Jesus, Halakhah, and the Evolution of Judaism, Part 3

The title I have chosen for this study is a “tongue-in-cheek” attempt to highlight something that seems to be missed by many, namely, that the Mishnah did not exist as a written document in the pre-destruction era, so it is quite obvious that no one, including Paul, could have possibly read what is known in our day as the Mishanh (sic). In fact, as we shall see, the Mishnah was not widely read by Jewish communities in the centuries immediately following the destruction of the Temple (70 CE) either, for the Mishnah was not “published” as a written document until much later.

Along the same lines, it is a methodological error to speak of “1st Century Judaism,” for no such monolithic Judaism existed. We must rather speak of “Judaisms” (plural) in the pre-destruction era. Granted that a variety of Judaisms extant in the 1st Century surely had some things in common (Shabbat, circumcision, Tanach, etc.), it was nonetheless their clear and (in some cases) radical differences that produced the variegated Judaisms of that era.

Unfortunately, the presupposition of some in the Messianic movement is that the later corpus of rabbinic literature presents a monolithic, historically accurate description of “the Judaism” practiced by Yeshua and His disciples.

-Tim Hegg
from the Introduction (pg. 1) of
“What Version of the Mishnah did Paul Read?” (2012)
TorahResource.com

Since writing Part 2 of this series, I’ve been pondering how to proceed, since, as I’m sure you’ve gathered if you read the questions I’ve been posing, the scope of my inquiry is rather ambitious. Then the answer landed firmly in my lap. I’m indebted to Peter at Orthodox Messianic Judaism (something of a misnomer given the theological nature of his blog) for providing a link to Tim Hegg’s article. I read it through once, meaning to go over it again and eventually write something about it, but as I was getting into the shower, I had an “epiphany” and quickly rushed to my computer (I put a robe on first) to compose the paragraphs that are the heart of this missive (we’ll get to those by the by).

I should say at this point that I like Tim Hegg. He has been very gracious to me. I’ve spent Erev Shabbat in his home, I’ve been treated well by his family and his congregation, and I admire and respect him as a leader and a scholar. All of which added to my surprise when I realized in reading the Introduction to the above-quoted paper, that he had made some glaring and erroneous assumptions.

I can’t think of anyone in Messianic Judaism who believes that the Mishnah we have today is a direct reflection of how Judaism (or “Judaisms”) functioned back in the late Second Temple period, when Jesus walked among his people Israel. I have no idea, even after reading Tim’s paper in full, where he got that idea. Certainly my drive to investigate the evolution of Judaism as it relates, both to the ongoing authority of Judaism to define itself across time, and whether or not First Century halakhah and modern halakhah can be considered equally valid for the Judaism of their times, doesn’t assume a fixed, static, and non-adaptive set of applications of Torah over a 2,000 year span.

Also, his point that in the day of Jesus, that there were multiple “Judaisms” (Pharisees, Essenes, Sadducees, and so on) is hardly a revelation. Again, I don’t know anyone in the Messianic Jewish movement who would deny the “multi-sect” nature of First Century Judaism. On the other hand, if we look at modern Judaism or modern Christianity, we could say the same thing. If there was no, one unified “Judaism” in the day of Jesus, there must certainly be no one, monolithic, unified modern Christianity either. The fact that the Christian church exists as perhaps hundreds of denominational models and their variants, (including One Law or, if you will, “One Torah”) establishes this firmly. Nevertheless, no one balks at talking about “Christianity” or “Judaism” in the 21st Century as if they were specific, unified entities, since at their cores within each individual religion, they contain a basic, common set of theologies, doctrines, dogma, and the like that identify them as either “Christian” or “Jewish.”

It’s as if Tim constructed a very well written and organized paper based on faulty assumptions about Messianic Judaism. It’s never been about the Judaism of late Second Temple times being one unified entity, and it certainly has nothing to do with the belief that the Talmud, (which is comprised of Mishnah, Baraita, Gemara, Halakhah, and Aggadah) as we understand it, having existed as the same body of information in the days of Jesus and the Apostles as it does today.

(The evolution of the Oral Torah and halakhah of Christ’s day into what eventually became known as the Talmud is well beyond the scope of this article, but the seeds of what became Talmud certainly must have existed in some form in the Second Temple period and before. What we know of Hillel and Shammai is recorded in Pirkei Avot, which is the “ethical teachings and maxims of the Rabbis of the Mishnaic period,” and yet both Hillel and Shammai pre-dated Jesus by a generation, and the formalization of Mishnah by centuries.)

In the Conclusions section of Tim’s paper (pg. 23, point 5), he states:

We see, then, that there is no historical nor biblical case for accepting oral Torah as divinely sanctioned. Even the suggestion itself is ill-founded, for it both presumes a monolithic “oral Torah” and that the rabbinic authorities who formulated and compiled the current corpus of rabbinic literature did so by the leading of God.

Point 7 of his Conclusions (pp 23-4) states:

As we avail ourselves of the wealth of rabbinic literature and gain value from the study of it, we must also keep in mind that it is the product of men and not that of divine revelation. It does not come to us with any sense of divine imprimatur nor should the rabbinic literature be considered as having sacred value greater than the works of non-rabbinic authors or sources. All the writings of men must be equally scrutinized in the light of the eternal word of God, the Bible.

There’s a certain irony in Tim’s statements if you fix your gaze, not on the Rabbinic writings that are encapsulated in Talmud, but on another “Rabbi’s” writings, which we find in “the light of the eternal word of God, the Bible.”

We take it on faith that the Bible, the Holy Scriptures of God, are Divinely inspired and not merely the writings of human beings, but even then, most of us don’t believe that God simply dictated the Bible to myriads of human beings over several thousand years of history, and that the authors involved were only human word processors. In fact, how much of the personalities and viewpoints of all of these authors made their way into our Holy Scriptures is a hotly debated point among religious scholars and worshipers.

Add to that the suggestion that the New Testament Epistles, which make up the majority of the Christian texts, were actually letters written mostly by Paul, with smaller contributions by a handful of others, to various early Christian churches, and you begin to wonder about the nature of “Divine inspiration.” More than one source has said that the New Testament letters could be of a “lesser authority” than the Torah, for example, and may indeed be Paul’s midrashim or commentaries on Torah, the Messiah, and on the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and New Covenants. If this is true, then the barrier between “Divine authority” and “human agency” in many of our holy writings is a lot thinner than most Christians (perhaps including Tim Hegg) would be comfortable with.

What if there’s merit to the idea that the Talmudic writings and subsequent commentaries, judgments, and rulings have a “Divine authority” involved, at least to a degree? If we can say that Paul’s letters are “Divine” in some manner or fashion, and yet were written by Paul with his mind and emotions fully engaged, (and who knows how “Divine inspiration” does and doesn’t work) then in Galatians, Ephesians, or Colossians, where does Paul leave off and God begin? There’s no way to know. Maybe God just “wired” Paul’s brain to write letters in a way that reflected His will and intent within the context of Paul’s personality, the place and time in which Paul was writing, who he was writing to, and the issues at hand that prompted the letter in the first place.

How is that different from the acknowledged and legitimate Rabbinic authorities issuing rulings, based on and extrapolating from Torah ideals and principles, and then applying them to their local populations?

