Modern Rabbinical Judaism
Mosaic Judaism

See also: Sects of first century Judaism

Originally the Law of Moses was given to one race of people who would all live on one small tract of land called Canaan, but as the people dispersed farther and farther from Judea, it became impossible to make constant trips to the temple. It was no longer possible for the temple to serve everybody's needs in the way described in Exodus and Deuteronomy. Something had to change, and it did. By the time the church was born and Christians began to point out how unsuitable the O.T. laws were to a dispersed people', it was already too late for such an argument to be relevant. The Israelite religion had by then become what it had not been before; it had become Judaism.


In the words of one modern Jew "Judaism is not the religion of the Old Testament; rather, it is a development out of the ancient Hebrew Scriptures as much as Christianity This doesn't mean, though, that the Jews no longer use the Old Testament: "The issue of Modern Judaism is not: Do Jews still believe the old myths? It is rather: How have the old myths been transformed?"' Another Jewish author puts it like this: "The sages found many Biblical statements literally untenable but reinterpreted them...The tradition never succumbed to the error of assuming that words are rigid, with fixed, unchanging meanings. Words, like life itself, were not considered to be static. That is why, in Judaism, Torah did not stop with the Bible". In a nutshell, Judaism is the Old Testament + the Oral Law + human interpretation and application.

Keep in mind that no Torah or rabbi is ever slavishly followed. A modern rabbi put it like this: "Judaism is not a system of dogmas but a belief that demands that the faith be shown and fulfilled in the deed"5. Another wrote "Judaism is concerned first and foremost with works. It judges man by his conduct without inquiring into his beliefs. There is no catechism to which a Jew must subscribe at his Bar Mitzvah or when he joins a synagogue'.

Unlike the religion of the Old Testament, Judaism is a religion of variety. "Since the idea of a set dogma is alien to Jewish belief, one may assume that there are wide variations of Jews"'. Indeed! In it's earliest days we read of Pharisees, S:-Alucees, and zealots of all sorts. Mystics ranged from the Thereputea of Egypt' to the ascetics at Khirbet Qumran and beyond. Other sources speak of Basmotheans, Ebionites, and Hermobaptists9, and yet this is only the tip of the ice burg. Some sought the words of the Sibyl'

Eusebius Proof 1.3

Neusner Way of the Torah p. 3

3 Ibid., p. 129

Barish Varieties of Jewish Belief pp. 95-96 5 Kalir Intro. to Judaism p. 63

Pool Why I Am a Jew p. 75

7 Gross 1001 Q & A about Judaism p. 3

Philo On the Contemplative Life 1-2 Notice that Philo distinguishes between kinds of ascetics. There is little need to force the community of Qumran into any known category.

9 Apostolic Constitutions sec. 7

1" The Sibyl is pictures as an old woman uttering ecstatic prophesies. Originating in Greek folklore, it was believed that she ever lived to speak through willing participants. It caught on with Jews who later claimed that the Sibyl was a daughter (or daughter-in-law) of Noah (SibOr 1.289, 3.827). Early Christians

while others fashioned testarneint4 apocriypses, each having it's own circles of influence.

Judaism is even more diver - today. "The modern Jewish scene affords us the colorful spectacle of Orthodox Jews and Reform r;onservative Jews and Reconstructionist Jews... Hasidic Jews and Secularist Jews, Zionist Jews and N Zionist Jews, Socialist Jews and politically neo-Conservative Jews, and when each of these groups just _Jentionecl has it's own subdivisions, then the present situation is not without historical precedent. Perhu the only difference between the present situation and the Jewries of earlier generations is that earlier'generations were perhaps more likely to reach some consensus in religious matters'. Some suggest that we stop speaking of Judaism altogether and instead speak of Judaisms12.


He may love a good BLT and travel a thousand miles every Sabbath. He'll try to be happy on the festivals and sabbaths", and on the Passover, he may even leave a place set for Elijah, even he or she doesn't believe that sort of old rubbish". They identify with the historical struggle of their own people, and above all, they just want to be left alone.


