Friday, July 19, 2013

Responding to Messianic613

Messianic613, let's continue our discussion here.  Below are excerpts from your latest comments in quotations highlighted in blue followed by my responses in italics:




"In ancient Israel, for example, the proper authorities were the levitical priesthood, and individuals were bound by their decisions, whether they were right or wrong."

In reality, the Levites belonged to both the Sadducees and the Pharisees [Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, pg. 223 and footnotes].  Thus, multiple authorities existed within the Levitical priesthood.  

As a related aside, it should be noted that Yeshua, in Matthew 23, recognized the authority not only of the Pharisees but also of the scribes and that the scribes had begun with Ezra, a Zadokite priest, who ensured that the office of scribe was a priestly office--and possibly a Zadokite office at that (see Noth's "The History of Israel" pg. 374 and footnote 2 regarding A. Geiger).  

"Halachah can only be established in the context of a proper chain of tradition and by the authorities who are the legitimate bearers of that tradition."

This statement presupposes that there is only one proper chain of tradition and only one proper set of legitimate "bearers" of tradition.  But, as previously indicated, the Judaisms of Yeshua's day were pluriform in terms of religious authority and, furthermore, Yeshua didn't seem to have a problem with such plurality.

"...there is the problem that at present no one can claim proper authority in the Body of Messiah. All so-called messianic "Rabbis" and teachers are self-proclaimed."

Not so.  First, there are different realms of authority.  A father is an authority within his house (whether or not he is recognized as such is another matter);  a group of such fathers may elect to create a communal authority (such as a council or court); a group of communal authorities may elect to create a regional authority, etc.  My point is that there are many examples of "proper" authority in the Body of Messiah.  So I must disagree with your assertion that no one can claim proper authority in the Body of Messiah.

On the issue of Messianic rabbis, the type of authority associated with rabbi can be institutional or expert.  Now regarding Messianic institutions, they will obviously not be accepted within non-Messianic Judaisms.  And this is irrelevant.  What should concern us is whether Messianic rabbis have authority within their own community as experts on Torah observance and whether appropriate standards for such authority have been established.

"We thus face two problems here: The problem of the authority of the Oral Torah and its historical origins; and the problem of how to establish proper seats of authority in the Assembly of Messiah."

First we should ask if the Mishnah is even "Oral Torah" to begin with.  And it should be obvious that it cannot be "Oral" since it is in written form.  Let's not kid ourselves.  

Rabbinic Halacha (which is not "Oral Torah"), as put forth in the Mishnah, etc, should hold a presumptive authority so long as it comports with the spirit of Torah and the teachings of the Apostolic Writings (i.e. New Testament).

So on the matter of source of law, we have our answer:  Halacha has presumptive authority but not final authority.  And on the matter of Messianic communal authority we have our answer:  the Messianic Assembly is not subject to non-Messianic religious authorities/communities.  How can we be?  We are subject to the one whom they have rejected, the L-rd Yeshua.

7 comments:

  1. Peter Said:
    In reality, the Levites belonged to both the Sadducees and the Pharisees [Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, pg. 223 and footnotes]. Thus, multiple authorities existed within the Levitical priesthood.

    My Answer:
    The fact that diverse functions and authorities existed within the levitical priesthood has nothing to do with the ascendance of the lay class of Pharisees, who were largerly a lay class claiming to have an Oral Torah and to have halachic authority over the levitical priesthood. In Ancient Israel — by which I mean the Israel of biblical times, i.e. from the Exodus to the prophet Malachi — there existed no class of lay people who had such authority. Historical proof of this is the LXX book of Jesus Sirah (Ecclesiasticus), which was written far later than any Book of the Tanach, but before the Hasmonean Revolt, and yet knows nothing of Pharisees or an Oral Torah, or synagogues. Jesus Sirah describes the life of Israel as a theocracy of the Aaronide Priesthood.

    It seems probable, therefore, that the pharisaic class has its historical roots in the clash with the Hellenism of Antiochus IV and the subsequent crisis of the Priesthood.

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  2. Peter Said:
    This statement presupposes that there is only one proper chain of tradition and only one proper set of legitimate "bearers" of tradition. But, as previously indicated, the Judaisms of Yeshua's day were pluriform in terms of religious authority and, furthermore, Yeshua didn't seem to have a problem with such plurality.

    My Answer:
    Maintaining plurality (and division), which is simply the effect of everyone doing what is good in his own eyes, is never a problem, maintaining unity and concord is.

    From the authority of the Written Torah it can never be deduced that there was to be a class of lay authority, such as the Pharisees. Historically, the Pharisees and the Oral Torah are one and the same phenomenon. There existed no Pharisees between the times of Moses and the completion of the final books of the Tanach.