Who can say if the Mishnaic Rabbis were Divinely inspired or not. How do you measure “Divine inspiration?” I suppose you can, as Tim says at one point, compare the Rabbinic rulings to the canon of Scripture and where they agree, you can say the Rabbis have produced value. Where they disagree, you can say they produced error. Detractors of the Talmud, as applied to Messianic Judaism, say that since “Rabbinic Judaism” does not recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as the Jewish Messiah, it invalidates everything produced by that “Judaism” including the Talmud as a whole (as far as Messianic Jews are concerned, anyway). On the other hand, as my friend Gene Shlomovich said recently in this blog comment:

If you want to believe, as much of Christianity and Islam does, that G-d has virtually abandoned the Jewish people by leaving them to fend for themselves without authoritative leaders and teachers because “they rejected Jesus”, that the Jewish people corrupted the interpretation of scriptures and have lost their right to interpret them, that G-d has removed his Spirit from my people, it’s your prerogative. You would not be the first or the last.

Traditional supersessionism states that God withdrew His Spirit from the Jewish people and transferred it to “the Church” because Judaism rejected the Messianic claims of Jesus. Not only do I believe that theology represents a tremendous error in thinking, but it is a gross simplification of a very complex set of events that occurred over decades and even centuries.

The paper Matthew 23:2-4: Does Jesus Recognize the Authority of the Pharisees and Does He Endorse their Halakhah? written by Noel Rabbinowitz, which I introduced in Part 1 of this series, suggests that not only did Jesus acknowledge the legitimate authority of the Pharisees, but also of the scribes, who, as Carl Kinbar explains, were:

…an independent group affiliated not only with the Pharisees, but also with the Sadducees, Chief Priests, and elders. In fact, in Matthew, a quick check shows that 10 references to the scribes relate them to the Pharisees and 10 to other groups!

As soon as we grant the scribes the same place that Yeshua does in Mt. 23:2, it seems that Yeshua was not promoting the idea that one group should be in control of the halakhic process. Rather, he acknowledges the vital role of Torah teachers but criticizes them as part of his teaching on humility (read to verse 12).

In essence, it seems Jesus, to some degree, acknowledged the legitimate authority of the religious leaders in the various “Judaisms” of his day to have the right to establish halakhah for their communities. Of course the Mishnah as we have it today didn’t exist when the events in Matthew 23 were happening and later recorded, but if Jesus could recognize (and still criticize) Jewish religious leaders as having the right to establish religious practice for the First Century Judaisms, and if that authority was maintained across time as granted by God (I know…a big “if) and perhaps even as a function of an evolutionary process occurring within global Judaism and the local “Judaisms,” then maybe we can say that Jewish authority to legitimately define itself and it’s practice didn’t come to an abrupt end when it was “nailed to the cross with Jesus.”

No one is saying that the Mishnah existed in the days of Jesus, Peter, and Paul. But even Tim Hegg must acknowledge that some sort of halakhah did exist as established by the Pharisees and scribes. Factor in Rabbinowitz, and you have established that Jesus agreed in principle, that the Jewish religious authorities were legitimate and he acknowledged much of their halakhah. We can build on this to explore the possibility that God did not turn His back on all of His people Israel across the last twenty centuries, and that He maintained His presence among them. If God abandoned Judaism totally, and completely “threw in” with Christianity, then whatever the Rabbis came up with was inspired by human imagination alone. But if God is with all of His people, those of the Covenant of Abraham and Sinai, as well as those of us who benefit from some of the blessings of the New Covenant, then both Christianity and Judaism have a place in God’s heart and in God’s plan.

Have God’s blessings continued to be with the Jews as well as the Christians? Considering the fact that Jews even exist today, let alone retain the faith, practices, and traditions of their Fathers, with some teachings stretching back over 3,300 years, it would seem the answer is “yes.” Has He let them spin out of control, creating laws, rules, and statutes that are made up of wishful thinking and pipe dreams, while only showering His “Divine inspiration” on the laws, rules, and statutes of the unified Christian church (I hope you’re picking up on my attempt to be ironic)? I seriously doubt it.

Tim Hegg, in point 6 of his Conclusions (pg. 23) states:

Our conclusion is that, while rabbinic literature does have much value, it is not to be received as having divine authority in matters of our faith and halachah.

Tim may esteem Rabbinic literature in terms of its historic value, as well as for its insights into “the perspectives, beliefs, and worldview of modern Judaisms,” which “aids Messianic believers in appreciating and understanding the religious perspectives of observant Jews in our own day,” but for those “observant Jews,” Messianic and otherwise, the meaning of Mishnah is a great deal more. It doesn’t have to mean the same thing to us, including me or Tim, as it does to observant Jews, since the vast majority halakhah does not apply to Christianity.

Will Jesus Christ, upon his return and when he establishes his reign over the earth and his throne in Holy Jerusalem, recognize the authority of the Jews of that day as he recognized the authority of the Jews of 2,000 years ago? I don’t know for sure. But as we’ve seen, Jesus didn’t reject the Jewish authorities of ancient days out of hand, though he didn’t completely agree with them, either. Perhaps we shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of Jesus seeing modern Judaism in the same light, particularly because God doesn’t seem to have dismissed His Jewish people…ever.

Part 4 in this series will examine another aspect of the authority of the Talmudic sages and of modern Judaism. Does Judaism have the right to define itself, including Messianic Judaism? Find out in tomorrow’s “morning meditation.”

65 thoughts on “Jesus, Halakhah, and the Evolution of Judaism, Part 3”

  1. I know of not one Messianic Jewish ministry or teacher that holds the position Tim puts forward. That aside, great blog today–with exception to the graphic description of you pounding out the first few thoughts in a bathrobe.

  2. Hey! A bathrobe is perfectly acceptable attire for working at home. At least I didn’t get so fixated on my writing that I forgot about it. 😉

    Oh, and thank you, Boaz. Much appreciated comment.

  3. Hi James. I wish Hegg had indicated whom he arguing against. In any case, I don’t see anything new in his argument that rabbinic writings have value but no divine authority. Actually, the implicit argument is that rabbinic writings do not have divine authority “in faith and halachah” and therefore they have no authority at all (or, if it has some sort of authority, it isn’t worth mentioning).

    The Mishnah represents itself as a body of interpretations of verses of the Torah. As far as I am aware, there is only one ambiguous sentence claiming that its interpretations were given at Sinai (Mishnah Avot 1.1). But the Mishnah does present this implicit claim: God requires Jews to interpret the Torah (and the rest of the Tanakh), not as individuals but as a community led by scholars (i.e., scribes and priests and their rabbinic heirs) who also apply it to the life of Israel. There is no guarantee that the interpretation or the application will always be right, but they still have that delegated, human authority. This is not very different from the authority of civil governments (see Romans 12).

    So I think the more interesting question is “What is the relationship between divine and human authority, (the authority of scribes and rabbis)?” The easy answer is that matters of “faith and halachah” are to be determined by divine authority and therefore it trumps human authority. The more difficult and, I believe, truer response, is that human authority is necessary even in matters that seem completely divine. Simply put, God provided mitzvot but he did not provide the details of just how they are to be observed.

