Saturday, January 24, 2015

Strong Evidence that the Talmudic-Era Rabbis Rejected the One-Law Doctrine Taught by Second-Temple-Era Rabbis

Earlier today I was reading Rambam's letter to Hasdai Halevi and noticed that Rambam's quote of the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin, Folio 59a) appeared to change the quote from an anti-One-Law position (since the Talmudic version reinterprets "Torah" in the context as referring to the "Gentile's Torah" or "Noahide Laws") to a Pro-One-Law position:
"As to your question about the nations, know that the Lord desires the heart, and that the intention of the heart is the measure of all things.  That is why our sages say 'The pious men among the Gentiles have a share in the World-to-Come,' namely, if they have acquired what can be acquired of the knowledge of God, and if they ennoble their souls with worthy qualities.  There is no doubt that every man who ennobles his soul with excellent morals and wisdom based on the faith in God, certainly belongs to the men of the World-to-Come.  That is why our sages said, 'Even a non-Jew who studied the Torah of our master Moses resembles the High Priest," Rambam, Letter to Hasdai Halevi, 12th Century, as quoted in Jacob S. Minkin's "The Teachings of Maimonides"
To what Sages does he refer?  I thought naively that he was referring to this passage:
"R. Johanan said: A heathen who studies the Torah deserves death, for it is written, Moses commandedus a law for an inheritance; it is our inheritance, not theirs. Then why is this not included in the Noachian laws? — On the reading morasha [an inheritance] he steals it; on the reading me'orasah[betrothed], he is guilty as one who violates a betrothed maiden, who is stoned.  An objection is raised: R. Meir used to say. Whence do we know that even a heathen who studies the Torah is as a High Priest? From the verse, [Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments:] which, if man do, he shall live in them.  Priests, Levites, and Israelites are not mentioned, but men: hence thou mayest learn that even a heathen who studies the Torah is as a High Priest! — That refers to their own seven laws," B.T., Sanhedrin, Folio 59a, taken from
But it turns out that there is a much earlier version of this in Sifra.  Sifra was a midrashic commentary on Leviticus that came out in the Second Temple era or perhaps circa the Bar Kochba revolt (see note at end of post).  Notice that the earlier Sifra version does not have anything in it about the so-called "Noahide Laws":
"From where do you know that a gentile who practices the Torah is equal to the High Priest?  There is a teaching in this respect in the Scriptural verse that reads, '[You shall observe my decrees and my laws,] which man shall carry out and by which he shall live' (Lev 18:5).  And likewise it says:  'This is the Torah of man, O Lord God' (2 Sam 7:19).  It does not say:  'This is the Torah of Priests, Levites, Israelites', but, 'This is the Torah of man,'" (Sifra, Ahare Mot 13:13, I. H. Weiss edition)
It's just purely One-Law.  I then realized that Rambam wasn't quoting from B.T. Sanhedrin 59a at all.  I only assumed that he was because I was unaware of the Sifra passage.  (However, Rambam elsewhere specifically references B.T. Sanhedrin 59a and incorporates it into his halachic decision-making).

The most frustrating thing about B.T. Sanhedrin 59a is that the underlying argument from Leviticus is that "man" (mankind broadly, not any particular ethnicity) is supposed to keep the chukim and mishpatim (i.e. the Torah of Moses, which is exactly what Rambam references in his letter) yet---YET--the Talmudic rabbis completely set this aside and replace it with the so-called "Noahide Laws."

Now, in defense of the rabbis, maybe they were reacting to Christian persecution at the time--I have no idea. But this little interpolation of Noahide Laws cannot be sustained in light of Jewish Tradition (from Sifra, and from the wording in Leviticus).

...unless someone has a different opinion.  I'm open to anything I may have missed.


