Nazarene Space

In my search to put Yeshua and the writings of the Nazarenes (the “New Testament”/NT”) back into historical context I have seen a lot of varying opinions on just how “Rabbinic” Rabbi Yeshua really was. Many people in the Messianic/Ephraimite/Nazarene circles agree that Yeshua was doing and teaching the written Torah, but he was in opposition to the Oral Torah. Fewer people in these circles feel that Yeshua was teaching the written Torah and he also gleaned certain aspects of the oral Torah as well. Fewer still believe that Yeshua was a rabbi working with in all the frame works of Pharisaic/Esseneic/Rabbinic Judaism (as it was at the time) and was simply restoring a proper view point of written and Oral Torah. My research on this topic is not complete, but I would like to share the following information. I found it interesting and I imagine others would enjoy it as well.

It is not the purpose of this article to declare any one of the above view points as wrong. The purpose of this article is to say that, according to my research thus far, the view point that Yeshua operated within rabbinic Judaism (using both written and oral Torah) is, in my opinion, the most likely conclusion.

The Oral Torah as found in orthodox Judaism since Temple times, can be broken down into two main categories. Aggadah and Halakha/Halachah

If we can find examples of Yeshua and his students implementing these two categories of the oral Torah then our conclusion should be that Messianics/Ephraimites/Nazarenes are supposed to be implementing the system known as oral Torah. Lets start with Aggadah...

Aggadah is a compendium of rabbinic homilies that incorporates folklore, historical anecdotes, moral exhortations, and practical advice in various spheres, from business to medicine. Aggadah is the handed down tradition that defines and explains spirituality, morality, and includes stories that further explain the written Torah. One aspect of Aggadah is that it explains spirituality where the written Torah is very silent. The Aggadah gives our understanding of the spirituality of Judaism such as angels, demons, levels of heaven and so on.

My Comments in **

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, the Ramchal, discusses... transmission of the Aggadah in his well known Discourse on the Haggadot. He explains that the Oral Law, in fact, comprises two components: the legal component (חלק המצוות) *Halacka HaMitzvot - the way of ( walking out) the commandments*, discussing the mitzvot and halakha; and "the secret" component (חלק הסודות) *Halacka HaSodot – the way of (walking out) the secrets*, discussing the deeper teachings. The aggadah, along with the Kabbalah, falls under the latter. The rabbis of the Mishnaic era realized the danger of recording the deeper teachings in explicit, mishnah-like, medium. Rather, they would be conveyed in a "concealed mode" and via "paradoxes *parables*". (Due to their value, these teachings should not become accessible to those "of bad character" and due to their depth they should not be made available to those "not schooled in the ways of analysis".) This mode of the transmission was nevertheless based on consistent rules and principles such that those "equipped with the keys" would be able to unlock their meaning; to others they would appear as non-rational or fantastic.

The following are the main points of the Ramchal's statement in regards to aggadah.

1 – Aggadah is transmitted from teacher to student.
2 – The aggadah aspect of oral Torah is known as “the secrets”
3 – These secrets were not openly revealed to the (uneducated) masses they were conveyed through parables.
4 – A master/teacher would give the full meaning of “the secrets” to his select students.
5 – These students, having been directly educated by the master, would now be equipped with “the keys” of understanding, and thus were fully capable of teaching “the secrets” of spirituality (they were now initiated kabbalists).

Now compare to Matthew 13:1-11 “And on that day Yeshua went out of the house and sat by the sea. And large crowds were gathered together to him, so that he went into a boat and sat down. And all the crowd stood on the beach. And he spoke to them much in parables,...And the disciples came and said to him, why do you speak to them in parables? And he answering said to them because it has been given to you to know the secrets of the kingdom of the heavens but to them it has not been given.”