Judaism is not exclusive, nor do they claim that they alone shall inherit the world to come. "No Jew would say that all religions except Judaism alone, are false"th. Judaism prays for "the Messianic day when all men shall live together in social comity and world brotherhood's. The desire to have God accept the Gentiles was prevalent even in New Testament times, for Josephus records that sacrifices were made in the temple for the Emperor twice a day (Wars 2.197). Supposedly also, on the 8th day of every Feast of Tabernacles, 70 bullocks were sacrificed on behalf of the 70 nations (b. Sukkah 55b). Indeed, Israel exists for the salvation of the Gentiles, not their condemnation: "On three things does the world stand: On the Torah, and on the temple service, and on deeds of loving kindness" (m. Abot 1:2 B). It is often suggested that the Gentiles are required to obey the seven Noahide laws', but let's face it, you really don't have to. Instead, Gentiles are saved by the merit (Zekhut) of Israe118, or perhaps the best of us are judged to the credit of the rest19. How's that for a lucky break?

frequently quoted from about a dozen of the Sibylline Oracles that emerged from Jewish circles. See Charlesworth Old Testament Pseudepigrapha vol. 1

Petuchowski When Jews and Christians Meet p. 166

12 Neusner Studying Classical Judaism pp. 17-18

13 Being happy on Holy Days is taken so far that it is even considered wrong to confess sins on the Sabbath. See Neusner Way of the Torah p. 61.

14 Kalir Intro. to Judaism p. 22 "as a symbol of the coming redemption."

15 Barish Varieties of Jewish Belief p. 144

16 de Pool Why I am a Jew p. 96

17 b. Sanhedrin 56a They are: "The practice of equity, prohibitions against blaspheming the Name, idolatry, immorality, bloodshed, robbery, and devouring the limb of a live animal."

18 b. Baba Batra 10b, Leviticus Rabbah on 23:3 "For the sake of the rose, the orchard shall be spared, and by the merit of the Torah and Israel shall the world be saved".

19 P. Rosh Hashshanah 57a


Judaism holds that there are two Torah, both given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, one is written (the 0.T.) and the other was oral:

m. Abot

1:1 A. Moses received Torah at Sinai and handed it on to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets.

    1. And the prophets handed it on to the men of the great assembly.
    2. And they said three things:
        1. "Be prudent in judgment.
        2. "Raise up many disciples.
        3. "Make a fence for the Torah."

The first document of the oral Torah was the Mishnah, an elaborate law code finished shortly after A.D. 200, A large expansion was soon made called the Tosefta. By A.D. 400, the Palestinian Talmud was completed, and by A.D. 600 the Babylonian Talmud was also complete. Also included as oral Torah are Targums and Midrash, written by prominent thinkers of the period. All these documents combined would make a small library. It's no wonder that the rabbis taught that the glory of the Lord does not alight on a virtuous man unless he is rich20; who else has the time to grasp the contents of so vast a body of laws? To make matters worse, the laws of the oral Torah are often given in the form of debates between conflicting opinions. Take, for instance, m. Mikvaot 1:5. The subject is water pools used for ritual immersion. If, during the rainy season, the pool is defiled by a corpse or an unclean person, when does the pool again become suitable for ritual immersion?

1:5 A. When is their purification?

    1. The House of Shammai say, "After they have formed the greater part and overflowed"
    2. And the House of Hillel say, "If they formed the greater part, though they did not overflow".
    3. R Simeon says "[If] they overflowed, even if they did not form the greater part". So, what's the average guy supposed to do when his laws are but an encyclopedia of contradiction? Simple, just do whatever everybody else is doing! The Talmud pictures Moses as saying "Sovereign of the Universe! Cause me to know what the final decision is on each matter of the law". He replied "The majority must be followed. When the majority declare a thing permitted, it is permissible, when the majority declares it forbidden, it is not allowed" (b. Sanhedrin 22a). On the other hand, any reasonable interpretation is good enough:

m. Eduyyot 1:5

    1. And why do they record the opinion of an individual along with that the majority, since the law follows the opinion of the majority?
    2. So that, if a court should prefer the opinion of the individual, it may decide to rely upon it. A truly skilled rabbi is no mere interpreter, but a living Torah. Neusner writes "Honor is due to the learned rabbi more than to the scroll of the Torah, for through his learning and logic he may alter the very content of Mosaic revelation. He is Torah'. The goal of the oral Torah is not to legislate rigid laws, but to draw people "to participate in the process of discovering principles and uncovering patterns of meaning"22. The very existence of the oral Torah is a guarantee that there can never be such a thing as "normative Judaism" or unity of judgment. These are foreign concepts to Judaism.