    So if Yeshua recognized the authority of the Pharisaic class, he recognized the result of a later historical development, which was triggered if not inaugurated by the crisis of the Priesthood in the times of the Hasmoneans. And this implies that Yeshua recognized an authority which has no foundation in the Written Torah.

    My argument is not there is anything wrong with this. Not at all. The Oral Torah can never be reduced to the Written Torah. It is an independent source, rooted in a lay class (the Pharisees), who are never mentioned in the Pentateuch.

    The implication of this for Messianics is that the relation between the Pentateuch and the Oral Torah cannot be properly handled by simply subjecting the authority of the Oral Torah to the authority of Scripture. For the change in the line of the High Priesthood after Onias III, who was the last Aaronic High Priest, could never be legal according to the Written Torah. Yet there is no indication that Yeshua, or Paul, considered the High Priests of their times as illegitimate.

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  3. Peter Said:
    A father is an authority within his house (whether or not he is recognized as such is another matter); a group of such fathers may elect to create a communal authority (such as a council or court); a group of communal authorities may elect to create a regional authority, etc. My point is that there are many examples of "proper" authority in the Body of Messiah. So I must disagree with your assertion that no one can claim proper authority in the Body of Messiah.

    My Answer:
    Election of Elders and Overseers is a process not known in the NT. In all the instances where Elders and Overseers to be appointed in the NT, they were either appointed directly by the Apostles, or by apostolic delegates who could act in their name and with their authority, like Timothy and Titus. The only election we have is the election of deacons, in Acts ch. VI. But deacons were not in a position of ruling. Authority in the Assembly of Messiah according to the data of the NT is never established by a bottom-up process. It is derived from Messiah in a top-down manner.

    Nobody in today's Assembly can claim that he has authority from Messiah in a historical chain of ordination. Today's messianic leaders claim of authority can only be legitimate insofar as it is a claim of biblical and theological scholarship, which, just as any scholarship, is always subject to ongoing debate.

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    Replies
    1. "Election of Elders and Overseers is a process not known in the NT"

      How was the Sanhedrin elected?

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    2. The admission of someone to be member of the Sanhedrin was essentially by what we today call co-optation, which means that the members of the body in question invite and elevate a candidate they deem fit to their ranks. Although this can be called an election, it is not an election by the people and thus not a bottom-up democratic process. It is a top-down appointment.

      As to the Assembly of Messiah it seems to me that there is an additional theological problem in having elders and overseers elected in a bottom-up process, by the very ones they should rule. For elders and overseers are primarily the functionaries and representatives of Messiah, the Head of the Body. Only secondarily they are the representatives of the people.

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  4. Whatever happened to the casting of lots?

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    Replies
    1. The casting of lots always presupposes a selection procedure. In the NT we have the case of the casting of lots between Matthias and Barsabbas, who were equally deemed fit for the office of Apostle according to the criteria mentioned by Simeon Kepha in Acts 1:21-22.

      But all this detracts from the main point which I wanted to make, which is that the new thing that was introduced by the Pharisees was that class of lay people, of scholars, was elevated to a position of authority above the Priesthood. It was the Pharisees who explicitly claimed, for the first time in the history of Israel, that there two Torahs, and that they were invested with authority by the Oral Torah to determine the halachah for the people and the priesthood alike.

      The question is now how this idea can be reconciled with what we find in the Written Torah. Where in the Pentateuch do we find a legitimate function for a lay class of scholars to rule over the Priesthood and to determine the halachah? The answer is: simply nowwhere. The Pentateuch doesn't know about such a class. Neither do the Prophets or the Writings. It was a new idea, which emerged after the troubles of the Hellenist suppression, in the wake of the Hasmonean victory. At that time there was no longer a legitimate High Priest, and the moral authority of the priesthood had collapsed after Jason had bought the office of High Priest for himself from Antiochus IV, and his successor, Meneleus, fully accepted the Hellenist agenda by rejecting both monotheism and the authority of the Pentateuch, and by dedicating the altar to Zeus and sacrificing swine flesh.

      The reaction to this collapse of the Priesthood we find in I Maccabees 14:27-48, where the High Priesthood is transferred to the non-Aaronide family of Joarib, by the authority of a Great Synagoge of Priests and People.

      It was probably this crisis which led to the establishment of the Pharisaic class. For, undoubtedly, there had to be found a justification for such revolutionary acts as the institution of a Great Synagoge and the transfer of the High Priesthood to a non-Aaronide family. The concept of a non-Aaronide High Priest is in direct conflict with the instructions of Written Torah, and a Great Synagoge is nowwhere mentioned in all of the Tanach. So there had to be found another, additional source of authority in order to provide these modifications with a legal basis. This additional source, so I suppose, was what became know as the Oral Torah.

      If this supposition is right, then it is easy to explain why the later Sages said that the authority of the Oral Torah is even greater than the authority of the Pentateuch. It simply had to be greater, in order to justify the changes which had been made during the Hasmonean crisis.

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