Nazarene Space

In Defense of Talmudic Law By Andrew P. Pilant - 1981

Shalom Chaverim,

While digging through my old papers I ran across this article written way back in 1981 by a Messianic Jew names Andrew P. Pilant. At the time Pilant was advocating something he called "Traditional Messianic Judaism" which was getting little attention from the mainline of the movement. Although I never met Pilant, when I came into the Messianic movement from Rabbinic Judaism around 1984 I found myself influenced by this paper. I do not agree with everything said in it, but I think it is worthy of posting here nearly 30 years later:



IN DEFENSE OF TALMUDIC LAW
By Andrew P. Pilant
1981

"If we we're going to be Jewish, we have to be honest about it. . .
Jewishness is something that was more than laying teffilin,
more than just singing Jewish songs. It is thinking Jewish,
it is smelling Jewish, it was taking Judaism
and putting it out to the ends of your fingertips --
so that everything that you come in contact with
would have a Jewish touch to it."
- Andrew P. Pilant

This paper is concerned with the facet of Rabbinic study that is involved with the defense of Talmudic Law, as being a natural and integral part of Rabbinics, it must be pointed out, rests on five very important principles, as elucidated by scholars such as Z. H. Chajes:

A. That the Written, and especially parts of the Oral Law, were not the result of a historical process, but of a single divine revelation;

B. The principle that two ‘Laws’ are organically related;

C. The principle that the progressive and historical development of Jewish Law is limited exclusively to the laws of non-Pentateuchal statutes (i.e. the decrees of the Sanhedrin);

D. The principle that the Talmudic Rabbis claimed for their own teaching the finality which later authorities ascribe to them;

E. The Principle that the Torah gave to the Rabbis of the Talmudic era (500 B.C.E.-200 C.E.) Divine sanction for their legislation, and that such legislation could not be abrogated at will.

In defense of these principles, one should, because of the very nature of the subject, be able to use the rules of logic and scientific reasoning. One should assume these aspects to be true, logically testing their fundamental components and inferred derivations.

The Torah is divided into two parts, the written and unwritten (Oral) Law. The former is the written text of Scripture, the Torah, which was divinely revealed to Moses at Sinai. The later consists of expositions and interpretations. In order to understand the relationship between the Oral and Written Law, it is necessary to understand their goal. The goal of the Oral Tradition and its teachings is to get one to integrate the written Law into one’s own being. The most important tools to allow one to arrive at this goal are the many and varied Mitzvot. Mitzvot are deeds reflecting the correct interpretation of Scripture, i.e. the Oral Tradition.

The whole emphasis of Mitzvot (for example laying tefillin, not driving a car on Sabbath, not eating pork) is not in the actions that an individual must go through to perform the deed. Rather, the importance of Mitzvot lies in the inward quality the actions stimulate. A Mitzvah is not a Mitzvah because of the physical actions an individual performs, but because it stimulates in the individual an understanding of Scripture. Thus, the thoughts and intents of the heart are the more important aspect of Mitzvot. In the final analysis, the Lord is concerned with intent rather than action. This is not to say that the actions do not play a role, but should be a natural by-product of the intent. For example, two individuals can go through exactly the same actions, and it will be a Mitzvah for one and not for the other. The difference would be one of “intent.” If one understood Elohim’s Law the way He designed it to be understood, one would not be performing it as a list of instructions but would perform it as a natural result of his understanding of the world. In fact, it would never occur to him to do anything else.

Adam, being created perfect, understood the world correctly, and so he performed Mitzvot simply because he had no reason to think otherwise. By the time of Noah, however, this understanding of the world had suffered aberration to the extent that Noah
was given commandments to not drink blood, not fornicate, etc. Noah’s understanding coupled with the commandments brought him up to Adam’s former level. Without the commandments, Noah may have deviated from the natural course of things and drank blood. Thus, the Lord gave him this commandment. This is also true of Enoch, and Abraham, where the Lord gave them insight to correct any misunderstandings they may have had about how the world has supposed to work.

The Lord sought to call a people to Himself. Through Moses, the Children of Israel were called to Sinai and were given the Torah along with the correct understanding of how it was to be applied in every circumstance… not the details of every situation but the mechanisms to derive the correct interpretation. For this generation, the Law and their understanding of it brought them to the level that Adam had been in Eden. This provided the Israelites with a level of understanding higher than any other nation of that generation. This is obvious, for when Moses was given the Ten Commandments he was not given two tablets of stone and left to figure them out. He understood each Commandment and its ramifications to the utmost extent.

