Elementary Principles

The material in this book has the potential to engage and energize traditional Christians and Christian churches.


PublicationsMay 20, 2014

PublicationsMay 20, 2014


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Sometimes it’s not easy finding the right name for a book. The title Elementary Principles: Six Foundational Principles of Ancient Jewish Christianity does not have a great hook, but it’s the title we selected for this collection of teachings on Hebrews 6:1-2 after trying several other equally blasé titles: Basics; Basic Teachings of Christ; Initiation; The Apostolic Catechism; Spiritual Milk and so forth.

Sometimes a great snazzy title just doesn’t leap forward to recommend itself. In this case, we decided to go with a descriptive approach. This is a book about the six principles of Hebrew 6:1-2 which the author of Hebrews refers to as “milk” and “the elementary doctrine of Messiah.”

Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. (Hebrews 5:13-6:3)

The book takes the time to examine those six points of elementary doctrine: [1] foundation of repentance from dead works and of [2] faith toward God, and of [3] instruction about washings, [4] the laying on of hands, [5] the resurrection of the dead, and [6] eternal judgment.

The teachings in the book belong to a much larger series of teachings on the Epistle to the Hebrews that I presented to the congregation of Beth Immanuel in 2013-2014. We spent more than a year in an ongoing string of expository sermons that meandered their way from one end of the book of Hebrews to the other. In the course of presenting these Sabbath sermons, I encountered the list in Hebrews 6:1-2. Originally I intended to quickly pass over the “elementary doctrine of Christ” without much comment, just as the writer of the book of Hebrews suggests when he says, “Let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again” these basic teachings (Hebrews 6:1). After all, the list is not germane to the larger argument in the book of Hebrews. I covered the material in one quick sermon and told the congregation that I did not intend to take the time to explore the subject further, despite the fact that each elementary principle deserved a dedicated teaching.

The next day, by complete coincidence (so to speak), I received a sincere inquiry from one of First Fruits of Zion’s readers, asking for an explanation of Hebrews 6:1-2. Furthermore, he suggested that our ministry should consider producing a teaching resource that would explain the elementary principles from a Jewish point of view. I considered the seeming serendipity of receiving this communication within twenty-four hours of declaring that I did not intend to teach the passage in detail. Over the next few days, several congregants contacted me with the same request. I took this to be direction from the LORD and agreed to dedicate the next several Sabbath sermons to the subject.

I attempted to provide the congregation with a historical, contextual explanation of the material, but I found it difficult to do so without first dispelling common misconceptions along the way. As a result, this book challenges several long-standing Christian interpretations, institutions, and matters of eschatology. It was not my intention to disparage Christian tradition; I was only interested in establishing a Messianic Jewish reading of the text.

Nevertheless, I believe that the material has the potential to engage and energize traditional Christians and Christian churches, and I hope that the book will be read outside the small circles of Messianic Judaism. I hope that God might use this book to help reestablish the elementary doctrine of Christ and to initiate new disciples into the kingdom.

Toward that end, First Fruits of Zion is actually offering the book free* until June 3, 2014, as a gift to the Messianic movement and the Christian world. Let us know what you think of it and whether or not you will recommend it to others … and let us know what you would have used for a title.

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About the Author: D. Thomas Lancaster is Director of Education at First Fruits of Zion, the author of the Torah Club programs and several books and study programs. He is also the pastor of Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, WI. More articles by D. Thomas Lancaster

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