Thursday, August 30, 2012

Approaches to Messianic Halacha: An Introduction

Approaches to Messianic Halacha:  An Introduction

The Nature of Authority

What is authority?  Authority is the power to persuade or coerce.

The Types of Authority

There are two general types of authority:  (1) personal authority, that of an individual and; (2) institutional authority.

Institutional authority can be broken down into several sub-types:  (1) legal authority; (2) textual authority; (3) traditional authority; (4) local, contemporary communities as interpretative institutions; (5) hermeneutical principles.

The Scope of Authority

Why should someone hearken to an authority?  First, it's important to understand that all legitimate authority is derived from G-d.  This tells us that laws are only legitimate when they represent the will of G-d.

The Bible as Textual Authority

One of the premises of Judaism is that the Written Torah is the primary authority as to how we discern the will of G-d.  However, Judaism teaches that the Written Torah is only useful when there is a community in place with the authority to interpret the text.

A History of the Institutional Authorities in Israel

G-d told Moses to create a seat of federal authority comprised of seventy duly elected, representative leaders.  This was the LEGISLATIVE branch (Numbers 11).  It later became known as the Sanhedrin.  And it only had authority insofar as the Ruach empowered it.  This is from Numbers 11 in that some of the Ruach on Moshe was bestowed on the seventy zekenim.  But it did not remain on them.

Moses also created a JUDICIAL branch (Deut 17).  They had limited jurisdiction and only had authority when they were in "the place the Lord your God will choose" (i.e. the Temple).

These institutions responsible for governing the edah--the entire polity of Israel--have since been dissolved which means that the edah is not functioning as an edah at the moment.  It also means something else rather important for our purposes here.

Since the Talmud is not centered in "the place the Lord your God will choose" (i.e. the Temple) and since a textual authority cannot be the federal institution alluded to in Numbers 11 (i.e. Sanhedrin), the Talmud cannot have the highest form of authority.  But does it hold any authority?

The only conceivable authority that the Talmud (i.e. Oral Torah) could hold is that of traditional authority.  But, as previously explained, a traditional authority only has as much authority as the local, contemporary interpretative community accords it.  For example, Judaism has many different sects (e.g. Reform, Conservative, Orthodox) and they each interpret the Talmud in different ways.  They do not see the Talmud as carrying inherent authority--despite what they may say.  For, in truth, they deem themselves interpretive authorities.  This means that the Talmud is, de facto, not the primary authority.  It become relegated to a historical resource.

Guidelines for Messianic Community

I propose that the Messianic Community establish guidelines for approaching the Talmud and utilizing it as a historical guide on certain matters.  We must have guidance so that no one gets carried away (FFOZ, Gene Shlomovitz) in saying that the Talmud has more authority than it actually does.

No comments:

Post a Comment