Between Two Thieves
If you are like many Christians, you likely do not know the difference between the Talmud and the Torah. You may think that a Midrash is something you get from rubbing poison ivy on your stomach. Many of the words associated with Jewish religion are unfamiliar to Gentile Christians. It can seem daunting to get a firm grasp upon the terminology and concepts associated with Judaism, but there can be great profit in putting forth the effort. The focus of this and the following chapter of Attractive Deception is to make the identification of the Talmud and Midrash (and the Jewish people’s attitudes towards them) readily comprehensible. This present chapter will focus upon the Talmud, with the following examining the Midrash.
In popular culture, this chapter might be titled Talmud for Dummies, though I think the label would be unfairly demeaning to the reader. Doing a quick search on Amazon, I did discover the following book exists.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Talmud
Undoubtedly Rabbi Aaron Parry has a very different focus to his writing than I have in mind. In order to bring to light the error of the Hebrew Roots Movement, it is necessary to demonstrate the character of Hebrew religious life, both ancient and modern. Much of the traditions, doctrines, rites, and observances the Hebrew Roots Movement has embraced derive from their attempt to imitate and incorporate elements of Hebrew religion and culture into the faith and practice of Christianity. What many do not realize is that a great number of these traditions arise from apostate Judaism, rather than from authentic apostolic Christian faith. The Talmud and the Midrash, hold significant responsibility for leading astray the Jews, and subsequently the Christian believer who embraces Hebrew Roots.
Most Christians today, even those with considerable knowledge of the Bible, are unfamiliar with many of the basic concepts relating to Judaism. This is NOT because Christians are Dummies, or Idiots. Rather, it is due to an absence of focus on Judaic practice among the majority of churches which comprise the body of Christ. My parents took me to church faithfully from the time I was a small child. When I was old enough I continued the practice on my own. Yet, in all the churches I attended, I do not recall a single sermon or Sunday School lesson teaching us about the Talmud or Midrash. I am not suggesting that churches should teach from the Talmud and Midrash. What would be profitable is to teach the body of Christ about them.
My problem was not that I was a shirker. I knew the Bible. I read the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. From childhood I could cite the names of all 66 books of the Bible, and quote a large number of Scripture verses. I was familiar with the content of the Bible, but I never encountered the words Talmud or Midrash in all of my Scripture reading. There is good reason for this. These words do not appear in the Bible, at least not in the English translations from which I was reading. The absence of these words, however, does not infer that the Talmud and Midrash are not spoken of in the Bible. Christ was speaking of the precursor to the Talmud (the Oral Torah) when He uttered the following words.
“Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.”
The Son of God was citing the prophet Isaiah who wrote in the 8th century B.C.. The Jewish people spent a large portion of their history in an apostate condition. The years in which they walked in truth are few and far between. The Hebrews quickly developed traditions and interpretations of Yahweh’s word which led them into apostasy and kept them there. At the root of this apostate teaching is the claim that, in addition to the Law which Yahweh delivered to Moses which was inscribed on tablets of stone at Mount Sinai, Yahweh delivered a second body of teachings to Moses consisting of interpretations of the Law. The Jewish rabbis refer to the Law written on tablets as the Torah Schebichtav (Written Law), while they call the unwritten interpretations of the Law that Yahweh delivered to Moses as the Torah Shebeal Peh (Oral Law). The rabbis postulate that Yahweh could have inscribed the written Law on tablets of stone in a single day, but that it required the rest of the forty days Moses was on Mount Sinai to teach him the interpretations of the Law.
A Christian believer may quickly dismiss the claim of Yahweh delivering to Moses a second Law as nothing more than Jewish myth. Yet to the religiously observant Jew this story is taken very seriously, and the Oral Law is assigned a higher honor and authority than the Written Law. According to Jewish tradition, Moses taught the Oral Law to Joshua; Joshua taught it to the seventy elders of Israel; These seventy elders taught it to the Prophets, and the Prophets in turn passed it on to “the Great Synagogue,” that body of Jews who lived after the period of the Prophets in what is largely considered the Persian period of Israel’s history, or the time from the Babylonian exile forward. Bear in mind that a great many Jews remained in Babylonia after their seventy years of exile were finished. Only a remnant returned to Jerusalem.