In the course of Israel’s history, fine points of this Law and its understanding were forgotten. The Lord sent Judges who were experts in dealing with “fine points” for this generation. The Judges expertise, combined with the people’s remembrance of the revelation at Sinai and with the written Torah, was sufficient. The bulk of Scriptures written a this time dealt with these judges. Later generations not only forgot points of the Law, but began to misinterpret and misapply them. Thus, the Lord sent the Prophets to inject correct understanding where the people had erred in their interpretation of Scripture.

Even before the birth of Messiah, the generations had deviated to such an extent from their Father’s teaching that the rabbis sought to record the “understanding” before it was forgotten all together. This attempt is seen in the Talmud. Rules and methods were discovered at this time that enabled them to write down what had previously been only mental thoughts. They sought to crystallize the Oral Tradition by giving many examples. Through the understanding of these examples and the techniques of the rabbis one should be able to reconstruct the understanding the Children of Israel had at Sinai. To one who is not aware of the methods and direction of the rabbis, the Talmud appears as a mass of confused examples and legalistic rituals. However, to those who desire to integrate the teachings of the rabbis in the fashion in which they were intended, it will stimulate within them an attitude both proper and coherent with the universe that the Lord created. The Messiah understood this perfectly. He understood the balance between the understanding that was to be integrated and the importance of the tools to accomplish this goal. Some rabbis of His day did not “understand” this balance. They emphasized the physical aspect of the Mitzvot sometimes to the exclusion of the Mitzvot’s purpose. Thus the Messiah saw that they were so wrapped up in the tool that they lost sight of the purpose of the tool. This was the only point of contention between the Messiah and the rabbinical leaders of His day. Thus, in Matthew 23:23 He declares to the Jewish leaders, “For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law; justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”

In the Middle Ages, a large guaranty of time was spent studying and transmitting the teachings of the sages of the Second Temple Era. For these generations, the rabbi’s teaching combined with all that had gone before them was sufficient to give them a proper understanding of how the world should be. After years had passed, people began once again to lose sight of the purpose and direction of Mitzvot. Groups such as the Hasidim sought to correct this imbalance. For this generation, their teaching gave the people a correct understanding of Scripture, when combined with what they knew already.

With this background, some questions can be asked. Is the Talmud inspired? This is an awkward question to ask. The Torah is inspired in its entirety. The Oral Tradition is the Torah’s integration into one’s person, and thus is in a sense inspired because it is a reflection of the Torah. The Talmud is a logical exploration of the Oral Tradition and should be logically correct. It is important and authoritative but it functions as a tool. The Talmud is only a tool when it is used correctly, otherwise it could be a dangerous thing. Fortunately, because of its size, people do not study it unless they have a good reason.

Another question that could be addressed is whether or not the Talmud is a product of progressive revelation. This is absolutely not true! The Talmud is simply a crystallization, a reflection of the Oral Tradition. Our ability to understand the Oral Tradition in this present day has decreased to the extent that we need a portion of the Oral Tradition written down in order to understand it. The Lord has continually spoken to his people throughout the ages, but only to raise them back up to a certain level.

A third question is whether or not the Talmud is fixed and unbending. Yes and no. The Talmud reflects the perfect attitude that a person should attain, but unfortunately human beings are not perfect. Therefore the emphasis should be shifted from the Talmud to the Oral Tradition itself, which is constant for all people. It is possible that it may manifest itself with different emphases through various people’s understanding of it. A traditional Jew will make the assumption that the Talmud scholars knew enough about people that their descriptions of how Oral Tradition should manifest itself are consistent for people of all times and places. If too much emphasis is placed on the physical aspect of Mitzvot, one could totally miss the purpose for which the Mitzvot were given. For example, when a Jew dies it is a Mitzvah that he be buried in a plain pine box so that all Jews will have equal expenses in their burials. In Los Angeles, it is actually more expensive and a symbol of wealth if one can import a pine box from New York to Los Angeles. This totally negates what the rabbis were trying to say, and because the rabbis’ advice was misapplied, the Mitzvah did not achieve its purpose. It did not increase their understanding of Scripture.