    For example, were it not for Second Temple halakhah concerning the sacrifices, much of it preserved in the Mishnah*, each priest would have done whatever he pleased and there would have been chaos. We can’t know whether that priestly halakhah was in line with how God envisioned the sacrifices in the Temple, since he didn’t give us the details. My claim is that what God had in mind was that the halakhah of the sacrifices would be generated on earth and would be binding on all the offerers and priests. How many times do we remember the prophets, including Yeshua, saying that the sacrifices were invalid because the priestly halakhah or sacrificial procedures were not correct? Did they ever say that? No, to their way of thinking, the sacrifices were meaningless when the nation failed to pursue justice and mercy, not when priestly halakhah, however flawed, was followed without “divine authority.”

    I’m not saying that halakhah is unimportant – far from it – only that, on the one hand, halakhah must be subjected to prophetic concerns of justice and mercy, and on the other hand halakhah does not have to line up precisely with “divine authority” in order to line up with the will of God.

  4. James,

    Saying that the Talmud carries Divine Authority because it says it carries Divine Authority is circular:

    “Believing that the Sages have faithfully preserved the Oral Law is insufficient as a ground for their own authority. Logically speaking, justifying their authority requires a theory that excludes them entirely from any of the critical premises of the argument. It is circular to claim that we must obey the Rabbis in their transmission of the Oral Law because it is divinely ordained and at the same time to admit that it is they who claim that this is what the Oral Law says,” Rabbinic Authority by Berger.

    Plus, in addition to being circular, the proposition that the Mishnah is the Oral Torah is (1) impossible and (2) prohibited by Written Torah.

    First, it’s impossible because it violates the law of noncontradiction: contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time. You can’t say a text is oral. This is wildly illogical. Yet, Rabbinic authority deems the Mishnah itself to be Oral Torah:

    “Mishnah…therefore is called ‘The Oral Torah’,” Neusner on Judaism.

    Second, the Written Torah prohibited the writing down of the oral tradition. We see this prohibition even in the Talmud and we see those who write down oral tradition being compared to those who burn the Scripture.

    In conclusion, the Mishnah is not the Oral Tradition.

    Shalom,

    Peter

    1. Hi Peter. According to Strack and Stemberger (pp. 31-33), which is the book of reference for rabbinic literature, the evidence for a rabbinic ban on writing down the oral Torah is questionable and late. Your Talmud reference, for example, is several centuries later and in another country, Babylonia. So we don’t know that there was a ban on writing down the oral Torah during the time of the Mishnah.

      On the other hand, as you may know, the Mishnah does not claim to be the oral Torah; and no other rabbinic texts of its own century claim that it is. This is because the concept of oral Torah was barely getting started at that point.

      But there is no reason to doubt that the Mishnah was a written and partial expression of the oral traditions of its time. For this reason, it gained great authority over time.

  5. Peter, first of all, re-read Carl Kinbar’s comments above, especially this:

    The Mishnah represents itself as a body of interpretations of verses of the Torah. As far as I am aware, there is only one ambiguous sentence claiming that its interpretations were given at Sinai (Mishnah Avot 1.1). But the Mishnah does present this implicit claim: God requires Jews to interpret the Torah (and the rest of the Tanakh), not as individuals but as a community led by scholars (i.e., scribes and priests and their rabbinic heirs) who also apply it to the life of Israel. There is no guarantee that the interpretation or the application will always be right, but they still have that delegated, human authority. This is not very different from the authority of civil governments (see Romans 12).

    Also, in an evolutionary sense, perhaps we can find a link between the ancient history of Jewish practice and the Mishnah. OK, there were certainly significant breaks in the history of tradition, so we don’t know how much of what is encompassed by Talmud has its origins with the giving of Torah at Sinai, but frankly, that’s not my point.

    My point is to bring into question whether or not it’s possible for the Rabbinic rulings to be inspired at any level at all, by the Divine. Did God directly give authority or even tacitly allow such authority to be assumed over Judaism(s) by the post-Second Temple destruction Rabbis and all the Rabbinic authorities who followed? While it’s impossible to know if any portion of Talmud is divinely inspired, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that it could be. Go back to what I was saying about Paul’s letters and, from one point of view, you can see a certain similarity between what Paul was trying to do for the church and what the Rabbis were doing for a Judaism in exile.

    On top of that, as Kinbar says, even if some or even a lot of halakhah is in error, Yeshua may continue to acknowledge the authority of Judaism to define and administer itself and indeed, accept their halakhah as legitimate. It wasn’t all “correct” in the First Century and likely isn’t all “correct” now. But maybe 100% fidelity to the original isn’t required. I certainly doubt that your religious practice or mind is 100% compliant with the expections of God (Romans 3:10).

    Peter, if you don’t want to acknowledge the authority of the sages, please don’t. Frankly, almost nothing they’ve produced has anything to do with you or me since neither of us are Jewish.

    Also, the premise of your complaint has little to do with what I actually wrote, Peter. I’m not arguing for an unbroken line of information from Sinai to Mishnah. I’m arguing for an evolutionary progression of Jewish authority from before the day of Jesus to today. I’m arguing for the right of Judaism to define itself and its own authority. I’m arguing for the possibility that God didn’t abandon his covenant people, the Jews. I’m arguing that he lovingly accepts them, as He does us, mistakes and all.

  6. Carl,

    Re: “the Mishnah does not claim to be the oral Torah”

    Yes, it does. It represents a singular innovation in the history of Judaism, an unabashed attempt to replace an oral system with a written system that fills the same function as the predecessor:

    “Why did Rabbenu Hakadosh make [such an innovation] instead of perpetuating the status quo? Because he saw the students becoming fewer, new difficulties constantly arising, the Roman Empire spreading itself throughout the world and becoming more powerful, and the Jewish people wandering and becoming dispersed to the far ends of the world. [Therefore,] he composed a single text that would be available to everyone, so that it could be studied quickly and would not be forgotten. Throughout his entire life, he and his court taught the Mishnah to the masses…From the days of Moses, our teacher, until Rabbenu Hakadosh, no one had composed a text for the purpose of teaching the Oral Law in public.” Rambam, Intro to Mishneh Torah.

    Re: “So we don’t know that there was a ban on writing down the oral Torah during the time of the Mishnah.”

    Yes, we do. If there hadn’t been a ban on writing down the oral tradition, then why did Yehudah haNasi have to justify his actions? A justification is only needed when one does something illegal.

    1. Hi Peter. Our conversation is probably boring everyone else to tears, but your comment deserves a response.

      When I wrote that the Mishnah does not claim to be Oral Torah, I meant that there is no claim within the pages of the Mishnah that it is Oral Torah. Quoting the Rambam, who wrote nearly a thousand years after the Mishnah was published does not explain why the Mishnah itself, and near contemporaneous rabbinic works, are so silent on the subject. If Yehudah HaNasi’s work on the Mishnah violated a halakhic prohibition, don’t you think he would have made his defense in the Mishnah itself? And don’t you think that other rabbinic work that were published soon after the Mishnah – the Tosefta or the rabbinic commentaries on Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – would mention such a remarkable violation and either support or condemn it? They do neither.

  7. Esoteric but apparently necessary, Peter. This discussion across all parts of this series, reaches into the essence of Judaism in Messianic Judaism. I’m planning on approaching Jewish authority from a slightly different direction tomorrow.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the interaction, Peter. It’s important for many different voices to contribute to the “chorus” of the conversation.