"An early version of Sifra even dates back to Hasmonean times.  Stemberger, however, can prove that Finkelstein's arguments do not bear close examination.  The preferred exegetical rules of Ribbui (amplification) und Miut (restriction) rather show that the text in its oldest version can hardly have been written before 70 and in any case has to be dated to rabbinic times, to the decades after the Bar Kochba revolt at the earliest," Rendtorff, et al, "The Book of Leviticus:  Composition and Reception, Volume 93", pg. 407

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On Being Called a Liar in the Latest Rob & Caleb Show

I watched some of the latest Rob and Caleb show (LINK).  I was a little disappointed when Caleb called me a liar towards the end of the video.  He said it several times in reference to my post where I break down the claims of that awful video produced by some Israelis who hate the Rabbis and Jewish Tradition.  He said my characterizations of the claims in the video were lies--that I was lying.

Now, it's one thing to say "You made some inaccurate statements."  But it's quite another to say that someone is telling lies.  A lie is a statement that is intentionally deceptive.

And then Rob Vanhoff hopped on the bandwagon of hate and said that my blog has no content, nothing edifying.

A liar with nothing to contribute--that's what they think of me.  That really hurts.  Caleb thinks he has looked into my heart and seen this dark motivation to spread deceit.

Well, that's the hazards of blogging for you.

Dear Reader, I think you've gotten to know me in the last few years as I've written this blog.  I've shared some intimate details about my upbringing, the struggles I face.  I talk a lot.  I share these things because I love Messianics, I love the Jewish Roots of our faith, and I love talking about Judaism.  I've always loved Judaism.  I've always been made fun of for loving Jews and Judaism.  But my heart will always remain full of love for Israel.  Earlier today I was very concerned at the headlines that said Iran was planning to invade Northern Israel very soon.  These things concern me because G-d placed a deep love for Israel in my heart.  I don't feel like Israel is "them".  I feel "that's my people!"

And now Caleb is calling my heart into question.  I feel really hurt by that.

And despite what Rob Vanhoff said, I don't think my contribution has been worthless.  If nothing else, I hope others have enjoyed seeing another Messianic who is passionate about Scripture and Yeshua, a Messianic who hopes in a vision of a Messianic movement united and inclusive, where Jews and Gentiles can fellowship together in the same shul.  I hope for a movement that will survive the coming Apostasy, I hope that my family will survive the coming persecution.

I hope that you, Dear Reader, see my heart.

I hope.

Friday, January 16, 2015

One Law Revolt at Tikvat Israel

Just listened to a little of David Rudolph's sermon entitled "Why Zakenim??"  About 13 minutes into it, he mentions that there are some One Law interlopers at Tikvat causing trouble.  What kind of trouble?

They're talking about One Law (which is sin enough apparently) but they're also trying to get people to sign a petition to remove David Rudolph from office.

These One Law interlopers apparently feel that there is enough grass roots support for this to occur.


For the record, I had nothing to do with this...but naturally I support it.  The ironic thing is this:  the message is about Zekenim at Tikvat.  But Rudolph recently caused virtually all of the elders to leave.  They're now meeting at Grove Ave. Baptist Church on Saturday mornings.  Why Grove?  I have no idea except that I think it's odd OUT OF ALL THE CHURCHES IN RICHMOND they chose the one where my family visits.

So this post is just for the One Law folks in Richmond:  


Thursday, January 8, 2015

What to Do When You Realize They Don't Agree With You About Everything

By freak coincidence, some Israelis released a very polarizing video about the Oral Torah recently.  It says that the "Oral Torah", which is a term (maybe not the best term) for what ended up being the primary resource for all the modern Jewish traditions, that this "Oral Torah" was completely fabricated by the rabbis post 70 C.E. This is certainly timely as I seem to be the only guy in Messianic Judaism at the moment defending the rabbis.  Actually, that's not quite true.  McKee also defends them.

Back to the video...

So in the video there are these 2 Israelis and they tag team a diatribe against the rabbis and they actually say that the rabbis COMPLETELY invented the "Oral Torah", that it's something brand new post 70 C.E.  You can see it HERE.

Now, I love the guys and Torah Resource and I was wrong to jump the gun the other day and say they had censored me---I was responding from a place of hurt and acting irrationally.  That said, they are major teaching institution and so I'm still going to discuss the ideas that they present--just hopefully in a more respectful manner.

