longer a commoner, but a king! The crowd roared its approval. Eddie admittedly looked a bit bewildered, as if he hadn’t been “filled in” ahead of time about the ceremony plans. Back at center stage, Ralph roared that “He’s no longer a commoner. He’s not on the earth, he’s raised from earth into a heavenly realm!”
Throughout the whole rigmarole, Ralph kept implying very strongly that all of this folderol was “Jewish custom” related to the crowning of the ancient Kings of Israel. It is quite likely that most in the audience, ignorant of the customs of ancient Israel … or modern Jews … soaked it all in as The Gospel Truth. But the truth was there was no precedent for any of this in Jewish history or customs related to kings.
I suppose at the end of the morning’s church service that day, both Ralph and Eddie thought this was going to be just a fleeting ceremony that would be soon forgotten. If so, they were badly mistaken. The service had been recorded, and someone chose to put the recording on Youtube. Within days the firestorm began.
The whole thing had offended not just those out in the public who thought it insane to be bestowing such “honor” on a man who had recently paid millions of dollars of hush money to cover up allegations that he was a sexual predator.
The bizarre use of the Torah scroll in this setting had deeply offended the whole Jewish community in the greater Atlanta area, and eventually Jews and Rabbis all over the country who came across the freakish video. The fact that Rabbi Ralph was identified by some as a “Messianic Jewish Rabbi” enraged the real Messianic Jewish rabbis of the country, who felt he gave them a bad name. And even Hebrew Roots leaders from across the nation very speedily went public with strong criticism that both his fanciful teachings (much of it made up out of whole cloth) and his use of the Torah as a gimmick in such an outlandish way brought reproach on the Hebrew Roots movement.
An Assistant Professor of Hebrew Scripture and Homiletics at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia wrote up a detailed rebuttal of 27 of Messer’s claims in the video in a list published on the web by the Huffington Post. Here is a selection of a few from that list. See the whole list on the Huffington Post website.
- 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 objects d’art, i.e. the works of Picasso.
- 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.
- The Temple in Jerusalem was not a synagogue or Beth Midrash, where Torah scrolls were kept and studied.
- The Torah wrapper is not referred to as a “belt of righteousness.”
- 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.
- The claim that “only one of great authority” is given a “finger” to touch the scroll is patently false. Any bar or bat mitzvah, 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.
- The claim that 90 percent 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.
- 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 [Messer] is devising his own system without reference to any of the classical texts in Judaism, frequently by simple free- and word-association.
After the firestorm of complaints from Atlanta area Jewish rabbis, Bishop Eddie Long issued a public apology to anyone who was “offended” by the incident, indicating he sure didn’t mean to disrespect the Torah or Judaism. And he added that he didn’t really think of himself as a King, even though he had done nothing to stop the events as they played out in his church that morning.
Rabbi Ralph later issued his own long-winded video “explanation” of what had happened, falling all over himself trying to explain that when he said he was declaring Eddie a “king,” and had him carried on the shoulders of those men and paraded around to the cheers of his congregation … he didn’t really mean it. Sort of. Kind of. (I’ve not seen RR offer any explanation for all the many phony, invented “Hebrew Roots” statements he made during the event.)
As Ralph got ready to wrap up Eddie, he stated, “I have dual citizenship in Israel, on behalf of the Jewish people, the land of Israel, and the God of Israel, I wanna make a presentation.”
Usually when one says that they come “on behalf of” someone else, they mean that that “someone else” has asked them to be a spokesman. But it would seem from the response to the video by “the Jewish people” that he certainly wasn’t speaking on their behalf, much less the “land of Israel,” during that “coronation” ceremony.
And I am personally positive that he was not speaking on behalf of, in the name of, nor at the request of the God of Israel.
The Bible is very clear about not “taking the name of the Lord in vain.” I am convinced that Rabbi Ralph stepped WAY over that clear line in this instance.
If you’d like to see the whole ceremony, it is available online here.
(Be patient … it may take a while to load.)