  8. James,

    I think Tim nailed it, but I think you missed part of his argument.. You said: “I can’t think of anyone in Messianic Judaism who believes that the Mishnah we have today is a direct reflection of how Judaism (or “Judaisms”) functioned back in the late Second Temple period, when Jesus walked among his people Israel.”

    Your boy, Gene, believes exactly this. In fact his argument always for the authority of the Mishnah, Talmud, etc. today he directly and anachronistically points to Matthew 23 for “proof”… and many others do as well.

    What I wrote above is just a small part of what I took from Tim Hegg’s article. Also he points out the fact that many argue for Judaism as if it is monolithic, and you yourself pointed out the silliness in doing just that, yet it is an issue, people argue for Modern Judaism as if it is monolithic, they argue for “Jews” as if all Jews believe the same, I have even seen you do this… in other words, there is no one size fits all.

  9. First of all Zion, Gene is not “my boy”, so you might want to readjust how to address people, since it could be taken as a pejorative and denigrating comment.

    I can’t speak for Gene obviously, but I don’t know if he believes that there is an unbroken line from the oral Torah of Sinai to Joshua, to the Elders, to the Prophets, the the Men of the Great Assembly, and into the Mishnah (you’ll have to ask him that).

    Historically, given the various exiles of the Jewish people between the “Sinai event” and the writing of Mishnah, I would have to say that there are “breaks” in the continuity. However, as Carl pointed out, “there is no reason to doubt that the Mishnah was a written and partial expression of the oral traditions of its time.”

    Again, the question is whether or not, in any sense, Jewish Rabbinic authority can be said to have any connection to the Divine, either as inspired or even approved of by God.

    Besides, as I pointed out to Peter, since neither you or I are Jewish, the authority of the Rabbis is more or less beside the point. Our lives are not subject to Jewish halakhah. The people who would be primarily concerned with how all this turns out would be the halachically Jewish people in the Messianic Jewish movement. I take up the argument because a number of these Jewish people are my friends and, in the end, we must all be wondering how the Messiah will view the Judaism he will find on earth upon his return, Messianic and otherwise.

  10. Carl said, “Our conversation is probably boring everyone else to tears, but your comment deserves a response.”

    Personally, I am very interested in what you have to say, Carl.

  11. First of all Zion, Gene is not “my boy”, so you might want to readjust how to address people, since it could be taken as a pejorative and denigrating comment.

    Sorry, if I offended, I was only joking, it was in reference to believing along the same lines.

    Our lives are not subject to Jewish halakhah.

    That is all Tim Hegg is trying to say. I am glad you are jumping on board 😛

    Your view of not being in the same covenant relationship with Israel creates a dilemma that I do not see, so we differ on this. Concerning authority over our Faith we all share, such as the Jerusalem Council or maybe the Rabbinic Authority or Local communities, etc, for me that is important and that matters. I do not share the separatist belief you have, so I have to disagree.

    But as you rightly summed up, who has authority, and since there is no monolithic Judaism, can there be a monolithic authority, and the answer put simply, is no.

  12. Hi, Zion. You write that Tim Hegg ” points out the fact that many argue for Judaism as if it is monolithic, and you yourself pointed out the silliness in doing just that, yet it is an issue, people argue for Modern Judaism as if it is monolithic, . . ”

    That argument is a fairly typical way of crippling all attempts to define anything about Judaism. But is it valid? One could do the same with “Christianity” by writing that “many argue for Christianity as if it is monolithic . . . people argue for Christianity as if it is monolithic, they argue for ‘Christians’ as if all Christians believe the same.” Would that statement cripple all attempts to define Christianity (or the faith of Yeshua’s followers)?

    Now, Tim Hegg might argue that the Bible determines what is true Christianity (or faith) and what is false. If so, Tim and Gene are making parallel claims – that a certain collection of writings (the Bible on the one hand and the Talmud on the other) is foundational to the formation of a piety, whether Christian or Jewish.

    I believe that Gene does not argue that Judaism is monolithic (he’s smarter than that), only that it has an authoritative source, the Talmud, just as Tm Hegg argues for a biblical faith that most people call Christianity.

    My point is that the existence of diverse, overlapping forms of piety in Judaism does not show that there is no overall “Judaism,” only that there are varieties within it.

  13. “First of all Zion, Gene is not “my boy”, so you might want to readjust how to address people, since it could be taken as a pejorative and denigrating comment.”

    Thanks, Papa!:)

    “Our lives are not subject to Jewish halakhah” That is all Tim Hegg is trying to say. I am glad you are jumping on board.”

    Well, since Mr. Hegg is not Jewish (even though he wears a kippah outside of a synagogue – http://www.torahresource.com/TRI_images/tim.gif), he can’t and shouldn’t speak for Jews.

  14. Carl,

    Great points, you raised.

    I also wanted to address what you said here:

    I believe that Gene does not argue that Judaism is monolithic (he’s smarter than that), only that it has an authoritative source, the Talmud, just as Tm Hegg argues for a biblical faith that most people call Christianity.

    I agree with your assessment here, but that means, that people like Gene, and Gene jump in any time here! 😀 Believe exactly what Tim is arguing against, which is equating the Talmud to the authority of Matthew 23, which is clearly anachronistic. Now, whether Tim’s argument is right or wrong, this is an argument being made. James said no one believes this in “Messianic Judaism”, but we can clearly say, that this argument is being made and is believed.

    But all of this leads me to ask the question, can Judaism exist outside of the Talmud?

    1. @Zion. I can’t speak for Gene, of course. I have a different take on Mt. 23 anyway. As I wrote above, I am not looking for divine authority for the Talmud because I believe that God requires a particular community, the Jews, to partner with him in interpreting and living out the Torah. As far as I know, most substantial and sustained effort to respond to God’s requirement has been the network of rabbis and other sages that arose in Galilee and later Babylonia in the centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple.

  15. “First of all Zion, Gene is not “my boy”, so you might want to readjust how to address people, since it could be taken as a pejorative and denigrating comment.”

    Thanks, Papa!:)

    Lol. 😀

  16. Carl,

    Re: “And don’t you think that other rabbinic work that were published soon after the Mishnah – the Tosefta or the rabbinic commentaries on Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – would mention such a remarkable violation and either support or condemn it? They do neither.”

    They do condemn the writing down of Oral Tradition:

    “R. Judah b. Nahmani the public orator of R. Simeon b. Lakish discoursed as follows: It is written, Write thou these words, and it is written, For according to the mouth of these words. ‘What are we to make of this? — It means: The words which are written thou art not at liberty to say by heart, and the words transmitted orally thou art not at liberty to recite from writing,” (Gittin 60b).

    “Those who write down halakhot are like those who burn the Torah, and anyone who studies from such writings receives no reward!” (B. Temurah 14b).

  17. James …Carl…….YOUR conversation is not boring me (for what that is worth) but Some times I feel like Winnie The Pooh..of ‘little’ brain! And (again in my humble opinion) to the point made: “”we must all be wondering how the Messiah will view the Judaism he will find on earth upon his return, Messianic and otherwise.”” I congratulate those (to include Mr. Kinbar) in Leadership who are trying to establish a present day Messianic Jewish Judaism and halakhah. How will G-d look upon this……..? How can we possibly answer that questions when so many others go unanswered?