Zekhut is a treasury of accumulated merit similar in many ways to Catholicisms bank of good works. For a Jew it can be described as a lien on heaven' or an entitlement to heavenly favor'.

20 b. Nedarim 38a, b. Shabbat 92a

21 Neusner Way of the Torah p. 67

22 The Mishnah Intro. p. xxvii

23 Neusner Studying Classical Judaism p. 147

m. 2-.1b0 i h

    1. He who brings me: at] to the community never causes sin.
    2. And he who causes ti ,,onim unity to sin- they never give him a sufficient chance to attain penitence.
    3. Moses attained rneri, [zekliut] and bestowed merit [zekhut] to the community.
    4. So the merit [zekhut] of the community is assigned to his credit. Whatever virtue one lacks as an individual, one can make up for through zekhut:

Song of Songs Rabbah to 1:5

    1. I am very dark, but comely [0 daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon] (Songs 1:5).
    2. "I am dark" in my deeds.
    3. "But comely" in the deeds of my forebears.

What does one have to do to tap into this entitlement to heavenly favor? Not much!

P. Taanit 1:4

Q. In a dream of R. Abbahu, Mr. Pentakaka [five sins] appeared, who prayed that rain would come, and it rained. R. Abbahu sent and summoned him. He said to him "What is your trade?"

He said to him "Five sins does that man [I] do every day, [for I am a pimp] hiring whores, cleaning up the theatre, bringing home their garments for washing, dancing, and performing before them".

    1. He said to him "And what sort of decent thing have you ever done?"
    2. He said to him "One day that man [I] was cleaning the theatre, and a woman came and stood behind a pillar and cried. I said to her "What's with you?" And she said to me "That woman's [my] husband is in prison and I wanted to see what I can do to free him". So I sold my bed andcover and I gave the proceeds to her and said "Here is your money, free your husband, but do not sin."'
    3. He said to him "You are worthy of praying and having your prayers answered." Even someone who lives as debased a life as one can live, and more to the point, who does so every day, can gain zekhut by even one act of extraordinary act of kindness.26 Thus, the zekhut outweighs a life of sin.' Sure, you really should lead a pious, God fearing life, but thanks to zekhut, you really don't have to! It saves Israel, it saves the world. The fact that it gives a pimp the power of a prophet says it all.


One of the most basic principles of Bible obedience is that God's work must be done in God's way. Many practices that may seem like good works to men may in reality be our very undoing. It was probably during the Babylonian captivity that a novel idea arose. If the laws for temple purity are applied to the household, then the household can be clean without a. temple, and Torah can be kept without it as well. This also meant that those Jews living in dispersion would not have to feel forced into constant pilgrimages to the temple, for purity now had other means. This all seemed like a good idea at the time; after all, who can be against purity? What's so bad about escaping ritual defilement? Yet, once the temple had been bypassed in theory, it would no longer matter in the end if it was gone in practice. This was the first key point in the struggle between what was and what was to come. So we see then, that the religion of the Old Testament came to an end not because idolaters destroyed from without but because eager beavers reinterpreted it from within. Judaism began with a new hermeneutic.

We know that "baptism" did not begin with John because Jews had already been writing on the subject for at least a century and a half before him. In Geza Vermes The Dead Sea Scrolls in English 3rd

24 Ibid., p. 156

25 By becoming a prostitute.

26"R. Eleazar b. Jacob says "He who does even a single religious duty gets himself a good advocate" m. Abot 4:11 A

27 Neusner Studying Classical Judaism p. 151 13

Ed., there are at least 16 direct references to ritual immersion. Bear in mind that Vermes book is less than 30% of the total Dead Sea Scroll material. They immersed, and did so frequently. Immersion was part of the way of holiness taught by Jesus ben Sirach' and practised by inter-testamental Jews such as Judith (Judith 12:7-9). It is also true that pre-A.D. 70 synagogues each had a inikvah (Jewish immersion pool), most notably the synagogue at the Herodium, which was built at least two full decades before John's birth.