Talmudic Law is a natural and integral part of the divinely revealed written Law. Each generation has lost a portion of its understanding of how the Lord wants the word to work. Each generating has been given teaching to bring them back to this level. The Mitzvot are one tool used to achieve this goal, but only if understood correctly. For any Jew and anyone who has an understanding of the Oral Tradition, the Mitzvot can increase this understanding in a very beautiful way.

Andrew P. Pilant, 1981



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Views: 66

Comment by Brian Forbes on November 10, 2009 at 12:13pm
Does anyone have a good link to the text of the Talmud? Translation means a lot when reading text, so if I'm going wrong to read this one, let me know:
http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/talmud.htm
Comment by James Trimm on November 10, 2009 at 1:24pm
It looks as good as anything in the public domain. Of course Talmud is written in such a way, that it is important to understand how to read it, The Talmud preserves both the majority and minority opinions, and it helps to understand how to tell the difference between the two.
Comment by James Trimm on November 10, 2009 at 3:19pm
The main thing I disagree with in this paper is that Andrew P. Pilant does not make the point of disguising Rabbinic decrees made before and after the life of Yeshua.

However with that allowance, Pilant says some things that I think are very pertinent to us as Nazarenes today.
Comment by nadia tomazic on November 10, 2009 at 3:35pm
There is no mention of ORAL law in old testament ..Torah is human addition to Gods Law ,traditions and our Messiah was against it...Mmitzvah das not stimulatr understending of scripture,,,Luke is saing clearly that Messiah OPEN THEY UNDERSTANDING THAT THEY UNDERSTEN SCRIPTURE...OPEN IS ...GIVEN INSIGHT...and insight was given to Enoh and Abraham through FAITH AND GRACE no through Mitzvah..My Elohim grants you mercy that you believe truth...
Comment by James Trimm on November 10, 2009 at 4:28pm
1: Give ear, O my people, to my Torah: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2: I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:
3: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
4: We will not hide them from their children, showing to the generation to come the praises of YHWH, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.
(Ps. 78:1-4)

Nazarenes and the Oral Law
By James Trimm

There has been a great deal of discussion in the movement today over how
we as Nazarenes should view Jewish tradition, Oral Law and the Talmud.

Now it is important to understand the first century world from which
Nazarene Judaism emerged. There were three major sects of Judaism at the
time: Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes.

The first century writer Josephus writes of the Pharisees:

"...the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by
succession from their fathers, which are not written in the law of
Moses;..."
(Josephus; Ant. 13:11:6)

The Pharisees became what is known as Rabbinic Judaism and eventually
wrote these traditions (known as "Oral Law") down in the Mishna and later
the Talmud. The Mishna and Talmud are not the Oral Law, but they do contain
the Oral Law as recorded by the Pharisees.

The core of the Talmud is the Mishna. The Mishna was complied around 250
CE by Rabbi Y’hudah Ha Nasi from ealier oral and/or written traditions.
It cites the opinions or Rabbis and teachers who lived in the generation
immediately following Ezra and Nehemiah, up until the time of its
composition. The Talmud was compiled around 500 CE and consists of the
Mishna written in Hebrew and the commentary to the Mishna, known as the
Gemara, surrounding it in Aramaic characters.

The Sadducees rejected these traditions, as Josephus continues:

"...for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we
are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written
word, but are not to observe what are delivered from the tradition of our
forefathers..."
(ibid)

The Sadducees HAD to reject the Oral Law. They did not believe in a resurrection or an afterlife. They had rejected the things that Judaism has always held to. It was hard enough to make their views compatible with the Written Torah, it was easier for them to simply reject the Oral Torah out of hand. In fact they HAD to reject the Oral Law if they wanted to reject any understanding of the written Torah that included a resurrection and an afterlife!

Then there were the Essenes, these are they who are believed to have
written the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Essenes did not reject the concept of
Oral Law, as the Sadducees did, but they did have an ALTERNATE set of such
traditions, many of which are recorded in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Among the
Scrolls is a document called MMT ("Some of the Works of teh Torah). In
this document the Essenes point out some of their differences with the
Oral Law as recorded in the Mishna. For example in the Mishna (Hullin
4:1-5) there is an Oral tradition forbidding the eating of the fetus of a
slaughtered animal, while item 12 in MMT allows the eating of such a
fetus. Many of the points addressed in MMT are addressed directly at
points of Oral Torah found in the Mishna. Essenes did not reject the Oral
Torah, they had their own understanding of it.