  18. “I believe that Gene does not argue that Judaism is monolithic (he’s smarter than that), only that it has an authoritative source, the Talmud”

    Carl, that’s correct (the “smart” part I’ll leave for others to decide). My argument is that Judaism has a core that defines it as Judaism, not that it’s monolithic (which of course it is not). That core is Written and Oral Torah. Any movement within Judaism that has strayed too far from that core (e.g. Sadducees and Karaites) almost invariably end up as a footnote in the history of Judaism.

  19. Gene said: Carl, that’s correct (the “smart” part I’ll leave for others to decide). My argument is that Judaism has a core that defines it as Judaism, not that it’s monolithic (which of course it is not). That core is Written and Oral Torah. Any movement within Judaism that has strayed too far from that core (e.g. Sadducees and Karaites) almost invariably end up as a footnote in the history of Judaism.

    That exactly correct and I actually said this in the body of today’s blog post (see above):

    Also, his point that in the day of Jesus, that there were multiple “Judaisms” (Pharisees, Essenes, Sadducees, and so on) is hardly a revelation. Again, I don’t know anyone in the Messianic Jewish movement who would deny the “multi-sect” nature of First Century Judaism. On the other hand, if we look at modern Judaism or modern Christianity, we could say the same thing. If there was no, one unified “Judaism” in the day of Jesus, there must certainly be no one, monolithic, unified modern Christianity either. The fact that the Christian church exists as perhaps hundreds of denominational models and their variants, (including One Law or, if you will, “One Torah”) establishes this firmly. Nevertheless, no one balks at talking about “Christianity” or “Judaism” in the 21st Century as if they were specific, unified entities, since at their cores within each individual religion, they contain a basic, common set of theologies, doctrines, dogma, and the like that identify them as either “Christian” or “Jewish.”

    We don’t see a single “monolithic” Judaism or Christianity, and yet in fact, there is a core to each religion, otherwise we couldn’t talk about them at all. If someone asks me if I’m a Christian and I say “yes,” then they form some sort of idea of what that means about me, regardless of the multiple “Christianities” that exist in the world today. It’s naive to assume that just because Judaism has multiple expressions, that “Judaism” as a core entity and as a people, does not exist.

    Pat asked: “How can we possibly answer that questions when so many others go unanswered?”

    I don’t know. Maybe we can’t. But it’s important to ask the question, not just because it hasn’t been asked before, but because if we leave it unasked, if we ignore the issues it contains, then many Christians will continue to believe that Judaism and the Jewish people lost their value with the advent of Christianity. I can’t accept that and so I’ll rattle a few cages and see what happens next.

  20. “equating the Talmud to the authority of Matthew 23”

    I do NOT equate Talmud to Matthew 23, i.e. static words in a book vs. living Jewish authorities (actual community leadership of the day) that Yeshua was referring to. Torah is interpreted (yes, with help of Talmud and many other writings) and applied in every generation by the leaders of the day. I do not follow guidelines of authorities from thousands years ago from my personal reading of Talmud (which would simply be another version of “sola scriptura” or rather “sola Talmud”). Instead, I try to live according to contemporary interpretations of those guidelines (and I choose traditional ones).

  21. Peter, since you have read some of Jacob Neusner’s work, I trust you will understand why I, like he, can’t accept quotes from the Babylonian Talmud or the Rambam as historical proof of why Yehudah haNasi produced the Mishnah. Like Neusner, I study the Mishnah and other third century works (I really do, by the way!) to find out about Yehudah, who was an early third century rabbi.

  22. What Gene (“Sonny boy”) just said reminded me of this:

    ““I think sometimes Christians read the Bible and think, ‘Oh, this is what Judaism is,’ Judaism is a living tradition that continues to grow and adapt and change well beyond the Biblical age.”

    -Rabbi Mike Uram, director of Penn Hillel

  23. I do NOT equate Talmud to Matthew 23, i.e. static words in a book vs. living Jewish authorities (actual community leadership of the day) that Yeshua was referring to.

    Just to make sure I am clear on what you are saying, or at least the implications, I will phrase it in a question. Rabbis who live in America, have the same authority, as that of the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23?

  24. “Rabbis who live in America, have the same authority, as that of the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23”

    Pretty much. Jewish religious leaders who accept the ongoing validity and divine inspiration of Torah and who lead the myriads of Jewish communities all around the world have the authority to interpret Torah and define its application for those Jews whom they lead.

  25. James, just let me know if I am going to far off topic of your blog, and I will stop here.

    Pretty much. Jewish religious leaders who accept the ongoing validity and divine inspiration of Torah and who lead the myriads of Jewish communities all around the world have the authority to interpret Torah and define its application for those Jews whom they lead.

    What I am understanding from you, is that you are describing only one application of authority while ignoring another. The authority we see in Matthew 23 or in relation to Deut 17, was in reference to the whole of Israel, a body of Law representing the whole, today this no longer exist (when I said no longer exist, I am referring to the national authority, not Israel, Israel is well and alive, praise God!) and for obvious reasons. So comparing them is apples to oranges and anachronistic. I am not saying that Rabbis here in America cannot or do not have the right to lead their congregations, and I don’t think anyone would make that claim. But when it comes to defining theology, and that of those who are covenant relationship with God, whether Jew or Gentile, cannot simply be defined for the “whole” by local communities, or simply put, by Rabbis or Pastors in America, does that make sense, and it becomes even more complex when we take into account the Body of Messiah, those who believe in Yeshua/Jesus whether Jew or Gentile?

    Anyways, I think many of these discussions are over local authority while ignoring authority over the Body as a whole unit.

  26. Zion, no doubt this is complex!

    One thing that must always be remembered – Messianic Jews do not wish to submit the “Body of Messiah” to Jewish laws and customs and our leaders, at least those I know, do not wish to become the ruling authorities over all believers or interfere with their walk. On the other hand, if Messianic Jews decide that they themselves should submit to contemporary Jewish authorities is some form or fashion because they believe that this is what Yeshua taught, it’s their decision.

  27. Carl,

    Re: “I meant that there is no claim within the pages of the Mishnah that it is Oral Torah.”

    If you are walking along and find a clock, you’re able to learn something about the clockmaker. A clock tracks the progression of time. Therefore, we know that the clockmaker believed that it was possible to track time and that the clock would do it. In the same way, when we peruse the Mishnah, we see that purports to systematize and archive the oral tradition in written form. This tells us that its creator (Yehudah) believed it was possible and permissible to systematize and archive the oral tradition and that the MIshnah (textual transmission) was the way to do it.

    However, this violated legal precedent. It’s a historical fact that the oral tradition had remained oral until 200 C.E. The oral system was a firmly established, long-held precedent. Do you think Yehudah was able to violate long-held, firmly established precedent without citing a justification?

    The plain reality was that he would’ve had to cite a justification in order to do something which would’ve been considered highly illegal–going against long-held and universally-held precedent.

    Now, if the Supreme Court of the United States were to make a decision that violated universally-held precedent it would ruin the credibility of the institution. In the same way, we must question the credibility of attributing institutional authority to the Mishnah when it represents a complete violation of universally-held precedent prior to 200 C.E.

  28. Carl… just to let you know where Peter stands – he expressed a desire to convene some sort of One Law Messianic Sanhedrin (being Jewish is not required) whose job would be to extract / recreate from Talmud the “Oral Torah” as it supposedly existed from BEFORE Talmud was put to parchment (in violation of some supposed rule) and before it was corrupted by the rabbis. Yes, I am quite sure that he wasn’t joking.