Yeshua confirms every point in the transmission of the aggadah – the secrets

1 – Yeshua personally transmits the secret teachings of aggadah to his selected students
2 – Yeshua uses the term “the secrets” the exact name for the aggadah/kabbalah as given by the Ramchal.
3 – Yeshua purposefully withheld giving the full teaching to the masses and spoke in paradoxes or parables just as the Ramchal said.
4 – Yeshua goes on to explain the parable to his students only and not to the crowds.
5 – John 17:6 “I have revealed (as Ramchal stated the aggadah/kabbalah is “concealed” from the masses and revealed to certain students.) your name (One important aspect of the kabbalah is teaching the name or rather many names of the eternal one) to the men whom you have given me out of the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have guarded you word. Now they have come to know that all you gave to me, is from you. Because the words which you gave to me, I have given to them (the keys). And they have received (received in Hebrew is the word kabbalah) them, and have truly known that I came forth from you, and they believed that you sent me.”

Based on the similarities in these concepts I must conclude that Yeshua and his students are using and teaching the aggadah/kabbalah. Which means that Yeshua, his students, and the teachings of the NT are in agreement with atleast one aspect of the oral Torah – the aggadah.

A side note – my hypothesis.

“aggadic exegesis reached its highest development in the great epoch of the Mishnaic-Talmudic period, between 100 and 550 CE.”

According to Jewish history aggadah (the secrets or kabbalah) reached its highest development (spreading) during the time from of 100-550 CE. Strangely enough this explosion in aggadah occurs shortly after the life of Yeshua and during the spread of the “Nazarenes”. One of the mystical understandings of the Mashiach is that he will reveal to the world all the secrets of the Torah. I believe the expansion of aggadah during the time from of 100 to 550 CE could be in large part due to Yeshua and his disciples. If this hypothesis is true than we have much to gain in learning aggadah from Judah.

In the future I would like to post an article on Halacha. But for now I will leave you with this to think about in regards to Halacha.

The following two definitions of Halacha are taken from Jewish websites.

Halakha (Hebrew: הלכה‎Halakha is the collective body of Jewish religious law, including biblical law (the 613 mitzvot) and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions. Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life. Hence, Halakha guides not only religious practices and beliefs, but numerous aspects of day-to-day life. Halakha is often translated as "Jewish Law", although a more literal translation might be "the path" or "the way of walking." The word is derived from the Hebrew

The name Halakha is derived from the Hebrew halakh הלך, which means "to walk" or "to go"; thus a literal translation does not yield "law", but rather "the way to go".


In both translations of the word Halacha the phase “the way” is used. I know the most commonly used word is Derek to describe “the way” in the NT, but...

What if many of the places in the NT referring to “the way” were actually referring to the concept of Halacha?

Views: 373

Comment by Mikha El on August 21, 2009 at 9:00pm
I agree that Yeshua went about teaching oral law. Not every single aspect of oral law though. This thought process, in my mind, lines up with scripture must better. That is, so long as one side with the "he" verses "they" found in certain manuscripts. "He" seems to agree better with the context of Matt 23:3 than "they".

For a good example (..hope this doesn't open a can of worms) consider the meat vs milk issue that some take to an extreme, in my opinion. I realize "building a fence around the Torah is a good idea, but to me there are excesses when taken to extremes, this being a perfect example of it.
Comment by Wayne Ingalls on August 24, 2009 at 9:40pm
Shalom Shawn, Here are some of my thoughts.

You said: If we can find examples of Yeshua and his students implementing these two categories of the oral Torah then our conclusion should be that Messianics/Ephraimites/Nazarenes are supposed to be implementing the system known as oral Torah.

In my view, the conclusion is not born out by the preliminary statement. We cannot conclude that all aspects of oral torah are tov just because Yeshua used parables or because He prayed before He ate. Followers of Yeshua agree that we should do what Yeshua said to do because He has the authority to do so. This does not mean that all teachers that use Yeshua's teaching style are tov. However, it seems to that is exactly the conclusion you are making here. Repackaged, I understand you to say: Yeshua used a certain teaching style. Since Yeshua used this teaching style, we must adopt the teachings of those who use that teaching style.

I am not sure if you have your history correct regarding the spread of Jewish mysticism. From what I have read, the Zohar, the Bahir, etc., are early widely regarded as early medieval pseudepigrapha. This means to me that they may have had some early parts, but were medieval works of men like Isaac the Blind and Moses De Leon, but attributed to earlier sages (for the obvious reasons that antiquity denotes authority).