In the Mishnah, an entire tractate (Mikvaot) is dedicated to immersion laws, and outside of this tractate lay hundreds of other references to it as well. Here is a sampling:

m. Pesahim 8:8

    1. One who has suffered a bereavement of a close relative immerses and eats his Passover in the evening.
    2. but [he may not eat any other] Holy Things [in that evening].
    3. He who hears word [of the death of a close relative], and he who is gathering up bones immerses and eats Holy Things.
    4. A proselyte who converted on the eve of the Passover-
    5. the House of Shammai say "He immerses and eats his Passover offering in the evening". The issue of who should eat the Seder is only part of the issue of cleanliness, for utensils also have to be immersed;" but when?

m. Besah 2:2

    1. [If the festival day] coincided with the day after the Sabbath,
    2. the House of Shammai say "They immerse everything before the Sabbath".
    3. And the House of Hillel say "Utensils [are to be immersed] before the Sabbath
    4. But man [may immerse] on the Sabbath htselfl".

People, utensils, and even some foods were subject to immersion laws. There were even laws regulating the amount of water:

m. Mikvaot 7:6

    1. An immersion pool which contains exactly forty seahs-
    2. two people went down and immersed in it, one after the other-
    3. the first is dean, the second is unclean.
    4. R. Judah says "If the foot of the first one were touching the water [as the second immersed], even the second person is clean".

Since 40 seahs' of water is the minimum required amount of water necessary for a valid immersion, it follows that if even a few drops were removed (such as the water that remains on an immersed person), the pool will be invalidated. Through a quirky leap of reasoning, Rabbi Judah counted the first person as a legitimate extension of the mikvah, provided he was touching it as the other immersed, thus the pool still arguably contains 40 seahs.

The problem with ritual immersion as it arose in the inter-testamental period is that it undermined the importance of the temple and the priesthood. The battle over the absolute authority of the written Old Testament would decide which religion would die and which would live. Judaism lived. Modern Jews really don't care about "washing" or "ritual immersion", and the very few strict communities left that practice it mainly apply it to women after menstruation. Don't look for a mikvah if you visit a synagogue. There isn't one.


We have already seen that the oral laws of purity by-passed the need for priests. In the days of Jesus and Paul, most people saw the temple as important but not completely necessary. Judaism, by contrast, holds the priesthood to completely unnecessary and entirely irrelevant. "Judaism has no

28 Ecclesiasticus 34:25 (= 31:25 Da). This practice stemmed from Num. 19:11-12.

29 See Mark 7:4

About 120 gallons

interce. each pers jr, ecnit his own way'31. Unlike Christianity, Judaism holds that

there is no mediator, and no savinr 1 'a:A God and man'', "it is a directness between God and man. No

interceding, no middlemen, Man .s bare, yet strong and hopeful"33.


In the inter-testamental period, there was a growing disenchantment with things connected with the temple. Many ascetics, such as those at Qumran, chose not to participate at all in the temple service, holding instead that the community itself was a living sacrifice. This was part of the groundwork for the later claim that deeds of loving kindness were the only real sacrifices of God. "Once, as R. Yohanan b. Zakkai was coming out of Jerusalem, R. Joshua followed him, and behold, the temple lay behind them in ruins. "Woe unto us", R. Joshua cried, "that this place, the place where the iniquities of Israel were atoned for, is laid waste". "My son", R. Yohanan said, "be not grieved. We have an atonement as effective as this. And what is it? It is acts of loving kindness, as it is said For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice'. Notice how these good works replace temple and priest:

m. Abot 1:12

    1. Hillel and Shammai received it from them.
    2. Hillel says "Be disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace and drawing near to the Torah".

m. Abot 3:3

    1. R. Simeon says "three who at a single table and did not talk about the teachings of the Torah while at the table are as though they ate from dead sacrifices (Ps. 106:29)
    2. as it is said For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness [if they are] without God (v. 28).
    3. "But three who ate at a single table and did talk about teachings Torah while at that table are as if they ate at the table of the Omni-present, blessed is He
    4. as it is said And he said to me, This is the table that is before the before the Lord (Ezek. 41:22)"

Imminent among these good works is the study of the Torah, as explained in the following midrash: Pesiqta deRab Kahana 5 111.2

    1. R. Aha in the name of R. Hanina: "It was so that the Israelites should not say "in the past we offered sacrifices and so were engaged [in study about] them, but now that we do not offer them anymore, we also need not study them anymore".
    2. Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to them "Since you engage in studying about them, it is as if you have actually carried them out".