  29. Gene,

    That’s a lie. You should be ashamed of yourself. I said I’d like the leaders of the One Law movement to get together and eat bagels and have an informal discussion about long-range goals of the movement. Hardly a Sanhedrin. By the way, people can see right through your pathetic ad hominem attacks.

    I’m not mad at you for lying about me. I completely forgive you for any offenses that you’ve committed against me.

  30. Zion, no doubt this is complex!

    One thing that must always be remembered – Messianic Jews do not wish to submit the “Body of Messiah” to Jewish laws and customs and our leaders, at least those I know, do not wish to become the ruling authorities over all believers or interfere with their walk.

    I understand this perspective and it seems nice, like ‘staying out of someones business’, but I think this oversimplifies, we can’t simply say Messianic Jews have ‘this’, and believing Gentiles have ‘this’, as if we have no responsibility to each other… To me you are accepting a division that did not exist in the eyes of the Jerusalem Council, they ruled for the Body of Messiah as a whole. I realize this is a much bigger topic, but I think it is worth noting. So it is one thing to determine authority on a local level, but it is another to decide on a corporal level, and this is at the heart of many of these debates and saying that gentiles should not concern themselves, does not work.

    On the other hand, if Messianic Jews decide that they themselves should submit to contemporary Jewish authorities is some form or fashion because they believe that this is what Yeshua taught, it’s their decision.

    Sure, we should all respect individual decisions.

  31. “Hardly a Sanhedrin.”

    Peter, I don’t lie.

    Of course it would not be a “Sanhedrin” – that’s why I said “some sort”! But what you will call it is not the point. Peter, we had lengthy discussions on this – you made it clear that you want One Law leaders to extract the “real” (i.e. before it was written down and supposedly corrupted by the rabbis) Oral Torah from Talmud. That’s the main point. Are you going to deny this? Doing something like this informally over coffee is certainly not the long term objective of such an endeavor but it is irrelevant to the point I brought up.

  32. “Show me where I proposed “some sort” of Sanhedrin. Otherwise, don’t pretend like it wasn’t a lie.”

    Peter, since you accused of lying. It’s a very strong accusation that necessitates a strong, factually-supported response. I will also just let you speak for yourself and the readers should judge for themselves:

    You propose something you call ” Kol Echad Initiative”. In describing it, you go on to appeal to what you call One Law “sages” to come forward and form a committee to guide it. That’s where the the “some sort” of Sanhedrin comes into play, in function (to define the direction and the halachic principals to guide the community) if not in name:

    In your own words:

    The Sages (I know you are out there) must come forward and start developing a long range plan for the Hebrew Roots movement, a plan that will organize long range plan committee(s) and allow the movement to work together to achieve goals much larger than anything achievable by any single community.”

    “Together we can achieve things that we could ever achieve individually. Together we can pool resources, allow the gifted ones with various specialties to bless the Body. Plans fail for lack of counselors. So we must have scores of counselors! You (i.e. “Sages”) must all come forward now and be courageous as we move to establish a worldwide community of one law (hakahal chukah achat).

    “I believe in devising a set of comprehensive yet flexible halachic principles for the Messianic community….The effort to devise principles for practice must be a communal effort and will ultimately require the guidance of our leadership (see … Kol Echad Initiative).”

    Now, Peter, here’s the bit and the MAIN point I was trying to make before you went on the tangent about whether to call the proposed “Kol Echad” committee a Sanhedrin on it. It’s about extracting supposedly original “Oral Law” from the corrupted rabbinic one:

    “As I explained earlier, halacha should be straightforward and understandable. Rabbinic Judaism created an oxymoronic written, oral-Torah that has many weaknesses (e.g. it’s impractical, confusing, inefficient, un-democratic, convoluted, esoteric, etc). The original Oral Tradition was flexible, democratic, approachable, straightforward, and understandable even to the layperson. So we need to restore the oral tradition–no big deal.”

    Edit by blog owner: Gene included the links to his source, but somehow, it didn’t survive the comment process. I’ve looked everywhere I can think of in the Dashboard, but I don’t see anything that would cause them not to appear. I’m supplying what I can find here: Statement of Principles: YOU CAN HELP!, We Need a List of Trusted One-Law Messianic Leaders–YOU CAN HELP!, Gene Occasionally Gets it Right : ) .

  33. Gene, it might be helpful to provide a link to your original source so anyone who wants to can read the comments you quote in their original context.

    Amendment: Turns out Gene did provide links in his comment but they never appeared on my end. See Gene’s comment above for more details.

    Actually, I’m curious now, Peter. How would you propose to distill “the original Oral Tradition” from the body of knowledge we possess about Judaism today? How do you even define it? The original conversation Moses had with Hashem for forty days and forty nights on Har Sinai?

    This actually is relevant to the overall conversation on my blog. I’m arguing for the validity of the evolutionary process of Jews, Judaism, and how Torah is defined in an evolutionary, living, organic method of religious, cultural, and lifestyle practice for Jewish communities across time and geography. If I’m reading these quotes correctly, Peter, you’re talking about returning to a fixed point in history, somehow distilling 100% of the relevant halakhah employed by Judaism at that moment in time, and then using it as a static model for religious behavior and applying it, worldwide, across the One Law movement. That actually sounds like a “big deal” since I have no idea how you’d accomplish such a task.

  34. “Gene, it might be helpful to provide a link to your original source so anyone who wants to can read the comments you quote in their original context.”

    James, sources,in the order they appear:

    First two quotes:
    http://orthodoxmessianic.blogspot.com/2012/08/a-vision-for-hebrew-roots-movement.html

    Third quote:
    http://orthodoxmessianic.blogspot.com/2012/09/statement-of-principles-you-can-help.html

    Last quote:
    http://orthodoxmessianic.blogspot.com/2012/09/gene-occasionally-gets-it-right.html

    Edit by blog owner: I found Gene’s “lost links” in my spam filter. Freed them up.

  35. Gene,

    Where in there does it say Sanhedrin? Show me.

    When the UMJC gathers to discuss establishing Messianic Halacha, do you call it an attempt a Sanhedrin? No, you don’t. But when I talk about a group effort at trying to understand the PRINCIPLES of halacha you call it an attempt at a Sanhedrin.

    That’s very sad, Gene. And until you can show where I said “Sanhedrin” (with a capital “S” like you used) then everyone will know you are a liar. A Sanhedrin (capital “S”) for those who don’t know is a very specific institution that can ONLY exist in Jerusalem and involves very specific prerequisites. So there’s literally no way anyone could construe Sanhedrin from what I wrote.

    1. @Peter. Your entire comment is wrong and confused. First of all, I have not made fun of you in any way at all, and certainly not for merely discussing principles of halakhah. What I feel and have expressed is strong disagreement, and a touch of dismay, with your approach to rabbinic writings. It is just plain wrong according to traditional, scholarly, and historical perspectives. I am sorry that you confuse that with “making fun.” Second, the MJRC is not “Carl Kinbar’s organization,” as if I somehow possess or direct it. I am not even a holder of any major office, and never have been. That said, I belong to it and agree with its decisions. But, third, we have not begun to “CODIFY halakhah.” Twice you use the word CODIFY in upper-case letters even though we don’t use that term anywhere.and have no intention to codify halakhah.