The surface problem with Ramchal's thesis is that aggadah does not mean concealed, but "telling" or "narrative." We encounter the obvious Hebrew cognate during every Passover seder. "Telling" only becomes reformulated as "secrets" when re-translated through the lens of medieval mystical Judaism (developed in opposition to the non-mystical teachings of Saadia Gaon and Rambam).

Blessings,
Wayne
Comment by James Trimm on August 24, 2009 at 10:14pm
In my study of the Zohar I have found that there is clear evidence that it truly dates back to the first century (or close to it) as it claims. The Zohar makes reference to the Book of Enoch, and correctly refers to some of its contents. In other places the Zohar reveals a fairly detailed knowledge of the contents of the Book of Enoch. The problem is that the contents of the Book of Enoch were unknown in the Western world from ancient times until the 1700's!

It is true that AGGADAH means "telling" "story" or "narraive".
Comment by Wayne Ingalls on August 25, 2009 at 6:27am
Rabbi Trimm, are you convinced that the arguments contained in this portion of the Jewish Encyclopedia are utterly lacking in truth?

The first attack upon the accepted authorship of the Zohar was made by Elijah Delmedigo. Without expressing any opinion as to the real author of the work, he endeavored to show, in his "Beḥinat ha-Dat," that it could not be attributed to Simeon ben Yoḥai. The objections advanced by him were as follows: (1) were the Zohar the work of Simeon ben Yoḥai, it would have been mentioned by the Talmud, as has been the case with the Sifre and other works of the Talmudic period; (2) the Zohar contains names of Talmudists who lived at a later period than that of Simeon; (3) were Simeon ben Yoḥai the father of the Cabala, knowing by divine revelation the hidden meaning of the precepts, his halakic decisions would have been adopted by the Talmud; but this has not been done; (4) were the Cabala a revealed doctrine, there would have been no divergence of opinion among the cabalists concerning the mystic interpretation of the precepts ("Beḥinat ha-Dat," ed. Vienna, 1833, p. 43).

These arguments and others of the same kind were used by Leon of Modena in his "Ari Nohem" (pp. 49 et seq., Leipsic, 1840). A work exclusively devoted to the criticism of the Zohar was written, under the title "Miṭpaḥat Sefarim," by Jacob Emden, who, waging war against the remaining adherents of the Shabbethai Ẓebi movement, endeavored to show that the book on which the pseudo-Messiah based his doctrines was a forgery. Emden demonstrates that the Zohar misquotes passages of Scripture; misunderstands the Talmud; contains some ritual observances which were ordained by later rabbinical authorities; mentions the crusades against the Mohammedans (ii. 32a); uses the expression "esnoga" (iii. 232b), which is a Portuguese corruption of "synagogue," and explains it in a cabalistic manner as a compound of the Hebrew words....gives a mystical explanation of the Hebrew vowel-points, which were introduced long after the Talmudic period (i. 24b, ii. 116a, iii. 65a).


http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=142&letter=Z#406

Blessings,
Wayne
Comment by James Trimm on August 25, 2009 at 7:18am
Wayne,

I am not saying that, like many writings, it might not contain later corruptions. But look at this (and recall that the Book of Enoch was lost to the Western World from ancient times until the 1700's:


On the Book of Enoch

“This is the source of the book known as
the Book of Enoch. When God took him, He
showed him all supernal mysteries, and the
Tree of Life ub the midst of the Garden
and its leaves and branches, all of which
can be found in his book.”
(Zohar 1:37b)


Of the Nefilim it says:

“Of the Nefilim it is said: “and the sons of God saw the daughters
of men that they were fair” (Gen. 6:1f). These form a second
category of the Nefilim, already mentioned above, in this way:
When God thought of making man, He said: “Let us make man
in our image, etc.” i.e. He intended to make him head over the
celestial beings, who were to be his deputies, like Joseph over
the governors of Egypt (Gen. 41:41). The angels thereupon
began to malign him and say, “What is man that You should
remember him, seeing that he will assuredly sin before You.”
Said God to them, “If you were on earth like him, you would
sin worse.” And so it was. For “when the sons of God saw the
daughters of man”, they fell in love with them, and God cast
them down from heaven. These were Uzza and Azael; from them
the “mixed multitude” derive their souls, and therefore they also
are called nefilim, because they fell into fornication with fair
women.”
(1:25b)