"Judaism does not believe that the soul is threatened in a way requiring outside rescue... The soul needs no saving because it is not lost; it needs no raising up because it is not fallen"36. "The Jew believes profoundly in the possibilities of purity of the human soul. He rejects the teaching which depicts the soul as held in the grip of sin, and repudiates a way of life which tends to a continued self-flagellation and a morbid ingrowing sense of sin'''. The religion of the Old Testament holds that sin is a transgression of

31 Gross 1001 Q & A About Judaism p. 14

32 Kalir Intro, to Judaism p. 81

33 Ibid., p. 15

34 1QS VIII, 4Q512, 11QPsa 18:10-11 Abot de Rabbi Nathan trans. Goldin, 34 36 Barish Varieties of Jewish Belief p. 200 n de Pool Why I Am a Jew p. 114

God's law which leaves a lasting debt of guilt upon the soul. Judaism, by contrast, holds that sin is simply an act of poor moral taste with no real affect upon the soul, "sin is anything diametrically opposite of good'38.


The Old Testament day of Atonement, once so celebrated as a yearly act of God's grace, has now become a yearly rededication to man saving himself. "If he chooses to do evil, no grace can atone for it... Remorse means that we can find the way back to God in the same way as a child finds his way back to a loving father or mother... Remorse is a kind of being born again. God makes a New Covenant with the new human being. Before God, the individual atones for himself'''. While commenting on the meaning of the Day of Atonement, Rabbi de Pool writes "The obligation rests inescapably on each to cleanse his own soul though communing and finding the right way of life by inward struggle'.

In the earlier days of Judaism, atonement meant something more like what it meant in the Old Testament, but with a few odd twists. For instance, there was a widespread belief that death atoned for sin:

m. Sanhedrin 6:2

    1. [When] he was 10 cubits from the place of stoning, they say to him "Confess", for it is usual for those about to be put to death to confess.
    2. For whoever confesses has a share in the world to come.

D. And if he doesn't know how to confess, they say to him "Say as follows", "Let my death be atonement for all my transgressions".

The death of a righteous man atones not just for his own sins, but for the sins of the whole people as well". Even weirder, some Dead Sea Scrolls contain the belief the a sinners death can atone for the sins of the whole people'. Early Judaism even had room for a few mediator figures such as Phineas43 or Moses" who ever lived to make atonement as eternal priests. Such a belief is now gone.


No messiah at all. "In Reform and Orthodoxy alike theology parted company from Messianism by so reconstructing the messianic hope as to render it something entirely different from what it had been'''. He means that Jews believe in a Messianism without a Messiah: "As we shall see, in modern times the Messiah became the "messianic hope" and Jews talked about a "messianic age" rather than a single, wonderful man'''. The new messiah is a time and a place, not a man. "Why can we believe in the messianic age even if we do not believe in the messiah? Judaism can function without the messiah; it cannot function without the messianic vision and without man's commitment to the moral effort that is

38 Gross 1001 Q & A About Judaism p. 32 3' Kalir Intro. to Judaism p. 89

40 de Pool Why I Am a Jew p. 115

41 Moed Qatan 28a, Exodus Rabbah on 35:4

42 1Q34, 4Q508 fr. 1

43 Ps. Philo 48, Origen Commentary on John 6.7, Targum Ps. Jonathan on Genesis 49:1 and on Num. 25:12, Numbers Rabbah on 33:4, Genesis Rabbah 96:3 1G

" b. Sotah 14a, Song of Songs Rabbah on Songs 1:2 (MI 9E)

45 Neusner Way of the Torah p. 123

46 Ibid., p. 44

indispensable ti it's reaiL


Early Judaism had it's shai, of messianic confusion. Earliest Judaism had room for not one, but at least three or more messiahs. The Messiah son of David was the old stand by, but rival traditions arose concerning other messiahs. One of the "other" messiahs was the Messiah son of Ephraim/Joseph. Targum on Song of Songs 4:5 reads "Your tv .) deliverers who are destined to deliver you, the Messiah the son of David and the Messiah son of Ephr,iim are like Moses and Aarom...". The Babylonian Talmud finds him in Zech, 12:10 "The Messiah son of Joseph was slain, as it was written They shall look upon me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son" (b. Sukkah 52a)48. A few of the Dead Sea Scrolls mentions another messianic duo, the messiahs of Aaron and Israel'. Others of the (Dead Sea) Scrolls only mention one messiah, the branch of Davie. This has led some to conjecture that Qumran had room for three messiahs, not two. As a precursor to the modern view (no messiah), the fourth century Rabbi Hillel said "Israel has no Messiah (yet to come) since he already enjoyed him in the days of Hezekiah" (b. Sanhedrin 98b).