Now our Nazarene forefathers had roots in Pharisaic Judaism and in Essene
Judaism but not in Sadduceean Judaism.

Yeshua's teachings often echoed those of the famous Pharisaic teacher
Hillel. When Yeshu was still a child Hillel taught "Do not do to others
what you would not have them do to you" while Yeshua grew up to teach "do
onto others as you would have them do to you."

The Nazarenes also clearly had roots in Essene Judaism. There is evidence
that Yochanan the immerser ("John the Baptist") came out of the Qumran
community. Several of Yeshua's Talmidim (including Kefa) had first been
talmidim of Yochanan. Both the Essenes and the Nazarenes called
themselves "The Way" and "Sons of Light".

The Esseneic and Pharisaic origins of Nazarene Judaism are easily
documented and could fill volumes. I have reduced them here to a short
paragraph each.

The written Torah is not complete in itself. Instead it presupposes that the reader also has access to additional information. For example the observance of Torah involves the use of the Hebrew calendar. Nowhere does the written Torah tell us the inner workings of this calendar, it presupposes that this information was also passed down to us orally by our forefathers.

There are actually two types of “Oral Law” and they are very different from one another.

The first is Oral Torah from Sinai. Moshe was on Mt. Sinai for forty days. During this time her received much of the material that we know as the Written Torah as recorded in the five books of Moses. However if one to get the five books of Moses as a “books on tape” edition, it would not take anywhere near forty days to listen to them. It would not even take one day to listen to them. So is this ALL the information Moses received on Mount Sinai? Why does Leviticus 26:46 say that Moses received “Laws” (plural) on Mount Sinai? Could he have received Torah She-Bi-Khatav (The Written Torah) and Torah She-Al-Peh (The Oral Torah)?

As we stated earlier, there is not sufficient information in the written Torah to allow it to be observed without some additional information.

For example the written Torah says not to go out of ones “place” on the Sabbath (Ex. 16:29) but just what does this mean? If the Sabbath starts and I am in the latrine, must I stay there until it is over? If I am in my home and the Sabbath starts, must I wait until the Sabbath end to go out to the latrine? Does it mean I cannot leave my house? my yard? my city? Surely the ancient Hebrews (our forefathers) asked Moses what this commandment meant. Did Moses shrug his shoulders and say “heck if I know”, or was this part of the information he also received on Mount Sinai? If so then our forefathers had this information. Is this what the Psalmist means when he says:

1: Give ear, O my people, to my Torah: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2: I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:
3: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
4: We will not hide them from their children, showing to the generation to come the praises of YHWH, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.
(Ps. 78:1-4)

Another example can be found in Deut. 12:21 which tells us that if we live to far from the Temple and need to slaughter an animal to eat, YHWH says we may do so as long as we do it “as I [YHWH] have commanded you”. But there are no instructions for the ritual slaughter of an animal in the written Torah. This commandment of the written Torah must be alluding to an oral companion to the written Torah.

One can give many more examples. What does it mean not to “work” on the Shabbat? what constitutes “work”? How does one “celebrate” the Shabbat (Ex. 31:16)? What constitutes a “Bill of Divorcement” (Deut. 24:1f) what is it supposed to say?

When Ezra read the Torah to the people in Nehemiah 8:1-8, he and the Levites also “gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (8:7-8). They gave them an oral companion to the written text:

1: And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spoke unto Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Torah of Moses, which YHWH had commanded to Israel.
2: And Ezra the priest brought the Torah before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.
3: And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the Book of the Torah.
4: And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.
5: And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:
6: And Ezra blessed YHWH, the great Elohim. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped YHWH with their faces to the ground.
7: Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the Torah: and the people stood in their place.
8: So they read in the Book in the Torah of Elohim distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
(Nehemiah 8:1-8)

When the old Worldwide Church of God began observing the biblical festivals, one of the problems they ran into was how to celebrate them. Only sketchy information is given in the written Torah on many of these festivals (we will revisit this issue again later in this article in relation to Yeshua’s observances of Sukkot and Passover).

When it comes to answering these questions, we can turn to the understandings our forefathers had of these things, which they passed down to us orally, or we can make something up. Short of a mutually accepted pipeline to Elohim, those are our only choices.

