Churchian Talmud

There is a churchian version of the Talmud. It is a very large body of traditions arising over Scripture that are not part of Scripture. What most church folks fail to realize is that the Judaizers largely succeeded in their mission of corrupting the churches.

We understand that Hebrew scholars were led astray from the Covenant of Moses by the reason and logic of Aristotle. When Alexander the Great came marching through Palestine around 323 BC, he met no resistance from the Hebrew folks in Galilee and Judea. He brought a potent enthusiasm for the epistemology he learned from his teacher, Aristotle. While the holy men of Judea resisted the cultural baggage of loose Greek morals, they were enticed by the intellectual frame of reference. They swapped their now largely eroded commitment to the Hebrew mystical outlook for a very intense embrace of analytical reasoning. It fundamentally changed their whole understanding of the Scriptures.

Over the next three centuries a significant number of rabbinical scholars embraced legalism as the normative understanding of revelation. They began to build a vast oral lore of legalism (now formally written up as the Talmud) that Jesus referred to as the “traditions of the elders” and which He also dismissed as flatly contradicting divine revelation. This was the primary conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leadership. They had made a huge shift with all sorts of vested interests riding on it, and He was demanding they roll back everything and restore the mystical traditions of ancient Hebrew thinking and the reliance on faith.

Fast forward to the massive number of folks who were moved to confess Jesus as the Messiah on the Day of Pentecost. In just a few decades, this thing exploded. The teaching of the Apostles was based on Jesus’ call to restore the mystical approach to faith and having an individual and personal communion directly with the Father. They didn’t reject Moses; the Old Testament was the early church’s only Scriptures for the longest time. They studied Moses and knew the Covenant very well. And it was all contrary to the Talmud. Moses was still binding, insofar as you understood that Moses pointed to the Messiah. But the Talmud was merely the civil code of the Judean kingdom. It was legally binding on Judean citizens, but not morally binding on anyone.

Very often, when a New Testament passage refers to “the law,” it’s a reference to the Talmud. That batch of confusing and self-contradictory legalisms could never bring you peace with God. Moses was acknowledged by Christians as a manifestation of how to be at peace with God; even Gentiles were taught to revere and discern the Covenant. To the Jewish leadership, it was as if someone was digging up something they thought they had successfully buried long ago. Jesus apparently climbed out of His grave, and He breathed life into the ancient Hebrew mystical approach to Moses, gutting their legalistic institutions and the attendant power and wealth. For them, the Talmud was Moses in legalistic terms. They felt fully justified saying that a rejection of the Talmud was a de jure rejection of Moses.

Some decades later, Paul mentions having a problem with Judaizers. He used that term once in Galatians 2:14, but describes their behavior quite a few more places. They were folks who insist that Moses equals Talmud, and that you cannot read Moses without the legalistic body of lore from the Pharisees. It wasn’t just bringing folks back under Moses; it was an attempt to assert the Talmud as “Moses.” It was an attempt to demand that Christian converts read Moses from a legalistic viewpoint, which would drag folks back under Judean civil law. It would mean that the Judean political leadership could then tax these Christians as Judeans, and apply Judean law to them. And we all know that Judean taxes were rapacious; Roman taxes weren’t that bad. The Jewish leadership plundered their own people and balked at sharing the plunder with Rome.

The most critical part of the Judaizer scheme was getting people to fall in love with Aristotelian logic. A major element in John’s Revelation is the dire necessity of taking a Hebrew mystical approach — the symbolic logic using Hebrew traditional parables and images — in order to understand that revelation. It was shot through with Old Testament symbolism. And if you read between the lines, by approaching Revelation from a Hebrew mystical perspective, you’ll see that John was prophesying that the churches were quite likely to fall to the Judaizers’ legalistic reading of Scripture.

So if you examine the early church leadership (the collected writings of church scholars up to about 300 AD), you’ll see that they didn’t take long to drift into Hellenized logical reasoning. Thus, they no longer even understood the New Testament, much less the Old Testament. It didn’t take long for the church leaders to develop a rather substantial body of oral lore that reinterpreted the New Testament, rather like the Pharisees did with the Old Testament. They made all kinds of highfalutin declarations that “the Church” believed this and that, and they declared the canon closed, etc. They had big debates and wrote a slew of creeds and things just went down hill as church leaders tried to please human expectations.

Today we stand confronting a large number of traditions of men, all claiming to be the final answer from God. They want to keep things closed from the point where their particular institution got fully organized and funded. Now they have all this vested interest in keeping things that way, so they make all these declarations that there are no more moves from God to exercise the gifts of the Spirit. Meanwhile, another bunch of them declare that the gifts are still valid, but they have to follow some other established institutional traditions or they aren’t “real.” And on and on it goes.

Here’s what I tell them: God doesn’t need their permission to call me and some of my associates as prophets for today. He has been revealing things to us that apply to our context. They do reflect the Bible we all know, but aren’t limited to that context 2000 years ago. By no means would we claim to write new Scriptures. We see the Father breathing life into those Scriptures and making them a pattern for what He’s doing today. He tells us what He’s going to do soon, sometimes in quite concrete specifics. We have a burden to share those things. And if you don’t like that kind of thing, feel free to ignore us. We aren’t coming to your churches to shake up your sacred institutions. Some of us learned the lesson Paul did in the same hard way, getting ourselves kicked out of mainstream established churches. Indeed, we promise to ignore you, as well.

You won’t get to add us to your body count and we won’t pass our offerings through your treasury. We won’t line up to support your institutions and their man-made traditions. We’ll try to make our appeal to folks you made feel unwelcome.

About Ed Hurst

Avid cyclist, Disabled Veteran, Bible History teacher, and wannabe writer; retired.
This entry was posted in religion and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Churchian Talmud

  1. forrealone says:

    “You won’t get to add us to your body count and we won’t pass our offerings through your treasury. We won’t line up to support your institutions and their man-made traditions. We’ll try to make our appeal to folks you made feel unwelcome.”

    Amen!

    Like

  2. Iain says:

    Yay!

    Like

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