      Based on what I’ve seen so far, I have little doubt that you are able to cut and paste statements from various parts of the “Standards of Practice” to try to prove your point. Go ahead if you feel that you must. I don’t hope to convince you of this, but for the sake of James’ readers, I say unequivocally that if it were the MJRC’s goal to codify halakhah, I would have no hesitancy saying so. There’s no shame in that task and no reason to hide it if that were our intention. The MJRC requires “basic practice” of our members and commends “expanded practice to them.” We also commend these standards to the Messianic movement not as a codified or authoritative halakhah but as concessions to practical realities. They do not substitute for traditional halakhah (see p. ii-iii), but we attempt to make all that we do consistent with traditional halakhah as best we are able.

      This brings to an end my responses to your comments. We’re getting nowhere.

  36. James,

    Re: “Peter, you’re talking about returning to a fixed point in history, somehow distilling 100% of the relevant halakhah”

    That was Gene’s lie, not my statement. I said “principles”, not “distilling 100% of the relevant halakhah.”

    But, James, you should ask the MJRC about this, not me. They are the ones attempting to do what you’re talking about, not me.

  37. Peter, as I said, I presented your own words to support my assessment, so let’s have readers judge for themselves. You are stuck on whether you used an exact word “Sanhedrin” to call the committee of One Law “sages” that you have proposed on your blog, but I specifically said “some sort of”. Get unstuck, Peter.

  38. Gene,

    Re: “You are stuck on whether you used an exact word ‘Sanhedrin'”

    To be “stuck” implies that I’m confused about whether I used the term “Sanhedrin” or that I’m confused whether or not I gave the impression I wanted to re-create the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem with all the political institutions entailed thereby. However, I know full well I never used that term–that’s just your lie. And I know full well that nobody who knows what’s involved in establishing the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem thinks that that is what I was attempting.

    Furthermore, I’ve shown you that Carl has gone FAR BEYOND anything I’ve proposed. So it’s telling that you attack me but not him; it’s telling that he joins you in making fun of me when in reality he’s doing far more than anything I’ve ever proposed.

    When you try to make me look foolish you have to be very cautious indeed. Because I am nobody’s fool, Gene. Your lies backfired on you this time.

    Have a nice night,

    Peter

  39. You guys are reading your own agenda into Peter’s words, he was only trying to bring a form of unity to One Law, through some form of One Law halacha, not rewrite the Talmud. Whether or not that is a good idea, does not change the fact, that he was not trying to create a Sanhedrin, lol.

  40. Peter, I am not making fun of you. I never called you names or said you were a fool. I am disagreeing with you (strongly) and calling you out on things you said publicaly, which I presented here. You are taking it personally and in turn making it personal by calling me a liar.

  41. Carl and James,

    Since Carl is saying his organization’s document is NOT codified halachah then I must respond. I believe that statement to be false.

    Carl, your document gives a table of contents that clearly categorizes major areas of halacha and subdivides the sections into “Decisions and Commentary.” It refers to these decisions as “halakhic standards.” And it plainly states that these decisions are not ad hoc or provisional. The opposite of ad hoc is “systematized plan” (i.e. code) and the opposite of provisional is “permanent.” Here’s your organizations words:

    “While other areas of Messianic Jewish life are of profound importance, such as worship, ethics, education, and social concern, we believed that halakhic standards had received far less attention than their place in Messianic Jewish life warranted. We saw the need for such standards in our own lives, and as Rabbis also received numerous requests from others for halakhic guidance – guidance which up to this point we had been able to provide only in an improvised, ad hoc, and provisional manner…The standards of observance contained in the present document are the fruit of our study and deliberation over the course of those five years.”

    And here’s where it gets INTERESTING. Your organization goes on to explain that halacha is an extension of Divine Law:

    “When we treat Halakhah as an extension of God’s Law, a guideline for communal obedience and relationship, we experience the character it shares with Torah, “the perfect Law that gives liberty” (James 1:25).”

    So if one puts all of those pieces together, it’s pretty obvious what you’re doing. You’ve attempted to promulgate codified halachah under the rubric of “Standards of Practice.” But for anyone who bothers to read the document, it’s readily apparent that this document could’ve been entitled “Codified Halacha for the Messianic Movement.”

  42. I appreciate Carl’s and Gene’s grace and reasoned responses (even in the face of agenda driven and emotionally unbalanced remarks).
    Thanks for clarifying your positions because it can be a bit confusing as to how to understand all these issues of Talmud and Mishnah. I give no “divine” status to those writings but that doesn’t mean they should be denegrated either.
    But really, I don’t understand the issue of One Law given the Apostolic Decree only gives 4 laws to believing Gentiles (above and beyond the 7 Noahide) which seems to me is an elevation to sojourner with Israel, correct? If so, I find that so beautiful….

  43. Greetings, Lrw79.

    I’m not sure I want to tackle the whole One Law, number of Laws applying to the non-Jewish believer, and the status of sojourner in a blog post discussion that’s already addressing a somewhat related but extremely complex topic of its own.

    To everyone:

    I’m one of those “early to bed and early to rise people, so a lot of this conversation happened while I was asleep. I’ll have to go over the transactions again when I’ve had more coffee, but it seems like, in my absence, that the discussion has (once again) fallen into a circular exchange without resolution (or as Carl said, “We’re getting nowhere.”

    I feel reasonably assured that Tim Hegg’s opinion of the Messianic Jewish movement is based on incorrect assumptions. I also believe that, in my humble opinion, we don’t have to believe that Mishnah is a direct connection back to what one considers the “original oral Torah” of Sinai in order for it to be valid for the Jewish people. The idea of Mishnah or the ancient Sages having Divine authority can be argued both ways but probably not proven either way, since we are talking about matters of belief and faith.

    However, we are also talking about matters of perspective. Non-Jewish people who do not have the benefit of a traditional Jewish religious education or worldview aren’t always, no matter how intelligent, able to grasp what is it to be Jewish and to see God, Torah, halakhah, as completely ingrained into the fabric of life.

    Especially in the west, we tend to compartmentalize and organize information in such a way that religion is a separate entity from other aspects of who we are, and our beliefs can be reduced down to the mechanics of theology, doctrine, and dogma, rather than being considered the “sea in which we swim,” so to speak.

    Today’s morning meditation will be the next part of this series, but I’m going to look at halakhah and the authority of the Rabbinic sages from a different point of view. I hope you’ll join me there to continue this conversation. I would like it very much if we could discuss these matters, from our various perspectives, without banging heads with each other.

    Blessings.

  44. Lrw79,

    The “Noahide Laws” are not from Scripture but rather found exclusively in the Talmud. So what you’re actually saying is that gentiles should follow the Talmud as their authority, not the New Testament (which gives a lot more commands than just “seven”).

  45. Peter, in a text-only venue, I can’t “hear” your “tone of voice” but it seems an awful lot like you’re being challenging rather than asking for clarification or explaining why you might disagree with Lrw79’s position.

  46. James,

    My disagreement with Lrw79’s position is that he’s saying that gentiles should follow the Talmud as THE authority for practice rather than the New Testament. The Noahide “laws” come from the Talmud, not the New Testament. Thus, he (or she) is saying that the New Testament (1) doesn’t give enough guidance for practice and; (2) gentiles, therefore, need to learn the Noahide “laws” of the Talmud, laws that bind the gentiles even though they come from outside of the Bible and outside of Yeshua’s community of Believers.