Another form of Oral Law are the decrees from the Elders. The Elders are said to have ha the “halachic authority”. Halachic authority is the authority to make halachic determinations interpreting the Torah forbidding and permitting activities based on these interpretations (for example if a matter came up which was not settled by the written Torah), and resolving matters between fellow believers. The word "halacha" means "the way to walk." Torah observance requires halachic authority for three reasons. First there are matters about which the written Torah is ambiguous and must be clarified. Secondly is the matter of conflicting Torah commands. For example the Torah requires the priests to circumcise on the eight day after a birth, but also requires rest from work on the Sabbath. Which commandment holds priority? Finally the Torah requires us to establish courts (Deut. 16:18).

In the Torah the Halachic authority was originally held by Moses himself (Ex. 18:13) but later a council of Elders were appointed (Ex. 18:13-26; Dt. 1:9-18) These Elders showed men "the way wherein they must walk" (i.e. Halacha) (Ex. 18:20) Their judgments were regarded as the judgment of Elohim himself (Dt. 1:17) and were even called "Torah" (Dt. 17:11) At first these men had authority only in small matters (Ex. 18:22, 26; Dt. 1:17) but later their authority was expanded (Dt. 17:8). This council was later defined as seventy Elders whom Elohim placed his Spirit upon (Num. 11:16-17; 24-25).

The decrees of these elders added to the body of what was known as the “Oral Law” in much the same was as “legal precedence” does in secular law today.

One classic example of a matter settled by a Decree of the Elders was the issue of circumcision on the Sabbath. Circumcision is commanded to be done on the eighth day (Gen. 17:11) yet on every seventh day no work is allowed (Ex. 20:10). The Elders decreed that the commandment to circumcise on the eighth day held priority over the commandment to rest on the Sabbath (as recorded in the Mishna m.Shabbat 18:3-19:2 and in the Talmud b.Shabbat 128a). Yeshua alluded to and agreed with this Decree of the Elders when he said:

If a man is circumcised on the day of the Sabbath
that the Torah of Moshe be not loosed,
do you murmur against me because
I have healed a whole man on the Sabbath day?
(Jn. 7:23)

Similarly we read in the Talmud:

Rabbi Eleazar answered and said: If circumcision
which attaches to one only of the two hundred and
forty eight members of the human body, suspends
the Sabbath, how much more shall [the saving of]
the whole body suspend the Sabbath!
b.Yoma 85b

Yeshua clearly advocated and recognized the authority of these Elders when he said such things as “…whoever shall say to his brother, RAKA, shall be liable to the Sanhedrin…” (Mt. 5:22) and “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat…” (Mt. 23:1).

At the same time Yeshua also took issue with the Decrees of the Elders when they conflicted with Scripture (Mt. 15; Mt. 23)

The Torah also allowed for the Halachic authority to be held by a King (Dt. 17:8-12; 14-20). Eventually the Elders decided to establish such a monarchy (1Sam. 8:1-7). The throne of these Kings was sees as being "the throne of Elohim" (1Chron. 29:23) Their Halachic authority became termed "the key of the House of David" (Is. 22:21-22).

The Pharisees once held the Keys of the House of David. Mt. 23:13 is key to understanding Yeshua's attitude to the Halachic authority of the Pharisees. Here Yeshua says:

But woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
For you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men;
for you neither go in,
nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

A parallel passage appears in Lk. 11:52:

Woe to you scribes!
For you have taken away the key of knowledge.
you did not enter in yourselves,
and those who were entering in you hindered.

Now when we look at these two passages together it becomes clear that
the "key" in Luke 11:52 had the potential to open up or shut up the
Kingdom of Heaven. This "key" is clearly then "the key of the house of
David" in Is. 22:22:

The key of the House of David I will lay on his shoulder;
so he shall open, and no one shall shut;
and he shall shut and no one shall open.

The Pharisees took away the key (authority) thus shutting up the
Kingdom. They lost the authority, it was taken from them and given to
Yeshua's Talmidim:

In Mt. 16:18-19 Yeshua says he would give "the keys of the Kingdom" to
Kefa and his other talmidim:

And I also say to you that you are Kefa,
And upon this rock I will build my assembly,
and the gates of Sheol shall not prevail against it.
And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,
and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven
and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

The Pharisees lost this authority because of hypocrisy. Yeshua describes their hypocrisy in Mt. 23 as follows:

On Moshe's seat sit the scribes and P'rushim.
And all that he (Moshe) says to you observe and do.
But not according to their works,
for they say, but do not.
(Mt. 23:2-3)

Yeshua repeatedly charges the Pharisees with Hypocrisy (Mt. 6; 15:7
and Matt. 23 for examples). Yeshua often charged Pharisees with
"hypocrisy" even the Talmud itself makes the same association:

King Jannai said to his wife', `Fear not the Pharisees and the
non-Pharisees but the hypocrites who are the Pharisees; because their
deeds are the deeds of Zimri but they expect a reward like Phineas'
(b.Sotah 22b)

Job 13:16 says "a hypocrite shall not come before him."

