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?