This tradition of how the Oral Torah passed from Moses down to the Jewish religious leaders many centuries later is a Jewish fable, though the Orthodox Jews do not see it as such. Such fables have been prevalent for the entire history of the Christian church. The apostle Paul warned Titus about them.
For this cause reprove them severely that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.
In these words of the apostle Paul is a reference to the Oral Torah whose man-made traditions would be set down in writing as the Talmud about two centuries later. The Oral Torah, like the Talmud and Midrash, consists of Jewish Myths and the commandments of men which turn people away from the truth. The Scriptures speak nothing of Yahweh delivering to Moses anything other than the Law written on tablets of stone. There is no Biblical support to the claim that Yahweh taught Moses a second Law, an oral one. It is ever the practice of disobedient men to add to the word of God, thereby altering and rendering null and void the commandments of Yahweh.
The earliest mention in the Scriptures of the Jews giving heed to vain traditions that stood in contradiction to the divinely inspired word of God is in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah began to prophesy around 740 B.C.. He wrote at that time of the Jewish people teaching “the precepts of men” as if they were the doctrines of God. This was undoubtedly a reference to the Oral Torah. Consequently, we can deduce that the Oral Torah was in existence as early as the 8th century B.C.. Moses received the true Law of God in the 15th century B.C.. Somewhere in the time between the original transmission of the Law at Mount Sinai and the time of Isaiah’s writing, the Oral Torah had its origin.
The Oral Torah most certainly was NOT delivered to Moses, adopted by Joshua, passed along by the seventy elders of Israel, or the prophets. Isaiah was a prophet of Yahweh. He rejected and cast scorn upon the precepts and doctrines that the religious leaders of Israel were teaching as if they were divine commandments. There has been no greater prophet than Jesus Christ/Yahshua the Messiah. He repeated the words of His Father that Isaiah had recorded, and set before us an example of the error contained in the Oral Torah.
“For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is Corban (that is to say, devoted to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”
The Oral Law/Torah had much to say about corban, and the Talmud which is the written form of the Oral Law does as well. We can determine from this that both Christ, and Isaiah’s references were to the Oral Torah. These inventions of men were subverting and overturning the commandments of Yahweh, as they continue to do unto this very day. Yahshua added “and you do many things such as that.” The Oral Torah is rife with man-made additions and interpretations of the Law of God that lead the student of the Oral Torah away from divine truth.
Reverend I. B. Pranaitis, in his scholarly book The Talmud Unmasked (published 1892), shares a concise history of the Talmud. Following is an excerpt from his book.
The Talmud gets its name from the word Lamud – taught, and means The Teaching… it is taken to mean the book which contains the Teaching, which is called Talmud, that is, the doctrinal book which alone fully expounds and explains all the knowledge and teaching of the Jewish people…
In the second century after Christ, Rabbi Jehuda who, because of the sanctity of his life, was called The Saint, and The Prince, realizing that the learning of the Jews was diminishing, that their oral law was being lost, and that the Jewish people were being dispersed, was the first to consider ways and means of restoring and preserving their oral law. He collected all the lists and charts and from them he made a book which was called the Sepher Mischnaioth, or Mischnah – a Deuterosis, or secondary law. He divided it into six parts, each of which was divided into many chapters…
The Mischnah is the foundation and the principal part of the whole Talmud. This book was accepted by the Jews everywhere and was recognized as their authentic code of law. It was expounded in their Academies in Babylon – at Sura, Iumbaditha and Nehardea – and in their Academies in Palestine – at Tiberias, Iamnia and Lydda.
As their interpretations increased with the passing of time, the disputations and decisions of the doctors of the law concerning the Mischnah were written down, and these writings constituted another part of the Talmud called the Gemarah.