Based on this verse the Talmud itself correctly lists Hypocrites as one of
four classes who will not receive the presence of the Shekhinah:

R. Hisda also said in the name of R. Jeremiah b. Abba: Four classes
will not receive presence of the Shechinah, — the class of scoffers,
the class of liars, the class of hypocrites, and the class of
slanderers. `The class of scoffers' — as it is written, He withdrew
His hand from the scoffers.(Hosea 7:5) `The class of liars' — as it is
written, He that telleth lies, shall not tarry in my sight.(Ps. 101:7)
`The class of hypocrites' — as it is written, For a hypocrite shall
not come before him.(Job 13:16) `The class of slanderers — as it is
written, For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness:
neither shall evil dwell with thee,'(Ps. 5:5) [which means] Thou art
righteous, and hence there will not be evil in thy abode.
(b.San. 103a)

We know from Numbers 11:16-17 that the Elders must have the Spirit of Elohim upon them, but since hypocrites cannot receive the presence of the Shekhinah, they cannot serve as valid Elders.

Job says: "the congregation of the hypocrites shall be desolate" (Job. 15:34)

Thus Yeshua took the Keys from the Pharisees and gave these keys to Kefa and his Talmidim:

This key is the halachic authority. Yeshua recognized that the Pharisees held that halachic authority but he also tells us that they had squandered it by rejecting the Kingdom offer (see article "The Kingdom Offer") and refusing to use the key to help Messiah open up the Messianic Kingdom.

The Messiah himself also had the Key of David (Rev. 3:7). In Mt. 16:18-19 Yeshua says he would give "the keys of the Kingdom" to Kefa and his students:

And I also say to you that you are Kefa,
And upon this rock I will build my assembly,
and the gates of Sheol shall not prevail against it.
And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,
and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven
and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

This passage is best understood when compared to Mt. 18:15-20 This passage deals with the law of witnesses (Mt. 18:16 = Dt. 19:15) and refers to an "assembly" (Mt. 18:17) which has the power to "bind" and "loose" (Mt. 18:18) just as does Mt. 16:18-19. Since Mt. 18:16 quotes Dt. 19:15 it is clear that the "assembly" in Mt. 18:17 (and also Mt. 16:18) is the "priests and judges who serve in those days" in Dt. 19:17. This is also clear because this "assembly" has the power to "bind" and "loose." These are two Semitic idioms used in Rabbinic literature as technical terms referring to Halachic authority. To "bind" means to "forbid" an activity and to "loose" means to permit an activity (as in j.Ber. 5b; 6c; j.San. 28a; b.Ab. Zar. 37a; b.Ned. 62a; b.Yeb. 106a; b.Bets. 2b; 22a; b.Ber. 35a; b.Hag. 3b). Thus in Mt. 16:18-19 & 18:18 Yeshua gave his students the Halachic authority which we see them using in Acts 15.

Today we as restored Nazarenes must also have our own unique halachic authority apart from that of Rabbinic Judaism. As "sons of light" we cannot be halachicly yoked with unbelievers. While we cannot be halachicly yoked with unbelievers (Rabbinic Judaism) we must "come out from among them and be separate" (2Cor. 6:14-18 & Is. 52:11) for we must ourselves establish courts (Dt. 16:18).

We cannot turn to the "wisdom" of the "Pharisaic Rabbinical" Rabbis and sages of the last two thousand years and simply "accept all the Rabbinical Halakhah, except where Mashiach and His Talmidim clearly and definitely offer another position of Halakhah" for the Tenach warns us:

How can you say, "We are wise, and the Torah of YHWH is with us"?
Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood.
The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken.
Behold they have rejected the Word of YHWH;
So what wisdom do they have?
(Jer. 8:8-9)

The unbelieving sages and Rabbis of "Pharisaic Rabbinical" Judaism claim they "are wise" and that "the Torah of the LORD is with us." But they have "rejected the Word of YHWH" (i.e. Yeshua the Messiah; see Jn. 1:1, 14; Rev. 19:13) "So what wisdom do they have?"