So yesterday I notice that Caleb Hegg said publicly on Facebook that this video by the Israelis "hit the nail on the head."  To be fair, his exact words were "Well these guys pretty much hit the nail on the head."  Actually, to be completely fair, here is a screen shot of the comment:

Now, the Italian in me responding with a sinking heart.  I felt like, "this is the end of the world."  How can the Messianic movement survive with this type of thinking?

REALITY CHECK:   the One Law movement agrees on the fundamentals and feeling sad about this is really the result of forgetting to look at the larger picture.

Fundamental #1:  Yeshua is our Savior.  He loves us imperfect humans and knows how to fix us.  He offers complete salvation to us by His grace, a salvation we could never earn.  We all agree on that.

Other fundamentals defining our little movement include the idea that Jews and Gentiles are both called to keep the Torah of Israel because all Believers in Yeshua belong to Israel.  Everyone in the One Law movement agrees on that.

Okay, so deep breaths.  The guys at Torah Resource don't agree with me on everything.  In fact, they apparently hate something that I love.  But, reality check, what we love unites us more than what we hate.

And, further reality check, someone's position on the Traditions shouldn't affect fellowship.

This post is really for me--I'm trying to remind myself that this is a hierarchy of fundamentals that unite us.  We have to fully accept one another based on these fundamentals.  I'm not articulating this very well at all but I think you all understand what I'm trying to say.



Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Apologies to Torah Resource

I recently wrote a post in which I vented some frustration at Torah Resource.  And I deleted it.  I think I blamed Torah Resource for the frustrations inherent in text communication and I failed to give them the benefit of the doubt.  So I'm apologizing here for my hot-headedness and I'll also send them a direct apology.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Standards of Conduct for Messianic Dialogue

I deleted the last post because I'm pretty angry at a certain institution right now and probably shouldn't reference them while angry.

But I think there should be some specific standards for online dialogue between Messianics:

In no particular order...

  • Moderated discussion forums are really terrible.  I know the James Pyles of the world think each website owner is an autocratic ruler who can censor whatever he wants, but I don't share that sentiment.  I value freedom of speech.  I can't stand censorship!  I hate it.  Now, if someone starts deliberately spamming or something like that--that's different.  Spam comments actually destroy everyone's ability to speak freely.  But generally it's a really terrible thing to moderate.  If someone says something off topic then ignore them--don't delete them.  That's just not cool.  
  • Next, it's okay to hold people accountable and ask hard questions.  In some cultures (e.g. Christian), that's considered rude.  I hate Christian culture.  I absolutely hate it.  But in Jewish culture, having heated disagreements isn't considered rude at all because of the value of free speech.  In Jewish culture, if someone teaches something wrong and you don't challenge them then you are the only being rude for not challenging them and treating them like a real person.
  • Last thing I'll say:  if you're having a discussion with a fellow Messianic Believer, don't say anything unfriendly to them.  You should show some hospitality and make them feel welcome.  Inviting discussion is the polite thing to do.  A mature Messianic should never be curt with a fellow Messianic.  He must always make him feel welcome.  For example, whenever Dan Benzvi calls me a false teacher or whatever, I try to be nice or even give a blessing.  I welcome other points of view and I welcome criticism of me personally.  I welcome the Dan Benzvis of the world.  
  • It should go without saying that nothing says "get lost" like censorship.  Outright censoring other points of view is just wrong.  Again, Pyles loves to do it, Derek Leman loves to do it.  I think it's just plain wrong.  If your viewpoint is correct then it will survive in the open marketplace of ideas.  Justice Potter Stewart said, "Censorship reflects a society's lack of confident in itself."  That's true.  However you could also say, "Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in its ideas."  

Monday, January 5, 2015

Did the Apostles Use Normative Jewish Tradition to Resolve Ambiguities in the Written Torah?