“She [Naamah] by her beauty led astray the “sons of God”, Uzza
and Azael, and she bore them children, and so from her went forth
evil spirits and demons into the world.”
(1:19b)

“R. Jose said: "When the descendants of Cain spread through the
world, they used to cup up the soil, and they had traits in common
both with the upper and lower beings."
R. Isaac said: "Uzza and Azael fell from the abode of their sanctity
above, they saw the daughters of mankind and sinned with them and
begat children. These were the Nefilim, of whom it is said, THE
NEFILIM WERE IN THE EARTH (Gen. 6:4)."
R. Hiya said: "The descendants of Cain were the `SONS OF GOD' (Gen.
6:2). For Cain was born from Samael and his aspect was not like
that of other human beings, and all who came from his stock were
called `SONS OF GOD'."”
(Zohar 1:37a)

In which place and from whom did Balaam derive all his
Magical practices and knowledge? Rabbi Isaac replied:
“He learned it first from his father, but it was in the
"mountains of the East”, which are in an eastern country,
that he obtained a mastery of all the arts of magic and
divination. For those mountains are the abode of the
[fallen] angels Uzza and Azael whom the Holy One cast
down from heaven, and who were chained there in fetters.
It is they who impart to the sons of men a knowledge of
magic.
(Zohar 1:126a)

…after God cast Uzza and Azael down from their holy
place, they went astray after the women folk and seduced
the world also. It may seem strange that being angels they
were able to abide upon the earth. The truth is, however,
that when they were cast down the celestial light which
used to sustain them left them and they were changed to
another grade through the influence of the air of this world.
Similarly the manna which came down for the Israelites in
the wilderness originated in the celestial dew from the most
recondite spot, and at first its light would radiate to all worlds
and the “field of apples”, and the heavenly angels drew
sustenance from it, but when it approached the earth it
became materialized through the influence of the air of
this world and lost its brightness, becoming only like
“coriander seed”. Now when God saw that these fallen
angels were seducing the world, He bound them in chains of
iron to a mountain of darkness. Uzza He bound at the bottom
of the mountain and covered his face with darkness because
he struggled and resisted, but Azael, who did not resist, He
set by the side of a mountain where a little light penetrated.
Men who know where they are located seek them out,
and they teach them enchantments and sorceries and
divinations. These mountains of darkness are called the
“mountains of the East”, and therefore Balaam said:
“From Aram has Balak brought me, from the mountains
of the East”. Because they both learnt their sorceries there.
Now Uzza and Azael used to tell those men who came to
them some of the notable things which they knew in former
times when they were on high, and to speak about the holy
world in which they used to be.
(3:208a)
Comment by Shawn on August 25, 2009 at 12:02pm
Shalom Wayne! First I think you may have misunderstood my conclusion a little (I probably wasnt clear enough). My conclusion was "that Messianics/Ephraimites/Nazarenes are supposed to be implementing the system known as oral Torah"

It was not We must conclude that all aspects of oral torah are tov.

Clarifying my conclusion. Concluding that the system known as Torah/Oral Torah is the proper system does not mean that every single aspect of that system is perfect. In the same way as a foreigner who becomes a US citizen might agree with many of the laws and disagree with some, but he is still bound to opperate within the system of the US government.

Currently my opinion is this about the two aspects of the oral Torah.

Aggadah - Judaism exclusively has maintained the proper explanations for education in spirituality, morality, angels, demons, healing, miracles, secret teachings, the levels of the soul, the levels of heaven, the reward system as spoken of by Yeshua, midrashim (additional explaination of stories in Tanak) and so on. I believe we must put the NT within the context of the aggadah as maintained by orthodox Judiasm to this day. In regards to aggadah, it is my opinion, that we MUST learn aggadah from Judaism to understand the NT properly. If we do not, then we will have incorrect conclusions on what the NT is trying to tell us about - faith in Mashiach, levels of souls, levels of heaven, reincarnation, rewards in heaven, resurrection, end times events and so on.