The messiahs of Judaism are entirely human and not one whit divine in any matter or measure. They are not divine. As messianic concepts were re-shaped (along with the rest of the 0.T.), those verses which made the Messiah out to be God were recast to fit a new mold. Targum Jonathan reads Is. 9:6 as "his name has been called by the one who gives wonderful counsel, the mighty God, who lives forever". Even when Jews called the Messiah "Wonderful Counselor", they were very careful to make sure they did not quote the rest of that verse'. From Enoch to Talmud to Targum, the "Son of God" is used as a messianic title, but never is it meant in the literal way in which Jesus meant it. Outside of the Septuagint, there is no room for any virgin birth'.


In Rabbinic Judaism, the Messiah is an ideal world leader who will deliver the Jews from all oppression and usher in an age of universal peace for all humankind. It matters little whether or not you "believe in him", because his work is not contingent upon your faith. The Messiah is about a belief in God, not a belief in his agent. In the words of Yohanan ben Zakkai "If you have a sapling in your hand and it is said to you, "Behold, there is the messiah"- go on with your planting, and afterwards go out to greet him. And if the youths say to you "Let us go up and build the temple", do not believe them. But if the elders say to you "Come, let us destroy the temple", listen to them" (Abot de Rabbi Nathan Text B, ch. 31). Even in the old days, there was a general feeling that messiahs only caused trouble: "With the footprints of the Messiah:

Barish Varieties of Jewish Belief p. 179

48 Also b. Baba Batra 123b, Song of Songs Rabbah to 4:5

49 1QS 9:11-12, CD VIII B2, XII-XIII

5 4QBless, 4Q174, 4Q161 fr. 8-10 1.11-24

51 1QH 3:5

52 The LXX stood alone in translating Is. 7:14 in a way which could only mean "virgin". Most other translations of the day read "young woman". The LXX had other little peculiarities ("good news", etc.) that made it a natural choice for Christians. Even though the Jews had once been proud of what a fine work they had done in the LXX, they quickly turned on it after the spread of Christianity, treating it as a heretic's handbook.

presumption increases, and dearth increases" (m. Sotah 9:15 W). You say to your Jewish friend "Believe that Jesus is the Messiah", and they think to themselves "If he were the Messiah, then I would not have to believe in him".


Jesus claimed too much authority to be the kind of messiah expected by the rabbis. The messiahs of Rabbinic Judaism are all great teachers but they NEVER intend to replace Moses. Maimonides, the great Jewish philosopher (A.D. 1135-1204) taught in accordance with tradition that the Messiah is almost as good as Moses, not superior to Moses". Typical of the earlier traditions was the belief that the messiahs would be dependant upon the judgment of the priests'. To a Jew, Jesus is hypocritical in his claims to keeping the law because he intended all along to change the law, "nailing it to the cross".


"In the Bible, there is one redeemer-God"55. That sums it up. Targum Jonathan on Is. 53:12 re-casts that verse so that the suffering servant only pleads for, and not dies for, the forgiveness of Israel's sins. There is no room in Judaism for any messiah whose goal is to die, most especially so on a cross. The idea that God would want or accept such a thing is an abomination to Jews.


Why not Jesus? "This messiah did not save Israel from her enemies, bring about the restoration of glory to Israel, or inaugurate the Kingdom of God on Earth during his lifetime"". Other Jews insist that if Jesus were a messiah, he would have gotten all the nations to beat their swords into ploughshares long ago57. The messiahs of Judaism are all great politicians, but Jesus never desired office. It was taken for granted that the Messiah would be a man of war", but Jesus, even at the climax of his ministry, had but two swords among his disciples (Luke 22:38). Jewish messiahs save society, but Jesus wanted to save souls. This is to say nothing of the fact that the modern messiah is not even a person, but a time and place.