So here's another highlight from the on-going dialogue with Rob Vanhoff.  This highlights that a reasonable person (such as Vanhoff) must acknowledge 2 things with respect to viable Messianic halacha:  (1) there are ambiguities in the written Torah and (2) there are instances in the Apostolic writings where the Apostles used normative Jewish traditions to inform the way in which they resolved the ambiguities in the written Torah.  Rob accepts the latter point only insofar as he admits that Acts 1:12 is evidence of a traditional "limitation" with respect to walking on the Sabbath.  However, it should be noted that the ONLY explanation for this limitation is found in Jewish Tradition (e.g. Talmud).  You'll not find this explained anywhere in the written Torah (including the Apostolic Writings).


Peter January 4, 2015 at 4:48 pm
Re: “For me, ambiguities in the Torah are not a distress call requiring immediate rabbinic attention.”
This is progress. It is intellectually honest to admit that there are ambiguities in the written Torah.
If this is all the progress we make in this thread, I am happy. But I think you can take one more step towards identifying how these ambiguities can be resolved because it’s a step that was taken by Yeshua and by the Apostles.
Here’s a few examples:
Yeshua wore tzitzit based on Jewish tradition. Yeshua wore tefillin based on Jewish tradition (this is implied in Matt. 23:5 in which Yeshua does not criticize the Pharisees for wearing phylacteries but rather for making them “broad” in order to “be seen”). The Apostles respected the perimeter rule for “makom” in Acts 1:12. Paul took a Nazirite vow in Acts 21 to prove he taught people to “tois ethesin peripatein”. By the way, the word peripatein refers to halachah. So the idea there is that Paul taught people to use the customs to inform their halachah.
If Yeshua and the Apostles can use Jewish tradition to resolve ambiguities in the written Torah then I see no reason why I shouldn’t do the same.

Rob Vanhoff January 4, 2015 at 6:45 pm
You still sound like you’re saying there was a monolithic “Jewish tradition.”
I don’t think that when Yeshua tied tzitzit He ever thought, “This is the only correct and official way, defined by oral Torah, to tie tzitzit.” And I think it’s clear He saw the make and manner of the Scribes’ and Pharisees’ tzitzit and tefillin as actually contrary to the spirit of the Torah, regardless of the “oral Torah” those authorities associated with.
Yes, a “Sabbath day’s journey” does seem to imply a limited kind of walking with respect to Shabbat. As I cited a few replies back, many examples of this type are given in the article by Tim Hegg. This does not mean that the answer is to be found in the Mishnah; and as I’ve said from the beginning, my opinion is that “torah shebeal peh” is inappropriate terminology because it is anachronistic and changes the meaning of a key rabbinic concept.
You suggest, “Yeshua and the Apostles [used] Jewish tradition to resolve ambiguities in the written Torah…” I disagree. They did not read the Torah, find an “ambiguity,” and then ask their local rabbi or consult “oral Torah” for the official solution; but this evidently does describe your approach. Rather, Yeshua taught Torah, and “not as the Scribes.” His disciples did not fast when there was a traditional “halakhic” expectation that they do so. Yeshua taught them a different perspective on hand-washing than what the traditional “halakhah” expected. Same with types of korban “traditions.” He most certainly knew the difference between “paradosis” and the Word. As far as Yeshua is concerned, “rabbinic halakhah” was (and is) not the Word of God. But according to Orthodox Judaism, the “Halakhah” is binding and is the very Word of God.
So, if you are happy with this thread, that’s great. I am not. I’m still waiting to hear your definitions of “work,” “load,” and “place,” and what your sources are. I’ve asked that a few times now and am getting the sense you’re skirting the question.


I haven’t skirted anything. There’s only one primary source for a complete halachic treatment of Jewish traditions (emphasis on the word complete). When I cited to “Jewish tradition”, I gave you all the information you needed to know. You just, for whatever reason, find an accurate answer to be inadequate.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Full Dialogue with Vanhoff as of 1/2/2015

The following is a dialogue between myself and Rob Vanhoff regarding the question of whether David Stern was correct to assert that an oral tradition has always been a "necessary adjunct" to the written Torah.  I take Stern's position; Vanhoff takes the opposing position.

Who is correct?  That's for you, Dear Reader, to decide.