Halachah - I believe the majority of the system known as halachah is proper and good as found in orthodox Judaism. Certain people or groups within this system may choose to use this system in a different fashion than Yeshua did, but others choose to use this system in nearly the exact same way as Yeshua did. I current think that we should not try to create our own version of halacha and halachic authority (we are of insufficiant knowledge and authority to do so), rather we should enter into this system following the orthodox communities in which most resemble that of Yeshua and the first century communities. From this position we can then appeal to heaven for any further adjustments to the system we "think" might be in appropriate.

1 - If we can show that Yeshua and his students were working within the system of oral torah than "we" should also be working within the system known as the oral torah.

I believe we should model our education on this passage from the Tanak...

10 men (Ephraim) shall grab hold of the zitzit (Torah education) of a Jew (house of Judah, "salvation is of the Jews").

NOT - 10 men will look at the zitzit of a Jew, decide they dont like it,create their own zitzit,and then tell the jew hes a nonbelieving legalistic idiot for wearing HIS "Jewish" zitzit that they copied.
Comment by Shawn on August 25, 2009 at 12:06pm
In regards to Ramchal calling Aggadah - secrets. I dont think he was translating the word Aggadah but saying "Agaddah AKA the secrets". As the post says...

"the legal component (חלק המצוות) *Halacka HaMitzvot - the way of ( walking out) the commandments*, discussing the mitzvot and halakha; and "the secret" component (חלק הסודות) *Halacka HaSodot""

He refers to both Halacha and Agaddah by a different name.
Comment by Shawn on August 25, 2009 at 12:22pm
Oh yea... In regards to certain Jewish scholars trying to say that kabbalah is a medieval invention. As I understand it this is not the majority opinion of the religious but the minority opinion of the secular. Additionally it is often degraded because of the clear association with Yeshua, the NT, and Shabbatai Sevi. However my own research is indicating (more and more so each year) that the majority (if not all) kabbalistic concepts do date back to (and are used by) the NT. I believe the main thing we should learn from the medieval period (and there after) is that - the kabbalah was compiled - printing press was invented - kabbalistic text printed - kabbalistic teaching and students of kabbalah greatly increased.
Comment by Wayne Ingalls on August 25, 2009 at 11:10pm
Shalom Shawn,
But won't the tzitziyot have a thread of techelet in them and not be completely white, or in other words, creating their own tzitizyot?

Nazarenes/Messianics, in my opinion, do not need to emulate the Judaism of the medieval sages in order to understand the teachings of Yeshua. That is approaching the issue from completely the wrong direction, in my view. Ultimately, I would say that focusing on the teachings of the medieval sages, wave by wave causes us to drift from the pure teachings of the Master. All aggadah is NOT Yeshua's aggadah. All Jewish mysticism is NOT tov. Even if very ancient Jewish sages taught something, what they taught needs to be weighed against what Yeshua taught......since we MUST always compare something unknown with known Truth to discern whether or not it lines up. Further, we cannot always assume that rabbinic Judaism follows the Oral Torah of Yeshua, while Christianity or even Nazarene Judaism does not. I do not believe that it is "the system of oral torah" that is important. I would contend that it is so totally not about "a system of oral torah" that Yeshua came teaching. Rather, Yeshua said that He came to fulfill the Torah, and aside from all the prophetic implications of this statement, the "abolish/fulfill" aspect means that He is also speaking about the proper interpretation of the written Torah.

Blessings,
Wayne
Comment by James Trimm on August 25, 2009 at 11:54pm
Agreed Wayne,.

I do find it interesting however that the modern CHASDIM and the Ba'al Shem Tov bear a strong resemblance in many ways to the Maccabean CHASIDIM and Antigones of Soko the original foundation of Pharisesism. I believe that Paul was arguing for a return to the principles of Antigones of Soko and the Chasidic precursors to Phariseeism, in restoring the core precept that we are not trying to earn anything with Torah Observance, but doing so from the heart as part of our cleaving (devekut) to YHWH. The modern Chasidim (in my opinion) in many ways were/are seeking to get back to the same basics of Antigones of Soko and devekut that Paul was trying to get back to. And I can see that we could have an appeal to some modern Chasidim because of this parallel.

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