There are preserved for us five fragments from an ancient Nazarene Commentary on Isaiah in which the fourth century Nazarene writer makes it clear that Nazarenes of the fourth century were not "following Pharisaic Rabbinical Halakhah." The following is taken from the Nazarene commentary on Isaiah 8:14:

"And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel¦"
The Nazarenes explain the two houses as the two houses of Shammai and Hillel, from whom originated the Scribes and Pharisees… [they Pharisees] scattered and defiled the precepts of the Torah by traditions and mishna. And these two houses
did not accept the Savior

The Nazarene commentary on Isaiah 8:20-21 has:

The Scribes and the Pharisees tell you to listen to them
answer them like this:
"It is not strange if you follow your traditions since every tribe
consults its own idols. We must not, therefore, consult your
dead [sages] about the living one."

So it is clear that the original Nazarenes were not "following Pharisaic Rabbinical Halakhah."

Let us return to the subject of the Oral Law in general. Now in Acts 23:6 Paul states “I am a Pharisee”. The Pharisees maintained a belief in the traditions handed down by their forefathers. As Josephus writes:

…the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great
many observances by succession from their fathers,
which are not written in the law of Moses; …
(Josephus; Ant. 13:10:6)

Concerning his Pharisee background Paul says:

And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my
contemporaries in my own nation, being more
exceedingly zealous for the tradition of my fathers.
(Gal. 1:14)

Notice that in Acts 28:17 Paul insists:

I have done nothing against our people
or the customs of our fathers.
(Acts 28:17)

Paul writes to the Thessalonians concerning these “traditions”:

“Therefore, brothers stand fast and hold the traditions which you have been taught…
withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly and not after
the traditions which he received from us.”
(2Thes. 2:15; 3:6)

Paul even made use of these oral “traditions” in his writings. Paul says "...they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them: and that rock was Messiah." (1Cor. 10:4). The Torah records more than one occasion when Moshe (Moses) brought forth water from
a rock (Ex. 16:4-35; 17:1-9; Num. 20:1-13; 16-20). According to Rabbinic tradition the rock did in fact follow them. The Talmud says that it was "a moveable well" (b.Shabbat 35a) and calls it "the Well of Miriam" (b.Ta'anit 9a). Rashi comments on b.Ta'anit 9a saying that the rock "rolled and went along with Israel, and it was the rock Moshe struck." The tradition of the moving rock known as the "Well of Miriam" is also found in B'midbar Parshat Chukkat. Paul's statement that the rock "followed them" testifies to the
fact that he accepted this oral tradition as being factual.

The second century Nazarene writer Gish’fa (Heggissipus) made use in his writings of these oral traditions. Eusebius writes of him:

And he quotes some passages from The Gospel according to
the Hebrews and from ‘The Syriac’, and some particulars from
the Hebrew tongue, showing that he was … from the Hebrews,
and he mentions other matters as taken from the oral tradition
of the Jews.”
(Eccl. Hist. 4:22)

Yeshua himself seems to have also accepted the “traditions of our fathers” which had been passed down orally.

In John 7:37-38 we read:

“And on the great day, which is the last of the feast, Yeshua stood and cried out and said, If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scriptures have said, rivers of water of life will flow from his belly.”

The occasion is the last great day of Sukkot (Jn. 7:2) and the setting appears to be the water libation ceremony at the Temple as prescribed by the Oral Law. A priest had a flask of gold filled with water and another has a flask of gold filled with wine. There were two silver bowls perforated with holes like a narrow snout. One was wide for the water the other is narrow for the wine. The priests poured the wine and water into each of their bowls. The wine and water mixed together. The wine flowing slowly through the narrow snout and the water flowing quickly through the wider snout. (m.Sukkot 4:9) Yeshua said that this ritual from the Oral Law was actually prophetic and symbolic of himself!

In all four Gospels Yeshua participates in the Passover Sader. The elements of the sader, such as the “cup of redemption”; dipping in bitter herbs; and the afikomen (the last piece of unleavened bread passed around and eaten at the end) all come from the Oral Law as recorded in the Mishna (m.Pes. 10). Yeshua not only accepted and kept these Oral Law rituals, but also spoke of them being prophetic of himself.