Just about every proof that we use to prove that Jesus was the Messiah is a proof to the Jews that he could not be any messiah. Here lies the folly of the cross: It is a stumbling block to the Jews who allege "that it is not credible that God should have exposed His own son to that kind of death, because he himself said Cursed is everyone who shall have hung upon a tree"59. To the Greeks it is foolishness: "To say that their ceremonies center on a man put to death for his crime, and on the fatal wood of the cross, is to assign to these abandoned wretches sanctuaries which are appropriate to them and the kind of worship they deserve'. "Everywhere they speak in their writings of the tree of life and of resurrection of the flesh by the tree- I imagine because their master was nailed to a cross and was a carpenter by trade. So that if he not an old woman who sings a star all a little child to sleep have been ashamed to whisper such tales as these?"61. Maybe reading all thi:.; convinces you that it is almost impossible to convince a Jew that Jesus was the Christ. I hope so. How else will we ever understand 1 Cor. 1:18-24? Our message doesn't make as much sense as we think.

Maimonides Mishnah Torah Melakim 9:4 4Q161, 1QpIsa. VIII-XI, 23

Barish Varieties of Jewish Belief p. 170

56 Ibid., p. 174

57 de Pool Why I Am a Jew p. 122

58 The only exception I know of is in Philo On Rewards and Punishments sec. 93, where Philo supposes that there is a chance that the Messiah may not have to wage war on the condition that the Gentiles quickly come to their senses and make peace. Even in this context, however, the Messiah is the general of the army and conducts his affairs accordingly.

59 Tertullian An Answer to the Jews ch. 10 so Minucius Felix Octavius 9.4

had happened to be thro off a ul ct into a pit, or suffocated by strangling, or if he had been

a cobbler or stone mason or black .m th:ae would have been a cliff of life above the heavens, or a pit of

resurrection, or a rope of immortalit7, a blessed stone or an iron of love, or a holy hide of leather. Would


Re-interpretation is a key trade of covenant breakers. Most "christians" who practice it like to claim that they aren't taking any liberties with the text. A much more refreshing honesty is found among the Jews in this matter, after all, they no longer believe in inspired texts so they aren't worried about blowing the cover on any hidden agenda. Shaye Cohen, professor of Jewish History at Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, says this about the affects that (re)interpretation had on the history of their own religion: "Through the power of interpretation the Jews were able to free themselves from the laws of the Torah which they found difficult, unethical, harsh, or unreasonable, but they would rarely admit that they were overturning the sacred text. They insisted that they were merely interpreting it"'. He has also observed an inherent dishonesty in it all; "even as the Jews declared their loyalty to scripture they liberated themselves from it...all interpretations were permitted as long as they could somehow be tied to the text". The affects of such a trade can even be seen in what is happening now to the constitution: "The Supreme Court pretends to "interpret" the Constitution, but, of course, routinely interprets it in a manner that would have amazed the Founding Fathers'.

New hermeneutics, by design, destroy the historical, intended meaning of any text. This is what made Moses ben Maimondes so celebrated by modern Judaism. Way back in his day, many Jews were reading the Talmuds in a fundamental sense, meaning that they were treating many of it's decrees as rigid laws. His genius was that he not only reminded the Jews that the reasoning process is itself a divine thing (for it is that process that creates oral Torah), but he went even farther and demonstrated what the reasoning process of the sages was; a mix of Aristotlean and Neo-Platonic logic". Thus he identified the new hermeneutic that brought the Mishnah out of the Old Testament. This was the reasoning that destroyed a religion, and everybody loved it. Few, if any, realized at that time how far their descendants would take this principle; it makes humanism divine. As more and more "brethren" search harder and harder for alternative methods of attaining Bible authority, I wonder, what will the new religion be like? Judaism has provided the answer.

61 Origen Against Celsus 6.34 Quoted from Wilkin Christians as the Romans saw them p. 96

62 Cohen From the Maccabees to the Mishnah p. 181

63 Ibid., p. 193

64 p. 206

65 Heschel Maimonides p. 25, 169. Neusner Studying Classical Judaism p. 130, Way of the Torah p. 75

ss Barish Varieties of Jewish Belief p. 217

67 Ibid., p. 38

68 Ibid., p. 220 19


Modern Judaism has little place for heaven or hell, as these have become metaphors for spiritual fulfillment or the lack of it', and nobody believes in the devil' or angels' either. So, what's left for a religious person to do when every inconvenient, supernatural, and other-worldly element has been removed? Plenty! "The major concern has always been and is still very much, the religious effort to remove hell from this world and to build a heaven on this Earth"' What's left are the basic ideals of humanism in a monotheistic package.


The moral of the story:

Do you know the story of Judaism?

