What are the primary differences theologically between Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Christianity regarding the Oral Torah?
This week we continue to delve deeper into each on the categories we discussed at a high level 2 weeks ago.
Before we begin a brief disclaimer - We do not believe everyone has to believe exactly as we do to have a relationship with G-D, and for that relationship to result in that person spending eternity with G-D. We also believe strongly in the promise that Rabbi Sha'ul (Paul) stated that "all Israel will be saved." We do not want to be dogmatic about exactly what that means, as views differ. We also believe scripture clearly teaches that Jews, Christians and Messianic Jews will make up the Kingdom. As for our Sunday brothers and sisters, whether Protestant or Catholic, many truly love G-D and will inherit the Kingdom.
Theologically, Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Christianity began on a common road that split into 3 separate paths. One of the key areas involved in this split was the role of Oral Torah.
For many in traditional Judaism, the Oral Torah and teachings of the Sages and Rabbis has become more important than the Written Torah. Thus, many modern practices do not follow the Torah, but instead, follow the teachings of the Rabbis. An example, stated last week, is that Biblically Jewishness is determined by the father (paternal descent), however the Rabbis determined that one's Jewishness is determined by the mother (maternal descent).
The famous story (see last week's newsletter) concerning the authority of the Rabbis has Rabbi Eliazar debating Halacha (Jewish legal rulings) with a group of Rabbis. The point of the story was (in traditional Judaism) even miracles and voices from Heaven should not influence the Rabbi's since the Holy One, Blessed be He, gave the right to make these decisions to the Rabbis'. From this story, one can see that Rabbinic teaching has evolved to the point where the Rabbis believe they can interpret the Torah, based on their authority, in ways that are binding and that do not necessarily agree with the p'shat (simple reading or meaning) expounding in Torah.
Many modern observances, such as not mixing meat and dairy, are based on Talmudic decisions by the Rabbi's. Not all decisions seen in the Oral Traditions are to be avoided, as we will see in the section on Messianic Judaism.
The traditional Christian belief concerning the role of Oral Torah are best summed up as "Oral Torah has no value to followers of Jesus".
This view is unfortunate as many of the misunderstandings held by Christians about Jews results from this aversion to understanding the Oral Torah and the rabbinical rulings issued within Oral Torah. Thus most believe Judaism is a works based religion where you earn points to get to G-d. That is not a correct understanding. It is also worth nothing that the Oral Torah can teach us much about the life of our Messiah.
Messianic Jewish theology generally believes Oral Torah has value as commentary, history, and to gain understanding of how the Rabbi's interpreted certain issues. Statements such as "an eye for an eye" interpreted by our Christian Brothers means literally inflicting the same injury on the person causing the injury as that of the injured party. Thus if someone gouges out your eye, you should gouge out theirs. In the Oral Torah an "Eye for an eye" is taught to mean monetary compensation. This a valid understanding as can be seen by the context of the surrounding verses in that passage.
Many teachings of The Messiah are echoed in the Oral Torah and additional information about the meanings of those teachings can be gleaned by developing an understanding of the Talmud. These gleanings add depth and further definition to the teachings of The Master. The Oral Torah & Talmud also teach us about the issues and thought processes of our people. Thus the Oral Torah and Talmud deserve to be treated with respect and understanding. They are not to be held to the level of Divine Revelation.
In a nutshell, where the Oral Torah & Talmud add value, utilize them, when they contradict The Scriptures or the Master, ignore them. We must all learn to be able to "eat the meat and spit out the bones" when it comes to reading any extra Biblical information. The same applies to books on Martin Luther, the Anti-Nicene Fathers, etc. we all must learn to discern the truth of G-d and not merely read the words of men.
Next week we will address in detail the other Theological differences.
Shalom - Rabbi Gavri'el