These two parts are so disposed throughout the whole Talmud that the Mischnah serves first as a kind of text of the law, and is followed by the Gemarah as an analysis of its various opinions leading to definite decisions…
In interpreting the Mischnah of Rabbi Jehuda, the schools of Palestine and Babylon followed each their own method, and by thus following their own way gave rise to a twofold Gemarah – the Jerusalem and the Babylonian versions. The author of the Jerusalem version was Rabbi Jochanan, who was head of the synagogue in Jerusalem for eighty years. He wrote thirty-nine chapters of commentaries on the Mischnah which he compiled in the year 230 A.D.
The Babylonian Gemarah, however, was not compiled by any one person, nor at any one time. Rabbi Aschi began it in 327 A.D and labored over it for sixty years. He was followed by Rabbi Maremar about the year 427 A.D., and it was completed by Rabbi Abina about the year 500 A.D. The Babylonian Gemarah has thirty-six chapters of interpretations.
This twofold Gemarah, added to the Mischnah, makes also a twofold Talmud: The Jerusalem version, which, on account of its brevity and obscurity, is not much used; and the Babylonian version, which has been held in the highest esteem by Jews of all times.
The Gemarah is followed by additions called Tosephoth(8). It was thus that Rabbi Chaia first styled his opinions on the Mischnaioth. He and Rabbi Uschaia were the first to explain this book publicly in the schools. Commentaries on the Mischnah which were made by the doctors outside the schools were called Baraietoth(9), or extraneous opinions.
(8) From Tosepheth, or Tosiphta, meaning addition.
(9) From Baria, extraneous, or Baraietha, extraneous teaching.
These Commentaries were further supplemented by other decisions called Piske Tosephoth, short theses and simple principles.
For nearly five hundred years after the Babylonian Talmud was completed, the study of literature was greatly hampered partly due to public calamities and partly owing to dissensions among the scholars. But in the eleventh century others wrote further additions to the Talmud. Chief among these were the Tosephoth of Rabbi Ascher.
Besides these there appeared the Perusch of Rabbi Moische ben Maimon, called by the Jews Rambam for short, by the Christians Maimonides…
Thus, the Mischna, Gemarah, Tosephoth, the marginal notes of Rabbi Ascher, the Piske Tosephoth and the Perusch Hamischnaioth of Maimonides, all collected into one, constitute a vast work which is called the Talmud.
To recap, the Jewish people began to develop man-made interpretations of the true Law which Yahweh had delivered to Moses at Mount Sinai. In the centuries after Moses these traditions and precepts of men were passed along from one generation of Jewish people to the next. This Oral Law became so expansive that lists and charts had to be drawn up in order that the rabbis should not forget some part of the Oral Torah, yet it was not codified as a written body of instruction until Rabbi Judah the Prince took up the task two centuries after Christ.
This original work by Rabbi Judah is known as the Mishna. The word Mishna is a Hebrew word meaning “study and review.” The Mishna (Mischna, Mishnah) is the first section of the Talmud. It is the first work of Rabbinic literature, being an early effort to take the Oral Torah, and put it in writing in order to preserve the Rabbinical explanations and applications of the Hebrew Scriptures.
After Rabbi Judah preserved the Oral Torah in writing, the rabbis of ensuing centuries studied the Mishna extensively. These rabbis produced a large amount of analysis and commentary on the Mishna. Their recorded thoughts became known as the Gemara. The word Gemara (Gemora, Gemarah) is derived from the Aramaic noun “gamar,” which translates as “study.” The Gemara is the second section of the Talmud.
There are two versions of the Gemara, the first originating in Palestine, while the latter was developed in Babylonia. Depending on which version of the Gemara is coupled to the Mishna, the resulting body of teaching is referred to either as the Jerusalem Talmud, or the Babylonian Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud holds a place of ascendancy, and is what is primarily being referred to today when Jewish people refer to “the Talmud.”
The Babylonian Talmud
It strikes me as significant that the Talmud would come to have the word “Babylonian” attached to it. The word Babel, from which the name Babylon is derived, means “confusion.” Truly, no better description could be given to this body of manmade traditions than “confusion,” for it leads people away from the truth of God’s word.