  1. It began as a quest for deeper spirituality, and ended by denying the existence of spirits.
  2. It started by granting to every man the power of a priest, and it ended with no need for priests.
  3. What started as just a few changes ended up becoming an entirely different religion.
  4. In the beginning it was God saving man and now all that's left is man saving himself.
  5. It happened because a few people found a new hermeneutic, and once they did there was no turning back.

What about the Romans? Didn't they destroy the religion of the Old Testament? The answer is no, they did not. Titus destroyed the temple, but it was the Jews who had already by-passed it through a new wave of purity laws. Titus paraded the Law as a trophy of war, but only after the Jews had made it a prisoner of interpretation. Solomon's temple and Herod's temple both fell on the 10th of Ab, but in A.D. 70 something was different. The Jews now had different options, and more of them. The old ways were an option. Do you see the point?

I've wanted you to see something in Judaism. Behind the zekhut, the debate method, the optimism; behind it all is a point of view that destroyed a religion, and I've wanted you to see these factors as they are at work in the church today. Behind the constant cleansing (apart from repentance and confession), behind the abuses of Romans 14, behind the accentuated positive; behind it all lies the same type of reasoning that bore Judaism out of the Old Testament. The moral of the story is: it is happening to us.


b. Babylonian Talmud m. Mishnah

P. Palestinian Talmud t. Tosefta


Babylonian Talmud, Trans. A. Mishcon c. 1959 ed. I Epstein, Rebecca Bennet Publications, Inc. The Mishnah: A New Translation, Trans. Jacob Neusner c. 1988, Yale University Press, London. The Tosefta, Trans. Jacob Neusner c. 1977, Ktav Publishing House, Inc., New York

Abrahams, Israel. Jewish Life in the Middle Ages c. 1969 Athenium, Jewish Publication Society New York. Barish, Louis and Rebecca Varieties of Jewish Belief c. 1979 Jonathan and David Publishers, New York.

Charlesworth, James (ed.) The Old Testament Pseudapigrapha Vol. I, Translation c. 1985, Doubleday & Co. Inc., New York.

-The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity c. 1992, Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis.

Cohen, Abraham, Everyman's Talmud, c. 1949, 1975 Schocken Books, New York.

Cohen, Shaye From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, c. 1987, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia.

Ibid., p. 218

Eusebius, Famphilius, T n Pro() trans. c. 1981, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids. Gross, David, 1001 Questions and Ans:,rs About Judaism c. 1978, Doubleday & Co. Inc., New York. Heschel, Abraham, PvIalmonides: The Life and Times of... c. 1982, Image Books, Doubleday, New York.

Josephus, Flavius, The Wars of the Jews, Trans. William Whiston c. renewed 1987, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody MA

Kalir, Joseph, Introduction to Judaism c. 1980, University Press of America, Washington, D.C.

Levey, Samson, The Messiah: Messianic Exegesis of the Targum c. 1974, Hebrew Union College Press. Neusner, Jacob, A Midrash. Reader, c. 1990 Fortress Press, Minneapolis.

-Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity, c. 1984, Fortress Press, Philadelphia.

-Studying Classical Judaism c. 1991, Westminster \ John Knox Press, Louisville.

-The Way of the Torah, c. 1979 Wadsworth, Inc., Duxbury Press, Belmont, CA.

Origen, Against Celsus, Trans. Fredrick Crombie, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, T&T Clark \ Eerdmans, Grand Rapids.

-Commentary on John, Trans. Allan Menzies, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. X, T&T Clark \ Eerdmans, Grand Rapids.

Petuchowski, Jakob (ed.) When Jews and Christians Meet, c. 1988 State University of New York Press.

Philo On Rewards and Punishments Trans. F.H. Colson c. 1941, 1985. Philo Vol. VIII, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press.

-On the Contemplative Life, Trans. F.H. Colson c. 1941, 1985 Philo Vol. IX, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press.

Pool, David de Sola, Why I Am, a Jew, c. 1957, Thomas Nelson Publishers, New York.

Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews, Trans. S. Thelwall, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, T&T Clark \ Eerdmans, Grand Rapids.

Twersky, Isadore, Introduction to the Code of Mairnonides, c. 1980, Yale University Press, New Haven and London,

Vermes, Geza, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 3rd Ed. c. 1987, Sheffield Acedemic Press, Ltd. London.

by Lance E. Bailles


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