There is an interesting story in the Talmud which makes a profound point about the Oral Law:

Our Rabbis taught: A certain heathen once came before Shammai and asked him, ‘How many Torahs have you?’ ‘Two,’ he replied: ‘the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.’ ‘I believe you with respect to the Written, but not with respect to the Oral Torah; make me a proselyte on condition that you teach me the Written Torah [only]. [But] he scolded and repulsed him in anger. When he went before Hillel, he accepted him as a proselyte. On the first day, he taught him, Alef, beth, gimmel, daleth; the following day he reversed [them ] to him. ‘But yesterday you did not teach them to me thus,’ he protested. ‘Must you then not rely upon me? Then rely upon me with respect to the Oral [Torah] too.’
(b.Shabbat 31a)

The point of the story is that the same forefathers that passed the written Torah down to us, also passed the Oral Torah down to us with it. What logic is there in accepting the written Torah that they delivered to us as truth, while rejecting the Oral Law passed down by the very same forefathers?

Now we as Nazarenes do not believe that the Rabbis or Pharisaic/Rabbinic
Judaism held the power to bind and loose after the first century, perhaps
not even before the first century. Thus we should not simply accept these
rulings, on the other hand we should not simply reject them out of hand.
In may cases the Talmud or the related halachic Midrashim present the line
of logic which led to the decisions being made. We should look at these
lines of logic to determine if the decisions were valid and sound.

For example I heard one Messianic Rabbi bashing the Talmud and claiming
that the Rabbis had added thirty-nine rules to the simple commandment not
to work on the Sabbath. In fact the thirty-nine categories (given in
m.Shabbat 7:2) are drawn from the text of the Torah. In the Torah the
instructions concerning the building of the Tabernacle are interrupted by a
restatement of the commandment not to work on the Sabbath (Ex. 31:12-17).
The connection this section of Exodus has with the surrounding material
seems to be the word “work” (Ex. 31:14) and “workmanship” (Ex. 31:3) (same
word in the Hebrew). Thus the commandment not to “work” on the Sabbath
(Ex. 31:14) is restated as a reminder to abstain from the “workmanship” of
the Tabernacle mentioned in Ex. 31:3. Thus the term “work” in the
commandment not to work on the Sabbath may be elaborated and defined by the
thirty-nine categories of “workmanship” involved in building the
Tabernacle.

We as Nazarenes should not reject the material in the Talmud out of hand,
we should seek to understand it. Then we should “eat the date and spit
out the seeds”. The same approach should be taken to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Nazarenes should not be modern day Sadducees.
Comment by DanHenrik on November 15, 2009 at 2:22pm
Shalom Mr Trimm,

I have a question concerning the following passage you wrote:
"On Moshe's seat sit the scribes and P'rushim.
And all that HE (Moshe) says to you observe and do.
But not according to their works,
for they say, but do not."
(Mt. 23:2-3)

My bible does not say this and I dont know why. The KJV, the CJB as well as the Peshitta translation says similar: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. All therefore whatsoever THEY bid you observe, that observe and do;"

I am confused, because I cannot find that "Moshe says" (which really is a significant difference). Can you please say how you came to this?.
Toda
DanHenrik
Comment by James Trimm on November 15, 2009 at 3:09pm
2 On Moshe’s seat, sit the scribes and P'rushim.
3 And all that he says to you, observe and do. But do not you, according to their
works: for they say, but do not.
(Mt. 23:2-3 HRV)

There is a footnote which reads:

“he says:” Here I have followed the reading ”he says” found in two Shem Tob manuscripts
(Ms. Add. no. 26964. British Library, London. & Ms. Opp. Add. 4· 72. Bodleian Library, Oxford). This
reading seems to fit best with the overall theology of the rest of the book of Matthew (see The Seat of
Moses; A Note on Matthew 23:2-3 According to Shem Tob’s Hebrew Matthew by Ross K. Nichols;
Ancient Paths 1997; http://www.ancientpaths.org/APRNnote1.html ; Do and Keep What Moses Says
(Matthew 23:2-7) by Mark Allan Powell, JBL 114/3 (1995) 419-435.) The other Shem Tob manuscripts,
as well as the DuTillet and Munster Hebrew, have ”they say”, which would agree with the Aramaic
and Greek texts.

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