It is important to understand the tremendous veneration the Jewish people have given to these man-made traditions over the centuries. For nearly a millennia prior to Christ, and up to 200 A.D., the Oral Torah was accorded great honor. When it was codified as the Mishna two centuries after Christ, and expanded through the addition of the Gemara in following centuries, it was regarded by Orthodox Jews as being more valuable then the Tanakh (Old Testament). Nesta Webster, in her book Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, writes:
The Talmud itself accords to the Bible only a secondary place. Thus the Talmudic treatise Soferim says: ‘The Bible is like water, the Mischna is like wine, and the Gemarah is like spiced wine.'”
Reverend I. B. Pranaitis adds to this testimony.
An important point to note is that [the Talmud] has always been regarded by the Jews as holy. They have always held it, and still hold it, as more important than the Sacred Scriptures. The Talmud itself shows this very clearly:
In the tract Babha Metsia, fol. 33a, we read:
“Those who devote themselves to reading the Bible exercise a certain virtue, but not very much; those who study the Mischnah exercise virtue for which they will receive a reward; those, however, who take upon themselves to study the Gemarah exercise the highest virtue…”
The following is a well-known and highly praised opinion in the writings of the Rabbis:
“My son, give heed to the words of the scribes rather than to the words of the law.”
The reason for this is found in the tract Sanhedrin X, 3, f.88b:
“He who transgresses the words of the scribes sins more gravely than the transgressors of the words of the law.”
Also when there are differences of opinion between the Law and the doctors, both must be taken as the words of the Lord God.
In the tract Erubhin, f.13b, where it is related that there was a difference of opinion between the two schools of Hillel and Schamai, it is concluded that:
“The words of both are the words of the living God.”
In the book Mizbeach, cap. V, we find the following opinion:
“There is nothing superior to the Holy Talmud.”
[The Talmud Unmasked (1892)]
Men and women who are partakers of the Holy Spirit should perceive the abject evil of the words above. To state that those who study the words of man (the Mishna and Gemara) are acting more virtuously than those who study the divine words of Yahweh, is blasphemy. To instruct children to give greater heed to obeying the Scribes than to obeying the Law of Yahweh is folly and rebellion. To place the Talmud above the holy Scriptures is idolatry. Is it any wonder that Yahshua renounced the actions of the Pharisees, and the experts of the Law with such vehemence? Pretending to understand God’s Laws, and instructing others on how it should be observed, they stole the truth from God’s people.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God…”
“Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”
In more recent times, Christians have observed how Satan has been able to lead men and women away from truth, and mire them in deception and falsehood, through altering, or making additions to, the Word of God. The Jehovah’s Witnesses created their own Bible version, and they are required to study ONLY the teachings that flow from their headquarters in New York State.
New World Translation Bible of the Jehovah’s Witnesses
Similarly, the Mormons have produced their own book to read along with the Bible. The Book of Mormon has been advertised for decades as “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” and a “Companion to the Bible.” Yet its teachings suborn and corrupt the true gospel of Christ.
Another Testament of Jesus Christ
It is telling that the founders of both of these religious organizations were Freemasons. Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is buried in a Masonic Cemetery where a Pyramid marks his burial plot. The Pyramid is inscribed with the symbol for the Knight’s Templar (the cross and crown), the highest order in York Rite Freemasonry.
Charles Taze Russell’s Grave Marker
The pyramid is a Luciferian symbol, embraced widely by Freemasonry, and appearing on the back of the U.S. one dollar bill. This association with Freemasonry and both Charles Taze Russell of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Joseph Smith of the Mormons, reveals one of the chief tactics Satan uses to corrupt the word of God in order to hinder humanity from arriving at the knowledge of the truth. He will alter, or add to the word of God, ultimately leading men to place a higher emphasis upon these corruptions than they do upon the Scriptures themselves. It should surprise no Christian to discover that this practice goes much further back, even pre-dating Christianity. Satan used the same scheme to lead the Jewish people away from truth by having them adopt a second Torah that ultimately redefined the original and stole away from men the key of knowledge.