    My position regarding the Noahide “laws” is the same as David Novak, noted Rabbinical scholar: “…the attempt of some contemporary Jewish scholars to speak of a ‘Noahide Code,’ as if this were simply one more department of operative Halakhah, is inaccurate and highly misleading,” Natural Law in Judaism, David Novak.

    Hopefully that’s more clear.

  47. Peter, I understood your position quite well, it’s your (apparent) attitude that could use a bit of adjusting. Just because you and Gene tend to “spar” doesn’t mean you have to adopt the same emotional posture with everyone you disagree with.

  48. Re: Noahide Laws

    First, I’m no expert and don’t claim to be. Second, I’ve not developed a firm theology about NL’s or The Apostoloc Decree of Acts 15. In all my years as an active Christian, I’ve yet to hear the Apostolic Decree ever even mentioned, much less taught, so I’m simply exploring the possibilities of what was actually going on there.

    It’s ridiculous to say that I think Christians should follow the Talmud.. My remarks were made with the assumption that the NL’s were already known in some form or fashion — although not yet written down– and accepted as self evident in some manner by the time of the Jerusalem Council and that the extra 4 laws that James gives to Gentiles are on top of those.

    After all, where is the injunction for them to not murder? Surely they didn’t think it was ok. And they also CLEARLY said they weren’t going to ask the Gentiles to keep the WHOLE Torah of Moses either.

    Now, in my own defense, it doesn’t make sense to me that God would judge anyone if there was no standard upon them in the first place. And we know He did judge the whole earth, saving only Noah and fam. He also judged Sodom and Gomorrah, the Canaanites etc.

    Call me crazy, but I tend to doubt that the concept of what parts of Torah Gentiles were bound to universally were only thought of as the Talmud was being committed to paper (or parchment). (Actually, I believe the first written example in in the Tosefta.)

    Additionally, although I appreciate opposing views, I was hoping to hear what James, Carl, or Gene had to say about the topic because they’re able to present their opinions with sound reason and, most importantly, without wild and offensive accusations or personal attacks.

    However, James has already said he doesn’t want to tackle this here.

  49. However, James has already said he doesn’t want to tackle this here.

    Ok, it’s “off topic” but I can see the need. Carl has already “signed off” of this debate, so I don’t believe he’ll come back for an encore.

    God does make a covenant with Noah. It’s right there in Genesis 9. Since all of humanity is descended from Noah, we can reasonably believe that the Noahide covenant applies to all human beings everywhere.

    According to Wikipedia, there are some Second Temple period texts that refer to the Noahide Laws prior to the Talmud, however they were never formalized until the Talmud.

    What does that mean? I took a look at AskNoah.org and conversed with one of the Rabbis administering the organization via email. Ultimately, Christianity and being a Noahide are not compatible. Any belief in Jesus from a Noahide’s point of view, is idolatry and probably polytheism, if you are a trinitarian. On the other hand, I can’t see anything in the basic Seven Laws that directly contradicts a “Christian lifestyle” (God is One, Respect God’s Name, respect the sanctity of human life, respect the family, respect others, respect all creatures, and establish a court system).

    But as you’ve seen Lrw79, there are a lot of Christians who take exception to the Noahides. You do bring up an interesting point that God offered the Noahide covenant as a method for all of the pre-Jesus peoples of the earth to have relationship with God, but if the Noahide Laws were sufficient, then God wouldn’t have needed to apply the blessings of the Messiah to the non-Jewish people of the earth (“for God so loved the world…”).

    While Acts 15 reads somewhat like the Noahide Laws I don’t see them as directly equivalent. For one thing, the “Messianic non-Jews” (for lack of a better term in this context) entered into relationship with God under a different covenant through the Messiah (covenants, actually: Abrahamic and New Covenant). One interpretation of the conditions for Gentiles listed in the “Jerusalem letter” is that they were the minimum standard requirements for the newly minted Gentile Christians to have table fellowship with their Jewish mentors.

    I hope this helps.

  50. Yes James, it does thank you.

    And I’ve recently done a study where it shows the Apostolic Decree, if one first accepts the NL were in place in some fashion, was an elevation of God Fearers since the 4 (as written in the letter) come straight ut of Lev 17 and 18 and even listed in the same order. Because of the wording which includes “those who sojourn with Israel” it would be a decree of elevating the Gentile believer of Yeshua to that position of Ger Toshav and I think, if that’s correct, so incredibly beautiful and amazing. It also does wonderful things regarding defining the gentile identity and obligation that some obsess about.

  51. God-fearers! I meant to mention that, Lrw79. I lent out Janicki’s book on that topic and haven’t gotten it back yet. I was wondering if Toby addressed anything about Noahides vs. God-fearers. I don’t believe he did, but if so, it would certainly add dimension to the discussion.

    You said: “It also does wonderful things regarding defining the gentile identity and obligation that some obsess about.”

    At FFOZ’s Shavuot conference last spring, a gifted young scholar named Jordan Levy gave a talk on the role of Gentile believers in relationship to the Jewish people. One of the thing she said was that, in our role of encouraging Israel to return to Torah, we become “the crown jewels of the nations.” That’s a wonderful way to honor Gentile/Christian identity as disciples of the Jewish Messiah and in relationship with the Jewish people.

  52. Before we continue this discussion, I just want to remind everyone that Yom Kippur starts at sundown tonight. I just want to remind everyone (including me) that our highest duty is not to beg God to forgive us our sins, but to forgive others of their offenses against us, whatever they may be. I was just reminded of this and thought, given the sometimes “passionate” nature of the debate that’s been going on here, that I’d pass this along to everyone else.

  53. Tim Hegg is first of all not considered a “scholar” by individuals in the Messianic Jewish community he is just a part of the counter-culture and fringe wings of the Messianic sect with his “One Torah” approach and “One Torah” theology is something really new and was never something in the 1st Century. With his one Torah bowel movement he can set the perimeters and the lines as to what he can keep and doesn’t have to. Bashing oral Torah and Mishna is something he has been known to do rather often by incorporating Christian ideoogies from Martin Luther and John Calvin, not backed up by history or scholarship which both tell a drastically different story than what Mr Hegg teaches. If you listen to his sons little podcast it really gets funny when this subject comes up because he claims like his daddy that oral Torah wasn’t around till the 6th century (never mind the vote in the second century where it was voted on to finally be written down so the history isn’t lost) but at the same time he will say “Y’shua taught against the Talmud”. Yet in the same breathe said it didn’t exist in the 1st Century. He has not been trained in Judaism he never attended a Yeshiva like those with authority have, instead he studied at a Christian seminary. He is no different than Rico Cortes or Monte Judah. He’s a Christian with a kippa.

    1. Greetings, Norma.

      While I don’t agree with Tim Hegg’s perspective, I don’t actually dislike him. Many years ago, he had me in his home for Erev Shabbat and I was treated very well. This is also true when I visited his congregation for services the next morning. Thus I wouldn’t necessarily be so unkind as to refer to his ideas as “one Torah bowel movement.”

      At the end of the day, Hegg was created just as much in the image of Hashem as you or I, and although my theology and doctrine differ greatly from his, we both are doing our best as we understand things, to serve Hashem and follow the teachings of our Rav.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.