Today there are Yeshivas, schools of Jewish religious instruction, where men (and some women) devote their lives to the study of the Jewish religion. Yet, it is not the Holy Scriptures that captivates their attention and demands their devotion. Rather, it is the study of the Talmud and the Midrashic writings of various Hebrew sages and rabbis throughout the centuries. These writings include numerous passages which defame the Son of God. He is always spoken of as illegitimate, a worker of forbidden magic, and one who suffered a disgraceful death. To deny Yahshua the Messiah to be the Son of God and the Savior of mankind is a manifestation of the spirit of anti-Christ. The Talmud, for this reason, and others, must be considered to be a work of Satan. It has no divine legitimacy.
Despite the lying claims about the Talmud’s origin, its enmity toward the truth of God’s word, its claim of being superior to the divinely inspired Scriptures, its denouncement of the Messiah, and its rejection by Isaiah, Yahshua, and the apostles, there are many among the Hebrew Roots Movement who are advocating that Christians study the Talmud in order to properly understand their Bibles. They are inviting believers to engage in a vain, and potentially harmful, activity. Can a man gather figs from thorns, or pick grapes from a briar bush?
The Talmud is a thief. It steals away the key of knowledge from mankind. It is a rebel, asserting its own will and ways above those of the Creator. It is full of pride, claiming to be superior to the words of Yahweh. It is a destroyer, casting down all that is true and holy, blinding men to the truth, and suffering none to challenge its authority. Are these not the characteristics of that being whom Yahshua said “comes only to kill, steal, and destroy”?
As I was perusing various websites looking for information for this study, I came across the website www.thetorah.com. An article was posted there by a woman named Shani Tzoref who holds a Masters degree in Jewish History from Yeshiva University and a Ph.D. in Ancient Jewish Literature from New York University. Among other biographical facts, it was mentioned that she was awarded a Rothschild Fellowship at Hebrew University in 2006. Ms. Tzoref posted an article on the transgression of Reuben when he lay with Bilhah, his father’s wife. After the article there was an exchange of comments between her and a young man. Following is an excerpt from that exchange.
Shani Tzoref: Do you think that “Torah” requires us to believe that Reuben had intercourse with Bilhah?
Alex Schindler: Insofar as it requires us to believe there was a person named Reuben and a person named Bilhah.
Avoiding the much more meta- question of whether Torah narratives are given to be understood as historical or literary or something in between, it is rather clear what the narrative intends us to think the *character* Reuben did. It is no more ambiguous than what Absalom did in the light of day on the roof of his father’s palace with his father’s concubines.
Shani Tzoref: The point of my question is that you say yes, Torah requires us to believe that Reuben slept with Bilhah. And yet, the dominant view in the Talmud seems to be that Reuben did not sleep with Bilhah. As Orthodox rabbinic Jews, are we not committed to following talmudic interpretations over literal readings of the Biblical text?
My real point being – I don’t think we are obligated to have a particular belief about what really happened historically. I suppose if I had to choose a stance about what Orthodoxy would mandate, I guess it would be to say that the Biblical text meant to convey what the rabbis say it meant – and so I must conclude that Reuben did not sleep with Bilhah, but it was considered in some ways as though he did. But I don’t actually think a belief about the story is mandated.
This frank exchange of views reveals the elevated regard the Orthodox Jews have for the Talmud. They place the opinions of the rabbis above the testimony of the Torah (the Scriptures). If there is an apparent contradiction between what the Torah declares and what the Talmud advises, the Jews are expected to follow the talmudic interpretation over the plain meaning of the Bible. It is important to understand this elevated position occupied by the Talmud in Jewish life. By understanding the veneration of the Talmud, we can discern how the Jewish people have become apostatized, having departed from the divine intent of the Scriptures.
Now, in the Hebrew Roots Movement, there are “Christian” ministers who are directing the people of God to give heed to the Talmud, this book of lies. Additionally, there are a multitude of doctrines, traditions, legal observances, customs, and symbols that derive from the Talmud that are being embraced by Christians who mistakenly believe they are returning to the Hebrew Roots of the faith of Christ and His apostles when in fact they are embracing Jewish apostasy. Many of these items will be addressed individually as this writing progresses.
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